Calendula Tincture

I have always had an interest in herbalism. Over the years I have made healing foods and drinks, natural bath/body and home products, blends for various uses, etc from store bought, Wild harvested and home grown goods. My husband says plants are my thing (his are crystals/stones/minerals). I tend to focus on certain skills and crafts for extended periods of time and recently pulled out of a crochet mania to study and “play” again. A really great herbal magazine and family herbalism course came into my life at the same time my mind started to wander back and I took it as a sign. 

One of the first things I did was start making tinctures. Inspired by the course I started first with vanilla extract. I want that to brew for a longer period than the minimum suggested so instead I am turning to what I started next for my first blog on the subject. A calendula tincture. 

I have various skin issues that have been with me for much of my life. It’s a combination of genetics, diet and potentially other issues such as inflammation. I looked into breastfeeding safe herbs I could ingest as part of a regime to heal myself and calendula came up as an option. I had just enough for a small batch and got towork! 

Some uses of calendula can be found here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/draxe.com/calendula/amp/

I took my dried calendula I put in my tea and crushed it a bit in one of my mortar and pestles. 

It came out to just over 1/2 cup not being pressed down or fully powdered. I considered it half a cup. 

I then added a full cup of 100 proof vodka (80+ is best though some say 90+ proof). For this particular plant it was suggested to do a 1:2 ratio. Others may be different so look into different information on plants if you plan to make a tincture. Some dried herbs suggest adding distilled water but for this I decided not to. 

I put the ingredients in a jar and stored in my herb cupboard. It is preferred not to have air space like mine but it wouldn’t fit into any other jars I had so I took a chance. It turned out fine. I probably wouldn’t risk it again however. 

I shook it every day for the period I had it brewing. Then I let it sit undisturbed 24 hours before straining. The minimum suggested is 2 weeks of shaking plus 1 day of rest. I left mine for almost a month and strained right before the New Moon. I may be a Heathen but I have a witchy side as well. The longer the better is a general rule for tinctures. 

Once done I strained it in a plastic strainer. I have seen suggestions not to use any metal so I take that advice. 

The herbs really soak up a lot so I would pressed it out well, let it rest then go at it again. 


My funnels have not yet arrived so I placed the amber glass bottle in a bowl to catch any of the tincture that might spill and used a measuring cup to pour. 

I put the tincture in several smaller bottles (2oz) but any size or amount works. I bought mine off of Amazon but usually buy locally despite the large price difference. 

Label with the name and date bottled! My handwriting is awful. I use tape to stick paper on mine but you can get fancy with special labels! 

Tinctures last several years if stored properly. I’ll be adding a few drops a day to coffee or tea daily. Starting off small and building up to more drops as this is a new-to-me tincture. You can take directly on the tongue or add to food or drink like I do. 

Be sure to look out for future tincture and herbalism blogs! I’m only an aspiring herbalist so please do your own research!

Natural Bug Repellent 

In a group I help run I posted about a natural bug (and arachnid) repellent I was making for our porch and patio today. It was essentially half my essential oils and a stick of cinnamon I soaked in a half and half vinegar/water mix. There are many different oils and herbs one could procure to help ward off a variety of bugs without chemicals. 

Some of these include:

*Lavender

*Citronella

*Lemongrass

*Tea Tree

*Eucalyptus

*Mint (any kind)

*Marigold

*Geranium

*Cedarwood

*Rosemary

*Citrus – Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit, etc. 

*Cinnamon

*etc. 

I usually do a mix of what I have on hand to ward off different types of bugs but if you have a specific pest you can easily find specific herb/s for them.

After I have made my repellent I either add a cup to a gallon of water and wash the porch with it or I put it in a spray bottle and spray around door and window frames, etc. I would avoid getting this near your plants. If you have children or animals I would spray where they can’t lick or touch it and/or use only safe ingredients that won’t harm them if accidentally consumed.

