Test Kitchen Thursday: Salted Caramel Sauce

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It’s that time again: TEST KITCHEN THURSDAY! I have one done one or two test kitchen posts now and it was possibly Test Kitchen Tuesday instead of Thursday but I am too lazy to double check that for sure. Also, I set out a bunch of rules in that last post for how I would handle Test Kitchen recipes and I am abandoning those as well. I’m an effing rebel ya’ll. I don’t even follow my own rules.

For today’s Test Kitchen Thursday recipe we are making Salted Caramel Sauce. Homemade caramel is one of those things I have always known is easy to make and even easier to mess up so I never did it. We recently bought an air popper though and I immediately thought of making caramel popcorn. I did a bunch of research on making caramel and realized it was pretty easy as long you stay with it, keep stirring and do not get distracted. My wife helped me make this so I could try taking pics of the recipe because it moves pretty fast.

This recipe is divine! I seriously just wanted to eat it off the spoon. As soon as I tried it it made me think of Fall and apple picking. I really wanted a Granny Smith apple to dunk in the sauce.

All you need is four ingredients

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We like some sugar in this house.

Sugar, heavy cream, salt and butter

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Next, place your sugar in a medium size pot, over medium heat and stir constantly as it melts down.

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It will start to look a little chunky as the sugar heats up. Melting the sugar is the longest step. It took a solid 10-15 minutes for it to get going. You do not want to turn up the heat and risk burning your sugar.

Eventually the clumps will melt down into the nice deep brown colored liquid. I had a picture of this but it came out kind of blurry since we were try to move quickly.

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Once you have your liquid sugar, add 6 tablespoons of butter. Be careful the minute you add your butter the whole thing with start bubbling rapidly. Keep stirring 1-2 minutes until all the butter is melted.

Next, slowly, add half a cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring for a another minute. Finally, add about a teaspoon of salt and remove the heat.

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This Test Kitchen Recipe was a complete winner for me. I will definitely be making this again and putting it on EVERYTHING!

Test Kitchen Thursday: Salted Caramel Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

Instructions

  1. Place sugar in medium sized pot over medium heat. Stir constantly.
  2. Keep stirring and the sugar will be to clump before turning in a caramel colored liquid.
  3. Add butter and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes. The sauce will bubble rapidly once butter is added.
  4. Slowly add heavy cream and stir for another minute. The bubbles will rise about halfway up the pot.
  5. Remove from heat and add salt.
  6. Store in the refrigerator and heat for a few seconds before using it.
http://runningonlaughter.com/2015/08/13/test-kitchen-thursday-salted-caramel-sauce/

Craveworthy: Immortal Mountain Chocolates

8 09 2015_Immortal Mtn ChocOk, guys. I swear that I’m not trying to overwhelm you with various product reviews, but if I find something awesome I want to share it with you. Especially if that something is handmade and local. Which is why I want…no NEED to tell you about this chocolate.

Kris and I were out exploring Front Royal yesterday. It was a gorgeous day, and we just needed a change of scenery. While we were browsing at Gathered, one of my all-time favorite shops, Kris just happened to pick up a handmade chocolate bar. So I bought us one to share on a whim.

It was possibly the best chocolate I have ever had in my entire life. Top five at least. We ended up trying the Black Flower Cacao by Immortal Mountain Chocolates which is a dark chocolate sweetened with honey and hints of jasmine and bee pollen. Again…I’m not being paid for this post, but it’s amazing how having something that is really good quality puts things into perspective.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to overhaul my diet despite a major sweet tooth. But this chocolate (which bears a striking resemblance to fudge) was so good that we didn’t even have to finish the entire bar to feel satisfied. I think it just goes to show that sometimes it’s worth it to choose quality over quantity.

I always like to support local businesses, so I’ll definitely be checking out their online shop. What about you, dear readers? Have any of you tried any of the other flavors? I’m particularly intrigued by the Forest Cove or Neroli Grove flavors.

