DIY Elderberry Oxymel [for Colds]

The crud has hit our home. Robb and I have both been battling a cold the past few days and with Caleb only 4 months old, we’ve been careful to try not to spread it to him. Thankfully I’ve read that breastmilk contains protective antibodies to help Caleb’s immune system fight off infection and illness. He seems to be good right now but I’ve been keeping a close eye on his health.

Cold’s suck. I’ve never liked taking medicine to begin with but now I have to take extra precautions while breastfeeding. I’ve always preferred time, rest, and a good dose of Vitamin C. Elderberries are a great source of Vitamin C (as well as being said to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-influenza, and anticancer properties) and while I usually create a hot tea with the dried berries and a bit of honey, I also like to transform the berries into an oxymel for easy consumption.

A oxymel is basically a syrup with apple cider vinegar added to give it a sweet and sour taste. This is definitely an acquired taste. I actually like it, it is very reminiscent to a shrub. When I’m starting to feel a bit under the weather, I take about a tablespoon full every 4 or 5 hours. For Robb, I mixed a bit of the oxymel with some tonic water – though I admit, he did not like it one bit. I highly recommend stocking up on dried elderberries BEFORE cold and flu season arrives as they become harder to find and a lot of shops sell out. This recipe also needs to sit for a few weeks so make it early on during cold and flu season to make sure that you have it on hand. Once it’s prepared, it’ll last for about 6 months in the refrigerator.

I’ve also been taking Zarbee’s Naturals Baby Cough Syrup + Mucus. Since it’s safe for infants 2+ months, I figured that it would be safe for me to consume. It has a delicious grape flavor and helps to clear mucus and soothe irritated throats. There are no artificial flavors/sweeteners/drugs/alcohol/dyes, only organic agave syrup, English ivy leaf extract and a few other items.

Now that I’m over this cold… it’s time to prepare for allergy season~…

Print Recipe
Elderberry Oxymel
Course Herbal
Servings
Ingredients
  • raw apple cider vinegar
  • dried elderberries (purchase here)
  • raw local honey
Course Herbal
Servings
Ingredients
  • raw apple cider vinegar
  • dried elderberries (purchase here)
  • raw local honey
Instructions
  1. Fill a quart or pint sized mason jar 1/3 full with your dried elderberries.
  2. Add an equal amount of honey and apple cider vinegar. Stir well and cover with a plastic lid (the vinegar will cause a metal lid to corrode).
  3. Let this mixture sit for about 4 weeks, shaking the jar a few times a week. When it's done, strain it through cheesecloth, taking care to squeeze the cheesecloth to get out any extra bits of liquid.
Recipe Notes

I like to store my finished oxymel in a glass amber bottle but you can use any container. It'll last for about 6 months in the fridge.

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Stuffed Spaghetti Squash [Recipe]

Sometimes it’s the little changes you make that add up and create a bigger impact on your life – i.e. substituting one ingredient for a healthier alterative. One of my favorite ingredient swaps is to use roasted spaghetti squash in place of pasta.

One of the biggest benefits of eating spaghetti squash is that it contains 9% of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber, while also delivering a range of nutrients, including vitamins C and A, Potassium & Calcium. It also contains folate, which supports the formation and development of new cells and helps prevent birth defects, making this squash an ideal food for pregnant women.

Spaghetti squash is super easy to prepare. Basically you just cut it in half, remove the seeds and roast for about an hour until tender at 400*F. From there, the possibilities are endless. I like to stay pretty simple and stuff my spaghetti squash with my favorite spaghetti sauce. It creates a meal that I can prepare pretty easily on a weeknight. Let’s face it, after a long day of work, the easier your supper comes together, the less likely you are to indulge in junk foods or takeout.

It’s almost embarrassing how easy this recipe is. To be honest, I wouldn’t even call it a recipe, more like a rough guide. Give it a shot though and let me know what you think!


Print Recipe
Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Course Main Dishes
Servings
2 people
Ingredients
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cheese divided
  • 3 cups spaghetti sauce * see notes
Course Main Dishes
Servings
2 people
Ingredients
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cheese divided
  • 3 cups spaghetti sauce * see notes
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400*F. While your oven is preheating, carefully slice your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, leaving just the flesh. Rub a little bit of olive oil into the flesh, then salt & pepper the cavity.
  2. Place the spaghetti squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Bake for about an hour or until the flesh is tender.
  3. While your spaghetti squash is cooking, prepare your spaghetti sauce. If you make your spaghetti sauce from scratch, you can control the amount of salt and sugar used. I like to add cooked onions and browned hot Italian sausage to my sauce.
  4. Once your spaghetti squash is cooked, fill the cavity with your sauce. Top each half with 1/4 cup of cheese and cook until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
Recipe Notes

3 cups of spaghetti sauce is equal to one regular jar of sauce. That doesn't include any add-ins such as ground beef, beans, or anything else of the sort. If you have left over sauce after stuffing your squash, save it for another day or simply spoon it over your squash when you serve it.

