Sunday, March 4, 2018

Grain Free Sugar Cookies With Buttercream Frosting

This fantastic, easy recipe will impress your family & friends. Anyone who thinks of gluten free cookies as being a dry and punishing experience will disabuse themselves of that notion after their first bite. These coconut flour based cookies are rich and buttery, and so delicious. The frosting is equally rich, and a perfect adornment. Both are quick to whip up, and not at all fussy.

Sugar Cookies:

  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 c) softened to room temp
  • 1 cup sugar (I used a xylitol/natural sugar blend)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 c coconut flour (4.25 oz or 128 g, if you have a scale and want to be more exact)
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 tb arrowroot starch, plus more for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt and beat together well.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir baking powder into the coconut flour to combine. Pour into batter and mix well. Let sit for 5 minutes so the coconut flour can absorb the liquid. Add starch and mix again to knead dough for 30 seconds. If it is sticky or too moist, add more starch, up to 4 tb total.

Dust counter with starch and press or roll dough to 1/4" thick. Cut into desired shapes and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, until they reach your desired shade of golden. We found them to be delicious whether baked to a dark golden brown (shown at bottom of article) or a light gold (at top).

Let cookies harden for a few minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Cool completely before frosting. I like to place them on a cutting board in the fridge, so they're chilled and ready for frosting in about 10 minutes.

Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 stick of softened butter (1/2 c)
  • 1.5 c powdered sugar
  • 1.5 tb cream (from the top of can of coconut milk, or heavy cream)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 packet of Color Kitchen plant based food coloring, if desired

Beat butter in mixer until smooth. Slowly stir in powdered sugar, then mix on medium until mixture holds together. Add cream, vanilla, salt, and color if using, and increase speed until everything is well mixed, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Frost cookies, then store them in the fridge. Any leftover frosting can be stored in the fridge for up to a week; just bring to room temperature before using.


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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

(Gluten Free) Pasta with Marinara in the Instant Pot

A Life Unprocessed

Cooking pasta in the Instant Pot is simple and rewarding, provided you use the right amount of liquid, and the right type of noodles. While you can definitely cook actual spaghetti in a pressure cooker, it has more of a tendency to clump together and remain crunchy than corkscrew fusilli. Fusilli noodles are a fun, helical shape, easier to fork than spaghetti, and hold onto the sauce better as well. We love the gluten free quinoa and brown rice fusilli that we've been using for years. It has more fiber & protein than traditional pasta, and I personally can't tell the difference in taste. 

Here's how to make pasta with marinara in an Instant Pot. This recipe is for a standard 6 quart model, but if you have an 8 quart pot, you can double the recipe. We generally use ground beef, but found that ground lamb makes a delicious variation. You can also easily make this a vegetarian meal by omitting the meat. 

  • 1 lb ground meat, if using
  • 1 diced onion
  • 20 oz fusili noodles
  • 24 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 c broth or water
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 t paprika
  • 2 tb Italian herbs (I use a blend of oregano, sage, thyme, and rosemary)
  • 1 tb sea salt

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Saute meat and onions in the IP until brown. Saute onions in a little oil, if you are not using meat. I like to slide my Instant Pot under my stove's vent when I'm sauteing, as long as the surface of my stove isn't hot.

Once onions are soft and meat browned, add noodles and then everything else. Try to cover noodles with sauce and broth, but if a few stick out that's OK. Cover, then set to manual for 4 minutes. Let it release pressure naturally (NPR). Once you can open the lid, give the pot a good stir to incorporate the meat, onions, and spices.

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Serve and enjoy! I love to eat this sprinkled with fresh parmesean, or my homemade sauerkraut, and gomasio seasoning.

We purchase our wonderful noodles and organic tomato sauce directly from Azure Standard, a natural foods distributor. Below are affiliate links for Amazon. Any purchase made through the links helps to support our family, without any additional cost to you. Thanks in advance!

