{Natural Wellness} Reviewing the Basics

Week two of my Natural Wellness course, aka 'mama school', was spent covering the basics of holistic nutrition, in other words learning how to supply the body with the right kind of nutrients to build and support strong terrains. Although there were many places that I needed to make notations in my text, as a means to help me remember these important points, I want to share one paragraph that surely stuck out to me...
"Furthermore, the general population falsely associates a healthy body with a slim figure, further complicating the concept of a healthy diet. While healthy individuals may be less likely to be overweight or obese, malnourished individuals come in all shapes and sizes. The amount of fat a body stores is no reflection of nutrient availability. Thin people may have as many health problems as obese individuals, but their problems will have different names and symptoms."  Page 21 - Natural Wellness ~ Jessie Hawkins
Do you hear what is being said, thin doesn't always mean healthy... but our society as a whole pushes thinness as a standard for health or as the standard for being 'in' health. I love that this truth is finally being spoken! Some of us will never be bone thin... I remember back in my junior year of high school when I was a size fourteen and striving to obtain a size twelve.

You Know: Peer Pressure. Personal Acceptance. Being Cultural Appropriate in Style and Size...

Eventually I managed to hit my goal, but with a price... and in the end a size twelve, for me, gives the appearance of being deathly ill. I was sick all the time and honestly in very poor health. I went from being a lower body weight lifter with tone and strength to a stick with circles under my eyes. Not good. Not pretty. And definitely not healthy.

Yes, I could loose some weight and tone up my temple now, which is the plan, however I am in better health than I was four years ago simply by eating the foods our Heavenly Father calls clean, drinking my milk raw, and learning how to use and consume whole foods.

This Unit Covered:
  • Carbohydrates - which by the way are needed for survival and are often the brunt of fad diets and marketing ploys. Your body needs fuel, period. Did you know that 'insufficient carbohydrate intake can lead to insulin resistance, causing blood sugar imbalance.' {page 24, Natural Wellness, Jessie Hawkins}
  • Fats - the good, the bad and the ugly. Again, your body needs certain kinds of fats to function and grow properly. I love this article on fat, except the lard portion of course, but it does a great job sharing some of the facts.
  • Cholesterol - learning about LDL [low density lipids] HDL [high density lipids] and VLDL [very low density lipids]... the HDL's should be higher than 40 and the LDL's lower than 130 - this is a very shortened & condensed version.
  • Proteins - those very important building blocks for our temples. Proteins are found in both plant and animal foods, and should be consumed daily, however too much can effect the ph level of your systems in a negative way.
  • Sugar Substitutes - I think I could now write a whole paper on sugar substitutes and the effects of all things sweet, but the one thing that concerns me is that if Xylitol can be harmful to dogs and other household pets, shouldn't we be a little concerned.
  • Fiber - you need 25 to 40 grams a day. Neglecting this requirement has more side effects than not going to the restroom.

Soaked Pancakes Using Emmer Grain

Unit Two Project: create a four day menu using whole foods, without repetition... I did create and use the four day menu, however I slipped on the repetition part. Around here, we hate to throw away left overs so we usually eat them until they are gone or I create something new from them.

Day One:
  • Scottish oats w/raw milk, maple syrup and milled flax.
  • Mongolian Beef w/ Brown rice.
  • Veggie Pancit
  • Bananas 
Day Two:
  • Scottish oats w/raw milk, milled flax and coconut seasonal nog.
  • Lentil tacos w/ whole wheat tortillas, veggie and cheese toppings.
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and apples.
Day Three:
  • Soaked pancakes w/peaches and raw milk. Using kamut flour and flax.
  • Kefir smoothies w/hemp powder and strawberries.
  • Chinese cabbage soup w/venison.
  • Apples
Day Four:
  • Scottish oats w/raw milk and milled flax.
  • Veggie Pizza w/carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  • Left over cabbage soup, because I made too much.
  • Apples

Let Your Food be Your Medicine: study the foods that begin with a 'c' through the foods that begin with an 'f.'  I chose carob, cranberry, eggs, and flax to share with you. There were a lot of yummy foods that fell in this section so it was hard to choose.

Carob: this stuff is amazing, and interestingly enough the 2012/2013 Winter Heirloom Gardener Magazine had a wonderful article on carob. Although carob may take some getting use to, many assume it will taste just like chocolate, and well - it doesn't really... it has a slight bitter taste to it. Cost wise carob is much cheaper than chocolate powder, recently we paid $6.95 for five pounds.

Cranberry: best know for their antibacterial properties, thus the effects on urinary tract infections, however if you would like to read more about the science of cranberries please take a detour, this article is direct, factual and covers all matters cranberry. We enjoy cranberries in many ways, but two of our favorites are in scones and orange cranberry muffins.
  • How Cranberries are Harvested and Processed {video} *Youtube source - so please use personal caution because of sidelinks.

