Easiest Way to Make Yogurt

A few years ago, I was searching the internet for ways to make my own yogurt. A few friends had told me it was super easy and encouraged me to give it a try, so I did. It was a disaster.

If you know the basic concept of yogurt making, you know the temperature of the milk has to stay within a range so that the good bacteria will grow and turn your milk into yogurt. There are various methods suggested online to try to do just that.  I tried using the oven-method. My oven’s lowest temperatures were too hot. I tried using the crock-pot method. That didn’t work out either. Again, the lowest setting was too hot. I certainly did not want to spend money on a yogurt-maker so I just threw my hands up in the air and had given up, but not for long. A visit to an old Afghan friend a few months later changed all of that.

After the amazing meal my friend’s lovely wife had made for us, he gave me some of his homemade yogurt. It was delicious. I relayed my woes in attempting to make my own yogurt and he laughed and said, “Luisa, Luisa, Luisa, you taking the scenic route. Too complicated, too complicated.” He then proceeded to tell me how he does it. His is an old, traditional way that doesn’t require the fancy equipment of our modern lifestyle, but it works!! I followed his method the next week and I finally made yogurt! I have been using this same method ever since.

My Afghan friend’s method requires nothing more than milk, some store-bought plain yogurt (or get some from a friend), a liquid thermometer, and a heavy, thick blanket. Now, my friend never uses a thermometer and told me just to let the milk get to almost boiling and then cool it down to where you put your finger in it and it is still hot, but you don’t burn yourself. That seemed like a good way for me to screw it up, so I use a liquid thermometer, but feel free to try it that way if you’d like.

So what is his secret for keeping the yogurt incubated at the right temperature? It is the nice thick blanket. If your house is on the cold side you might want to use two blankets which is what I do in the winters here in PA. If your house stays on the warm side, you may only need one thick blanket, but you can use two if you want to play safe. It is simple. It is easy. I was skeptical about it working, but a batch of yogurt later, my skepticism was gone.

In the recipe below I give measurements, but the beautiful thing about yogurt is that the measurements do not have to be perfect for it to work. Sometimes I use a quart of milk and sometimes a little bit less than a quart if I don’t have quite enough. And I never measure out the  starter (pre-made yogurt). I just take a big glop of my already made yogurt and mix it into the milk.  Thankfully, I have not had a bad batch yet. So go ahead, give it a try!!

Homemade Yogurt
Print Recipe
This recipe was adapted from an Afghan friend's recipe who makes the yogurt the way his family made it in Afghanistan. No fancy equipment needed except for a kitchen thermometer. My friend does not use a thermometer, but I do to play it safe.
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 2 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 24 hours
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 2 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 24 hours
Homemade Yogurt
Print Recipe
This recipe was adapted from an Afghan friend's recipe who makes the yogurt the way his family made it in Afghanistan. No fancy equipment needed except for a kitchen thermometer. My friend does not use a thermometer, but I do to play it safe.
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 2 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 24 hours
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 2 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 24 hours
Main Ingredients
Servings: quart
  1. Heat about a quart of milk in a pot constantly stirring (so it doesn't burn on the bottom) and bring the temperature to 180 degrees. Let the milk cool to about 125 degrees.
  2. Once you reached the 125 degree mark, transfer the milk to the mason jar and add the tbsp of pre-made yogurt (this is called the starter). Mix it well into the milk.
  3. Seal the jar tightly and wrap the container with the heavy blanket. If your house stays pretty cool, make that two blankets (You can't use too many). Now set your bundle in a part of the house where it will not be disturbed for the next 24 hours and leave it. Once the 24 hours have passed, open the mason jar and your yogurt should be ready. Refrigerate. If you want a thicker yogurt, strain it through a cheese cloth otherwise it can be eaten as is. That is it! You are done!
Recipe Notes

This recipe can easily be doubled with mason jars, just add the starter (tbsp of pre-made yogurt into each mason jar with milk).

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Essential Oil Fit for a King!

