Memories... Like Mom Made!

Memories... Like Mom Made!
Out of dark moments, flowers grow.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

DIY Household Cleaner using Soapnuts: How to Make Liquid Soapnut Concentrate

As you may have already read, I recently held a giveaway for NaturOli Soapnuts, which I used and reviewed. In my review and giveaway post, I talk about using soapnuts in your washing machine.

After I had been using soapnuts for a few weeks, I realized that I was going to run in to a problem. I was almost out of the 18x concentrated cleanser that they included in my order. It is amazing stuff and I used to to wash windows, pretreat clothes, wipe counters, you name it. It left my counter tops sparkling clean and my windows and mirror streak free and shiny.

I decided I needed to make some of my own, and it wasn't hard to figure out: concentrate = boiling for a long period of time until a reduced liquid is achieved. The process is pretty simple and anyone can do it at home, it just takes some diligence and patience. This is a great cleaner to use around the home and definitely a recipe to add to your all natural cleaner repertoire. Most importantly it is all natural, kid and pet safe, and doesn't use any harsh chemicals. One drawback is that since the only ingredients are soapnuts and water, it doesn't have any preservatives to keep it from spoiling. Because of this, it is probably best to produce it in smaller batches for immediate use, or larger batches with the intention of freezing for later use.

Soapnuts Concentrate Household Cleaner

10-15 soapnuts
2 cups water

Throw a handful of soapnuts into a pot. Make sure it is a pot that can withstand high heat.

Pour the water over the top. You will notice right away that the water is sudsy!

Boil rapidly for several minutes, stirring occasionally.

You should notice that the water will start turning a pale brown. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes darker and thicker, about 20-30 minutes. If the water gets too low, add more water. All in all, I used about 3-4 cups water and ended up with 6 oz of liquid when I was done!

After 20-30 minutes of watchful boiling, simmer for another 30 minutes. Check back frequently to stir the nuts and mash them gently with your spoon.

You will know your concentrate is down when the liquid has greatly reduced and turned a dark brown color. The soapnuts will be soft and mushy and much paler in color. Turn off the burner and let sit until slightly cooled. You will notice it has thickened even more upon standing.

While your liquid cools, place a mason jar or glass container in the sink with a funnel in it. Put a coffee filter in the funnel, and if you have it, a small mesh strainer on top of the funnel and coffee filter.

After the liquid has cooled for a few minutes, spoon out the soapnuts with a slotted spoon and place in a mesh strainer over a bowl.

Pour the remaining liquid through the strainer and funnel and let it drain into the jar. I had to let mine sit for quite a bit while it drained. Don't rush it or you may puncture your filter and have to start all over (guilty!).

 While you are waiting for the liquid to filter, let's squeeze as much precious cleaning power as we can out of the remaining soapnuts! Using a spoon, smash the soapnuts into the mesh strainer to remove as much liquid as possible. Then pour about a cup of super hot tap water (microwave it if you have to) over the soap nuts in the strainer, smashing as you pour.

I repeated this process a few times by using two bowls and filtering back and forth. When I was done, I ended up with about 8 oz of liquid soap nuts cleaner. It was about the same strength as what I was using for pretreating clothes and washing mirrors and windows so I was very pleased that I got this extra cup of cleaning power rather than just tossing the nuts into the trash. You can see the little measuring glass full of the liquid I was able to get from the used soap nuts. That would have all been lost if I hadn't done this last process! In the background of the above picture is my precious concentrated cleaner, still draining!

After your liquid concentrate has fully drained, you can store in a glass, airtight jar or container (I used a baby food jar), and use in your wash, or add an ounce to 24 ounces of water in a spray bottle for use around the house or for pretreating clothes.

It is important to remember that we didn't use any preservatives in this solution, so if you won't be using it all within a week or so, store the jar in the refrigerator or pour the liquid into an ice cube tray and store the frozen cubes in a baggie to easily grab one to thaw whenever you need it.

Another idea is to mix 5 oz liquid cleaner with 1 cups water and pour into an ice cube tray. Store the frozen cubes in a baggie in the freezer and throw a whole frozen cube into the wash. This will allow the solution to be powerful enough to do the job (based on using about 1 tsp per wash) but in a size that is easy to store and grab, rather than having to thaw out a whole cube and measure out 1 tsp every time you need to do laundry.

