How to cook the perfect holiday turkey in only one hour.

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This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration. Indeed, it is a promise. A gift to you, from the bottom of my heart. Because you CAN cook the perfect turkey in one hour, and transform your Thanksgiving experience forever. Believe me, you and your guests deserve it. Not only is it perfectly juicy, tender, and flavorful every time… but the skin is crisp and gorgeous, too. It’s everything you want your bird to be… in a fraction of the time.

cook a perfect turkey in one hour

I’ve been cooking turkeys this way for a few years now, ever since my high school bestie posted her father-in-law, Ron’s, youtube instructional… and I’m never going back. Nor are the friends and family that I’ve turned onto this style. Why in gobble’s name should anyone slave over a bird for hours on end, basting and fussing and checking temperatures… when you could be kicking back with a glass (or three) of wine and good conversation and family and friends?!?

So without further ado, I present to you… Ron’s One-Hour Turkey. Beloved by all who dare to try it themselves – satisfying dinner guests with minimal effort and maximum reward!

And to make it even easier for you, here’s a handy dandy link for the Granite Ware Covered Oval Roaster you’ll need. I got mine at Target, but Amazon Prime is even easier!

Welcome to the good life, friends.

(…and stay tuned, folks, because coming up soon is my famous, epic, thanksgiving feast layer cake recipe! I’m full of delicious inspiration and holiday cheer!) 


Five minute, four ingredient, no-knead bread for your mouth

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Friends, I am dead serious. I am here to share with you the no-knead bread baking secret that will change your life forever. Never again will you buy a store-manufactured boule, made with god knows what extra ingredients and preservatives.

All it takes is four simple ingredients, and about 5 minutes of “hands-on” work time… and for a mere fraction of the cost of store-bought loaves, you’ll be drowning in the intoxication of freshly baked, home made bread that will have you questioning: “why buy, when I can bake?”

Your friends will envy you. Your spouse and children will worship you. You will rise to legendary domestic goddess status among all who come dine at your home or receive a loaf as a gift. It’s crusty. It’s chewy. It’s delicious.

Prepare, people. There is no going back from here.

Granted, there is a lot of down time. So, patience is necessary. But trust me, while there may be 10 or so steps to follow, the effort you’ll actually put in is so minimal, you’ll be shocked at how foolproof and simple the process is.

five minute, four ingredient, no-knead bread

What you’ll need:

  • 3 cups unbleached white flour (I use high quality flours like Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur, or Trader Joes private label (which is exactly Bob’s Red Mill, at a fraction of the cost.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast (Food 4 Less has the best deal in town)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water

What you do:

  1. Gently mix together your flour and salt in a decently-sized bowl. I use a Le Crueset
  2. Mix your yeast into the water, and add the yeasted water to your dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated with a wooden spoon. Your dough will look a hot, shaggy mess, but it will become clear that it’s done all the “coming together” it’s going to do.
  3. ***The above steps should take about 2.5 minutes total***
  4. Cover your mixing bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and leave in a secure place on a counter top, preferably where the temperature is stable, for the next 12-18 (or more) hours. After 12-18ish hours have passed, your dough will have risen at least by double, and be sort of bubbly and smell amazingly yeasty-fermenty-bready. (that’s a technical term.)
  5. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface

no-knead bread

  1. Fold the dough over on itself a couple of times, gently pressing it down each time to remove excess air bubbles. Cover with the plastic wrap and let sit about 15 minutes *This step is optional. If you’re pressed for time, just skip this step and go straight to step 7. Your bread may just be a bit “airier” if you skip it. Still delish.*
  2. With wet hands (which, rather than floured hands, helps preserve the flour/water balance) fold the edges of the dough inward to the center, helping the dough find its way into a ball-shape with a smooth upper surface. Plop it into a parchment-lined 9-10″ bowl, (or wooden Banneton Basket, if you’re a baller like me). Cover, and let sit for 2 more hours.
  3. 30 minutes before your dough is done resting, pre-heat your oven with your cooking vessel in it to 450 degrees. I get my best results using a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven and Casserole Cooker (which is super affordable), but you can use a Le Creuset, pyrex, or similar heavy, covered if you prefer. Preheating your vessel is crucial, so don’t forget.
  4. Once the dough is ready, lift the parchment paper with the dough in it, and place it into your dutch oven. (If you’re not using parchment, just plop the dough in, naked.) Give it a jiggle so the dough relaxes into the base of the vessel.
  5. Cover, and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the cover and allow it to continue for 15-20 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it’s golden and crusty, and the bread has a bit of a hollow sound when you gently tap or knock on it.

