Melt and Pour Soap, 101

Today we are making a melt and pour Chamomile-Lavender Soothing Bar (with Hibiscus!) I love this particular type of soap because of all the wonderful, healthy things it has in it, and the smell is divine. Plus, with this soap, you automatically have a reason to brew a cup of tea, or three! The melt-and-pour method is one of the easiest ways to make home-made soaps, because it doesn’t require dealing with lye, which is a caustic chemical.  It’s so simple, I don’t see why everyone doesn’t make their own soap! With home-made soaps, you can control exactly what goes into your soap, and customize it as you see fit, without any additives or preservatives. Your handmade soaps make terrific presents and soap-making can also be a great way to be both crafty, and thrifty.

The ingredients I use today are due to my particular preferences. Soap bases, essential oils, flower additives and colors can all be customized to your desire–such is the glory of making your own soap!

Start by brewing yourself a very strong (3 bags to a cup) batch of chamomile tea. Whatever brand isn’t terribly important, but I try to use brands that don’t have added ingredients. Brew at least 1 cup + 2 Tbsp full.

Just before the tea kettle starts whistling, cut the heat, and let the tea steep for at least 10 minutes. I spent the time cleaning up the kitchen and getting the rest of my supplies and ingredients together.

Next, pour yourself a cup of this tea. I’ll take a tad of cream with mine, please!

.Ichamomile tea 1chamomile tea2

Give your soap molds a quick wash, to make sure there is no soap residue from previous batches. Also, pour enough water into 1 mold to fill it, then measure this amount of water. This will tell you how much soap base you will need to use. One of my molds measured 100 mL, so to make a complete set, I would need 400 mL of soap base. Unfortunately, I’ve just recently started using 5 pound bulk blocks, and haven’t figured out how much soap to cut off, to get a precise measurement. I started with 2 inches of shea butter base, off the 5 lb block, and ended adding 2 squares of a pre-measured glycerin to have enough for the last bar. That measurement gave me 4 large bars, 1 medium bar, and 8 small heart-shaped bars.

chamomile tea3chamomile tea4

Next, gather all your ingredients, tools, and supplies. You will need a microwave (or a double boiler and a stove), a cutting board, a large knife, at least two glass measuring cups, a metal long spoon, a digital thermometer, and a medicine dropper if your oils are not so equipped. Also, you will need a melt-and-pour shea butter base, 2 TBSP chamomile tea with no additives, ¼ tsp hibiscus flowers per soap mold you intend to use, (grown in my own yard, this year, and dried—but you can get them at most health food stores, or online), lavender and lemon essential oils, and food grade purple soap colorant. Make sure you line your work area with newspaper. Soap making can be messy business. I also put a parchment paper liner in the microwave. It’s easier to throw this away than scrub the microwave lazy susan.

chamomile tea 5 chamomile tea 6

Cut your soap base into small pieces. I divided my 2 inch chunk into about 30 pieces, to expedite the melting process. Make sure you wash all your soap-making tools thoroughly when you are done. They are all food-safe, but that doesn’t make them tasty!

chamomile tea 7 chamomile tea 8

I poured my 2 TBSP of chamomile tea in with my chopped up soap base, because I wasn’t sure if the tea would effect the color, so I wanted to add it first. Place this in the microwave for 30 seconds. It only needs to be hot enough to completely melt the base. (Pardon the glare on the microwave.)

chamomile tea 9 chamomile tea 10

This is what it looked like after 30 seconds, and 1 minute.

Once you have melted all 400 mL of soap base, you can add your essential oils. I ended up using 6 drops of lemon and 18 drops of lavender, all total. If you lean over the cup as you stir, it will seem incredibly strong, but remember, soap loses its scent fairly quickly. A little extra will mean a longer, stronger smell, later.

chamomile tea 11 chamomile tea 12

Next, slowly start to add your colorant. I suggest a purple hue, if you have one. I tried mixing red and blue, and ended up with something more akin to gray. Here is the first and second batch of colorant being added. I always like the colors before they are mixed more than after!