 

 

DIY Bubble Bars

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I have a confession: Lush annoys me. I like the idea but they seemed so overpriced for something I can make in my kitchen. I injured my back recently and used some bath salts Lauren and I made around Christmas to help relax it. It was glorious! I think my tubs are larger here than they were at the townhouse and I finally understand why people just like chilling in the bathtub.

Then, Peanut would only get in to the tub at the new house IF there were bubbles in it. On a whim I picked up a bubble bar from Lush. It changed the water color, made bubbles and smelled nice. I try to keep the products I use on Peanut pretty natural so it was nice that Lush has a great selection. The downside is those little suckers are expensive. We are able to mitigate the expensive by breaking them into pieces. But come one, $3-$7 for one little bar, I can’t.

I felt like they could not be that hard to make myself and I found multiple recipes that basically used the same ingredient set. I made these with my niece in about 10 minutes but they took about two-three days to fully set. I did use one the actual day I made them and it worked beautifully but the it was kind of crumbly so I could not have stored it at that point.  I definitely plan on making more bath treats now. I have my eye on some bath bomb recipes I want to try.

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The cast of characters, most are basic kitchen supplies. In addition to this you will need a face mask and rubber gloves. The sodium lauryl sulfoacetate is really fine powder that floats all through the air. Even with a face mask on I could feel it in my mouth and nose so hopefully you get a better fitting one than me. The gloves are just so it doesn’t dry out your hands when mixing.

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First you will place all of your dry ingredients into a bowl.

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Then you add of the wet ingredients. I told you guys this was really simple. Then start mixing together with your hands. You want scrunch it up so that it will stick together. I gave a range in the amount of glycerin to use because you want to add enough to get everything in to a dough-like texture.

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Divide your dough in to two bowls. Add food coloring to one or both bowls. I put food coloring in one bowl. I noticed with some of the Lush bars that when multiple colors mixed it just look like mud. Keep that in mind when picking colors.

Next, place one of the dough bowls on wax paper and flatten it out like you would pie crust. (I am a terrible blogger and did not take a picture of this pretty important step.) Now, layer the other dough ball of top of you first one and flatten it out as well. Finally, use the wax paper to roll it up like sushi.

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I sliced mine and the let the slices dry out for about two days. After that you can place them in a container to store or give them as a gift. You can use them before they fully dry.

DIY Bubble Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/3C Corn Starch
  • 1/3C Cream of Tartar
  • 1C Baking Soda
  • 1C Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
  • 1/2 -3/4C Glycerin
  • 1TB Olive Oil or oil of your choice
  • 10 Drops of Essential Oil
  • Food Coloring
  • Mask and Rubber Gloves

Instructions

  1. Place all dry ingredients into bowl
  2. Add all wet ingredients except food coloring
  3. Mix with hands until you have a dough-like consistency
  4. Divide dough into two bowls.
  5. Add food coloring to one or both bowls
  6. Take one of the dough balls and roll it out on wax paper. You can use your hands to flatten it.
  7. Place the second dough ball on top of your flatten dough and roll it out so they are the same size.
  8. Using the wax paper, begin to roll the the dough like sushi.
  9. Slice your bubble log and allow to dry out for 2-3 days.
http://runningonlaughter.com/2015/08/06/diy-bubble-bars/

2 Minute Snack: Granny Smith Slices with Quick Curry Dip

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Ok, guys. I’ll admit that at first this week’s recipe may sound a bit cray cray. But stay with me….you’ll be glad you did.

In all honesty, I have the WORST eating habits. I really do value my health, and I WANT to eat properly, but I love so many unhealthy foods.  For the last couple of months, I’ve just been ignoring the fact that my poor eating will catch up to me. So I’ve put on a few of the pounds that I worked so hard to lose and feel pretty “fluffy.” So now that vacation is over, it’s back to healthier habits for me.

The thing is, I really love flavorful foods, and I hate to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking.  So I developed this new recipe for those times when I want something creamy/spicy/crunchy/sweet/tangy. It is big on flavor without being heavy on calories.  The curry means that this snack isn’t boring, and the fiber in the apple slices will keep you satisfied until dinner. Without further ado:

    • Mix 1 Tbsp Whipped Dressing (such as Miracle Whip) with 1/2 Tsp Yellow Curry Powder
    • Slice 1 Granny Smith Apple
    • Dip Apple Slices in Dip and Devour.
    • Repeat As Desired (because it’s healthy!)

