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Monday, January 29, 2018

Smoked Sausage & Cheesy Rice Meal

    This is a simple casserole to make and it is so full of flavor.    The smoked sausage, the cheese, the rice...all the flavors just go together so well.  It is a complete meal that cooks in just one pan.  I made a huge pot of this last night and Ron and the boys devoured it.  So much so that my oldest son, Brandon (the one who is a preacher) requested I cook this again tonight.

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Smoked Sausage & Cheesy Rice

2 c. cooked rice
2 c. frozen broccoli
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg. smoked sausage
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

          Heat the butter and oil in a deep skillet or pot.  Add in the onion and the smoked sausage.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are tender.  Add in the broccoli.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the rice and the spices. Stir.   Cover and heat until everything is nice and hot.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. 

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   Quick, easy, and totally delish!

Be sure to check out my other Smoked Sausage dishes:  Smoked Sausage and Brussels Sprouts Skillet Meal & Smoked Sausage and Radiatore Soup

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #countrifiedhicks — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

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I shared this recipe with the following blogs and link parties:
Cooking & Crafting with J & J
Busy Monday
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Sunday, January 28, 2018

20 of My Best Game Day Appetizers

     I don't watch the Super Bowl but I sure do appreciate good Game Day snacks!  Good food is what I appreciate the most!  So, whether you are going to watch the Super Bowl or not, you can still "score" you up some great food ideas from the following!

1.  Chili:  nothing beats a big pot of chili!  

2.  Most men don't want some little finger sandwiches--they want full meat sandwiches, so feed their bellies with some Pulled Pork Sandwiches!


4.  Cheerios Candy...easy to make and tastes good too.

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5.  Chocolate Covered Bacon...you can't go wrong when you combine these two favorites.

6.  Nothing beats the salty goodness of Potato chips.

7.  These Ham Sliders are so yummy and can be ready to eat in less than 30 minutes. 

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8.  Forgo making up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and make up some Chunky Chocolate Chip bars instead.  


10.  What pairs better with Chili than some Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread?!  

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11.  Pickle Sushi:  I know this may sound weird or gross but trust me on this.  It is delicious and almost addicting.  It the perfect snack.  It is salty.  It is cheesy.  It's a bit sour.  All the good stuff, all rolled up into one.  It truly is the most addictive snack and one in which you never even knew you wanted.

12.  A big hit at any party:  Tangy BBQ Lil Smokies.  


14.  Nothing screams Game Day better than Pizza and nothing beats a good Homecooked Pizza that is made with homemade sauce and homemade, made-from-scratch pizza dough.  


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15.  For those who prefer something a little lighter, serve some Baked Lemon Shrimp

16.  No holiday/party is complete (at least to me) is Homemade Reeses.  

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17.  For all you non-alcoholic drinkers and for the kiddos, serve up some refreshing Sparkling Pineapple Punch.  

18.  Another good fluff recipe is Oreo Fluff.  

19.  Who cares it is still winter time, anytime is a good time for Homemade Chocolate Soft Serve Ice Cream.  


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I shared this post with the following blogs and Link parties:
Happiness is Homemade
Our Home Away From Home
Marilyn's Treats
Back to the Basics
A Wise Woman Linkup
Meal Plan Monday


This post was featured on Marilyn's Treats on her "Wonderful Wednesday" blog hop!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Dehydrating Pomelo Grapefruit Rind

    We recently obtained several Red Pomelo Grapefruits.  If you have never tried Pomelo grapefruit, you are missing out.  They are super sweet and simply delicious.  When you dehydrate the rinds and grate them up, you get a sweet smelling Pomelo zest.  I get just the rind (and not the pith) and make a lovely zest/powder from it and by doing so, it retains all the essential oils.

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     When a teaspoon of the powder is added to a bit of liquid, you will instantly recognize the floral and tangy aroma of the grapefruit. When used in sweets, the grapefruit zest adds in a nice flavorful element to custards and anything with berries in it.  I also like to add it in to my stir fry veggies and a small amount in a rich stew really lightens up the taste.   And of course, you can add it to water or tea, just as you would add fresh fruit.  

    Grapefruit zest or powder pairs well with pork and chicken or any Oriental dish.  I often sprinkle them on cupcakes and cakes after they have been frosted/iced.  I sprinkle some on our salads too.  

