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Easy Natural Furniture Polish

I have quite a bit of finished wood furniture that I love, except when it comes to polishing. There’s always some sticky fingerprints or a glob of something unidentifiable (thank you, Thaddeus). Most commercial polishes do okay on relatively clean surfaces, but don’t do a great job on the really messy stuff. Sometimes I’d spray some polish right on the spots, polish the rest and hope the globs loosened up enough to wipe away. Once in a while it worked. Other times it resulted in a ring around the spot while the sticky may or may not have loosened at all.

I finally did a little research on homemade furniture polish recipes. Here’s the one I use.

DIY Natural Furniture Polish

Ingredients:

3 parts olive oil
1 part vinegar
Splash lemon juice (optional)

Combine everything in a spray bottle and shake to mix. Some recommend storing it in the refrigerator or only making what you’ll use in a day. I make about 1-2 cups worth at a time  and keep it at room temperature. So far I haven’t had problems with it spoiling.

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For light polishing, I spray the rag and wipe. For heavier cleaning, I spray directly where needed. I have never had it leave a ring, and it buffs nicely without leaving a residue. It works equally well on furniture with a matte stain and pieces with a high gloss varnish.

I love that this recipe uses things I have around the house and costs less than even the cheap commercial polishes.  I also like knowing that it is completely nontoxic. I can let Thadd help without worrying that it might hurt him if he sprays it in his face. Or my face. Seriously, you never know with this kid.

You could probably customize it with a few drops of essential oils, too. I think something citrus-y would be nice. Also, if you don’t have olive oil, you could try swapping it with whatever you have on hand.

Give it a try and tell me what you think. If you’d like more “green” cleaning options check out my recipe for soft scrub and my all purpose cleaner recipe.

For my handmade home and laundry products, click the link below.

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10 Reasons I Love My Electric Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)

This was originally posted in 2017. I’ve been using my electric pressure cooker a lot lately to have easy, healthy meals. It’s been a while since I’ve shared, so I thought it was a good time to revisit it.

Last Christmas my lovely parents bought us an 8 qt. GoWise Pressure cooker that I have used almost daily ever since. This is the exact one I have:

With all the sales happening, and the Instant Pot craze still going strong, I know lots of people will be getting an electric pressure cooker and then wondering what to do with it. At least that’s what I did. Now that I’ve used mine for a while, I have some favorite uses for it to share with newbies. I have never used an official Instant Pot, so I can’t say how they compare. They should work about the same, though, so if you have an Instant Pot or other similar electric pressure cooker you should be able to enjoy all this awesomeness, too.

10 Reasons I Love My Electric Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)

Easy Instant Pot Boiled eggs:

Boiled eggs on the stovetop are easy, unless you’re getting ready for work or school or have young children or are otherwise easily distracted. Then you either burn them or undercook them. Peeling them also is hit or miss. Sometimes the shell comes off easily, other times it takes half the egg white with it.

In the electric pressure cooker, I can put a dozen eggs in the steamer basket with a little water, push the button for eggs (mine has 1,3, and 5 minute settings for soft, medium and hard), and forget about it. The end result is perfectly cooked eggs that peel so easily my two year old can do it.

Potatoes:

Even in the microwave, I have a hard time getting potatoes and sweet potatoes to cook properly. It seems like I always have to restart it a few times to finally get them done. With the pressure cooker, I set it for 15-17 minutes depending on how soft I want them, and they are always done. I’m trying to quit using my microwave all together, too, so the pressure cooker is definitely the faster option compares to the oven.

Slow cooker recipes:

Anything you’d make in a crockpot can be cooked in the pressure cooker. You can either use the slow cooker setting, or, if you forgot about cooking dinner until after lunch, you can cook it under pressure and have it done in an hour or less.

Not only that, but, unlike with a slow cooker, you can use the sauté setting to brown meats or anything that needs browning first. That means more flavor with fewer dirty dishes.

Beans:

If I forget to presoak dry beans, I’ll put them in my pressure cooker for five minutes to do a quick presoak, drain, and add back to the pot along with the seasonings and broth or cooking water, then cook using the bean setting. It’s possible to skip the presoak entirely and go straight to cooking, if I’m short on time, but I prefer to presoak when I can.

If I get them cooking early enough in the day, I’ll switch to the slow cooker setting after they’ve cooked with pressure. That gives them the super yummy, second day flavor on day one.

Stews, soups and curries:

Browning meats and onions in the pot add flavor, and you can use the pressure then slow cook trick to further develop the flavor.

