Cooking

Still Knitting… and More

Yesterday, I ended by writing that, yes, there has been knitting. I wish I could say that John’s cardigan is finished but that just wouldn’t be true. I’ll be picking it up again soon, though, now that sweater weather is really here; it just isn’t the kind of project I can work on in the summer (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

However, I did come across an interesting shawl pattern that I just couldn’t resist. The pattern is called “Loop” by Casapinka. It’s a simple shawl with an interesting stitch, almost mindless knitting. It is constructed mainly of stocking stitch with a textured stitch row every 8 rows.

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I’m using KnitPicks’ Chroma Fingering weight yarn in two colourways; the main yarn is Fogbank, shades of grey and a little bit of brown and the coloured one is Carnival. I’m loving the yarn (70% superwash wool, 30% nylon); it’s soft and squishy and will, I’m sure, make a shawl that will be an instant favourite.

Right now, I’m just over half way and I’ve only been working on it for about a week and a half. As I said, the body of the shawl is almost mindless knitting. I can work on it while watching tv. The coloured rows take a little more concentration, especially on the wrong side but, if you’re looking for a relatively simple knitting project, this would definitely fit the bill. One bonus about the pattern? The designer has included a row and stitch chart to help you keep your place, including a column to check off completed rows.

Knitting isn’t all I’ve been doing, obviously. A few months ago, I decided that it’s time to start replacing some of my aging baking and cooking supplies…. baking tins, kitchen implements…. that kind of thing. As you may remember, I now have new muffin tins, cake pans and a few other things. There are still a few things I’ll be replacing (as I come across things that have passed their best before date… so to speak).

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been two things that I’ve wanted to have back in my kitchen or have in my kitchen… period. One thing I’ve never had but have wanted is a cookie press. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, I love to bake. A cookie press has never been in my kitchen but my mother had one years and years ago; I’ve been looking for one but I’m being picky. Yesterday, I went to my favourite kitchen store and looked at their (very meagre) selection. They had two; both looked and felt rather flimsy. If I’m going to get one, I want a good one. I’m keeping my eyes open.

Years ago, I had a krumkake iron, a Nordicware product that would be heated over an element on the stove. Krumkake is a Norwegian waffle cookie, very delicate but very tasty cookie. They can be served flat, rolled into a cigar shape, or formed into a cone and filled with cream. In Holland, they’re called “kniepertjes” (translated? Clothes pegs) (pronounced knee-pert-yes) and were a favourite of everyone in my family. When I left, I didn’t take it with me for some reason. I’ve always wanted another one.

I now have one.

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This is a Chef’s Choice Krumkake Express iron and I love it! It’s so much easier to use than the old, manual iron I had before.

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These are, believe it or not, gluten free. I tried two recipes and decided my first try would be gluten free because, of course, Kristen is gluten intolerant. It worked very well and, honestly, you cannot tell that there’s anything different about these.

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The kids loved these, especially when filled with vanilla whipped cream! For that matter, so did the adults. I also made a batch with white flour, following a Sons of Norway recipe; I was told to bring them to work because there are enough baked goods in this house already and we don’t need the added weight. The people at work thank you, John.

Categories: Baking, Cooking, John's Sweater, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fermented, not Demented

In regards to the title, there are those who might (just might) consider me slightly demented when it comes to playing with my food. My latest…. ok, let’s call it what it is… obsession is fermented foods. My first batch of kombucha is now in bottles for its second ferment (to encourage the fizzies). My first small batch of rhubarb honey soda (2 bottles… that’s all…. 2 bottles, ok?) is in bottles.

The rhubarb soda will be moving into the fridge a little later, after I’ve tidied and re-arranged the fridge. I think it’s something the kids will enjoy later today – after I’ve had a taste of it, of course.

In other ferments, I have a ginger bug on my kitchen counter; there’s some heavy cream that has been cultured with yogurt, ready to be turned into cultured butter. There’s a kefir starter in my fridge and there’s a jar of water kefir on my stove. There’s also a jar of sauerkraut in the closet under my stairs. I think that’s it…. for now.

So where did this kick come from? I’m not really sure, to be honest. It may have been started by a thread on the Soap Making Forum, one about sauerkraut made the old way, with nothing but salt. It may have been something I saw on Pinterest. In any case, whatever it was sparked my curiosity enough to start doing some research. The sauerkraut came first.

It won’t be ready for another week or two. It’s beginning to sour but, at the moment, is still on the salty and crunchy side. I’ll have to get Trinity to taste it later; she’s our resident sauerkraut fanatic. She could eat it by the jar full!

