Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Power of Thanksgiving

Thank you. These two simple words are defined as: “An expression used when acknowledging a gift, service or compliment.” Such a short, simple phrase can produce immense feelings in both the giver and the receiver of this phrase.
Have you ever had those times when "Thank you" just didn't seem to be enough, yet, ... 

Read the entire article over at Shazzy Fitness where I'm a guest blogger.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Almond Butter DIY

I LOVE almond butter, and I go through it pretty quickly. I hated paying the outrageous price at the supermarket to feed my almond butter habit, but I did it anyway. I have always read about making almond butter from scratch but up until earlier this year, I had put it off. It was intimidating to me for some reason.  I thought it was going to be difficult to make.  

That is, until my friend Babs asked me if I had made my own almond butter yet.  When I answered "No, not yet", she told me in 3 easy steps how simple it was to do. I thought to myself "Geesh, and I haven't tried this yet...why?"

I had to make sure I had all the ingredients on hand. Raw almonds.  Sea salt. Check.
Then my food processor had to have the correct blade installed. Check.

That's it. I was ready!

I measured out 2 1/2 cups of raw almonds, guessing the final product would fit into a recycled 12 oz jar.  It did, with no room to spare.  My friend Babs said she measured out 3 cups of almonds and the almond butter fit into her 16 oz jar.

Next I began processing the almonds. BE WARNED, the first several seconds are hard on the ears when the almonds hit the plastic bowl as they swirl around.  But take heart, the noise settles very quickly and soon it begins to purr.  

Once it starts to look like crumbs, stop the machine and scrape down the sides. I added about a 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt the second time I made this, and I liked it better. It really brought out a good flavor. But this is optional.

Within just a few minutes the crumbs start forming a ball. Stop the machine again and break the ball apart. This step is probably not necessary, but it allows the motor to cool just a tad.

Within just a few more minutes, the ball becomes the spread! Continue processing this until you get a nice smooth consistency, scraping down the sides occasionally. Remove the blade and scrape out the butter into a clean, recycled jar or container of your choice. This entire process took maybe 15 minutes. 

Enjoy right away on a piece of bread, or however you enjoy any type of nut butter. You can also use it in the any smoothie recipe. I've provided one of my favorite smoothie recipes below. Store the remaining almond butter in the refrigerator.

                                   Mocha Smoothie

Makes 1 serving

1 cup of original unsweetened almond milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup cold brewed coffee
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1-2 scoops of vanilla protein powder *
2 teaspoons of raw cacao powder,or unsweetened Dutch cocoa
1 tablespoon of Dandy Blend, OR 1 teaspoon of espresso powder, OR 1/4 teaspoon coffee extract. Optional, but recommended if you really like coffee flavor
3-4 ice cubes**

*I use Plant Fusion Vanilla
** I freeze left-over coffee into cubes, then use these in my smoothies

My son dehydrates kale for me from his organic garden, so I will often add a tablespoon of dried kale to my smoothies. You can use fresh, or any other kind of green complex if desired. This is totally optional, but a good way to get in some greens.

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and process just until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

From Trash to Treasure

Hang on!  Don't throw away your kitchen scraps!!

This concept isn't new by any means, but I was asked by my sister-in-law to post this little treasure that comes from what you normally throw into your trash. 

Wait, before you shake your head and move onto the next blog, hear me out.

I use vegetable broth all...the...time. And it gets EXPENSIVE! At almost $4.00 for 4 cups of broth, I get all kinds of savings when I make my own!  I've read recipes where they have you use whole, good produce to make broth,  Sure when you are done cooking the vegetables you get some good tasting broth, but you end up throwing away all those veggies that turned into a pile of mush. It always seemed like such a waste, so I only ever did that a few times.  But wait....!

You know those end pieces, onion skins and peelings that you cut away from the good stuff then throw them in your trash or hopefully your compost pile?  Well stop that!

