Dinner on the Farm: Instant Pot Chili Night!

We just got back from camping and cooking on an open fire. And let me tell you, it’s one of the things I enjoy most. Now, the little incident we had with our camper hitting the bottom of a low bridge and sending us tent camping for 5 days, I don’t love so much. But, I’m so glad that we went ahead with the trip and had all the fun we were wanting to.

That being said, getting back to school and our regular routine hasn’t been easy and I’m craving the great outdoors and gazing up at the stars from my tent window. So, waking up to the low 60s this morning and feeling fall in the air was welcome and made me reminisce about the chili we cooked in our cast iron pot on the coals of our fire ring. I wanted to recreate it at home, with a little twist on the seasonings. Instead of using instant seasoning packets that we used to convenience while at the campsite.

I came up with a happy mix of an Italian and western inspired taste and a whole lot of flavor! We usually never cook our chili the same way twice. Sometimes it’s spicy, sometimes sweet. This recipe is a nice, simple, comforting chili you can cook with most ingredients you’d already own and throw it together in about 10-15 minutes (minus cook time), and I think I’ll be returning to it often throughout autumn and winter.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef (But I actually used goat meat for mine. You could also substitute turkey.)
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons garlic powder
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 jar of your favorite chunky pasta sauce (I used homemade, you may want one like Prego Garden Harvest Chunky Italian or something similar)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons smoky dry rub (I used Stonemill brand but, you can use any you like or make your own from a recipe like THIS)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (yes, extra paprika)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 15 ounce can light kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can dark kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can pinto beans drained and rinsed
  • Assorted toppings like shredded cheese, green onions and sour cream

Directions:

  1. Turn your Instant Pot to Saute. Add the olive oil to the pot.
  2. Add the onion and cook until slightly browned and translucent.
  3. Add the meat and cook until browned, breaking up the beef (or meat of your choice) with a spatula as you stir.
  4. Add the garlic, tomatoes, pasta sauce, beef broth, dry rub, cumin, smoked paprika, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, pepper and beans to the pot.
  5. Turn the Instant Pot to the Chili/Beans setting and place the lid on the pot. Cook for 20 minutes. Release the pressure either manually or allow it to release naturally.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Back to School: Skolebrød

I am of no Norwegian or Scandinavian descent… that I know of. But, when I ran across a bunch of random recipes for skolebrød, “school bread”, while late night scrolling online, I knew I needed to make these as a back to school treat for my kiddos. And, for myself too, if I’m being honest. Just looking at the Google images will make you salivate. I obviously know this from far too much experience. lol.

From what I’ve read, these are generally described as a type of sweet bun seasoned with cardamom that began in the 1950’s as a snack packed in school lunches as a treat or as something sold at a bake sale. Hence, the reference to “school bread” or, skoleboller, “school buns”.

Nowadays, these mouth-watering buns, flaked with coconut, swathed with a sweet glaze, and filled with a generous portion of vanilla custard are a familiar, ethnic favorite. No longer just related to the school house or lunch box, these yummies are planted in bakeries, stores, coffee shops/cafes, and even gas stations in Norway!

The closest I’ve come to eating authentic Norwegian cuisine is a visit to Epcot at Disney World. How about you? From what I can recall, it was delicious, but I don’t think I ever got to taste anything baked while I was there. And cardamom certainly hasn’t been something I’ve reached for a lot in the recent past. But, everything I researched swore that it puts Norway’s baked goods on the cutting edge. So, with a little help from the lovely photos over at Alice & Astrid as well as two different attempts, I adapted & baked my own skolebrød! And, left a few without the standard toppings because of my husband’s dislike of coconut, making them what would be called solbolle, “sun buns”.

Each year it’s fun to go something a little fun and ‘extra’ for the kids when they restart and end the school year. And, I think when it’s something homemade or handmade, it really adds to the feeling of care, concern, and reward the kids sense coming from me. I hope they always remember memories like me making diverse, traditional dishes for them and recreate the experience for themselves and their own children.

But, before I get too emotional and start talking about how kids grow up too fast and how quickly time is bypassing me, let’s get to the recipe!

