Saturday, February 27, 2010

Making Goat Milk Soap

Paul and I turned his shop into a soap factory today. We've been preparing for making soap for ages. We have had the equipment and the lye for months and months. The book we used for a how-to said to allow three hours for your first batch, so we kept putting it off. It's not always easy to find three hours of time when you don't have to worry about kids. Finally we just decided to let Ivy babysit while we ran between the house and shop to check occasionally. But when it came to it, it didn't take anywhere near three hours! Even with setup and cleanup. It wasn't terribly hard or scary or anything like that. We felt terribly accomplished when it seemed to come together like it should, but now the next six weeks or so that the soap has to cure is really stretching out in front of us...

First, you have to melt your fats. We used shortening, canola oil, safflower oil, and olive oil. The shortening is obviously the only oil that needs to be melted since the others are already liquid at room temperature. So you melt the shortening and add the other oils and leave them sitting while you move to the next step which is adding the lye to the milk. You have to put the milk in a cold water bath in the sink and add the lye very slowly so it doesn't heat the milk too rapidly and scorch it. The book recommends taking 15 minutes to add 12 ounces of lye to the milk. Paul added the lye while I stirred.

Then you heat the oils up slightly again and add a little sugar, glycerin, and Borax and get all that stirred up. The lye/milk mixture gets added to the oils now and the stirring begins. And the stirring continues and continues and continues until you blow the breaker, and your stick blender explodes in your hand. Actually, that part was just a little something we added for a little extra excitement that wasn't in the book. Thankfully, it conked out right as the mixture came to trace. We're hoping it doesn't cost us a blender every time we make a batch of soap.

After the mixture has come to trace and looks about like this, you put it into your molds and then leave it for about 24 hours. Then you unmold it and cut it into bars while it is still soft enough to slice up easily, but hard enough to hold its shape. Then you can begin your waiting in earnest as it takes about 4-6 weeks for it to mellow out and cure so it can be used.

We used a square mold that cuts into eight bars and says Goat's Milk on the bars and a long piece of plastic that comes packaged with new windows for the molds.

As it takes such a long time for the soap to cure, we're looking into doing a batch of hot process soap which follows the same basic process as cold process, but is cooked before molding and is ready to use in just a couple days. Better for when you're eager to test your new creations!

Friday, February 26, 2010

DIY Cheese Molds

Yesterday, Ivy and I started making French Chevre goat cheese. It's a several day process. On the first day, we heated the milk, then added buttermilk (for cultures) and rennet, then let it sit overnight. This morning, we scooped the curds into cheese molds. Here I ran into a slight snag because I only had two molds and far more curds than molds. I temporarily put the extra cheese curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth until I could get to the store. At Walmart, I found some Rubbermaid to-go containers that looked roughly the same capacity as my cheese molds. When I got home with the containers, I heated up a screw using one of the gas burners on my stove. Then I melted oodles of small holes into the container from the very bottom up to the top. I spooned the curds from the colander into my two new "molds," and the whey started weeping out the holes immediately. Success!

And the best part? It cost barely over $2 for both of my two new molds, compared to over $5/each plus shipping if I ordered them online. Plus they have lids to stick over the top so I don't have to drape them with foil while they drain.

The cheese has to drain another day, but I had a little nibble already and it's pretty tasty! You can see how much has already drained by comparing the top and bottom pictures. The square containers were heaped over the top when I first scooped the curds into them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The easiest thing I have ever made!

You know, I've wanted to make myself an apron for ages and ages. Why don't I seem to find time to make things for myself? I do have a couple bags I've made for myself, but an apron seemed like a bigger project to tackle. I have oodles of apron patterns because I can't seem to resist buying them when they go on sale for 99 cents. I've yet to make anything from one of them! I dug this picture out of the archives from last year and I have to confess that my apron pattern collection has only grown since then.

