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Friday, September 30, 2011

Our Baby is Here: Austin Wayne Schwartz

Announcing the arrival of our first bundle of joy, Austin Wayne.  Born Sunday, September 18 at 5:32am, 7lbs 4oz, 21 inches.  We call him our smiley baby:

Austin had his newborn photo shoot this past Tuesday, and our photographer, Lora, was able to capture some of his most precious moments, including this photo of Austin smiling sweetly.  Warms my heart every time I look at it!

Austin is such a sweet, sweet baby.  He's almost always in a good mood, and we just can't get over how cute and cuddly he is!  He's always making us smile.  Dave and I could just sit and stare at him all day!  Here is more of Austin smiling:

Adjusting to the life of parenthood has been going well.  I am enjoying our Babymoon, spending all hours with Austin, most of the time in bed getting to know each other and bonding.  I love this little man so much!!  He is entering his first growth spurt already (already!), eating every hour and sleeping allll day.  My baby is getting chubbier every day and his newborn onesies are getting tight.  Everyone told me how fast babies grow up, but experiencing it first hand is surreal.

Back to recipe posting soon!  Have been out of the kitchen since Austin's arrival and Dave has been head chef of the house.  I also have a few GREAT product reviews and giveaways coming up soon!  So stay tuned, you'll want to enter the giveaways for sure!

Thank you to all of you who had us in your thoughts and prayers while we patiently waited for Austin and brought him into this world.  We so appreciate the support and love all around!  ((hugs))

Monday, September 19, 2011

Almond Joy Ice Cream

Okay, you can't pass this recipe up.  This ice cream reminds me of an Almond Joy bar...all the flavors are there, but hey, it's Advanced Plan!  :)

Almond Joy Ice Cream
Makes 6 Servings

2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
3 free-range egg yolks
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp pure liquid stevia
2 tsp pure vanilla
Pinch of sea salt
4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup raw chopped almonds

In a blender, mix almond milk, coconut milk, egg yolks, arrowroot, liquid stevia, vanilla, sea salt and cocoa powder until smooth.  Add in coconut flakes and almonds and pulse a few times to fold in.  Pour into your ice cream machine (be sure bowl is prepped if needed) and follow your makers instructions.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Raz-Apple Smoothie

A tasty tart and tangy smoothie!

Raz-Apple Smoothie
Makes 1 Serving

1/3 cup organic unsweetened coconut water or almond milk
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, chopped, frozen
1/3 cup organic raspberries, frozen
1/4 cup full-fat organic Greek yogurt or coconut milk
8 drops pure liquid stevia
1 scoop plain or vanilla protein powder
Ice (optional)

Blend together the frozen apple and raspberries with coconut water until smooth.  Add in remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coconut Dream Cake

This cake is for the coconut lover (aka my hubby)!  I've titled it as Coconut Dream Cake as it's got a dreamy like texture to it, almost a custard-like cake if you will.  Yummmo!  Crushed macadamia nuts only add to the dreamy flavor.  For our second serving, we dolloped on a spoonful of my Coconut Whipped Cream (recipe found in Season's Eatings e-book) as a topping and it was truly divine!  A great coffee or tea cake.

Idea just came to me -- would also be great topped with fresh crushed pineapple, ooooo, trying that next!

Coconut Dream Cake
Makes 12 Servings

8 free-range eggs
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 cup full-fat organic coconut milk
1 cup coconut flour, sifted twice
1/2 cup xylitol
3 tsp Stevita Spoonable stevia
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil
2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 tsp nutmeg (plus more for top)
1 tsp cinnamon (plus more for top)
Handful or two of chopped macadamia nuts (optional)

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9"x13" glass baking pan with coconut oil and line with unbleached parchment paper.

2.)  In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat eggs, almond milk, coconut milk, coconut flour, xylitol, butter/coconut oil, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon until smooth.  Fold in coconut flakes and chopped nuts.

3.)  Pour batter into pan and sprinkle additional cinnamon and nutmeg over top.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-70 minutes, or until top is golden brown and a knife inserted in middle comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool to room temperature before cutting and serving.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vegetable Frittata

We've been eating a lot of frittatas lately.  For some reason I'm finding it easier to whip one of these up than our usual sunny side up eggs or an omelet.  Not to mention a frittata holds much more room for flavor combinations!  I love them!  We've been doing at least one a week, and sometimes one every day.  :)

You can use any combination of veggies, about 4 cups total for this large frittata.  My favorite right now is in the recipe below, onion, zucchini, green pepper, spinach, chicken if we have some leftover from dinner, and salsa.  Another great combo is leek, tomato and fresh rosemary. 

