There May Be Snow, But The Seasons Have Changed: A Different Kind Of Snow Day With A Hot Chocolate Recipe

Jonathan in the ice

I love snow days, I always have.  Once we began the farm, snow days were certainly different from the snow days where we just got to bundle up and watch movies.  Making sure the animals have water, shelter, and extra feed can take away from the pleasure at times, but it also brings its own kind of pleasure.

At this stage, the number of our animals is greatly reduced  and Jonathan, who loves snow and ice and cold, was happy to carry out the duties awaiting him.  Sierra and I got to stay indoors and relax.

BUT here is the thing that made this snow day different- my oldest two were not at home, they were at their homes.  In the past, even though they had moved out, they still came home- to my home- on snow days and got iced in with us.  This time they did not.

Savannah called midday and I said to Sierra, “I bet she is calling to see if her daddy thinks she can drive on the roads and come home.”  Well, she was calling to see if he thought it safe to drive but she was wanting to go to Dakota not here.  Home for now means being wherever Dakota is, home for her is now more about a person than a place.  And that is good, given that their wedding is now just a few months away.

As for Cheyenne a day at home with no college or work meant a day at her home.  She now lives with my grandmother, her great-grandmother.  I know that home very well as I have spent many days there with two of my most beloved women.  I know that she spent plenty of time standing in front of the Deerborn heater warming her backside then turning around to warm the front.  Central heat is nice but there is something about having a warm spot to back up to on a cold day.  She was content in a warm house full of love- her home.

This is the first year that I have seen a distinct separation from my home to their own homes even though they moved away two years ago.  I thought it would be more upsetting but its not.  It is in its due time.  There are seasons in our life, not just spring and winter, but seasons for certain types of living.  My season for having all of my babies at home has passed.  I love having time to focus with the younger two and I love having teenagers.  Most people find me crazy, but I love it.  Its a new season, but a good one.  Each season has its place.  The mistake most mothers make is to try and hold on to one season for too long.  This simply causes strife and conflict and it will not stop the season from changing.  The seasons will change with or without our permission, best to embrace the change and enjoy every moment for what it is.

So, today we will enjoy another day at home with just the younger two and make some more memories and drink hot chocolate!  I have my own hot chocolate recipe I developed and we  just love it.

Here it is so you can make homemade hot chocolate that tastes way better than anything from a package.

Hot Chocolate

2 Cups whole milk

3 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons of Cocoa

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla

Mix together and heat through in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Top with marshmallows if you desire (which we do).

The sugar could be substituted with organic raw sugar, honey, or agave nectar if you are looking for an unprocessed version.

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Swiss Chard- A Power-Packed Beauty In The Garden

swiss chard from the garden

Just two seasons ago I had know idea what to do with Swiss Chard.  But, I bought some because it is so beautiful- and it is pretty enough to be grown for gorgeous foliage all on its own.  But it would be just silly to not harvest and eat those beautiful leaves.

One cup of chopped Swiss chard has just 35 calories and provides more than 300% of the daily value for vitamin K plus it is one of the best sources for magnesium.  Magnesium is an important trace mineral that is missing in most of our diets.  Most soils are depleted of this mineral which is why it is important to purchase organic Chard or grow it yourself.

Growing Chard is very easy.  Plant in spring or fall.  Harvest leaves individually and the plant will keep producing more.  Chard is one plant that can grow in partial shade.  Fertilize with organic fertilizers and compost tea so as to add the trace minerals to the soil thereby enabling the Chard to pick them up and make them available for you.  For more details on growing Chard, click here.

WebMd says this:

Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse — an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.

 

Here is a little more about the great veggie-

Chard is an annual crop widely grown greens around Mediterranean region and is available at its best during summer season from June until November months.

Chard features distinctly large dark-green leaves with prominent petiole well-developed edible stalk. Generally, its leaves are harvested at various stages of maturity. While the whole plant with its tender young leaves can be harvested for salad preparation, individual large-size, mature leaves with slightly tough texture stem may be picked up for sautéing and cooking in dishes.

Swiss chard comes in variety of types based on their shiny, crunchy stalks and petiole:

 

Health benefits of Swiss chard

Regular inclusion of chard in the diet has been found to prevent osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, and vitamin-A deficiency; and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers.

So, now that you know why you should eat this little jewel you may wonder how-

Swiss Chard can be cooked the same way you would spinach- saute in butter, steam, roast, chop and add it to green salads.  The stalks can be chopped and added to soups and broth.

