experimentsin4b

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Moving on up…

I put things on hold here during our home buying experience. We are no longer in 4B! Please join me over at: The Urban Chicken 

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Scrub A Dub Dub…Homemade Laundry Soap In The Washing Tub.

We are a family that lives on a tight budget, just like most families these days. I HATE buying laundry soap, dish soap and dish washer detergent. I have had good luck with coupons and buy one get one combos, but the idea of making it myself was appealing. While wasting many hours on Pinterest, I came across THIS post and was hooked on making my own laundry detergent.

Many of the recipes out there for laundry detergents involve a 5 gallon bucket. I was not crazy about the idea of stashing a 5 gallon bucket in 4B, they do not make attractive end tables. SOOO….you can bet I was excited when I came across this concentrated version that fits into just a few storage containers that normally hold leftovers!

This is my take on the original post:

Ingredients and Supplies Needed:

2 bars of Fels Naptha, 1 bar of Zote or 3 – 4 bars of regular bar soap

2 cups of Borax

2 cups of Arm and Hammer WASHING powder (not baking soda)

6 cups of water

A large soup or stock pot

Cheese grater/Or food processor with a grating blade

Stand or hand mixer

Now the fun begins…

Here’s a pretty picture of the ingredients to give you a visual of what you need to look for on the store shelves:

Place the water in the pot and start heating it on the stove while you’re dealing with the soap. I didn’t put mine up too high to start with, I didn’t want to get it to a boil before I finished grating the soap. This is the most annoying, time consuming part of the whole process. The first time I made the soap, I used Fels Naptha and a large cheese grater. Don’t use a large cheese grater, use the smaller, fine grate zesting size. You’ll see it in the picture below. Cut the soap into smaller strips or chunks to make it easier to hold while grating. Rumor has it, if you have a food processor with a grating blade, you can grate the soap that way. If you have one of these, you are no longer my friend. KIDDING. I am just envious. I had an ancient 1980s food processor I gave away and I broke my precious 3 cups food processor’s lid 2 nights ago. Sniffle. ANYWAY..back to business.

After grating the soap and getting a wrist/elbow/hand cramp combo…your soap will look like this:

Dump the soap shreds into the water in batches if needed and stir to melt. After I finished all of the soap, I did turn up the heat on the stove but never really got it to a boil before all of the soap was melted like the original post called for.

After the soap is melted, dump in the 2 cups of Borax and 2 cups of Washing Powder:

Stir in the powders until they dissolve completely. After the powders dissolve, divide up the liquid between 3 to 5 storage containers depending on what sizes you have available. When you dump it into the containers, it will separate and look like this:

The original post said to add more water to the soap after you divide it into the containers, it’s up to you if you want to do this. I have done this step and also skipped it on other batches. It doesn’t seem to make difference in the outcome, but it does make a few more loads of laundry’s worth of soap.

NOW…be patient and let it sit overnight or at least 8 hours. I made mine at night so I could sleep until the next step. I don’t like surprises and want to know NOW!

Now the ‘fun’ comes. Open the containers, take a butter knife and cut the top layer into blocks of soap:

NOW…take it easy on the next step. The original poster dumped 2 containers of soap into her mixing bowl at once, I do not recommend this, even if you are using smaller containers. I have a KitchenAid stand mixer that was donated to us by a WONDERFUL FRIEND (yay, Belinda). The first batch I made was early in the morning and I accidentally turned ON the mixer instead of using the lock switch. Mess. MESS. Turn on the mixer slooooowly. Soap sloshes out everywhere if you don’t. But if it does, it’s JUST soap and does clean up easily. Keep it on low for as long as it takes to break up the blocks and start combining the blocks of soap with the liquid soap that was on the lower layer. After this happens and you feel comfortable turning up the mixer, turn it up one notch at a time and eventually you have something that looks like whipped butter or buttercream icing.

Place it back into the container and move onto the next, repeat.

After the soap sits a while, it does thicken up and becomes scoopable. I keep a plastic spoon on top of the dryer to scoop mine with. I don’t really measure…but about 1 to 2 tablespoons pure load depending on how large the load is. Below are pictures of the soap after it sat for a few days and I scooped some out.

OK, so now my recommendations and a little more advice:

I have tried Fels Naptha, Zote and Softsoap bar soap.

