Thursday, December 27, 2012

Basic Healing Skin Balm

My husband asked me to make some stuff for his foot today, so I quickly got to work and threw together a healing skin balm.  Knowing his specific needs, I was able to look through the list of essential oils and their benefits and tailor my concoction especially for him.

You see, last year after his back surgery, he was left with some nerve damage that affects his right leg and foot.  He no longer feels hot or cold, nor does he sweat on that foot.  Some may think that's kinda cool!  Right?  But actually, that leaves his one foot excessively dry without the natural moisturizing properties that sweat can bring along with it.  His right foot looks and feels as though it belongs to a completely different person than his left!  It's dry, rough, and cracked.

So, I looked through the list of essential oils and picked out the ones that were beneficial to dry skin, chapped skin, poor circulation, or mature skin.  Then looked through my stash and pulled out the ones I had on hand.  There were several more that could have worked that I just didn't have in the cabinet, but the ones I did have and used were:  Myrrh, Cedarwood, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, and Tea Tree.  I used a total of 100 drops of essential oils.  You can mix and match any oils for any purpose that you'd like.  So, here's the basic recipe.

4 Tablespoons of organic extra virgin coconut oil ( I get mine from Vitacost)
2 Tablespoons of Beeswax pellets, or shredded beeswax
1/2 teaspoon of raw local honey

Essential oils of your choice, specific for the benefit you need out of them. (I really like Mountain Rose Herbs Organic 100% pure essential oils)  If you need help knowing which oils to use, this link will take you to a chart of oils and a short clip of it's benefit.  

I used:

Myrrh - 30 drops
Cedarwood - 20 drops
Rosemary - 20 drops
Eucalyptus - 15 drops
Tea Tree - 15 drops

Ok, so using a double broiler or similar to melt the coconut oil, cocoa butter (or other butter) and beeswax together.  When it's thoroughly melted and incorporated, remove from heat and stir in your honey and essential oils.  Pour into your container and let cool.

That's it!  Makes one 4 oz. container.

The possibilities are truly endless with this basic recipe.  It's so easy to change up the essential oils to whatever you need it to do.  Relieve muscle aches, arthritis, acne, oily skin, etc etc etc.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Choco-mint Lip Balm

Another super easy recipe.  When I was looking for a lip balm recipe, the number of results was overwhelming.  I ended up basically taking my knowledge and previous experience with making stuff and throwing something together.

Why?  Well, cause like I said, it was overwhelming.  Plus, almost every recipe had an ingredient in it that I didn't have on hand.  So, I just had to wing it.

With that in mind, know that lip balms are incredibly flexible.  Meaning, it's difficult to mess it up.  Even if you think you messed it up, it's likely still usable, so don't sweat it.

My recipe....sort of.  ;)

2 Tablespoons of coconut oil (I get mine from Vitacost.  BTW, if you're new to Vitacost and sign up using my link, we both get a $10 code!)
1 Tablespoon Pure Cocoa Butter (this makes the chocolateyness.  Can be purchased at Frontier, health food stores, or at Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 Tablespoon Beeswax (can also be purchased at any of the same above places)
8 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil (I prefer Mountain Rose Herbs brand)
1/4 teaspoon of honey

In a double broiler, or similar, melt your coconut oil, Cocoa Butter, and beeswax together.  If you use the little beeswax pellets, I've learned that you have to continue heating a few minutes longer than you THINK they've melted.  :)  Just to be sure.  Once it's all melted, remove from heat, add the honey and essential oils and stir.  Pour into your awaiting balm containers.

That's it.  Done!  Takes all of about 10 minutes.  Recipe yield was 4 - 1/4 ounce lip balm containers, which I purchased from Frontier for $2.70 for 6 containers.  You can truly use anything though.


Homemade cough/throat drops

If you've ever made rock handy, or homemade peppermints, you can easily do this project!

It's the same principle of bringing a liquid and a sweetener to 300 degrees, adding in some other good stuff, letting it cool and wahlah!

The players for this project will be:

3 bags of Throat Coat tea (can purchase just about anywhere, but can also get it at Vitacost or Frontier )
1 1/4 cups of water
1 1/3 cup of sweetener of choice (sugar, honey, mix of both, whatever....honey will be a bit gooey-er than just sugar and will likely stick to your teeth a bit)
1/4 teaspoon of menthol crystals (purchased from here)

100% pure essential oils  NOT precious essentials or diluted essential oils.  They must be pure essential oils. There are tons of different brands, it doesn't matter the name on them, just make sure they are pure and not diluted in a carrier oil already.  Personally, I'm a huge fan of Mountain Rose Herbs oils because they are Certified Organic as well as affordable.  But use what you love.  It's all good!