The other day I went shopping with Ivy and found some very cute dish towels at the Dollar Tree. I got them home and was surprised to see one had a label still attached from Crate and Barrel. They were nice quality towels of a pleasant weight and generous size. My plan was to turn these into aprons since I could remember seeing more than one tutorial on the subject. When I got home, I found inspiration from several different tutorials and then I just looked at the apron I already have and went with it. I cut off the top corners using my old apron as the guide, although it was a little wider than the dish towels so I had to adjust just a teensy bit. Then I grabbed a pack of double bias tape that I'd picked up on clearance at Walmart just because it was on clearance and I knew I'd have a use for it someday. I pinned it in place and then sewed all along the whole length of the bias tape. And I had an apron in about ten minutes! It was amazingly simple. Not being one to leave well enough alone, though, my apron needed a pocket. I knew that if I didn't get a pocket on it right away, it most likely would never get a pocket. So I found some little squares of fabric that were already cut and sewed them into a nine-patch, but decided it would be too big. I trimmed it down a little and backed it with white muslin and attached it to my apron with a little rick rack trim along the top and called my apron done! It was so easy, and it seems funny to me that the pocket actually took longer than the apron. The whole project was done in next to no time, though.

I bought a couple more towels in different prints and am going to make a half-apron for Ivy that I'll be able to post soon, hopefully.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

HBinFive: Red Beet Rolls and Chocolate Espresso WW Bread

This time for HBinFive, we were assigned two different dough recipes: Red Beet Buns and Chocolate Espresso White Wheat Bread. There were several ingredients that I didn't have on hand. For example, the main ingredients of beets and chocolate! And I also ordered some spelt flour from Amazon because one of the recipes called for spelt flour and being as I can't even get white wheat flour in town, there's no way I could get spelt flour within any sort of reasonable distance from town. I made them both the same evening, but didn't use the dough until the next day. I hadn't read the recipes through enough ahead of time as usual. The chocolate bread said not to use before refrigerating at least two hours. So I made up my chocolate bread the following morning. The beet dough recommended letting it age at least twenty four hours for the best taste. So I had it in the fridge several days before I managed to get back to it. These produced two very colorfully striking doughs. I was curious to know how the breads would turn out.

I have to be honest, the chocolate espresso bread had caught my eye from the first time I opened the book. I planned to make it and bought some black cocoa powder to try with it. Then when I saw how soon it was on the baking schedule, I just waited until it was time to post it. I didn't get around to making the tangerine bar variation with this dough, but made "cupcakes" with it. I just formed the dough into small balls and put it into my muffin pan. I made twelve large muffins and sixteen mini-muffins. I loved them--especially the almost bite-sized mini's. They were had a delicious crunchy outside texture and the inside was just a bit of sweetness and plenty of chocolatey-ness. Paul was disappointed with this bread, though, because I think he was expecting something more cake-like. So it wasn't sweet enough for his expectations. Everyone else seemed to like it--especially Holly and Finn. The only thing I did different was cut the honey back just a smidge when I halved the recipe. The whole recipe called for 3/4 cup of honey, and I only added 1/4 cup to the halved recipe.

And we discovered if you give Holly a muffin, she's going to call it a moose. And she'll want another and another and another and finally she'll cry when you tell her there aren't any more. Have you seen this cute story? If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff is a darling little kids story book. It's actually part of a series of books with this sort of theme. The story follows from one point to the next, eventually winding around right back to the starting point. Apparently Holly isn't quite sure on the difference between mooses and muffins, though, as she asked for a moose every time she wanted another muffin.

The dough for the red beet rolls was met with initial skepticism. Nobody aside from myself seemed to think much of the color of the dough. And telling them it was from beets didn't do anything to allay their qualms. I opted only to make a half recipe of this because they barely had beets at the store in town. And what they did were little and puny and expensive. And I was a little bit concerned that nobody would eat it anyhow.

