Crab Apple Pepper Jelly

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My neighbour has a crab apple tree, and he told me I was welcome to pick apples if I wanted some. When it comes to crab apples, they are pretty much good for one thing – canning. Crab apples have excellent natural pectin, and set up to a gorgeous jelly!
When I first made this recipe, I put it into pint jars, and ended up with only 3 jars. So I recommend to use the 4 oz jar, so that you can give more as gifts, or enjoy it in smaller batches. Or just to feel like you didn’t work your butt off for 3 jars.
Homemade jelly makes a great gift, paired with a bottle of white wine and some nice crackers. It says “I love you enough to slave over a hot stove AND buy you wine.”
This jelly isn’t fiery hot. If you want more spice, use hotter peppers (not more peppers, just the hotter variations). I used banana type peppers and ended up with a full flavoured, but very mild jelly. Colin said it was good, but he would have loved for me to use something hotter. Some varieties are jalapeño, serrano, or habanero if you are brave enough. I’m not. I am, admittedly, a total wuss about spicy food.
This jelly is delicious with cream cheese on a cracker. I’m sure it is great on chicken, or other uses, but I will likely eat all of it on a Triscuit with cream cheese.

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Crab Apple Pepper Jelly:
This recipe makes 6 of the 4oz jar size (that’s the smallest one)
2 lbs crab apples
1 1/2 cups water
Red wine vinegar, as required
3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup yellow or orange bell pepper
1/3 cup hot pepper (as desired for flavour and heat level)

Instructions:
1. In a Dutch oven, bring crab apples and water to a simmer. Make sure to remove stems. I also cut them in half to speed up the cooking time.
2. Cook until the crabapple are very soft.
3. Line a colander with cheesecloth (the more you fold over the cheesecloth, the clearer your jelly will be). Place colander above a bowl (preferably glass).
4. Pour the crabapple mixture into the colander and weigh down with a plate and heavy can on top.
5. Let stand until dripping stops. Discard the pulp.
6. Pour collected juice into a liquid measure. Add enough vinegar to make 3 cups.
7. Combine in a saucepan with sugar.
8. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
9. Add peppers and boil for 8-10 minutes or until set. (How do I know if it is set? Insert link)
10. Stir for 7 minutes to avoid floating peppers.
11. Pour jelly into hot, sterilized 4oz canning jars.
12. Seal with 2 piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes (adjust as required for elevation).
13. Let the processed jars sit for 24 hours undisturbed. Check for the seal to stay down when pressed prior to storing.
Enjoy!
This recipe is originally from food.com

 

 

The Mush Ends Here!

I couldn’t wait for my oldest to start solids! I was sure it would mean longer stretches of sleep and who can argue with that right? My only concern was the amount of work that seemed ahead. I had friends who spent entire days, roasting, pureeing and freezing ice cube sized portions of baby food for their little ones, and honestly, it didn’t look like a lot of fun to me!

When my daughter was about 5 months old, I came across a pin on good ‘ol pinterest about “Baby Led Weaning”. Intrigued, I clicked on the pin and it linked me to the book: “Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater” by Gill Rapley. I pinned it onto my own board and a friend of mine commented that I should definitely look into it because she used baby-led weaning for all three of her kids and LOVED IT. I ended up e-mailing her, and asked her a few questions and when we were ready started using the method and LOVED it. I was so happy that I didn’t have to invest in a food processor, and those ice cube trays or those little glass food containers! It was also WAY less work .

