23 July 2016

Homemade Chocolate Syrup and What it Means to Rest in the Lord

100_7969Have you seen those "chocolate milk is good for you" commercials? I'm not going to expend any brain power trying to dispute whatever science is being used to back up that claim.  Just.  C'mon, people.

But no matter what my brain says, I love chocolate milk.  Love. It.  The sweet chocolatey goodness was rarely in our house growing up, so even at age 43 I still consider it a treat.

Chocolate milk isn't cheap.  I had a relatively inexpensive, go-to brand where I used to live.  And even then I would try to only buy it when on sale.  Since moving, I haven't been able to find anything comparable.

So I was forced to make my own (the chocolate part, that is).  Putting together just a few quality ingredients will give you a darn tasty chocolate syrup to add to your milk for a treat.

Cocoa, water, and sugar boiled together for a few minutes.  That's all it takes.  But watch your pot! Boiling over is a real possibility.

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Allow it to cool, and store it in the fridge.  I use a pint size mason jar with a screw cap.

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Before I give you the specific recipe, I'd like to share a passage from the devotional I read this morning.  (If you're not interested, simply scroll down until you see the bold Homemade Chocolate Syrup, but it really is just a quick passage that made me think.)

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To "rest in the Lord" is the perfection of inward activity.  In the ordinary reasoning of man it means sitting with folded arms and letting God do everything; in reality it is being so absolutely stayed on God that we are free to do the active work of men without fuss.  The times God works most wonderfully are the times we never think about it.  [Oswald Chambers:  If Thou Wilt Be Perfect]

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Here's the recipe! I got it from Dining on a Dime, which cited The Tightwad Gazette.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

100_7961Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cocoa, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla (optional, in my opinion)

Instructions

  1. Mix cocoa and water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa.
  2. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Boil 3 minutes. (Watch your pot!)
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in salt and vanilla.
  5. Store in refrigerator. It will supposedly keep several months, but mine is always consumed well before then. :-)

Yield: 2 cups

Shared at Simple Saturdays and Happiness is Homemade.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my restful space to yours!

15 July 2016

Use Peppermint Essential Oil to Relieve Allergy Symptoms

100_7957I am a firm believer in essential oils and aromatherapy.  And peppermint essential oil is one of my favorites.  I diffuse it to promote alertness and clarity.  I use it in my homemade bug spray, and I swish it daily with my homemade mouthwash.

I've also read peppermint essential oil (links to where I get mine) is great for dealing with nausea or other digestive troubles.  Thankfully, I don't often have problems in that area.

Other generalized areas that one might find relief from with the use of peppermint essential oil is stress, headache, and eye strain.

And I can now personally attest to the notion that peppermint essential oil works in relieving allergy symptoms.

Something I haven't had to deal with much in the past is allergies.  But this year has been different.

Maybe it's because I'm another year older.  I've been told more than once allergies get worse with age.  Or maybe it's because I recently moved, and am now exposed to different types of pollen.  Or maybe it's because the woods are right outside my door – closer than they have ever been.

(Not kidding.  Here's a view of my warmer / diffuser sitting on a small table in front of my picture window…and the woods not far behind.)

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I don't know for sure why I am suffering more this year from allergy symptoms.  But the watery, grit filled eyes, the sometimes runny nose, and the scratchy throat with a slight headache are real.

I read a short article by Josh Axe at Rodale's Organic Life called 3 Essential Oils that Can Ease Your Allergies.  This quote is what prompted me to try diffusing peppermint essential oil to help with my allergy symptoms:

"For adults, inhaling diffused peppermint oil can immediately unclog the sinuses and offer relief to scratchy throats."

So I did just that.  And it worked.  My eyes felt clear, and my sinuses were unclogged.  My throat was not scratchy, and I had no headache.  This all with the diffuser approximately twelve feet away.

I can see the diffusing of peppermint essential oil becoming a regular occurrence in my home as long as I'm dealing with these allergy symptoms! If you suffer, too, you might want to give it a try.

Shared at From the Farm, Happiness is Homemade, and Simple Saturdays.

Obligatory disclaimers:  (1) I am not a doctor, and statements here have not been evaluated -- nor approved -- by the FDA. This post is meant for educational and informational purposes only. Please conduct your own research and make your own decisions regarding the use of essential oils.  (2) This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too! The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my pollen-filled mountaintop to yours!

14 July 2016

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits

100_7947I'm not a big fan of biscuits.

I know, I know.  How very un-Southern of me.

But it's true.  Now, I'm not saying I never eat them.  I can quite adequately tear down some biscuits slathered with an inch of sausage gravy.  Who couldn't?

