Saturday, November 22, 2014

Quinoa Black Bean & Mushroom Burger

 Quinoa is one of my favorite ancient grains.  It is quite versatile, filling and nutritious.  I came up with this savory burger recipe for our meatless dinner nights. 

You will be pleasantly surprised at how filling and delicious these burgers are.  Feel free to experiment with toppings by adding cheese, tomato, lettuce, etc.  I added smoked cheddar cheese and a very simple avocado sauce as toppings and served it on toasted garlic naan bread, along with a side of sweet potato fries. 

 It was absolutely delicious!!!

By the way, these burgers can be made a day in advance and they freeze amazingly well. 


1/2 cup dry (uncooked) Quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
½  red onion (finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
½ yellow or red pepper
½ cup chopped mushrooms
2/3 cup cooked organic corn
1 can organic black beans
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 large egg
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup oat flour (I simply grounded some rolled oats in Vitamix)

Avocado garnish:
1 avocado
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons cilantro
½ teaspoon honey
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of plain yogurt
Process and set aside in refrigerator to use as topping for burgers.
*We are avocado freaks so I opted to keep my avocado sauce on the "chunky" side.  Feel free to adjust the consistency of the sauce to suit your preference.*

Cooking Instructions:

Step 1 – Cook Quinoa in 1 ½ cup of filtered water at medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until all of the water is completely evaporated and Quinoa is fluffy.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Step 2 – In a separate pan on medium heat, add olive oil, garlic, onion and sea salt. Cook until onion is translucent.  Next add mushrooms, pepper, cumin, chili powder,  and red pepper flakes.  Cook for an additional  5 minutes.   Place in a large bowl and add black beans.  Mash up the beans with a potato ricer or fork until everything has a mushy texture.

Step 3 – Add tomato paste, egg, corn and cilantro.  Stir in cooked Quinoa, rolled oats and oat flour until it is all blended.  Shape the paste into burgers.  This recipe yielded 9 patties. 
Step 4 – Slightly oil a cast iron pan and cook each burger for 10-12 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Serve by itself or on toasted hamburger bun or naan bread.  Add Avocado sauce as topping, along with your favorite trimmings.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Grandma's Arepa

Oh how I miss my Abuelita!  She transitioned unexpectedly 25 years ago when I was 18 years old.  Somehow it feels like it was just yesterday.  Her transition happened at a point when I was just starting to appreciate her - our relationship was deepening.  One of the things we all looked forward to as a family was when Abuela made her Dominican arepa.  The entire house smelled like 'home' when she cooked.   As a young girl I vividly recall anxiously waiting for Abuela to finish pouring the batter into the baking dish so that I could grab the pot and eat the crusty left over batter at the bottom.  A few of us would fight for the rights to that crusty pot and somehow she often favored me.  

Now I know at this point you are likely asking 'what is arepa'?   There are many cultural variations, but Dominican arepa is a very filling and dense cake made with cornmeal and coconut milk.   It is extremely simple to prepare and is quite delicious as a snack or for breakfast when paired with warm milk or coffee.

Feeling a bit nostalgic I wanted to attempt to recreate my grandma's arepa.  It came out really good and I am not just saying that;  my mom and aunt both said so.  And since I received their stamp of approval I felt compelled to share the recipe.

Dominican Arepa Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of real butter (not margarine) - for pan
3 tablespoons of real butter
2 cups of organic non-gmo cornmeal
3 1/2 cups of real milk
2 1/2 cups of organic coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup of raisins (I used organic currants for a more subtle flavor)
4 cinnamon sticks broken into smaller pieces
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
1/4 vanilla extract

1. Grease your pan with butter.  (I used a spring form cheesecake pan which worked beautifully for this). 
2.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees
3.  In a large bowl mix your 3 tablespoons of butter, cornmeal, real milk, coconut milk, sea salt, raisins, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar and vanilla.  You want to stir this well so that the cornmeal is pretty much dissolved and not in clumps.
4.  Pour your mixture into a large enough pot and turn on medium heat.  You want to continuously stir so as to avoid clumping.  It will take approximately 10 minutes for your mixture to get as thick as pudding.  When mixture stars to bubble you may remove the cinnamon sticks from the pot.  You can certainly choose to leave them in, but the cinnamon sticks will prevent clean cuts when it's time to slice your cake as they will get in the way.
5. Immediately pour your hot mixture into the baking pan.  You may want to place the pan on a cookie sheet to avoid any run off.
5.  Bake for 40 minutes.  When done remove from oven and set aside to set.  Wait several hours before cutting to ensure firmness.  Allowing it to set overnight will also make for a cleaner cut.

