May 082014
Me, the Food Blogging Ninja

There are TONS of tips out there on blogging.  Write quality content, don’t make spelling mistakes, be authentic….but what are the APPS we use? What about all the technical stuff? How the heck do I ever make money blogging? Here are my Top Secret Ninja Tips for Food Blogging as well as some tips from a few of my successful blogging friends.

 Let’s start with the basics. How do we even get started with this crazy thing called blogging? What IS a blog?

According to the on-line dictionary a blog is the following:

noun: blog; plural noun: blogs
  1. 1.
    a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.
verb: blog; 3rd person present: blogs; past tense: blogged; past participle: blogged; gerund or present participle: blogging
  1. 1.
    add new material to or regularly update a blog.
    “it’s about a week since I last blogged”

 Ok great. So lets get on to……

Getting Started

I’ll start off with Joanne Bruno who writes Eats Well With Others. Fabulously funny, Joanne adds humor to her innovative dishes. A girl after my own heart, she has multiple passions. Not only is she has been a featured blogger in Cooking Light, she is a marathon runner and MD/PhD student in New York City!

Joanne Bruno

Joanne Bruno

 Start out on WordPress! My biggest mistake was to start out on Blogger and then it was expensive and really stressful to have to switch after almost five years of blogging. WordPress offers much better SEO tools and helps make your blog look more professional!

Alissa from Connoisseurus Veg Alissa is a yogi-artist-intellectual property attorney that just so happens to also be a food blogger! She shares TONS of delicious and easy plant based dishes. I am always astonished at what she comes up with. Whether you are new to eating healthy or an established health nut, you will enjoy her blog!



My number one tip for anyone that wants to start a food blog is to just do it. I literally decided to start a food blog one day, and was photographing my dinner the next night, despite having no idea what I was doing, getting frustrated with my camera, my food and the entire process of writing down every step of my recipe.  I did this because I knew it would be easy to talk myself out of it/procrastinate/try to learn everything before getting started, but the truth is, the best way to learn is by doing, and getting started without hesitation will get you started on your learning journey faster than anything else. (My first post, by the way, is still up there and it’s pretty bad, but who cares? Lots of food bloggers can probably say the same.)
Web design: If you use Blogger or WordPress you can find lots of free and inexpensive templates online. It’s relatively easy to learn to design your own as well. If you want help from someone who really knows what they’re doing, check out Etsy (that’s what I did) – there are lots of talented designers on there that can help you for a reasonable fee.


Yours Truly

Yours Truly

Ok so now I have a tip for ya! My first and most FAVORITE secret of my Top Secret Ninja Tips for Food Blogging is how I have grown my email subscribers from 1,000 to over 1,000 within a matter of months is a little plugin called Squirrly.

A Plugin is sort of like an app on your cell phone. You can search out there for something that would be handy, find a good fit and plug it in! Not only have they helped me generate TONS of new traffic from Google. I can also make money now as their affiliate. This is one way you can monetize your blog. Remember the old catch 22. How can I get experience if the only businesses that are hiring want experienced workers? This solves that. They grow your traffic and you recommend them because they grew your traffic and then you get paid. WIN WIN WIN.


Instead of buying Photoshop, I use a website called PicMonkey for $30 bucks a year. SUPER user friendly and SO fun!

Be SURE to invest in a digital SLR and great light source such as a Lowell ego. The camera I have is a Canon 30D body that I got refurbished off ebay for around $300 and I bought a new lens separately. Since I mostly shoot at night, I finally caved and bought a Lowell Ego light for around $100. Those two tips helped me revolutionize my photographs.

Susan Voisin, FatFree Vegan Kitchen Susan writes a revolutionary blog that features DELICIOUS plant based AND fat free recipes. Why did she become Vegan? To better her health and the health of her family. In fact, she lost over 100 pounds by changing her lifestyle! For any delicious low fat, vegan recipe under the sun, she is THE resource with over 1400 recipes!

Susan Voisin

Susan Voisin

 My tips would have to do with photography: Find a window with bright but indirect natural light, and set your camera and a table up there–even if it’s in the bathroom! Natural light looks so much better than even the most expensive photography lights. Don’t forget to use a reflector, a simple piece of white poster board, on the side opposite the window to soften the shadows and even up the light.

 What does she do for photo retouching? Her answer: I use Lightroom to do most of my photo editing and then resize and save in Photoshop because I like the control it gives me over file size and quality.

From Cara Lyons, Caras Cravings Fabulously creative dishes and a personal friend of mine. She loves lifting weights and anything with pumpkin (need I say more?). She has been featured in Clean Eating Magazine and Southern Living and is a writer for Gluten Free Magazine. I’m so proud to call her my friend!

Cara Lyons

Cara Lyons

 I am absolutely going with photography on this one! After all the time you spend developing a recipe and lovingly arranging it on a plate, it deserves more than a poorly lit phone pic. You don’t have to spend a ton, but definitely invest in a good light source. With great light, even a moderate camera will take better photos. Edit to brighten backgrounds and enhance colors, but don’t go crazy with filters. Save those for fun candids on your instagram account!

Alissa at Connoisseurus Veg

Photography: I use natural light as much as possible. During the winter months this might mean photographing breakfast or lunch instead of dinner, making dinner early in the day, photographing it and then reheating for dinner, or when possible, photographing dinner leftovers the next day. For photo editing I use Picasa (free) and an old version of Corel Paintshop that has many of the same features as Photoshop but only cost me fifteen bucks on Amazon.

Social Media

Create social media for your site – a facebook page, twitter and Instagram are musts. Check out Bloglovin – not really social media, but a great way for people to follow you.

I use a free application called “bufferapp” that lets me pre-load posts for facebook and twitter and disperses them intermittently throughout the day.

Vine is the next upcoming social media. Learn it!

Hosting/Website Design/Technicalities of blogging

I use ipage for my hosting. I get 24/7 service and it is very inexpensive. The 24/7 service is so, so, so worth it as you begin to compile hundreds of posts equaling LOTS of hours of work. Should your site go down for any reason, iPage will be there to help. I remember when I didn’t have anyone to go to after 600 posts and I went to post a killer blog post and my entire Blogger blog was GONE. It was like the bottom dropped out of my stomach. Not a nice feeling.

SparkRecipes is an easy way to get nutrition info onto each post. I encourage you to use the nutrient information. It just gets people thinking.

A great way to make a clean “printable” recipe is Google Sites. Yes I make a little site for each and ever recipe and link to it.

The recipe catalog page I use is Recipage (Also used by Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows. Thanks Angela, for this tip.) The hard part is having to copy and paste the recipe into yet another site, so I’ll admit, I’m a bit behind, but I like the clean format.

How to make money blogging

Some great ways to make money blogging are through affiliate programs for products and services YOU love and use. Honestly being passionate about these items is how you will make money. I have many affiliate programs through Amazon, PicMonkey, iPage, Squirrily and I can honestly say I love them all so much if I wasn’t married, I would marry them all and consider switching to Polygamy.

Alissa from Connoisseurus Veg

Making money blogging: Check in with lots of different ad networks. Find out how they pay and how much. Keep an eye on your ad stats and if your ads aren’t making money, try another network. Affiliate links are great too. I link my readers to Amazon for any hard-to-find ingredients and earn a commission when they click the link and buy something – it doesn’t even matter if they buy something different from what I linked them too, as long as they click the link and buy something within 24 hours without logging out of their Amazon account!

