You Are At The Archives for 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to make Elderberry Extract - boost your immunity and skip getting sick with the flu



Vitamin C is great stuff but sometimes it's just not enough.  You need a variety of healthy options you can reach for when you feel a germ coming on.

Elderberry extract is an effective and tasty herbal remedy that you can use to boost your immunity during cold and flu season.  It's part of my family's herbal arsenal and we use it every year.  I thought you might like to see just how easy it is to make and use.  Kids will even drink it in their juice, and who doesn't want a better way to keep your littles happy and healthy?


Elderberry syrups are common at health food stores and great to use if you can.  They can get a little pricey to use on a regular basis for a whole family, though.  Elderberries work by preventing the influenza virus from being able to attach and replicate within host cells in your body.  That means even if you manage to catch a bug if you start treatment with Elderberry you can shorten the time you are sick.  If the virus can't replicate it can't make you so miserable.  Treatment with elderberry syrups has shortened recovery times to as little as 2 days - it really works! Read up on more information about elderberries, a wellness herbal treatment that has been used for generations.

Elderberries are also rich in antioxidants, so they provide anti-aging benefits to your body as well.  The rich purple color is from anthocyanins.  They're anti-inflammatory.  This little berry has a lot to offer.

I did the math really quickly, so I ended up with my recipe being a little more liquid than wanted to fit in my quart jar due to the fact that alcohol is lighter than water and therefore takes up more volume.  Whoops!  I should have accounted for that to start with.  Use these numbers instead to fit it all in.  It's a 50% alcohol solution.

Supplies you'll need: 
A clean quart glass jar
Measuring cups
Digital scale
Wire mesh strainer for when the extract is finished


Elderberry Extract Recipe at 5:1 concentration 
28 oz / 812 g total weight:

135.3 g dried, ripe elderberries
676.7 g sustainable or organic vodka
OR
338.3 g filtered water and 338.3 g Everclear or other 95% pure ethanol

Directions:Measure and combine all ingredients in the jar.  Allow to steep for 2 to 6 weeks in a cool, dark place.  After steeping strain out the berries using the mesh strainer.  Use 15 ml (1 Tbsp) of extract in a cup of juice or smoothie each day to provide antioxidants and immunity boost.  It's also tasty in a cup of plain green tea or Matcha green tea too.

You can get bulk organic elderberries by ordering online or from your local herb shop.



If you have any auto-immune conditions or are on immune suppressing drugs you may wish to consult your doctor or naturopath before taking Elderberry.  See a list of precautions and possible interactions online.

For most adults and children this is a very tasty, safe way to stay well during flu season and, of course, totally natural.  Skip the synthetic colored cough syrups and enjoy elderberry instead.

I also adore Gaia Herbs products.  When I'm on the road and away from my bottle of elderberry or just needing the additional support I take their liquicap extracts.  Their Echinacea/Goldenseal combination is in my cabinet every year.  They also make capsules for Elderberry and plain Echinacea in case the bit of St. John's Wort in the combo capsule just isn't for you.  The liquid extracts they produce are just more effective than most powdered extracts and they put a huge amount of time and effort into both their cultivation, extraction and science.  I can't recommend this brand highly enough. (and no, they do not pay me or sample me even, I just love what they do)  I purchased these capsules myself and their Migraprofen capsules have thwarted many migraine headaches for me.  All things Gaia Herbs are good in my opinion.




in , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to make Elderberry Extract - boost your immunity and skip getting sick with the flu



Vitamin C is great stuff but sometimes it's just not enough.  You need a variety of healthy options you can reach for when you feel a germ coming on.

Elderberry extract is an effective and tasty herbal remedy that you can use to boost your immunity during cold and flu season.  It's part of my family's herbal arsenal and we use it every year.  I thought you might like to see just how easy it is to make and use.  Kids will even drink it in their juice, and who doesn't want a better way to keep your littles happy and healthy?


