Delicious Semi-Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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So, I have revamped my pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe about a million times, and I think I’ve come up with a pretty good version that isn’t too naughty.  I really wanted to use all whole wheat flour, but it just doesn’t taste quite right (kinda like a brick), so I have settled for half regular flour and half whole wheat.  This is a super easy recipe…enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 & 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 & 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 & 1/2 cups sugar

1 can (15 oz) 100% pure pumpkin

4 large eggs

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (mini chocolate chips are better in muffins…plain and simple)

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flours, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs and oil in a mixing bowl and beat on low just until blended.  Stir in flour mixture just until moistened.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  I like to use this handy dandy scoop so that they are uniform.  Bake 25-30 mins.

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Apple Picking + No Sugar Applesauce Recipe

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My grandad had a small apple orchard when I was growing up.  I remember picking the apples, mostly to secretly feed to his cows.  He’s been gone for almost seven years, and with no one to tend to the orchard, the apples are pretty funky and are mostly food for the bears and deer that outnumber people in Highland County, VA.  Anyway, in an effort to recreate that activity with my own kids, we decided to visit my best friend for the weekend in Brevard, NC and take our children to Skytop Orchard located in nearby Flat Rock, NC.

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I have to say, this was quite the operation and much bigger than I expected.  You can buy pre-picked apples or venture out into the orchard to pick your own.  We grabbed our empty apple baskets, a wagon, and a map outlining where the varieties of apples were growing, and went to it.  It didn’t take long for the kids to fill the baskets, and then they played on the playground while two of the adults stood in line to get the apple doughnuts.  YOU MUST GET THE DOUGHNUTS…trust me.

When we got home, I made some super easy applesauce that is amazing.  I researched some recipes, but they all added sugar, which I think is completely unnecessary.  Here is how I made mine:

Ingredients:

4 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and quartered

1 cup water

Cinnamon to taste (I just sprinkled some on top)

1 tsp lemon zest

Dash of salt

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat an simmer for 20 minutes.  Mash or process in food processor, depending on how chunky you prefer your applesauce.  Enjoy!  Sorry I don’t have pictures…I was too eager to eat it!

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Laundry Detergent Recipe

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Wow, have I been a slack blogger!  It’s no coincidence that my last post was July 2nd, and our surprise mini-donkey, Pearl, was born on July 9th…what a ride!  It is time for me to get back into my blogging grove, and I can think of no better way than to share my laundry detergent recipe with you!  I have tried many different natural commercial detergents, but come back to this one time and again.  This recipe makes enough to last my family for FOUR MONTHS, providing significant savings!

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Ingredients:

2 bars Fels Naptha soap

2 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

2 cups Borax

I shave the bars of soap with a cheese grater, then place all of the ingredients in my food processor until it is a powder-type consistency.  

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For one load of laundry, you only need to use TWO TEASPOONS of the powder.  It works in both conventional and HE washing machines.  Enjoy!

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How to Cut a Pineapple

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For a long time I was intimidated by this spiky fruit.  I don’t know if it was all of the episodes of Psych I’ve watched or if it was the fact they were on sale at Earth Fare, but recently I bought one.   When I got home, I grabbed a knife and cutting board, watched a how-to video on youtube, and my world is better for it.  Here’s how:

First, cut off the top and end:

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Then, slice down the sides.  You may have to slice again, as there will still be some remaining divots, or you can use the pointy side of a veggie peeler to dig them out:

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You now have a pineapple cylinder.  Now, cut into slices of your desired thickness:

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Then, take the end of your knife and cut around the core of each slice:

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Push out the core:

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If you wish, cut your pineapple slices into chunks!

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Yum!  Now you have a big bowl of sweet snackin’!

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Easy Remedy for Equine Rain Rot

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We had an extremely cold, damp winter and spring.  This left our mini-donkey, Macy, with a rain rot issue.  From what I understand, rain rot is bacterial.  I diagnosed her after discussing her symptoms with someone who has had horses for many years, and after viewing photos posted online.  She had a large patch of fur that was missing along her “Jesus Cross” on her back, and her skin was scaly and nasty looking.  In my research, I found there are two home remedies that people swear by. One is by using a bleach and water mixture, and the other is Listerine and water.  I decided to go with the Listerine because I like to start with the least harsh treatment possible and because it made sense to me that if it is bacterial, Listerine may be effective due to its antiseptic properties.

