Friday, November 21, 2014

Grain Free Grab-n-Go Turkey & Cheese "Hot Pocket"

In my search recently for healthier recipes, I came across a recipe for grain-free "Grab-n-Go" hot pockets.  This really caught my attention, because if there is one thing I am a sucker for, it is a good sandwich.  These hot pockets make the perfect "to go" sandwich.  You can grab one on the way out the door, after heating it for about 15-30 seconds in the microwave, and amazingly, they are VERY filling. I found this recipe from this book:  Grain Free Grab-N-Go.  She also has a website filled with a ton of great information about healthy living:  It is a great website packed full of great information about living simply and healthy.

When I began to gather the ingredients to make these Grab-n-Go hot pockets, I found the ingredient list to be very simple, but if you are not on a gluten-free or grain-free diet, you might not have two of the main ingredients in your pantry.  Because they are grain-free, the recipe uses flour that is not from a grain.  If you haven't had a chance to try out a gluten-free recipe yet, this would be a great introduction to it.  I purchased the almond flour, and tapioca starch (flour) at our local grocery just to try this recipe out.  Almond flour is not cheap, by the way!  It costs about $10.00 pound, which is quite pricey.

So, after using almond flour for the first time, I did find that I could substitute gluten-free flour (which is a combo of various grain-free flours) that runs generally about $5.00 pound.

                                                                              One thing that is to important to note, is that while perhaps you might hesitate to spend $5.00 pound on grain-free flour, just taking a quick run through McDonalds to get a hamburger, fry and drink, would cost about the same.  So, I look at it this way.  It does cost more to eat healthier, but in the long run, it is so worth it.

They are incredibly easy to make, and I took a few pictures along the way to show you just how easy. First you mix all the ingredients together.  I find mixing them in a Pyrex 4-cup glass measuring cup really easy because of the pour spout.  After mixing the ingredients, you let it sit for about 5 minutes to thicken up.

Then I have a 6" nonstick skillet that I used that was the perfect size for these pockets.  The recipe calls for using 1/4 cup, but I just eyeballed it, and then rolled the skillet to allow the mixture to cover the entire pan.  If you are using a nonstick skillet or cast iron skillet, you do not have to use any grease/oil. Amazingly, they do not stick to the pan.

You can use any filling for these that you desire (and the e-book is full of many different combinations that you can use for the filling for the pockets).  However, what I had on hand was turkey and cheese, so that is what these are made with.

Once you begin to see little bubbles forming on the surface, add your filling.

Using a fork or spatula, check the under-surface to see if it has begun to brown.  You want to keep your heat on medium so as not to burn the G&G, but not let it cook too slowly either.  I found the medium setting on my stove worked perfectly.

Once the bottom is nicely browned, flip the half over, and using a fork press down on the edges to seal in the filling.

You can see here that one spot did not seal, and some of the filling is seeping out - lol.

But it fixed easily with another press of the fork over the dough! 

Now, I forgot to take a picture of the next step, but it is important.  You place each G&G on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and place them in a preheated 350 oven for about 30-40 minutes until they are crisp and lightly browned.  This continues cooking the G&G without overcooking it. 

And here it is fresh out of the oven - doesn't it look yummy!

Don't you just love all the little pieces of cheese doing their best to seep out!

All six G&G pockets ready for the first hungry stomach in line!

The nice thing about these G&G pockets is that if you don't have hungry kids lined up to eat them, you can always freeze them.  They freeze and thaw remarkably well.  They can also be reheated for about 30 seconds in the microwave or a minute or two on the skillet, whichever you have time for!

If you'd like the recipe for these amazing G&G hot pockets, check out Hayley's website here and book here to see her other recipes, and ideas that are amazing! Her e-book sells for only $2.99, and I promise you it is worth every penny :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Joy a Christmas Cactus Brings

I received a Christmas Cactus as a gift several years ago, and it has been a very faithful friend through the years.  It blooms faithfully at Easter and Christmas - isn't that amazing?  To me it is.  It is a faithful reminder of the two most important seasons to celebrate our Lord and Saviour, Jesus!

