Friday, December 29, 2017

Soapy Friday: That Perfect Bar of Soap

Happy holidays everyone! I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year celebration this weekend. As for me? I'll most likely be bundled up by the fire waaay before midnight. It's friggin' cold outside!

What to do when the temps are frigid? Make soap!

Actually, I am dialing down-down on my soap formula to find "The One". From "Bonfire Bliss" (red/black/orange soap on the far right in pic), each one of these bars include one-tweak-to-another to get to my perfect bar of soap.

New soaps from right-to-left
What makes my "Perfect Bar of Soap"? I want it to be a high-quality, nice conditioning bar. I want it to be a hard bar that I can unmold in 24-hours or less. I want it to be flexible as far as design. I don't want to have to struggle with annoying soda ash afterwards.

What I've done is added some yummy butters like cocoa butter, Shea butter, and mango butter. I've increased what is called my "superfat" in my recipe - meaning I've increased the percentage of oils/butters in my recipe that WON'T saponify (turn to soap), so my bars have more free-floating conditioning-oils to make the skin feel super-soft. And, I've added just a smidge of beeswax to help control soda ash, which it has been doing spot-on. The colors are poppin!

"Beautiful Day" - Dig my glitter nails!

"Beautiful Day" LOVE THIS!
So, right now we wait and see. Since cold process soap takes 4-6 weeks to cure, it's a waiting game, and I don't want to get too far out in production to only find I don't like what I've made.

Rosemary Mint w/Gold accents colors - St. Patrick's Day?
So far, my "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner" soap that I am praying all others turn into is my "Rose Clay and Charcoal" soap that I've made several times before. This one is spot-on in everything I want and I'm hoping. In fact, I'm renaming it as "My BFF Rosie" because it's THAT GOOD. Leaves your skin feeling super soft and silky...good lather. Although this remake did not include beeswax, which I am on the fence about. We'll see...

"My BFF Rosie" - Are you THE ONE?
From right-to-left, here's what I've done:
  • "Bonfire Bliss" - my usual recipe plus cocoa butter (5% superfat)
  • "Swedish Dream Salt" - my usual recipe plus cocoa butter and shea butter (5% superfat)
  • "50 Shades of Grey" - my usual recipe plus cocoa butter and shea butter (5% superfat)
  • "My BFF Rosie" - my usual clay & charcoal recipe plus cocoa butter, shea butter, mango butter and rice bran oil (5% superfat)
  • "Super Scrub" - my usual recipe plus cocoa butter and beeswax (9% superfat)
  • "Beautiful Day" - my usual recipe plus cocoa butter, mango butter, beeswax, and rice bran oil (9% superfat)
  • "Rosemary Mint" (not on shelf) - my usual recipe plus cocoa butter, shea butter, mango butter, beeswax and rice bran oil (9% superfat)
So, it's really a "what if I add this and not that?" situation. Why not make all my bars just like "My BFF Rosie" then? Well, because I don't know if it's my oil/butter combination or the other ingredients in that bar that makes it so special. So, we make different combinations of ingredients to see what works and what doesn't. 

This is the fun part!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Favorite Christmas Cookies

Yesterday was Phase 2 of the great Christmas cookie bake off, where I baked cookies for neighbors, the mail person, local friends, etc.

More cookies!
I wanted to share some of my favorite, perennial Christmas cookie recipes that I've made over-and-over through the years. They're not particularly festive or colorful, but they taste out of this world!

So, if you want to bake some last-minute cookies this holiday season, give these a try! They won't disappoint!

Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies
Recipe from: Annie from the Cooking Forum
Makes approximately 5-dozen

Note: This makes A LOT of cookie dough, enough for 5-dozen (at least, depending on size) cookies

3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup dark molasses
4 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup finely chopped candied ginger
Coarse or turbinado sugar for rolling

Cream shortening, butter, and both sugars. Add the eggs and molasses and mix until well combined. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices and mix until well combined (I don't bother sifting). Add the chopped candied ginger and mix till incorporated. Chill the dough for at least one hour.

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of the dough in the coarse or turbinado sugar. Place dough balls an inch apart on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake approximately 10-14 minutes.

The cookies will puff-up and crack when baking. The cookies are done when the cracks should still look a little wet, but the outside looks dry. They'll "fall" as they cool. Don't over bake or they will be crunchy...but still good, though!

Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies
White Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies
Recipe from: Me!
Makes 3 dozen

Note: These are BEST if made with Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips. Don't let the other impostors, such as Ghirardelli and Hershey's fool you...I've tried them all. So, if you see these in the store, grab-em! Grab a lot and stash them away, cause they're hard to find!

If you see these in the store, buy them ALL!

