What’s your snack obsession? Apples and cheese are a healthy snack option to chew on

Apples and CheeseWhen you get a late afternoon hungry tummy rumble, what snack do you reach for to quiet the angry beast?

My guess is you walk to the vending machine and buy a bag of potato chips, because salty snacks are a common snack food in the United States.

I’ve been there.

But, I’ve also learned that tiny bag of salty goodness won’t keep my hunger at bay until dinner. I’ve found that fruit will. Why, you ask? Fruit contains carbohydrates that provide energy and slow digesting fiber that quells hunger and keeps blood sugar stable (goodbye 4 PM sugar crash!).

Apples are a key player on my healthy and affordable snack roster. Apples are a healthy snack choice, but obsession worthy? Yes, if you pair your apple with a bit of something special.

Lately, Vermont sharp white cheddar cheese has been my indulgence of choice. It’s an easy, portable snack and when you nibble on a morsel of cheese with a slice of apple you’ll have a delicious snack experience. The sharp tang of the cheese coupled with the sweet, tart flavor of the apple lifts your spirit (and your hunger). This is not a snack to gobble down. That would be a choking hazard and a missed opportunity. Slow down, savor the experience. Contemplate the lush, green hills of Vermont. (I feel less stressed already.)

Not only does adding a bit of cheese to your snack make you feel like you took a mini-vacation, a half-ounce portion of cheese has some healthy snack benefits. You’ll get 10% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium and little bit of fat and protein to help you feel full longer.

Watching your nutrition a bit more closely? Here’s some more stats for you to consider:

  • A medium apple contains about 100 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, over four grams of fiber, 14 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and is fat-free.
  • A half-ounce portion of cheese contains about 55 calories, zero carbohydrates and three grams of protein. It does contain five grams of fat (three of those are saturated fat), so moderation is the key to making it a part of a healthy diet.

What’s your snack obsession? Because mine change over time, I’m always looking for suggestions. Leave them in the comments or take part in the discussion happening on Facebook.

Put that umbrella away: Citrus Clouds in the forecast means nothing but pure sunshine

Citrus CloudsDon’t let the name of this soap fool you; when you have Citrus Clouds in your shower, you’ll feel nothing but the warm glow of the sun.

This handmade soap contains all-natural scent and colorant and is full of moisturizing oils (such as coconut, olive and avocado) to calm and nourish your skin. Orange essential oil brings the scent of an orange grove into your shower and invigorates you so you can take on any challenge your day may bring.

Why not treat yourself to Citrus Clouds soap? You’ll find it, and our full line of handcrafted soap products, in the Emmet Street Creations Etsy store. Check it out!

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Mushroom farm progress

Last week, we shared a picture of my miniature mushroom farm. After a nearly week-long battle with the norovirus and dehydration, I discovered that neglecting a mushroom farm results in dehydrated mushrooms. According to the manufacturer, these are still perfectly fine to use. I simply need to reconstitute them in some water. I’m looking forward to using them in my favorite wild mushroom soup recipe. Being sick left me plenty of time to surf the web and I found some interesting things to share this week.

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers we are inspired by, check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Facebook, here’s some of the fun you missed:

  • Happy Birthday Mr. Rogers – Kelly and I still miss him.
  • Stephen King’s top 10 favorite books – The majority of my favorite books are Stephen King books. Maybe I need to branch out.
  • Flow™ Hives – Oh, beehive! This revolutionary beehive might make our dreams of becoming beekeepers possible! I’ve watched the video several times and can’t get over how easy it is to gather the honey.

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

Now that I’m feeling healthy again, I want to eat everything I see. Luckily, I have plenty of recipes to choose from. I’ll start out light and try some vegetable barley soup. Then maybe I’ll graduate to more solid fare with this easy skillet hashOh, and coffee, how I have missed thee! 

March 20: International Day of Happiness

It's spring! Image credit: Purple Beauties by Audrey, on Flickr (modified). CC BY 2.0. 

Today is an important day for two reasons. It’s the first day of spring (hooray!) and it’s the International Day of Happiness.

This day was first commemorated on March 20, 2012, due to a U.N. resolution designed to recognize the importance of happiness to the human experience and consider this in public policy decision making. Since then, several organizations have rallied to promote awareness of this day and encourage people to celebrate by cultivating happiness within themselves and sharing it with others. If you’re looking for ideas to celebrate today, check out the International Day of Happiness and Acts of Happiness websites.

Ultimately, the goal is for us to create happiness within ourselves every day. When you do so, it spills over into your interactions with others, making the world a healthier, happier place. Need help doing so? Project Happiness offers tools to help get you started.

Personally, I try to find or do one thing each day to remind me of my reasons to celebrate life and be grateful. Today, as my effort to spread a little happiness around, I’m sharing the first lip sync battle from The Tonight Show. Jimmy Fallon + Paul Rudd + lip sync battle = a happy heart:

Why not share a little happiness yourself? Do you have friends who could use a pick-me-up (or just some Paul Rudd eye candy)? It’s easy to spread the joy! Simply use one of the sharing buttons below.

(Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons.)

Soap making secrets: Is lye safe to use in soap?

imageMy soaping apparel: Goggles, mask, long sleeves and gloves

I’m often asked if I use lye, or sodium hydroxide, in my Emmet Street Creations soap. The answer is yes. Yes, I do. If someone tries to sell you soap that wasn’t made with either sodium or potassium hydroxide, walk away or they may talk you into the snake oil they are selling as well.