Elderberry syrups are common at health food stores and great to use if you can.  They can get a little pricey to use on a regular basis for a whole family, though.  Elderberries work by preventing the influenza virus from being able to attach and replicate within host cells in your body.  That means even if you manage to catch a bug if you start treatment with Elderberry you can shorten the time you are sick.  If the virus can't replicate it can't make you so miserable.  Treatment with elderberry syrups has shortened recovery times to as little as 2 days - it really works! Read up on more information about elderberries, a wellness herbal treatment that has been used for generations.

Elderberries are also rich in antioxidants, so they provide anti-aging benefits to your body as well.  The rich purple color is from anthocyanins.  They're anti-inflammatory.  This little berry has a lot to offer.

I did the math really quickly, so I ended up with my recipe being a little more liquid than wanted to fit in my quart jar due to the fact that alcohol is lighter than water and therefore takes up more volume.  Whoops!  I should have accounted for that to start with.  Use these numbers instead to fit it all in.  It's a 50% alcohol solution.

Supplies you'll need: 
A clean quart glass jar
Measuring cups
Digital scale
Wire mesh strainer for when the extract is finished


Elderberry Extract Recipe at 5:1 concentration 
28 oz / 812 g total weight:

135.3 g dried, ripe elderberries
676.7 g sustainable or organic vodka
OR
338.3 g filtered water and 338.3 g Everclear or other 95% pure ethanol

Directions: Measure and combine all ingredients in the jar.  Allow to steep for 2 to 6 weeks in a cool, dark place.  After steeping strain out the berries using the mesh strainer.  Use 15 ml (1 Tbsp) of extract in a cup of juice or smoothie each day to provide antioxidants and immunity boost.  It's also tasty in a cup of plain green tea or Matcha green tea too.

You can get bulk organic elderberries by ordering online or from your local herb shop.



If you have any auto-immune conditions or are on immune suppressing drugs you may wish to consult your doctor or naturopath before taking Elderberry.  See a list of precautions and possible interactions online.

For most adults and children this is a very tasty, safe way to stay well during flu season and, of course, totally natural.  Skip the synthetic colored cough syrups and enjoy elderberry instead.

I also adore Gaia Herbs products.  When I'm on the road and away from my bottle of elderberry or just needing the additional support I take their liquicap extracts.  Their Echinacea/Goldenseal combination is in my cabinet every year.  They also make capsules for Elderberry and plain Echinacea in case the bit of St. John's Wort in the combo capsule just isn't for you.  The liquid extracts they produce are just more effective than most powdered extracts and they put a huge amount of time and effort into both their cultivation, extraction and science.  I can't recommend this brand highly enough. (and no, they do not pay me or sample me even, I just love what they do)  I purchased these capsules myself and their Migraprofen capsules have thwarted many migraine headaches for me.  All things Gaia Herbs are good in my opinion.




Wednesday, December 4, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , ,

Improve your skin and your health while driving - 3 ways to relax in the car



We're in the middle of a tremendously busy season of work, events, and family gatherings.  Most require time going to and fro and in America's automobile culture that generally means time in your car.  This can be a big drain or a big gain depending on how you address it.

Some people stress more while driving.  Everything from getting cut off to the amount of traffic amps up the tension.  Or perhaps you're a worrier, and spend your drive time caught in a cycle of repetitive, negative thoughts about what happened at work, the barbed email you just got from your ex, or your budget.  None of this is helpful to your body and as I've covered in other blog articles on stress and your skin it can immediately detrimentally affect your skin and bring on conditions like acne, eczema, and dermatitis.

With a few easy, accessible techniques you can short circuit this car quandary and transform yourself from frazzled to beatific as you bop around town.  With the help of Sheila Fazio I tell you how in our recent video on how to "Stress Less While Driving - 3 ways to relax during your drive".

Sheila is a truly gifted healer and a beautiful soul.  I met her at a women's retreat and learned a series of powerful breathing techniques from her that were different from most of the yogic breathing I had been taught before.  Her unique experiences as a social worker combined with her own personal life challenges give her a beautiful depth, approachability, and empathy for the challenges we all face.

