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  • Today is all about Sugar.I am going to talk about what sweetener we use and how to make it.

    I am so glad you have joined me today and checked in at the farmhouse. Its been a week since I posted last and it feels like forever. There are big plans in my head where I help you make some super yummy healthy treats, but I realized today that there is an important first step I need to share with you first. We need to discuss the sweetener that I use. As I sat down to write this I thought it would be so fast and easy but as I got into the meat of it I realized there really is so much to say. 

    We try to live sugar free as much as possible. I find my kids behave better and my pants fit longer. I don’t know about you but I really don’t like shopping for pants so this is a pretty good trade off for me. Living sugar free is difficult though. It can be expensive and it is hard to find a good substitute for white granulated processed sugar that gets all around rave reviews backed by solid science.  

    first lets take a minute to talk about inflammation. when my blood sugar gets high I can really feel it.

     I am not getting any younger and I can feel a profound effect on my body when my blood sugar gets too high. Let me clarify,  I don’t have diabetes, I am also not pre diabetic.  However I do tend to be prone to inflammation and I feel it the most when I eat too many sweets or too many grains. 

    I feel this inflammation in my hands and wrists. It’s like carpel tunnel. For instance when I mow the lawn my hands will fall asleep. I also have troubles with my hands and arms falling asleep at night when I am in bed. My tingling arms and fingers wake me often and cause me to be tired in the day. Another place I feel inflammation is in my lower legs and they ache  especially when I try to relax. 

    One last place I can really feel inflammation is in my back. If I am being careless with my diet my back gets so stiff  it hurts to walk. I am a super active gal, I like to garden and keep up with my kids. If I am hurting so much that I don’t want to walk then I know something needs to change.

    Lets just get right to it and see the recipe. You can read more about it if you want later on down below.

    This is so easy to do. The only reason this is important is that you won’t enjoy eating Erytritol as a substitute alone. It needs to be balanced. The easiest way to do that is to balance it with other alternative natural sweeteners. 

    Sugar Free Sweetener Recipe.

    • 1 cup Erythritol
    • 2 tsp Stevia
    • 1/2 cup Xylitol- Optional

    Mix your Erythritol and your Stevia into a quart mason jar (as well as your Xylitol if you choose to use it). Put a lid on it and shake, or you can just stir. 

    Store it at room temperature. You can always double or tipple the recipe, I do. We don’t use Xylitol and the recipe works just as good without it. 

    You will find with this sweetener that yo don’t need nearly as much as with regular sugar. I like to go off of about 1/4 cup of the sweetener blend to every 1 cup of table sugar in the recipe. For things like smoothies it can be even less. When yo start out using it go by taste to get a feel for how much you need. If it starts to tingle in your mouth you have used too much. 

    THERE ARE A LOT OF OPTIONS FOR A SUGAR FREE LIFESTYLE.​

    There are a lot of choices out there for a sugar free lifestyle. With my kids I am much more easy going and liberal with what sweeteners they get to enjoy. I have no problem giving them 100% pure maple syurp or raw honey. I also love to make them treats with dried fruit, especially dates. 

    Sugar free living is super popular right now and you may have seen a lot of recipes about it online. Some popular diets like Paleo, Keto, Trim Healthy Mama, and Whole 30 all promote a sugar free lifestyle. Most of the alternatives to sugar are growing in popularity with some taking the lead if you want to loose weight. 

    Stevia, Erythritol, Xylitol and Monk Fruit are all moving to the front of the shelves in the store. You have likely heard of them along side those popular diets I mentioned above. Here at my house we have tried them all. 

    Why do we choose Erythritol?

    Sadly there is no easy answer for many who try to give up sugar. For me the natural sugars in honey, maple syrup, and dates still fuel my inflammation and they still fuel bad bacteria in my gut (which is a topic for another day).  So if I want to have any real relief I need to stick to options that do not raise my blood sugar. I have spent hours reading about all these options and the majority of what I have read is partial to Erythritol being one of the safest options for a sweetener. I still do enjoy honey, maple syrup and dates on rare occasion because they are yummy and they do offer health benefits. 