Eggs: not all eggs are created equal, and if you can not raise free range - pastured hens yourself I would encourage you to find a farmer who can... remember to ask if he or she supplements with genetically modified feed, which kinda negates the purpose.

Flax: great for you. add it to everything. eat lots. stores well. fairly easy to get. can replace some fat in your baking. we prefer organic.
  • Flax Seed Health Q & A
  • Irish Flax Farming - if you take the eight minutes to watch this video, think about how our husbands would come home... and how this type of living would effect your way of life today. {Youtube source}
There was a lot of 'meat' to this chapter, as you can tell by the length of the post... but I hope you find it useful and it encourages you in some way.

~ Blessings!

My Next Unit: Holistic Nutrition Part 2

*please note that my posts are editorial in nature and are not meant to be taken as a way to treat or diagnose illness. Please practice personal health safety. I am currently taking a self paced course from Vintage Remedies called Introduction to Natural Wellness by Jessie Hawkins, please feel free to head over there if you are interested. ~ Blessings!

2012 Garden Journal: final reminisce

It's almost January... and my poor garden greens in the cold frame died a frigged death weeks ago... officially declared a no go the first full week of December. That is about two weeks longer than last year, so we are making progress... right?

I am thankful that our experiments are working to create a longer 'growing season' each time, but without adding extra expenses for a greenhouse and/or growing lights [or similar set up] I am just not sure that we can grow something year round outside.

Our temps have ranged from a negative one to high of fifty five, giving us this nice large range of variables to learn from... and my old, recycled cold frame just hasn't been able to keep up. But Yah willing... there is next year.

The yard looks so strange with only one raised garden bed left, everything else is gone... no chicken coop, no container gardens, and no outward signs of life anywhere. Just snow, slumbering plants and ponders of where will next years garden be.

As we wait - we are spending some of our evenings occupied with planning our 'hope' garden for the next season, with piles of seed catalogs and library books, articles from online sources and precious photos of possibilities. I cannot help it, its in my blood... and I do believe it will always be something I try to do... no matter where Abba leads us. I have such fond memories of growing up on the farm, it was one of the most precious seasons of my life and I truly loved every moment... even when the wood stove stopped burning in the middle of the night and you dreaded being the first one to get up.

It was hard work... but it was worth every minute.

My momma is a gardener, as was my grandmother, and even my mothers grandmother. My great uncle, on my mothers side, was {is} a homesteader, he also bred and utilized draft horses. Clydesdale's mostly. He is in his mid eighties and can still out roof a twenty year old man. His father, was a homesteader and his grandfather before him... along with being a horse team logger. Yep. Its in my blood.

It is hard work... but it is worth every minute.

I am thankful that we are able to 'stead' our backyard, the neighbors never minded our chickens and even ask about the possibilities of us getting a new flock... our landlord encourages our gardens and has been more than accommodating to our agrarian passions. But I long for rolling hills, heavy woods and rooster crows... my heart aches for the smell of sustainable earth and thick hearty coffee. My mind cannot forget yes mam and no sir and I really like the sound of y'all. Its in my blood.

Balm :: Wooden Utensils and the Care there of

Wooden kitchen utensils are greatly appreciated in my home, second only to my beloved cast iron... and like my cast iron, these wooden tools need some minor attention for their care as well.

Do you see that pretty one, the third from the end, its from Romania...

As you can see some of my utensils are in fairly good condition, while others... not so much. This is partly due to age and yes, partly do to neglect. Let me ask you - do you allow your wooden utensils sit in water to soak? You know throw them in the sink of water to get to later. Do you run them through the dish washer? Actually both processes can cause harm to our wooden tools, excessive contact with water can cause that 'fuzzy' feeling to the wood. Which is caused from water being absorbed into the wood, the grain then swelling and there you have it... wood fuzz!

What to do about it? If you can give your wooden utensils attention before they are cracked, then things should be alright... if the tool is cracked, well I am not sure what you can do about it. I have one like that and no amount of sanding is fixing my problem...

As with many things, prevention is key... so I would suggest every couple of months rubbing your wooden utensils with steel wool or green scrub pad, and coating them with some natural wood creme. What is natural wood creme you ask? It's also called wood polish, wood shiner, wood butter, wood oil... and the list goes on and on. I have found everything from don't use vegetable based oils because they can go rancid, to use vegetable based oils because they don't have a petroleum base or by product.

I chose to make my own version of a KA-Zillion recipes and ideas on the subject... with out mineral oil, because I reside in the shy away from petroleum based products as much as possible camp.