A dish that we love for breakfast, lunch or dinner  is listed below.

Swiss Chard, Mushroom, and bacon Saute with eggs.

1/2 pound of Swiss Chard- about 6 large leaves with stems

6-8 mushrooms of your choice (or more if you like)

1/4 lb of bacon, diced

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed or pressed

2- tbsp olive oil, if needed

4 eggs

Cut stems from Swiss Chard leaves and chop like you would celery.  Chop leaves and set aside

In large stainless steal or cast iron skillet, brown bacon over medium heat.  When bacon is just turning brown add onion, swiss chard stalks, and mushrooms.  Saute until the onion becomes clear.  If the pan is smoking, reduce heat and add olive oil.

Add the chopped Swiss chard and garlic, saute for 2 minutes or so- until wilted and tender.

Now, make four wells in the cooking mixture and break one egg into each well. If you need more oil, add olive oil.  Let cook for 1-2 minutes for sunny side up, place lid on pan and cook for another minute for “over easy” or leave lid on until the eggs are cooked through if so desired.

Serve and enjoy!  A nice piece of crusty bread goes very well.

swiss chard, mushrooms and eggs

Hello, Again & Here Is To A Healthy New Year

Even in the cold, my girls have been working hard.

Even in the cold, my girls have been working hard.

Much has been going on behind the scenes in this first month of 2014, new projects are on the horizon and old ones have been refined.  The cold has kept us on our toes as the time to start our seedlings is upon us.  Every time I feel like whining about the weather I just read posts of my blogger friends in Illinois and New England and then my perspective returns- 20 below zero is just crazy talk!

My blog has been on my mind as I have been thinking of what my first post of the new year would be.  One of my January activities each year is to clean out every closet and drawer weeding out what is useless, broken, and simply not used.  This year I even took on all my files.  I like to save stuff- recipes, decorating ideas, travel bits- kind of like a hard copy of pinterest.  As I was sorting through a file on health I ran across the notes I took at a women’t conference held at my church.  Dr. Tina Ingram, my long time friend and chiropractor, spoke on health and gave some very good insights.  I decided to post those here today.  I hope that each person wants to something to improve their health this year.  Dr. Tina, as we all call her, is special to me for another reason- she is the one who started me down the path of natural healing and herbs.  That journey began when she treated my daughter Savannah when she was 3, but that story is for another day.

Here is what she had to say:

1. Health is a journey not a destination and we must be proactive

2. We MUST deal with stress

  • Proverbs 17:22- A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
  • Proverbs 12:25- Anxiety weighs the heart down, but a kind word cheers it up.
  • Philippians 4:8- Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admireable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.
  • Proverbs 15:13- A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

3. Exercise is essential- but it doesn’t have to be hard cardio at the gym.  Any form of daily walking, yoga, or cycling is good.

  • Exercise regulates blood pressure
  • Exercise decreases depression
  • Exercise increases regularity (digestive)
  • Exercise stabilizes blood sugar
  • Exercise lowers osteoporosis
  • Exercise lowers stress

4. Rest is another essential element to health

  • You need 6-8 hours of sleep per night.

 

These are just 3 things that can make a huge difference in our health.  I used to be over-whelmed by all the information on health, how to be health, what I should do & what I shouldn’t.  Finally, I decided to stop listening to all of the talk and work on just these three things.  You will see a huge change in your body and your mind if you deal with stress- not just swallow it but find a way to let it go, get enough sleep, and simply walk daily.  As far as walking or running goes, I only do about a mile each day and I do it outside, not at a gym.  Gyms don’t relax me, the make me feel stressed.  I need the out of doors to relax me and enable me to turn lose of stress.  I get tickled at these gals who like to post how many miles they run.  I hate to run and I am getting great results with just a little ol’ mile.  If the weather is bad I put in a yoga DVD (for beginners- I have never stood on my head and would not even attempt it) and that is a great workout and stress reducer.  In short, all it takes is about 30 minutes to change your life.

