Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chocolate Covered Cherries

These have become a favorite of our family and friends.  They were introduced to me about 8 years ago.  The recipe came out of a magazine, but I can't, for the life of me, remember what that magazine was! The original recipe was for white chocolate covering.  Although I've also made them milk chocolate as well.  Both are very good!

You know how when you add sugar to some sliced strawberries and stick them in the fridge overnight, they  make syrup and are yummy on shortcake?  Well, it's sort of the same idea.  You wrap Maraschino Cherries in a powdered sugar concoction and then seal that inside of chocolate, while the sugar encourages a syrup to form around the cherry.  I honestly think they taste better at room temperature.  Especially after they've been sitting out for a couple of days.  However, I usually keep them refrigerated or even frozen just so I don't eat so many!  Well, and so that I can keep them long enough to give them away.

Without further ado, here we go!

Ingredients: powdered sugar, chocolate, baking cocoa, cherries, butter, vanilla and almond extracts.

Soften the butter.  I stuck mine in the micro for 30 seconds just cause it was straight from the fridge.  Even better is to let it sit out to room temp.
Measure out your sugar, cocoa, and vanilla.

Drain the cherries and lay them on a paper towel.  Gently pat them dry.  Mix up your powdered sugar concoction.

Wash your hands well.  Dry them, then add some coconut oil to them.  Take a teaspoon or so of your sugar mix and roll it up, then pat it out flat on your hand.

Put one cherry inside then roll the sugar mix around it.

Then roll it like a meatball.

Set it on a tray or cookie sheet covered in wax paper.

Once you get all of your cherries rolled in chocolate and sugar, you'll want to take a break.  Stick your tray in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to let the sugar and butter harden up.  I usually even put them in the freezer for a few minutes before I start dipping them in the chocolate.  So, take a break and clean up your mess.  You've got a minimum of 2 hours before the next step.  This can even stay in the fridge overnight and resumed the next morning if you'd like.

Put your chocolate in a bowl with some coconut oil and a dash of almond extract.
Microwave for 1 minute.  Stir, then add 15-30 seconds til it's melted, stirring often until you've got it nice and runny.

Stick a toothpick in 1 very cold cherry ball. Roll it in the chocolate, drop your cherry back on the tray,  then use a little dab of chocolate on the toothpick to cover up the hole that it made in the cherry.

Lick the toothpick, then get another one for the next cherry.  I, wisely, did not take a picture of my pile of dirty toothpicks. :)

Once your cherries are all dipped, stick them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.

In the meantime, make your contrasting chocolate.

About a 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips and a bit of coconut oil.  Microw'ed for about 30 seconds.
You'll want it really drippy so you can fling it and drizzle it.
The finished product!  Let it chill to harden and wahlah!  Eat any imperfect ones and give away the beauties!

36-48 maraschino cherries with stems - well drained  ( I used 2 small jars without stems)
 1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup baking Cocoa or dutch processed cocoa
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, divided (I didn't use any milk this time....but if it's too dry, then add a bit of milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
white chip coating
chocolate chip drizzle
or vice versa

 1.Cover tray with wax paper.  lightly press cherries between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.
 2.Beat butter, powdered sugar, cocoa (and 1 tablespoon milk if needed) in small bowl until well blended; stir in vanilla.  if necessary, add remaining milk, one teaspoon at a time, until mixture will hold together but is not wet.
 3.Mold scant teaspoon mixture around each cherry, covering completely; place on prepared tray.  cover; refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.
 4. Prepare white chip coating.  holding each cherry by stem, dip into coating.  place on tray; refrigerate until firm.
 5. About one hour before serving, prepare chocolate chip drizzle; with tines of fork, drizzle randomly over candies.  refrigerate until drizzle is firm.  store in refrigerator.

 White Chip Coating:  place 1 2/3 cups (10 oz. pkg.) Hershey's premier white chips in small microwave-safe bowl; drizzle with 2 tablespoons coconut oil and almond extract.  microwave at high (100%) 1 minute, stir.  If necessary, microwave at high an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.  If mixture thickens while coating, microwave at high 15 seconds; stir until smooth.

Chocolate Chip Drizzle:  Place 1/4 cup Hershey's milk chocolate chips and 1/4 teaspoon oil, in another small microwave safe bowl.  Microwave at high (100%) 30 seconds to 1 minute; stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.

Friday, November 16, 2012

All natural homemade laundry products

I've been hesitant to try home made laundry soap.  For several reasons.  1)  I REALLY love Eco's Laundry Detergent.  Especially their Magnolia and Lily scented one.  The Lemongrass scent is heavenly as well.  I love climbing into bed with freshly washed sheets and breathing in their scents.  The Eco detergent also already has a soy based fabric softener in it.  And, since I get it through our Frontier co-op group, it's a steal compared to what you'd buy it for in the stores.  2)  Many of the recipes I've seen for home made detergents call for use of a soap that is not very natural and includes synthetic detergents in it, and I really wanted to skip the synthetics.

