Feb 8, 2019

Weekend Links

We have snow!
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In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. "
James 1:17
* We finally got our share of the snow! Oh, it's nothing compared to what some of you are getting, but four inches of snow is a BIG DEAL where I live! My kids love it, of course, but I confess I'm having the best time watching the animals react. Our two male cats keep trying to come inside. (And yes, they have plenty of warm, cozy places to stay that are not our house.) Our female cat, ever the huntress, just sees it as a grand opportunity to find new prey. Our youngest hens have never seen snow before and they keep hopping around the snowy part of the chicken run. The older ladies hardly seem to notice the snow. And the rooster? He'd rather stay in the hen house all day. Most fun is the dog. He loves snow! He goes outside and plays all day and when he gets tired, he sits in the snow to rest. No way, no how is he coming in until we make him!

* Thank you to everyone who picked up a copy of The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book! It was #1 in Herbal Medicine and Alternative Medicine and #7 in Health on Amazon and has all 5-star reviews. Now I'm hoping you will all GO LEAVE A REVIEW! Hahaha! But reviews make all the difference in Amazon helping new readers find books! By the way, I also started a Facebook group that's entirely devoted to using dandelions as food and medicine. Join us!

* While the kittens were recovering from their spay and neuter, they lived in my canning kitchen. And since they got into and on everything, it was too unsanitary to use for food preservation. Now they are healed and living outside, so I fired up my canner and freeze dryer. First, I tackled some meat in the freezer. Around Christmastime, I bought ham and turkey for 99 cents a pound - about as cheap as they get around here. I cooked the ham and we ate two meals off it, then I made ham stock and canned it, along with some ham meat. Then my husband smoked the turkey, we ate two meals off it, I canned stock from the bones, and I freeze dried the rest of the meat. When reconstituted, it tastes just like it would fresh out of the smoker!

The turkey before freeze drying...
and the turkey after freeze drying.

I also had about 80 eggs from our hens in the fridge, so I decided to try freeze drying them. I whipped the eggs to combine the yolks and whites and popped them into the machine. Now they are shelf stable for over 20 years and can be used to cook scrambled eggs, or for baking. I love my freeze dryer! (Learn more about it here.)
Eggs going into the freeze dryer...
and eggs coming out of the freeze dryer.
* I recently finished this novel, Between Two Shores, by one of my favorite modern novelists, Jocelyn Green. It's a straight historical (not a romance) and I LOVED it! Totally refreshing and so moving, too. I highly recommend it.

* Recall on peaches, nectarines, and plums. 

* Tyson chicken nugget recall.

* Are measles making a come-back where you live? Do you know the signs and symptoms of measles? 

* This will be controversial, but it's worth reading. Why getting the measles vaccine may help prevent other childhood diseases.

* The beauty of God's creation is highlighted in these microscopic images of seeds.

* Love pickles? Then you probably should try dehydrated pickle chips!

* How to make garden fertilizer with comfrey "tea." 

* 6 fruit crops you can propagate from cuttings.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Foraging for Chickweed

* Why & How to Prune Blueberries for a Better Harvest
* Why I Don't Watch HGTV (and Maybe You Shouldn't Either)

Feb 5, 2019

4 Things I Wish I'd Known about Backyard Chickens

What I Wish I'd Known about Raising Chickens
I grew up with a pet chicken and have now consistently had a laying flock for about seven years (barring a short period of hen-lessness when we sold our suburban home and moved to the country). I vividly recall trying to convince my husband that having backyard chickens in the suburbs was totally do-able - and worth doing. He was difficult to persuade, but now he might be even more pro-chicken than I am!

So, needless to say, we think chicken-keeping is worthwhile. Still, if you've never had chickens before, there may be some surprises in store for you. Here are some things that surprised me when I first started keeping chickens as an adult.

1. Some hens lay a lot less than others. Actually, I did know this before I got my first flock of hens, but it took a while for me to realize just how dramatically the choice of breed affects egg laying. For example, we once had a neighbor who chose fun, fancy-looking hens, and even though they were in their prime, they only laid one egg a week. On the other hand, the chickens we kept at the same time (which were Plymouth Rocks) typically laid an egg a day. At one point, we also adopted some fully-grown Silver Wyandottes; they were sweet, mellow hens, but they weren't nearly the layers our slightly more ornery Plymouth Rocks were. (Nowadays, we're loving our Australorps; they are sweet and gentle, but excellent layers.) So before you buy, be sure to check out a good chicken breed comparison chart that offers an idea of how well each breed lays.

