Simply Perfect Crunchy Granola

Well, here we are, getting settled into our new homestead here in Alaska and life has been crazy to say the least.  We have so much work to do, spending every morning leisurely enjoying a hot breakfast of bacon, eggs and fried potatoes is nothing more than a picturesque fairytale right now.  As busy as we are, I need a few quick-fix tricks up my sleeve for breakfast and rather than falling back on store bought cold cereal, homemade granola is the ticket. Unlike the sugar-laden, empty calorie fluff from the store, (which, let’s face it, does no one any good because everyone is hungry 15 minutes later.) Hearty, homemade granola is made with healthy ingredients and will stick with you 10 times longer than that stuff with unpronounceable ingredients.
Aside from a few stove top suppers, our first experiment in cooking with my Kitchen Queen wood cook stove was some toasty, yummy homemade granola. I spent a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon attempting for the first time, to use the oven in my wood cook stove.  To be honest, there was more of a learning curve than I had expected in using said oven and after 2 hours trying to bake the stuff, we ended up toasting the granola on sheet pans on the stove top rather than baking it. It still came out great!

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Granola is one of those things that can be changed up 1,000 different ways depending on what you have on hand and what your own dietary restrictions might be. We use whole grain oats as our base then boost the nutrition value with all the yummy add-ins that take it over the top like flax, pumpkin & chia seeds and nuts.
The only downside to this recipe is that when I make it I have to make a seriously monster-sized batch because at all stages of preparing it (raw, cooking, cooked, cooling and put away in the pantry) I have greedy granola gobblers steeling it by the handful.
Hubby and kids alike can’t stay out of it.  We also love using this recipe when making trail mix by adding nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips or candies.

For a long time my granola, while quite tasty, never held together in the big, crunchy clumps that I was looking for.  It always fell apart into individual oats, nuts and seeds which was rather disappointing.  So in order to save you from my own frustration, here are 2 simple tips for getting big clumps of crunchy granola that is the perfect breakfast cereal or trail mix base.

  1. Make sure that ALL the oat mixture is thoroughly coated with your honey/oil mixture.  (If you increase the oat/nut/seeds to more than what I have listed here, you will also need to compensate by increasing the honey mixture as well.)
  2. DON’T stir the granola while it is baking.  (This is so important.)

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Simply Perfect Crunchy Granola

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

• 6 cups whole oats
• 2 cups sliced almonds
• 1 1/2 cups pecans (chopped)
• 1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds
• 2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (sweetened is also fine but an unnecessary addition of sugar)
• 1 1/2 cup raw honey or organic maple syrup
• 1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
• 3/4 cup coconut oil (butter is also okay but will not yield the same crunchy results) 

  • 1 Tbl cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 Tbl cardamom
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
    • Optional super-seed addition
    • 1/2 cup flax seeds
    • 1/2 cup chia seeds
    • 1/2 cup water

1. In a small bowl, mix the flax & chia seeds with water and allow to soak while you get the rest of your granola mixture ready. This will produce a sticky clump of seeds that you will gently break up into large chunks and fold into your oat mixture later.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together your oats, nuts & pumpkin/sunflower seeds.
3. In a sauce pan, add coconut oil, honey and coconut sugar. Stir frequently while heating until just melted & combined. Do not boil.
4. Add vanilla, maple or other extract to your honey mixture.
5. Gently add super seed mixture to your oat mixture, keeping gumball sized chunks if possible.
6. Heat your honey, sugar & oil mixture over the oat mixture and toss to coat thoroughly.
7. Spread out on sheet pans (I like to line mine with silicone baking mats or parchment paper)

8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, rotate your pans to ensure even cooking and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes.

9. Turn off the oven and let the granola continue to toast and crisp up for up to 1 additional hour. If it is browning too much, remove it from the oven and allow to cool.
(Or if you are using a wood stove with a broken temperature gauge like me… Bake for 1 hour, then pull your baking sheets out of the oven and put them on the stove top to finish crisping up.)

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I promise that you and your family will love this, especially once you fine tune your own personal adaptations to the recipe.

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7 Step Cold-frame Raised Garden Beds

Well it’s our first week in Alaska and it’s already a flurry of unpacking, organizing and getting our actual homestead set up.  Of course the first thing that I want to do is get my hands dirty! This spring has been most unusual with the lack of farm animals and gardening to refresh my soul.  Moving from our small hay farm in Colorado to our forest homestead in Alaska meant no animals and no planting or gardening this spring.  It was a springtime of packing, packing and wait for it… more packing.  This has left me a very confused farm girl as I am accustomed to have my hands in the dirt and farm babies to enjoy long before May.  Babies will have to wait this year, as we have too many other things that need our focus but getting a garden started was first priority.

