Monthly Archives: April 2012

Cooking on Short Notice – Cooking for People Who Don’t (Beltane Edition) – How to use convenience foods to cut down on prep-time and energy-expences

Hey there!

So, back in February, Commodorified hosted a blog carnival about food security, for which I wrote about Cooking in the Dead of Winter. She’s doing another one (I think they’re going to be a quarterly thing).

The theme, this quarter, is “half home-made” — the idea is to provide recipes (and such?) that start with boxed ingredients and go from there. I think a good example of “half home-made” are the recipes you find on the backs of tinned-soup lables: Take one tin of cream-of-thingy soup, add half the required amount of liquid, and pour it – possibly with a tin of diced tomatoes – over a mix of protein and carbs. Bake. Serve. Nom! 😀

That said, I… don’t tend to do half home-made.
It’s either All Home-Made (although not hardcore – I don’t make my own pasta or cure my own sausage, or whatever) or it’s All Convenience Foods (like frozen lasagna, or pre-fab alfredo sauce + pasta/perogies + a handful of baby tomatoes and pre-sliced mushrooms).

As such: My plan for this is to talk about convenience foods – pre-chopped veggies, frozen veggies, tinned beans (and/or tuna), pre-cooked chicken from the grocery store, and similar – that, by and large, let you do “all home-made” with a lot less Aargh, when you’re running short on time, energy, or – as is the case with me occassionally – notice.

So. Onwards!

Easy Veggies
Cherry/grape tomatoes, snow peas, and fresh baby spinach can just be rinsed and chucked into a dish.
Similarly, if I’m buying peppers or broccoli, I sometimes pick it up from the “mix and match” bar where they sell dips and fruit trays and stuff. That way, it’s pre-sliced (and you aren’t paying for the weight of the pepper core, which is significant).
I also love pre-cubed squash, rutabaga, and sweet potatoes and – even more-so – pre-sliced mushrooms, for the same reason. There’s up to about half an hour less prep to deal with – sometimes quite a lot more than that (if – just for example – you’re making Sunshine in a Roasting Pan, which I do every year for Winter Solstice). They go bad really fast (which is probably why they wound up in the pre-sliced section to begin with, if I think about it), but they’re great for when you already know what you’re going to make and just need the help of a sous-chef-inna-box.

Stuff like this – along with couscous, potato gnocchi, perogies, short (or long) pasta, and other FAST-COOKING carbs – makes throwing a meal together (when you have little time and/or little energy) so much easier.

Pantry Suggestions
Similarly, from the perspective of no time, no energy and, oh yeah, no notice (but, I should point out, wrists that can manage the can opener)… if you can keep stuff along the following lines on hand in your pantry, you can do fast meals for Many when you’ve got unexpected company:

Pasta (this includes couscous and gnocchi, fyi)
Rice (white rice, as it only takes 20 minutes to cook – I like basmati, myself, but whatever works)
Perogies (handily combining potatoes with bacon and/or some kind of cheese – I tend to go for No Name potato-and-cheddar, myself)

PLUS

TINNED: diced tomatoes, water chestnuts and/or bamboo shoots, mushrooms
TINNED: tuna, chick peas, romano/kidney beans
DRIED: seaweed (nori is delicious), mushrooms (shiitake, inoke, morel… I just get the cheap wood-ear ones at the Kowloon Market up the street, but whatever you like), + possibly TVP
FROZEN: spinach, peas, broccoli

…plus oil-based salad dressing (like “Italian” or “Sesame Ginger”) or cooking oil, garlic powder (or fresh garlic, and/or fresh onion, since those tend to keep really well), basil, black pepper, and maybe a box of pre-grated parmajan cheese… You can throw together a tasty meal on short notice without having to run the grocery store.