The Recipe: at least this is what I decided to do and I was happy with my results.

  • 2/3 cup organic olive oil, warmed {about}
  • 6 to 8 T of local, clean bees wax, shaved {about}
  • 3 drops cinnamon oil, and a few drops of lemon juice from an organic lemon. In the next batch I will use about 4 to 6 drops of lemon oil.

In a double boiler, that is used only for this purpose - I make shift one, out of an old pan and different heat tolerant bowls. Heat the first two ingredients until the bees wax is melted. Pour this into your small glass containers and then add your essential oils. I chose these two oils because of their anti 'ick' properties... but please do your own research and use what is best for you.

Let the creme sit until cooled and then check your consistency, if it is too hard... reheat and add more oil. If it is too soft for your liking... reheat and add a little more wax. I just played with it until I had achieved the creme texture I was after.

How to Use: rub a small amount of wood creme into the wood of your utensil until fully absorbed or leave a semi-layer on your utensils over night and wipe thoroughly the next morning. This should be done every couple of months, so as long as you do not continue to mistreat your beloved wooded utensil.  :-)

~ Blessings & Enjoy!

Shared With: Barn Hop #93

{Natural Wellness} Creating a Wellness Philosophy

Its time. This is now the right time for mama to start going back to school, well ... it is more like 'homeschooling mama'. Right now I am working my way through the Introduction to Natural Wellness from Vintage Remedies with a goal to formally take the Family Herbalist course. One of my desires in completing the Family Herbalist course is to be better equipped to support and assist my husband in his passion of biblical health... and the Introduction to Natural Wellness self study method seemed to be the 'best' next step for our family.

My first unit Germ vs. Terrain Theory was pretty interesting, and challenging enough to provoke some serious conversations about our families health with my husband. My project for this unit was to create a personal wellness philosophy and write a paper on the potential ways that I have hindered the terrains of my family in the past. However, before I share the rough draft of my personal wellness philosophy, please let me a share a little bit about what the germ vs. terrain theory is... and I do mean a little bit.

"The Germ Theory suggests that the human body is a naturally sterile environment and when a germ invades the body it results in illness. The Terrain Theory supports that if the terrain was healthy and the systems of the body worked together in unison then illness would not occur through exposure." ~ Vintage Remedies Textbook

On to my rough draft:

Our family wellness philosophy involves many areas, but primarily the Word of God, believing that with practical application of biblical law our need for medical treatment would be greatly decreased. This includes striving to better understand sustainable agriculture and the negative effects modern farming has caused to our food production, knowing that we are in essence what we eat. We also attempt to learn more practical and natural remedies for when illness do occur, and strive to realize when and where serious medical attention is needed.

We are aware that spiritual concerns can also result in physical illness and disease. Concerns such as anger, fear and bitterness can physically manifest itself in our bodies, thus resulting in illness or weak terrains. Understanding that ultimately, illness is a direct result from the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, however we are to live responsibly, practicing what we know... releasing and repenting of any known sin and doing what we can to care for our temples and the temples of those whom we love.

In essence both theories hold truth for our wellness and both theories have some degree of error. Not all illness's are a result from germs, poor terrain, unconfessed sin, or violation of biblical law... some illness or disease occurs for the sole purpose of glorifying our Heavenly Father.

In what way have I hindered the terrains of my family:

When I pondered this question, one area stuck out in my mind the most and that was the number of times I have compromised certain convictions for the sake of time. Blurring those lines because I did not want to take the extra twenty minutes to grind grain or prepare a food the right way and then attempting to justify my actions with the 'just this once' mentality... arg. Planning is SO key.

Study the foods that begin with a & b: The list is in the back of my text book, and I believe it is taken from The Vintage Remedies Guide to Real Food. I chose these two foods to share with you...

A - Artichoke - globe ~ cynara scolymus

Great for liver detox, digestion aid, and according to my text artichokes enhance the speed of blood clotting. I served my husband artichokes steamed with herb butter for lunch... and they were tasty!

B - Blackberries - rubus ulmfolius

A wonderful fruit filled with antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Blackberries are also a mild diuretic and we use blackberry leaves for tea. Both are good for cases of diarrhea.

My favorite way to eat blackberries is with raw cream poured over them, drizzled with a dab of honey. Simple ~ but oh so good.

So do you have a wellness philosophy?

My Next Unit: Holistic Nutrition ~ The Basics

 *please note that my posts are editorial in nature and are not meant to be taken as a way to treat or diagnose illness. Please practice personal health safety. I am currently taking a self paced course from Vintage Remedies called Introduction to Natural Wellness by Jessie Hawkins, please feel free to head over there if you are interested. ~ Blessings!