15 drops lemon essential oil *
15 drops of peppermint essential oil *
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil *
5 drops of tea tree essential oil *
5 drops of lavender essential oil *

Either a candy mold, or a greased pan to pour your hot concoction on when it's ready.

I bought a candy mold at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon.  It was less than $2.  However, it would have been fine to have just poured into a greased cookie sheet and used a knife to etch a line (cut it) as it started cooling to make for easy breakage when fully set.  (I've used that trick on rock candy before and it works well!)

Okey Dokey let's move along and get started.

Put your 3 Throat Coat tea bags in the water and bring it to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover.  Let steep for 15 minutes.  You want a really strong tea.  After steeping, remove your tea bags squeezing every last drop of strong medicinal goodness out of them and discard.

Add your sweetener of choice and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat so it doesn't scorch.  If you can, clip your thermometer to the side of the pan so that the tip is in the liquid, but not touching the bottom of the pan. You'll also want to make sure your pan is large enough that your tea and sugar mix doesn't boil over.  It does raise quite a bit as it cooks.

In the meantime, lightly grease your molds or pans with a bit of coconut oil.  It will make it easier to remove your cough drops later on.

Once your concoction has reached 300 degrees, remove from heat.  Give it a minute to settle down a bit and add your menthol.  It WILL release vapors as it hits the contents of the pan!  Do NOT breath in the vapors! So stand back a bit when you do this.  Stir it in.  Add in your essential oils.

You'll want to work quickly, but carefully, to get it all stirred up and poured before it starts hardening.

If using a cookie sheet, remember to take a knife and 'cut' as it's hardening to essentially draw the lines to help it break in the right places.

That's it!  You're done!  Just let it cool and use as necessary!  If you'd like to store them in a container rather than wrap each one individually, you can dust with powdered sugar to prevent them from sticking to each other.



Now, here's the educational section.  Why those particular essential oils?  Here's the breakdown of their beneficial properties.


*lemon oil benefits - Antibacterial, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, digestive, diuretic, hepatic, hypotensive, laxative, sedative, vermifuge

*peppermint oil benefits - Analgesic, anesthetic (topical), antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, cordial, digestive, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, insecticide, nervine, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, vasoconstrictor, vermifuge

*eucalyptus oil benefits - Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antineuralgic, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, decongestant, deodorant, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, stimulant, vermifuge, vulnerary

* tea tree oil benefits - Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral, decongestant, deodorant, diaphoretic, expectorant, fungicidal, immune stimulant, insecticide, vulnerary

* lavender oil benefits - Analgesic, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, cholagogue, deodorant, diuretic, emmenagogue, hypotensive, insecticide, nervine, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, vulnerary


As you see.  4 out of the 5 oils contain analgesic properties!  Pain relievers!  As is menthol.  All of the oils are antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic!  Helping you get better faster!  So enjoy your awesome healthy homemade creation!  :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Organic, Petroleum Free, "vapo" rub



Petroleum.  Derived from crude oil, is not what you want to be breathing into your lungs.  Or absorbing into your skin.  Especially not when you're sick!  Sure, the menthol and camphor helps you breath, clears the nostrils, and even reduces coughing.  But why not get the benefits without the petroleum?  It's simple enough!

Here's how ya do it.

First, gather all of your supplies.



8 teaspoons beeswax pellets or grated
4 tablespoons cocoa butter, shea butter, mango butter, kokum butter, etc.  (can be purchased here.)
1 cup coconut oil (I like to order from Vitacost.  I order 2 big containers of Vitacost brand and get free shipping even!)
2 teaspoons menthol crystals (can be purchased here)
40 drops each eucalyptus, camphor, rosemary, peppermint, and lavendar
30 drops cinnamon bark  (all of the oils I used for this came from Mountain Rose Herbs.  They are Certified Organic and of excellent quality and price!)

Using a double broiler, or similar, melt beeswax, butters, and coconut oils together.



Once everything is thoroughly melted, add in the menthol crystals.  Stand back when you do this!  The fumes are potent and you do not want to breath them in!  Menthol is a solid at room temperature, but melts somewhere between 105 and 110 degrees.  You'll want to make sure your oils are at least that warm to add and melt the menthol.

Remove from heat and add in your essential oils.  Stir together, then pour into the containers you'll want to store your new rub in.


It starts cooling and hardening up almost instantly!

Rub on feet to mellow coughs, rub on chest, back, under nose to help breathing if dealing with colds and flu.