Skolebrød (Norwegian sweet buns with custard and coconut)

Makes 10-12

Bun Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ¼ cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cardamom
  • 8.5g of dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup butter, cut into pieces

Vanilla Custard:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar (add 1-2 drop of vanilla extract and beat into the sugar)
  • 2 egg yolks beaten

Glaze & Assembly:

  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon fresh juice
  • 1 ½ cups of shredded coconut

Instructions:

  1. Start by gently warming the milk, whether on the stove or in the microwave. Either way, you want it just a little more than lukewarm.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook. Then, add the warm milk and egg.
  3. Mix on low for about 8 minutes without stopping.
  4. Stop the mixer and add the butter to the dough. Turn the mixer on to medium speed for 5 more minutes. The dough will be very elastic and kind of ‘wet’.
  5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. While the dough is rising, you can begin making the custard. Using a double boiler (or in my case, a glass bowl and a saucepan), place the milk, vanilla, and egg yolks. Add in the flour a little at a time and whisk it in. Stir often with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps.
  7. Bring to a light boil while continuing to stir, until the mixture thickens.
  8. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature.
  9. When the dough has finished rising, take it out and place it on a lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a large log and cut it into 10-12 pieces. Roll each piece into a round bun and place half of the buns on one prepared baking sheet and the other half on another prepared baking sheet, leaving space between each. Cover each sheet with a towel and let the buns rise for another 30 minutes.
  10. While the buns are proving, make the glaze. 
  11. Preheat the oven to 450°F. When the buns are ready, make a nice indentation in the center of each. I like to use my pestle (from my pestle and mortar), but you can use a spoon or anything else that will work. Make sure to press down all the way!
  12. Fill each with about 2 Tablespoons of the prepared custard. Brush the sides of each bun with the lightly beaten egg.
  13. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Repeat for the second batch. Allow the buns to cool completely.
  14. When the buns have cooled, take the glaze and place it around the center. Immediately pressed into the coconut and turn until the glaze is completely covered by coconut.

Serve and eat up! I have read that these will last in an airtight container (preferably in the fridge) for 2-3 days, but that fresh baked is really the way to enjoy them!

I had mixed reviews from my family on this one, but the process was a lot of fun!

Instant Pot “Colder Weather” Soup

Anyone that knows me and my cooking, knows that I’m really not good at or disciplined in the area of cleaning as I go. For dealing with this, my husband must be commended, because the dishes often fall on his shoulders. For these, and many other reasons, I like to make one pot/pan meals to cut down on the mess & stress.

Since we haven’t been eating out inside of restaurants since COVID began and we only really order out for pizza, we have cooked at home A LOT and I never thought I’d say it, but… it’s getting old. I’m at the point where by 3 PM, I am wishing food would just appear for my family and that a fairy godmother would come take care of cleanup. I can’t be the only one feeling this way, right?

With the first day of winter right around the corner, I’ve been digging out some hearty soup recipes that we all love and trying to develop some new ones that we can toss into the instant pot, “set and forget”. That said, the groceries are packed with the holidays coming up and I’m finding that they are having a hard time keeping things in stock. Lots of the meats and ingredients I need for the week, when I’m meal planning, seem to disappear before I can put them in my online cart at Walmart or my husband returns home half empty-handed when I send him on a run for my specifics. That was the case this week, which I what lead me to coming up with the soup I’m sharing here today.

The weather is getting colder. A lot of days around here have been highs in the 30s and snow has shown it’s face more than once. A comforting bowl of slurp worthy goodness was just what I knew we all needed. And, if you’re feeling that way too, then this soup recipe is for you! The ingredient list is simple and the tastes are familiar; they marry together in a way that is delectable. Plus, served with 60 minute dinner rolls… midweek, supper time heaven. Disclosure: It does have a bit of heat to it. It’s delightful, but if you’re sensitive to spice, maybe omit the red pepper.

Instant Pot “Colder Weather” Soup

Ingredients:

1 Lb ground Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2-1 cup chopped celery leaves

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cans navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup white wine

3 cups water

2 cups chicken broth

Salt + pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Set your instant pot to sauté and drizzle the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Cook your italian sausage and onion together until the sausage is brown & onions are mostly translucent. Add red pepper & minced garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.

2. Stop sauté and add the rest of the ingredients to the pot one by one. Pressure cook for 20 minutes.

3. Serve, topped with mozzarella cheese. And, preferably, with your choice of bread. Bon appetit!

GUEST POST: Fulcrum Farms’ Chicken Paprikash

I am so thankful for Instagram and the people it provides to you at the right time. Amber @ Fulcrum Farms has always been super sweet and supportive of my page so it just felt right to reach out to her and ask if she would write a post for the blog. If you talkto her, it just felt like a natural fit. She came up with such a great post and one of my fave comfort foods to write about for you. So, without further adieu…

FULCRUM FARMS, Amber:

When I was contacted by the lovely Quin, to write a post for her blog, I was kind of caught off guard. What could I possibly say that anyone would want to read? I’m new to owning land, I don’t have experience with real farming, and I’ve never officially raised an actual farm animal (aside from chickens, which most people start out with anyhow). So what could I write about that people might be interested in?

