Making it up as I go along

HI! Remember me? I used to blog here until I stopped making time. I miss it. But you didn't come here to read my whining about how I'm just so so so busy with work and the kids and the pets and the house (beating back the squalor!) and whatever else. So instead of that, I wanted to share a post about some stuff I've made lately. some pretty awesome stuff, actually.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT. A cousin of mine swears by making her own – not only for its cleaning ability but also because it's super frugal, costing just pennies per load. And because milk is $4/gallon and a head of iceberg lettuce is $2.69 (?!), we have to pinch pennies wherever we can. So I tried her recipe. OMG. I LOVE IT! It's easy to make and it really works. It's low-sudsing which makes it safe for use in HE machines, and you know exactly what's in it. And did I mention how inexpensive it is?  There are lots of recipes on the internet, some for liquid and some for powder, but I make the liquid.

Be sure you have a CLEAN bucket (buy one new and dedicate it for exclusive use) and something to transfer your finished product into – plastic pitchers, or re-use laundry detergent bottles or milk jugs (a funnel makes transfer easier). Also, after you let it sit overnight, it's kind of like runny Jell-O, so give it a good stir or, even better, jam an immersion blender in there to reliquify it before you transfer it into storage containers. Bonus points if you make clever labels such as "Caroline Ingalls's Pioneer Laundry Soap".

DISHWASHER DETERGENT. I got to thinking, if I can whip up my own laundry detergent, why couldn't I concoct, say, some dishwasher detergent? Turns out, the two main ingredients you need make the laundry detergent  - Borax Powder and Washing Soda – are also the main ingredients in dishwasher soap! So if you're making one, you might as well make the other. Again there are many versions of this posted on the internet, but  check out this recipe. I used FruitFresh for the citric acid. I also saw one recipe that suggested you add a squirt of Dawn liquid, then mix it in, so I did. It smells great, but of course the liquid makes the mixture want to clump up. You can bust the clumps with a fork before adding to the detergent compartment. (I probably won't add the Dawn next time.) So far it seems to work great. And again – it's so… cheap!  Have you priced dishwasher detergent? Especially those pods or tablets? Crazy expensive.

BREAD. I've been making my own bread for ages… people go crazy for homemade bread but really, it's so easy to make. (It's like that commercial from a few years ago, where the mom makes Rice Krispies treats, then splashes flour onto her face so everyone thinks she slaved for hours in the kitchen when in fact she never broke a sweat.)

I came upon this no-knead recipe a few years ago and it's my favorite when I want a crispy crust. Only drawback is, you need to plan ahead so there's plenty of rising time. Also, I would suggest that you not use a Pyrex bowl in that hot of an oven. Have you ever had one of those babies shatter? BAD NEWS. Instead, invest in a cast-iron dutch oven with a lid… watch the department store sales, or try off-price stores such as TJ Maxx or Ross. It's worth having one just for the bread, but you can make all kinds of other things in it too.

A few weeks ago, I discovered this recipe for peasant bread. It's another no-knead recipe, and it can be made in just a couple of hours. Instead of a crisp crust, it comes out softer. It tastes great! This recipe also calls for Pyrex bowls, but the oven isn't as hot for as long as it is for the Rocket Bread recipe. Don't be scared by how long the blog post recipe appears to be; it's super-easy to make.

I don't have the exact cost figures but you can make rolls or bread at home for a fraction of the cost of what you pay retail. And if you ask me, homemade bread is just better.

YOGURT. Seriously. I saw this making the rounds and wondered, could I really make my own yogurt? Turns out you can, in a crock pot. It's ridiculously easy and it tastes really good! And it's got to be less expensive than buying all those little cups of it… and if you aren't buying those, you aren't throwing them away, which is good for the Earth.  You can even strain it to separate out the whey, and you end up with a thick, Greek-style yogurt. YUM.

If, like me, you are intrigued about whether to buy something or try to make it yourself, you might want to check out these blog posts, written by Amy Keyishian (who happens to be a Facebook friend of mine), wherein she tackles not only making yogurt (cheaper than buying!), but also whether or not to buy or make your own candy corn (buy!) or pie crust (make; duh!). 

I'm not sure what I'll tackle next. I don't see myself making my own wine – though when I was a kid, a guy used to come collect pears that had dropped from our trees so he could make his own pear wine. And I have friends who brew their own beer, so I can just go drink theirs. I'd love your suggestions – leave 'em in the comments!