I love my essential oils. I am by no means an expert on them, but I use them a lot for medicinal purposes, for repelling unwanted pests, and just because they smell so good!  You can therefore imagine my excitement to find out that the oil Mary of Bethany used to anoint Jesus’ feet was spikenard, an oil you can order right off of Amazon! (Technically, it is not exactly the same, but the raw ingredient is.) More importantly, I enjoyed finding out more about this oil and its significance in the Biblical record.

In all honesty, when I had read this account before, I had not paid much attention to the type of oil, and if I had, I would have been clueless about what it actually was. Most of us have heard of myrrh and frankincense (gifts that the Magi gave to Jesus as a young child), but I don’t really think spikenard has made into our every day language. However, as I was preparing to teach a Bible study to my daughter and her friends regarding this Biblical account, I was compelled to pay attention to every detail. One of those details was the use of spikenard.

As I poured my energy and time into this study, I wanted to find out what spikenard was, how it was used by the ancients, and what its significance was in the anointing of Jesus. Spikenard was a highly expensive oil or ointment (as mentioned in scripture and confirmed by outside sources) derived from a plant that was used not only by the Jews, but many peoples from the Middle East and Asia. It was imported from the areas of present day India, China, and Nepal as the plant is native to the Himalayas. The ancients used it to season food, prepare bodies for burial, medicinal purposes, and as a perfume (See Charles Hatchet, On the Spikenard of the Ancients and Raoul McLaughlin, Rome and the Distant East.)

Jews used it as a component in incense burned at the temple in Jerusalem and apparently to bury their dead. Although I could not find first-hand sources, several online articles mentioned how Jews in Biblical times used it as one of the primary ingredients to prepare bodies for burial along with myrrh. Because nard was produced as an oil and/or ointment, it would allow more powdery substances like myrrh to stick to the body. In the John 12 account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet with this expensive oil, Jesus himself declares in verse 7 that “she has kept it for the day of my burial” (HCSB version).

Regardless of what it was used for, Nard was highly valued and used by upper classes, including kings. For example, Spikenard appears to have be the primary fragrance in a perfume found in King Tut’s tomb. Therefore, it is only fitting that such an oil would be used to anoint the feet of the King of Kings! And if the oil was one of the primary ingredients for preparing bodies for burial, it brings even more significance to the humble act performed by Mary of Bethany. It shows that she knew exactly what she was doing, and was the first of Jesus’ disciple to acknowledge that he was indeed headed to the cross.

There is also an interesting correlation between the cross and how this oil is used today. While in hospice care, it is used to help patients transition from life to death because spikenard has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety, to calm both body and mind (See OilsandPlants.com and this article). When I read this, it brought my thoughts back to Jesus and what he must have been going through in the days prior to the crucifixion. We know from the record in Luke 22, shortly before his arrest, that Jesus was in agony over what was to come, enough so that he was sweating blood. If we backtrack only a few days to when Mary anointed his feet and filled the room with the scent of nard, I can only assume that the weight of what was before him was already weighing heavily on him. And I wonder, could the nard have been a small detail in how our Heavenly Father (through Mary’s loving action), was helping Jesus relieve some of that anxiety? We won’t know for sure on this side of heaven, but I do wonder. But even if the scent of nard was not physically helping to relieve some of his stress, Mary’s willingness to minister to him in that way certainly was.

Today, you can find spikenard as an essential oil. It is most likely not in the same form as it was used back in Biblical times as modern distillation processes were not existent (although Hatchet makes a good case that the Indians had a primitive form of distillation that they used to produce the nard ointment/oil). However, current research, some of which is in line with how the ancients used it for medicinal purposes, shows that nard essential oil can be used for a variety of purposes. Personally, I am just enjoying putting a few drops in my diffuser along with orange essential oil and meditating on the Bible record, but I also wanted to pass along this information for anyone that might need it.


