Tuesday, April 8, 2014

{cooking with essential oils} Basil Manicotti

It's been a VERY long time since I've posted anything. Not really sure how to fill in the gaps, so I'll just dig right in...

In the past few months I've started using essential oils. I have replaced all of the over the counter meds that I use to use on a regular basis (like antacids, ibuprofen and other pain relievers). I also use them for so many things in our home, like cleaning, adding them to water, using them for bug bites, etc.  But tonight was my first experience cooking with them.

I should preface this with telling you that when you heat essential oils, they lose most (if not all) of their therapeutic benefits. That being said, if you're in a pinch and forget, hypothetically, basil for the sauce for your manicotti, hypothetically, then you can use the oils as a substitute!  The flavor in essential oils is wonderful because it is a extremely concentrated.

I threw this manicotti recipe together using a few different things I found online. Then I realized I could use my Basil oil in it to heighten the flavor! (also I forgot to pick up fresh basil at the store... hypothetically.)

I started with putting the pasta on to cook, then mixed up the ricotta for the inside.

Then the sauce- I got tinned whole tomatoes instead of sauce. I was sure to get the ones imported from Italy because I wanted that great flavor! After I poured the tomatoes into a bowl, I cut the tomatoes coarsely with my kitchen shears. Then I added some salt, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of nutmeg to the tomatoes.

I added a few drops of Basil oil to the tomatoes... then stirred it up! (I added slightly too much... I think one or two drops would be plenty for this recipe.)

[A note about oils: For this recipe I used Heritage Essential Oils. I am also a consultant for doTERRA oils. I love both brands. If you have questions about either, let me know!]

[Also, If you'd like the actual recipe, please let me know... I'm mostly posting this to show how oils can be used in cooking!]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

{life} struggle, health, and hope

I have begun yet another journey. I've struggled my entire life with a lot of the same problems that seem to keep coming back again and again. The past few weeks these issues have snuck in and turned my world upside-down once again.

I find that every so often I go through a refining time in my life. I guess this is true for most everyone of Faith. Many times I know it's coming. I feel a gentle tug from God that says to me "hold on... it's about to get rough". And sure enough, a certain amount of time goes by and I am thrust into the depths.

My struggles with anxiety seem to have gotten worse with age. Every birthday brings another year of new things to worry about. Or so it seems. I know there are certain foundations on which I build my faith, and when my life is shaken I know there will be an end to the struggle, and I know I will be closer to my Lord when it's done. But when I'm in the throws of battle I feel that there will be no end, and I am forsaken.

But, I am not.

My most oppressive struggle is with my health. I am learning to connect the physical with the mental and spiritual. It is all tied together. God gives us the tools to heal. He gives us the way. We must follow. Our bodies are a temple. We must work to keep this vessel clean and whole.
I don't want to be misunderstood. I know that sometimes God sends us through times of illness and, while I don't understand His reasoning, I know that there is a plan. But I can't sit around and eat potato chips and ice cream, and expect God to honor it. I am finding that God has already given me a lot of the things I need to heal my body if I will use them. The health issues I struggle with are ones that can be changed with lifestyle change.

I am on a new journey researching the ways my eating habits can honor God. I'm not talking about going on a diet. I mean, eating in a way that is not putting lots of things in my body that my body can't digest, or process. I know everyone needs to come to their own conclusions about what they can or cannot eat. Everyone has their own journey. But I'm learning so much just in the few days I've been researching.  **side note- Did you know that when we eat grains our bodies don't digest them very well, and cannot absorb the nutrients? They all contain anti-nutrients. They also contain something called Phytic Acid which is not digestible in humans. We should be eating grains that have been sprouted, soaked, or fermented (like sourdough) to break this acid down and make the nutrients more readily absorbed in our bodies. I thought this was interesting... read up on it! **

My struggle is by no means over. I still don't have a handle on all this- I am still fighting this battle. But I feel that I am on the downward slope now- It's not as dark as it has been. I don't know when I will feel peace again, but I have hope that it will come.

