Friday, April 13, 2018

Homemade Elderberry Rob

Yes, my family caught the flu two years ago, right around Thanksgiving.  We missed a trip to see my extended family, all because we got busy and didn't take enough precautions to stay healthy during flu season.  My bad. 

 Although everyone in the family got sick, I did manage to stay well-even though I was caring for 5 other people day and night.  My secret for staying well for the duration:  elderberry and garlic.  These are two very useful and powerful herbs that I depend on for keeping infections at bay.  My family, on the other hand, didn't want to take my honey-infused garlic OR the elderberry rob ("rob" meaning thickened, sweetened juice) and they didn't fair as well as I.

The first thing you need to do is find a good source for your elderberries.  I had a hard time finding them in stock at my go-to online stores, since I didn't make this until well into January (oops).  But, I did find wild crafted elderberries from the Monterey Bay Spice Company.  I bought 1 lb, which is perfect for my elderberry rob recipe!

To make the "rob", you need to either find 5 lbs fresh elderberries -OR- 1lb dried elderberries.  I do not have a source for fresh berries, so I opted for dried.  I then soaked them overnight in spring water to plump them up a bit.  (Just cover the berries with water to about 1" above the berries.)

Once soaked and plumped, I brought the berries to a simmer.  Add more water if necessary.  Crush the berries as you simmer them with a spoon.

Once the berries simmered for approx. 30 min., I processed them quickly in my ninja blender to make sure I was getting all the juicy goodness out of the berries.  Next, filter the juice through cheesecloth or an old rag.  Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze all the juice out!  Your hands will probably be purple after this step, so use gloves if you are worried :)

Once the berry juice is squeezed out, add your sugar.  You will need 2 cups unprocessed, evaporated cane juice.  Mix this into your juice and return the pot to the stove top.

Simmer again for about 20-30 minutes, until the "rob" coats the spoon and becomes thick like honey.  Lastly, pour the "rob" into sterilized canning jars with new lids.  Tighten lid and invert the hot jars to seal.  All three of my jars sealed and are ready for our next emergency!

To dose elderberry rob, just add 1/2-1 Tablespoon to a cup of hot water and sip.  I have even taken this directly as syrup when I was in a hurry!  It tastes like raisins, my kids tell me.  And they will never shake their heads at my homemade immune boosters again ;)

Enjoy your health this year, and don't take your chances at catching colds or the flu!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Homemade Immune Booster for Flu Season

I know, it's only September... but, it is never too early to plan for flu season!  This homemade garlic-honey immune booster is shelf-stable, so making it early does no harm and saves you some work later on.  Also, the longer this sits, the more potent it becomes, making for a powerhouse of a health tonic.

Last year, unfortunately,  my husband brought home a nasty bug and we were fumbling to keep it contained.  I had some elderberry syrup and this amazing garlic-honey ferment, so I started taking them religiously.  Long story short, I didn't get sick!  I was a little exhausted by the end of the week from taking care of my husband and my youngest son (who did not take my concoctions), but I came out better than I expected.

Peel your garlic with the two-bowl method!
To get started on your own immune-boosting ferment, you will need:
  • about 3 large bulbs garlic
  • 2 cups raw, unfiltered honey
  • 1 qt. mason jar with lid
Garlic-Honey, ready for fermentation
To make this ferment, all you need to do is peel the garlic (here is a video on how to easily peel large amounts of garlic).  Then, place the garlic in your mason jar and cover with honey.

The honey will sit for about 4 days before fermenting (depending on the temperature of your kitchen).  It will not ferment completely, meaning that it will never be alcoholic,  but it will release the medicinal, antiviral, antibacterial juices from the garlic cloves and produce lactic acid, which has immune-boosting properties!

Be sure to "burp" your jar at least once a day after fermenting has begun!  The gasses from fermentation need to escape so your jar doesn't explode.

When the ferment is done bubbling and the garlic has fallen to the bottom of the jar, it is ready to go! When needed, adults can take a 1 teaspoon dose, three times daily.  More of this ferment will not hurt you, since the ingredients are also food!  This ferment is also safe for children over 1.  Just check for dosage on this handy chart-and remember, an adult dose is 1 teaspoon.

Bubbles mean fermentation!
You CAN enjoy health this winter, with a little help from God's herbal pharmacy!
Coming up, how to make elderberry syrup... :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Homemade, Whitening Tooth Powder and Mouthwash for Bleeding Gums

Do you have bleeding or receding gums?  If so, I have a wonderful combination for you to try... it worked for me!  About two months ago,  I noticed a bit of blood in my spit every time I brushed my teeth... I didn't think I was brushing too hard, and I was using a natural tooth powder that wasn't harsh, so I decided to do some research!  What I came up with not only stopped my gums from bleeding but whitened my teeth and freshened my breath as well :)

The secrets to my newly-formulated tooth powder are bentonite clay and cinnamon!  This combo cleans, freshens and will even remineralize your teeth.  It is super mild on your enamel and will leave your teeth nice and white.  Cinnamon has traditionally been used for toothaches and bad breath.  I use Ceylon Cinnamon, but Cassia Cinnamon would work, as well!  Bentonite Clay draws out impurities and brightens your teeth- and, it has trace minerals essential for remineralization of soft spots.  

