Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Laundry Soap!

Who here is cheap frugal?

**raising hand and waving wildly**

Then have I got a recipe for you!  You see, several years ago I quit my job to stay home with my children.  Then my husband was promptly laid off.  While he worked to get his business off the ground, I tried to find ways to save lots of money.  Now that we're doing a bit better, this is one of the money saving habits that stuck with me.  Because I usually have an apoplectic fit when I see how much the laundry detergent goes for at the grocery store.

Note: There are many, many laundry detergent recipes out there, but this one works for me.

The ingredient list is quite simple:

1 bar of bathsoap, grated, or 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha laundry soap, grated
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Super Washing Soda
2 gallons water, divided

And here's how you make it!

Grate the bar of soap.  I used Dove (pomegranate scented) this time.  I used to use the Fels Naptha, but Hubby started complaining about the scent.  So I switched to Ivory. Eventually he started complaining about that scent, too.  So this time I tried Dove.  We'll see how he likes this one.

It's kinda pretty, sitting there.  Anyhoo, add it to six cups of water and heat in a saucepan on the stove top.

(Fun fact: I have approximately 28 cake pans and two sauce pans!)

Heat and stir until it's all melted.  With Ivory you know it's melted because it's clear in it's liquid state.  Do not allow the soap to boil.  It's soap.  It will foam up very quickly.

Add the Borax and Washing Soda.

Stir until it's all dissolved.

Put 4 cups of hot water (I just use hot tap water) in your laundry soap receptacle. I use a clear art supply bin.  The lid latches and it has a handle.

Pour the hot soap mixture into the hot water and stir.

Add six cups plus one gallon of additional water and stir to combine.

It's not ready to use just yet, though.  Put it in the laundry room and let it cool overnight.  In the morning, you will have one big jellified blob of soap.  Stir it really good, breaking up all the big chunks, and now it's ready to use. I usually stir again before each use.  I just keep an old plastic mixing spoon next to the washing machine. If it looks kind of chunky and weird, you did it right!

It's kind of pretty, huh?  I use 1/2 cup per large load of laundry.  And the very best part is, it costs me $.76 to make two gallons of laundry soap.  At least it did when I used Ivory.  I'm sure the Dove just pushed me up to $.96 or something.  I'll have to do the math.  Anyway, it beats what they want at the grocery store.

**Update: I did the math.  Using Dove soap it's $1.51 for two gallons of detergent.  Eeek!  Dove is kind of pricey.  But still a good deal for what it is.

Additional note: Do NOT use this laundry soap on cloth diapers.  It will irritate your baby's butt, and then you'll have to wash all of your diapers in hot water six times to get all of the old detergent out. It's fine for baby clothes, however.

That's all for now.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Best. Cupcakes. Ever.

A couple weeks ago a co-worker approached me about cupcakes.  Last time I brought red velvet cupcakes to work, my co-worker, being a good hubby, took one home to his wife.  So she wanted some more.  And she was having a potluck at her place of business, so it seemed like a good time.

So anyway, he asked for 2 dozen red velvet cupcakes and I happily agreed.  Then he asked what other flavors I could make.  I said, "Probably whatever you want."  So he described to me a cupcake that he used to get at a bakery long ago.  It was marble with cream cheese icing with Oreos in it. (Can I say "Oreo"?  Or is that some kind of copyright infringement?  How about "chocolate sandwich cookie?"  Will that work?) Only the marble was black and white, making it even more Oreo chocolate sandwich cookie-esque.  I was intrigued, so I agreed to make a dozen of the Oreo chocolate sandwich cookie cupcakes as well.

I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe and just added a goodly squirt of Americolor Super Black.  Voila, black cake!  For the white I just used a white doctored cake mix (shhh...don't tell).  Since I was already making cream cheese icing, I just made a little extra and crushed up some Oreos chocolate sandwich cookies and stirred them into the icing that was left once I had iced the red velvet cupcakes.  Which came out beautifully,by the way:

I love it when they've got just a little dome.

Co-worker requested white sugar pearls on the red velvet.  Yum.

Anyhoo, back to and white marble cupcakes cooling peacefully on the rack...

I topped each cupcake with a mini Oreo chocolate sandwich cookie just for fun (and because I am psychologically unable to send a naked cupcake out of my house).

So, the Oreos chocolate sandwich cookies in the icing blocked my icing tip so I couldn't get a good swirl.  In fact, they even blocked the regular-sized coupler I tried to use.  So I had to use my giant coupler to put a blob of icing on.  It wasn't pretty.  Next time, I think I'll run the Oreos chocolate sandwich cookies through the food processor to get the pieces smaller, as opposed to crushing them with a rolling pin.  Although I don't believe the food processor will be nearly as much fun.

After agonizing needlessly over the state of the swirls, I decided I had to eat one, diet or not.