2. Free range birds lay fewer eggs than birds in a smaller run. At least typically. We started out with hens in a small run, letting them free range for perhaps an hour or two most days. Six birds laid six eggs a day. Then we expanded our run, and suddenly the egg production dropped to just four eggs a day. This isn't uncommon. Chickens expend a lot of energy scratching around, and may receive less balanced nutrition if they don't eat much feed; hence, they lay fewer eggs. On the other hand, hens that are given high-quality land to free range (i.e., there are lots of different kinds of bugs and plants for them to eat) produce healthier eggs. Click here to read more reasons why we no longer free range our hens.

3. You really don't have to buy store bought eggs again. It's common to read that despite having backyard hens you'll still have to buy some store-bought eggs. Assuming you don't have severe restrictions on the number of hens you're allowed to have, and assuming you don't have a huge family, this simply isn't true. Choose your breed carefully, selecting excellent layers. Keep in mind how many eggs you currently use before determining how many hens you keep. Plan to store extra eggs in the fridge; if you don't wash them before storage, they last for at least 6 months in the refrigerator. Or, freeze extra eggs instead. Then, when your hens begin molting (and therefore stop laying), you'll have plenty of eggs in the fridge or freezer to last until they begin laying again.

4. Backyard eggs are actually cheaper than store bought. Again, before we got our flock, I'd read repeatedly that keeping chickens wouldn't save us money on eggs. This definitely wasn't true; read about our .06 cent eggs here.

A version of this post originally appeared in August of 1012. 

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Feb 1, 2019

FREE - The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book

https://amzn.to/2WugjaEFor a limited time, my new book The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book, is free in Kindle format. Grab it while you can!

In it, you'll discover a wealth of information on how the common dandelion has been used since ancient times, and how science is confirming it's high medcinal value. The book also teaches proper dosing and offer recipes for using the flower, leaves, stems, and roots for health and medicine.

Here's what some readers have said about The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book:

"Ms. Seleshanko had done a wonderful job of pulling together medicinal recipes for numerous types of health problems. I was impressed with the background information relating to the subject and have begun looking for dandelion products in the store until I can harvest them on my own in the Spring."
         Mr. Bill

"I was so pleased to get Kristina’s sequel to The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook! She has a knack for explaining scientifically-dense information in user-friendly language, and for giving modern folks practical information on traditional ways of doing things."
          Suzannah Doyle

"If you are looking for an herbal/wildcrafting book that's informative and covers every aspect of a single herb that can help your health in so many ways then look no further!"
          CJ's Olde Thyme Farm 
Take a peak inside the print version (which is black and white; the Kindle version is in color):

You'll find both the print and Kindle version of The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book here.

Jan 29, 2019

Winter Sowing Q & A

Winter sowing is by far my favorite method of starting seeds for my vegetable or flower gardens. It's so easy, so cheap, and so effective, producing hardier seedlings than other seed-starting methods do. If you want to know the simple steps required for successful winter sowing (yes, even if it is snowing, you can start seeds right now!), either check out my ebook Starting Seeds (which covers multiple methods of seed sowing) or click over to this post that gives step-by-step winter sowing directions.

I've been touting winter sowing for many years, and over those years, I've consistently heard a handful of questions about the method. So I finally made a video to answer them!

Do you have other questions about winter sowing? Or gardening? Or homesteading? Or homekeeping? Please leave a comment with your question and I promise I'll answer.

Jan 22, 2019

Spotting Sugar's Sneaky Names - with a FREE Printable List to Take Shopping!

Other Names for Sugar
Even though my family doesn't eat much processed food, I've been shocked to learn how many food products we used to buy that contain sugar. That's not because I didn't used to read food labels. I do that pretty diligently because I've been fooled before. It's because sugar hides under all kinds of sneaky names.

No wonder the nation's health is so compromised! I'm finding sugar hidden in nearly everything, including dairy products, condiments, "non-sugary" drinks, and "no sugar" pectin used for canning!

The science is in. We are killing ourselves with 26 lbs. of sugar per year, according to conservative estimates. (One website I came across claims the figure is closer to 170 lbs. per year!) Sugar, studies show, causes inflammation in the body - and inflammation is linked to pretty much every disease. Sugar puts a strain on our livers, which are working too hard to process it all. Sugar turns off our sensation of satiety while stimulating insulin, which makes us feel hungry. Sugar increases uric acid, which puts us at risk for kidney disease and can lead to gout. And while fat has unjustly been blamed for heart disease, top cardiologists now admit carbs and sugar are likely to blame. Sugar interferes with the way our bodies fight disease (bacteria and yeast feed on sugar, as does cancer). Sugar increases the risk of depression. Sugar decreases cognitive health. Sugar causes metabolic disease, which leads to pre-diabetes, which leads to full-fledged diabetes.

