In Your Hands

The Unlimited Possibilities of the DIY Movement

May 2015

By Allan Richter

When Caroline Pickett wanted to clean her palate with a couple of after- dinner mints, chances are she didn’t tear open a plastic wrapper containing store-bought candies. Pickett, to get her breath as good as new, combined a couple cups of sugar, some boiling water, a little molasses and a few drops of spearmint oil. Then she cut off a few small pieces from the hardened result and let one or two roll around in her cheek.

Pickett’s ingredients for her mints appear in the then-famous Virginia cook’s 1922 Aunt Caroline’s Dixieland Recipes (Applewood). It was published at least a half-century after the Industrial Revolution in the United States, but that’s still how some folks did things back then. And it’s how many folks today think things should be cooked and assembled—with our own two hands.

It’s all part of the growing Do It Yourself, or DIY, movement. Its proponents regard doing things the old way as a big boon to our health. By making it ourselves, especially the things we put in and on our bodies, we can keep a close eye on each and every ingredient, ensuring that no chemical additives sneak in—a big plus considering the opaque way many commercial product labels are written.

Sure, the couple of cups of sugar in Aunt Caroline’s after-dinner mints aren’t the most ideal ingredients for optimal health, but you can bet she could trace the sugar’s origins.
Artfully crafting something for yourself—a meal, a quick watercolor, or maybe the slingshot you whittled as a kid—feels good and provides a solid sense of accomplishment and self-reliance. It encourages you to do it again—maybe even better the next time around.

When’s the last time you felt any of that after buying a loaf of bread?

On the following pages, we present a somewhat diverse selection of DIY consumables that most people would not ordinarily make by or for themselves. With varying degrees of effort, none too difficult, you can indeed accomplish these. Another criterion for inclusion in this roundup is that each of the DIY projects presented here has a health benefit—not least of which is setting out to make the thing to begin with.


That fun squishy feeling of kneading dough. The luscious aroma emanating from the oven. There’s nothing quite like baking bread. Here’s a healthy recipe from The Larousse Book of Bread: Recipes to Make at Home (Phaidon) by Eric Kayser.


Makes 2 loaves, each about 450 g

• Mixing & kneading: 10 min
• First rising: 2 h
• Proofing: 1 h 40 min
• Baking: 25–30 min

• 300 g (2 ½ cups) organic all-purpose (plain) flour, plus extra for dusting
• 200 g (1 ½ cups) organic buckwheat flour
• 3 g (½ tsp) roasted malt (optional)
• 300 g (1 ¼ cups) water at 68°F (20°C)
• 100 g (scant ½ cup) liquid sourdough starter (or 25 g [3 tbsp] organic dry sourdough starter)
• 1 g (tsp) fresh baker’s yeast*, crumbled
• 10 g (2 tsp) salt
* Or substitute dry yeast in half of the quantity designated in the recipe

Place all the ingredients in the bowl and knead with the dough hook for 4 minutes
at low speed, then for 6 minutes at high speed.

Place the 2 flours and the roasted malt, if using, on a work surface or in a mixing bowl and make a large well in the center. Pour in half the water, then add the starter, fresh yeast, and salt.

Mix well, then add the rest of the water and blend until all the flour has been incorporated.
Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Shape into a ball and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise for 2 hours.
Midway through the rise, deflate the dough by folding it in half. By the end of the rising time,
the dough will have increased in volume.

Dust the work surface. Flatten the dough gently without knocking out too much air.
Shape into a rectangle about 16 × 8 inches (40 × 20 cm).
Use a dough cutter to divide it lengthwise into 2 equal pieces.

Place the pieces of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment (baking) paper.
Cover with a damp cloth and leave to proof for 1 hour 40 minutes.

Place another baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 450°F (230°C).
Dust the loaves with flour and score in a crosshatch pattern, making 3 cuts in each direction.
Just before putting the loaves in the oven, pour 50 g (scant ¼ cup) of water onto the preheated
baking sheet. Bake for 25–30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.