Poor little cupcake...

It doesn't stand a chance...

I'm not a very good marbler, apparently.

Ok, I'm not going to show you a photo of me scarfing down the cupcake.  But, seriously, I don't know why, but this was the best cupcake ever.  The girl was amazed.  The hubby was delighted.  The boy was knocked speechless, which is quite an accomplishment.

I think I'll make this in cake form next.  We've got some birthdays coming up.  And while I don't know that I can decorate Oreo chocolate sandwich cookie icing, I really don't think anyone will care.

Oh, here's how I made the icing, in case anyone is curious:

Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookie Cream Cheese Icing

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 snack pack mini Oreos, crushed (about six full-sized cookies)
2-4 ounces heavy cream

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in vanilla and salt until incorporated.  Add powdered sugar and stir until well-mixed.  Slowly add heavy cream until you reach the desired consistency.  Stir in crushed Oreos. Beat on medium-high for 3-5 minutes or until fluffy.

That's all for now.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Black and White Challenge

Earlier this month, Georganne at LilaLoa issued a challenge.  She challenged us cookiers to try something new, and to not be concerned about not being good enough.  The first challenge was to forget about color and do some black and white (and any mixture of the two) cookies.  Here's what I came up with:

Pretty dresses in black and white.  I did not do gray scale because I'm lazy and I didn't want to wash more bags and tips.  Hey, at least I'm honest.

These cookies were leftover from Christmas.  The girl wanted pretty dress cookies for Christmas, and she did decorate a few for herself, but they didn't make it onto my list for some reason.  And the trees were just left over.  I don't know why.

So anywhoo, using leftover cookies and leftover icing, I got to participate in the challenge!

First the ball gowns...

I tried a little bit of overpiping on these and mostly screwed them up.  The one on the top left is my favorite.  I still love that cutter.  I tried a little simple lace on the bottom left one, and it turned out ok.  Pay no attention to the bottom of the skirt on that one...I'm not sure what happened there.

And dancing dresses...

Totally a rip-off (but not nearly as well done) as these by Klikitat Street.  Of course, maybe if I'd have gone back and looked at her cookies, instead of trying to do them from memory, I might have had better results.

And trees...

Just for fun.  Nothing fancy.  Really, I don't do fancy.  I think I'll probably stop trying and just stick with what I do best.  Simple.

Anyway, that's all for now.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Blogiversary Giveaway (Closed)

It's my first Blogiversary!  And to celebrate the completion of my first year as an official Blogger (can I add that to my resume now?), I am having a little giveaway.  Nothing much, just some fun cookie stuff I got at the local cake decorating store.  They have everything and I love them.  And they've been around for decades.  So they really know their stuff.

I picked up some cookie cutters.  America, a hummingbird, a frog and a butterfly.  It has been really hard to let the last three go (if you read this blog with any regularity, you know I already have the America cutter), and I may have to go back for more cutters soon.

Disco Dust!  Peacock, Raspberry and Rainbow.  A second peacock may have fallen into my shopping basket by mistake.

CK Meringue Powder.  I've never tried it, but I've heard great things.  I used a different brand for Christmas cookies (Lorann) and it was pretty great.  It didn't have the weird smell that the Wilton meringue powder has.

Cookie sticks and rainbow metallic dragees.  Just because.  The cake shop has dragees in all colors and sizes.  And I love them for it.

And last but not least, Americolor Airbrush Sheen in Bronze and Pearl.  I was looking for Silver and Gold, but they were out.  So you get Pearl and Bronze instead.  I don't have an airbrush, I use it in place of luster dust to paint onto the cookies.  Very pretty.

And there you have it.  A small pile of loot.

To enter, just leave a comment on this blog.  Tell me what you like or don't like about it (be nice!) and what you would like to see more of in future.  Or just say "Hi!".  I will choose one post randomly to win. For a second chance to win, follow this blog (if you already follow the blog, you are automatically entered twice if you leave a comment.) Please be sure to leave a way for me to reach you.

Just a few rules, so we're all on the same page.
  • You have to be eighteen to enter
  • This giveaway it for US residents only (sorry about that… I can't afford international shipping)
  • This giveaway begins at 8:00am EST on Monday January 14, 2013 and will end at 8:00am EST on Monday January 21, 2013
  • Winner has three days to respond upon notification.  If there is no reply within a three day period, a new winner will be chosen
Good Luck!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Turkey Pot Pie

Well, I think we're all recovered from Christmas.  And on New Year's Day we went to my Great Aunt's house for dinner.  And she sent us home with a ziplock bag full of leftover turkey. SCORE!

I made pot pie, at the request of the boy.

I use this recipe here with just one small change.  We love it. However, I'm pretty sure it is NOT very good for you, as far as calories go.  But it's good for a special treat every now and then.

