Eleanor Ozich’s recipes for the simple life
Could making your own larder staples, cleaning products and beauty creams really be a simpler, healthier way of life? One Auckland writer sets out to prove it from her own kitchen bench.
Words: Lee-Anne Duncan
“I tell people to start with a few recipes and once they realize how easy it is, and how much better the results are than what comes from the supermarket, they’ll be hooked,” says Eleanor Ozich. It feels like a big claim – that making one’s own pantry basics, household cleaners and beauty products is truly easier than popping down to the store. But Eleanor is determined to convince us through her latest book, Homemade.
Essential-oil perfumes, a scented diffuser, crackers, nut cake and powdered stock – with a few of the right things on hand, making these actually seems possible. Even the spray and wipe.
“I gave a workshop about homemade cleaners and some thought it was all too hard. I said, ‘Just watch me make them and you’ll see how easy it is.’ There are other recipes out there that might use complicated ingredients, but I keep it simple.”
That applies to her food recipes, too, because as well as being mother to Bella (10), Obi (7) and Archie (2), Eleanor says she’s actually a lazy cook. “I like cooking to be easy, especially with three kids. So, I spend time in the kitchen on Sunday making up the building blocks – sauces, dips and pantry items, things you can bring together for a really quick meal.
“That’s what Homemade is. It’s back-to-basics recipes for the kind of things people buy from supermarket. So, crackers, salt rubs, dips; things that really do make life easier during the week when I’m chucking together a meal.”
The 219-page book, with most of the photography and styling by Eleanor herself, brings together recipes she’s been making since starting her blog six years ago. That began when Bella developed digestive issues and eczema, sending her mum on a mission to achieve a healthier, more holistic lifestyle. Eleanor started blogging about what she was cooking, what they were eating, and how their health was improving.
“I think there were a lot of mothers out there going through the same thing, and the blog took off really quickly. Within six months I was offered my first book deal.
“That was amazing although I did feel a bit like a fraud because I’m not a trained cook. But that also means I don’t overthink recipes; I just throw together whatever I feel like at the time and it seems to work. The methods aren’t traditional, so there’s a lot of ‘chuck everything in the food processor and you’re done’. That’s definitely my style of cooking and a lot of mums like that too.”
Homemade is Eleanor’s fourth published book, coming after two recipe books and another on simplifying life, The Art of Simple.
“Homemade is about simplifying your kitchen and your home. I felt it was a natural progression to talk more about lifestyle, because living a healthy life is not just about food.”
Eleanor’s own progression has recently taken her deeply into essential oils, and she now runs workshops teaching others.
“That’s something I never thought I’d do. As a cook and blogger, I’m very much on my own behind the computer screen. But after doing that for five years I found I was getting lonely. It was time to get out of my comfort zone.
“I went along to an oils workshop with a friend and absolutely loved it. A few weeks later, something was telling me to host workshops myself. So now I’m meeting more people and helping them in a different way. My confidence has grown and I’ve made some beautiful real-life connections.
“I’m passionate about living a simple lifestyle; living only with what’s necessary and what I really love. So, for beauty and cleaning, even first aid, oils are great to grab.”
Essential oils play a leading role in Homemade’s ‘Beauty and Wellbeing’ and ‘For the Home’ chapters. “Many people assume they just smell nice and don’t think about their amazing therapeutic benefits. But they support emotions, overall wellbeing, the immune system, digestion, so many things.”
And she’s sharing what she’s learned in recipes for cleaners, room fresheners, deodorants, perfumes, face masks, hand cream, bath salts, and a face serum. With lavender, frankincense, ylang ylang and tea tree, in a fractionated coconut-oil base, Eleanor says the face serum means her beauty drawer is now practically empty.
“This oil is so beautiful. At the end of the day I’ll put a bit on my face and wipe my make-up off, then pat a few more drops on. In the morning I dab some on before applying make-up. And the serum itself takes literally one minute to make.”
Lavender is particularly useful, she says. For the kids it’s “a godsend” for getting them to sleep, and is “super calming” on moods – just a few drops on the hands, cupped to the face, followed by some deep breathing, and life is better. It’s also calming on the skin, good for sunburn and itchy bites.
“When you incorporate essential oils into daily rituals, they enhance your day.”
Surprisingly, that even applies to cleaning. A recipe for an all-purpose spray, contains baking soda, castile soap, bergamot, and lime and lemon essential oils. Combine with hot water, pour into a dark-coloured spray bottle, and it’s done.
“Again, it takes a minute to make. It smells amazing and, if anything, makes me enjoy cleaning more, as ridiculous as that sounds. And the fact you’ve made it yourself – you feel like a domestic goddess.”
Speaking of which, three chapters of food recipes cover easy, tasty and wholesome pantry staples, meals and sweets. Making coconut yoghurt, dukkah, ghee, cordials and powdered stock without the cost and chemicals so often included suddenly appears achievable.
Eleanor’s been a creative entrepreneur for six years now and, having just hit 30, is just getting started: “I had my first child at 19, so now the kids are a bit older I feel I’m finally at a place where I can focus on my career.”
As that career is largely run on social media (although she allows herself only 20 minutes a day to post), it does have its challenges. “I’ve definitely had moments of thinking,
‘This is hard, why am I putting myself out here?’ But I’ve done a lot of mindset work, and now I think that unless I share what I authentically love, someone might miss out on something that will help them.”
Eleanor surrounds herself with people doing amazing things, working on the mantra, ‘You become the people you spend time with’. And every day finds a short, sweet podcast to keep her on track. Brooke Castillo’s ‘The Life Coach School’ is great for stopping self-doubt creeping in.
“I’ve got to the point where I realize I can’t keep everyone happy. I just have to continue being me and talking about what I’m passionate about, and if someone isn’t into it that’s absolutely fine.”
But if they are, Homemade is the recipe for living a simpler, sweeter-smelling life.
Homemade by Eleanor Ozich, published by Penguin, RRP: $40.00. In stores March 5, 2019.