chamomile tea 13 chamomile tea 14

Next, alcohol your molds really well. Put a little alcohol in each mold and rub it all about, with a cotton ball. This will make it easier to get your soaps out of the molds. Don’t be shy with the alcohol. Having tried to get soap out of a mold that didn’t previously have an alcohol treatment, I will tell you this is one of the most important steps! After you have covered the molds in alcohol, put ¼ tsp of hibiscus flowers in each mold. You can use slightly less for smaller molds. Try to scatter them about a bit. Then, slowly and carefully, start to pour the hot soap mix into the molds. Don’t pour it all over your favorite jeans, like I did! Generally, you shouldn’t get hot soap on you at all. I was fortunate my jeans are heavy denim, and I didn’t get burned.

chamomile tea 13 chamomile tea 14

This batch made 4 large bar soaps, 1 small bar soap, and 8 hearts. Now, put them in your fridge, and let them set-up for up to 45 minutes. You are almost done! Now, you can wrap them (I prefer tissue paper) and label them as you see fit—or just jump straight in the shower with them!

So, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and keep your eyes on this channel, because there is always more to come!

chamomile tea 15

Other tutorials here at Oma’s:

https://princesschaosomaand2crazydogs.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/schwarzwald-kirsch-kuchen

https://princesschaosomaand2crazydogs.wordpress.com/2014/02/ (Especially, “Jam! Oooey, Gooey Strawberry Jam”

AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH, Part Deux…

Bloody lawnmower won’t start. It started once, and I got the worst part of the yard mowed, by the garden, where the grass grows knee-high because I water the garden every night. Even Louisiana doesn’t get enough regular rain to not have to water regularly, if you want anything to grow. Then I made the mistake of turning off the mower to move the irrigation hose.

Plenty of gas.

Pulled the choke all the way back. Nothing.

Nothing is obstructing the rotation of the blade, it’s clean as a whistle under there.

Dry-cleaned the air filter before I started, and double-checked it again.

Raised the mower so it’s not fighting against grass to get going. Still nothing.

The only thing left is possibly I need to change the oil.

 

Don’t know how to do that. So I go inside with the ambition to google how to do it. The significant other is trudging around, half asleep.

“The lawn mower won’t start.” I say.

“I’ll check it when I wake up,” he says, and trudges back to bed. Did I mention it was 10 am? Did I mention by noon, it will be too hot outside to do anything?

Off to google, I am. Never hurts to learn something new. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would know this much about lawn mowers, I would have blown raspberries at you. And life goes on.

Pickles!!!!

Whenever I make pickles, I always think of my favorite Scrubs episode. I can’t figure out how to embed video, so here’s a link to a clip.

Pickles!

Anyhoo, yesterday morning, I canned 10 pints of bread and butter pickles with cucumbers and basil from the garden. I also threw in a few tomatoes and onions, just to see how they will turn out.

Woohoo, I just figured out how to insert more than 1 photo at a time!!!!!!!

The pickling brine, which had to come to a boil, and smelled horrible, and has the whole house still smelling like garlic and pickles!

The pickling brine, which had to come to a boil, and smelled horrible, and has the whole house still smelling like garlic and pickles!

Packing the jars with fresh ingredients.

Packing the jars with fresh ingredients.

Fresh basil flowers.

Fresh basil flowers.

Pickle express, how may I pickle you?

Pickle express, how may I pickle you?

Waiting for their processing bath.

Waiting for their processing bath.

We are expecting so many cucumbers out of the garden, I imagine I will be able to definitely offer some for sale at the Farmer’s Market in October.
   

Daily Pixs

I have wanted to do this for a while, but the minute I say I am going to do something “every day” that goes to heck in a hand-basket, and I haven’t posted in four months. So, that being said, hopefully, I can post a picture a day. Life is pretty interesting right now, so I hope you enjoy my extremely amateur attempts at photography as much as I enjoy taking them.

garden

This is my backyard wonderland. Cantaloupes and cucumbers are going crazy. Tomatoes and basil are holding their own. To go back in time to January, and plan this garden, knowing what I know, today, in August! Oh, but the toil I would have saved! LOL

Another Gluten-Free Recipe Bites the Dust (sort of)

My search for a gluten-free sandwich bread which rivals “good ole white bread” continues. This recipe wasn’t it. It was tasty, but it wouldn’t hold up in a sandwich. With a bowl of soup, or chili, it will be awesome, but sandwich bread, it ain’t.

I found it on Food.com at http://www.food.com/recipe/yeast-free-bread-67405.

I think I knew, going in, it wouldn’t make a good sandwich bread, because I changed it. (A LOT.) Here’s what I mixed up.