    One of the reasons that I like Erythritol is that it is natural. It is not the same thing as an artificial sweetener it is a sugar alcohol like Xylitol but is safer to digest. Sugar alcohols do not have an affect on blood sugar. Erythritol is also known to be an antioxidant. 

    why don't we use Xylitol?

    We have tried Xylitol and it can really make my tummy rumble. I don’t like the gassy effect it has on me. There are people online and research has been done that say that Erythritol causes the same upset but I have never gotten any digestive upset from it. I think you would have to eat A LOT to get the same effect as a little of Xylitol.  

    Xylitol is also toxic to dogs, like deadly toxic, worse than chocolate and grapes. We  have a dog. My stress level is so much better when we simply avoid it. We also have chickens and since I can’t guarantee that Xylitol is safe for them its just one more reason to avoid it as an option. Since its flavor is so close to regular sugar I did include it in my recipe. It might be a good match for you. 

    Stevia is another of our favorite alternatives to sugar.

    Stevia is another option we use at our house to replace sugar. As in all things there is no suprise that there can be negative aspects to it as well. It is highly processed and some claim it can affect fertility. Some even claim that it is not actually safe due to the chemicals used to create it. It is also fairly bitter and it can be hard to find a good brand with no fillers. 

    Those negative points are all totally legitimate when it comes to Stevia. But when I know that regular sugar in all its forms is so bad for my health and compare the amounts used in recipes, Stevia is a no brainier. If I wanted to make a smoothie I would need at least 1/4 cup of sugar but only a pinch of Stevia since Stevia is so much sweeter then sugar.

    As always everything in moderation

    You know every time I write a blog post about health that I tell you to be sure to do your own due diligence. Spend some time reading about these sugar alternatives before just jumping in. Some people react differently and some may even be allergic. 

    Remember that it is not good to eat anything in excess. Don’t go and gorge yourself on treats that have been sweetened with sugar free alternatives, even if they are healthy ones. Remember that I am not a doctor and that you should consult with your doctor before making any significant diet changes. 

    further reading

    For those of you who like to fact check I am providing a few links below. Go and read for yourself to see what will work best for you. 

    1. Boesten, Danielle, et al. Health Effects of Erythritol. Research Gate. March 2015.
    2. Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes. Mayo Clinic. Sept 25, 2018.
    3. Sugar Alcohols. Yale-New Haven Hospital Nutrition Advisor.
    4. de Cock, Peter and Bechert, Claire-Lise. Erythritol. Functionality in non-caloric beverages. Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 74, No. 7, pp 1281 – 1289. 2002.
    5. Schaefer, Anna. Everything You Need to Know About Erythritol. Medical News Today. July 12, 2017.
    6.  

    I love delicious healthy food.

    Most of the time I want to eat decadent delicious food. In all honesty though I don’t have the time or energy to actually make it. Since we try to live simply I also don’t want to spend too much money on food or get take out too often. Cooking at home gives me a lot of enjoyment and I love providing for my family in that way. Over the years I have discovered a few simple things I can do in my kitchen to make our food more flavorful with less effort while keeping what is on our table healthy and nutritious.

    One of the easiest ways to up your game in the kitchen is to use more fresh herbs

    Fresh herbs are one of those ingredients that are so easy to forget about. They grow almost all year but remembering to utilize them is hard. I have found that when I make a conscious effort to cook with them more often my food tastes so much better. It is such a small change that makes a huge impact. Often I will buy those small packages of  herbs at the grocery store if I don’t have what I need growing in my garden. 

    Herbs are healthy too

    Most herbs that are common to cooking pack a powerful nutrient punch. They are often easy to grow which makes them an affordable addition to your kitchen. Many can be purchased locally at the store and are important ingredients in seasonal cooking. Parsley for example is extremely high in vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin A. That is why it is a often found in winter soups like chicken noodle. 

    Some of my favorite herbs to cook with are Rosemary, Thyme, and Chives. I also love fresh Bay Leaves, Sage, Ginger, and Garlic. My hope is that over the next few months I can share with you simple recipes that are so fast and easy to make that utilize beneficial qualities of herbs. 

    Today I am going to share how to make Rosemary Lemonade. This is one of my favorite ways to make lemonade. Its has is such a unique and refreshing flavor. 