Enjoy this wholesome cake with a glass of milk or coffee!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Easy Skillet Bread

I just LOVE bread!  Actually...who doesn't?  There is nothing in the world like a good piece (or loaf) of bread when served with real butter or olive oil. 

I have been working on perfecting a few bread recipes and I am really pleased with how good this easy (no-knead!!!) skillet bread came out.  You know it's good when the people you make it for devour it instantly and immediately request more. 

I will also share the simple recipe for my dipping oil.  Trust me... you will NOT want to make this bread without that dipping oil!



4 1/2 cups of unbleached flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast (or 1 package)
2 cups of warm water (not more than 110 degrees)
1 -2 tablespoons of rosemary infused dipping oil


1.  Combine active yeast and warm water in a large bowl.
2.  Add 1 cup of the measured flour and salt into the bowl with yeast.  Incorporate well.
3.  Continue to add the flour one cup at a time until all is completely blended.
4.  Cover loosely with a lid.  Allow to sit for 1 hour.  DO NOT punch down on the dough!
5.  Lightly oil a medium to large cast iron skillet.
I used the same dipping oil to do so!
6.  Sprinkle some flour over the dough as well as your hands.
7.  Over a clean counter or chopping board gently shape your dough into a disk.
8.  Place your dough into skillet and place a kitchen towel over skilled.  Allow to sit for an additional 30 minutes.
9.  Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of dipping oil over top of the bread.  Slash the dough with a knife forming an "X".
10. Bake at 400 degrees F for 35 minutes or until top starts to turn brown.



1 large garlic bulb (cloves peeled and cut in half)
2 tablespoons  dried rosemary
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (flakes)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Olive oil


1.  Place your peeled garlic, rosemary, sea salt and cayenne pepper in a pint mason jar.
2. Fill jar three quarters to top with olive oil.
3.  Take small pot and fill halfway with water. 
4.  Place pot on stove and turn to low heat.
5.  Place mason jar inside pot.  Let the oil and herbs get to know each other in this warm water bath for about 30 minutes.  Do not cover jar as water from condensation may inadvertently be introduced into mixture. 
6.  After 30 minutes turn the stove off but let the jar continue to sit in the hot water until ready to use or serve. 
7.  When you are ready,  just spoon oil with bits of herbs into a small plate as shown above.

Any unused portion of the infused oil can remain in the mason jar stored by a sunny window. The flavors will continue to intensify.  But trust me... it will not last long.  It is that good!  You can use this oil in your regular meals as well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Banana Bread Recipe Worth Sharing!

About two weeks ago we purchased a banana bread loaf at the local Amish store.  It was probably the best banana bread I have tasted in a very long time; it was so moist and so full of flavor which made it hard to stop at just one slice. My very picky eaters devoured the entire loaf in a matter of 3 hours.  And at $6 a loaf, I had a compelling reason to learn how to make this at home.  Upon learning from the store owner what her ingredients were, I was somewhat disappointed and set out to make my own healthy version of banana bread. 

And so I did, and it came out pretty darn good! I am an excellent cook but I am not the best in the baking department.  So the fact that my family devoured it in record time makes me feel confident enough to share it with you.

Feel free to adjust any portion to suit your family's dietary preference.
Banana Bread Recipe

4 ripe bananas
1.5 cup of sugar (I used organic)
1/2 cup of melted butter (I used real butter)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of sour cream (or yogurt if sour cream is not available)
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1.5 cup unbleached flour (I used King Arthur's Organic)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp real sea salt

Step 1
Mix bananas, sugar, butter, eggs, sour cream and vanilla in a large bowl with a hand mixer at low speed until well blended.
Step 2
In a separate bowl, mix your dry ingredients:  Flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon.