Building a following

You must have a way to collect emails. They are going to be your best and most valuable resource. These are people that love your content and will share information about you and your blog. Right now I use mailchimp but I’m looking for some other sources. Any tips for ME out there?

Alyssa Queen of Quinoa Alyssa’s drool-worthy quinoa recipes are both creative and inventive – how one person can create this many quinoa recipes is beyond me! She lost 15 pounds by changing her diet and feels better than ever – now she is helping us do the same! She is the creator of the cookbook Baking with Quinoa that features everything from Pumpkin Pie Quinoa Bars to Gluten-Free French Baguettes!

Alyssa Queen of Quinoa

Alyssa Queen of Quinoa

Building an email list should be priority number one. As you’re growing your following and attracting new readers, you want to have an area where they can subscribe to your site for email updates. Once you have their email, you can work on building an even stronger relationship with them.

Another one of my great tips for food blogging is be sure to post your great photos to Foodgawker and Tastespotting to drive traffic to your site. Don’t be sad if they don’t use your first few photos. They have very high standards!

Alissa at Connoisseurus Veg

Building a following: Seek out different ways to promote your blog and share your posts. Foodgawker and Tastespotting are great, but there are lots of similar sites you might be ignoring. I also submit my recipes to Finding Vegan ( and Potluck (, both of which get me lots of pageviews and are easier in terms of getting photos accepted than Foodgawker and Tastespotting. The more exposure you get, the more followers you’ll likely get.

Consistency and Balance 

Be sure to post regularly! Readers will know what to expect and won’t be surprised to get more than the usual weekly email or be looking for additional content if you decide to post monthly.

Janet from the Taste Space My friend Janet is a runner, biker and whole foods, plant based blogger. When I was changing my eating habits I happened to come across her blog and started printing out recipes that I liked. After about 50 recipes I figured I’d better stop printing and just meet this crazy-awesome girl! We have become friends over the years and she always impresses me with her creative Indian and ethnic dishes.

Janet from Taste Space

Janet from Taste Space

My biggest tip is to keep everything in balance, real life and blog. Blogging is a minor part of my life but one that I have streamlined to be easier. I use Picasa for photo editing. I schedule posts. This helps for my sanity and readers likely appreciate the regularity. I aim for 2-3 posts a week. My time is precious and thus I don’t have duplicating social accounts on Facebook, twitter, etc. It is all about your priorities. Hope this helps! Smiling face (black and white)

I hope you enjoyed my Top Secret Ninja Tips for Food Blogging. As I come across new and interesting information, I promise to update! A BIG thank you to all of my food blogging friends that shared their juicy nuggets of wisdom!
Me, the Food Blogging Ninja with Tips for Food Blogging

Me, the Food Blogging Ninja with Tips for Food Blogging

What are YOUR top secret tips for blogging (even if it isn’t food blogging?)
May 022014

The secret is in the sauce with my Garlic Black Beans over Rice Pasta. Extra garlic, onions, Kalamata olive paste and sundried tomatoes are tied together with a dash of balsamic for pure perfection.

Garlic Black Beans

Garlic Black Beans

What is the first thing you are usually thinking about when you get up each morning?

If I wake up before my alarm, my brain tends to go towards what I need to get done that day and I automatically guide it towards what I’m grateful for. If it is my alarm that wakes me up on the other hand, I’m thinking how tired I am already before I can start directing my thoughts towards a more positive place.

I’m thinking about it this morning because I came across this amazingly eye opening video by Marie Forleo interviewing Arianna Huffington. Marie writes, “Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, has been wildly successful, but was working so hard at one point in her life that she found herself sick and burnt out, overworked, and boggled down with things to do.

In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington shares the secret to how changing your mindset and a few habits in your daily routine can help you unlock your true wisdom, allow you to come up with your best ideas, and be your most creative self.

She’s learned from experience that following these simple steps can lead to a more productive, less stressful, and more joyful life where you’re not strangled by your to-do list and have enough time to actually accomplish (and enjoy) the things in your life that matter most.”

How to be more productive and less stressed? Sign me up! The most eye opening part for me was when she said if you start becoming fearful or stressed, change the channel.

What the hell does this have with Garlic Black Beans over Rice Pasta? Because this was a night that I was harried, stressed, tired and the last thing I could think of what to make for dinner. I had a bunch of things I needed to use in the fridge or it would be too late (and I loathe waste) so, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t go out and buy dinner. This choice would save time and money in the end.

I had to stop and tell myself that there is nothing else I can do in this moment while I’m making dinner – effectively “changing the channel”. I was able to refocus, look at what I had, and create this meal that came out deliciously, surprisingly well. Instead of traditional Cuban or Mexican spices, the olives and sundried tomatoes give this dish almost a meaty texture and taste and the balsamic vinegar at the finish adds a tangy layer of depth that simply makes the dish. We all went in for seconds – it is even going on my favorites list!

What is the first thing you usually think about in the morning? If you watch this video, what was your favorite tip?

Garlicky Black Beans

Garlicky Black Beans

Garlicky Black Beans over Rice Pasta

Serves 6
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe


1 tsp EVOO
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sea salt & dash fresh ground pepper
2 cups chopped kale
4 1/2 cups well cooked black beans (or 3 14.5 oz cans, rinse and drain only one, reserve liquid from second)
2-3 cups veggie broth or water (depending on how thick you prefer)
3 Tbsp Kalamata olive spread, such as Organic Divina
3 Tbsp julienned sundried tomatoes
2 tsp course ground prepared mustard
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
10 oz rice pasta, cooked to package directions


1. Heat a stock pot over medium high heat; add olive oil; sauté onion about 5 minutes (add a tbsp of water if onions begin to stick); reduce heat; add garlic; cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute; add salt, pepper, kale, black beans, veggie broth, olive spread, sundried tomatoes and mustard. Simmer about 20 minutes or until soup has thickened. Stir in balsamic vinegar. Serve over rice pasta.

Nutrition Facts
5 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 426.4
Total Fat 7.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 766.1 mg (use water to reduce to 424 mg)
Potassium 670.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 66.6 g
Dietary Fiber 14.2 g
Sugars 1.6 g
Protein 16.1 g

Vitamin A 146.2 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin 6 9.8 %
Vitamin C 39.7 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 2.8 %
Calcium 7.5 %
Copper 17.2 %
Folate 41.2 %
Iron 20.1 %
Magnesium 21.9 %
Manganese 38.7 %
Niacin 17.1 %
Pantothenic Acid 3.5 %
Phosphorus 17.5 %
Riboflavin 6.7 %
Selenium 3.2 %
Thiamin 32.1 %
Zinc 9.2 %

*Percent Daily Values for Garlic Black Beans over Rice Pasta are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Mar 072014
Genesis Pure Organic Essential Oils

 I am head over heels in love with these new 100% organic essential oils!


(Scroll down to find out why I’m so excited and how I’m now saving 100 calories by using essential oils!)

So much to say, so little time.

In the scheme of health and wellness in my life – essential oils are fairly new.  When I researched information on the web about essential oils to share with you – WHOA. The information is simply overwhelming. Just for you I spent days scouring the web to find you the best info and then compile the important info here.

WHY use organic essential oils?