Storing Kefir Grains Long Term :: how to

Last summer I was researching how to store my kefir grains for long term storage, especially when they seem to multiply like crazy on raw milk. I had found numerous ideas on line but with varying opinions and results... however by last fall I happened upon a process that would give me the results I was desiring.

In short, I washed my extra grains with filtered water and let them semi-air dry on a clean towel. While they were still some what damp I rolled them in organic milk powder and put them in a plastic bag, added a little extra milk powder and threw them in the freezer...

And quite honestly I had forgotten all about them until my mom asked for some more kefir grains two weeks ago.

I was not to keen on shipping raw milk across state lines, because apparently some states have issues with that... but I will keep my thoughts to myself regarding that line of thinking. Anyway, I remembered that I had stored some kefir grains in the freezer and so I sent those straight away to my mama, with complete instructions on how to support their life once again.

Although I truly wasn't sure it would work.

But she called this weekend to inform me that all of the grains were making kefir just fine!

She was working as my assistant in the experiment and divided the grains into three jars for better observation. For me, this means an option for long term storage for my milk kefir grains... and for mom, it means more of the 'good' stuff she needs for her health.

So ~ just how long did I have them in the freezer? One year and two weeks...

I know that some sources state the nutritional value may be effected from this process, but I am not fully convinced that is correct...

~ Blessings!

Storing & Using Milk Kefir Grains

Shared With: The Barn Hop

Pumpkin Butter Cinnamon Rolls

These rolls sing fall like none I have ever tried... a mental creation resulting from a taste from my first batch of pumpkin butter, well actually it was hubbard butter as my daughter likes to remind me...

First make your batch of pumpkin butter, however I substituted my hubbard squash for the pumpkin and it turned out great. The recipe linked is what I used for my guideline, but I would encourage you to experiment with your taste buds. Then make your cinnamon roll dough... like the one shared below:

The Roll Dough
2 Cups ~ Warm Water
1/3 Cup ~ Honey
1 ½ T ~ Yeast
¼ Cup ~ Olive Oil
6 Cups ~ Whole Wheat Flour, roughly

Prepare like standard bread recipe, let rise until doubled. After doubled, pour out onto the counter and shape into large rectangle, about one inch to an inch and a half thick, smear a thick layer of pumpkin butter over the top, drop butter hunks throughout and roll. Slice thick, place rolls into a greased 9 x 13 pan and let rise again. Bake @ 350 for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve warm, with a cold glass of milk or when the rolls are cooled place them in your fridge and eat them in the morning. They reheat nicely in a warm oven, and are perfect for cool fall mornings. 

~ Enjoy

Pumpkin Pancakes

During the fall season we use a lot of pumpkin, often times I will use Hubbard squash in place of many recipes calling for canned pumpkin and most of the time you can never tell the difference. Although I like to have a few cans of organic pumpkin on our shelves for those mornings when I am craving some good old fashioned pumpkin pancakes.

Those Pumpkin Pancakes: {Inspiration Recipe}

2 cups freshly ground Whole Wheat Flour, I use hard white wheat
4 t Baking Powder
1 t Real Salt
2 T Maple Sugar, honey or maple syrup would be great as well
1 T melted coconut oil, olive oil or butter
1 can pumpkin puree, I have not tried Hubbard squash with this recipe
2 eggs, laid by cage free, healthy chickens

*a little ground clove and ginger would be nice too!

Throw the ingredients into a large bowl, mix well and cook them up on a hot, cast iron skillet. I also add some cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, and sometimes I will add a dash of vanilla. Serve with butter and a little drizzle of fresh raw cream or anyway you prefer.

As I write this I am again reminded of why I love this time of year, and why I love pancakes. It truly has been a beautiful autumn season here, and the cold frame is holding up nicely... which reminds me, I need to harvest some late season lettuce this week.

~ Blessings & Shalom!

2012 Garden Journal: my small fall garden

Time is a valuable thing... so much so I won't make excuses for not posting sooner for those who read my private corner of the world, however my dear friends I do have some new photos and something small to share:

First ~ Our Parsnip Harvest:

These babies are an exercise in patience and diligence. Here Miss is trying to pull this monster parsnip, a welcomed sight for the amount of time they require. Although parsnips really don't need much, just some space, a lot of time and of course water...

When just about everything else has died, wander out to the parsnip bed and there you will find another rooted bounty. Perfect to add to your garlic mashed potatoes... yes parsnip garlic mashed potatoes are amazing!

I think the most important part for growing parsnips is depth, a few of ours had bent ends but were still quite large...  these guys are a must have for any long term storage grower and are extremely cost effective, even if they seem to take forever to grow. ;0)

Below is a belated peek into our small 'fall' garden...

