Tag Archives: Natural

Easy 2-ingredient CHOCOLATE sauce (that’s healthier for you!

I’ve been craving mochas a LOT lately.

But the ingredients in the chocolate sauce used by the coffee shops leaves a lot to be desired.

Not to mention that my cravings clash spectacularly with my wallet (nearly $5 a pop!).

So, I decided to work some more on my homemade mocha recipe. While I’m am not completely satisfied yet with the overall product, I’m digging how easy it is to make this chocolate sauce that has only two ingredients.

Easy 2-Ingredient Chocolate Sauce:

  • 3/4cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 3Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder

I like to make this in an 8oz canning jars since it’s so easy. Simply put both ingredients into the jar, put a lid on it, and shake vigorously until combined. No heating required. You might need to use a spoon or a fork to break up a couple chunks and stir them in. Bonus for making it in the jar is that you already have it in a container to store it and only a measuring cup and spoon to wash. Alternately, you can mix this up in a regular bowl and whisk to combine, but the cocoa powder takes some convincing to mix with the maple syrup. It will happen eventually, just keep stiring. If you’ve combined it in a bowl, transfer to an appropriate size container and put a lid on it.

Use as you would any chocolate sauce. Mochas. Ice cream sundaes. Chocolate milk. Mmmmm….

I do not know if this needs to be refrigerated or not. I mean, we don’t refrigerate our maple syrup or cocoa powder. But just to be safe, I keep mine in the fridge just as I used to when we bought chocolate sauce from the store. That way if I forget about it, which sometimes happen as I tend to go through phases, I know it will last in there for a very long time.

So there you have it. Chocolate sauce that is easy to make, and way better for you than the stuff you get in the store (or coffee shops 😄).

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Healthier Hot Chocolate (Only 3 ingredients!)

There’s nothing like playing hard in the snow, then coming inside to a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

It snowed again last night, the most snow we’ve had all winter.

The girls and I took the opportunity to get in some good old fashioned snow play.

When we came in for some hot chocolate, I realized we were dangerously low on our home made hot chocolate mix. But it was no big deal, because with only three ingredients, this hot chocolate mix goes together in a jiffy.

You read that right: three ingredients. This version is so much healthier than any store-bought hot chocolate I’ve found. And depending on what sweetener you use, you can make it even healthier. I’ve seen many other hot chocolate recipes what use more ingredients, and you certainly can add in flavorings of your choice, but we prefer to keep it simple. You can also omit the dried milk and add the cocoa and sweetener to whatever milk you normally drink. I like to have the milk in the mix, however, mainly because we don’t have a microwave, so heating milk on the stove means dirtying a dish. And we avoid that at all costs. Especially in the winter when our water system in the trailer is a bit more labor intensive. But also, I like to make up a big batch of this and have it on hand to drink, no matter how much milk is in the fridge.

Ok, I’ve talked long enough. Here’s the recipe.

Homemade Healthier Hot Chocolate

One serving:

  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar/sweetener
  • of your choice
  • 1/4 cup (heaping) dry milk

Put all ingredients in a mug and mix them together, add 6-8oz hot water, stir till all ingredients are dissolved.

One quart of MIX:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar/sweetener of your choice
  • 2½ cups dry milk

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Then pour into a quart size container, label and place in the pantry/cupboard ,etc for later use. To use, place 3-4 large spoonfuls of hot chocolate mix into a mug, add 6-8oz hot water, stir till dissolved.

Notes:

  • Add more or less mix and/or water to achieve desired taste.
  • Mixing all the ingredients together before adding the hot water helps the cocoa not form so many clumps.
  • Feel free to use whatever sweetener you prefer. You may need to play with the ratios a bit, though. We typically use raw cane sugar, but we’ve also used coconut sugar and pure maple syrup. If you prefer to use a liquid sweetener, you’ll need to put that in at the same time as the hot water.

How do we…stay warm

It snailed today.

Yes, you read that right. It’s not a typo.

And, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with slimy little creatures with shells on their backs.

See that “snow” on the straw bales? It’s actually hail.

Get it? Snow + hail = snail. I’m so puny.

See? Little tiny hailstones. But it was cold enough today for it to have been snow.

