Week 10 – Crockpot Apple Cider

Crockpot Apple Cider From Scratch

Today’s recipe for homemade slow cooker apple cider might seem like a lot of work but it's super easy. It’s made 100% from scratch and has been one of my favorite entertaining recipes over the past few years. Don’t believe me, try it for yourself!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time6 hrs
Total Time6 hrs 20 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: apple cider, apples, crockpot, slow cooker
Servings: 10 Cups
Calories: 125kcal

Equipment

  • Slow Cooker

Ingredients

  • 8 gala apples quartered or any apples you have on hand Remove the core
  • 1 orange sliced leave the rind on
  • 4 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 10 cups water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Instructions

  • Place your quartered apples into a slow cooker.
  • Add in cinnamon sticks, orange, whole cloves, and allspice in there and pour in the 10 cups of water.
  • Cook on high for 3 hours.
  • After 3 hours, mash the apples with a potato masher.
  • Add in brown sugar and cook an additional 1-3 hours on low.
  • Using a cheesecloth, strain the solids from the liquids.
  • Discard solids and store liquids in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for later use.
  • Enjoy!

This, Not That, Thursday – DIY Indoor Herb Garden

Good afternoon lovely people. 

We have something special for you today! Our “This, Not That, Thursday” is about indoor herb gardens. An indoor herb garden is a great way to have fresh herbs all year long and in almost any climate. Plus if you grow them from organic non-GMO seeds, you’ll know you’ve got the best of the best for your family.

Savor the flavor of your favorite herbs and add a bright bit of green to your kitchen when you bring your herb garden inside. If you have a sunny windowsill with at least four hours of sunshine a day, you have everything you need for a flourishing garden full of herbs such as mint, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

There’s no benefit to growing herbs you aren’t going to use. Start with the ones you use often. If you’re still not sure which to grow, here are some ideas:

Rosemary – This herb is spicy and warm and great paired with beef, lamb, or chicken. Rosemary is also helpful for keeping rodents and mosquitoes away.

Thyme – Thyme is most often used as a spice in culinary uses and its aromatic and rich flavor is perfect for soups, stews, and marinades.

Oregano – Oregano is often used in Greek and Italian food (especially tomato dishes).

Mint – Mint is a tasty herb that adds some freshness to any dish (especially lamb!).

Basil – Most well known as the main ingredient in pesto, basil is a delicious and mild herb.

Sage – Sage is a great herb to add to pork or turkey sausage and combines well with any other herb on this list.

You can start your herb garden from seeds, or to get a quick start, you can purchase established herb plants from your local garden center or grocery store. When you purchase established plants you won’t have to wait long until the plants are mature enough for harvesting fresh herbs when you need them.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – DIY Natural Cat Treats

Hello again! Since many of today’s cat treats are full of preservatives and chemicals, why not make them yourself? That’s why this week’s “This, Not That, Thursday” is on DIY Natural Cat treats. It’s relatively easy and quick, and, best of all, you know what kitty is eating!

DIY Natural cat treats

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Snack
Keyword: cat treats

Equipment

  • food processer

Ingredients

  • 1 5 oz can tuna in water, drained
  • ½ cup oat flour*
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon catnip

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processer with the blade attachment.
  • Blend until mixture is smooth.
  • Roll into small ½ teaspoon balls and place onto the parchment. Press a finger each ball to flatten slightly
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until they are slightly browned. Cool completely before surprising your kitty with a treat made just for them!

Notes

*NOTES
To make your own oat flour, simply grind old-fashioned oats in a clean coffee grinder until transformed into a light powder.

This, Not That, Thursday – Bat Houses for Organic Pest Control

Did you know that a single little brown bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour

One gray bat will munch on 3,000 insects in a night. I don’t know about you, but those statistics make these little nighttime flyers pretty popular with me. Would you like to attract some bats to your homestead for natural, non-toxic organic pest control?

The first way to get the little critters interested in your yard is to leave a dead tree if you happen to have one. Some dead trees can pose a problem if they are close to your house or other structures, but if you have a tree that can be left on your property, chances are the bats will eventually move in. The bark that loosens up and pulls away from the trunk when a tree dies provides a perfect little crevice for bats, who love to squeeze into small spaces.

If you’re like most people and having a dead tree on your property is not an option. The next best choice is to install a bat house. If you are handy and want to try building your own bat house, here is a link on DIY Bat house plans https://homesthetics.net/bat-house-plans/ If you’d rather purchase a ready-made bat house, those are also available online, amazon sells them for $25-$60. You may want to visit the website for Bat Conservation International. You’ll find bat house plans, ready-made houses, and all kinds of fascinating bat information.

Now, onto where to place your Bat house. They are best located near a permanent source of water, especially a marsh, lake or river, which is by far the most likely to attract bats. They should be hung roughly 12–15 feet above the ground, where their approach is unobstructed by vegetation or utility wires and they are sheltered as much as possible from the wind. A bat house can be placed on a tree or pole, although those attached to the side of a building have had the most success because they provide temperature stability.

