Monday, September 26, 2016

Hand Made Shampoo Bars

My Hand Made Shampoo Bars
When I was a kid, my Dad used to tell us girls that we should just use Dial soap on our hair like he did.  Uh, no thanks Dad.

Fast forward a few decades...  I had not been happy with store bought shampoos for quite some time.  The only ones I really like cost $10 per bottle, with another $10 for the conditioner.  They are only sold in "natural" foods stores of course.  That's just not in the current budget, so I tried the cheapie shampoos - like Suave.  I found that those cheaper conditioners would break out my scalp so  I had to go back to the expensive "natural" shampoo and conditioner again.

When I started on the soap making journey, I joined some soap groups on Facebook and found out that shampoo bars could be made at home.  I found one recipe created by a lady who graciously shares her recipe and knowledge for anyone to use. It contains Apple Cider Vinegar, coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and castor oil.

This shampoo bar  is PERFECT for my scalp and hair.  It has just enough superfat (3%) so that I don't need a conditioner, but not too much, which would weigh down my hair.  I've been using it for well over a year now, and will never go back to store bought shampoo.

I infused olive oil with rosemary to use as the super fat in the shampoo bars (I allowed the herb to steep in the oil for some time, then strained out and discarded the herb).  Rosemary is supposedly good for hair, especially brunettes (which I no longer am...).  I add the olive oil to the soap and this extra amount is called superfatting. The rosemary has a very pleasant herbal scent.

I mold the shampoo bars in a PVC pipe.  When hard, I unmold and slice into bars.  I love the round shape - it fits nicely into my hand  and is a perfect shape for shampooing the hair.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation about using shampoo bars out there.  For one thing, I heard many people say that there was an "adjustment period" where the scalp, hair, etc. had to get used to this new way of cleansing.  Turns out, my research proved this is not the case at all.  There are all sorts of silicones, chemicals, etc., on the hair left by store bought shampoos/conditioners (which makes us think the product is leaving us with shiny manageable hair).  This creates a build up.  In order to remove any of this product from my hair, I first prepared a solution of 1 tsp. baking soda mixed with 1 cup of warm water and massaged that in my scalp, then rinsed.  I then used 100% coconut oil soap which is a highly cleansing soap - to shampoo my hair twice.  Then I used the shampoo bar.  That one-time process allowed me to remove any residual product residue from my hair. Now all that is being left behind each time I use the shampoo bar is a little bit of olive oil.  Caroline says blue Dawn dish liquid is the only thing that would strip the gunk for her.

One thing that I learned was that it was a good idea to rinse the hair with vinegar after washing.  For one thing, it brings the pH of the hair back down to normal levels (soap has higher pH than skin), and it helps rinse the soap out of the hair since I have hard well water.  If I had a water softener I probably wouldn't have to do this often.

I have found that I prefer white vinegar over apple cider vinegar.  I use about 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. I use a recycled dishwashing detergent bottle for the vinegar and leave it in the shower with a plastic cup.  I squirt about 1/4 cup of vinegar in the cup and fill it with warm water.  I rinse my shampooed hair with this solution and then rinse it out well.

I have also made the shampoo bars and added tea tree oil, grapefruit oil, and other essential oils. Everyone seems to like something different.

My whole hair care routine has been dramatically simplified.  It's hard to believe that I am making this myself, using natural products that I have sourced myself.  I can't pronounce many of the ingredients in so called natural shampoos, but I have selected each of the ingredients in my shampoo bars.

It may surprise you to know that ALL soap is made with lye.  Soap cannot be made without it.  If a product says "bath bar", "body wash" etc. and not "soap", then it is a DETERGENT.  Basic soap is made by adding lye to water (or in the case of the shampoo bars, apple cider vinegar), then mixing with oils.  The end product (after much stirring) is soap.  Different oils lend different properties to the soap, and by adding extra oil, fragrance, essential oils, and/or botanicals, each bar is truly unique.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Buttercup Squash Gratin

I found some seeds at the local farm store called Buttercup Squash.  I thought it was a type of pattypan, so I got some.  Cute little green squashes appeared on the huge trailing vines.  I picked one when I thought it was of eating size.  It didn't look like any pattypan I've ever had so we googled Buttercup Squash and found out it's a winter squash, and that little one I picked was too immature to eat.  We waited a bit longer.

When the squashes were a bit bigger, they were ready.  We learned that the skin gets a dark green and has a matte finish (no longer glossy).
  Source: Bonnie Plants

For the first day of Autumn, it was only fitting that we try Buttercup Squash for the first time.  I found a recipe on Pinterest (of course) and adapted it to my liking.

Source: The Kitchen is My Playground

The recipe comes from The Kitchen is My Playground.  The author uses Butternut Squash, and cubes it before cooking.  That's hard work - paring butternut is difficult.  Buttercup are a bit easier, but I took an even easier out.  I cut the squash in half, removed the seeds, and placed the two halves in the crock pot, set it to high and waited.  It took only about an hour to cook to fork-tender.  After cooking, I scooped out the flesh and fed the peel to the chickens. I saved the seeds for next year's garden.

So since my squash was very well done, I basically mashed it.  I followed the remaining recipe - well pretty much.  Here's what I did:

Saute 1 small (about 1/2 cup) finely diced onion in oil/butter in cast iron pan.  
When cooked through, but not brown, I added two garlic cloves, crushed.
I let this cook for just a couple more  minutes then turned off the heat.
Meanwhile, I beat one egg in a bowl, then added about 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, the squash, about 1/2 tsp. salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper, then the onion.
I placed this mixture in a buttered casserole dish, topped it off with about 1/2 cup additional Parmesan, about 1/3 cup Panko crumbs, and dotted the top with butter.
I microwaved the casserole for about 12 minutes (only because my oven is not working....) but heating in the oven would have been preferable.

The casserole was quite good and I plan to make this again.  

I do have quite a few of these squashes and while they can be stored for quite a long time, I will probably can most of them so I don't have to worry about spoilage.