Benefits of Using Nard Essential Oil

Fights bacteria and fungus


Relieves anxiety, calming the mind and body

It boosts the immune system

Promotes hair growth

Relieves insomnia

Lessens sensitivity of nerves to pain

Reduces fever

Helps eliminate body odor

Provides relief from cough and other respiratory problems.

See these articles for more information on how to use it. Remember to do your due diligence especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding when using essential oils.

Spikenard Stimulates the Immune System and Relaxes Both Body and Mind

Spikenard Essential Oil, Uses and Side Effects

If you like this article, please be so kind to share!


Surviving Long Runs with a Toddler

Long Run CoverIf you are like me and like to run, the only way to make that happen is to tow along the baby or toddler. Running when my little girl was a baby was a lot easier because she would sleep most of the time. However, I soon found out that running with a toddler was a whole different story. They don’t sleep and they don’t like to sit still! At least mine doesn’t. It started to become frustrating for her and therefore frustrating for me.

Like most toddlers, mine is full of energy and does not like to be strapped in for extended periods of time. That did not work well when I aimed to run at least six-miles at a time while pushing 40 lbs plus the weight of the jogging stroller, making my run even longer. The temptation was there to just stick an iPad in front of her and let her watch a cartoon or play a game so that I could complete my work-out. Although I did do that once or twice, I cringed because I wanted her to enjoy being outside as much as I do. I finally found techniques that worked. I don’t always use all of them but a combination of a few of these allows both of us to get as much out of this mommy-daughter time.

FullSizeRender1. Stop to Stretch. After the first mile or two, we always stop to stretch. It is so incredibly cute to see her copy me and try to do everything I do.  I also like to add a couple of silly things such as, “Reach your hands all the way up to the sky!” or “Hop on one foot!” or “Do the wiggle!” When we stretch together, it seems as though she sees herself as part of the run and she is more likely to be calm during most of our six-mile loop if she feels that she is part of the process.

2. Have a Conversation. I often find that my little girl will sit and enjoy nature if I talk to her about it. We look for birds, search for crazy looking trees, and point out beautiful flowers. We talk about how God created them and what our favorites are of each kind. It is also a great time to practice basic skills. If I am running near the lake, we’ll identify the colors of the kayaks or count the number of bike riders that pass us by.

I know this means I can’t turn up the volume on my iPod and zone out, but I have found that if we talk for 10 minutes, she will sit on her own and enjoy the view for another 10. Then I can enjoy a song or two. But even if she does not, she get so much out of me engaging her in conversation and if I listen, I get a lot out of it too.

3. Sing Songs. Since I lack any singing genes, this may not be so enjoyable for anyone else that may be sharing the running path with me, but my toddler gets a kick out of it. Usually, she picks the songs and we have a blast with our renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” and “Jesus Loves Me.”

4. Identify Reachable Mile Stones and Let Them Play. I really hated to stop while running mostly because I hated the feeling I got when I started running again after a long break. However, when I was running by the lake, I felt a little selfish strapping my kid in and not letting THEM enjoy being there as well. Now, during our run, we make two stops. One of them is to just throw rocks into the water. The other one is to explore one of their piers. I feel this works because if she has something to look forward to, she will sit and wait. On one occasion, I was feeling very tired and wasn’t planning on doing more than two miles. However, because she insisted on hitting one of our mile stones, I managed to run four-miles instead. My little three year old ended up being a great encouragement and helped me push myself.

If you are really hard core, and don’t want the interruption in the work out. This is a good time to do push ups, squats, or burpees while your little one runs around and burns energy.

5. Have Them Run With You. Little kids are more likely to sit still if they are tired. Sometimes, and if she is up to it, she runs along side of me. Kids are imitators and especially at that age they just want to do everything you do. She enjoys the idea of “running” just like me and I like it because I feel like I am instilling in her a love for running. After a block or two of sprints and stops and pretending that she is just too fast for me she is wore out and will remain in the jogging stroller until the end of our run.