*****  However, DO NOT use on children under 6!!!!  Do NOT rub on their chest, under noses, etc of small children!  Children have been hospitalized from high rates of menthol from essential oils like Peppermint, Camphor, and Eucalyptus.  It can cause severe responses and their throat to close up!  Would probably be ok to rub on feet and cover with socks for older children though, and is fine for adults.*******

Great stuff and much better for you than the petroleum based ones!  Very similar to the more natural ones you can purchase as well!  For comparison, here is the back side of a natural rub that I had on hand.  See the ingredients list!



So, there ya go!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chocolate Covered Cherries



These have become a favorite of our family and friends.  They were introduced to me about 8 years ago.  The recipe came out of a magazine, but I can't, for the life of me, remember what that magazine was! The original recipe was for white chocolate covering.  Although I've also made them milk chocolate as well.  Both are very good!

You know how when you add sugar to some sliced strawberries and stick them in the fridge overnight, they  make syrup and are yummy on shortcake?  Well, it's sort of the same idea.  You wrap Maraschino Cherries in a powdered sugar concoction and then seal that inside of chocolate, while the sugar encourages a syrup to form around the cherry.  I honestly think they taste better at room temperature.  Especially after they've been sitting out for a couple of days.  However, I usually keep them refrigerated or even frozen just so I don't eat so many!  Well, and so that I can keep them long enough to give them away.

Without further ado, here we go!


Ingredients: powdered sugar, chocolate, baking cocoa, cherries, butter, vanilla and almond extracts.

Soften the butter.  I stuck mine in the micro for 30 seconds just cause it was straight from the fridge.  Even better is to let it sit out to room temp.
Measure out your sugar, cocoa, and vanilla.

Drain the cherries and lay them on a paper towel.  Gently pat them dry.  Mix up your powdered sugar concoction.

Wash your hands well.  Dry them, then add some coconut oil to them.  Take a teaspoon or so of your sugar mix and roll it up, then pat it out flat on your hand.

Put one cherry inside then roll the sugar mix around it.





Then roll it like a meatball.

Set it on a tray or cookie sheet covered in wax paper.

Once you get all of your cherries rolled in chocolate and sugar, you'll want to take a break.  Stick your tray in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to let the sugar and butter harden up.  I usually even put them in the freezer for a few minutes before I start dipping them in the chocolate.  So, take a break and clean up your mess.  You've got a minimum of 2 hours before the next step.  This can even stay in the fridge overnight and resumed the next morning if you'd like.

Put your chocolate in a bowl with some coconut oil and a dash of almond extract.
Microwave for 1 minute.  Stir, then add 15-30 seconds til it's melted, stirring often until you've got it nice and runny.

Stick a toothpick in 1 very cold cherry ball. Roll it in the chocolate, drop your cherry back on the tray,  then use a little dab of chocolate on the toothpick to cover up the hole that it made in the cherry.

Lick the toothpick, then get another one for the next cherry.  I, wisely, did not take a picture of my pile of dirty toothpicks. :)

Once your cherries are all dipped, stick them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.

In the meantime, make your contrasting chocolate.

About a 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips and a bit of coconut oil.  Microw'ed for about 30 seconds.
You'll want it really drippy so you can fling it and drizzle it.
The finished product!  Let it chill to harden and wahlah!  Eat any imperfect ones and give away the beauties!


36-48 maraschino cherries with stems - well drained  ( I used 2 small jars without stems)
 1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup baking Cocoa or dutch processed cocoa
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, divided (I didn't use any milk this time....but if it's too dry, then add a bit of milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
white chip coating
chocolate chip drizzle
or vice versa

 1.Cover tray with wax paper.  lightly press cherries between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.
 2.Beat butter, powdered sugar, cocoa (and 1 tablespoon milk if needed) in small bowl until well blended; stir in vanilla.  if necessary, add remaining milk, one teaspoon at a time, until mixture will hold together but is not wet.
 3.Mold scant teaspoon mixture around each cherry, covering completely; place on prepared tray.  cover; refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.
 4. Prepare white chip coating.  holding each cherry by stem, dip into coating.  place on tray; refrigerate until firm.
 5. About one hour before serving, prepare chocolate chip drizzle; with tines of fork, drizzle randomly over candies.  refrigerate until drizzle is firm.  store in refrigerator.

 White Chip Coating:  place 1 2/3 cups (10 oz. pkg.) Hershey's premier white chips in small microwave-safe bowl; drizzle with 2 tablespoons coconut oil and almond extract.  microwave at high (100%) 1 minute, stir.  If necessary, microwave at high an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.  If mixture thickens while coating, microwave at high 15 seconds; stir until smooth.

