Homemade: Coffee Lip Balm

With only three ingredients, this lip balm is a fun way to protect your lips. When I was quite young, my parents would put a little coffee in my breakfast milk to let me think I was drinking coffee with them. Of course it was really just coffee-colored milk, but I didn’t know any better. When I got older, I graduated on to the real thing and I’ve been drinking it ever since. So it’s only natural that I would like a coffee flavored lip balm.

coffee lip balm

coffee lip balm

One of the three ingredients takes a little preparation in advance. You see, the coffee flavor in this lip balm comes from coffee infused oil. To make that, I add equal parts ground coffee and coconut oil to a crock pot and heat it on low for a couple of hours. You can use other oils too, like olive or sweet almond, but coconut is my current favorite for this recipe. Be sure and use a good quality coffee, one that you like to drink, though it doesn’t need to be the most expensive coffee you can buy.

infusing ground coffee in coconut oil

infusing ground coffee in coconut oil

For instance, I used a medium roast Columbian decaf coffee for the batch in the above photo because that’s what I happened to have on hand, and it worked well. For a stronger flavor you can use a darker roast coffee, or else let it infuse for a longer period of time. I do not recommend using instant coffee, and I have never tried it in this recipe. After infusing, the oil needs to be strained to remove the coffee grounds, or else you will wind up with a very gritty lip balm. Click here for more info about the infusing and straining process. As you can see in the below photo, the coffee turns the coconut oil a medium dark shade of brown that looks lighter if the oil solidifies. Now that we have the coffee infused oil, it’s time to make some lip balm!

solidified coffee infused coconut oil

solidified coffee infused coconut oil

Along with the oil, you need beeswax and either cocoa butter or shea butter. Since we have a beehive here at Happy Acres, we use the beeswax that our hardworking honeybees make. It usually winds up in a big chunk or block after we melt it in our solar wax melter. But if you buy beeswax, you can get it in little round pieces called pastilles, which are much easier to melt than the big chunks. Cocoa butter or shea butter both work well in this recipe, but for a real treat try using raw cocoa butter. That makes for a heavenly flavor and aroma combo of coffee and chocolate – two of my favorite things for sure! The shea butter has a neutral smell if you don’t want to add the cocoa factor.

ingredients for coffee lip balm

ingredients for coffee lip balm

You need to melt the beeswax, cocoa or shea butter, and coconut oil in a double boiler type setup on the stove top. You can also use the microwave to do the melting. Either way, the ingredients need to be liquid and well combined. I used a small glass Pyrex measuring cup, set in a pan of gently boiling water. I stirred the ingredients with a bamboo skewer until melted (the beeswax will be the last thing to melt). I usually pour the finished product into twist-up lip balm tubes or little metal tins. Any clean, small container with a lid will do. Pour it while still liquid and then let cool thoroughly before using.

melting the ingredients for coffee lip balm

melting the ingredients for coffee lip balm

You can easily size the recipe to fit the container(s) you have. For example, the oval tubes I use each hold .15 oz/4.25g. I like to work in grams for the small amount I usually make, so if I want to fill 4 tubes then I need to make at least 17g of lip balm. I’ll round up to 20g, which means I need 4g of beeswax, 8g of cocoa butter and 8g of coffee infused oil. An electronic kitchen scale is just the ticket for a project like this, and ours gets used all the time. You can also make a little bigger batch and pour any extra into a glass jar for later use. When you need to refill your tubes or tins you can pop the glass jar into the microwave then melt and pour.

coffee lip balm

coffee lip balm

Various essential oils can be used in lip balms if they are food grade, but I think they would obscure the coffee flavor for this one. However, if a vanilla latte is your favorite drink, there are vanilla flavor oils available from several sources (including MMS and Bramble Berry) that can be added. I have also seen recipes that call for cocoa absolute, but that does not blend in fixed oils and therefore isn’t a good choice for a lip balm. Powdered stevia can be used to add a touch of sweetness. You could also add a drop or two of vitamin E if you have it, which will be good for your lips. And after all, this recipe is pretty much all about being good to your lips!

Coffee Lip Balm Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
A Happy Acres original

1 part Beeswax – 4 grams
2 parts solid butter (cocoa or shea) – 8 grams
2 parts coffee infused oil (coconut, olive or sweet almond) – 8 grams

Weigh all ingredients in small glass measuring cup. Melt by sitting measuring cup in pan of gently boiling water, or microwave at 50% power. Stir until all ingredients are melted, then pour into containers.

Let cool thoroughly before using. Lip balm should keep for about a year, depending on the oils used and how fresh they were to begin with.

