Category Archives: Recipe

The Soap is Curing

I am sure anyone who makes cold processed soap will agree that the hardest part about it is waiting for the soap to cure.

Maybe I should backup a step for anyone not familiar with soap making. There are basically three methods that can be used for making handcrafted soaps. There is the melt and pour method which involves buying a premade base soap and melting it to add ingredients such as fragrances and colorants then remolding it perhaps into pretty or cute shapes. The other two methods are hot process and cold process. Both of these methods involve mixing lye with liquid and oils. With hot process, once the ingredients are combined the soap is heated in order to speed up the chemical reaction, known as soaponification, which must occur in order for the soap to be safe to use. This soap can be ready to use in a matter of hours. Cold process soap, on the other hand, is poured into the mold after the lye/liquid is mixed with the oils. While it can usually be taken out of the mold in 24 to 48 hours it needs to cure for several weeks while the soaponification takes place. Many factors can effect the speed which soaponification takes place including the soap recipe, the size of the soap bars and the temperatures in which the soap is curing. I allow my soaps to cure for a least six weeks and have almost always found this period to be sufficient.

I have several batches of soap in various stages of curing right now including the soap I made a few days ago by request https://donteatitsoap.com/category/lard-soap/ I honestly found it difficult to make that batch of soap because it was such a simple recipe. It lacks the creativity and experimentation aspects that I find so challenging and fun. While it was very tempting to add extra ingredients I restrained myself because this, three-ingredient, soap was what the person who requested needs.

Some of the other soaps that I have curing have allowed me to be more creative so I will tell you about those. Both the Sweet Dandelion and Coffee soap that I made a while back are cured and ready to use. I have made both of these recipes in the past and they are both favorites.

This time when I made the coffee soap I decided to experiment with it. I have been having some success at getting light fragrances and or colors in my soaps by infusing herbs into the oils. I wondered if this would work for coffee as well. In the past when I have made coffee soap I used brewed coffee for the liquid, I also added coffee grounds. This time in addition to using brewed coffee I added the coffee grounds to my oils. I knew that in order to release the oils from the coffee grounds the coffee would need to be heated much higher than I normally heat my soap oils. I put the coffee grounds into my oils and heated them about 190 degrees Fahrenheit. I then let the coffee infused oils cool.  As usual I mixed my oils with my lye/liquid (brewed coffee) when both were cooled to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Coffee Soap

The coffee infused oils gave the soap a dark, rich coffee color but the fragrance that I had hoped for is still largely absent. I have since read that the optimal temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 and 205 Fahrenheit so next time I will heat it just a little bit more.

I have had positive feedback from a few people who have used this soap. Comments were things like “it’s a really nice soap” and “I really like it” and my sister who called me yesterday said “I love the coffee soap” and she found it to be “refreshing”.

Among the other soaps that are curing is a completely new recipe. I decided to try this back in the summer when we were harvesting our beautiful cucumber crop. I know that cucumber is often used in skin care products so I wanted to give it a try. I don’t usually make a lot of soap during the summer so I pureed a couple of cucumbers and put them in the freezer until I was ready to make the soap.

About 5 weeks ago I was ready to use the cucumber puree in my soap but I wondered what ingredients would pair well with the cucumber. The most common way we eat cucumbers is as pickles but for more than one reason that doesn’t work for soap. It took me a while to figure it out but I eventually decided to try yogurt. Since milk based soaps are known to be gentle and creamy I though yogurt could add this as well. I also wanted to add an herb to this soap so I decided to infuse my oils with rosemary that I had harvested from our garden. I didn’t want to leave the rosemary leaves in the soap so I put them in a teabag then placed the teabag in the oils as I heated them. I again brought the temperature up higher than I would normally heat them for making soap in order to draw out some of the rosemary properties. When adding the cucumber puree and yogurt I knew that they should be counted as liquid. Since I didn’t know how they would react to being mixed directly with lye I decided to add them later in the process. In order to do this I discounted the amount of water I was mixing with the lye. I decided that the combination of cucumber puree and yogurt should equal 1/3 of my total liquid, I divided the amount of water my recipe called for by 3. I then measured my cucumber puree and added enough yogurt to bring this mixture to 1/3 of my total liquid. I set that mixture aside then measured the other 2/3 water and added my lye to it.