And this doesn't even touch upon the effects sugar made from GMO ingredients (beets and corn) may have on our bodies.
We have a myriad of reasons to reduce or omit sugar in our diet, but this can be difficult when food manufactuerers hide sugar under names you'd likely never guess. Since keeping sugar out of my life is of vital importance because of my diabetes (learn how I reversed my diabetes here), and because I like my children to eat as little sugar as possible, I've spent hours researching the subject. Since I don't want anyone else to have to do that, I've compiled a list for you.

I've also created a handy printable version of the list that's free for the taking. Put it on cardstock. Laminate it, if you like. And pop it in your purse so it's handy while you're shopping. (Click on the image to download it.) Do note that in order to save space on the printable, I had to omit anything with the words "sugar" or "syrup" in them. Both are types of sugar, but they are easy to spot on a food label, too.
Here's to your health!

Jan 16, 2019

Keeping Sane While Cooking with Kids: 12 Tips for Cooking with Children

Tips for Cooking with Children
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I think most moms realize it's good for kids to help in the kitchen. It teaches children about wholesome food and nutrition, gives them real life math skills, and helps them learn a skill that will serve them well their whole lives. But if you've ever tried cooking with young kids, you know it can be a real hair pulling experience. (See that adorable toddler to the right there? Yeah, my kids were definately never that well behaved cute when they helped in the kitchen!)

When my daughter was four years old, she absolutely loved to help in the kitchen - but she wanted to do
everything herself. She burned herself on the stove around that age (which quickly taught her that when mommy says "Hot!" you need to stop immedietly and back away.) After that, I found myself reassessing how to involve my kids in a chore they had clear interest in, but in a way that was safe and less frustrating for us all. Sometimes I just wanted to banish the kids to their rooms or set them in front of the television until I was done making dinner, but instead, I learned a few tricks for making cooking with my children a more pleasant experience:

1. Give your child a few of her own tools. Let's face it; for a lot of kids, just pretending to cook is as fun (if not more so) than actually cooking. My kids loved having their own aprons and a tiny rolling pin that really fit their hands. (Here's the exact one they used. I still use it myself today, I really like the size.)
My kids in the kitchen, years ago.

Use a sturdy stepping stool. Standing on chairs just isn't safe and sitting on the counter is awkward at best. A good step ladder with a rail that stands behind your child is a real must. You could also use a kids' "kitchen helper," like this one.

Don't let your child cook on the stove until he is truly ready. Some kids won't be responsible enough for this chore until they are teens; most experts suggest waiting until at least age 10, yet some kids are responsible enough at a much younger age. When you do finally let your child use the stove (or add or remove things from the oven), give him a heavy, quilted apron, good oven mitts, and a long handled spoon (wooden, so it doesn't transfer heat) for stirring. And always, always, always supervise.

Avoid teaching your child new cooking techniques or recipes when you're in a rush. Keep the stress level low by doing these things when you have more time to focus on "kid cooking."

5. Keep kitchen chores age appropriate. Children don't like it when you end up doing most of the work. In fact, it can really turn them off to cooking - and doing chores in general.  Make it clear that there are some things in the kitchen only adults should do, but make sure they feel their jobs are important, too.

6. Sometimes make it all pretend. Although most parenting magazines suggest letting toddlers and preschoolers stir things in bowls, the stirring motion isn't especially easy for young kids and if there's much in the bowl, it may take more strength than they have. Make it easier for your children by giving them their own mixing bowl with just a little bit of the ingredients inside it.

7. Let 'em wash. Most preschoolers can learn to thoroughly wash veggies. If you have a salad spinner, this tool will keep kids even toddlers happy.

8. Let' 'em throw it away. Young children like to throw things in the trash (or kitchen compost bin). Again, it's an easy job that makes them feel useful.

9. Let 'em grab it. Young children can usually grab items from the fridge or cupboards - which keeps them busy while you attend to tasks (like chopping) they can't yet do.

10. When you finally allow your child to do some cutting, start them off with a plastic serrated knife, like this one. Leave the real knives for their teen years.
Cute mini pies my kids used to make.

11. Give 'em their own dough. Remember how Ma, in Little House in the Big Woods, gives Laura and Mary their own bits of dough to make their own funny cookies? What a wise woman! Whenever you make pie, pizza crust, bread, or cookies, give your child a small piece of the dough and let him get creative. (Here are some how-tos on an easy way to make mini pies and decorate them with cookie cutters.)

