Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Spring! - Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Whooo boy! It's been a busy week or so, but today is the first day of Spring, and I'm happy that last week's snow storm didn't take out my newly sprouted garden greens.

Here's what I've been up to lately...

First, there was the time change, which I HATE. Don't get me wrong, I eventually love having more daylight time at the end of the day, but the mornings are a beyotch...WHEW!


Second, I've made a bit more soapy goodies...

I retried my 100% Olive Oil Castile soap and I love, luuuurve how it turned out!


I tried another recipe where I did my first in-the-pot-swirl and I love how it turned out and the soap quality. This is a nice, hard bar, but I have some soda ash to deal with. A soap drying rack is on my "need" list for the near future.


I made another batch of "Pure Honey" soap and I'm still on the fence about the fragrance oil. I actually mixed this fragrance batch with some cybilla almond to make a "Honey Almond" soap and the almond is coming through more in the scent. Time will tell after it cures.


I'm still playing with bath bombs and such. I'm solid on bubble bars and I still am tweaking my bath bomb recipe, but I'm about 90% there.


Third, hubby and I started tackling our back porch rescreen project, but first we had to dig up all these perennials so they wouldn't get stomped on and before they started to really grow. I am SO SORE today! We only got the front part of the porch rescreened over the weekend, but that was the hardest part out of the whole project.

Plus it rained over the weekend, so it was basically getting up on high ladders with air compressed staple and nail guns in soft, sinking mud. Fun times.

It's all downhill from here. Famous last words, right?


And fourth, I made the most fan-friggin-delicious pot of Bean and Bacon soup last week! I'm definitely going to make it again soon so I can tell you about it.

Chaz says, listening to all of this work being done has made him tired, so he's just going to take another nap. :-)



Thursday, March 09, 2017

March 9th is National Meatball Day!

Happy National Meatball Day everyone!

Did you even know that today was National Meatball Day? Me neither, LOL!

I just happened to hear someone mention it on the radio a day or two ago, and I actually made meatballs this week, so it is with pure synchronicity that I bring you this recipe.


This makes a lot of meatballs. I usually freeze the remainders and they are good to use in so many ways: meatball sandwiches, with spaghetti and sauce, crumbled up and used in meat sauce, lasagnas, or really in any instance where you need a meatball or cooked, ground meat.

Oh, and BTW, can you even say the word "meatball" without saying it as MEAT-AH-BALL?

LOL, me neither!

The recipe is very forgiving and feel free to add or take away spices and seasonings if you want. I add some chili flakes to kick-it-up-a-notch, but if you don't want them, leave them out!

Kathy's Basic "Meat-ah-ball" Recipe
Makes about 30-35 large meatballs

2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs (I use Panko)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped, fresh parsley (or 1/2 cup dried)
2 T dried oregano
2 T chopped, fresh basil (or 1/2 T dried)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T kosher salt
1 T ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed chili flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 lbs ground beef

Preheat oven to 425°.  Mix all ingredients except ground beef in a large bowl, then add ground beef. Incorporate beef well with other ingredients using either a Kitchen-aid mixer (paddle attachment) or your hands.

Either spray 2 large cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray or use nonstick aluminum foil. Roll meatball mixture into balls about the size of an apricot. Place on cookie sheet without crowding. Bake meatballs 18-20 minutes, or just until they are cooked through. Don't over cook or they will be dry.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Soaping Blunders and Dreaded Orange Spot (DOS)

Experience is the best teacher in the world. I've ventured into the wonderful (and obsessive) world of soapmaking as part of my bath and body product development and I am utterly and completely smitten. Once you go natural soap, you'll never go back!


But like all new love affairs, there have been "issues" that have popped up. In fact, the very first 2 batches of soap I made so far have been flops. This is due to part lesson-learning and me never doing anything halfway, even for the first time.

I first tried to make the Pure Honey soap from Soapqueen, but had to take it a step even further by incorporating a mica pencil line in the loaf. Yep, it split right down the middle when slicing because I added too much mica for the layers to bond.