Fels Naptha has a nice smell, Zote smells like cheap bathroom cleaner but was the easiest to grate, and softsoap smells WONDERFUL. I used the coconut scent.

When I used the Soft Soap, I skipped the mixing step because it never divided and  hardened like it did with Zote or Fels Naptha. I haven’t washed many loads of laundry with it yet, so I’m not sure how happy I am with it at this point.

Some other laundry soap recipes use Ivory or Pure and Natural, that’s why I thought I would try using the Soft Soap. DO NOT use Dove, Oil of Olay, or Caress. These aren’t traditional soaps and have moisturizing lotions in them that aren’t going to work too well as a laundry soap.

When I first made the soap, I had a traditional washing machine and now we have a top loader HE. I was nervous about using the soap because of the whole needing a special soap for HE machines. The reason you need special soaps is to keep the suds level down in the machine and you will notice that the homemade soap does not suds at all, so you’re good HE machine owners.Just put it directly in with the laundry and not in the soap dispenser if you machine has one.

Suds do not equal clean…just something visual to make us know it’s getting clean. This soap suds very little.

Don’t worry about using our good kitchen pot, cutting board, grater, etc for this, it’s soap and it clean off easily. Do not put them supplies in the dish washer after, unless you give it a good scrub with a sponge first. OH the soap residue was horrible…

Hum…I think that’s it. If you have any questions, post them below and I will try to help!

OH and, one more thing…the original post does have a cost breakdown if you are interested.

Here’s my cute under the foot toddler that was ‘helping’ mommy that day…

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The Zebra Cake

Last month, my son turned 2! I cannot believe my baby is 2. It seems like only yesterday he was born, but also feels like he’s been in my life forever!

Anyway, my boy is an animal fan and when I was mentally trying to prepare myself for his birthday ( it’s pretty close to Christmas), I did a search on safari themed cakes and came across a picture of a cake slice that had a zebra pattern inside. I did some research and found a RIDICULOUSLY hard way of achieving the look and decided not do do it. It involved tools, special pans and too much time. I have a toddler who likes to stand under me when I’m in the kitchen…I do not have time.

I went to Michael’s to buy some cake pans (Tip: if you need cake pans, I recommend Michael’s. They have an awesome selection of sizes, depths and pan types. Also, they aren’t that expensive, especially if you have a 40% off coupon from Sunday’s paper. I even did some comparison shopping and Michael’s regular price was cheaper than Wal-Mart!). While there, I noticed that Duff Goldman from one of those cake shows on tv( those guys look the same to me) has a line of cake mixes out. He had a zebra kit with directions on the OUTSIDE of the box. Was that stealing? The cake mix was 7 dollars…7 DOLLARS! I don’t know why the idea for this didn’t dawn on me sooner, I have mush brain most of the time these days. So here it is the tutorial on how to make your very own zebra cake!

Ingredients:

A batch of chocolate cake mix

A batch of white cake mix

I used Duncan Hines but you can use whatever your favorite brand is or make your own. I have a wonderful yellow homemade recipe I’ll share one day, but I haven’t found a chocolate or a white one I’m crazy about yet, so I use box cake mixes.

You’ll also need 2 scoops of some sort, like large ice cream scoops. I used 2 – 1 cup size measure cups.

Start by spraying your pans with Baker’s Joy or Pam. Also, remember to preheat to whatever temp your recipe or mix requires.

Get a scoop of one of the batters and drop it in the middle of one of the pan. Let it naturally spread for a second and drop a scoop of the other batter on top.

Repeat over and over. I also did about 3 rounds a pan (I used 10 inch rounds) and would switch to the next to make sure I was getting the same amount of batter in each pan.

Bake according to directions, let cool completely, dump out and decorate!

I didn’t get a great picture of the cake before I took a bite…or 3. But it came out great. I was worried because the white batter was SO much thicker than the chocolate…so the chocolate ran all over the pan. I made a whipped topping to ice mine with.

I think this would also be pretty in a red velvet/white cake mix or a strawberry/chocolate mix. Have fun!