Sit with us for 20 minutes and learn what you can do to make your commute conscious and take back the valuable time you spend there each day.



in , , , , , , , , , ,

Improve your skin and your health while driving - 3 ways to relax in the car



We're in the middle of a tremendously busy season of work, events, and family gatherings.  Most require time going to and fro and in America's automobile culture that generally means time in your car.  This can be a big drain or a big gain depending on how you address it.

Some people stress more while driving.  Everything from getting cut off to the amount of traffic amps up the tension.  Or perhaps you're a worrier, and spend your drive time caught in a cycle of repetitive, negative thoughts about what happened at work, the barbed email you just got from your ex, or your budget.  None of this is helpful to your body and as I've covered in other blog articles on stress and your skin it can immediately detrimentally affect your skin and bring on conditions like acne, eczema, and dermatitis.

With a few easy, accessible techniques you can short circuit this car quandary and transform yourself from frazzled to beatific as you bop around town.  With the help of Sheila Fazio I tell you how in our recent video on how to "Stress Less While Driving - 3 ways to relax during your drive".

Sheila is a truly gifted healer and a beautiful soul.  I met her at a women's retreat and learned a series of powerful breathing techniques from her that were different from most of the yogic breathing I had been taught before.  Her unique experiences as a social worker combined with her own personal life challenges give her a beautiful depth, approachability, and empathy for the challenges we all face.

Sit with us for 20 minutes and learn what you can do to make your commute conscious and take back the valuable time you spend there each day.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , ,

White Bean and Snap Pea Salad with Yogurt Miso Sauce - from Dinner in the Garden


Snap peas are one of my favorite things about gardening in the cooler seasons of the year.  My daughter will eat them raw as I pick them.  I like them blanched and as a carrier for various sorts of dips or in green salads as a sweetly substantial crunch with my greens.

I devised this recipe back in June when we had a bumper crop.  It was served at the Dinner in the Garden / For Reals Meals event to great acclaim by the attendees.  Now that the weather is cooling again snap peas will be in season and you can prepare this for any upcoming gatherings of your own.

The snap peas used for the dinner event were all from the Blissoma community garden.  There were a LOT this spring so I was scheming constantly on ways to put them all to good use.

The Yogurt Miso Sauce could be made with soy yogurt but I had the worst time finding any even in health food stores in St. Louis.  Consequently I used an organic, humane goat milk yogurt instead.  It seems all the soy yogurt around me was replaced by just coconut yogurt, which was sweet (I tried it just in case) and totally unsuitable for this recipe.  It was one of the only recipes for the entire dinner that ended up not vegan.  Fortunately many people digest goat milk better than cow milk, and it is generally not factory farmed which eliminates many of the environmental and gustatory concerns related to dairy.


I wanted a really savory, tangy sauce and this particular mixture turned out to be insanely delicious on crackers and just as a dip for other veggies too. The miso and white truffle oil add layers of flavor that bloom in the mouth as each bite goes down.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.  Make sure you buy an organic miso paste or read labels very carefully as otherwise you're likely to end up with unwanted MSG, which is common in many mass produced misos, or since it is a soy product anything non organic is likely GMO.  Even most of the miso pastes at my local asian market are packed with MSG.  I had to get the cleaner version from an independent, locally focused grocery store.  The miso paste is usually salty and provided all the salt this sauce needed.  If you find yours needs a little more you could add a splash of soy sauce or a sprinkle of sea salt.

White Bean and Snap Pea Salad with Yogurt Miso Sauce

Yogurt Miso Sauce

1 quart plain goat milk yogurt or plain, unsweetened soy yogurt

4 Tbsp white miso paste (organic, MSG free)
2 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed in garlic press
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
4 tsp white truffle oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Mix all ingredients and allow to sit for several hours in the refrigerator to blend the flavors.