Kombucha is something I haven’t had before, that I can remember. Kristen reminded me that her Oma used to make it but no one wanted to try it. It was…. icky! There was this giant blob of stuff in a bucket and she would drink some of the liquid daily. It really was rather disgusting-looking. Now, here I am, years later, making it and drinking it myself.

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Center – 3 bottles blackberry/blueberry  kombucha. The other 4.5 are rhubarb honey kombucha. Second ferment to promote carbonation

Kefir is another word I’ve heard before but wasn’t really familiar with. Honestly, it reminds me of buttermilk, one of my favourite things.  Water kefir, though, is a whole new thing for me. I was able to score some kefir grains for both kinds (thanks to Kristen for the milk kefir grains). I haven’t yet made a batch with the grains from Kristen but they’re activated and ready to go. My (very) local health food store carries water kefir grains so I decided to try those as well. Right now, there’s a batch brewing in a mason jar on my stove, made with water, sugar, a hint of molasses, and about 1/4 lemon. It’s been there overnight and I’ll be trying it shortly.

Well, this is turning out to be a very rambling post. I’ll end here. If you have any tips or hints for me, please don’t hesitate to leave them. I’m still doing a lot of research via the google machine (and Pinterest) and I’m absolutely fascinated by the whole fermented food movement. I do find that I feel better since starting with kombucha (which is why I’ve started making it). I feel… I’m not sure how to describe it… a little more balanced? I’m sleeping better, I don’t feel as bloated as I often do… just better.

I’d like to keep it that way.

Categories: Cooking, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

But Does It Cut The Mustard?

I know, it’s been a while. I’m still around, honest! Life’s just been far too busy and some of the things I enjoy doing, like blogging, have suffered. However, I’m here.

This weekend is a long weekend in Canada. Monday is Victoria Day, the day we celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. I do love me a long weekend and, to help make it even better, I took Friday off as well. And what, you might ask, did I do with my extra day off? Good question.

For some reason, I ended up looking up mustard recipes on Pinterest. I love looking up recipes at any time but how I ended up looking for mustard recipes, I have no idea. However, I was inspired enough to go out and pick up some simple ingredients, including wine (which is almost a staple around here) and Jack Daniels.

I am now in the process of making two kinds of mustard. The first is a wine based mustard, seasoned with allspice and the second is a Jack Daniels based with caramelized onions and I’m not sure what else. We shall see. Both are experiments.

I’ve also made a basic mustard using an Alton Brown recipe. Right now, it’s extremely potent, with a wicked kick. Obviously, the flavours need to meld and soften for a few days.


Well, it’s now two days later and the mustard is made, in jars, sampled and critiqued. The general consensus is that my first foray into mustard making is a success for two out of three recipes.

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From l to r: Jack Daniels Mustard (2 jars and a bit), White Wine Mustard (2 jars). At the front, AB’s Best Mustard. Three samples for my sister.

The Alton Brown recipe is definitely a success. I did modify the recipe slightly as it calls for sweet pickle juice; sweet pickles have no place in this household. No one here likes them. Instead, I used garlic dill pickle juice and cut it back quite a bit as quite a few of the comments on the recipe were about the runny consistency. According to John, from now on this will be the only mustard he uses on his hot dogs and hamburgers. Right now, it’s VERY potent; my sister (who happened to be in the area) noted that it almost has a wasabi-like kick to it. She’s right. A little goes a very long way!

AB Best Mustard

The Jack Daniels mustard is also a definite success. Even though the mustard was freshly made, there was flavour there that was missing in the wine mustard. It was the only dish that needed to be replenished. I will need to write out what I did to make that one as it was mostly made by instinct… you know, a bit of this, a pinch of that, and maybe it needs a dash of that.

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The white wine mustard was the least favourite of the three mustards. Compared to the other two, it was almost bland. It definitely needs to be kicked up a notch and I’m not really sure just what will do that. Again, I did modify the recipe slightly as we don’t generally like sweet mustards so I nixxed the honey. Kristen pointed out that it could be that the wine I used could have affected the outcome as well. She’s right. Hochtaler isn’t a terribly high quality wine. Something with a bit more of a pedigree would definitely have made a better final product. Having said that, sometimes a strong potent mustard isn’t called for, right?

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I had to keep reminding everyone (John, my sister, her husband, Kristen, and the kids) that all three of these mustards are still very raw. They need some time to develop their flavours and mature. In a week’s time, they may taste completely different. We may have to do another taste test next weekend.

 

Categories: Cooking, Mustard | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Pizza Day

This week, the kids had pizza day at school. Mom decided they didn’t need to participate in every single pizza day; it comes around once a month and the slices are $3.00 each. For a single mom, two kids and two slices each, $12.00 is no chump change. They seemed a little disappointed but not overly so. I decided to step in.

