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Basic Handmade Soap Terminology: Learn About Your Soap

For people new to buying or making handmade soaps, sometimes the terminology can be confusing. Here are a few of the basic terms you’re likely to come across and basic information on what they mean.

Cold process (cp)

This is the most traditional method. A lye (sodium hydroxide) solution with oils once they are both in a certain temperature range and stirred like mad until the mixture thickens. At this point, fragrances, essential oils and herbs can be added. The mixture is then poured into molds and left to harden and finish the chemical reaction for about 24 to 48 hours, depending on the recipe. After this time, the soap is removed from the molds and then allowed to cure for about 4-6 weeks. This lets excess water from the soap evaporate and makes the soap last longer.

Hot process (hp)

Hot process is very similar to cold process, except that the lye and oil mixture is cooked over a low temperature until the reaction is complete. Fragrances, essential oils and herbs can be added after the cook. The cooked mixture is then poured into molds and left to harden. The soap is safe to use immediately after it hardens, although it is best to allow the soap to cure for at least a week or two. Since some of the water evaporates during the cooking process, hp soap doesn’t have to cure for as long.

Melt and pour (mp)

This is probably the easiest for a beginner or for people uncomfortable with working with lye. A soap base that has been formulated to melt easily is melted down over low heat. Once it has thoroughly melted, fragrances, essential oils and herbs can be added. The soap is then poured into molds. This type of soap can be used as soon as the soap has sufficiently hardened.

Soap bases can be purchased from most craft stores, although you’ll generally find better quality bases from specialty suppliers.

Hand milled or rebatched

This is very similar to melt and pour except that instead of a soap base, grated soap is combined with a liquid and melted down. Some soap makers like to make plain batches of cp or hp soap and then hand mill it and add the fragrances, etc. then.

Hand milled bars can be firmer, although it really depends on the amount of liquid added and the length of time the soap is cured.

This is just a basic overview. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

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Easy Gluten & Dairy Free Fruit Cobbler

This fruit cobbler is easy to make and uses mostly pantry staples. From start to finish, you’ll have a delicious cobbler in under an hour. If you aren’t gluten or dairy free, I’ve included the ingredients for that, too!

Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free flour blend* is my favorite for baking, but I’ve used others with success, too. If you use a blend that doesn’t have xanthan gum or something similar, I do recommend adding probably about 1/4 of a teaspoon of xanthan gum as well.

The assembly and not stirring part seems a little weird, but trust the process. My oven runs hot, so I start checking it after about 40 minutes. Sometimes different flour blends can make a difference, too, so the first time you make it, I recommend checking it early. When the top is golden and just starting to brown around the edges, it’s done. Enjoy!

Easy Gluten and Dairy Free Fruit Cobbler

This fruit cobbler is easy to make and uses mostly pantry staples. From start to finish, you'll have a delicious cobbler in under an hour. If you aren't gluten or dairy free, I've included the ingredients for that, too!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: dairy free, easy, egg free, gluten free, simple, vegan
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 0.25 cup coconut oil Or your preferred butter substitute, or just butter if you eat dairy.
  • 1 cup gluten free flour blend I like Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free flour blend. Use regular flour if you're not gluten free.
  • 1 cup almond milk Or your preferred plant milk, or just milk if you eat dairy.
  • 1 tsp baking powder I accidentally used a tablespoon once and it came out a little fluffier. I haven't decided which I prefer, so experiment and see what you like.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can fruit pie filling (20 oz) Cherry is my favorite, but apple and blueberry are really good, too.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract Optional, but I add vanilla to just about everything sweet.

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Add coconut oil or substitute to a 2 quart baking dish and place in the oven to melt. I do this even if the oil is already liquid to warm it up.
  • Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the milk and vanilla (if using) to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • When the oil or butter is melted, add the batter to the baking dish. DO NOT STIR.
  • Pour the fruit pie filling on top of the batter. Again, DO NOT STIR.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Notes

The assembly and not stirring part seems a little weird, but trust the process. My oven runs hot, so I start checking it after about 40 minutes. Sometimes different flour blends can make a difference, too, so the first time you make it, I recommend checking it early. When the top is golden and just starting to brown around the edges, it’s done. Enjoy!

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*Note: If you make a purchase through this Amazon link, I will receive a small commission. It doesn’t change the cost to you.  

