Getting Crafty – Liquid Hand Soap

chef's journal   Sometimes my kitchen needs to be used for more than just food. Being snowed in so much this winter, I’ve been wanting to do some other experiments. Back when I worked at Whole Foods Market, we often had promotions for this amazing bar soap by Alaffia called Good Soap. It’s all natural and loaded with shea butter goodness. The only problem – I’m not a bar soap kind of gal. I like liquid hand soaps and body washes. Thanks to my Pinterest obsession, I figured out how to convert these lovely bars to creamy liquid-y hand soap. All you really need is a 1:12 ratio of soap to water. If the results are too thick, just add a bit more water. The process is easy, but there is a lot of resting, so this project will take you about 12-36 hours.

I weighed a bar of soap to figure out how much water I would need. I used 3 bars of soap, so approximately 45 ounces of soap. Rather than using 540 ounces of water, I started with a gallon of water and rolled the dice. Actually, my math was bad and I estimated a gallon and a half of water forgetting about the other two bars LOL

I weighed a bar of soap to figure out how much water I would need. I used 3 bars of soap, so approximately 45 ounces of soap. Rather than using 540 ounces of water, I started with a gallon of water and rolled the dice. Actually, my math was bad and I estimated a gallon and a half of water forgetting about the other two bars LOL

You can grate or chop up the soap. I was surprised how easily this crumbled.

You can grate or chop up the soap. I was surprised how easily this crumbled.

Soap crumbles ready to mate with water.

Soap crumbles ready to mate with water.

Simmer the soap with water until soap is fully dissolved in one soapy solution. I am sorry this is not more exciting.

Simmer the soap with water until soap is fully dissolved in one soapy solution. I am sorry this is not more exciting.

Allow mixture to sit for 12 hours. It should NOT be one gelatinous bar of soap like this. I ended up adding another half gallon of water, simmering again, and letting it sit about another 12 hours - a total of 1.5 gallons and a day of work.

Allow mixture to sit for 12 hours. It should NOT be one gelatinous bar of soap like this. I ended up adding another half gallon of water, simmering again, and letting it sit about another 12 hours – a total of 1.5 gallons and a day of work.

This yields a fuckload of soap. And cleaning the dishes is easy!

This yields a fuckload of soap. And cleaning the dishes is easy!

Inventory, Part 4 – Freezer and Fridge Condiments

AC_PANTRYPROJECT

Finally! I have counted all this “inventory” in my home. The last phase of counting and calculation took place this evening. I wanted to work on it earlier in the week, but since the Snowmaggeden bust kept me out of my home the day that I was best suited to do it, I got around to it tonight.

So, using the same loose formula I used for my dry goods (gifts have zero value, stuff from Whole Foods bought under retail with my discount, etc.), I calculated the freezer contents and my refrigerated condiments (i.e., perishable but long shelf life in fridge) came to about $240, so the grand total cost of all my food is $1140.

Since starting this project a little over a week ago, I have not gone grocery shopping for myself. The only exception is I stopped and bought a dessert as a hostess gift for a friend who was having me for dinner. I have gone out with friends to eat a couple of times, but otherwise, I have just been depleting my pantry. I will have to make a trip soon for some fresh produce and dairy, but I know I’m saving a lot of money being resourceful. Next phase, of course, is to figure out what I would spend on average in the past and how I am helping my current cause.

Here is what I have to work with from my freezer and refrigerator… Continue reading

Inventory, Part 3

AC_PANTRYPROJECT

Today I figured out the value of the inventory of my pantry dry goods. I putzed around google and amazon for costs, and where applicable I used about a 20% discount on things I know I got at Whole Foods with my employee discount. Hence, the rough estimate really will not be all that rough.

The area that I really averaged an estimate, however, was spices. In terms of spice inventory, I am going to say the average spice in my cabinet cost $2.50. Most of those standard sized McCormick bottles out there go for about that price, but my spices range from free stuff I scored through work, trade shows, mom’s pantry and gift baskets, to some high quality stuff I splurged on (hello, saffron and vanilla). With 51+ spices, that’s $127.50, and I think that is a very fair estimate.