Take a minute to wash up all your vegetables before you go cutting on them.  Then peel and cut away. Just don't discard the scraps.

Instead, put them in a gallon sized plastic storage bag, and throw it in your freezer. Every time you fix yourself some veggies, add them to the bag. Keep doing that until your bag is full.

When you get a bag or two full (depending on the size of your pot), pull out a stock pot and dump that scrap heap in and add water and whatever seasonings you like. For this batch I added several bay leaves, peppercorns, some thyme and some capers.

Each batch is a little different depending on what you have in it and how much of it. Your winter batch will taste different than your summer batch. (I love the addition of tomato scraps!) This batch had onions layers, celery ends, garlic ends, carrot pieces and peels, white and sweet potato peelings, kale stems, asparagus and broccoli stalks, cauliflower centers and who knows what else. Okay, ...well I do.

Fill up your stock pot with water all the way to the top and bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat down and let it simmer, pretty much most of the day.  It makes your house smell awesome!  You can skimp on the time and the variety of produce, but I wouldn't recommend it. I did it once that way and the broth was very pale and the flavor was very light.  Let it simmer for a minimum of 4 hours, It will reduce somewhat, but it should end up a beautiful amber color.  Once you are satisfied with the taste and color take it off the heat and let it cool. Then strain it, and ladle it into containers and freeze. I always keep some out in the fridge to use right away.

Here is the finished product. 

I ended up with about 39 cups of broth out of this batch. If I bought all of that, it would have cost me about $39.00 USD, but instead it was FREE! And when I am all done, I take the strained mushy veggie scraps to the compost pile. It's a win-win for me and the dirt! 

I hope you make up a beautiful batch of broth soon. Enjoy!

Thanks to my honey for taking the photos for me!  See more of what he does over at Photography Musings by Dave.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

It All Begins with Dirt

This post will be a little different from what I normally post on this site. Bear with me; I'm going to attempt a homework assignment for school.  

I started this blog after beginning to research nutrition and the way it affects our bodies. In case you didn't know, I am a breast cancer survivor who was totally perplexed on how it was that I came to get cancer in the first place. I was, after all, relatively healthy; not overweight, not a smoker, drinker or druggie.  As a child, I was raised mostly on home grown food, both from the garden and our barn. I had all the “right” things going for me, and none of the bad. The only risk factor on the list I could check off was that I was Caucasian.  So how did I get cancer?

As I started researching, one of the main things I could figure out, that I could control anyway, was the food I was eating and it's affects on my body.  In a very short time frame I became a vegetarian, and then a vegan. Now I eat mostly a plant-based diet, occasionally eating fish when I'm too lazy  busy to fix a complete meal. Eating plant based is more work than fixing chicken or beef every night and throwing a potato and some peas and carrots on the side and calling it a meal. Eating mostly plants requires a little more planning to make sure I get in all the nutrients I need. When I don’t do it correctly, my body lets me know about it, and then… out comes the fish for a quick lazy fix to help pump in some of what I need.  It’s not a perfect diet, but I try to stay balanced in both what I eat and how I think about eating. I don’t want to be “that” fanatic whom everyone avoids.

As I’ve stated before on this blog, I’m not out to convert anyone to become a vegan or vegetarian, although there are plenty of good reasons I could give you that might get you to consider a plant-based diet. What I do want to accomplish is not only sharing good tasting healthy recipes, but also give you good solid reasons for choosing the best of what you put on your and your family’s plates.

According to Compassion in World Farming, 2 out of every 3 farm animals in the world are now factory farmed 1.  You might ask “What is factory farming?”. A factory farm is a “farm on which large numbers of livestock are raised indoors in conditions intended to maximize production at minimal cost” (Merriam-Webster

Why does that matter?

I won’t go into the horrific and inhumane practices and conditions in factory farming. That would just be cruel to you. If you’re ready to feel disgusted and violently ill, just look up factory farming on the Internet and click on any link. I won’t do that to you here.