For instance, the popular Fels Naptha and Ivory soaps, use synthetic detergents.  For the most part, if you aren't using a pure castile soap, or a truly GOOD, natural, expensive soap, you aren't really getting the benefit of it being a natural laundry detergent, you're still using synthetic.  BUT, if your purpose is simply for cost savings, then it doesn't matter the type of soap you use.  You'll still save money by making your own!

My suggestion, however, is to go as natural as possible.  I used Kirk's Castile Soap.  The ingredients are Coconut Soap, Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Coconut Oil.  Says right on the package "No Synthetic Detergents".  Plus, by getting it through the Frontier co-op, it was only $1.25 for a 4 oz bar.  You could even save more by buying a 3 pack for just $3.50  I may be mistaken, but I BELIEVE that's even cheaper than you can buy the Fels Naptha.

And finally, I just wasn't sure if it would REALLY clean as well as the more expensive soaps.  So, I put it to the ultimate test.  Out here in the country.  We get clothes DIRTY, and I mean dirty with capital letters.  No doubt about it.  I took many before and after pictures.  My final impression.  WOW!  It was super easy to make, super cheap, and it actually cleans!  I'm sold!  This week, my 2 youngest little angels even decided to write on my sunny yellow bed sheets with ink pen!  Came out, no problem.

Comparison Pics













As you can see, it works very well.  

I prefer liquid detergent, and some of the reviews I've read on the powdered detergents where not the greatest.  Particularly for cold washing.  So, I stuck to a liquid recipe.  If you've ever made liquid hand soap before, this is pretty much the same consistency.  It's low suds, so you don't really see bubbles in your wash, but it does clean!  I suppose if I'd never made hand soap before, I'd be a little more turned off by the consistency, but it's familiar to me, so no big deal.  Otherwise, it's kinda like snot.  Also, this can be used in both high efficiency and regular washers.  The recipe I looked at, called for only 3 ounces of grated soap.  Since my soap bar was 4 ounces, I just used the whole thing in my recipe.  If  you really wanted to stretch your dollars and soap, you could.  I just didn't know what else to do with an ounce of soap so just grated it up along with the rest.


1 - 3-4 ounce bar of Kirk's Castile Soap, grated  (or your favorite soap, either scented or unscented)
1/2 cup of washing soda
1/2 cup of borax
About 2 gallons of clean water

Add the grated soap to a pot and 6 cups of warm water.  Heat on the stove on  medium, stirring occasionally, until the soap flakes dissolve.  In the meantime, add the washing soda and borax to your bucket with 4 cups of warm water and stir until dissolved.  When the soap flakes are ready, add them to your bucket and stir.  Add another 1 gallon + 6 cups of warm water.  Stir some more.  Put the lid on your bucket and let it sit for 24 hours til it "gels".  You can stir it up with a big wooden spoon anytime.  At first, it looked kind of solid on top, with big chunks of more solid like gel soap blocks as I started stirring, but it mixed up pretty well.

Use 1/2 cup for each load.

Fabric Softener

For fabric softener, use 1/2 cup of vinegar.  Either white, or apple cider vinegar, doesn't matter.  You can also add a couple drops of any essential oil of your choice to the vinegar.  Either put this in the fabric softener spot of your washer, or in a downy ball.  

The essential oils aren't a necessity.  It does smell nice while your clothes are washing, but it doesn't leave a lasting scent.  Nor does the vinegar.  Your clothes just come out smelling clean.  If you want to add some essential oils to your laundry soap, you can do that as well.  But for the most part, it's just an added kick of antifungal, antibacterial properties to your laundry and it makes your house smell nice while they're washing.  I like to use peppermint.  :)

If you struggle with static cling, the biggest issue is the type of material your clothes are made from.  Synthetic fibers will almost always get static cling.  Particularly in the cooler, dryer months.  Materials like cotton or linen won't have the same problem.  So take this all into consideration as well.  You may need to use a more commercial product with some of your clothes, but be able to utilize wool dryer balls and a wad of aluminum foil in the dryer for more natural materials.  I know, it sounds crazy, but it works!  I keep some Seventh Generation Free and Clear Fabric Softener for when I need to wash snow suits and coats, but for most of our clothes, I use the wool balls.  You can get Willow Store brand from Frontier for $10 for 3 balls. I also think Norwex sells some too, but uncertain of the price.  Sometimes tennis balls would work, but be sure they are lead free.  And that little tip of aluminum foil?  Well, if the dryer balls aren't enough, sometimes a wad of foil can help add just enough static cutting help to do the trick.

And finally, dryer sheets.  Simply cut an old cotton t shirt or flannel into any size you'd like and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. ( Can find Essential Oils here. ) A good size for your dryer sheet is about 5 inches square.  Add about 3 drops of oil and toss in!  You can use your same 'dryer sheet' for 2-3 loads.  After that, just toss into your washer and wash and then use again for more drying or try with different scents. 

Why not use commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets?  Well, because many of the fragrances used in commercial products are quite toxic and can be absorbed into your clothing and through your skin.  They are blamed for many skin problems and can aggravate eczema, dry skin, rashes, or allergies.  So why not go as natural as possible?

And there you have it.  Natural laundry detergent, fabric softener, and even 'dryer sheets'.  If you haven't tried it, give it a shot!  I was pleasantly surprised and I hope you are too!