Positive effects on the brain (Stress & Insomnia)
Dermatological health
Antibacterial properties
Non-chemical cleaning – no worries of pesticides
Beneficial for circulation and respiration if used properly
Safe for the environment
Supports sustainable farming

Genesis Pure Organic Essential Oils

Genesis Pure Organic Essential Oils

7 Great ways to use essential oils

Some of these you may know but some are hopefully fresh ideas!
If you want more inspiration check out Pinterest.

Inhale it:

10 drops in a diffuser, hot compress or in hot water
A few drops in your shampoo to energize (peppermint is great in the morning)
direct palm inhalation – use only with oils that are safe to use undiluted. Rub palms and inhale.
Facial steam – 1 – 5 drops on hot water in a pot, cover head with a towel, steam face. Excellent for opening sinuses, headaches, skin treatment.
May help us feel better with – headaches, sinus and respiratory.
Caution: Prolonged use can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches and lethargy

Relax in an aromatic bath.

Relax in an aromatic bath.

Epidermal (on the skin):

Bath – mix with salts or drop a few in the bath. (Great to use Lavender and Eucalyptus)
A generally safe dose is 5 – 10 drops, mixed with 1/2 to 1 cup of salt or emulsifier.
Aromatic baths may alleviate skin problems, circulatory problems, respiratory symptoms, stress and nervous tension, insomnia, muscular and menstrual pains.
Caution: Overuse of essential oils in the bath can cause irritation. Use only mild, non-irritating oils for bath, such as lavender oil and clary sage oil.


10 drops oil in 4 oz hot water, soak cloth, wrap.
Good for bruises, wounds, muscular aches and pains, dysmenorrhea, skin problems.


Essential oils are very concentrated. For adults, about 14 drops per oz is recommended for most purposes. For children under 12, about 6 drops per oz is generally safe. A 2.5% blend for a 1 ounce bottle of carrier oil, such as jojoba, is 15 drops of essential oil.

Cleaning and Laundry:

Remove smells from laundry
Remove scuffs on shoes
A few drops in the dishwasher for spot free shine
Breaks up sap from trees
Great to de-grease
Mix with vinegar to cut grease
Remove hard water
Clean stainless steel & granite
Peppermint and Eucalyptus:
Mix eucalyptus and baking soda to kill dust mites on your mattress – 1 cup baking soda to 10 drops peppermint and eucalyptus, sift over bare mattress and leave for an hour, vacuum
Remove pet odor – mix 1 cup baking soda with 10 drops lavender, sift over carpet, leave for 1 hour, vacuum

Cooking and internal
**Use caution here – not all essential oils can be taken internally. Be sure to dilute if drinking with at least 4 oz water. Check with your physician if you have ANY questions or concerns.

Lemon will add zing to cooking and baking
Add peppermint to water and coffee grinds
Lemon or peppermint & honey to soothe irritated throat

Oral health:

Brush teeth with baking soda, lemon & peppermint

Essential Oil Chart

Essential Oil Chart

Source: One Good Thing

Notes and Tips:

Pure: Pure does not always mean pure. This term is not regulated and may be applied to just about anything. Is there a statement about purity? You should be informed if it is not 100% essential oil (meaning, it has been altered or mixed with something else).
Sustainability: Many essential oils are not from sustainably harvested plants and farming practices – be sure to choose a brand you feel comfortable with. Most essential oils sold in the U.S. are not certified as to their organic status, but some European brands are. 
Grades: Be aware that there are various grades of essential oils and that many times a low grade is sold as a higher grade.
The terminology is not regulated.  Watch for words such as fragrance oil, perfume oil or natural identical oil. Therapeutic or aromatherapy grade is touted as the higher grade essential oil but this cannot relied on. Many oils are sold as “pure” or “genuine” and are not. There is much false advertising in the aromatherapy market. Be sure to choose a USDA certified organic oil that includes the organic seal to ensure that you are not ingesting pesticides topically or internally through inhalation or ingestion.
Quality oils are sold in a dark glass bottle. Beware of oils sold in plastic or lighter containers – the oils can dissolve plastic and can be damaged by heat and light. Also be aware of any oils being sold as the same price for all oils. Quality oils vary widely in price due to availability of plants, cost of harvesting and extraction. Is the cost comparable in comparison with other brands of the same essential oil? If it’s really cheap, it probably isn’t the real thing. Does it smell as you expect it to smell?

Tips from Reference University of Minnesota

Dos and Don’ts

Do keep out of reach of children
Do research each essential oil you wish to try
Do use caution if you have serious health conditions or are pregnant
Do research whether the essential oil can be used undiluted or “neat” or should be diluted
Do not rub essential oils on before sun exposure – may lead to phototoxicity – especially citrus oils like bergamot
Do not use oils that have added synthetic fragrances
Do consult a physician if you have any questions
Do not consume any essential oil without researching. Many contain harmful chemicals and pesticides and are NOT safe to consume
Do keep in mind food allergies – if you are allergic to the plant you will be allergic to the oil

For anyone that scrolled straight down or took their time to read the tips and do’s and don’ts, I’ll share why I’m so excited…. because I found a brand new way to save 100 calories and a refreshing alternative to plain old water!

Imagine for a minute that moment you bite into a fresh orange. A burst of sweet, bright citrus explodes in your mouth. Are you drooling yet?

That was the sensation I got when I put a drop of organic essential orange oil in a cold glass of water before my workout. It has even more flavor than squeezing fresh fruit and is so easy to carry with me in my purse.

Orange Essential Oil

Orange Essential Oil

So many people have told me they try to drink enough water but it is just so…..boring. Instead they try soda, diet soda (even worse in my opinion), juice, coffee etc.

Instead of a calorie laden drink, or a water flavoring with tons of preservatives, try a drop of essential oil! The water will also naturally replace some caloric foods and help you up that water intake.

Let’s compare.

Organic Orange Juice

Organic Orange Juice

Organic OJ does have tons of vitamin C, but it also has tons of calories. Best to simply eat an orange and get the fiber as well. Keep in mind most of the fiber is in the white fibrous that we typically try to take off!


There are tons of flavored water drops for water, but they are full of preservatives and sugar substitutes.
Water, Citric Acid, Propylene Glycol, Malic Acid, Contains Less than 2% of Natural Flavor, Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium (Sweeteners), Potassium Citrate, Red 40, Blue 1, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative).

I love how there are so many warnings about essential oils – which is true, not all are created equal, but when you read the above ingredients on a product made by KRAFT foods, you realize how far the food industry has gone down the wrong path and how far it to come to right itself when people wake up and start reading ingredients.

GP essentail oils

The essential oils I have fallen in love with are a brand I personally support called Genesis Pure brand. They are 100% pure and 100% USDA certified organic, non GMO and sustainably harvested. As of yet, though there are MANY amazing oils out there (shout out to Aura Cacia (available at Native Sun!), Young Living, doTerra) I personally have not found any other oils I feel as safe with for putting a drop in my water and consuming internally. I splurged and bought all of them and I am very excited. I have been using them for so many things – but my most favorite is a drop or two of orange or lemon in water!

For each essential oil I read the information before I use it. Here are my absolute favorites…
(Descriptions directly from website.)

