Thursday, January 30, 2014

Intrepid Explorer (and his trusty pacifier)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Arnica Salve: Why You Need It and How to Make Your Own!

     I remember when I first learned about Arnica. It was when my first son was just learning to walk, I had some time to kill and I was wandering around the health and beauty section of a Whole Foods store. I was looking at the alternative First Aid section and I ran across what looked like a large stick of lip balm.
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     It said it was for bruising and so I decided to try it, since we were just at the stage of lots of falling down and crying with my son. I had tried several natural remedies at the time, with varying degrees of success, and I tend to be on the skeptical side by nature (some might say "sarcastic" rather than "skeptical" ;) ).

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     But the next time my son fell, he decided to do it in grand style and fall on a chair. He split open his lip and knocked himself in the forehead. The lip (and the crying that accompanied it) were made better by some frozen juice in a mesh bag. His forehead wasn't cut open, but it had a raised spot and was red and I thought for sure it's going to turn out to be a spectacular bruise.

     I remembered my recent purchase and decided to try it. I rubbed it all over the lump and we went about our day. Within an hour the lump was gone, I still assumed it would bruise up the next day. But the next day it had only a very slight yellow tinge (like when I bruise is almost healed). I put more arnica on the next day and the day after that it was completely gone! Since that first experience, I have had confirmation after confirmation that Arnica is AMAZING on preventing and healing bruising and pain.     
    Even if you don't get it on BEFORE the bruise, it will significantly lessen the pain and shorten then length of time the bruise remains.
     Arnica Flowers are what makes an Arnica Salve. That little "lip balm tube" of Arnica I bought at the store didn't last long, and it was expensive! I really wanted to keep Arnica on hand, but I wasn't going to be able to afford to keep buying it!

     Thankfully, in the next few years I was introduced to the Bulk Herb Store and I learned about using herbs for making my own salves from Shoshanna's great videos. I learned that I could buy some simple ingredients and make my own!

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Ingredients for Arnica Salve

Carrier Oil such as Olive Oil or Coconut oil
Vit. E (either a liquid you can buy in the health and beauty section of most stores, or capsules you will break open and use) 

I usually use a quart jar and make a quart of salve at a time. This is enough to last my family of 6 up to a year (depending on how much I give away to others who need it!)

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     Fill your jar about 3/4 of the way filled with your dry herbs and then add oil until your jar is full. I heat my oil in a crockpot, like many others, but I do it slighty differently. Put a rag in the bottom of your crockpot and put you jar filled with oil and herbs on top, then fill the crockpot with water. I balance the lid on top of the jar so as to keep in as much heat as I can.

      Turn your crockpot on low (or warm if your crockpot tends to run very hot like mine does). Now the normal instructions at this point is to leave your crock pot on for 3 days. 3 days!?!? I don't know about you, but I am doing this to try and SAVE MONEY, not throw it out on my electric bill (which is very high just with normal use!) Not to mention, we live in an old house with a very suspect electrical system, and leaving something plugged in and running for three days, sets off all my "that doesn't sound safe" alarms.

      So my alternative is to make it like I make yogurt in the crock pot. I bring it up to a nice warm temperature and let it heat at that temp for about an hour (total, my crock pot is on for about three hours). Then I unplug my crockpot, wrap it in several towels, and put it inside an insulated cooler to keep the water at that warm temp. You could use your oven as well, but we are going to repeat for three days total, and my oven isn't allowed to be out of commission for that long!

I repeat the process for three days and now the herbs have allowed their healing properties to come out into the oil. Next step is to strain the herbs out of the oil. Usually, it's recommended to use cheese cloth for this step, but what I have found that works even better is painters nylon mesh straining bags (found at any Home Depot or Lowe's in the paint aisle (100% nylon, usually 3 per bag at just a few dollars) The nylon bags are a very fine mesh and very little of the herb gets through them, you'll want to SQUEEZE the bag well, to make sure all the oil gets out of the herbs.

Now you will take your infused oil an put it in a small pot over low heat so we can melt the beeswax in. Exactly how much beeswax you'll want will vary with how hard you want your salve to be, I tend to make a softer salve so for my 1 quart of oil (slightly less than 1 quart since we drained out the herbs) usually use about 1/3 cup of beeswax. Once the beeswax is melted, take your spoon or whatever you've been heating it with and set it on a small piece of plastic wrap in the freezer for a few seconds. This will quickly harden it and you can see if you like the consistency or not. If it's too soft for you, heat the oil back up and add a little more beeswax.