Fruit cobbler
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How to make powdered laundry detergent

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergents have always been problematic for me. Certain brands irritate my skin, and I’ve never been able to pinpoint what ingredient is the problem. Even if I knew, most laundry detergents don’t exactly provide a list of ingredients I could check. Luckily, laundry detergent is easy to make. Doing it yourself not only allows you to control what ingredients are in your detergent, it also saves a ton of money.

My recipe uses four basic ingredients stocked by many supermarkets now, and one optional ingredient.

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Borax
  • 2 parts Washing Soda
  • 1 part Grated Bar Soap
  • 0.25 part Baking Soda
  • Optional Fragrance Oil or Essential Oil  

Prep:

You’ll want a clean, dry, lidded container or bag to store your homemade laundry detergent. If the container isn’t air-tight, the detergent may clump from moisture in the air. Usually it’s easy to break it up, so this isn’t a big problem. If you don’t do laundry very often, though, you probably want to store it in something with a good seal.

The soap can be anything. Most people start out using a laundry soap like Fels Naptha. Once I started making my own soap, I switched to using whatever basic recipe soap I had on hand. You can grate it by hand with a cheese grater or with a shredding disk on a food processor. 

Make it:

Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If you’re not familiar with the “parts” measurement, it’s a simple way of making a recipe fit whatever amount you need by giving the amounts as a ratio instead of a specific measurement. You could substitute “cup” for “parts” if that makes it easier.  

Options:

Leave it unscented, use a scented bar of soap, or add your choice of fragrance or essential oil to the combined ingredients and stir to combine. I usually use about half an ounce of fragrance oil per batch. With essential oils, I usually start with 15 drops or so and see how it smells before adding any more. I’ve heard you could use your favorite cologne or perfume, but I haven’t personally tried it. 

Use it:

I use about two tablespoons per load in my top loading machine. You can use one tablespoon for lightly soiled loads, but with my family, every load is a two tablespoon load.

Laundry Detergent
DIY Powdered Laundry Detergent
DIY Laundry detergent

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe – Enjoy Your Favorite Fall Drink at Home!

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ready for all things pumpkin? Here’s my favorite recipe to make a pumpkin spice latte. Make it with tea, coffee or milk in a smoothie for a healthy, frugal way to enjoy pumpkin spice at home.

Jump to Printable Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe:

  • 1 and ¼ cup brewed coffee (or tea)
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree
  • 2-3 tablespoons of milk (original recipe called for coconut. I usually use almond milk. You can use whole milk, too.)
  • 1/3-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Optional: a dash to 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric
  • Maple syrup, sugar or honey to taste. I like maple syrup.

To make:

Blend all ingredients together. Top with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg. Enjoy. Repeat. 🙂

I’ve also used this basic recipe to make a pumpkin spice smoothie. All you do is swap out the coffee for the milk of your choice and add a frozen banana or a fresh banana and some ice. While it’s healthy as is, I also like to add an extra spoonful of pumpkin to up the vitamin content, as well as some chia or flax seeds. You could easily leave those out, though.

Printable Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

With just a few simple ingredients, you can make a yummy pumpkin spice latte inexpensively at home. I've included variations for a chai latte and smoothie, too! The recipe serves one or two, depending on how much coffee you drink. 😉
Prep Time2 mins
Cook Time2 mins
Course: Drinks
Keyword: Chai, Coffee, dairy free, gluten free, healthy, Latte, Pumpkin Spice, smoothie, Tea
Servings: 2 people

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/4 Cups brewed tea or coffee
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin puree/canned pumpkin
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Milk of choice. I usually use almond milk.
  • 1/3-1/5 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 Teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 Teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 Teaspoon ground tumeric (optional)
  • Maple syrup, sugar or honey to taste.
  • Whipped Cream (optional)

Instructions

  • Blend all ingredients together.
  • Top with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg. I like the non-dairy Reddi-Wip
  • Enjoy.

Notes

I’ve also used this basic recipe to make a pumpkin spice smoothie. Just swap the coffee or tea for the milk of your choice and add a frozen banana or fresh banana and ice. Blend thoroughly. 
While it’s healthy as-is, I like to add an extra spoonful of pumpkin to up the vitamin content, as well as some chia or flax seeds. You can easily leave those out, though.
 
 

Have a happy Pumpkin season!