Then I decided – well, I could just share a quick recipe, something perfect for cool weather, and comforting after a long day of work. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a good recipe for that! Everyone that I have shared this with has enjoyed it immensely. It’s super simple, but it is also absolutely delicious. Handed down from mother’s side of the family, I make this many times through the fall/winter months to fill all our tummies when we are running on low. I hope that you like it as much as we do!
Chicken Paprikash

4 Bone in Skin on Chicken breasts (or thighs or a mix)32 oz chicken broth1 large yellow onion, chopped4 cloves garlic, crushed1/2 C flour1/4 C Hungarian PaprikaSalt and Pepper, to taste 16oz sour cream
Heat and oil a large skillet or pot with a lid. Cook chicken until browned on all sides, it will finish cooking through during braising.  Remove to a plate and cover.  Lower heat. Add onion and garlic to the skillet, pour more oil if needed.  Cook, stirring often, until fragrant and onions turn translucent.

Meanwhile, mix together flour, paprika, salt and pepper.  Once onion and garlic are soft, stir in the flour/paprika mix.  Increase heat to medium and stir, it will be VERY thick – you just want to cook the flour for 30-60 seconds to remove the raw taste. Whisk in the broth, be sure to stir it very well to remove clumps. Once the broth has been mixed into the flour, bring pot to a boil. Return chicken, submerge and lower to a simmer.  Cover with lid. 

Allow to cook several hours, I usually leave mine on low for 4-5.  Or, if your cooktop likes to burn things, put into an oven at 250* for 3-5 hours (optionally a slow cooker and/or instant pot would work wonderfully for this recipe too!). Check every so often, if you’re using an oven or cooktop, to make sure the it isn’t boiling hard – you want to braise the meat slowly in plenty of liquid. 

About 60 minutes before you plan to eat, put sour cream out on counter to come to room temp.  30 minutes before you plan to eat, use a colander and drain the chicken, onions and garlic.  Wipe out pan, then add liquid back into pot, keep off heat. Separate the onions and garlic from the chicken, discard. Debone, remove skin and shred or chop the chicken, set aside.  Whisk sour cream into pot, turn heat to medium low.  Add in chicken, stir, and keep warm until serving.

I make homemade spatzel to go along with this and serve with a side of fordhook Lima beans or baby peas. Egg noodles and rice are both good options as well. 
This makes enough to serve my family of 6 – with seconds and usually some leftover. It’s also easy to adjust to your taste – add or remove ingredients to your preference. We like a lot of paprika, so my recipe calls for a large amount. We prefer white meat, so I use bone in skin on breasts. We don’t like the onions/garlic floating around in our liquid so I strain and remove them. 
If I can give 2 recommendations –

  1. Use bone in and skin on chicken, any pieces will work or just take a whole chicken and cut it up to fry and continue with the recipe as written.
  2. Purchase Hungarian paprika. The better quality you have, the better your dish will taste. You can use the store brand paprika, but if you can splurge on a container of real Hungarian paprika – do it!

Enjoy!

A Soulful Autumn: Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Every year I end up trying a bunch of new soup recipes. My hubby loves soup in the fall and winter and, with unlimited sourdough, could probably eat me out of house and home during those cooler months. I used to HATE soup, until we got married. Now, I too, look forward to the nights being a little chillier, and the mornings being more brisk. Not just because autumn is my favorite season, but because soups and chilis and chowders are on the menu as regulars once again.

Thankfully, recently, we have had the fortunate circumstances of being able to receive boxes of food provision from friends. They contain lots of different things, from milk and yogurt, to veggies and meat. And we couldn’t be more grateful that, especially during COVID, we are able to share our abundance and be the recipients of others’ generosity as well.

In these boxes recently have been lovely, large butternut squash! I was so excited when I saw them, because, for years now, I have been dying to try making butternut squash soup. But, for some reason, I never have. So, yesterday was finally the day! To use these beautiful veggies before I forgot about them and let them turn. The result was one of the creamiest, savory soups I’ve made in a long time!

My family ooh’d and aww’d their way through dinner and the kids must’ve thanked my husband and. I a million times over for making dinner- like we don’t every other day. Haha. But, needless to say, this was a family favorite and I’ll be making it again and again. This recipe also makes a TON so I’ll be freezing some as well, because, honestly, (ask my husband) cutting these butternut babies is a tad laborious.