If I’m making something for the skin I use half witch hazel instead of vinegar and put it in a spray bottle. Be careful not to spray too close to clothing as it can stain. Spraying on shoes or socks before a hike is helpful. 

Alternatively, you can add a 2% dilution of these oils to body lotion and do a rest patch to make sure you are not allergic. Please look into the properties of the oils before attempting this. I am just giving suggestions as a place to start researching. 

Here is a basic bug repellent I used to make: 
Witch Hazel soaked in fresh Geranium and Marigold (then strained!), Spring Water, Essential Oils of Lavender, Peppermint, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Citronella. 

I don’t have the exact amounts as I do things as I go without recipes half the time. I would still make a 2% dilution of the oils. The herbs should be soaked 1-2 weeks. Dried works as well. 

I hope this proves helpful in the warm months ahead! 

Candied Pumpkin Spice Nut and Seed Medley Recipe 

Every year one of my aunts sends around treats of candied nuts. I have been dreaming about tasty candied nuts and seeds so I decided to make some because I couldn’t wait. Impatient much? This is a large batch for entertaining, big families, gifting or saving to eat all by ones self. Teehee! The recipe is easily cut in half. They are spicy, sweet and salty all in one. I used almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), walnuts and pecans. You can use any blend you would like or just one but or seed! It’s super easy and tasty!

You will need: 

*2 lbs of raw unsalted nuts or seeds. I used 8 ounces each of almonds (about 1.5 cups), pepitas (about 2 cups), walnuts (about 2.5 cups) and pecans (about 2 cups). It’s easier to weigh it all but if you can I gave approximates for measuring. 

*2 egg whites 

*1 cup white sugar 

*1 cup brown sugar 

*2 tablespoons water 

*1 1/2 tablespoons salt 

*1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

*1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two baking sheets with non-stick aluminum foil.

Measure out nuts and seeds. 

Blend nuts and seeds together. 

Measure out sugar, salt and spices. Blend well. 

Whisk egg whites and water until frothy. 

Add egg mixture to nut and seed blend. Mix with spoon or with hands.

Scoop everything into the bowl with the sugar mixture. Toss together until everything is coated evenly. 

Evenly place ingredients onto baking sheets.

Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. Stirring every ten minutes. 

Cool completely and then enjoy!

Crispy Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

Pumpkin seeds are probably my favorite thing about taking apart pumpkins. Sure, purée is amazing when you are using sugar pumpkins but making Jack O’ Lanterns and other decor you won’t be eating makes the work somewhat of an unrewarding job when cleaning them…except for the seeds! It is a long and time consuming process but so worth it! I might have cried when I burnt a batch before. Seriously. 

The other day, I cleaned out the “guts” from a sugar pumpkin destined to be purée. To start you simply need a pumpkin and to use whatever method you decide on to remove the guts. It depends on what you’re doing with your pumpkin. So we will start with the guts. 

You will need:

*Pumpkin guts! These are the stringy fibers and seeds. 

*Salt

*Oil

*Seasonings of choice. You can make salted, cinnamon sugar, cayenne, pumpkin spice, etc. Here I am making salted because they are my favorite. 

*Tools such as bowls, strainer, spoon, etc. Read the entire recipe before beginning to make sure you have everything you need! 

Pull seeds out of pumpkin fibers. Toss or compost the fibers. This is time consuming, slippery and messy so take your time. They don’t need to be perfectly clean. 

Soak seeds overnight in salted water. This is a method my mom taught me. They somehow create crispier and more flavorful seeds as well as helping prevent sticking a bit. 

Strain seeds. Rinse if you are making sweet seeds to remove salt. Most of the extra fibers should slip off of the seeds and stick to the strainer as well. Thanks salt water! 

Place in a flat container to dry. This can take several hours depending on the amount of seeds in the container, temperature in the home, etc. You can see some extra fibers here. Remove them or leave them. They don’t hurt the seeds. I wouldn’t use paper towels or a rag to help. The seeds will stick to it! Which is a PAIN to deal with later. I prefer waiting over using the oven to dry the seeds. 

