Can 30 minutes or less really be satisfying?

Do you remember the first time you felt anything that took under a half an hour just simply wasn’t going to cut it?  As if time spent truly dictated quality achieved.  Well people, I am here to tell you quality is not always preceded by quantity, you can be lusciously happy in 30, 25, or even 20 minutes.  Allow me to seduce you into a new way treating your family meal time and help you stop thinking you can’t reach dinner time bliss without blowing up your kitchen!

Being a stay at home mom and loving to cook usually spells major frustration around dinner time.  I know, I know, you would think that by staying home, you could have a smooth, fun afternoon of prepping and cooking fabulous meals and then serving your family (little white apron donned and pot holders at the ready) who would of course thank you exhaustively for all your efforts and then insist on cleaning the dishes and kitchen in gracious return.   This of course would happen while you put your feet up, cool glass of wine in your hand, basking in all the appreciation flowing from your family.  What?  You say I must be inhaling too many cleaning fumes?  Ahhh, then you have the same experience I have.  Reality:  You spend most of the day picking up everything from yesterday, doing laundry, chasing the dirty, stinky puppy with a diaper in her mouth and caring for Bubba the baby Gorilla. Then, you put a great deal of time, effort and money into creating a meal, are left with a sink full of dishes and a family that turns into vapor in the aftermath.

O.k., so enough reality.  Let’s get to my point.  After a whole week cooking dinners from Ainsley Harriott’s Gourmet Express, I must report that my life at dinner time has become substantially more satisfying.  The food consistently exceeds my expectations for freshness, quality, edibility, time spent preparing and mess to clean up when it’s all over.  As if that weren’t enough, the ingredients are very easily interchangeable to work with what you have on hand or to fit family preferences.  On more than one occasion I switched up one or two (or a bunch) of items and they were still nummy.  I  was going to review the recipes individually, but then seriously thought, the recipes weren’t the point.  Besides, I already told you they were fab and who really wants to read a recipe blow by blow.  Drag yourself to the library and try Mr. Gourmet Express out for yourself, and then, like me, go buy it so it will be yours for evs.

FIRST STEP IN TAKING THE TROUBLE OUT OF DINNER~Plan, plan…plan

At the beginning of your week (my day is Monday, yours might be Wednesday depending on your Bubba or Hubster) go through your recipes, then go through your pantry and refrigerator (if you’re like me, throw out the mystery food in tupperware that you have no idea how long it’s been there…do not sniff it you will only gag and waste time, just toss it and chuck the dishes in the sink).  Try to see what you already have in order to save shopping time and cash you may want to save as well.

Now, plan every meal in advance and write it down somewhere obvious.  Be aware, if something comes up, your list is fluid, change it up for convenience.  This plan is about ease…not stress, if it doesn’t work that day, ditch it.  My youngest daughter, Miss Thing, got a case of the barfs last week, so Thursday didn’t work out like I planned.  Writing it down reminds you while you are hazy and bleary eyed after a night with Bubba what the plan is for the day.  I like not having to think when my brain cells are working off 3 hours of sleep and caffeine, I get cranky.  Below you can see my weekly plan, I re-purposed a cute little mirror that has no place in the house into a great little wipe board.  Dry erase markers work fab on this and I also get the added bonus of being able to actually check out how I look without leaving the kitchen so I know if there is the odd smudge of crap anywhere embarrassing.

Now, look at what you need to purchase in order to complete your list and then, try to find out what’s on sale and go to your coupons!!  Try Krazy Coupon Lady for a huge list of items, coupons and stores.  Here is where you must decide whether you will stick with the recipe or substitute items.  For example, Baked Penne with Chorizo and Taleggio Cheese sounded awesome, but possibly unreachable here in the desert.  I had a coupon from the Dream Fields website for $1.00 off Dream Fields Pasta (which was on sale so it cost me $.79 per box), but found the commissary was out of Taleggio and only had sub-par chorizo that really looked kinda sketchy and sad.  I was not up for turning this into a $40 meal.  Looking around, I realized I had:

A coupon for $1.00 off Kraft shredded cheese, so I went with the 5 Italian Cheese mix ($1.49 with coupon and sale) and picked up A container of ricotta ($1.50 on sale) as well as                                                                                                                                  Johnsonville Mile Ground Sausage ($1.02 on sale with $1.00 off coupon)

The recipe made itself, and since I could easily double it for less than $10.00, I did.

Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage and Cheese

I prepared the recipe exactly as I would if I had the original ingredients, and it was incredible with a fresh Caesar Salad.  Half of the left over uncooked mixture went into the freezer for next week.  Two meals for about $10.00 total, plus it took me less than 30 minutes to prepare.  Stellar.

  In mommy world, this is a major score.

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$4.00 For Hand soap O.o ?!

