Sunday, July 27, 2014

Easy Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream (dairy-free & sugar-free)

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Summer is in full swing. The ice cream truck is playing its music on every street. Fresh watermelons abound. Swimming pools are full everyday of the week. Books beckon to be read & cherished. The light of day lasts longer. Fireflies fly lazily about when the night finally falls. Mosquitos swarm around for blood. The air is warm and with a hint of sweetness... These are my sweet memories of all the summers in the midwest after moving there when I was 9.

But my all time favorite memory were the brownies my mom would make once a week and served with a big scoop (or two) of my dad's homemade strawberry ice cream.

O... my... sweet... goodness... there is nothing like a spoonful of fresh homemade strawberry ice cream straight out of the old-fashioned ice cream machine!

This Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream, in a way, brings back those memories.

My husband commented that this ice cream tasted very much like a cheesecake ice cream, even though I used coconut milk instead of dairy. I believe it the combination of tangy balsamic vinegar and sweet strawberries along with the nutty milk gave it that yummy flavor.

This is actually a simplified version of my Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Crème Fraîche Ice
Cream that you can find in my book, Just Making Ice Cream.

I chose this ice cream flavor to make ice cream sandwiches specifically for a friend's birthday. I wanted to go the extra mile for her and make something special, but I had to make over 30 ice cream sandwiches! That's why I simplified the ice cream recipe...

They were a huge hit.

And you can totally, easily make these yourself with my simple 'step-by-step' tutorial over at the Healthy Aperture Blog

Go on now and whip up some of this easy & yummy ice cream. While you are at it, make a batch of your favorite brownies to make some homemade ice cream sandwiches... you will wish you had started doing that summers ago!

Easy Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream
(dairy-free & sugar-free)

6 cups whole strawberries (fresh is best, but frozen is fine)
2-3 Tbsp coconut sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Remove the stems and rinse the strawberries in cool water. Place them in a strainer.
  2. Slice the strawberries and place them in a large bowl. Toss with coconut sugar and balsamic vinegar. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Pour the strawberries and juices into a large ovenproof dish.
  4. Roast them in the oven until they start to caramelize, juices are bubbling and strawberries are hot (but not mushy). About 15-20 minutes.
  5. Scoop the the strawberries and juices into a container and let them chill in the fridge while preparing the ice cream base.
2 cups coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
1/4 cup coconut sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 heaping cup of roasted strawberries
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together coconut milk, coconut sugar, sea salt and roasted strawberries.
  2. Pour the mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. When ice cream is done churning, quickly scoop it into a container and serve right away or let it firm up in the freezer for a couple hours before serving.
Top your ice cream with the more roasted strawberries and drizzle with homemade chocolate syrup (didn't have any, boohoo)... there you have it! Told you it was easy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pregnancy Notes: Postpartum Herbal Sitz Bath {recipe}

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Herbal sitz baths are extremely soothing, relaxing, healing and a great way to pamper a new mama after going through the tiring workout of laboring and birthing a little baby.

What are Sitz Baths?
Some of you might have never heard of a sitz bath. I sure didn't know heck about it until my midwife explain it to me. A sitz bath is literally what it sounds like - a bath where you sit in warm water that covers the buttocks and hips.

Sitting in warm, herbal infused water helps clean the sensitive area, bring healing, soothe soreness, aid in shrinking hemorrhoids, prevent infection, relieves pain, reduces swelling, heals tears and increase blood flow to the areas starting at your belly button, down around to your lower back bone & to the where the baby made an appearance. These herbs can truly help speed along recovery!

You can do your sitz bath in the bathtub or in a large bowl, but make sure you have someone to help you in and out. After my 2nd & 3rd babies, I used my kids' little bathtub and it worked great, but this 4th time around... I was able to use an actual bathtub and enjoyed a long soak! Taking a relaxing bath is a rare treat for me  :)

My First Sitz Bath
My midwife brought a bag of herbs over and prepared my first sitz bath after Tabitha's birth. I was eager to give it a try, but was a little skeptical that it would do much to relieve the little pain I had from my tear.

I was so wrong... It was amazedly soothing and totally won me over. I took a sitz bath everyday for a week and wanted more!

Plus, I noticed rapid healing of my tear along with putting on a combination of aloe vera, coconut oil and raw honey. I am thankful to say that I never tore again with my 3rd and 4th babies.

I, of course, asked her for the recipe when I became pregnant with Tobias. Unfortunely, her recipe called for a lot of herbs… making it a little too expensive for me to make a small batch for myself.

So, she recommended simply using a combination of Lavender, Chamomile, Rosemary and Calendula Flowers… much like the ingredients used for the Soothing Postpartum Pads! I also decided to add in Comfrey leaf as it is excellent to use on a stretched & sore perineum, Yarrow for is ability to stop bleeding and sea salt which provides needed minerals to help speed healing.