And while I am missing my greenhouse in Colorado,

CO Greenhouse

I am equally excited to try out my new cold frame boxes.

We built 2 cold frame style raised garden beds and one regular raised bed so that I can get a jumpstart on getting some produce on the table and some root crops stored up for winter.

The beauty of a cold frame system is that not only can you recreate a greenhouse effect for starting plants early and protecting them from a late spring frost (which in Alaska can happen at anytime,) you also can also harness that same greenhouse effect late into the fall, extending your growing season by, once again, closing those boxes up to protect from early frosts.  It also provides some protection from deer (or perhaps in my case caribou or moose.)

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As you know, one of the most important keys to living with a homestead state of mind is learning to use what you have on hand rather than running off to the store for the perfect materials or ingredients.  Sometimes this results in not having the prettiest Pinterest perfect project, but you will save a ton of money and are using up valuable materials rather than creating waste.

If you google or do a Pinterest search for “cold frames” you will see that the options are endless.  The concept is so simple that you really can tailor the boxes to your specific needs & plants and use materials that you already have on hand.

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In our case, we bought tin siding from the home improvement store for the boxes, and were able to just use materials we already had on hand for the rest.  We had two glass doors, although we don’t really remember where we acquired them, and some scrap pieces of polycarbonate siding from our greenhouse in Colorado that we brought with us just for this type of project.  My mountain man, bless him, dug through the scrap wood pile left here by the previous owners and that provided us with the lumber we needed to make it all work.  (Had we not had scrap wood lying around, we could have harvested a few small trees for the corner posts instead… we have quite a few.)

DIY Cold-frame Raised Garden Beds

  1. If you are using glass doors or windows, measure your tin and cut it according to the size of the glass you will be using.  The glass doors that we wanted to use for the lids, were 7 foot long, so 7 foot beds is what he built.
  2. Cut four posts or boards for the corners of your boxes and cut the top of the board at an angle that will accommodate the height and slope of your cold frame lid.  If you want to have taller boxes so that mature plants can be closed inside in the fall, you will also need to extend the height of your box above the raised bed depth.  We used the polycarbonate siding for the sides to allow more light into the box.IMG_0069
  3. Nail or Screw your tin to your boards creating the base for your raised bed. Add polycarbonate sides around the top of the tin if desired.IMG_0074.jpg
  4. Place your lid on top.  This was part of the beauty of using old glass doors for the lid of our boxes.  With hinges already built into the door, we were able to screw them right into place with no further modifications.  If you aren’t using a glass door, you can build a hinge on the back side or even build your cold frame lid to be lifted off of the raised bed rather than using the hinged lid design.
  5. If you are using tin or another flexible material for the sides of your box, reinforce the sides of your boxes so that the weight and pressure of the soil does not bulge out the sides.  We used a rebar spike (concrete stakes from our last shop building project) on either side of the bed for reinforcement.Cold Frame
  6. Fill with your favorite soil mixture (6-12” depth is all you need for most plants, 12-18” for root vegetables.)
  7. Start planting!

There is no reason to wait to get started with a project like this because you don’t have a lot of time or money for fancy materials.  Just look around at what you have and see what you can do with it!  More often than not, you will have something that you can work with and that will keep supplies purchased to a minimum.  Believe me, if you are going into the whole “homestead” or farm life expecting everything to be perfectly Pinterest perfect, you will go broke in no time.  🙂

Happy Planting! 

 

DIY Earl Grey Tea

My heart is closely connected to the scent of Earl Grey Tea.  When I drink a cup I am filled with a sense of strength.  It is uplifting, yet relaxing, boosts my confidence, relieves stress and the most important asset is that it brings my English Grandmother to my mind.

My love for my Grandma Hilda, in turn, has instilled in me a love for all things English, where deep roots of our family run.  I miss her dearly and cherish anything that will remind me of her, so it only makes sense that such a strong English tradition would take me back to her.

But why the automatic mood boost?

The secret is in that magical ingredient…

Bergamot.

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The Earl Grey blend is named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, the British Prime Minister in the 1830’s.  It is said that he received a gift, most likely by a Chinese diplomat, of tea flavored with bergamot oil

“Bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia) is a small citrus tree which blossoms during the winter and is grown commercially in Calabria, Italy.[13][14] It is probably a hybrid of Citrus limetta (sweet lime) and Citrus aurantium (bitter orange).[15]”

My sister and I used to joke that we could both drink Bergamot essential oil straight, the scent is just so intoxicating.  So once we realized that Bergamot was the magical ingredient our beloved Earl Gray, it didn’t take long to connect the DIY dots.

Earl Grey

Earl Grey is one of my favorite afternoon pick-me-ups….Bergamot is one of my most prized essential oils.  It’s a match made in heaven… it’s just perfection, plain and simple.

