Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn Harvest Soup

I am linking up with the following:

Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace
Blessed with Grace

Today was really kind of cold and damp so it was the perfect day to rummage through the cupboards and the freezer for "soup-er" inspiration. This is what I came up with: Autumn Harvest Soup and Homemade Flax Seed Bread with Cinnamon Honey Butter!
Isn't it pretty?

Here is the base recipe that I wrote down and added to my recipe collection. I made note of extras or substitutions that I used today.

Autumn Harvest Soup

1 pound mixed split peas (I only had 12 oz but, it was close enough.)
1/3 c. pearl barley (not instant)
1 lb. bacon (I had 1/2 pound of bacon and 1/2 pound venison sausage that I had browned and frozen.)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried marjoram
6 carrots, diced
4 sticks celery, diced
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 lg. ham bone
1 bay leaf
14 cups water
Kosher salt and Pepper to taste (I did not add pepper because my sausage had a kick and sufficiently peppered my soup.)

Soak the split peas and barley in cold water while you are assembling your soup. Dice bacon while frozen for easier cutting, put in hot large kettle and cook until well browned and crisp. Add onion, garlic and marjoram and cook until soft. Add all your other veggies and stir to coat for about 5 minutes more. Add your ham bone, bay leaf and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer for at least 3 hours. Stir occasionally and check your peas; when they are soft, it is done. Remove your bone and bay leaf. Pick all the ham from the bone and add it back into your soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I used my Pampered Chef chopper to dice the onion, garlic, carrot and celery very fine. I just cubed the sweet potato with a knife. I salted to taste at the very end because sometimes cooking dry beans with salt makes them tougher. It didn't really need alot of salt because of the bacon and the ham.)

See how lovely the texture is? There is a piece of ham and sweet potato on that spoon!

The bread was some I had made for sandwiches which turned out really well except for the rising. I need to learn to wait. The Honey Butter is something that I have been making for years whenever I made homemade bread. Today I was watching Barefoot Contessa and Ina Garden was making the recipe I always use. I guess there are not that many different ways you can make honey butter.

Sandwich Bread with Flax Seeds

2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar
3 cups of warm water
3 Tbsp ground Flax Seeds
10 cups of flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter

Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar, the yeast and 1 cup of warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Let set for 10 minutes. Mix the yeast in well. Then add the 2 remaining cups of water, 1/2 cup sugar and butter. Mix together. Mix in 3 cups of the flour, one cup at a time. Then switch to the dough hook attachment and mix in the remaining 7 cups of flour, one cup at a time. Once all your flour is incorporated, set the mixer a notch higher for 4-5 minutes to knead. Put the dough in a large oiled bowl and flip to coat both sides with oil. Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray, and place in a warm place. Let it rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch down dough to remove air bubbles and divide into 3 even pieces of dough. Shape into loaves with floured hands and put into greased loaf pans. Cover pans with oiled plastic and then a dish towel. Set in a warm area for another hour or until doubled in size. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. It is ready when it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped! Remove from pans and cool on a cooling rack. (I let my dough rise for 1 hour but it had not doubled in size. I should have waited another 30 minutes at least. Then I was running out of time so I only let the loaves rise for 1 hour. The loaves should have been taller but I was impatient. It was delicious anyway.)

Cinnamon Honey Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt

Blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth. Put it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

It was the perfect meal for a chilly fall day!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Eureka!!! No More Clumps In The Laundry Soap!!!

Back in April, my husband and I ventured to Lowe's probably 10 times in one week. Every time we were there, we asked a ton of questions and spent at least an hour with pad and pencil trying to figure out which washer and dryer were the best bang for our buck. Our washer and dryer was a stack mates set from Maytag that was 20-25 years old. It still worked but was starting to make this crazy noise when you started the dryer. It was also too small for all the laundry I was doing every week. It took forever. You can read more about the whole experience here.

So we opted for the Maytag Bravo set. It is gigantic and I was beside myself with glee when I did my first load of laundry. Now I only have to do 1-2 loads per week. When we bought it we were told that we had to use HE detergent so on our way out of the store, I grabbed a bottle of HE detergent. I have been making my own laundry detergent since 2006 after finding this recipe on the Internet. I haven't purchased laundry soap since I bought a laundry soap making kit for $17 from Soaps Gone By in 2006. It has lasted that long! Well that one bottle of HE detergent that I purchased in April is just about gone. I have been reading on other people's blogs that the homemade stuff is safe for an HE washing machine because it is low suds.

Last night, I got out all my supplies to make a batch of laundry soap and was wondering if there was something I could do about the gloppy consistency since my new machine has a dispenser. I was thinking that the clumps of gel might be an issue when it was put in the dispenser. Plus, I thought that a smoother consistency would make it easier to measure out and pour. So, I thought about the homemade hand soap that I made just recently. You can read about it here. And I thought, "What if I used the same amounts of water, soap, washing soda and borax but just changed the way that I put them together and make it more like the hand soap?"