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Friday, February 16, 2018

How I Finally Got to Sleep: Ending Insomnia Naturally

A Life Unprocessed

For years I struggled with insomnia: waking each night around 2 a.m., tossing and turning, and finally just getting up. I learned to nap during the day if I could squeeze one in, but I was sleep deprived in a chronic, dangerous way. Sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of health problems, and mental & emotional issues as well. I was very aware of these risks, having read nearly every article and book out there on how to sleep. Teaching myself to sleep right became kind of an obsession; I made spreadsheets of all the things I was supposed to do each day in order to sleep better. I kept track of every little thing, so I would know what worked and what made it worse. The only problem was that nothing ever seemed to work; it only got worse.

After three years of this, I happened upon an article about how people who define themselves as having insomnia made their sleep problems worse. And not only that, but they felt worse the next day even when they got as much sleep as people who don't think of themselves as having sleep issues. I realized that the problem for a lot of us, for me in particular, could be in my mind. I had so much stress built up around bedtime, that I often felt a little panicked if I wasn't in bed by 10 p.m.- that golden hour for getting perfect sleep. I had tried every natural sleep product my friends recommended over the years, and even a couple of unnatural, over the counter ones recommended by my doctors. I had done a sleep study: hooked up to wires and tubes and stuck all over with goo. It felt like the worst night of sleep in my life, but afterwards I was told that I didn't have sleep apnea. I came very close to getting surgery on my deviated septum, believing at the time that this was what was keeping me up. I canceled that surgery at the last minute, panicked that it would only make things worse.

Insomnia and sleep problems are incredibly common. Once I started posting about my sleep issues on Facebook, I realized how widespread the problem is. I started an insomnia support group, so I could learn from what worked for others. I shared the article linked to above with that group, and one member admitted that it was so important to her not to define herself as an insomniac anymore, that she almost hadn't joined my group. She hadn't had sleep issues in years, ever since she let the label of insomnia go. Another member took issue with the idea that her sleep problems, which she felt had a physical cause, were all in her head. Definitely, there are different causes of sleep issues; for many of us it begins with the birth of our first child. We can start out with one cause, and then the problem becomes chronic along the way, as the original cause is replaced by anxiety around sleep. We need to make sure we change the things we can in our lives to create better sleep hygiene, but we need to also do what we can to give our minds a break from stress around sleep.

Sleep is essential. Along with eating right and exercise, sleep is one of the three pillars of health. It should come naturally, it should come easily, and I was so frustrated that it constantly seemed beyond my grasp, no matter how much I tried to do things "right". I did learn some little tricks along the way, from all my sleep books & articles. I found that it's important to take the right steps for sleep hygiene, but also to remove the stress around sleep.

Here's what finally worked:

  • Brief Meditation Morning and night, for 5-10 minutes. I find that it's a nice beginning and end to each day, and 5 minutes is much easier to squeeze in than the standard 20 minutes that is usually recommended. Occasionally I can't fit it in during a busy morning, so I'll do my morning meditation in the afternoon. I don't stress about it. Meditation has too many proven benefits to ignore.
  • Journaling In order to reduce nighttime stress levels, it's helpful to write about anything troubling us, before laying down to sleep. Anytime I have something bothering me at bedtime, I write about it, including all my fears and any possible solutions. Getting my worries down on paper lets my mind off the hook, so it can go on to do the important work of sleep. As a nightly habit, I also write down three unique things that I'm thankful for; one thing I'm proud of; and one thing I'm excited about. This is a good habit to help focus on the positive; whether it helps with sleep or not I can't say. Sleep problems are commonly caused by, or exacerbated by, depression, so anything we can do to lighten up should help.
  • Earplugs This was a hard one to get used to at first, as I disliked the feeling of pressure inside my ears. But after a few nights with earplugs, I barely noticed them. And, wonderfully, I no longer woke to every outside noise. Now, when I put my earplugs in, I feel l am in a cozy little cocoon where nothing can bother me. If you are caring for infants, it's probably best to leave out the earplugs for now.
  • Blackout Blinds It's important to get your bedroom as dark as you can make it when you sleep. Cover or remove anything that has an LED light at night. Remove night lights from bedrooms, and keep them in common areas and bathrooms instead. Our neighbors keep a light shining all night, so we pull our blinds down all the way. The darkness should be so complete that you cannot see your hand in front of your face.
  • Caffeine Moratorium Don't worry, it's not off limits. For me, anytime I drink coffee or black tea after noon, I'm risking being wide awake in the middle of the night. So I have the hard stuff in the morning, and stick to green tea or herbal blends later on. I have a nightly cup of herbal tea at bedtime, but I feel it's more a cozy ritual and less about the specific herbs I drink being helpful for sleep. These days I'm drinking catnip tea before bed.
  • Screen Ban I cheat on this one, because I do read books on my phone before bed, using the Kindle app. But after tucking in the kids, I no longer scroll through social media. Our only TV is in the den, far away from bedrooms. Blue light from LCD screens has been shown to reduce sleep quality, so we use a free app (Twilight for Android, f.lux for Apple) that automatically filters out the blue light after the sun goes down. I also turn my phone on airplane mode, to make sure my sleep isn't interrupted at night by little incoming messages. This also to reduces my temptation to check Facebook after hours. With airplane mode on, all I can do is read my book in peace; it's kind of perfect.
  • Drink in Moderation Or, don't drink at all if you like. Definitely, the more you drink, the more degraded your quality of sleep will be. It's best to have just one or two drinks, and to have them earlier rather than right before bed, so the alcohol gets metabolized before sleep onset. Yes, wine can make you feel sleepy and even help in falling asleep; however quality of sleep can be hindered by alcohol. I find that I can fall asleep easily after a couple of drinks, but then I'll pop awake around 4 a.m., regretting that last glass of wine. Also watch things like sulfites, additives, and weird mixers. We try to enjoy our booze with the least chemicals and sugar possible. My favorite mixed drink is a vodka or tequila with soda water. It's so light and easy to drink, and doesn't leave you feeling sick. I've had good luck with sulfite free red wine as well.
  • No Pets At least, no pets in the bedroom at night. I am too sensitive to every little movement, every meow (even with earplugs) and cats are nocturnal. We set up our attached garage as our cat's nighttime apartment, so we can all get better sleep.

Here's what might help with sleep; I don't know for sure but I do it anyway:

  • Exercise Daily Forget three times a week: exercise every day. Bodies were meant to be used, not to sit. We spend so much of both our work and our leisure sitting; we really need to consciously move when we can. The only people exempt from this are people with very physically demanding jobs, like construction workers or landscapers- but if this describes you, you might find yoga helpful for countering repetitive motions and minimizing work related stresses. For others, start where you can. Commit to a gentle walk and a few stretches every day. Do more if you are able. I like the idea of breaking a sweat every day, though I can't always make that happen. In order to keep our bodies working properly as we age, we must use them all we can. 
  • Eat Well Avoid things you know bother your tummy; don't eat too much; don't eat too close to bedtime (leave at least a 3 hour window between dinner & sleep). Eat nutritious, whole foods, made from scratch with natural ingredients whenever possible. Don't beat yourself up for the occasional junk or treat; what matters is what you do most of the time. 
  • Daylight At night we want deep darkness for proper melatonin production; in the morning, getting outside for some exposure to natural daylight will help balance waking hormones for a new day. A quick walk around the block is pretty easy to fit into our morning routine, and has the added value of moving the body. You could also have your coffee out on your porch. Getting outside soon after waking up is ideal, but it doesn't have to be a big undertaking. I recently bought our family umbrellas so the interminable Pacific Northwest rain won't keep us from our daily walks. Even on heavily overcast days, the natural light outdoors will trigger hormone production and help regulate sleep cycles.
  • Bedtime One central tenet of sleep hygiene is going to bed at the same time every night, and getting up 8 hours later every morning (or more, since it can take a bit to fall asleep). Most of us produce sleep initiating hormones at around 10 p.m., so that's the ideal time for lights out. I do pretty much follow this, but I no longer get bent out of shape if we are still tucking the kids in at 10:30. What matters is that we have an enjoyable, relaxing evening. 