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 white, granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips
1 cup white chocolate baking chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter and sugars together. Add the egg and egg yolk, mixing for about 1 minute, then add the vanilla extract. Mix in well.

Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour (I don't sift) on low speed until combined. Add peppermint crunch and white chocolate chips and mix in until incorporated. If dough is too thick, add a little bit of milk (by tablespoon) to make it easier to handle.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes until sides slightly begin to brown. If making larger cookies, drop by 1/4 cup scoops and bake for approximately 18 minutes (that's how long mine take).

White Chocolate Peppermint Crunch cookies...very yummy and festive!

Recipe from: King Arthur Flour
Makes about 90 cookies

Note: If you love Snickerdoodles, then you will be hopelessly in LOVE with Superdoodles! Superdoodles are Snickerdoodles that have been elevated to angelic status through the addition of Hershey's Cinnamon Baking Chips. Again, if you see these in the store, BUY THEM ALL and stash them away - they're hard to find.
If you see these too...BUY THEM ALL
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 3/4 cups flour
2 cups Hershey's Cinnamon Baking Chips
Ground cinnamon

Cream shortening and sugar together. Mix in eggs until well incorporated, then add vanilla extract. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour (I don't sift) and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the chips once the flour mixture is mixed in.

Preheat oven to 400°. In a shallow bowl, add about 1/4 cup sugar and about 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, then mix with a fork to make cinnamon sugar. If you'd like a stronger cinnamon-to-sugar ratio, then add 1 full tablespoon of cinnamon.

Drop dough by tablespoons and roll in the cinnamon sugar. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and slightly flatten with either your hand or the bottom of a glass. Bake cookies about 10-11 minutes, just until they start to turn golden. After removing from oven, lightly dust cookies with ground cinnamon (I don't bother). Try not to eat them all!

Post note: These make crunchy, rather than chewy Superdoodles. If you like chewy Snickerdoodles, try  substituting half or all of the shortening with butter. I haven't tried this yet, but someday I will.

Super Superdoodles...a new favorite!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Ugh, tis the season to be frantic. Chaz is enjoying all the boxes and goodies that are coming and going...

Chaz says, "Thanks for the box Mommy!"

This year's "Great Annual Cookie Bake" went off without a hitch and were sent out last week.

Cookies, cookies, and more cookies
We had SNOW! This is probably the earliest we've ever had a significant amount of snow before Christmas. It was just starting to snow in this pic, but we eventually got 3 inches...SIGH. I love snow over the holidays!

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow
My house is a mess. At any given time, my dining room table is a staging area for packing and wrapping. But I love it all!

Can you believe that Christmas is in 7 days???

A Christmas mess

Monday, December 04, 2017

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Sorry for the radio silence. Life has been busy and we’re all now hurdling 1,000 miles an hour towards Christmas. ACK!

First, hubby and I took a well-needed 7-day trip back to our old stomping grounds in Orlando and then with family in St. Petersburg for Thanksgiving. It was a social tour for sure, but it was great to see all of our old friends and spent time with family over the holidays.

Hubby, me, Pete and Becky...miss my friends!
 Wish I had gotten more pics of everyone, but for some reason I forgot to whip out the camera. Guess that means we were having a good time!

Funny thing. I asked the hotel for a pic of Ryan Gosling placed in the room in the “special requests” section of our online reservation. This is always fun, because #1 I forget that I do this and I crack up when it actually happens, and #2 I like to see which companies actually do this and how they do it. FTR, Hampton Inn rules and Marriott drools.

Hey frame but enjoy the view!
Since we’ve been back. Chaz has been glued to my side. He’s such a needy kitteh.

Clingy kitteh missed me!
Decking the halls has been a priority, but it seems everything has had a roadblock: replace lights because the old ones burnt-out, repurchase garland because the lights-burnt out, can’t find things…grrr.

Choose your fonts wisely...LOL!
"The Great Cookie Bakeoff” will commence this coming weekend and I haven’t even made any cookie dough! This is the only exercise I feel like doing right now…

Workout routine for the holidays

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Soapy Friday: Reformulation

I know it's not Friday, but I won't be able to post this Friday, so I thought I'd do it now! I've been heads-down reformulating my cold process soap recipes lately to make them better, but first...

Bombalicious Body Butter!

I've have formulated an amazing body butter using cocoa butter, shea butter, Brazil nut butter, aloe vera butter, argan oil, apricot oil, and chamomile infused water (hydrosol). It's natural, amazingly decadent, not greasy, and leaves your skin feeling like silk.

This one is scented with pink grapefruit, tangerine, and lemon (litsea cubeba) essential oils. It smells good enough to EAT!

Pink Grapefruit, Tangerine, and Lemon...heaven it a tub!

On to soap, shall we?