Bone broth:

Normally I would simmer bones all day on the stove for broth. With the pressure cooker, I set it to the two hour maximum time and get yummy bone broth. Easy Homemade Chicken Broth in an Electric Pressure Cooker

Stackable foods:

Smaller meats like chicken breasts, vegetables and rice can be put into separate heat-proof containers and steam cooked at the same time. I usually cook too much at once to do that, but when it works out, it is handy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen like using the oven. Easy All in One Electric Pressure Cooker Meal

Rice:

It cooks rice even better than my little rice cooker, and I don’t risk burning it like I do on the stovetop. (There’s lots of distractions here, people.) I don’t use it much for rice, though, since I usually cook curries and things I serve with rice in the pressure cooker. Whenever my rice cooker dies, though, I’m seriously considering a second, smaller pressure cooker as a replacement.

Yogurt:

I haven’t quite perfected yogurt with any method yet, but so far, the best I’ve made is in jars on the trivet in the pressure cooker. It is still a little runny, but it works well for smoothies.

Baking in an Instant Pot:

I’ve only done this once, but thought I’d mention it. You can bake cakes and breads in it by setting the bread or cake pan on the trivet and adding water to the pot for steam. This helps keep the bread or cake moist, which is especially handy for baking with gluten or grain-free flours.

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Ways to use your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker.
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How to Grow Your Own Herbs

With the cost of everything going up, many people are turning to gardening as a way to save money on food. Depending on your location or gardening experience or abilities, a fruit or vegetable garden may seem daunting or just not possible. One way to get started that doesn’t require a huge amount of space is planting an herb garden. Dried herbs from the store are pricey, so growing your own still can help your budget while giving your food loads of fresh flavor.

Starting Your Herb Garden

 

Choosing Your Herbs

First you’ll want to choose the herbs that you’ll plant. You might have a hard time doing this because of the huge scope of herbs available. The most practical way to choose is to do what I did; look at what you have in your kitchen. By planting your own collection of the herbs you already use, you know you’ll get the most use from your garden. Some of the herbs you might start with include rosemary, sage, basil, dill, mint, chives, and parsley.

Don’t feel that you have to only start with these, though. If there’s an herb you’re curious about, give it a try. If plant medicine is something that interests you, research and plant a few basics like lavender, catnip or lemon balm.

Location

When choosing an area to put your herb garden, you should remember that the soil should have extremely good drainage. If the dirt gets watered and stays completely saturated, you have no chance of ever growing a healthy plant.

One way to fix the drainage problem is to dig a foot deep in the soil, and put a layer of crushed rocks down before replacing all the soil. This will allow all that water to escape, thus saving your plants.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Another way is to build a raised bed. This allows you to fill the bed with a suitable soil mix without having to dig down deep into your existing soil. Raised beds can be made from timbers, bricks or any suitable material you have available.

If you are incredibly limited on space or don’t have a yard at all, herbs are perfect for container gardens.

Getting your plants

When you are ready to begin planting herbs, you might be tempted to buy the more expensive plants from the store. However, with herbs it is much easier to grow them from seed than it is with other plants. Therefore you can save a bundle of money by sticking with seed packets. If you’re a little impatient (like me), a selectively chosen plant or two is nice for some greenery to tend while you wait for the seeds to sprout.

I personally haven’t had much luck with starting lavender or rosemary from seed, so I would choose those to get as a small plant. Plants in the mint family and basils do really well from seed, so save your money on those.

Once mints start growing, they can get out of control. The best way to prevent this problem is to plant the more aggressive plants in pots (with holes in the bottom to allow drainage, of course).

Harvesting from Your Herb Garden

When it comes time to harvest the herbs you have labored so hard over, it can be fatal to your plant to take off too much. If your plant isn’t well established, it isn’t healthy to take any leaves at all, even if it looks like it isn’t using them. You should wait until your plant has been well established for at least a few months before taking off any leaves. This wait will definitely be worth it, because by growing unabated your plant will produce healthily for years to come.

It’s a good idea to harvest from the ends of the plants as needed throughout the growing season to keep the shape and encourage new growth. The end of the season is when you’ll want to harvest and dry more of the plant for storage. Do check recommendations for the specific herbs in your garden as not all are the same.

Storing Your Herbs

Once you’ve harvested your delicious home grown herbs, you’ll want to use them year round. The easiest way to store them is drying. If you have a safe place to hang them to air dry that isn’t overly humid, that is the simplest. I also think this way preserves the most color and flavor.