Never even made it to 50° outside. Probably going to have our first freeze tonight.

The weather brings to mind a question we get asked every time the temperatures plummet. And since we turned on our heater today for the first time this season, I figured it was a good time to answer everyone’s most pressing question.

Do we stay warm enough in the winter?

The answer is, “Of course!”

The the real truth of the matter, however, is that YOU might not think so, but we stay plenty warm. Relatively.

Yes, it’s a relative answer. WE think we stay plenty warm, but most people who live in climate controlled comfort would be rather uncomfortable at times. Case in point, as I sit here this evening and write this post, the thermometer is showing that it is 59° in the trailer. Now that is pretty chilly, I will admit. And I am about to turn on the heater to take off the chill before we turn in for the night. However, if we were not headed into a sub-freezing night, I wouldn’t bother. I’m just about perfectly comfortable as I sit here and type. How? I’ll share with you some of our tips to stay warm in the winter.

Tip #1: Your attitude affects your temperature. Ok, so I don’t know for sure if having the right attitude can actually physiologically affect how warm you feel, but it sure seems that way. We CHOOSE to live closer to the changing seasons. By having a cooler house in winter and hotter house in summer, not only are we saving money on heating and cooling bills, but we are more connected to the outdoors and the seasonal changes around us. We LIKE the changing seasons and don’t want to insulate ourselves from them too much. And honestly, you get used to it after a little while. I’m sure you’ve all heard of those people who live in Alaska coming down to the lower 48 and thinking it feels like summer when everyone else is all bundled up? Yeah, it’s like that. You can get used to anything. We chose to get used to colder temperatures in the winter.

Tip #2: Layers! I nearly roll my eyes every time I hear someone complaining that it’s cold at 65° when all they are wearing is shorts and a t-shirt. Unless you are one of those people from Alaska that I just mentioned, or you are doing physical work, yeah, you’re going to get chilled at that temperature. Go put some more clothes on. Throw a blanket around your shoulders. Something to help your body stay warm. And remember that your blood circulates through your whole body. So even if your legs themselves don’t feel particularly cold in shorts, your blood is getting cooled as it travels through them and contributing to your feeling of chilliness. Most people that I know just go bump up the heat a few degrees if they feel cold. We choose to put on more layers of clothing. It’s kinda nice having a whole different wardrobe in the winter. “New” clothes every 6 months. Woo-hoo! Oh, and this goes for night clothes as well. In cold weather, we bundle up to go to bed, often wearing a hoodie to keep our heads warm as well. I even made Flower Girl a sleep sack so that she stays warm enough, even if she kicks the covers off. It is basically a fleece nightgown that is long enough that it has a closure at her feet. Kinda like a combination nightgown and fleece sleeping bag. I am hoping she hasn’t grown out of it yet.

Tip #3 – Get moving! Want to warm up quick? Do some physical exercise. When we lived downtown, I would run up and down the stairs several times to warm up in a hurry. Even light housework like picking up toys, etc will get the blood flowing and warm you up.

Tip #4 – Auxiliary heat source. When we lived on the grid, I used to keep space heaters strategically located around the house so that when I got chilled, I could cuddle up in front of one. Living off-grid in a camping trailer now, that is not really an option. But you know what works great? Hot water bottles.

We got these last fall and Christmas and we use them All. The. Time. when the temps are cold. I have a problem with my feet getting cold before bed. And when my feet are cold, I just can’t feel warm. So I heat up my hot water bottle, put it at my feet in bed, and drift off to sleep in cozy warmth. They also work well to sooth sore muscles and relieve monthly cramping.

Tip #5 – Turn on the heat when you need to. So yes, we have a heat source in our trailer. And yes, we do use it when it gets cold. It is a propane fueled catalytic heater made by Mr Heater. The one we have is the Big Buddy.

Rarely do we ever have to turn that baby up on high. When we do, we have to turn it back down to low real soon or get heated out of the trailer. Even on low, it is capable of keeping us too warm – see the picture of our temperature reading earlier in this post. It was 74° inside because I was busy and hadn’t turned off the heater.

