Dish soap!

In trying to avoid the stinky smelling Biokleen dish detergent my husband picked up, I spent a little time looking up how to make your own dish soap.

I’ve made my own laundry detergent for ages, and I can’t recall why I imagined making dish detergent would be so difficult a process. I found a couple of recipes that I may play around with and make tonight.

Haven’t posted in a while for two reasons – 1) I’ve been packing a lot, that combined with homeschool, household, play time – has eaten up the majority of my time. And 2) From packing – my upper back and shoulders are screaming at me daily. Typing is a torture I haven’t been indulging in much.

Do you make your own dish soap? Have a favorite recipe you’d like to share? Is it cost-effective? Time consuming? Easy as anything?

Eating organically on a budget.

Now that we are closing in on moving in less than three months, in the spirit of saving as much money as possible, I’ve spent the better part of my day wondering how to cut our grocery budget.

I try to buy only organics, I cook the majority of our snacks, I eat a solely vegan diet, although my husband doesn’t and my children occasionally partake of eggs and meat.

 

I re-read all the old standby advice –

      1. Join a co-op – Great advice, but not always sound, for example – I’ve found that it’s far less expensive to buy organics anywhere but the co-op in this area, where the prices are jacked up higher then I ever paid in Manhattan, NY.
      2. Grow a garden at home or at a community garden – Again, terrific idea, but what if you live in a teeny, tiny walk-up apartment with nowhere to put even a window box? Or you live in such a polluted area, that you don’t want to bother even trying to garden? Or, there are no community gardens nearby?
      3. Bake and cook from scratch – I already do that and I still want to cut my budget.
      4. Buy from the bulk bins – this works wonderfully for a lot of people. However, it does not work for us. My youngest daughter has severe food allergies and considering how I have on numerous occasions seen people using the incorrect scoop in different bins, there is a ton of cross-contamination going on in those things. We can’t touch them.
      5. Farmers markets – Awesome for the warmer months, but what to do during the other months when there no markets if you don’t live in California?
      6. Canning/Dehydrating and Food Storage – I love to get a box or two of ugly tomatoes from one of the local organic farms, let them ripen, and then spend a day with my husband making up and canning batches of tomato sauce. But (you knew there was going to be a ‘but‘ in here) what if you live in a super small apartment, or don’t have space? Hey, I’d love to get a separate freezer, but I don’t have the room for one.
      7. Shop at Trader Joe’s – I’d like to, but I don’t live anywhere near one.
      8. Join a CSA – this is something I’m looking forward to trying after our move.
      9. Create a menu before food shopping – then, write out a list and stick with it – I’ll admit it, I don’t always make up a menu before I go shopping. I do, however, make up an idea of what I’d like to prepare based on what season it is and what we currently have in the pantry, then I write a list and stick to that.
      10. Buy in bulk from stores like Costco/Sam’s Club/BJ’s – This is one I do stick with, but I’d still like to further cut my grocery costs.

 

Obviously, this is an incomplete list, but you get the general idea. Some things I can do – I can start perusing new library cookbooks and looking online for fresh ideas (my own cookbook collection has grown rather stale) and make up a menu for the week/bi-monthly, shop accordingly, and stick with it.
Out here in the PNW, I miss having a kitchen herb garden, but I have a tiny window that never gets sun (it’s under the patio roof) and there is no where that I could have put a little garden where it would have gotten regular sun (I carefully packed up my East coast kitchen herbs and my husband drove them out here, and they died within 6 weeks). This is one thing I’m looking forward to after moving.

 

What are some of your tried-and-true methods for eating organically on a budget?

More on baking

I love cast iron cookware, plain or enameled. The blue pot is one my grandmother gave me shortly after I married. After doing some research, I have come to the conclusion that it’s probably from the 1950’s or ’60’s. This is my main bread baking pot – I don’t use it for much else. I see them on etsy and ebay and always want to buy more. It’s scarred, with a lot of blemishes and aesthetic imperfections – and it’s my absolute favorite pot to bake bread in.

Dru Holland close up

The Lodge cast iron combo cooker I bought from Amazon last year. I love this thing too. It’s a beast of a worker and is great for bread, stew, soup, anything. You can cook in the lid while you’re cooking in the pot – it’s great. This I use occasionally for bread, but I really prefer an enameled cast iron for bread baking. If /when my Dru Holland pot meets its demise, I like the looks of the Lodge enameled Dutch oven. It’s not nearly as pricy as Le Creuset and has mostly all positive reviews. I would order the 6-qt. one for baking, although the 7.5- qt looks like you could cook an entire meal in it on a cold, cold night, and serve piping hot. And now I’m incredibly hungry from writing that.