My simple, recycled cold frame... serving yet another year.

In it we are growing lettuce, spinach and swiss chard... and this photo was taken about a month ago, so they are much bigger now and everything seems to be working nicely.

Tomorrow we leave for Jackson Hole, so in a few days I hope to have some photos to share with you... Jackson Hole in the fall is breath taking all the way around and I am so excited to be able to go!


Pumpkin Scones

I just love this time of year, its perfect for laying out our winter projects, compiling our need to read book list and its perfect for baking... pumpkin scones.

The Recipe:

2 cups freshly ground, flour
1/2 cup canned pumpkin 
1/2 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon & nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves & ginger
3 T raw milk or raw cream
1 large, farm egg
6 T of butter, or coconut oil

Oven Temp: 400

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, then turn out on the counter to flatten, about once inch thick, and shape into triangles or squares... it's your choice. Then place the scones on your baking sheet and bake 10 to 13 minutes, until done... let cool and enjoy. I think they are better slightly warm with fresh melted butter and a glass of raw milk. ;0)

Semi-inspired By

Seed Saving: sophie's choice tomatoes

The tomato harvest is still coming in, praise our Heavenly Father, and I am trying to be diligent with preserving our harvest as well as save seed for next year. The more I work with this tomato, the more I truly enjoy it... though once again I must mention it is more suited for cooler climates.

While I am canning my tomatoes, or making tomato flakes, I simply set out a few choice ones for my seed saving mission... when the best ones have been gathered, I cut them open, squish the tomato pulp into a mason jar and let the seeds, along with the juice and a little water, ferment for about three days.

Then its just a matter of drain, rinse and rinse again... after a good rinsing I lay my tomato's out to dry and then package them into seed packets I make at home. Tomato seeds were my first veggie {or fruit} seeds I learned to save, and I love doing it...

One of these days I would like to host a seed saving swap with all my friends, wouldn't that be wonderful... you could end up with some interesting plants that way!

Saving Seed Resources:

*Linking doesn't mean agreeing with all view points.

{review}: The Virtuous Woman by Doorposts

A precise bible study for mothers and daughters that is geared towards the younger maid servants in training, covering some key topics for becoming the virtuous woman.

Study one is spent exploring Proverbs 31, reviewing what the life of the virtuous woman would look like, covering her thoughts, speech, home management and her outreach. The rest of the studies build upon three main themes, the first is 'reaching forth' and understanding hospitality. The second is learning to understand what 'the law of kindness' is, followed by an in depth study on the tongue and just 'what is' being contentious.

Finally, Ms. Foster concludes the study with 'eating the bread of idleness'… here begins our understanding of slothfulness, defining 'what is a sluggard' and the importance of 'going to the ant'. We rediscovered why it is such a blessing to 'go to the ant' and reading the notes Pam shared on this topic were dead on and very encouraging. 

This was by far my favorite part of the study, because for our family it is such a serious topic, and this idea of working hard is often a foreign concept in our modern day ease. Generally speaking, many have lost the biblical importance of hard work along with the valuable life lessons we can learn from working hard, so I was very encouraged by this.

Also I love how the Hebrew words are defined and how we gain this amazing awareness of being a watchman... well in our case it is being a watch woman for our home and our family. I think a young lady, and her mother, would find this book useful and applicable for many areas of her life. You can also view a sample page if your interested!

  • Card stock cover, Comb bound
  • 41 Pages, Black and White
  • Includes Scripture Study w/ some hands-on activities. 
  • Recommended age: 6 - 14
  • Uses KJV translation

Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Virtuous Woman/Doorpost for my honest and frank review. No other compensation was received. Please see my disclosure policy at the bottom of my blog for more details. Thank you!

2012 Garden Journal: my opinion of the sophies choice tomato

I think it's safe to share my thoughts on the growing adventures of the Sophie's Choice tomato... a heirloom, determinate tomato that produces a sizable orange - red fruit, whose characteristic would do well with cooler climates. The plants are some what short and stocky, averaging about eighteen inches to twenty four inches in growth. While some of our plants reached about two and half feet in height, a few barely topped out to two feet, most of them did stay close to the stated height.

One of the reasons we chose the Sophie's Choice tomato was because it is considered an early tomato, ready for harvest in about fifty five days... and our growing season is short to say the least, with varying extremes through out the season.

The Planting: we started out with twenty six seedlings sown, and when the time was right we planted twenty four plants early and we managed to keep the whole twenty four alive through the weather extremes and flea beetles. Sophie's Choice doesn't enjoy extreme heat or drought... yeah... and this is the year we have had both most of the season, but I planted them using the straw bale method, which later became a great mulch as the season progressed.