Since appropriate temperature may determine how (or even if) your bat house is used, you may wish to consider several factors before mounting it. Lower temperatures, due to higher altitude or latitude, require that bat houses intended for use by nursery colonies be oriented to receive maximum sun, especially in the morning (southeast exposure). Another way to gain heat absorption is to add tar paper or dark-colored shingles to the Bat house roof. Even in hot climates, bat houses should be positioned to receive morning sun


No matter if they are summer residents only or hang out all year long, it is well worth your time and effort to attract them to your homestead by installing one or more bat houses on or near your home. Encourage other community members to do the same. You’ll enjoy the natural pest protection that they will happily provide you and your family.

This, Not That, Thursday – Using Apple Peels & Cores

Apples! Did someone say apples? This week “This, Not That Thursday” is all about saving those apple peels and cores.

Every fall we take at least one trip to an apple orchard near us. They have family-friendly activities, wonderful local canned goods for sale, and of course, apples. So many apples! Plain apples, apples to make applesauce, pies, crisps and the “mother” of them all… Apple Cider Vinegar

When making any of the above you will probably peel & core some of those apples but did you know you can use the peels and the cores to make apple cider vinegar? This way you have virtually no waste! WINNER!

It is also totally possible to make apple cider vinegar from the whole apple so don’t worry if you don’t have leftover peels and cores from anything.

There are several more elaborate ways to make apple cider vinegar at home, but today I’m gonna show you how to make it from apple scraps. I especially like this method since it allows me to use the apples for other stuff while still making a valuable product from the “waste”.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 d
Total Time5 d 10 mins
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dairy free, Gluten Free, heart healthy, low calorie, low carb, low fat, low sodium, nut free, soy free, vegan, vegetarian
Author: Grandma Antoinette

Equipment

  • One quart jar
  • One canning lid ring OR a rubber band
  • Coffee filter OR paper towel

Ingredients

  • 5-6 Large apples Apple peels & cores any browning/discolored flesh from organic apples
  • 2-2 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar I like Turbinado raw sugar
  • 2-2 1/2 cups water boiled and allowed to cool

Instructions

  • Cover the bottom of your jar with apple scraps, filling no more than 3/4 full. The apples need room to expand and stay submerged.
  • Add 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar and 2 cups of filtered water to the jar. The apples should be completely submerged. Mold can grow on any portions of apples that are not covered and ruin your batch of vinegar. If your scraps float to the top of the jar add a smaller jar on top to keep them submerged.
  • 3.Stir the apples, sugar, and water and cover with a coffee filter. Secure with a canning band, or a rubber band.
  • Allow apples to sit in a warm, dark place for 2 weeks. Above the refrigerator or on the top shelf of a cupboard are great places. Just don’t forget you put it there!
  • After 2 weeks, you might notice some fizz or bubbles. That’s good news! Strain out the apple pieces and compost. Cover the apple cider vinegar again with a coffee filter and canning band. Allow continuing to sit at room temperature for another 2-4 weeks.
  • The vinegar may become cloudy or a SCOBY could form on the top, both of which are normal. Taste test the vinegar once a week until it’s to your liking. You can stop the fermentation process by replacing the coffee filter with a canning lid and storing it in the refrigerator.
  • Use your homemade vinegar just like you would store-bought vinegar– for cooking, cleaning and everything in between

Notes

Tip: You don’t HAVE to use a quart-sized jar, but it’s what I readily have available. Feel free to use whatever size jar you have on hand. If you use a different size jar, the ratio is 1 Tbsp sugar per 1 cup water.
NOTE: About preserving and pickling with homemade vinegar: It’s generally recommended that you do NOT use homemade vinegar for any sort of preservation. In order to ensure the safety of your home canned products, you need a vinegar with an acetic acid level of 5%. Since most of us don’t have a way to check the levels of our homemade vinegar, it’s best just to skip using it for canning or preserving– better safe than sorry!
NOTE: You want the peels to be from apples that have been scrubbed very, very well. Organic apples are preferred, but simply buy the best you can afford and wash them very well. Secondly, it’s okay to use brown or bruised apples. However, it is NOT okay to use moldy or rotten apples.


This, Not That, Thursday – DIY Aloe Vera Gel

It is easy to make aloe vera gel at home. All you need is a few healthy leaves of the aloe vera plant. If you have an aloe vera plant at home or in your garden, then you are lucky! Aloe vera gel is an excellent all-natural healer for skin issues such as sunburn, rashes, acne, among others. Aloe vera gel is also known to promote healthy hair growth. You can even preserve the gel for a month by adding natural preservatives.

How to make Aloe Vera Gel

Make your very own natural healer and skin cleanser!