For example:

Super Simple Pasta = Pasta shells with: tinned tuna + tinned tomatoes + garlic powder, black pepper, basil

Instant Tagine (which is possibly an oxymoron) = Couscous with: tinned chick peas + tinned tomatoes + frozen spinach + garlic powder + black pepper (you can also throw dried apricots into this for extra tastiness)

Pasta Not-Actually-Primavera = Linguini with: frozen peas + frozen spinach + dried/tinned mushrooms + Italian salad dressing + parmajan cheese

Short-Notice Stirfry = Rice with: Dried mushrooms + dried seaweed + tinned water chestnuts (and/or tinned bamboo shoots) + (optional) tinned tuna + frozen peas + garlic powder + sesame ginger salad dressing

Winter Comfort Food = Ravioli/Frozen Perogies with: tinned mushrooms + tinned tomatoes + garlic powder + black pepper + (optional) parmajan cheese

Mushroom Stew = Egg noodles with: tinned romano beans + tinned mushrooms + dried mushrooms + frozen spinach + (optional) tinned tomatoes + garlic powder + black pepper + (optional) basil

You can also use left-over grocery-roasted chicken (a favourite for potlucks, fyi) – or any other left-over critter/tofu/seitan/tempeh you have in the fridge – in place of the tinned tuna OR the tinned beans in any of the above combinations (but they’re less likely to be Just Lying Around in the event of sudden company).

Similarly, if you have no time and no energy, but you do have money (or a good eye for when stuff goes on deep discount) you can go to town with:
bags of frozen shrimp
boxes of “hors d’oeuvres” meatballs
boneless tinned salmon (or, heck, frozen smoked salmon, if we’re really getting spiffy)
jars of artichoke hearts, garlic-stuffed olives, roasted red (and/or hot) peppers
pre-fab alfredo sauces and salsas
tins of smoked oysters or anchovies
containers of sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, (immitation or real) bacon bits, etc…

…and so on. These goodies are used the same way, but give you more flavours to work with and, because they tend to be a little fanicer (looking), can really trick your “what have I got in the fridge” meal out a treat.
For further suggestions, you might try this post, from the last carnival, about cooking when you have no time or energy (but you do have money).

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Plans for the Coming Month (Fishing and Gardening)

So. May starts tomorrow.
I keeping with my previous post about Spring and Beltane and things generally waking up, I thought I’d toss this up here:

To Plant (come the Long Weekend and the passing of “all danger of frost”):
Rainbow Chard (from seed – on the blacony)
Cherry Tomatoes (from sprouted plant – on the blacony)
Scarlet Runner beans (from seed – on the balcony)
Cucumbers (from sprouted plant – on the blacony)
Thelma Saunders acorn squash (maybe – from seed – on the balcony)

Morning Glories (from seed – in a window box)
Peppermint (from sprouted plant – in a window box)
Garlic Chives (from sprouted plant – in a window box)
Nasturtiums (from seed – in a window box)
Other Flowers (Ghost’s choice – from seeds or sprouted plants – in a window box)

Butternut squash (maybe – from seed – in a publically available plot)
Pie pumpkins (maybe – from seed – in a publically available plot)

To Acquire:
Fishing License (available from Candian Tire, I believe)
Filleting knife – a long, thin, sharp knife with a very pointy tip (we’ve probably got something appropriate already on hand)
Thelma Saunders acorn squash seeds (possibly from the Herb and Spice?)
Tomato, Garlic Chive, Peppermint, and Cucumber plants (probably from Home Despot – I mean Depot – particluarly if we’re also getting window boxes and soil, although possibly the Byward Market)
Window Boxes and soil (see above)
Some kind of “worm tea” or other fertilizer that may help our container garden grow

To Learn:

How to kill a fish:

How to clean and gut a fish I’ve just killed:

Spring is Here (the Light has Changed). :-D

This morning I woke up (before 7am) to bright sunlight (YAY!) and the reflection of mirrors and rainbows on my ceiling. Clearling summer is on its way!
And then I realized what day it is. April 30th.
The calendar-date for Beltane is tomorrow. (Guess I should plan that fairy cake party, huh…)

I think it’s really neat how the light-levels are so noticeable (maybe this shouldn’t surprise me…) around the cross-quarter days. For example, I find the days are noticeably longer – like “OMG, it’s 4pm and the sun is still well above the horizon” noticeably – around Imbolg. That I’m noticing “summer light” (when the sun is up early enough to hit the prisms and the mirrors in the bedroom before we actually wake up, let alone get up) right smack around Beltane falls into this situation, too.

The leaves have been unfurling for a while now – green flowers making the maple trees look like giant pompoms (“Come on Spring! You can do it!!!”), the birch trees decked in their catkins, looking poised as dancers – but maybe because it’s also been very grey outside (first sunshine in about 10 days, yesterday), it’s the sun that’s really doing it for me now.