Pumpkin Spice Latte

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Wicked Weeds or Nutritious Wild Edibles

It has always bothered me that only certain plants are seen as acceptable and others are weeds that must be pulled or poisoned out of our yards. When you consider that the so-called weeds require fewer resources like water because, if left alone, they grow like, well, weeds, it makes even less sense. Why remove a low maintenance plant and replace it with something high maintenance? This thinking got me researching the uncultivated plants that grow in my yard and in my neighborhood. To my surprise, many of the weeds are actually wild edibles that are often highly nutritious or medicinal. 

Even though we live in the city, our large lot provides plenty of variety of wild edible plants. I’ve found the Picture This app very helpful for identifying the plants in my yard. Here’s a few of the most common I’ve found.

A few notes on Safety with Wild Edibles

If you decide to look around your neighborhood, please, be sure you know for sure what plant you have before eating anything. I recommend checking multiple sources. Foraging for wild edibles is fun, as long as you use caution and only eat the plants you are 100% sure about. 

I’m finding that most wild greens are high in oxalic acid, so it’s important to not overdo it and be extra cautious if you have any medical concerns.

Henbit

Henbit, or Lamium amplexicaule is very common to see in early spring. It gets it’s name because chickens love it. As one of the first flowers of the year, it is an important food source for bees, so be mindful if you choose to harvest any.

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

A member of the mint family, henbit is rich in vitamins and minerals. You can eat the leaves and flowers raw in salads or cooked. Tea made from henbit is also thought to reduce stress and anxiety.

Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel is super easy to identify. It’s a little shamrock! The wood sorrel we have produces little yellow flowers and has a lemony taste. My favorite part are the little seed pods. They look like teeny tiny okra and taste like lemon candy.

Image by GK von Skoddeheimen from Pixabay

Wood sorrel is delicate, so it’s best to eat it fresh. Like many foraged plants, it’s high in oxalic acid, so don’t eat a lot and proceed with caution if you have any condition that would make oxalic acid especially dangerous.

Sunflowers

Did you know that you can eat more than just the sunflower seeds? The entire plant is edible! The leaves are eaten like spinach or brewed into tea. The petals and roots can be made into tea as well.

Dried sunflowers waiting to be made into tea, balms and soaps.

Flower buds can be cooked and eaten. I haven’t tried it yet, but I read they taste similar to artichokes. Apparently the stems taste like celery, and make a tasty snack. In addition to tea, the roots can be steamed, roasted or eaten raw.

Sunflowers are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Sunflower leaves are thought to help with inflammation when applied topically as a poultice or drank as a tea. The tea is also supposed to be good for sore throats.

Want to learn about more wild edibles?

I started with the most common and easily identifiable plants, but there’s so many more I can share just from my own yard. Let me know if you want to learn more or share your own experiences in the comments below.

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15 Awesome Uses for Coconut Oil

If I had to pick only one oil to keep around, it would be coconut oil. This versatile oil has many applications in and out of the kitchen. Here’s fifteen of my favorite uses for coconut oil.

Coconut Oil in the Kitchen

High Heat Cooking

Coconut oil is a stable oil, unlike olive oil. It doesn’t break down at high temperatures, making it great for frying, sautéing and other high-heat cooking applications.

Dairy and Animal Fat Substitute

Coconut oil is also a great butter substitute for those avoiding dairy. It also makes a great substitution for tallow or lard.

Cooking Popcorn

If you like cooking popcorn on the stove the “old-fashioned” way, coconut oil is the best. It adds a wonderful flavor to the popcorn, and holds up to the high temperature. My favorite way to eat popcorn is cooked in coconut oil and topped with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. It’s so simple and yet so yummy!

Season Cast Iron Skillets with Coconut Oil

I love my cast iron skillets. Whenever I need to re-season them, coconut oil is my go-to oil.

Coconut Oil for Cleaning

Natural Furniture Polish

The natural furniture polish recipe I use calls for olive oil, but coconut oil is a suitable substitute. It’s a little lighter and less greasy than olive oil, so it polishes out nicely. It also has a longer shelf-life, so there’s little worry about using it up before it goes rancid.

Stuck on Stickers

Rubbing a little coconut oil on sticker residue helps remove the residue without harming the surface underneath. I like to coat the sticker residue with oil and let it sit for a few minutes. Wipe in a circular motion with a rag or gentle scrubber until the residue is gone.

Coconut Oil for Hair

Protect and Treat Your Hair

I’ve seen it recommended to coat your hair in coconut oil and leave it in overnight before lightening your hair with bleach. While I personally haven’t tried that, since lightening my hair, I put a small amount of oil on my hair almost every day. I especially focus on drier or damaged areas. Since I started doing this, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my hair. It’s definitely stronger and smoother.