6. Bring 2 or 3 Figurines, Small Dolls, etc. Although I will not bring the iPad, I do keep a few toys handy. It grabs her attention and she will sit in the stroller and put her imagination into high gear. It is another simple way of keeping her entertained and giving me the time to keep on trekking.

7. Bring a Healthy Snack. I tend to run mid-morning which coincides with snack time. To avoid a meltdown, I always make sure to have a good healthy snack on hand for her. It gives her yet another thing to look forward to as we make progress.

Some of you may not like the idea of having interruptions while running and you certainly can ignore that advice. I myself was very hesitant at first and it is what led to my frustrations. However, I found that I get as much of a workout with the interruptions as without them. More importantly, my toddler now looks forward to our runs instead of dreading them, and that just makes life so much easier for the both of us. .

Easy Red Lentil Kale Soup

photo_fotorThis is one of my go-to recipes for a quick easy winter lunch, especially this winter. It has been so cold that almost the entire family (excluding my eight-year-old who hates soup) looks forward to no matter how many times I make it. It warms the soul and it is yummy too. The best part is that it is super easy!

I use home-made chicken stock as my base. I regularly buy a cut-up whole organic chicken. I will use the chicken for chicken salad sandwiches, wraps, or tacos and I will freeze the stock to use at a later date. I think that for this recipe you could foreseeably use store-bought chicken stock, but it may take some of the yumminess out of it.

The other key ingredient is kale. I love kale for so many reasons but it is an awesome cold/flu season food. It is extremely high in Vitamin C (not to mention Vitamin K and A), high in antioxidant nutrients, anti-inflamatory nutrients, and anti-cancer nutrients. You really can’t go wrong with kale as far as your health goes.

The final ingredient is red lentils. The real reason I love these is because they cook so quickly! But red lentils are a great source of fiber and protein and I even hear that it can help prevent weight gain.

That is it. Three ingredients. Can anything else be so simple?

Easy Red Lentil Kale Soup
Print Recipe
An easy winter soup that is healthy and nutritious too!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Easy Red Lentil Kale Soup
Print Recipe
An easy winter soup that is healthy and nutritious too!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings: people
  1. Combine the chicken stock, lentils and kale in a small pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the lentils are soft. That is it. You are done. Serve hot with some fresh bread!
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What does the Bible tell us about vaccines?

Courtesy of the CDC

Courtesy of the CDC

Nothing. I know there are a lot of parents out there that are struggling with this decision. Some of us vaccinate but we may question one or two vaccines. It is not easy being a parent today. We have to constantly make decisions for our kids on what they can watch on TV, on what to eat, and on their health for example. The problem is that we have imperfect information and we do not know what “expert” to trust. For those of us that are Christian, it would be so much easier if there was a verse in the Bible that said, “Though shall vaccinate,” or “Thou shall not vaccinate,” but alas, that is not the case. It appears on the surface that we are left in the dark about this very important decision and we are left wondering who to believe.

Pro-vaccination advocates tell you that you can trust the science and yet some of us have had a few experiences with the medical community that makes you question the “science.” I have gone to the doctor for something simple as backspin, and I have had three different doctors give me three different diagnosis, one of which told me that I had to suffer with this for the rest of my life. He was incorrect by the way. On the vaccine issue, I do remember back when I barely questioned the vaccination process, going to my health center and inquiring about the flu vaccine. My doctor told me something to the effect of, “We are no longer giving the flu shot here because we got a ‘bad batch’ and a lot of the kids here got febrile seizures. We stopped giving it all together until next season. But you can go to CVS and get one there.” Whoa! What? Really? All that kept going through my head was “bad batch” and “febrile seizures.” How does that happen? And so began a very painful journey of research to decide whether to vaccinate my kids, which vaccines to give them, and when I should vaccinate them.

