Monday, December 19, 2011

Cold Process Soap!

This past summer I got interested in Cold Process Soap Making. It's really fun, especially since it allows you to minimize the amount of waste on animals that are killed/hunted. Pretty much my whole family deer hunts, so there's no point in wasting all that beautiful tallow. Same for using pork lard or beef tallow. Throw in some olive and coconut oil, a bit of lye and viola! Soap. :)

My prettiest experiments so far are as follows. Cedar soap (Hint of the Woods) because where we hunt in Oklahoma is full of cedar trees. It uses beef tallow, cedar essential oil and parsley to color it. Instead of using all that hunters soap that blocks your scent, my dad and brother use the cedar soap and just smell like a tree. It works better for them than the expensive stuff anyway. Next is Java Scrub (coffee soap). It's made with brewed coffee in it instead of water, and has coffee grounds for exfoliating purposes. Contains lard, olive oil and coconut oil. That's the pretty name for it, the real use is when my dad and brother (both like to play mechanic) come in full of grease and other grime, the coffee gets rid of the smell and the grounds scrub out the grime in their hands.

Next is Thin Mint, made with lard. I packaged it in cellophane after it cured because it has a very strong peppermint smell. Maybe I was a bit heavy handed on the essential oil there...I put half the batch colored with cocoa powder and swirled that with the regular color. My dad thinks it makes him smell like a thin mint, hence the name.

The final one is Home for the Holidays, with deer tallow, lard, coconut oil and olive oil. It's got pumpkin pie spice in the brown top of the soap. My mom got me a round cake pan and some cake decorating stuff for my birthday last week, so I played with it here. I like the smell of this one, but it's not completely cured yet. I cut holes in the bags I put them in so they can have room to cure still. 

All the scents/colors I use are 100% natural, due to asthma and allergies in my family.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dehydrated Apples and Mixed Veggies

So we had some Red Delicious and Jonathan apples that were going kind of bad...solution? Dehydrate them! We have a lot of dehydrated slices already, so as these were softening I decided to make them into a powder for apple cinnamon oatmeal and the like. After tasting them in oatmeal, I have come to the conclusion that their flavor is not overly concentrated for something like that. You need a lot of apple to taste it in oatmeal.

Wash the apples, grab a knife, cutting board and one of those Pampered Chef choppy things (optional, I like it because it's my mom's and it's fun to play with).

Remove the cores, chop up into pieces small enough to go under the choppy thing. Chop up with that, dump in a pot and add enough water to cover.

Cook uncovered on medium heat until they're softened and most of the water is gone. Spread it on your jelly roll and stick it in the dehydrator until it's brittle.

Above is it wet, below is it dried and broken up to go in the food processor.

Powder it up, stick it in a jar (it's on the right side).

On the left is dried mixed veggies, previously frozen. They were $0.98 for a 1 pound bag at WalMart, so we got a few bags to do. When you rehydrate them for soup or something, they hold their shape and stay more firm than just using frozen or canned veggies in soup. These are really easy to do.

Open the bag. Dump contents on the dehydrator tray. Stick it in the machiene. Wash the bag. Cut it up for use in plarn (plastic yarn). Dry the veggies until they are brittle, stick them in a jar. Fill up a pint jar, and that's about the right amount for a large beef/veggie soup.

Shared with TALU.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Making Plarn/Plastic Yarn

(still working out taking pictures, kind of bad with cameras some days...)

About a year and a half or two years ago, I came across this stuff called plarn online. Basically, it's the use of plastic shopping bags to make yarn to crochet or knit with. I've seen a bit of knitted plarn, and haven't really liked the look of it. Being a novice at knitting, I haven't given it a shot yet. Having crocheted since about the third or fourth grade, I felt much better about playing with plarn in crocheting. Since I first learned about it, I've come a long way in my crocheting with it. This is my attempt at how to make a ball of plarn from bags.

First off, get clean bags. If they're dirty, either wash or throw them away and find some clean ones. Lay the first victim out flat on your work surface.

Next, fold it in half.

And again.

And one last time.

Now take your cutting utensil of choice and remove the bottom of the folded bag. This is the section seamed together. Just cut off as much as needed, no need to waste any, unless you do like me and cut too much off. 

Continue to cut up the bag into about one inch pieces. If they're a bit bigger, it's ok, same for being on the small side. Dispose of the handle at the top.

I used a rotary cutter today since I was sitting at the dining table and had room for the mat and wanted a change up from scissors. But my usual weapon is the scissors. I use a pair of those titanium blade ones the late craft center at WalMart had. The better your blades, the easier time you will have.This is with the scissors. Same process.

Right now I'm making a big batch of varigated colors all with white background. This is what I had cut up for colors so far this morning. The box of white next to it is going into balls of white yarn and came from the un-inked sections of bags cut for varigated.

To put your yarn together, take 2 pieces of bag. Pull them open and place bag A (strip farther to the right) over top of one half of bag B (strip on left).

Pull the right tip of bag A up through the right tip of bag B.