And actually, that illustrates my point about my relationship with biscuits.  I usually find them to be dry.  Very dry.

Then I tried these biscuits – these easy, mix 'em up in one bowl, drop biscuits. Not dry at all.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits and More

I love my pastry cutter / blender to cut butter into a dry mixture.  You can also use a fork, or your hands.

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I was gifted a gallon of fresh off the no-pesticide vine blueberries about a week ago, so adding those plump bursts of juiciness into these biscuits was a must.

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Then I threw in a few chocolate chips.  I was first introduced to the combination of chocolate and blueberry when I made some fudgy blueberry brownies a couple of years ago.  Since I was a bit blown away by the flavor, I don't think the combination gets enough attention.

Give these jewels a try.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.  If you want to kick the sweetness up a notch – and eat these babies for dessert – try drizzling some honey over them.  O. M. G.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits

100_5397Original recipe by Jennifer at Bake or Break.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a baking sheet. [Note: I baked these in a toaster oven!]
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter. A pastry blender makes it super easy. You may also use a fork or your hands.
  3. Stir in the sour cream, then stir in the milk. Fold in blueberries and mini chocolate chips, trying not to break too many blueberries.
  4. Drop dough onto prepared baking sheet. Original recipe calls for "3 tablespoons (not quite 1/4 cup)" per biscuit. I used a flatware tablespoon, heavily mounded with dough. Pretty easy to eyeball.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes then check. You're looking for a light brown color and a biscuit that is firm to the touch. Try not to over bake. My little oven didn't require more than 22 minutes.

Yield: 1 dozen

Shared at This Is How We Roll, Thrifty Thursday, From the Farm, Happiness is Homemade, Tasty Tuesdays, and Simple Saturdays.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my mountaintop to yours!

21 June 2016

Three-Cheese Baked Ziti with Homemade Alfredo Sauce

100_7480This is comfort food, y'all.  It's rich.  It's heavy.  It's creamy.  It's cheesy.  What more could you want?

The original recipe came from Southern Living's Dinner in a Dish.  It calls for a whole pound of pasta, and everything is baked in a 9-x13-inch pan (resulting in 8-10 servings).  I cut the amount of pasta in half, and baked all in a 7-x9-inch glass casserole dish.  So if you prefer more pasta than sauce, go the way of Southern Living.  My desired pasta-to-sauce ratio will always be heavy on the sauce side.

I'm not a big fan of grocery store Alfredo sauce.  Maybe I just haven't tasted the right brand.  Who knows? Well, I may never know since I found Dawn's recipe for Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce.  It is scrumptious.  And easy.  (I don't do anything "quick" in the kitchen, so can't vouch for that.) Dawn says, "The secret is cream cheese!" -- I believe her.

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A pot of water takes absolutely forever to boil on top of my RV gas stove, so I try to get that started first thing.  Then I make the Alfredo sauce.  After those two are done, I make the other filling and transfer all to the casserole dish.  Bake until things are bubbly and starting to brown on top.  Serve with a side salad and a thick slice of French or garlic (or both!) bread, and you have a satisfying meatless meal.

For the Alfredo sauce:  Melt a stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in a medium, non-stick saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese and 2 teaspoons garlic powder, stirring with wire whisk until smooth. Add 2 cups milk, a little at a time, whisking to smooth out lumps.  Stir in 3/4 cup grated Parmesan (I use the kind often found on the pasta aisle) and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I eyeball it; probably use more). Remove from heat when sauce reaches desired consistency (I usually let it thicken a bit).  Try not to drink it.

Three-Cheese Baked Ziti

100_7482Adapted from "Three-Cheese Baked Pasta" in Southern Living's Dinner in a Dish.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dried ziti pasta (penne or rigatoni could also be used)
  • a batch of Dawn's Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce (recipe above or here)
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 lg egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 cup dried parsley
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
  2. Stir sour cream into Alfredo sauce. Toss with pasta. Spoon half of pasta mixture into a lightly buttered 7-x9-inch casserole dish.
  3. Stir together ricotta cheese, beaten egg, grated Parmesan, and parsley. Spread evenly over pasta mixture in casserole dish.
  4. Spoon remaining pasta evenly over ricotta cheese layer. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until set, bubbly, and starting to brown.

Yield: about 6 servings

Enjoy!

Shared at Making a Home Linky, This is How We Roll, Thrifty Thursday, From the Farm, and Happiness is Homemade.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

17 June 2016

Don't Fret! says Psalms 37 (Finding Faith Friday)

100_7905Life for me is pretty peaceful right now.  I am happy and content.  Yet, I know at times I can be a worrier.  Even though I've been telling myself to "give it to God" for years (and years), some days are better than others.  So this morning's devotional spoke strongly to me.  Strongly enough I knew almost immediately this post would be written.