I’m certainly no expert on the matter, but I do have a little bit of experience now that our second is ten months old and eating solids. So, how does it work? At about six months, most babies are developmentally capable of feeding themselves proper food, in other words – no more mushy peas! Hooray! You just hand them the same food that you’re eating in an appropriately sized piece and if they like it they eat it and if they don’t they won’t. (But they do…trust me). That’s all there is to it! No purees, no ice cube trays, no food processor, no food mill, no expensive organic baby rice, or weird fruit and vegetable combos in pre-packaged baby food jars! Just you, your baby and the food that you’ve prepared for the entire family! Because, let’s face it, the more time you spend preparing baby food, the less likely they are to eat it, right? As I mentioned before, I have friends who would spend days steaming, roasting and freezing food for their babies, only to have them refuse it *insert bitter tone.* The best part of Baby-led weaning is that there is no pressure on your little one to eat. There really is no opportunity for mealtimes to become a battleground, so issues such as food refusal and food phobias are much less likely. I think it’s because there is no such thing as baby or kid food anymore. Everyone eats the same thing, so you don’t have to worry about introducing “real food” when your child is 4 or whatever. This method respects babies’ decisions what to eat or what not to eat and when to stop eating, so there is no need for battles to ensue. I LOVE IT!

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The question I get the most from parents who are interested in baby-led weaning is: “So, what do you feed your baby?“

To help you out, here is what we had to eat today at our house:

Breakfast

  • Toast, yogurt, granola, fruit

Snack

  • Fruit, crackers, cheese

Lunch

  • Soup, quesadillas, cut up peppers and Cucumbers

Supper

  • Beef and vegetable stir fry, rice

Dessert

  • Fruit

For our baby, we just cut the food into smaller pieces and allow her to pick what and how much to eat. Remember, when babies first start to eat solids, they probably won’t eat too much (unless they’re like my girls who practically gave up nursing as soon as we starting giving them “the good stuff”). Your little one decides how much solids they can handle and then supplement the rest of their nutritional requirements with milk (breast or formula).

Here are a few tips to help you along:

1. Forget baby food. It was really hard for me to wrap my mind around this at first, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to give your baby so called “baby food”. My oldest daughter’s first meal was chicken, potatoes and peas. She LOVED it. We just cut the chicken into finger-sized pieces and she ate it. (She didn’t have teeth until she was 10 months old and still managed to eat it just fine!) My second daughter’s first meal was spaghetti.

2. Expect a mess. Put a few pieces of food (not too much food) on your baby’s tray and let them go to town!

3. Relax. With our first daughter, I was really nervous about choking. Remember, gagging is ok. It is a safety response to prevent choking. Babies seem to have very sensitive gagging reflexes, and that‘s good!

4. You know your baby best! Remember that!!!

So, what do you think? Will you give it a try? I promise if you do, you’ll love it!!

~Written by Andrea

Do Some Sprouting!

I love this time of year! If you were on the ball you might already be harvesting goodies from your garden! In our neck of the woods,   cherries are almost ready and we are on our second crop of yummy leafy greens like kale, lettuce and spinach. However, if you hate gardening or if you have a black thumb but still want to enjoy fresh, raw, nutrient dense greens in  your diet you should try sprouting. It’s so simple and you only need a couple days before you can enjoy the harvest!

Sprouts are a superfood for so many reasons. They are excellent sources of essential nutrients, high in protein,  great sources of enzymes, easy to digest and good for weight loss. I usually sprout lentils, beans and fenugreek, but broccoli, radish and clover are also  yummy options. Just be sure to avoid alfalfa as it is mildly toxic and also inhibits the immune system.

I usually get my sprouting seeds from Mumms. I love Mumms because they are a Canadian based business out of Saskatchewan and all their seeds are certified organic.

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Now to the good stuff….How to sprout.

There are several ways to sprout seeds, but I will tell you how I do it. All you need is a mason jar. Dump about 2 Tbsp of seeds into the jar, add water, swirl and drain. Refill the jar with about a cup of water and soak your seeds for about 2-6 hrs. Drain the water. Rinse your seeds twice a day by refilling your jar with water. Drain the water and lay your jar on its side so that your seeds don’t mold in water. You could also cover your jar with mesh and keep your jar inverted to prevent mold from growing, this also makes the rinsing easier!