NOTE: The consistency of this lip balm may vary depending on the outside temperature. Also, if you prefer a firmer lip balm, add a tad more beeswax. If you want a softer and more oily lip balm, either reduce the beeswax or increase the amount of oil.

Shared at Home & Garden Thursday, Homestead Blog Hop, From the Farm Hop, HomeAcre HopFront Porch Friday, Natural Family Friday and Old-Fashioned Friday.

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Monday Recap: The Deep Freeze

We were fortunate last week to come through the latest Snowpocalypse with only about six inches of the powdery white stuff. We couldn’t escape the blast of Arctic air that followed behind it though that sent temperatures plummeting to record levels for mid February. The thermometer hit -4°F Thursday morning, with the wind chill even colder. The greenhouse looked like an icehouse with the icicles hanging down. Inside it was a “balmy” 16°F. Another system came through on Saturday, and we got a little bit of freezing rain before it warmed up and turned to just rain. Most of the bad stuff went south of us.

greenhouse with icicles hanging down

greenhouse with icicles hanging down

The cold and snowy weather had me craving comfort food. Since it’s my turn to cook, I whipped up a comforting meal of meatloaf, Garlicky Mashed Potatoes and some Derby green beans from the freezer. I made the mashed potatoes from a mix of our yellow-fleshed Yukon Gold and French Fingerling potatoes. For the garlic, I baked one head each of Russian Red and Lorz Italian so I could do some taste testing. After being in storage for over six months, both of these varieties are still in good shape. Despite the fact that Russian Red is a rocambole type with a great taste raw, I thought Lorz Italian (an artichoke type) tasted better after baking.

Lorz Italian(L) and Russian Red(R) garlic for roasting

Lorz Italian(L) and Russian Red(R) garlic for roasting

They both flavored up the mashed potatoes nicely, and my wife and I both enjoyed them and the green beans I cooked up to go with them. The meatloaf was a nice treat too, with some of our homemade catsup and mustard in it along with the local grass-fed beef. I like to form the meat into individual mini-loaves that bake up quicker than a big loaf, and make portion control a snap.

meal with Garlicky Mashed Potatoes

meal with Garlicky Mashed Potatoes

Another meal had me whipping up a batch of red pepper aioli to go with some salmon burgers. At the end of the season last year I pickled some of the ripe Topepo Rosso peppers. I made a sweet brine, and added the quartered peppers along with a few cloves of garlic and one or two of the hot Piccante Calabrese peppers to add a little zip.

pickled peppers

pickled peppers

I love these pickled peppers, and added them to mayo to make the aioli. I baked up a Beauregard sweet potato to go with the salmon burgers, which I served up on one of my Dark Rye Potato Buns. As you can see by the below photo, it was a big sweet potato and half of it made a large serving.

Beauregard sweet potato with aioli-topped salmon burger

Beauregard sweet potato with aioli-topped salmon burger

The only fresh harvest of the week was some parsley from the greenhouse. I dug out the snow by the greenhouse door so I could get in, then picked enough flat leaf parsley to make a bouquet. I used the parsley in some soup I made from the last of our leftover Thanksgiving turkey and broth. It also went in another dish I’ll talk about next.

flat leaf parsley

flat leaf parsley

Friday I used one of our neck pumpkins to make a batch of Butternut Lasagna Rolls. The recipe calls for butternut squash puree, but we have several of the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash left in storage so I decided to use that instead for the puree. I cut the squash into pieces, baked it until tender, then scooped out the flesh and used the immersion blender on it. The squash in the below photo weighed a little over five pounds, and I got right at two pounds of puree from it after processing. I only needed one pound of it for the recipe, so I froze the rest.

Penn. Dutch Crookneck Squash

Penn. Dutch Crookneck Squash

The lasagna rolls are stuffed with a mix of cooked spinach, ricotta and parmesan cheeses, and a little chopped parsley. The spinach was some of our 2014 crop that I blanched and froze for later use. The squash puree is mixed with some sauteed onions and garlic, and goes on the bottom of the pan and the top of the lasagna rolls before baking. My wife and I both agreed this was a tasty and lightened up version of a classic dish. You can find the recipe on Skinnytaste.

Butternut Lasagna Rolls

Butternut Lasagna Rolls

My wife and I also found time to make two batches of soap last week. We make one pound (oil weight) batches anymore, using our homemade PVC pipe molds. That gives us five round bars after we cut them. We love to experiment, and this time we made one soap using 100% coconut oil. That turned out a lovely shade of white that almost matched the snow outside! The other soap was a variation on our French Green Clay recipe, this time using lemongrass and rosemary essential oils plus a bit of finely ground rosemary leaf. There should be no trouble telling the two soaps apart in the below photo!