I suppose worrying is not all bad.  If it gets you and me up off our respective rear ends to correct something that is within our control, good.  But I think we all know that's not what I'm writing about.

Before I go further, it should be noted that making the decision not to fret, does not mean those (some valid, some probably not) concerns magically disappear.  If I were to allow myself, I could list numerous worries, and get myself all wound up, in under 30 seconds.  Unfortunately, I cannot turn off that woe is me feeling in the same 30 seconds.  So I try not to go there.  Not fretting is a choice.

The devotional I was reading this morning is part of a short series called "Fully Satisfied In His Love" by Thistlebend Ministries.  A portion of it was focused on the promises made in Psalms 37:3-7.  An oft quoted verse is found in this passage (verse 4, KJV):

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Without typing out each verse, you can see the kinds of promises being made in this passage of Psalms.  What my attention was drawn to is found as verse 7:

Rest in (be silent to) the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself
because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man
who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

This one sparked me to go back and read the whole chapter, so I put down the kindle and opened up the Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible (NKJV), as well as the almost-as-old-as-I-am King James Bible given to me by my grandparents.  (Can you tell I was a highlighting junkie when I was younger?)

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Some preacher teachers (not intended to be a derogatory term) use this passage to speak on jealousy.  In general.  Like, you shouldn't be upset when your neighbor gets a new car.  As Charles Stanley wrote,

Jealousy…can poison good relationships, ruin our witness, and keep us from experiencing God's blessings.

And I believe he's right.  I also think Psalms 37 is more than that.  Just look at verses 1 and 2 (emphasis mine):

1. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

More than the jealousy you might have toward your neighbor and his/her new car, right? I love what Matthew Henry had to say.  Bear with me, as he's a bit wordy.

We are here cautioned against discontent at the prosperity and success of evil-doers… Now, 1. When we look abroad we see the world full of evil-doers and workers of iniquity, that flourish and prosper, that have what they will and do what they will, that live in ease and pomp themselves and have power in their hands to do mischief to those about them. So it was in David’s time; and therefore, if it is so still, let us not marvel at the matter, as though it were some new or strange thing. 2. When we look within we find ourselves tempted to fret at this, and to be envious against these scandals and burdens, these blemishes and common nuisances, of this earth. We are apt to fret at God, as if he were unkind to the world and unkind to his church in permitting such men to live, and prosper, and prevail, as they do. We are apt to fret ourselves with vexation at their success in their evil projects. We are apt to envy them the liberty they take in getting wealth, and perhaps by unlawful means, and in the indulgence of their lusts, and to wish that we could shake off the restraints of conscience and do so too… Yet that is not all; for, 3. When we look forward with an eye of faith we shall see no reason to envy wicked people their prosperity, for their ruin is at the door and they are ripening apace for it… The flourishing of a godly man is like that of a fruitful tree, but that of the wicked man is like grass and herbs, which are very short-lived.  They will soon wither of themselves. Outward prosperity is a fading thing, and so is the life itself to which it is confined.  They will sooner be cut down by the judgments of God. Their triumphing is short, but their weeping and wailing will be everlasting.

To be honest, I really don't like the terms envious and/or jealous in this context.  How dare anyone say I am envious of the drug dealers (illegal or "legal") that conduct an immoral, crime-filled business! Right? But don't get hung up on that.  Have you ever thought it unfair these people profit (greatly!) from their deeds? And wondered why they profit (greatly!) while the God-fearing, law abiding citizens struggle to make ends meet? That is the area where we are being told to fret not.

And I dare say this can be applied on any scale.  Going back to the seemingly mundane, mentioned earlier, of course.  And all the way to the terrorism that threatens and desires to take over the world today.  Again, we would never say we are envious of them.  Yet, it's not "fair" the power they seem to hold.  And, it's not "fair" the millions of dollars funneled into their cause from outside sources.

But fret not.

12. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

13. The Lord shall laugh at him: for He seeth that his day is coming.

Fret not.

14. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.

15.  Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

Fret not.

35.  I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.

36.  Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

The loss of life is gut wrenching and heart breaking.  I do not think we should live in la-la land, waiting on God to rid the world of evil.  I believe we are to stand with Him and confront it.  I believe we should be mindful and watchful, protecting our physical selves.  And I also believe we should guard our hearts.  It is in this vein, where I will decide to fret not.

Shared at Faith Filled Friday, Chain Linky Climb, and Tuesdays with a Twist.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

16 June 2016

Ham & Pineapple Pasta Salad Recipe

100_7818I've been trying quite a few new recipes of late.  Until just a few months ago, I didn't cook.  (True story!) But it's a skill I want to get better at, and it's been said practice makes perfect.