Ottawa’s kind of a funny place, weather-wise. Although maybe this is typical all over the Eastern Woodlands. Like Palimpsest, we have a winter of bare branches (aka the winter of frost), a winter of snow, a winter of ice, and a winter of slush (or mud). “Spring” is usually not more than six weeks long (starting in mid-April) but, some years, only lasts for part of May, with “Summer” kicking off its first leg around the May 2-4 long weekend. (Victoria Day weekend is actually our Beltane — it combines nudity (or at least beach wear and flip-flops), alcohol (frequently), first planting, fire, and partying, along with rituals like Opening the Cottage, Putting In the Garden, and The First Barbicue of the Season. If we’re lucky, it’s even warm enough to hang out at the beach and play frisbee or something – ’cause gods know we’re not going in the water this early!).

Anyway. Spring. It’s here. For real this time, I think. 🙂
YAY! 😀

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Magic for Reproductive Rights

So. There’s this. Motion M-312. It was debated in the house of commons today. I’m horrified that this is even up for debate. Merciful Life.

So I’ve been protesting on parliament hill, and I’ve been writing my MP and I’ve signed at least two petitions, and I’m tweeting under #NoDebate and blogging up a storm and generally getting the word around.

But there are multiple fronts to work on here. So. Magically speaking:

If you’re my kind of kitchen witch:

Black poppyseeds can be used to sow confusion amongst your enemies and adversaries
Calendula petals promote legal victories
Slippery Elm bark protects against false testimony and accusations
Fennel seeds ward off police (hang a small bag of them discreetly inside your doorframe, or carry them on you, under your clothes)
Ash (I’m not sure if this means “rowan” or “soot”) helps to promote justice
Bloodstone promotes truth and success
Pine promotes victory and strength

Hawthorn, red yarn, and copper are a powerful protection mix (much like rowan, amber, and red thread)

Rubberbands are for cooperation, organization, and resourcefulness

Rosemary is great for protection and for successfully driving out Bad Stuff

~*~

A couple of deities you might try getting in touch with:

Ida-Ten, a Japanese god of legal victory (among other things), protects people against religious persecution.

Maat, an Egyptian goddess of truth, fairness and justice who offers protection against deceit and manipulation.

Artemis, a Greek goddess whose specialties include midwifery and women’s bodily autonomy

Skadi, a Norse goddess who presides over justice, vengeance, and righteous anger (and Winter)

~*~

And there are my thoughts on that. (They won’t be the last).

Birch Leaf Tea

So. While I’m on the subject of local trees coming into bloom, I figured I’d make a note of this stuff. See, way the hell back in August, I did a post about Birch trees. This is something of a follow-up. If “Lady of the Woods” talked about the symbolism of the birch tree, this post is about the medicinal properties of the leaves.

Birch Leaf tea — as in an infusion/tisane of steeped birch leaves — is good for the following:
Breaking up small kidney stones
Blood-thining (like willow bark?)
Relieving bladder and kidney infections
Relieving (mild) insomnia
Breaks down uric acid (which causes gout)
High in Vitamin C

May also ease joint pain (arthritis and rheumatism)
May also help deal with gingivitis(??)

Birch leaves can also be tossed in the bath – or (easier, requires fewer leaves) steeped as an astringent – to help clear up skin problems like eczema and acne
May also help to heal bruises and abraisions (when you mince up the leaves and make a poultice out of them)

~*~

How to prepare:
0.5 tbsp DRIED birch leaves in 1C boiling water
Steep for 15 minutes
Drink (up to four times a day)

OR

5-6 fresh YOUNG (small) birch leaves in 1C boiling water
Steep for 10 minutes
Drink (up to four times a day)

Why “young” leaves? Because the bigger/older they get, the more bitter they are.
NOTE: Birch tea is a diuretic — which means you need to up your water intake to prevent dehydration if you’re drinking a heap fo birch tea.

Where my information came from: Dig Herbs and Anita Karlson‘s blog. With some help from an online conversion table. 🙂

Hawthorn Tree…

Last night I walked home at dusk. The moon was a bowshot crescent in the dome of the sky, moving slowly westward.
The weather these last few days has been, for the most part, cold. Not terrible, by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely on the chilly end of things.
I don’t actually know what’s “seasonally normal” for these part, temperature-wise (although Monday’s snow is not all that unusual).

