Friday, December 20, 2013


Kombucha may rank as one of my favorite drinks in life. I generally have a batch going and love experimenting with a variety of different flavors and combinations. In my opinion, kombucha can easily stand in as a glass of bubbly for upcoming holiday parties and, hey!, I can toast to good health and mean it.

I created this recipe a couple months ago as preparation for the months known for boasting illness - a foe I do everything possible to avoid. If anyone close to me catches a cold I immediately pop a bottle, sipping to freedom from phlegm and misery. Along with a few preventative measures, my body is able to put up a good fight and come away victorious.



Elderberries and elder flowers are pretty much considered the universal remedy. In most temperate regions its seems you can find these bushes everywhere. We have them lining the ditches along our roads, in the woods, throughout our gardens and farms, near ponds, you name it. They are easy to grow and really easy to dry and store. Elder's most touted properties are immune-enhancing, anti-viral, and sweat inducing [fever reducing]. They can also be used to treat upper respiratory infections, inflammation, skin problems [including boils, rashes, acne], or as a nutritive food [think vitamin A, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and phytosterols].
*Note: it is important to use dried as raw berries can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea in some people.


Okay I admit, I add ginger to everything. It is one of my favorite all-around herbs and also claimed to be a universal remedy. Not only an antiseptic [think food poisoning and gastrointestinal infections], ginger is a wonderful digestive stimulant; increases circulatory, respiratory, and nervous system function; and has warming and cleansing properties. It is wonderful for treating colds and the flu, motion sickness, nausea or upset stomach, and in some cases morning sickness. Parasites beware. Inflammation, run. Nasty phlegm, bam! Menstrual pain, look out, ginger is coming. You can even help alleviate a headache by rubbing some ginger juice on said area and lower blood triglycerides using ginger. Seriously, this herb has it all and is a must-have in your herbal medicine cabinet.


Lavender. The smell alone should be enough to sell you on this wonderful herb but in case it doesn't, here's a bunch of other reasons to get really familiar with this common plant. Lavender is famous for it's relaxing and uplifting qualities lending it perfect to use for tension and stress relief or insomnia. It also happens to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties and can be used in treating a plethora of infections, burns, and insect bites. It's used in formulas for migraines and headaches as well as indigestion and stomach spasms related to irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. There's a component of lavender, perillyl alcohol, that has shown antileukemia and anititumor effects [specifically liver, spleen, and breast] in laboratory studies. So one might say it's a universal remedy. Sensing a theme?

Orange Peel 

Orange peel is most commonly used as a flavoring agent or fragrance. More uncommonly known, these same compounds are antiseptic in nature, decrease mucous production, reduce muscle spasms, increase digestive fluid production and blood circulation, and have anti-inflammatory effects. Not bad for a great tasting herbal addition!


For great instructions on how to make kombucha at home, I recommend Sally Fallon's book Nourishing TraditionsSmall Notebook also has really good instructions just slightly different from Fallon's. Note: I use organic green tea rather than black tea for a super antioxidant boost.

One batch of prepared Kombucha Tea
8 - 12 glass bottle with tight fitting lid [I like to reuse store bought kombucha bottles but any jar will do!]

1 teaspoon each per bottle:

Organic Dried Elderberries
Organic Dried Ginger, Cut or 1, 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
Organic Dried Lavender Flower

1/2 teaspoon per bottle:

Organic Dried Orange Peel

Check out Global Infusion [if you live in the area], Bulk Herb Store, or Mountain Rose Herbs for dried organic herbs.

Place measure herbs in each bottle. Fill 3/4 full with prepared kombucha tea. Tightly secure cap and place in a warm, dry, dark area [a cupboard under the sink or over the refrigerator works great]. Let sit for 3 - 5 days. After 3 - 5 days store in refrigerator for 2 weeks to let the flavors really blend. After 2 weeks have passed, enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013


My friend Jamie and I have a favorite little tea shop in our area we visit from time to time. Frequently we order their "Temple of Health" tea, touted as increasing immunity and overall vigor. I perused the ingredients list and found sure enough, the herbs listed are great for combating the colds and flu so frequently caught this time of year.

This is not only our take on the recipe but also one of our defenses against those yucky bugs. Lucky for us [and you!], it's also delicious!

Check out the "Cold & Flu Prevention and Remedies" page on this blog for more herbal ammunition along with a list of natural ways to prevent and treat general illness.

To find organic [something I cannot stress enough here] loose leaf herbs, visit a local tea supplier, co-op, or health foods store. My favorite place is Global Infusion [they also happen to have the best house chai ever and boast a typically amazing "chai of the month"]. If I'm looking for a large quantity or have a bulk order I find many of my herbs online from either Bulk Herb Store or Mountain Rose Herbs.

