Trail Time

Scenic drives and nature hikes. I don’t think there’s a better season for those things than autumn.trail1

Fall officially began on September 23 this year and over the past two weeks the weather has been absolutely glorious in my neck of the woods.

As part of our schooling, we aim to go on an outdoor adventure once a week. It’s a right in the schedule book. But because it’s been so beautiful lately, we’ve gotten in a few more walks than normal – and I’m L.O.V.I.N.G. it!

A hearty hike will often lead to a hearty appetite, and I found a recipe for “Trail Mix Cookies” in my mother’s recipe box. They’re scrumptious and are a perfect way to end a walk in the woods.

If you need a new cookie recipe, maybe you could give this one a try. And if you need a new outlook on life, maybe you could try a scenic drive or a nature hike. There’s nothing quite like enjoying God’s creation to give a person a fresh outlook on life!

 

Trail Mix Cookies

1 c. sunflower seed butter

1 c. sweetened coconut flakes

½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips*

½ c. dried cranberries

½ c. dates, chopped

¼ c. brown sugar

¼ c. sunflower seedstrail2

¼ c. maple syrup

1 large egg

½ t. vanilla

½ t. baking soda

¼ t. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (using a stand mixer).

Drop by generous tablespoon full on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until set but still soft.

Cool on the cookie sheet.

Store leftovers in a covered container.

Can be frozen.

 

*Warning: Most chocolate chips contain soy and some contain dairy. Read your labels.trail

However, if you use Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips you’ll have made a cookie that is

gluten, dairy, corn and soy free! And your food-allergy friends will LOVE you!

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Better Beans for Black Bean Salad

There are numerous quick, easy, and healthy meals that can be made using beans.

(I’m going to share a super-tasty black bean salad recipe with you today!)

And opening a can of beans is train-a-monkey-to-do-it easy!

But is it best?beans1

 

Don’t get me wrong. BEANS are GREAT!

They’re inexpensive, versatile, full of protein & fiber, and loaded with nutrients.

They’ve even been called “the undervalued superfood”. They’re fabulous!

I hope you’re using lots of them!

 

But today I’m asking you to

rethink your bean-BUYING…

if you’re buying them by the can.

 

Here are three things to ponder when considering a can of beans vs. a bag of dried beansbeans

        1. COST. Buying them by the pound, in a bag, is much cheaper.
        2. HEALTH. When you get them in a bag, you control what goes into them. Ever noticed the level of sodium in canned goods?
        3. FLAVOR. Beans can be cooked to perfection with your own spices and flavoring added… not taken from a tin can processed who-knows-how-long-ago.

 

When I was first married, I would grab a can of beans from the store shelf to add to a meal without a second thought. But as our family grew and I became more money and health-conscious, I began to purchase my beans by the pound, dried.

 

It did take a while getting used to preparing the beans myself… but it really isn’t difficult.*

And sure, it takes a bit of planning ahead. But it also cut back on the grocery budget (as “planning” often does!).

I like to soak my beans overnight and then cook up a big batch the next day, saving a few cups in the refrigerator and packaging the rest up to store in the freezer for another meal.

 

I’d encourage you to consider the benefits of buying and cooking up your own beans.

And while you’re considering it, check out the scrumptious recipe I promised you at the beginning of this post!

 

BLACK BEAN SALAD

Combine these first five ingredients. Whip them together to be used as the dressing.

½ c. lime juice

½ c. olive oil

1 minced garlic clove

1 t. saltbeansalad

1/8 t. cayenne pepper.

In a separate bowl, combine the following:

½ c. chopped fresh cilantro

4 c. black beans, rinsed and drained

½ c. corn kernels

1 avacado – peeled, pitted and diced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

6 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, finely diced

 

Mix the vegetables and beans together and toss with the dressing. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more. Serve with tortilla chips.

Goes great with burgers on the grill.

Tastes wonderful eaten as a side dish.

 ______________________________________________

 

*For a free “Cooking Guide for Dried Beans”, click HERE.

To learn nine reasons why YOU should eat beans, click HERE.

Homemade Sassafras Root Beer

We prepared our first batch of homemade root beer last summer while staying at Grandpa and Grandma’s. It was a delicious adventure!root beer

It started out because of a craving. On a scorching summer day, I was craving a can of pop. (Are you with me? Every once in  a while, an ice cold carbonated drink is just what one longs for in the dog days!) And for our family, soda pop is a real treat. We don’t have it very often.

The trouble? I have kids that can’t tolerate ingredients found in most sodas so we either find certain beverages that they can have or I get to be creative with making ‘special drinks’ for them.