I think it’s neat how the leaves know. They don’t turn grey-brown and drop off in early spring the way they do in autumn, even with similar temperature fluxutations. I gather – though I can’t remember where I learned this – that a lot of plant growth has to do with daylight hours more than it has to do with temperature. (So the buds didn’t burst into leaf back in late March because, even though it was hot like July, we were hovering around the Equinox and it just wasn’t time yet).

Over at Adventures in Animism, Heather is talking about how Beltane is sometimes calculated according to when the Hawthorn trees bloom. Aparently they went blossom-wild around the 22nd of April in her part of the world.

Around here, they are sidling up to flowering and giving it the side-eye like “Yeah… I could do that…”. The serviceberries and black plums are already blooming. The (crab) apples and sour cherries are about where the hawthorns are at, and the lilacs aren’t far behind them. The magnolias, on the other hand, are all, like, “Girl, I am so far beyond blooming, you don’t even know. This showy stuff is just hanging around after the party”.

Hawthorn Corespondences:
Protection
Insight
Creativity
Self Confidence
Patience
Purification

Also good for:
Concealment spells, weather work, chastity, virility (if you’re a dude who wants kids), banishing the malicious, fishing(??), happiness, and fairy-related magic.

Since I went and snagged a hawthorn thorn (about 2″ long and wickedly, gorgeously sharp) off a local tree the other day – for the art project – my Plan is to work the thorn into the red yarn, along with a wodge of other ingredients, and then tie it somewhere suitable. Possibly near somewhere symbolic of women’s rights and protections.

Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden

It’s Spring! (So, of course, there’s Snow…)

So. Perhaps not surprisingly (Nature having quite the sense of humour), we woke up to snow this morning. It’s rapidly melting – as the snow has turned to a hard rain that shows no sign of letting up – but still. Waking up and going “Oh, for fuck’s sakes. Really??” Which is not to say that snow in late April is all that unusual around here. None the less, I was hoping I’d seen the back of Winter already.
Oh, well. Soon enough. (Snow on green leaves looks about as weird as hot summer sun does coming through bare branches, so… maybe this is just balancing things out a little bit).

Anyway. I’ve been working on layout (and content) for My Eventual Cookbook this morning. Probably because gardening season is getting to be upon us (I haven’t done anything like starting seeds indoors, mind you) and – thank the gods – produce other than mushrooms, cabbage, beets, and parsnips is now available locally. YAY! 😀
There are hothouse baby tomatoes from Quebec at my grocery store. They’re pricey as hell, so we’re not grabbing them very often, but they’re there! (I made a tomato-basil-mozerella salad the other day that just made me want to sing! All sharp flavours and bright colours. It was glorious!)
There’s also fresh herbs, hydroponic boston lettuce (the kind you get in a dome, with the roots still on) and rhubarb (I see it coming up in people’s yards, and I want to go hunting). Some folks may be able to find greenhouse cucumbers and spinach, though I haven’t got my hands on any yet. There are also wild dandelions coming up all over – and probably stinging nettles and fiddlehead greens, too – if you’re up for pulling on your gloves and going hunting.

The Parkdale maket and the Ottawa (Landsdown) Farmer’s Market have both just opened, but most of the local farmer’s markets (including my Local, in Little Italy) don’t kick in until the beginning of May (CSAs can run all year, or else start any time between mid-April and mid-June and run for 15-20 weeks from that point).

It’s funny. I have a really good idea of what’s available (and long-keeping) locally, during Winter – partially because we’re just past Winter (and 2/3 of Spring, for that matter), but also because that’s when I actually worry about availability. Whereas the stuff that’s available in Summer (and, to a lesser extent, Autumn) is… kind of foggy for me. I find this Availability Guide from Foodland Ontario is helpful in terms of sorting out what to bother looking for when I’m in my (not-so-locally-focused) grocery store.

Anyway. Back to recipe-planning. 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes (Flower Moon 2012, just in time for Beltain)

I’m writing this the day after Flower Moon kicked off.
I woke up sick and have spent most of today alternately sleeping the sleep of the flu-bound and feeling twitchy in the stomach regions. It’s now pushing 3pm and, in the way of people who are hungry and trying to avoid eating anything, I’ve made a batch of cupcakes.

Anyway. Cupcakes. What on Earth do they have to do with Flower Moon?