100% coconut oil soap(L) and French Green Clay soap(R)

100% coconut oil soap(L) and French Green Clay soap(R)

I’ll close with a photo of our two cats, Puddin and Ace, who apparently fell asleep yesterday while reading about silk painting. Oh well, at least they weren’t trading catnip futures on the computer!

Puddin and Ace doing what they do best

Puddin and Ace doing what they do best

That’s a look at what’s been happening here. To see what others are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more from Happy Acres!

 

 

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Monday Recap: Snow Day

Last week I said that so far this winter we had “been spared any significant snow or ice.” I also knew that winter was not nearly over, and today is proof of that as we are in the middle of a winter storm system that is dumping a lot of snow on the upper south and lower midwest of the U.S. The snow is still coming down as I write this, with totals of 6″-12″ predicted for our area, depending on how the storm tracks. Thankfully we will be spared any freezing rain or ice.

snowy morning

snowy morning

One nice thing about being retired – when it snows, I don’t have to deal with going to work, which means I usually just stay inside! We keep enough food stockpiled to last through most any weather emergency, so a little (or a lot) of snow doesn’t usually cause a panic here. One thing I like to keep on hand is dried beans, and I cooked up a pot of them for Red Beans & Rice last night. The bean variety I used will be featured in an upcoming spotlight. I didn’t grow the beans myself, but I used some of our garlic, smoked paprika and an Aji Angelo pepper from my potted pepper plant.

Aji Angelo pepper went in Red beans

Aji Angelo pepper went in Red beans

Yesterday I also I cooked up the one and only Seminole winter squash I harvested last year. I planted all the vining type squash plants too close together, and the yields suffered as a result. This heirloom C. moschata variety was grown in Florida by the Seminole and the Miccosukee people, where it was usually planted at the base of a tree. The plant then grew up the trunk and the pear-shaped pumpkins would mature up in the tree.

Seminole winter squash

Seminole winter squash

It’s supposed to be a good keeper, and even though ours had been in storage almost six months it was still in great shape. The thick orange flesh was sweet and moist, and my wife and I both agreed it was quite tasty. I’ll be growing this one again for sure, this year in a better location without so much competition.

inside of Seminole squash before cooking

inside of Seminole squash before cooking

Since gardening is not occupying much of my time these days, I’ve been working on some other projects, and catching up on my reading. I made some coffee-infused coconut oil last week, then used it to make a batch of lip balm. I’ll share that recipe here when I’m through tweaking it.

coffee lip balm

coffee lip balm

I’m also in the planning stages of a joint art project my wife and I going to try this year. We’re hoping to combine some of my intarsia with her dyeing, and that should be a lot of fun! The below photo shows one of my intarsia pieces I made a few years back, which is part of a robe rack I made for our bathroom. It will be nice to get back into woodworking again, at least on a small scale.

duck intarsia

duck intarsia

I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at what’s happening here at Happy Acres. To see what others are harvesting, planting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

 

 

 

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Seed Starting Setup

Given the fact that I have a small greenhouse, many people are surprised to find out I start almost all of my seeds indoors in our basement, under fluorescent lights. I use the greenhouse for growing the seedlings once they are up and growing, but most all of of them get their start indoors. The temperatures are just too variable in the greenhouse, and I find I get better germination results indoors where I can provide a more controlled environment.

starting seeds under fluorescent lights

starting seeds under fluorescent lights

Of course there are lots of different ways to start plants from seed, and no one way is right or even necessarily better than others. The way I go about it is largely based on personal preference. I do get questions from time to time about my seed starting techniques, as well as about equipment, lighting, and other seed starting essentials. I shared my Seed Starting 101 a couple of years ago, based upon talks I’ve given over the years, and it covers the basics for starting your own plants from seed.

lettuce seeds sprouting

lettuce seeds sprouting

I’ve used a lot of different light fixtures in the past, including ones I made myself. The one I’m using now I bought from Harris Seeds a few years back. It’s a rolling stand with adjustable light fixtures that holds up to 16 trays. It also came with a large size heating mat that goes on one shelf, heating up to 4 trays at once. I use the heating mat to start heat loving seeds like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. The stand was pricy, but it’s well made and should easily outlast me!

16 tray light stand

16 tray light stand

So far this year I have started seeds for parsley, lettuce and arugula. The lettuce was the first to sprout, as you can see in the earlier photo. The arugula wasn’t far behind it. The parsley seeds will take a week or two to come up, which is one reason they get an early start.  For the general timetable I follow every year check out my Seed Starting and Planting Schedule. I’ll be back with more updates on my seed starting activities as they happen.