All that to say, it was hot, soda pop was my craving, and we were in a bind. No beverages available that we could all enjoy and a Momma with a bit too much time on her hands (apparently!).

Now, sassafras is a plant that grows wild all over the U.S. and was the traditional root for what we call root beer. I remembered finding lots of sassafras growing on our property as a kid, so I decided that since I was on my old stomping grounds I would see just how easy (or difficult) it would be to make some homemade root beer from the plants.

I found a good recipe here that I’ll be sharing (below). This site also has a nice description of where to find sassafras plants and what the leaves look like – essential for the novice! Check out the article if you need some assistance. (My tip for the doubting sassafras hunter? Just break a stem and sniff! If you’ve got the right plant, it should smell like – you guessed it – root beer!)sassafras

Motivated by a craving, and having located a recipe, we set out on an adventure! Here it is… in brief.

After announcing the idea to an eager and energetic crew (my kids and a few cousins), I climbed in the cab of my dad’s 1978 Chevy pick-up truck (a pretty green colored camper special) and gave the big, rusted door a hard slam. Eight kids (ages 4-10) piled in back, whoopin’ and hollerin’. I cracked open the center back window and advised them to stay on their rears while I was driving through the field and neighboring orchard in search of the precious root. Or else! That worked… for a few minutes.

As we bounced along, teeth rattling in wide grins seen through the rear-view mirror, I thought about the fact that even if the soda didn’t turn out, the memories we’d make would last!

Before long, we’d located a whole row of sassafras saplings along the edge of the woods across from the cherry trees. Within a short amount of time, we’d pulled up a few bundles of the precious young plants and had loaded back into the truck for the jarring ride back to Grandma’s.

I used some pruning shears to trim the plants at the house and had the kids hall the tops to the burn pile out back. Then we scrubbed (okay, I had them do all of this part!) the roots at the hand-pump outdoors and put the clean roots in plastic bags. These we placed in the refrigerator to store until the cooking process the following day. (Having to wait a day just made the homemade drink taste that much better, I think! Nothing like a bit of anticipation to heighten the senses!)sassafras2

The following day, we cut up the roots, boiled them with some molasses and a few spices, and boy did it smell good! Then we strained the roots out, added sugar and finished the process. After cooling the syrup down, we added some of it to a bottle of club soda and (tadaa!) we’d made our very own sassafras root beer!

Want to give it a try? Start watching for some sassafras and get it while the stems are still young and tender. And, like I said earlier, even if the soda doesn’t turn out just the way you were hoping, at least you’ll have some fun memories to treasure forever!

The recipe we followed is below.

Homemade Sassafras Root Beer Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.

Ingredients

  • Several roots (including some green stems) from sassafras saplings, about 30-40 inches worth of 1/4-inch thick roots (enough to fill one cup when you chop them into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds (can sub fennel)
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1-inch of stick cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts soda water

Method

sassafras-root-beer-1.jpgsassafras-root-beer-2.jpg sassafras-root-beer-3.jpgsassafras-root-beer-4.jpg

1 Scrub the roots clean of any dirt.  Cut the roots into 1/2-inch long pieces. (The roots can be tough, if you have a pair of pruning shears, they work great to cut the roots.) If you have a few green stems, you can include them too, but you should have mostly roots.  Cut up as much as you need to fill one cup.  Put the roots into a small pot and cover with 4 cups of water.  Add the cloves, anise seeds, allspice berries, and cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer for 25 minutes.  Add the molasses and simmer for 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat.

2 Strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve lined with a paper towel.  Rinse out the pot.  Return the liquid to the pot.  Add the sugar, heat until just a simmer and the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

3 To assemble the root beer, fill a glass with ice cubes, add the syrup and soda water in a 1:2 ratio, so 1/3 cup of syrup to 2/3 cups of soda water.  Add more soda water if you want it more diluted, add more syrup if you want it stronger.

Ice Pack

Spring is here!

As the days get warmer, the more running, jumping, kicking, and active play will happen out-of-doors… without the layer upon layer of outerwear.

We are soooo happy! (And all the children {AND their mothers} said “Yippee!”.)

With the increase of activity (and the decrease of padded clothing) comes a greater potential for injury. So let’s not begin to fret and worry; let’s just be prepared by making an ICE PACK… ahead of time. Just in case! It’s very simple and it only uses two ingredients: rubbing alcohol and water.

Homemade Ice Pack Recipe:ice pack

Combine one part rubbing alcohol with three parts water.