***If you are interested in researching different healthier eating habits, check out these sites. I've been finding that most people are able to heal most of their ailments with a diet change. Our food is medicine.
I have found so much information that is very interesting. - this link will take you to a great "get started" page
The Weston A. Price Foundation - I'm still reading over this, but it seems really great so far.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

{food} Ice Cream Sandwiches!

It's been a really long time since I've blogged about anything going on in our lives.  I hate how life can seem so busy. When I stop and think about it, though, I realize how blessed I am, how simple my life really is, and how I can clutter my mind and my every day goings-on with things that really don't matter.

Well, today it is a beautiful Spring Sunday and we are about to go spend some time with family, so I am making Ice Cream Sandwiches. (Yes, I capitalized that. I don't think you understand how much I love Ice Cream Sandwiches! :)

About a week or so ago I picked up an inexpensive ice cream maker.  It sat around in it's box taking up space in my dining room, so yesterday I decided to make it feel useful. I went out and bought all of the whipping cream, half and half, rock salt, etc... and Brach's Starbright peppermints. My mom use to make peppermint ice cream with Brach's Starbright mints when I was growing up, and it was one of my favorites. So, it was the very first ice cream I wanted to try my hand at. (another time I will make a post about making ice cream... I lost my head yesterday and forgot to get out my camera while I was making it)

I made the smallest batch of ice cream that the recipe suggested. It still made quite a bit. Too much. So today I decided to take that peppermint ice cream and give it a new home... inside two chocolatey cookies... where it belongs... where it would feel loved.

Since I had such a huge batch of ice cream to work with, and since I have a lot of cousins to visit with today, I made a double batch of the cookie batter.

I found the recipe on Pinterest. The link led me to the Instructables site which has a ton of great how-to's. You can find the original recipe here. This is such an easy recipe you may never feel the need to buy your Ice Cream Sandwiches again... especially after tasting them! These Ice Cream Sandwiches are so unbelievably good.

The first step is to take your ice cream out to soften. Be sure you are keeping track of your time here because you don't want it too melty. After putting these together I decided since the ice cream was homemade it was probably soft enough to spread straight out of the freezer. After I let it soften some, it seemed a little too melty. Next time I will probably just take straight from the freezer and spread it out.

The next step calls for melting the butter.
I chose to melt mine in a pot, because sometimes I feel it is against my ethics to use a microwave. (I did microwave my leftovers for lunch, though, so I guess this ethical mood only strikes so often. I say often that I lack the strength of my conviction... case and point)

While the butter was melting I added the sugar to a bowl and prepared the pan with parchment paper. 

I used Reynolds parchment/foil. It works really well because you can fold the edges around the pan and they will keep shape.

Once the butter melted, I added it to the bowl with the sugar, and then added one egg. 

**Let me take this moment to ask you to look at how beautiful these eggs are! I bought them last week from someone who lives nearby. If you have a local source for eggs, please start buying them! They are the most beautiful things, and they taste so much better than store-bought eggs. If you must buy from a grocer, try to purchase free range eggs. You will notice a huge difference in color and taste.**

I added flour...


...and then cocoa powder...


After all of the ingredients were combined, I used an off-set spatula to spread the batter onto the parchment-prepared pan. It's difficult to tell if the batter is spread evenly or not, but mine seemed to come out fine anyway.

It seemed to be the easiest way to add the batter in dollops around the pan, and then spread.

Using an off-set spatula really helped this job.

The batter was so nice and chocolatey. I'm so glad I chose this recipe as my first test for Ice Cream Sandwiches. There are a couple other recipes I found that I want to try, but this one didn't require chilling the dough before using it, and this one also didn't require cutting out the dough and baking like cookies.

Once the cookie/cake part has come out of the oven and cooled, the recipes called for cutting it in half and adding the ice cream to one side and topping with the other half. I made a double batch of cookie, so I took the entire cookie out of the pan by lifting the parchment from the pan and transferring it to a cooling rack, and left the entire thing whole.