No, I didn’t pay for pizza day. I suggested that we have our own pizza day… at my house. They could pitch in and make their own pizza with whatever toppings they might want. That’s what we did and it was fun!

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I made the pizza dough while the kids were upstairs meeting Samson, the pup that’s being boarded with S for the next couple of months (he’s a mastiff akbash cross). Once it had had time to rise, I sent Kristen upstairs to get them while I prepped the toppings. Then we got to work.

Both of the kids helped to roll out their own pizza crust and then got to embellish them with whatever toppings they wanted. It was a lot of fun and the pizzas were pretty darned good. I draw the line at pickled asparagus pizza, though.


 

The pizza dough recipe we used can be found at Giada DeLaurentis’ website. We heartily recommend it. The pizza sauce was made with one can of tomato sauce, one can of tomato soup, a tablespoon or so of tomato paste and a tablespoon or so of Italian seasoning and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Simmer until the flavours meld, then allow to cool before using.

Categories: Baking, Cooking, Just stuff | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Slow Cookers & Stuff

Well, I’ve had my slow cooker for almost a month now and I can honestly say, I like it! It’s so easy to throw all the ingredients into the pot, turn it on, and walk away knowing that, by the time we want it, dinner will be waiting for us. The challenge, at least for me, is finding recipes that appeal to us. We like simple, good food but there needs to be a depth of flavour that so many recipes seem to be missing. We don’t use a lot of processed foods so anything that uses canned soups, and ready made “ingredients” is out.

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So far, we’ve tried a lentil soup (which was delicious), Chicken Tikka Masala (which was good but the recipe needs something… it lacked depth), and today I have Provencal Daube of Beef (from a library book). It’s basically a beef stew with Mediterranean flavours, marinated in wine with herbs and orange peel, and loaded with onions, carrots, mushrooms, black olives, and tomatoes. I’m already looking forward to dinner and it’s only 8:00 a.m.!

Kristen has been sounding very interested in getting a slow cooker after sampling what we’ve been making. Her birthday was this week and that got me thinking. Last weekend, I called her and asked if she would like a slow cooker for her birthday. I wanted to head over to Canadian Tire, where I got mine, and I told her that, if they were still on sale, I’d buy one for her.

The were, sort of. I paid $29.99 (+ taxes) for mine in a post-Christmas sale; the regular price was $49.99. They were on sale for $45.99, not much of a savings but still, $4.00 is $4.00. I put it in my cart. Then, I started wandering the aisles. I didn’t realize they had a sale table with items that had been returned. There was a crock pot on that table, exactly like the one I had in my cart. I looked for a price tag, not seeing it right away. When I did finally find the price, I immediately put it in my cart and put the other one back on the shelf.

The note on the tag read “opened, not suitable” and the price? $15.00. Yes, you read that right… $15.00! She is now the proud owner of a brand new crock pot and I have someone to swap recipes with.

So, what’s in YOUR crock pot/slow cooker?

Categories: Cooking, No Knitting | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Welcome to 2016

Ah, a new year and all the promises of a fresh start. Yeah, who am I kidding? There are, however, one or two things I would like to start doing. The first sounds rather disgusting but it won’t hurt and, if it helps, that would be awesome.

The internet is, of course, home to all the medical cures known to man. And we know that everything we read on the internet is absolutely true. Right? Well, some things do make some sense. I read an article about gelatin, plain gelatin not the sugar-laden flavoured stuff that comes in a box. The article explains where gelatin comes from and the health benefits thereof, which include reduction of joint pain in aging bodies… like the one I happen to inhabit.

Both John and I are experiencing more than our fair share of aches and pains these days so I thought we’d give it a try. Or I’ll give it a try. The article suggests using 2 tsp. of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup of water, every day for one month, to be repeated every six months. It’s gelatin. I like Jello; I don’t want all the sugar and artificial flavours. What have I got to lose? I’ll try it; if it works, I’ll get John to try it. If it doesn’t, I’ve lost nothing but some unflavoured gelatin (which I buy in bulk at my local bulk food store).

The second thing we need to start doing is eating better. Too often, we get home from work with nothing planned for dinner. Often, neither of us feels like cooking so we end up eating bacon and eggs for dinner. Again. Both of us are feeling the effects of not eating properly, even though we both usually enjoy cooking… and eating.

