Monday, May 2, 2011

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

This is a long video! I watched it (listened to it) while skimming through my RSS Reader, emails, and Facebook. Watch it while knitting or something. It is truth. It's message needs to be known and shared, AND thought about when we're making our food choices everyday, for the rest of our lives - hopefully healthy long-lived lives!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Fever

I've got the fever ... to get out in the dirt! I took these pictures early this morning and my hands were freezing as time wore on. But today is supposed to get up in the mid 60's, so I'm heading out soon to clean up all my perennial beds. I'm going to pull around a tarp the take my giant scissors, cutting back all the dead top growth, and rake the beds. I've got a lot of wildflower seeds - mainly annuals - to reseed some beds.
"Glory of Snow" bulbs in my grass
I used our electric drill and a 1/2" bit to plant 100's of the above flower bulbs in our grass several years ago. I guess that's one way to aerate!
To the left of the above tansy plants are my first two perennial beds to the east of our front porch. Monte had brought the soil up from the woods. Wild raspberries came with the soil and I let them grow along with my flowers. So far they are the better producers of raspberries than the ones I've purposely planted. We freeze quite a bit of raspberries. The yellow flower heads of tansy dry beautifully.
Nights still freezing - frozen bird bath and old Sunflower head
I've not successfully planted sunflower seeds and gotten great plants. The chipmunks do the better job of planting birdseed sunflowers. All I have to do is pull out the extra hundreds!
The Herb Garden
I made herb labels several years ago out of Sculpey dough you bake in the oven rather than buy the expensive ones at the nursery. They're just tied with twine to bamboo poles. I could see the winter savory, thyme, sage, lemon balm, and oregano starting to send out green shoots. Behind this bed the tarragon, lavender, and sweet cicely bushes are popping up too. And then there's the crab apple tree ready to burst into bloom - by the end of the summer it's totally entwined with a clematis vine.
Chives readying to bloom
Autumn Sedum Joy beautifies the winter garden
Forsythia starting to bloom
Greenhouse garden seedlings started
I started my seedlings a bit late this year, but it'll be ok. There's broccoli, cauliflower, kale varieties, tomatoes, and then nasturtiums, clary sage, marigolds ... I've got to start basil, winter squash and more things next.
Clematis entwined in grapevine in greenhouse and green tomatoes
Grapevine needing to be pruned - starting to invade potted plants

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sterilizing Kitchen Sponges/Washcloths

Monte took off to run errands and I'm hearing a beeping in the kitchen. Nowadays all appliances ding or beep when done, or when the refrigerator is not shut tight, and my washer and dryer 'sing'. I just checked - he'd put a sponge in the microwave to sterilize. I've heard that some types of sponges could catch fire, so check on yours. We put dishcloths and sponges in microwave for 3 minutes to sterilize. Monte's mom, who was always bleaching hers to sterilize, loved that tidbit of info. So I'm passing it on.

Baked Cod Parmesan

Alaskan cod was on sale yesterday ... so what to make ... I was thinking of a homemade pasta dish. I made lasanga last week when Travis and Sarah came along with another young couple to stay a couple days and dye Ukrainian/Pyasanky eggs (check it out at my overflow blog). We made homemade lasanga pasta and it was THE BEST lasanga I have ever tasted - and they agreed. We were all rather silent savoring our first bites! UmmUmmGood!!!! I am going to make another homemade pasta lasanga this weekend, so I'll take pics and post.

I could have googled cod recipes, but looked at the few fish cookbooks I have instead. Several Fall's ago Monte and me visited Boston before heading up to New Hampshire. We walked all over Boston for several days and loved it. We were told, besides the historic trail, to visit the Legal Sea Food restaurant - we bought their cookbook. This cod recipe sounded good. I'm eating leftovers now as I'm posting this ... still good.

2 lbs cod fillets
1 C fresh chopped tomato or Marinara Sauce
2 Tb chopped fresh basil
3 Tb freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 Tb olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Place fillets in baking dish and cover with the sauce and basil and bake about 8 minutes. Add the grated cheese and dots of olive oil and bake another 5 minutes, or till the cheese melts.

The fish smelled rather fishy when I opened the wrapping. Unless I have fresh fish I always soak most store bought fish in some salt/ sugar/ and milk water. I'd read those will rid the fishiness of fish. After about an hour Monte thought it still smelled fishy so rinsed it well and soaked it longer in ice water with lots of lemon slices. I cooked it a bit longer - 10 and 10 minutes and never added the olive oil. This winter I've had fresh herbs in my greenhouse - so I had fresh basil. I'm guessing I added more marinara sauce and cheese, but don't know, I didn't measure - just put enough to cover all the fish.

The cookbook suggested serving it with rice and broccoli. I usually like a rice mixture with wild rice and needed to pressure cook it since it takes longer to cook. Broccoli grows very well here and I usually freeze at least 20 pounds every year - in 1/2 pound bags, now that it's just Monte and me. The cookbook also suggested that mushrooms and chopped peppers could be added to the fish topping. That sounds good too. I usually always stock lemons/limes, mushrooms, peppers, and marinara sauce.

I like recipes that have menu suggestions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quinoa Salad

We had Easter supper at Travis and Sarah's home, along with some of their friends. Sunday evening is usually open house. We've been there many times; spending the night since Travis has Monday's off of work. Hospitality is something they truly practice. Everyone is told the meal's theme and are to bring something to share.

Sarah cooked a ham and scalloped potatoes for this meal. Emily brought a apple pie and green beans. Amy brought bread and ice cream. Stevo brought watermelon and drinks. I brought some of my homemade wine and a quinoa salad.

Cook and chill (like 20 minutes - and I like to toast the quinoa in the pan first) -
1/3 C quinoa
2/3 C water
Then mix in -
1 C cherry tomatoes halved or chopped tomatoes
1/2 C diced cucumber
1/4 C diced onion (I did a lot of green onions since I have them growing in my greenhouse - or use lots of chives)
2 Tb lime/ lemon juice
1/2 tsp grd cumin
salt and pepper
1 avacado
Serve over spinach

Since we were serving buffet style and extra people, I did some things different besides extra amounts. I added some balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I'd precooked the quinoa at home and added in the juice and cumin. The rest I chopped and added that afternoon before supper. I'd periodically stir it adding in some spinach, come back and stir in more spinach, then add the avacado right before supper. We did put the extra spinach to the side if anyone wanted to add more to their plate.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Cocolate Pudding"

OK . . . This may sound totally weird . . .
But it's actually pretty good! I need to credit Mitra Ray from her Juice Plus email for the recipe. I'm making the recipe smaller for just one or two servings.