It’s not difficult to identify the main ingredient in homemade cheese as purity. That’s the way Josh Tomson, executive chef at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania, sees it.

That’s because Tomson uses raw, unpasteurized milk from cows that have not been given hormones to make his signature Ricotta cheese. (See the recipe at

He also makes a vegan Ricotta with cashews. “It’s a great spread. You put it on grilled bread right off the grill and you drizzle it with honey or whatever you want to put on it. You can do candied nuts or a slice of grilled pear—pears are delicious with it.” Tomson recently used the cashew Ricotta in a Butternut Farroto with kale, roasted butternut squash and sage.

Miroslaw Stanuszek, retail manager at The Sausage Maker in Buffalo, New York, ( knows a thing or two about unprocessed food. TSM was built on the demand for tools for homemade foods created by the Polish, German and Italian immigrants of upstate New York communities. “We still get calls every day from people trying to duplicate a recipe from their childhood,” Stanuszek says.

Instead of nitrites to preserve the meats his customers make, Stanuszek recommends natural ingredients like celery powder. And, like Tomson, he swears by raw milk for use in the cheese presses his company makes (below). The process is straightforward but lengthy, though most of the time is spent merely waiting for the cheese to develop. A standard cheddar, for instance, could take up to three months.

“It’s satisfying. It’s very educational,” Stanuszek says. “You’re taking something that is so common around the house, like milk, and you can create something that has a completely different flavor profile.”



1 cup raw cashews (soaked for at least two hours and drained)
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional but it adds a nice cheesy flavor)
1 clove of garlic minced (optional)
1/2 tsp of fine sea salt


Come fall, there’s nothing like an apple-picking trip with family and friends. But how about taking the next step and churning out your own apple cider with that bounty the old-fashioned way—with a fruit press?

Here’s a recipe from Weston Products (

Apple Cider

Makes 2 gallons

1 bushel apples: use a mixture; for example, 1/3 Granny Smith, 1/3 Gala, 1/3 Macintosh

Weston fruit & wine press
Weston apple crusher

Start by quartering your apples. Use the apple crusher to crush the apples before pressing.
Once the apples are crushed, place a bucket under the fruit & wine press. Push the apple pieces from the crusher into the press, and pile the wood blocks over the top of the apples.
Once filled, place the semi-discs over the blocks, then turn the ratchet head until it is
pressed down snuggly over the semi-discs. Begin to racket down the press by pulling and
pushing the bar as the ratchet head spirals down the center pole. The juice will pour out
between the wooden slats of the press and down the spout into the bucket. As the ratchet
approaches the top edges of the press, add more wood blocks. When you can ratchet no more,
you are finished collecting the cider. Enjoy!


Readers of this magazine know we put a big premium on music for its curative qualities. Add to that the therapeutic value of building your own instruments, and you’ve got a top hit, healthwise.

That’s why we like Brian Saner and his Saner Cigar Box Guitars ( About six years ago, Saner had a friend who made a crude guitar by poking a stick into a metal one-gallon olive oil can and adding strings and a couple of tuners. “The next day I was trying to make one,” Saner says. Before you know it, Saner was building and selling guitars made from actual cigar boxes (above).

Saner is a fan of the blues and his guitars are played with a slide, in blues style. Saner also plays in a band with a suitcase bass, beer can microphone and a license plate snare, not to mention assorted cigar box guitars.

Shaun Lee and his brother Adam had similar inspiration on a visit to their native South Africa, where they saw street musicians in the poorer townships playing guitars made from sticks in car oil cans. Now the brothers, as Bohemian Guitars (, sell electric guitars made from recycled oil cans. For each guitar sold using cans that are made for them (top left) and not recycled, they plant a tree in Africa. So far, they have planted thousands.

And the guitars sound like they can hold their own at Madison Square Garden.

