BABY FACES: Willow Kate, 3 days old

Willow Kate is the fourth little girl in this family and the third one whose baby photos I’ve done! She was a stubborn one but once we listened to what she was telling us (I like to be wrapped up, please let me lay on pillows) we got some great photos. And her big sisters are having so much fun taking care of baby! Such sweet girls.

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Moore Family

Ashley & I went to high school together and she was always the sunniest, kindest person and I loved seeing her perform in school plays. Well, 17 years later she’s still delightful and has the sweetest family! I love seeing them every year and watching little Miss A grow up–isn’t she so sassy? Such a little doll. It’s so special working with families through the years!

ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE + GUMMIES

Hey, there! If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you either know me or know somebody who has raved about the benefits of elderberry syrup. Increasingly in scientific studies elderberry has been proven to shorten the duration of or prevent the occurrence of colds and has also been shown to be effective against flu. Pregnant & breastfeeding women should only take elderberry after consulting with their doctor and you should NEVER give it to children under age one without consulting with their pediatrician (and only the commercial, non-honey based elderberry syrup for infants under 12 months). Here are a couple articles if you have spare time on your hands and like to read:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848651/
http://www.progressivehealth.com/elderberry-helps-prevent-colds-flu.htm
https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry
https://www.superfoodly.com/does-sambucol-black-elderberry-really-work-for-colds-flu/
Research demonstrates that elderberry extract has particular immune-modulating and antioxidant properties that neutralize the activity of viruses so they can no longer enter the cell and replicate. The berries also contain vitamins A and C, and the flavonoids quercetin, anthocyanin and rutin, all of which boost immune function.

My mom and I started making elderberry syrup when we realized that buying the pre-made stuff was going to put us in debt. Seriously–it’s like $14-20 for a bottle that will last one person maybe a week at the most (2 or 3 days if they’re actually sick). Most bottles–whether you get the Sambucil or some other brand–contain around 15-16 teaspoons. sambucol-sambucus

An adult dosage (of the commercial elderberry syrup) is 2 tsp and if you’re sick, you take it every 3-4 hours. Are there multiple people in your family who would be taking it too? You do the math. Crazy. So, now I make it and give it to my parents whenever Dad goes through all of it. I do sell the syrup to local friends and family, but if you don’t live near me (or don’t know me), I’m going to share my special syrup recipe with you. YOU’RE WELCOME. After I put the recipe in here, I’m going to list at the bottom WHY you want to put the different ingredients in there and what the benefits are of each ingredient. Again, you’re welcome :).

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ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE (yield: 4-5 pints)

  • 3/4 cup dried elderberries (fresh elderberries are poisonous)
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • half of a lemon (a whole lemon if you like things tart)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils and optional seasonal ingredients: 1/2 cup rhubarb, 1/2 cup blueberries or 1/3 cup cranberries (whichever are in season and suit your taste preferences…I tend to do all three to really pack an antioxidant punch…and only 1/3 cup of cranberries because they are way sour)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups raw local honey
  • 1/3 cup Madhava Organic Very Raw Unfiltered honey (from Brazil)**
**WHY Madhava Very Raw Unfiltered honey? Its thickness and crystalized sugars really improve the flavor of the syrup. The couple times when I couldn’t find any at the store (3 different stores, actually) and left it out I had to double the amount of the other honey to make up for it. Trust me when I say it’s worth the money (it’s about $10 a jar) but you DO want the majority of the raw honey to be local honey so that you’ll get the allergy benefits of it, so rather than go broke, use the prescribed amount of Madhava and do local honey for the rest. It’s available at Walmart, Kroger, online at Amazon and most major grocery store chains.**  I keep a separate jar for snacks :oD Here’s a photo of what it looks like:

