Saturday, June 21, 2014

One of THOSE Mothers Part 2: When Life Gives You Lemons

So a couple of weeks ago I admitted to being cheap because I make as many of my own cleaning supplies as I can out of stuff I already have like vinegar, dish soap and baking soda because, well, I'm cheap but also because I can't take the way most commercial cleaners smell. One of my biggest issues is that when a cleaner says it smells like, say, oranges it should smell like oranges and not a chemical approximation of oranges. I like the idea of using citrus cleaners but the reality always leaves me opening a window for ventilation.

A couple of years ago I tried making natural citrus cleaner with a recipe I found on the internet that involved cut up fruit, water, yeast and brown sugar fermented for about a month. Other people swear by this stuff so how bad could it be? Yeah. For me the smell was as bad as a commercial cleaner and it stained if I sprayed it on something and let it set too long. And the yeasty smell lingered. With bread or beer that isn't a bad thing but in my bathroom it was kind of gross.

In the last few weeks I've made two batches of lemon curd so I had a bunch of lemon carcasses that I couldn't bear to just pitch out. I Googled "homemade citrus cleaner" again and the whole first page was the awful fermented recipe but somewhere in there I found a different one. Are you ready for this?


Put cut up lemons in a glass jar, fill with white vinegar till the lemons are covered, screw on the lid, give it a shake and let it sit for two weeks. Give it a shake every once in a while and add more vinegar as needed as the lemons soak it up. At the end of two weeks, strain it through a fine mesh strainer.

I used a pint Mason jar and wound up with a full cup of lemon-infused vinegar. I diluted it half and half with water in a spray bottle and went to town on my kitchen counters this morning (my husband made pierogies last night so there was grease spattered everywhere).

This stuff? This stuff is awesome! And it smells like actual lemons! I'm wondering now how it would work with limes because I'm supposed to make a Key-ish Lime Pie this week (I'm hoping I can find Key Limes but not counting on it).

Okay, chemistry experiment done, I didn't destroy anything and my counters are clean -- total win! Have a great weekend and if you have any homemade or less-toxic cleaners that you swear by leave them in the comments.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

This Week In Culinary Disasters

Okay, I'm not a bad cook. I'm a wildly inconsistent one, though. Sometimes I knock it out of the park for weeks at a time and then, uh, there are weeks like this one.

It started out really well last Saturday with Double Chocolate Scones for which I bought a quart of buttermilk to only use one cup. Sixteen scones baked Saturday afternoon + a family of five = they were all gone by Sunday afternoon. That should have been a minus, shouldn't it? Have I mentioned math makes me cry? Anyway, I had three cups of buttermilk to figure out what to do with so of course that meant pancakes. So far so good.

It was the shortcakes that shook my confidence. Scones are easy because you need to separate them. With shortcakes and other biscuity things you need to bake them kind of smooshed together so they rise and I always forget. So the shortcakes tasted just fine, they were just shorter than they should have been.

Then there was the mayo. I made macaroni salad on Monday with regular mayo instead of the drippy-egg-yolk-yellow-did-I-mention-it's-gross?-gunk that's marketed as being "Amish style" by people who I'm not certain have ever met any Amish cooks. I have and I guarantee you that stuff is wrong. Anyway, somewhere between the macaroni salad and the chicken salad I was making a couple of days later someone other than me used up the rest of the mayo and put the container back in the fridge. It was late and I'd already changed into pjs by the time I discovered this so I did what anyone with a half an idea would do: I Googled "homemade mayo."

Yeah. Two things: when Emeril says "use a blender" then do that rather than trying to make do with a mixer and don't forget whose recipe you clicked because while I'm sure Emeril and Alton get along well in real life what happened in my mixing bowl was decidedly not friendly. It was just as well, really, because as I was standing there looking confused and swearing at the nonsense I was making my eleven-year-old made toast out of the two last pieces of bread. *sigh* I put everything back and had a bowl of cereal instead.

Now bread I can do, just not at 8:00 at night. I've had this recipe for so long that I don't remember where I got it (my stepmother is the most likely suspect) and it's so forgiving that even I can't screw it up. And it's reeeeally good. Like really really. Ready?