With all of the post-Christmas sales happening, I decided it was time to break down and purchase a crock pot, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I drove out to Canadian Tire yesterday and picked up a 4 quart Crockpot for $29.99. All morning, I’ve been scouring Pinterest for interesting, appealing, crock pot/slow cooker recipes and have found a few that look promising. I’ve also posted on Facebook, asking friends and family for their favourite crock pot recipes; that’s given me a few more suggestions.

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What about you? Any suggestions for good crock pot meals? Any favourites?

Last night, before going to bed, I set some steel cut oats so we can have ready made oatmeal in the mornings. I’m not normally an oatmeal kind of gal but if it’s made right, I’ll eat it. I’m one of those weird people who likes their oatmeal with some crunch and textural interest so I add grains (a mix of chia seeds, cracked buckwheat, and hemp hearts) and raisins or cranberries to mine. I must admit that it was nice to wake up this morning to a hot bowl of oatmeal just waiting for me. I had some even before I poured my first cup of coffee.

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Right now, I have a pot of Green Lentil Soup in the crock pot (here’s the link if you’re interested). It should be ready for a warming, comforting kind of meal by dinner time. Served with some warm crusty bread, it should be a great alternative to a heavy meat and potatoes kind of meal which I don’t mind but not night after night after night. Besides, how many nights in a row can one eat leftover prime rib and Yorkshire puddings?

Don’t answer that!

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Almost Christmas

Time certainly flies when there’s much to do. It’s almost Christmas already. Here, in the house, you’d never know. The only decorations up are the Christmas cards that have been trickling in and the giant 3D snowflake Trinity made for us.

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While the kids were here yesterday, we made a batch of sugar cookies; Ethan was more interested in breaking eggs and adding ingredients while Trinity was most helpful when it came to rolling out the dough and cutting it with cookie cutters. We embellished them very simply with some coarse vanilla sugar. When they left, I gave Kristen a small tin of cookies and kept a small tin for ourselves.

Sugar cookies

Today, I’ll be baking up a couple of very Dutch recipes, speculaas squares and koek, a spiced loaf cake. If you’re interested, you can find the recipe on my cooking blog (also sorely neglected), In Ev’s Kitchen.

We’ve decided to go completely non-traditional with this year’s Christmas dinner. When I asked Kristen what we should have, and suggested turkey, she nixxed the idea right away. Between the three of us, Kristen, John, and myself, we decided to have a prime rib roast with Yorkshire puddings and a variety of vegetables. No stuffing, unfortunately. That’s my favourite part of Christmas dinner. Yorkies make up for it a little bit, I suppose. They’re definitely a favourite around here.

As for Christmas day, the weather man has guaranteed that we’ll be having a white Christmas this year. There’s snow on the ground now, with light snow falling.

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To all of my family and friends, I hope you have a wonder-full, safe Christmas and I wish you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Christmas Tree Hand-Lettering

 

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cooking, Just stuff, No Knitting, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

And The Winner Is….

Heather!

Email me your relevant information, Heather, and six samples of my hand crafted soaps will be making their way to your doorstep, along with an extra surprise or two. Congratulations!

Yesterday, Beth asked how she might be able to subscribe to my new soaping blog by email. This morning, I figured out how to add that to the blog and there is now a spot to subscribe by email… for anyone who would like to.

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This is how the soap turned out, by the way. It’s a nice hard soap that was hard to cut. It did gel but not completely; that won’t affect the final product, just the aesthetics. Considering that it’s soap and will all be going down the drain eventually, I’m not overly concerned about it.

I did do a little more knitting on John’s sweater yesterday; I have about 6″ done so far. Right now, it’s straight up the back for 17.5″ before starting the armhole shaping. I don’t think much knitting will happen around here today; there is lasagna to be put together (I made the meat sauce yesterday) and a dinner to prepare for.

John’s planning on making a cheesecake for dessert, using a recipe his mother received years ago from a NYC native. I’m looking forward to it; he’s never made it for me. This is a traditional, basic, baked cheesecake with the cherry pie filling on it. Yum! It will be a lovely finish to our dinner, I think.

Now, it’s an absolutely gorgeous fall day around here. We had a bit of a wind storm last night; it was an amazingly warm wind that scattered chairs and leaves around the yard. Today, it’s bright and sunny out.. beautiful! It’s time to get motivated and out there!

Enjoy your weekend, all, and to my Canadian family and friends… Happy Thanksgiving.

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Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cardigan, Contest, Cooking, Making Soap, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ah, the Weekend!

And I’m feeling like it’s already getting away from me. There are so many things I want to do but, so far, not much is getting done. Well, I shouldn’t really say that. After all, I did make a small test batch of soap for myself (using 12 ounces of oils) and I did get some shopping done, including the purchase of a cake for a certain someone’s 60th birthday on Monday (but you didn’t hear it from me).