Further Reading (Affiliate link):

  • Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success This book, by Shawn Stevenson of The Model Health Show, is laid out clearly with a different section for each strategy to encourage better sleep. Stevenson explains the science behind each idea, with a down to earth, modern voice. I tried nearly all of his suggestions (I skipped the silver sheets and grounded bedding!) and because of these tips I really did start to sleep better. I recommend you check it out to see if he has ideas for things that might work for you that I didn't include here. Not everything felt like it helped me, but it might be just what you need. He really sums up current sleep science in such a thorough way that I found every book I've read on sleep since this one to be redundant.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Peanut Butter & Yogurt Dip

This easy to make dip is a crowd pleaser. Feel free to use any nut butter you like, but peanut butter is definitely my kids' favorite. It's amazing as a dip for apples, as you can see, but it's also a delicious topping for pancakes & waffles. Use your imagination and let me know what other creative uses you come up with for this versatile dip.

A Life Unprocessed

It's pretty good for you too; although this time I made it with some corn syrup that had been sitting around in my cabinet for a hundred years, I would normally make it with raw honey. You can use whatever sweetener you feel good about. I used chunky peanut butter; creamy nut butter will yield a slightly more uniformly smooth product.

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  • 1 c cream cheese
  • 1 c plain yogurt
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 1/2 c honey or syrup

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Taste, and add more sweetener if desired. This time, I made it with "light corn syrup" which doesn't seem to be as sweet as honey, so I ended up adding more. Powdered sweeteners will work as well; feel free to use whatever you have.

I used goat milk yogurt but any kind of yogurt will be fine. If you are using sweetened yogurt, you won't need as much honey.

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It keeps for at least a week in the fridge. This makes a fairly large batch, so you can always halve the recipe if you don't want so much. Or, make the full recipe and then freeze some for later.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

What I Learned About Septum Piercings From Almost Failing At It Twice

Before Piercing

Do your research. When I pierced my septum the fist time, I had wanted to have it pierced for a very long time, but I decided to do it on a whim, with a "now or never" attitude. Unfortunately, I happened to be passing a piercing shop at the mall when I decided this. So, instead of going with a recommended piercer with a good reputation, I went with whoever was on shift at the mall shop. I tried to ask questions of the girl working the front counter, but she was very unhelpful and assured me the piercer would tell me everything. I was nervous and excited.

The piercing itself was quick and painful, but then it was done. The piercer gave me a photocopy of instructions for care, and told me I could switch out the jewelry in 4 weeks. The paper said 4-8 weeks, so I conservatively waited 5 weeks to switch from the rather large ring he used to a smaller one that I felt fitted my face more.

I couldn't get it in. Even though the new jewelry was smaller, and I had waited even longer than he had told me, my piercing was effectively gone. I cried. I went into the shop later that day; the same piercer was working. He couldn't get it in either, and assured me that it was my fault. I cried again. The crying didn't help, but I had loved finally having my septum pierced, even with the too-large jewelry. Just like that, and after all my weeks of careful care, I had no more lovely septum ring.

When I decided to get it repierced, a long year and a half later, I asked friends for recommendations. I had gone into two local tattoo shops, but wasn't sure how to judge about the quality of care and the pride in their work, based on their art portfolios. When several friends recommended a piercer at a tattoo shop a few miles down the road, I sent the shop a facebook message. I explained that I had scar tissue from a previous septum piercing, and was nervous about the whole thing. We messaged back and forth a bit. She assured me that she could definitely help me out. She was very knowledgeable, and easily answered my questions, providing all kinds of information about jewelry types, problems and issues during healing, and told me to wait a full 8 weeks before switching out the ring. 