Just pick one and have a great 2014

Basil- For A Moment More & How To Make An Herbal Vinegar

As I left out on my morning run, for the first time this year I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my t-shirt and wind-pants with a cap on my head.  For us here in East Texas, that is just almost cold.  I could see my breath but there was no frost on the ground, just a heavy dew.  Oh, but how brilliantly the dew shone in the early morning sun with the reds and golds of the leaves finally beginning to show.  I was not the only one feeling invigorated by this Autumn morning, as I ran by the field across from our place, the resident horse came galloping up to the fence and ran along with me until she ran out of field.  Some days, it is an effort to choose to run but not today.

purple basil and kale

One thing the morning did tell me was that basil and it’s other hot weather friends are not long for this world.  So, in preparation for the influx of herbs & peppers that are about to line my drying racks and the hall (I have to make use of the space I have so I have fishing line strung down the hall to hang herbs on) I am getting the jars and vinegar’s ready to go.  Making herbal vinegar is an easy process, they make wonderful gifts and they add so much to your kitchen prowess.  A pork loin marinated in basil vinegar tastes like something from a five star restaurant.

purple basil and vinegar

For the most part, which herb you use and which vinegar to use are completely up to you and your taste buds.  A good place to start is with white wine vinegar and basil.  This will make a wonderful vinaigrette or marinade.  If you have purple basil, you will have the most beautiful purple/pink vinegar you ever laid your eyes on as seen in the above picture.  The purple basil is Dark Opal and the green is Sweet Genovese- both of these are the standard type basil flavor with which you would make pesto or spaghetti sauce.  Health food stores will generally have better prices on large quantities of vinegar in its various forms.

The recipe below calls for chives, if you don’t have any you can leave that off.  If you have not been growing herbs long enough to have this much material to cut from, you can purchase fresh herbs at your local farmer’s market.  Remember, any flavors you like together will go together in the vinegar such as rosemary and garlic, oregano, basil, and sun/oven roasted tomatoes.  While learning the way, start with small batches this way if it tastes bad, you didn’t lose much.  However, every mistake is a lesson learned and experience is the best teacher.

For sterilizing your jars, wash them with hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a 225′ oven for 15 minutes or use a dishwasher.

 

Basil, Chive, & Lemon Vinegar

Zest of ½ lemon

5 Basil Leaves

10 stalks of chives

1 cup white vinegar ( any type such as rice or wine)

 

Zest lemon, crush or chop basil and chives, place in a clean dry jar.  Pour vinegar in and cap- vinegar should cover all the herbs completely add more if needed. After 24 hours add more vinegar if the herbs have soaked up the vinegar.  Vinegar is ready to go after 24 hours, but the flavor will develop the longer it sits so 10 -14 days is fine too.  Strain herbs out and compost them.  Store  vinegar in a cool dark place, it will keep indefinitely.

Making these things at home is a safe activity- it has been being done since ancient times.  Use good sense, clean and dry utensils and jars- moisture is your enemy- and all will be well.  Remember- if it is growing funny things, bubbling like it is boiling but there is no heat or it smells raunchy- throw it out.  Please consult your county extension office if you would like more detailed information on canning.

herbal vinegars

 

The choices are endless, just make certain that you label and date all your creations at the time to place them in the jars.  Trust me, you won’t be able to remember it later!

How To Make Herbal Tea

lemon sage tea on wood

Cool weather makes one want a nice cup of hot tea, and an herbal tea will not only warm the soul but it will boost your immune system as well.

To Make A Tea:

Place one teaspoon of dried herbs in a  tea bag, a tea egg, or loose in a cup and pour hot water over the herb, cover and let steep for five minutes.  Remove bag or egg if using.  Sweeten with honey & add a shot of fresh lemon juice, if desired.

Enjoy!

Yes, teas are that simple.  By covering the tea while it steeps, you are keeping the essential oils in the tea.  Otherwise, the essential oils can evaporate into the air along with the steam.  Also, you can substitute a tablespoon of fresh herbs for the dried herbs.  You can also add herbs such as lemon balm and mint to any green or black tea while it steeps.  This not only adds flavor that is just scrumptious, but it adds lots of health benefits, too.  Such a boosting the immune system, relieving stress, calming the nerves, and calming the digestive tract.

Another tip to improve the flavor of you tea, is to heat the water just till the boiling point.  Then remove the water from heat and pour over the tea.  By doing so, the water will contain more oxygen and this leads to a less bitter tea.

A great combination for a tea to boost the immune system and brighten your mood, is lemon verbena, lemon balm, pineapple sage, and sage.  I blend this tea and sell it at our farmer’s market.  It tastes great and makes the body feel good.

Herbs are easy to grow and easy to use, every one should be growing some.  Even if all you have room for is a pot of mint on a window sill, you will benefit from it.

