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


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