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Monday Recap: Six More Weeks of Winter

I’m really not complaining about our weather, since so far we have been spared any significant snow or ice. And I am truly thankful for that, since I only need to watch the news to see that others are getting more than their fair share. But I’m not sure the groundhog or the weather forecasters have a clue about the rest of the winter, and I know for a fact that I don’t! The weather here has been alternating cold and warm lately, and we have been enjoying soups when it has been cold. My wife cooked up a great tasting Chicken and Lentil soup last week that had some of our fresh  carrots, cilantro, and garlic in it as well as some of our homemade paprika.

Chicken and Lentil Soup

Chicken and Lentil Soup

We’re also still using up a lot of things from stores. She baked one of our Gold Nugget squash one night last week. This is my favorite winter squash for ‘individual’ sized servings. They hold up in storage quite well, though usually we have eaten them all by this time. There’s only one really small one left now, and it’s just about big enough for one person to have a few bites. The one in the below photo was one of the larger ones.

baked Gold Nugget squash

baked Gold Nugget squash

The freezer is still well-stocked too. Lynda cooked some of the frozen Rattlesnake beans I harvested last year as snap beans. I let most of them grow on to the shelling stage, and I haven’t cooked any of those up just yet. They do make a nice snap bean, and I usually harvest a few of them that way as well. They lose their purple ‘rattlesnake’ markings when cooked, and of course they are no longer crisp after freezing, but they do stay tender and tasty.

Rattlesnake snap beans blanching

Rattlesnake snap beans blanching

I made a batch of chili on Saturday, using some of our 2014 tomatoes and tomato sauce. I also used some of my frozen roasted peppers, plus a fresh Aji Angelo pepper from the container plant I have overwintering in the basement. I did this last year with one Aji Angelo plant, and then trimmed it back and planted it out in the ground in May. That plant got huge, and made lots of peppers that were much earlier than the plants started from seed. I plan on doing the same thing with this plant, and in the meantime I have a good source of fresh peppers all winter. These peppers are pretty mild to begin with, and the ones that ripen in the winter are usually even milder.

ripe Aji Angelo pepper on overwintered plant

ripe Aji Angelo pepper on overwintered plant

I also got a small but nice harvest of fresh greens from the greenhouse. I found enough mizuna and spinach leaves to make a meaningful contribution to a frittata my wife made last week. Any fresh greens are welcome right about now, during this ‘hungry gap’ between seasons.

early February harvest of greens from the greenhouse

early February harvest of greens from the greenhouse

The spinach in the greenhouse is coming on nicely, and should give us more to harvest in the weeks to come. That’s the Giant Winter variety in the below photo. I harvested a few of the larger leaves to go on a pizza we had for lunch yesterday, along with some arugula also growing in the greenhouse.

Giant Winter spinach in greenhouse

Giant Winter spinach in greenhouse

As I left the greenhouse yesterday morning, I saw a flash of blue over by the bluebird nest box. Sure enough, a pair of bluebirds was checking out the accommodations. I guess they didn’t believe the groundhog’s forecast either! The below photo is not the greatest quality, but I was happy to  capture any image of the bluebirds while I could.

male bluebird checking out the nest box

male bluebird checking out the nest box

It’s also time to get a few seeds started. I’ll have more to say about that later this week. I had some Senposai seeds from 2011 that I wanted to test and see if they were still viable. I got 70% germination from my test, so I think they’re good for another year. I’ll pot the seedlings up and they’ll make some early greens for us. Senposai is a quick growing komatsuna/cabbage hybrid, and I think the leaves taste more like cabbage or collard greens than they do komatsuna.

Senposai seedlings

Senposai seedlings

I hope you have enjoyed this look at what’s going on here in early February. To see what others are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

 

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Saturday Spotlight: Thai Rai Kaw Tok Squash

Last year I decided to try several winter squash varieties I had never grown before. Many of them were heirloom varieties I had known about for years but had just never grown. However, one of the standout performers turned out to be a Thai squash called Rai Kaw Tok that I had never heard of before last year. It’s a variety of Cucurbita moschata squash, and as such is more resistant to the squash vine borer that makes squash growing difficult in many gardens.