Herbs Make The Difference!

lemon sage tea with window shadow

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

I must say that for years, I had an aversion to sweet potatoes.  The only form in which I had ever encountered them was creamed with marshmallow on top.  While most of my family loved these at Christmas, I did  and do not.  Not until my husband requested sweet potato fries did I reconsider this versatile vegetable.  Now, I can’t imagine a pantry that is not stocked with a box of sweet potatoes.  I love to chop one up and add it to vegetable soup.  While sweet potatoes are on the sweet side of life naturally, they are not so sugary that they would ruin a good savory soup.  On the contrary, they add a depth of flavor and texture along with a great punch of vitamins, flavor, and anti-oxidants.

As oven roasted fries, sweet potatoes are fabulous with a caramelized outside and a tender yet firm bite.  These compliment any meat dish and pair well with rice, quinoa, and most other grains.

For a simple, non- processed meal, sweet potato fries are a great side.  Easy to make, very healthy, and quite tasty- a great recipe.  This is the time of year to purchase sweet potatoes, they keep for months so you can buy them in bulk at your local farmer’s market and stash them to grace your table all winter.

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries With Rosemary

Serves 6

 

4-6 Sweet potatoes

Olive Oil

2 Tsp. dried Rosemary

Sea Salt to taste

Slice sweet potatoes into French fries.  Place on cookie sheet, cast iron skillet, or baking stone. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, sprinkle with rosemary.

Place in a 450’ degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Cook until tender with a nice bit of caramelizing.  After 15 minutes, give the fries a stir flipping the potatoes over.

If you are not a fan of Rosemary, just omit the herb.

sweet potato friesSweet potato fries prepped and ready to go into the oven.

sweet potato friesOven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries, cooked and ready to into my mouth!

Try some, you will be glad you did.

 

 

Herbal Deodorant- A Recipe

deoderant

As we journey along on our path to health, herbs are playing a huge role.  The home medicine cabinet can be stocked with so much that will keep the doctor away and keep your body humming like a well-oiled machine.  One of the items in my medicine cabinet that I wanted to replace was deodorant.   It is a well known fact that most antiperspirants and deodorants that you purchase from the stores have a lot in them that our bodies do not need and are harmful to us.  Aluminum being one of the biggest concerns.  But what to do?  Body odor is something no one can live with.

At Full Heart Farm, this recipe was posted.  I have tried it and like and even one of my family who had to use clinical strength deodorant is using it and it works!  The only challenge is that the coconut oil turns to liquid above 85′.  Really, this is only a problem if your are taking this in a vehicle or airplane or you keep your home very warm.  In my bedroom this mixture remains in a creamy state. If I travel in a vehicle I simply put it in a zip-lock bag as a precaution and if I am traveling on a plane I take a long my store bought stuff. Trying to explain the jar of unmarked liquid at the baggage check is more than I care to undergo and I can’t shake the mental picture of me in a holding cell repeating, “I make all kinds of things with herbs and this is deodorant, I promise.”

So, try this inexpensive alternative- you will be glad you did!

Healthy Deodorant:

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 Tbs corn starch

1 Tbs + 1 Tsp of baking soda

few drops of tea tree oil– too much tea tree oil and the smell will overpower just about any other essential oil.  A little of this oil goes a long way.

enough of your favorite essential oil to make it smell good.  Not only do essential oils smell good, you also receive the added health benefits that each essential oil offers.

Mix together and store in a small mason jar or anything that works for you.  A wedge shape applicator sponge works great for applying the salve and it only takes about a dimes worth of salve per pit.

deoderant on displayI like to use an antique Noxema jar for the container.  I love the cobalt blue glass and it looks lovely on display in my bedroom- no need to hide it in the bathroom.

For the love of Salsa!

This is a post from the archives, but Cheyenne made a batch of salsa yesterday and she just nailed it.  That Salsa is so good, it needed to be shared again!