I wanted to improve my "old faithful" soap recipe to make it more conditioning. I have several thoughts about how to go about doing this, but my first experiment had me add cocoa butter to my recipe and lower my coconut oil percentage.

This is called "Bonfire Bliss" and I am IN LOVE with how it smells and feels in the shower. I'm on to something with this soap.

"Bonfire Bliss" with cocoa butter
My next experiment had me include cocoa butter and shea butter while decreasing my coconut oil and palm oil. These two are still curing and I'm excited to see how they perform.

This fragrance oil, called "Swedish Dream Salt" riced my soap batter...whaa! But I'm more concerned on how this will feel & perform in the shower than how it looks at this point.

"Swedish Dream Salt" riced on me, but the soap should feel nice!
This fragrance, called "50 Shades of Grey," is definitely a masculine, cologne-type scent and smells AMAZING. Can't wait to see how this performs as well.

"50 Shades of Grey" with shea and cocoa butter
So that's about it in the soap making arena. I'm on a body butter kick right now, so this Christmas will be all about the butter!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy National Cat Day!

What are the chances that National Cat Day and Gratuitous Kitteh Monday BOTH fall on the same day?

Chaz doesn't seem to care...

And Miss Thang only cares if there is food involved...

IOW, cats will be cats and don't give a hot fart WHAT day it is. Pretty precise, if I must say so myself. :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Garden in October

Most everything is tidied up for the year in the yard and garden, although we still have one more "after mow" to do on the lawn.

Beautiful colors
The grass seed w/fertilizer and warm weather made the lawn completely take off. We are forced to give it one, last mow or else it will turn into an unmanageable jungle. Usually in the past, we actually get COLD weather in October, which keeps the grass from growing too much, but noooooo. This year and last year have been unseasonably warm.

We haven't even had a freeze yet, and it doesn't look like we'll even get one in the next 15-day weather forecast (BTW, our average first frost is Oct 16th...even last year brought us a freeze by the end of October). I still have all of my bulbs to plant and hope to get to those next week, so I guess if there's a silver lining...

Green, red, orange, yellow...
In some exciting news, my pink, potted Angel's Trumpet bloomed this month! I bought this thing from a lady at the farmer's market this past summer and she swore it would do great up here in a pot. She said you just bring the pot in the garage and it goes dormant over the winter. Can you believe that?

When I bought it, it was only 8" tall. Next year, this thing will get bigger. I think it needs a name...

Pink Angel's Trumpet in a pot
We had a couple of Angle's Trumpets w/yellow flowers ("Charles Grimaldi") growing in our yard in Florida and the flowers smelled A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! They would make the whole yard smell like lemony magnolia flowers. Heady.

Anyway, the fall colors are "peaking" here in our area right now and one cannot help but be amazed at its beauty. Soon, they will be gone and the cycle will begin again.

Tranquil beauty

Monday, October 23, 2017

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

I know; I know....where have I been?

I've been around mostly doing my fall yard clean-up and cooking good things, which for some reason I never am motivated enough to take pictures of and post. Or I do take pictures and I don't like how they look or I just don't post, or it tasted good, but just didn't LOOK good.

Anyway, kittehs are great. Miss Thang still continues to benefit from just a smidge of Prozac every morning. The weather is cooling off, so both felines are enjoying the annual arrival of the morning fire-place fire, which they both enjoy settling next to after their breakfasts.

Halloween is just around the corner, so this cartoon is perfect for the occasion. It's about right...yes? :-)

Friday, October 06, 2017

Soapy Friday - Anti-Itch Jewelweed Soap

Whew! Today is the day where we do our “last cut” of the lawn for the season and I could not be happier.

The past couple of weeks have been busy aerating, shoveling truckloads of fill dirt, topsoil, moving gravel, and purchasing grass seed, fertilizer, and lime. In the fall, we prep the lawn for overseeding in September, then we wait for that one window of opportunity for a good, steady rain (usually in the first 10 days of October) to put down seed.  

Rain is forecasted for after Saturday (thank god, we need it!) and tomorrow we seed! This all sounds very productive, but when you have a 2 acre LAWN, it’s a major undertaking every fall. We do it all ourselves, too. After we put seed down, we don't cut it until next spring.

Okay, on to soap, shall we?

First, necessity is the mother of invention. I ran out of my favorite body butter from Trader Joe’s and that means I need more. I’ve been wanting to make a real, body butter and have all the ingredients, so I guess this is now a priority.

Need to make body butter!
I made some amazing-smelling “Cinnamon Bun” soap a few weeks ago. It was originally something else, but I didn’t like how it turned out and cut the tops off. So, I just piped some white soap on top and renamed it!

"Cinnamon Bun" cold processed soap
Been making Halloween skull bath bombs w/blood-red embeds. These are so fun to make and are even more fun in the bathtub!