Anti-vaccination advocates will tell you that the flu vaccines have preservatives that are harmful and that there have been countless cases of people having bad and deadly reactions. They will tell you that the testing is done by the pharmaceutical companies themselves instead of third parties and therefore cannot be trusted. I know people personally who have told me that the vaccine caused their child’s condition and I have no reason not to believe them. And yet, it is hard to ignore the amazing transformation of a country like India when they introduced the polio vaccine and how it practically eradicated polio in that country (although anti-vaccine advocates have questioned this success). I also look around here in the US and do not see illnesses that were common when I was a kid like the measles (at least until the recent outbreak) or the chicken pox and I just find it hard to believe that that was not the result of vaccines.

After looking at a number of reports, and studies, and charts, and stats, I became even more confused and I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. Stats provided by anti-vaccination groups certainly support their position. The stats provided by pro-vaccionation advocates supports theirs. This whole issue has forced me to do some inner soul searching and go back to the one that I CAN trust and that is God. The bottom line is that I don’t know what the right answer is and the Bible does not speak to this specific subject. However,  I do know that I can trust my God and the Bible does tell us that when we face difficult times to bring it before Him in prayer. Phillipans 4:6 “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Therefore, I know that I can lay this problem before Him and tell Him my concerns:

God, I want to do your will. I want to be a good steward of these children that you have given me. I want to love them and protect them as you have required of me to do. Do I protect them by vaccinating them or do I protect them by not vaccinating them?  Part of me is distrustful of the vaccines and pharmaceutical companies. But within each of these companies are good people, smart people, and people that love you so that in my simple mind it cannot be all bad. I know some of these people personally and many are godly people. Part of me also gets fearful when I see these outbreaks and I want to rush my kids to get every vaccine under the sun. But if I do vaccinate, does that mean that I am not trusting you? The other part of me aches for the parents of children with compromised immune systems and I want to do right by them, but  does that mean that I go against my instincts as a mom to protect my own ? Lord, I am conflicted. There is so much information out there and my brain cannot possibly comprehend it all so I put this decision before you. Only you know what the right course of action is and so if I choose wrongly, know my heart and that my intentions where good. Direct my paths. Make everything work for your glory. 

I have made my decision on what to do about these vaccines and I am done worrying about it because I have laid my course before God. I have given it to Him and now my job is twofold. One, is to trust that God will hold true to his promises (Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the LORD and your plans will be established.) The second is to be gracious with those that disagree with my decision.

One of the most unfortunate consequences of this measles outbreak (other than kids being sick) is the vileness that has come out from both sides of the fence. Most of us are parents are just trying to do what is right for our kids and yet I have seen some of the meanest and most vile insults directed towards the other side, particularly towards parents that do not vaccinate. There is a lack of compassion and most parents that I know that do not vaccinate are good and intelligent people. Most of them actually decided to take that route because their child had  a bad reaction. It might not have been deadly or life changing, but who am I to tell a mother that heard her child scream inconsolably for more than four hours after a  vaccine that she shouldn’t trust her instincts? Who am I to tell her that she shouldn’t vaccinate?  It is just plain mean spirited and yet we all know that condemnations, insults, and angry words will rarely soften someone’s heart to their point of view. I do not want to be like that. I want to stay true to Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. I want to learn from different points of view and I want to be loving and kind when I discuss these issues because that is what Christ would want me to do.

So in the end, what did I decide to do regarding the vaccines? Only God knows. Just kidding. You are welcome to read an earlier blog that details my decision and how I got there.

 If you think this article would bless someone, you are welcomed to share it!

Forgive Your Way to Better Health

At Sunday service, we have all heard our pastors tell us that we should forgive one another. They may have even taken us to the record in Matthew 18:2 where Jesus tells Peter that we should forgive someone 70 times seven times. However, did you know that unforgiveness can be detrimental to your health? On the flip side, did you know that by forgiving you can dramatically improve your health?