Then voila! You’re done! Gently lift the bread out of the pot, so it stops cooking, and try and patiently let it cool enough to handle before cutting into it. Then slice it up, and savor that warm, fresh-baked flavor and crusty, chewy texture. Good luck not eating the whole loaf right there and then! But while you do, practice your humblest expressions of thanks, in anticipation of all the praise you will soon be receiving from your loved ones!

 

Bread copy

 


Epic Thanksgiving Feast Layer Cake

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I’m so thrilled to see so many of you sharing the One-Hour Turkey post with your families and friends on Facebook! Thank you! I can’t wait to hear about your life-altering experiences with it. But, if that one blew your minds… hang onto your hats! This one takes the cake! (pun heartily intended.)

What’s better than a thanksgiving feast, I ask you? WELL, A THANKSGIVING FEAST IN ONE EPIC LAYER CAKE FORMAT, FRIENDS! I got the inspiration from a series of posts on “meat cakes” over at Vegansaurus back in 2010 (in a past life long ago… when I was a (gasp) vegan). Culinarily curious gal that I am, I felt compelled to take up the challenge and put my vegan cooking skills to the test of tests by making as much of it from scratch as possible… from the faux turkey base to the mashed potato icing and cranberry sauce topping. Mind you, this could easily be made carnivore-style. Just swap in real turkey, butter, and cream as you please! Mmmmm.

how to make a thanksgiving feast layer cake
With Turkey Day right around the corner, I thought I’d bring this post back from the BAB archives, for those of you still looking for that “blow them away” holiday table treat. I have to say, making it was much simpler than it seems (bonus!), and I still consider it the masterpiece of my culinary endeavors thus far. (You’ll have to bear with the shoddy photo quality. I was but a wee blogger back then!)


It’s an entire holiday dinner in one meal: “turkey”, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing. For a lover of sweet and savory together, this business rocked my palate’s world. And everyone, even my most carnivorous of friends, was transfixed by the beast. They thought it was a regular cake, until I sliced it open and displayed it’s hidden magic! Everyone embraced it, vegan or not, and they gobbled it up like they were the (very very hungry) turkeys. And oh yeah baby, it was even better the next day.

how to make a holiday feast layer cake
I started with a base of homemade “turkey” seitan, for the meat part. Seitan is a protein-rich meat substitute made from vital wheat gluten powder… and though it may seem intimidating, its super easy peasy lemon squeezy to make. After a “meh” test run with one recipe I found, my bestie directed me to Ellen DeGeneres’ recipe… and holy gobblesworth, it was DELISH!

The big “trick” to making it successfully is to freeze between layers, which allows it to “set” and makes for easy spreading with the softer components like the potatoes and sauce. For the turkey and stuffing, I filled them each into a round pie pan, packed them down, and froze them for about an hour before layering, which created the right shape and size to begin with.
I also planned ahead to stack them in a way that makes sense, considering their textures. Turkey on the bottom because its sturdy and pre-shaped from the pie pan, then I slathered that with mashed potatoes. Once that had set in the freezer, I turned out the pre-frozen stuffing from the pie pan on top, and slathered that with sweet potato puree. Once that was set, it was easy to layer on the cranberry sauce. Then another layer of turkey, then sweet potatoes, another pan of stuffing, and the icing of mashed potatoes once more. I “piped” out a border to hold in the cranberry sauce topping, using a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off, which really added to the “cake” effect. I know, it sounds m-fing crazy. And it was time consuming, but actually really fun, and more rewarding than I ever imagined. I mean, I never pictured myself making a whole (delicious) thanksgiving meal by myself, much less turning it into a trompe l’oeil like a layer cake!


Hungry yet? Well, an epic feast deserves an epic post, so here come the recipes! And yo, its so much simpler than it sounds. Trust.

The Seitan Turkey

  • 4 Cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1 Cup bread crumbs
  • 1 Cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 large onion small dice and caramelized
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Cups strong No Chicken, chicken stock (veggie stock)
  • 1 full sheet of cheesecloth
  • Butcher’s twine

Start a large pot of water boiling. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another. Caramelize the onions until soft and golden brown and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix the two bowls together until a loose batter forms, and shape that into a loaf-y shape. Lay it out onto a full sheet of cheesecloth, folded over once.

seitan turkey
Roll it up tight into a cylinder, and tie it with bakers twine at either end, and twice in the middle. Drop that puppy into your hot water, cover, and let simmer gently for 2 hours, turning once throughout.


When its done, carefully unwrap it while its warm. Otherwise, the outer layer sticks to the cheesecloth and makes it much harder to remove. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can brush it with Earth Balance butter and blackening spices and bake it awhile to get a nice browned outside. I didn’t find this necessary, either way really. By the by, this makes a HUGE roast, so I’d halve the recipe if you’re cooking for a smaller crowd. Or, just freeze half and save it for a rainy day!