Don't be put off by the color of this tooth powder!  My son uses it and loves the taste :)  I think you will, too!

What you will need:

1/4 c bentonite clay
1/4 c cinnamon ( I use Ceylon)
1/4 c baking soda
1 T nutmeg powder 
1 T orange peel powder
1 T sea salt 

Mix all ingredients into a wide-mouth jar.

To use:  Just wet your toothbrush bristles and dip them into the tooth powder.  Brush as usual!

Remineralizing tooth powder

To finish off your daily oral care, use this Aloe Juice mouthwash!  Aloe is known to calm inflammation in your gums and stop them from bleeding.  This mouthwash is also shelf-stable, so no need to refrigerate!

What you'll need:
1 c hydrogen peroxide (3% potency)
1 c filtered water
1/2 c aloe juice ( I use "Fruit of the Earth" brand)
10-15 drops peppermint/spearmint essential oil

Mix all ingredients in a large colored glass bottle.  

To use:  Shake well!  Swish about a shot glass full (maybe 1/8 c) after brushing with the Cinnamon/Clay tooth powder.  

Aloe is used for gum health.

 Enjoy good oral health, and smile more often!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homemade "Bisquick" Mix- No Shortening!

My oldest daughter (the aspiring baker) wanted to make a bundt cake this week, and the recipe she chose called for Bisquick Mix... I considered looking for another recipe.  Bisquick, although versatile and convenient, is not the ideal mix to bake with.  The worst part of Bisquick:  vegetable shortening. Vegetable shortening is hydrogenated oil- probably some over-processed, rancid oil, like soybean or canola; and hydrogenated oils are known to contribute to heart disease, obesity, and premature aging.  Do your matter how the fake food companies try to pass shortening off to the consumer, it is a killer.  Fake food, including shortening, has no place in my kitchen...

So, we looked for a homemade substitute for Bisquick Mix.  The results:  a healthier baking mix that I can give to my family without feeling that twinge of guilt that comes with eating junk!  I looked over three different recipes online to come up with one recipe that suits our needs...

3 c all-purpose, organic flour
4 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t fine sea salt
1/2 c coconut oil (chilled/solid)

Ingredients, ready to mix

  • Put all ingredients into food processor.
  • Mix on low until coconut oil is combined.
  • Mix on high until mixture looks crumbly.
  • Store in a sealed container in your refrigerator or freezer until needed.
Crumbly, mixed Ingredients

Enjoy your homemade, better-than-store-bought baking mix in pancakes, dumplings, muffins, or anything else you make with Bisquick Mix!  It is versatile and convenient for the cook-on-the-go.

Store your baking mix in a sealed container!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Homemade, Naturally-fermented Black Zapote Drink

On some of the websites I've looked at regarding the black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit), it mentions that people in Central American countries have made a traditional fermented drink from the fruit...  but, as with many "traditional" recipes, this one seems to have not been recorded or is no longer in practice.  What else can I do but make my own recipe?  :)  I have experimented with fermented drinks before, so here I go again:

For the fermenting culture, I am using water kefir.  Many people use the grains to ferment, but the water kefir itself is a good culture!  And, you don't have to filter out the grains when you are done... this drink has a lot of pulp, so it would be practically impossible to recover kefir grains anyway.

The final product tastes a lot like the black sapote bread that a friend of ours gave to us... a nice citrus flavor with a delicate chocolate, fruity aftertaste.  I would even make this with lemon peel!  The choice is yours.

Meat of 1 medium-sized black zapote (chocolate pudding fruit)
1/4 c natural sweetener (I used unrefined cane sugar)
3-4 strips of orange (or lemon) peel, sliced with vegetable peeler
1/4 cup water kefir (NOT the grains)
Filtered, non-chlorinated water- to top off jar

All ingredients are mixed and ready to ferment!

  • Put all ingredients into a quart-sized jar, leaving a bit of head space.  Cap tightly.
  • Shake jar to incorporate sweetener and fruit.
  • Leave on counter for 2-3 days, "burping" container daily to remove excess gas.
  • Filter and bottle. (You can do a second ferment here, if taste is too sweet) Chill before consuming. 
  • Enjoy!
Look at all that carbonation... after only 24 hours.
(I ended up bottling after 36 hours, but it was still too sweet for me.  So, I let it sit on the counter, overnight before chilling...)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Chocolate Pudding Fruit

For my 100th post, I thought I'd do something a little different! Since moving back to Florida (in September), I have really come to appreciate all that south Florida has to offer. That being said, I feel like I should focus on what I am most thankful for here, in my own neighborhood.  It is important to know about your surroundings, whether it is knowledge of local foraging information, local, traditional herbal remedies, or just knowing where to buy the freshest local produce.  Your family will thank you for putting in the extra research to keep them healthy!