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash on the vine

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash on the vine

I found out there’s very little information available about the Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash. I got the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and they say it is a “Thai market variety that is sure to become popular here”. It gets rave reviews from their customers, and I will quickly add it gets rave reviews from me and my wife as well. In fact she told me I ought to do a spotlight on it, so here it is!

harvest of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

harvest of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

It is a vining squash, and my one plant quickly grew up the metal garden fencing and proceeded to vine in all directions, setting on lots of fruit in the process. The catalog description says the fruits get to be eight pounds, but mine averaged a little over nine pounds each. The five in the above photo weighed 49 pounds. The vine gave us a total of 65 pounds of squash by the end of the season, and it was the standout producer of my 2014 garden.

a big Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

a big Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

The largest one maxed out our digital scale, so I had to use the old fashioned one instead. It weighed 13 lbs, 11 oz, which made it the largest squash harvested in 2014. Most of the squash wound up setting on the vines high up off the ground, and despite their weight they hung on quite nicely. The green fruits are flattened and ribbed, with white and tan spots all over the thick outer rind. That rind turns a brownish orange after a few months in storage, as you can see in the below photo taken of one in February before cutting it up and cooking it.

Rai Kaw Tok squash after turning color in storage

Rai Kaw Tok squash after turning color in storage

In the kitchen, Rai Kaw Tok has quickly become a favorite here. The thick orange flesh is dense, flavorful, and not the least bit watery. The seed cavity is fairly small, leaving lots of usable flesh as you can see in the below photo.

cut Rai KawTok squash showing interior

cut Rai KawTok squash showing interior

I like to cut it into slices and toss with a little olive oil, sea salt, and paprika. Then I spread the slices out on a pan and bake in a 425°F oven until tender.

sliced squash before baking

sliced squash before baking

The squash slices make a great side dish prepared this way, and the outer rind softens up considerably during cooking and becomes quite edible, much like the skin on a Delicata squash. I think this variety is just as visually striking after cooking as it is fresh off the vine!

cooked slices of Rai Kaw Tok squash

cooked slices of Rai Kaw Tok squash

The folks at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange had a “Squash-athon” back in 2013, and tasters described Rai Kaw Tok as “having a spicier, more complex flavor”. They also noted that it was the best yielding C. moschata type in their test gardens that year. The fruits are too large for the two of us to consume in one or two meals, so I bake up the leftover pieces to make into puree. The deep orange pureed flesh has a spicy flavor like the folks at SESE describe it, and I can (and do) eat it with a spoon!

puree from Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

puree from Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

The squash is keeping well in storage so far, and I have several of them left, including the big 13-pounder. In the future I plan on trying it in soups, and in things like this Thai Squash Curry recipe. This squash should work well in many recipes calling for either butternut or kabocha squash. I’ve also cooked it up in some Maple Pumpkin Custard, where it was lovely.

Maple Pumpkin Custard made with Thai squash

Maple Pumpkin Custard made with Thai squash

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday Spotlight, and I’ll be back soon with another variety. Until then, Happy Growing from Happy Acres!

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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Featured Cooking Bean: Cherokee Trail of Tears

This year I am on a mission to cook and eat as many different varieties of  beans as possible. This is the first in a series about my observations about those beans.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I truly love food that has a story associated with it. The food and the story are then permanently linked together. I think that is one of the many things that is lost when we let others grow our food for us. Food then becomes a commodity, one without heart or history. And often without much flavor or nutrition, though that is a topic for another day. The Cherokee Trail of Tears bean has plenty of both history and flavor, which I think makes it all the more special.

Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean seeds

Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean seeds

In 1977 the late Dr. John Wyche, who was a dentist of Cherokee descent, donated the seeds to the Seed Savers Exchange. According to Cherokee tradition, the bean seeds were carried during the forced relocation of the Cherokee Nation in 1838-1839. It is estimated that 4000 died of hunger, exposure, and disease during that march, and today the small black bean has become symbolic of the Cherokee struggle for survival.

harvest of Trail of Tears Beans

harvest of Trail of Tears Beans

In the garden, the Trail of Tears bean has a vining habit, and benefits from a study support. The 6-inch long pods are round and green with a distinctive purple overtone. It can be eaten as a snap bean while the pods are young, or allowed to mature for a dried bean. I have grown this variety for the last two years and for me it is a dependable but somewhat shy producer.

Trail of Tears beans after soaking

Trail of Tears beans after soaking

In the kitchen, the shiny black oblong seeds have a rich and full flavor. They have made it on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, a list of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. According to food historian William Woys Weaver, the dried beans were originally used by the Native Americans to make flour. They were also sometimes cooked along with blue and black corns. I think they make an excellent black bean soup, and the beans hold up well in cooking. I have not found any commercial sources for the dried cooking beans, though the seeds are widely available from a number of seed companies.

Trail of Tears Bean soup

Trail of Tears Bean soup

I know they are popular among many gardeners out there, and I would be interested in hearing how others have prepared them, as well as any observations you might have on growing them. I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, and I will be back soon with another bean review. Until then, Happy Growing (and eating) from Happy Acres!

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