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Its about that time: whether you are making vanilla essence or aftershave, it is going to take several weeks for the flavor or scent to properly work itself into your homemade Christmas gifts.  Make them now so that they can be used right away.  Here are four gifts sure to please this Christmas:

  • HOMEMADE AFTERSHAVE ($15).  I used this aftershave recipe from Passionate Homemaking (5 TBSP Organic Filtered Apple Cider Vinegar, 3 TBSP Dickinson’s Witch Hazel, 1 TBSP Vegetable Glycerin).  For a manly scent my husband and father loved, I added 5 drops of Lavender essential oil and 10 drops of Patchouli essential oil (it was a weaker craft-store brand…you may want to use a few drops less if you have a high quality oil).  The interesting things about the scent is that it really does change over time.  The recipe says to wait 3-4 days; at that time the aftershave smells great, but you can tell the scents apart.  After a couple months, the scents blend together and smell like something store-bought.  My husband wears the aftershave I made him every day; when the bottle gets down to 50%, he tops it up with unscented aftershave (same ratio as above 5 A.C.V.:3 W.H.:1 V.G.)  I think I made his present for $15, including the bottles.  It has lasted almost a whole year with 3 top-ups.  The scent has got a little weaker each time, but he isn’t a fan of strong-smelling colognes anyway.  If you want to make your gift very versatile (and a bit more expensive), you can create a homemade aftershave gift basket, providing a large, “refill” bottle of unscented aftershave, the scented aftershave, and the essential oil bottles you used.  That way the grateful man receiving your amazing and thoughtful gift can dilute or strengthen the scent to his hearts’ content!
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  • LAVENDER BALM ($15).  I used this aftershave salve recipe from Passionate Homemaking (2 TBSP Coconut oil, 4 TBSP Shea Butter), except that instead of the recommended manly scents I used 5 drops of Lavender Essential oil and put it in a pretty glass container for a female family member with eczema.    Pure Shea Butter is difficult to find: I had to get it at my local health food store.
  • RASPBERRY, CHERRY, and CRANBERRY “WINE” VINEGAR ($2-$5 each).  This sounds so impressive, but if you have been saving your glass bottles and use scraps from frozen or fresh fruits, the only expense is the organic filtered apple cider vinegar.  The vinegars may be used to make vinaigrette.  So far I have used the leftover juice/seeds from frozen raspberries to make Raspberry Vinegar, a few chopped up Michigan cherries to make Cherry Vinegar, and cranberries that were too far gone to be used to make sauce–mildly fermented but not rotten–to make Cranberry “Wine” Vinegar.  There really isn’t a recipe: approximately 10% of the volume is the finely chopped up fruit, the rest is apple cider vinegar.  Store the tightly-sealed “fruit” vinegar bottle in a cool, dark place for at least a month so the fruit flavors will be infused into the vinegar.  The vinegar will preserve or pickle the fruit bits and keep them from spoiling.  You can make a vinaigrette gift basket by making my Sweet Basil Vinaigrette as well as a fruity vinegar and placing both bottles in a basket with a set of dried, organic herbs used in the recipe.
  • VANILLA AND SPEARMINT EXTRACTS ($10-$15 each).  The greatest cost to this is the alcohol.  Vodka is the most versatile medium for drawing out flavors because it can be used on anything (and is cheaper).  However, nothing beats the Bourbon flavor of  whiskey for a homemade Vanilla Extract.  To make a vanilla extract, use 4 vanilla beans per 8 oz. of alcohol; split the beans lengthwise using a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into the alcohol, then place the bean pods in the alcohol.  The larger the overall amount of vanilla beans/alcohol, the better, because it makes “re-flavoring” easier (I used a large olive oil bottle but you could easily add the beans straight to the alcohol container); When you have used half of the extract, top up with alcohol and shake.  Replace old vanilla beans once or twice a year.  For a spearmint extract(milder and sweeter than peppermint), use fresh spearmint leaves from the garden or your grocer: fill up a glass bottle with rinsed & touch-dry leaves, lightly packed, and pour vodka over them until the top leaves are completely immersed.  Extracts need to be stored away in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months (ideally), 6 weeks at a minimum.  Shaking extracts regularly during this waiting period will help to speed up the extraction process.

    I used old spice jars to make Mint Extract. This should taste yummy in hot chocolate or coffee, give a milder flavor to homemade toothpaste, and add a fresh “Christmassy” flavor to tapioca pudding when combined with a little nutmeg.

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You can make Chicken Stock easily in the same container you cook your chickens in!

This Transformation Tuesdays post is a sure-win for easy and nutritious cooking.

For me, chicken stock is one of the most versatile and nutritious foods I make.  It can be substituted for water in many recipes, adding flavor and nutrition.  Having chicken stock handy makes for quick-and-easy soups (leftover spaghetti meat sauce + chicken stock = yummy Italian soup).  It also makes your home smell WONDERFUL (if I wasn’t so full from the healthy foods we eat, I’m sure I’d feel hungry all the time just from the smell!).  Did I mention that it costs almost nothing to make?  Water + vinegar + leftovers + vegetables + energy cost for 6-24 hours.  Helping of Hope: you can up the ante on your nutrition for almost free overnight!

Nutritional Benefits

According to Nourishing Traditions by Dr. Sally Fallon, Chicken Stock contains:

  • More easily-absorbed (electrolyte) forms of minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Hydrophyllic colloids.
  • Gelatin.
  • Cartilage components.
  • Collagen.

Based on these key nutritive components, chicken stock is supposed to help alleviate the following conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Anemia and other blood diseases
  • Asthma
  • Bone Diseases
  • Cancer
  • Chron’s Disease
  • Colitis
  • Common Cold
  • Connective Tissue problems
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Digestive defficiencies
  • Dysentery
  • Hyperacidity
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Influenza (the Flu)
  • Malnutrition
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Want to find out how to make this culinary marvel yourself?  Check out my Chicken Dinner and Stock Recipe for a hearty Helping of Hope.

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Ooops, I accidentally uploaded a page as a post…so if you got a fruit pizza recipe, that was premature!  Since the cat is out of the bag, here is the Sprouted Grains & Legumes page with three sprouted wheat berry recipes and a how-to explaining just how easy it is to maximize your nutrition this Summer.  Bon Apetit!

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