Tea Tree:
100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
From the leaves of the Australian Melaleuca Tree, comes this unique product with a pleasantly fresh, clean scent. Genesis PURE™ Tea Tree contains naturally-occurring compounds, known for topical cleansing. Traditionally, tea tree oil has been used to help promote healthy skin function. It was used topically by Australian aborigines to promote the healing of bruises and prevent infection. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in ½ tsp (2.5 mL) carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.
refrigerate after opening

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Envelop your body in the strong, citrus scent of Genesis PURE™ Lemon. This vibrant aroma may invigorate your senses. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp (5 mL) carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Both refreshing and calming, Genesis PURE™ Orange may ease your mind and help you unwind. This lovely citrus aroma is commonly used in aromatherapy to provide a welcome release from everyday stressors. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Apply 1-2 drops neat (undiluted) or dilute with a carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Invigorate your body with the refreshing and cooling scent of Genesis PURE™ Peppermint. Peppermint essential oil has been traditionally used to promote alertness and stimulate the senses. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in ½ tsp (2.5 mL) carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Sweet and spicy, Genesis PURE™ Clove is stimulating to the senses. You’ve most likely used clove in your cooking, but you’ll also be pleased to learn that this ingredient has been traditionally used for its rejuvenating and antioxidant properties. It has also been historically used to provide soothing relieve for occasional gum discomfort. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in ½ tsp (2.5 mL) carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.
Store in a cool, dry place.
Keep out of reach of children.
100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.

Much more than simply an ingredient found in Italian cuisine, oregano has been traditionally used to help support digestive health. In ancient Greece, it was referred to as “joy of the mountains” and was held as a symbol of joy and happiness. Genesis PURE™ Oregano acts as a purifying agent. Preliminary studies suggest that oregano may have cleansing properties when applied to the skin. In the middle ages, oregano leaves were believed to help promote respiratory health. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in ½ tsp (2.5 mL) carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.
Store in a cool, dry place.
Keep out of reach of children.

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Deeply breathe in the relaxing, herbal aroma of Genesis PURE™ Lavender. This highly soothing scent helps both the mind and body. It may help ease occasional stress and tension. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Topical: Apply 1-2 drops neat (undiluted) or dilute with a carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Experience the energizing effects of Genesis PURE™ Grapefruit. This invigorating, fresh scent is often used to enliven both body and mind. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in ½ tsp (2.5 mL) carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.
Refrigerate after opening

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Grant your senses a calming escape with the sweet scent of Genesis PURE™ Bergamot. Traditionally used to help ease the mind, the light orange peel, floral fragrance creates a delightful aroma. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in ½ tsp (2.5 mL) carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dietary Use: Dilute 1 drop in 1 tsp honey or 4 oz beverage.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.
Refrigerate after opening

100% PURE Essential Oil and Certified Organic.
Breathe easier with Genesis PURE™ Eucalyptus. Traditionally used to help support respiratory health, this cooling scent may provide feelings of well-being during times of distress and discomfort. Does not contain any fillers or carriers.
Topical Use: Dilute 1 drop in 5 drops of carrier oil before applying to skin.
Aromatic Use: Add 1-2 drops into a diffuser.

If you would like to try these Genesis Pure Organic Essential Oils go to Genesis Pure and click shop. Use US11065661 to order and if you are interested in 25% off all the oils and all the products in the wholesale membership club please email me at

Jan 212014

One bite of my Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce will have your taste buds dancing.

Layers of flavor create balance in this dish; aromatic, fresh ginger, cooling coconut milk, sweet mango, a little heat from the chili sauce, and salty, savory miso ~ all tied together in a neat bow by Ume Plum vinegar.

Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce

Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce

Have you seen the show the Taste?

The Taste “features no-holds barred chef Anthony Bourdain, British food star Nigella Lawson, expert chef and author Ludo Lefebvre and restaurateur Brian Malarkey. Each of the four culinary superstars and “Taste” mentors – Bourdain, Lawson, Lefebvre and Malarkey – will coach a team of four competing pro and amateur cooks chosen from a nationwide casting call as they vie to create the best tasting dish.”

My five year old daughter and I have been watching this season and rooting for our favorite Vegan, Cassandra Bodzak.

As you watch the judging of each dish, it is interesting how the judges lean towards two things: fat and balance. Many times the dishes that lose are too dry or lack one of the elements of taste, most often sour/acidity or heat.

As I created this dish, the subject of acid became very apparent at first taste. Many times, without acid a recipe falls flat, lacks depth and seems to be missing something.  Think about the dish ~ could you add tomatoes, vinegar or citrus….google to see what goes best in that type of cuisine. In this case I didn’t have lime on hand so I used Ume Plum vinegar. Ah ha! Perfection!

Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce

Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce

Umeboshi are traditionally made by harvesting ume fruit when they ripen around June and packing them in barrels with salt. A weight is placed on top and the fruit gradually exude juices, which accumulate at the bottom of the barrel. This salty, sour liquid is marketed as umezu (梅酢; often translated as “ume vinegar”), although it is not a true vinegar.

I searched for quite a while to find this ingredient because it is often used in one of my favorite recipe books ~ Clean Food by Terry Walters. I finally found it locally at Native Sun; however, if you don’t live in the area, check on line or visit your local natural food store.

I can’t wait for you to try this dish! It is going down in my “favorites” and even my husband who is not a fan of Indian inspired dishes complimented this one. Enjoy!

Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce

Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce

Spicy Sweet Potato & Mango Lentils with Chili Sauce

Serves 7-8 3/4 cup servings
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe


1 tsp coconut oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup red lentils
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 cups veggie broth
1 cup mango (the fruit of about 2)
1 sweet potato, chopped (do not peel)
2 tsp miso
1 can full fat coconut milk
3 dashes organic chili sauce or Sriracha (Plus extra for garnish if you like it hot like I do!)
2 tsp Ume plum vinegar
Cilantro for garnish (optional)


1. Heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat; add onions, sauté about 5 minutes; add garlic and ginger sauté an additional minute; add lentils, toast for 1-2 minutes; add curry powder; add vegetable broth, mango and sweet potato; bring to a boil reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils and potato are soft, about 30 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk, miso, chili sauce and vinegar.

3. Garnish with cilantro and serve over cooked quinoa such as Pereg Quinoa with Vegetables.

Nutrition Facts
7 Servings
Amount Per Serving 

Calories 154.8
Total Fat 10.9 g
Saturated Fat 9.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 588.1 mg
Potassium 134.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 14.5 g
Dietary Fiber 2.1 g
Sugars 5.3 g
Protein 1.8 g

Vitamin A 50.5 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 5.7 %
Vitamin C 17.0 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 1.6 %
Calcium 1.3 %
Copper 4.6 %
Folate 8.1 %
Iron 4.3 %
Magnesium 2.6 %
Manganese 8.0 %
Niacin 2.0 %
Pantothenic Acid 2.1 %
Phosphorus 3.7 %
Riboflavin 2.6 %
Selenium 1.3 %
Thiamin 3.4 %
Zinc 1.8 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Bonus tip: 

For a WONDERFUL breakdown of the different types of lentils visit

Jan 062014

For those of us that need some new and fresh ideas, hopefully these 11 NEW ways to eat healthy on a budget will fit the bill.

1. Buy spices from the bulk bin.  This is a great way to add flavor inexpensively, without additional fat and salt and then pair with bulk bin beans and grains. My friend Janet from Taste Space has tips on storing her spices and Happy Herbivore shares ways to store grains, beans and flours as well as how to cook them.
For people local to North Florida, Native Sun has a great bulk selection.