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When I say a small batch, I do mean a small batch. I bought a small carton of milk so I could have milk with my tea at work. Once it was empty, I washed out the carton and brought it home for this very reason. That makes about four bars worth of soap. The soap inside…

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…is a recipe I designed as a face soap, with lots of moisturizing, pampering oils (like cocoa butter, rice bran oil, coconut oil, and olive oil). The colorant is spirulina, which turns the soap a lovely shade of green. Right now, it’s still too soft to remove from the carton but I’m itching to get it out and see how the swirling worked out. To create the swirl, I used about one quarter of the soap batter, incorporated the spirulina into it, and poured it back into the soap pot before pouring the whole batch into the carton. I’ve scented the soap with the last of my sandalwood essential oil (there wasn’t much left).

I’ve also blind baked a pastry shell for the quiche we’re having for a birthday lunch tomorrow. And I’ve cleaned out the fridge.

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Lunch tomorrow will be Quiche Lorraine. I decided to blind bake (bake ahead of time) the pastry so it’s one thing I won’t have to do tomorrow. I did have a nice fluted edge on the pastry but that kind of melted. Oh well, it’s all in the flavour, right?

Still on the slate for today or tomorrow… finish John’s slippers. I got absolutely nothing done on them this past week. Two soles… that’s all I have left to do. In my defence, we did have company this week and the slippers take a good deal of concentration. I did do some knitting, though.

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The checkerboard face cloth is off the needles and I’ve started one of the ubiquitous garter stitch face cloths. I much prefer it in the finer yarn, to be honest. The chunkier ones are fine for dish cloths and such but for a face cloth, I do like the texture and feel of the finer yarn. Plus, it’s mindless knitting… never a bad thing.

Well, this post is taking a lot longer to write than I’d anticipated. It’s now Sunday morning and I’m already thinking about what needs to get done before Kristen and the kids get here for brunch.

While they were out rollerblading yesterday, I made another batch of soap. This one is a hemp soap.

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I love the colour! This morning, I’ve unmolded and cut it and I’m really happy with it. I’ve tried lathering up a small end cut and it lathers beautifully. I really think I have a winner with this one. I wasn’t sure what to scent it with so I’ve left it unscented; I don’t mind unscented soaps, especially if it’s something I’ll be using on my face.

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And the Spirulina soap, out of the milk carton and cut?

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I’m really pleased with the way the swirl came out. I haven’t tried lathering this one yet but I am definitely looking forward to trying it.

Now…. time to do some prep on our brunch. Quiche Lorraine coming up. I’ll tell you about John’s new (upcoming) cardigan another time.

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Contest, Cooking, Finished, Just stuff, Making Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sandie, This One’s For You

When I started posting about the soaps I’m making, Sandie commented that I should make a chocolate soap. I listened, Sandie (so to speak… how do you “listen” to a written comment?). I’ve just been waiting for the perfect recipe. Well, I found it.

Voila! Double Chocolate Soap…

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t smell like chocolate because I couldn’t find any chocolate fragrance oil. It is, though, two shades of chocolate and does include some real chocolate among the oils. The darker layer is coloured with Dutch process cocoa powder while the top layer is just the oils with semi-sweet chocolate.

I was attempting to do something called a pencil line – a thin line of another colour – but it didn’t work very well. You can see it but barely; this bar has the most visible line of all of them. Often, it’s done with a sprinkling of cocoa over one layer of soap with another layer poured on top of it. Apparently, I didn’t use enough of the bronze mica powder I was using. I know for next time.

Last night, after cutting the chocolate soap, I also cut the swirl soap. It was still pretty soft and I probably should have left it for another day but…. well, I’m impatient and I really wanted to see how it turned out.

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I’m satisfied. It isn’t perfect but I do like the look of it. Unfortunately, you can see that the colorant didn’t get evenly dispersed in the oil I used to blend it. I used a small wire whip to mix the oil and the colorant; I should have used more oil, I think, or spent more time getting it thoroughly mixed. Lesson learned. On the whole, though, the technique was fun. I’ll use a different recipe next time, though; this soap, after almost 48 hours is still very soft and will take a good long time to cure.

Today, there will be no soap making… I have been told (it’s okay, I hadn’t planned on making any today, anyway). Today, we will be making REAL french fries… fried in beef tallow. Which John doesn’t mind buying, now that he knows that our local butcher carries rendered beef tallow. Which I like using in soap. Which makes THE best french fries ever. That is a win/win in my book.

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Categories: Blogging, Cooking, Finished, Just stuff, Making Soap, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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