And in case you were worried, yes, we have a carbon monoxide detector. And no, we do not typically run the heater at night while we are sleeping. These heaters are supposed to be safe to run inside, but we’d rather be safe than sorry.

So yes, we stay plenty warm here in our little trailer on our mountain homestead. And if it’s chilly inside, it’s because we choose to have it that way. Because we’re different like that. But then, you probably already knew that.

Stay warm, my friends. And thanks for reading.

Granola Recipe

Back this summer I learned to make my own granola and we are loving it! I made up another big batch today, so figured it was a good time to give you my recipe.

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Making Granola in the early autumn sunshine with a borrowed solar oven.

I have spent countless minutes in the grocery store reading ingredient labels on granola packages and still ended up having to accept some ingredients I did not like in order to have the convenience of a cold cereal that is at least somewhat healthier for you.

So I decided to make my own. From be able to use whatever flavors you want to being able to control the quantity and quality of the ingredients, it just makes sense to make your own. Below is the recipe that I make every couple of months. Every time we run out, the Hubs gets a sad face and continually asks for me to make up another batch.

Oh, and speaking of the Hubby, did you see the post he did the other day about flashlights? I was so proud of him for taking the initiative to write up a post for this here blog. Ain’t my man great? 😉

I digress…

The recipe:

Homemade Granola

  • 6-ish cups Old Fashioned oats
  • 4-ish cups nuts or seeds of choice, chopped small
  • 1-ish cup chia seeds
  • 4-ish tsp Cinnamon
  • 2-ish tsp salt
  • 1-ish cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4-ish cup coconut oil
  • 2-ish tsp real vanilla
  • 1-2 cups raisins
  • 1-2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions: Place all ingredients except for the coconut flakes and raisins in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, spread a 1 inch portion of the uncooked granola onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes. Stir the granola and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the granola is just barely lightly browned. Empty that panfull into a large bowl and repeat with more granola until the entire batch has been cooked (it takes me four 9×13 pans to cook this amount. You could do it one at a time or if your oven is big enough, all at once – lucky you!) Add the coconut flakes and raisins and mix completely. Let cool and store in an airtight gallon sized container (I use 2 half-gallon jars). Enjoy by the handful or with milk. And feel free to experiment next time.

Notes:

-As you can tell by all “ish” statements, I tend not to measure my ingredients very precisely. I just scoop or pour till it looks about right. 🙂 This recipe is very forgiving that way.

-Nuts: I usually use sliced almonds and chopped walnuts. Lately I’ve been putting in raw pumpkin seeds as well. This time I even added a bit of flax seeds. Whatever seems good at the time and to ramp up the nutritional value. If you really want to be uber healthy, you should soak the nuts ahead of time. I have never done this, mainly because I never think about it ahead of time. It sounds really easy to do, just takes some planning.

-Other recipes will tell you to add the coconut flakes in at the beginning or midway through for a “toasted coconut” flavor. I found that by doing that, I lost the coconutty flavor. So I just add it at the end with the raisins (which don’t taste good baked in my opinion – they get too dried out).

-Feel free to make substitutions as needed/wanted. Your results may vary from mine, but that’s what making your own food from scratch is all about, making it the way YOU want it. Want to use regular oats, not old fashioned? Go for it! Want to play with the ratio of oats to nuts? Awesome! Can’t stand coconut? Leave it out. Make it yours!

-A note about price. Obviously the price of your ingredients is going to affect the price of this granola. I have found that it is not really any cheaper to make my own than a good quality store bought, mainly because I use so many nuts, which are expensive. But, and that’s the most important “but”, I can make it exactly how I want it with the exact ingredients I want. I get to control everything that goes into it. And that is worth more than the price tag.

Well, there you go. I finally got my granola recipe up here for y’all, as I said I was going to in a facebook post way back in August!

I hope you enjoy.

Blackberry Syrup with Honey

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So…we’re moving in just a couple of weeks. And we had a freezer full of food to eat up since we will be living in camping trailers and won’t have freezer space available to us (have you seen how small those freezers are?).

We had several bags of wild blackberries in the freezer from two summers ago. First of all, they just needed to be used. Because, you know, two summers ago!

Second of all, as I said, we don’t want to transport frozen food to Nevada. So we either needed to eat them or transform them into something that is doesn’t need to be refrigerated/frozen.