1 avacado
1/8 C unsweet cocoa
1/4 C agave nectar or maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
(water, coconut milk, rice milk ... to thin it if needed)
Blend this till creamy.
Garnish with fresh fruit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Banana Bread (+ Sandwiches)

You should see my recipe card! It was covered in plastic, which has been somewhat melted away in places and the paper is yellowed. It came from a neighbor friend of my mom's when I was very little. I've tried other banana bread recipes and this is still my favorite. Whenever bananas are turning dark brown to black I make banana bread, or put them in bags in the freezer till I'm ready to make it.

1 scant C sugar
1/4 C melted unsalted butter
1 egg
2 med bananas
Mash the bananas with a fork in a bowl along with the above ingredients. Add -
2 C flour (whatever I've got ground in the freezer - often oat or barley flour, sometimes kamut or spelt - I try to not use wheat for everything, and soda breads and muffins and cookies ... don't need the gluten of wheat for rising)
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
(1/2 C nuts)
Bake in greased loaf tin about 1 hour at 350.

For my Spring Tea I spread the banana bread thin slices with Nutella. I thinly sliced a Granny Smith apple and put it in lemon juice added to water for a bit to help keep them from turning brown cuz we weren't eating them right away. With the apple slices in the middle put the two 'nut-buttered' slices together to make a sandwich.

Use banana bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. What other possibilities? . . .

Meringue Cookies

A family favorite for years has been Raspberry Kisses - meringue cookies made with raspberry jello for the flavoring. I've always wanted to try making them without having to use the jello. I still need to find a raspberry flavoring/extract, but these are the basics for meringue cookies -

2 egg whites at room temp
1/2 C + 2 Tb sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip egg whites till they hold a soft peak. Add the sugar slowly till stiff and glossy. Fold in flavoring with a rubber spatula. Other flavorings? -
1 tsp cocoa powder or
2 Tb ground hazelnuts or
1 Tb dark brown sugar or
1 Tb ground unsalted pistachios ...

Most recipes suggest piping these 1" apart on parchment paper. Bake till crisp and dry at 250 for about 1 hour. Cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. OR you can shape an indentation in the mounded unbaked kisses with the back of a spoon, for adding a filling to when cooled. I just mounded them on the parchment.

Piping would have made them even. For the tea I stuck two meringues together with jam.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cranapple Rolled Grains (Oatmeal) Cookies

I filled a large tin with these cookies. Monte's always asking for homemade cookies and these are going to become regulars. I made them for my Spring Tea.

3/4 C unsalted butter
1 1/4 C sucanat sugar (unprocessed dehydrated sugar cane)
1 Tb molasses
1 lg egg
1/4 C milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 C rolled oats (I used 1 C each rolled oats, barley, and rice)
1 1/2 C dried cranberries (could use dried cherries, or raisins)
3/4 C dark chocolate chips
1 C applesauce or chopped apples (the first thing I found in my freezer was pear sauce instead of applesauce, so used it)(I make applesauce from our crabapples and freeze it)
(1/2 C chopped walnuts or pecans)

2" rounds (I usually make them smaller) on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 about 12-15 minutes.

Mini Quiche Lorraines

Every potluck or brunch I go to there's mini quiches that are store bought. I wanted to make homemade ones for my Spring Tea. I make a regular sized quiche lorraine a lot - I even have the recipe in my cookbook, but I've never made mini quiches. One of the tea books I'd gotten from the library had mini quiches for their teas. I think I googled mini quiches too and was able to read about and see some differing processes for making them. Here's my process -

Quiche Dough
6 Tb unsalted butter
4 1/2 oz cream cheese
2 C flour
pinch of salt
Mix the dough together and divide into 4 dozen balls (about 1") and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

I flattened each ball with the back of a glass and with a small roller, rolled them thinner. The outer edges of the circle can be split apart for easing them into the small muffin pans. Press them down into the mini tart holes. I cut off any excess at the top. I pricked the bottom of each tart, and put several pie weight stones in each. While working on another pan, I chilled each in the freezer (or refrigerate for a longer time). Prebake the quiche shells in a 375 degree oven about 5 minutes, cool and gently remove stones. Return to the pans and fill with quiche filling and bake again.

precook about 4-6 pieces of bacon and finely crumble
finely grate some cheese - I used colby jack
Sprinkle about 1/2-1 tsp each of bacon and cheese into each mini quiche shell
Beat together
4 large eggs
1 C cream
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper

Ladle this mixture over bacon and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, or till set.

Mini Croque-monsieur or Broiled Grilled Ham and Cheese Baguettes

A long title for this post! I think the French title for the sandwich was in a tea book I had from the library. It was an easy sandwich to make for my Spring Tea party. And everyone really liked these.

These sandwiches are at the back of the plate
Baguette 1/4" sliced
Spread half with Dijon mustard & mayo the other half
Gruyere (a swiss) cheese
Ham (black forest)
Butter both outsides of sandwich
Can put more cheese on the top is you want
Broil till golden

I filled a large cookie sheet with these, using 1 1/2 baguettes - my homemade ones from my French Bread recipe in my cookbook, utilizing fresh ground whole white winter wheat.

Spring Tea and Ukrainian Egg Crafting

I did another Tea party with an Evite to a variety of people and offering needlefelting of styrofoam eggs and learning Ukrainian/Pysanky egg dye as crafts. I posted a lot of pics of the day on my Overflow blog.

For this tea I made scones again - this time the recipe from my cookbook that includes eggs, as do most scones (except the scone recipes I posted from my Valentine tea recipes). I still cut them out with a small round cookie cutter for smaller scones. I made the tangerine lemon curd again since that was such a success. I made some desserts this time: cookies, merengues spread with jam between two of them, and the winner was ... banana bread spread with Nutella and Granny Smith apple slices - made as a sandwich! I made the square pan bread again, and I made the egg salad and chicken curry sandwiches, since they were the most favored before. But I also made some baby quiches and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (actually broiled), that were well received. I did veggies and dips again too.

I'll post recipes separate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dieting for Lent

I wrote about dieting early January - that's always a January topic. I did a diet last fall and lost 20 pounds. It's a Ketomist HHCG oral spray - 2x/day. I only put back on 5lbs over the holidays. If I would exercise more that wouldn't have happened. I hardly exercise and know I should.

I decided to give it another round for Lent. I think it can only be bought through someone's site - I have a link on my sidebar. I never would have done it originally if it wasn't for a trusted person's testimonial and I went in and purchased through his link. You're supposed to read an article by a Doctor in Rome who runs a clinic for obese people wanting him to monitor them. It tells of his protocol and his clinic gives injections of the HCG. When I'm on the site, I read everything. I copy and pasted the recipe suggestions into a document I could easily access on my desktop. After looking through the recipes I knew I could do it.

Lent is often a time people do like to choose something to eliminate for awhile. Maybe some people, like me, hope to develop new habits. I did start exercising more - and am now looking forward to the nice weather of Spring and Summer to help me exercise more and make it a habit that I can't live without during Winter! In my January post I mention one type of exercise I adopted because it's only 15 minutes (actually 18) - I can easily do that!

