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Paleo Style (Delicious) Chocolate Bark.


Let's be real. There's nothing like curling up sloth-style on the couch after a long day and relaxing. My husband and I cherish our sacred time of sitting together and rejuvenating our souls with a mini TV marathon and chocolate. We like to avoid processed, sugar-loaded crap, so finding something healthy but delicious for us to snack on was my mission. We always check for sales at our health food store on legit organic cocoa bars, but they can still be pretty pricey. Then I thought, wait, why can't I just make my own? I decided to jump in and give it a try, and holy cow, it was for sure THE BEST decision I have ever made. My husband (and one year old) loved it, and I knew we had a winner. This chocolate bark is so easy to make, and the best part is that it's actually a healthy treat!

Picking a good cocoa powder to make these with is important and where a lot of the nutrition comes from. Organic cocoa contains an abundance of antioxidants, magnesium, and iron. My current favorite brand is Navitas Naturals. It makes this bark so rich and delicious.


The Recipe
1/2 cup organic cocoa powder
1/2 cup organic unrefined coconut oil
2 TBS honey
A pinch of salt


  1. Heat the coconut oil in a small pot on low/medium heat to liquify it.
  2. Add in the honey and combine well.
  3. Slowly add in the cocoa powder and whisk until there are no lumps. 
  4. Add a pinch of salt. 
  5. Pour the warm mixture onto a silicone mat on a baking sheet, large plate, or tray.
  6. This is where it gets fun- top it with whatever you heart desires! Here are some ideas: pumpkin seeds, nuts, coconut flakes, freeze dried or dehydrated fruits. 
  7. Transfer to the freezer to harden for at least one hour. 
  8. After one hour pop it off and break it into smaller pieces.


Because of the coconut oil these will melt slightly if left at room temperature, so storing them in the fridge or freezer is best! We prefer cold chocolate, so we normally store ours like that anyways. You can even play around and use fun silicone molds instead of pouring it onto a flat surface.


Have you ever made a healthy chocolate alternative? Share your recipes! 

Natural makeup brush cleanser



How often do you clean your makeup brushes? I would be lying if I said that I'm great at keeping up with cleaning mine. I'm sure I'm not the only lady guilty of mumbling "just this last use and then I will clean them" as I quickly throw on my makeup (with a crazy one year old digging through my bathroom cabinets and throwing everything onto the floor). Putting on any makeup at all is enough work...am I right, or am I right? But when you think about how much sweat, oil, dead skin, dirt, and bacteria makeup brushes can harbor and breed (uhhh gross)...it should be enough motivation to get on it and wash those stank things!

For me, buying a special brush cleanser is clearly out of the question...just another thing to keep up with. I eventually figured out that making my own is not only WAY easier because I already have everything on hand, but it's also the best natural option. I get to control what goes into my cleanser and soaks into my brushes (and eventually touches my face) and I am easily able to avoid any toxic or harsh chemicals. Basically it's a win-win for me. I personally prefer to make it as I use it, but you could also pre-make a small bottle. I've gotten in a good routine of washing my brushes every 1-2 weeks, or even daily sometimes if I'm in the midst of a bad breakout. Brushes that are used in liquid (foundation, liquid eyeliner, etc.) should be washed every few days, but brushes used in powder are able to go longer in between cleanings. I can definitely tell a difference once mine are clean because my blush and powder go on smoother and way quicker.

I've tried several different recipes and so far this one is my favorite! All you need is:

1. Castile Soap
Castile soap is a vegetable based soap made with olive oil, and other plant oils. I love Dr. Bronner’s brand products. They're certified organic and contain no synthetic foaming agents, thickeners, preservatives, fragrances, dyes, or whiteners.

2. Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) Essential Oil
Tea Tree is a great oil to add because of it's antibacterial properties. It will help keep your brushes clean and bacteria free!

3. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon oil is known for its purifying and cleansing properties, and it is often used to promote detoxification. It also smells wonderful and leaves a natural, fresh scent!

In a small glass bowl combine 1/4 teaspoon of castile soap, two drops of tea tree oil, and one drop of lemon oil. Add a little bit of warm water and put your brushes in- I like to swirl mine in the soapy mixture and then let them sit for a minute. Take them out and massage them under running warm water until they run clear. If they need another did in the soap then pop them back into the bowl (make another bowl if that water is too dirty).
Voila....clean brushes! Easy right?