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Unboxed: Petit Vour July 2015

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Well, they’ve done it again. Petit Vour has once again proven themselves to be my favorite subscription box. This month, the box included all new products from brands that I had never heard of before. I was also pleased with the variety of products; it seems there is a good balance of skincare, body care, and “fun” items. This month’s box (curated by Petit Vour and Thoughtfully Magazine) contained:

1) Nubian Heritage Mango Butter – Ok….it would be an understatement to say that I am obsessed with this. Seriously…this is the BEST moisturizer. It smells like an Orange Julius, feels buttery without being too greasy, and started to heal my crackly hands after only one or two applications. And at 4oz, I can’t tell whether it is a super-sized sample or a full-size product, but it should last me a year. Ok…maybe just six months….I am obsessed afterall.

2) Aila Nailpolish in Doolish – This looks like a very nice quality nail polish. Based on the test swatch I made, it seems like it would go on smoothly and provide good coverage. In truth though, I despise the color orange so this one is probably going to find a new home at Lori’s house. She is the true nail polish junkie at Running On Laughter.

3) Luxe de Mer Organic Rosewater Toner- This minty fresh toner came packaged in a cute deluxe sample sized apothecary bottle that looks perfect for travel. It smells great and seems like it would be a great way to cool down on a hot summer day. It’s packed with rosewater, essential oils and witch hazel for anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Let’s hope it works with my acne prone skin!

4) routine De-odor Cream – I am super psyched to try this deodorant. First of all, it smells AMAZING. The spicy/woodsy scent smells like a walk in an enchanted forest and it actually has antiperspirant properties so it should beat my plain hippie deodorant. This is a tiny, tiny little sample though, so I’ll probably be ordering some pretty quickly if it works as well as I hope it will.

So Many Fails, So Little Time: S’mores Dip

Let’s just jump into this, shall we? I am sure you have all seen those recipes that float around Facebook with the title “Save this one for later” or ” Can’t wait to try this!” or my newest favorite “She mixed cake batter with something ridiculous and you won’t believe what she made!” Please read those in your best Mr Moviephone voice. Does anyone actually try these recipes? Normally, I scroll past skeptically because while the pictures look good, the ingredient list looks like a processed food science experiment.

I have seen the s’mores dip recipe passed around quite a bit since summer started. Now let me confess to something straight up. I am a human and as such, I LIVE for s’mores. I don’t know that anything is better than toasted (read: burnt) marshmallow and melted chocolate.  So s’mores dip was right up my alley. I caved guys! And I payed the price of failure. Without further ado.

This was my first attempt. I tried to go simple with this recipe. I preheated the oven with my cast iron pan inside. Then I put some chocolate chips in the bottom of the pan and topped it with mini marshmallows. Finall,y I put it all back in the oven for 5-7 minutes to toast up. She’s a beauty ain’t she? I was so proud I posted it to Facebook!

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LIES! It was barely edible. We ended up scrapping off and eating the marshmallows. Instead of melting, the chocolate got crumbly, grainy and weirdly a little greasy.

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Grossness

My next attempt, I decided I needed to melt the chocolate before hand. I melted the chocolate in heavy cream to make it more of a sauce consistency. The rest of the recipe I kept the same since my marshmallows came out so nicely last time.

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Looks promising!

Except then this happened:

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You’re killing me Smalls!

I don’t know what happened but my marshmallows just melted into the chocolate sauce. I can say this tasted delicious even if it belongs on the Instagram account Cooking for Bae (do not click that link if you are about to eat).

My second attempt was salvageable. We topped it with more marshmallows and toasted it again and it came out pretty good. We couldn’t finish it though because of the sugar overload. I decided not to attempt this again since I was pretty sure the diabetus would set in before too much longer. Twice in one week was more than enough for me.

