Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Without a doubt,
my very favorite holiday of the year.
Although, I have been better
about being more thankful each and every day
for that which I have been blessed.
I hope you and yours are counting your blessings together.

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Powder Laundry Soap

The switch was made years ago to fashion my own cleaners.
With C's numerous sensitivities,
it made sense to do away with the chemical-laden cleaning agents,
and build a repertoire of safer products.
It was also a bit harder then to find products that were cruelty-free.
It's been one of the most effortless changes in our lifestyle.
Along with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice for general cleaning,
familiar elements can be used to supply your household
with a fantastic laundry soap.
This recipe was featured on 
"Off Grid with Doug and Stacy",
which can be found here.
I find myself watching their videos,
always learning something new.

 This easy-to-make laundry soap 
contains simple ingredients that are easily recognizable.  
Along with being aware of the origin of our food,
it's important to me to create personal care and cleaning products
that are safe, cruelty-free, and earth-friendly. 
With just two common components,
this recipe is a snap to put together.

 The soap can be scented with your choice of essential oils,
although eucalyptus is a favorite of mine.
This recipe replaces the popular "Zote" soap concoction,
as I really felt the need to remove animal products from my cleaners,
just a personal choice.
The Kirk's castille is made with a few simple ingredients,
is cruelty-free and contains no sulfates.
Check out their line of soaps here.

Streamlining my household management is a constant intention,
and with this uncomplicated solution, it's smooth as silk.

 Homemade Laundry Soap
(Doug & Stacy)
2 C washing soda
1 bar Castille soap
essential oils (10-12 drops)

Grate bar soap and mix with washing soda.
Add essential oils to your liking.
Use 2 Tablespoons per load
(Washes 12-15 loads)

Friday, November 22, 2019

Garden Friday-Using Cover Crops


These two new raised beds were created earlier this month.
Having a little more space to add crops come springtime
will be so exciting!
For now, these dormant beds will be sown with cover crops,
to ensure they start off right. 
Last year was the first winter
I'd ever sown cover crops.

Where these raised beds now stand
used to be several raised rows,
another first-time venture.
Although I did have some success with the raised rows,
I think that having beds higher up 
will make it easier to tend as I get older. 
Last year, I sowed the cover crops  in them around the same time,
but our conditions were very different.
This year, we've already had a couple of freezes,
so I'm not sure if it will affect the germination and growth
of the cover crops.

Two different cover crops were obtained from Sow True Seed in Asheville.
They are one of my go-tos for quality seed
and great customer service.

 This winter mix contains several crops,
including winter rye, crimson clover and hairy vetch.
Also known as "green manure",
cover crops can nurture the soil in a variety of ways.
Fostering beneficial insects below the soil while
preventing erosion and boosting the nutrient content
once it is turned into the soil in the spring,
are a few of the blessings that cover crops bring.
They also keep weeds at bay,
thereby making the soil primed for planting in spring.

This is white clover that I'm hoping to use
to create a meadow on the side of the house.
Attracting pollinators to the vegetable garden
has been something I've been working on for a year or so.
It started with creating a pollinator bed in the front yard
the first year we lived here.
Then, last year, we repurposed an old sandbox frame,
to fashion a pollinator bed smack-dab in the front corner
of the veggie garden.


The meadow area I will be looking to establish,
is just behind the vegetable beds,
in an area that slopes toward our leaf mulch pile
and open-air composting system.
This expansive area would be a wonderful place
to experiment with native wildflowers.
The white clover will be introduced during this first phase.
The bonus is that it would cut down on our mowing zone
and save us quite a bit of labor.
It sounds like a win-win to me!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

It's a Date!

 Over the last couple of months,
I've been searching for a better way to eat.
Considering that I've been a fairly "clean" eater for decades,
it surprised me to find that I could tweak my diet even more.
With the recent elimination diet that my naturopath guided me through,
I found that giving up nuts, seeds, sugar and all things gluten was pretty tough.
Although I'm still avoiding gluten anything,
I have been able to add back a substantial list of items 
that came up negative on my sensitivity panel.
Gratitude prevails for being able to once again 
consume cocoa, coffee, nuts, seeds and certain grains (not wheat).