OK, so here is the picture of her rain rot before I treated it:20140622-215336-78816353.jpg

All you need is a spray bottle, Listerine, and water.  I did a 50/50 mixture of Listerine and water.20140622-215655-79015165.jpg

I sprayed it on twice a day for about a week, and then brushed her.  After each brushing, I sprayed down the brush really well with the solution and let it set in the sun, because the bacterial will stay in the brush.20140622-215654-79014070.jpg

It worked wonderfully.  I began to see improvement within about two days, and here is what it looks like after two weeks:

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Her fur has grown back…good as new!

 

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Homemade Vanilla Extract & Infused Sugar

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If you are going to attempt any homestead-ish type of project, vanilla extract is by far the easiest and most gratifying thing to undertake.  Homemade vanilla extract is so much better than the fake stuff you buy in the grocery store, and making it yourself is a huge money saver.  I have seen a 4oz bottle of “real” extract for $16 in the health food store.  And here’s the cool part…this homemade extract lasts TEN YEARS in your cabinet!  Vanilla extract and vanilla infused sugar make excellent gifts, so you need to get it started soon for Christmas. You only need three things:

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A Mason Jar

3 Madagascar Vanilla Beans (or beans of your choice)

1 Cup of Vodka (I prefer not the really cheap stuff)

First, cut your vanilla beans up the middle, lengthwise so the “meat” is exposed, leaving about 1/2-1 inch still in tact at the top.

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Then, place them in the mason jar and pour the vodka over them.  I always triple the recipe because I give a lot away, so I use 9 vanilla beans and 3 cups of vodka.

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Place jar in a dark place, such as a cabinet or pantry, and give it a shake once a week or so. You can begin to use the extract after about 2 weeks, but I wait 6 months for full extraction before taking the beans out and running the extract through a mesh strainer.  If I am using it before the 6 months, I just stick my measuring spoon right into the jar, I don’t worry about straining it.  I bottle it for gift giving in these amber bottles.

And here’s the best part, then you take the beans out after they are fully extracted and place them in a lidded container and pour regular white sugar over them.  Within about two weeks you will have vanilla infused sugar that seriously smells and tastes like heaven.  The spice shop I frequent sells this sugar for $6 for 4oz.  I put the sugar in these mason jars, and together with the vanilla extract, it makes a really unique gift.

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Summer Chopped Salad Recipe

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Ok, there are a million ways to make a delicious chopped salad, but this is my favorite.  Something about the avocado and salami makes me crave it.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1 ear of fresh corn

1/4 pint of grape tomatoes

1 brocolli crown

4 oz salami

6 oz deli turkey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Cut the avocado into chunks, cut the corn off of the cobb (do not cook it!), cut the grape tomatoes into quarters, finely chop the brocolli, and chop the salami and turkey into small chunks and mix it all together.  If your avocado is really ripe like mine was, it sort of disappears and almost makes a “dressing.”  Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice on top and mix again.  This will make two large servings and saves well in the fridge.  It could also easily be modified to your taste.  I really, really hate raw corn and raw brocolli, but somehow it all works mixed together.  Enjoy!

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How to Make a Flower Pot Tower

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I am trying to figure out as many natural ways as possible to deter mosquitoes from our outdoor living areas.  I love the pungent flowers of marigolds, and fortunately mosquitoes hate it, as well as other annoying pests.  Today I completed a decorative little project that only took about 30 minutes start to finish and will hopefully keep the little bloodsuckers away.

Materials I used:

1 piece of rebar

1 large clay flower pot (with hole in bottom)

4 smaller clay flower pots (with hole in bottom)

1 large bag of soil mix (I used compost)

6 marigold plants

 

First, I drove a piece of rebar into the ground right beside my patio:

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Then, i slid a large clay flower pot onto the rebar, all the way to the ground:

1st pot

 

Then, I filled it with soil and slid the second pot onto the rebar and kind of tilted it to the side.  I would suggest overfilling the pot with soil, because as you add the pots and compost, it will get pushed down quite a bit:

second pot

 

Continue to slide the pots onto the rebar, tilting to the side (alternating) and filling with soil.  Then, you can plant your flowers.  I also think this could make a great small herb garden:

final pot

 

 

 

 

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