But turning a blind eye to this doesn’t just prevent you from wanting to puke, it prevents you from staying healthy. It prevents you from making the best food choices you can in order to prevent disease in your own body in the now or near future.  If you choose to eat meat, then please, know where it comes from and what it is fed. After all, you are what you eat and what they ate.

Pork, ‘the other white meat’ comes from pigs that are forced to live in a space no bigger than their own bodies and lie or stand in their own feces. “So”, you say, “I am not into animal rights.” That’s ok. I can’t really say that I am “into” animal rights either, but you still need to be concerned. “Why?” you ask, because this unsanitary practice actually makes the pigs sick.2.  All animals are routinely shot up with antibiotics to help control these sicknesses due to their unsanitary surroundings, but then those same antibiotics are passed onto you. And oh, yeah, those sick animals provided they don’t die before they are butchered, are still slaughtered and put on your local grocers meat rack. Those that do die before they are butchered are chopped up and put into your pets' food. Check your pets’ food label for ‘bypass protein’, which translates to dead animal remains, not butchered, dead first.  

I won’t go on and on about all the different animals and how they are treated and what they are treated with. But please know that factory farming is a big bucks business where the “product” is forced to grow fast using antibiotics and growth hormones to get on to your grocer in record time.  All that ‘stuff’ that goes into that animal goes into you too.

The factory farmed meat is fatter, sicker and full of drugs which is passed onto you, causing early physical development in our children, heart disease, cancer and other diseases that could be prevented.

So to circle back around to my title, It All Begins with Dirt, when we grow or know where our food is grown, we are much better off. You may not have the resources to grow your own vegetables or raise your own meat in your back yard, but there are people around who can and do raise food that is free of pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. These same people work with the seasons and allow their animals to eat the way they were meant to eat.  

Chickens eat grass, seeds and insects. 

Cows will graze on grass, love and sunshine. 

And pigs love to eat grass, root for bugs and get treated with garden scraps.

These animals are growing at a normal growth rate, in the sunshine, eating what God meant them to eat. If you choose to eat meat, eat meat that ate what it was supposed to eat in order for your body to benefit in the best way it can. Dirt supports grass for the animals to graze and the crops to grow. When we do it right from the ground up, we’ll all be much happier and healthier for it.

Here are a just a few resources to look at if you are interested in learning more about what and what not to put on your plate. There is much, much more on the topic if you choose to look.

1.    1. Lymbery, Philip. "Facts and Figures." Compassion in World Farming, 2012. Web Accessed through March 21, 2015.

2.   2. Wing, Steve. “University of North Carolina “Pig poop fouling North Carolina streams; state permitting questioned.”   Environmental Health Sciences, 2013 Web accessed March 21, 2015.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lunch in a Jar

I have been absent way too long. I've been so busy and pre-occupied with school and life that I confess I have lost my creative touch. I still spend plenty of time in the kitchen, but I haven't, until recently, created any new meals in a very long time.  

I've made many "new" meals from the numerous cookbooks that I own, along with Pinterest recipes and other bloggers recipes, but I haven't had the gumption to create my own, let along post anything here. Until just recently.

Recently, I posted on Facebook pictures of a salad I made for lunch and I stacked and packed more of the same in jars for the remainder of the week. It was such a hit, I thought I would share another version (with decent photos) here on It All Begins with Dirt.

These jars are simple to make and keep fresh for a week in the fridge when stacked properly. 

Start with your favorite dressing on the bottom of a quart mason jar.  For this salad, I made my own Tahini Lemon dressing and used about 1 1/2 TB in the bottom of each jar. 

