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How to Make Vanilla Extract and Fall Garden Update

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Christmas is coming up in just a few and now is the perfect time for making your own homemade vanilla extract. It is very simple to make and much more economical than buying vanilla extract in the teeny tiny bottles from the store. All it takes is vanilla beans, vodka, a bottle and some time.

There are lots of different kinds of vanilla beans from different regions including Madagascar, Tahiti, Mexico and Tonga. My personal experience with making vanilla extract involves using grade b Madagascar vanilla beans that you can buy online. You can get grade a, which is whole vanilla pods free of any dents splits or marks. I went with grade b. Grade b is vanilla pods that may have dents tears or marks on them and are slightly cheaper. You are cutting them up anyway so to me it didn’t matter if they had imperfections.

What you’ll need:

a jar that seals well, like a mason jar about 3-4 vanilla beans per cup of vodka(My experience has been with grade b Madagascar beans) vodka (any type will do) I have also heard that you can use brandy or rum, but I have not tried it a dark place to store your vanilla at least 2 months to allow it to age

How to make your gourmet vanilla extract:

Use a sharp knife and carefully slit your beans down the middle to reveal the grainy insides of the bean Cut the beans into sections that are small enough to lay flat at the bottom of your jar (use 3-4 beans per cup of alcohol) Pour the alcohol over the beans and securely attach the lid Give the jars a good shake Set the jars in a dark place and shake it about once a week or so for 2 months. The extract will keep indefinitely. You need to make sure that the beans stay covered by the alcohol or they may mold. But, as long as they remain submerged, you’re good to go.

See how the alcohol darkens as it ages and mingles with the vanilla bean?

For the vanilla you’re keeping for yourself you may want to just use an old maple syrup container that has been cleaned and sanitized. If you’ll be giving the extract as gifts you may wish the purchase cute containers to give it to family and friends. I’ve seen plenty of nice little mason jars at thrift shops and big box stores that are reasonably priced or you can look to buy some online like the ones below:

Even if you don’t use them all for vanilla gifts they’d be great for storing food or craft supplies. Or, I have another gift idea coming up that you could use some of these jars for as well. You can get a pack of about 6 of these cute little jars for about 15 dollars.

These are a little more pricey, but they would be great for storing vanilla extract or even personal servings of kombucha or water kefir! If you go with a plain jar you can always add your own personalized labels to jazz things up. Check out the great free printable at My Baking Addiction. Pin It

 

To make the gift extra special you could include a few of your favorite recipes either hand writeen or typed up. One of my favorite christmas presents ever was a collection of hand written recipes. A few recipes using vanilla that I love include Amazing Whole Grain Brownies, Baked Blueberry Oatmeal and Healthier Carrot Cake Cupcakes.

Enjoy your vanilla making! I bet you’ll never go back to the store bought stuff :)

Fall Garden Update

And as far as my fall garden it is coming along quite well. I’ve been meaning to update for a while. The broccoli did especially well. You can see that it kind of overshadowed the beets and the spinach and they haven’t gotten quite as large as expected due to the shade from the broccoli-zilla plants.

I was so proud to have my best kohlrabi that I have ever grown that were so beautiful and looked absolutely delicious… and can you guess what? This innocent looking little (80 pound!) dog stole them right out of the garden and ate the two very best ones!!!!!

But we have lots of gorgeous little sugar snap pea blossoms…

And some little peas

And God really always amazes me with all of his beautiful creations. Look how those little stringy bits grow so beautifully and intricately. They’re like a little work of art :) ” For from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.” – Wisdom Chapter 13:?

 

Are you growing a garden? Dreaming of a spring garden?

Have any tips for making vanilla extract or a source for cute bottles?

 

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Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap

Making your own foaming hand soap is so easy and cheap! Foaming hand soap is kind of expensive for what it is. Somewhere on the web a while back(probably Pinterest), I found a post where somebody used castile soap to make their own foaming hand soap. I can’t remember which blog I originally found the recipe on, but I’ve used the recipe from Little House Living.

It is so super easy that you won’t even believe it! 1 cup of water plus 1 tablespoon of castile soap equals your own foaming hand soap. I buy the cheap container of soap from Walmart and dump out the chemical soap, saving the container to use for my homemade version. I like using castile because it is made with organic oils and doesn’t have all the funky detergents and unpronounceable chemicals you’ll find in standard liquid soaps.

And, the icing on the cake is that you can make a cup of foaming hand soap for about 18-23 cents!! I found a 32 ounce container for only 11.99 so that equals 18 cents per cup of foaming soap.You can order castile online or find it in health stores. Our local Target even has it! Be sure to check the clearance section as I have found it there marked down.