Extra Tip! If you don’t want to purchase uniform jars, simply wash old pasta sauce jars or applesauce jars and fill with your bulk bin finds. Handy tools include a funnel, masking tape and permanent marker.

2. Use google.  Look for the veggies that are in season and on sale instead of reaching for the old standbys, then google for recipes to find drool worthy photos. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I don’t know what to do with daikon radish, Romanesco cauliflower or kohlrabi.” You will be surprised and delighted by what you find on google, I promise. Eating Well has a great collection of inexpensive recipes to use various veggies and your bulk bin items from #1.
For those of you with a CSA like KyV Farm, this is a tip to remember!

3. Swap chicken for tofu in recipes. Two reasons:
The first, tofu wins out nutritionally over chicken.
  Prevention Magazine Chicken vs. Tofu Showdown

Prevention Magazine Chicken vs. Tofu Showdown

Prevention Magazine Chicken vs. Tofu Showdown

Secondly, it is cheaper pound for pound. Organic, non-GMO tofu will be between $2 and $3.50, whereas conventional chicken is $4.53 per pound and organic is $5.49 per pound. (Price on 1/5/2013 at Publix Supermarket.)
When prepared properly, tofu is delicious.  Press it, marinate and grill, roast, sauté, or replace for chicken in any recipe.

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies

Try Grilled Adobo Tofu over Fresh Salsa.

4. Buy fruit trees to go along with your backyard garden.  Fruit trees can produce pounds and pounds of fruit. I purchased a lemon tree for a few bucks and two years later I can’t even eat them all.  I preserve them by the Moroccan method of preserved lemons. David Lebovitz has a good recipe.

Fresh Citrus

Fresh Citrus

Extra tip! You can have a garden in your back yard even if you don’t have a green thumb. I came across Jonathan White’s product ~ a tutorial for growing an easy vegetable garden in under 8 hours per year.  Click Here to try it for yourself. The price is $39.97. I checked in on reviews about it and found this one with good points ~ lots of hand holding, completely different system, anyone can do this, and bad points ~you need to have around $100 to start the actual garden. I can’t wait to try this product out myself!

Grow your own organic garden - FCC Affiliate

Grow your own organic garden – FCC Affiliate

5. Be flexible.

Along the lines of #2, sometimes organic produce is less expensive than the conventional version – it just may not be the one you were there looking for. Keep an eye out and read about the “dirty dozen”.

6. Read the ingredients. If you don’t know what the ingredients are or there is a long paragraph, don’t buy the product and allocate your hard earned dollars to these unhealthy, junky foods. Choose whole foods as much as possible that don’t even have a label or expiration date! When you do want junk food, channel your inner Michael Pollan. “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”

7. Give up gum. Yes. Gum. Food Babe tells us why chewing gum destroys our health.

She says “One of the reasons people chew gum is for weight loss. Chewing gum keeps your mouth occupied so you don’t reach for food, right? The main ingredient in all these gums is artificial sweeteners and consuming them will not work as long term strategy for weight loss. Artificial Sweeteners are proven to stimulate your appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, and promote fat storage and weight gain.”

Food Babe: Trident Gum Ingredients – Artificial Colors, Artificial Flavorings, GMOs, Carcinogenic Sugars, Toxic Preservatives (Note: This gum has Xylitol + 3 other sugars including Aspartame)

Food Babe: Trident Gum Ingredients – Artificial Colors, Artificial Flavorings, GMOs, Carcinogenic Sugars, Toxic Preservatives (Note: This gum has Xylitol + 3 other sugars including Aspartame)

It is also expensive. One 3-pack of gum per week can add up to over $152 per year. What could you buy with $152?

8. Find a friend that has a similar healthy eating style and organize a “swip-swap”. My friend Justine and I did this for a while. We would make our family a meal, double it and bring it to our friend with directions for cooking or freezing. We switched off every other week and it was lovely to save money by making dishes in bulk and to not have to cook a meal twice a  month.

9. Make soup. Inexpensive, low in calories and fat, high in fiber. Get some veggie broth (you can make it for free from veggie scraps), veggies, pre-cooked beans and grains. Sauté the veggies (using the seasonings we talked about above), pour in the broth and simmer until the veggies are soft; stir in the cooked beans and grains.

10. Dining Out
a. Eat off the sides. I recently visited Bonefish Grill and ate entirely off sides. I got their pumpkin ravioli with crispy sage (hold the brown butter), green beans with balsamic and a lovely salad with a citrus vinaigrette for around $10 bucks and was really stuffed. In fact, I was still trying to make my way through the meal when everyone had already finished theirs.

b. Ask to sub balsamic instead of butter or oil. This won’t save you money but will save a TON of calories. I find that restaurants tend to drown our dishes in butter and oil and it is actually tastier without it.

11. Swap chips and dip for organic frozen edamame ~

images (8)

Whole pods steamed right from the bag with a bit of coarse sea salt. According to Web MD “Price per serving: 56 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce bag of organic edamame in pods at a supermarket for $2.79 or edamame in pods at Trader Joe’s for $1.79. Nutrition info per serving: 90 calories, 10 grams protein, 8 grams fiber, 10% of the Daily Value for iron, and 6% of the Daily Value for calcium.

 Bonus Tip! I like this quote from (no affiliation) because of the number of people who feel that eating healthy is too expensive. Let’s admit it, it can sometimes be more expensive if time and planning isn’t an option, but eating healthy is so worth it. “Healthy & budget don’t mix well. If you really want to eat healthy you’ll have to put money down. Get a job if you don’t have one. Work on a salary increase or additional stream of income if you do.” Have you recently recommended a restaurant, movie or product you love recently? Then you are already doing Network Marketing. Consider this viable profession and get paid for your recommendations instead of third party marketing companies. According to the DSA, 16 million people in 2012 joined this profession and estimated retail sales was 31.63 billion dollars.

Cheers to your health!
Click here for a quick guide to these 11 tips.

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any “eating healthy on a budget” tips of your own? 

 Posted by at 12:02 pm
Jul 182013

 True or False – you will save money if you make it from scratch.

True. Sort of.

Kale Spa Salad

Kale Spa Salad

I think back to my days before children, when I could gallivant about the city going to weekly wine tastings and dinners.  I was young, professional and thought I was hot stuff.  Several co-workers and I would leave work on each fine Thursday, drive to the Grotto Wine Bar in San Marco to nosh on appetizers and drink wine; afterwards we would head to Pom’s Bistro (which sadly is no longer there) and I would order the Pad Thai- damn good Pad Thai at that. I can’t say I’ve had better since. But…it was expensive at $18 dollars.  I was sure I could make it at home cheaper.

So I went and bought all the ingredients, many I would most likely not use very often……to the tune of $40!  I spent about two hours getting all the ingredients measured out, cooking it and plating….and for the grand finale….the taste testing.

It was ok at best. Ug!

I learned an important lesson though.  Sometimes it is cheaper and less work to simply buy a smaller portion of a pre-made item and can be just as healthy as from scratch with just a few tweaks.

The key is to read the INGREDIENTS on the pre-made item. If there are 300 ingredients, or you have no idea what the ingredient is, run for the hills.