Lodge and Dru.

Bread in Dru

I’m baking bread today. Here in the PNW, it is a relatively balmy 40 degrees outside but the rain is pouring down, the damp is invasive and I love to have the oven on on days like this. The permeating aroma of baking bread, the sound of the rain on the roof, it’s a perfect day for baking. It’s the kind of ugly day where you just want to stay in and cuddle up on the couch under a warm blanket and watch a movie or get wrapped up in a good book.

 

I bought a few dozen cloth diapers about six years ago – high quality, prefolds, seconds (one of the larger sizes). I got them on sale and use them for letting the bread dough rise. They’re only used in the kitchen, for food purposes (bread and other) and they were a terrific investment.

 

 

Do you cook in cast iron? What are your favorite brands? Do you have an old standby that you go to each time you cook or bake a specific item? What are some of your money saving tips for the kitchen?

Elderberry syrup

Studies have shown elderberries to be effective at helping fight off colds and flu.

I’m linking to one of our favorite cold and flu season recipes – elderberry syrup. The elderberries, cinnamon and ginger produce a wonderful spicy aroma – perfect for colder weather, and it really packs a punch. It has been a regular favorite for the past few years. Even my pickiest eater loves it.

I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does.

 

Refrigerated, the syrup lasts about two weeks. If your family is like mine though – you’ll be making a new batch by the time two weeks are up!

 

** Don’t forget – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that honey not be given to infants under one year of age.

Adventures in bread and pizza baking and making

My youngest daughter has severe food allergies, which was discovered during allergy testing after a full blown anaphylactic reaction. One of her allergens is found easily in many baked goods as well as skin care products and cosmetics. We have found eating at home to be not only necessary but it also has the added bonus of being financially practical as well.

 

I had always enjoyed baking but never had the time to indulge much, with working full time. After my children were born and I stayed home, I still didn’t have that much time to slip into the kitchen to mix ingredients and bake, with my girls being not-quite thirteen months apart in age. As they got older, I would bake the usual fare – birthday cakes, cookies on occasion, and muffins. After my youngest daughter’s allergy diagnoses I started baking a lot more and I began with bread. I found a recipe that looked relatively easy and my first few attempts, weren’t great – I didn’t own a stand mixer with a dough hook so I did it by hand and the first few times, the bread would come out of the oven with some parts still full of unmixed flour. Or it would be too dense and not airy, the way I wanted it. I missed the perfect loaves I used to get  from the Whole Foods bakery section – Seduction bread and the ciabatta bread. I had to get better at this bread baking business.

 

Turning vegan for me wasn’t so much a matter of choice but of necessity. I’m horribly lactose intolerant, like, you don’t even want to know what happens when I eat dairy. After I cut that out, I had no taste for meat, and from there my taste for other animal products dropped away. But growing up an Italian girl from the East coast, I spent my childhood eating pizza indiscriminately – fair pizza, good pizza, fantastic pizza, and (my personal favorite) perfect pizza. I still loved pizza (even though I’ve never found a cheese substitute that works for me) and I started with a recipe in one of my cookbooks and set to work, The pizza dough was easy – which was a success I needed after my sub-par loaves of bread.

 

I went back to the bread. A carb addict from way back when, I can remember childhood Thanksgivings spent avoiding the turkey and vegetables, and happily eating a plateful of mashed potatoes and rolls. I had to master the art of bread baking, I just had to. Over a period of about six months I improved my mixing and kneading techniques. I switched out the pinch of sugar for a touch of honey and my bread eventually came out lighter and airier, the way I had hoped for. I stuck with this bread for the next few years until a friend found success with a no-knead method she had read about in Jim Lahey’s book  “My Bread” and suggested I read the book and give it a try. I did and I’ve never wanted to look back since. I bought a food scale and could throw two bowls of bread dough together in less time than it took me to do anything else in the kitchen. After getting married, my grandmother had given me a super old enameled cast iron pot that I had never used much in the six years I’d had it, but it was perfect for baking the bread in. I’ve been baking this bread now for about a year and each time it seems to improve, or so says my husband.

 

By the way – if you’re interested, I just noticed when getting the link for the Jim Lahey book that he has a new book on making pizza.

 

Do you have a particular method you prefer with bread dough? Love a specific stand mixer? Have a great cheese substitute idea to share? Please do!