Chocolate Chip Drizzle:  Place 1/4 cup Hershey's milk chocolate chips and 1/4 teaspoon oil, in another small microwave safe bowl.  Microwave at high (100%) 30 seconds to 1 minute; stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.

Friday, November 16, 2012

All natural homemade laundry products

I've been hesitant to try home made laundry soap.  For several reasons.  1)  I REALLY love Eco's Laundry Detergent.  Especially their Magnolia and Lily scented one.  The Lemongrass scent is heavenly as well.  I love climbing into bed with freshly washed sheets and breathing in their scents.  The Eco detergent also already has a soy based fabric softener in it.  And, since I get it through our Frontier co-op group, it's a steal compared to what you'd buy it for in the stores.  2)  Many of the recipes I've seen for home made detergents call for use of a soap that is not very natural and includes synthetic detergents in it, and I really wanted to skip the synthetics.

For instance, the popular Fels Naptha and Ivory soaps, use synthetic detergents.  For the most part, if you aren't using a pure castile soap, or a truly GOOD, natural, expensive soap, you aren't really getting the benefit of it being a natural laundry detergent, you're still using synthetic.  BUT, if your purpose is simply for cost savings, then it doesn't matter the type of soap you use.  You'll still save money by making your own!

My suggestion, however, is to go as natural as possible.  I used Kirk's Castile Soap.  The ingredients are Coconut Soap, Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Coconut Oil.  Says right on the package "No Synthetic Detergents".  Plus, by getting it through the Frontier co-op, it was only $1.25 for a 4 oz bar.  You could even save more by buying a 3 pack for just $3.50  I may be mistaken, but I BELIEVE that's even cheaper than you can buy the Fels Naptha.

And finally, I just wasn't sure if it would REALLY clean as well as the more expensive soaps.  So, I put it to the ultimate test.  Out here in the country.  We get clothes DIRTY, and I mean dirty with capital letters.  No doubt about it.  I took many before and after pictures.  My final impression.  WOW!  It was super easy to make, super cheap, and it actually cleans!  I'm sold!  This week, my 2 youngest little angels even decided to write on my sunny yellow bed sheets with ink pen!  Came out, no problem.

Comparison Pics


  Before



After




Before


After




Before

After




Before

After




Before

After



Before

After




As you can see, it works very well.  

I prefer liquid detergent, and some of the reviews I've read on the powdered detergents where not the greatest.  Particularly for cold washing.  So, I stuck to a liquid recipe.  If you've ever made liquid hand soap before, this is pretty much the same consistency.  It's low suds, so you don't really see bubbles in your wash, but it does clean!  I suppose if I'd never made hand soap before, I'd be a little more turned off by the consistency, but it's familiar to me, so no big deal.  Otherwise, it's kinda like snot.  Also, this can be used in both high efficiency and regular washers.  The recipe I looked at, called for only 3 ounces of grated soap.  Since my soap bar was 4 ounces, I just used the whole thing in my recipe.  If  you really wanted to stretch your dollars and soap, you could.  I just didn't know what else to do with an ounce of soap so just grated it up along with the rest.

Ingredients

1 - 3-4 ounce bar of Kirk's Castile Soap, grated  (or your favorite soap, either scented or unscented)
1/2 cup of washing soda
1/2 cup of borax
About 2 gallons of clean water





Add the grated soap to a pot and 6 cups of warm water.  Heat on the stove on  medium, stirring occasionally, until the soap flakes dissolve.  In the meantime, add the washing soda and borax to your bucket with 4 cups of warm water and stir until dissolved.  When the soap flakes are ready, add them to your bucket and stir.  Add another 1 gallon + 6 cups of warm water.  Stir some more.  Put the lid on your bucket and let it sit for 24 hours til it "gels".  You can stir it up with a big wooden spoon anytime.  At first, it looked kind of solid on top, with big chunks of more solid like gel soap blocks as I started stirring, but it mixed up pretty well.


Use 1/2 cup for each load.

Fabric Softener

For fabric softener, use 1/2 cup of vinegar.  Either white, or apple cider vinegar, doesn't matter.  You can also add a couple drops of any essential oil of your choice to the vinegar.  Either put this in the fabric softener spot of your washer, or in a downy ball.  