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Save a Buck, Drive Yourself Nuts

During one of my 3 hour Pinterest obsessions…I came across a DIY laundry detergent. I was intrigued. Since then, I have researched different methods and have started experimenting. I want to perfect a recipe before posting about it on my blog, but should have a good one to post in the next day or so. It’s a lot of work, and I don’t really start on it until after 9 at night when Coop goes to bed. The ‘a lot of work’ part is really just the part of grating soap…let me tell you how much fun it is to grate a GIANT bar of soap, but more on that later. :)

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Lovely Caramelized Onions

About a year ago, I read an article in one of the dozen of so cooking magazines I get monthly about caramelizing onions. I thought I would try it, set the magazine aside, and quickly forgot about the idea. 6 or so months ago, I was spending the day with my Meme(grandma) and she made us breakfast for dinner. She fried potato slices and onion in butter. Around this time, I bought my first cast iron skillet and thought I would give this simple, yet very delicious dish, a try in it. I cooked my onions first, to season the butter and pan, and my potatoes after. I served it with a side of cheese grits and I think my husband was ready to lick the dish. The onion/potato combination is wonderful.

Around the 3rd time of making this, it dawned on me…I’m slightly caramelizing these onions…next time, I’ll take them all the way. I did a little reading and learned that some people add garlic or sugar to theirs. I wasn’t a fan of doing either of those. I cut up a few small onions and went to work. Caramelizing onions is a labor of love. I was trying to do this while my toddler was trying to push me away from the stove for my undivided attention. It takes a good 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how many onions you’re cooking. The times I’ve had the most success was when I was using my cast iron skillet. They are SO good over fried, mashed or baked potatoes. We even like them over buttered, salty grits.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to find a few new ideas involving vegetarian recipes and my crockpot. I found a woman who cooked a recipe a day in her crockpot and documented it in a blog. One of her recipes was caramelizing onions in the crockpot and a followup using them in a vegetarian French onion soup. I was intrigued.  So last weekend, I bought a giant bag of onions from the grocery store and went to town slicing them. My eyes were watering like crazy and I was just thinking about the delicious onions we would have at the end of the 10 hour cooking time. Trial and error here, I bought small yellow onions and they did NOT do well in this recipe. I actually threw the first batch away and bought a bag of ‘sweet’ onions the next day. These didn’t kill the eyes as badly as the first batch and came out so much better. I really don’t know a lot about  onions and which ones are good to use for what recipe…but this is an EXPERIMENT blog. Learning as I go. The original recipe is found at Vegetarian Slow Cooker. I made some modifications and will share those below.

I used about 5 medium size onions for this recipe

4 tablespoons of butter

Cooking spray

Remove outer skins of onions and slice into ‘half moons’.

Cut butter into pieces

Spray the inside of the crockpot well with cooking spray. The original recipe called for garlic, I tried some garlic in my original attempt and did not like it. If you like garlic, give it a try.

Place onions and butter in crockpot and give it a stir.

I didn’t really worry about separating my onions slices, when stirring they separated and also during the cooking process. The original recipes calls for cooking on high for 10 to 12 hours. My onions would have been black by this point. It also says to stir every so often to keep the outside onions from burning, especially if you have black crockpot. The first batch I made, I put them on high and came back to check on them and give them a stir 2 hours later, they were halfway done at this point. Next time around, I cooked them on low and they took around 4 to 5 hours. I stirred once or twice.

You are looking for tender, golden onions.

Remember, they cook down to about half or less of the size of the pile of onions you start out with.

Like I said earlier in the post, my intention was to turn them into a vegetarian French onion soup the next day. I am a partial vegetarian, I eat chicken occasionally but stay way from ‘4 legged animals’. I went to Whole Foods to get a container of vegetarian ‘beef’ broth and accidentally bought REAL beef broth. One of those days I suppose. I haven’t had  a chance to go back yet and the onions are still sitting in the fridge. I did a taste test and they are REALLY good. The original recipe says that they’ll keep for sometime in the fridge, I am hoping to get to the store tomorrow and make it by this weekend! It’s been cold and rainy and I would love some soup!

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Welcome to 4b…

Welcome to my blog. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a (mainly) cooking blog for a while, and finally decided to just go for it after watching a show on Cooking channel that had me salivating by the end. So many recipes to try…tomorrow, I start with caramelized onions in the crockpot that will later be turned into a vegetarian French Onion soup..wish me luck!

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