where has winter gone?

A month between entries- not a great habit to get into!  But I’m new at this and it’s been a pretty hectic month here (my mother recently undergoing a pretty serious spinal operation) so I’m gonna cut myself a bit of slack.

So I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting to hear what happened to the lye-heavy (I think) soap that I created last month???  Well I attempted to ‘re-batch’ it by basically goggling that phrase and seeing what I found online.  First I checked the ingredients, then added a bit more water and fats (in same ratios as original recipe) and finally I crumbled up my concoction and heated it over the stovetop.  Worried that the mixture might get too hot or burn, I then changed my mind and decided to cover the pot with some foil and placed it in the oven.  Long story short- the mixture never fully melted and I think a lot of the essential oil scent might have escaped in the process…

BUT…. it appears to be soap!  It certainly aint pretty, but after sitting for a couple weeks I tried it out and no slimy feeling (apparently slimy means that means it’s not ready / or there is still too much lye).  Have been washing myself with it for a few days now with no ill effect yet.  So success or failure?  I vote success but you can be the judge.  I figure all learning is a step in the right direction, right?

Well it’s ramping up to be an exciting few months in this neck of the woods and I’ll try to update often as I prepare for all the hope and possibility that spring brings with it.  I’ve been making plans for my 2 gardens (one at my parents house and creating plans for one at my new home!), I just began bee school last week and plan on starting my first hive this spring and finally my lovely BF got me a spot at a chicken workshop in April that might send me home with a few chicks so looks like my household will quickly be expanding.  Think this’ll be enough to keep me out of trouble for a few months!  Oh and in addition to that am busy knitting some baby blankets for two of my very best friends who are expecting their first babies!  More on all this later – life is good!

mish mosh

Since I was home and it was a relatively quiet weekend, I decided to do a bit of playing around in the kitchen today.  Went out yesterday to make sure I had all the necessary ingredients and it’s been an eventful day of cheese making, soap making and cooking (oh my)!

I’ve been experimenting with dairy for a few months now- sometimes successfully and others unsuccessfully (I seem to struggle occasionally with yogurt).  Anyways, since I was lucky to find a local raw milk producer, I’ve been using that the main ingredients for all my dairy adventures.  I know there are many different opinions on raw milk (personally I think it’s nutritious and delicious) but everyone can agree on that fact that it’s got lots of helpful cultures and bacteria around to help the home dairying process along.  Today’s mission – ricotta!   The recipe was fairly simple but I worried that I had ended up with too much milky whey and that the curds were too small to be captured by the cheesecloth.  In the end though, I had a good chunk of ricotta after draining as much whey as I could and I put it aside to be used for dinner.

On to soap making intermission- something completely new to me!  The recipe that I was using was 5.5 oz distilled water, 12 oz palm oil, 4 oz coconut oil and 5.5 oz of lye.  Now I was pretty nervous to be working with lye as I know it is dangerous and the skull and crossbones on the package didn’t allay my fears at all.  So I mixed the lye and water, then the oils and then added them all together.  I stirred the pot for about 45 minutes or so and ‘thought’ I was seeing the ‘trace’ so I added some essential oil and some rosemary I had pre-dehydrated Saturday night.  Then I poured the mixture into my homemade mold (nothing fancy- a cardboard box with plastic wrap) and set it aside to dry for 24 hours.  I have high hopes for this batch!

Now, onto my third adventure for the day- cooking!  This recipe actually exceeded my expectations, so I have to share.  I’d like to think it was my homemade ricotta cheese, but something tells me there were lots of great tastes coming together in this recipe to create a taste sensation (mmm… pine nuts, basil and loads of cheesy goodness).  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato and Basil Lasagna *

1 lb 5 oz sweet potato, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ricotta cheese
1/3 cup  pine nuts- toasted
¾ cup fresh basil chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushes
1 oz. Parmesan, grated
4 oz. fresh lasagna sheets
6 oz. mozzarella, grated
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease tray and lay sweet potatoes on side brushes with a little olive oil; Heat for one hour turning halfway through
  2. Place ricotta, pine nuts, basil, garlic and parmesan and mix well
  3. With a square 8 inch dish, arrange 1/3 of pasta sheets over the base of pan and then spread the ricotta mixture.  Top with the next pasta sheet
  4. Arrange sweet potato over the next layer, laying them as closely as possible. Season with salt and pepper and lay final pasta sheet over.  Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is golden brown
  5. Let cool 10 minutes then cup up your lasagna and enjoy!

Voila- a masterpiece! Well, that’s enough excitement for one Sunday.  Time to curl up with my book and a cup of tea.  Until next time..

* Recipe adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Helen Aitken

Update: The soap was looking great… until the next morning when it appeared kind of chalky and was cracking and crumbly.  From researching online it looks like the mixture might have been lye heavy- and I might have messed up the recipe by not completely liquefying my oils… Bummer!  I’m going to attempt to ‘rebatch’ the soap (which I’ve read mixed reviews about online) but if that doesn’t work I’ll have to scrap it.  Oh well, better luck next time!