The essential oils aren't a necessity.  It does smell nice while your clothes are washing, but it doesn't leave a lasting scent.  Nor does the vinegar.  Your clothes just come out smelling clean.  If you want to add some essential oils to your laundry soap, you can do that as well.  But for the most part, it's just an added kick of antifungal, antibacterial properties to your laundry and it makes your house smell nice while they're washing.  I like to use peppermint.  :)

If you struggle with static cling, the biggest issue is the type of material your clothes are made from.  Synthetic fibers will almost always get static cling.  Particularly in the cooler, dryer months.  Materials like cotton or linen won't have the same problem.  So take this all into consideration as well.  You may need to use a more commercial product with some of your clothes, but be able to utilize wool dryer balls and a wad of aluminum foil in the dryer for more natural materials.  I know, it sounds crazy, but it works!  I keep some Seventh Generation Free and Clear Fabric Softener for when I need to wash snow suits and coats, but for most of our clothes, I use the wool balls.  You can get Willow Store brand from Frontier for $10 for 3 balls. I also think Norwex sells some too, but uncertain of the price.  Sometimes tennis balls would work, but be sure they are lead free.  And that little tip of aluminum foil?  Well, if the dryer balls aren't enough, sometimes a wad of foil can help add just enough static cutting help to do the trick.

And finally, dryer sheets.  Simply cut an old cotton t shirt or flannel into any size you'd like and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. ( Can find Essential Oils here. ) A good size for your dryer sheet is about 5 inches square.  Add about 3 drops of oil and toss in!  You can use your same 'dryer sheet' for 2-3 loads.  After that, just toss into your washer and wash and then use again for more drying or try with different scents. 

Why not use commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets?  Well, because many of the fragrances used in commercial products are quite toxic and can be absorbed into your clothing and through your skin.  They are blamed for many skin problems and can aggravate eczema, dry skin, rashes, or allergies.  So why not go as natural as possible?

And there you have it.  Natural laundry detergent, fabric softener, and even 'dryer sheets'.  If you haven't tried it, give it a shot!  I was pleasantly surprised and I hope you are too!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Zucchini and Squash Muffins



This muffin recipe works really well and is so versatile!  I really wanted to make some pumpkin muffins but my baking pumpkin still had a little green on it and I wanted to let it fully ripen.  Instead I used an acorn squash.

I first cut the acorn squash open, scraped out the seeds, and laid it face down on a baking sheet.  Stuck in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour and then scooped out the soft inside.

In the mean time, I cut up and used a food processor to shred up some yellow summer squash and some zucchini.  You can use whatever you have on hand.  Which is what I was doing.  I had half of each left over from dinner a couple of nights ago and it needed used up.  

The measurements and ingredients are as follows:

1 cup of baked acorn squash
1 cup yellow summer squash
1 cup of green zucchini  

OR, just 3 cups of one of them, mix and match, substitute some pumpkin, however you want to do it.

1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup of ground flax meal

OR, you can use a cup of wheat germ, all whole wheat pastry flour, all purpose flour, again, whatever you have on hand and mix and match.


2 whole eggs + 4 egg whites.  OR just 4 whole eggs.  

1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of white sugar

OR, you can use less sugar totally up to you.  I actually used slightly less.  I thought of using honey after the fact, but it would need a tad bit more flour so that it wouldn't be too wet.

1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
1/2 cup applesauce (you can use another cup of oil instead if you'd prefer)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp 
cardamom (or not...I couldn't find mine, but it's SO good in this recipe)

You can even add a little more of these spices.  You don't need to be exact.  Spice it according to what you like!

Walnuts and raisins can be added if you'd like.

grease muffin tins, add 1/4 cup of mix to each one and bake 20 minutes at 350

Another little tidbit is.....if you'd prefer your bread and muffins to be less moist....as some are REALLY moist.  You can let the zucchini sit for awhile  after you've shredded it and drain or squeeze some of the extra water out of it.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Apple Jelly


Since I have more apples available to me than I know what to do with, I decided that MAYBE I could make apple jelly!?  Didn't I see once on a table at some breakfast place little packets of apple jelly?  Hmmm.  Surely there's a recipe available on the internet somewhere for it.

Yep!  A quick search brought up 2 recipes!  Both blogs from other people that made it!  Sadly, mine didn't end up like either of those blog recipes.  Neither one of them used pectin in their recipe.  Totally understandable considering that back in the old days they used to MAKE pectin from apples.  However, when my juice had simmered down from 12 cups to 7 cups and it was still just juice and not thickening in the least, I decided to pull out my fruit pectin and use it to wrap this project up.  So, that's what I did.