Instead of the 3 cups whole wheat flour, I substituted 1-1/2 c gluten-free bisquick, (I was hoping the xanthan gum in the bisquick would resolve the crumb issue.) and 1-1/2 c of my own GF flour substitute. (A mixture of fine milled brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour.)

I did use 4 tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp of salt. I used 1-1/2 c water. The recipe also said you could use any type of juice such as apple, orange or tomato, or milk. Of course, each liquid will impart a different flavor.

I also used olive oil for the 1/4 c liquid fat the recipe calls for. From here on out, everything else, I added to the recipe.

I added 2 eggs that I beat to a froth to the recipe. My research said eggs were the glue that holds baked goods together. (Maybe I didn’t use enough glue?)

I added a Tbsp of apple cider vinegar. My research showed this would react with the baking powder and cause the bread to rise and be soft.

I added 3 Tbsp of flax seeds, because it’s a superfood, rich in Omega-3 oils, and I don’t eat near enough fish, because it’s so darned expensive.

The rest of what I added was merely for taste–I like things that taste good. I added 3 Tbsp minced garlic, 1 c cheddar cheese, and 6 crumbled slices of bacon. If I had had an onion, I would have added it, too. (and some olives…yum…)

Here’s the process:

Image

Mixing the dry ingredients. (I couldn’t totally crop my finger out of the picture. I sooooo need a tripod.)

Image

Mixing the wet ingredients seperately. Notice the eggs are frothy.

Image

Mix everything together. At this point, it looked (and sort of tasted) like mashed potatoes. The good kind. Like your Nana used to make. Out of real potatoes. Not a box. That usually came with a fried chicken leg and some over-peppered green beans on a Sunday afternoon. 🙂

Here it is in the oven:

Image

Yes, I realize that isn’t a bread pan. All my bread pans are still in Little Rock with my son, and I can’t get them until the 15th. I was hoping this would make a bread that could still be cut into small sandwich slices.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. It was less crumbly than the bread I made 3 days ago, but it wouldn’t hold up to a sandwich. However, you didn’t need a spoon to eat it–you could hold a wedge of it, like a very moist piece of cake. That is progress.

So, does anyone have any ideas or better yet, recipes for a good gluten-free, soft sandwich bread?

I have a good commercial loaf, but while it is the most edible commercial variety I have found, it’s hard. Like a rock. Or my dog Uboo’s head, perhaps. (but not as cute.) I am really craving the soft fluffiness of “good ole white bread.” Somebody help a girl out!

 

JAM!! OOEY, GOOEY STRAWBERRY JAM!!!!

For the recipe and a guide to how I made my jam, go to:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/08/canning-101-and-strawberry-jam-part-1/ 

and 

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/08/strawberry-jam-part-ii/

I found a lot of strawberries at Sam’s Club for really cheap.  I also wanted to try my hand at canning again (it’s been 20 years since I have canned anything). Maybe I am just a little nervous about having a bountiful garden this summer, and not being able to use it to its best purpose. (I still can’t believe I planted 20 strawberry plants last night.) So, I decided strawberry jam was the trick of the day.

First, we gather all our tools:

Image

Turns out, I didn’t use the pressure cooker except to boil water. I did the two half-pint jars in it. I did realize I need to buy a larger pressure cooker before stuff starts coming out of the garden. It was a struggle for my pressure cooker to handle 2 half-pints. It’s great for roasts, but not so much for canning.

Next, I prepped 3 of the 4 pounds of strawberries I had gotten.

Image

This is how pitiful 3 lbs of strawberries looks, all cut up. However, it turned out to be 7 1/2 cups, which worked perfectly for my recipe.

Now, the filled jars are taking their hot water bath:

Image

I love my old gas stove for this!

And, finally, we have jam!

Image

And we’ve confirmed I can’t take a picture to save my life! I ended up with 5 pint jars and 2 1/2 pint jars. I am waiting to see if the seals took now. I can’t wait for jam! 

Not Being Myself

I am probably shooting myself in the foot, suggesting blogs for people to read, other than my own, but I have recently found this blog, and it’s hilarious, and I love it! I had to share!

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/08/for-our-entertainment/

She also has terrific recipes! I can’t wait to try this one
(except I have to add garlic with the onions–everything is made better with garlic, isn’t it?) 
http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/09/bacon-onion-cheddar-biscuits/

So, happy reading! And don’t forget to come back here!

Hugs to all,

Oma & the 2 Crazy Dogs