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You can eat your sprouts whenever you want. I like eating them with longer tails, but some people enjoy them sprouted with no tail. They are perfect in sandwiches, tossed in salads or you can just grab a handful and enjoy!

So, who wants to add sprouts to their diet?

If you do, just comment here and we will send one lucky reader the “Get sprouting jar” from Mumms.

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Share this post and let us know you did for an extra entry. Winner will be chosen June 19th.

The Great Microwave Challenge – Update!

So – the Great Microwave Challenge. Here I thought I was being such a go-getter, ditching my microwave. Only to have a bunch of friends comment that…they had ditched theirs ages ago. OK – so maybe my idea wasn’t a new one. But I still think it was a good one!

And the overall concensus – I don’t need, or want, my microwave. For the first few weeks it sat with a huge ugly sign on it. Then I had to make sure my visiting in-laws knew that although there was a big ugly sign, they were allowed to use it.
And I am proud to say – I only broke down and used it ONCE! We had made BBQ’d ribs, but I had to leave for book club before they were done (insert me wailing and gnashing teeth here). So I got home from book club late at night. And I wanted. RIBS. NOW. So I did it – I nuked them. And it ruined them. I should have eaten them cold…or later…or watched some PVR’d Real Housewives while they heated in the oven. Moral of the story – microwaves suck the big one.

Ever since the ribs, we haven’t touched our microwave. There are times when I think “HOW WILL WE MAKE NACHOS?” and then I remember that oven nachos are actually tastier. Crispy, warm chips. No raw cheese in the middle and burnt cheese on the edges. It doesn’t seem so desperate anymore.

So my microwave has been dethroned. It is unceremoniously waiting to be sent to the thrift store. There was a large empty space on my counter that now holds my coffee maker, which used to be squished up tight to the microwave. There were crumbs in that section of counter that deserve to be carbon-dated. I felt very good about myself while I wiped that part of the counter. Go me. All “ditching the microwave and cleaning stuff too.”

I am also ditching those nasty plastic covers made for preventing splatter in the microwave, but dripping BPA into our food. Next on the docket is the piles of plastic containers we own. There are some that haven’t seen the light of day in months.

If you are still hemming and hawing about ditching your microwave, just do it. You will survive. Your husband WILL get over it (I bribed mine with a toaster over). Your inlaws will even be ok. Your nachos will never be better.

PS- Completely off topic…but someone told me this week that “my hippy was showing.” Apparently you can’t say “hemp hearts” out loud without that happening…

Juice Monkeys – the fruit and veggie kind!

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Colin and I recently starting juicing. When I talk about juicing, I don’t mean a glass of orange juice from the grocery store, I am talking about freshly pressed juice from a variety of fruits and vegetables. We had been considering it around the time that we first watched “Hungry for Change,” but had pretty much just been making smoothies with spinach and parsley thrown in for good measure. We have a juicer, but it collected dust in the cupboard until we watched “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”
I know, I know, it seems like we make a lot food decisions based on documentaries. But look at it as an hour or two contains A LOT of information, and it is up to you what you do with that. We decided to make some changes with our eating.

What makes a lot of sense to us about juicing is what is in the juice itself – veggies and fruit. We have been making decisions to include more and more veggies in our diet, but juicing is like “extreme veggie eating,” and here is why:

1. Freshly pressed juice contains a lot of macronutrients. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals and other health and immune boosting components.

2. You get the health benefits of so many more vegetables and fruit than you would EVER be able to consume in one day. Just think, for breakfast, would you be able to eat an apple, half a grapefruit, half a cucumber, 4-5 leaves of kale, a handful each of parsley and spinach? I highly doubt it! By juicing, we remove the insoluble fibre, but keep the soluble fibre and all of the nutrients intact, and you can consume all of that in your juice!
If you want more info on the benefits of juicing, go here

So with all of this lovely knowledge, we had to decide how we were going to bring it into our diet. Although in “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” Joe goes on a 60 day juicing fast, we knew that wasn’t for us. So we started slowly. We made juice the night before and had it ready and on-hand to replace our breakfast.
This is a great way to introduce fresh juice. It replaces a meal many of us are likely to skip anyhow, and it is a great grab-and-go option. Another choice is simply to include a nice tall glass of freshly pressed juice as a snack, or along with your lunch. It is better than not at all, and will kick start you getting all of those amazing nutrients!