The second time piercing the same spot was a lot more painful. It seemed like the scar tissue got in the way. But after a brief struggle and a few screams from what almost felt like birth pains, it was done. I had my new baby nose ring. To be safe, I waited 4 months before changing it out for a smaller ring. No need to rush.

After Piercing

Cotton swabs are your friend. You will use them to clean around the piercing, to get crust off the ring, and even to wipe your nose since you cannot use anything else. My nose was very sensitive, and took a long time to heal, especially the second time. I cleaned it and applied virgin coconut oil three times a day, making sure the ring could spin freely each time. Coconut oil was my idea, and I chose it because it has antibacterial properties. My second piercer had recommended against using petroleum products like Vaseline. 

My first peircer had just tried to sell me a packaged After Care solution (salt water). Instead of buying a bottle of salt water, I made my own saline solution fresh each time, with a bit of warm water and salt in my neti pot. Using a neti pot with a septum ring is a bit more challenging than I was used to, especially during the first couple months of acute healing. The spout will basically not form a tight seal inside the nostril since there's jewelry through it, but it still works. During the first weeks after piercing, I did not even touch it to my nose, but just used to pot to pour warm salt water around both sides of my piercing. Then I'd clean it with my cotton swab dipped in salt water, and rinse my septum with the neti pot again. Three times a day.

Maintain a Relationship With Your Piercer

A good piercer, like a good tattoo artist, cares about the work they're doing and wants it to be something you're happy with and that looks good in the long run. I have gone back to my piercer (Mary, from Mosely's Tattoo) with questions that came up during healing. I never once felt like my questions were dumb, or my problems a nuissance to her. That relationship ended up being extremely important when, nearly a year after my re-piercing, I tried to switch from a silver hinged ring to a gold hinged ring. They were both the exact same size, just different colors. I've been into gold lately, and was excited about trying something different than my standard silver jewelry. That's when I almost lost my piercing for the second time.

My nose had originally been pierced with a circular barbell, a massive thing that didn't fit my face. Mary had preferred to use a captive bead ring, which was a little more slender and easier to wear. Both rings had some weight to them because of attached beads, and would swing around as I did yoga or leaned over. This turns out to be important in maintaining a kind of open piercing hole. When I switched my second piercing to a little "seamless septum clicker" ring, it was so small and light that the only movement it ever got was when I spun it during cleanings. This made the hole become very small and tight, and to my dismay, very nearly lost me my nose ring.

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I'd been wanting to change my ring out for a while, and had just been pragmatically giving my nose lots of time to fully heal before messing with it again. It had been almost a year since my second piercing. I had read that it can take a year and a half to fully heal a septum piercing, although obviously the jewelry can be switched out before that time. So one morning I was feeling like a go-getter, and I got ready. Getting ready involved me washing my hands and opening the new ring. I did not even clean my septum before changing the ring, which would probably have been a good idea. That ended up not being the problem, however. The hole seemed to just be gone.

I bravely slid the silver ring out, and tried to follow it with the little gold ring. I could get it in a millimeter or two, but after that it stopped dead. I tried from the other direction; same thing. Hands shaking, I took the ring to my boyfriend and he gave it his best. After making it bleed a little, he apologetically gave up too. Before even bringing the ring to him, I had messaged Mary in a panic. She got back to me and assured me it would be fine. Enough time had gone by that the piercing would certainly still be there. I iced my nose, took slow calming breaths, and prepared to go into the shop once they opened. While I waited I practiced some meditation, trying to keep my mind and body from going into stress mode. I don't love pain, and could not bear the thought of going through getting my septum pierced a third time, and the months of tender care that involves.