From there you'll want to add the chunky veggies.  I added about 1/3 cup of each of: broccoli, carrots, and chickpeas. Shake these down as you go so it all fits in the jar.  Then I added (still about 1/3 cup each) layers of mixed red and white quinoa, chopped red bell peppers, peas, chopped dried apricot, pumpkin seeds  and then topped it off with as much greens as I could stuff down. If you don't like, or don't have these veggies, use what you have or like. It's very versatile.

Once it's all in there, top it with a lid and store them in the refrigerator. 

These are so easy to grab and go by themselves, or pack in a lunch bag or box.  When you're ready to eat, shake the jar really good to get all that dressing all over everything and dump into a bowl, or eat it directly out of the jar. 

Use your favorite recipe for Lemon-Tahini Dressing or here's one that I used:

  • ½ cup tahini
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 or 3 tbsp)
  • 1 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tb Nutritional Yeast (optional, but recommended)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Add this to a high-speed blender (like a NutriBullet) or whisk together until smooth. Keep any remaining in a glass jar in the fridge. 

Experiment with different layers and dressings.  The possibilities are endless!


Taco salad with salsa on the bottom, then layers of guacamole, tomato,onion, peppers, corn, black beans, and spinach, topped with brown rice tortilla cut into pieces.


Asian salad with honey ginger dressing on the bottom layered with mandarin oranges, red cabbage, bean sprouts, sliced carrots, broccoli, red bell peppers, water chestnuts, snap peas and romaine lettuce, topped with sliced almonds and sesame seeds.


Anti pasta salad with Italian Dressing, pasta, artichokes, black/green olives, roasted red pepper, chickpeas and endive with romaine lettuce, topped with pine nuts.

These are just a few ideas.  Have fun coming up with more!

Photo credits to Dave Howell at Photography Musings by Dave

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meatless Monday - Quick and Easy Fajita's!

Welcome to the 41st installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

My apologies for being absent for so long. I promise, I've been eating meatless on Monday's and pretty much every day of the week for going on one and half years now.  But lately my creative juices have been almost non-existent. That, plus I have a few new cookbooks that I've been trying out and using new recipes from. 

With that said, I wanted to share with you all the quickest, easiest and most tasty "recipe" I've made recently without a recipe. I was in the mood for Mexican food, had fresh colored sweet peppers from Costco (2 of each color) that I knew would need using soon AND a new hot pepper plant that I acquired from the farmers market had a pepper ready to harvest that I was anxious to try.  

I sliced up some onion, half of each color of bell pepper, opened a can of black beans, rinsed and drained them and used some brown rice I had in the freezer (I'm totally digging making a big batch of rice and any type of beans, lentils lately, and freezing up 2 cup portions ready for anything). I added about 1 tsp of Wildtree's Chipotle Lime Rub in the onion/pepper mix.  I heated up the bean and rice,  adding the Golden Cayenne pepper I harvested from the plant I bought at the farmers market. I used low-carb tortillas to wrap all this up along with freshly chopped romaine lettuce.  

Water or oil sauté the onions and peppers together.  You can add green peppers if you want, but I am not a fan of the green ones. If you don't have the Wildtree blend, add chipotle pepper and about a tsp of fresh lime juice.

 I heated the rice and beans with a little water and that awesome Golden Cayenne pepper. If you don't have rice made up ahead of time, just add the beans and pepper to freshly cooked brown rice at the end of the cooking cycle for the rice.

Lay out a low carb tortilla (or any tortilla of your choice), add about 1/2 cup of the rice/bean mixture to the center of the tortilla. Add a generous portion of onions and peppers, top with ribbons of romaine lettuce (any lettuce, except iceberg works here).  Serve with a side of fruit and ¡es facilisimo!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Meatless Monday - Quick Savory Marinara Sauce and Quinoa Pasta

Welcome to the 40th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

I don't know if it's been the long winter or... what it is, but I have been lacking tremendously in the creativity department lately.  In case you didn't notice, I haven't posted anything original in quite some time. 