Vegetable Frittata
Makes 4 Servings

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 organic zucchinis, diced
1 organic green pepper, diced
1-2 handfuls free-range chicken, cooked and chopped
2 large handfuls organic spinach
2 Tbsp organic unsalted butter
6 free-range eggs, beaten
Herbs to your liking (basil and oregano are my staples)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Organic unsweetened salsa, optional

1.)  Preheat your broiler with oven rack at highest level.  In a large stainless steel skillet on your stove top, add coconut oil over Medium-High heat and saute the onion, zucchini, and green pepper about 5 minutes, until softened.   Add in the chicken and heat thru for 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to Low and add the spinach on top and wilt down, about 30-45 seconds.

2.)  Add the butter to the pan, melting it down and incorporating all thru the mixture, making sure the bottom of the skillet is well coated.  Pour beaten eggs over top, tilting pan as needed to get egg mixture to coat all the veggies.

3.)  Sprinkle optional herbs over top.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Turn off heat on stove top.  Place skillet under broiler for about 3-5 minutes, until fritata is puffy and light brown.  Remove from oven, cut into wedges and serve.  Top with fresh salsa (optional).

Monday, September 5, 2011

How To: Homemade Dishwasher Soap & Rinse Agent

Here it is, y'all!  The long awaited Homemade Dishwasher Soap recipe.  We are usually a wash-by-hand family, using dish soap (recipe to come for that as well) as little as possible, only when something is pretty scuzzy or oily.  We like to conserve water and soap (and electricity) as much as possible.  But, we broke down and started using our dishwasher starting in July, as we got moved into our own place again and I started cooking A TON more.  Dishes were piling up...literally on every counter top.  And by the time I was done cooking the dish, I was dead tired and baby and I would have to go sit down to catch our breath or take a nap to recoup.  Dave commits most of his time to work right now, so it's pretty out of the question to ask him to do a sink full of dishes when he gets home late after a long day.  So I cracked, and began researching natural dishwasher detergent options.

Shocked at what I could (or couldn't?) find.  Looking at the various manufacturing websites and calling about their ingredients list, I was shocked that these companies called themselves eco-friendly and organic.  But it's just like with body care products of our world I suppose.  There are no laws about labeling, and they can say these things as long as they have one "natural" ingredient in the product, even if that means they have 20 or 100 other bad ingredients.

So using a liquid or powder detergent from the store was out of the question for our family.  Did you know that dishwasher detergent is one of THE most toxic substances in your household?  And that when you run the dishwasher, the chemicals are literally vaporized and expelled into the air of your home?  It was very important to us to not use any chemicals if we were really going to begin this dishwasher endeavor.  So I got to work!  I pulled out my Easy Green Living book and utilized my best friend Google to find various homemade dishwasher soap recipes.  There are so many different ones out there, I kind of adapted a few different ones to make the recipe that turned out the best for us.  We have super hard water here in North Carolina, so had to increase the citric acid to get it just right.  But this recipe works WONDERS on our dishes!

And the key is the rinse aide.  Your dishes will come out spotty if you do not add the vinegar to each and every load to the "Jet Dry" compartment.  Trust me, I've done many different trials and they come out perfectly every time when directions are followed exactly as below.  The ingredients can be found from your local grocery store, in larger sizes at Walmart/Costco, or in bulk online (I'll link to where we bought ours).  And I forgot to mention the cost savings in making your own dishwasher soap.  I mean, talk about frugal AND green for the family!  This homemade detergent costs only about $.05 cents per load versus a conventional soap, around $.14 cents average per load!!  The savings will certainly add up over time, and you're offering a much cleaner option for your family.

Here's the recipe.  I doubled it in the picture below since I had enough of the ingredients, but you don't need a container quite as large as mine:

Homemade Dishwasher Soap
Makes 2 1/2 cups

Container with tight lid that fits at least 2 1/2 cups (a mason jar 32oz or larger would be great)
1 cup Borax
1/2 cup Salt
1 cup Citric Acid (use 1/2 cup for normal to soft water)
1 cup Baking Soda
1/4 cup Distilled White Vinegar
A scooper of some sort (I use and old scoop from a protein jug, works perfectly)

1.)  To your container, add the borax, salt, citric acid, and baking soda.  Pop on the lid and shake or use a wooden spoon to stir until well combined.  Add your scooper to the jar and seal the lid.  It's ready to go!  In the dishwasher fill both soap containers full of this powder, it'll be about 3 Tbsp total per load.  Very important to fill both containers so it does a pre-wash to begin breaking down the grime.  Remember, you're avoiding the use of chemical surfactants here, so we need to allow the natural ingredients a little extra time to do their magic!