The Ingredients & Benefits
Below you will read the medicinal properties of each herb that help pamper and heal the new mama. This Healing Postpartum Herbal Sitz Bath will leave you feeling refreshed, renewed and relaxed.

  • Chamomile Flowers: This herb is best known for its soothing & delicious aromatic smell and taste. It is widely used as a mild sedative. Chamomile displays a wide range of healing properties such as being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic and even anti-body odor... all coming from the daisy-like flowers, which contain volatile oils as well as flavonoids. It also improves wound healing, which is great for tears and c-sections, along with bringing good flow of blood to the skin surface thus inducing perspiration and helps regulate menstrual flow. Chamomile is one of the best herbal sources of niacin, magnesium and essential fatty acids.
  • Rosemary Leaf: Called the "herb of remembrance" by Shakespeare, this herb has the ability to strengthen the entire body and relieve pain (like lavender) associated with muscle pains, sore muscles & headaches. Rosemary helps boosts mental activity, so when your brain feels tired (and we do feel brain-tired after birthing a baby!), take deep breaths as you enjoy the sitz bath for fresh mental energy. It also contains good concentrations of 2 dozens or so antioxidants.
  • Comfrey Leaf: The latin name of this herb translates "knitting together". One of the main healing properties in comfrey is allantoin, an anti-inflammatory that perks up the immune system, speeds wound healing and encourages new skin and cell growth. It has a long history of being used as an external application for mending of wounds and broken bones. Comfrey is a contact healer, relieving pain and immediately helping the growth of new flesh and bone. It is also high in calcium and vitamin C. 
  • Yarrow Flower: Considered the "poor man's chamomile", Yarrow contains a volatile oil which is similar to chamomile and has been medically documented to be very effective anti-inflammatory agent. It contains aromatic compounds that shrink inflamed tissues and promote sweeting. It also contains bitter compounds that relieve smooth muscle spasms, reduce blood pressure and helpful in stopping bleeding from hemorrhage. The herb has antibacterial and antifungal compounds that are helpful in replenishing the intestinal flora.
  • Lavender Flowers: Best known for its relaxing effect on the mind and body, Lavender's soothing properties is readily absorb into the skin and not only promotes restfulness, but it helps in treating pain, anxiety & nervousness, exhaustion, restlessness, emotional stress, headaches and increase mental activity. It is also an excellent remedy for various types of pains caused by sore muscles, tense muscles, muscular aches, backaches and the lumbago (lower back) area. Lavender is excellent for improving blood circulation in the body, which is essential for complete healing in the perineum area. It also has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties.
  • Calendula Flowers: A herb long used through Europe and the Americas for wound healing and ulcer treatments, Calendula is known for its amazing healing properties. The phytochemicals in these flowers opposes fungi, bacteria, viruses and inflammation. Calendula also excite the white blood ells in the immune system to fight microbial invaders with a little more vigor. It is good for treating skin problems of all kinds, especially cuts, scrapes, bruises and minor wounds.
  • Sea Salt: A natural detoxifier, sea salt provides the needed minerals to help the body heal quickly.

Healing Herbal Sitz Bath

Mix all the herbs & sea salt together in a large bowl. Store in a glass jar and keep in a cool & dry place.

Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of the herbal mixture or stuff the loose herbs in cotton muslin cloth bags. Cover and let it sit until warm. Strain (or pour it all in if you don't care about loose herbs!) liquid into a bathtub or large bowl/basin and add warm water until it covers your hips & buttocks.

Sit and relax in tub for 20 minutes or more. You can soak with your baby as it will speed along cord healing. If using bowl or large basin, sit or squat carefully in it for 10-15 minutes.

Gently pat dry and do it everyday for at least a week. You can use the Soothing Postpartum Pads for extra healing & comfort!

Have you ever done a sitz bath? Have you used herbs for postpartum care? What herbs and how did they help you?

Note: The links above are my affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you decide to order the herbs and other supplies through those links (no extra charge to you!). Thank you for reading this and supporting my family through your purchases!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pregnancy Notes: DIY Natural Nipple Cream {recipe}

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Let's be honest... breastfeeding can be painful. Especially the first week and when your baby starts teething!

When I was pregnant with #1, I had romancing visions of happily cuddling & nursing my sweet little baby... oh man, all that went out the window at the first latch.

After the first few nursings... my nipples were painfully sore and cracked. 

After almost 3 days of nursing... I was grinding my teeth & curling my toes every time my baby latched on. I was not prepared for the pain! I wished someone had said something about that important little big detail while I was pregnant!

But I made it through… with some lanolin and lots of prayer.

Concerns about Lanolin
I don’t know about you, but I really hated using that common lanolin stuff on my nipples! I felt that it didn't help much. I hated the oily feel and the stains it left on my bras & shirts. I did not feel much relief and found it uncomfortable on my sore nipples.