I didn't restrict my diet as much this time around since I didn't have much more to lose. And during Lent, Sabbath's are never a fast day - so each weekend I'd have a day of eating pretty normal. But the reality of life is needing to get used to smaller meals and proportions. We do eat pretty good foods. I've always been a label reader - avoiding transfats, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and long lists. I look for good fats and lots of fiber. I start getting headaches if I consume too much of processed, unnatural foods - basically non-foods, and too much sugars.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Veggies and Dips

I'm always wanting veggies in a format that will encourage the eating of them. Tea parties consist moreso of sandwiches and scones and desserts, so I wanted the nutritional addition of veggies. Having dips is the main way I find I'll eat more veggies.

We were crafting all day at my Valentine Tea Party, so I wanted everything to be finger food. Probably every time I passed by, I'd grab some veggies to eat, so that accomplished what I was hoping for.

First off, my dip recipe book, suggests par-boiling some veggies, for ease in digestion, then chilling them. Monte asked me to do this years ago, recognizing his body's needs (Monte is a great "body listener"!) Baby potatoes (or small sized potatoes cut later in wedges) boiled and then chilled are EVERYONE'S favorite veggie to dip! So I put the potatoes in a large pot to boil and put my steamer basket on top. Once the water comes to a boil I'll dump in the baby carrots (I know, I know, baby carrots are not truly baby carrots - did you know that?!). Steam veggies  3 minutes, dump them in a strainer basket and run cold water over them, drain, and bag up and chill. I do this with broccoli and sometimes the cauliflower too. So I had these, and green onions, celery sticks, red pepper slices, and radishes all ready the day before my party to keep refilling my large serving platter.

Since I have a three bowl serving dish, I made three dips the day before.

2 C sour cream (sometimes I'll do this with 1/2 Hellmanns Mayo)
1/2 C buttermilk (sometimes I'll just use buttermilk powder - 3Tb)
3 Tb fresh parsley
2 Tb fresh chopped chives
1 Tb fresh oregano
1 1/2 tsp fresh tarragon
2 minced cloves garlic
2 Tb grated lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Mix this all up well. Most of the herbs I have fresh in my greenhouse. If you're using dry, you use a lot less - like 1/2 - 1 tsp. Sometimes when I make this dip I like to slow cook thin sliced/chopped onions till caramelized and add.

This was SO GOOD I'm going to be making it a lot!
- The recipe calls for 4 artichokes to peel and roast their hearts. Since it's not artichoke season yet, I just opened a 15 oz can of plain artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained, and dumped on the foil-lined baking sheet to roast.
- 2 whole garlic heads - cut off tops, pour on some olive oil, salt and pepper, and put the tops back on to roast.
- 1 red pepper - cut off both ends, slit down side and open out flat on the foil with the skin side up, along with both ends.
Roast in a 400 degree oven about 40 minutes. Don't let anything burn, but 'yes' to darkening. Remove the hearts and garlic to cool, and close up the foil around the pepper to sit and cool, so you can peel in a bit.

In a food processor squeeze out all the garlic cloves, add the hearts, and skinned pepper and puree along with
2 C ricotta
1/2 C grated parmasan
2 Tb fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste

2 C sour cream
1/2 C Hellmanns Mayo
2 scallions, including greens
1 1/2 C blue cheese
1/2 tsp pepper
4 shakes of Tabasco
1 Tb Worcestershire Sauce
I didn't have any Worcestershire. I need to look for a recipe substitute since I'm no longer keeping it stocked, as it's got high fructose corn syrup in it. I know it's main ingredients are vinegar and fish sauce (which is made from anchovies - an umami [the fifth taste] you want - it's what makes most salad dressings, etc, yummy). So I put a dollop each of vinegar and fish sauce. You want to puree this mixture as well.

At the end of the day I pulled some turkey broth I froze after Thanksgiving from the freezer, put it in a soup pot with the leftover dip veggies, chopped. Added the rest of the sliced chicken not used in the tea sandwiches. And added a chopped chipotle chili in adobo. Serve with some cut up avacado and a dollop of homemade yogurt. An easy end of the day supper.

Tea Party Sandwiches

SO many tea sandwich ideas to choose from! So what did I make for my Valentine Tea Party?
Cumin Roasted Carrot
Curried Chicken
Egg Salad
Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Cheese
Chicken & Apple

I was going to do a cucumber one, but didn't get to it. Thought a Stilton, pear, and watercress sounded good. Had sliced smoked salmon ready, which would have gone with cucumber too, but didn't do them either. Asparagus logs - rolling the bread around asparagus sounded good too. I read of a BLT too ...

The favorite was the carrot sandwich -
Start with 3-4 thick carrots, peel, cut in thirds and slice 1/8" thick. Toss with 1 3/4 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp each of salt & pepper, and 2 Tb olive oil. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. You want them to start caramelizing a bit.
Assembling? One bread was spread with a tapenade, the other slice with a herbed cheese. Then the carrots and some baby spinach.

2 C mixed olives (I just used the Kalamata)
1 Tb each of tarragon, chives, rosemary, thyme, and chervil (I had fresh of each except chervil, so used less of it, dried)
1/4 C sour cream
1 1/2 tsp honey (I used Agave Nectar)
pinch each of salt and pepper
Puree smooth. Refrigerate - up to a week ahead okay.

Herbed Cheese Spread
8 oz chevre (I did use chevre, but we don't like most goat products, unless fresh, so I'd make this from now on with cream cheese - we tasted the goat [Monte, Travis and me] and didn't like it.)
2 Tb cream cheese
3/4 tsp each of tarragon, chervil, chives, and thyme (all fresh, but the chervil)
pinch of salt & pepper
Process till smooth and refrigerate - up to a week ahead okay.

Sliced chicken breast with sliced grannysmith apples are another sandwich using the above herbed cheese spread. I marinaded chicken breasts for at least 24 hours, grilled them with some hickory smoke going, and Monte sliced them VERY THIN, as well as the apples.

The chicken marinade?
1/2 C of brewed green tea
3/4 C soy sauce (I always used Braggs Liquid Aminos- healthy, natural, and hardly any sodium)
1/4 C + 2 Tb  Balsamic Vinegar (why not just say 1/3 C, isn't that close?)
1/4 C fresh orange juice
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
2 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp ginger
4 tsp dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

I marinaded 4 large breasts. Two I used in the above sandwich with the apples. The other two I ground in my meat grinder, along with the onion and celery, which I made into chicken curry, which along with the roasted carrot, was another favorite -

Chicken Curry Sandwiches
2 large breasts
1/4 C chopped celery
1/4 C chopped onion
1/4 C apricot jam
1/4 C sour cream
1/4 C mayo
1 Tb curry powder
pinch each of salt and pepper
Like I said above, I used the marinaded and grilled chicken. I used the meat grinder cuz it would grind everything fine without me have to do any chopping. Maybe a food processor would do the job. I picked this because of the apricot jam. I thought it sounded lovely!