You could also use a food dehydrator on the recommended settings. If not, don’t worry. You can dry them in the oven. This is easily achieved by placing them on a cookie sheet and baking them on the lowest setting, usually around 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 4 hours. After they’re sufficiently dried, store them in an airtight container such as a Ziploc bag or glass jar. I think they look beautiful in glass jars, so save any you get to upcycle as herb storage.

Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

During the first few days of storage, you should regularly check the container and see if any moisture has accumulated. If it has, you must remove all the herbs and re-dry them. If moisture is left from the first drying process, it will encourage mildew.

Herbs are a fun, easy and useful way to get into gardening no matter what your space. I encourage you to give it a try.

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Quick Drawstring Bag Tutorial or How to Reuse Your SubEarthan Cottage Soap Wrapping

I wrap my soaps in fabric because it looks nice, it allows the soap to breathe (read here for why), and because it feels better than plastic. I often wonder what happens to the wrapping. I’m sure there are some that toss it. I know of one person who collects the fabric for quilts. For those of you who, like me, don’t want to throw away something that could be useful but don’t know what to do with it, I have a tutorial for a drawstring pouch, just for you.

This is done with the wrapping from one of my soaps, but you could make it in any size you like.

Materials
Cloth wrapper from soap (roughly 8×11 inches)
Jute string from soap (about 29 inches)
Thread

Tools
Needle or Sewing machine
Safety pin or Bodkin
Scissors
Iron

First, iron your fabric flat. Then, fold down a long edge about 3/4 of an inch to one inch and press. This is for the casing. It doesn’t have to be super precise.

Sew a straight seam along the bottom of the flap to form the casing. All the sewing can be done by hand or machine. I have no time or patience, so I choose machine. Fold your material in half with right sides together like a book.

The fold is at the bottom of this photo.

Next, starting just below the casing seam, sew down the side and across the bottom. I use anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance for this. Again, it doesn’t have to be precise.

With scissors, clip the bottom corners, being careful not to cut your stitching. You could probably skip this step, but it helps the corners look square and crisp. Turn your bag right side out.

Now it’s time to thread the string. Tie one end of the string to a safety pin, large paper clip, or attach a small bodkin. This makes it easier to work it through the casing. Thread it through the casing, safety pin first.

Once you get the string to the other side, remove your safety pin or other tool and adjust the string so that the ends are even.

Knot the ends together once or twice to keep it from coming out.

Ta-da! It’s done! Perfect for organizing your purse, storing jewelry or other small items, or as a small gift bag.

Or holding your favorite bar of soap.

Tutorials are always a little complicated to write because it’s easy to overlook small steps in things you do frequently. If something is unclear, please ask. 🙂

If you have any other creative uses for a SubEarthan Cottage soap wrapper, I would love to hear it!

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Instant Pot Sausage Potato Soup (Great for Crock Pots, Too!)

With freezing temperatures and possible snow in the forecast, it seemed like the perfect time to revisit this delicious sausage potato soup recipe.

I love the slightly spicy, creamy Zuppa Toscana soup from Olive Garden. Since going gluten-free and dairy-free, Zuppa Toscana and pretty much anything Olive Garden are out of the question. With the cold weather, though, I really crave soups. I made some potato soup a few days ago that was yummy, but just not the same. Today I realized I happened to have everything I needed to attempt a sausage and potato soup very much like Zuppa Toscana.

It doesn’t have quite the same creaminess due to substituting almond milk. Cashew milk is a creamier substitute, but I didn’t have any on hand. For a first dairy-free attempt, it turned out pretty darn close.

I made my sausage potato soup in my electric pressure cooker. You could easily make it in a slow cooker or on the stove top, but I like how the pressure cooker really develops the flavors, similar to cooking in a slow cooker but without the long cook time. I also love that I can use the saute function on my pressure cooker to brown the sausage. This prevents having to dirty a skillet, like I would if I used a slow cooker.