The Stuffing

This is the one component that was semi-homemade, as I used Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and followed the instructions by adding veggies and broth. I just wanted to mention it because I used sauteed Trader Joe’s Stuffing Starter (a blend of celery, onions, fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) as the base, which was too easy and tasty for words. But I am bereft to report that, this year, they’ve discontinued the stuffing starter. WHY, TRADER JOE, WHY?!? So sub in some celery, onions, and herbs of your choice. In my mother’s tradition, I also added raisins, which brings a supremely sweet and rich dimension that I simply adore.


The Sweet Potatoes

  • One 3-pound bag whole sweet potatoes
  • Unsweetened, organic soymilk to taste
  • Earth Balance butter, to taste
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

This one is very dependent on how you like your mash. I boiled the sweet potatoes whole until they were fork tender. The skin just slips off when they’re warm, but be careful not to burn your fingers. I pureed them in my sexy-ass 14-cup Cuisinart (thanks, Cuisinart!) and added enough milk and butter until they were juuuuuust right. I gotta say, this was the silkiest, most satiny, savory sweet deliciousness ever. I lurved these babies!


We don’t have pictures of these final two parts, whoops! Use your imaginations, k?

The Mashed Potatoes

  • One 5-lb. bag whole russet potatoes
  • Unsweetened, organic soymilk to taste
  • Earth Balance butter, to taste
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

I did these the same way as the sweet potatoes, and I don’t really know what I did wrong (was it the type of potato? The cook time? Did I over-puree?)… but they turned out a bit gluey and thick. It was actually pretty suitable for this dish, especially the icing part… but if it were just a side dish I’d have tossed it out and started over cuz I prefer my mashed taters more light and fluffy in general.

The Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 bag whole, fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup orange juice, with pulp.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to taste
  • pinch of salt

This one is simple pimple. Just boil everything up in a pot, then reduce and simmer until it reduces to your desired thickness. Add the spices last, so you can monitor how potent you want them.

That’s it! Just layer and freeze, layer and freeze, “ice” with mashed taters, and brace yourself for an EPIC flavor party in your mouth. To serve, just cut into slices and warm them up individually, but its also super yums when cold. Oh, enjoy all the compliments and comparisons of yourself to Martha Stewart…. cuz that’s just how fly this bad boy is. It really is. YUM. And if you’re like me, after your tastebuds do a happy dance, you and your friends can do one too… like we did!


So, what do you think? Would you give it a shot?


Korean Wife Camp: Korean-Style Chicken Soup

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korean wife camp recipes

My usual staple chicken stock recipe is courtesy of the domestic goddess to end all goddesses, lady Ina Garten herself. (Bow down, people, and hail your queen.) But her method, while delicious and consistent, requires a whole day and night of time and energy. Which I can spare maybe once every three or four months in pursuit of a ginormous bulk batch of her nectar. It’s kind of a lot of work.

In between those times, this Korean-style chicken soup, or dak guk (닭 국), adapted from Maangchi.com) takes but a laid-back hour to make, and is incredibly soothing and delicious given how dead easy it is to make. I mean, who ever heard of one-hour chicken stock that was full-bodied and tasty as hell?! It’s almost good enough to completely supplant my beloved Barefoot Contessa stock. Almost. 

What I also love about this recipe, is that it makes better use of the ingredients, and produces less food waste. It always chaps my ass to fish out, strain, and throw out (or even compost) the stewed-past-death chicken carcasses, dried out meat, and baby-food mush veggies when making Ina’s recipe… but this one avoids that, giving second life to the ingredients that make it so flavorful and hearty in the first place.

dak guk korean chicken soup recipe

What you’ll need:
(serves 4)

For the broth:
2 chicken breasts (I’ve made this with boneless, skinless breasts and, as pictured, a spatchcocked double breast on the bone. Both were totally delicious, so it’s up to you! I use breasts because they’re healthier, and easy to shredm… but you could use legs, if you’re more of a dark meat connoisseur.)
16 whole cloves of garlic – skinned. (Do you know about this method of peeling large quantities of garlic? You’re welcome!)
1 medium/large onion – halved and quartered, skin on
2-3 Tbs ginger – sliced roughly
16 cups water
2 Tbs fish sauce (I love this brand, because it’s just fish, salt, and water – wayyy less additives than others. If you can’t find (or stand) fish sauce, you can use soup soy sauce, or simply plain soy sauce.)
1 Tbs salt

For the chicken topping:
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper – ground
2 Tbs sesame oil

For optional spice:
2 Tbs gochugaru powder
2 tsp sesame oil
cayenne pepper (to taste)

dak guk dalk kug korean chicken soup recipe

Brace yourselves for how easy this is, because at first blush, it appears too good to be true.