Well, readers, I’ll tell you. 😀

Flower Moon is the one that typically overlaps with Beltain/MayDay. It’s also the one where we start getting fresh fruit and veggies again BUT those fruits and veggies are pretty limitted:
Fiddlehead greens
Asparagus (not for a while yet)
Rhubarb
Dandelion greens
Stinging Nettle greens (yes, really — I’ll post a recipe for nettle soup in a little bit)
Wild Leeks – aka “ramps” or, sometimes, “bunching onions” (not for a while yet)

… There are also mushrooms and, sometimes, fresh hot-house grape tomatoes and hoop-house herbs, BUT at this time of year, we’re pretty-much down to the dregs of the Local Winter Stores stuff (we’ve been eating a lot of beet salad, for example).

So, when it comes time to do my May Day feast – in so far as I do one – I typically go for something that can be made with (a) jams, and (b) dry goods like flour and baking powder. Between that, and the associations between Beltain and the Fae[1], I figured that having a fairy cake party would be appropriate.

Today’s batch of cupcakes are peanut-butter chocolate-chip, with (soon-to-be-added) peanut-butter frosting. However, a chocolate-cherry, or vanilla-apricot, cupcake that uses jam in lieu of straight sugar for the sweetener, would work beautifully for any Beltain party (or spur of the moment baking spree) that you have coming up.

Here’s my recipe for the cupcakes I made today:

~*~

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS
2C flour
1/2 C cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C yoghurt
1/4 C peanut butter
1/4 C margarine
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 C chocolate chips (you can use peanut butter chips, too, if you want to)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350F
Combine the dry ingredients (not including the sugar) in a large bowl
In a smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients and the sugar and blend until smooth
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until a stiff (ish) dough forms
Add the chocolate chips and mix/kneed them into the dough
Spoon the dough in to paper-lined muffin cups
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes (or until they smell done and can pass the Fork Test)
Allow to cool on a wire rack
Frost with peanut butter frosting (or whatever you happen to want to use)
Serve and enjoy. 😀

Peanut Butter Frosting
1 C icing sugar
1/2 C peanut butter
1/3 C margarine

Combine in a small bowl and mix (I use a fork) until smooth. Add extra peanut butter and/or extra margarine if the consistency is too dry.

~*~

So there you go, folks. You can sub out the peanut butter and use any nut or seed butter that takes your fancy (I recommend hazelnut, cashew, or pumpkin seed butter. Pumpkin Seed is particularly neat, as it gives you a chance to do green[3] icing without using food colouring).

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

[1] My young lady, who is originally from in around Oxford, wrote a poem about that, and being homesick.

[3] Kind of an olive colour, to give you an idea of what to expect.

Altar’d States of Consiousness (moving things around, getting in touch with deities)

So, as you know bob, we’ve done a bit of a kitchen re-org chez nous.

The kitchen is (almost) back to functional. I spent most of today putting stuff back in cupboards and throwing expired products (including about 12 packages of ramin that “went off” in 2009 – woops – and a tin of mangos that were… on the dry side at this point) into the compost. We sent one big bag and one huge box of recycling out of the apartment (YAY!) and I lit up all my altars and smoked the house with Dragon’s Blood.

Everyone got incense. Ylang Ylang for Mitzu (my Solar Lady who handles sex, money, and courage, among other things); Into The Night (a blend of sandalwood, violet, rose, and tuberose) for Maia – it’s supposed to be a “tribute to the earth” but I took one look at it and knew it was for my Lady of the Moon (and creativity, and queerness, and wodge of other things); Cedarwood for Mataer (my lady of Earth and hearth and rootedness); Lily of the Valley for Misha (who is all green things, and who handles stuff like adventure and trying new things); Makaa got the Dragon’s Blood after I’d smoked the house, as she handles Thresholds and Crossroads (of all possible kinds) as well as luck, chance, and coincidence; and my ancestors got Myrrh (and a home-made soy-wax candle featuring sweet orange, clove, and vanilla).

Speaking of my Ancestors. They have their own altar-spot now.
The way I’d had things arranged, my shrine/altar to Makaa (who also handles the gate(s) of Life and Death – like I said, thresholds and crossroads) took up the whole of a three-level shelf made by my mom’s dad (decades ago, now), and all the photos I have of my various ancestors and relatives were hanging on the wall above it. (How it was laid out: Lowest shelf = statue of Makaa; Middle shelf = beaded spider-web coaster + steel dish holding two incense burners (upright) and a tealight; Top shelf = japanese vase/cup full of crow feathers + one duck femur and one chicken wishbone). Typically, if I wanted to offer something to my ancestors, I’d do it through Makaa’s altar.