What exactly is Lanolin? I didn't know until I did some research and found out that Lanolin is the greasy discharge from a sheep's sebaceous glands. It is used in all kinds of cosmetics, from lip balms, shaving creams, hair products to breastfeeding creams. Although it has been touted as highly effective in soothing & healing chapped skin (but not for me!), lanolin usually contains a heavy load of pesticides from the wool being soaked in chemicals to remove parasites before the lanolin is scoured out of it.

Since your baby will basically be ingesting small amounts of whatever you smear on your nipples, it is critical for the ingredients to be safe (in my humble opinion). Many mamas swear by lanolin, but I rather use more natural ingredients that are 100% edible and safe! At the moment, there are no organic options for lanolin out there.

Unfortunately and completely clueless at the time, I used lanolin with both my first and second babies... after that, I promised myself to find a different alternative.

Finding an Alternative Relief
Thankfully, it was my mom who found it. A herbal nipple cream called Motherlove that she picked up at Whole Foods. I used it after Tobias was born and...


It smelled good, did not feel oily, felt really soothing, absorbed quickly into my skin and did not stain my bras & shirts. I clearly remember my nipples healing very quickly... like 4 or 5 days! I used it again with Poema, my 4th baby, and got the same results.

Y'all, that’s a big deal!

Why? Because both my midwives (from my 1st & 2nd births) have told me to bear the pain of nursing for 10 days, use lots of lanolin and then I will be fine. True enough, by the 11th day... the pain was significantly less and breastfeeding became a much more pleasant experience.

But now I think that 10 days of pain can be cut in half... using the DIY Natural Nipple Cream! Of course, every mama has different experiences with breastfeeding and some take longer to heal and get the hang of breastfeeding. I truly hope this cream will help lessen the pain, speed healing and shorten the time it takes for your nipples to get used to be sucked on by a hungry little mouth! Ouch!

Buy it or Make it?
The Motherlove nipple cream is a little pricey for such a small bottle and I only used about half of it during the first couple weeks of nursing Tobi, but to me… it was worth it!

Of course, I wanted to try making my own... simply because I enjoy DIY projects and wanted to save a little money. I looked high and low around the internet for a recipe, but didn't find much. Most simply said to use 100% coconut oil or a combination of coconut oil, beeswax, cocoa butter and shea butter... but was I looking for something more similar to the Motherlove nipple cream. 

Later, after learning how to make a few different kinds of salves/creams... I took the basic salve recipe, the ingredients from Motherlove and set out to make my own natural nipple cream.

I'm glad to say that it was a success! I have been able to use it as my 4th baby is still nursing pretty strong at 18 months old. The small amount I made was enough for me to share with another mama who recently had a new baby. She loved it and noticed quick relief from using it.

The Ingredients & Its Benefits
Below you will learn how each ingredient is very healing for those sore nipples! For those who might be concern... this natural nipple cream is completely safe for the baby. I have used this for my 3rd and 4th babies with no concerns or side effects.

In fact, with Poema still nursing at 18 months and has teeth now... I still use the nipple cream whenever I start to feel little sore. If you are not convinced, then you can simply wipe off the cream just before you nurse, but it will most likely already absorbed into your skin.

  • Marshmallow Root: The genus name comes from a Greek work meaning "to heal". This herb contains some germ-fighting and inflammation-relieving phyto-chemicals. It also contains compounds that help stimulate the immune system slightly. Marshmallow Root is known to help with bruises, chafing, sores and wounds... which is beneficial for the nursing mama! 
  • Calendula Flower: A herb long used through Europe and the Americas for wound healing and ulcer treatments, Calendula is known for its amazing healing properties. The phyto-chemicals in these flowers opposes fungi, bacteria, viruses and inflammation. Calendula also excite the white blood ells in the immune system to fight microbial invaders with a little more vigor. It is good for treating skin problems of all kinds, especially cuts, scrapes, bruises and minor wounds.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil and/or Coconut Oil: Both oils help promote healthy skin regeneration, fight off infection & thrush and moisturizes the skin.
  • Beeswax: Helps to keep needed moisture in the skin, promotes new cell growth and protects the skin.
  • Shea Butter: Moisturizes, protects, strengthens and regenerates the skin. It is great for minor cuts and cracks in the skin.

Making the Natural Nipple Cream
Thankfully, making nipple cream is super easy. I ordered my herbs & beeswax from Bulk Herb Store and the shea butter from Mountain Rose Herbs, but you can purchase all the ingredients at Mountain Rose HerbsI love both companies and love their quality & prices! You can also purchase most, if not all, of the ingredients on too.

I am sure most of you already know this, but I feel it is important for me to say that It's highly recommended to use organic oils. When making my batch of nipple cream, I used 100% organic olive oil and loved the results. If you prefer, you can use a combination of coconut oil and olive oil or 100% coconut oil... whatever you like or have in hand!