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Granny’s Old-Fashioned Multi-layer Cake with Boiled Chocolate Frosting

I still remember the first time my mother and I attempted my granny’s 16-layer chocolate cake even though it has been almost 20 years now. We had worked all afternoon on it, carefully cooking each paper thin layer of cake, guarding the fudge-like frosting as it cooked away on the stove so that it wouldn’t burn, and finally, assembling it. Pleased with ourselves, we stepped out of the kitchen until a loud splat brought us running back. Our beautiful cake was now in bits and pieces all over the floor – we had assembled it while it had been too warm and the layers had slid apart. I looked at my mom and did the only thing that I could do at the moment. I sat on the floor and started eating.

It was delicious.

That’s the kind of magic that my granny’s cake had. I can’t think of the holidays without picturing her chocolate cake, sitting modestly on top of the freezer in the backroom, though it should have been issued a place of honor at the main table. Every time we gathered at her house, for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for birthdays, the cake would be waiting for us. We all had to pass through the backroom to enter our house (no one ever used the front door) so we all would feel a glimmer of excitement when we spotted that cake sitting there.

Even when arthritis crippled her hands, she pressed on, switching from homemade cake batter to one out of a box. She faithfully made her icing the same way, though at times my grandfather had to take over for her (under her watchful eye of course). Sometimes the cake would have 14 layers, sometimes closer to 19. It was always a game to see who could come the closest to guessing the number of layers before we counted, peeling off each layer to eat, line by line.

My granny passed away this past January, only a few brief months before I would find out that I’m pregnant with my first child. I’m looking forward to sharing the magic of this cake with my own child as he grows. Even though I might have learned my lesson to let the layers cool before assembling the cake, who knows, maybe I’ll let him help me and start a tradition of eating cake off of the floor.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

Even though my granny started using a box cake mix in her later years, I went with her original recipe. When Robb saw me unloading not just butter but margarine for this cake, he said that it HAD to be good with all of that fat in there.

The key is nice, thin layers. I made my layers just a little too thick but my body was just exhausted. Being 8 months pregnant would do that to you!

There is an ingredient in the frosting that doesn’t normally appear in most other boiled frosting recipes, an ingredient that I think turns this into an almost foolproof recipe – marshmallows. I’ve done a little digging around and it seems that adding in marshmallows became a thing in a few areas of the country back in the 1960’s. When I called my mom to ask if she remembered including marshmallows during our initial fateful recreation years ago, she said that it didn’t seem familiar to her but perhaps that was why her attempt failed.

After letting your frosting cool for just a few minutes – and be careful because it will be hot – start stacking your cake, pouring the frosting over layer by layer. Making this cake requires a tremendous amount of patience.  If you try to hurry through it, your layers will start to slip and slide just like ours did.

The worst part about making this cake is even after you get it all assembled – you still have to wait. Wait for it to harden and solidify. It’ll be well worth the wait, trust me.


Print Recipe
Granny's Old-Fashioned Multi-layer Cake with Boiled Chocolate Frosting
Don’t be ashamed if your first couple of attempts at making this cake come out less than spectacular. It took my granny years to perfect her cake and even then, she would occasionally put out a product that was, in her mind, “sub-par”. I simply called it rustic.
Course Dessert
Servings
1 12-layer(ish) cake
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 stick margarine room temperature
  • 1 stick butter room temperature
  • 2 c. white cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. self-rising flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
Frosting
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 1/2 c. white cane sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 12 large marshmallows
Course Dessert
Servings
1 12-layer(ish) cake
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 stick margarine room temperature
  • 1 stick butter room temperature
  • 2 c. white cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. self-rising flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
Frosting
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 1/2 c. white cane sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 12 large marshmallows
Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour your 9” baking pans (I used shortening and flour).
  3. Beat butter, margarine, and sugar together with an electric mixer until creamy.
  4. Add in your eggs, vanilla, milk, and flour, mixing until well combined.
  5. Using a measuring cup, measuring out just over ¼ of a cup of batter in each of your baking tins. Smooth out the batter using the back of a spoon.
  6. Bake each layer for 8-10 minutes until done - depending on the amount of batter you add to each tin will dictate how long it will take to cook. You’ll want the cake to spring back when touching lightly in the center. Remove from pans to the cooling racks.
  7. Wipe out cake pans, grease and flour the again, and bake the remaining cake layers as directed.
Frosting
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the cocoa powder, sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, margarine, and marshmallows over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful as the liquid will be hot.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Assemble your cake, pouring your frosting over each layer.
  5. Let sit for a and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Don’t be in a rush. If you notice that your cake is starting to slide after you begin frosting it, secure it with a few wooden dowels or skewers. Since the layers are so thin on this cake, you will notice that you can see the ridges through the frosting. That is okay!

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Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook [Review/Recipe]

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for a honest and unbiased review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I recently had the opportunity to review the Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook written by Miranda Couse of the popular blog Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt. I love cookies but typically find myself fixing the same ones over and over. This cookbook is amazing though. It includes 150 recipes for all-time classics and modern twists on not only cookies, but brownies, bars, and no-bake treats. The recipes include easy-to-find ingredients, many of which are already in your pantry (if they are somehow magically in my pantry, then I know they will definitely be in yours).