    Rosemary Lemonade Recipe

    • 6 cups of water
    • one cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • honey to taste (I used almost 1 cup)
    • fresh rosemary

    Warm the water in a saucepan. When the water comes to a boil turn it off and add 3 sprigs of rosemary. Each sprig should be about 3 inches long, if you put too much rosemary in or let it steep too long it may get a little bitter.  Keep the rosemary infusion covered so that the water doesn’t evaporate out of the pot. After about 20 minutes take the rosemary out and stir the honey into the water and mix it in so it all dissolves. Pour the rosemary and honey infusion through a strainer into a pitcher and add your freshly squeezed lemon juice. Then refrigerate until cold.

    Once cool, garnish with more fresh rosemary and fresh cut lemon slices. Top with ice and enjoy. 

    Why did I use Rosemary?

    You can make a lot of different kinds of herbal lemonade. I actually love to make Lavender lemonade and have considered Basil lemonade or Thyme lemonade. The process is gong to be the same for most herbal lemonades.

    I have fond memories of drinking Rosemary lemonade. There was a hip little pizza place in my college town that sold it. We used to think we were so cool when we went there.  The flavor is sharp and refreshing. It paired well with pizza 10 years ago but it would also go well at an upscale BBQ or a child’s birthday party today. 

    Rosemary like most herbs, delivers a powerhouse of nutrients and health benefits. There are too many to list here, but some of the top benefits are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Rosemary also has an ability to improve digestion. I also love how it is known for helping with neurological protection and improving memory and concentration.

    Don’t take my word for it, go search online and you will see how awesome and healthy it is. 

    you might have noticed that this recipe uses honey instead of sugar.

    Sugar is my favorite taste in lemonade but I don’t love the side effects. In our house we try to avoid it as much as possible. This recipe uses honey. Honey has a more complex flavor and it took me a while to get used to it in my lemonade. Also different honey varieties will change the flavor of the lemonade. That is why the recipe only said “to taste”. The health benefits of honey really pair well with the rosemary. You can substitute the honey for sugar if you want and you would just add it in while the water is still fairly hot. If you decide to make that substitution it would be 1.5 cups of sugar instead of honey. 

    Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own

    these are the Easiest, softest, best tasting cinnamon rolls you will ever make

    I am making some big claims here but my family is just in love with this cinnamon roll recipe. They are so easy to make that I have to actively resist making them every single weekend for the sake of my waistline. 

    I use my sourdough starter and my grandmothers tips. She taught me how to make yeasted cinnamon rolls many years ago. My childhood is filled with memories of her making cinnamon rolls and then sharing them with me. I want my kids to have the same warm memories about my cooking. Therefore, since I want to make them every weekend and can’t (or shoudn’t) I make them only 2 or three times a year. Once in April, Once in October and sometimes for Christmas. 

    These Cinnamon Rolls are so amazing there is not much to say. So I will just tell you how to make them.

    There is only three things  you need to make them… I will provide the links and you just need to read this article all the way through so you know what to do when it comes time to make them. 

    There is only one hard part about this recipe. I find it best to make the dough and roll them up the night before you want to eat them. So for me I normally make them at about 10 PM on a Friday or Saturday night. And sometimes at that time of the day I just want to go to bed.

    The good news is that it takes only 10 minutes to get them made but add another 5 minutes to clean up for good measure. 

    Here is the process

    Mix up a basic sourdough bread recipe. I have one and you can go here to get it if you missed it.

    Once the dough is mixed and is not sticky take it and roll it our into a long rectangle or oblong shape. 

     

    Spread butter over most of it. Just leave a small ribbon without butter at the bottom of the rectangle of dough so it will stick together when you roll it up.

    Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon all over the butter. The amount is up to you. I like a lot of cinnamon, and a modest amount of sugar (1/4 cup ish). 

    Roll the dough up into a log and slice into 1 inch rounds. I have been doing this for years and for some reason have never gotten an even number to fit in my pan. So just arrange them the best you can and give them room to grow. Once they rise and get baked no one will notice if there are only 3 in one row and the rest have 4 per row.

    Grease a large 10 x 20 glass baking pan (if you don’t have one that big you can use two smaller ones, or two round cake pans, whatever works). 