Lesson #1 - Too Much Mica:


But, this soap smelled AH-MAZEBALLS at first and now I'm not so sure. It's been a 1-2 weeks curing and now the scent seems to be fading somewhat. I was going to make this again with no mica, but now...standby.

My second batch was a 100% Olive Oil Castile recipe where I used lavender and lemongrass essential oils in place of what was called for in the original recipe. They turned out nice initially, but imagine my disappointment a few days later to see this...

Lesson #2 - Dreaded Orange Spot (DOS):




Now, I'm not sure if this is DOS or not, but my gut is telling me it is. I feel kind of honored in a sense, as there are soapmakers out there who have made soap for 5, 10, 15 years or more and never encountered DOS!

Since then, I've learned there are several factors that contribute to DOS to include using Pomace Oilive Oil (yep, I used that) and even using lavender essential oil (yep, used that too). DOS can be caused by other factors such as rancid oil, soaping in a hot and humid environment, and gremlins.

But that humble bitch Experience can't tell me at this moment, so time will tell. If these spots get darker or if I get more of them, well then I'll know. This soap is still usable once it cures and it smells AH-MAZEBALLS too. I just won't be sharing these soaps with friends and family...not until I get it right.

All I know is I'm glad these things are happening to me now instead of in a 5 or 7 lb. loaf of soap. Until then, everyday I learn something new.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Tarte Soleil - Everything Cheddar Pastry Twist

Well, picnic season is almost here, although some would say it already is! In fact, 2 weeks ago hubby and I joined some friends at a local winery and enjoyed this AMAZING tart with a salad and a bottle (or 3) of wine!


Since then, I've made this Tarte Soleil, or sun tart, again and it's definitely joined my "Keeper" recipe file. It's a King Arthur Flour recipe that I spied from one of their catalogs and it's not unlike the famous Pillsbury crescent roll twists that were popular in the 80's and 90's....but 1,000 times better!

Think of a homemade piecrust with baked in cheese, garlic, salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and buttery goodness! In fact, their Pastry Flour Blend has me thinking that I might change out my usual pie crust recipe for theirs. But, if you wanted to use your own pie crust recipe, I think it would work just fine.


I used their Vermont Cheese powder and Everything Bread and Bagel topping, but substitutes for those are easy to find. I know Penzey's has a Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle that would work amazingly, and if you can't find an Everything Bagel Topping, just figure out what you want on your own: dried garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt, etc. The sky's the limit!

Everything Cheddar Pastry Twist (Tarte Soleil)
Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Pastry
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Pastry Flour Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons Vermont cheese powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup ice water

Filling - (I found I needed to doubled this)
1/4 cup Vermont cheese powder
2 tablespoons Everything Bread and Bagel Topping, divided
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, Cabot preferred
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, to brush on dough

Directions
To make the pastry: Combine the flour, cheese powder, salt, and baking powder. Work in the butter until larger, pea-sized clumps form. Drizzle in the ice water and toss, adding more water if necessary to make the dough cohesive. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The dough can be made the night before or up to several days before.

To make the filling: Stir together the cheese powder, 1 tablespoon of the bagel topping, the melted butter, and water. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll one disk of dough into an 11" circle on a piece of parchment paper. Spread the filling mixture evenly over the surface, leaving 1/2" of bare dough around the perimeter. Top the filling with an even layer of the grated cheese, again leaving the perimeter bare. Brush the perimeter with the egg wash.

Roll out and cut the second disk of dough like the first, and place it directly on top of the filling, pressing to ensure the top and bottom edges stick together. Using a pizza slicer, slice 32 equal strips (or whatever fits) from the cutter of the tarte to the edge, through all the layers. Twist each strip three times in the same direction and press the ends down, ensuring they touch with the sides of the neighboring twists.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of bagel topping. Bake the pastry for 35 to 40 minutes, until evenly golden brown on top. Remove the pastry from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Well, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but it got hot outside all of a sudden! Spring chores that I normally would do 20-30 days from now suddenly needed to be done...soooo, it's been that and bath products. Again!