The cool thing about apple jelly is that you don't need to peel or de-seed the fruit! AWESOME!  You just cut the apples into chunks with as many apples as you have on hand or until your pan is filled to the rim.  Pour in water to boil the apples up and let them boil til soft.  I think I let them boil for about an hour.  Although the recipes I looked at said 35-40 minutes.  It also said 10 cups of water and I only used 8, so I figured it would help in the long run with less water to boil off.  But apparently not, because as I mentioned above, it was not thickening and after 3 hours of simmering I finally gave in and added pectin.

Ok, so after you boil your apples, the next step is to take a piece of cheesecloth folded over and line a colander,  hang the colander over a larger bowl (hopefully the handles of the colander keep it up so that the liquid can drain into the bowl), pour in your apples and let the liquid drain.  Do NOT press down on the apples!  This will cause your juice to be cloudy!  K, so just let your juice drain for a while.  An hour?  Two hours? Whatever you feel like doing.  For some reason, both recipes said to put your bowls in the fridge overnight at this point.  After mine drained, I did put it in the fridge just because I had stuff to do and it was a good stopping point for me.  Also, I did 2 pots of boiled apples.  I then merged the two bowls of apple juice and stuck them in the fridge and gave the apples to the chickens.

The next day I measured out my juice.  I had 12 cups.  I'm glad I remeasured before adding sugar.  Because the recipes had said to add 3/4 cups of sugar for each cup of juice (standard for jelly).  But after 3 hours of simmering and no thickening I noticed that the juice had gone down a lot so remeasured.  7 cups now.  So that's what I went with and only added that amount of sugar.  3/4 cups of sugar to each cup of juice and 1 Tbsp of powdered pectin per cup.  Finally it thickened up. I tested it by pouring a bit on a small bowl and sticking it in the freezer for a minute and testing it.  When it was jelled coming back out of the freezer, I considered it done.

I put the jelly in sterilized jars and put on my lids and rings and processed them by bringing a pot of water to boil.  Then I added the jars and let boil for 10 minutes.  And there ya go.  :)

So, you'll need:

Lots of apples
Lots of time
Lots of patience
And the ability to wing it if things don't go according to plan.  :)

apples
water
sugar
and pectin is questionable.

The two websites I looked at and was trying to go by are:

http://www.tallcloverfarm.com/117/apple-jelly-recipe and
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/10/apple-jelly-jam-recipe/

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crockpot Apple Butter

Apples are on the top of the list for contamination of pesticides.  Therefore, organic is extremely important.  The best thing to do to find organic apples at a cost that is feasible, is to find someone that has their own apple trees. Now I don't mean an organic orchard.  I'm talking about a person, probably living out in the country, that just happens to have a couple, 3, 4, trees.  In my experience, those people are more than happy to see their apples go to good use and will GIVE them away if you'll just come pick them!  Some times they'll make a trade and give you the apples to use if you'll share some of your creation with them.

So, that's the first step.  Find a good source for organic apples.

Next, send monkey children to climb trees and pick apples!


You'll need about 8 pounds of apples.  There were actually around 13 pounds in this basket.


Peel, core, and chop to fill up your crock pot.


Sprinkle 1 cup of white sugar on top, put the lid on and cook on low for about 6 hours.

You CAN go ahead and add the other ingredients too if you want, but I like to wait and add them a little before the end.

After your apples have cooked til soft, use a potato masher and mash them up.



Then add the rest of the ingredients.

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt


Mix it all up and cook for another 4 or so hours.



Pour your end result into pre-sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath of boiling water for 10 minutes/pints, 15 minutes/quarts.


Makes approximately 4 pints.

This stuff is WAY better than anything you can get in the store!  It reminds me of the apple butter I used to eat as a kid that was made in big outdoor vats over an open fire.  So good on some toast!  I was thinking specifically of giving these as gifts so I didn't want to tinker too much with the recipe.  BUT, I want to try making some with honey and molasses in place of the sugar in the near future.

Salsa

2 cups of chopped red and white onion
7 cups of chopped tomatoes
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1/8 cup of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
4-6 chopped jalapeno peppers
about a cup of chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

The bummer side of this is that you have to actually heat the salsa just to boil in order to can it safely.  You can't cold can it.  It could still make you sick.  It needs to be warmed to a boil and make sure any bacteria has been sufficiently killed in order to properly preserve it.

I LOVE this recipe fresh and raw!  But when it comes to canned salsas, I lose interest.  So, you can either make this whole recipe and can it, or cut it in half or 1/4's and eat it up fresh.