I've decided to introduce my readers to a rare tropical fruit- it may or may not be in your local grocery store/farmers' market.  But, if you ever come across this fruit, you will know exactly what to do with it and maybe even propagate your own chocolate pudding fruit tree!  Chocolate pudding fruit (black persimmon or black sapote) is grown in semi-tropical/tropical climates, and is really quite average-looking as far as fruits go:

Chocolate Pudding Fruit

The lifted calyxes of a ripe chocolate pudding fruit

The mature fruit will have lifted calyxes (the flower-looking part on top).  If you happen to find a fruit with calyxes that lay flat to the skin of the fruit, do not buy them as they will never fully ripen! You can see from the picture above that the calyxes are curled back from the skin.  

Mature, unripened fruit is picked when the calyxes are lifted off the skin, although they are usually hard as gourds.  But, as they ripen on your counter, you will notice that the skin turns a darker shade of green and the calyxes will turn black.  When the ripened fruit is handled, you will feel the hard skin give way to the softening meat.  Usually, if you let the fruit sit about 1-2 days after it starts to soften, it will then be ready for eating...

A ripened fruit- notice how soft the meat has gotten by the dent in its skin

Cut the ripened fruit down the middle and pull the sides apart- you will see that the meat is dark brown, like chocolate!  There are also large, almond-like seeds that you might want to save.  Just scoop out the meat with a spoon- Be careful not to rip the skin, which will make the meat harder to remove.  This meat can be eaten fresh and has a custard-like consistency.  It can also be used in many recipes, one of which I will share with you now...

The meat of a ripened fruit and seeds, ready to propagate

Unfortunately, the chocolate pudding fruit does not taste like chocolate... but, before you leave, I have a recipe that will make it creamy and chocolaty!  Here is my version of Chocolate Pudding Fruit Chocolate Pudding:

1 chocolate pudding fruit- meat scooped out in bowl
1-2 T cocoa powder
about 1/8 c cream
drizzle of honey

Mix all ingredients together with a spoon, making sure to smooch all lumps of fruit, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Eat alone or with a dollop of whipped cream on top!

Now to get that chocolate pudding fruit tree growing!  If you have saved the seeds for propagating, click this link to see the germinating directions.  According to these directions, the seeds have a very high viability rate!  I am planning on having at least two of these trees in my yard in the near future :)

Enjoy your healthy, homemade chocolate pudding!  And, if you can't finish it all, chocolate pudding fruit meat freezes very well for future use :)

More chocolate pudding fruit recipes:
ice cream

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Homemade Chicken Curry

I have been feeling a little uninspired lately and thought I'd turn to my vintage cookbooks for a little spark.  The cookbook that spoke to me was The Virginia Housewife, published in 1836.  I found tons of recipes that looked delicious (more to come), but today I want to try the ".... Curry After The East Indian Manner."  I have always loved curry and would love to introduce it to my family- from scratch and from real ingredients.

The original Virginia Housewife cookbook, cir. 1836

I realize that the instructions leave a bit to be desired- but remember, women were cooking over fires, not modernized, temperature-regulating appliances.  Therefore, specific cook times over different sized fires would cook differently.  I will do my best to "translate" this vintage recipe's instructions into more modern, precise ones.  Here goes!

What I used to make my Curry Chicken dish:

1, 4-5lb hen, cut into pieces (as you would to fry)- I halved the original recipe
3/4 T Celtic sea salt
1/2 c butter (one stick)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
2 T curry powder

Adding Celtic sea salt to the chicken pot

  • Put the chicken into a medium stock pot and add water enough to just cover the chicken pieces.
  • Add the salt to the water and heat to boil (make sure you skim the foam that rises to the top of the broth)
  • Turn down the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender but not falling off the bone- 30-40 minutes.

Curry Chicken, seasoned and ready to stew
  • Take chicken pieces out of the pot, reserving the broth.  Put the butter into pot and heat until bubbly.
  • Over medium to medium-high heat, cook the onion and garlic until browned- be careful not to burn- stir often.
  • When onion/garlic is browned, put the chicken back into the pot.  Season chicken with curry powder and brown.
  • Pour the broth that was reserved from boiling the chicken into the pot and cook, covered, over med/low heat until everything is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • If you prefer a thicker curry sauce, just add a couple T of arrowroot powder, mixed with just enough water to dissolve.  Bring sauce to a boil and hold for 1 minute.
I just love the simplicity of this recipe!  And the curry sauce is fantastic.  I will serve my Curry Chicken with jasmine rice and a side of veggies.  

Try making this from-scratch, real food recipe with your family!  Enjoy this modernized version of this tried-and-true 1836 recipe... and maybe "translate" a few recipes for your own family from the archived vintage cookbooks on