Put the first four ingredients into a stock pot and add the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour, uncovered.

After an hour, remove the solids, reserving the chicken and garlic. The ginger and onion can enjoy a trip to the compost or trash.

Add the fish sauce and Tablespoon of salt to the stock, and stir. It will have reduced to about 12 cups at this point. Now taste that shit. Can you believe that only took one hour?! The stock is now DONE.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use your hands to pull it into shreds. Don’t snack on it just yet.

Place the garlic cloves into a small bowl, and mash them into a paste with a fork. Mix in the sesame oil, salt and pepper, and then massage the garlic oil paste into the chicken meat. This gives the chicken an incredibly moist consistency, perfumed with so much aromatic flavor… it’s addictive. Snack on some now. Marvel at what you have created. Then, stop snacking. You want there to be plenty for your assembled soup!

dak gook korean chicken soupI personally like to gently sauté sliced carrots and celery and add them to the broth for a bit more veggie bite and fiber – but carrots and celery are my chicken soup favorites. You could do this with any vegetables of your preference, or give veggies the middle finger and let the chicken and stock speak for themselves. If you do add veg, once they’ve reached your desired level of doneness, hit them with a splash of soy sauce for a bit of extra umami caramelization. Then just layer them into your serving bowl with some chicken, ladle on some stock, and enjoy the simple, rich, soul-soothing properties!

This recipe is extra brilliant, because you can make it in advance, which makes it great for entertaining or daily lunches! Just keep the chicken, broth, and veggies (if you use them) in separate containers in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the stock to a simmer, and pour it over the chicken as you serve. Easy peasy. And oh, so good.

For those of you who enjoy a bit more spice in life, here are two ways to heat things up a bit:
1. sprinkle whatever veggies you sauté with cayenne while they’re cooking.
2. make a paste using 2 Tablespoons Gochugaru (korean red chili flakes) and 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a bowl. You can add some to the chicken when mixing in the garlic, or just spoon it directly into your soup. Or both! Which is what I do. Mmmmm.

I hope you try this. It might just change your life forever.

If you do, come back and let me know how it went! Until next time…. 안녕히계세요! (Goodbye!)


Korean Wife Camp: Bori Cha – roasted barley tea

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korean wife camp: bori cha (roasted barley tea)

I’m straight up addicted to this tea. It’s traditionally served in Korean homes and restaurants, either hot or cold, in lieu of plain drinking water – and has a delicious, nutty, clean, refreshing taste that compliments whatever it accompanies. I am head over heels in love with it, drinking gallons each week like I’m some weird herbal vampire and this barley tea is my life blood. It’s dead easy to make, and even easier to drink.

And it’s good for you! Roasted barley tea has been found to inhibit bacterial colonization and adhesion, specific to the major cause of tooth decay and implicated in cardiovascular diseases. It’s also known to assist in digestion, improve blood health, and (according to eastern medicine) control damp heat in your system. Which is something I struggle with a lot. I’m super damp guys. No joke.

But even if for no other reason than general thirst, this shit is the yum.

You can find roasted barley in packages at most Asian supermarkets, as this tea is also widely consumed in Japan (as mugicha) and China (as dàmàichá). Or you can find it on Amazon. It looks roughly thusly, depending on the brand:
bori cha roasted barley tea
It takes about 1 Tablespoon in about 2.5 cups of water for a small batch.
But I say, fuck small batches. This stuff is meant to be consumed with gusto, not merely sipped!

So, I fill up my giant 16 quart Le Creuset stockpot to the handles, and scoop in about 15-20 Tablespoons (or basically just enough to cover the surface of the water).

bori cha roasted barley korean tea

It’s really not an exact science, which I love. Depending on how weak or strong you like your tea, adjust the amount of barley and brew time accordingly. We like a hearty brew around these parts, so I set it up to boil rapidly for about 15 minutes, but have been known to get distracted and let it boil as long as 30. It was delicious and no one died.

But most people get it to a boil and go 5-15 minutes. Depending on the strength, the color will fall somewhere between weak tea and strong tea.

Then, because I make such giant batches, and prefer to drink it iced, I usually just take it off the heat, pop the lid on, and let it sit overnight to cool before I bottle it. But you can drink it hot, immediately, if that’s your bag. A bonus to letting it sit until it cools is that the barley sinks to the bottom and I can just ladle it out into jars, or dunk jars in to fill them quickly without hassling with a strainer. I always advocate for less dishes to dirty.

Then I throw the leftover barley into my composter, or feed it to the dogs. I suppose you could toss it into a salad, if you felt like it.