Also, my "real work" has kept me busy with a project to deliver, so all day long it's this with Chaz:

Touch-me-don't-touch-me....GOOD LORD CAT MAKE UP YOUR MIND!!!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Valentine's Inspired Bath Products

I promise I am not going to turn this blog into a bath and body product blog, but this is what I’ve been up to lately! The truth is, my long-term intention is to maybe take this somewhere. As in a small business perhaps. Gulp.

I’ve told my husband that I am going to experiment and get my recipes down, and if I am still as passionate about making bath and body products by this summer, I am going to pursue starting a side business to sell at next year’s farmer’s market.

My goal is to have 4-6 solid products ready to debut, so I’ve given myself a good year to get them right. This includes branding and marketing, but I need to have something. I also would actually need to HAVE a business and liability insurance if I want to do this in 2018, so that too!

Big goals…I haz them!

Anyway, I’ve been busy and my dining room table looks like I already have a business…LOL!


I experimented with these cutie patootie bath bombs for Valentine’s Day. I saw pictures online of these made with just one candy, so I made them with two, but I think I like them better with one.


As well as these bubble scoops that look like ice cream. I was mostly focused on getting the recipe right, so I didn’t want to bother rolling any dough out into bars.



I gave those bath truffles a try again (with success), as well as improving my shrink wrap skills. I bought an impluse heat sealer which made a huge difference!


I also tried my first body butter recipe, which IMO is more of a body salve, as it's more of a solid butter consistency than a whipped butter consistency. I was REALLY happy with this, as it's all yummy, skin-loving oils and self-preserving. That means there are no other fillers or water added to this recipe, just the good stuff!

I love it and it's not greasy. It's definitely heavy-duty for very dry areas like heels, elbows, and knees. I used "Lovespell" fragrance oil for it, which is kind of funny because I love it and have used it so much on other things that I'm kinda burnt out.  I need to make this again with something else. 



I've been giving all my samples to friends and family to try and give feedback. I've been using all of these products as well and I'm very happy with how things are coming along. I'm pretty solid on bath bombs, bubble bars, and butters/lotions seem easy enough, so that only means this is next to tackle:

I can't wait!!!



Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Lemon Zest, and Fennel

This has become my most favorite, healthy side dish to date! I discovered this recipe in my copy of Cook's Illustrated 2016 Annual Special Collector's Edition magazine and boy, was I happy I gave it a try!


Hubs and I are eating more low-carb meals lately, and although sugar snap peas are not considered low-carb, they are a very healthy, side-vegetable to serve with a low-carb meal.

In the past, sugar snap peas have been hit-or-miss for me. That is until I learned to cut the peas pods on a bias first before cooking first! This makes ALL the difference to ensure you don't end up with either tough, under cooked sugar snap peas, or soft, mushy sugar snap peas. All this yummy dish needs is a little water to steam crisp-tender and you are all set!

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Lemon Zest, and Fennel 
Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated 2016 Annual Special Collector's Edition

1 lb fresh, sugar snap peas
3 T pine nuts
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 T water
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T fresh, chopped basil

Cut the sugar snap peas on a bias. Smaller pea pods can be cut in half at a bias. Set aside.


Next, dry roast the pine nuts in a dry saute pan over medium heat, just until they start to brown. Add the fennel seeds and continue to roast for 2-3 more minutes, or until the pine nuts are a light-brown. Do not over cook, as they burn easily!


Dump the pine nuts and fennel seeds on a cutting board and add the lemon zest, pepper flakes, and salt. Mince this whole mixture together with a knife. Alternately, you can dump this in a food processor and give it a whirl or two. Don't over chop. Set pine nut mixture aside.


Heat vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the sugar snap peas and 2 T of water; give a quick stir and immediately cover the saute pan with a lid. Let sugar snap peas cook for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and add the minced garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 2 more minutes, or until the water evaporates. 

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pine nut mixture and basil (I didn't have any for this pic) :-( Serve while warm and try not to eat the whole pan!


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