I unfortunately got sidetracked after I shaped the dough into portions and it had much more time than the forty minutes the recipe called for. I think it just gave them more time to spread way out. They came out looking like some kind of over-sized cookies. They spread way out from the picture you see here. And then they were the victims of neglect again because I happened to be out of the room when the oven timer went off and nobody informed me. I don't think they were in very much more than a couple minutes over the recipe time. For the most part, the bottoms didn't get too browned. They had a lovely aroma as they cooked like a deli or something from the onions in the dough, I think. I split a roll in half to share with Paul because I had a feeling he would have refused a whole one. He took a bite of it and said it was different. After another bite, he handed me the rest of the roll and said he didn't think he'd finish it. Ivy wasn't interested in trying one, but Holly carried one around and snacked on it. The onion flavor was the flavor that carried through the rolls and they weren't bad, but I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the dough if nobody really wants to eat it. I'm sure the chickens wouldn't turn their noses up at fresh bread!

Check out what others did with these doughs by visiting the HBin5 Bread Braid hosted at Big Black Dog.

I like the opportunity HBinFive gives me to try out recipes that I might not get to on my own. I doubt I'll be using the beet roll dough again, but we did revisit the Soft Wheat Sandwich Bread again from the last time. Paul asked specifically for me to make hamburger rolls from it again, and we had Boca burgers on them one night and turkey burgers another night. I hadn't been sure if we'd use that recipe again, but apparently it made an impression on Paul. As for the espresso bread, I can see that one again in my future, just not too often as the temptation to eat the entire batch myself was a bit strong.

I've found a recipe calculator that I have been using a lot to figure out the nutritional values of foods and be able to work out how they fit into the Weight Watchers program. I thought I'd post the link for it in case anybody else would be interested. It can be found here. I like how you can input your own serving size for the recipes and then it gives you the nutritional information for one serving size. From my calculations, the big chocolate rolls were four points each and the minis were just a point each. The beet buns were about two points each for the size I made them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Scrub a Dub

Today Ivy and I had fun making some brown sugar facial scrub. It's simple, quick and makes your skin feel so fabulously smooth!

I found directions and a recipe at Chickens in the Road. In just a few minutes of time, we had a nice little bowl of facial scrub. I think it took me more time to hunt for containers to store it in, but found a couple small margarine tubs tucked in the cupboard that worked marvelously. Of course a prettier container would have been nice, but sometimes you make do with what you have.
I googled "brown sugar scrub" to see what else I might come up with and really started congratulating myself on making this when I clicked on the first link. Here's a cosmetics company that is charging $65 for 14 ounces of brown sugar scrub, but they call it polish instead of scrub because that does sound slightly pricier. Did I mention that you receive free shipping with this size? But seriously, could somebody come apply it for that price? Yikes! (She does look a little polished in this picture, I thought.)

What's great about this scrub polish is that you probably have all the ingredients on hand already. I almost did, but was short on the brown sugar. I could have just halved the recipe, but that didn't occur to me until after I bought a new bag. It only takes four ingredients: 2 cups of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of honey and a teaspoon vanilla. The vanilla is for making it smell yummy, so you could use essential oils or other extract for a different scent if you wanted. The mixture separates a little once it sits, but just keep something near the container to give it a little stir before you scoop a bit out for scrubbing your face. There's nothing bad for you in this recipe, so don't feel bad if you give it a little taste. We might have sampled it here, purely for research reasons.

As a side note, I got this little brown sugar saver as a souvenir in Maine, hence the lighthouse motif. It works great keeping your sugar soft instead of turning to a rock solid lump. It's made of terracotta, and you just soak it in water for 5-10 minutes, dry off and pop it in with your brown sugar. It's great!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bowling until it hurts!

Girl: I'd like a triple vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate syrup, nuts, whipped cream, topped off with a slice of cucumber.

Waiter: Did I hear you right? Did you say top it off with a slice of cucumber?

Girl: Good heavens, you're right! forget the cucumber – I'm on a diet.