Honey Oatmeal Bread

You'll need:

1 1/4 + 1/4 c of water
1/2 c of honey
1/3 c of butter
5 1/2 - 6 1/2 c of flour
1 c of quick oats
2 tsp of salt
1 package of yeast
1/4 tsp of sugar
2 eggs

1. Proof the yeast in the 1/4 c of warm water and using the 1/4 tsp of sugar following the directions on the package. Set aside.

2. Combine the rest of the water, the honey and the butter in a saucepan and heat it till it's very warm but not hot. If it's too hot it'll kill the yeast when you combine them in step 3.

3. In a large bowl combine 4 c. of the flour, the oatmeal and the salt. Add all of the honey mixture, the yeast and the eggs and mix together.

4. Mix in the remaining flour and knead it until it's a sticking-together ball and then dump it onto a clean work surface that you've dusted with flour so it doesn't stick. Really knead the hell out of it for about eight or nine minutes. Feeling agressive? This is a good way to work it out.

5. Butter or oil a large bowl and put the dough into it, turning it around to make sure it's well coated. Cover it and set it someplace warm until it doubles. You can use a warmed oven but I just stick the bowl in my microwave and hope I don't forget it's in there.

6. Has it doubled? Punch it down and separate it into two dough balls. Form them into loaves, put the loaves into oiled or buttered and dusted with flour pans. Recover them and put them back into whatever space you were using to raise the dough the first time. Let them rise again for about an hour or so.

7. Preheat your oven to 375F. Mix together 1 Tbl of water and an egg yolk and brush it on the tops. Don't give it just one pass, really slap it on. Sprinkle some oatmeal on top and kind of press it down with your fingers gently so it sticks well. Bake for 35 minutes.

8. When they're done, pull them out and let them cool for about five minutes before you pop them out of the pans. Brush vegetable oil on all surfaces (again, don't be stingy) and let them cool completely.

9. If you're like me and can't wait till they've cooled completely then at least wait till you're pretty sure your mouth won't blister if you cut a piece and take a bite. Keep ice on hand just in case.

10. If at this point you still want a chicken salad sandwhich, put the loaves to cool someplace WHERE THE DOG CAN'T REACH THEM and go and buy some mayo, already.

That sandwhich? Made more delicious by the waiting for it. You're welcome. Have a great week!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One of THOSE Mothers

I was debating what to do with this place and I think I've decided to keep it. For one thing, most people who read the other blog probably don't have any desire to read about my domestic disasters but I still want to talk about them. For another, I...uh, really can't come up with another reason so we'll just go with "burning off excessive chattiness" and leave it there.

So, what do I mean by "one of THOSE mothers"? I mean one of those mothers who makes her own cleaning supplies. No, not a hippie earth mama, that's Zan. No, I'm just cheap. And lazy. And did I mention cheap? Because yes. Oh, and I HATE the smell of most cleaning supplies, even the stuff that says it's unscented. I'd much rather buy a soap scented with something I can take and mix it up with other things I already have on hand. Which leads me to today's domestic disaster.

My two basic bathroom cleaner recipes go like this:

1 part warm vinegar
1 part dish soap

Put in a spray bottle, shake it and go. It's awesome on soap scum but you have to let it sit so the vinegar can do its job.

The other recipe is for something with a little grit for scrubbing.

1 part baking soda
1 part dish soap

Work it into a paste and add a little water if it's too dry. Spread it out on whatever stain you're tackling, let it sit for a couple of minutes and rinse it off.

You see where this is going, right?

So today as I was mixing up cleaner to put in my trusty spray bottle I thought to myself, "Self, I wonder if maybe a little baking soda would give it some oomph." Well, of course it would. I poured in my 1 part baking soda and it oomphed all over the counter and the floor and what was left in the bowl didn't stop oomphing for a good fifteen minutes.

Did I mention that I knew that would happen and I did it anyway?

In my defense, I was distracted by a not-so-serious conversation with some friends. My floor is really clean, though. And it did actually work well but it wouldn't spray out of the bottle so I wound up just pouring it out onto my sponge and working it in by hand.

So I'm still not sure what's going to be happening here but, whatever it is, it'll probably be messy. You all have a great day.