The book featured here has been a Godsend.
Dana Shultz is a master at what she does,
which is create gloriously simple recipes
for those of us who find ourselves wanting to eat better,
but still harboring cravings for traditional comfort foods.
If you are at all interested in improving your health
without having to sacrifice taste and ease of preparation,
please run, don't walk, to your nearest book source,
and pick up her fabulous cookbook.
You can also check out her amazing website:
Rest assured, her repertoire consists of savory dishes
as well as sweet treats. 
Most of my cookbooks were given away years ago,
but this is one I will be purchasing anew.
The recipes are simple, have few (real) ingredients,
and most take under 30 minutes from start to finish.
I look forward to exploring these recipes.
In fact, until recently, I've been absolutely burned out
with regard to cooking or baking.
This book and website have motivated and excited me
to try new ways to enjoy old favorites.

Medjool dates

I've watched my sugar intake for years,
allowing myself a handful of dark chocolate daily,
knowing that my consumption was far less than most folks.
I'm a label reader, and quite particular about what I buy.
Being able to scratch cook has always been my goal,
and it's the only way I can imagine feeding my family.
One fruit I had never tried before was dates.
Since creating some of the concoctions on Dana's website,
I've discovered what a fantastic sugar substitute they make!
Dates are a great source of fiber, rich in calcium and phosphorus,
and are more easily processed by the body than standard sugars.

Does this mean I'll never again eat sugar?
Nope, but it will no longer be a daily staple.

This is the latest sweet treat I've made using dates.
The recipe can be found here.
I actually used less dates than suggested when I made it,
and it was still mighty sweet.
It's not clear if it's because I've been sugar-free
for going on 7 weeks, or if the dates are just that sweet!

I hope you'll check out these resources.
Dana has found her calling.
And I'm so grateful she has.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Garden Friday

Welcome back to a (frozen) Garden Friday!
Autumn color surrounds us,
but winter temperatures have been sneaking in.

 The poor birds can't even get a decent drink of water,
with the birdbath iced over.
We have been vigilant in keeping the seed and suet feeders full
for our fine feathered friends.

Black-eyed Susan vine

 Some of the flowers we've been enjoying for weeks
have bowed out for the season.
With temperatures plunging overnight
into the 20's, they didn't stand a chance.

The loofah has seen better days.
It's a champion at enduring the scorching heat of summer,
but the cold knocks it for a loop.

Thankfully, there are a handful of crops that don't mind the cold one bit.
The garlic is still doing fine
with its thick bed of straw to insulate it.

 The strawberries are planted in the straw bales,
so they are as snug as bugs in a rug.

 I was a bit worried about the snap peas,
but so far, so good.
Straw was also used here to help keep them a bit warmer.

 The alyssum just keeps on blooming,
taking me by total surprise.
I'm grateful that any pollinators that may still be around
have something wonderful to visit.

 The camelia on the north side of our house
(our backyard of sorts),
is just about to burst into bloom.
What a treat to have color in the dead of winter.

One of our dearest neighbors has been busy raking her drive
and gifting us with the leaves.
These will be mulched with the mower 
and added to our leaf mulch pile.

There isn't a whole lot going on in the garden right now.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to fall?
Next week is supposed to warm up a bit,
and it will lend itself well to getting a few projects started.

Here's hoping for sunny skies and 60 degree days!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Raw Vegan Brownies (gf, df, sf, ef)

In my quest for better health,
I recently went on an elimination diet.
For 5 weeks,
I gave up coffee, dairy, eggs, grains, 
nuts & seeds, sweeteners, wheat,
and a few assorted other things.
Chocolate and sugar were on that list,
and it has been quite a challenge doing without
my favorite sweet treat.
The only real "junk food" I ate 
was my daily handful of dark chocolate chips.
Now my diet is beyond clean,
but it didn't stop me from looking for substitutes.

Next week I plan to go into more detail 
about what I learned
and provide some fabulous resources for clean eating.
I happened upon this wonderful raw brownie recipe
that contains NO SUGAR, which has been
a fairly big obstacle in creating sweet treats.
A few of the ingredients were changed,
as I wanted to use what I had on hand.

I'm adding the link underneath the title of the recipe,
so you can go and check out the creator's amazing website.
I was able to get her cookbook at the library,
so I'll be spending some time this weekend
finding some deliciousness to enjoy.