Another favorite was my egg salad. I'll post that recipe separate another time. I love my egg salad alone, like as a salad, rather than in a sandwich ... I just love it any way.

I read somewhere that cilantro could replace watercress when in a crunch. I bought some, and was going to use it with cream cheese and cucumbers, but never got around to making them. As I posted earlier, I made the white whole wheat and a brown whole wheat bread for the sandwiches in square (pullman) loaf pans, and Monte sliced them 1/4" thin.

(I'm posting some of the same pictures for these posts because I didn't take any more.)

Everything was ready the day before, so all my early guests (it was a valentine crafting open house tea party) helped make the sandwiches. I didn't plan it to be another craft station, but it worked out that way, and I think everyone really enjoyed it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scones, Curds, and Un-clotted Cream

I'm posting recipes I used for my Valentine crafting open house tea party. I already posted about the square bread recipe I used for the sandwich bread. Like it, I didn't want my scones to be like the typical tea house white flour kind. I used my home-ground whole wheat pastry berry flour and oat flour. I also didn't want large scones, so used a small round cutter - like a donut hole size. I wanted to make pumpkin scones too, but found I didn't have any canned pumpkin like I thought I did ... Typical me ... I did plan a lot for this party, but I assumed I had canned pumpkin. Hmmmm.... now that I think of it, I do have that proportion in the freezer ... Oh well, we had enough.

3 C whole grain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 stick (3/4C) unsalted butter
3/4 C buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter till fine crumble, then add buttermilk. OR you could do this just fine with the butter melted and mix the wet ingredients in with the mixed dry ingredients. The most important thing with scones is to not over mix - like DON'T KNEAD! Dump ingredients out onto floured (oiled would probably work too) counter, mixing together more - I had to add a bit more buttermilk. Pat out in large circle till about 1 - 1 1/2" thick. Cut with a circle cutter (recipe called for 3" circles). Put on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes or till lightly browned.

Sweetened recipes used same recipe, but added 1/3 C sugar. I did a mixed berry scone recipe adding in the sugar as well as about 2C mixed berries - I had fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries (I used the leftover berries to make a mixed berry jam for the scones). The pumpkin scones used the same recipe with the added sugar, 1 C canned pumpkin, 1/4 tsp each ginger and cinnamon, then 2 Tb vanilla. I did make turtle scones later, using a caramel glaze also used on the pumpkin scones.

3C whole grain flour
1/3C sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4C unsalted butter
3/4C chopped pecans
3/4C mini choc chips
1 1/4C buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
Caramel Glaze

Mixed the dry ingredients, added in the wet till barely mixed, dumped onto counter mixing it together better, tho not kneading, into a circle about 1 1/2" thick. Cut in circles and put on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes at 425 degrees.

2 sticks (1C) unsalted butter
1C brown sugar
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2C heavy cream

Heat all but cream in a saucepan over medium till light boil. Add the cream having turned the heat to low. Cook about 2 minutes or until thickened. Hold the scone bottoms and dip the tops into the glaze and put them back onto the baking sheet.

Like I said above, I made a mixed berry jam from extra fresh berries I bought for the berry scones. I made a Tangerine Lemon Curd and a Un-clotted Cream for the scones.

1 Qt heavy cream
3 1/2 C powdered sugar
2/3 C fresh lemon juice

Mix the cream, slowly adding the sugar. Then add the lemon juice in a slow stream. Turn to high speed and whip till the mixture holds peaks. This will keep refrigerated a week.

I ordered up Tea Party books from the library. One book I gleaned a lot of ideas from was Alice's Tea Cup - a famous tea house in New York. When googling lemon curd recipes I came upon this tangerine curd recipe from a blog:, which I've bookmarked cuz I want to try a lot of stuff she posts!

Mix together well, rubbing together with the back of a spoon -
5 Tb sugar
1 tsp tangerine zest
In a saucepan over low heat whisk together -
1 lg egg & 2 lg egg yolks (I'd written down another lemon curd recipe and they used the whole eggs so I used 3 whole eggs)
the tangerine sugar mixture
2Tb lemon juice
1/4C tangerine juice
4Tb unsalted butter
pinch of salt

Whisk in the saucepan over low (the other recipe did it over medium) till thick enough to coat the back of a spoon - about 5 minutes (the other recipe stirred in the butter in pieces, a bit at a time, lowering the heat and continuing cooking stirring constantly till thick)(I probably did a mixture of both recipes.) Joy pressed hers thru a fine mesh strainer, then jarred up the mixture. I didn't. I figured the tangerine peel pieces would be fine. I did jar it up and pressed plastic wrap on the surface, as the other recipe suggested, to keep a skin from forming, let cool to room temp and then refrigerated. This will keep a week too or freeze.

PS I read it's best to make these fresh, so I was making them the morning of the tea. Now it's several days later and I'm reheating them in the toaster oven and they're still good. I'm thinking if made later in the day the day before, covered with foil and kept in a warm oven right before the tea, they'd be good. They really aren't hard tho to whip up quickly and cut out and bake ...

PPS I ran out of baking soda! I'm usually a great list-maker, adding things to a list when getting low. I looked all over for another box, so I googled "baking soda substitute" that morning in the thick of making everything! Lots of science you could read: base/acid... The bottom line? Add extra baking powder - so I used a Tb of baking powder in the scones.

Tea Sandwich Bread - Pain De Mai - Pullman Bread Pans

I had a Valentine Tea crafting party. I've been to tea houses and my main complaint is white breads and scones. I wanted to use my fresh ground flours for fullness of nutrients. As I researched tea sandwiches I settled on wanting pullman pans for making the square bread typically used. The first recipe/pullman pan use I found was in Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook - using a 16"x3 1/2" x3 1/2" pan. I had one old pan. I knew my regular bread recipe amount would fill 3 of these pans, and after reading people's reviews, that of loving the bread on a regular basis, I ordered the pans. When I googled Pain De Mie (pullman) Pan recipes I consistently found recipes based on King Arthur's Flour shop, and read thru the reviews so I could get an idea as to the process and any possible tips.

Did I practice before making the party bread? No.

Martha's book shows a light and dark bread combo for sandwiches. In the google research I saw that unsweetened cocoa or carob powder would offer the darker bread coloring, so that is what I added to the recipe (1/2 cup of cocoa). So I ended up with 3 light loaves and 3 dark loaves. Monte used an electric knife we got for a wedding present and have hardly used - it's the best for slicing a nice even 1/4" slice. With the 1/4" slice, with all the tea sandwich varieties we made, only one of each loaf color got used. So I froze the rest of the loves, cut in thirds.