This Mayo Clinic website lists lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system as the benefits of forgiving in addition to other things such as higher self esteem and reduced symptoms of depression. Although it would be easy to see how forgiving others might lead to reduced symptoms of depression, the link to the immune system might be harder to make. However, studies have shown that the the inability to forgive may do just that; it negatively affects the production of important hormones and disrupts the way cells fight off infections and bacteria. The benefits do not stop there. There appears to be a plethora of studies (see further reading below for a sample) that link forgiveness to various health benefits:

The Bible is clear that God has asked us to forgive one another and it is also clear that there really is no limit on the number of times to forgive. As I meditate on verses on forgiveness I am drawn to Hebrews 12:14-15 which tells us, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” When we fail to forgive we become bitter and Hebrews clearly warns us against it, but what does it mean to become defiled? As I read the scientific literature on how bitterness affects the body’s ability to function correctly, it makes me wonder if what Hebrews is actually telling us is that by failing to forgive, we are corrupting our own bodies. Just food for thought.

What I do know for sure is that God has asked us to forgive one another. Live in peace and forgive those that have wronged you and in the process you may even see amazing improvements in your health.

 If you think this article would bless someone, you are welcomed to share it!


Further Reading:

Effects of forgiveness on HIV patients and cancer

Forgiveness can improve immune function

The impact of forgiveness on cardiovascular reactivity and recovery

Psycho-oncology: Discover how stress causes cancer and how to heal within

Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health:

Breastfeeding a Toddler: Fighting Social Norms

Image15-300DPIThose who know me, know that I am a big proponent of breastfeeding. They also know that I breastfed both of my kids past the one year mark. I know that sounds strange to many or and it may even sound disgusting to others. I remember overhearing a mom in one of my circles criticize the idea not knowing that I myself was still breastfeeding my toddler. The reality is that the health benefits of doing so outweigh the social phobias against it. Since my children’s health is more important to me than what others may think, my decision was easy. That is the reason I want to share why I breastfed my kids well into their toddler years. I want others to also encouraged to do the same and know that they are not alone if they choose to do so.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding until at least one year and as long as mutually desired after that. The World Health Organization (WHO) takes it a little further and recommends at least two years. The reality is that no good pediatrician will ever chide a mother for breastfeeding past their kid’s first birthday because they know full well how beneficial it is for the child. Studies have shown (see below in “extra reading”) time and time again that there is no psychological effect on older children who are breastfed and that the health benefits continue well beyond infancy.

During the toddler years, a child’s eating habits are not established yet. They are still learning to eat good-for-you foods. Some days they hardly eat anything at all, and other days they eat everything in sight. Even as strict as I am with food, I was not sure that my toddlers were getting enough fruits and vegetables into their diets. Yet with my milk, I did not have to worry about that all. The amazing thing about breastmilk is that its composition changes over time to meet the nutritional needs of the child. So when my girls were already eating solids, my body knew what to do to provide supplemental nutrition through my milk. For example, during their second year, 448 mL of breastmilk actually provides (source):

  • 29% of energy requirements
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 36% of calcium requirements
  • 75% of vitamin A requirements
  • 76% of folate requirements
  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
  • 60% of vitamin C requirements

It really is perfect for the transitional stage that is the toddler years. At the end of the day, I could guarantee that my girls were getting all the nutrition they needed.

The other important reason is that kids’ immune systems continue to benefit from it beyond that first year as well. I experienced this first hand. A bug went around my family that knocked my seven-year-old and my husband out for 24 hours (Others who got this same bug suffered with it for several days). They both had constant vomiting and a fever. For some reason, I was immune and I was spared the multiple trips to the bathroom. My guess was that having grown up in Guatemala and my numerous travels had exposed me to all kinds of bugs and I therefore have a built-in immunity to a lot of things. The incredible thing is that my toddler who has obviously had less exposure to stomach bugs, got it, but it only lasted a couple of hours. She vomited once in the morning and had a slight fever, but by late afternoon she was back to normal. I was still breastfeeding my toddler at the time. I was positive that the breastfeeding was the key in keeping her sickness at bay.

There is also the comfort aspect to breastfeeding. Toddlers are still too small too understand what is going on and it is more difficult to comfort them during an illness. Breastfeeding allowed me to have something that I could give them that would make them feel better immediately and provide a sense of security when they are too young to understand otherwise. It is a beautiful thing.