     Overall, dehydrating your Pomelo Grapefruit rind is a super frugal idea.   Taking something that one generally throws away and making it into something you can use in a variety of ways just makes sense.  

    Okay, to dehydrate your rinds, just peel off the rind from the grapefruit.  

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   Take the peelings and lay them out on your dehydrator trays.

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   Place in your dehydrator and dehydrate on 135 degrees for about 4-6 hours.  I just put them in at night and turned it on when I went to bed and they were ready the next morning.  They need to be nice and crispy.  

    Next place them in a blender.  I use the one I make my smoothies with but any will do.  Add some of the peels to your blender or container.

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    Turn on and blend the peels until they form a powder.  Remove and store in a sealed mason jar until ready to use.

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Be sure to check out my posts on dehydrating Lemons & Limes!


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Dishing it & Digging it Link Party

Friday, January 26, 2018

Thrive Market is Fabulous and Here's Why

     I know that making healthy decisions isn’t always easy—for you or your budget!  If you have never heard of Thrive Market before you are in for a treat and will be as hooked on them as I am.  
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        Luckily, there’s a better way. Thrive Market takes the hassle out of healthy living. It offers organic foods, along with nontoxic home and personal care essentials for 25-50% off what you’d normally pay—and delivers everything right to your door. Thrive Market is on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.   You all have seen that I live off of a very limited budget but we still order from Thrive Market...in fact, I have been ordering from them for the past year and a half.  
Their coconut oil is 40% off retail, which is the best price I’ve found for it online. And Thrive Market sells many of my favorite products at 30-50% off normal prices! And, if you’re following a special diet, Thrive Market has you covered! Use the specialized search options (like “Paleo,” “Vegan,” Soy-Free,” or “Gluten-Free”) to easily find products that fit your lifestyle.
Once you start using Thrive Market, you’ll wonder what you ever did without it!
Here’s what you get when you shop with Thrive Market:
  • Brands you know and love
  • 4,000+ organic and non-GMO products including gluten-free, Paleo, and vegan options.
  • 25-50% savings on every purchase
  • Cutting out the middlemen means you get top brands for less than you’ll find in any retail store.
  • Skip the checkout line and get free shipping on every order over $49!
  • An opportunity to make a difference! For every membership purchased, Thrive Market gives a free membership to a low-income family to help make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.
     In addition to great savings, Thrive Market members enjoy exclusive access to special deals, new product launches, weekly free gifts (yesterday was free Thai Almond sauce), blogs, video recipes, and more!
     Don’t miss out on this limited time offer: Sign up now and get an EXTRA $20 OFF your first 3 orders!
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Blueberry Biscuits

    These Blueberry Biscuits are amazing.  They are not too sweet and they rise up beautifully.  Not only do they taste fabulous but they are so pretty to look at too.  They bake up light and tender and are not dry.  My boys kept commenting on how light and buttery they turned out.  Do yourself a favor and make these Blueberry Biscuits today.  You won't be sorry because they will melt in your mouth and totally awaken your taste buds.  Don't save these only for breakfast...they go great with your noon day meal and supper.

     Don't skip on the glaze...the glaze tastes dreamy and lifts the experience of eating them to new highs.  

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Blueberry Biscuits

2 c. flour
1 c. milk
1 c. blueberries
1/3 c. sugar
5 T. of butter
1 T. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt


For the glaze:  
1 c. powdered sugar
1/8 c. of milk
1 tsp. vanilla

    Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

     Slice your butter up to small pieces and place them into a large bowl.  Add in the other ingredients and using a pastry blender, mix everything together well.  Don't worry if there are still butter pieces, they'll melt in the oven.  As soon as you have a dough, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out. I was worried that the blueberries would "bleed" so I just floured my hands and patted the dough out.  Once I patted the dough out to about 1/4" thickness, use a biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits out.  Place onto a cookie sheet.  

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     Bake for 8 minutes.  Mix up the ingredients of the glaze as the biscuits cook.  Once the biscuits are done and out of the oven, drizzle glaze over the top and enjoy.

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Be sure to check out some of my other biscuit recipes:  Big (Grand-like) Biscuits, Chocolate Drop Biscuits, and Freezer Biscuits.