2.)  With each dishwasher load, add 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse agent compartment.  This is a MUST step to avoid spotty dishes.

And that's it!  I run the load on Normal Wash and turn off the "heated dry" to save energy.  Also run it only when jammed full of dishes to maximize its use, and run it at night so A) we aren't directly breathing in any vapors from the dishwasher (plastics and such) and B) the A/C doesn't have to work as hard as it would during daytime hours.  Dishes come out sparkling and literally squeaky clean every time!

A little clumping of the finished product due to the citric acid is normal, as you don't have the chemicals in there to prevent clumping.  Just break up any clumps as you go along with your scoop, no sweat!

A disclaimer about using powders -- you may want to wear a mask around your nose and mouth while preparing this detergent.  If you breathe in the powder dust as you pour/mix, the dust particles can go into your lungs and they then stay there.  This can be dangerous to your health, so I recommend wearing a mask at mixing time.

Enjoy natural cleaning!  I have many other great homemade cleaning recipes to share, so keep an eye out!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Natural Birth & HypnoBirthing

For the past 9 months I have been meaning to do a little write up about the type of birth we are planning.  Must admit these past 9 months have been quite interesting with all the moves, starting a business, and adding the baby into the mix.  I'm in the "home stretch," baby Schwartz will arrive any day now.  Mild contractions have been coming and going for the last few days pretty consistently, so I know labor is on the way and I couldn't be more excited!

When we found out we were pregnant back in January, after the initial shock wore off (not going to under exaggerate... it took us at least a week to accept the fact that we were truly pregnant, that I was actually healthy enough to conceive!), I remember that moment when we looked at each other, got that stir of excitement in our stomachs and we knew we were both on the same page about how we wanted to bring this child into the world.  It was a no-brainer for me, ever since I started on the journey for the last 3 years to heal my body to be "baby ready" I have wanted to do a natural home birth.  Dave was right there with me.  Of course he played the sweet husband card and asked, "Are you sure this is what you want?  I will support you wherever you will feel the safest and most calm."  And as we were moving from Orlando to Charlotte, we did play around with the idea of birthing at a birth center with a midwife and doula, but over the last few months I've really learned a lot about birth, the process, different techniques, and for me it just feels right to do it in the comfort of our home.

As these last few weeks have been flying by (haven't they?!) and the day I get to meet my baby has been closing in, I have been growing more and more excited not only to meet baby but to actually DO THIS.  We will work together, the three of us, and it will be the most extraordinary experience of our lives.

I want to share a little about the birthing technique we have chosen to use.  And this isn't just for a home birth, it can be used anywhere you would like to birth.  It is called HypnoBirthing.  It was developed by a woman named Marie Mongan, however the techniques have been used innately by women since the beginning of time.  HypnoBirthing is a special alternative technique to traditional Lamaze or Bradley Method classes that many moms-to-be take.  Now, the name "HypnoBirthing" might sound a little..."out there"... to some.  But it's just in the name.  The basic premise behind HypnoBirthing is that it is a "unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques." (www.HypnoBirthing.com)  For me, being a Type A personality always on the go, striving to be perfect perfect perfect..I really needed to work on relaxation and ways to self-relax.  HypnoBirthing sounded fabulous to me and after talking with numerous friends who used the technique in their beautiful home births, I was ready to explore more into it.  Sounded like exactly what I needed to have a successful natural birth.

The first step for us was purchasing the HypnoBirthing book which I found pretty inexpensively on Amazon.com.  It comes with a preparation CD in the back of the book with affirmations to listen to as you begin to condition your body to go into a relaxed state by yourself.  As we were deciding where to live and where we'd be for the birth of baby S, whether it would be Orlando or who knows where else, we stuck with reading the book on our own and doing the conditioning techniques outlined in the book.  It is highly recommended to take a set of courses from a HypnoBirthing instructor (just like with a Lamaze or Bradley course).  So as soon as we found out we'd be in the Charlotte area, I sought out a HypnoBirthing instructor who I found thru HypnoBirthing.com.