This particular cactus has faithfully bloomed in the spring (Easter) and in the late fall/winter - (Christmas) season every year since it was given to me.

I have it sitting on the windowsill by my kitchen sink, and it has been very, very happy here.

The blooms are pretty amazing - they are a mixture of bright reds, and pinks with a touch of purple.

It lends such a cheery happy face to my windowsill. As I am often busy working around the kitchen, just one look at the beautiful blooms it is showcasing fills my heart with joy.

Now our days are getting shorter and shorter, and by 4:30 in the afternoon now, it is completely dark.

In  the midst of the fall/winter season when everything that was once alive, is now dead, lifeless, and leafless, this lovely Christmas cactus steps up to the plate with its warm cheery blooms, and says - hey - it's okay!  Look at me! This is my time to shine!

And it is so nice to come into my kitchen at 5:00 in the evening when it is time to cook dinner and it is dark and cold outside...

... and be met with the cheery blooms of the Christmas cactus.  Do you see the purple in the flower?  Isn't it quite a fashion statement - the small piece of purple on the edge of the stamen - while the rest of the bloom are brilliant hues of red!  I would not usually pair purple and red together, but... this Christmas cactus certainly wows with this unusual color combination!

It does give me one more reason to smile, and be thankful as I busy myself in the kitchen when even though the world outside is dark and cold... the Christmas cactus is spreading its warmth and cheer!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Coconut Oil Deodorant

Deodorant has always been a commodity that I purchased at the store and never really thought twice about what chemicals were actually in it.  I read several articles about the ingredients found in deodorant.  One such article was this one: Deodorant.

I have been a fan of coconut oil for quite a while, and have used it for so many different things, but now it is going to shine as the main ingredient of homemade deodorant! After seeing recipes for deodorant made at home, I knew that making deodorant was next on my to-do list.  I gathered the ingredients - which were only 5 - and got busy!

The ingredients for making this recipe of homemade deodorant were very simple: coconut oil, arrowroot powder, baking soda, cocoa butter and an essential oil. (You can also use shea butter for this recipe).

The first step in making the deodorant was to melt the coconut oil and cocoa butter.  I heated up about 1 cup water in a saucepan and placed a quart sized jar in the water, and added the coconut oil and cocoa butter.

This was so simple to do that it seemed it should have taken longer to make, but it really didn't take long at all!  After melting the oil and butter together, I removed the jar from heat, and stirred in the baking soda and arrowroot powder.  After they were mixed together well, I added in the essential oil, which was the Tuber Rose essential oil I received in my Homegrown Collection kit (which smells heavenly!)....

... and poured the entire mixture into this small 4 ounce jar, which was just the perfect size for this recipe.  This will last a long time, and so I just made one batch for now.  

A couple of things that I have noticed from using this deodorant are this:
-  As it cools, it really hardens up.  Especially when temps are cooler in your home, you will want to use a little wooden popsicle stick or a small spoon to scoop out a small amount to use, and apply it to your underarms with your fingers.
- You may need to apply it twice a day, as it will not keep you from perspiring, but will absorb the odor your sweat makes.

It is comforting to know you can use this deodorant knowing that no unknown chemicals or toxins will be entering your skin.  That - to me - is worth the little bit of extra work of making and using this homemade deodorant!

Here is the recipe if you'd like to print it out and try it yourself!

Coconut Oil Deodorant 

3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons cocoa butter (or shea butter)
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
3 tablespoons baking soda
5-10 drops essential oil of choice

Simmer about 1 cup water in a small saucepan.  Place quart jar in center of saucepan and add coconut oil and cocoa butter to jar. Simmer gently until oil and butter is melted.  Remove jar from heat and add baking soda and arrowroot powder.  Once completely mixed, stir in essential oil. Pour into sterilized jar of choice, seal and cool.  I found that the Kerr Jelly Jar 4 oz worked perfectly for this recipe.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Deer Horn Antler Did WHAT?