To can, mix and put into 4 pre-sterilized pint canning jars

boiling water bath for 10 minutes

****Note****  Ingredients list for this came from my Chef brother Dean ****  I just added measurements.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scrumptious Spaghetti Sauce

I'll preface this by saying.....I've not eaten much pasta lately.  My views on healthy eating have changed so much in the last couple of years.  I'm almost to the point of thinking any kind of grain is more of a treat than it is a nutritious necessity.  Most of the recipes I've shared on this site are from my "Treat" files rather than my healthy eating files.  When I'm eating for the purpose of health, it takes on a whole different look than when I eat for pleasure.  At any rate, my pasta intake has been drastically reduced.  Therefore, perhaps my views and opinions on how GOOD this is are colored!  :)  *I*  think it's really GOOD!!!!

So here's the scoop.  I LOVE chunky spaghetti sauce.  The problem is, my husband doesn't.  I usually make homemade spaghetti sauce and can it each year.  I make it smooth by pureeing the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ALL other ingredients in the blender before I start.  I do not blanch or peel or remove seeds.  I believe it all has nutritious value and I want to make it is as healthy as possible.  Plus, it's just less work.  :)  I usually add in any fresh stuff I have coming out of the garden at the time.  Zucchini, summer squash, and bell peppers usually make it in there.  Nobody ever notices.  It's just good sauce!

I sometimes like to take advantage of hubby's occasional late nights, or business trip, to doctor up some spaghetti sauce to eat the way I like it.  I usually just prefer straight sauce over pasta and leaving out the meat.  For some reason, my husband thinks it's not really a meal if it doesn't have meat.  So the kids and I like to enjoy just sauce over pasta as a treat when we are home alone.  However, once every couple of years or so, I really like to do something drastically different by adding beef smoked sausage and some red bell peppers.  Tonight I also added a fresh red onion and some chopped basil.  Delish!



Now, for the actual sauce.

I got the original recipe from a friend of mine hosting a canning party on his farm with his own fresh organic tomatoes.  The title of it was called Naomi's Spaghetti Sauce.  I don't know where he got the recipe from, but I've enjoyed lots and lots of jars of it and have passed the recipe on at least a dozen times and gifted it numerous times as well.  

I've made this sauce the past five years and canned it. I still have some from last year's batch. The recipe makes about 2 qt jars. I usually doubled or tripled it and made many many batches of it. Last year I canned 36 jars of sauce!  It can be canned with just a boiling water bath, so it's easy enough!


Here's the basic recipe, you can tweek it to however you like,

4 medium onions - chopped
1 1/4 tsp pepper
4 garlic cloves (or a tablespoon of minced garlic)
12 cups of freshly chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
4 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
2-6oz cans tomato paste
1/3 cup brown sugar

Last year I added 1 zucchini/squash and 1 bell pepper for each doubled recipe.  This also added a little more bulk to the sauce and it went a little further.  With doing 6 times the recipe, it probably gave an extra 2 quarts with just the extra added veggies in it. (I'm totally guessing here since I wasn't measuring the veggies and all that....just throwing stuff in the blender ;))   You can add ANYTHING that you really want.  Mushrooms, other fresh veggies, olive oil, coconut oil, whatever you want.  The only thing I'd suggest shying away from is adding meat, unless you are eating it right away.  You can not safely can meat or anything with meat in it with just a water bath.  You HAVE to use a pressure canner.  

What I did was just take the chopped tomatos (AFTER they are measured out!) and the onions and veggies and threw them in the blender and purreed them together in small batches.  A few cups of tomatoes, an onion, a half a squash, or as much as I could fit into my blender at a time.. It's important to measure the tomatoes first. I've done this wrong and used 12 cups of purreed tomatoes and it's just not the same. Also, by blending it, you don't need to blanch and de skin the tomatoes.


The kind of tomatoes you use are important as well.  You'll want fleshier tomatoes to make a thicker, richer, less watery sauce.  Romas were my go to for several years, but this year and last we've planted heirloom Amish Paste tomatoes.  They are a lovely, big, thick, plump, tomato that doesn't have many seeds or juice.  They are sort of like a roma on steroids.  :)

So, take all ingredients EXCEPT tomato paste and sugar and put them together and bring to a simmer and let simmer for 2 hours. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 1 hour longer. Remove bay leaves, pour into jars, and seal.  To seal them, put your hot sauce into sterilized (boiled) jars.  Fill to the top leaving about an inch of space.  Put on the lids and rings and put into a pan of boiling water.  Keep them at a rolling boil for 15 minutes. 