The Growing: because of the extreme heat, our tomatoes did require a lot of water... remember they are not to fond of extreme heat or drought... however because of the straw mulch I really believe I didn't have to water as much as some urban gardeners. On average two times a week, sometimes three - although they seem to have done well... the extra watering made these some the most expensive tomatoes I have grown to date.

The Challenges: I mentioned the flea beetles, and the heat already. So outside of five tomato plants competing with a choke cherry tree for nutrients and a couple of fruits with some blossom end rot, there were not too many challenges. Really, these ladies don't need 'sucker removal' and my tying was minimal. Most of my energy was used in the early part of the season... the rest was maintenance and waiting.

The Harvesting: early tomato, I am not so sure. So far more have ripened off the plant than on, because the lack patience on my part, but honestly we are just now getting orange ones on the vine. I think that may be due to the interesting growing season we are all experiencing. The vines are [were] loaded with fruits of all sizes, making the harvest respectable, if I were growing these for all year tomato preservation I would have doubled or tripled the number of plants.

Final Thoughts: they taste great, are large enough for hamburgers and canning, take up little space and are a hardy little tomato plant, perfect for container gardening. A keeper!

2012 Garden Journal: the onion harvest

I really do enjoy the harvest season, although its a busy season... it remains as one of my heart favorites and one of the things I like to do during this time is to take photos of our produce in the sunlight, preferably morning sunlight...

This year we raised roughly six to eight pounds of onions from bulb sets and most of them are the size of a baseball. Not huge, but decent in size. I am very grateful for our urban onion harvest and pray I will remain faithful... even in the small things. ~ blessings!

Homemade Vanilla Extract - *updated*

Quite some time ago I posted about making home made vanilla... honestly it really is simple and easy to do, the taste is amazing and a quart seems to last us a very long time.

I learned how to make this valuable yummy from Wardeh, and have not looked back. I love making my own vanilla and since I have started this process, I have never ran to my pantry and noticed... oh I am out of vanilla. ;o( Although I make mine with about six or seven vanilla beans to a quart of vodka. It Works!

Last month mom was out for a visit, and one day she noticed my vanilla, the next thing I know she is wearing it as a perfume and asking how to make her own. She also thinks one could use this in some form as a natural insect repellent, however I have not tested her theory... just yet. If any of you do give that a try please contact me via email and let me know how it went.

The most recent creation with my homemade vanilla with the after Shabbat Cinnamon and Spice Challah French Toast. Completely inspired by my friend Moira at Not By Bread Alone. It's dee-lish!

Can you imagine fresh whole wheat, spiced Challah, soaked in organically raised eggs, fresh raw cows milk with a hint of real vanilla flavor... topped with butter and real maple syrup.  

Wait - I have a visual...

Yeah ~ it really is that good!

Go on... give it a try...

~ Blessings!

Swiss Chard Pesto

Before you curl you nose up at the idea of Swiss Chard Pesto, try the recipe. It is absolutely wonderful and one I will be repeating over and over... besides its a great way to use up that Swiss Chard!

The original recipe inspiration is yummy too, however the day I made this batch I did not have all the listed ingredients... so I winged it from my pantry and there you have it!

 Swiss Chard Pesto ~ My Version
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped - I added extra!
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and torn into smallish pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 ounces of nutritional yeast
  • 1 bunch of basil leaves (about 1/2 cup packed) - I combined a variety of basil's including a tablespoon of dried, because my plant was not yet large enough.
  • Kosher salt - to taste.
I followed the rest of the recipe some what to instruction, by sauteing the garlic, the two tablespoons oil and the Swiss Chard in a large pan, for a few minutes. Then I added the rest of the ingredients, save the salt, to my Ninja food chopper and let her rip. After the Swiss Chard cooled slightly I threw that in to... and then taste. Oh my goodness! Throw in a little salt and its a double oh my goodness!

~ Blessings & Enjoy!

Old Fashion Buttermilk Short Cakes

Nothing screams summer [or spring] like strawberry short cake. Truly a family favorite... with fresh strawberries, wholesome short cakes and raw cream topped off with a dab of sweeter, it is especially great on Erev Shabbat or a sunny Shabbat afternoon.

Old Fashion Buttermilk Cakes

2 cups whole wheat flour, freshly ground
1 T baking powder
1 cup real buttermilk or kefir if you have extra
1/2 t real salt
1/3 cup oil, butter or coconut oil, butter is the best in my opinion
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T sugar or melted honey
1 t vanilla - homemade vanilla extract is priceless

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients, drop by large spoonfuls unto an oiled cookie sheet, and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 15 to 20 min, or until done. Note: I flatten out the 'cake' with my fingers to make the size of the 'cakes' wider instead of the dome shape.