I followed a detox diet very recently where there was a menu to follow, so all the cooking I did was solely from recipes. (I felt great, and lost weight though. See more about that here, here and here.) Since I'm not following the detox diet anymore, (although I still fix some of those delicious recipes) I am back to trying to figure out what to fix each night. It was nice having a menu plan where someone (in this case a book) was telling me what to fix each night. 

Last night I wanted something quick and easy, and thought pasta with marinara sounded easy. However, just plain marinara isn't that nutritious, so I began pulling out vegetables from my crisper drawer and started chopping.  I didn't think to write them down, but know that just about any vegetable you have would work as an addition to marinara.  Once I chopped them, I then sautéed them in a little bit of olive oil, starting with the firmer veggies and adding the softer veggies at the very end.

The vegetables I used were: Onion, leek, garlic, carrot, celery, tomato, zucchini, fire-roasted frozen mushrooms, and kale.  I added freshly frozen basil and dried oregano once all the veggies were softened.

Once the veggies were soft, I added the jarred marinara sauce. I used Prego, but use whatever your favorite brand is.  Add some pepper and a little salt, mix well and let simmer.

While the marinara sauce was simmering (which allowed that lovely vegetable medley to meld nicely into the jarred sauce), I boiled some quinoa pasta. With that going, I heated up some peas and carrots in the microwave and made garlic bread out of some "needed to be used up" ciabatta rolls. The vegetables and the quinoa pasta added the nutrients this meal would have been missing otherwise. 

 Did you know that kale and peas are just a few of the highest protein sources in green vegetables? Coupled with the quinoa pasta, this meal turned out to be a savory and nutritious meal. 

For dessert ...slices of fresh cantaloupe. Yummmm.

Yay for fast food!

Photos by Dave Howell

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Things Are Growing On Around Here!

Spring has finally arrived in NE Ohio and there are lot's of things growin' on around here! After a LONG hard winter, the earth is stretching and pushing up green things all around.

Japanese Iris

Lemon mint



Old Fashioned Iris (and other varieties)

Rose of Sharon

Magic Lilly


And scallions (better known as green onions)

We got our first snow in October of 2013 and our last snow (or I hope so), in March of 2014.  That's a long 6 months of snow and cold temperatures that these plants have hibernated through (as well as us humans!).  Now we are experiencing those famous April showers and green is popping up all around.

What's growin' on around your home?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Meatless Monday - Mushroom Lentil Loaf with Barbecue Glaze

Welcome to the 39th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy

I have been reading the Virgin Diet book by JJ Virgin. In this book, she relays how there are certain "healthy" foods that trigger several physical symptoms such as fatigue and joint discomfort, among others things, that also cause us to gain weight or not be able to lose weight. She recommends cutting out 7 healthy foods that tend to lead to food sensitivities for most folks. She recommends detoxing for 21 days to allow our bodies to heal, then slowly reintroduce these foods back into our diets, one at a time to see if our bodies react negatively to them. Then, of course, if we do, we should cut these out of our diets completely. I definitely have been holding onto weight for a few years now and even though I eat meatless (not just on Monday's either!), I still can't seem to shake the weight.  

Anyway, you can read about my 21 day detox journey here where I share more, but I am thrilled that for once a diet plan actually considers that there just might be people who want to try a diet that are vegetarians. JJ Virgin actually has menu plans for vegetarians, not just meat eaters! Thank you JJ!

Below are the meatless recipes I tried out tonight. A lentil loaf with home made, and very tasty, BBQ sauce.

*Mushroom Lentil Loaf with Barbecue Glaze
Serves 4

3 TB chia seeds
1/3 cup water
2 cups organic dry, sprouted green lentils (such as TruRoots)
[Note: I did not have sprouted lentils, but used black lentils]
2 TB olive oil
8 oz cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 cup gluten-free oats
2 tsp coconut aminos (replaces soy sauce)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup All-Purpose Finger-Lickin-Good Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x4 inch loaf pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 3 inch overhang on each side.