Once dry cover with just enough oil to wet the seeds. I prefer to use my clean hands to massage the oil in and around. 

Add seasonings and toss the seeds. 

Roast in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or so. Stirring halfway through. Be sure to get the seeds on the sides especially. 

Let the seeds cool completely after removing from the oven then enjoy! 

Homemade Edible Play Dough 

Yesterday was a busy day. Cooking, cleaning, baking and mommying. A friend suggested I make my toddler play dough to help keep her happy and busy when I can’t be hands on with her. I have been wanting to make play dough for some for quite a while but never got around to it. I have made it before when I was younger for my baby sister and kids I babysat over the years but it was time my little one had some too. This recipe is safe for toddlers in case they decide to eat some. It makes quite a bit too! I ended up giving half to the neighbors!

You will need: 

*2 1/2 cups flour (unsure how gluten free flours would work if you are curious)

*2 cups hot water 

*1/2 cup salt (I used Kosher)

*3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used melted coconut) 

*1 tablespoon cream of tartar

For coloring and/or flavoring you can use 2 packages of a powdered drink such as Kool-Aid or use food coloring and either food grade “kids safe” edible essential oils or flavoring extract. For the second option I would experiment with what works for you to determine how much you need. 

Start heating up water. I used a pot on the stove top but you can use a tea kettle or a microwave. 

Mix flour, salt and cream of tartar. 

Add flavoring and oil. Mix well! 

Add food coloring to the water if you are using it. 

Pour water into flour mixture. 

Mix! Mix! Mix! 

If you need to alter the color a bit feel free to here.

You will need to mix for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth, flexible and cool. Alternatively, you can knead it once it cools for the same amount of time. Kneading produces a better dough I have found. 

Store in an air tight container when not in use. Have fun! 

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Syrup Recipe 

While waiting impatiently for my pumpkin seeds to dry today I decided to make some pumpkin spice coffee syrup. I considered buying some but realized I had everything to make my own! Other than a nice pump container to keep it in. Which I worked around. This type may not last as long as commercial syrup but at least I know exactly what is in it and it tastes great! You can also use this thin syrup in place of regular syrup, to replace honey in Fall baking, etc. It isn’t limited to just coffee! 

Read all the instructions to make sure you have all the tools and ingredients you need before beginning!

You will need: 

*1 1/2 cup water

*1 cup brown sugar 

*1 cup granulated sugar. You can switch out sugars to suit your needs, tastes, etc. I used white sugar as I ran out of Tamarind. 

*1/3 cup pumpkin purée 

*1 tablespoon vanilla extract

*2 teaspoons cinnamon

*2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 

Add sugars and water to a pot. Turn onto medium heat and whisk for a few minutes until the sugars fully dissolve. 

Add spices! You can use more or less than listed to suit your tastes. Whisk a bit before adding the pumpkin.

Add in pumpkin and whisk for a minute. I used homemade purée so it never really got creamy like canned purees can. 

Reduce heat to low so the concoction will not boil and then continue whisking to prevent burning. Simmer 8-10 minutes. I did ten minutes due to my homemade purée not breaking down as easily as store bought. 

Once finished immediately strain using a fine strainer or cheesecloth. This worked for me. 

It helps to do it in sections as it can clog. 

Use a spoon to scrape the bottom and help flow. 

Add vanilla extract to syrup and stir well when finished straining. You can add it before straining but I prefer this method. You can save the chunky leftover bits of purée and spices to bake with.

Place in containers! I didn’t have anything with a pump so I used this bottle. It’s actually kind of fun and makes me feel all witchy! 

The rest I added to jars. 

This should stay for about a month based on your home temperatures, etc. Adding a spoonful of honey to the mix while cooking can help preservation as well. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the mix for 3-4 months but it may come out thicker and in larger portions so be careful when pouring. Enjoy! 