Prep Time 30 mins – Total Time 30 mins

Appliance Needed: Blender, Refrigerator Serving size: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 aloe vera leaves
  • 500 mg vitamin C (optional)
  • 400 IU vitamin E (optional)

Instructions

  1. If you have access to an aloe vera plant, take a sharp knife and cut off a leaf from the outside of the plant, close to its base. They are usually more mature and contain plenty of gel. If your plant is too young, make sure you do not cut off too many leaves at once. Aloe vera leaves are also available in supermarkets in the produce section. You can usually get 1/2 a cup of gel from 1 mature aloe vera leaf.
  2. Wash the leaves under cold running water to remove any dirt on the skin.
  3. Place the leaves upright in a bowl to let any white or yellow resin to drain off. This can cause irritation to the skin.
  4. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin of the aloe vera leaf on one side. You will see the sticky gel underneath.
  5. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the gel. Collect the gel in a clean glass container and make sure you do not get any pieces of the leaf skin in it.
  6. If you have collected a lot of gel and want to preserve it, you can mix it with natural preservatives. In a blender, add aloe vera gel and vitamin C or vitamin E capsules. For every 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel, you can either add 500 mg of vitamin C or 400 IU vitamin E. The foamy gel should be put in a clean, airtight glass jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
  7. You can also use fresh aloe vera gel to make a nourishing aloe vera juice or add it to smoothies.

Notes

Consider growing an aloe vera plant in your home as they are low-maintenance plants and grow easily. Aloe is generally safe for most people, but if you have an underlying health condition or take medicines or use herbs, talk to your doctor before using aloe as it could react with other medications and substances.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Beeswax Wraps

On this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday,” we want to discuss beeswax wraps. Last week we touched on DIY reusable snack bags to move away from disposable plastic, so this week we’re focusing on plastic cling wrap.

If you’re like me, there’s probably no love lost between you and plastic. Most food-related plastics – including cling wrap and so-called “BPA-free” containers – “can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen”* 

Fortunately, there are so many amazing alternatives available like leakproof glass containers and silicone stretchable lids that stretch to fit a variety of container sizes, and of course beeswax wraps!

When you pack your own lunch every day (maybe your kids’ too), it might feel like you’re always adding cling wrap to your grocery list… enter beeswax wraps. The pliable covers fold up around foods and cover bowls of leftovers. They rinse clean with cold water and mild soap (hot water would melt the wax!) and you can reuse them time and time again.

These bee-autiful storage solutions sell for about $18 for a pack of three on Amazon, but if you’re feeling crafty, they’re super easy to DIY. Either way, you’ll easily recoup the cost by buying fewer sandwich bags and plastic wrap. If you use three plastic bags per day and a box of 150 costs about $10, you’re already spending more than $70 per year on something most people just throw away after one use.

These beeswax food wraps are not hard to make, but they do take a little bit of time, so plan ahead for that. This recipe makes four wraps, but it’s easy to double the recipe if you want to make more.

Cut the muslin cloth to whatever size works best for you, or even different sizes if you wish. You can use pinking shears if you want to make the edges fancy. I personally love the look it gives. The pine resin is probably the hardest ingredient to come by, but I was able to find a good source on Amazon. Beeswax pastilles are probably the easiest form of beeswax to use here, or you can do what I did and grate some off a block of beeswax.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼  cup beeswax
  • 2 tablespoons pine resin
  • 1 tablespoon jojoba oil
  • 4 squares of 100% cotton muslin fabric (I used 12″ squares)

EQUIPMENT

  • small saucepan
  • glass pyrex measuring cup
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet
  • 1″ wide paintbrush
  • clothes drying rack
  1. Melt the pine resin in a double boiler (I use a glass pyrex measuring cup in a pot of boiling water) over medium heat. 
  2. It takes a while for the resin to fully melt, but once it does add the beeswax. Stir using a wooden or bamboo stick until the resin and wax are completely melted together. 
  3. Then slowly drizzle in the jojoba oil. Turn the heat to low to keep it all melted. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 225°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place one square of muslin on the parchment and use the paintbrush to brush it all over with the beeswax mixture. 
  5. Place the baking sheet in the oven just long enough to fully melt the beeswax. It should only take a couple of minutes. Take it out of the oven and spread the beeswax around again with the paintbrush, so that the whole muslin cloth is coated evenly. 
  6. Then take another square of muslin and lay it on top of the first square to blot up the extra wax. Flip the two squares over so that the blotting square is now on the bottom. 
  7. Return the baking sheet to the oven briefly, just long enough to liquefy the wax. 
  8. Remove from the oven, and hang the first piece of beeswax coated muslin on a clothes drying rack to dry. 
  9. Use the paintbrush to spread the wax on the blotting square, which is now your working square, and repeat the whole process again.

Once they are all dry, they are ready to use! They work perfectly for covering bowls, just as you would use plastic wrap. The beeswax can be warmed in the hands and will conform to the bowl and stick to the rim. The pine resin gives it some stickiness as well.

FYI: Beeswax wraps aren’t air-tight and won’t keep highly perishable items (like raw meat) fresh. We recommend using them to cover foods you’ll eat within a couple of hours or the next day, like a sandwich, bowl of pasta, or piece of fruit. For longer-lasting leftovers or smellier items like cheese, you’re probably better off sealing them up in reusable glass containers. With that in mind, here’s how you can make your own beeswax wraps <3 

*Concluded a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives(source 1, source 2)