We had so many that we could eat cobbler several times a week from now till we leave. And as much as we all love cobbler, we’re just not that into desserts around here. We see them as a treat rather than a staple.

So a canned good of some sort was the order of the day.

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I coulda made jam. But as much as we had would have probably made about 5 pints of jam. Way too much for us to go through. That would have lasted us years! We just don’t eat that much jam.

So I chose to make syrup. By straining out the pulp and seeds I knew I’d get a smaller volume of juice. Not only that, but one jar of syrup will be gone in just a couple of days. We don’t make pancakes all that often, but when we do, we open a jar of our delicious homemade fruit syurp, use it for the pancakes, and the remainder gets used in oatmeal till it’s gone a day or two later.

I started out with 10 cups of frozen blackberries. I put them in a pot with about 1 cup of water and heated them till boiling, then cooked them for about 5 minutes. I then took a potato masher and mushed them up to get out as much juice as possible.

After that, I scooped them into some jelly bags to drain. You could use a piece of muslin or linen fabric, or several layers of cheescloth if you don’t have jelly bags.

I hung the jelly bags from a cabinet doorknob and let them drip into a bowl.

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They drained like that for about an hour or so. I probably could have let them drain for several more hours and gotten more juice out of them, but I was in a hurry.

I ended up with 4 cups of juice. I added this and one 1 cup of honey to a pot on the stove and started heating it. I chose this amount of honey because that’s what tasted good to us. Feel free to adjust the amount to your liking. You can also use any other kind of sweetener you’d prefer.

Once it was boiling, I sprinkled in about two tablespoons of no-sugar-needed pectin. I figured this would thicken it up into more of a syrup consistency without waiting for it to boil down on the stove. If you’d prefer not to use pectin, you can just let it simmer for a while on the stove, but be prepared to lose a bunch of volume. If you do use pectin, be careful not too add to much or you’ll end up with jelly!

Once it boiled good for a minute or so, I ladled it into prepared jars and processed it for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. For detailed instructions on water bath canning, check out this site.

You can see from the following picture that the syrup is thick enough to coat the inside of the jar. Yummy!

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I ended up with 5 cups of syrup in 4 jars (two 12oz jars and two 8oz jars).

Can’t wait to have some pancakes!

And yes, we left enough blackberries out to make a couple cobblers. 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Leaving soon

We have our moving date set!

The house is on the market and Bachan and Pagee have accepted a contingent offer. But no matter what happens with the house, we are moving on May 20th!

Actually, May 18th marks the beginning of the big move with me and a friend taking the moving truck with all the rest of our posessions to NV, turning around the next day (the 19th) to travel back to OR with my mom (“Ahma”) in her RV – which is how Bachan is going to be able to make the trip down – then all of the family back to NV with our various vehicles on the 20th.

Whew!

Makes me tired just thinking about it!

In the mean time, since we only have 3.5 weeks left here in Oregon, we are finishing up with small projects around the house, visiting with friends one more time, and just kinda waiting for the day.

And since we have gotten rid of tons of furniture, look what I finally get!

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A reading corner next to a window! I haven’t had this in so long and I always long for a little space all my own like that. Now, this is in our bedroom, which is still Hubby’s office during the day, but in the evenings, when I am tired from the day and would rather get away to read or journal, I finally have a quiet corner all my own.

After almost two years.

For only three more weeks.

Ah, well. I’ll enjoy it while I have it.

And speaking of enjoying it, here’s the view outside that window as I sit here and blog.

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I sure am going to miss the green!

But, the trade off is worth it.

Heres a picture I took the last time we were on the homestead.

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Flower Girl running around the homestead nearly naked. Playing in the dirt. Having a grand old time. And Princess Girl, at 10 years old, was in nearly the same condition.

The freedom they have there cannot be replicated where we live here in Oregon.

We are so glad that our children are going to grow up with a close connection to the outdoors in a place of freedom and openess. They will not know or remember the scrutiny of neighbors. The claustrophobia of being hemmed in by houses. The fear of living in a neighborhood where you stay indoors or in your yard after dark and the curtains are drawn and the the doors locked.

