Thursday, May 15, 2014

Acure Organics

While I absolutely love cooking, I also have a secret obsession with beauty and fashion.  About a year or so ago after I had my two kids, I decided to pay more a little bit more attention to myself!  Before having my boys, my hair was pin straight.  It was always thick and strong, but straight.  Because of that, I always dreamed of having some sort of curl in my hair.  In fact, when I was in middle school, my mom took me to the hair salon to get a "body wave".  I was so excited at the thought of having wavy hair but of course my hair was not having it.  The waves lasted about a week.  I was told that my hair was too heavy and thick.  You can imagine my disappointment!  Fast forward to the present and two kids later, my hair has changed dramatically.  I began developing strange waves in the back of my head after the birth of my first son.  My hair stylist didn't know what to make of it and neither did I!  After my second child, my hair was completely wavy.  You think that I would be ecstatic that I finally had what I had so longed for!  Unfortunately, along with the waves came FRIZZ, which I had absolutely no experience dealing with.  Please see exhibit A.

Exhibit A

I know you are thinking that I teased my hair for this picture but not a chance!  This was the result of simply running my hands through my hair while relaxing on the couch.  My husband took one look at me and said, "go look at your hair in the mirror!", eeeek!  I switched to all natural products while pregnant with my first child.  Ever since, I have tried countless organic/natural products on my hair and have been disappointed each time.  Once I began using Acure Organics products, I started to see a big difference.  Please see exhibit B!

Exhibit B
My hair is shiny, has zero frizz, and I can run my hands through it without looking as if I've put my finger in a light socket!  This was the result of using Acure Organics Moroccan Argan Stem Cell Shampoo/Conditioner, Moisturizing Root Repair (once or twice per week on the ends of my hair), and Acure Organics Marula Oil.  I don't know which product did the trick for me or if it is the combo working together, but all I know is that I am sticking with it because they have tamed the beast (a.k.a. my hair)!  

I began purchasing Acure Organics products over a year or so ago and I have since become a loyal customer.  Their products are free of nasty chemicals, fair trade, and do what they claim they are going to do.  My first purchase was their Argan oil, which I use on my face every day (I highly recommend picking up a bottle!).  Next, I purchased a lip balm, leave-in hair conditioner, shampoo/conditioner, etc.  I loved their products so much that I did a little video review of the products I had tried.  Acure Organics ended up seeing the video, liked it, and sent me additional products to review.  Read on for my review of each item!

Acure Unscented Argan Oil Cleansing Towelettes - $8.99
I have had bad luck with cleansing towelettes in the past.  I have tried various brands and have been disappointed each time.  The towelettes from other brands have felt like sand paper, dried out my skin, and made me break out.  I was pleasantly surprised by these towelettes.  The cloth is a good size, gentle on your skin, and moisturizing.  They do a great job of cleansing my face when I am too lazy to wash it before bed, which is most nights these days, ha!  Oh, and guess what? No break-outs from these! Needless to say, I will be purchasing more when I run out. 

Acure Red Rose + Red Tea Facial Toner - $15.99
I am fairly new to the world of toner so this is only the second one I have tried.  The last toner that I used was a natural brand but it had a laundry list of ingredients and most I couldn't pronounce or even recognize.  This Acure toner is made up of six recognizable ingredients and ALL are organic.  When you are using something on your face every day, ingredients matter.  I have noticed an overall difference in my skin from using this toner.  My skin looks more even, my dark spots have lightened, and my pores are smaller.  I don't even know if it is meant to do those things?  Did I mention that I love the red rose scent it has?!  I use three sprays on a cotton round to apply this each day (which is plenty) but you also have the option of just spraying the product directly on your face and wiping it off, gently.  I like that the product gets distributed evenly either way you apply it.  My last toner just soaked the middle of my cotton round.  

Acure Argan Oil + Probiotic Sensitive Facial Cream - $19.99 
I have to admit that I was hesitant to try this cream on my face.  Most face creams don't moisturize my face enough so I am left with itchy dryness OR they tend to clog my pores and make my face break out.  I switched to Acure's pure Argan Oil for that reason.  It was the only thing that I used on my face as a moisturizer until now.  I feel like I put this face cream to the true test because I used it all through the winter months when my skin was at its driest.  I thought that maybe I would need to add a couple of drops of Argan oil to it for added moisture but it wasn't necessary.  I have been using this face cream daily and I love it.  It does claim to be unscented but I can definitely smell chamomile when I am applying it.  I absolutely love chamomile so I was pleasantly surprised!  If you are looking for a gentle moisturizer, give this one a go.  I am sure that you will enjoy it just as much as I do.