All the DIY innovation is music to the ears of Dale Dougherty, founder of Maker Media (, who helped launch the “Maker” movement, a close cousin of the DIY drive. Makers are more focused on mechanical and tech projects. They meet at Maker Faires that Dougherty founded, along with Make magazine, which includes projects like build-your-own drones and smartphone microscopes. His Maker Shed sells projects like the mini electric mandolin kit pictured (above).


Because skin and beauty products come in direct contact with your body, you probably want to know each and every ingredient in them. They range from relatively simple to complex, meaning there’s a beauty project for everybody.

Take the lavender bath blend that Barbara Stirewalt, director of The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House, suggests for relaxation in the comfort of your own home. Just buy some lavender blossoms from your favorite natural health store (or gather them from your garden). Combine ½ cup of lavender with 4 cups of boiling water and let steep for 20 minutes. Fill your tub and then pour the infusion in. If you don’t have access to fresh lavender blossoms, drop 5-6 drops of pure lavender essential oil into your tub.

Natural Beauty (DK) offers scores of DIY beauty and wellness options, including herbal toothpaste (right). For a companion Natural Beauty Minty Fresh Mouthwash recipe, as well as a recipe for chamomile hair de-tangler, please visit

Soap is a little more complex to make yourself, but certainly not impossible—and the end result can be very satisfying. See left for a Carrot Soap recipe from The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps (Robert Rose) by Mar Gómez.


Herbal Toothpaste

Most conventional toothpastes contain harsh cleansers like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can cause skin eruptions and allergies. This natural version has the same cleansing and antiseptic action without the risk of irritation. It contains a naturally antiseptic blend of essential oils that work to protect against bacteria and maintain gum health.

Makes ½ oz. (15G)

2 drops glycerin
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
2 drops thyme essential oil
2 drops rosemary essential oil
2 drops sweet fennel essential oil

How To Make:
1. Place all the ingredients in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon water and mix well to make a paste.

2. Makes enough for two applications. Store in the fridge and use in one day.

How To Apply:
Scoop the paste onto your toothbrush and brush as usual. Do not swallow. Use twice a day.

Carrot Soap

7.5 oz mineral water
3 oz lye (caustic soda)
1.5 lbs extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, finely grated or chopped
0.15 oz carrot essential oil
Juice of half a lemon

1. Wearing gloves and goggles, pour mineral water into a large saucepan.
Add lye slowly, stirring gently until it’s dissolved.

2. Using a thermometer, monitor the temperature of the lye mixture until it is between
120°F and 140°F (49°C and 60°C).

3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil to between 120°F
and 140°F (49°C and 60°C).

4. Remove olive oil from heat. Add lye mixture to olive oil, stirring slowly and trying not to splash.

5. Stir occasionally, every 15 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens and congeals.
(It will have a texture similar to that of light mayonnaise.)

6. Stir in carrot, lemon juice and essential oil. Stir for 1 minute with a spoon
(or with a whisk, taking care not to create foam).

7. Pour into a greased or paper-lined soap mold. Gently tap mold to remove any air bubbles.

8. Cover with a blanket or towel and let stand for 2 days. Uncover and let stand for an
additional day if the mold is very large.

9. Turn soap out of mold. Wait another day. Then cut into bars as desired.

10. Dry bars for 1 month, turning occasionally to ensure they are drying uniformly.


Herbal Toothpaste recipe reproduced by permission of DK,
a division of Penguin Random House from Natural Beauty ©2015 by DK.
All rights reserved.

Carrot Soap recipe courtesy of The Best Homemade Natural Soaps:
40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gómez,
2014 © Reprinted with publisher
permission. Available where books are sold.