(Facebook Recipe-1,  Lori-0)

Non-toxic Cleaning : Biokleen Bac-Out

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a small menagerie of pets. I swear; between messy treats, drool, and accidents, they are tiny little carpet terminators. I have tried everything to get spots out: Resolve, carpet steaming, whatever new oxy-fresh pet product I see at the store….you name it. This is why I had to share my recent stain removal story with you.

In the past, I’ve used Biokleen Bac-out to prevent stains in various fabric items. Bac-out is a stain and odor remover that uses enzyme cultures and plant botanticals. It’s also free of nasty-ass chemicals like chlorine, ammonia, SLS and other pollutants and hazardous materials. This last part is important when you have dogs that lick the floor as if it’s made of bacon.

So I decided to see whether it would work on some of the old carpet stains that I’ve been unable to get out. The below results are from saturating the spot with the cleanser and letting it sit for 5 minute before blotting it up with a rag.

Before:

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After:

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As you can see, the stains aren’t 100% gone, but it is definitely an improvement. This isn’t a sponsored post. I just really wanted to share this tip with you because it’s the most success I’ve had with any carpet stain remover ever.

What are your favorite non-toxic cleaning tricks?

Fettuccine Alfredo

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And I’m back. My family came to town last weekend and I lost track of time. I made a pork shoulder I was planning on writing about here but I never got the chance. So that will be coming up later.

I was happy to have my mom and family come stay with me not just because they were finally able to see the new house but it was the first time in 13 years that my mom was able to actually come in to the house. In the past we always had dogs and my mom was allergic.

My nieces are still with me and they are serious carb lovers, so I have been diving into all sorts of noodle recipes here. This week the big hit was fettuccine Alfredo. True story, until this summer, I didn’t eat alfredo. I loved it growing up but I went to a certain chain restaurant with Kris from The Nerdy Chick like 12 years ago and got food poising. I haven’t touched it since. Fast forward to two weeks ago, I made it for everyone in the house and I ate it because I am too lazy to make separate meals. It was so. damn. delicious. I don’t know that I am ready to order it at a restaurant again but I will eat more than one helping of this recipe at home. It was a little sharp for Bee last week so I tweaked it some this week and its even better.

Start to finish this recipe takes about 15 minutes to make so its a great go to when you are short on time.

To begin, cook your noodles according the package instructions. Then set aside in medium sized bowl.

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Over medium-low heat melt one stick of butter in a large pan  and add minced garlic. You only need to cook the garlic until you can start to smell it. Then mix in heavy cream. Stir until sauce is warm. Season with salt and pepper.

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Now, add in 1 3/4 cups of shredded Parmesan cheese. Stir and allow cheese to melt and sauce to thicken. It will take about 7-8 minutes.

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 Finally, add sauce to noodles and toss to coat. Add remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese on toss again.

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Hint: if you want your sauce even thicker you can add small amount of cornstarch before you add the 1 3/4 cup of cheese.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients

  • 1lb Fettuccine Noodles
  • 3 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 8TB Butter (1 stick)
  • 1C Heavy Cream
  • 2C Parmesan Cheese shredded
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook Noodles according to package and set aside
  2. Melt butter in pan and add minced garlic. Cook garlic until fragrant.
  3. Stir in cream and simmer for 5 minutes until heated through.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Add 1 3/4c Parmesan Cheese and stir continuously until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  6. Simmer 7-8 minutes or until sauce thickens.
  7. Pour sauce of noodles and toss to coat.
  8. Sprinkle 1/4c of Parmesan Cheese on top and toss lightly.
http://runningonlaughter.com/2015/07/17/fettuccine-alfredo/

Beauty Smackdown: Dry Shampoo

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Hello, lovelies! It’s that time again. Are you ready for another “Beauty Smackdown?” Up this week is one of my favorite products: dry shampoo. I try to limit shampoos to a couple of times a week because it seems to help cut down on frizz and fly-aways, but that doesn’t mean that I want to go out with oily roots. If you have very dry, fine hair like me, you probably already know that this product is a lifesaver. So which one reigns supreme?

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1. Herbal Essences Naked Dry Shampoo

Price: ~$6.29 for 4.9oz

Fragrance: This dry shampoo has a unique scent. It’s part floral, part herbal, and very fresh. It makes me think of something minty and green.