White Bean and Snap Pea Salad

6 cups fresh snap peas
1 lb dry white cannellini beans
Yogurt Miso Sauce
Optional: quality blue cheese or feta cheese for sprinkling on top

Soak and cook cannellini beans according to package directions (beans are generally an 8 hour overnight soak, rinsed, and then boiled until soft).  Drain and set aside.

Blanch snap peas by placing in boiling water for 1 minute, then quickly drain and rinse in cool water to stop cooking.  Allow to cool.  Cut each snap pea in two sections and remove any tough tips from either end.  

Mix beans, snap peas, and yogurt miso sauce.  Serve chilled.
If you don't mind dairy then the addition of a little blue cheese or feta was an amazing added flavor.  I ate many of my leftovers topped with it as a treat.  The tangy and pungent flavors of both these cheeses was delightful.  Feta was a little more overpowering, oddly enough.  The blue blended in more seamlessly and had a creamier texture with each bite.  Depending on the effect you want either could work.

I know my cohost Jess is going to be excited to finally see this recipe posted and hopefully you'll find it to be a palate pleasing delight as well.  It's a dish that can help you easily enjoy seasonal eating.  More peas, please! 



in , , , , , , , , , ,

White Bean and Snap Pea Salad with Yogurt Miso Sauce - from Dinner in the Garden


Snap peas are one of my favorite things about gardening in the cooler seasons of the year.  My daughter will eat them raw as I pick them.  I like them blanched and as a carrier for various sorts of dips or in green salads as a sweetly substantial crunch with my greens.

I devised this recipe back in June when we had a bumper crop.  It was served at the Dinner in the Garden / For Reals Meals event to great acclaim by the attendees.  Now that the weather is cooling again snap peas will be in season and you can prepare this for any upcoming gatherings of your own.

The snap peas used for the dinner event were all from the Blissoma community garden.  There were a LOT this spring so I was scheming constantly on ways to put them all to good use.

The Yogurt Miso Sauce could be made with soy yogurt but I had the worst time finding any even in health food stores in St. Louis.  Consequently I used an organic, humane goat milk yogurt instead.  It seems all the soy yogurt around me was replaced by just coconut yogurt, which was sweet (I tried it just in case) and totally unsuitable for this recipe.  It was one of the only recipes for the entire dinner that ended up not vegan.  Fortunately many people digest goat milk better than cow milk, and it is generally not factory farmed which eliminates many of the environmental and gustatory concerns related to dairy.


I wanted a really savory, tangy sauce and this particular mixture turned out to be insanely delicious on crackers and just as a dip for other veggies too. The miso and white truffle oil add layers of flavor that bloom in the mouth as each bite goes down.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.  Make sure you buy an organic miso paste or read labels very carefully as otherwise you're likely to end up with unwanted MSG, which is common in many mass produced misos, or since it is a soy product anything non organic is likely GMO.  Even most of the miso pastes at my local asian market are packed with MSG.  I had to get the cleaner version from an independent, locally focused grocery store.  The miso paste is usually salty and provided all the salt this sauce needed.  If you find yours needs a little more you could add a splash of soy sauce or a sprinkle of sea salt.

White Bean and Snap Pea Salad with Yogurt Miso Sauce

Yogurt Miso Sauce

1 quart plain goat milk yogurt or plain, unsweetened soy yogurt

4 Tbsp white miso paste (organic, MSG free)
2 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed in garlic press
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
4 tsp white truffle oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Mix all ingredients and allow to sit for several hours in the refrigerator to blend the flavors.


White Bean and Snap Pea Salad

6 cups fresh snap peas
1 lb dry white cannellini beans
Yogurt Miso Sauce
Optional: quality blue cheese or feta cheese for sprinkling on top

Soak and cook cannellini beans according to package directions (beans are generally an 8 hour overnight soak, rinsed, and then boiled until soft).  Drain and set aside.

Blanch snap peas by placing in boiling water for 1 minute, then quickly drain and rinse in cool water to stop cooking.  Allow to cool.  Cut each snap pea in two sections and remove any tough tips from either end.  