This may be a post without pictures.  My computer is being a complete butt-head.  Of course, it may be Blogger, but I'm going to go with the computer.


OK, the nice ladies at (aka Cookiers R Us) told me to upgrade to a new browser to make Blogger work again.  So, one Google chrome update later, and I am in business.  Sorry you have to look at my photos again.

So let's get started, shall we?  Dice some onions,carrots and celery and saute in butter.  Mmmm...butter...

Add salt, pepper, parsley and oregano.  Now, here's the important don't want to miss this step: Drop your brand-new bottle of Penzey's oregano that you got for Christmas into the pan full of vegetables, spilling about half of it.  D'OH!

Oh, and here's where that small change comes in.  The recipe calls for 3 Tbs of parsley, but that made the finished pot pie look kind of funky. So I reduced it to 1 Tbs and it's fine.  (Of course, 3 Tbs of oregano may very well be just as funky, but we'll not think about that, ok?)

Scrape out as much of the oregano as you can and soldier on valiantly.

Add water and chicken bouillon cubes, followed by cubed potatoes.  Cube the potatoes fairly small, so they cook quickly.  Otherwise, your other veggies may get mushy.  Simmer until the potatoes are cooked but not soft.

Oh yeah, at the beginning of this process, you should pull a top and bottom pie crust out of the freezer and let them thaw.  If you forgot, you can microwave them on defrost.  Not that I would do that.

On a side note, I hate making pie crust.  I have a fabulous pie crust recipe that I use, and it comes out perfectly each time, but I HATE making it.  It's not hard.  It doesn't take an inordinate amount of time.  I just hate making pie crust.  So when I stumbled upon this recipe for make-ahead pie crusts, I was all over it.  To be honest, it's not as good as my other recipe, but it's better than others I have tried.  And the make-ahead part is the best.  I have two 1-gallon freezer bags full of pie crusts in my chest freezer right now.  WooHoo!


Roll out the pie crust.  A pastry board really comes in handy for pie crust.

Use the rolled crust to line a very deep 9-inch pie plate, or, if you have one, a 10-inch pie plate.  I don't have one.  I always have a little extra filling.

Tell yourself you're going for "rustic".

In a separate saucepan, add the turkey, some milk and butter.

Stir that up and heat it through.  Add it to the cooked vegetables and stir it all in.

I sometimes throw in a cup of frozen peas right before I add the turkey.  Peas are not in the recipe, but the boy LOVES peas.  And so do I, really.

Cook the whole she-bang until the broth thickens and then pour it into the prepared pie shell.

Put the top on, vent, and pop it in the oven.

Cook for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and delicious.

Slice and serve to your hungry family!

Turkey Pot Pie

1 recipe double pie crust
4 Tbs butter                                        salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, minced                          2 cubes chicken bouillon
2 stalks celery, chopped                      2 cups water
2 carrots, diced                                   3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Tbs dried parsley                             3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 tsp dried oregano                             ½ cup milk

Preheat oven to 425.  Roll out bottom crust and place in pie plate.  Set aside

Cook onion, celery, carrots, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper in 2 Tbs butter until soft.  Add water and bouillon.  Bring to a boil and stir in potatoes.  Cook until tender but still firm.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 Tbs butter.  Stir in turkey and flour.  Add the milk and heat through.  Stir the turkey mixture into the vegetables and cook until thickened.  Pour into unbaked pie shell and top with second rolled crust.  Flute edges and vent for steam.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Seriously, this is so good you won't believe it.  We use leftover turkey or chicken, but if you have leftover beef (or any other hoofed mammal) I'm sure that would work, too.  Try it sometime, you won't be sorry!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My New Toy

OK, so it's not so much a toy as a very useful tool.

Whaddaya think?  It's not done yet, but I needed to use it for Christmas cookies. 

I used to keep my full icing bags stored tip-up in coffee cups while I was decorating.  One day, my longsuffering hubby demanded to know why I had to use ALL of the coffee cups in the house, and couldn't I leave him just one for his morning coffee?  Sadly, I had to say no.  I did, however, describe to him exactly what I needed in order to keep my icing bags tidily off of the table without the use of coffee cups.  A mere year later, this is what he gave me.

It holds 10 icing bags and it's collapsible; the legs fold down and it stores flat.  As I said, this one isn't completely done yet.  It needs to be sanded and stained, and he's going to rout the edges.  But I really needed to use it. 

I'll be sure to post a picture when it's all done.  But it worked so well that I had to share.

Oh yes, I close my icing bags by twisting the ends, folding them over, and securing with a small rubber band that I may have stolen from the girl's hair accessory drawer.  As long as the rubber band doesn't break (don't ask), there are no leaks. 

The first thing Hubby did as I started to use my new icing bag stand was to make a cup of coffee.