You may wonder why I make large batch recipes… and, the short answer is, because I have six mouths to feed. But, the better answer is that lots of recipes get better the next day, once the flavors have married a bit more. Also, I can store them for eating later; whether by canning them or putting them in the freezer. Not to mention, large batches are meant to share! Even though we are currently observing social distancing, I often drop off food to friends or family so that they feel loved and thought about. It’s a great way to spread a little joy in these weird times.

The best news about this soup, is that once all those lovely squash are cut, the recipe is SO simple. So, here it is! Hope you LOVE it and find it as delish as we did. Let me know if you recreate it and what (if any) additions or substitutions you make. 🙂

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil or butter

5 lbs butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and cubed

6 cloves of garlic

2 medium yellow onion

8 cups vegetable broth

2 cups of water

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 medium carrots

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 cups heavy cream

*fresh parsley, sour cream, and nutmeg for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil/butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Then, add garlic and brown sugar. Saute another 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in vegetable broth and water (scraping the bottom of the pan for the yummy bits).
  3. Add squash and carrots, salt, pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until squash is very soft. About 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in heavy cream. Puree with an immersion blender.
  5. Serve warm topped with whatever toppings are desired.

YUMMY, Batch Sourdough

I have been baking sourdough for a bit over a month now and, while I’m not expert, it’s become one of my favorite pastimes. It’s become a ritual I perform at least once a week, preferably on Saturday/Sunday and I usually bake more than one. Now, I don’t know everything is to know about hydration and everything , but I know that I’ve never had my bread turn out bad. And that means a lot.

What also means a lot, is that I’ve had people from other states beg me to make them bread because they think it’s so beautiful. I’ve had a friend text me and tell me I need to host a Zoom cooking class. And, I’ve had internet acquaintances give me encouraging words. All of that means to me, I must be doing something right with my sourdough boules.

I’ve taken to making between one and three loaves per week and giving away a lot of them as “covid care packages”. So, I thought I might share my bulk batch recipe in order to give you an easy, no-knead recipe you can literally sleep on and come out of it with perfect looking loaves.

I learned basically everything I know about baking sourdough from following along with Sylvia from Feasting At Home. This recipe was adapted from hers and the tips and tricks I picked up along the way. She has an amazing, broken down timeline on her blogged recipe, equipment to have on hand, and some special tips she finds helpful too– head over and check it out!

In the meantime, I’ll let you know that I got my [live] sourdough starter from Breadtopia because. wanted a jump start on the process. And when I say “jump start”, I mean mine was ready to bake in like two days! Wowza! You can purchase from the Breadtopia website or from Amazon; live or dry. If you go this route, I HIGHLY recommend that you follow the directions for care provided by Breadtopia for the best results.

Now, your first attempt may not be perfect. Mine certainly wasn’t! (See above) However, I feel like, in this technology driven society, it’s nice to practice slow living by taking your time to really develop a craft/hobby or two that takes you away from your phone and computer. Something that makes you feel like you’ve spent you time well. Makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.

So, here goes, guys! The recipe is below and it’s a good one! Yield is three boules (or batards), 75% hydration. Whichever you prefer. Bon appetit!

YUMMY, Batch Sourdough

Ingredients:

12 cups (leveled) of bread flour (personally, I do not weigh)

6 tsp salt

5.5 cups water (filtered is preferred)

1 cup of sour dough starter

(I love to add sesame seeds, rosemary, parsley, oregano…etc to season when I’m in the mood.)

Directions:

  1. At least 8 hrs before mixing your dough, feed your sourdough starter and leave it out on the counter.
  2. When ready, add your flour to a large bowl. Mix in spices, seeds, flavorings at this time. Add your starter and water next. (I, personally do not dilute my starter in the water first for this. However, if you are more comfortable with that method, you can mix the starter with your water until the water is cloudy before adding it to the dry mixture.)
  3. Mix all ingredients with your hands (or a wooden spoon if you prefer, but to me the hands are the best tools for this) for a minute or two until you have a shaggy, sticky dough. Make sure the flour is completely mixed in, without overworking and ‘tidying’ the dough. Messy is okay! cover with a wet kitchen towel and let rest 15 minutes. It will loosen up as it rests.
  4. Do the first set of stretch and folds.  With one wet hand (put a bowl of water next to you) pull the dough from one side and stretch it upward, then fold it up and over to the center of the dough.  Turn the bowl and repeat until the dough gets firm and resists. This helps strengthen the gluten. Cover, rest, and repeat the process  15-20 minutes later. (I do this 3-4 times total, but only two is “required”.)
  5. Proof overnight, at room temp. Cover with plastic or wax wrap or a damp kitchen towel and place it on your counter for 8-12 hours. (68-70F is the ideal temp. according to Sylvia.)
  6. Check the dough in the morning. The dough should have flattened, expanded, with a slight dome to the top.
  7. Flour your Banneton basket (if you have one). If you do not have one, line. high-sided bowl with non-stick parchment paper.
  8. Loosen the dough from the all edges of a bowl with using your wet fingers. With both hands, carefully pull the dough straight up, in the middle and lift it, stretching straight up in the air until it hangs down 12-24 inches and place it back down, gently folding it on top of itself. It will firm up as it stretches and folds. Do this at least 3 times. The third time you lift and stretch, lift it all the way into your parchment-lined bowl/banneton seam side up.
  9. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for uncovered which will firm up the bread, make scoring easier and help boost  oven spring. Preheat the oven (for 1 FULL hour)  to 500F with your dutch oven inside and lid on.
  10. Score the bread in the bowl, using a very sharp knife, lame, or razor blade & bake.
  11. Place in the middle of the oven for and immediately drop heat to 450F and bake 25 minutes with lid on. Remove lid and it should be puffed and just lightly golden. Lower heat to 450 F, Continue baking 18-20 minutes until deeply golden. Keep an eye on it!
  12. Let it cool for 45 min to 1 hr before cutting and serving. Enjoy! With butter, honey, jam, olive oil & balsamic… any way you choose!

***When you put one loaf into the oven, rotate your next loaf into the fridge. Also, when you go to put the second and third loaves into the oven, don’t change the temperature! Start out at 450 and bake for a little longer time, if needed.

Charlie’s Chocolate Bundt + Lavender Vanilla Glaze

Lately, I have been craving rich, yummy comfort foods. Especially sweet ones! I’m currently trying to break that habit because my jeans don’t really like it, but man! do I love a good slice of cake or decadent pastry. And my passion for baking has only shown itself more in the past few weeks.

I wanted to share this recipe because is a refreshing take on the typical chocolate cake, but it’s also very moist and indulgent. Kudos go to my daughter, or this recipe would have never been born- so it’s named after her. She requested a chocolate butterfly cake a while back, which I obliged with this recipe. However, her cake was slathered with vanilla buttercream and then decorated with a trillion sprinkles.

After making her cake, I started thinking about ways I could make it again, but in a more sophisticated, simple, and elegant way. I have also been trying to use as many unexpected herbs in my cooking as possible, recently. While chocolate and vanilla are classic flavors (and what my daughter picked), I wanted a twist and ultimately decided to add lavender.

I also made a large batch of lavender lemonade to serve with it. YUM! Which my husband eventually turned into a cocktail with gin and ginger beer. Basically, we’ve been living in a lavender heaven!

In my opinion, this is a wonderful cake to bring to a spring or summer gathering or share with family on a special occasion. However, in my case this was just for fun, and I ended up sharing it with my sister-in-law and family. I was glad they loved it- enough to even enjoy it for breakfast! Haha! ( I apologize for not having more photos!)

If you decide to try this out, I truly hope it brings you as much happiness as I had making it.

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 cups flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup cooking oil (I used coconut)

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 pkt instant chcolate pudding

1/2 cup sour cream

Glaze:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp dried lavender buds

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. For the Cake, mix all dry ingredients, by hand or in a mixer. In a separate bowl, combine pudding mix, eggs, buttermilk, water, oil and 1 tablespoon vanilla. In large mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients and wet, by slowly pour in the wet ingredients while whisking with electric mixer on low/medium speed for up to 2 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Pour into greased bundt pan.

Bake on 350° for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan 20-30 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack or plate. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the glaze, Bring cream just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, in a small saucepan over medium. Remove from heat, and stir in dried lavender; let stand 10-15 minutes.

Pour lavender milk through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, and cool completely, about 20 minutes. 

Whisk together powdered sugar, salt, 1/4-1/2 of the lavender milk, and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Whisk in up to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. (However, because I didn’t want the lemony taste to take away from the lavender I ended up adding a little bit of water instead, to thin out the glaze. Don’t add so much water, though, that you dilute the taste or make your glaze so thin it sinks into the cake.)

Sprinkle with dried lavender buds, if desired. Enjoy!

Hopefully you whip this up, post a picture, and tag me on social media @lone_birch.

