Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha or other type of soap, as listed above
½ cup washing soda
½ cup borax powder
~You will also need a small bucket, about 2 gallon size~

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan.  Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts.  Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket.   Now add your soap mixture and stir.  Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir.  Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.  You use ½ cup per load.

**A few things to note about the soap**

~The finished soap will not be a solid gel.  It will be more of a watery gel that has been accurately described as an "egg noodle soup" look.

~The soap is a low sudsing soap.  So if you don’t see suds, that is ok.  Suds are not what does the cleaning, it is the ingredients in the soap.


  • I've made this 3-4 times now and it seems to be working well with our water and machine.  I probably should note that I really don't have any regular laundry challenges like cloth diapers, super hard water, or really dirty work clothes.  It has met all my usual challenges like grass stains, etc. though.
  • It has a pleasant, clean smell.  As suggested, I added lavender and orange oil to the first batch, but it really wasn't a notable improvement, so I've skipped the expense since then.
  • I'm not sure why the directions say to add water in these crazy increments.  The first time is obvious - a smaller amount so I can make sure everything is dissolved.  After that, just dump it in.  There are 2 gallons total.
  • After it cools, there will be a very gelled layer.  I just hit it with the immersion blender to mix it all together before transferring it to my empty laundry jugs.
  • Easy-peasy.  Practically free.
  • Source  (Word of warning though, its crazy colors, multiple fonts, and "cute" laundry graphics make it a challenge to read.  That's the main reason why I transferred it here.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Southwestern Egg Rolls

2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles, drained
4 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package egg roll wrappers (about 24 total)

In a large bowl, combine everything but the egg roll wrappers. Mix well to blend. Lay an egg roll wrapper out on a work surface so that one of the corners is pointing toward you and place ¼ cup of the filling in the center. Fold the tip closest to you up over the filling, roll a bit, then take the points pointing outward and fold them in toward the center. Continue rolling into an egg roll shape until a small part of the remaining point is still free. Dip a finger in water or beaten egg and lightly brush on the edges of the free corner. Finish rolling and press to seal closed. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Lightly oil a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the sealed egg rolls on the baking sheet seam side down and spray the tops of the egg rolls with cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly brown, turning halfway through baking. Serve warm with salsa.

  • These were easy to make and neat to eat.  
  • The baked egg roll wrappers were a little tough and would be worse if we'd forgotten to spray them, but are much healthier than deep fried.
  • Em and I both thought they need more seasoning.  She thought a few dashes of hot sauce, I think another can of chilies and more salt.
  • Egg roll wrappers come in 15 packs at Cub and since we used a scant 1/4 cup filling in each, it made 30.
  • More cheese would also be good, imo.
  • Source

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pear, Brandy, and Walnut Cranberry Sauce

1/3 cup, plus 2-3 tablespoon brandy, divided
2 cinnamon sticks, each broken in half
8 black peppercorns
12 ounces fresh cranberries, picked over
3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 medium bartlett pears, peeled
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted and divided

  • Pour 1/3 cup brandy into liquid measuring cup; add enough water to reach 1/2 cup liquid total. Set aside. Place broken cinnamon sticks and peppercorns in center of small piece of cheesecloth or large tea bag and tie closed using kitchen twine.
  • In medium saucepot, combine cranberries, brown sugar and cinnamon-pepper bundle. Using large holes on a box grater, grate pears into saucepot. Stir in brandy-water mixture.
  • Over high heat, bring cranberry mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook 10-12 minutes, or until cranberries have burst and the mixture has combined, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons brandy. Let cool. Remove and discard cinnamon bundle. Stir in 7 tablespoons toasted walnuts. Transfer mixture to small serving bowl; sprinkle with remaining walnuts.
NOTES:  This was really excellent!  Less bitter than Grandma's but with all the cranberry goodness.  I made the cranberry part about 3 days before we ate it and just added the walnuts that day.

Cranberry Walnut Rum Bread

1 cup mashed very ripe banana (2 - 3 bananas)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup golden rum
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flaxmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
a pinch of cardamom
1 to 1-1/2 cups picked-over fresh or frozen cranberries (chopped)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
For the glaze:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 - 3 teaspoons of rum

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  • In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas and mix in the sugar, rum, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir till it's all mixed up well.
  • Add the flours, flaxmeal, baking powder, salt, baking soda, spices, cranberries and nuts, reserving a tablespoon or two of the walnuts for the top of the bread. Stir until the batter is mixed well and there are no pockets of flour anywhere.
  • Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray, then pour the batter in and smooth it out with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with the reserved walnuts.
  • Bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes or until a wooden pick or knife inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. (Mine took about an hour and 30 minutes to cook through.)
  • When the bread is done and has cooled off a bit, mix up the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar with the rum till smooth. The glaze should be very thin. Drizzle the glaze over the bread, allowing it to soak in for a few minutes, then slice the bread and enjoy!
NOTES: The bananas made this a very moist bread.  I'd definitely make it again!
SOURCE: Grandmabelle's Pinterest page and this.