How do you clean your makeup brushes? Do you like to keep your brush cleanser natural?
Share your recipes!










Beet Kvass Pickled Eggs


I love pickles, anything pickle flavored, and anything at all that's pickled. I could (and do) eat something pickled everyday. Yes. Every. Darn. Day. Am I the only one who believes it was destiny that my last name turned out to be Gercken (thank you to my husband Jarrett)???



gher·kin

ˈɡərkən/
noun
  1. 1
    a small variety of cucumber, or a young green cucumber used for pickling.
  2. 2
    a trailing plant with cucumberlike fruits used for pickling.


Now that we've gotten both my pickle-like last name and my passion for pickled foods out of the way, let's talk about beet kvass pickled eggs. Recently I was on the hunt for something to pickle that would make a good snack in the evenings. I came across a pickled egg recipe, and thought about how long it had been since I had had one! I whipped up my own recipe, and after 3 very long days of waiting I was pretty impressed! These little suckers were what my pickled dreams are made of. For reals. Easy to make, delicious, and a good way to get extra protein! When putting my recipe together I decided to add some fermented beet kvass (check out my recipe on how to make beet kvass here). It's loaded with nutrients and also added an extra earthy flavor to the eggs!

Ingredients:
  • 2 quart jar with lid
  • 12 pasture raised eggs
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs)
  • 1 can of organic beets with their juice
  • 1/2 cup beet kvass (*Optional- you will just top off with extra water if the beet kvass is left out)
Instructions:
  1. Place the boiled and peeled eggs in the 2 quart jar.
  2. Add both the white and apple cider vinegar, canned beets with their juice, and beet kvass. 
  3. Top it off with water (if there's any extra room) to make sure that everything stays submerged in the brine.
  4. Seal the jar and place it in the fridge. Let the eggs rest for at least 3 days before trying (it's very hard, but if I can do it then you can do it too)! 
As long as everything stays submerged in the brine then it should last for a month (or longer) in the fridge! 

*Notes- Other recipes include sugar to balance out the sourness of the vinegar. I prefer more sour and also prefer to avoid sugar, so I left sugar completely out of mine. The beets added enough sweetness for me. If you did want to include additional sugar add in 1-2 tablespoons of brown or raw cane sugar in your recipe. Just heat and dissolve it in a saucepan with the canned beets/their juice and both vinegars, and then let cool. Once completely cooled, pour over the boiled/peeled eggs inside the jar, add the beet kvass, and top off with water (if there's extra room). 




Have you ever made pickled eggs? Do you have a favorite recipe? 













Super Simple Coconut Apple Chia Pudding


Breakfast is a favorite meal in our house. We all LOVE it, and are total grumps without it (don't even try talking to my one year old until he's had his morning eggs, okay). What you start your morning off with and give your body as fuel will surely affect the rest of your day. Normally we love classic pastured eggs and a few nutritous sides, but some days are a little busier than others and cooking breakfast isn't always an option. I've been on the hunt for quick and healthy options that aren't just boring granola bars.

Say hello to coconut apple chia pudding. It's so easy and is made by simply soaking chia seeds in milk! Chia seeds are a nutrient-filled superfood and are loaded with fiber, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They were highly valued by the Mayan and Aztec cultures for their ability to increase every and stamina. They were even considered to be magical or supernatural.

This breakfast pudding is so easy and so, so delicious. It's sweet, but not too sweet, and it is super filling. I love making a small batch on Sunday nights and then having it available throughout the week. Not only is it a great breakfast, but it's also a good mid-day snack! You can change it up through the week and add different toppings for a little variety (so far my favorite toppings have been extra coconut flakes, shredded apple, pumpkin seeds, or almonds and walnuts). Have fun and experiment with it! 

The Recipe:
  • 1/2 cup of chia seeds
  • 3 cups of coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons of pure organic maple syrup (*optional based on your added sweetness preference- OR you could sub a pinch of pure stevia for additional sweetness)
  • 3/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • A sprinkle of clove
  • A shredded apple (for part of the topping)
Instructions:
  1. In a glass bowl combine the chia seeds, coconut milk, vanilla extract, maple syrup (or stevia), and spices. 
  2. Mix well and place in the fridge over night. 
  3. When ready to serve, shred one apple and add 1-2 tablespoons to each serving, plus any addition desired toppings. Enjoy!