A note about measuring in "parts": "parts" is a general measuring term that can mean any form of measurement. The thing to remember when using parts is if you start with 1 tablespoon equating 1 part then you need to continue that measurement throughout recipe. For example, if 1 tablespoon equals 1 part then 2 parts would  be 2 tablespoons and 1/2 part would be 1/2 tablespoon. 

Inspired by LJ's "Temple of Health" tea blend

2 parts each:

dried ginger root, cut
cinnamon chips
lemon grass, cut
licorice root, cut

1 part each:

astragalus root, cut
echinacea root, cut
echinacea leaf, cut

splash of organic lemon oil

Place all herbs and splash of lemon oil in a large glass jar or container. Secure lid tightly and shake gently to combine. Store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, preferably dark place.

To use, place 2 - 3 teaspoons of tea mix in a metal tea strainer, tea ball, or unbleached cotton tea bag. Put in a mug suitable for hot liquids and pour 1 - 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over tea. Steep for 2 - 3 minutes for mild strength, 5 - 7 for medium strength, and 10+ minutes for bold tea [the stronger the tea the more health benefits you receive]. I like to let my tea steep to room temperature and drink warm rather than hot. I will add more water if tea is too strong.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


When I was a kid living at home not needing to worry myself with cooking, I baked. I loved making an assortment of desserts, cookies, muffins, you name it. Eventually I moved away, got a job, a ring, a couple babies, and picked up a few food allergies. My bet is you know where this is going. I hardly bake anymore and definitely not many desserts or cookies. I focus most of my energies on cooking decent meals and wholesome snacks for my family, picking up [and re-picking up] toys, keeping the house in at least less than disastrous condition, enjoying a few hobbies, and helping others find ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle. This leaves little time for much else.

And yet, here we are, the season of parties and celebration and an endless amount of treats. I'm not complaining, it just presents a bit of a pickle for a girl who doesn't do much in the "dessert" area.

Enter these truffles. Easy. Quick. Minimal effort. Allergy-free. Super delicious. And a bit more virtuous.

These truffles have become my go-to dessert whenever the occasion presents itself and just never get old. The original recipe for Pumpkin Truffles comes from Daily Bites and I've adapted that recipe for the peppermint truffles listed below.

Enjoy friends and may you be so blessed this holiday season.

Makes about 10 medium or 15 small truffles

3/4 c. coconut butter
3 - 4 T. pure maple syrup [+ 1/4 c. pure maple syrup is making coating rather than using sweetened chocolate chips]
1 vanilla bean, scraped*
2 tsp. peppermint oil, divided
pinch sea salt
4 ounces of either allergen-free chocolate or unsweetened chocolate or carob, chopped
2 T. coconut oil
if using unsweetened chocolate or carob, you will need:
1/4 c. pure maple syrup

Combine coconut butter and 3 - 4 T. maple syrup in a small pot over very low heat. Stir until melted [the mixture will start out creamy and a bit liquid looking and as it melts get more pasty]. Remove from heat, pour mixture into a small glass mixing bowl, and stir in scraped vanilla bean [the pod contents not the pod*] and 1 teaspoon of the peppermint oil.

Place bowl with truffle "dough" into the freezer and let set for 10 - 20 minutes or until the mixture is a bit firmer and can be easily rolled into balls.

Form the cold mixture into small balls [should make 10 medium or 15 small balls] and place on a wax paper lined plate or baking pan. Return to freezer for an additional 10 minutes.

While the nugget part of the truffles is freezing, make the chocolate or carob coating. Over very low heat, heat chocolate or carob chips or pieces, coconut oil, and maple syrup [if using unsweetened chocolate or carob] in a small pot. Whisk constantly until just melted and remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon of peppermint oil, stirring to combine.

Take truffle "nugget" out of the freezer and dip each ball into the chocolate to coat completely. Place them back onto the baking sheet and, once all the the truffle balls are covered in chocolate or carob, return to the freezer to solidify coating. Once firm, remove truffles from freezer and, using a spoon, carefully drizzle additional coating over the truffles. Return to freezer. You can freeze any leftover coating for the next batch or toss with a large handful of almonds to make peppermint chocolate-covered almonds or you can use almond pieces to make peppermint almond bark.

Once the coating has solidified, place truffles in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to serve.

You can also make coconut truffles by adding shredded coconut [enough to make a firm dough] and using coconut extract in place of peppermint.

*If you're wondering what to do with the pods [because, well vanilla beans are expensive so who wants to waste!], place scraped beans in a small airtight jar and cover with rum. Place in a dark cupboard and let stand a few weeks. Voila! Pure vanilla extract!