Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cleaning Crayon Off of Your Walls

I knew it would happen sooner or later. What I really should have thought about was the fact that it would happen when I wasn't looking.

My little lamb drew on the wall.

Well, I thought it was just one wall

- it turns out that it was five different walls.

No longer having any magic erasers in my house and not wanting to because of the harmful chemicals they contain I chose to go the old fashioned rout first. Water and a rag.

I'm happy to tell you that Crayola's Jumbo Crayons

 seem to be washable. With minimal wiping of my walls the crayon came right up.

If you find yourself in this position. Please try simpler, more natural options before turning to chemicals.

The offending crayon was put into time out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pintesting In The Kitchen - Cheesey Vegetable Chowder

Still trying to stay on top of any picky-eater problems I may at any moment encounter with my little lamb I keep trying to make sure I'm frequently offering veggie filled alternatives.

Today's pintest comes via this pin and the info found here.

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 celery stick, finely chopped (feel free to add more celery if you like celery; I don't, so I don't add much)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth (I usually use a mixture of low-sodium chicken broth and broth made with chicken soup base because it gives it such nice flavor)
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup milk
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 heaping cups shredded cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a large soup pot.

Chop up your onions,

and your carrots,
and your celery.
Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium heat until tender.
 Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 additional minutes.
This is a good time to chop up your potatoes. I used one of my personal favorite kinds - Yukon Gold.
Add chicken broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender.
Mix flour with water, add, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened.

Now wash and separate your broccoli. I had broccoli crown so I just broke off pieces until I was breaking off what I considered "soup-sized" pieces.
 Add milk and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender and soup is heated through.
You're supposed to stir in cheese, allow to melt, and serve - but I managed to forget to do this. How I could ever forget cheese I really don't know. The soup was alright and my little lamb seemed to really love it. I'm going to call this a pin worth trying.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kitchen Fail - Chicken With Noodles Revisited

There are pins on pintrest referring to "cream of chicken soup" as "cream of chemical soup."

Having already decided to add chicken with noodles to our regular rotation I found myself planning to make it for a second time. Only this time I wanted to do it without the added chemicals. This meant making my own cream of chicken soup.

I used this recipe to do so. The resulting soup definitely doesn't look like what I'm used to from the can but that should most likely be considered a good thing . . . right?

The recipe is a little vague about which herbs and spices to use in making your soup. I used parsley, garlic powder, kosher salt (bc at the moment I was cooking my sea salt had mysteriously disappeared), black pepper, and herbs de Provence.

For good measure I made sure to give the mixture of the called for chicken stock and my home-made cream of chicken soup to avoid any lumps and then threw my butter on top.
Here comes the fail - when I went to go check on our dish this is what I saw.
Somehow a bit of soap must have gotten into or was left on something I was using. The food had to be gotten rid of :(

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Revisiting Chemical Free Laundry Detergent

My very first try at making laundry detergent was acceptable but I didn't feel as wowed by the whole experience as I wanted and for a short period actually went back to using store bought (yet still locally made) laundry detergent. This is a fact that I feel worked out for me in the end because it left me with more suitable containers for my home made laundry detergent than I was previously using.
With a new baby on the way I've been considering making a bit more to have at the ready and storing it in empty milk jugs (I don't throw ours away. You might be surprised how often you can find another use for an empty milk jug.) Keep your eyes open for containers around your house in which to store this almost amount of laundry soap.

To begin you will need a bar of Fels-Naptha soap (which I shamefully purchase at my local WalMart), Borax (also purchased at WalMart, it can be found in the laundry aisle), and one of both of these optional ingredients I have also been using - tamanau oil and tee tree oil.

Begin by grating your bar of Fels-Naptha soap. I like to grate as finely as possibly so it will dissolve quickly and easily. Doing this over a large container like a bucket seems to be helpful because it catches shavings that might otherwise just sit next to you on your chair.

Once it's grated, if it isn't already in a large bucket or container, put it in one. The first times I made my detergent I used the largest pot I had available in the house.
Now, I have what I call my, "making stuff bucket" - it's a 3 gallon bucket that was given to me by my husbands grandmother.
You could also consider using something like an emptied out and thoroughly clean cat littler bucket - those are pretty large.