I was downstairs folding laundry this past weekend when my son hollered at me "Mom, Dad's hurt"... and the rest of what he said I couldn't understand...but there was something about a deer, a horn and a foot????

As I ran up the stairs I couldn't imagine how all those three things fit together in a scenario!  I was thinking my husband's hurt with a deer horn foot? What in the world could be going on?

My son just happened to text my husband right as the event happened, and at first we just got pieces of a story that seemed garbled and too crazy to be real!  Finally, we began to make sense of what had happened, and indeed, this story was a crazy one!

A friend of ours had bought 80 acres recently, and had invited my husband to come out and walk it with him and another friend.  I thought about going with them, but the weather was kind of nasty - a cold drizzling rain, and so I declined the opportunity to roam around 80 acres (which I would normally love to do but the weather was icky!), and so I stayed home to keep the fires going.

As they were hiking around the property, they went through a marshy, low-lying area with a lot of huge cedars growing in there.  They were walking along through the marshy area when all of a sudden my husband took a step that resulted in instant pain.  When he lifted his boot up, there was a deer horn stuck inside his boot.  The deer antlers had been under a pile of leaves, and covered up with the wet marshy swamp area.  As they pulled the deer horn out of his foot, my husband began to bleed pretty badly, and they knew he was hurt.  His friends helped him to the vehicle where he was able to sit down and get a better look at what had happened.

Now... if you don't want to see this next picture... just scroll past real quick, as it is kind of gory!

OUCH!!!  This happened with my husband wearing thick wool socks, and thick insulated rubber-soled winter boots!

When I received this text of the picture of the deer horn that penetrated his foot, it turned my stomach! His friends broke it off for him to bring home.  EWW!  I can't imagine this gross thing penetrating into my poor husband's foot.  I felt so bad for him.  And if it wasn't bad enough to have the injury, on the way home, our pickup developed a flat tire, and he and his friend had to get out and change it! Apparently they had run over something out on the property that had penetrated and ruined the tire.  One penetration adventure wasn't enough for the day it seems!

When my poor husband got home, I immediately prepared an Epsom salt bath for his foot.  I used 2 cups of Epsom salts in the foot bath.  After soaking for about 20 minutes or so, I dried his foot and bandaged it with antibiotic cream and Oregano oil.  Oregano oil is a lifesaver in our house.  It is said to be the strongest natural antibiotic there is.  I always make sure to apply oregano oil with a carrier oil when applying directly to the skin, because it is so strong.  In this case, I teamed up with Neosporin and oregano oil. We decided we would wait until the morning to see if we needed to take him to the doctor.

In the morning, he was very sore, and the puncture wound was draining nicely with no sign of obvious green pus or infection.  We continued to soak the wound three times a day for the next day or so, and apply the oregano oil and Neosporin.  I also supplemented him with extra garlic pills, as well as echinacea in order to boost his immune system.

The hardest part was keeping him off his feet and resting.  I felt that he needed at least a day off his feet in order to let the wound begin to heal up.  We took good care of him, and he hobbled around as little as possible.

By the second day, he was able to get up and hobble around a bit more.  We went out for about an hour to run a couple of errands, and then it was back home to his easy chair.

It has been several days now since he got hurt, and every day he is better.  He is still hobbling around somewhat, but the pain has decreased to more of a dull knowing that it is there kind of pain.

Several friends and family asked about his tetanus shot and whether it was up-to-date. Thankfully, he had a tetanus shot about 7 years, so we were okay there.

We have discussed the event many times since and my husband is still shaking his head over the strange events that took place, causing him to have such an unusual puncture wound.  Things like these never happen at convenient times, for sure.  It just so happened that we had bought lumber to build a tractor shed this week.  Unfortunately, the tractor shed has somewhat been pushed to the back burner, and we are not sure if we will get it done or not.  He will have to leave for work again next Monday.