I couldn’t wait to try her recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. I LOVE anything with chocolate and even though I am trying to cut down on my sugar intake, I figured that I could allow myself to indulge in one or two.

The verdict?

Nom. Nom. Nom. I can’t wait to try out some of the other recipes.

It amazed me how quickly this recipe came together. It took no time for me to measure out all of my ingredients, mix them, and bake the cookies. The cookies all turned out perfect in my mind as well – deliciously fudgy without being overwhelmingly sweet. The cookies themselves looked lovely with the cracked topping and would be the perfect addition to your holiday table or potluck.

Instead of baking all of the cookies at once, I ended up splitting the dough into thirds, rolling them up, and freezing two batches (without rolling them in confectioner’s sugar). I figured that once our Lil Bean gets here, it’ll be nice to just pull out a few pieces of cookie dough when I need something to perk me up.

The Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook will be released on October 31st, but don’t wait – preorder yours now and get ready to do some baking!

Print Recipe
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Recipe posted with permission from the Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12-13 minutes
Servings
About 34 cookies
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12-13 minutes
Servings
About 34 cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a wooden spoon, beat together the butter, oil, and both sugars until light and creamy. This will take about 3 minutes if using an electric mixer or 5 to 6 minutes if creaming by hand. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed or by hand until the dough comes together.
  4. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl for rolling.
  5. Using a medium (11⁄2-tablespoon) cookie scoop, scoop the dough into balls, drop them into the confectioners’ sugar, and roll to coat. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are cracked on top.
  7. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.
Recipe Notes

Tip: You can roll the cookie dough first in granulated sugar and then in the confectioners’ sugar. This will help dry out the dough, giving your cookies even more of a cracked effect.

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Cowboy Candy – Sweet Pickled Jalapenos [Recipe]

Even though I can, I’m not quite at the production level of a lot of homesteaders. Our garden is on the smaller side because of our location so what we don’t eat fresh typically only equates to a couple of quart jars or freezer bags. One vegetable that I always seem to wind up with an excess of is jalapenos. We’ll use the peppers in salsa (canned and fresh), pico de gallo, and just mixed in with dinner but somehow we always end up with way too many peppers.

I hate seeing them wasted so enter “Cowboy Candy”. Basically Cowboy Candy is sweet pickled jalapenos sliced into rings. They are delicious and addictive with a nice sweet heat that stays with you but doesn’t overwhelm you.

The recipe is super easy. First you start off with chopping your jalapenos peppers. Honestly, this is the hardest part of this whole recipe. I have to make my sweet pickled jalapenos in small batches as slicing the jalapenos is tedious and tends to take my breath away from the fumes. I usually wear a pair of gloves when I chop any sort of hot peppers for my safety. I learned the hard way that taking out your contacts at night after chopping peppers is not fun.

Once your jalapenos are all chopped and you take a little break for some fresh air, you’ll get your pickling liquid together. My pickling liquid is pretty basic – apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and garlic cloves. You bring it all to a boil on the stove, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar and salt. Again – key word is to stir gently. The liquid is hot and it will not pleasant if you get it on yourself.

Once everything is nice and dissolved, you’ll add your sliced jalapenos. Make sure that they are submerged under the liquid. They won’t cook long so I usually stand at the stove, stirring them until they darken in color.

After cooking in the pickling liquid, you’ll add the jalapeno rings (AND the garlic) into your sterilized jars. I had a couple of red jalapenos that I tossed in as well which ended up looking really pretty mixed in among the green.

Your pickling liquid will cook a few more minutes and then you’ll add it to your jars. I ended up with almost a perfect amount of everything. The jar on the right is a little low but I think that if I hadn’t been lazy and had chopped just one or two more jalapenos, it would have been perfect.

These two quart jars will last us until about December as we love to eat them with pretty much everything. I ‘m planning to do another few jars once I get out to the garden to pick some peppers.

My method for canning is a little more old school (think a la your grandmother’s era) which is why I didn’t include canning instructions below. If you are wanting to store these for long term, I suggest searching for water bath canning so that you have the most accurate safety information.

Print Recipe
Cowboy Candy - Sweet Pickled Jalapenos
Course Canning
Servings
2 Quart Jars
Ingredients
  • 30 medium to large jalapenos sliced into rings
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed & peeled
  • 2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 c. water
  • 16 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. kosher salt
Course Canning
Servings
2 Quart Jars
Ingredients
  • 30 medium to large jalapenos sliced into rings
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed & peeled
  • 2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 c. water
  • 16 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine garlic, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring carefully to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  2. Add the sliced jalapenos, making sure that they are submerged. Let the jalapenos cook for 4 minutes and then use tongs to transfer the jalapeno rings to a clean - sterilized - jar.
  3. Reduce heat and let your liquid simmer for an additional 10 minutes before ladling the liquid over the top of the jar, leaving about 1/2" head space or so (you'll probably end up with just enough liquid to cover your jalapenos).
  4. Pop on your sealing lid/band and let the jars cool before sticking them into your refrigerator. Be patient and let them sit for a few weeks before digging in to them.
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