Here’s my haul from the pot above:

korean roasted barley tea bori cha

So, the large mason jars are half-gallons, and the milk jugs are 4 cuppers. And the glass on the right was the little bit that didn’t fit anywhere except my very thirsty mouth. It will last me maybe a week. Probably less.

As you can see, I was practicing my Hangeul on the labels, and have quite a ways to go until my block lettering skills are better than a 3 year old.

….And I just finished off another batch while writing this. Try it yourself! It’s a real summertime, or anytime, treat!


The Best Chicken Recipe You’ll Ever Make

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This is your formal notice that all chickens cooked by any method other than this are hereby rendered unacceptable. It is, by far, the easiest, tastiest, tenderist, moistest, cry-over-your-plate-ist bird ever to cross the threshold of my lips.

I happened upon Jamie Oliver’s “Chicken in Milk” recipe whilst desperately searching for ways to make chicken dinners less boring, and curiosity couldn’t keep me away. We are dieting pretty hard in our house these days, but found ourselves relying too heavily on fattier cuts of pork and beef because we both find chicken rather… snoozeworthy. So I was on the hunt for chick-spiration. But cooking chicken in milk? This was a new concept, and I was intrigued. I’ve heard many an italian wax rhapsodic over the merits of milk-braised pork, so it should follow that, if that works – this must be something special too! Plus, I think we can all agree that Jamie Oliver knows his shit. (Hi Jamie! I love you and your food revolution SO MUCH!)

And it’s true. It is an absurdly special dish. Paul is just as blasé about birds as I am, but his tastebuds were riveted by this preparation. Ding ding ding, we’ve found our solution to the boring bird! WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER! So here I am, sharing my adaptation.

Not only is this recipe dead-simple, but it is extremely modification-friendly, which means that it won’t get boring. I’ve done it 3 different ways now, all of which were damned delicious. I even made a version using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk for all you lactose-intolerant folk! See below for more ideas, after the recipe. And if you don’t use much sauce at all (and really, it’s moist enough on it’s own) you’ll save the fat/calories of whatever milk you used to cook it with!

Milk-roasted chicken with rosemary, shallot, and lemon cream sauce

milk roasted chicken recipe

 Ingredients:

1 whole roasting chicken (ours was about 4 pounds.) (Get a good quality chicken. It really makes a difference. Ours is from the farmer’s market.)

1 Tablespoon butter and/or olive oil

2 cups milk (I prefer St. Benoit Organic Whole Jersey Cow’s Milk – it will change you forever, it’s so good.)

2 springs fresh rosemary

The zest of 1 lemon (I used meyer lemon in this one)

5-7 cloves garlic, skin on

2 medium/large shallots, sliced thinly

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Preparation:

Rinse your chicken and dry very well. Salt him liberally, and let him rest, uncovered, in the fridge overnight or as long as you can before cooking. If you don’t have time, just salt and pepper him. Also, it’s ideal, but not imperative, if you can let him come to room temperature before cooking. There’s not right or wrong – just do what you can with the time you have!

Pre-heat your oven to 325° F.

Heat a dutch oven or roasting pan on the stovetop until good and hot. Melt your butter and/or oil in the bottom. Lay the chicken in, breast side down, and let brown for a few minutes. Then flip him, and brown the other side. Transfer the chicken to a plate when you’re done, and pour the excess oil out of the pan.

Return the chicken to the pan, breast-side down. Add all the other ingredients to the pan and place it, uncovered, in the oven for 60-90 minutes, (depending on the size) or until the internal temp is around 150 and the juices run clear. Baste it every 20 minutes or so with the liquids in the pan, if you can.

Remove the chicken and cover loosely with foil to let it reabsorb the juices it expressed while cooking, and it will continue to cook for a bit to come to full temperature. Let it rest for about 20 minutes if you can stand waiting through the smell that’s now teasing you to the brink of drooling.

Then carve that sucker up, and drizzle with the pan drippings if you like! Enjoy!

Modification Inspiration:

Try Jamie’s Original Recipe, with sage, lemon and cinnamon. It is ridiculously tasty. Very savory and holiday-nostalgic.

Try a Thai-inspired turn, featuring coconut milk, like this one from The Kitchn.

Go totally thanksgiving on that beast, swapping in fresh thyme, sage, dried cranberries, orange zest, a bit of nutmeg, and some sweet potato chunks.

Get curry in a hurry with coconut milk, yellow curry, some chili peppers, and cinnamon. Toss in carrot and potato chunks, and you’ve got a meal in a pot!

Use your imagination!  Swap in and out whatever herb combinations suit your fancy. Explore new citrus zests and spice blends. Adapt it to suit your tastes and have fun experimenting! 