I can't tell you enough how great the sessions were for me.  Dave and I did them together, and did 4 sessions in total.  Some instructors will even do 5 or 6, depending on your needs. They were so informative and powerful.  Learning the philosophy behind HypnoBirthing has changed my entire outlook on birth and the 9 months leading up to it.  Everything we have learned just makes sense to us -- it's supposed to happen the way God intended it to.

Basically what mom learns is how to get into a meditative, relaxed state during child birth, which can help the mom to better cope with it.  You can look up a few videos on YouTube, there were some really good ones on there.  Most women usually look like they’re having a nice, relaxed birth.  In a number of cases, you wouldn’t even know they’re experiencing child birth.  It's quite interesting to watch that for the first time and wrap your head around the possibility!  And when it comes down to it, whether HypnoBirthing can work for you or not all depends on one important thing -- practice, practice, practice.  The old saying runs true, "practice makes perfect!"  On a daily basis you need to practice your breathing, listen to the CDs (you get more supplied by your instructor) and do the conditioning exercises with your spouse.  The more you practice, the easier it is for you to enter into a relaxed state, and the better your odds that you can do it on birthing day.

And, on a side note, the techniques you learn on how to relax translate over into all areas of life!  Like I said, it has changed my life.  After being supplied with the steps to acheive self-relaxation, I am now able to relax in any given situation.  It's going to stick with me forever, and I can see these new skills coming in very handy once baby is here and is throwing his/her first tantrum.  :)

Here is a break down of just a few of the differences HypnoBirthing offers, to give you an idea of if it's right for you:

1.)  Language:  There is a preferred positive language that should be used.  For example, we say "surge" instead of "contraction" and "birth companion" instead of "coach".  We say "birth breathing" instead of "pushing" and "birthing time" instead of "due date".   There are more, but you get the idea.  Personally, I really like the word suggestions and we've been using them thru my pregnancy.  I feel much more relaxed saying the word "surge" or "pressure" instead of "contraction" or "pain".  The HypnoBirthing language relaxes me and the medicalized language tenses me.   Once I got about a month in, it was clearly apparent that I respond better to the positive wordings.

2.) “Emergency Room” vs “Healing Room”:  These are not actual rooms, but rather states of mind.  The book does a great job of illustrating this -- in life we should strive to only be in the emergency room (stressed, high alert, tense state) for about 2-5% of our lives at the most, during those rare instances that legitimately require a fight or flight response such as emergencies, etc.  The rest of our time should be spent enjoying the "healing room".  Most likely, in today's times, we all spend more than 2-5% in the emergency room, but being aware of this and making an effort to increase the time we spend in the healing room is a good start.  When we’re in the healing room, our breathing is deep and relaxed, our digestive system is relaxed and running efficiently, and we feel good.  When we’re in the emergency room, we’re tense, on alert, breathing is labored, digestion is put on hold, etc..  And this is extremely important during child birth because if a woman is in the "emergency room" state of mind, her cervix can tighten making birthing more difficult and increasing the chances of complications/intervention.

3.)  Visualization and Surrounding myself with Positive Birth Stories:  Our instructor explained the importance of hearing positive birthing stories, and how it can do more harm than good when people share their birthing horror stories.  She said that as baby grows and my pregnancy becomes more obvious, I might be surprised how family members and strangers will feel compelled to share their “not so great” stories.  And, I must admit, she was right!  Dave and I learned we needed to simply walk away, often excusing ourselves to use the restroom or whatever convenient "out" we could think of to save our minds from hearing a negative.  And on the other hand, I sought out positive natural birth stories from my friends and watched some fabulous documentaries and movies.  And what I've come to form now is a constant visualization of what I want our birthing experience to be for baby and me.  You know the common saying, "What you think about, you bring about."  I truly believe that the universe supplies what you bring upon yourself.  So I am doing my best to SEE and walk thru my birthing experience every day.  Not to say it will happen like that 100% just as I see it, but it's the main basic points, like seeing baby's head clearly approaching, and seeing our first feeding taking place...those are the visuals we want to make reality.

So these are just three of the basic differences HypnoBirthing offers.  It may not be a technique for everyone, but it really resonated with me and I am excited to put these last months of practice into action soon!  If you're not sure if HypnoBirthing may be something for you, I encourage you to email or call a certified instructor in your area and talk to her/him about it.  They'll be able to determine if it is something you and baby would benefit from.

Have any of you tried HypnoBirthing before or heard of it?  I'm always interested to find out who has used it before, often mamas I would have never expected!

Looking forward to announcing the birth of our baby soon!

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