I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we have!  It's good stuff!  Or so we think.  :)



***********Update - 8/19/12 ************  I made this recipe and actually took the time to blanch and deseed the tomatoes.  It made a very nice thick sauce.  I added 1 summer squash and 1 red pepper.  It made exactly 2 quarts!  Maybe it simmered down more than usual?  I'm not really sure.  But hubby even liked it better than any of the other batches I've ever made in the past 6 years!  He said he'd eat THAT on just pasta without meat!  That's HUGE!  :)  It was messy and more time consuming to blanch and deseed, but the results are very good!



************Update - 8/19/2013**********  In light of the Cure Tooth Decay protocol's our family has been following, I substituted the brown sugar for birch bark sugar (GMO free xylitol) and a tsp of molasses.  It still tasted absolutely wonderful!  Only without the glucose spikes of regular sugar.  :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Zucchini Brownies

A dear sweet lady brought us a meal not long after my youngest baby was born.  It included a fabulous dessert of Zucchini Brownies!  I promptly asked for the recipe and have made them several times!  I made them again last night and took pictures of each step of the process...but, my camera died, so all I have is one pic of the finished product that I took on my phone.  :(


I tried to use the best ingredients I could find, like fresh raw milk, fresh made butter from said milk, homemade organic applesauce I canned this fall, Equal Exchange baking cocoa, Bob's Red Mills Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, Aluminum Free Baking Soda, Frontier Organic Evaporated Cane Juice in place of the white sugar, pure Mexican Vanilla, zucchini that we grew in our garden this summer and pureed and had frozen in 2 cup portions, etc.  I had a beautiful picture taken of all of the ingredients set up on my kitchen table!  But my camera juju lately hasn't been so great so no pic for now. 

I hope to eventually get around to adding more recipes and try to link them together.  Like for the applesauce I used, the butter, things like that.

Anyway, without further ado, the recipe!  Let me know if you try these

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup applesauce *
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar **
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour ***
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Icing
  •  
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup butter 
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions - 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour (I use cocoa powder) a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the apple sauce, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the zucchini and walnuts. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched. To make the frosting, melt together the 6 tablespoons of cocoa and butter (mine was soft not melted); set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, blend together the confectioners' sugar, milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting into squares.

The only things I did differently in the directions was that instead of mixing in the walnuts, I laid them on top of my brownie batter once it was poured, and I didn't measure them.  I love walnuts in my brownies!  Also, I added about an extra 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to the icing.  It seemed thin and even after adding the sugar, it was still thinner than I really like it.  I think I'll add more next time.  Finally, my cook time was also closer to 35 minutes.  At 25 minutes the toothpick wasn't clean coming out so I added another 10 minutes.

I hope you enjoy these!  We sure do!

*Applesauce is used as a replacement for oil* You can do this with any baked goods recipe to try to make it a bit healthier.

**I used Evaporated Cane Juice in place of white sugar** I don't think it's as sweet as regular white sugar, but team it with the applesauce in place of oil and you have a nice sweet dessert that you can feel good about!

*** Note about whole wheat pastry flour *** I often use WW Pastry flour as a replacement to all purpose flour in recipes.  It's ground finer and comes from soft wheat rather than hard wheat.  That makes the flour a bit less wheat flavored (it IS still wheat flavored though! Just not so much.), but still healthier than white flour and an excellent substitute in baked goods without changing the denseness and consistency.  In my opinion.  :)

Santa Fe Soup



I was first introduced to Santa Fe Soup about 5 years ago.(Some also call it Chicken Tortilla Soup)  It has since become a staple on our dinner menu!  We all love it, it cans well, it freezes well, and I think it makes a wonderfully healthy meal for new moms too! It's packed full of good stuff like lots of iron and protein, you can make it as fattening or as lean as you'd like.  You could even leave out the chicken and it would still be delicious as a vegetarian soup!  AND it is just an all around feel good, yummy, gotta have it kind of soup!

Santa Fe Soup


1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 15 oz. can of pinto beans
1 15 oz. can of kidney beans
1 medium onion- chopped
2 chicken breasts - cooked and cubed *
1 can of tomatoes with peppers
2 cans of corn
2 packets of ranch dressing mix **
2 packets of taco seasoning  **


Toss together your chicken with the seasoning mixes, add chopped onion, beans, tomatoes, corn, etc.  Don't drain anything, just pour everything together and stir.  Simmer for about 2 hours.


You can eat it straight like that for a nice chicken chili, or top of crushed corn tortilla chips, shredded cheese and sour cream!  DE-LIC-IOUS!!


* - I often just use left over chicken from a roasted chicken
** - I use 2 heaping tablespoons of Frontier's Bulk Taco Seasoning and Ranch Dressing mix in place of the packets.  This saves money and MSG!