Once the lye/liquid and the oils cooled to around 100 Fahrenheit I removed the rosemary from the oil then I mixed the lye/water with the oils. I blended this mixture until it came to a light trace (started to thicken) then I mixed in the cucumber/yogurt mixture. I continued to mix until the mixture had come to a full trace ( the consistency of a thick gravy) then I poured the mixture into the molds. I am excited that this soap will be ready for testing this week.

I don’t have a formal testing process. It basically goes like this – I use the soap first. I pay attention to it’s properties – hardness, creaminess, lather, does it rinse off well, does it leave my skin feeling soft or dry, is there any scent. I then give my husband a bar to use and get his opinion. With new recipes I generally like feedback from a couple more people, so a friend or family member who stops by when I have a new soap ready will likely be given a bar to try with the condition that they provide me with honest feedback about the soap. I’ll be sure to let you know how this soap turns out.

I do have one major concern about this new recipe with cucumber, yogurt and rosemary.Maybe you can help. The  problem is what the heck do I call it? You can leave your suggestions and any other questions or comments about this post in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

🙂 until next time.

 

 

Using Garden Veggies – Two Recipes Worth Sharing

‘Tis the season of vegetables fresh from the garden, so I thought I’d share a couple of recipes that I made last week that we really enjoyed.

The first one was made with yellow squash. Generally it only takes one or two yellow squash plants to produce enough squash that you can eat it every day. More plants will have you sending it home with friends and family or the delivery man, and when no one shows up at your house you might resort to leaving a few on the doorsteps of random strangers and rushing off before you are caught.

With the yellow squash coming on fast and furious, and with no visitors in sight, I decided to look for new recipes for yellow squash. An internet search led me to this recipe.  http://diethood.com/garlic-parmesan-yellow-squash-chips/

I decided to make this (or something similar) as a side dish for our dinner one night. The ingredients were simple –

Yellow Squash cut into 1/4 inch slices

About 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 cup Parmesan Cheese

1 cup bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned bread crumbs)

1 Teaspoon garlic powder

I put the olive oil in one bowl and mixed the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and garlic powder in a second bowl. I dipped the squash slices first in olive oil coating both sides, then in the bread crumb mixture.

At this point my instructions vary from the original recipe. Rather than a metal baking pan lined with parchment paper, I placed the slices in my 9×13 Pyrex  baking dish. Since I didn’t know if my Pyrex could handle the 450 cooking temperature, I set my oven at 350. I baked them for about 15 minutes flipped each one over and baked for another 15 minutes.

These didn’t turn out crispy like the original recipe, nor did I want them to. Since they were a side dish we would be eating them with a fork not as a finger food. The breaded yellow squash was a delightful side dish.  When my husband repeated several times how good it was and went back for a second helping, I decided this recipe was a keeper and good enough to share with you.

Swiss chard is another garden vegetable that is very prolific. We start picking the green leaves when they are young and tender and they continue to grow back throughout the summer. We sauté them with garlic, use in stir fries and soups and eat raw in salads. If we try to give swiss chard to friends or neighbors they often reply that they don’t know what swiss chard is or have never eaten it. We describe it as being like a hardy spinach. That’s what trigger this next recipe idea.

We do like a good spinach artichoke dip but we don’t grow spinach. I decided to find a good recipe for spinach-artichoke dip and substitute swiss chard for the spinach. I started with this recipe   http://www.food.com/recipe/spinach-artichoke-dip-1209 . I read the reviews and suggestion’s for changes that people made then I came up with this recipe.

1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

10 oz. fresh swiss chard finely chopped

1 can artichoke hearts drained and chopped

8 oz. cream cheese softened

2/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

several garlic cloves minced equal to about 2 or 3 teaspoons

about 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

I mixed together the first 5 ingredients in one bowl and mixed the last 5 ingredient in a second bowl. Then I mixed the two mixtures together. I put it in a one quart casserole dish and baked it at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

We ate this with tortilla chips. “That’s really good” was my husbands response. He was right. “I’m not sure I will ever want to order spinach dip at a restaurant again” he said. We both had seconds and left overs were eaten the following day with lunch. Can you make it and freeze it he asked me last night, and I am planning on doing just that later this week. Obviously this is another recipe that I want to keep around, and in recording it here I have accomplished that and shared it with you as well.

If you decide to try either of these recipes please let me know what you think by leaving your comments on this page, and if you have a recipe that is worth sharing I would love for you to do so.