6 C warm water (milk is used, so I added powdered milk to the water)
2 sticks + 2 Tb (18Tb) unsalted butter, softened
3Tb yeast
1/2 C sugar
1 Tb salt
about 15 C flour

Add 6C of the flour and yeast and sugar to the mixing bowl and barely mix - let set about 10 minutes (this is a sponge, to let the yeast start bubbling). Then add in the salt, butter and flour till the dough starts balling up leaving the sides of the bowl. I stop and feel how sticky it is, adding in flour till tacky, not sticky, then let it knead about 10 minutes. All bread recipes have you do a rising in the bowl before putting the dough in the pans for a second rising. I never do this, because of the sponging and how well the Bosch kneads dough. Since the KAF recipe suggested it, I decided to just let it rise in the Bosch bowl before dumping it out on my oiled counter top, dividing it in three, rolling it up and pressing in each pan, and let rise again. I normally put a cloth over the rising loaves. It was suggested to put plastic wrap - is this to see it? I did. And when close to the top I snapped/slid the lids on, let set a bit more and put them in the pre-heated oven.

Hmmmm ... oven temp and how long? I'm still not sure. Martha's recipe is for the bread pan size I have, so 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes, lids removed and another 15-20 minutes at 375. KAF baked it totally at 350 degrees, but 25 minutes with the lid on and 20 minutes with the lid off - but their bread pan is 13" long. Someone also mentioned registering the temp with a thermometer, saying it should be at 190 degrees. I saw another recipe having oven temp at 400 and baking 45 minutes. So I might experiment on that. And too, I want to experiment with my basic bread recipe without the milk and butter, but oil, and not doing two risings like I normally do.

The bread pans with the lids are compressing the bread so the air bubbles are more consistent throughout the bread - a little denser for holding together better. So no rounded tops with the larger air bubbles at the top of the bread. Also, it's almost crustless.

Mine did cave a bit in the middle - not much. That's another thing I have to read about again and practice and perfect.

Sarah cut the squares and hearts for the mixed bread design for some of the sandwiches. I had all the sandwich making ingredients ready for the party, but didn't have them made ahead of time. My party was to be a crafting station party: paper craft station for making valentines, paint and glitter station, wet felt over homemade soap station in the greenhouse, needle felting station in the guest room, a crayon melting & one-use-soap station in the laundry/sitting room. So since the sandwiches weren't made in time, sandwich-making became one of the craft stations. I think people enjoyed that. I'll be posting about the crafts on my overflow blog and continue posting tea party recipes here on this blog.

Oh ... I read it's better to make your tea sandwich bread a day ahead - easier to slice, I think. And too, the leftovers from the cut outs? I was going to do a strata for breakfast, but didn't, so now they're all dry and I'll make them into bread crumbs and store them in the freezer - ready for coating fish, or in meatloaf ...

People are still telling me "thank you" for the party and want it to become a tradition. I will make the Valentine Tea crafting party a tradition, and thinking of doing some other seasonal similar parties - like Ukrainian Egg dyeing craft close to Easter; a late summer tea in the full bloom garden ...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Homemade Valentine Soap

Homemade Valentine Soap - paprika created the pink soap
I posted a homemade soap recipe Saturday. It's supposed to sit in it's box for 24-48 hours, before cutting into shapes and cured for 2 weeks, at the least. I was thinking "Valentines" so cut heart shapes. The leftover scraps I roll in balls. Since the soap is uncured, it's still caustic, so I dump it out on a vinyl table cloth and use rubber gloves. I've let them cure on my baking cooling racks, or brown paper before - this time they're on some old wicker placemats.

 A lot of these will be felted over in two weeks. I'll be posting pics on my Overflow blog ... so keep tuned.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Soap Making

I made bar soap today. I'd rendered suet before and froze it. I've not done it for a long while, so I re-skimmed all my soap books to refresh my memory. I've not bought soap since we like my homemade soap, having made and used it for twenty years now.

For years I used department store boxes lined with stapled on plastic garbage bag plastic. I still have these in the garage, tho Monte made me nice wood boxes several years ago. I line these with freezer-wrap paper, waxed side up, of course - taping it to the edges. My boxes' inside dimensions are 11 1/2" x 18" and a couple inches deep.

Firstly, I put on my apron, glasses, and a mask, to make the lye - water mixture, as it heats to over 200 degrees and needs to cool. I made a recipe I have in my cookbook I got from Ann Bramson's Soap book from the 70's. I first measure my empty 1/2 gallon canning jar and add 32 oz (2#) water. Some years I've brewed herbs in this water hoping for their herbal properties in my soap. Then I stirred in 12 oz lye (sodium hydroxide - ordered from online) using a plastic spatula. Little bits of lye will tingle with a burning sensation on your skin, if you get it on. Just rinse it off. You don't want to breath this reaction, so ventilation is nice.

Measure your stainless steel 4 qt pan and add 38 oz tallow (palm oil is it's equivalent; shortening could be used too), then add 24 oz coconut oil and 24 oz olive oil (this time I did 20 oz and then 4 oz castor oil - just because I wanted to!). Heat these till solids are not quite melted. It takes some time to cool down, and will continue melting while sitting.

You want the lye mixture and oil mixture to be about the same temperature around 95-98 degrees. I had to set the lye mixture outside to cool down. I put some cold water in the sink to cool the fats down some too, once the lye was down and ready. If the lye cools too much, sometimes just stirring it will raise the temp a bit. Whether I've got water in the sink or nor, I put the pan in the sink for slowly pouring the lye mixture in. You want the lye water to pour slowly like a pencil width, stirring the fat continually at the same time, using a rubber spatula. Gently keep stirring for the lye and fats to chemically connect and do their thickening thing.

Keep stirring in circles and swirls gently for at least 10 minutes. Then you can occasionally stir it. This time it set up fast (some times it could be an hour), thickened enough that when dripped from the spatula it leaves a trace on the surface, leaving a trail a short bit. At this point is when additives like scent and coloring is added. I usually don't add these, liking the creamy color and tallow or palm oil are forever sweet smelling. If lard were used, or a poor quality beef fat, it develops an off smell over time, so scenting masks this. It's best to use essential oils. Colorants I've used are things like cinnamon, cocoa, turmuric - this time in one of the soaps I added 5 tsp paprika.

I also added essential oils this time: 2 tsp lavender, 1 1/2 tsp rose geranium, 1 tsp rose oil, 1/2 tsp sage. Not like that's my favorite, but what I had that I thought might go together. Most bottles sold are typically a 3oz size. I found that's about 2 teaspoons worth. For this amount of recipe (about 8 pounds) it's suggested you use 4-5 teaspoons. I ended up adding to my shopping list now that I took stock of what I've got and what I want. For gift-giving and covering with felt, having scented soap is nice.