Sausage Potato Soup

Dairy and gluten free sausage potato soup inspired by Olive Garden's zuppa toscana. I prefer making it in my electric pressure cooker but it could easily be done in a slow cooker or on the stove top.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Soup
Keyword: dairy free, Electric Pressure Cooker, gluten free, Instant Pot, simple
Servings: 6 people

Equipment

  • Electric Pressure Cooker, unless cooking on stove top or slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Ground Sausage
  • 3-4 Largish potatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium Onion, diced White or yellow.
  • 2-3 cups Kale, torn or chopped. Could substitute spinach or other greens.
  • 6-8 cups Chicken broth (gluten-free if desired) You want enough to cover the rest of the ingredients in the pot without too much over.
  • 2 cups Almond or Cashew milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • Select the "Saute" function on the pressure cooker.
  • Add the olive oil and brown the sausage.
  • Add the onion a few minutes before the sausage finishes browning to soften.
  • When the sausage is browned, turn off the "Saute" function.
  • Add the potatoes, kale, broth and seasonings. Do not add the almond or cashew milk yet.
  • Lock the pressure cooker's lid in place and select the "Soup" function. I used the 30 minute function.
  • After the cooking is complete, either wait for pressure to naturally release or CAREFULLY do a manual release. Soups spray and spatter if you immediately try to release the pressure, so I recommend waiting at least ten minutes if you are going to manually release the pressure.
  • Add the almond/cashew milk and stir. The soup should be hot enough to heat the milk addition without additional cooking.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

I don’t really measure recipes like this, so most measurements are approximate.
The stove top instructions are basically the same. Brown the sausage in a big soup pot, add the ingredients except the milk and simmer for around thirty minutes. Add the milk and serve. 
For the slow cooker, brown the meat on the stove, add everything but the milk to the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Add the milk and serve.

Please leave a comment if you try this and let me know how it turns out. If any of my instructions need clarification, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, too.

For more electric pressure cooker recipes and tips, click here. To stay up to date on SubEarthan Cottage happenings, please sign up for my newsletter.

Sausage Potato Soup Electric Pressure Cooker Instant Pot
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Heating a Rice Pack Without a Microwave

Hot rice packs are wonderful tools for easing muscle aches, cramps, and just comforting to use in cold weather. I prefer using a rice pack to an electric heating pad because you’re not tied to an electrical outlet.

A few years ago, though, I got rid of our microwave. I have some concerns about whether they are healthy, and we rarely used it anyway. Even if the potential health risks are exaggerated or non-existent, I don’t like having things that don’t get used taking up space. At the time, it was summer in Texas, I didn’t really miss my rice packs. Now that it’s cold, I wanted to find a way to heat them without caving and getting another microwave.

Please be cautious. I’ve seen some things that say anything other than a microwave is a fire-risk, so if you try to heat a rice pack in an oven, please never leave it unattended and use extreme caution. All appliances are different, so what works with mine may not work with yours.

Basic oven method

When researching, I found many people say to use an oven set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes. They also said to put the rice pack on a metal tray or roasting pan, and to have a pan or oven-safe dish of water alongside it to keep it from getting too dry.

My method

I was a little concerned that I may forget about it, and my oven doesn’t have a window so keeping an eye on it would be difficult. I do have a counter-top convection oven, so  that is what use. Because the door is glass, I can see in and keep an eye on things. It also has a timer that turns the unit off once time is up, so even if I get distracted I don’t have to worry about it over-heating. 

I always place the rice pack on a tray and put a dish of water in with it as others have suggested. Any rice packs I heat in the oven are made with 100% cotton fabric and thread. Synthetics melt easier and burn faster, whereas cotton can withstand a pretty high heat and burns slower, so cotton seems like a safer choice. 

I started with 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. It worked, but I needed it hotter. I upped it to 300-325 degrees for 15-20 minutes. At that temperature, sometimes I have to let it cool for a minute or wrap it in a towel, but it works better for me than the lower temperature. I tend to push the limit with heat, though, so 200 degrees for thirty minutes is probably plenty for most.

Probably safer method

One other method I’ve seen is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, TURN IT OFF, and place the rice pack (on a tray with heatproof dish of water next to it) in the preheated oven. I haven’t tried this yet, but having the oven hot but turned off seems like it would minimize any risk of the rice pack overheating and burning. If I didn’t have the convection oven, I would probably use this method. 

The standard microwave method

Using a microwave is still the recommended method. To heat rice packs in the microwave, warm it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until you reach the desired temperature. Some people recommend placing a cup of water in the microwave as well.

Basic safety

Whether you use a microwave or an oven, be mindful that they can vary in power. ALWAYS test the temperature of the rice pack before using and never leave the microwave or oven unattended while heating. You should never use heat packs on individuals who are unable to let you know if it feels too warm on their skin.

Lavender rice packs at SubEarthan Cottage

SubEarthan Cottage now offers large 100% cotton flannel rice packs. These are filled with a blend of rice and lavender buds for a pleasant hint of lavender. I sewed channels in the flannel to help keep the rice evenly distributed. They can be heated as described above, or kept in the freezer to use cold. Find all of my rice packs here.