 

Making Pickles

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In the past my attempts to make dill pickles by canning, using vinegar recipes, have resulted in pickles with that have a decent flavor but are too mushy to really enjoy. I really haven’t even attempted to make pickles in a several years because we have had horrible cucumber crops. We had pretty much decided not to grow cucumbers as it seemed that no sooner would the cucumber start growing well then the cucumber beetles would arrive, the cucumber plants would then begin turning brown, apparently from bacterial wilt, and dying before we could harvest more that a couple of cukes.

When starting plants this spring my husband came across a packet of pickling cucumber seeds and decided to give it one more try. We aren’t really sure what has made the difference this year but the cucumber plants are flourishing. It could be that this variety of cucumbers is disease resistance, or that the cucumbers were planted later and the cucumber beetles missed out, or possibly a combination of the two. No matter the reason, we are grateful for the productive crop.

It was about three weeks ago when my husband brought me a bag with more than a half dozen nice size cukes from our garden. With more cucumbers than we would eat in a couple of days I knew I needed to make pickles. There were not enough to can a batch of the vinegar pickles, and as I said I was never happy with my past results, so I decided to try fermented pickles.  I use this recipe. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-kosher-dill-pickles/  I didn’t have enough to warrant the use of my 2 gallon crock so I decided to use a 1/2 gallon canning jar. I picked a horseradish leaf to use to add tannins, my husband picked me some dill and I peeled a couple bulbs of garlic to add. I didn’t add any other spices because in my opinion garlic and dill is all that is needed to make a great pickle.

Since I didn’t have a fermenting weight that would fit inside a jar to hold the vegetables down under the brine, I read about using a smaller jar to nest inside the wide mouth jar and decided that would work. It would have worked perfectly well except I discovered that all of my smaller canning jars were in use. I needed to improvise.  I used an ice tea glass and although it sat quite above the rim of the canning jar, it was heavy enough to hold the pickles under the brine. I then covered the jar, glass and all, with a dish towel.

I left them on the kitchen counter where I could keep an eye on things. By the next day I could see bubbles in the liquid and on the following day the liquid began turning cloudy. This is what should be happening. I wasn’t sure when they would be done, but since the temperature in my kitchen these days is higher then the recommended 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, I decided that two more days on the counter was enough. My goal was nice crispy pickles. I removed the towel and the glass, put a canning lid on the jar and put them in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile I read a few more article about fermenting cucumbers and when my husband brought home another batch of cukes I immediately washed them, trimmed the flower end and put them in a bowl of ice water, until I was ready for them.

For the second batch I used the same recipe and the same process except I didn’t have any more 1/2 gallon jars so they were split between two wide mouth quart jars. The second batch was basically the same as the first – they began bubbling on day two, turned cloudy on day three and on day five I refrigerated them.

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The third batch of cucumbers that my husband brought home had gotten quite large so I decided to experiment with cucumber spears and slices. I used the same recipe and the same method. At this point they are cloudy and bubbling on my kitchen counter. I will refrigerate them tomorrow.

As for the taste test, last weekend we decided just to have cold turkey and swiss sandwiches for dinner and my husband decided that we had to have a pickle with our sandwich. I cut one in half and placed a half on each of our plates. I waited for him to try it first. “You nailed it!” he exclaimed after taking the first bite of his pickle. These pickle turned out just as I hoped, crisp with the garlic and dill flavor.

 

 

 

 

Mint Brownies

When I make brownies I usually use a box mix, whatever brand is cheapest,  sometimes it’s fudge brownie mix and sometimes it’s dark chocolate, but rather than just plain old brownies, I try to turn them into something special. In the past I’ve done this  by adding nuts, raisins or marsh mallows, or adding a peanut butter/ powdered sugar combination, or sometimes melting chocolate chips on top. Last week I decided to try something new.

I decided to make mint brownies. Instead of running to the internet for a recipe, like I would normally do when I want to try a new recipe, I went to my stash of dried herbs. Among the herbs that we grew and dried this year were both spearmint and chocolate mint. For brownies I decided to use chocolate mint. Using my fingers I crushed up some of the mint leaves until they were like powder. I then added about a teaspoon of the crushed mint to the dark chocolate brownie batter. Other than that I follow the directions on the box.

While the brownies were baking, my husband came in the kitchen and spotted the empty brownie box. “Yum” he said.

“But I added a surprise,” I said teasingly.

“I guess I’ll have to wait,” he pretended to sulk.