Once the mixture is thick enough with the tracing, pour it into to molds. Soap needs to sit covered with a blanket to keep warm, for about 24 hours. Then I dump it out on a plastic table cloth. Using rubber gloves I'll cut it into bars or shapes. I'll post a pic of this tomorrow or the next. The soap then needs to sit on brown paper or stainless steel racks or wicker or rattan placemats to cure for 2-4 weeks. During this time the lye turns from a caustic ingredient, into an emollient mixture.

See my earlier post on other soapmaking I do. And I'll be posting later, finishing up the process and thoughts.

Salmon, or Tuna, or Crab Cakes

Monte made salmon patties for supper. He often cooks fish patties for a quick meal. For years I've made tuna patties (it's in my cookbook) - very simple:

Simple tuna patties (or other canned fish)
6 oz can tuna
1 egg
some grated onion
season with dried parsley or herbs of your choice
Drop by large spoonful into heated oiled skillet
Cook on both sides till browned and done - about 4-6 minutes

Monte likes to add a bit of bread crumbs and mayonnaise to the above, using canned salmon. Here's what Monte did last night -

2 6oz cans wild salmon
4 green onions, chopped fine
2 Tb bread crumbs (I always have these in a ziplock in the freezer from my homemade bread)
About 1 Tb fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley, dill
Since we didn't have any Old Bay Seasoning - use 1 1/2 tsp - I googled the ingredients and sat them all on the counter and Monte took bits of each, grinding in the mortar&pestle: bay leaves, celery seeds, mustard seeds, paprika, pepper, nutmeg, cloves, red pepper flakes, and cardamom, and salt
1 egg
1/4 C mayonnaise
Mix this all together well and form into 4 flat, round, patties about 3" across. This time he lightly covered them with 1/4 C flour and browned them in olive oil in the skillet. This time too, he finished cooking them in the oven rather in the skillet - he was afraid the flour would burn.

Then he made a sauce which he's calling -
1/2 C mayo
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 lime squeezed to taste
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced cilantro
1/2 tsp ground chipotle seeds
1/2 tsp dill

The fresh herbs are in my greenhouse. When I buy fresh herbs from the grocery store I cut a bit off the bottom of the bunch and put them in a glass of water, leaving them on the counter. Like basil often turns brown in the refrigerator - they'll last awhile this way. If not using soon, freeze herbs in ice cubes.

After eating the above sauce, Monte's convinced it's close to a salad dressing he's raved about for years from Texas Red's in Red River, New Mexico - he did geology there right before we got married. So we had his sauce with the fish patties and on our salad.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Baked Cod with a Cream Sauce over Whole Grain Rice

I'd gotten cod and didn't know what I was going to do with it, so I googled cod recipes and liked the idea of this dish, at that moment (meaning my emotions and cravings vary ... duh!). This turned out to be a "comfort food" - which means it's a definite keeper I'll be making again.

I have a chapter in my cookbook called "Cooking Tips & Pantry Stocking". Cooking tips are favorite sections of books for me. I've always looked at lots of recipes when deciding what to make. I've learned a lot from this process. When you know your ingredients, you know what you can mess around with and formulate your own recipes.

I wish I could create a consistent weekly or monthly menu - I know someone who does. It could simplify life, but I'm so motivated (or I should say "mood-ivated") by creative impulse. One of my impulses or motivations is to eat as well at home as some gourmet restaurants.

All that said ... doesn't really apply here, other than introducing how I cooked the rice according to my cooking tip from my cookbook. I have rice in my pantry that'll cook in 15-20 minutes, but it's not our favorite, and Monte has asked me to just cook the whole grain or wild rice. That takes time, so forethought or planning. Here's what's from my cookbook and the easiest way to cook rice -

Oven cooking Whole Grain &/or Wild Rice
Place 3 C tap water in an oven-proof dish with
1 tsp salt and
1 C rice
(could add some olive oil or pat of butter if you want)
Bake in a 250 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours
If I've not thought ahead, I'll pressure cook it for 10 minutes.

Looking at what I wrote in my cookbook, I'm reminded of something we like: keeping already cooked rice and already cooked black beans in the refrigerator for a quick dish - mix the two together and sprinkle with parmesan. Monte likes to heat rice with milk and cinnamon for a snack.

Following this oven cooking rice idea in my book is how to make a white sauce, which is pretty much what I did for this cod sauce. A lot of recipes call for "cream of ... chicken or mushroom soup". I don't buy canned soup, so I needed to learn how to substitute this ingredient in recipes. Basically heat  1/4-1/3C oil or butter, adding the same amount of flour. Let this "roux" brown a bit and add 2C of chicken broth with seasoning to be the equivalent of the canned soup (add some cream or milk powder for the 'cream'). That flour/fat amount will thicken 3-4 Cups of liquid too, if not wanting something so thick. I make up this sauce a lot, adding canned tuna for eating over toast with some grated cheese - a family quick meal favorite. It's also a sauce for macaroni and cheese, or chicken divan, or scalloped potatoes ...

Cook rice
In skillet saute a chopped onion,
1 C sliced fresh mushrooms,
and then some minced garlic in
2 Tb olive oil or butter till golden
Sprinkle in 2 Tb flour and stir in
Add 2 C of a cream and milk mixture
Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and a pinch of dill
Then add 1/2# of shrimp, peeled and deveined
Pour this mixture over 1# cod arranged in baking dish
Sprinkle with some grated parmesan
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
Serve over the rice

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Raspberry Tart

I'd mentioned in another post that we had company last week - investor/geology men. I wanted a dessert one night, without much work. When I make pies, I roll my crusts out very thin and always have extra crust. If I don't make little cinnamon tarts with the leftover, I put it in a ziplock in the freezer. Well, I remembered I had lots of little bags in the big ziplock of leftover crusts. I pulled out two of them to thaw. That evening I rolled them out to fit in a tart pan. I didn't have a recipe or want to spend time looking for a recipe, so here's what I did ...

- unbaked crust put in tart pan (click side bar "pies" label to see my crust recipe - it's whole wheat or whole grain something, considering the leftover varieties there could be).
- dumped frozen raspberries till it looked just right - still gaps of crust showing through - not too much and not too little.
- sprinkled several Tablespoons of sucanat (dehydrated sugar cane) - here again, went by looks
- poured over some cream.
Baked at 375 degrees till it looked done - pretty set (set up more as it cooled) and crust browned.

Found out raspberries were the guest's favorite fruit. So the next morning when I made sourdough pancakes I heated some frozen raspberries for a pancake topping with my homemade yogurt and maple syrup.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Elevenses Omelet

Monte and me have fun saying we're "eating our second breakfast" - or little lunch. I just read a book, The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise, where a Beefeater, his wife, and a 180 year old tortoise live in London Tower. Hebe works in the London Underground Lost Property Office, where Elevenses is an anticipated time. Both her and her husband look after their respective unusual menageries. Tolkien's Hobbits have their Elevenses, as does Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington Bear.