This year we are taking some more steps towards being healthier. First, we are trying to lose some weight. To that end, I have started back up with Weight Watchers again. Paul isn't attending the meetings with me, but he is attempting to follow the program along with me so that we can both take some pounds off. Back when Ivy was a toddler, I managed to lose about 25 pounds and reach my goal weight and become a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. Over the years, that and more has crept back on. Recently, it seemed to do more than creep and a recent step onto the scale after a period of neglect shocked me completely. I vowed immediately that I needed to lose some weight and was back at Weight Watchers within a fortnight. It seems like paying somebody else money so that I can stay motivated is the only way for me to take the pounds off. But I reasoned that my health was worth the expenditure. I've been following the program for a little over two weeks and the scale is moving in the right direction, so I'm feeling happy. I can actually feel it in the most recent jeans that I bought. I was a bit depressed when I got them because they were the largest size I ever bought, but hopefully I won't be wearing them much longer!

One thing that Weight Watchers stresses besides healthier eating habits is activity. Apparently the word "exercise" has negative connotations to many (myself included.) So they have decided the word "activity" is more user friendly. A couple months back, I told Paul that I wanted to get a Wii with our tax return money--specifically a Wii Fit. At the first WW meeting that I attended, the Wii was actually mentioned as a way to get more active. Ours was on order at that point, but not actually in hand. All during the holidays, I kept looking to see if Wii's were available because I figured that would be a time for them not to be in the store. However, they always seemed to be there, so I figured I wouldn't have any problem when I had the money to get mine in January or February. Boy, was I wrong! Amazon got some in stock and I ordered quickly. Getting a Wii Fit Plus was another story. Couldn't find it anywhere locally and every place online seemed to be sold out. Finally at the end of last week, Walmart got it in stock and I ordered as soon as I saw it. Glad I moved quickly on it because it was out of stock again within a day or two. The Wii Fit Plus arrived today (ahead of schedule, no less) and we've been getting familiar with it this afternoon and evening. It's fun and certainly does promote activity. It keeps track of how many minutes you have put in and how many calories you have burned. It takes your little Mii character and calculates your BMI and then chunks you up accordingly. Paul and I both had quite pudgy Mii's.

Speaking of Paul, he wasn't really excited about getting another game system in the house. However, even he was impressed how it actually isn't another couch potato system, and he has become a rather large fan of the bowling game that came with the Wii. Which of course leads us to the title of my post. After an evening of intense bowling, I was in pain with every movement the next day. I was not to be outdone by the game, though, (and besides it's fun!) and kept at it the next night. The next day I hurt less, and now I can indulge in an evening of bowling with Paul and be good to go the next day!

There is a giveaway currently going on over at Jolly Mom for EA SPORTS Active Personal Trainer which is another Wii exercise program that features a 30 day challenge with 20 minute daily workouts. I was considering getting this if the Wii Fit Plus hadn't become available when it did. It still sounds like a great exercise program and I'd love to have it. Plus I've read some great reviews of the follow up to this one--EA SPORTS Active More Workouts. If your interested in finding out more, head over to Jolly Mom for the giveaway and check out EA Sports for more info specific to the program.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

HBinFive: Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Our current bread project for the beginning of February (wait--February--does that seem wrong to anyone else?) was to make a whole recipe of Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread dough found on page 92 of the Health Bread in Five Minutes a Day book. From that batch, we were to make a loaf of the sandwich bread and a couple variations using the dough. I'm still going back and forth on whether to make the Apple Strudel bread that sounds so tasty because we're trying to lose a few pounds here, and I think that might be too big of a temptation!

In making the dough, I decided to do a couple things to slim it down a little. Instead of the oil it called for, I used applesauce that I canned last fall. It had a little bit of sugar and cinnamon in it, but I figured not enough spices to affect the bread. And since the applesauce was lightly sweetened, I left the honey out of the dough recipe as well. I didn't choose to change the eggs around because we are simply inundated with eggs here and any recipe that uses multiple eggs is a good thing here. We're doing Weight Watchers here, and by using their online calculator and my tweaks to the recipe, I figured that with the big recipe divided into thirds and a loaf giving about 15 slices, the point value was about one point per slice.