Bohemian Oil DIYs

I’m so excited about today’s post! I have loved essential oils for a few years now, and I’m (finally) taking big time advantage of using them again since we moved into this house. They were in a storage box for far too long!

My Aussie, insta-acquaintance, Sinead (who is AMAZING at essential oil DIYs, by the way) inspired me to do a few projects of my own. After seeing her pretty little posts and projects, I thought I’d come up with some new blends to bottle; for a few different uses.

Now, I admit that I am not an essential oils expert. It’s just something I enjoy and find helpful in my day-to-day. I also understand that what oils and brands people choose to use are highly personal, and sometimes controversial. So, I won’t delve too deeply into a spiel, trying to get you to use what I do.

I will only mention that I’ve been using Eden’s Garden oils forever and I LOVE them. I’ve found them to not only be affordable, but effective. I LOVE that the company doesn’t recruit distributors! They are a family/woman-owned business, and their products are 100% pure. That being said, I encourage you to use WHATEVER oils you are comfortable with. Every boho babe has her own groove!

Today, I’m going to be sharing five easy, oil “recipes” you can start with for these diy projects. But, if you’re familiar with, and love, oils already- feel free to experiment and add to what I’m blending here! I’d love to know about your fave oil blends and creations!!

Here’s what I used for these 5 projects, besides the oils themselves:

NOW Solutions Vegetable Glycerin

Thayer’s Witch Hazel Facial Toner (w/ Rose Water)- I chose this product knowing that it was alcohol free, it contained aloe, and I liked the added depth of the rose water component. I also will use this product alone in future. I also really like THIS brand that also comes in unscented.

Carrier Oil- Carrier oils are very important when it comes to formulating your oils for application to skin. Read this great article from HelloGlow, to find out more! I used this particular “coconut oil” product because it’s specifically formulated for skin + absorption, I’ve been using it for a long time and knew it wouldn’t cause irritation, and it also has percentages of safflower oil, jojoba oil, cotton seed oil, almond oil, argan oil, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, and avocado oil. Holy hydration!!

However, I can no longer find this one in stores or online. Therefore, no link available. But, I encourage you to use whatever you have handy and what works for you! It’s so important that you don’t feel pressured to go out and buy a bunch of fancy, expensive products to do this. Find what’s cost effective and easy to obtain, and what might be the best for your skin type. Not everyone will choose the same combination; that’s what makes it so fun & experimental!

Dried Flowers- This part is totally optional and unnecessary, but I love the way it looks! Adding dried flowers can help you identify which oil is which and add to the artsy vibe of the whole thing. You can get dried flowers in a number of places, online, or even dry your own! I got my lavender from Amazon and have been using it for everything imaginable. The lovely chamomile came from Sage Hill Botanicals via their etsy shop.

Vessels- Besides the blends themselves, choosing the vessels to put them into might be my favorite part. Sinead uses The Vessel Collection (as do I) because they have all beautiful, glass containers you could want. I went to place an order from them immediately, BUT then I saw the $40 shipping to the USA and knew I’d have to do something different. So, I searched for something I loved, US based, and found these gems from Karma & Cosmo. They are SO GOOD!!

I also have a monthly subscription to Grove Collaborative and received another one of their perfect, spray bottles in my box last month. Similar HERE. Or you could reuse/repurpose a container from home.

Funnels- I reccommend getting funnels for besically any project that requires dumping liquid from one container to another, but especially for small/narrow necked bottles like this. I got a pack from Amazon (linked), a lot of times they come with a bottle when you buy them, or you could probably find them at the dollar store.

If you are (and even if you’re not) new to essential oils, I HIGHLY recommend getting a book like “A Beginner’s Guide To Essential Oils”. It’s a helpful and quick reference to remember what each is helpful for, their uses, and what they blend well with…etc. I use this one regularly to maintain knowledge of what works well for me.

Let’s get down with the blends!

Cloud Nine Room Spray:

Unscrew the top of your glass bottle and add essential oils.

4 drops lemongrass

4 drops clary sage

4 drops patchouli

4 drops pine

Fill the glass halfway with distilled water, then fill the other half with witch hazel. replace the lid and shake the bottle to combine the witch hazel, oil, and water. (If your glass bottle is clear instead of colored, you could also add some dried flowers or greenery to add beauty and also- if desired- show the scent.)

This blend helps to energize, reduce anxiety, support mindfulness and concentration, as well as boost air quality. Perfect for literally any time of day and any room in your home.

*For the roller balls, drop essential oils in, fill the rest of the bottle with carrier oil. Be sure to leave a little space at the top so there is room to drop in any dried flowers and put the roller back on. My rollers here are 7.5ml.