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     Once your salve is off the heat add a little bit of Vit E for a preservative. A tsp is a good amount. If you want to have your salve last even LONGER (12 months +) Then add a few drops of Grapefruit seed extract to extend the life of your salve. You can store it back in the quart jar, you made it in, buy individual salve tins, or use baby food jars as well!

Arnica Salve should NOT be used on open cuts, it's not good for internal use of any kind. It also must be stored out of direct sunlight and heat (so DON'T keep it in your car!) You could use this basic salve formula and make a really nice salve for open cuts as well! Find some herbs that are antibacterial, or just buy this premade herb mix that is GREAT for cuts, scrapes, bug bites and rashes!

     I want to encourage you to share this salve! If you make a big jar of it, you will have plenty extra. Keep a small jar or two in your purse or diaper bag, which will be great if your child falls while you are out, but also you can share it with another mom or other individual who needs it. It's a great "Mommy Ministry" you can have to serve others while you are still busy with young children.

NOTE: I am not a doctor, or medical professional so nothing I tell you about should be construed as medical advice!  Some of the links in this post may be "affliate links" by clicking on these links and buying a product, I receive a small compensation.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Trim Healthy Tuesdays: Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan Casserole S

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      This meal is a favorite with our family! I made two versions, one with regular pasta for the kids, and one for the THM adults using Dreamfields Pasta. If you are not comfortable with using Dreamfields, you could use spaghetti squash instead. Remember that the low-carb properties of Dreamfields don't work if you reheat it (it breaks down the coating on the pasta) so either make enough to only last one meal or eat the leftovers cold (which is what I did, since we don't own a microwave anymore, I tend to do this a lot, and I like cold pasta!

Pasta (We did 4 serving Dreamfields to have leftovers for the next lunch to keep it THM and then made an extra box of reg. pasta for the kids)
One large eggplant
Chicken Cooked and Shredded (2 large breasts were enough for our family of 6)
2 cups shredded cheese (one for each dish)
1 cup ricotta cheese
Generous handful of fresh parsley
1 TBS dried Oregano
1 jar of low-sugar spaghetti sauce
Unrefined salt to taste

      Preheat the oven to 350. Start by heating the water for pasta and while you are waiting for it to boil, start shredding your eggplant.  If you would prefer, you could slice it in very thin rounds instead, but I chose to make it a similar size and shape to the pasta.

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     Sprinkle a little salt on your eggplant while it sits (this is supposed to draw out the bitterness, normally I would pat dry with a paper towel after, but as you are throwing this in the pasta water it won't be necessary.  I throw the eggplant in with the pasta the last 30 seconds to give it a quick cook. I am using a whole eggplant here, but don't forget I used half in our pasta and half in the children's. If you are only serving 2 people then probably just a half an eggplant total will be enough.

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     Strain pasta and eggplant. In a large oven-safe bowl (or dish),  add the remaining ingredients, minus the shredded cheese, and mix well. I hope this is not too confusing, the ingredient list is for BOTH the THM meal and the additional one for the children. I thought this would be helpful for other families like ours.
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      So I had two bowls, one regular pasta and 1/2 the eggplant in one and the Dreamfields and  other 1/2 eggplant in the other. I add half of the remaining ingredient to each bowl (so one shredded chicken breast, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, half a jar of spaghetti sauce to each, half the handful of parsley and half the TBS of oregano.) Then I sprinkled one cup of shredded cheese over each (yes I cooked it right in the Pyrex bowls, one less dish to wash!) Cook in the oven at 350 until the cheese is melted and everything else is hot (about 20 min for us)

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     This was soo yummy and definitely didn't feel like diet food! And the kids were happy with their version and ate the eggplant without even realizing it was in there! =) I would encourage you to not leave out the fresh parsley or dried oregano, both herbs have LOTS of health benefits, and the oregano in particular during the cold and flu season is a good idea (you could also add some fresh garlic to this meal as well, to give it another super antibacterial/antiviral aspect.)
I hope you enjoy it as well! I always love to hear in the comments about others who try my recipes at home!
This recipe is linked up on Trim Healthy Tuesday over at Gwen's Nest.