Kale Spa Salad

Kale Spa Salad

The pad thai experience all came back to me when I returned home armed with groceries from Native Sun including kale, some green onions, red onion and a cup or so of their premade Kombucha Spa Salad.
[edamame, orzo, peaches, strawberries, carrots, yellow peppers, kombucha, olive oil, OJ, scallions, ginger, agave, cider vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic]

Now how much would it have cost me to gather and prep the Kombucha Spa Salad?  Probably a lot for what my needs were. So I simply grabbed the fresh ingredients I had on hand and put those together, added some avocado for additional protein and threw the spa salad right on top – thereby making it a WOW salad that was both cheaper AND much faster!

Though you may not have the Kombucha spa salad available to you – is there a local restaurant in your area that carries anything pre-made like this?  You can purchase that and use it the same way I did here! Native Sun has LOTS of options and coming soon KyV Farm should be adding some pre-made options at next year’s CSA!

Kale Spa Salad

Kale Spa Salad

Kale Spa Salad

Serves 4
Vegan, Gluten free (If pre-made salad contains no gluten. This particular one does because of the orzo.)
Printable Recipe
**Ingredients on sale now at Native Sun Natural Food Market, July 7 through August 6, 2013


1 bunch kale, detemmed, washed and torn into bite size pieces
1/4 red onion, sliced very thinly
1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette (such as Annies**)
1 green onion, sliced**
Coarse sea salt & Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 avocado, pit and skin removed and chopped
1 cup Kombucha Spa Salad (or premade salad of choice)


1. Mix the kale and onion in a large bowl, top with dressing; massage dressing into kale to break down the fibers, about 2 minutes. Top with green onion, avocado and pre-made salad. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts (Before adding the pre-made spa salad)
4 Servings
Amount Per Serving 

Calories 215.9
Total Fat 15.0 g
Saturated Fat 1.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.3 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 144.4 mg
Potassium 722.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 20.2 g
Dietary Fiber 7.5 g
Sugars 4.8 g
Protein 5.0 g

Vitamin A 532.5 %
Vitamin B-6 21.8 %
Vitamin C 143.5 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 11.4 %
Calcium 15.3 %
Copper 20.0 %
Folate 17.7 %
Iron 11.7 %
Magnesium 12.8 %
Manganese 46.3 %
Niacin 9.3 %
Pantothenic Acid 7.7 %
Phosphorus 9.0 %
Riboflavin 12.1 %
Selenium 3.1 %
Thiamin 10.1 %
Zinc 5.5 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
I hope you enjoy this spa salad made quick, easy and cheap!

 Posted by at 9:45 am  Tagged with:
Apr 162013

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies
Open your mind……

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” ― Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

“Many people know that animals around the world are treated badly, yet they turn their minds away.” - Ruby Roth, Vegan is Love

So I say… your mind to what is going on in factory farms. 

“Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do.”
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

“I would NEVER.”  Some people say.
Never give up meat. Give up dairy. Eat tofu.

I do believe I heard that out of my husband’s mouth.

(But curiosity got the best of him.)

It looks like chicken.

“Hey! It’s pretty good!”


Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

How did I manage to do this and WHY?

Let’s start with the why.

For the same reason I would pre-prep and pre-make dishes for my CSA….so folks would at least try it.  Even ONE meat and dairy free meal helps your body, the environment and, of course, the animals that were not eaten.

“But that’s the challenge — to change the system more than it changes you.”
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

The HOW.

Tips on how to make tofu look like chicken.

Step 1: Press well.  Do this the day before you are going to eat it or at least a few hours in advance.  I LOVE my tofu xpress, or you can simply wrap the tofu in thick paper towels and a kitchen towel, place it between two plates and weight down the top plate with a very heavy book and/or soup cans.  If you are pressing it overnight, place in the fridge; if not, it is fine to leave on the counter.

Step 2: Cut around the entire tofu to remove any flat planes and edges – think chicken breast. Save all the little shreds to season and throw on a salad.

Step 3: Now cut the tofu into similarly sized but asymmetrical pieces.

Step 4: Run your knife along the flat planes making small downward cuts to shred the edges a bit and then throw the tofu in the marinade.  See the below video and I promise to get a better one soon! Stay tuned…..

(All these steps will also help the marinade seep in a bit better.)

Ever wondered how to disguise tofu? This very humorous, last minute (and shaky) video shows you how. 
Warning: The videographer was my 4 year old.

 Now that all the nuts and bolts are out of the way, let’s get down to the food.

The weather is getting warmer and people are ready to start grilling!  There is nothing like a nice crisp char on some veggies and a mouth-watering, marinated protein-of-choice (tempeh would be great too) - perfect with cool salsa and creamy avocado.  This whole concoction, nestled in a bed of aromatic-nutty cilantro and sunflower seed pesto, is a perfect medley of flavor, texture and temperature.

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto 

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies over Fresh Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Sun Flower Seed Pesto  


Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies

Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies

 Grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies

Serves 6
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe
Tip: Press the tofu overnight and then marinate during the day.


1 block organic, extra firm tofu, pressed 1 hour to overnight
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp adobo seasoning
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
2 fresh zucchini, sliced
1 onion, quartered and cut into chunks
5oz button mushrooms

Adobo Seasoning Recipe
Notes: You will definitely have left over.
This step can be skipped by purchasing pre-mixed adobo seasoning.
2 tsp each; garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cumin, dried oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp salt


1. Mix 2 Tbsp adobo seasoning and 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large bowl; cut tofu into chunks (see tip on how to make tofu look like chicken) and add to bowl; toss to coat and set aside for at least an hour or the day.

2. Preheat grill to medium high; season the vegetables with remaining 2 tsp adobo seasoning and 2 tsp olive oil; toss to coat.

3. Thread veggies and tofu onto skewers in an alternating pattern; spray with organic, non-stick spray.

4. Grill until nice char marks appear and vegetables are soft but not mushy; 5-10 minutes on one side and 5 or so minutes on the next.

Full Nutrition Info

Fresh Citrus Salsa

Fresh Citrus Salsa

Fresh Citrus Salsa

Serves 6
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe


2 tomatoes, chopped
1 navel orange, peeled and chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
Juice 1 lime
1 avocado, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Dash coarse sea salt


1. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl.

Full Nutrition Info

Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

Cilantro Sunflower Seed Pesto

Serves 6
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe


1 cup fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/8 – 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt (depending on taste)
1/4 cup water


1. Mix all ingredients in Magic Bullet or blender.

!Full Nutrition Info

Enjoy this grilled Adobo Tofu and Veggies

Apr 012013

Kale 3 Ways – Cheesy Kale Tomato Sauce, Kale Basil Pesto and Quinoa Power Bowl

Quinoa Power Bowl

There was a certain time during our camping trip last week that I took my life into my own hands. I was in a stare down with a tired and hungry 4 year old after a day of sun and fun with no nap. I needed to whip up something fast and healthy because I had already busted her hiding under a pillow with marshmallows stuffed in her cheeks like a chipmunk with a third waiting to follow.  Needless to say she was not thrilled when I grabbed the lone remaining marshmallow.

I quickly set some water on to boil and pulled some brown rice noodles, nutritional yeast (nooch) and a jar of quality pasta sauce in the cupboard of my little teardrop shaped trailer and some kale from the mini fridge.  (What, that’s not normal camping fare?) With those ingredients I made a semi-homemade cheesy kale tomato sauce with a vegan twist by stirring in some nutritional yeast as I heated the sauce and then simmering some finely chopped kale right in the sauce to wilt it down nicely. Voila – it looked like normal pasta sauce but had lots of protein, vitamins and minerals.  Once I got home I simply had to create it from scratch. It was super simple to do and would be great over salad, tofu and tempeh, poured over baked dishes or anywhere sauce is used.  It’s rich and hearty and has a great balance of acidity, sweet and savory flavors.  After trying the sauce, my daughter ate at least a full cup of the made- from-scratch version.  I’d much rather see her cheeks fully of healthy sauce than marshmallows!