The truth about soap is that it absolutely cannot be made without lye. The very definition of soap from the Google dictionary is, “a substance used with water for washing and cleaning, made of a compound of natural oils or fats with sodium hydroxide or another strong alkali, and typically having perfume and coloring added.” Occasionally I’ll see recipes on Pinterest for “No Lye Soap.” These recipes use melt and pour soap and while you don’t personally have to use lye to make this type of soap, it was actually created with lye to start with.

The follow-up question I’m usually asked is, “is lye safe?” Lye on its own is a very dangerous and caustic chemical capable of maiming, blinding or killing anyone who doesn’t give it the respect it deserves. As a soap maker, I use extreme caution and take many safety measures to ensure that I don’t harm myself when working with lye. I wear goggles, gloves, a face mask to filter the fumes, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. I work very slowly and deliberately around lye water. Sometimes I imagine it’s a coiled cobra ready to strike if I make a wrong move. (I have an active imagination.)

But, here’s the thing: by the time a batch of properly formulated soap is complete and ready to use, the lye no longer exists in its original scary form. Through the magic of chemistry, in a process called saponification, the lye water reacts with the oils and creates a completely different substance… soap. Soap makers use complex mathematical equations to make sure they use they use enough lye to react with all the oil and even leave some oil behind to nourish your skin.

As a soapmaker, it’s important to make sure that each batch of soap is safe and does not contain too much lye. There are several methods to do this. We can test the pH by using pH test strips (or, apparently, red cabbage). We can even use our tongues. In a method called a “zap test” we touch our tongue to a bar of soap (one we don’t intend to sell to you, I promise). If we feel an unpleasant tingle on our tongue, we know the soap has some remaining lye and should not be used. I use both PH test strips and the zap test on my soaps to ensure they are safe and mild. I also use a bar from each batch (the one I licked, of course) on myself before I ever consider selling it to the public.

Do you have a question about the soap making process? Ask it in the comments or on our Facebook page and I’ll do my best to answer in a future post. 

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Mushroom mini farmIt’s been another busy week here on Emmet Street. We’ve recovered from Daylight Saving Time and are very happy to see sunshine in northeast Ohio. Christine has been busy working her biceps by slicing new batches of handcrafted soap. She’s also joined the grow your own mushrooms movement and become an independent mushroom farmer. (I wonder if she’ll use her crop to make a batch of creamy vegan mushroom soup?) As for me, last week I took time to enjoy a performance by the Cleveland Orchestra and round up fun things to share with you!

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers we are inspired by, check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

  • Feather pattern embed in soap - The sun is shining and birds are chirping. Why not remind yourself by using a handcrafted soap with a feather pattern embedded in it? You’d have a little bit of spring in every shower. MINIs Seifen pulls this technique off with ease.
  • Beer soap – St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. Will you be celebrating with a pint? Great Cakes Soapworks will show you how to use leftover beer in your soapmaking. (Presuming you have leftover beer to use.)
  • Bunny soap – Easter is coming soon. These adorable bunny soaps from Crimson Hill Soapworks look like Easter Peeps (but they probably aren’t as tasty).

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Facebook, here’s some of the fun you missed:

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

  • I spotted the first sign of spring: crocus blooms! Fingers crossed snowy weather will stay away for good.
  • Now that sunnier weather has arrived, I’ve been wanting salad for lunch. Maybe I’ll whip up a batch of Meyer lemon salad dressing and make my salad extra special.
  • Making plans for warm weather activities? Why not try ziplining? Christine found it to be a thrilling adventure.

Sip on this: Apple-cinnamon infused water

Apple cinnamon infused waterWe all know the benefits of drinking water. Water is great. If you have a glass or a refillable bottle, it’s an inexpensive way to keep you hydrated at your body’s optimal level of 60% of your body weight.

So, why do I find it so hard to drink enough of it? Maybe it’s because I’m from the Kool-Aid generation, but my liquids need to have some flair and flavor to get me to drink ‘em down. Since I’m trying to keep it healthy, drinking a sugared beverage is not an option. So, what’s a girl to do?

The answer is flavor-infused water.

You’re probably familiar with the front-runner of the infused water movement: the ubiquitous lemon wedge that comes with your water at a restaurant. But, it can be so much more. I’ve been experimenting with different options (so has Christine, check out her post on Cucumber, Lime and Mint infused water), and this apple-cinnamon infused water has been a favorite lately.

A little bit sweet, a little bit tart it’s the perfect way to get in your 64 (or more) ounces of wateer. You also get a bonus with your beverage, since apples are a healthy snack you’ll have a treat when you finish your glass.

Have you tried infusing your water with flavor? What’s your favorite?

Apple-Cinnamon Infused Water

Makes six, 1 c. servings

6 c. water

6 cinnamon sticks

2 medium apples, cored and sliced

2 T. apple cider vinegar

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add cinnamon sticks and boil for about five minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

When water has cooled, remove and discard cinnamon sticks. Place sliced apples in a larger pitcher, add apple cider vinegar and gently stir to coat the apple slices. Add cinnamon water to the pitcher, then place the pitcher in the fridge to allow it to chill to desired temperature before drinking.

If you want, you can add a little sugar or honey to sweeten this drink, but I found it refreshing without it. Let your palate be your guide!