An easy, no-splatter way to make perfect bacon for a crowd:

  1. Line baking sheet(s) with aluminum foil
  2. Place cold bacon onto sheet with a little breathing room between each strip. Make sure the sheet has a lip so that the grease doesn't drip on the bottom of the oven. 
  3. Place sheet into cold oven and turn temperature to 400 degrees.
  4. Bake about 20 minutes or until crispy, turning halfway through.

  • The instructions implied it would take 20 minutes total, but I suspect it should say 20 minutes from the time the oven reaches 400 degrees.  Next time I try it I'll comment.
  • Either way, this was a neat way to cook lots of bacon at once.
  • Source: Grandma-belle's pinterest page

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Crescent Pepperoni Roll-Ups

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls

40 slices turkey pepperoni

4 pieces of mozzarella string cheese, cut in half

garlic powder

pizza sauce

Preheat oven to 375.

Unroll crescent rolls and separate into 8 triangles.  Place 5 slices of turkey pepperoni on each crescent roll.  Top pepperoni with string cheese half and roll up.  Sprinkle crescent rolls with garlic powder.  Place rolls on baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve with a side of warm pizza sauce. 

NOTES:  These were easy and neater to eat than expected.  I had regular pepperoni, but ran it under boiling water and blotted it with paper towels.  Every thing stayed in the bread nicely.
Thanks to Molly's Pinterest page which directed me to this source.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken

For the Chicken:
3-4 boneless,skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

For the Sauce:
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup vinegar (preferably rice or white)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

3. Working in two batches, toss the chicken pieces in cornstarch and then coat with the egg. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and again in two batches, brown the chicken, turning it so that all sides are browned.

4. Place the chicken in a single layer in a 9x13 baking dish.

5. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and pour evenly over the chicken. Turn the chicken to ensure each piece is coated.

6. Bake for 1 hour, turning the chicken every 15 minutes

  • We loved this and will definitely be making it again.  It was messy to put together but really not hard and definitely worth it.
  • Next time, I may try adding chunks of onion and pepper; coated in sauce, they should retain a nice texture while baking.  It could also be great with orange zest and extract.
  • Source: Brown-Eyed Baker via Molly

Potato Chip Cookies

3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) flour
1 1/2 ounces potato chips, crushed fine (1/2 c)
1/4 c pecans, toasted and chopped fine
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbls butter, cut into 8 pieces, softened but still cool
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine flour, potato chips, pecans, and salt in bowl.
  2. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined.  Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture in three additions.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and space 3 inches apart on baking sheets.  Flatten dough balls to 1/4 inch thickness with bottom of floured drinking glass.
  3. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are just set and lightly browned on bottom, 10-13 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.  Let cookies cool completely on sheets, about 15 minutes.  Serve.  Can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  • This recipe came from the June/July 2012 issue of Cook's Country.
  • As expected, they paid way more attention to the details than I would.  For example, after testing a whole bunch of chips, they recommend Cape Cod 40% Reduced Fat Potato Chips as the best.  I, on the other hand, used 2 small bags of Lays that have been languishing in my snack drawer forever.  I thought they worked fine.  Heck, there's already 1/2 cup of butter in 24 cookies!  That's more fat per serving than I put on my toast in the morning, so I don't think the chip choice is worth counting.  Also, my cookies held their shape and did not get excessively brown on the edges so I'd probably make the same choice again.
  • I did not have pecans and sadly, will not until they're less than $8/lb.  I did have a few cashews though and they worked really well.  I think some kind of nut is an important addition to both flavor and texture in this cookie.
  • These were a really good cookie and had that wonderful sweet/salty thing happening.  Yum!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Home Fries for a Crowd

Possibly the best home fries I've ever had; deep-fried texture, but in the oven. Next time, I may try using seasoned salt instead, just for the sake of dining hall nostalgia.

Serves six to eight.

  • 3½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾" cubes
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 onions, cut into ½" dice
  • 3 T minced chives
Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500º.

Bring 10 cups of water to boil. Add potatoes and baking soda; return to boil, and cook for 1 minute (←not a typo). Drain potatoes, return to pot and cook over low heat, shaking pot occasionally, until surface moisture has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, 1½ tsp salt, and cayenne; mix with rubber spatula until potatoes are coated with a thick, starchy paste, about 30 seconds.

Remove baking sheet from oven and drizzle with 2 T oil. Spread potatoes on baking sheet in an even layer. Roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine onions, 1 T oil, and ½ tsp salt.

Remove baking sheet from oven. Using metal spatula, turn potatoes and clear an 8x5" space in center of baking sheet and add onions. Roast for 15 minutes.

Turn potatoes again, mixing with onions as you do so. Continue to roast until potatoes are well browned and onions are softening and starting to brown, 5–10 minutes. Stir in chives, and salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately.

Source: Cook's Illustrated January & February 2012