Because my hole had become so small, it was hard even for a professional to get a ring through. Gamely, she tried to insert my preferred gold ring, multiple times, multiple ways. Eventually, she grabbed a new ring, this one a hinged ring with a straight bar that goes through the septum. She got it in easily. My relief was palpable.

Now my job is to gently wiggle my nose ring frequently, to work the hole a little larger so that it will accept rounded rings and be easier to change out. And I think when I do change it again, I'll go back to the heavier, captive bead ring for a while, to make sure the piercing stays a decent size. Mary says the more often I change it, the easier it will get. For now, I'll go back to her for ring changes, until I'm confident that my piercing is here to stay.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

What Happened When I Used Homemade Dish Powder... & How I Fixed It.

I love natural solutions for everyday purposes, and had been making my own natural dish tablets for years, before finding a less labor-intensive recipe for a simple dish powder consisting only of baking soda, salt, and a few drops of soap. I recently wrote an article about that experience and how to get naturally clean dishes, which you can read here.

The Problem

When someone mysteriously warned me that the simple dish powder would clog my dishwasher, I didn't have any idea what they meant. How could 3 very soluble ingredients create a clog? But about two weeks after switching to this recipe, I found out (and remember, this is after using homemade tablets for years, so this might have been coming anyway). There was an inch of standing water across the bottom of my dishwasher after running a load, and a bunch of greasy buildup in the filter. This is it, I thought. I've gone too far, and broken an expensive appliance. However, fortunately that's not the end of the story.

The Fix

After using a rag to sop up all the standing water, I cleaned everything I could. When I examined the parts of the filter at the bottom of the dishwashwer, I found that they were very greasy, so I cleaned them with soap & hot water. I guess my homemade solution is just not hardcore enough to keep that grease from accumulating. I googled how to fix a clogged dishwasher, and found this helpful website, with tips from a plumbing company. They offer three things to try before calling a plumber, and it gave me hope that this was something I could handle.

While I tried their tips (which didn't seem to help in my case) I also read my dishwasher manual. It said that it was designed for storebought dish soap, particularly dish pods. Using dish pods, it said, would keep the pipes clean from scummy buildup. That very morning I went to Costco to pick up dish tablets. Their store brand is the cheapest I could find from a trusted source.

Bravely, I loaded my dishwasher with the now piled-up dishes, and ran a load with the chemical smelling dish tablet. It appeared to be working as normal, so I relaxed a little. When it came time to open the door, I was prepared for a flood of soapy water, but it didn't come. The dishes were clean and perfect, the floor of the appliance clear and empty. And all it took was running it with one dish pod. Just to be on the safe side, and to clear out any remaining greasy buildup as much as possible, I ran the next load with a conventional tablet as well.

Looking Forward

Now, it may seem like I haven't learned my lesson, but my plan is to alternate using my natural dish powder with storebought tablets. This is not just to reduce the cost, since these dish tablets are only 11 cents a piece, but to reduce the chemical impact. Salt & baking soda are both edible, and I feel much better about flushing them out into the environment. They don't have the grease-busting abilities of harsh chemical detergents, but if I run a conventional dish tablet once a week I think I can keep the pipes squeaky clean, and maintain the life of my appliance.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Using Conditioner for Shaving Cream

Have you ever had conditioner that didn't work on your hair, or that you just didn't like for whatever reason? What did you end up doing with it?

Generally, the options would be to either throw it away, give it away, or (especially if you paid good money for it) use it anyway. Well, here is another option: Use your conditioner for shaving cream. No, you don't need shaving cream or gel from a can to get a good shave. Try this; it works!

A Life Unprocessed

I've been shaving with conditioner that I was given, and it works perfectly. It provides a creaminess, rinses easily away, and moisturizes. I keep the conditioner in a small tub that I can easily scoop what I need from while shaving, and refill as needed. It's as simple as that.

I also discovered I can easily shave at the sink, rather than in the shower, which saves water. I just use a washcloth to wet the area before shaving and wipe away the conditioner after.