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  1. Pour all ingredients EXCEPT the honey into a large pot. Stir ingredients to make sure cloves & cinnamon disperse throughout the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for one hour. Do not overheat or stuff will burn to the bottom of the pot. Liquid should reduce down a bit. If you want it to be more potent (and make less jars overall), let it simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.
  2. Carefully (this is where I tend to burn myself) pour half of the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Small seeds from the arils & random debris will be present–leave them in there for the time being. Pour the pureed syrup into a bowl and then pour the remaining mixture from the pot into the blender and puree it as well. Pour everything back into the pot and cook on medium heat for five minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Mixture will be thick and will taste wretched…like the most sour, green blackberries you’ve ever had. Don’t worry, that’s normal. It’s disgusting until you add the liquid goodness that is honey. It’ll be especially bitter if you put the full lemon in it and opted for cranberries but no blueberries.
  4. Place a mesh strainer over a large bowl and slowly pour a third of the liquid through the strainer into the bowl. Use a spoon to scrape the bottom of the strainer as needed and help press the syrup through it. Repeat with remaining 2/3 of the mixture. Press until there’s as little liquid left in the strainer as possible. Throw away the junk that’s in the strainer (it will mostly be seeds and small debris). You should have about 1/2to 1 cup of junk to throw away.
  5. Return the (now thickened) syrup to the pot on the stove and cook on low heat for five minutes. Add the Madhava honey into the pot and stir until completely dissolved. Add in remaining 1 1/2 cups of local honey, and stir until blended. Keep on low heat until everything is dissolved and blended before turning it off. The syrup should be a little thicker than whole milk. Get out a funnel to help pour the syrup into jars.
  6. Pour syrup into pint-size jars, twist lids tight to seal, allow to cool completely and then store in fridge. Since the syrup just came off the stove, it’ll be really hot, which is good because it’ll help you get a good seal in the jars and bad because it will make it easy to burn yourself and hard to handle the jars once they’re full. Fun tip: you can also make popsicle-lozenges by pouring the syrup into ice cube trays and freezing it. Then take one out and pop it in your mouth when you have a sore throat :). Syrup will last a couple months in the fridge as long as it gets shaken up every so often and stays air-tight. You want to shake it up every time you take some so that everything stays mixed and also to push any built-up condensation back into the syrup. You can also freeze the extra syrup (use a plastic bottle–don’t be a total dummy) and when ready to use, let it thaw out naturally–do NOT put it in the microwave or on the stove to thaw it. You don’t want to heat the honey up and kill off the good stuff in it. REGARDLESS OF HOW SOON YOU ARE PLANNING TO USE IT, YOU MUST STORE THIS STUFF IN THE FRIDGE OR FREEZER. YOU JUST MADE IT SO YOU KNOW THERE ARE NO PRESERVATIVES IN IT. Don’t waste the goodness by letting it sit out and grow stuff or turn into bootleg liquor!! If you don’t like how thick it is, mix a little water into it and shake it up really good.
  7. ELDERBERRY SYRUP DOSAGE AMOUNT: Children: 1/2 to 1 tsp daily. (1/2 tsp for regular vitamin use, 1 tsp daily if they have allergies or if it’s cold & flu season). If they catch a cold or something else, they can take the 1/2 tsp of syrup every 3-4 hours until symptoms are gone. If they catch any strain of the FLU, do 1 tsp every 3-4 hours until not only symptoms are gone but they also have been fever-free for 48 hours. Adults: 1/2 to 1 Tbsp daily (1/2 tbsp for regular daily vitamin use, 1 tbsp for allergies or cold & flu season). Adults can also increase to 1/2 Tbsp every 3-4 hours for non-flu illnesses and 1 Tbsp every 3-4 hours for any strain of flu.
  8. DISCLAIMER: This should go without saying but you absolutely CANNOT give this syrup to kids under age 1–they can’t eat honey because there is a huge risk of botulism for babies, even more so with raw honey AND you need to what, if any, food allergies they have (just because YOU are not allergic to something doesn’t mean they aren’t allergic). If you have an infant 6 months to a year old and really want to give them elderberry, CHECK WITH THEIR PEDIATRICIAN FIRST and then buy the dry capsules of elderberry (ie, the supplement form), bust one open and mix HALF of it into milk or baby food. Elderberry can cause young immune systems to spike and drop, and in the case of viruses, this can be deadly. Many doctors do not know much about elderberry, so they will most likely say not to use it, but if your pediatrician is familiar with it you’ll get an educated answer regarding whether you can give it to your child based on their medical history and possibly advice as to dosage. Again, you don’t want to shock their immune system and you HAVE to figure out all their food allergies before giving them any of this stuff. You may also look into elderflower or roiboos tea.

Various benefits of each ingredient:

  • ELDERBERRIES: Elderberry is used for the flu (influenza), H1N1 swine flu, cold & allergies, and boosting the immune system. It is also used for sinus pain, back and leg pain (sciatica), nerve pain (neuralgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • HONEY: Healthy weight management, counters pollen allergies, is a natural energy source, antioxidant powerhouse, sleep promoter, wound and ulcer healer, and natural cough syrup. Why local honey? Bees jump from one flower & plant to the next and end up covered in pollen spores, which are then transferred to their honeyEating that honey — even just a spoonful a day — can build up immunity through gradual exposure to the local allergens that make life so miserable for allergy sufferers. 
  • GINGER ROOT: Soothe digestive disturbances, alleviate nausea, reduce fever, calm coughing and respiratory troubles, stimulate the circulatory system, relieve muscle aches and pain, emerging evidence shows it helps lower cholesterol, and Japanese research has found ginger is effective in lowering blood pressure and cancer risk.
  • LEMONS: health benefits of lemon include treatment of indigestion, constipation, dental problems, throat infections, fever, internal bleeding, rheumatism, burns, obesity, respiratory disorders, cholera, and high blood pressure, while it also benefits your hair and skin. Lemons help to strengthen your immune system, cleanse your stomach, and are considered a blood purifier, it is also useful treatment for kidney stones, reducing strokes, and lowering body temperature.
  • POMEGRANATE: Research shows that pomegranates can help prevent or treat various disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, oxidative stress, hyperglycemia and inflammation. Pomegranates have even been shown to provide anti-carcinogenic effects. They’re loaded with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
  • CINNAMON: High source of antioxidants, contains anti-inflammatory properties, protects heart health, fights diabetes, helps defend against cognitive decline & protects brain function, protects dental health & freshens breath naturally.
  • CLOVES: Temporarily treat a toothache, relieve upper respiratory infections, reduce inflammation, improve digestion.
  • CRANBERRIES: The nutrients in cranberries have been linked to a lower risk of urinary tract infections, prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure.
  • RHUBARB: Every serving of rhubarb provides 45% of the daily value in vitamin K, which supports healthy bone growth and can limit neuronal damage in the brain, even to the point of Alzheimer’s prevention.
  • BLUEBERRIES: The fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content in blueberries supports heart health. The absence of cholesterol from blueberries is also beneficial to the heart. Fiber content helps to reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease. And they balance the nastiness of the cranberries.

ELDERBERRY GUMMIES

(yield: 60-70 square lego gummies**)

  • 1 1/2 cup cold elderberry syrup
  • 1/4 cup + 1/8 cup unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 cup of either tart cherry concentrate (if you want it thicker) OR cherry juice or a healthy, natural juice blend–I like Aldi’s Black Cherry Plum juice the best (no added sugar and doesn’t taste like cherry lollipops). Avoid artificial sugars, “filtered juice drinks” or any with ingredients in them that you aren’t familiar with–these are going to be more sugar and water than they are fruit.
  1. In a large measuring cup, mix cold elderberry syrup with 1/4 cup of gelatin, adding gelatin in a spoonful at a time. Add a little at a time until mixed–if you dump it all in at once, it will turn into a big gross lump and you’ll have to throw it out. Use a fork to whisk until gelatin is dissolved, then add more, and repeat.
  2. In a separate cup, heat the juice for 20-30 seconds in the microwave, then add to syrup & gelatin mix, stir until mixed. Mix in the last 1/8 cup of gelatin and stir until dissolved. The mixture will appear grainy but should not have lumps in it. It will have the consistency of applesauce. 71alHLqlQUL._SL1010_
  3. Pour into lego molds. Do not let it overflow the top of the molds. If there are gaps in the molds or if it’s really lumpy, place molds one at a time in the microwave and heat in 20 second bursts until it levels out in each mold. Some people prefer to use little medicine droppers to get it into the molds but I found that takes entirely too long and makes me have to reheat it again and again (which is not good because it kills the healthy stuff in the honey). Each “lego” takes about one spoonful (cereal spoons, not serving spoons) of syrup. I bought a bunch of the lego molds–specifically the light blue & red molds on the second row of the picture–and these make lego bricks that are about a centimeter thick, 2 inches long x 1 inch wide and have 10 legos to a mold tray. You should be able to easily fill 3 trays and a quarter to half of a 4 tray. Each lego is about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of syrup.
  4. You may want to let them firm up on the counter for a few minutes to make transferring them to the fridge easier. I put all of my molds on a cookie sheet each time and just stick the whole thing on the top shelf in my fridge. Place the trays in the fridge and let them set up for 3-4 hours.
  5. Pop legos out of the molds and slice each one in half so that they are all square legos. Store in a ziploc bag in the fridge. If you see lots of condensation in the bag after a day or two, transfer them to a new bag.
  6. DOSAGE INFO: With the mixture of gelatin & cherry juice added to it, ONE square gummie = a little more than 1 tsp of  elderberry, so a child’s dosage is a half gummie per day for daily vitamins, a whole square gummie if they have allergies OR if it’s cold & flu season. An adult dosage is 1 gummie per day for regular vitamin use, 2 gummies if you have allergies or it’s cold & flu season. As with the syrup, you can increase to a dose every 3-4 hours if you’re sick.

I personally prefer just taking the syrup, but that’s because it feels good in my throat and I’m not a huge fan of cherries–these gummies are GREAT for kids and are easier to administer than the syrup. My 18-month-old nephew gives them two sticky thumbs up! He thinks they’re candy. 🙂 His older sister does not agree (she loved them in November but then decided in December that she didn’t like them anymore because it was no longer November. Preschool logic at its finest). Whether you go with the gummies or the syrup, your family will be really blessed by these. Happy cooking and good health to you!!