    Place the dough rounds into the pan and leave some room in between them. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap. I just spray my pan and plastic wrap with coconut oil.  Let the pan sit overnight.

     

    The cinnamon rolls need to be cooked fairly soon in the morning. When you wake up check on them, they should have risen to fill the pan. When I make them at 10 they need to be baked no later then 8 AM. In the summer sooner. If you like to sleep in to 10 then you will need to make the dough a little later in the night to compensate. Remember sourdough will fall like yeasted dough if it rises too long. 

    If your starter is not as fast rising as mine then you can adjust the sitting time for next time. Just take a little note to help you remember. Everyone’s starter will be a little different as starter reacts to the environment. They will rise faster in the summer when temperatures are warmer and slower in the colder months of the year. 

    BAKE at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. I like my cinnamon rolls to be soft so I don’t let them brown much. Don’t worry, they will be done. 

    Let cool for about a half hour and then cover in your favorite topping. We like cream cheese frosting but in a pinch I will make a lemon glaze that is pretty tasty too.

    Cream Cheese Frosting

    1/2 cup softened butter

    8 oz softened full fat cream cheese

    1 tsp vanilla extract

    3-4 cups powdered sugar

    Mix the butter and cream cheese until fully combined. Then add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Go slow with the powdered sugar so you don’t make the frosting too stiff. If it gets too stiff add a tablespoon of milk until it is at the right consistency.

    Lemon glaze

    1-2 cups of powdered sugar

    1 tsp lemon juice

    2 tsp milk

    1 tblsp lemon zest

    Mix all together. If its too runny add more powdered sugar. If its too stiff add a sprinkle more of milk. 

    Quick Recap

    Baking with sourdough is more of a process and less of a recipie. If you have a starter and can make a basic bread then you can make almost anything you can think of. I will list out the steps below and the links to my information for the starter and the bread dough. 

    At around 10 PM mix up a basic bread dough with your sourdough starter

    Roll it out into a large rectangle

    Spread butter, cinnamon and sugar on the dough

    Roll it up and cut into 1″ rounds. 

    Place in greased pan and cover with greased plastic wrap.

    Get up in the morning and put the pan in the oven at 350 degrees. Don’t forget to take the plastic wrap off.

    Bake for 20 minutes.

    Let cool for 20 minutes and then frost with your choice. 

    Enjoy

    Link to basic sourdough bread recipe. 

    Link to starter info.

    Normally we try to live sugar free, but life is worth living. I can justify making these tasty treats a couple times a year. While they may not be healthy, they will be worth it! Enjoy and let me know how you like them.

    Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

    I have been making this super simple bread recipe for almost 10 years now.

    When I first started out with sourdough it was very hard to find instructions on how to use it to bake bread.

    I had to learn how to make a good loaf on my own through trial and error. We are all so lucky now that there is so much information about it online these days.

    I love that sourdough is made with simple whole ingredients.

    It takes less then ten minutes to mix up, and since I use a starter that I bought from Cultures for Health, it rises fairly fast.

    All you need is your starter, flour, water and salt but I like to add in a little bit of fat.

    Fats such as olive oil or butter add a nice texture to the finished bread. You can use any other fat like coconut oil, or a lard. We prefer to stick to simple healthy fats and avoid fats like Canola oil. Healthy fats are a topic for another day.

    It is worth noting that you will likely have to tinker with it just a little depending on your elevation, humidity, and starter strain.

    1/2 cup starter

    3 cups flour- we like organic unbleached white flour

    1 cup filtered water

    1 tsp salt

    2 tbsp oil or butter

    I mix my bread dough in a stand mixer.

    I am not patient enough to mix it by hand. However you can knead it by hand if you don’t have an electric mixer with a dough hook. I know a lot of people who use a Bosch mixer and I have a Kitchen Aid.

    Put all the ingredients in the mixer with the dough hook and mix until it becomes a smooth ball of dough.

    Sourdough is a living breathing food and it responds to the temperature, and moisture in the air. Sometimes you will mix up this bread dough and it will be wet and sticky and you will have to add up to 1 cup more flour. Other times you will mix it up and it will be very firm and dry and you will have to add a tad more water.