*This recipe was adapted from a friends biscuit recipe, which reminded me of the kind 'grandma' use to make for strawberry shortcakes. Also this 'cake' version is not real sweet, as I prefer to taste the raw cream, and strawberries over a sugar biscuit. However we do sprinkle just a dab of sugar or drizzle a lit honey on top if we are in the mood for sweet.

Elderberry Extract at Home

I am so excited! I finally sat down to learn how to make our own elderberry extract right here at home, honestly it was because I have been ill for about two weeks now and twenty dollars a bottle for elderberry supplements was not cutting it. I am so thankful I did, it really is easy to make and yes, it really is cost effective.

My first task was to find a local source for elderberries, since I was having little patience and I didn't want to spend money on shipping costs just yet, by blessings from Abba my local health food store lady happen to carry them in bulk... for l.e.s.s.

Dried Elderberries:

How I Made It:
  • Place 1/3 c of dried elderberries into a pint mason jar.
  • Fill the pint jar with vodka, often Everclear is recommended, but I used a different brand for my first batch.
  • Cover the jar with a lid, and label. I wrote down the date and what the extract will be when it is finished, in this case ...Elderberry Extract. 
  • Let the mixture sit in a cool dark place for about four to six weeks, shaking occasionally each week. After this time, test the strength of your extract, this process was very similar to making my own vanilla extract, so I am assuming the longer time will yield a stronger extract.

Once the extract has reached the desired strength, strain out your spent elder berries and toss, reserve your extract in a clean glass jar, preferably one of a tinted color. So Simple.

The Cost:
  • For two pints of Elderberry Extract I paid about $18.00 ~ the health food store lady was really impressed and asked me to bring my mixture in when it is complete. She is interested in making some along with her own vanilla extract and gave me a source for colored bottles. 

I don't plan on being sick for another three weeks, but in the event some one else is, I have them covered. Now my goal is to keep on top of my extract making... so I have it before the illness occurs.

Inspiration For My Learning:
  • GNOWFGLINS - Vanilla Extract
  • Home Shalom - Pamela's recipe in the For Zion's Sake cookbook
  • My health food store lady, I am really poor with names, now faces... faces I remember, but I wanted to add her anyway.

* 'Alternative Medicine' information within these pages and links of my blog, it is just that: information. Please do NOT take it as medical advice, I am not a certified professional in the area of 'Alternative Medicine' and what I have gleaned else where I apply with discretion. Please be responsible for yourself.

{review} The Urban Farm Handbook

I was really excited to find out that I would be reviewing The Urban Farm Handbook, as you know we love to grow and farm whatever we can here in our hometown yard, but we had left for vacation before I received it the mail... hence the length of time it took me to share the review.

But what a lovely surprise I had in my stack of mail when I returned, and after settling back in to the swing of life, I read the entire book in one day, yes in one day and as my 'green' thumb devoured the pages, my other hand took notes and marked ideas.

Book Details:
  • Colored Softcover, with black and white pages, however there are many full color photos sprinkled throughout all three hundred and eighty three pages.
  • Sells for $24.95/ prices vary from providers such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
  • Written by: Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols, Annette blogs at Sustainable Eats, home of the The Urban Farm Handbook Challenge.

My Likes & Thoughts:
  • Loved It! I think this resource would be worth the price.
  • I liked the break down of the Seasonal Chapters, having one for each season, and the 'what we are eating now' lists. This is great for those who are trying to eat more seasonally and for those who would like to start growing or are growing more of their own seasonal produce. 
  • Another part I found encouraging was "Annette's Shopping List", set up similar to the before and after experience ... with headers of original and revised lists for her grocery needs. In one of my favorite chapters, chapter twelve, the list was amazing in the differences from her original list to the revised one, this chapter left me very encouraged. 
  • The recipes, Annette and Joshua included quite a few recipes for each seasonal harvest, including a cheese recipe that I am desiring to try. I would also like to try to make Annette-the-Cheese as well!
  • The history, processing practices and nutritional facts shared through out this book... here are two examples pertaining to wheat at it's processing.
"The whole wheat flour you buy in the grocery store corrects some of these problems. [referring to the loss, and process of the bran and the wheat kernel expressed in its above paragraph] At the end of the milling process, the millers recombine some of the nutritious parts with the white flour. But once it's milled, the flour spoils quickly." ~ Pg 34.
"Grain is a commodity in the United States - grown on mono-crop farms and sold to the cooperative running the grain elevator. Mingled with grain from other farms, it sits in the silo until beckoned by the call of the mill. Having perhaps come in damp from the field, it may begin to mold, before being fumigated to prevent mold from spreading throughout the silo. In the mean time, the grain's sweet smell attracts bugs and rodents. One can only hope that inspectors will spot most of the moldy kernels, bugs and rodent hairs before milling." ~ Pg. 25
  • Finally, the resource list in the back of the book was something I found very helpful and the produce eating plan, which helps you figure out just how much produce you really eat. After completing the plan you would be able to answer 'would it be worth growing this myself?' or 'would it serve our family better to buy it from a local farmer?' Questions we should ask before planting the garden...