Such is life, isn't it!   One moment you're walking along, having a great time enjoying being with your buddies, and the next moment your whole world changes.  I guess there is a lesson to be learned in all this!  Realize, and recognize that life is full of unexpected, unwanted, and unforeseen surprises.  There is no way to be careful enough, or wise enough to bypass them all.  At the most, we can be thankful that things aren't worse than what they are, which makes me think of the verse the Apostle Paul penned when he said in I Thess. 5:18,  "In all things give thanks".   Amen :)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Homegrown Calendula Oil Body Cream

Over the last several years, a lot of attention has been drawn to the amount of chemicals that are in just about everything we eat, wear, and breathe.  It is kind of scary, actually, to realize just how dangerous these chemicals can be to our bodies, and the different kinds of problems we are facing because of the influx over the last 50-60 years of so-called "safe" chemicals which are regularly added to foods we eat, clothes we wear, and products we put on our bodies.

I've come to realize that it is almost impossible to eradicate all of those chemicals from our home because they are now in our soil, water, and even clothing that we depend upon.  However... one thing is for sure.  Making a conscious effort to avoid putting lesser chemicals into and onto our bodies is definitely a way out of this chemical pit the world around us has turned into.

Many people are aware of chemicals and additives in their foods, but not many are aware about the effects are of the chemicals we put on our skin.  Since becoming aware of both, I have been making a conscious effort to rid our home of as many chemicals as possible.  This obviously is a work in progress, and it takes time to turn a big ship around.

One thing that I have wanted to do is to get away from lotions and body care items that contain chemicals with names so complex you can't even pronounce them.

I happened upon a book written by Rosemary Gladstar:  "Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner's Guide". 
Through this book, I began to see just how beneficial many herbs/weeds/flowers that grew in my own yard were!

So then, one of the steps I took was to begin growing our own herbs.  There are many herbs that you can grow in your garden that can be just as beneficial or even more than any chemical man has created. There are even weeds that grow in your yard that have great benefits as well!  Once I began to learn more about herbs and even weeds, the world outside my back door took on a whole new perspective!

One flower in particular that I became interested in, and began to grow was calendula, after learning about the healing skin properties found within its flower.

I learned that calendula has great healing properties for the skin.  Calendula is a noted antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and also great for healing wounds by promoting cell repair and growth.  Calendula can be applied topically or used internally.  It can keep infections at bay and it is a common ingredient in many creams, salves, and ointments for treating bruises, burns, sores, skin ulcers, skin infections, and rashes.   Calendula is one of the most popular herbs for treating cradle cap, diaper rash, and other skin irritations.  For more information on calendula oil, check out this link: Calendula oil

So, I began collecting the calendula blooms from my garden early in the morning.  I filled a glass quart jar three-quarters full with calendula buds.

I then filled the jar to within an inch of the top with grapeseed oil, placed it in a warm, sunny spot, and let the herbs and oil infuse for 3-4 weeks.  Then I strained the oil, and rebottled into a clean jar.  The oil will keep in a dark cool place for up to a year.

You  may wonder why the oil is green when calendula is yellow - this is because grapeseed oil is green, as it is made from the seeds of grapes.  Grapeseed oil is know to have helpful skin properties as well!  To read more about grapeseed oil - check out this link:  Grapeseed oil

Now, it was time to put the calendula infused in grapeseed oil to good use!

The recipe I used was out of this book: Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar (mentioned above)  It really is an excellent book to get started growing, drying and using herbs in healthy ways.  The book has lots of great recipes, with full color illustrations - always helpful!  It is one of my favorite go-to books when working with herbs.

So, I mixed together the following (you can click on each ingredient to see where to purchase it)
1/8 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup calendula infused grapeseed oil
1 Tablespoon grated beeswax
1/8 cup grated cocoa butter 
1/4 cup aloe vera gel
10-15 drops essential oil of choice (I used rosehip essential oil)
3/4 cup distilled water

Place the oils, beeswax, and cocoa butter in a saucepan over very low heat until melted together.  Pour into a medium-sized mixing bowl and let cook for at least several hours (or overnight), or until mixture is somewhat firm, thick and creamy.  Add in the aloe vera gel, distilled water, and essential oil mixing with your blender at high speed and slowly drizzle water mixture into the oil, continuing to blend until the water mixture has been absorbed by the oil.  The blender should "choke" as the mixture thickens and becomes white and creamy.   Turn off the blender and scoop the cream into small jars.  Apply the lids and store in a cool dark location, where the cream will keep for up to a year.