Have you ever made your own foaming hand soap? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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25+ Strawberry Recipes for Strawberry Lovers and Non-Strawberry Lovers

Strawberries are so delicious! Not only are they one of the tastiest delicacies when fresh, they also pack a great nutritional punch. According to WHFoods:

“Many foods commonly consumed in the U.S. are valuable sources of antioxidants. But researchers have recently ranked the 50 best antioxidant sources among commonly eaten foods and found strawberries to be quite exceptional.”

Strawberries are an awesome source for antioxidants, but they are also an excellent source of calcium and flavonoids and a good source or folate, potassium and dietary fiber. 8 strawberries provide more vitamin C than an orange! (source)

Here is a collection of recipes for strawberry lovers and some recipes to sneak some in for those who aren’t a fan.

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream from Baked Bree Strawberry and Arugula Salad with Grilled Halloumi from The Healthy Foody Black Bean and Feta Tacos with Strawberry Mango Salsa from Eats Well with Others Strawberry Kombucha from Cultures for Health Chicken and Strawberry Salad from Cooking Light Blueberry, Strawberry, Jicama Salsa from Two Peas and their Pod via Eat your Books

 

 

Strawberry Sauce from My Food Book (serve atop Grandma’s Whole Wheat Pancakes)

 

Strawberry Almond Butter Soup from Oh She Glows (I’d use regular milk and honey to sweeten as agave is highly processed)

 

Strawberry Ice Cream from My Whole Foods Life (dairy free)

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries from The Nourishing Gourmet

 

Strawberry Lemon Iced Tea from Curry and Comfort Strawberry Basil Lemonade from Kitchen Meets Girl 10 Minute Strawberry Jam from Splash of Something

 

Quick Strawberry Spring Salad from Cheerios and Lattes (would be awesome with sweet onion poppyseed dressing or 5 minute candied nuts)

Grain/Gluten Free Strawberry Almond Flapjacks from Just Eat Real Food

The Best Dessert Ever from GNOWFGLINS

 

Follow This 1 Tip for a Ton of Organic Strawberries in the Garden from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

 

Strawberry Lemon Zest Mousse from Apron Strings

Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote with Honey Custard from Nourished Kitchen

 

Strawberry Water Kefir from Our Nourishing Roots

Strawberry Fool from The Nourishing Gourmet

 

Strawberry Refrigerator Oats from This Chick Cooks (me) Organic Strawberry Fruit Leather from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

 

Yogurt Covered Strawberries from This Chick Cooks

And more…

Berry Banana Oatmeal Smoothie Homemade Strawberry Shakes from Kelly the Kitchen Kop

If you’re looking for more creative ideas for using strawberries you should check out The Flavor Bible. It is one of my favorite books ever. It gives suggestions for pairing foods. Simply look up an food and it gives you a long list of other ingredients that will compliment it!

 

image source

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Follow This One Garden Tip for Stronger, Healthier Organic Plants

When I saw the tip from my friend Halle at Whole Lifestyle Nutrition, I knew I wanted to share a tip on watering easily that I have seen all over the internet, It seems that the hardest part of gardening is remembering to keep the plants well watered. I used to think that the hardest part was weeding, but since we read about Square Foot Gardening and implemented our raised bed, square foot gardens a while back, weeding has become practically eliminated. Yay :) Time to conquer my next nemesis- even, deep watering without wetting the leaves of the plants or installing drip irrigation.

The trick with growing plants that are hearty and have a deeper, stronger root system is deep, even watering. When you water your edible garden you want to water way down- at least dampening 6 inches of soil to promote healthy root growth. You also want to avoid wetting the leaves as this can cause problems such as blight and other diseases. A year or two ago I saw the idea for burying a jug and using it to water your plants. This tip works awesome for all kinds of plants: tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, eggplant.

Simply use an ice pick or knife to poke a bunch of holes in the bottom 2/3 of a large milk jug or water bottle. Then, dig a whole close to your plant and bury the jug so that only the top opening remains above ground. Once a week (or possibly more often in extreme heat) you can fill up the jug and it will give a nice, deep watering for your plants without having to worry about splashing the leaves. Here are a few helpful watering mixtures for occasionally nourishing your plants:

Mix 1 tablespoon of epsom salts per gallon of water. This should be applied for tomatoes and peppers when they are planted, when the first flowers form and again when the first fruits set. Use fish emulsion at a ratio of 1-2 tablespoons of emulsion per gallon of water. Make your own compost tea poured into the containers to accomplish watering and nourishing your plants in one fell swoop.

What do you do to make organic gardening easier?

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