Most current mornings I begin with a probiotic green drink, dissolve a microlingual vitamin D tablet on my tongue, start my beverage of tea or coffee, take my Juice Plus, and ready my bowl of a small portion of fresh or frozen fruit, homemade yogurt, a few drops of stevia, scoops of whey, raw unsweetened dry coconut and dried sprouted flax seed, sometimes adding in a bit of granola or Ezekial sprouted grain cereal. Monte makes oatmeal to go with the same mixture of ingredients, and sometimes I'll have some of his oatmeal. Then I'll read, research, and write, fitting in excercise at some point before being hungry by 10:30-11. My current exercise I'm able to do regularly (mentioned in January 1st post) is 18 minutes with Teresa Tapp DVD (T-Tapp). Occasionally I'll do her total, or step-away workouts, but currently trying her "Hit the Floor" one.

I've always loved eggs. Home-grown are the best! In fact, I'm so missing my chickens, Monte's going to build a coop closer to the house and we'll order chickens again. My preference is soft-cooked, but I like omelets and frittatas as well. My cookbook tells of the science to cooking eggs. I ignore eggs and cholesterol talk. One day coffee and chocolate are bad for you and then they're good ... yadda, yadda, yadda. Most healthy people's bodies know how to metabolize good, whole foods. Cholesterol and lecithin are both in the egg yolk, along with most of all the other egg nutrients. Lecithin neutralizes the cholesterol and organic eggs have more lecithin. We like to have a rooster per about seven hens, so the eggs are fertile as well. Think about it! Nature provides a life-giving fertile germ in eggs, seeds, whole grains ... An egg is one of God's wonderful little whole nutritious packets!

One of my favorite OMELETs is with mushrooms and spinach -
- Saute a few cut up mushrooms
- Mix up 1-2 eggs (3 egg omelettes, typical in restaurants, are too big for me) in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper, can add a dollop of water, milk, or cream, to have ready.
- Sliver some fresh spinach.
- Sprinkle some ground whole thyme into the sauted mushroom.
Add the slivered spinach and saute another 30 seconds, then scoop the mixture onto your plate.
Pour in the egg mixture, lid the skillet, and turn heat to low, cooking egg mixture thru.
- Grate onto the egg some parmesan or provalone cheese, scoop back in the spinach mixture, fold the omelet in half and deliver it back to your plate and enjoy!

In days of old, when the children were home, our mornings, once having eaten, looked like: me reading aloud and them doing a handiwork, when not on my lap or playing on the floor when they were young. Handiwork like carving, needlework, crafting, or sketching - always honing skills and thinking of gift-giving ... like to the Grandparents. On my other blog I'm going to be talking about the bookmaking we did.

Good morning! Good Day!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cleaning The Cookstove

When we built our home twenty seven years ago, we knew we wanted on old cookstove, so designed a space for it between the kitchen and dining room - all a part of a great room - an L shape with an end space we call "the keeping room". People often think it's my main cooking stove. They seem relieved when they find out I've got a regular range with an oven and glass cooking surface - it's in the kitchen's island, and I'm loving the flatness of the glass top (new a few years ago), adding to the islands food layout as we tend to serve most meals buffet-style. And I've also got a combination convection/microwave, AND a toaster oven - both in the same built in wall shelves next to my pantry entrance, near the refrigerator. My kitchen is nice and big, but my work triangle is nice and small, saving steps. (Read the book Cheaper By the Dozen - the father studied saving steps in many work arenas, and was instrumental in changing the old large kitchens where slaves/servants worked, to energy efficient family kitchens.)

Well, it's time again for me to empty the stove's ashes. I only have to empty the ash bin this time. Every Fall, in preparation for Winter, I fully clean the stove. The old man we bought the stove from showed me how to care for it and told stories. Cookstoves have a small fire box, the ashes falling into the bin below. Above the firebox, especially at the back would be your "high" burner, more "medium- high toward the front, and as you slide pots to the right, you're getting a cooler heat for simmering. The chrome-plated decorative circles at the back open down for another warming place, and then there's warming ovens above the cook surface. When not cooking in the oven, I leave the oven door open for more heat to enter the room. When cooking in the oven you need to move foods around as there's hotter spots there too (it cooks pies better than my regular range!)

If the ashes are removed from around the oven, scraping the sides of the oven, which I only need to do once a year, the oven gets more heat. If water were in the water reservoir to the right, it would heat too, as they did in days of old for washing up - but it's rusty looking and we don't need it, other than a nice look and setting surface.

To the west of us is a hill, so in the winter the sun sets around 4pm. We have lots of large windows since most of our days are sunny - solar heating. But most days I'll start up the stove come 4, for taking off the chill. And cloudy days I usually burn it all day and will utilize it for cooking. It sure comes in handy if the electricity is out! And such a nice atmosphere.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Garden Seeds Ordered

I've ordered my seeds for this coming year's gardening, have you? The seed catalogs start coming in for the new year and every January I love planning my garden. I evaluate past years' gardening. With my short, cool growing conditions, Johnny's Seeds, in Maine, develops seeds that produce well for me. I have garden drawings and notes going back over many years (this is the longest I've ever, in my lifetime, lived in one home - wow ... twenty-six years!). Every year there's things I tell myself to never waste my time on again!

Speaking of Johnny's Seeds ... In Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Johnny's is mentioned amongst many others as having seeds from Monsanto. When you do the research you find that Johnny's is owned by the employees and any seeds that had been used from a source that got sold to Monsanto are being phased out.

I'll be starting seeds in the greenhouse pretty soon. This winter I've successfully got lettuces, green onions, and herbs still growing. A fig tree is looking beautiful and tomatoes are setting fruit! I'm going to have to vacuum the brown grapevine leaves, as it'll be putting out new growth soon. We froze most of the grapes, but left some to dry as raisins, and guests love finding them and eating!

Speaking of guests, it's been another week of men underfoot! - geology related. Rick's an investor, owning coffee shops in California, but I'm not letting him make me coffee any more! He uses three to four times more coffee grounds than me - I buy them freshly roasted at my local store - I thought I had enough for a month! His coffee keeps me awake all night!!! No wonder he's a bundle of energy!

They all left for the airport an hour ago. One to Virginia, another on to Vancouver, and Rick back to California. We had Italian Monday night with spreading pesto on chicken breasts and rolling them with prosciutto - I thought them too dry and salty. Tuesday lunch was a potato leek soup with Kielbasa; supper, lasagna. Sourdough pancakes were served for a breakfast with raspberries from our garden (in the freezer) and homemade yogurt, - and since I make extra, liking them as a snack with almond butter and raspberry jam, they ended up sticking them in the toaster for another breakfast. Then of course there's always my homemade bread. I wasn't going to be around, and them doing other things off and on for two days, so the lasanga and soup were great for them to have leftover. Today's lunch was fish tacos. I marinated mahi-mahi in 1/2 cup each Tequila and lime juice with some chili powder, sugar and salt - then smoked/grilled it.