Every day I'm hustlin'
My pride-and-joy lately is my “Anti-Itch Jewelweed Soap” and salve. I finally got around to making a batch of jewelweed soap using jewelweed-infused olive oil and jewelweed tea. I scented one batch with tea tree and peppermint essential oil, and the other with lavender and lemon. This is not meant to be an "all over/body" soap. It's meant to be used on breakouts of poison ivy, psoriasis, eczema, etc.

Jewelweed Soap and Salve
That salve is worth its weight in gold because it works! I’ve been a life-long sufferer of the occasional flare-up of psoriasis or eczema and I put this salve on an itchy spot that I’ve had for a very long time. It’s been 2 weeks, and it’s almost completely healed and no itch! And this is after 2-3 years of dealing with this same spot with hydro-cortisone cream that didn't work. It’s made with jewelweed-infused olive oil, beeswax, tea tree essential oil and peppermint essential oil.

I can't wait for that soap to finish curing so I can share these amazing goodies with friends who also suffer from psoriasis and eczema.  I have a feeling I will be making A LOT more of this next summer!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Roasted Sticky Chicken

I've realized that I need to start taking this blog back to its origins instead of only talking about soap products. At some point, my soapy stuff will take on a life and blog/website of its own, so I need to steer this boat back into familiar territory - FOOD!

Sticky Chicken...just as delicious as it looks
Today, I am bringing you Roasted Sticky Chicken. I don't know exactly why it's called "sticky" when there aren't any ingredients that would cause it to be sticky, nor is it actually sticky IMO. I can tell you that I've been making this chicken for over 10 years, and I am always amazed at how good and simple it is to make.

Also, I can tell you it is simply delicious and worth the amount of time it takes to make it. This is a set-it-and-forget-it type of recipe and it's the perfect thing to make on a cold fall or winter Saturday when you are tucked inside the house doing other things. 

It requires 5 hours of sloooooow and looooow roasting. Yes, that is correct...5 HOURS to roast. You would think roasting a chicken for 5 hours would dry it out to the consistency of shoe leather, but no, these birds are incredibly moist and fall-off-the-bone tender. 

Amazing Sticky Chicken
In fact, since it takes so long to make and it's worth it, I usually roast more than 1, 2, or even 3 birds at a time and freeze the rest. The meat freezes WONDERFULLY and does not dry out. That makes it perfect for future chicken salads, casseroles, soups, or simply served with gravy and mashed potatoes. YUM! 

Roasted Sticky Chicken
Recipe source: Sharon Worster, Personal Chef's Network

3 lb. whole chicken
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large onion, quartered

Note: To roast more than 1 bird at a time (highly recommended), double or triple the seasoning amounts.

Combine all spices in a bowl. Rub mixture into the chicken WELL, inside and out; patting into the skin. Place chicken in a large Ziplock bag or large enough container, and refrigerate overnight. If you don't have time for this (I rarely remember to do this), it will still be delicious!

Preheat oven to 250°. Place quartered onion inside the chicken cavity and truss the legs closed. Tuck the wings under the bird. Place in a roasting pan and slow roast, uncovered, for 5 hours. Baste often with pan juices. The chicken will turn a delicious, golden brown. 

To freeze leftover chicken, pull meat off the chicken carcass and freeze in a Ziplock freezer bag. I often vacuum seal as well.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Soapy Friday - Skulltastic!

Happy Friday everyone!

It's really been a tough week for many in Florida, including some of my own family members who were affected my hurricane Irma. I wanted to lighten the mood a little, so I used my skull(s) to bring in some fun!

Apple-Pear and Cinnamon Skull Soap
The thing about making seasonally inspired bath products, you have to start preparing a few months ahead of each holiday. Especially with soap, which can take 4-6 weeks to cure. Also, trends change. so it's good to see how things will look or behave before you sell or give them to friends & family.

Plus it's just fun to play around!

Skull Bath Bomb...waiting for testing.
In addition to making some fun stuff, I had to use my real skull and start this jewelweed and plantain leaf hot olive oil infusion. I went and picked some jewelweed and plantain leaves this week to make this. After it was done, I strained it and put in in the refrigerator.

Next, I'd like to make a jewelweed tea, which will happen next week, and go from there. I plan to make some awesome, anti-itch soap and salve with these infused oils and liquid. Can't wait!

Jewelweed & Plaintain Olive Oil Infusion

Friday, September 08, 2017

Hang in there Florida!

Boy, this has been a stressful couple of weeks for our family. We have family in Houston affected by hurricane Harvey, and of course most of our family is in Florida, including Key West and on the east coast.

Some of my dearest friends, like Mary, are near or in Orlando and they are going to be raked right up the center of the state. Hang in there everyone!

My heart and prayers are with you all.


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