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    Recipe: Lavender French Macarons with Buttercream Frosting

    Recipe: Lavender French Macarons with Buttercream Frosting

    lavender french macarons

    French Macarons are SO hard to make! But I am nothing if not determined when it comes to baking and making natural beauty products, so after a few pretty bad attempts, I finally got these babies right. Inspired by springtime, these macarons are made with lavender extract.

    Lavender French Macarons with Buttercream Frosting — makes approximately 50 quarter-sized Macarons.

    French Macaron Ingredients:

    • ¾ cup almond flour
    • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
    • 4 tbs sugar (I use cane sugar)
    • 2 egg whites
    • 1 tsp lavender extract — please make sure you are using lavender extract and not lavender essential oil, which is poisonous if ingested! It’s very hard to find; I had to buy mine on Amazon.
    • 2-3 drops red food coloring (optional; I used 2, which I don’t think was enough)
    • 4-5 drops blue food coloring (optional; I used 3, which I don’t think was enough)

    Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:  (This is great for cupcakes, too!)

    • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
    • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
    • 2 tbs milk (half and half or soy milk work great, too!)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    Macaron Directions:

    1. Sift the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl, then combine the two.
    2. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one), whisk two egg whites for about two minutes, until light and frothy.
    3. Add cane or regular sugar one tablespoon at a time to the egg white mixture, and whisk for another minute or two, until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
    4. Carefully fold the egg white mixture in with your dry ingredients — use a rubber spatula for best results. This will take a bit of time (5 minutes or so), and when you’re finished your batter should be about the consistency of lava (seriously). It should not be thin like cake batter.
    5. If you are using any kind of flavoring or food coloring, carefully stir it in now. You don’t want to stir too much or you will lose the lightness of the batter.
    6. Place parchment paper onto two baking sheets.
    7. Transfer the batter into a plastic bag, cut a small piece of the tip off of the bag, and pipe dime-sized amounts of batter onto the parchment paper. Place them far enough apart for them to expand to about twice their size.
    8. Preheat the oven to 300º and let the uncooked Macarons sit for 15 minutes while the oven preheats. (You can also skip below to the frosting directions and prepare it while you wait.) The batter should form a thin shell on top. Test a few out with your finger; if they crack a bit, they are ready for the oven!
    9. Place your oven racks on the top- and bottom-most slots in your oven and place one baking sheet on each rack. Bake for 6-8 minutes, then switch the positions of the baking sheets and bake for another 6-8 minutes. I baked mine at 8 minutes, then 6, and they were a little too brown for my liking, so keep and eye on the clock.

    Frosting Directions:

    1. Cream butter with the paddle attachment on your stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) in a medium bowl, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl at least three times to get any devious clumps of butter that may be hanging out there, trying to mess up the smoothness of your frosting. (Trifling butter!)
    2. Pour in one cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix well — again, scraping the sides of the bowl for clumpage (ew). Then, repeat with the other cup of confectioner’s sugar.
    3. Mix in your vanilla extract.
    4. Mix in your milk, one tablespoon at a time.
    5. Frost one Macaron half, pair it with another half that’s roughly the same shape, and enjoy! I find them to be particularly wonderful with tea. :)

    DIY Floral Sugar Scrub with The Confetti Bar

    DIY Floral Sugar Scrub with The Confetti Bar

    DIY Floral Sugar Scrub

    Sugar scrubs were the very first beauty product I ever made, and are still one of my favorites! They're very easy and only really require two ingredients: sugar and oil. These floral sugar scrubs kick it up a notch with the addition of essential oils and pretty floral confetti from The Confetti Bar.

    You will need:

    Mix all of your ingredients together in a small bowl and decant into your jar. Keep it sealed and stored in a cool, dry environment until use. Use it up within six months.

    To use your sugar scrub: wash your body, then scoop some of the scrub into the palm of your hand. Gently rub it onto your skin in circular motions. Rinse off and pat skin dry with a towel. Be careful in the shower — your tub or shower floor may be slippery!

    All photos thanks to The Confetti Bar.

    10 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Beauty Products

    10 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Beauty Products

    I started making natural beauty products when I realized just how many toxic chemicals were in my favorite mass-produced cosmetics. It’s incredible to me how much we can’t rely on the Food & Drug Administration to police the cosmetic industry here in the US. The European Union has banned over 1,300 chemicals from being used in cosmetics, compared to the FDA’s paltry 11. 

    The 10 chemicals below — including formaldehyde, people!! — are not currently banned by the FDA. Thankfully, we have resources like the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database, where you can read more about the chemicals below (and many others), plus toxicity ratings for over 60,000 beauty products. I’ve included their ratings of each ingredient below — 0 is harmless and 10 is highly hazardous. Do yourself a favor and chuck out any beauty products that contain these:

    1. BUTYLATES (BHA & BHT) — These endocrine-disrupting preservatives are found in food and beauty products, including cereals, cookies, shaving creams, deodorants, and antiperspirants. According to its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), prolonged exposure to or repeated ingestion of BHT may affect the liver, kidneys, thyroid, and central nervous system. EWG Score: 6-7