Mad Millie Artisan Cheese Kit

This deluxe beginners' kit combines Mad Millie’s Fresh Cheese Kit, Italian Cheese Kit and the Cheesemaker. This kit contains all the cheese-making equipment and ingredients to make mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, cottage cheese, feta, halloumi and more, all at home. All the cheeses included can be made in one day or less and are edible within 24 hours of making them. The kit contains easy-to-follow recipes and instructions to ensure your cheese is a success. Use with your choice of fresh milk and basic kitchen utensils. The kit contains Annatto Colorant; Artisan’s Cheese Salt; Calcium Chloride; Cheese Cloth; Cheese Mat; Cheese Wax and Melting Bowl; Citric Acid; Culture and Enzyme Measuring Spoons; Curd Knife; Draining Spoon; Hard Cheese Press; Instructions and Recipes; Pipette; Shelf Stable Mesophilic Culture; Small Ricotta Basket; Small Ricotta Storage Container; 2 Square Feta Molds; Thermometer; and 20 Vegetarian Rennet Tablets. Visit for recipes, tips and information about other DIY kits, including butter, cider, kefir, sauerkraut and more on cheese-making.


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EasiYo DIY Yogurt Maker

EasiYo is a non-electric DIY yogurt-making system with a 35-ounce capacity. With no electronic or moving parts, this simple tool, originating from New Zealand, has you just steps and an overnight setting in the fridge away from fresh yogurt with no preservatives or artificial colors. It’s also full of protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. EasiYo uses milk from grass-fed, hormone-free cows from New Zealand. Your yogurt will have all- natural ingredients with no preservatives. Visit


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Solar-Powered Marble Machine Kit

This kit’s new and improved PCB board takes the energy from the solar cell, stores it and releases it in a pulse, making the gear wheel move, which eventually drops the marble down the spiral. In sunlight, the motor will pulse every few seconds and drop a ball every minute. In indoor light, motor pulses will drop to every few minutes (be patient). No patience? You can use the hand crank and see the marble drop. Note: this kit contains all the parts to build your own Marble Machine, except for tools: you will need a soldering iron, Philips #1 screwdriver and a tiny bit of glue. The wooden parts come in handy panels with additional instructions. Visit


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Health Is in Your Hands

The physio-philosophy of Jin Shin Jyutsu is a traditional Japanese healing art for harmonizing life energy. In Health Is in Your Hands: Jin Shin Jyutsu—Practicing the Art of Self-Healing by Waltraud Riegger-Krause, bestselling author and authorized Jin Shin Jyutsu instructor Waltraud Riegger-Krause makes Jin Shin Jyutsu accessible as a hands-on practice to anyone interested in sharing and benefiting from its therapeutic and salutary powers. Besides offering a simply and clearly written introduction to the foundations and complexities of Jin Shin Jyutsu, Health Is in Your Hands, which comes with a deck of 51 flash cards for hands-on practice, lays out a variety of treatments for a broad range of symptoms and conditions. The comprehensive flash-card set enables immediate hands-on Jin Shin Jyutsu application. With its visual aids and multicolored arrangement, the card deck lets you quickly learn the connections between the depths, energy locks and organ flows, and to choose the appropriate cards and practice the appropriate flows for any given symptoms. Visit or


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T spheres for DIY Massage

Practicing massage therapist Stephanie Whittier developed t spheres for a DIY mini-massage. These spheres release a calming, soothing aroma of 100% natural essential oils like mint for energy, lavender for relaxation, grapefruit for detoxifying, or rose geranium for an anti-inflammatory. Roll them gently on the sore area to treat anything from headaches to foot pain. Visit

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Fresh Ricotta Cheese Recipe

To make his ricotta cheese, Josh Tomson, executive chef at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania, strives for purity by using raw, unpasteurized milk from cows that have not been given hormones. Here’s Tomson’s recipe.

Ingredients: ½ gal Raw milk; 1 tablespoon Kosher salt; 6 tablespoons of Vinegar.

Directions: Bring raw milk and salt to a simmer in heavy sauce pan until it reached 180 degrees. Remove from heat, add vinegar, then gently stir. Let sit for 20 minutes. Strain using fine strainer or cheese cloth and discard the whey allow the curds to cool off for 1 hour.




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