Place in a one-gallon zip lock bag. Seal tightly. Place this bag into another one-gallon zip lock. (In other words, double bag it!).

Lay it flat in the freezer for 3 hours and it will turn to gel. It gets really cold but it’ll never harden!

When in need, place the ice pack over a warm, damp cloth on the skin for 10 – 20 minutes at a time. When finished, place it back in the freezer until it’s needed again. (It takes about 1 hour to refreeze it.)

*******************************

Now, it’s confession time. I am NOT a medical doctor and I will not be giving you medical advice today. I am simply sharing a recipe for a homemade ice pack. {In other words, I am NOT qualified to tell you when to use (or NOT use) the aforementioned ice pack!!!}

However, I do have a wonderful book written by one of America’s leading pediatricians and I will now quote him in his book “How to Raise a Healthy Child…” In a section titled ‘Sprains, Strains, and Fractures’ Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D. states:

The bone and muscle structure in children differs significantly from that of adults, and this affects the type of injury that occurs to arms and legs. Sprains, which involve the tearing or stretching of a ligament, are seldom seen in young children because the ligaments are not yet firmly attached to the bone. Growing children are more likely to suffer damage to the epiphysis, which is the soft end of the bone where growth occurs. If your child twists his wrist, knee, or ankle, and the swelling and pain persist for two days or more, see a doctor because, if it is a fracture of the epiphysis, it requires casting…

                If your child suffers a leg injury from twisting an ankle or a knee, there is no need to seek medical attention immediately. Delaying for a couple of days to see if the pain and swelling subside will not impede the treatment, if the injury proves to be a fracture and medical help must be sought. Encourage your child to keep his weight off the injured member and apply ice packs to the injured area to reduce the swelling. This will cease to be of value after an hour or so, and many doctors recommend that heat then be applied to improve the circulation in the injured member.foot

                I should note, in all candor, that this is one of the many situations in which the “science” of medicine is less than precise. There is vast disagreement over whether the application of cold or the application of heat is the best treatment for a sprained ankle… no one really know which works best for sprained ankles – heat or cold. The important thing is to immobilize the ankle and wrap it with an elastic bandage to prevent motion that will aggravate the injury. Just be sure that the bandage is not applied so tightly that it cuts off circulation. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that the best treatment for a sprain is to have your child walk on it at once. Pain is nature’s way of telling you that something is wrong, so if your child’s ankle hurts, the message is “keep off!”

Later in the book, Dr. M mentions that it is estimated that about 98% of the x-rays ordered for arm and leg injuries for children do not reveal a fracture, so it is obvious that many are ordered frivolously. Waiting two days, and using common sense, seems prudent. However, as stated earlier, I am not giving you any medical advice. You are solely responsible for the health care decisions of your own child. I just hope the ice pack comes in handy sometime. Because it’s perfect for wrapping around bumps, bruises, aches & pains! And it is such a cinch to make!

Clean Windows &Young Kids

Cleaning your house

while your kids are still growing

is like shoveling the walk

before it stops snowing.

–Phyllis Diller

The same could be said of washing windows, in my opinion. Why do we even try, Mommas? How many times have I washed the windows and put away the paper towel only to turn and find two palms pressed against the glass with a nose and forehead leaning firmly between them, innocently staring out the very pane I just wiped! Ahhhh!!!window3

As the frustration begins to well up in my soul, the words of older, wiser women come to mind. “Before you know it, they’ll be gone and you’ll be wishing their little fingerprints were still on your windows to remind you of the days when they were at home.”

Rather than melting in anguish, I choose to speak truth to myself. Yes, I need to be diligent and clean my home… and even the windows on occasion. But no, as long as there are little people living here, the windows won’t stay spotless for long. Neither will the house, for that matter. Things naturally tend toward disorder, not order. And that’s okay! I need to keep things in perspective.  A clean, healthy home is important; relationships with family are essential.

So that means if you stop in for a visit (and please do!), you’ll most likely notice smudged windows. They shouldn’t be filthy; we’ll be washing them this week. But there will probably be visible evidence that I am a blessed woman with busy and curious children in my home! And that’s the way I want it.

(In case you’re inspired to do some window washing of your own, which isn’t likely after reading the last several paragraphs (wink), here is my homemade natural  Glass Cleaner recipe.)windows2

GLASS CLEANER

4 oz distilled water

4 oz distilled white vinegar

1/8 t. liquid Ivory detergent

3 drops peppermint (or other) essential oil

(Put all the ingredients in a spray bottle and get to work!)