After a few days of juice as breakfast, we decide to take the plunge…in the shallow end…and we are currently on a 5 day juice fast/cleanse. A big part of why we are doing this is to detoxify and clean out our bodies. Rather than get into detail here on this 5 day program, check out the Reboot website!
I would rather leave it to the experts to explain all of the dirty details, instead of missing something vital here!
Once we have finished this 5 day plan, I will let you know how it went, and how we feel.

So, onto the fun part, juicing! Here is my advice. I hope it helps!

1. The first thing you will need is a good quality juicer. Don’t feel like you have to break the bank, but do some research and make sure it can handle leafy greens and firmer fruit, like apples. You don’t want to try and start juicing and all you bought was a citrus juicer!

2. Try to juice organic produce when you can find it and if you can afford it. It means that no pesticides etc will be in your detox juice, when that is the garbage you are trying to get out of your body anyways!
If you can’t go organic, be sure to wash all produce very well before juicing. It is best to leave the peel intact on apples, pears and carrots if you can, so scrub away!

3. Beets hold a lot of dirt, so either peel them or scrub them well, organic or not. Muddy tasting juice isn’t enjoyable for anyone!

4. Citrus fruit – to peel or not to peel? Again, if it is non-organic, scrub well. Some citrus fruit may even be waxed, so check for that before juicing. Otherwise, it is a personal flavour decision. I enjoy the fresh, bright flavour of lemon rind, but my husband finds it too sour and prefers to peel lemons. As far as oranges and grapefruit go, we have peeled them every time.

5. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your juicer. Know what it can handle, how you are supposed to juice certain items.
I got out juicer for free on Freecycle, so I had no instructions. If you happen to be sans instructions as well, it is usually a good idea to start with an easy to juice item, like a cucumber, follow with all the leafy greens, then apples, and end with easy juicers with a lot of liquid, like cucumber, pineapple or citrus fruits. This makes sure that cleaning your juicer goes much easier and nothing gets clogged up.

6. Experiment! It is just juice! Try a little ginger, it is full of healthy benefits. Be brave and juice some garlic! Whaaaaaaat???!!! I know…people do it. I have not yet been that brave!

7. Don’t try to juice avocado or bananas!!! If you want these in your juice, you will have to blend them with your juice in your blender. This isn’t a bad thing, and it creates a thicker, more smoothie-like texture.

8. Put a bag in the part of your juice to catch all of the non juicy waste. Even better if the bag is compostable and you compost everything instead of throwing it away.

So now that you are a juicing pro, here are a couple of recipes:

The Jolly Green Giant: (a great all-around green juice)
5-6 kale leaves
2 handfuls spinach
1 handful parsley
1 cucumber
2 apples
1 cup pineapple
1 lemon
Juice it all up! Much better cold (refrigerated or poured over ice).

The Happy Place: (Great as “dessert,” or when one more glass of green juice might make you a crazy person!)
1 1/2 cups pineapple
3-4 oranges, peeled
1 large ruby red grapefruit, peeled
So good poured over ice, still frothy from the juicer!

Two great websites for more juice recipes:

http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/recipes/ (obviously)
http://www.juicemaster.com/recipes/

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Strawberry Jam!!

I walked into the grocery store the other day and sitting there in all their glory were flats upon flats of fresh, beautiful strawberries! And of course, strategically placed right in front of the main entrance. How could I resist? 6lbs for $7? Pretty good. I thought to myself however, “Don’t bother… It’s just the beginning of the season. They WILL get cheaper!” Did I listen? Nope! I bought a flat. I wanted to make some jam!!! (And eat some of course!)