Combine the chia seeds with the water in a small bowl and set aside.

Cook the lentils according to the package directions for a tender texture. (you should end up with about 4 cups)

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme and coriander and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place 3 cups of the lentils in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Add the pureed lentils, and the remaining whole lentils to the bowl containing the mushroom mixture. Stir in the oats, chia seed mixture, coconut aminos, salt and pepper; mix well.  Firmly press the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Spread the top with the barbecue sauce.

Bake until the loaf is firm and browned around the edges, 48-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then lift the loaf out of the pan, using the foil overhang as handles, and transfer it to a cutting board.  Cool for an additional 20 minutes. Slice the loaf with a serrated knife and serve with additional barbecue sauce if desired.

*All-Purpose Finger-Lickin'-Good Barbecue Sauce
Makes 3 cups

1 (28 oz) can organic crushed tomatoes and it's juices
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 TB chili powder
2 TB smoked paprika
2 TB monk fruit extract (replaces sugar)
2 tsp coconut aminos (replaces soy sauce)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients, except salt and pepper, in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, 20-22 minutes. Remove from heat and season with the salt and pepper. 

*Recipes from The Virgin Diet Cookbook

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meatless Monday - Chickpea Cherry Salad

Welcome to the 38th installment of Meatless Monday with Mindy!

I've been on hiatus for awhile, visiting with friends and family out of state, and doing some sewing at a lodge in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. All fun and enjoyable, but it doesn't allow for much computer time. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad. I can tell you that it's nice to not have to come up with something to eat every day, and let others cook for you. On the other hand, wow do I feel heavy!  I was so appreciative of every ones good cooking and it was all good stuff, but I'm glad I don't eat like that all the time.

It's still winter here in NE Ohio. We have about a foot of snow on the ground and currently we are beginning to get what is supposed to be another good snow storm. This snow will last throughout the night adding another 3-6 inches to what we have already. (sigh)

We've been eating cold-weather comfort food all winter, and I LOVE that. All that "stick-to-your-ribs" type food, Mmmmm, what's not to love?  I've noticed though, just recently, that each day, the sun stays in the sky a few minutes longer. OK, technically the sun is above the horizon longer, but here in the Cleveland area we have to imagine REAL hard that it's shining on us most days during winter. But I digress.

I think my body is gearing up for longer, warmer days because I had an odd craving this evening. I wanted a salad. I know what you're thinking...weirdo.....right?  Who wants salad in the winter time?  Well, I had just bought some Napa Cabbage at the store this weekend, but was low on the traditional salad fixings we typically use during warmer weather. However, I had an email recently that had a recipe with an unusual list of ingredients, and I thought.... why not throw some of those together, mix it with my cabbage and see what we get.

I'm so glad I did.

Chickpea Cherry Salad

2 15.5 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 11oz can mandarin oranges, drained 
4-5 green onion, sliced going into the green
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup dried tart cherries
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
4-6 leaves of Napa cabbage, chiffinade 
(or bok choy would work too, or kale, or....)
1 TB candied or fresh ginger, minced (I used candied tonight)
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional, but recommended, yum!)
3 TB apple-cider vinegar
3 TB olive oil
1 TB dried parsley
salt and pepper

Add the ingredients together from the top of the list (from the chickpeas to the jalapeño). Give it a good toss to mix it all together.  Then mix the oil, vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over the salad and toss again.

You'll want to eat all this up in one sitting. It should feed 3-4, but with just the two of us, we had very little left over.  If you need to store any left-overs, make sure to drain off the excess juices before refrigerating it.

This meatless main dish salad is packed with nutrient dense carbs, plenty of fiber and protein, and the ginger can help reduce inflammation while calming your stomach. All that aside, it just plain tastes good!  I hope you enjoy it. I know we did.

Thanks to my honey for capturing these great shots of the salad. See more of what he does over at his blog.