When is the right time to wean? I do not think there is a right answer for that. I think mothers need to follow their instincts. My first child was ready stop at 2 years old and she never looked back. My second child was different. I had planned to stop at the two year mark but my gut told me that she needed it longer. I breastfed her about 4 months more and then she too was ready.

In the US, where breastfeeding is still taboo in many circles, breastfeeding beyond a year is almost too much to bear. However, that view is hypocritical in today’s culture.  It just does not make sense that it is okay to see breasts of Victoria Secrets models plastered on billboards, but somehow it is not okay to see a mother feeding her child. We have sexualized breasts so much that in our minds we have perverted something so beautiful and innocent. As a mom you will need to make your own decisions as to what is most important to you. However, do know that if you decide to breastfeed beyond a year, you are not alone.  There are other moms out there that do it proudly for the sake of their kids regardless of whether it is socially taboo or not.

Further Reading:

Benefits of Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy

Are There Benefits to Breastfeeding Beyond the First Year?

How Breastfeeding Transfers Immunity to Babies

Breastfeeding Past Infancy: Factsheet

Breastfeeding Around the World: Breastfeeding Recommendations

Easy Granola Recipe

Finished GranolaOur family loves granola, especially for our parfaits. For awhile now, I have been shying away from buying the pre-made stuff because I noticed that most of them contain rice.  Since I try to stay away from rice and rice products, I thought making my own would be a good alternative. For some reason I thought it would be a really complicated process so I have been procrastinating. However, a few weeks ago I visited my sister-in-law and she offered me some homemade granola. It was delicious. I decided to finally give it a shot.

As usual, I brought my first batch before my critics to see what they thought. They loved it! If you are interested, here is the recipe. It really is not all that complicated.  The recipe below is a basic one and I suggest some alternative ingredients in parenthesis. Feel free to experiment and comment below on your own unique combination of ingredients. Enjoy!


helping granola

Mixed with a lot of LOVE.



5 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)

2 cups chopped walnuts (or pecans, almonds)

1/4 cup flax seeds

1/4 cup wheat germ (or cocoa powder)

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)

1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon

1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter)

1/2 cup honey

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups raisins (or chocolate chips, dried fruit)



baked granolaPreheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl mix the oats, walnuts, flax seeds, wheat germ, and sugar. Set aside. In a small pot, warm up the honey and coconut oil until the oil melts.  Whisk in the vanilla.  Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.  On a large baking sheet, spread out the granola. Bake for 50 minutes mixing it every ten minutes.  Keep an eye on it so it does not burn.  When it is done, let it cool completely.  Mix in the raisins and store in an air-tight container.

A Healthier Fruit Tart

My husband’s favorite dessert is a fruit tart. Usually, I make the trip to Wegmans and pay a ridiculous amount of money so that he can enjoy it for his birthday. This year I decided to make my own. Although my first attempt was not made with the most wholesome ingredients, I combined and revised a few different recipes for a delicious but more wholesome version of this yummy dessert.

This is NOT a fat-free or low-fat recipe. Those of you that follow my blog, know that I am not a calorie counter and I do not believe or follow fat-free or low-fat diets. I do believe in using the best and most wholesome all-organic ingredients and eating things like desserts in moderation. What makes this a better-for-you dessert is that I used sprouted grain flour instead of white flour for the crust (more information on why sprouted grains are better can be found on my blog on breads). I also used coconut sugar instead of regular sugar for the glaze and filling.

Coconut palm sugar comes from the sap of the coconut plant. Unlike regular sugar which has no nutritional value, coconut palm sugar retains certain key nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. Keep in mind, however, that coconut palm sugar may be better for you than regular sugar but it is still sugar. As you enjoy this dessert, it should still be eaten in moderation (or at least that is what I keep telling myself as I try not to go for seconds). Also, because it is a brown sugar, it will give the filling and glaze a brown tint.