I’ve been itching to start some canning for awhile now. Last season I didn’t get much in. Between a kid under 1 and a husband who works out of town, there really wasn’t too much free time for canning. So, this is the perfect opportunity to get a little started! Strawberry jam, so delicious! So, here we go!

If you do a lot of canning already, you probably have the basic instruments needed to do the job. But, just in case you’re new to this here’s a short list of some stuff that’s good to have on hand:

-For jam specifically, you need just the basic Water Bath Canner, which can be found at pretty much any big box store for a very decent price.

-Jar lifter – this isn’t necessary, but your job will be so so much easier with it

-Canning funnel – again not necessary but makes the job much easier

-Mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, etc

For strawberry jam you will need (besides the strawberries!)

-some lemon juice

-sweetener of your choice (sugar, honey, some people use white grape juice, stevia, or a combo of sweeteners)

-pectin. I use liquid pectin, but you can also get it in crystallized form as well. This is just a preference thing.

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Step 1:
Before I made my jam, I washed the strawberries of course. I chose to soak them in a cool bath with castille soap first, to get any dirt, grime or pesticides off as best I could. I let them soak for about half and hour then, rinsed them off really well in cold water.
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Step 2:
This step may look a bit different for each person depending on how you like your jam. I don’t like chunkies in my jam so I chopped up my strawberries in a blender until there were no large chunks. It’s a good idea to add a little water to aid in the chopping process. You don’t have to puree them as they will dissolve more during the cooking process.
If you don’t care about chunks, you can go ahead and just mash them up with a potato masher by hand. This shouldn’t take you very long.
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Step 3:
Add your mushed up strawberries to a pot with the sugar. Most recipes will have a 4 cups strawberries (measured after crushing) to 7 cups sugar ratio. I used 6 cups of strawberries (measured after crushing) so that’s 10 cups of sugar. I know! So much sugar. Welcome to the jam world! Strawberries especially require a lot of sugar. You can reduce the amount of sugar but you won’t get the same consistency. Even when using no sugar needed pectin (which I personally don’t like as I never find it makes very good jam). If you reduce the sugar you will usually yield a runnier jam. It will still be as tasty though! I usually do reduce my sugar to about 8 cups. The jam turns out soft but still thick and spreadable. *If you are new to jam making I would stick to the recommended amount of sugar. It can be difficult to get the correct consistency when you are playing around with the sugar levels and so I recommend having an idea as to what you’re trying to achieve before changing it.
If you are using crystallized pectin, you need to reserve about 1/4 cup of the sugar to mix with it. I do recommend reading the instructions that came with your pectin, though. 
You will want to bring this mixture to a boil. Try doing it a little slower, this will generally result in a better jam. Once it is boiling, continue to let it boil for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
*I don’t recommend making batches bigger than this.
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Step 4:
Slowly add your pectin to the mixture. Return to a boil and keep there for about a minute or so. Remove from heat. Add about 1/4 cup lemon juice.
Because I didn’t use as much sugar, I added 2 packets of liquid pectin to my recipe. (It is technically a double recipe according to their instructions anyways). To figure out how much pectin you need is going to take a little experimentation on your part. It will really depend on how you like your jam. If you like it runnier, then you will need less pectin, thicker will need more pectin. I will tell you how to figure it out in the next step.
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Step 5:
Skim the foam off the top of the jam. This foam is nothing gross, don’t worry. It is pretty much just escaped air trapped in jam goo (great description!).
Now, this is where I like to test if my jam is ready. Take a glass of ice water and place a spoon in it. Once the spoon, is cold, scoop up a little jam and rest the spoon back on top of the ice. Once the jam has come down to room temperature, you can check it’s consistency. Touch it, tip the spoon around, etc. If it’s at a consistency you like, then perfect! You are ready for the next step. If not, return it to the stove and repeat step 4 but with about a quarter of a packet of pectin. Repeat the test. Continue doing this until you reach your desired consistency.
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Step 6:
Fill your jars with jam. Leave about a 1/4in headspace (unfilled area) at the top. Tighten caps to finger strength tight. You need them to be tight enough to not let water in, but to let air out.
Place them in your water bath canner and process for 5 minutes (or more depending on elevation. I recommend looking this up before you do any canning. It does make a difference.)
You should always wait until the water in your canner returns to a boil before starting the count.
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Step 7:
Remove jars from water bath and place in an area out of direct light. Let them seal and cool to room temperature before storing.
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You’re done! Yay! Jam can be enjoyed right away. No need to wait for this one! If any of your jars don’t seal, put them in the fridge and eat them immediately. They will keep in the fridge as long as jam does, but they will not keep stored with your other canning.