Then the detective in him took over and within a couple minutes I saw him sniffing around, “What’s that I smell?” he asked.

“What does it smell like?” I asked, testing his investigative skills.

“Mint,” he said with a bit of question in he voice.

I had hoped to gage his reaction when he tasted the brownies, but I felt forced to reveal the secret, “I made mint brownies.”

We waited until after dinner to try the brownies. The flavor was all that I hoped for. My husband compared them to Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, and the flavor reminded me very much of Andes mints, those irresistible little chocolate mints wrapped in the green foil paper.

So if you are wondering how to use some of the mint that is threatening to take over your garden this is a simple recipe that will give you a great appreciation for your mint. If you are not yet growing your own mint then you may find it tempting when you hear that mint is fairly easy to grow. It requires at least a partially sunny area and moist but not overly wet soil. I have read that it can be grown as an indoor plant, it can be grown as a potted patio plant or grown in any garden. Some people may be reluctant to plant mint as it is know to be invasive. One option that is recommended is to put the mint plant in a deep pot and then plant the pot and all to restrict mint to certain area. My recommendation, if you want to restrict mint growth, is to harvest the outer edges of the plant by the roots, or dig up a portion or several portions of the mint plant and give it to a friend or several friends. You could also present them with this simple recipe.

1 box brownie mix

1 teaspoon dried mint leaved (crushed into powder)

Mix brownies as instructed on package then mix in mint leaves. Bake as instructed on brownie package.

🙂 Enjoy!!!

 

The Week’s Soap- Hops

My original plan for this week was to make the soap I call “Hint of Mint” which is made with mint leaves infused into the water as the liquid, and mint leaves imbedded in the bars as well. This all changed when I announced to my husband “I’m going to make soap tomorrow”. As I mentioned this to him he was in the midst of moving a hops vine that had been hanging and drying in our backroom for several months. “You could make hops soap” he said.

I began pulling the dried flowers or seed cones off the vine, I crushed some up on a plate, I smelled them and I said “why not?”. I decided to infuse the hops into the liquid that I would use to make the soap, so I heated some water and put the crushed hops flowers in it. I let them infuse overnight.

I then went to the internet to do a little research. I really didn’t know anything about hops except that they are used to make beer.  I found many articles such as this one, http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/surprising-benefits-of-hops-for-skin-hair-and-health/#gref that tell of the potential health benefits of hops. I found that hops are being used therapeutically in the forms of tea, tinctures and essential oils. They are also added to skin and hair care products. I felt good about this experiment.

Before making the soap the next morning I strained the hops flowers from the liquid and set them aside in case I decided to put some in the soap. The hops infused water was bright yellow and smelled like hops. While I was pretty certain the scent would fade away, I thought this liquid would give the soap a yellowish color.

I occasionally have people tell me that they are allergic to specific ingredients in soap, and I like to be able to offer alternatives, so for this soap I decided to leave out the olive oil. I decided to use coconut oil, sunflower oil and tallow. With that in mind I went to this soap calculator, one of my favorite online tools http://soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp  to formulate my recipe. To use the soap calculator I enter the amount of each oil or fat that I want to use and the calculator will tell me the correct amount of liquid and lye that I need to use. It will also give me an idea of how my soap will turn out, using a numeric scale to rate the degrees of hardness, cleansing, conditioning, bubbliness, and creaminess the soap will have. I adjust the amounts of each oil/fat until I am satisfied that the soap will have sufficient amounts of each of these properties. I really do love this soap calculator; it has allowed me to successfully formulate all of my own soap recipes. It is a free online tool and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to create their own soap recipes.

It was no surprise that when I added the lye to the liquid the smell of hops was no longer present. I was, however, surprised when I added the lye liquid to the oils that the yellow color also disappeared. The soap turned white. I decided to add some of the hops petals to one tray (half the batch). I didn’t want to over do it, a lesson I learned from making soap with clover blossoms in it (too many blossoms make a big mess in the shower). I thought maybe I could just have some on the top layer of each bar. Since the soap gets poured into the bottom of the mold I put a layer of petals down before putting in the soap. Even though I tried carefully spooning the soap onto the petals they still floated up into the soap. Oh well you can’t win ’em all.

After two days in the mold the soap came out easily.

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Hops Soap

These are a hard bars of soap evidenced by the way the edges cracked when I cut them into bars. In about six weeks we will test this soap and discover what else we like or don’t like about it. I keep you posted.