A Life Unprocessed

Shaving with your conditioner provides an elegant solution for conditioners that don't work great for your hair, and might be a better option for your skin than whatever you've been using to shave with. Conventional cans of chemical shaving creams and gels create endless waste, but the bottles conditioners come in can generally be recycled. It takes just a small scoop to provide coverage, so one bottle lasts a long time.

If you're interested in going shampoo and conditioner free, check out my articles on using simple household staples to get super clean hair: How My Family Went Shampoo Free, and Still Shampoo Free.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

How To Make Dishwasher Powder With Three Natural Ingredients

A Life Unprocessed

You don't have to buy dishwasher detergent. Your dishwasher won't be ruined by homemade dish soap. You won't have suds erupting all over your kitchen floor. Just follow the simple instructions below, and you'll have clean dishes with no mess, no hassle, hardly any expense, and all natural ingredients. (For a recent update on this experience, please check out my article What Happened When I Used Homemade Dish Powder... & How I Fixed It)

For the last couple of years, I've been making my own dish tablets. It's a complicated process that I never really perfected, which is why I never wrote an article about it. I would make huge batches of tablets, each batch lasting for many months, so I only had to do it a few times. However, my dishes recently had been coming out a little streaky and spotty. Clean, but not shiny. So I wanted something else. I considered buying conventional dishwasher detergent, so I spent some time on Amazon comparing all the prices, reviews, and ingredients. The reviews were very mixed, especially for the more "natural" products, so I really wasn't sure what to try. But then when the new year started, we began keeping a budget, and I no longer wanted to buy something if I could make do without it. So I hit up Google in search of a better solution for our dishes.

I found right away this apparently common solution. Before I decided to give it a try I started a conversation about it in the Buy Nothing Challenge group I'm in on Facebook, which is full of helpful and knowledgeable people who come up with interesting ways to not buy things. 75 comments later, I was left feeling quite confident that none of my ingredients would damage my appliance. One warning someone did mention is that using white vinegar as a rinse agent will damage the dishwasher's seals over time. While I have tried using vinegar in the past, it's not something I recommend simply because it didn't seem to make a difference in my dishes. Through this research I also figured out that the squeeze of liquid soap I'd started adding to my homemade tablets was probably the reason my dishes had been looking streaky lately, since liquid soap has a harder time rinsing away. This recipe uses a little liquid soap, but only a few drops.

There were one or two people who told me right off that this would void my warranty and/or wreck my dishwasher. This at first gave me pause, but then I asked why.

How would salt, baking soda, and a tiny amount of soap cause any damage? They all go easily into solution in water. They're not particularly harsh and they're not going to clog anything. People are afraid of making their own; companies don't want you to make your own; but as far as I can tell, there is literally no harm in making your own. I've been making my own liquid laundry soap for three years without any problems, as well as my dish tablets. I have a long history of doing things my own way, pretty successfully, so after my research I was confident in running my first trial load.

I was so pleased. Not only were they clean, but they were shiny again. This much easier method worked better than my elaborate dish pod recipe.

A Life Unprocessed

Now, without further ado except the reminder that this might void the warranty on your dishwasher, here is the recipe.

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 drops liquid soap 

I use lavender Dr. Bronners liquid soap, which smells amazing. Place all ingredients in the soap tray, and close it up. Run as normal, and behold how clean this easy method gets your dishes.

For the first few batches, I anxiously checked each dish to make sure my new method was working. It does. It continues to work great. Now I just keep a jar of baking soda and a jar of salt under my sink, next to a squeeze bottle of lavender liquid soap. I buy all three in bulk from Azure Standard, so they are very cheap. Washing dishes is amazingly easy, and I can have naturally clean dishes without having to slave away making dishwasher tablets. (Update: Please check out my more recent article What Happened When I Used Homemade Dish Powder... & How I Fixed It)

A Life Unprocessed

Please let me know how this works for you! 

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