Step 3
Incorporate dry ingredients into bowl with wet ingredients. I used a wooden spoon but you can also use the hand mixer on the low setting. Blend for about 1 minute until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Step 4
Pour mixture into a loaf pan that has been greased with butter and lightly floured.

Step 5
Bake for approximately 60 minutes at 350 degrees.

Step 6

Thank you for reading and as always, many blessings to you and yours in all of your endeavors.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Life IS Sweeter With Bees!

We have been quite busy lately with many different projects.  But the project I am most excited about is that of recently having established our own apiary yard.  I have always been intrigued by the amazing honey bee, but because we lived in suburbia, I never considered beekeeping a possibility.  That all changed once we moved out here. 
Not too long ago our awesome neighbor offered to give my daughter and I a live tutorial on beekeeping.  How often does an opportunity like that present itself?  The morning of our date with Ali and her bees my daughter and I were SO excited.  We both suited up and were able to get up close and personal with the sweetest insect known to man. We were able to see how honey bees function and what their unified mission is - to work themselves to death (literally) in caring for their queen bee.  There was no fear (especially on my daughter's part), only awe and marvel at how gentle these productive and organized little creatures are.  It was fascinating to learn that every action taken by the honey bee is with the sole purpose of ensuring the survival of its colony.  There is no ME or I... only WE and US.  I think humans can learn a lot from the honey bee.  We are grateful to Ali (and to her bees) for her generosity in facilitating that magical experience.  And now that we have our own bee colonies, we are actively expanding on our knowledge of organic and natural ways to care for them, without the use of toxic pesticides and chemicals.  We are 'newbeeks' as they say; with so much to learn.  But every seasoned beekeeper I have spoken to has expressed that whether you've been keeping bees for 1 year or 20 years, you never stop learning.  These marvelous little creatures are always teaching us something new -  about them, about ourselves or about our place in the circle of life.  It is all very humbling indeed.
I am tempted to use this opportunity to share with you important facts about the honey bees as well as the critical role they play in our food supply.  But alas, this is not that kind of post, so you will be spared... for now.  I will just share with you some photos of our bees, which have settled in beautifully and are thriving on our homestead.   

As a family we have a new found love and respect for the honey bee and we are pretty certain that our relationship will be a long lasting one.  We are excited to experience the benefits and value that having them around will bring to our lives.

 We are honored to be their stewards.  And maybe... just maybe, if we take good care of them, every now and then they will graciously reward us with a bit of their glorious honey.  Now wouldn't that be sweet?!
Thank you for reading and many blessings to you and yours in all of your endeavors.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Making Herbal Tinctures

First let me say that I feel a bit guilty about the fact that I have not posted any updates in a while. But the truth is we have been busy with life here at the farm; chickens and bees (and other four-legged creatures) have been consuming our existence as of late...and we are loving it!   In short order, I will be catching you up on all of our escapades .

I was speaking with a dear friend yesterday and she expressed an interest in making herbal tinctures for her family but just wasn't sure how to go about it. So this is for you darling!   Oh and by the way, my intention was to make a video tutorial, but the outtakes were getting ridiculous.  We were up to 6 outtakes folks!  So I have decided to keep it simple.  

So what exactly are herbal tinctures? Tinctures are concentrated alcohol based extracts of plants that are very potent and provide an effective way to administer herbal remedies. They are an excellent way to take herbs because not only are they simple to make, but you can make large amount with ease.  When stored properly in brown bottles tinctures can last a very long time compared to other herbal preparations. In fact, tinctures can be stored safely for several years when made with grain alcohol as the carrier.  Tinctures are also very useful when an herb needs to be used over a long period of time. Tinctures are my favorite way of storing herbs because of their versatility; generally speaking, one ounce of tincture is equivalent to one ounce of herb.

You have several options when choosing a liquid carrier for your herbal tincture:
alcohol, food grade vegetable glycerin or raw apple cider vinegar. If you use alcohol as your carrier, be sure to select one that is at least 80 to 100 proof.