Homemade Pumpkin Purée 

Making pumpkin purée is one of my favorite things to do as a family in the Fall. Even though my husband isn’t here and it isn’t technically Fall it was still a family affair! My toddler helped pick out the pumpkin and was intensely curious and observant during most of the process. Pumpkin purée is fairly easy to make. Just time consuming! We use pumpkin pie/sugar pumpkins for ours. It tastes so much better than the canned purees…but I admit I love those as well. This purée will last about 3 days refrigerated and about 3 months frozen. Deep freezing should allow it to keep longer…but honestly…it never lasts long because there are always yummy recipes you’ll want to make with it! 

You will need: 

*Sugar pumpkin (ours said “Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin” on the sign at the farm stand when we bought it)

*Kosher salt 

Wash and dry your pumpkin! 

Cut a little bit of skin off of each side to create a flat surface to help the pieces stay upright when baking. You’ll be cutting it in half so you just need two. One of each opposite ends. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut your pumpkin in half! Careful…they can get super slippery! I cut it in sections then pry it apart. 

Scoop out the guts! Use a spoon or ice cream scooper. Save the insides to make pumpkin seeds later!

Place pumpkin halves on container of choice. I prefer glass and this one has sides if they end up slipping around when I remove them from the oven. If you use a cookie sheet or other metal pan I would cover it in parchment or aluminum foil. 

Sprinkle with Kosher salt. You don’t actually need this much in my hand. I just poured a lot to toss in with the guts to prep them for baking tomorrow. 

Bake for 30-50 minutes. It really depends on your oven, size of pumpkin, amount of pumpkins you’re baking, etc. I would start testing the meat by poking it with a butter knife after 30 minutes. When it goes through easily and smoothly it’s done! 

Remove from oven and cool completely. About an hour. 

Use a spoon to help peel all the skin off. Toss or compost skin. 

Add meat to blender to purée. You may need to do it in sections depending on your blender. Ours has a little tool to shove things down but I still had to turn it on high and push down hard to get it all puréed as I added it all at once. You do not need to add water. The meat will release moisture as you go. 

Put in a container with a lid to save or use immediately! Enjoy! 

Pecan Bars Two Ways – With and Without A Heath Toffee Topping

I have been wanting to bake for weeks now but felt held back by the part of me that had 100 pumpkin recipes on their mind but no pumpkin and the part of me that has been too tired with a husband at sea, a toddler to keep up with, pregnancy and most recently a stomach bug. So much fun right? The combo left me in bed unsure what to do except for watching Netflix, crocheting Yule presents and reading when I wasn’t Mommy-ing. Today, I finally got the push to make these pecan bars! You can make them two ways! One with Heath bar bits like I added here or alternatively with an extra half a cup of pecans and no Heath toffee. Up to you! It’s a very easy recipe to alter. I just happened to have Heath bar pieces my mother in law sent last week so I thought I would put them to use. 

For the CRUST you will need:

*3 cups flour

*1 cup brown sugar 

*1 cup/ 2 sticks melted butter (or butter substitute)

*1/2 teaspoon salt 
For the FILLING you will need:

*1 cup brown sugar 

*1 stick or half a cup of butter (or butter substitute)

*2 cups of pecans if not using Heath bar OR alternatively 1.5 cups pecans and half a cup to a cup of Heath bar bits. Crushed or whole are fine. I already had these crushed from a previous recipe. You can also simply use chocolate bits.

*1/3 cup honey (you can try maple syrup if looking for a vegan alternative but the flavor may be strong)

*2 tsp sweetened condensed milk (heavy cream was in the original recipe or you can use a nut milk)

*1 tsp vanilla (optional)

*1/2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin spice (optional)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then cover your chosen pan (I used glass) with non-stick aluminum foil. Or grease regular aluminum foil before use. I would suggest a deeper pan around two inches deep as the contents will bubble. 

To make the crust mix all the ingredients well. 