    2. COAL TAR — Derived from burning coal, coal tar is primarily used as a colorant in hair dyes and textiles. It contains a mix of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chemical compounds deemed by the EPA to be environmental pollutants and carcinogens. This might be hidden in ingredient labels as tar, coal, carbo-cort, coal tar solution USP, crude coal tar, estar, impervotar, KC 261, lavatar, picis carbonis, naphtha, high solvent naphtha, naphtha distillate, benzin B70, or petroleum benzin. EWG Score: 10

    3. ETHANOLAMINES (DEA, MEA, TEA) — Ethanolamines are used in soaps, shampoos, lotions, paraffin waxes, and makeup as emulsifiers or foaming agents. These chemicals have been on lists of known carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program for decades. Look out for ingredients that say DEA, MEA, and/or TEA, especially cocamide DEA and diethanolamine. EWG Score: 5-10

    4. FORMALDEHYDE — Used in many nail polishes, hair-straightening treatments, and nail and eyelash glues, formaldehyde is most infamous as an embalming chemical. If that’s not enough to creep you out, it’s recognized as a human carcinogen by the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. But the FDA still permits it and many formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) in our beauty products. Look out for FRPs quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) on labels. EWG Score: 10

    5. FRAGRANCE — If you see the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a beauty label, with no description of what’s in that fragrance, put it down and walk away. Because fragrance recipes are considered “trade secrets,” cosmetic manufacturers do not have to disclose what’s in their fragrances. Many of them are created from petrochemicals and contain phthalates (see below). Fragrance oils can irritate the skin, strip it of its natural protection, give the wearer headaches or asthma attacks, and have negative effects on the reproductive system. EWG Score: 8

    6. OXYBENZONE — UV light inhibitor oxybenzone and its sibling benzophenone are common in sunscreens. The ironic thing about these two chemicals is that they cause photoallergic reactions — they release chemicals into your body, which sunlight converts into toxins, which your body then has to fight off. This will typically result in a rash or increase your chance of getting sunburn. EWG Score: 8

    7. PARABENS — These tricky chemical preservatives sneak themselves into a lot of otherwise “natural” beauty products – even LUSH (I know, I’m heartbroken too). As endocrine disruptors, effects of continued paraben use are as mild as rashes and as lethal as cancer. Hundreds of scientific studies have linked parabens to cancer, and topical parabens have been found in human breast tumors. AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS. They’ll show up on labels as butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben. EWG Score: 7

    8. PHTHALATES (DBP, DEHP, DEP & DMP) Endocrine disruptors commonly found in manmade fragrances and nail polishes. The most common is dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a plastisizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle. The European Union classifies DBP as very toxic to aquatic organisms. In humans, DBP has shown to cause developmental defects and impair fertitlity. EWG RATING: 10

    9. TALC Primarily found in baby and body powders, talc (talcum powder) is similar in compesition to asbestos and can even be contaminated with asbestiform fibers, which are rated 7 by EWG. This poses a risk of respiratory toxicity and cancer. Even non-asbestos talc has shown to be toxic and carcinogenic. EWG Score: 3-7

    10. TRICLOSAN You’ll find this in many antibacterial gels, hand washes, and lotions, even though the EPA has registered it as a pesticide. Scientific studies have shown triclosan to be an endocrine disruptor even at very low doses. EWG Score: 7

    Want to learn more about how to avoid toxic chemicals in your cosmetics, and how to make your own 100% natural, 100% safe beauty products at home? Get my eBook, The Poor & Pretty Guide to Natural Beauty on a Budget.

    Ingredient Love: Rose

    Ingredient Love: Rose
    Roses and rosehips have been used in beauty treatments for hundreds of years — Ancient Egyptians boiled them into perfume oils and healing balms. Europeans bathed in rose petals. And it's no wonder why. Roses have myriad beauty benefits from regenerating skin cells to hydrating and more!

    Read more

    Ingredient Love: Coconut Oil

    Ingredient Love: Coconut Oil

    Coconut oil is a wondrous natural ingredient, which is why it's mixed in to so many of my products. Here are six reasons to love coconut oil:

    1. Incredibly moisturizing. Coconut oil is full of fatty acids which lock in moisture by reinforcing our skin’s natural lipid barrier. This makes it a great one-ingredient fix for dry patches of skin, including lips. That’s why I put it in all of my body scrubs as well as my deodorant cream and whipped body butter. Keep in mind that coconut oil is comedogenic (it clogs pores), so it isn't recommended as a daily moisturizer.

    2. Removes makeup. On its own, coconut oil is great at removing makeup, and is safe to use even on your eyes. Just spread on your face, then remove with a cotton ball.

    3. Prevents dandruff. As a hydrating conditioner, coconut oil can prevent dandruff. Comb 1-2 tablespoons into your hair starting at the scalp and leave in for 10-20 minutes before rinsing it off in the shower. Be careful – it will make the shower floor or bathtub slippery!

    4. Hair tamer. Just a little bit of coconut oil is all you need to smooth frizz and fly-aways. 

    5. Renews skin. The high concentration of Vitamin E and proteins in coconut oil promote cellular health and tissue repair. These processes renew skin and prevent premature aging.

    6. Vegan lubricant. Coconut oil is a natural, vegan-friendly lubricant — but do not use it with latex condoms.