I Hate Buying Hand soap

So we’ve been low on hand soap for a while now, like down to one little bottle of it.  Out of everything we have to buy for our household, hand soap is high on my list of extreme dislikes.  For one, it is expensive for soap, two, people in this family use it like it’s some sort of magical, playtime substance, and last, I never used it until I married my husband, I always used the bar.  So, in order to avoid spending so much on this hated substance, traditionally, I water down the regular strength stuff to about 1/4 soap to 3/4 water in the foaming dispensers.  If you have yet to try this little trick, you are really missing out.  Find one of the foaming soap dispensers from a friend or relative and use it for the next five years, we have and it’s never gotten old.

So let’s go to the beginning, what got me started today was this:  I purchased this antibacterial liquid soap (below) from the Exchange years ago.  It was on sale, then half off, and then further reduced to like $.49 a bottle.  How could I resist buying it in bulk.  There I was, knee deep in soap, four children and one husband in tow.  My children and husband sat there aghast while I piled up bottle after bottle of liquid soap, there was the slight scent of embarrassment in the air, but how can you resist $.49?!??!  Anyway, three years later, this is my last bottle.  This makes me almost as sad as when I used to smoke and there was just one lonely cigarette left in the pack, rolling around all by itself.  Ahh, well, anyway…What I have always done is fill up the foaming dispensers 1/4 to 1/3 of the way with regular liquid soap, then add water and shake.  The foaming action is magical, it makes soap last almost forever.  I have literally had the same three foaming dispensers for the last 5 years.  It’s like they are part of the family.  If you have some, never get rid of them, if you don’t own some, go get them, they are golden nuggets of savings.

Here is the before picture, my last little bottle of 49 cent Antibacterial Liquid Soap

Here is the after photo, note how much soap is still left in my bottle, the foamer is magic…

So I Decided To Make My Own…

Any who, after realizing I was going to need more liquid hand soap, I went looking for a good deal.  The best I could find was $4.00 for a moderate sized jug.  Four dollars for hand soap?!  You have to be kidding me.  I began to wonder just how hard it was to make hand soap.  Admittedly, I initially just tried soaking left over bars of hand soap in water to see how it worked.  While this was o.k., it just wasn’t the consistency I needed for the almighty foamer.  So I went online and found this recipe from Savvy Housekeeping for liquid hand soap from a bar.  The only issue I had was I had no where to put over ten cups of liquid soap, so I opted to use only 5 cups of water to make a concentrate.  Feel free to add water to fit your storage space needs, just remember that if you concentrate it as I did, you will need to add boiling water at an equal rate to reconstitute it, I use 1/2 soap, 1/2 water ratio to use it. This is what I did, and if it matters at all, my kids were really impressed.  (If you want to turn this into a really cool science experiment, check out Steve Spangler Science, and Science Fair Adventure)

1. Gather the Ivory Soap Liquid Trifecta: 1 Bar of Ivory Soap ($.79 for three with a coupon), 1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Glycerin ($1.78 at Target for a bottle), and 7-12 Cups of Water (Free in most places)  Overall cost for what I used, about $.49.

My Ingredients Pre-experimentation

2. Unwrap your beautiful bar of Ivory and set it in a large, microwave safe bowl then microwave on high for 90 to 120 seconds.  Don’t move from the microwave because you will a. enjoy the show, and b. want to remove it when it stops growing.

The bar waiting to be nuked

3. Open the microwave and carefully pull out the new creation, admire how it has grown in size, but beware, it may still be hot.

Bar of Ivory Post Nuke

4.  Allow the foamed mass to cool completely, then set it on a stable counter and dive in with hands, rubbing the mass between your fingers until it is entirely defeated into teeny, tiny, soft flakes.

My mass waiting for crumbling

5.  Be sure to examine the crumbles for lumps.  Nobody like big chunks of crumble.

The chunks

6.  Heat up 1 cup of water to boiling in the microwave and add 1/2 cup at a time, whisking it until it is a smooth melted mass of liquid soap foam.  Boil another 6 cups of water and add it, whisking completely then let it rest and make breakfast.

It will begin to smooth out, let it rest after adding the hot water and the heat will do the job for you

7.  Make breakfast…whisk soapy mess…note that breakfast kind of looks like foamy mess…eat breakfast…whisk soapy mess and continue.

Breakfast

Big Foamy Mess After Water and Whisking

8.  Add 1 tablespoon of Glycerin and whisk then allow it to cool.  You will find a gloopy, slimy, almost gross concoction awaits.  Clean out a reasonable container and transfer gloop to container.

Add the glycerin, it seems small, but it makes the difference

Your “Cool Gloop”

The Gloop Container

All bottled and Ready

As I said, this is concentrated at 50% less water than usually needed because I only used 7 cups of water.  After some fiddling, I found that if I mix 1/4 soap concentrate and 3/4 water in a microwave safe container and heat for 30 seconds or so, it becomes so very useable in my magic foaming soap container!!!!  You will have to experiment with the ratios, it took us a few days to get them down when we were finished.  My oldest daughter, Punk, reminded me that I should do it like an experiment to actually do a good job.

