What have I been up to?

I have been pretty busy so I have not been able to blog lately I hope that will change in the future will see what happens. My latest endeavor is working with my friend Robyn and we’ve been making soap.  We’re really looking forward to possibly selling the soap as a lot of the soup that is out there I’m not able to use because of the soy in it. I will post pictures once its all done and we have them labeled.   Right now they’re in the second week of curing and they need to fully cure for three weeks. I will be handing out samples to my friends and family right around Easter.  I know that this is a short post, and I hope in the future you had some larger ones.

Okay, maybe one picture.

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Waking up early on your day off

Today is my day off work this week. So, why did I get up a 5 am? Long story short, the oldest child didn’t finish her homework before bed, so I need to make sure she gets it done. But, it did remind me that I had not written in my blog for far too long and I really needed to do that. So, here I am.

As I’ve stated in the past, we’ve found that I have an extreme intolerance to soy products. Over the past few months, we’ve found that soy is in things we never imagined. Since I’ve started making all our food from scratch, I decided, why not make some of out household stuff from scratch. Natural jump, right? I started with toothpaste. I made the first batch a little too salty. Lesson learned, don’t put salt. But it really works nice. Our teeth feel so clean and they are getting whiter naturally. It was an interesting observation.

Next, I tried making my own shampoo. Here’s where I saw a huge difference. Over the years, and it started in 1997/1998, I noticed I would get these stress bumps in my scalp. I always called them stress bumps because they would be worse the more stressed I was. I would change shampoo and they would go away for about a week or so and come back. A few years ago, I had a sudden case of Eczema that the non-dermatologist doctors though was just a basic allergic reaction. Dermatologist diagnosed as Eczema, gave me medicine to clear it up and told me to use special soap. (I’ve always had sensitive skin, but even Dove and Ivory would make me break out.) I didn’t think too much of it, until recently.

On my new quest to save money and try to use as many natural products as I can, I braved the “No ‘poo” shampoo and conditioner. Seemed simple enough for the trial size:

No ‘poo shampoo
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 cup warm water

Mix ingredients in a squirt bottle, shake it up, use.

Conditioner to go with it:
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (I’ve been told regular white vinegar works too)
1 cup water

Mix ingredients in a spray bottle, shake it up, use.

Ok, so how do you use this stuff? Well, the ‘shampoo’ does not lather like commercial shampoo, so that takes a bit to get used to. You squirt it onto your scalp and rub it in. You don’t have to get all of your hair, just the scalp. I have a lot of hair, so I like the squirt bottle to get to the roots. Because of that, I happen to also have to use a lot of it. Let it sit for a minute, massage your scalp again, and rinse clean. Next, the conditioner. This is where I like using the spray bottle. Again, I have a lot of hair, so I have to think of coverage. You do not spray your scalp and massage it in. Spray the ‘ends’. I’ll go almost to the roots, but not quite on some showers. But the spray bottle helps me get a more even coverage on my hair. Rub it in to the ends. Let it sit for a minute or so, rinse it thoroughly.

If you rinse it thoroughly, you won’t smell the vinegar at all. If you miss a spot, it’s ok, when your hair dries the vinegar small goes away. The first thing I noticed was how easily my hair brushed out. Where before it would take me 15 minutes to just brush the tangles out of my hair, it now only takes 2-3 minutes. I was very pleased by that. This past weekend, I also noticed something else. No stress bumps. It couldn’t possibly be because I haven’t had stress, anyone that knows my family knows that I’m far from stress free. I made the comment to hubby and he was amazed that he also didn’t have the stress bumps, something he’d been dealing with for years too. Hmmmm, 2 for 2, that’s has to count for something, right?

I’m still going through the transition phase with my experience however. Because I have such thick hair, it’s taking a long time to get all the old chemicals out AND have my hair adjust. But I knew this would be a long process. So far, hubby has loved it. I’m going to keep at it, to see if I can really get the balance correct with my hair. It’s not greasy and disgusting, but it isn’t quite as clean as I would like. I may have to resort to the Castille soap shampoo, but I’ll try this other for a bit longer.

Next time, I’ll post more about other items I’ve started making.

Snacks

Yes, I still love my snacks.  We’ve been going through a heat wave the past week, so I haven’t been able to bake crackers or cookies.  Finally, this morning, I decided I was going to make wheat thins.  They came out pretty good.

wheat thins

I used a recipe from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, and they came out pretty darn good.  Since you can go to her site and get the recipe, I’m just going to note changes and observations I have to them.

  • I like salty crackers, so next time, I may brush with melted butter, or a little water and then sprinkle with salt for that extra salty flavor.
  • I couldn’t taste the paprika, so next time, I’ll add just a little more.  Not needed, just a preference for me.
  • I was going to use my pasta maker to ‘roll’ these out.  It wasn’t needed, they rolled out so easily that it was faster to just use the rolling pin.
  • Remember that thin is the key when rolling these out.
  • As with Tracy’s experience, I had to add a little extra water for the dough to come together.  If you do need to add the extra water, remember to just do a little at a time.
  • I mixed my dough in my food processor because that was easy for me, worked just fine.

That’s about it.  I now have snacks again.  I’m so excited.

Pretzel Dogs

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Tonight, I made Pretzel dogs, again, for dinner.  It’s become a favorite in the family and originally, I was actually going to make them for our neighbor’s, whom we have dinner with every Friday.  They had to cancel tonight, but why change the menu, right?  I decided to write this post with the recipe and directions on how to make them, as I have some friends that have been asking.