Have you ever made chia pudding? Share your recipes below! 



Oh Hey Tea Tree


Tea tree essential oil really is one of the most glorious essential oils ever. It's extremely gentle, yet tough, and it's very inexpensive (compared to other essential oils).

Tea tree, or specifally melaleuca alternifolia, originates from Australia and has been used for centuries for healing various ailments including cuts, wounds, and skin infections. It is a very powerful and versatile oil that has been used for its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating properties. There have been several studies done on tea tree's ability to both kill and inhibit the growth of bacteria, and it has even been proven to "effectively treat infections of drug-resistant bacteria, including MRSA". Studies have shown that there is no link between the use of tea tree oil and antibiotic resistance, ruling out recent concerns. It is also highly unlikely that bacteria could develop a resistance to tea tree oil itself. Essential oils contain hundreds more chemical compounds than antibiotic medications, making it difficult for bacteria to adapt to them.

It's seriously some powerful and amazing stuff! Certain people in the medical field are catching on, and it's really gaining popularity (especially with the recent 'post-antibiotic era' talk). It's not only the mac daddy go-to for anything skin related, but it's very easy to find a use for it every day. That's right. Every. Single. Day. Here are some of my favorite ways to use it!

1. Face cleansing/blemish treatment
Say bye bye blemish- just dab a little bit on and watch it do its thing. I also love adding a few drops to my homemade oil cleanser to help clean any bacteria and promote clear skin.

2. Dandruff
Did you know that dandruff is a yeast-like fungus? Gross, right? Well thanks to tea tree's amazing antifungal properties it does wonders for killing this fungus and treating most cases of dandruff. I like to add a few drops to Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar and then douse my head and let it sit for a few hours. Or if you prefer not to have a headful of vinegar you can just rub a few drops of pure tea tree on your scalp before bedtime.

3. Diaper cream
Tea tree is soothing to irritated skin and has anti-inflammatory properties, so it is an amazing ingredient in homemade diaper cream.

4. Baby wipe spray
When Fox was really little his skin was very sensitive to anything and everything (and still is hah). His poor little bottom would turn bright red with every organic wipe we tried. I eventually came to the conclusion that the only way to prevent it and save his booty was to use cloth wipes, and to make my own wipe spray for them! Using cloth wipes kind of sounded gross at first, but actually it really was not that bad. I added tea tree essential oil and a few other ingredients in a little spray bottle, and would just wet wipes as we used them. His red booty ceased, and was it was clean and happy.

5. Fruit and veggie wash
I"m a stickler for washing my fruits and veggies before they go in the fridge, but I'm not about paying $8 for a bottle that will only last a week (we eat lots of vegetables and fruit, okayyyyy). I started making my own with distilled white vinegar, and adding tea tree and a few other essential oils. It works great!

6.  Makeup brush cleanser
Tea tree is a great essential oil to add to home made makeup brush cleanser because of its cleansing properties.

7. Insect bites
If you've ever been attached by mosquitos, you know that the aftermath is not fun. Tea tree is a great way to speed up the healing process of any bug bite, and also relieves the itch and irritation!

8. Ear aches/infections
Great remedy for any kind of ear pain. It helps with the inflammation, and also stimulates the immune system which speeds up the recovery time. A tea tree/garlic mullein oil mixture does wonders when applied to the bottoms of the feet and in or around the ear.

9. Homemade deodorants
Tea tree is a must have for any kind of natural/aluminum-free homemade deodorant. It helps fight oder by killing bad bacteria.

10. Mold and mildew
Have you ever forgotten about a poor load of laundry in the washer? I have...for longer than I'm willing to admit. Well good news...Tea tree straight up kills mold and mildew and gets rid of the awful stench. I like to add a few drops to my detergent too!

*PLEASE NOTE- Tea tree oil (because of the chemical compounds it contains) is one of the few essential oils that can be toxic to cats specifically, so please never apply it directly to them! 

Have you ever experienced tea tree oil's awesomeness? What are your favorite ways to use it?

Want to learn more about how you can get your own therapeutic-grade tea tree essential oil? Click here!