*As a side note, you could cook everything, water, soap flakes, and glycerin on the stove with flames and everything, but I was looking for something I didn’t have to watch closely considering my attention span isn’t all that phenomenal these days and Bubba the Baby Gorilla isn’t always cooperative with my personal plans for the day. 

**If you want to make a really cool snot like soap product for kids to play with in the bathroom, only add 1 TEASPOON of glycerin and keep the water at 5 cups instead of 10.  When it cools down it becomes thick and stringy like mucous, we all enjoyed playing with it while we tried to figure out what the heck we did wrong!

So I was running out of D. O. for the B. O.

So really, I was running out of deodorant to stave off the body odor, and it dawned on me that I have been quietly and successfully making my own aluminum free deodorant for a while now.  This is not something I share freely with acquaintances or newly made friends.  Heck, I didn’t even let the hubster in on my little secret until recently.  There is a stigma with jumping off the deodorant bandwagon and abandoning commercial products to keep the stinks away that I would personally just like to avoid altogether given the community and people I deal with daily.   People sometimes give you the one eye half open, head tilted a bit sideways, mouth partially agape, “do you smell”  or “what kind of hippie are you really” stare when you reveal you just don’t use regular D.O.  Don’t get me wrong, up until I made it myself, I might have been guilty of the same judgmental, better than you because I use real deodorant posturing.   But really, making your own deodorant is quick, easy, cheap and effective.  Plus, you can avoid applying possibly toxic aluminum directly to your sensitive parts, bonus for bonus!

I actually used to simply use baking soda and lemon juice when I was eating only raw foods a few years ago and that seemed to work o.k., unless you decided to do any manual labor and then it smelled like you’d rubbed your under arms with hummus.  Not really the scent d’jour I was going for.  Then I found multiple sites that used coconut oil (a natural antibiotic with great moisturizing capabilities as well as a nice light scent), baking soda (my all time most used household item), and arrowroot powder or cornstarch (I actually despise touching cornstarch).  So many sites have their own way of doing this mix, that you can literally find the recipe anywhere!  I really like Little House In the Suburbs recipe for it’s simplicity, ease of use and light list of ingredients.  Here is my rendition.

1. Gather your ingredients.  If you are like me and Bubba the Baby Gorilla has decided to bless you with a nap of unknown length, then you must work quickly.  My pantry currently has Spectrum Organic Coconut Oil, Argo Cornstarch and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.  (My mother swears she is allergic to baking soda and so for her “peace of mind” I used a combination of cornstarch and arrowroot powder with some tea tree oil, she seemed pleased).  This is not rocket science people, experiment and find the best stuff for you.   Microwave about 5 tablespoons of the oil for just 30 seconds to get it squishy.  Pour 1/4 cup of the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the baking soda into a bowl and kind of fluff it with a fork or whisk until blended and lump free…nobody wants lumpy pits.

2.  Empty and clean an old deodorant container.  You will find regular commercial deodorant to be almost like a mutant slime when you try to wash it off, regular soap just kind of smears it around and the hot water makes it slick on your hands.  Don’t let this deter you, just clean it as much as possible and then wipe it out with a clean rag.  I like using a regular container, it throws people off my crunchy, natural girl no-d.o. style.

3. Mix your ingredients.  Now here is where you can do the most “personalization” of your D.O..  The last time I made this, I left it more oil than powder and ended up with a smooth, almost lotion like D.O.  However, it would occasionally get on my shirt pits and leave a small grease mark.  This did come off in the wash, but however much I liked the consistency, I wanted to change it up a bit this time.  I increased the cornstarch by a few tablespoons and added a tad more baking soda (like a tablespoon worth).   I then realized that I was out of essential oil.  Bummer.  But I did have orange extract in the pantry!  With about a teaspoon or so full I added the orange extract to the bowl and blended thoroughly.  It had the faint aroma of a creamsicle.  Yum.  I like that creamsicle smell much better than hummus on my underarms.

4.  Screw the container upward until the little doo-dad on the pole comes all the way to the top.  Fill the little plastic doo-dad that is in the bottom of the old container with new D.O. first, then keep scooping some of your mixture in, while screwing the doo-dad down, until it is completely filled.  you will have some mix left.  I store mine in the freezer for later.  It lasts for EVER.

Ta-DA! You are finished.  (Bubba’s block is in the background.  The dirty stinky puppy was chewing it so I had to confiscate it). I keep mine on the bathroom sink and it maintains it’s stability.  If you find it is too soft, you can keep it cooler in the fridge.  You do not need to use a ton of this on the pits, it should melt into skin and leave it really soft.  Please look around the net and experiment with other recipes, depending on your area, preferences and environment, you may opt to add other things to your mix.