Effectiveness: This shampoo is great. It is different than most dry shampoos because it goes on a bit damp and then dries to an invisible powder finish. The spray bottle makes it easy to use, and it doesn’t leave any white residue that is common with other dry shampoos.

Other Factors: 0% Paraben, 0% Colorant

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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2. Zabana Essentials Shimmery Dry Glow Shampoo

Price: $9.95 for 2oz

Fragrance: This clay-based dry shampoo brings to mind a box of Crayola crayons. It isn’t upleasant…just very, very strange.

Effectiveness: I’d describe the effectiveness of this product as “average.” It is perfectly fine for second-day hair, but it might not be strong enough if you plan to go longer without a real shampoo. One benefit is that the squirt top bottle makes application extremely easy. The bottle is also perfectly sized for travel, and the fact that it isn’t a liquid makes it airplane friendly.

Other Factors: Non-toxic, Does not contain palm oil, sulfates, parabens, triclosan, phthalates, or propylene glycol

Overall Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0

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3. Lulu Organics Hair Powder

Price: $30.00 for 4oz

Fragrance: I love, love, love the herbal scent of this powder. For the purposes of this post I tried the lavendar and clary sage fragrance, but Lulu Organics has additional fragrances.

Effectiveness: This hair powder works pretty well. Again, I’d limit this one to second-day hair. It is a little difficult to apply, but the white residue is minimal. The fact that it is a powder also means that this container lasts FOREVER.

Other Factors: Not tested on animals, organic

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0

So there you have it. 3 options to keep you smelling and looking fresh when you’re too lazy to wash your hair. I’d love to hear any of your recommendations. Leave me a comment with your favorite products.

 

 

Test Kitchen Takedown: S’mores Icebox Cake

This cake has inspired me to try a whole new series. The test kitchen takedown! Where I will try recipes completely unaltered and tell you how it turns out. Its sort of like a first impressions but with food.

My nieces are staying with me this summer and my younger niece likes to bake. So far she has made muffins (which were not awesome…) and cookies, which were pretty good.  While I was perusing online for more things for her to try I came across a recipe for an icebox cake. Say what! I honestly have never even heard of such thing, I asked my wife if she has ever tried one and she had never heard of it either.

Perhaps you are like me and are wondering what the hell is an icebox cake. Its a cake made out of cookies or crackers with layers of filling, usually whip cream, that you put in the fridge over night. The cookies absorb the liquid from the filling and soften creating a cake like texture. After a quick google search I decided to try the S’Mores Icebox Cake from Completely Delicious.

So now to the rules of the Test Kitchen Takedown. I made this recipe with no alterations. I linked to the recipe above and I will review how it went making it and changes I would make in the future.

Let me start this by saying this cake is delicious without any changes. Also, I apologize for the crappy pics. I made this at 10PM, under bad lighting.

To start you have to make chocolate pudding. I have never made pudding that didn’t come from a box. It supers easy and I will be making it from scratch from now on.  This needs to chill for one hour be sure to plan that in to your cook time. I completely forgot to take a picture of just the pudding but you can see it below.

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Next, you make the filling which is a marshmallow/whip cream combination. Then comes the fun part of assembling the cake. Basically its like make a chocolate-marshmallow lasagna. This is the only part of the recipe I would make changes. I would leave out the mini marshmallows and increase the marshmallow cream to about 2 cups. Everyone in my house agreed that mini mallows created sort of weird texture. Also be generous in your pudding application. I wasn’t and I was sad there wasn’t more the chocolatey flavor in the final product. That is probably completely a user error and not a recipe error. I had leftover pudding and I ate it on leftover graham crackers… don’t judge me.

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Finally after refrigerating all night, the cake is ready to my iced. All that needs to be done is a whip cream frosting. Let me just say that I love whip cream frosting. It’s so easy to make and so delicious that we never buy the store kind anymore.

DSC_0289 Overall, I loved this cake. It’s great for the summer since you don’t need to turn on the oven. I will definitely be making this again with a few changes.

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