Mix beans, snap peas, and yogurt miso sauce.  Serve chilled.
If you don't mind dairy then the addition of a little blue cheese or feta was an amazing added flavor.  I ate many of my leftovers topped with it as a treat.  The tangy and pungent flavors of both these cheeses was delightful.  Feta was a little more overpowering, oddly enough.  The blue blended in more seamlessly and had a creamier texture with each bite.  Depending on the effect you want either could work.

I know my cohost Jess is going to be excited to finally see this recipe posted and hopefully you'll find it to be a palate pleasing delight as well.  It's a dish that can help you easily enjoy seasonal eating.  More peas, please! 



Thursday, August 1, 2013 in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

St. Louis Dinner in the Garden with City in a Jar - inspired by One Part Plant "For Reals Meals"


Regular readers and Blissoma fans know that we are creating a community garden in North St. Louis City.  It's big and we're hoping to make a big impact for our community and their involvement with healthy, organic foods and herbs.

Part of my goal this year was to start bringing more people into the garden either through volunteer time or events.  I delivered fliers around the neighborhood and hosted the first group work day in the garden in late spring.  Neighbors I'd never met before came and learned about what's happening on our plot. 

More events were on tap, and after seeing the For Reals Meals series by Jessica Murnane on One Part Plant I decided that St. Louis definitely needed to host a copycat event.  They say imitation is sincere flattery and Jessica proved her colors when she offered 100% enthusiasm to the idea of her concept spreading to other cities.  Done! 



The season was perfect to have it outdoors in the lush June garden and feature as many locally procured and garden grown ingredients as possible.  Jessica Leitch of City in a Jar became my cohort since I am notoriously unable to focus on anything but food when planning a dinner.  If it was left up to me folks would have been eating with fingers, though the food would have been delicious.  Thank goodness I had help then with the table settings, bartending, flowers, and hosting.



We invited some neato people in the St. Louis scene, splitting the invite list between us equally.  I reached out to local filmmaker Ken Calcaterra, city government employee and fellow foodie Vincent Haynes, and Cbabi and Reine Bayoc of the famed vegan eatery SweetArt.  Jessica invited her photographer Christopher Willingham who shot all the photos in this post, her videographer, and several other friends.


At 6 pm on the first day of summer the guests began to descend on the garden.  I had planted, weeded, tended, and put in great efforts to make sure the garden was in spiffy shape for the evening.  The garden gods smiled on me and didn't let the weeds, bugs or heat get too far ahead of me.

Jess bartended while I was holed up in the kitchen completing the meal.  Afterwards Vincent told me he'd never consider having a dinner without a co-host again, as it solves the notoriously difficult problem of how to entertain guests while cooking food.  A buddy makes it possible!






We set things up picnic style on low tables with blankets.  It was casual but a memorable dining experience.


Recipes for Dishes from Dinner in the Garden

 - Lavender themed cocktails made with lavender simple syrup and 360 Vodka (Jess declared her favorite to be the Lavender/Lemon variation on a Lavender Collins
- Strawberry and Pickled Beet Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- Creamy White Bean and Sugar Snap Pea Medley
- Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Crumb Coating and Homemade Heirloom Ketchup
- Panfried Polenta with Garden Herbs and Raw Mustard Greens Pesto

and a gluten-free baklava with coconut ice-milk for dessert









All recipes were original concoctions and featured ingredients harvested from the garden to show off the work we've been doing to grow fantastic food.  I'll gradually be posting all the recipes over the coming weeks so everyone can enjoy these healthy and super tasty creations.  With the exception of the white bean salad and baklava all recipes were vegan, and all of them were gluten-free.

Everyone enjoyed their evening.  I was glad I completed dinner by only 30 minutes after the estimated serving time (phew!) and that everything turned out well.  I'm working on some tweaks to the desserts as both weren't as fine as I'd like for sharing with the whole world, but they tasted good that night.