  • Our family only consumes biblically clean food, as listed in Leviticus 11, so the sections on raising {and harvesting} rabbits and pigs were not appealing to me. But I did appreciate what was said about eating organically raised meats and the detailed process of purchasing these meats from a local producer. 

Truly this book is an asset to the urban farmer, because it's more than how to book, it's an idea book, an activist at heart book, a book to encourage you to give growing your own food a try... could you image never setting foot in a big box grocery store again.

~ Oh the joy!

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of The Urban Farm Handbook, published by Skipstone, for my honest and frank review, no other compensation was received. A cherished resource for my library.

The Birdhouse Gourd :: bottle neck style

Actually they are called Bottle-neck Gourds, but often times we see them made into bird houses... when I was young my mom would make these earthen bird houses and hang them all over our garden. Sometimes the feathered friends would take up residence and other times the gourd would serve a purpose of adding more color elements to our outdoor space. 

I loved that memory and wanted to recreate it for my daughter. When I finished painting the gourds the first thing she said was... "this blue one reminds me of grandma Nana."

The who's and what's its:
  • First plant your gourd seeds...and harvest them at the end of the year, or you can leave them to over winter right there on vine. This article explains the process of drying your gourd...
  • Then the following spring [now] I cleaned up my gourds by washing them with soap and water, this time I happen to use my Tropical Traditions bleach powder for the job, then I let them air dry in sun for about a half day or so...

  • Once the gourds were dry, I took my handy dremel tool and polished out the hole my beloved made with his one inch spade bit...

  • I also drilled small holes near the top of the gourd, and some along the bottom for drainage purposes. 
  • Then we let the creativity begin... these were painted with patio paint and acrylic's, then coated with a non-toxic sealant for weather protection.

  • Finally I will add a small perch below each hole, add my wire to the top and hopefully have them in place before vacation...

 These are great for your yard and so very easy to make! 

~ Be blessed and encouraged. ~

* Shared with Simple Lives Thursday

    Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

    Miss made two batches of Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins on Friday, one of which was for our Shabbat breakfast. These are her absolute favorite muffins, well possibly with the exception of chocolate chip muffins, the girl loves chocolate too.

    The Recipe: adapted from the Joy of Cooking

    2 cups Whole Wheat, freshly ground/hard white wheat
    1 tablespoon of Baking Powder
    1/2 teaspoon Real Salt
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    2 large, organic, eggs
    1 cup of raw cream
    2/3 cup organic sugar
    5 tablespoons oil - olive, butter or coconut oil
    1 teaspoon [make your own] vanilla
    1 tablespoon lemon zest, freshly grated from organic lemons
    1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
    1 teaspoon lemon juice

    Add all the ingredients together in a large bowl, yes...she threw them all in one bowl...and mix thoroughly. Pour the batter into your paper lined muffin tins, fill about half way full, and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Test muffins with a toothpick for doneness, let cool slightly before removing from the pan. Store in air tight container once completely cooled.

    Grinding your own wheat sounds like a lot of extra work, and some days is can be, but think of the alternative... besides fresh ground wheat tastes better, and from what I have studied it is healthier and more economical in the long run. We currently use The Kitchen Mill for daily use, but have a hand mill for those days when the electricity goes out and we still need flour.

    Raw cream, or real milk, is something we are very thankful for and I know that not everyone has access to this whole food, and considering the country we live in, to say this is sad is an understatement. But why raw milk? This article explains things pretty clearly. See also: Raw Milk Vs. Pasteurized Milk

    {Real} Butter is not a bad fat, it is a good one and we try to make as much as we can with the cream we skim off the top of our milk jars. Often times we have enough butter to use for the whole week, unless I desire the cream for other kitchen use, so go ahead ... eat the butter. Here is a great post on the benefits of eating butter, and other 'good fats'.

    When we choose to use the excellent things for our foods, we will delight in the taste of them. When we choose to spend our time wisely, again choosing the excellent things, our lives can be lived full of purpose and joy. As a mother, the joy came as I was watching my daughter create her favorite muffin, and being in 'her time' while in the kitchen.  

    ~tasting them was pretty joyous too!