This recipe is beyond simple, but the really important key to it all is to only use the highest quality ingredients.

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Your ingredients are:

Black Tea 

Bergamot Essential Oil – I only use Young Living Essential oils.  It is absolutely VITAL if you are ingesting essential oils to only use Therapeutic, Grade A, Organic Essential oils(Don’t be fooled by oils labeled “100% Pure” which are only actually required to contain 5% of the actual essential oil in order to be labeled that way.)  

*Orange peel or Rose Petals, optional

 

To infuse your own Earl Grey tea :

  • Drop 4-16 drops of Young Living Bergamot Essential oil to the sides of a glass mason jar.  (I realize that this is extremely vague but it really varies from person to person.  My husband likes it best when it is mild, while I enjoy it very strong.)
  • Add your loose, black tea leaves (2 cups) and any other added ingredients (citrus peel, rose petals, etc)
  • Stir/shake the contents of the jar vigorously to coat.
  • Let the tea “cure” for several hours up to a few days.

You can drink a cup right away but I recommend being patient and letting the mixture cure.  For best results use within a few months as the flavor will fade over time.

This has been one of my favorite Homemade/DIY projects that I have ever done, I hope you love it as much as I have!

Earl Grey Collage

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries are one of my FAVORITE homeopathic resources for their immunity building, cold & flu busting power.

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It is flu season again and this year I made the mistake of running my family out of fermented goodness.  Most of the time we are able to avoid the worst of the cold/flu bugs by keeping our immune systems strong via the wonderful world of fermented veggies, bone broth, essential oils and magnesium.  This year, however, we have some big things going on and I slipped up on our normal regimen… and we caught the bug.  Thankfully, I had my stock of elderberries on hand and it didn’t take long to whip up a batch of Elderberry Syrup and Elderberry gummies.

As we all know,  there really isn’t much that can be done from a conventional strand-point for treating the common cold or a mild case of the flu.  It can be miserable to sit by and watch your kiddos go through it and not be able to do anything to fix it.  Thankfully, there ARE some homeopathic things that we can do to help them through it and Elderberry Syrup is one of those things.

Elderberries contain vitamins A, B & C, and are a potent resource of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and immune boosting compounds.  They have been used medicinally since the fifteenth century and can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of illnesses.

Even according to WebMD “Elderberry is used for “the flu” (influenza), H1N1 “swine” flu, HIV/AIDS, and boosting the immune system. It is also used for sinus pain, back and leg pain (sciatica), nerve pain (neuralgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Some people use elderberry for hay fever (allergic rhinitis), cancer, as a laxative, for constipation, to increase urine flow, and to cause sweating…”

Also, as stated on https://wellnessmama.com/5913/elderberries-herb-profile/

Studies have shown that Elderberries  prevent and fight at least 8 different strains of influenza.  While helping to stop production of hormone-like cytokines that cause inflammation, they also increase the production on non-inflammatory, infection fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold… Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Isreal found that elderberry disarms the enyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat.  Taken before infection, it prevents infection.  Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract.”

Since Elderberries are a berry and therefore a “food,” they can be used in countless preparations including, tinctures, tonics, syrups, gummies, popsicles and baked into muffins and breads.  My favorite go-to recipe is for this Elderberry Syrup that I am going to share with you today.

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Elderberries on there own can be pretty sour, but when paired with the right ingredients they can be quite magical.  This syrup recipe tastes great and even my kiddos come running when I announce it’s time for some Elderberry Syrup.  In this recipe, Elderberries are paired with ginger, cinnamon, cloves and honey (all of which not only make this syrup taste great, but also have their own medicinal benefits) making this a truly wonderful treat.

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And if you are wanting to bump up the infection fighting/immunity-boosting power, you can add some Echinacea and will lose none of the fantastic flavor.

(An added benefit to this recipe is that you can find all the ingredients HERE from my favorite herbal supply resource.)

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Here is the recipe.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup Dried Elderberries
4 cups water
2 Tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root (or 2 tsp powder)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder (or 1 cinnamon stick)
1/2 tsp cloves (whole or ground)
1 cup raw honey
1/4 cup dried Echinacea (optional but highly recommended)

  • Add elderberries, spices/herbs and water to a saucepan and simmer gently on the stove for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid is reduced by half.
  • Remove from heat and either mash/strain in a wire mesh strainer or add to a French press and press out the juice.
  • Cool the juice until warm but not hot then add the honey, stirring well until combined.
  • Store syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
  • Preventative Dosage for children is 1/2-1 tsp per day for children and 1 Tbl per day for adults.
  • If you are fighting off illness, take the normal dose every 3-4 hours until symptoms have passed.

Elderberry Collage