Written by Nicole

Homemade Vitamin Gummies for Kids

First off I want to thank the ladies at  The Eco-housewives for asking me to write a guest post! We went to high school together but lost touch over the years and it is nice to watch their families grow and get to know each other again!

I am married to a very hard working man who is father to my three children aged 1-4 years old. We currently live on the East side of Canada and I am loving the early(ish) spring that they have here! I am a stay-at-home mom and I’m looking into homeschool for my oldest this fall. I am also an active member of the Weston A Price Foundation and a doTerra independent consultant.

I was reading about how Wellness Mama makes vitamin gummies for her kids and thought that would be a great way to get my kids to take their fermented cod liver oil (FCLO).

Why don’t you just give your kids the yummy tasting regular cod liver oil you ask? Because the regular stuff is heat processed, bleached, and deodorized to remove that fishy taste and the vitamins (usually synthetic) are then added back in. FCLO is the old fashion processing techniques, which involves fermenting and a proprietary filtering method, all at low temperatures to preserve the fragile unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins. FCLO is also higher in the wonderful vitamins D, A, and K2 and therefore you can take a smaller does.

If you are interested in more information about FCLO you can visit HERE

So.

Now that you know how awesome the stuff is how to I get my toddlers to take it? I turn it into a candy of course! You could add any number of vitamins to these gummies but be aware that if you add too much oil they will not solidify well (which is why FCLO works well because you can use less!)

 

INGREDIENTS:

Small pot

Ikea ice cup trays (or other gummy sized moulds)

Coconut oil (to grease the mould)

2-3 ml FCLO (or other vitamins, minerals or supplements)

8 tsp of Gelatin

2 TBLS of Raw Honey

1/2 cup of liquid. You could use fruit juice, water Kefir or even Kombucha!

3-4 drop of doTerra essential oil in Lemon or Wild orange. (Optional)

***If you are adding essential oils PLEASE ensure that they are therapeutic grade and recommended for consumption. doTerra is one of the only oils on the market that can be consumed. If you are interested feel free to check out their website. (#342462)

http://www.doterra.myvoffice.com/kimbombak/

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PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!

If you are lucky to have the awesome gelatin that dissolves easily in cold water then mix everything together really well (maybe in a Magic bullet?) and pour into your greased ice cube trays to set.

If Not……

Warm your juice and dissolve your gelatin.

 

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*This is a large batch because my kids eat lots of these!*

Remove from heat and let cool slightly before adding your honey and vitamins and flavouring. If your mixture is too hot your essential oil will evaporate, your honey will no longer be raw and your vitamins may be compromised….so let it cool a little!

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*Measuring out the FCLO*

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*Mixing in the FCLO and the essential oils*

*Putting the liquid in the moulds*

*Putting the liquid in the moulds*

One child serving of FCLO is 1/4 tsp. I put 3 tsp into this recipe to get 12 large gummies…which last me 4 days. Pop them in the fridge to keep them fresh.

WATCH!

*See my babies gobble them up..yummy vitamins!*

*See my babies gobble them up..yummy vitamins!*

 

-Guest Post Written by Kim