    You have to work with your starter to discover its subtle changes and learn how it works.

    I prefer a stiff dough that holds its shape on the baking sheet. You achieve that with more flour then water when you are mixing it up. If you do feel like you need to add either flour or water, add them in slowly, just a little bit at a time. Keep in mind that most Kitchen Aid stand mixers have limits on how much flour you can use in a recipe to keep the motor from burning out.

    Once your dough is mixed to a consistency you like, finish kneading it on the counter for 30 seconds and smooth it out into a ball.

    Slash the dough across the top several times (score it) with a knife about 1/4 inch deep. place your dough on a cookie sheet. We use stoneware but any kind will work. Grease a large piece of Saran Wrap to cover it and let is raise for several hours. I normally spray my Saran Wrap with coconut oil.

    Some people let their sourdough raise overnight.

    If you have made your own starter from scratch you might need to have longer rising times since the starter may not be as vigorous. My stater will take 4-6 hours to rise depending on the season. I bought it here. If the dough is cracking it is falling and you need to bake it right away.

    Once the dough has doubled in size put it in the cold oven and set it to 350 degrees.

    Let the oven heat up with the bread inside so it evenly heats the dough and the baking sheet. When you put the bread in the oven uncover it and set the timer for 50 minutes.

    Bake the bread until it is evenly browned.

    This takes between 40 and 45 minutes (plus another 5 to heat the oven). The bread will rise a little more in the oven as it bakes.

    You might be wondering why we use the unbleached white flour.

    In our family the white flour is so much easier on our digestion. Wheat breads are so much more dense and coarse in the intestines. If you have read Nourishing Traditions or follow the Weston A Price Foundation you would have also learned about Phytic Acid.

    Phytic Acid makes it hard for our bodies to digest the nutrients found in most grains.

    The fermentation process helps immensely with this. However, when I pair the white flour with the fermentation of sourdough I feel pretty good about the nutrition content of our breads. It is mostly just my kids that eat the bread in our family and they are pretty picky eaters. They are not fans of the dense texture of whole wheat breads.

    If you are new to sourdough be sure to check out my post about getting started with sourdough. I also have a great tutorial here on how to make your own starter. Don’t forget to check out my easy pancake recipe too!

    Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling fine but then within a few minutes start to feel like you are a little run down?

    As the hours go by you realize you are getting sick. Then you desperately start to think of ways to overcome the impending doom…

    When I have days like that I start to feel sorry for myself and want to just eat comfort foods. Today I woke up with a cold and before lunch I caught myself thinking of foods I could eat to help me feel better. Then I remembered Ginger Tea.

    Recently I discovered super tasty Ginger Tea. It is a simple nourishing tea that is easy to make and tastes great.

    I love that it can help me overcome my illness due to its ability to boost and support immunity.

    Ginger Tea:

    1 tbsp peeled and finely grated ginger

    1 lemon freshly squeezed

    1 tsp Baobab powder

    Raw honey to taste- I like mine sweet

    6-8 oz hot water

    Put all the ingredients in a mug and let stand for a few minutes to steep.

    Why make Ginger tea?

    Ginger is a food powerhouse with well known health benefits.

    Ginger is known to help with arthritis, migraines, colds and flu, nausea, ear infections, inflammation, stomach bugs and more. I make tea out of it when I feel like I am getting sick because it can boost immunity.

    Lemon can bring a lot of health benefits too. It can soothe respiratory disorders, it is cleansing, and can boost overall health.

    Baobab is one of my favorite supplements. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants and it it packed with vitamins and minerals. I add it to my tea because I enjoy the extra immune boosting benefits as well as the kick of flavor it gives to my tea.

    This is the brand I use because I can find it local.

    I drank my tea today because I knew I needed extra immune support. It won’t cure a cold in an instant but I plan to keep drinking it to give my body all the help I can while I fight this bug. I love how good it tastes, and that it is a simple comforting warm drink.

    Like always, talk to your doctor before taking any new health supplements. Don’t just take my word for it, do you own due diligence.

    If you want to do more reading on powerful simple herbs you likely have in your kitchen check out this book by Rosalee De La Foret. Its one of my favorite books.

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