Sunday, November 29, 2009


Many people are turning to more natural preparations of soap, maybe due to allergies, for a desire to be more gentle on the environment, or just because they like the idea of natural products. If you are looking to a natural alternative to commercial brand soaps, there are so many to choose from. We use a beautiful product called Aleppo. Made with Laurel Oil (Bay leaf), the Aleppo line has so many different varieties to choose from. (Here you can learn about the Laurel oil (bay leaf) soap in english)

Our friend Debbi informed me that she was going to make her yearly batch of homemade olive oil soap, so I joined in on the making. Soap has been made using olive oil since at least the 1600s. Since those days olive oil soap has often been referred to as castile soap because of the region of Spain where it originated. This is pure olive oil soap, but of course those we find on the supermarket shelves today may contain smaller amounts of the beneficial oil.

What is it about olive oil that makes it perfect for the base of a soap? The olive oil acts in much the same way as tallow, but is much more gentle. The oil is known to be good for your skin with the nutrients it contain providing moisture and elasticity to your skin.

Making olive oil soap requires a bit of preparation and some caution as it requires the use of Sodium hydroxide. There are several recipes available on the Internet that can tell you exactly what you need to do and warn you of any risk or hazard, as well as letting you know what benefits you can expect from using your own homemade olive oil soap in place of commercial brands.

There's no question olive oil is good for your skin. After all, many people use it as a moisturizer straight out of the bottle! They simply rub extra virgin olive oil into their skin, just as you would any other moisturizing oil or lotion. Many claim it can help you keep a youthful appearance, too! I, however, haven’t gone that far. I do however use Argan Oil and do recommend it.

We have learned about a common ingredient in most shampoos, bubble baths, toothpastes, shave foams, and shower gels. This ingredient is called Sodium lauryl sulfate. (There is a long list of other forms of the word) We choose to buy products that do not contain this ingredient because of its possible number of health concerns. Check the ingredient list on your products, and If you are interested, look it up and make your own informed decision. I’m not going to preach, but it is something you should know about.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fico d'india- dolcezza pungente

Prickly Pear

The last days of the fico d’india are here, as the winter months are approaching. Although it doesn’t feel like winter is just around the corner here in Sicily. Our breakfast companion for many months will be missed, but we will look forward to the new year and all the gifts this land will bless us with. We have been avid fico d’india eaters, and who wouldn’t be after knowing all the health benefits these brightly colored gems hold.

This juicy plant easily and abundantly took root in Sicily so that it became an integral part of the landscape both as a spontaneous element in rocky and bare areas, and planted out by men in order to enclose farms and pastures or as a windbreaker. The prickly pears structure is a thick and insurmountable barrier, for its stems are formed by cladodes, or pads, reproducing one on the other for more than two meters. Their leathery texture and waxy surface is armed with spines matching wonderfully with the bright landscape of southern Italy, with the emerald green of its trunk, the spiny splendor of its flowers, and the liveliness of its fruits: red, magenta, orange, yellow, and pale green crowning the plant like polychromatic crests. Incas and Aztecs knew the nutritive and therapeutic properties of prickly pears and thought of it as a holy plant with strong symbolic values. They extracted a rich natural dark red dye, carmine. Just to extract carmine, in 1500 the prickly pears were grown in Europe. Soon their other properties were appreciated: their high nutritive value due to the copious presence of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus and the abundant amount of vitamin C. In fact large quantities of prickly pears were stocked on ships in order to prevent scurvy during long crossings.
Excerpt taken from - Gusto di Puglia