Which is fine.

However. Today, while getting set to take out the compost (I deliver it to a green bin around the corner from me – we don’t vermifuge or anything, in order to discourage creepy-crawlies from taking up (further) residence), I tossed my shawl on and – oh, look – knocked that cup of feathers right off its shelf. It shattered. All over the entrance way.
Crap. 😦
Feathers everywhere.
And one newly-emptied shelf on my altar.

Huh.

So I decided that it was a Sign.

I gathered up three of the feathers, the duck femur, and the chicken wishbone, and arranged them around/on/with the statue of Makaa. She seems quite alright with this. (More on that sortly). Then I set up the new altar-spot for my ancestors.
Currently it’s literally just a home-made candle and an empty tealight cup that contains a burner-plate for incense cones. I’m hoping to add something further (a doily made by one of my grandmothers, bits of their old jewelry, or some other Thing that came from my ancestors – besides the shelf it’s all sitting on, I mean). But for now, that’s what I’ve got going on. I’m glad to have it. It’s about time I did that. (Thanks, Random Chance — wait, who did I say handled random chance? Oh, yeah…)

So. About the “more on that shortly”. I don’t tend to open myself up very often. It’s (big surprise) very vulnerable-feeling, and I’m never entirely sure how well I’ll do at breaking the link once I’ve opened up and established it. I know I should be fine and don’t have anything to worry about. My Girls look out for me and they’re not Huge Big Deities (so they’re not overpowering – for folks who work with Huge Big Deities… do you find this to be the case with your gods? Or is my guess just way off base?). None the less, the rocking and the dizziness that comes with the territory can be a bit Woah, if you know what I mean.

But, yeah. I Opened Up today, just to check in with Makaa. See, the incense burner-plate? That was her’s. She did have two of them, but I wanted to make sure she was okay with me shifting one over to someone else’s spot.

Now, I’ve heard distress/upset/Not-Cool from her before. It feels like the air starts clanging. Big bronze/brass cowbells going all “WAH! NO! WTF??? NO!” at me, in no uncertain terms. So when I opened myself up and got nothing but a “Yes, we’re connected, everything’s cool”, I figured everything’s dandy, so I shifted it over.

I’ve since lit everyone’s altars up (see above), and things seem to be going swimmingly, so three cheers for that. YAY! 😀

However. What I wanted to write down was how it felt to be open to Makaa.
See, she deals with death, right?
So maybe this isn’t surprising.
But, when I’m open to her (today, at least), the air gets thick and hard to breath, and it tastes like grease and old bones.
Woah.
I went to my knees with her today. Had to break eyecontact and look elsewhere to get my breath back, and to get the air feeling normal and, well, fully oxygenated(?) again.
O.O

So that was my Big Deal experience for the day.
It’s not particularly weird that Talking to her would feel like not being able to get enough air but… it’s still a bit of a Thing.

Anyway. Now I know. 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Making Soap – Some Questions

Hey again, folks.
(Lots of posting today).

I’ve been trying to re-stock my soap supply of late, and I’m having trouble getting the stuff to trace. I’ve spent part of the morning looking up the effects of using rancid oil when making soap (none, apparently – see here for details), in case that was the problem.

Now that I’ve ruled that out, I’m wondering if I’m using too much water in my lye solution. (Or, alternatively, if lye loses it’s potency over time…?)

I’m wondering this because, when I try to make soap, the lye solution sinks and doesn’t mix well with the heated oil (which, I’m assuming, is because oil floats on top of water) – so I’m wondering… if I made a lye solution that was more concentrated (same amount of lye crystals, but, say, half the suggested amount of water[1]), would that solve my problem?

Right now, I have something like ten bars of soap that Didn’t Quite Work. The kind of stuff I’ll happily use around the house, but which probably aren’t an option for setting out at my craft sales. I’d prefer to actually get some successful, fully saponified soap out of this deal, and sooner rather than later, as May is coming up quickly and I’d like to have some summer-scented soaps available for any shows I do over the summer months.
As such: If you have any ideas, please let me know! 😀

Thanks a heap,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] I always super-fat, so I don’t think this would cause problems — if you know it would, though, please let me know what to expect and how to avoid it.