 

Lavender rice packs at SubEarthan Cottage.

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Gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe

Gluten Free Cookies SubEarthan Cottage

At least from what I’ve tasted, most store bought gluten free chocolate chip cookies are very dry and either too sweet or lacking in flavor. Chocolate chip cookies are practically a staple food, so I hacked my grandma’s cookies recipe. The results are definitely not dry, lacking in flavor or too sweet.

Jump to Recipe

The biggest change I made, of course, is using gluten free flour. My preferred flour is Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour. Others will work, but if it’s not one that is blended to be a direct substitute for wheat flour, you will probably want to add about one half teaspoon of xanthan gum.

Even with the 1 to 1 blends, sometimes the cookies spread more than I like. The original recipe calls for one cup and two tablespoons of flour. If I have it on hand, I’ll replace the two tablespoons of flour with a generous one tablespoon of coconut flour. That prevents them from spreading too much. Chilling the dough for a few hours or overnight helps, too, but who has time for that? Besides, the sooner they go in the oven, the less cookie dough I’ll eat.

The original recipe calls for shortening. I would much rather use butter, but one of my boys is lactose intolerant. Straight coconut oil adds to the spreading problem, so I compromise and use half shortening and half coconut oil. The small amount of milk in most chocolate chips isn’t a problem for my son, but using for dairy-free chips would make these completely dairy-free, too! If dairy isn’t a problem, feel free to swap all the fats with butter.

The final change happened after staying up late watching Martha Stewart bake cookies. She mentioned that brown sugar helps make the cookies be moist. The original recipe calls for more white sugar than brown. I tried a few different ratios before settling on using equal amounts of brown and white sugars.

The final result is a yummy, gluten free cookie that isn’t dry and crumbly.

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 well beaten eggs
  • 2 cups 1 to 1 gluten free flour plus 2 generous tablespoons of coconut flour (or 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons 1 to 1 gluten free flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 generous cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Cream together the shortening, coconut oil, sugars and vanilla. I usually use a mixer for everything, but you can do it by hand, too.

Fold in the eggs and mix well.

In another bowl, sift (or just mix really well) the dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients and mix well.

Stir in the chocolate chips. If you are patient, chill the dough for a few hours or overnight.

Otherwise, grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or silicone liners. Greasing is what the original recipe calls for, but I prefer the results from lining the sheets.

Form your cookies (I use a 2 tablespoon sized scoop, but you can make them bigger or smaller) and place them two inches apart on the sheets.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them during the last few minutes. You want them to be golden and not doughy in the middle.

Cool for a few minutes on the sheets before removing them.

A few notes on the recipe: My recipe is actually double the original. I almost never made a single batch because it’s not really any more effort. If you want, you can save some of the dough in the fridge for a few days.

I also don’t have an accurate cookie count, mainly because cookie dough is delicious. I think I can usually get about 36 cookies with my 2 tablespoon scoop, but that is a a very rough guess.

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Yummy gluten and dairy free chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can be made with real butter and flour if you don't have those restrictions.
Cook Time8 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: chocolate, cookie, dairy free, gluten free
Servings: 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups gluten free 1 to 1 flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour Or 4 more tablespoons gluten free flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips Make sure these are gluten and dairy free!

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  • Cream together the shortening, coconut oil, sugars and vanilla. I usually use a mixer for everything, but you can do it by hand, too.
  • Fold in the eggs and mix well.
  • In another bowl, sift (or just mix really well) the dry ingredients.
  • Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips. If you are patient, chill the dough for a few hours or overnight. This helps prevent spreading. I am not patient, lol.
  • To bake, grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or silicone liners. Greasing is what the original recipe calls for, but I prefer the results from lining the sheets.
  • Form your cookies (I use a 2 tablespoon sized scoop, but you can make them bigger or smaller) and place them two inches apart on the sheets.
  • Bake for about 8-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them during the last few minutes. You want them to be golden and not doughy in the middle.
  • Cool for a few minutes on the sheets before removing them.

Notes

A few notes on the recipe: My recipe is actually double the original. I almost never made a single batch because it’s not really any more effort. If you want, you can save some of the dough in the fridge for a few days.
You can use all shortening instead of half shortening and half coconut oil, or use all butter or butter substitute. 
I also don’t have an accurate cookie count, mainly because cookie dough is delicious. I think I can usually get about 36 cookies with my 2 tablespoon scoop, but that is a a very rough guess.