Once you've made the natural nipple cream, you can start using it even before your baby is born! Rubbing the cream into the nipples throughout the latter part of your pregnancy and the beginning weeks of nursing will create healthy, flexible tissues that will be more resistant to cracks, tears and chapping.

Natural Nipple Cream

1/4 cup Calendula
1/4 cup Marshmallow Root
1 cup Olive oil and/or Coconut oil
1/8 cup Beeswax
2 Tbsp Shea Butter

Scoop herbs into a glass canning jar and pour oil on top. Make sure there is at least one inch gap between the mixture and top of the jar. Screw lid on tightly.

Set out a medium size slow cooker and line the bottom with a thick hand towel. Place the jar inside and fill the slow cooker with water up to the level of the oil in the jar, but keep the water level below the lid.

Turn the slow cooker on the "warm" setting and leave it on for 3 to 5 days, partially covered. Add more water into the cooker when necessary.

After 3 to 5 days, remove the oil infusion from the cooker and let it cool a little. Strain the oil through a fine sieve and/or cheesecloth into a small stainless steel sauce pan. Squeeze with your hands or use the back of a spoon to release the finished oil. Throw the used herbs away.

Add beeswax and shea butter into the sauce pan and turn heat on low. Stir until wax and butter has melted. Pour the mixture into 4oz glass jars or 4oz tin cans. Allow them to cool completely before putting the lids on. Date and label the nipple cream. Keep them in a cool, dry and dark spot. Will keep for several months.

With the recipe above, you should be able to fill three or four 4oz tin cans or jars pretty easily. You will most likely only need one for yourself and the extras will make fantastic gifts for your mama friends! I would love to make a gift basket with all my natural remedies to give to a mama friend... one day I will do it!

Think you can tackle this easy DIY project? For those who have made this cream and used it... Did it help your sore nipples? Did you noticed anything different? 

Note: The links above are my affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you decide to order the herbs through those links (no charge to you!). Thank you for reading this and supporting my family through your purchases!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Making the Adobe Bricks

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So, exciting news... the roof is about 1/2 way done! We just need to put up the tiles and skylights to finish up. I will put up pictures later. Please continue to pray for God's provision as we move forward to finish our home!

Today, I want to share a little bit of what I learned about the process of making adobe bricks. I am no expert... just sharing what I saw and learned as I asked questions.

Truly, making adobe bricks is demanding and time-consuming in many ways, but it is a cost effective way to build a house. Especially in many third-world countries.

After weeks of watching these men make hundreds of adobe bricks to build our home and the staff housing... I have a lot of respect and admiration towards these men. They work hard and do their job well!

It takes a small team of men to build several hundred adobe bricks at a good pace. When they first started making bricks for our home back in January... they were making up to 100 bricks a day!

To start off, they made a mixture of mud/clay, pine needles and water... yep, just three ingredients. They mix it and mix it and mix it some more until it holds together just right.

They don't use measurements or anything like that... it is all simply mixed together by feel and how it looks. It is much like cooking without a recipe  ;)

Because of the thickness and the importance of mixing everything together well... they would get in that pile of mud and use their hands, feet and a shovel. One guy chose to work with his mud boots and a shovel while the other younger guy worked with bare hands and feet.

After watching them, it is much easier to work with your bare hands and feet! I didn't try, but I think feeling mud between my toes would feel pretty interesting. HA!

Next, they would fill up wheel barrows full of the mud mixture and wheel it to the end of the long line of adobe bricks set out to dry out in the hot sun. Those wheelbarrows are really heavy with the mud, but they were thankful to use them... most men use plastic buckets to carry the mud back and forth.

Then a simple, wooden frame is used to make two bricks at a time to make the process go a bit faster. The young guy in the red shirt fills one side at a time by packing it down firmly with both his hands and feet (sorry, didn't get a picture of him using his feet to pack down the bricks). We were told that it is very important to make sure the bricks are packed down tightly to prevent cracks and breaks. Makes sense!

After packing it down for several minutes and smoothing out the bricks with water, he carefully lifts up the frame and moves over to do all over again....

That's really all it takes! Yes, it is fairly simple, but it still takes skill to get everything just right for the adobe bricks to last and to build a solid home. Thank God for these skilled workers!

Once dried, these bricks are HEAVY! One brick weights between 20-30 pounds! I lifted up a finished brick to get an idea and I can't imagine trying to lift those bricks up as the house goes up. Talk about a back-breaking workout, but these men are strong!

If you are wanting more information on how to make adobe bricks... here's a couple links to start off with:

There are tons of videos and simple tutorials out there... just google around!

Thanks for stopping and reading. Do you think you would ever try building adobe bricks to make a house or wall or something?? Would be a fun DIY project!