I cooled the pan in the freezer really quickly, and lined it with saran wrap. I placed the first cookie in the bottom of the pan, right side down. Then plopped the ice cream on the cookie, spreading here and there, then topped it with the second cookie. I pulled the saran up around the sides to try to help form them, and keep the ice cream inside.

They went immediately into the freezer until they were firm.

They turned out so wonderfully with the peppermint ice cream. They were a hit with the family!

And just a note: If you, for whatever reason, decide on a really hot day to take your Ice Cream Sandwiches in the car with you someplace, no matter how hard you try, and no matter if you try to cool your car off before you get in with your Ice Cream Sandwiches, they will more than likely turn out like this...

But they will still taste really good! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

a sad goodbye

A week ago this past Friday, on March 16th, we said goodbye to my Father-in-law, Bill.

It was very unexpected. We received a call that he had fallen and was unresponsive. That was Monday evening. By later that night we found he had suffered a stroke, and by wednesday we received the news that his condition was very poor. By 1a.m. Friday morning he had passed.

There is so much about him that I loved, and so much I don't want to forget.

He loved to pick. and pick. and pick. After getting to know him better, it was easy to see where my husband gets it. And he was a jokester. My husband talks of how his dad would rig up different little booby traps to "get" them when they were younger. He also tells of the time when he and his Mom came home to a mysteriously dark house, only to find his Dad had been waiting outside to tap on the windows to scare the poo out of them. And there's the time my husband talks of when his dad took them up to the old covered bridge nearby and hid in the shadows with big pieces of sheet metal. When all the kids were on the bridge, he shook the sheet metal and it made a eerie ghost-like sound and scared them all to death.

And there were those sayings he liked to say ALL the time. "I've been better, just can't remember when" was one of his favorites we all heard on SO many occasions.

He loved history. He was a War Between the States history buff (I would be corrected if I said Civil War). He was a member of reenacting groups for years and could tell you any informations that you wanted to know (and sometimes even if you didn't want to know) about the War, or any other War, war plane, weapon, uniform... anything.

He was very proud of his family's Scottish heritage-- all things Celtic, for that matter. His family's decent was from the Stewart of Appin clan. He played the bodhran drum and penny whistles in two different Celtic bands and would break out into Celtic ballads or verse in a thick Scottish brogue with no warning. I loved it.

If you knew my father-in-law very well-- or even if you had even met him only once-- you knew that he was a storyteller. A certified, went-to-the-conventions, member-of-the-guild, storyteller. There were so many that I heard more than once-- more than two or three times, for that matter. I don't ever want to forget his stories but even now, only a little over a week after he has passed, I find that I can't remember the stories. We had a Halloween party last year and towards the end we had him tell some stories for the kids. (It was actually me who wanted to hear them, though.)

He is missed more than words can express. He wasn't my father, but I loved him. He accepted me into the family and I knew he loved me. There is a hole in our lives now that will never be filled by anyone else. It's going to take a very long time to move on.

Bill with my Brother-in-law

Bill is on the left, doing what he loved.

If you knew him well, you've seen this expression many times.

This is how we will always remember him. 

oh, that pipe.

We said goodbye to Bill at a memorial at St. Peter's Episcopal church, then celebrated his life by throwing a proper Scottish wake at a local pub. The Celtic bands he played in joined us to play and sing, and Bangers and Mash were served (his favorite). I think he would have been so proud.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

{garden} Spring planning!

Today it is beautiful outside. It is a beautiful Spring day. On the last day of January. I will admit, I want snow. I want a good ol' shut down the town snow (I live in SC, so every time it snows, everyone is stuck at home until it thaws). But it looks like I'll have to make do with this unbelievable 60 degree sunny weather for a bit longer.

It has been so warm this season that I still have parsley growing from last summer. I wonder if I'll even have to plant more this spring.

