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.

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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.