Deep Condition with Coconut Oil

Even if you haven’t tortured your hair with bleach, a deep conditioning treatment is good from time to time. Apply the oil to your hair and cover with a shower cap. Leave it in for a few hours or overnight and then wash out. A couple of drops of essential oil added to the oil makes the conditioning treatment even more luxurious.

Frizz Fighter

Rub a couple of drops of coconut oil in your hands and then smooth over the ends of your hair to keep frizz away.

Coconut Oil for Skin

Moisturize Your Skin

Coconut oil is great as a moisturizer. Start with a little and massage in to moisturize or to soothe dry, irritated skin. It even helps some eczema!

Diaper Ointment

Coconut oil provides a gentle, moisturizing barrier to soothe and protect babies’ bottoms. Unlike many commercial diaper creams, it is considered safe for cloth diapers. Do check with the manufacturer for their recommendations first, as using unapproved products can void any warranties.

Makeup Remover

A little coconut oil easily takes off eye makeup. I like to put it on a cotton square and gently swipe away makeup. As a bonus, it moisturizes your skin as it removes the makeup.

Shaving Cream

Shaving with coconut oil leaves my legs feeling soft, smooth and moisturized. I don’t even need to use lotion afterwards.

Handmade Soap

I use coconut oil in all of my soap recipes. It helps to create a firm bar that produces lots of fluffy lather.

Pumpkin lavender roll on

Essential Oil Carrier

Coconut oil is my favorite carrier oil for essential oils. It’s not too heavy and absorbs nicely into the skin. If you use the refined oil, there’s no real coconut scent to compete with the essential oils.

15 Awesome Uses for Coconut Oil
Image by moho01 from Pixabay

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Garden Tour: Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Jalapenos, Beans, Wild Amaranth and a Sale

Bell peppers in the garden

After years of living here, we finally planted an actual garden this year. These aren’t all of the plants, but they’re the ones that are doing the best so far. In the future, I’ll have to update as the others get more interesting, and share about all of my container plants, too.

Bell Peppers

I honestly have no idea how big I should let these get before harvesting. I know they will change color, so while I do enjoy green peppers, I figure letting at least a few turn red will let me know when they’re ready.

Bell peppers in the garden
Green bell peppers

Tomatoes

We planted a couple of varieties of tomato plants, then a neighbor gave us a few more, so we should have lots of tomatoes this year.

Huge green tomato
Green tomatoes

Those lovely tomatoes on the bottom got so big that they started to break the plant. Chris harvested them, and I did the yummiest thing I could think to do with green tomatoes: fry them.

Jalapenos

We have one jalapeno plant, and it’s an overachiever. We’ve already harvested four peppers and there’s about a dozen more currently on the plant.

Jalapeno plant
Jalapenos

You can see a few in the photo. There’s more hiding behind the leaves.

Pumpkin

The pumpkin was kind of an accident. We left an uncarved pumpkin sitting out front all winter. After the freeze in February it split and all the seeds were exposed. I through some soil on it and ignored it. Before long, we had about a million little pumpkin plants. I transplanted a few to the garden area and they’ve taken off.

Pumpkin plants
Pumpkin plants.

Some of the pumpkin plants left in the front were huge, but they took over the walkway and started getting damaged from the dogs walking through them, so we removed them. Hopefully these will continue to grow. It would be so cool to have pumpkins from our own garden this fall.

Beans

A few months ago, my clumsy self picked up a bag of pinto beans the wrong way and spilled a bunch on the floor. I decided to try to sprout them by soaking. When they sprouted, I planted them in the garden. These three plants are the survivors.

Pinto beans
Three little bean plants.

I have no idea if they need more support than just being allowed to climb the fence. I guess we’ll see.

Amaranth

The last major plant that’s taking off is, unsurprisingly, the amaranth. Amaranth literally grows as a weed around here, and we actually started our amaranth patch from weeds. The leaves are an awesome spinach replacement, and the seeds can be cooked or ground into flour. So far we’ve never harvested the seeds, but we do use the greens. It is important to note that they do contain a lot of oxalic acid, so you have to be careful of that. I’ve heard blanching helps to reduce the amount of oxalic acid, so I do that when cooking with amaranth.

Here’s a video of Chris harvesting some of our amaranth, filmed by Beckett.

What are your favorite things to plant? If you’ve been gardening this year, I would love to see.

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