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #countrifiedhicks — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Flat & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

     I love Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I have several different recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies, ranging from thick & soft, to thick and buttery, rounded gooey cookie, and even a peanut butter & chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I generally prefer a nice and thick cookie but today I am craving a chewy flat cookie so I made them.

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Flat & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 pkg. semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 pkg. milk chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

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     Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.  In another bowl, cream together the butter in with both sugars.  Beat in the vanilla and the eggs.  Mix until it is light and creamy.  Now combine this mixture in with the dry ingredients.  Once it is all mixed up good, stir in all of the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.  

    Once an hour as passed,  preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.  Bake for 16 minutes.  Remove and allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 2-3 minutes.  Remove and enjoy.  

     Makes 3 dozen.

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If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #countrifiedhicks — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

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I shared this recipe with the following blogs/link parties:
Wonderful Wednesday 261
Meal Plan Monday

Sunday, January 21, 2018

35 of my Most Frugal Living Tips

      Before I get started, I wanted to tell you about a recent blog post I did that has gone viral.  I recently wrote a post about How (and Why) to Dehydrate Aloe Vera.  The post got over 3000 views in the first 12 hours.  That is a first for me and I wanted to share my joy with each of you.

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How (and why) to dehydrate Aloe Vera.

    Okay, now on to today's post.

       Have you ever thought that you wanted to give the frugal life a shot but you just don't know where to start.  Before you dive head first into it, start slow until you figure out what works for you and what does not.  A few simple changes in your life at a time will really add up after awhile. 
  
      We could all use a few new frugal living tips and living frugally does not mean you are doomed to a life of deprivation.  Frugal living is not about deprivation or total sacrifice.  Frugal living is about living smarter so that you can afford the life you want to live...the life you have always dreamed of living.

        Most people would agree that we all need to make changes in our lives.  We should be better prepared for small and large emergencies.  We all need to cut our spending but most just don't know where to start.  In the following post, I am going to give you 35 suggestions to help you with your first steps to positive change.

      With that being said, just know that being frugal is a wise choice.  Being frugal helps you to spend less than you earn.  Having that extra money will allow you to save money for rainy days and to pay down your credit card debt, etc.  Also, if you spend less, you can work less.  If you are currently working two jobs or you are working a lot of overtime, if you can cut some expenses, perhaps you won't have to work as much which gives you more family time.  

      Here are the tips to help you lie a frugal life:  (Any words that are in "blue" or are underlined are linked to other posts that tell you more about the subject or will take you to a recipe).