With your grated soap now in your bucket add a bit of hot water. I run my tap and let the water get as hot as it can. I add just enough to swish it around really well and dissolve it. Stir vigorously with whatever you've got on hand - I usually use a slotted or perforated spoon to get everything moving around really well.
Once you feel satisfied about how much of the soap you have gotten to dissolve add more hot water. You really don't need to finish filling the bucket just yet. Now add one cup of borax and vigorously mix once again. Sometimes the borax gets clumpy and if it does that it can leave you with lumps you later need to get out of your soap. It wont hurt anything but it can be a bit annoying. I've even plunged my hand into the bucket once or twice to finish breaking up offending clumps.

Your borax should now be dissolved into your mixture. Here is where the optional portion comes in. I add either 100 drops of tea tree oil or 50 drops of tamanau oil followed by 50 drops of tee tree oil. These oils have amazing anti-fungal and antiseptic qualities and I really feel they give my soap a phenomenal boost.

Finish filling your bucket with hot water - like I said I work with a three gallon bucket, if your container is smaller your soap will be a bit more potent or even thicker, we can take care of that later. Give your laundry soap another really good stir and then set it aside overnight.

When it's ready you should have a very thick gel in your bucket. When I try and finish up sooner than 24 hours I check to see if the mixture is ready by just jostling the bucket and seeing how solidly gelled it seems to be. If it's relatively immobile (meaning no sloshing) but shakes a little bit like jello (not exactly like jello but close enough) your soap can be considered ready.

In the past I used spoons to stir and break up my laundry detergent, this left me with what seems to be a common complaint/problem people have with making their own detergent. To really break it up and get it the best possible consistency (in my mind at least) I use an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender I don't see a lot of reason why you can't try and have good success using your regular kitchen blender.
Once you now have a nice fluid you're ready to begin transferring it to the containers you plan to keep your soap in. I have four old laundry containers. Using a metal ladle because it seems to work the best with this fluid, I carefully begin filling each jug approximately half-way.
Once all of them are (half-way) full, add water, It really doesn't have to be hot water now so I just use whatever temperature comes out of the tap. Shake your container up really well to get it mixed together and you're done. Just put your laundry jugs wherever you keep them when not in use and they will patiently wait for you until you call upon them.

For anyone who was using a smaller container to mix their laundry detergent you can solve the issue of how much water you originally had by just evenly dispersing your soap across the amount of container you intend to use. Because I'm not there with you and have no idea what size container you are using as a general rule of thumb I won't recommend filling your container more than half-way with detergent. Try all of this out on only your first container so that you have the best chance of ending this experience positively.

Now that you've filled this "mystery container" half-way with laundry detergent, fill it the rest of the rest of the way with water. Shake the container and look to see how happy you are with the consistency. The key for me really seems to be evenly dispersing the amount of laundry soap across the amount of containers I plan to use.

I owe a lot of the success I now have in making my laundry detergent to the immersion blender my mother so kindly gifted me (she wasn't using it.) Thoroughly blending your detergent yields the highest rate of success in creating a laundry detergent that isn't lumpy.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pintesting - Making Makeup

With the decision to be as chemical free as possible came the difficult task of throwing out a lot of beauty products I'd come to really love. This, of course, included 99% of my makeup. I don't tend to wear a lot of it anymore but I'm a big fan of powder.

Today's pin test comes via this pin and the info found here.

Starting with a base of arrowroot powder

slowly add in cocoa powder

and cinnamon

until you get something close to your skin tone.

I didn't really see any change at all similar to powder when I first tried brushing some on using my finger tips. Because I had already placed an order for some tins and bottles to hold some of these things I've been concocting as a result of all of these pintests, I decided that I might be happier if I tried the more solid base.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Epic Pinfail In The Kitchen - Red Velvet Cheesecake

My parents were coming for Christmas, and despite a recent conversation with my mother about my fathers cholesterol I didn't deviate from my plan to make a dessert sure to delight both my husband and my father.

Today's pintest comes via this pin and the info found here.

First you have to make the red velvet cake.

Your dry ingrediants will be mixed in one bowl.
You're going to need a sifter for your cake flour.