First, what is a pretzel dog?  It’s a hot dog, wrapped in cheese, wrapped in a soft pretzel, brushed with butter, and baked.  There are many variations you can do, for example, the kids don’t like the cheese, so theirs has no cheese in it.  There also Italian sausage ones, that have pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.  Play with it, see what you like.

Second, where I got the recipe… Food Network.  I took the soft pretzel recipe, and adapted it to what I needed.

Third, by adaption, what do I mean?  I’ll explain.

1) I’ve found that I truly love my bread machine and it’s dough setting.  I put the ingredients  for the dough in the bread machine.  That would be:

1 1/2 cups warm (110F to 115F) water
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted (4 tablespoons)
22 ounces flour, approx. 4 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast, approximately 1 tablespoon

Vegetable oil, for pan (I did not oil the pan because I used the dough setting on my bread machine.)

I added the ingredients, in that order, to the pan for the bread machine, put it in the machine, set it to the dough setting, and let it go.  If you do not use a bread machine, follow the instructions on the website that Alton Brown gives, as it has you proof the yeast first.

2) After the bread machine was done and the dough had doubled in size, I turned on the oven to 450F, and set up my big pot with the 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup of baking soda, as stated in the recipe.

3) I then turned out the dough on a lightly greased cutting board.  The recipe calls for vegetable oil, I can’t use vegetable oil because it has soy.  I have used olive oil and peanut oil, both work just fine.  If you are doing soft pretzels, cut the dough into 8 pieces.  For pretzel dogs, I have found that cutting it into 12 pieces makes a nice bread to dog ratio.

Take a piece of the dough and roll it out flat, big enough for the dog to fit fully inside, with any additional ingredients.  For the cheese filled, lay down 2 pieces of cheese.  Make sure you use a cheese that melts nicely.  I’ve been using American cheese, but I don’t see why shredded cheese might not work, just don’t put so much that it won’t melt.  The key is to use cheese that melts nicely.  Then put the dog on the cheese and pull the part of the dough on the long side up and over the dog, and roll it up.  Wrap the ends over and pinch the seams so they don’t separate.  This is the hardest part for me, I lose patience and don’t pinch the seams well enough.

Once this part is done, and the water is boiling, set a dog in the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds.  Take out with a flat spatula and put on a baking tray with parchment paper or silpat.  I find that 4-5 per baking sheet seems to work well.  Once you have 4-5 on the baking sheet, you can either brush with egg wash (as in Alton Brown’s recipe) OR brush with melted butter, which is what I do.  Tonight, I actually brushed with melted garlic butter.  Then sprinkle some pretzel salt, or I used Kosher salt.

4) Bake at 450F for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown and YUMMY!  

You’ll want to let them cool for at least 5 minutes before eating them, but it is worth it.

So, there you go.  If you have questions, let me know.   

Mayonnaise

I’ve made mayonnaise from scratch before.  I stopped because I had been making it in a blender and my blender started scrambling the eggs.  Therefore, not good mayo.  Today, I realized I could use my food processor.  I also found a recipe that called for a whole egg, not just egg yolks.  Great option for me since I really am not fond of separating eggs.  My 9 year old helped me, and unfortunately, she isn’t great at listening to explicit instructions and started adding the olive oil a little faster than I preferred.  I also erred in that I put the olive oil in the wrong measuring cup and it didn’t pour nicely.  I got oil all over the counter.  Oops!  Overall, it came out fine, and will serve its purpose of giving me mayo that I can eat that doesn’t have soy in it.  I made a chicken salad sandwich for dinner so that I would have some protein.  I’ll probably hard-boil some eggs tomorrow so that I can make some egg salad.  I will need to stop by the local veggie guy and pick up some celery to add to it.

As for the chocolate that I made last night – definitely a dark chocolate.  I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, but this is even a bit much for me.  I’ll definitely be limiting myself to one of these a day.  Any more than that and it will be too much to handle.   it also tastes better cold out of the freezer.  I will need to think of how to tone it down a little.  But, they are definitely edible and will get eaten.

Chocolate

Ok, my biggest vice is chocolate.  If I’m having a rough day, I go grab chocolate.  If I’m having a good day, I go grab chocolate.  Take a look at your basic chocolate bar.  It contains soy lethicin.  Not a good thing if you are trying to eliminate soy from your diet.  So, the internet is a wonderful thing.  I went online and found a recipe on how to make my own chocolate, from cocoa powder.  I have Dutch cocoa powder, so, I figured I would give it a try.  Right now, it’s still chilling in the decorative molds that I had.  Granted, most of them are Christmas themed, but I’m ok with that. But the warmed liquid chocolate tasted pretty good.  It definitely a dark chocolate.  So, depending on what I can figure out with this, I’ll need to adjust the amount of milk and sugar ratio to cocoa.  Thankfully, I really do prefer dark chocolate, so it shouldn’t be an issue to eat this.  The last half of the batch, I put some mint extract in it to make a minty chocolate.  probably won’t do that for the dark chocolate again, as I didn’t like that taste as much.  but once I figure out the lighter chocolate, well, it will definitely go in that batch.

I know, another quick post, but my toast with almond butter is getting cold, so I need to go eat. 😉