When I first began gathering recipes, I hit a lucky streak.  Either the recipe was delicious as is, or I at least knew what I could do to make it more to our liking.  Recently, however, that luck has gone.  It seems everything I've tried has either been ho hum or plain ol' yuck.  Frustration has set in – I'm ill from wasting money, and tired of eating stuff I don't want so as to not waste more money.

Ever been there?

Enter this simple, seemingly modest pasta salad with a classic flavor combination, and a base of only four ingredients:  ham, pineapple, green onion, and macaroni.

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I'll bet that caused a mixed reaction.  Some of you might think I'm just plain crazy, and others are on the side of ho hum.  Please allow me to finish.  I haven't told you about the dressing, yet.

The sweet, yet sour, and oddly creamy – more like a sauce – dressing.  It takes this pasta salad from um, ok to wow.  Jack. Pot.

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There are a few more ingredients needed for the dressing, but nothing too crazy – mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar.  You just might have all that in your fridge and pantry right now.

100_7820You really ought to try this maybe weird concoction.  I can eat it all alone for a meal.  We even ate it as a side dish with barbecued pork chops and zucchini patties.  Regardless of how we ate it, two adults finished the bowlful in 24 hours.

Here's how to make it.

Ham & Pineapple Pasta Salad

Adapted from The Recipe Critic.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. dry elbow macaroni
  • 1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks (in juice, not syrup), drained -- reserve juice for dressing!
  • 2 cups cubed ham
  • 3/4 to 1 cup green onion (green parts), sliced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup honey flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup reserved pineapple juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Rinse in cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine pasta, pineapple chunks, cubed ham, and green onion slices. (I used 3/4 cup green onion, then went back and added more.)
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and reserved pineapple juice. (I needed more juice to combat the cider vinegar, so start with a 1/2 cup and taste.)
  4. Pour over pasta and combine.
  5. Try not to eat it all in one sitting!

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

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Shared at Thrifty Thursday, From the Farm, Happiness is Homemade, and Tasty Tuesdays.

Hope you find it as tasty as we did. From my mountaintop to yours,

09 June 2016

Blueberry Butter & My First Attempt at Canning #tbt (Throwback Thursday)

Here's a little something I wrote almost three years ago. This was well before the RV and move to the mountains, but blueberry butter is something I still adore. Have some in the fridge right now!


Though sometimes my stage in life doesn't permit me to be zealous about it, I am hugely into preservation. I want to preserve the past, I want to preserve cemeteries, I want to preserve the earth, and I want to preserve food. ;-) Why not, right? I've actually been wanting to get into canning for a very long time -- years. Remember, though, I am so NOT into cooking the savory. I'm all about the sweet stuff. So butters, jams, jellies, and the like are right up my alley.

I've hesitated with these delectables in the past mainly because I thought it was time-consuming and a little silly when there are just two people in the house. Even though both of those reasons are nonsense, I feel better about it when partnering the process with canning.

Since I've been doing a ton of reading on the subject, I've become mildly obsessed with the Food in Jars blog. And that is where I found my first recipe -- Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter. (That just sounds awesome, doesn't it?)

I was a little nervous about waste if I screwed something up, so I made a very small batch, beginning with 3 pints of pureed blueberries.

Marisa (at FiJ) wrote about leaving the blueberries in her slow cooker for five hours on low, then notching it up to high for the sixth. I have a 1.5 quart Crock Pot that has only one setting (supposedly low), and it worked just fine. I did have my butter in for a total of seven hours, though.

After five hours, I added the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (just halving her recipe). I did zest a whole lemon like she put in her full batch.


I'm not sure I can express how delicious this stuff is. I thought the blueberries alone were pretty tasty, but the nutmeg and lemon are standouts that make it divine. I've had it with my toast every morning since.


How did I fair with the canning process, you ask? Very well, thank-you! I literally had only one pint jar to go with, but I got my experience. I have a Ball Canning Discovery kit that had been sitting in my pantry for at least a year. It comes with a basket that I used with my deepest pasta pot -- about seven inches. Right away I could tell that was pushing it in depth, but I pressed on with fingers crossed.

After processing for ten minutes, I set the jar on the table anticipating the "ping"! Twenty-four hours later I tested the seal. The lid was firm when pressed, no movement at all. And I could lift my jar by the lid alone without worry of it coming off and spilling my beautiful blueberry butter. Success!


Shared at Thrifty Thursday, This Is How We Roll, Chain Linky Climb, Happiness is Homemade, Tuesdays with a Twist, and From the Farm.

I was featured!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

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