But today, this beautiful weather has me thinking of spring and gardens. Last year I planted a vegetable garden, lots of flowers around the foundation of the house, and an herb garden. That all lasted about a month. Then it got hot-- really hot. And when the heat comes, I tend to stay inside. So, all of my plants died. I couldn't seem to keep them watered well, and I didn't get the flower beds weeded regularly. Now they are an overgrown mess of I-don't-wanna.

yep... embarrassing.
Last week it was beautiful outside one day and I got out and moved our Rose of Sharon tree and my rosemary and sage bushes so they'd all have a little more room. this part of the garden doesn't look quite so bad, but it's still a mess.

Notice the nasty partially-raised beds beside the building... These will be taken out before re-building a raised bed... also the wooden panel needs to be removed.

We began taking down the wooden privacy fence and just didn't get it finished. This is on the list for getting the yard ready for gardening!

I am ashamed of how my gardens look now. But this is a new beginning.

This year I will plan my gardens, and I will tend them. I plan to have plenty to put up for the winter. I see this as my duty. It is something that I love, and it can be a real help to our little family if I will keep it up. There is so much money to be saved if one will plant and plan. I found a site online that allows you to plan your garden in square feet.

This is my idea for the vegetables this year. It's a 4x8 square foot garden. I need to build a raised bed this size and mark off the square foot grid.

Click here if you'd like to make your own!
So... as you can see there is much work to be done, and my previous experience with haphazard gardening has NOT worked. This spring I plan to make a list of the things that need to be done to get the garden areas up to par, and then I will have a plan to follow, which hopefully means I will get it done!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

{wedding} Reception (a lot of photos!)

While we were looking for a venue for our reception we quickly became a little discouraged with the high cost for anything that was remotely different. We were looking into farms in the area because that really suits our style, but they were all very high priced (for our budget). In desperation I posted on facebook asking if anyone of my friends knew of a barn we could use, or tents that they would let us borrow. I almost immediately got a response from a couple people suggesting we look into The Dutch Barn. It is very near where we live so I called and went and looked it over. It was perfect. The price was even more perfect. (side note- we did, however, have an issue trying to get our deposit back which I heard later is not uncommon with this venue. But eventually he did give our deposit back and I honestly don't think he was trying to cheat us, I think his rental business is just not run very efficiently) 
I was beside myself with excitement when we saw it.

The license plates are not a permanent thing. They just happened to be up the day we took photos.

We booked that week.

I started looking around online for barn decor ideas staightaway. I found so many fun ideas that eventually I had to stop myself from looking at any more. I had more ideas than I was going to be able to work with!

My parents were unbelievable in helping us plan our wedding and reception. They helped us purchase lots of paper lanterns and burlap, and so many other little details to help us make it perfect. I scoured the internet for the best prices on centerpiece containers and floral arrangement ideas. We waited until the Christmas lights came out and bought lots and lots of them. I got busy making banners (I only ended up making 2, but that's ok :) and gathering ideas for dessert table and gift table. We had decided very early on that we wanted to have pint glasses for our guest favors. We started looking around for printers since we would not be able to print them ourselves (we don't have a setup for printing on glass).

We got the key at the beginning of the week so we could get in the barn and get it cleaned up and sweep out the hay and cobwebs, and get to decorating! Family and friends were so, so helpful!

we forgot to iron the linens... oops! Good thing I don't care about things like that :)

My Daddy made these perfect boxes for all of the tables for use to put the flowers in. I love them. 