“Proof” relates to the actual alcohol/water content in the alcohol. For example, an 80-proof spirit is actually 40 percent alcohol and 40 percent water. A 100 proof spirit is 50 percent alcohol and 50 percent water. The ratio in the range of 50:50 (50 percent alcohol and 50 percent water) provides the perfect balance for extracting the most beneficial properties from herbs, which explains why most tinctured formulas you come across on the market are made using an alcohol carrier. Most vodkas, gins, brandies and rums available are 80 to 100 proof, so any one of them would work just fine in an herbal tincture.

I personally prefer to use alcohol (Vodka) as a solvent because I believe it provides a more potent remedy. I find that the actual amount of alcohol you consume in any given remedy is minimal. However, if I am giving a tincture remedy to one of my small children, I simply make sure that the alcohol is completely evaporated before giving it to them. I do this by adding the tincture drops to  about 2 ounces of filtered water in a glass and waiting a few minutes before allowing them to drink the remedy.

Some individuals however, cannot consume alcohol in the slightest form and may prefer to use food grade vegetable glycerin or raw apple cider vinegar as a carrier instead. If you choose to make a tincture using vinegar it is always best to use raw apple cider vinegar as it has amazing health benefits. Synthetic chemical vinegar (what is found in most supermarket shelves) should not be used. Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar is a great choice. * If you were to use vinegar as your carrier, you would follow the same instructions for the tincture.

Glycerin based tinctures are sometimes preferred if the tincture is being used on the elderly or for small children simply because they are milder on the palate and the digestive tract.  If you choose glycerin, always make sure you use food grade vegetable glycerin.  Also bear in mind that although they do work, non-alcohol tinctures are not as potent because these carriers are just not as effective in breaking down the plant constituents, when compared to alcohol. *If you use Glycerin as your carrier, be sure to mix the amount of Glycerin (1:1 ratio) with one part water before adding it to the herbs.

If you haven't yet read my prior post about the benefits of building a home apothecary, you may read it here.  This tutorial assumes that you have already given thought to and are decided on the herbs you will be using to formulate your tincture(s).

Although more than one herb can certainly be used in a tincture, if this will be your first time making tinctures, I recommend using only one to three  herbs.  Once you become familiar with herbs and how powerful these plants can be, you may experiment more with certain herbal combinations.  I strongly recommend that you always research any herbs you choose so as to become aware of any contraindications.

So here's what you will need to get started:

- Cheesecloth for straining herbs from liquid 
- A mason type glass jar with lid for storing your tincture while it cures
- A brown bottle for storing your tincture when it is done and ready for use 
- Measuring spoons and/or cup (depending on what measurement unit you will use: i.e, 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, tablespoon, teaspoon)
- Your selected herbs (choose organic or wild harvested whenever possible)       
- Vodka, food grade vegetable glycerin or raw apple cider vinegar (you will need to choose one of these carriers)

Making Herbal Tincture:

(Step 1)
Place your selected and measured herb(s) in a large sterilized mason jar .

(Step 2)
Cover with Vodka (or the carrier of your choice*). Stir herbs to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.

(Step 3)
Seal the jar tightly and give it a good shake.

(Step 4)
It is extremely important that you ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS remember to label your tincture jars clearly. Not only do YOU want to be able to identify what is contained in the jar for future use, but you also want family members to be aware of what is in these jars, for their safety. Do not wait until later to label.  Do it immediately after you place lid on the jar.  Trust me, you will forget!  A simple blank paper with your hand-written legible notes is sufficient. I personally like to include: the date tincture was made, measure used (cup, tablespoon, teaspoon, etc.), list of herbs used, carrier used. A quick description of what your tincture can be used for is quite helpful as well.  Store your jar in a cool dark place for at least 3 to 4 weeks.

(Step 5) 
After 3-4 weeks, you may now open jar and strain the herbs using cheesecloth.  Place cheesecloth over a shallow bowl and pour your mixture.  With clean hands, squeeze any excess liquid.  Work quickly so that the alcohol is not evaporated from the mixture. 

(Step 6)
Pour the liquid into a sterilized amber glass bottle and cover.

(Step 7)
Once again... LABEL, LABEL, LABEL!!!  Label the tincture bottle and store in a dark place.  Your tincture is now ready to be used.