I planned to try making the rolls with the fresh dough, but the dough wound up way too sticky to work with fresh. So I just made a regular loaf of bread. It rose like nobody's business. I couldn't believe the heights it attained in the 40 minutes of rising time the recipe called for using fresh dough. It was overlapping my pan! The bread itself turned out very moist and I wondered if I should have baked it for the longer bake time in the recipe, but I pulled it out after 45 minutes. I'm guessing it met with my family's taste tests because the loaf was demolished in one day! Ivy was horrified to think I used applesauce in it, but realized she couldn't tell when the bread was done. Although she loves the applesauce, something about the idea of putting it into bread instead of the oil didn't set right with her. "Not in bread!"

After the dough was chilled, I made the rolls. It was still pretty sticky, but far more easy to handle than before refrigerating. I also divided it into eight portions instead of six because that brought the point value down a point per roll. I think maybe I should have gone for the six rolls, though, because these look a little small. As you can see in the picture, the dividing into equal portions bit kind of slipped right by me. I wanted to sprinkle with sesame seeds, but realized I was out. So I used Italian herbs instead. I am going to pick up some Boca burgers or something light to fill them with for dinner tonight. They came out nice and soft and will hopefully make it until dinner time if I can keep the kids off them. They have a better chance since Paul isn't at home today.

So I have enough dough for one more loaf of bread. I'm still playing with whether or not to make the apple strudel bread. I figure if I leave out the nuts, that will make the bread a little lighter, but then again nuts are so yummy and they are good for you. Maybe I should make it and slice it into portions and wrap and freeze. Then we could just count our points for it, but wouldn't be tempted to polish off a whole loaf. I do like to save a few points for a snake in the evenings between dinner and bedtime. I'll decide later. I couldn't make it not if I wanted to because I need to buy some apples when I go shopping as they disappear far too quickly here.

Check out what others did with this dough by visiting the HBin5 Bread Braid hosted at Big Black Dog.

While fiddling with the recipes and trying to make them more diet friendly, I realized the original dough recipe from the first book, Artisan Breads in Five, only works out to around one WW point a slice if I make three loaves from the recipe. So I've made that several times recently. Yesterday I made two loaves in the morning, plus the little bit left of our whole wheat bread and by evening I had to do another loaf so we'd have bread for today. Paul thinks it is the best bread I have made, but I'm not happy with using it all the time as our standard bread recipe because it isn't made with whole wheat. The discussions on the HBin5 group have me thinking of buying a grain mill to have freshly milled flour to use for our bread. I'm pretty much decided, but haven't ordered yet. I'm thinking of the K-tec kitchen mill, but if anyone has any tips or suggestions, feel free to leave them. I like the price of it (under $200) and that it is adjustable for the fineness of the flour. I found a place that I can get a 45 pound bag of hard winter wheat for around $50 shipped.

About This Blogger

I am a thirty-something mother of two girls and a boy ranging from preschool to middle school. My husband and I keep working and reworking on our goal of raising our family healthier. Our house is a constant work under construction--adding on and remodeling. We're happy to have bought our property a few years ago, but as any homeowners know, owning a home just adds to your list of projects and chores because there's always improvements to be made and maintenance to be done. On our burgeoning homestead, we have chickens, guineas, a few goats, and our most recent additions-rabbits.
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About This Blog

I picked the name Petalz and Finz a couple years ago when I decided to try Etsy out. I wanted to custom make some baby related items and have things for girls and boys. I felt the name incorporated both my kids (at the time) into it--petalz for Ivy and finz for Finn.

I haven't had time to do much of anything with my Etsy for a while, but it's still my in my long term goals. In the mean time, I'm having fun with this blog thing. I've found some creative inspiration through my own posting, but also through many other wonderful blogs out there.
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