 

Me & Cheyenne (drinking bubbly apple juice)
Cheyenne and I share a lot of things.  For instance, neither one of us can hide our feelings very well, what we think is telegraphed on our faces, we love taking care of our animals, we are strong willed, and we love babies.  Also, we share a love of really good Salsa.  Mexican food makes us happy and we like a little heat.  She is her mother’s daughter, with just enough of her daddy mixed in to mellow her out in a nice way.
She has been making some noise about needing to make salsa with our bountiful harvest of tomatoes.  Apparently, Cheyenne has not thought that using the tomatoes to make tomato sauce was a very wise use of those beautiful ‘maters.  A love of spaghetti is not something we share.  So, I surfed the internet for a recipe and found one that was simple and looked promising. And yesterday we got busy over some tomatoes, hot peppers, and cilantro.
The recipe was simple and we followed it up until we tasted the salsa, then we went to tinkering.  Cheyenne is really good about making notes as she improvises so we were able to recreate the same flavor this morning, as we already needed more.
Below is the recipe- our rendition, not the one from the internet.  Before putting everything in the food processor, we cored the tomatoes and scored the other ends and dropped them into boiling water for about a minute.  The tomatoes are in the boiling water just long enough for the skin to start to curl.  Then the peeling just slips off, chop the tomatoes roughly and toss in the processor.  The longer you run the food processor the finer the salsa, so if you like chunky then just pulse a few times.  Also, for thicker salsa use paste tomatoes such as roma or Illini Gold.
Cheyenne’s Fresh Salsa
2-3 medium tomatoes, stems and peelings removed (see above)
½  onion coarsely chopped
2- fish peppers seeds removed- unless you want to up the heat then leave the seeds in. (if you don’t have fish peppers, jalapeno or any other hot pepper will work.
Juice of one lime
1 cup cilantro
1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
½ tsp of cumin
Put tomatoes, peppers & onions in food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse till you are happy with the consistency.  Taste- if too hot add more tomatoes, if not hot enough, add more peppers.
Let set in the refrigerator for one hour to let the flavors blend- if you can wait that long, we just eat right out of the blender bowl.
ENJOY!

The Best Things In Life Are Free

jonathan picking berries

Oh, summertime.  One of the first signs that summer has arrived, other than every item of clothing on your person being soaked with sweat- and I mean all your clothing- is the arrival of dewberries.  These are a variety of blackberries- not as big and not quite as sweet as the cultivated varieties but they are available for the picking.  Seriously, free and organic fruit- what could be better.

Around the corner from us on an abandoned fence, there is a whole mess of berries.  Lots and Lots.  Jonathan and Sierra and whoever else will walk down the road with them have picked berries everyday for a week now.  The vines are so loaded that I think we will have another week of harvest.  There are so many things to do with berries- cobbler, ice cream, flavored cream for the top of a pound cake, pound cake, crumb cake, and the list goes on.

As Jonathan and I picked berries together in the warm sunshine, he prattled on about the possibility of what we might do with the berries. Once back at the house, of course, the first thing to do is to get a bowl full and sprinkle them with sugar and eat them with your fingers- that way you can lick your fingers clean. But in the meantime, you eat the most plump and ripe berries right on the spot.  No, you don’t need to wash them they are fine.  You might eat a bug, but it won’t kill you.  Eating them off the vine is a big part of the fun.  The best part of the berry pickin’ is the memories you make.  The conversation is seemingly meaningless as we chatter, but in that chatter you build connections with your kids.  These are the tidbits that come together as the whole picture that tells the kids who they are and where they come from.  Not to mention the warmth in your heart you feel when your twelve year old son reaches over and takes your hand as you walk down the road.  I love that kid and I love to pick berries with him.  The best things in life are free.

My favorite use of berries is a cobbler and here is the most simplest of deserts best eaten warm with vanilla ice cream!

 

Dewberry Cobbler (or whatever berry you have on hand)

One recipe of pie crust

2-3 cups of berries

1 cups sugar

Take one half of the pie dough recipe and roll it out.

Put half of the rolled out dough in the bottom of a 9X9 pan-  I like cast iron pans.  Place berries in the pan and pour sugar on the berries.  Cover with the other half of the rolled dough.  The dough does not have to cover the berries or the bottom completely.  Place in an oven heated to 350′ oven and bake for 30-45 minutes- just until the dough is brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.  Put a generous helping in a bowl and top with ice cream.  Let the good times roll!

Electrolytes For Livestock

When I need to give an animal electrolytes this is the recipe I use:

Electrolytes

1 quart of water- boil and let it cool

Dandelion greens and roots- place in the water after it has come to a boil, the herbs will steep as the water cools, strain before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.

1- tablespoon of honey, corn syrup, or molasses

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Mix all together, except greens,  put in bottle for babies use a large syringe to drench adult animals.

Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.

Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.