My next incarnation will be an attempt at greek-style chicken, relying on oregano, lemon, and kalamata olives to spice it up. I’m also going to sub in all-white meat chicken breasts from our new local butcher shop, to make it even leaner. I’ll report back with my findings! And if you try one that turns out famously, please share your invention with me, too!  We’ve got to stick together in the quest to keep chicken from boring our faces off, no?


Homemade laundry detergent, aka Laundry Lube!

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My inner domestic goddess (a much nicer, more elegant way to name my “inner hippie”) is taking over, y’all. After a long, hidden hibernation, she re-appeared quite without warning last year, and has been dancing barefoot around my house ever since.

Around the same time I started taking a more active role in my health care, I also enrolled in a series of classes at The Institute of Domestic Technology to learn various and sundry food preservation techniques – from cheese making, to jam making, bread baking, and beyond. And as if by magic, some kind of past-life spirit was ignited inside me that has a fervent need to make things. Like, from scratch. And grow things that we can eat, and know the sources of the food I buy. To eliminate as many unnecessary chemicals from our home as possible, and embrace a more natural, wholesome lifestyle. My teachers dealt in the alchemical arts of home economics, and I was hooked.

If you knew me before, this is when you’d laugh uncontrollably and fall out of your chair. But it’s true! And it’s a rabbit hole of endless possibilities that are actually fun to play with, as well as eco-conscious and health-conscious… but most of them are insanely cost-conscious, too. Me likey.

I’ve already shared my recipe for homemade, natural deodorant. And today, I’m happy to pass along my latest endeavor…

Homemade Laundry Soap (aka: Laundry Lube)!

(because, don’t get it twisted, living a cleaner lifestyle doesn’t put an end to my filthy mind.)
homemade diy laundry soap

You’ll need:
1 bar Fels Naptha (5.5 ounces)
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
plenty of hot water
2 one-quart Mason Jars (or 1 half-gallon mason jar)

make your own laundry detergent

Fels Naptha (aside from being incredibly fun to say) has been around for over 100 years, and is by far, the most efficient, affordable and versatile laundry soap on the market. It’s also one of the least chemically-laden. It’s widely known as a great stain-fighter, and can stop the spread of poison ivy in clothes that have been exposed. For this recipe, you can either hand-grate it, or do like I did, and cube it before sticking it in ye ole Cuisinart for some hot pulsing action until it resembles chopped nuts. Bonus: your food processor bowl will be polished beautifully once you wash it out!

Divide the gratings equally between each of your quart-sized mason jars, and add 1.5 cups of near-boiling water to that (between 180-212°). Hint: if you have a keurig, just run water through that to heat it up. It’ll do ya just fine. No need to mix or jostle it around too much. Just put the lids on the jars and let it cool for about 12-24 hours. Or longer, if you’re busy. I actually waited around 3 days, cuz life got busy.

When you come back to it, the Fels Naptha will have sort of jelled up at the base of the jar. Take a butter knife to it and slice around until you can stir it into a consistency like a mucous-y, lumpy, gooey vanilla pudding. It really doesn’t have to be exact. You can’t do this wrong. Just mush it around.

Then add your 1/2 cup each of Borax and Washing Soda, to each jar. Note: this isn’t the same thing as Baking Soda. It’s just not.

borax and washing soda

Now add enough hot water to reach just where the curve of the mason jar starts to narrow, an inch and a half below the lippy top of the jar.

If you have an immersion hand blender, great! You can stick that baby right down into the jar and turn it into a lovely mayonnaise of laundry cleaning power! No immersion blender, you say? Well, do you have a regular blender? Because you can use this amazing hack to screw your mason jar directly into your blender blade housing and mix it that way! Don’t have a blender, either? Well, you might be amish. But that’s ok! Break out a whisk, and some elbow grease, and make like you’re going for a stiff meringue.

The photo on the left, below, is what the gelled Fels Naptha looks like when after it soaks up all the hot water and you come back to it (top), and after you stir it up a bit (bottom). The photo on the right is what it looks like after the Borax and Soda are blended in. Looks pretty delicious, actually! But don’t eat it, yo. Basically, when you’ve got something between a mayonnaise and a smooth silky pudding, you’re done!

diy laundry soap step

The end result is a highly-concentrated laundry lube that will leave your clothes bright and clean and fresh, without all the creepy chemicals and high price tags of store-bought products.

(Now, I think that it smells pretty darn lovely all on it’s own. The Fels Naptha gives it a slightly lemony freshness that is particularly well-suited to laundering. But, in theory, you could add 10-20 drops of your preferred essential oils to the washing soda before mixing it in, to personalize your scent. I might try this later, and will update with results then. If you try it before then, just be sure to choose a scent or blend that will play nice with the lemony scent that it naturally carries.)