Looking ahead, I plan to omit spices from the exact cost factor in my recipes, similarly to how restaurants and food service establishments do when they cost out recipes. Instead, when I cost out recipes I will use a blanket seasoning cost estimate, which will probably be pennies per recipe, maybe $.03 – $.10. Think about it, let’s say I spent $3 on a 1.25 ounce bottle of Italian seasoning. The bottle probably has about 30 teaspoons of seasoning in it, so about $.10 per teaspoon. Some recipes will use a dash, some will use tablespoons. I’m going to drive myself crazy thinking about what I spent on that, and again, the financial aspect of this project is more of an exercise on money I am saving moving forward, not what I have already spent. Plus, and I know I’m beating a dead horse here, it’s more about creativity and making use of what is on hand.

So you want to know the full value of my dry goods inventory, what is has probably cost me? $904. The average cost of each individual item (218 in total) is about $4.16. This ranges from about 15 non-spice items that were definitely free, to pricey supplements that cost about $50 (hello, Green Vibrance). $904. I think that’s fascinating. I don’t even know how many meals and dishes and snacks I will create from all this, but knowing that I usually drop $40 – $100 when I go out to a nice dinner with friends, it is beyond foolish not to cook at home when you want to save money. Plus what I have to work with will not mean meals of ramen, plain spaghetti, and PB&J.

Next up in the project – freezer and fridge inventory, figuring out my average grocery costs before now, and figuring out on average how much I have been spending on food. Oh, and of course, what I have cooked so far. Stay tuned!

Lobster and Asparagus with creamy Prosecco Cheddar Polenta

what's cooking

Whole Foods was having a national one-day sale on lobster tails. I have never been the biggest fan of lobster because of the work involved, but I appreciate it. I am also intrigued by what a lean protein it is. Since with the sale the tails were only $4.99 each, I decided to buy some and play around. My first instinct was lobster rolls, but I wanted something a bit more hearty. Instead I played around with what I had in my fridge and pantry already – asparagus, polenta, and this yummy prosecco cheddar. Yes, cheddar made with the tasty bubbly wine. It’s super creamy and melts like butter – no grating required.

My vision for the dish was surprisingly easy to execute. The whole meal maybe took half an hour to prepare, including baking time. I prepared this just for me, but feel free to up the quantities for guests.

Here is what you’ll need:
2 3-4 ounce lobster tails, thawed
5 ounces asparagus (about 10 sprigs), cleaned and trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon herbs de provence
1/3 cup De La Estancia organic polenta
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup nonfat milk
2 ounces Somerdale prosecco cheddar
white pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil with the asparagus, sprinkle with salt and pepper – rub the spears with the seasoning to fully incorporate. Line up spears on half of the baking sheet.
  3. Flip the thawed lobster tails over. Using a paring knife, slice down the middle of the cartilage. Crack open the tail and gently remove the meat from the shell, leaving intact. Repeat this process for both tails. Mix the tails with the olive oil, salt, and pepper just as you did with the asparagus, and lay on the other half of the baking sheet.
  4. Bake asparagus and lobster for about 10 minutes. The lobster should be firm and opaque, but not stiff. Asparagus should be slightly browned and tender. It is possible the lobster may be cooked before the asparagus. Simply remove from oven using tongs, and place on a plate until asparagus is cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the polenta. I used the De La Estancia brand because it is quick-cooking. In a small non-stick saucepan, simmer the chicken broth and milk over a low flame until very hot, but not boiling (you do not want to scald the milk). Slowly whisk in the polenta and stir frequently. Mixture should start to thicken in about a minute to two minutes. Remove from heat and mix in cheddar until well incorporated. Add white pepper and cayenne pepper to desired flavor/heat.
  6. This dish is best served immediately. To serve – cut the asparagus into 1-2″ pieces, reserving the tops of the spears for garnish. Mix the remainder into the polenta and pour into a shallow bowl. Slice the lobster meat into 1/2 slices and shingle the meat over the polenta – garnish with the spears.

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