5-Minute Espresso Walnut Brownies
(Minimalist Baker)

1 1/2 C walnuts or pecans
1 C almonds (I also used pumpkin seeds)
2-2 1/2 C pitted dates
1 C cocoa powder
2 t coffee grounds
pinch salt

~Process almonds and almost all of the walnuts/pecans.
~Add cocoa, coffee and salt.  Pulse.  Remove from processor.
 ~Add dates and process until small bits appear.  Remove.
~Add nut mixture back to processor and drop date bits in.
~Add mixture to parchment-lined baking dish.
~Add remaining nuts on top.
~Combine and press into pan.
~Place in fridge or freezer before cutting.

Will keep 2 weeks in fridge or 2 months in freezer.
Makes about 20 bars.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Taking a Break

C had surgery yesterday,
so we are spending the day
resting and recuperating.
Be back with a recipe on Thursday.

Hope you have a lovely day!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran's Day 2019

God Bless our Veterans
and their families.
Our country would be lost without you.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Garden Friday

 Hello and welcome to Garden Friday!
The last week has been fraught with winter-like temperatures,
and there are a few things in the garden
that are none too happy about it!

 The loofah, which was a pollinator magnet,
is now withering away.
This heat lover couldn't abide the drop in temperatures,
although there is plenty of fruit yet to harvest.
We usually wait until the gourds turn yellow or brown,
but it will be curious to see if they change at all.
This weekend's lows are expected in the 20's.

 The Black-Eyed Susan vines that have been cascading over the straw bales
have been enjoyed all summer long.
Now they look as if they are ready to call it quits.
We are grateful for the months of gorgeous color 
and the food provided for the bees.

 The volunteer tomato plant had been pulled up
earlier this month,
but this straggler somehow escaped the compost bin.

It was time to pull up the Red Ripper beans as well.
These vines generously donated 2 full pint jars
of dried beans to the pantry.
We will enjoy using them in soups and stews this winter,
as well as sprouting them on the windowsill.
Of course, we'll save some for planting next summer.
If you are interested in obtaining some of these easy-to-grow beans,
just drop me a note and we'll make arrangements to get you some.

This straw bale refuses to let go of this okra plant,
even though they were pulled up weeks ago.
This bale will most likely be torn apart 
and used in the raised beds as mulch through the winter months.

 A bit of organizing got done this week.
This bin housed our sweet potato crop,
and once that was harvested, I decided to use it to gather 
all the odd pots we have around here.
The garden can always use some tidying.

 Some time was spent amending the new beds.
Twigs and small branches were added to the bottom,
topped by leaf mulch, then wood chips.
I recycled the old soil taken from the pots in the previous picture,
and finally topped off the beds with a fresh soil mixture.

Our completed beds are now ready for their cover crop,
which should be arriving by the weekend.
Once it warms up a bit next week,
I will sow the seeds to keep the soil covered all winter.
Straw will be added for insulation and to help retain moisture.

With the cold front moving through over the next two days,
it just might be the perfect time to begin my wish list
for next spring's crops.
With two new beds to fill,
I may try some new varieties.
I can't think of a better way 
to spend a bitterly cold day.

Do you use cover crops?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Allergy-Friendly Applesauce Recipe (gf, df, cf, sf)

It's really fall, y'all!
I'm on week FIVE of this 6-week elimination diet,
and it's been a challenge, but I'm gonna see it through to the end.
One of the no-nos is sweetener of any kind,
including honey or maple syrup.
Of course, having been used to my daily dose of dark chocolate,
it's been an adjustment to do without.
A good friend (who lives her life sugar-free),
passed on this recipe to me 
and it was 

Who knew a meager 3 ingredients put together
could taste so doggone good?!
Maybe it's because I haven't had sweets in a while,
or maybe it really is that delicious.
This recipe is so easy that I find myself making it at least twice a week.
The crockpot does the cooking
and in no time flat,
you've got yourself a distinctive and delightful dessert.

I've been using it as a treat
and to fill my tummy in between meals.
It's apple-pickin' season right now,
so it's the perfect opportunity to give this a go.

Allergy-Friendly Applesauce
(Life Made Simple)

3 pounds organic apples
(Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala)
1/2 C water
1/2 t cinnamon

Place all ingredients in crockpot
and cook on high for 2 hours.
Puree with blender, processor or
mash by hand for chunkier texture.