At Castle Rock, we will not be putting in an air conditioner, which means that on hot summer nights, all the windows and doors are open to let in the cooler night air. The cars will be left unlocked, and probably even the house most of the time. Some of the windows might not even have curtains, or if they do, it’s to block out the sun in the summer.

Life in the country is kinda laid back like that.

And we can’t wait! Only 26 more days!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #9 – Failure is always an option.

First of all, hello to our new followers! I’m so honored that you are here! If you’re new to reading this blog, you can learn a bit about our journey by reading our About page.

So this is Day 9 of my daily life posts. If you’re just tuning in, you can read all of them, or at least go back and read about why I’m doing this month of daily life posts.

And that reminds me; why did I start on January 26th? That seems like an odd time to start a project. Why not January 1st? Or even wait a few more days and start on February 1st? Well, I would have loved to start on January 1st, but I didn’t think of it till the 26th. 🙂 And as for waiting, normally I would have. In fact, I normally would have waited until spring, when my life was a bit more exciting.

But Hubby and I had just watched the movie Julie & Julia. I was inspired by the main character, Julie, who started her project (to cook all the recipes in one of Julia Child’s cookbooks in one year) on a mid-August day. She didn’t wait till it seemed like an obvious time to start something so momentous. She just went for it. And so did I. 🙂

So anyway, Day 9.

Hmmm…let’s see, aside from the usual of cooking, cleaning, and caring for the family, what all did I do?

Ah, that’s right, I did my hair.

Why mention this on a homesteading blog?

Well, just because I’m a homesteader doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my appearance. I like to look nice as much as most people.

Sure, there are days when my hair goes up in a bun and my flyaway bangs get pinned back, or I throw on a hat. But often I like to “do” my hair.

The pictures below were taken a couple years ago when my hair was a bit longer than it currently is, but shows a good contrast between my “Hermione hair” as my man calls it, and how I like to style it on a regular basis.

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Before, with my hair like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter – I had gone to a party where we dressed 80’s style, thus the off-the-shoulder shirt. But then. those are coming back in style, aren’t they?

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After, with my wild hair tamed down (much easier to keep that way in the dry air of Nevada rather than the humid air of Oregon!)

However, in the spirit of reducing (my time, the energy used, etc), I try to find the fastest, easiest way that works for my hair with as little hair product as possible. And now that it’s growing out, that means straightening it, no hair mousse needed like when I let it go curly. Yes, I am blessed with hair I don’t have to wash every day, and it’s cooperative enough that unless I get caught in the rain, I can straighten it one day, and not have to mess with it (other than brushing) for 3-4 days afterward. So I spend 20 minutes on my hair once or twice a week to get it looking how I like it. Then all the other days, it’s usually less than a minute. Can’t get much easier than that!

Ok, let’s see, what else did I do all day?

Princess girl and I went on our Bible Study Date. It’s a weekly date that we have. She wants to have more in-depth study time, and I know that if I don’t make it a “date”, the chance of it getting pushed under the rug in lieu of “more important things” like dishes and laundry (heavy sarcasm there) is all too likely.

And, I started working on a belt. This is where the “failure” part comes in. I found instructions online of how to make a paracord belt. I figured it was high time I give it a try. I want a new belt, and I like the idea of having lots of paracord on me. I typically wear a survival bracelet, but I want to change things up.

So, I worked and worked while watching TV with the family. It took me 3/4 of the belt to finally really get the weave right so that it was consistently looking good. And then I ran out of paracord. And still a good 6 inches left till it was the right length. Grrrrrr!

So I ripped it all out and I will start over tomorrow with a different color that we have more of. So, yes, my first attempt at making a belt out of paracord failed. But as Adam from Mythbusters likes to say, “Failure is always an option.” Because even though it didn’t work out the first time, I learned a lot in the process.

And that’s a great attitude to have for a homesteader. Failure is going to happen. Whether it’s that your tomatoes didn’t do so well this year, or the litter of rabbit kits all died from heat exposure (please don’t ask me how I know 😦 ), you are going to fail somewhere, sometime in your journey. The question is, what do you do with that? Do you give up? Or do you collect the data and analyze what happened and do better next time? It’s all up to you.