So here is what I did:
* Pour 1 gallon cold water in a large bucket. Set aside.
* Pour 1 gallon of water into a large pot and bring to a steam (you should just see tiny bubbles on the bottom of the pot and steam coming up off the top of the water.
* Add 1 bar grated soap. I used Zote (Pink and smells nice).
* Stir until the soap shavings are dissolved but do not boil.
* Add 1 cup Super Washing Soda and 1/2 cup Borax. Give the pot a stir, turn off the heat and stir until the powders are dissolved. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes uncovered.
* Use your immersion blender and blend until smooth and creamy (no little bits of soap should be left).
* Pour your soap mixture into your bucket of cold water and use your immersion blender again until smooth.
* Leave the bucket to cool and gel overnight UNCOVERED.

* In the morning, you will have soap jello. It will be springy to the touch but not wet. Use your immersion blender again and blend well. Break up all the chunks of gel. It should turn the consistency of liquid laundry detergent. Even and smooth. At this point, you can add 10-15 drops of essential oil to scent your detergent, although this is not necessary. After the addition, blend well with the immersion blender.

* Use a funnel to pour your liquid into old detergent containers for easy pouring. Shake before using if you want to but you shouldn't have to. Those large clumps should be a thing of the past. Use 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup for HE and front load machines and 1/4 to 1/2 cup for top load and non-HE machines. I wrote directions on some masking tape and put it on the bottles.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen last night after making my laundry soap, Michael called me into the family room where I saw this little four-year-old boy "watching" TV.

This is what he was watching . . . the backs of his eyelids! He was completely asleep propped up on his elbows. So cute!

This is what we had for Sunday lunch . . . Chicken Parmigiana with Linguine. YUM!!!
I used the sauce that I made here. It was delicious!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Use What You Have . . . Homemade Hand Soap

You are probably all wondering whether I am ever going to stop talking about my produce co-op. Well, have no fear, I am not blogging about food today.

Regardless of what your finances are, there are always things that we can do to save money, reduce waste and reuse things. I know I am NOT the only person who upon checking out of a hotel, takes the little soaps, shampoos and lotions home with them. Now I am NOT one who takes the toilet paper off the wall, tissues and extra trash bags. I worked housekeeping for a summer at a resort and the other ladies and I used to talk about the guests who would do that. VERY TACKY! The worst guests were the ones who took towels and linens. We had to report those and those people got charged for those items. But, I digress . . .

Anyway, we have a box of extra toiletries under the sink in our bathroom. You know, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and the like. There is a Ziploc bag of hotel bar soaps from everywhere from Econo Lodge to the W Hotel. Some are nicer and more luxurious having designer scents and fancy wrappings while others were just plain old soap. If you are like me, then you understand the aversion I have to a bar of soap sitting on the side of the sink all slimy on the underside with dried dirt from someones hands all over it. YUCK!!! I also don't like using bar soap in the shower because it gets dropped and gets hair stuck to it. Just being real here, folks!

The other day, I noticed that we were running low on liquid hand soap . . . mostly because of a four-year-old who thinks he needs three pumps of soap to get clean. I hated to go out and buy one of those big refills of hand soap when I knew I had tons of bar soap that was just sitting in the cabinet. So I searched the Internet for recipes for homemade hand soap. I didn't want to buy any ingredients that I didn't already have on hand. Alot of them called for glycerin, which I did not have. I thought about how I make our laundry detergent and thought, "it should work the same way for hand soap, right?" So here is what I did:

I weighed various bars of soap with similar scents until I had 4 oz. I grated them on my cheese grater. This batch was lemon and sage/rosemary scented soaps.

I poured 1 gallon of water into a pot and heated it until it was steaming but not boiling.

I then poured the soap shavings into the pot and stirred it. I took the pot off the heat and set a timer for 15 minutes. See that there are still some shavings visible.

After the 15 minutes was up, this is what it looked like.

Then I blended the mixture using my immersion blender until there were no more soap shavings.

I then let the mixture sit overnight uncovered. It was hard on the surface the next morning. It almost looked like the hardened fat on top of homemade stock that has been refrigerated.

At this point I used the immersion blender again to get a creamy, liquid soap consistency. I didn't get a picture of this step . . . SORRY!
Then I used a funnel to ladle the soap into our soap pumps around the house and poured the rest into a gallon sized water bottle for use at a later time.

I filled the pump in the background and here is what I had left.

The cost of this project was $0.00. I also made a gallon of body wash and a gallon of tear-free soap for the kids using a Johnson's Baby Bar that I had from my last son's baby shower (5 years ago). It all smells good and washes well.
(NOTE: If you have chlorinated city water, you might want to use distilled water for this purpose. I used distilled water for the first batch and regular well water for the others but I think that the chlorine in municipal water supplies might change your results.)
This post is being linked to:
Frugal Friday at Life As Mom
Hooked On… at Hooked On Houses
Food On Fridays at Ann Kroeker’s
Family Recipe Fridays at Vanderbilt Wife
Recipe Swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge
Friday Feasts at Mom Trends
Foodie Friday at Designs By Gollum