You can apply this rich, thick cream as often as you like.  It works wonderfully for your face, but also any part of your body will enjoy it just as well!

Here is my end product:

Since I had leftover essential oils from my Homegrown soap making endeavor, I added some of the tuber rose essential oil to the cream as well.  It smells heavenly!

NOTE: If you are not able to infuse your own calendula, you could still make this recipe as the grapeseed oil has marvelous skin healing properties as well as the cocoa butter, aloe vera gel and coconut oil.

Making my own face/body cream is another step down the road of keeping our bodies as healthy and chemical-free as possible.  I can read each and every one of the ingredients in this cream, and had a part in growing the calendula that adds huge skin healing properties to this cream.  It feels really great to put this cream on my face and body knowing that I made it myself.  I encourage you to give it a try.  It is so easy, that you will wonder why you haven't done it sooner!  :)


Monday, November 10, 2014

Arctic Polar Freeze Announces Arrival of Winter

It is still "technically" fall here, according to the calendar anyway, but who is paying attention to the calendar? .... I think the thermometer is a far better gauge of when fall has departed, and winter has arrived!!!

Last night, the BIG arctic polar chill arrived.  It started to snow around 10:30 last night.  It didn't snow much really, but just enough to make everything look like winter wonderland outside this morning as the sun began to stretch its rays across the horizon.

Annie and I couldn't wait to finish breakfast and head out to explore.  I knew we needed to get out early before the snow started to melt.

The sky was a brilliant color of blue with a bit of cloud spattering.

Annie was very impatient, and ready to get our walk started.  She was not at all happy about me stopping to take pictures!

While it had snowed some in the night, the more remarkable event that took place was the frost on top of the snow.  It was simply gorgeous!  Every stalk and blade of grass, shrub and tree began to take on new importance.

The frost had frozen on top of the snow, and it was simply stunning as the sunlight sparkles were everywhere.

My poor Columbine plant didn't look too happy - but it is good to know that this perennial will be happy again come spring!

Some of my petunias had managed to live until now... but after this deep freeze, I suspect even their hardiness has reached its limit!

I could hardly take a picture without Annie tugging at me, nudging me, and even going so far to bump the camera when she could.  She wanted to walk - and not take pictures lol!  Patience is not one of her virtues!

The cold frosty-frozen snowy grass...

As we hiked down the trail, Annie was eager to smell every smell, and find every deer/rabbit/squirrel trail there was to find.

Intent on something - I think it was a squirrel teasing her...

The field behind our house looking northward

A small red berry ... frozen...

It was still very early morning, and the sun was just tipping over the far horizon, spreading its rays through the trees as we walked.

The trail beckoned ahead of us as the sun's rays poked through the shadows of the trees.

A stately tamarack still proudly gracing its lovely orange splendor.

I think this is one of my favorite pictures of the trail this morning - with just a hint of light shining on the path.

A graceful pine limb arrayed in glorious frosty splendor.

Annie again - showing just how much she needs to work on her patience! Don't you just love that face - trying to be patient, but... it's really not working, lol!

Moving toward an open field, Annie's gaze is intently forward.

I never see what she is looking at, and perhaps that is just as well!

The sunlight continues to paint its beautiful rays over the frost adorned landscape.

Funny - Annie expects me to have patience for her when she has got her head stuffed inside a gopher hole, or when she has discovered some new scent on the trail, but she doesn't understand this patience thing should work both ways!

If only we could know WHAT it is that dogs smell... it must be quite the world they live in!

More gloriously decorated pine leaves.

As the sun continued its course in the sky, the frost/snow began to melt.  We turned to head back towards home.  It was such a lovely, frosty-nippy hike, just a perfect way to begin winter, if you ask me!