I hope you enjoy your easy to make, all natural household cleaner and pretreater. I know I do!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Banana Oat Pancakes: Easy and Kid Friendly!

I have been making pancakes for as long as I can remember. I mean honestly, I don't even know how long I have been making pancakes, but I have a feeling the number of years would probably make me feel old so we will just say "a long time". I have been making pancakes for a very very long time....

When I was younger, pancakes always came "from a box"... Jiffy to be precise. Then as I got older my Nana introduced me to her favorite "Krusteaz" which technically came in a bag... Then I moved away and had a child and decided that he would only eat homemade-from-scratch pancakes like my incredibly mouth watering Oatmeal Pecan Chocolate chip pancakes. But after a few years of making different versions of that recipe, I realized: there are FIFTEEN ingredients in that recipe. 15!!! Wow. Not only is that a lot of work and a lot of measuring (and we all know I loathe measuring), but that is a lot of junk in a breakfast food that really doesn't provide any kind of nutrition in the first place... 

So then I started adding more oats and whole wheat flour and less white flour and little to no sugar. I would add applesauce or a banana and use almond milk, sometimes I would add pumpkin... I reworked every version of a pancake recipe in every way you could think: but they always had flour.

Then a friend of mine said "Have you made banana pancakes yet?". And I kind of chuckled and to myself said "Well yeah I have made banana pancakes... ", referring to slicing up bananas and folding them into my batter, but instead I said "what do you mean?". And thank goodness I did because she said "all you do is mash a banana with an egg and cook it."


Apparently this recipe had been floating around Pinterest for a while and I have seen it but never really put much thought to it... I did try the banana and oatmeal cookies recipe that I saw on Pinterest and fell in love with them. So I decided to take my friend's pancake suggestion and merge it with the oatmeal cookie recipe and created a pancake that both my kids absolutely love... and so do I!

Banana Oat Pancakes
1-2 bananas
2 eggs
1/2 ish or so cup oats (I used quick because it is what I had. Old fashioned would certainly be a good choice but I would pulse them in a magic bullet or blender first to help the texture)
Healthy splash of vanilla (or a glug... more like a glug)
1 tsp cinnamon (it may look like a lot but these fragrant pancakes will be worth it)

Add Ins
Chocolate Chips
Chopped nuts
Diced strawberries
Whatever you can think of!
I got too excited and mashed the banana and egg with some oats before I remembered to take a picture... oops!

This is a perfect job for kids. Here Landon is mashing the banana up. It was so much fun talking to him about the way the masher made little squares, how it sounded, how it looked, what did he think it would feel like if he touched it, etc etc. Getting kids in the kitchen is a wonderful way to boost their vocabulary and create some great dialogue, learning opportunities, and new experiences. It is also a great way to get kids to try stuff they wouldn't normally try - something about helping to make it takes away the fear of trying new things!

Adding the egg and whisking it all up. Landon is an awesome egg cracker! I never would have thought a 4 year old could crack an egg but I decided to teach him one day and now he likes to crack all of the eggs by himself.

After Landon got all done stirring up the eggs, banana, and oats, we added the cinnamon and the splash of vanilla. I love vanilla and cinnamon and I wanted these pancakes to have a heavy scent that filled the kitchen... oh boy did they! I was also pleased with how the addition of the vanilla and cinnamon took the spotlight off the banana and made them more reminiscent of a pancake you would expect to find at IHOP or somewhere like it.

Drop them onto a hot griddle greased with coconut oil, butter, or whatever you like to use, and sprinkle with your add ins. We added chocolate chips for the two of us, and left them plain for the baby. I did not let Landon help with this part (anything involving the oven or stove is off limits for him), so he went to set the table while I finished up. I think I had them at medium heat and they probably cooked for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Flip them carefully. These little guys are tricky to flip because they tend to slip all over the place. It is more akin to flipping a fried egg than a pancake, since this is egg based, so be careful and patient when flipping or you will end up with a folded up pancake... but don't worry, it will still taste great! (I know from experience).

So there you have it. A delicious, easy breakfast you can make with your kids, by yourself, or beg your boyfriend to make for you. Whatever suits you ;).

I will also say: these freeze beautifully. Make them in bulk and freeze them to have on hand for an easy breakfast. They freeze so much better than regular pancakes which get soggy when thawed and reheated... These cook right back to deliciousness in the microwave or skillet.