How much tincture to take will greatly vary depending on the emotional make up of the individual, as well as their physical constitution, as all of these factors play a role in how your subject will respond to each remedy.  Generally speaking, one ounce of tincture is equal in strength to approximately 1 ounce of the powdered herb, so 3 drops will be equal to 1/2 cup of tea.   For children or those sensitive to alcohol, always dilute tincture dosage in 1 to 2 ounces of filtered water and allow alcohol to evaporate before drinking.

I hope you experiment with this tutorial and choose to make herbal tinctures part of your family's regular wellness routine.  There is no denying that nature provides an abundance of herbs, many of which can be found right in our own front/back yard.  I encourage you to take advantage of these gifts. 

If you are interested in learning more about herbal basics and how to make tinctures and other simple yet effective natural home remedies, look out for my book "Herbal Basics - Heal Your Family Naturally from the Outside In" which will be available online very soon.  In this book I will share my story, my journey and why I am so passionate about helping others understand how they can use herbs and real foods to heal on a deep and lasting level.

Thank you for reading and many blessings to you and yours in all of your endeavors.

NOTE:  This information is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Keep all herbs out of reach of children and pets. Special care should be taken by pregnant and/or lactating women when handling herbs.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spicy Lo Mein - Recipe!

I have had a few requests for this very simple Lo Mein recipe.  It has officially become our meatless meal for the week.  Actually my husband loved it so much he has requested it several times this week.  I hope you try it and love it as much as we do.

I note below the ingredients I utilized.  However, if you cannot source *organic*, use what you have available.  This recipe is enough to feed 4-5 people OR... (as in our case) two very hungry adults.  I am almost embarrassed to disclose that, but I promise you, it's THAT good. :-)


Organic Spaghetti  (1/2 box)
Fresh broccoli cut into small florettes (approx. 3 cups)
Fresh Mushrooms (8 Oz container)
Coarsely chopped cabbage (approx 3 cups)
Large white onion
Three scallions
2 large carrots (julienne style or shredded)
3 tablespoons of organic soy sauce
3 tablespoons of gluten-free Szechuan sauce
7 tablespoons of filtered water
1 tablespoon of organic potato starch (or tapioca starch)
1 tablespoon sea salt (if you are sensitive to salt you may want to reduce this to 1/2 tsp)

Step 1 - After your veggies are all prepped, in a medium sauce pan place filtered water in stove on high heat.  Add one teaspoon of olive oil and sea salt to taste to your boiling water.  You want the pasta cooking while you cook your vegetables.

Step 2 - In a wok or stainless steel pan add 3 tablespoons of real butter (or olive oil).  Melt this on medium heat.

Step 3 - Add onions first, then proceed with the cabbage, mushrooms and sea salt.  Allow this to cook down a bit for about 5-10 minutes. 

Step 4 - Now that the above has cooked down a bit you can add your broccoli, carrots and scallions.  Cook for another 3 minutes and turn flame off.  Turning flame off will allow you to enjoy slightly crunchy veggies.  If you leave flame on you will end up with overcooked and mushy veggies. 

Step 5 - Combine 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of szechuan sauce, 7 tablespoons of filtered water and 1 tablespoon of potato starch.  Make sure your starch is completely dissolved in the liquid.  Add to your veggies and stir.  The starch will add a wonderful thickness to the dish.

Step 6 - Your pasta should be cooked to perfection by now.  I prefer mine aldente so that it is not mushy when added to the veggies.  Once you are happy with the firmness, you can remove from the stove and drain. 

Step 7 - Add drained pasta to veggies and stir. I turn the fire on high for about 3 minutes right before I am ready to serve the meal so as to allow the flavors to blend a bit more. 

**You can alternate this recipe by adding shrimp (as shown here) or cooked chicken if you so desire. **

**If you do not have the Szechuan sauce readily available you can use 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper.  I prefer the Szechuan sauce because of its flavor but the cayenne alone provides the heat needed.  However, if you cut out the Szechuan sauce, I would recommend doubling the amount of water and starch.**

If you try this recipe be sure to leave a comment letting me know how you liked it or how you tweaked it to suit your family.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Enjoy and do share!!!