  1. Make your own bread.  I make 4 loaves of bread a week and each loaf costs under 50 cents a piece to make.  So not only are you saving money but the taste of homemade bread is significantly better than store-bought.  Using my recipe, you can make 2 loaves of homemade bread in ONE HOUR (start-to-finish, including rise time).  
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  2.    Do you ever buy oranges or apples?  If so, keep the netting that they come in.  Just ball up the netting and it works good as a pot scrubber.
  3.   Instead of purchasing napkins, hand towels or tissues cut up your old towels and use the smaller pieces as hand towels.  Any old worn-out t-shirt can be cut up and used as napkins (think cloth napkins) and into tissues or "sneeze rags" as we like to call them (think handkerchiefs).  
  4. Instead of buying small trash bags for your smaller trash cans, use the plastic grocery sacks you get from the store.
  5. When you find bread on sale (day old bread, etc.) buy some up and freeze it and/or make French Toast Casserole or Bread Pudding for a yummy breakfast treat for your family.    
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    French Toast Casserole
  6.   Don't use your dryer on beautiful and sunny days.  Hang your clothes out to dry and let Mother Nature dry your clothes for you.  By doing so, you can lengthen the life of your clothes. 
  7.    Speaking of laundry, make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener.  The cost of detergent continues to climb but you can make 6 months worth of laundry detergent for the cost of one jug of detergent from the store.  
  8. Before you make any significant purchase, wait a full 24 hours before you buy.  This stops your impulse buying and helps you weigh the pros and cons of the purchase.
  9.  Don't buy chicken "pieces" at the supermarket (just the thighs or just the breasts) but instead purchase a whole chicken.  The cost is so much cheaper and there are so many ways to use the whole bird.  For example, Dr. Pepper Shredded Chicken, How to cook a complete Chicken Dinner in the Crockpot, Homemade Chicken and Dumplings, or make your own broth/stock.   
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    Homemade Chicken & Dumplings
  10. You can also save a ton of cash by purchasing a whole or half of ham.  Purchase it and then you can slice it up at home or you can have the butcher or deli slice it for you.  It is a much more frugal way to have sandwich meat.  
  11.  When you harvest your garden each year (and yes having a garden is a GREAT frugal tip too), save the seeds to be used the following year.  Just another reason we grow only heirloom and non-GMO varieties.  
  12. Make your own pancakes, waffles and instant oatmeal packets.  Again, they are cheaper than the store-bought varieties and taste better too.  You can in an afternoon to make up a bunch and freeze them and when you need some, just pop the waffles or pancakes into the oven, microwave or toaster and you are good to go.    
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    Homemade Waffles
  13. People need their cars to get around and to get to work, etc. and there is absolutely no doubt that automobile maintenance and gas is not cheap but there are ways to save money where your vehicle is concerned.  Instead of jumping into your car and running somewhere every time you fancy it, be sure to stop and think before you go:  Do you really NEED to go?  Is there anything else you can do while you are out and about? (Combine 2-3 errands into your trip.) Also, fill up a coffee cup with coffee or a cool beverage and eat a snack before you leave your home to keep yourself from stopping out somewhere and buying it.
  14.    Be your own baker.  Instead of purchasing a cake, pie or cookies from a bakery, bake them yourself.  Here are some great recipes that taste great and cost a fraction of the cost.  Homemade Doughnuts, Death by Chocolate Cake, Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cookies, and Pumpkin Supreme Pie.   
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    Pumpkin Supreme Pie
  15. Make it, don't buy it.  There are so many things you can make yourself instead of purchasing it.  Good examples include:  Rice-a-roni (yes, it can be made at home); gravy and even Potato Chips.  
  16. Also, learn to can and dehydrate foods in season to be used throughout the year.  Did you know you can dehydrate watermelon, eggplant and pineapples?
  17.   We have talked about making your own bread and being your own baker but you should also be your family's cook.  Yes, cook your meals instead of getting take-out or drive-thru.  Cooking on a regular basis is not only fun but your family will appreciate it too.  In fact, on more than one occasion my teenage son has mentioned that he feels sorry for his friend because his friend only eats out and never gets a home-cooked meal.  Some fast-food style foods that you can make at home include Homemade Hush Puppies and French Fries!
  18. Another big expense I hear from families a lot is purchasing coffee from Starbucks or other places.  A man we know spends $6 per cup of coffee.  Oh, my!  That is crazy to me.  Do not ever purchase coffee when you are out.  Make it for yourself at home and take it in a thermos or in an insulated cup.  Click on the link to learn how to make French Vanilla Coffee at home. 
  19. Adopt a minimalist wardrobe.  I know many will not want to consider this tip but it can be done.  I have a very minimal wardrobe.  You do not have to go to such extremes but when you do purchase clothing, make sure everything goes with everything else.  You do not NEED that much to get by, even dressing well, purchase items you NEED and not that you just want.   
  20. Use cash, not credit cards for all your purchases.  Using cash and physically having to hand over that wad of money makes a person think more clearly over what they are buying and how much they are spending.  
  21. Become your own personal handy-man.  Watch Youtube videos or check out books from the library to learn how to repair things around the house or how to build things you may need for your home.  Save money that you would have to pay a repairman for to save for other expenses.  For example, we needed some hay feeders for our goats so we made them instead of buying some.                                                  
  22. Start hitting flea markets & yard sales for items that you need.  Just be sure to go with a specific item in mind and don't buy just for the sake of buying.
  23. NEVER go to a store without a list.  Buy only what you have on your list and don't do any impulse buying.
  24. Try meal planning
  25. If it is legal in your area, set up rain barrels and collect rain water.  The collected water can be used to water your garden or water your farm animals.
  26. Learn to turn off the lights as you leave a room.  We started doing this regularly and have already noticed a change in our electric bill.  
  27. Do not get cable/satellite TV and if you have it already, cancel it.  Watch just Blu-rays and DVD's.  Swap movies with your family and friends or check out movies from your local library.  You can also watch TV online now. 
  28. In the winter time, save money by wearing a sweater and house shoes instead of cranking up the heat.  Do not freeze yourself and your family but do turn the thermostat down a few degrees.  It really will add up.  Also read the following post:  10 tips for a warm home this winter. 
  29. Make your own homemade air freshener.  
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    Homemade Air Freshener
  30.  Don't throw out your leftovers.  Learn a great way to use them in this post:  Homemade TV Dinners.  
  31. Make your own condiments and sauces.  For instance, I make my own Steak Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, Spaghetti Sauce, Taco Seasoning, and even my own Baking Mix (similar to Bisquick).
  32. Instead of taking your kids to the movies or other places for entertainment, stay home and do fun things together such as making puppets; making a ball; or making some Play-Do together.  You don't have to spend money to have a good time.  
  33. If you have a farm, grow your own fodder and stretch a 50 pound bag of feed into 300 pounds of fodder.  
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    Growing Fodder
  34.  Buy in bulk to save money.
  35. Stock up on items you use frequently and keep a well stocked pantry.  75 Pantry Essentials Every Cook Needs