Pull them together firmly to make a small knot. Don't pull too hard or else it will begin to tear the bags. However, the smaller the knot you have the less it will show up in your stitches.

Ball it up, bind with a rubber band and cut up some more!

I don't just use grocery/shopping bags. I go for pretty much any kind of plastic bag that comes through my house that I can repurpose to keep it from going in the trash. These bags here are all from bread, toilet paper in big packs, carrots and the like. They are a bit harder to crochet with, but I like the look of them as well.

When crocheted, they come out looking like this:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dehydrating Pumpkin Pics

It's been a while. Finally getting a chance to put up some pictures of dehydrating the pumpkin. We cooked these pumpkins on top of the stove with just enough water in the bottom to keep them from sticking. Cook down until they're falling apart, then let them cool a bit. Put some plastic wrap on the dehydrator trays, then put the pumpkin on to it.

 Don't make the layer too thick or it'll take forever to dry.
After it's dried to the point of brittle, break it up a bit by hand and dump it into the blender. Small batches works better than one big one.

That's after it's blenderized. If it's still feeling a bit damp, stick it back in the dehydrator a while. The drier it is the less chance you have of spoilage. Then just dump it in a jar!


Here's some persimmons that I dried and powdered the same way. Sorry for the blurry picture. We rehydrated it with 2 cups water to 1/2 cup powder. Don't just dump all the water in at once, though. Add it bit by bit to make sure that you don't overwater it.

We used this to make a great bread with, and tossed in some pecans and dehydrated figs too. Dehydrating is a great way to use up figs, especially if you have a ton of them. Cut them up with kitchen scissors when it's time to cook with them and use like raisins - they have a much fuller flavor than you'd expect. Even someone who won't eat raw figs or fig preserves (me) loves them cooked in breads and the like.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dehydrating and Rehydrating a Pumpkin

My dad grows pumpkins, my mom and I cook pumpkins. If there is a variety of vine that only produces a few pumpkins, I've never heard of it. I doubt we would grow it, but the problem is, you can only cook so many at a time. Enter the giant 10 rack LEM dehydrator I got for Christmas last year. It solves a lot of problems. Like "The deer meat is taking over and there's no room for anything else in the freezer!" The solution to this problem lies with the dehydrator. 2 cups of frozen pumpkin can instead be stored as 1/2 cup of pumpkin powder.

How do I do this glorious thing, you ask? Bake, pressure cook, etc your pumpkin, butternut squash or whatnot as you would for baking a pie or sweet bread. Remove seeds, skin, etc. Season the seeds and toss them in with the drying pumpkin if you so wish. Smash the pumpkin and spread  it on the trays. Either use a fruit roll tray, some wax paper or a gallon freezer bag to keep it from going through the holes. Don't put it too thick (ie 1/2 an inch), but get enough to count. 1/4" is a good thickness. Pop it in the dehydrator at 135ish until it's brittle. Living in south Louisiana, my humidity greatly affects the timing of this type of thing.

Once it's nice and crisp, pull it out and toss it in the blender until you have a nice powder. Dump it in a bag or mason jar and seal. To rehydrate add 2 cups boiling water to 1/2 cup of powder. Leave it sit till thickened and cooled. Use like normal pumpkin fresh from the oven. It takes a quarter of the space, and doesn't have to be frozen. That gives it a huge advantage at my house.

I'm going to be drying a few over the weekend if all goes as planned, so I can get a few pictures and post them.

Crocheted Plarn Bag

A while back I made this bag with plastic shopping bags and vhs tapes. The bags I used to get this pearly color were a kind of transluscent white. When you cut the bags for the plarn and start crocheting though, it comes out nice and opaque with that pearl-like sheen. The black edging came from old vhs tapes. I just used the tape straight off the reel, no doubling over or carrying another yarn with it. Warning: The tape is harder to do than the regular plarn. It also kind of has a squeaky noise if you use a metal hook that can get on your nerves after a while.

The pattern came from an old issue of Crochet magazine, can't remember which one. The original pattern, when done with cotton yarn, has a lot more give and stretches a bit. With the plarn, I used the same G hook that the pattern called for, so it doesn't have the same kind of stretch just by the nature of the materials. When you're using plarn, especially on the smaller hooks, be careful and take breaks. It is more strenuous on the hands than normal yarn. 

New at This...

So, my name's Elizabeth. I'm completely new to this, but intend to post a bit about the different crafts I'm interested in. Hopefully I can get some tutorials and such up on here, maybe it can help a few people along the way as so many others have helped me.

Anyway. The only real craft things I'm doing right now are crocheting with plastic bags (plarn), cold process soap making, learning to knit and tanning hides. I've been crocheting for at least 12 years, don't know exactly how long. Knitting and soap making I picked up over the summer. I started tanning hides about a year and a half/two years ago. It's hard to get that done very often though, because it takes a set period of time to do something with tanning. That doesn't work so well when you're a college student living 2ish hours from home and spend your breaks in another state. Ah well.