Cold Process Soap with Natural Colorants

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I made this recipe with an even 9.75 oz amount of olive, palm and coconut oils. Then 2.5 oz rice bran oil, 1.25 oz cocoa butter and 2 oz castor oil. For colorant I used alkanet root infused sunflower oil and spirulina which I did not measure. For texture I added finely hand ground lavender flowers. I wasn’t really planning on adding colorant at all when I started this project so I had a thicker trace than I wanted and the design was not thought out well. Applying plastic over the top before I insulated them and a bit of soda ash make them not very good looking at this point. I certainly have some cleanup to do on these and in hind site I should have changed up the design on each row for variety.

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After 48 hours the alkanet is turning a light bluish purple color, the spirulina provides a slight green tinge and the ground lavender flowers are discoloring and becoming visible dark flecks.

 

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I’ll let them cure for a while before I try any clean up on them. And if they are destined to not look that great in the end they will still have an amazing Rosemary and Lavender scent.

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How to eat a giant Artichoke

I grew up in the vicinity of Castroville in Central California. It’s a little out of the way town that is known for being the Artichoke Capital of the World, and little else. I remember driving through the artichoke fields to get over to hwy 1 and the ocean when I would visit my family there. We had a friend who would give us flats of artichokes in the spring for free.

This is an instruction on how I was shown to eat a giant Artichoke and I’ve never seen anyone eat them any other way except on menu in a restaurant, a different smaller variety of artichoke from other parts of the world or pickled in a jar. I experimented with exchanging the mayonnaise for another condiment but it’s just not the same and never tastes as good. The only substitute I will use is Ranch Dressing if I have no Mayo. It’s happened once or twice.

Firstly, I tend to look for the fatter wider artichokes with an undamaged stem and that there is enough stem so you can trim away several inches before the base of the flower starts.  You want to look between the petals (yep, you are about to eat a giant flower) and see smooth even green with no damage or bumps. It should be firm and make a rubbery sort of sound when moved against itself. There may be a bit of purple coloring, that’s just what color it would be if it bloomed.

You get a large pan of water with a few drops of olive oil and set it to a low/medium boil. Take your Artichoke and cut the top half of the flower off and discard it. Then cut away the base and remove the first layer of outer petals and discard them.

Take your cut artichoke and place in to float in the pan of water, face up so it saturates down into the petals and let it go for about 10 minutes before flipping it over and giving it another 10 minutes on the other side. By now it will have turned a darker green and any marks you make on it will appear dark brown a few minutes later so if you pierce it with a fork for turning it over its normal for it to darken. The water will also become green. Poke through the base when it is face down and if the fork inserts easily it is done. Turn off the stove and let the water stop boiling and cool a bit before you remove the artichoke. Be careful to take it out face down to let the water drain from the petals and not to scald yourself. I usually place it in a colander to drain for a few minutes and then serve it on a large dinner plate with lots of room, with a ramekin of mayonnaise.

 

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I’ve always enjoyed a plain black hot tea with artichoke, I’m pretty sure that’s just me.

Now, there is some technique to eating it.

Pluck off a petal and dip it in mayo/ranch. Not all of it is edible, part of it is mushy and delicious and the other part is fibrous and you discard it. You are essentially scraping the edible part off with your teeth, I recommend doing this with the petal facing up and doing the scraping with your top teeth instead of your bottom teeth. This prevents water from dripping down your arm/chin. As you move inwards through the layers more of the petal becomes edible until all or nearly all of it is edible. Near the center when it all becomes edible I pluck multiple petals and roll them together.

 

Now, let’s talk about what kind of flower we are eating, it’s a giant thistle, it has spikes and spines and prickly parts when it blooms and there’s evidence of that here. The center of the flower with the seeds is pokey and the short thin covering over the seeds has little spines at the tip of the petals. You will notice they are a different sort of petal, shorter, flatter, paper thin with no meaty edible part at the bottom, they cover over the seeds and they may be tinged purple.

 

You should to remove these little petals and the seeds and discard them because of the spiny/pokey fibrous parts.  What you have left is called the Heart. It is the most delicious part of the Artichoke. You may find brown punctures here from a fork, this is normal if you punctured it turning or checking for doneness, it’s fine and edible.

 

The entirety of the heart is edible and if you’ve gotten this far you probably immediately want another artichoke because the heart is so tasty, it’s well worth the effort to get to it.

Pork Mushroom Eggroll Adventure!

I have to admit I don’t get Asian flavor combinations, for me it’s the unknown… my brain cant imagine what the flavor combinations are going to taste like in advance and that’s something I really rely on when cooking, it feels a little like cooking blind. I’ve decided to start with baby steps.

My feared combination here is ginger mixed with garlic. It turned out nothing like what my taste buds could predict at all and it was delicious, I made the same thing the very next day. It’s not far off the mark from most of the recipes I was finding all over the internet so here was my take on a standard pork eggroll recipe I was seeing, basically I just substituted half the pork with a portabella mushroom.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb Pork Sausage

1/4 teaspoon powdered Ginger

1/4 teaspoon powdered Garlic

1 large Portabella Mushroom, diced

1/2 cup shredded Carrot

1 cup shredded Cabbage

1 package of pre-made Eggroll Wrappers

1 tablespoon Water

1 tablespoon Flour

Peanut Oil for frying

Instruction:

Add oil for frying to frying pan and set aside, in another skillet add Sausage, Garlic and Ginger and cook on medium heat until cooked through.

Meanwhile, shred carrots and cabbage, set both aside in a large bowl.  Dice the mushroom and set aside.

Once the Sausage is cooked add it to the bowl of carrot and cabbage and return the pan to the heat, add portabella and cook until liquid is released and they start to become darker and mushy about 4 or 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to mixture in bowl and stir until all ingredients are mixed well. rotate the pan with the peanut oil to the burner and heat to frying temperature.

While the oil heats prepare the eggrolls, in a small bowl combine the water and the flour into a paste.

Place a large spoon full of mixture into the center of the egg roll wrapper and fold according to the eggroll packaging instructions, use a bit of flour paste to seal the seam of the eggroll wrapper.

Fry until golden brown, set aside on paper towels to cool before eating. I found that I liked larger eggrolls so there was less wrapper overlay.

 

 

 

Brick Red Oxide and Mantra Swirl

Every soap is still a new experiment for me, this is my 5th batch of Cold Process and per the rules I made for myself I had triple checked my recipe and prepared everything, created a perfectly fitting divider for my soap and as I was concentrating on not messing up the divider (because I have never used one before) it occurred to me that I forgot to line my mold. So I essentially had to run a knife between the soap and the mold to dislodge it.I will not make that mistake next time!

I adapted this recipe from my usual by adding oat extract and shea butter and selected a cranberry scent.