Tranquil Slumber Roller

4 drops lavender

2 drops vetiver

2 drops ylang ylang

2 drops australian sandalwood

This roller recipe is great for treatment of insomnia or sleep disorders, promoting calm & relaxation, and overall easing restlessness. As someone who suffers from insomnia, I LOVE THIS BLEND! And can attest to it’s soothing qualities.

Lifegiver Roller

5 drops tangerine

1 drop spearmint

3 drops lemongrass

3 drops lime

This roller is designed to boost mood, refresh, and alleviate the blues! Everyone needs this one in their life. And all my kids even loved how it smelled (not that they need more energy lol). Eucalyptus would’ve been a great addition to this, even replacing the lime. (However, my 2 year old dumped out all I had left before I could make these!!)

Look Lively Roller

3 drops pink pepper

2 drops frankinsence

2 drop bergamot

1 drop rosemary

Loving this roller for those days when you just need a “pep talk” to get you through those late afternoons when you’re so badly craving a nap. Good for invigoration, emotional support, and increase alertness.

*For body spray, add your oils, then one tablespoon of vegetable glycerin, one tablespoon of witch hazel, and fill the rest with distilled water. The perfume bottle I’m using here is 50ml.

Nature’s Child Body Spray

12 drops patchouli

12 drops bergamot

10 drops myrrh

8 drops tangerine jasmine blend (if you don’t have this blend you can use 4 drops of each, separate oil)

8 drops australian sandalwood

6 drops lemon

This is a very subtle scent, but I love it for after the shower. It’s got a sweet, earthiness that’s extremely pleasant and uplifting. It improves feelings of contentment, enhances meditation, intensifies attentiveness, & supports overall well-being. Keep in mind though, it’s a body spray, not a perfume, so the scent does fade with time.

Okay, that it for me. I hope you guys try some of these out, or, as I mentioned, I would love to hear some of your creations you think I should give a whirl!

Stay groovy, friends,

Blackberry Ginger Cake w/ Peach Apricot Filling + Barely There Cream Cheese Icing

Where do I even start with this cake? It’s pure magic. It’s perfect for any occasion. And, if possible, it’s even better the second day.

I developed this recipe on a whim, in the middle of the night (no surprise) and probably annoyed the crap out of my husband by constantly asking, “Does this sound good? Do you think this goes together?” I wanted so badly to have some originality to the flavor combo, but also have it taste cohesive.

I saw a cake on Pinterest that was honestly the inspiration for the whole process. It was no only pretty, but it melded together incredible flavors. It inspired me to do the same, but with my own imaginative blend. I tend to like making things multidimensional because I like the challenge of it.

Since COVID, I have seen people turn into serial bakers. But, I had managed to avoid it, for the most part… until I made this cake. I bake when I’m stressed, and the longer this pandemic lasts, the harder it is to resist making anything that pops into my head. It’s so satisfying to see creations come to life.

My whole family, kids included, ranted about how great this was! I have to admit, even though my kids aren’t picky eaters, I wasn’t sure this would be their taste. In hindsight, I think this is probably a very generally liked mixture of ingredients.

We ate on this for days and I swear it got better with time! It has a nice, warm gingery taste but, with a bit of depth from the blackberry. The peach and apricot give the cake a nice punchiness without being tart. And, the cream cheese icing- reminiscent of carrot cake- is to die for. No one thing overpowers the other. They all just work together to create something delicious!

While I initially made this in late spring, when all the fruity ingredients could be found fresh locally, you could use canned fruit for this as well. Or, even frozen. However, keep in mind the water content in thawed frozen fruit will be higher so you may end up with a runnier filling; you may have to add a thickening agent, such as xanthan gum or gelatin.

I hope, if you make this, you enjoy it as much as we do! And if you care to share, tag me on social media @lone_birch so I can see your version!

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE:

10 tbsp butter

3 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup + 1.5 tbsp brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp backing powder

1.5 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 cup finely grated, fresh ginger

1 1/4 cup pureed (strained) blackberries

2 tbsp lemon juice

FILLING:

1/3 cup pureed peaches

1/3 cup pureed apricot

FROSTING:

10 tbsp butter (softened)

12 tbsp room temperature cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla

CARAMELIZED APRICOTS:

8 ripe apricots

1/2 cup honey

INSTRUCTIONS:

CAKE:

  1. Heat oven to 350° F (170° C).
  2. Butter two 6-inch (15 cm) cake pans.
  3. 4. Beat eggs and sugars until fluffy and lighter in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Add melted butter and vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl, then stir into the batter until just smooth.
  5. Peel and grate the ginger. Put the blackberries in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Strained through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Add grated ginger and all of the blackberry puree to the batter and stir until combined. Batter will look bluish/gray. Divide batter between the two cake pans.
  7. Bake for about 40-43 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Leave to cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

FILLING:

  1. Put both the apricots and peaches together in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Set aside in the refrigerator until time for cake assembly.