By next year I hope to have a full size farm table made from donated, reclaimed wood to serve on for many future events.  Thanks to both the Jessicas for their contributions!  I highly suggest following One Part Plant on culinary adventures through Chicagoland as you're sure to find something delightful.  We were honored to replicate her concept and instigate a little happy mixing of people and plants in North St. Louis.  We've got a lot growing up here.





in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

St. Louis Dinner in the Garden with City in a Jar - inspired by One Part Plant "For Reals Meals"


Regular readers and Blissoma fans know that we are creating a community garden in North St. Louis City.  It's big and we're hoping to make a big impact for our community and their involvement with healthy, organic foods and herbs.

Part of my goal this year was to start bringing more people into the garden either through volunteer time or events.  I delivered fliers around the neighborhood and hosted the first group work day in the garden in late spring.  Neighbors I'd never met before came and learned about what's happening on our plot. 

More events were on tap, and after seeing the For Reals Meals series by Jessica Murnane on One Part Plant I decided that St. Louis definitely needed to host a copycat event.  They say imitation is sincere flattery and Jessica proved her colors when she offered 100% enthusiasm to the idea of her concept spreading to other cities.  Done! 



The season was perfect to have it outdoors in the lush June garden and feature as many locally procured and garden grown ingredients as possible.  Jessica Leitch of City in a Jar became my cohort since I am notoriously unable to focus on anything but food when planning a dinner.  If it was left up to me folks would have been eating with fingers, though the food would have been delicious.  Thank goodness I had help then with the table settings, bartending, flowers, and hosting.



We invited some neato people in the St. Louis scene, splitting the invite list between us equally.  I reached out to local filmmaker Ken Calcaterra, city government employee and fellow foodie Vincent Haynes, and Cbabi and Reine Bayoc of the famed vegan eatery SweetArt.  Jessica invited her photographer Christopher Willingham who shot all the photos in this post, her videographer, and several other friends.


At 6 pm on the first day of summer the guests began to descend on the garden.  I had planted, weeded, tended, and put in great efforts to make sure the garden was in spiffy shape for the evening.  The garden gods smiled on me and didn't let the weeds, bugs or heat get too far ahead of me.

Jess bartended while I was holed up in the kitchen completing the meal.  Afterwards Vincent told me he'd never consider having a dinner without a co-host again, as it solves the notoriously difficult problem of how to entertain guests while cooking food.  A buddy makes it possible!






We set things up picnic style on low tables with blankets.  It was casual but a memorable dining experience.


Recipes for Dishes from Dinner in the Garden

 - Lavender themed cocktails made with lavender simple syrup and 360 Vodka (Jess declared her favorite to be the Lavender/Lemon variation on a Lavender Collins
- Strawberry and Pickled Beet Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- Creamy White Bean and Sugar Snap Pea Medley
- Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Crumb Coating and Homemade Heirloom Ketchup
- Panfried Polenta with Garden Herbs and Raw Mustard Greens Pesto

and a gluten-free baklava with coconut ice-milk for dessert









All recipes were original concoctions and featured ingredients harvested from the garden to show off the work we've been doing to grow fantastic food.  I'll gradually be posting all the recipes over the coming weeks so everyone can enjoy these healthy and super tasty creations.  With the exception of the white bean salad and baklava all recipes were vegan, and all of them were gluten-free.

Everyone enjoyed their evening.  I was glad I completed dinner by only 30 minutes after the estimated serving time (phew!) and that everything turned out well.  I'm working on some tweaks to the desserts as both weren't as fine as I'd like for sharing with the whole world, but they tasted good that night.

By next year I hope to have a full size farm table made from donated, reclaimed wood to serve on for many future events.  Thanks to both the Jessicas for their contributions!  I highly suggest following One Part Plant on culinary adventures through Chicagoland as you're sure to find something delightful.  We were honored to replicate her concept and instigate a little happy mixing of people and plants in North St. Louis.  We've got a lot growing up here.





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