Let me tell you about these flowers.
::prepare for long story::
I went our entire engagement with no meltdowns until the night before our rehearsal. I had gone the day before that EVERYWHERE in town looking for mums. I wanted potted mums to place all over the barn. I love fall flowers and mums were just the right choice. I had gone to all of the local nurseries (I had wanted to support some local business) but, to no avail. They had none. Well, they had them, but they were all half dead and would not have made it though the wedding. So, on the way home, in desperation, we stopped at Lowe's.  The entire way there I was praying that they would have some. And I'm telling you, God does care about the silly little things that we want sometimes, no matter how trivial... because walking up to the garden center, there sat a brand-spankin' new shipment of rust colored (THE color I had been hunting all over town) mums. PERFECT! they were beautiful. So we loaded up about 16 and headed home.
When we got them all in the barn and set up on tables, we decided we needed more. So I headed back (this was now the night before out rehearsal... the night when everything had to be completed) to pick up a couple more. I walked up to the garden center and there was not a rust colored mum to be found. none. So I walked my little hiney back to the clearance section fussing the whole way that they better not have put them all on clearance the DAY AFTER I bought them. Well folks, that is exactly what they had done. So I took a deep breath and thought, well maybe I can get my money back. No such luck. I went to the customer service desk and she said that they could not refund me the money for some silly reason. aaaaaaand I burst into tears. And not just a little tear-in-the-eye thing. . . it was I can't-catch-my-breath-sobbing. ha! First time I had broken down since planning the wedding had begun. And it was a m-e-l-t down!
I made my way back through the garden center to my friend who was with me, passing a lady on the way who had helped me purchase the flowers the day before. She asked what she could do and was very helpful and kind, but I couldn't talk because I was sobbing. I said no thank you. well, she went to find out what happened, and then came and found me again. She said there was a mistake and they would refund me the money. **!** ...We had gotten our flowers for a little more than 75% off. Unbelievable. Again, God really does care about the small things.

My Grandaddy's old suitcase

We wanted to keep things simple as far as menu went. We chose our favorite barbecue joint around town and they catered for us. If you're ever in the area, you must try Mutt's. It's pretty amazing. Also, my mother-in-law made her always delicious cheese-berry salad. If you have never heard of such a thing let me tell you. well, I don't know what. But it's so good. (for the curious, it is cream cheese yumminess topped with cranberry/jello goodness... yep.)
We had already lined up for our beer to be purchased through a local business with which we have become friends. The Community Tap is an unbelievable place. They were happy to supply us with a keg of Highland Oatmeal Porter (hubby's go-to beer). I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's so we had some 3-buck Chuck on hand as well.

As for music, we are huge bluegrass fans so that was a given. I mean, come on-- it's in a barn with barbecue for pete's sake! :) We asked local favorites The Bent Strings to join us. They are a very talented group of guys who can play all of the great bluegrass standards, as well as great jazz and, well, pretty much anything.

I just realized this was one of our groomsmen asking me to sign my new name for the first time :) nice little memento.

A dear friend of ours who is a pastry chef in our area made our cake for us. Chocolate espresso cake with cream cheese frosting. YES PLEASE! We wanted it to be very rustic and she did a perfect job!! was delicious!!! And our little cake topper was made by me. I had put it off until the week before the wedding and finally got busy constructing it. I'm so happy with how it turned out. 

And, as you're probably noticing by the number of photos I have put in my blog concerning our wedding, I sometimes can go overboard with things I am excited about. In addition to our wedding cake, I also wanted a dessert table with lots of home-baked goodies. I asked my soon-to-be uncle to bake his AMAZING apple pies, and my wonderful aunt to bake a carrot cake and some sort of cupcakes. They were so sweet to do this for us. It turned out beautifully. 

it's funny looking back at it... looks a little sparse... but I thought it was perfect :)

These little cupcake stands were made from a DIY I found online... made from burner covers from the $1 store!

Birch flatware

 We decided to do a "welcome" instead of a "send-off". We had planned to stay through the entire reception and had not planned to leave for our honeymoon from the reception site, so we had sparklers and a welcome when we arrived to the barn from the church. I loved doing it this way. The only thing I regret is having the guests wait. I didn't expect them to, but that's the way it worked out.

My adorable little cousin decided to join us walking in :)

Thanks so much to our friends, the Quebes, for taking some great candids! 

Thanks to our friends, the Quebes, for taking some great candids!

Well y'all, I think I've taken up enough of your time for now. I hope you will put up with my excessive photo sharing. I'm still so excited about how our wedding turned out that I just want to share as much of our experience as I can. 

Thanks again to our photographer, Angela Cox