To use it: just plop 1 Tablespoon on top of your clothes before starting the load. I find it simplest to use a cookie dough scoop, which is exactly 1 Tbs and has a handy release lever built-in. For super duper dirty loads, you can add another 1/2 or full Tablespoon. But here’s the catch: don’t put it into your soap tray. Just plop in directly into your washing tub with all your dirty duds.

I know what you’re thinking – can it possibly work in High Efficiency (HE) washers? YES! It does! That’s what we have. It works in both, regular or HE washers, whether they load from the top or front. Does it really clean your laundry – like really clean it? YES! It does! Believe you me, my hippie aspirations will never stand between me and a well-cleaned load of clothes. This stuff works. And, according to the general consensus of people who’ve used it for a while, it won’t fade your colors, either.

But how much does it make, and what does it cost? Well, let me break it down for ya:

The most amazing part? This recipe makes enough laundry soap for 128 loads. That’s, like, a year’s worth of laundry! And the cost breakdown comes out to about $7 for a YEAR OF LAUNDRY. But, guess what? You can make it even cheaper. I shopped at Amazon for these prices (because I’m lazy), but word on the street is there are lower prices out there that can reduce this whole shebang to as low as $2 for the whole recipe if you shop super smart.

My price breakdown – through Amazon
Fels Naptha Bar: $4.40
Borax (76oz box) contains 9.5 cups. At $11.74 box, it costs $1.23 per cup
Washing Soda (55oz box) contains 6 7/8 cups. At $9.68 box, it costs $1.40 per cup
Total Cost for 128 loads of soap: $7.03

So there you have it! My homemade laundry lube. Saving the world, and my wallet, and making my inner domestic goddess do a happy dance… one load at a time.

Go forth, friends… and be clean!


My Pits Don’t Stink: Homemade Natural Deodorant

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“Oooh, that smell! Can’t you smell that smell?” Listen closely, chickens. I’m about to let you in on what has been a life-changing recipe for me. See, my quest for the perfect deodorant ain’t because I’m scared of my own smell, or even, that someone else might find themselves in the wake of it. Oh no no no, friends, it is that “deodorant” smell that is just as sure a giveaway of a sweaty lady as her own B.O. might be. That awful, damnable powdery smell… or that floral whiff that is forever in contest with your chosen eau de toilette. Whenever I smell it on myself, or another girl, I cringe. Almost all the scents available in commercial deodorant fall into the “I would never choose that” category, the same way 90% of the perfumes at a department store counter do. There was one exception, when Secret briefly offered a “vanilla chai” scented stick, but it was discontinued, and I cursed the heavens for a long time to follow.

And on the other hand, in recent years, there’s been more and more noise about the potential dangers of aluminum, which is present in all antiperspirants, and their rumored cancer-causing properties. There’s the problem of other additives that may not be doing our skin or our health a service, but are convenient, inexpensive fillers for “big B.O.” to use in their products. And the older I get, the more I realize that knowing what I’m putting in or on my body matters to me. I’ve got far too many mysterious, incurable maladies – and the more I learn, the more it would appear that “cleaner living” can benefit our health at all levels.

So, when I learned that it was exquisitely simple to DIY my own deo with only 3 all-natural ingredients that I probably already had in my kitchen, and control the scent, I jumped at the chance to try. After all, I already exclusively use whipped coconut oil as a body lotion, and love it, so why not add 2 ingredients and call it deodorant?

DIY Natural deodorant

It’s that simple, folks. Mix together the ccoconut oil, baking soda, and your choice of cornstarch or arrowroot. Hit it with a hand blender, if you want to ensure a lumpless, fluffy cream, and slap it in a mason jar. If you have an old jelly jar, or spaghetti sauce jar, use that. By all means, recycle. Note: I definitely prefer the texture of the cream made with arrowroot, as opposed to the cornstarch. I find it is a softer touch, and emulsifies better into the oil. But, I recommend you experiment with both, and figure out which suits your taste better.

In this state, it has, and will impart to your pits, a very light coconutty smell. One which will not interfere with your perfume of choice. Nay, in my opinion, it will only enrich any scent it comes into contact with, like umami does for savory foods. But, if coconut just ain’t your jam, you can experiment with whatever essential oil(s) floats your particular boat.

To use it, just dip your finger in the salve, grab a dollop about the size of a dime, and slather it on your skin. But, in my opinion, there are a couple key tips that can improve your experience getting used to this switch, and they are thus:

1. If you can, do a 3-day “detox” before starting on your natural deodorant regimen. Simply trade out your deo for a few drops of Tea Tree Oil for 3 full days. If you can’t, don’t sweat it (ha!), but if you can, it’s a nice way to sort of “cleanse your palate” from commercial, inorganic ingredients it’s been force-fed for who knows how many years.