CREAM CHEESE ICING:

1. Beat butter until pale and fluffy. Add cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until just smooth.
2. Put the bowl in the fridge until time for cake assembly.

ASSEMBLY:

1. Cut both cake layers in half with a serrated knife so you end up with four cake layers.
2. Put the first cake layer on a cake board or directly onto a plate or cake stand. Spread a layer of frosting on the first layer, then spread a layer of the peach/apricot puree over. Repeat this until you’ve used up all layers.
3. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and put in the fridge while you prepare the topping.

CARAMELIZED APRICOTS:

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Arrange the apricot halves, sut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Spoon 1/2 tbsp honey onto each apricot half. Brush with melted butter, if desired.
  4. Broil the apricots for 3-4 minutes, until bubbling and caramelized.
  5. Place around the cake as decoration and/or serve on the side of each slice. Vanilla ice cream optional.

Farmhouse Fave: Apple Maple Bourbon Cinnamon Buns

About a month ago was the first day since quarantine that I was able to have an entire day [almost] to myself. Noah had to go see his [biological] mom, so, while hubby and the other two oldest kiddos made the long trek to VA to meet her, T and I stayed home and tried to relax. If you know me, you know that “relax” isn’t in my vocabulary. It’s one of the hardest things for me to do and, with four kids around, it’s not something I often get to attempt.

That said, T and I layed in bed, watched movies, cuddled on the couch…and I managed to fit in a little laundry. While we were lounging a bit in the morning, I stumbled upon a couple of recipes that sounded divine, only I couldn’t decide- between the two- on which to make. At one point, I even contemplated trying to be ambitious and make them both with a toddler hanging around my feet screaming, “ME TOO! ME TOO!”, because of her desire to help. Disaster? I think, yes. Haha.

So, instead, I decide to marry the two into a delicious, gooey masterpiece and knew the kids would be thrilled to come home and find them ready for dessert or a sweet, breakfast treat the next day. Needless to say, I kick myself for not thinking to make something like this as a nice send off surprise for Noah. But, they are so yummy that they are definitely going to be a go-to that we will all get to enjoy over and over.

They DO take a little time and effort, so I wouldn’t exactly call them “quick and easy”. But, the result smells and tastes amazing! And, I’ll be honest, I’ve had a hard time keeping my hands out of that pan! Hopefully, if you make these, you love them as much as we do.

Don’t forget, you could always add things like pecans or walnuts, raisins, and other favorite ingredients into the filling mix to make it your own. Without further adieu, here’s the recipe!

Apple Maple Bourbon Cinnamon Rolls

Dough:

1 pkg active dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting your work surface

2 tblsp butter, melted, plus more for buttering the bowl and baking dish 

2 tblsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Filling:

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 granny smith apples, diced small

Icing:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar 

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. For the dough: Place the yeast and 1 cup lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and add the flour, butter, granulated sugar, salt and egg. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough forms a ball and releases easily from the sides of the bowl.
  2. Butter a large bowl; transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. For the filling: In a medium bowl, stir together the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter. Set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter your baking dish.
  5. Punch down the dough a couple of times, then roll it into approx 16-by-12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread with the filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  6. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the dough into a cylinder and then slice into 8-12 rolls. Arrange the rolls, cut-side up, in rows in the prepared baking dish. The filling will be “watery” and start leaking. Feel free to spoon what comes out over and into the crevices of the rolls to help retain flavor and moisture. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise until nearly doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake about 20 minutes.
  7. For the icing: Blend or stir the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Top the warm cinnamon buns with icing and serve.

Tip: If you plan to reheat them to eat the next day, be careful not to leave them in the microwave too long. 10 seconds in ours was enough to restore the fluffy, gooiness without melting away the icing or turning the dough into a hard rock.

Also, if you happen to have a cute two year old around to help, snap a pic of them licking off all that frosting! It’s too cute and you’ll know all your hard work paid off from the satisfied look on their face. (as seen below)

If you recreate these, let me know in the comments below, or tag me on social media so I can see!

Recipe inspired by and adapted from Half Baked Harvest and Nancy Fuller.