    If you have enjoyed this post and want to read more, be sure to check out my most popular blog post:  Frugal Living:  How our Family of 4 Live off of $1300 a month!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

How (and why) to Dehydrate Aloe Vera

      Because Aloe Vera is so great to have on hand and can be used for so many ways, I wanted a way to preserve it.  By drying it and turning it into a powder, I can use it in a variety of ways and store it for long time usage.  Also, dehydrated Aloe Vera powder is believed to boast the highest concentration of the nutrients present in the plant.



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     Aloe Vera is a tremendously useful plant.  The juice inside of the Aloe Vera plant is great for easing the pain from burns; soothes bug bites and it makes a great moisturizer.  It might sound weird but Aloe Vera is also considered to be a super food.  It contains amino acids, minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium), vitamins (A, C, E, B1, B2, B6, and B12), fatty acids, and enzymes.  It is also high in fiber. 

      When dehydrating the Aloe Vera plant, keep in mind that it takes a LONG time to dry (2-3 days) but it is super easy to do.  If you don't grow your own Aloe Vera, you can generally pick up a giant leaf at your local grocery store.  I purchased the above leaf (almost 3 feet long) for just 69 cents at our local grocer.  They can generally be found in the produce section.  
   
     The first step is to wash the leaf thoroughly.  Next, you will need to peel off the outer layers (the rind) of each leaf.  The rind is thick and green.  I use a paring knife for this part.






      Once you have the outer layer off, wash it thoroughly.  The yellow juice from the rind has a laxative effect and can also deplete your body of potassium so just be sure to wash and rewash the leaf before continuing.

      Once you have it rinsed, cut this outer layer into manageable sized pieces that are all about the same size (so they dry evenly) and place the pieces onto your dehydrator trays.  Be sure to place them on the tray slimy side up.

      Next, cut up or scoop up the pulpy part of the Aloe Vera leaf and place them pulp side up on your dehydrator trays.






  Turn on your dehydrator to 135 degrees.  It will probably take the rind about 12 hours to dry but the pulpy part can take 48-56 hours to completely dry.  You know the pulp is ready when it turns to a crumbly white powder or will be super dry and brittle, depending on how thick you put the aloe on the trays.
 


      Once all pieces are completely dry, put them into a blender or a food processor and pulse them until they turn into a fine powder.  Store them in vacuum sealed bags or in sealed mason jars.

     To use, just rehydrate the powder by adding 1 teaspoon of water to each 3 tablespoons of powder.  Place the water and powder into a small, shallow bowl and stir; allow to sit for 5-7 minutes, until it turns to gel form.

      If you are wanting to use the powder in food or beverages, then don't rehydrate, just add a teaspoon or more directly into the food/drink and stir well.  It can also be added in powder form into a smoothie or juice for body cleansing purposes.

     Our family uses the reconstituted gel as a toothpaste.  It does a great job and is a great option if you have sensitive teeth like I do.  It also reduces inflammation in my gums.

****NOTE****
    Pregnant women and children under the age of 18 should not eat/drink Aloe Vera.  Pregnant women should avoid it during pregnancy because it can increase the risk of contractions and also because Aloe Vera can lower blood glucose levels (the same reason children should not use it either). My hubby and I are both diabetic and use Aloe Vera to lower our blood glucose levels.  It does seem to help. 


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Blog Oklahoma
Blog Oklahoma
easy recipes