2. If you’re of a more sensitive nature, you may wish to start slow. For some, putting this on immediately after shaving can cause a little irritation, due to the somewhat abrasive texture from the powders in the cream. I’ve also heard rumors of break-outs from applying it to skin just after shaving. So, wait a bit before putting it on. Maybe shave the night before. As time goes on, you’ll acclimate, and it will cease to be a problem. And the bonus is, if you ever suffered from over-pigmentation in your pits, this can actually help fade that, over time!

3. If you can, reapply once, mid-day, for maximum potency. As this isn’t an antiperspirant, you’ll still be sweating, and you’ll want adequate coverage. BUT, the good news is that, once you’re allowed to perspire freely, no longer confined by the chemicals of commercial products, and your body acclimates to this freedom, you’ll find that – over time – you actually sweat LESS. And when you do sweat, it’s much less likely to have as much of a funk as it used to. And that, my friends, is like an alchemical miracle. It’s like how they say your lips can become addicted to balm, because they “forget” how to moisturize themselves. The same appears to be true of armpits, kind of. So by lacquering ourselves in chemically-derived antiperspirants, we’re actually teaching our bodies to fight harder to produce sweat. How crazy is that?

So, sure, it might take a bit of dedication to acclimate your body to a new means of odor control, but not only is it safer, more natural, and infinitely cheaper (at pennies per jar versus several dollars per stick), but it’s absolutely worth it for all the same reasons. I can safely say that I’ll never go back. And if you’re a friend of mine, don’t be surprised when I gift you a small jar for yourself, and try to convert you. ‘Cuz I’m preaching the gospel of DIY deodorant to anyone and everyone who will listen!

What do you think… would you give it a shot? If you do, come back and let me know how it works for ya!

 


Slow-Roasted Pork Chops over Apples + Onions, with
Shaved Brussels Sprout + Fennel Slaw

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I love love love to cook. Almost as much as I love to eat. And I plan to subject you to the details of many a delicacy on this here blog. Starting with this one!

The first day of fall was just a few days ago, and while the weather in sunny Los Angeles isn’t quite cooperating yet, I’m willing it into my world little by little. This recipe is insanely easy, requiring only 4 ingredients, 30 minutes prep time, and 3 patient hours of waiting. The pork chops slowly roast/steam/braise over the aromatic bed of apples and onions that are slowly caramelizing in their bath of brown sugar… imparting a sweet, savory, meaty flavor that screams of crisp autumn nights. The wait for this meal is worth it, and while it happily cooks away in your oven, it smells like fall is having a party in your kitchen. And when it’s done? The pork literally falls apart at the touch of a fork. Tender, juicy, comforting, and delicious.

The slaw is a perfect side for this dish, providing a nice delicate crunch alongside the tender pork and melted apples and onions. The earthy flavors in the sprouts and fennel complement the pork and apples perfectly, and rounds out the plate with a pretty, textured greenness.

Slow roasted pork chops over apples + onions

What you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 325°F.

2. Prep your onions, and lay them out in an even layer on the bottom of your dish. (I use a 9×13 pyrex baking dish for this, which fits everything perfectly.)

3. Do the same with the apples, on top of the onion. Yes, there will be more apples than onions. It’s better that way.

4. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the two layers.

5. Lay your seasoned pork chops over all that goodness, leaving a little space between each one.

6. You can optionally add a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper if you want to throw a little heat into the mix. Which I always do.

7. Cover the whole dish tightly with aluminum foil, and pop it into the oven.

8. Occupy yourself for the next 3 hours. Do not phutz with the dish. Do not lift the foil to peek in on your food baby. Just let it cook in peace, and enjoy the heavenly scent.

Hint: this is a good time to prep the salad, so it has plenty of time to marinate and become tasty deliciousness. Here’s how you do that!

shaved brussels sprout + fennel slaw

What you do:

1. Shave it all up. Shave it good. You can use a knife, or my preferred instrument, a mandoline slicer. I also use a cut-resistant glove whenever thinly slicing anything, because I learned my lesson when I cut off my fingertip that one time. It especially makes using a mandoline way easier and safer.

2. Mix it all up. Mix it good.

3. Add the lemon juice and mayo and stir it up good.

4. Salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cover, put in the fridge, and let the flavors make sweet love for a couple hours. It will soften the vegetables and improve as time passes.

And in this instance, I added a splash of apple cider vinegar to create continuity of flavor between the two dishes. But that’s optional.

Behold! The finished product!

pork chop with apples and onions