Kale and Nutritional Yeast

What is nutritional yeast? Find out here. And why all the kale? Kale is that powerful and vibrantly green plant that packs a huge nutrient punch. It is one of the sources of plant based calcium that is super absorbable and alkalizing. It also helps to lower cholesterol, fights inflammation and oxidative stress and has tons of vitamin K, A and C.

Quinoa Bowl and Fresh Pesto

The idea for the quinoa power bowl came from a breakfast dish I had recently at a local restaurant.  Their quinoa and kale is typically served with tomatoes, a creamy pesto, chicken and feta so I had to do lots of “leave this off please“.  I loved the idea, but there were way too many animal based foods in it.  I decided to nix the chicken, feta and creamy pesto and create a virgin olive oil based pesto with fresh garlic, kale and some of the Cheesy Kale Tomato sauce.  Wowza!  The fresh pesto really makes this dish pop. There is nothing like aromatic basil and garlic with a touch of salt; what a versatile recipe.  Here are some ideas of how to use pesto; use it as a spread for sandwiches, stir into soups, use it on pasta, top any vegetable or salad, make hummus or potato salad!

Time Crunched?

If you don’t have time to make the sauce from scratch but want to try your hand at the quinoa power bowl, simply do what I did the first time – purchase your favorite store bought brand, heat and stir in 2 cups kale and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast.  No time even for that? Open a can of fire roasted tomatoes, drain and use in place of tomato sauce on the Quinoa Bowl.

Another time saving tip.

There are many delicious store bought versions of pesto.  Simply purchase one and add a tbsp to each plate.

Have some extra time to make all three?  Here is a handy grocery list.

Cheesy Kale Tomato Sauce

Cheesy Kale Tomato Sauce

Cheesy Kale Tomato Sauce (Vegan)

Basic sauce recipe by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes about 5 cups
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 dried bay leave, crushed
4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
3 (14.5 oz) cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
3/4 tsp sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp agave
2 cups finely chopped kale
1/4 cup nutritional yeast


1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a Dutch oven or large stock pot.  Add onion, saute until translucent, about two minutes; add garlic, saute n additional minute.  Add carrot and saute about 5 minutes. Add bay, basil, tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer covered on low heat for 30 minutes.

2. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until semi-smooth or to desired texture.  Alternatively; process the sauce in a food processor until smooth; stir in agave.

3. Add kale and simmer an additional 20 minutes.

4. Stir in nutritional yeast; and taste to check seasoning.

**If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

Kale Basil Pesto

Kale Basil Pesto

Kale Basil Pesto

Makes about 1/2 cup
Serves 4
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe



1/2 cup chopped kale
Handful fresh basil
3 cloves fresh garlic
2 Tbsp oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup vegetable broth


1. Blend all ingredients in a magic bullet or blender.


Quinoa Power Bowl

Quinoa Power Bowl

Quinoa Power Bowl with Tomato Sauce, Kale and Basil Pesto

Inspired by First Watch
Serves 4 (plus extra quinoa for another use)
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe


2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup dry quinoa
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
4 cups chopped kale
2 cups Cheesy Kale Tomato Sauce (or sub store bought tomato sauce of choice)
1/2 cup Kale Basil Pesto (or sub store bought pesto of choice)


1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer; heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium stock pan; add quinoa, onion and 2 cloves garlic to heated oil; toast by stirring about 3 minutes; add 1/4 tsp salt and vegetable broth; cover and simmer 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, covered and let sit 5 minutes. (Makes 4 cups. Reserve 2 cups for recipe and set aside 2 cups for another use.)

2. Heat second Tbsp olive oil in pot originally used for quinoa; add kale and 1/4 sea salt and second 2 cloves garlic.  Saute until wilted; about 5 minutes.

3. Place 1/2 cup quinoa, 1/4 kale mixture; 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1 Tbsp pesto on each of four plates. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

**I have been making quesadillas with my leftover quinoa – delicious!

Nutrition Information

Cheesy Kale Tomato Sauce (Vegan)

Kale Basil Pesto

Quinoa Power Bowl with Tomato Sauce, Kale and Basil Pesto (For the quinoa and kale only.) 
Kale 3 Ways – Cheesy Kale Tomato Sauce, Kale Basil Pesto and Quinoa Power Bowl

Mar 102013

  PicMonkey Collage

I’ve finally discovered the secrets to making great tasting great veggie or bean burgers when they used to fall apart, turning into mush.

The first secret is some flour – any kind will do; add it a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is firmer but only just stays together.  (This does take some practice because if you add too much, it is firm before you cook it. but after it’s cooked it is too dry.)

Second, add some mila.  It acts as an egg replacer but is a whole, raw food instead of that powdered stuff you buy at the store. (More on mila below.)

Third, put avocado on top. Everything is better with avocado.

Savory Veggie Burger with Vegan Cheese

Savory Veggie Burger with Vegan Cheese

These burgers were actually a round two recipe for me – I used the leftovers from the Quinoa and Black Bean Stew and, using fresh beets from KyV Farm, I re-created the veggie burgers I had recently eaten at Manatee Cafe in St Augustine.  I don’t know what they put in those things but I could eat them every day. Maybe twice a day. Make that three times. They are GOOD.

These burgers are really flavorful with the Bragg Liquid Aminos (tastes like soy sauce), sweet raisins and fresh salsa in the mix.   Put them on a burger bun with some vegan cheese and avocado and I bet you won’t miss the beef!

For my mila lovers out there – this is a great use for it!  In this recipe it acts as an egg replacer and also happens to be a whole, raw food with 3000 mg of Omega 3′s.  This powerful little seed has TONS of benefits and has been all over the news in the past few weeks.  Mila  was recently featured on Good Morning America as a great aid for weight loss! (You can see my friends Greg and Rachel in the clip – SO proud of you guys!). How awesome to finally have a way to help lose weight that isn’t some fake powder shake, pill or pharmaceutical.  It is the seed used in Dr Bob Arnot’s new book the Aztec Diet and was also featured on Fox News. If you are wondering what the heck mila is – you can check it out here.

Veggie Burger

Veggie Burger

Savory Veggie Burger

Inspired by Manatee Cafe Veggie Burger

Serves 6
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe
**Veggies from KyV Farm


2 beets**
2 cups finely chopped purple cabbage**
2 red onions with tops, chopped finely (or 1/2 cup chopped onion)**
1/4 cup cooked quinoa (or cooked rice or any grain)
1/3 cup cooked black beans (or beans of choice)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp flour of choice
1/4 cup raisins

Flavor punch!

1/2 cup salsa mixed with 2 Tbsp mila as binder (Mila is optional but I suggest trying an additional Tbsp flour without it; however, this has not been tested.)
1/4 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder

Optional toppings

2 avocados
3 red onion slices, chopped
Vegan cheese slices


**This is a great place to use left over quinoa and black bean stew in place of the precooked grains and beans.   Another option is to use canned beans and quickly cook the quinoa.  Feel free to also precook the beets, cabbage and onion in step one the day before.