12. Give children too young to cook a drawer in the kitchen filled with safe things like plastic cups, a wooden spoon, and a small pot you don't mind letting them bang. You can keep preschoolers on up busy by having him set the table or make butter. Toddlers on up can also "wash" plastic bowls in the sink or sit on the floor with a colander and try to stick uncooked spaghetti through the holes. All these things keep your children busy in good, learning pursuits, while also keeping them nearby and out of your hair.

A version of this post originally appear in April of 2010.

Jan 9, 2019

Simple Low (or No) Sugar Homemade Hot Chocolate (Hot Cocoa)

Keto Hot Cocoa
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Long ago, I learned that made-from-scratch hot chocolate was far and away better than store bought hot cocoa mixes. First, there's the taste. In my opinion, store bought mixes often taste chemically...and I guess they should, because they contain a lot of dubious ingredients. For example, here's the ingredient list for classic Swiss Miss Cocoa Mix:

"Modified whey, cocoa (processed with alkali), nonfat milk, maltodextrin, hodrogonated coconut oil, calcium carbonate, less than 2% off: salt, dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, artificial flavors."
Did you know manyof those ingredients are things nutritionists say we should avoid?

I also get peeved because the container boasts "no added sugar," when in fact maltodextrin acts like sugar. Oh, and by the way, sucralose is an artificial sweetener linked to spiked blood sugar, weight gain, and increased appetite. I could go on. (For example, while coconut oil is good for you, any fat that's hydrogenated is highly processed. The Harvard School of Public Health website says such fats make our immune system to go into hyper-drive, causing inflammation that's linked to heart disease, diabetes, and just about every chronic illness.)

Which leads me to reason #2 from-scratch cocoa mix is better: The ingredients are simple and clean.

The third reason I love from-scratch hot chocolate is that it's more frugal. I'm always looking for ways to save money on our grocery bill!

And the fourth reason is that homemade hot cocoa is really just as quick to whip up as store-bought mixes.

In 2016, I posted my favorite from-scratch hot cocoa mix recipe, but since then, things have changed. Namely, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Naturally, this altered my eating habits (I went from a low sugar whole foods diet to a low carb, no sugar whole foods diet called keto; you can read about how keto has benefited me here). This also meant my kids were at higher risk of developing diabetes. That 2016 recipe isn't bad, exactly, but it is higher in carbs than I prefer. For example, it uses milk, which is naturally high in sugar. (My new recipe uses heavy cream, which not only makes for a creamier hot chocolate, but naturally reduces the sugar in the drink.)

This new recipe suits both me and my kids. It has fewer ingredients and is lower in carbs and calories, too!

https://sites.google.com/site/proverbs31womanprintables/simple-healthy-homemade-hot-chocolate-hot-cocoaSimple, Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe (Keto Approved!)

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I love this stuff, but I use this for the kids)
6 oz. boiling water
1/4 cup non-carrageenan heavy cream

*For my children, I use cane sugar because it is GMO-free. For myself, I add monk fruit (this is exactly what I use), which is a natural sweetener that doesn't spike blood sugar. You could use any sweetener you like, of course, though I do not recommend artificial sweeteners, which are of questionable health.

1. Place the cocoa powder in a mug and add the water.

2. Stir in the heavy cream. Add sweetener, to taste. I use a scant 1 tablespoon of sugar for my kids, and 2 - 3 drops of monk fruit for myself.

HINT: Want a more intense chocolate flavor? Add 1/8 teaspoon of instant coffee granules to your cocoa! 

If desired, top with healthy marshmallows or homemade whipping cream. 

I have yet to see any pre-made whipped cream that's healthy. Instead, pour a little heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip it until peaks stand up in the cream when you remove the beater. Add sweetener to taste.

For those who eat sugar, these organic marshmallows are a healthier option. Better yet, make your own without sugar at all. 

Approximate nutrition without whipping cream or marshmallows, according to LoseIt. (Depending upon products used, your version may vary.) Without Sugar: Calories: 210; Fat: 20.5 g; Protein: 1g.; Carbs: 3 g. With 1 tablespoon sugar: Calories: 225; Fat: 20.5 g; Protein: 1 g.; Carbs: 7 g.

Jan 2, 2019

Most Popular Posts from 2018

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Another year come and gone. To me, it seems time speeds up each year! But now that Chritmas and New Year's are over, I need to hunker down and get to work. I'm currently finishing up a historical fashion book for Dover Publications. (Years ago, historical fashion books were my mainstay and I've enjoying getting back into that subject.) And as usual, this year I want to try to make this blog better than ever...meaning, I want to hear from you! What do you wish I'd blog more about? Let me know in the comments or through a social media message.

This is also the time of year I look at this blog's stats to see if I can understand my wonderful readers even better. It's always fasncinating to see which posts you like best.









I also look at which posts are all-time favorites:

Happy new year!