Acure Moisturizing Root Repair, Argan Stem Cell + Mint - $14.99
The directions for this product say to use this after using Acure shampoo, concentrating on the ends, and to let it penetrate for 5 minutes.  I use this twice per week after I use Acure shampoo and conditioner.  I figure the more conditioner the better, right?  I have been using this product solely on the ends of my hair because that is the section that needs it the most.  To be honest, I really didn't think that I would see a difference after using this product but, I have.  Goodbye, dry and brittle hair ends!  Once again, I have been pleasantly surprised.  This is now a staple in my shower!

Acure 100% Pure Wildcrafted Marula Oil - $15.99
I was probably most excited to try out this product when it arrived.  Marula oil is beneficial for both your skin and your hair.  It is great for skin dryness, scars, redness, etc.  I decided to try it on my troublesome hair, for obvious reasons (see exhibit A!).  My first experience working this into the ends of my hair was a good one.  Marula oil can be used for massage, which makes it very easy to apply evenly and work into your hair.  I am happy to report that my hair has really responded positively to it.  The frizz has vanished and it doesn't leave my hair looking oily like so many other products.  It really seems to soak into my strands of hair rather than laying on top like an oil slick.  I tried out an ant-frizz serum a while back.  It was recommended by a friend so I thought that I would give it a whirl.  If you used two drops your hair would be okay but God forbid a third drop accidentally came out, your hair would resemble John Travolta's hair in Grease. Not exactly the look I was after!  That anti-frizz serum was far from natural too.  With this product, there is a comfort in knowing exactly what you are applying to your body.  I also really love the fact that this product has multiple uses. It really justifies the price.  Needless to say, this Marula oil has earned a permanent place in my hair care routine!

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Products pictured above were supplied by Acure Organics but opinions are my own.  If I didn't like it, you wouldn't hear about it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fool Proof Carrot Cake!

I baked my first carrot cake in college.  My boyfriend (now husband) was coming to visit me for the weekend and it just so happened to be his birthday as well, so I set out to bake him the perfect cake!  I had called his mom and she had informed me that carrot cake was his absolute favorite so I bought a cookbook, and got started.  Nothing shows love like a homemade cake, right?  This particular cake turned into a complete labor of love.  My college kitchen was rather ill-equipped and the oven had seen better days.  What should have taken an hour and a half to bake at the most, turned into a six or seven hour ordeal!  I was hand grating carrots, beating and whipping ingredients by hand since we didn't have a mixer.  I give lots of credit to the our fore fathers because hand whipping cream cheese frosting is strenuous! When I finally got the cake in the oven I thought that I could breath a sigh of relief.  Unfortunately, the cake took over 4 hours to bake.  I am pretty sure it was a combo of the pan that I used and the oven malfunctioning.  I was delirious when this carrot cake was finally finished and scared that it would end up being a total failure.  As it turned out, it was the BEST carrot cake ever.  I sent the rest home with my boyfriend and his family devoured it.  This recipe has been a go to ever since (only it doesn't take me 6 hours to make! ha!).  Everyone who tries it requests the recipe!  I told you this long drawn out story, not to scare you out of baking carrot cake but to show that this recipe is basically fool proof!  You cannot mess it up!  This cake actually gets better with age so feel free to bake it a day or two in advance, frost it, and store it in the fridge (bring to room temperature before serving).  

Here are some of my personal tips when it comes to baking:  

I have three basic rules when it comes to baking.  First of all, always sift your dry ingredients because it makes for a lighter baked good.  Secondly, DON'T over mix your batter!  If you do, you will end up with a dense and tough product.  I usually mix until the ingredients have just come together.  Lastly, never follow the cooking time listed on a recipe because all cooking times will differ based on the oven being used.  If a recipe says the baking time is 50-60 minutes, I check it at the 45 minute mark and then every 5 to 10 minutes.  There is nothing worse putting your heart and soul into a baking project only to end up with hockey puck in the end!  

Cream your eggs, oil and sugar.....

Sift your dry ingredients together...

Grate your carrots (I used the mini chopper attachment for my immersion blender)...

Mix all of your ingredients together...

Pour into your pan-size of choice...

Start your frosting while the cake bakes!

Whip the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl...

Add the powdered sugar and vanilla....

Spectacular Carrot Cake

1 1/2  cups of oil (I use canola)
2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
2 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of Kosher salt
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
2 cups of shredded carrots
2 cups of flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick of butter, room temperature
2-3 cups of confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 or 2 tsp. of hot water, if needed 

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, cream together the oil, sugar, and eggs.  In a separate bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.  Add with the remaining ingredients to the egg mixture, and mix until ingredients are well combined.  Pour into a 9x13-inch cake pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Add the vanilla and confectioners' sugar.  If your frosting is too stiff, add one teaspoon of hot water at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

Photos by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe adapted from the cookbook, Specialties of the House by Julia M. Pitkin