My food and our hospitality is greatly appreciated and even with winter's garden dormancy, the beautiful rock garden walls, fencing, bamboo ornamentation and dried stalks all add to our home's wonderful retreat atmosphere where people like to hang-out. Again, our wonderful Velveteen House!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Homemade Soap and Moisturizing Cream

I have been making soap for years - now two decades! I guess that tells you we like using homemade soap. My very first books that started me down this journey were Jeanne Rose's Herbal Body Book and Soap by Ann Bramson. I see that both are still available from $1-100. Both were printed in the 70's. I refer to Jeanne's book as my "Hippie" book. It is so marked up with notes and about to fall apart. It's the best beginning reference for what oils, essential oils, fats, herbs, etc are good for - like nutritive values, for what skin types, hair, etc. I've collected other books over the years - the others I've most used are by Susan Miller Cavitch. Her books are still available too. The Natural Soap Book makes 12 pound batches. Her second, The Soapmaker's Companion, makes 5 pound batches. She uses a mixer - I don't. My cookbook has the basic recipes I make once a year.

Since I wrote my book, I've been making a shampoo soap bar and moisturizing lotion - both from The Soapmaker's Companion, tho I've tweaked them quite a bit. In the picture to the right are the three main soap bars I keep stocked. If I don't give too much away, I only have to make soap once a year (even longer span now that's it's mainly just Monte and me)(I'll have to ask my kids if they want homemade soap made for them) - that's our total soap use - no buying of bar soap, face soap and creams, nor shampoo! In the past I've done lip balms and laundry soap too and other household cleaning stuff - maybe I'll return to doing that. So pictured are a small tub of the face cream (moisturizing lotion), and stacked from bottom to top: body soap, face soap, and shampoo bar. Cold-pressed, unrefined, extra-virgin coconut oil is great for cooking, but also makes a wonderful massage oil, and Monte's been using it as his body lotion. It and my face cream initially feel greasy, but they soon soak in. I've tried so many facial products, including expensive ones, and still prefer my homemade ones!

The Moisturizing Cream I make is considered a firm mousse. The recipe proportions amount to about 140 grams of solid fats, 400 grams of liquid fats, and 400 grams of water. Each time I make it I use differing ingredients depending on supplies on hand. Olive oil is a dominant fat in all my soapmaking. The solidifiers in the cream are melted beeswax, cocoa and shea butters. I like castor oil in both the cream and my bar soaps. In the cream, I've used wheat germ oil, jojoba oil, apricot oil, and always almond oil. I don't use water - making it's proportion up with liquid lanolin, aloe vera gel, rosewater, and witch hazel. Then there's added glycerin, borax (helps in emulsifying the liquids and solids, so no separation), grapefruit seed extract for naturally preserving the mixture from spoilage (parabens are what's used in almost all cosmetics and studies are finding health issues from this chemical), and then I add some essential oils: lavender, peppermint, sometimes nutmeg, and always lemongrass essential oil. This fills 3 small tubs and a quart jar I keep in the fridge for refilling the tubs.

I want to write out the recipe because I know a few people would read this and want to make it - I would. I don't want to overwhelm you, but I do keep these ingredients stocked in a bin in my linen/cleaning equipment closet. I used to order them from a co-op, but now purchase them from a health food store and online. Like, Google soap making, and you'll find many sources. Lye is a major bar soap ingredient. When mixed with coconut, palm, olive, castor, etc oils it saponifies into a rich healthy-for-the-skin soap - non-drying to the skin. Store-bought soaps have the natural by-product of glycerin extracted, for making other stuff, therefore removing the emollient quality.

Melt the solids - I put them in a large glass bowl, and melt using the microwave (Cavitch does it in a saucepan on the stove, which I should do, and will next time).
SOLIDS - 130-140 grams
100 gms beeswax (I used to grate it, but now found pellets)
20-25 gms each of cocoa butter and shea butter
Make sure the beeswax melts - I've occasionally found tiny bits when using my cream :-D

OILS - 395-400 grams
250 gms Olive Oil
50 gms Almond Oil
20 gms Castor Oil
25 gms Wheat Germ Oil
50 gms Jojoba Oil
The oils can be added to the melting solids. Don't heat above 165 degrees. Remember, you can use whatever you have on hand as long as you keep to the overall proportion. Like this time I didn't have wheat germ oil (it needs to be kept refrigerated, and I must have thought it too old awhile back ... and then didn't write it down on my 'to buy' list ...). Also, when I opened the jojoba oil, knowing it was getting old, I smelled it. I won't use rancid smelling products. So I only used more of the castor and almond oils this time.

WATER - 400 grams
primarily witch hazel and rosewater
then some liquid lanolin and aloe vera gel (I used about 100 grms of each this time)
Then 10 gms of borax
15 gms vegetable glycerin
5-10 gms grapefruit seed extract
Make sure the borax completely dissolves in the water mixture.

A freestanding mixer would be nice to use, but I've always used a hand-held little mixer. Starting on low speed, slowly drizzle the water mixture into the oils. Continue mixing as the mixture thickens, occasionally scraping the sides and increasing the speed. Once it's thickened like mayonnaise and cooler, add essential oils - 5-6grams. I didn't weigh them this time, so used 1/4 tsp each of lavender and peppermint. I would have used nutmeg too, if I'd had it. Then 1/2 tsp of lemongrass.

I often add vitamin E. I used to add Vitamin A to this mixture too. Vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, is good for the skin, but new studies are finding that with sun exposure it develops skin tumors. It's put in lots of lotions, including sunscreens because it is an antioxidant and slows skin aging, but with sun exposure it's now believed to be cancerous. On the subject of sunscreen, I read labels and try to avoid oxybenzone, which is hard cuz it's in just about everything, including lip balms. It can be allergenic, but primarily it messes with hormones. Sunscreens too are messing with our Vitamin D absorption. I also don't use products that use mineral oil (robs skin of it's own natural moisturizing mechanism - it's used cuz it's cheap!) and petrolatum (in ChapStick and Vaseline). Europe won't allow usage of these products. Monte wants me to start making two moisturizing creams - one with the Vitamin A, for a night cream.

I still have lots of homemade soap bars in tubs from many years of soapmaking days with friends. Over the years we've tried all sorts of additives. I'm sensitive to fragrances, so rarely use them. When soap is made with lard, over time it develops an off smell, so fragrances mask this. I don't use lard, using tallow for the other 'fat' in my bar soaps. It forever has a sweet smell. We've added ingredients like oats, honey, and powdered milk; colorants like cinnamon, or turmeric ... I've brewed a strong herbal tea to use as the water, adding the herb properties to the soap as well as differing color. I've started felting wool over these soaps. I'm posting a picture of some I did this year to go with, matching, some of my knitted washcloths (see my overflow blog for instructions).Think: "Soap in a Sweater"!

Felted Soap
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