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut tops off beets and reserve for another use; wrap beets in foil and bake for 1 hour or until soft enough to be easily pierced by a fork; unwrap and cool enough to handle; peel and chop finely. Meanwhile heat a medium pot sprayed with nonstick cooking spray; add cabbage and onion and cook until softened, about five ingredients.

2. Mix the beets through the raisins, stir in flavor punch! Preheat broiler to high; spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray form veggie burgers into six patties; broil about 3 to 5 minutes but watch closely as broilers vary. Flip when firm enough to flip; broil an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until firm. Top each burger with a slice of cheese, and/or 1/3 avocado and a sprinkling of red onion.

Nutrition Facts (Without optional toppings.)
6 Servings
Amount Per Serving 

Calories 119.3
Total Fat 1.3 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
olyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
odium 124.2 mg
Potassium 323.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate 21.6 g
Dietary Fiber 4.1 g
Sugars 7.9 g
rotein 6.8 g

Vitamin A 3.6 %
Vitamin B-12 44.4 %
itamin B-6 51.5 %
Vitamin C 25.5 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 1.6 %
Calcium 3.3 %
opper 7.2 %
Folate 15.2 %
Iron 8.3 %
Magnesium 8.4 %
Manganese 17.9 %
Niacin 36.7 %
Pantothenic Acid 68.6 %
Phosphorus 10.8 %
iboflavin 42.4 %
Selenium 1.3 %
Thiamin 42.6 %
Zinc 2.8 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Feb 212013

Six Disney Food Survival Tips

Blissful Blueberry Bake

Blissful Blueberry Bake

Disney World.

Is it one of your life’s dreams to get there? Or are you not into the lines and crowds?

I would definitely put myself into the latter category.  Camping is one of my favorite pastimes.  Nature. Solitude. Calm.  My life is crazy enough as it is, so going into an environment of man-made chaos is not my cup of tea.  Nevertheless, I just returned from a three day Disney adventure because we had family that flew in from Massachusetts that my daughter had never met and she very much enjoyed meeting her cousins…and Mary Poppins.

One of the first and most obvious things to me, of course, was the food choices of many Disney-goers.  At the “resort” we stayed at there was a cafeteria where my family and I ate.  During one particular breakfast I noticed a sadly obese child that had skittles, some sort of cinnamon bun, a chocolate chip cookie, bacon and a chocolate chip pancake on his plate and was washing that down with his ($17) mug of Coke.  The more I looked around, the more I realized it was the same with many of the parents and other children’s plates.  Some of the “healthy” choices were Light and Fit yogurt, flavored milks and frosted flakes.  If you know anything about the commercial dairy industry and GMO corn, you know this is not actually a healthy choice.

So what is a food conscious person to do?  With a little planning you can both save money and stay healthy!  

1) Spend a little time to plan ahead. Choose a few recipes to make beforehand, such as this five ingredient black bean burger. **(For those flying in see below.)
2) Find out if you can get a refrigerator in your room or if you will need to get ice each morning.
3) Bring a canvas bag for non-refrigeration items, a large cooler for anything that must stay cold and smaller lunch bag for the day trips.
4) Each morning separate breakfast items out and then pack enough food items for lunch and snacks in the smaller bag. (You will have a much easier time of this with a plant based diet since you won’t need to worry as much about refrigeration.) If you are not going back to the room for dinner, you will need to pack that too.
5) Bring paper plates, napkins and utensils. (If you are flying in you can get these on the park grounds, but taking them along allows you to forgo having to stand in line to obtain only a plate.)
6) Bring some reusable storage containers that you can portion your lunch into and rinse out each night.

Note: For lunch items such as a bean burger, there are a few restaurants that are happy to allow you to use their condiments such as salsa, lettuce, tomato and onion when you tell them you or your child has food allergies – especially if you do purchase something from them such as a side salad or small iced coffee (I packed my own coconut creamer).

**If you are flying in, prior to leaving home, purchase and pack a soft sided cooler.  Upon arriving in Orlando find a grocery store such as Publix and stock up on some ice and essentials.  You can still make these five ingredient black bean burgers - all you need is a can of beans, mustard, ketchup, some instant oats, salt and pepper and a microwave.    

The outcome? With just this little bit of preparation: 1) I saved enough money to cover my daughter’s three day ticket into the park as a Florida resident and 2) we had some really delicious food compared to some of the generic items available.  There would have been almost nothing either of us could eat between my plant based diet and my daughter’s food allergies.  I found almost no meat/dairy free choices, unless we wanted to get a iceberg lettuce salad or a plastic packaged $7 bowl of melon.

Some of the items I packed included refillable water bottles with filters, fresh fruit, dried fruit, sun butter/peanut butter, whole grain bagel thins, rice cakes, home made bean burgers, an avocado, onion and tomato, carrots and hummus, salsa and organic corn chips, oatmeal, coconut milk creamer, rice milk for my daughter and a few splurge items such as a container of Blissful Blueberry Bake, gluten free fig newtons and GF pretzels.

Looking at the population of people that was in the parks was disheartening.  There were so many people that were so overweight they actually had to have motorized wheelchairs to get around.  It made me so sad and wishful that I could help them.  But as with all things in life we can only Live and Let Live and lead by example.  The more of us that band together in these situations and show people that eating and living healthy is possible the better.  My hope is that even ONE person saw what we were doing and said you know what, I’m going to do that next time!

Blissful Blueberry Bake

Blissful Blueberry Bake

This blueberry bake is a simple and satisfying warm dessert.  For those folks where fresh blueberries are not available, frozen would work great too.  Whatever you choose, be sure to get a variety that does not contain added sugars or salt -this way you can control the amount that is added to the recipe.

I encourage you to dress this base recipe up in different ways – some ginger or cinnamon would be lovely or the addition of some extra pecans or other nuts.  Don’t like agave?  Try  subbing some 100% maple syrup.  Any which way, you can’t go wrong with baked blueberries!

Blissful Blueberry Bake

Blissful Blueberry Bake

Blissful Blueberry Bake

Serves 4
Vegan, Gluten Free
Printable Recipe
**Items on sale now at Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Feb 7 through Mar 6, 2013


1 pint fresh blueberries**
¼ cup agave nectar, (Madhava)**
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup gluten free granola, (Natures Path)**
1 tsp coconut oil, melted (Nutiva) **


1. Preheat oven to 350F; mix blueberries, agave, lemon and salt in a small baking dish; mix granola and coconut oil in a small dish and then spoon over blueberries evenly; cover and bake 60 minutes, until warm and bubbly.

Nutrition Facts
4 Servings
Amount Per Serving 

Calories 213.6
Total Fat 4.5 g
Saturated Fat 1.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 166.4 mg
Potassium 94.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 42.9 g
Dietary Fiber 4.4 g
Sugars 29.8 g
Protein 2.7 g

Vitamin A 2.0 %
Vitamin B-6 1.9 %
Vitamin C 24.7 %
Vitamin E 5.0 %
Calcium 1.3 %
Copper 3.1 %
Folate 1.6 %
Iron 4.3 %
Magnesium 1.3 %
Manganese 14.2 %
Niacin 1.8 %
Pantothenic Acid 0.9 %
Phosphorus 1.1 %
Riboflavin 3.0 %
Selenium 0.8 %
Thiamin 3.3 %
Zinc 0.8 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Enjoy my Blissful Blueberry Bake and Six Disney Food Survival Tips!