You can easily find these ingredients at Wegmans, Whole Foods, and/or Trader Joes. However, if your grocery store does not yet offer these options, you can click on the links in the ingredients list and order them from Amazon.



12 inch tart pan with a removable bottom

1/2 cup organic powdered sugar ( I could not find a good alternative for this so if you have one please share!)
1 1/2 cups of sprouted grain flour
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted organic butter (softened and cut up in chunks)

1 (8 ounce) package of organic cream cheese
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tsp organic vanilla extract

3 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
2 tsp organic corn starch
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup organic limeade (Any non-pulpy juice should work. I didn’t have it on hand for one of the tarts I made, Instead I just used juice from one of my kids’ juice boxes and it came out fine).

assortment  of kiwis, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, and/or raspberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, combine sugar, flour, and butter until a ball forms.  (If you use regular flour a ball will form really nicely, but with the sprouted grain flour you get more of a ball with a crumbly mess.  Just pick up the crumbs and ball with your hands and form into a smooth ball. ) With your fingers press the dough into the tart pan. Pat with the palm of your hands until the crust is even. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly brown. Let it cool completely.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Spread over the cool crust and place the fruit on top. This is your opportunity to be creative so do not feel like it has to look a certain way.  For example, I personally just cut the strawberries in half before putting them on the tart, but you can slice them or leave them whole.

The coconut palm sugar gives the filling a brownish tint.

For the glaze, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a sauce pan. Stir in the lemon juice and limeade until smooth.  Bring to a boil and stir for two minutes or until it thickens. Let it cool completely.  Brush the glaze over the fruit tart and keep in mind that you will not use all of the glaze.

This is the unglazed tart. If you want to cut down on the sugar, skip the glaze. It will still look beautiful and taste good too.
Now stand back and admire your master piece!

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Healthiest Apple Muffins Ever!

Apple Muffins
It is apple picking time!Well, we now have a whole lot of apples to get rid off.  The first thing I did was make the girls some apple muffins.  This is a very healthy, low-fat, low calorie recipe.  I am not a calorie counter nor am I afraid of healthy fats in my food.  However, if for some reason you do need to watch your sugar intake or your consumption of fats, this recipe may work for you.

A few key things to note: 
This is a low-sugar recipe.  That means, I did not use a lot of sugar; it does not mean that I used artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, the terms “no-sugar” or “low-sugar” on labels usually means they used some sort of artificial sweetener.  That is NOT the case here.  I just used about a fourth of the usual amount of sugar a recipe like this would require.  That also means it is not a super-sweet muffin, but my six-year-old and 18-month-old still loved it.
Instead of using oil, I experimented with apple sauce.  I was pleased with the results.  If you do want to use oil, a good substitute is coconut oil.  It will add fat to the muffin, but a very healthy fat.
The main ingredient is sprouted wheat flour. Sprouted wheat is whole grain, but the grain is allowed
to sprout. To learn more about sprouted grain and why it is so good for you read my blog on breads here.Optional:  I didn’t add any nuts to this recipe but I think it would taste great with walnuts.  Feel free to add some in.

Sprouted Grain Apple Muffins
  • 4 free-range and/or organic eggs 
  • 1/2 cup organic turbinado raw cane sugar 
  • 1 cup organic apple sauce, unsweetened. 
  • 2 cups sprouted wheat flour (If you can’t find it in your grocery store, you can order it here- Arrowhead Mills Organic Sprouted Wheat Flour, 28 Ounce Bag (Pack of 6))
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder 
  • 2 teaspoons ground organic cinnamon 
  • 2 cups grated organic apples

Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners (I greased the liners to keep them from sticking).  Beat eggs until fluffy; add sugar gradually.  Pour the apple sauce into sugar mixture slowly and beat well. Sift the dry ingredients together. Add to batter in 3 additions and beat well after each.  Fold in the apples.  Pour into the cupcake liners.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes and turn out onto a cooling rack.  Let cool completely and then enjoy.

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