Your wet in a second.

And the butter and sugar will be creamed in either another bowl or your mixer.

It says that it doesn't really matter too much what kind of pan you bake your cake in. Because I was planning on probably making the cheesecake the same day I didn't want to have to wash spring form pans all night in addition to all of the other measuring cups and what have you.

Once the red velvet cake was finished I set it out to cool.
Why is there a huge dent in the cake? Because it bumped into another one of my oven racks. After I moved it the cake pretty much just deflated.

Then I put the cake into a bag for the evening because the cake will end up being broken up anyway.

Between making cakes I still had to do dishes and wipe down my mixer.

If you've never made a cheesecake before (and quite honestly I'd only made one once before, years ago, and it went terribly) it's a pretty quick thing to make. Once you have an ingredient list it's just about as simple as, "mix all of your ingredients and then put into the oven for x amount of time."

Making this cheesecake is ALMOST that simple.
1)  line your spring form pan with aluminum foil.
2) you're going to break apart half of your red velvet cake.
3) cover the red velvet cake bottom with your cheesecake mix.
4) place your cheesecake into a ban marie (hot water bath.)
5) put the entire thing into the oven and wait 45 minutes.

When your time is up turn off your oven and wait another hour - the original poster urges you NOT to open your oven and peek. This wasn't a problem because I had approximate 12,037,102,934,835,724,387,092,348,238,427,345 things to do in preparation for my parents arrival.

Around the time my cake had come to room temperature

it hit me - I had my hands so full that I forgot to mix red velvet cake chunks into my cheesecake! In my mind the cake was now 100% ruined and I'd just wasted two days. My husband told me all that had happened was that I made a delicious cheesecake with a yummy crust and yummy topping. I was miserable. Then my mother texted me to tell me they were probably not coming.

The time came to get the cake into my cake saver for the night. I released the tab on the spring form and everything looked okay. When I flipped the cake onto a plate I sensed that everything had gone badly. I had to unwrap layers of foil to see just how badly it was and each layer of foil just made me more certain that this was a disaster. Closer to the cake there were small layers of cheesecake inside the foil. When I got down to the plate the cake looked a bit like someone had dropped it from a standing position. Maybe I can still save it? The cake was now upside-down and would have to be flipped again. Cake pretty much went all over the kitchen from there. There was cake all over the floor, cake all over the plate, cake all over the cake taker . . . it was just really horrifying for me right then.

I was left with a huge mess and a bag full of half of a red velvet cake. FML and FTP (Eff This Pin).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pintesting In The Kitchen - Taco Bake

While my parents visited I knew I would need to manage to feed them more than once (duh) and taking hours and hours to prepare food was just not anything I was feeling up for. I needed something quick, tasty, and not too time consuming.

Today's pintest comes via this pin and the info found here.

I started with some hormone and anti-biotic free ground beef (2 lbs of it.)

Put it in a large pan and brown it.

We stopped using taco seasoning packets when I stopped to think of the needless extra expense and then shortly after that I found out about how those packets contain silica. I used my own, pre-mixed taco seasoning.

My father made the suggestion that once our meat was browned that we add a little beer, "to mellow the flavor". Beer you say? LET'S DO IT! (This is the part where I had to explain to my father why I was now taking a picture of his beer).

We didn't have salsa con queso but it's nothing my husband would have been interested in eating anyway so we didn't use it. Once the meat was fully cooked it was ready to be added to my formspring pan lined with a tortilla.

I used a perforated spoon to drain the beef before adding it to the pan.

"Don't be stingy with the cheese" - my father was kind enough to offer his opinion on the matter.

After that you just keep layering making sure the top is beef and cheese.

It says to cook it for 15 - 20 minutes. I cooked it for 21. I was busy with a lot of things and trying to figure out what degree of melty everyone wanted their cheese to be.

My father put some hot sauce on one of the sides. I was going to cook the hot sauce into the meat but he said he'd noticed the meat ends up tasting saltier if you cook the hot sauce in.

How did it go over?

Really well. It was enjoyed by everyone including my little picky lamb. By the end of the night there was only one slice left. My mother even asked for the recipe.