Dump into prepared dish and press down evenly from corner to corner. 

Bake for 20 minutes. 

About 5 minutes or so before the crust is done baking start the filling! Mix the butter, brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and honey together in a pot. Stir on medium low for 2 minutes. 

Mix in vanilla and spices if so desired. They are optional. 

Add in pecans. Stir. Turn heat off and set aside until the crust is done. 

When the crust is ready remove from the oven and immediately pour in pecan mixture. Use a spoon or other tool to even it out. 

Bake 10 minutes before adding the Heath topping. Bake an additional 10 minutes after you have evenly added the topping. If you do not plan on adding a topping let bake untampered with for 20 minutes until done. 

Once finished let cool completely before removing from pan using the foil and slicing into bars. Enjoy! 

Banana-Pumpkin Bread Recipe

There are two things I never say no two: banana bread and pumpkin bread. Today was one of those days where they both sounded good. Good thing I had some frozen extra ripe bananas (they may be ugly and smooshy but they are super sweet!) and pumpkin purée I could take out to defrost and use. 

This recipe makes two yummy loaves. Eat fresh, freeze one for later or gift a loaf to a friend! 

You will need

*5 cups all purpose flour 

*4 extra ripe bananas

*4 eggs (ground flaxseed works as a vegan alternative)

*2 2/3 cup pumpkin purée 

*1 cup honey (maple syrup or agave can be used as an alternative)

*1 cup sugar. I prefer half white and half brown sugar in banana bread but all I had was white sugar today. Raw sugar works too. 

*1 cup nuts (optional). I chose pecans. 

*4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or to taste for the spices)

*2 teaspoons cinnamon 

*1 teaspoon salt

*1/2-1 cup other add ins like chocolate chips, etc. 

*butter or oil to grease bread pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Mash bananas together with the pumpkin purée. I forgot to here but it helps.

Add in honey, sugar and oil. Mix well! 

Add in dry ingredients and mix until smooth. You can fold in the nuts and anything else you might want to add in after but I chose to put them in here. 

Grease two bread pans. I used a brush with room temperature butter. 

Pour or scoop the mixture into the two bread pans evenly. 

Bake for 1 hour up to around 1 hour and 15 minutes. Depends on your oven, add ins, et cetera. 

Pop out of bread pans after a minute or so then let cool before consuming (I know it’s hard to wait). Enjoy! 

Freezing and Storing Water Kefir Grains

I have found that as of late our water kefir concoctions have not been used as much. My daughter was the only one who wanted some. Pregnancy made the taste and smell suddenly unpalatable and my husband was working 12-16 hour shifts and not gone to drink it. I decided instead of stressing out and starving the grains by accident through forgetfulness and underuse that I would store them until a time they could be used more. I decided to freeze them. 

To freeze your water kefir grains (milk kefir grains need an additive before freezing so this is specifically just for water kefir grains) you will first need to dry your grains. I added a piece of fruit to my jar the day prior to color the grains a bit. They are essentially clear so they can be potentially overlooked if you drop any. First you will need a fine strainer to clear off the liquid. I use a plastic strainer as some suggest using metal can have adverse effects on the grains in time. The plastic is also easy to poke and manipulate if any of the grains decide to stick. 

Then use a paper towel to let them sit and dry for 2-3 hours at least. You can pat them down slightly if you wish. We generally use crocheted dish cloths and store bought cloths in our home but this made it easier to see the tiny grains. 

Place in a jar when dried (they will still be gelatinous but fluffier). Close with a tight lid and place in the freezer. I stuck mine all the way in the back. A deep freezer would be even better. These should last at least 2 months in a regular freezer that is opened a few times a day. Longer can be attempted but it seems the longer they are frozen the more of a chance they have to not do great when defrosted. 

To use again simply defrost in the fridge for a day (or more of you have a larger amount of grains). Then feed well and place in a warm area. Water kefir grains love to be warm!