Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related


health and wellness

a bit on spiritual eating… and one spicy and spectacular sausage and lentil stew.


ok… I know what you’re thinking… sausage and lentil stew?  how good could it be?  TRUST me… it is beyond good. Tis amazing.  absolutely bursting with flavor in every bite, super duper healthy and full of vitamin rich ingredients!  best of all… very easy to prepare, so that most anyone can whip this up on a weeknight, no problemo.   this freezes wonderfully in small 16oz containers… making for stellar lunches at any given time, or a quick little dinner for a willing friend.   I love feeding others.  it’s my thing.  I love to hear what they say about the dish… how much they enjoyed it… and it makes me smile knowing I was able to nourish another, physically… but possibly mentally as well.  allow me to spill on that a bit.  people are busy.  we all have jobs, maybe kids, pets, homes, bills, cars,  the list goes on.  when you make time to see and connect with friends and family in your life… you’re saying something.  you’re letting that person know that they are important.  they are a priority.  their presence in your life, hopefully, brings you comfort and joy.  it’s why you make time, right?  do me a favor.  think back to the last noteworthy home cooked meal you may have had with say, your mom… or your sibling… or a significant other… that food, more than likely, was prepared with love.   when you cook with love and compassion and your soul is happy… all of that shows up in your dish.  ie: the people who eat it can feel that shit.  it is a mindful practice… where the cook is thinking fondly on those who will consume their dish… and they long to nourish that person inside and out… it becomes almost a spiritual culinary experience.  taste goes beyond flavor.  it involves all of the senses… sight, smells, sounds, touch and texture… the company for the meal…  your head space as you nosh… right??  all of it plays a role in your food experience.  are you sad? are you content? are you rushed? are you relaxed??  all of these affect the taste.   I love this… and it’s why I love feeding others.  it is also… why I love foods that require one utensil.  soups, stews, shallow bowls full of rice or pasta swimming in deliciously flavorful sauces.  things that can be eaten with one spoon, or one fork.  things that can be carried to a favorite chair or couch or beside a fire… and enjoyed with both hands… one holding the vessel, and the other doing the work to bring food to mouth.  easy.  comforting. simple, but memorable.  these are the types of foods I enjoy sharing with others.   experiment with your dining experiences, and notice the way food tastes differently in various settings.  I can be by a bonfire on a crisp cool night with a few friends and a few beers… and the hot dog I roast over the flame can taste better than a fancy steak almost every damn time.  it’s the setting.  the vibe.  pizza on a rooftop patio with Edison lights strung about vs. inside the sterile pizza shop in a tomato red booth with fluorescent lighting.  food on vacation vs. food after a stressful work meeting…  we know the answer to that.  don’t even get me started on music…. haaha!   food is love.  feel the love yo.  anyway…. enjoy this stew.



a little  over a pound of bulk (loose) hot sausage

cup of dried lentils (cooked according to package directions)

half of a butternut squash, peeled and diced (or buy it pre packaged and already prepped)

two large carrots (peeled and diced)

two large stalks of celery (leaves included: diced)

three cloves of garlic, chopped or minced

one large onion, diced

one bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)

one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

one 14oz can chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 heaped tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch of turmeric

Prepare all vegetables.  Wash, peel, chop and set aside in a large bowl.  You will be adding them all at once, so don’t worry about keeping them separate.  This way, once your stew gets rolling and you brown your sausage, you’ll be ready to add them.  if you’ve never prepped a BN squash, lop off the top and bottom with a sharp, sturdy knife and stand it on it’s bottom.  Carefully cut it straight down the middle top to bottom.  Spoon out seeds and discard.  with a vegetable peeler, carefully peel off the outer layer of skin.  you are now ready to chop it up into bite sized chunks.  you could also buy pre peeled and chopped “ready to cook” if you are feeling lazy.

cook lentils as per package. drain and set aside.

add a generous swirl of olive oil in your favorite dutch oven.  turn on your flame and begin to brown you sausage, careful not to burn.  break it up with your spatula and stir frequently.  once you are sure it is browned and cooked through, remove it onto a place with a slotted spoon, keeping juice and grease in the dutch oven.  you will be cooking your veggies in this grease. set aside.  add your vegetables and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  add a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of chicken broth and all of your spices.  stir together to combine. bring up to a boil.  add your sausage back in and stir to combine.  turn heat down to medium low and cover it, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. uncover, stir, and check your carrots and celery for doneness. cook few mins longer if necessary.  once these are cooked to your liking, cut the heat and add in the cooked lentils. stir once more and serve it up! I like to add a large handful of chopped fresh parsley.  fine without though. Enjoy! you will enjoy this stew for days… I’ve even been known to eat it for a late breakfast.   for the most part… pretty easy… and very very comforting…  the way life SHOULD be, if we’re doing it right.

peace and love.  spags.



Healthy Hippie Stew


SWEET MAGNOLIA  it has been almost two years since i have blogged.  this makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. cry because i love love love writing and blogging and collecting thoughts in print… and smile because this just shows that my life, this beautiful life, is consuming me and filling me right the hell up so that blogging has slipped my mind entirely!  that being said, my new years resolution was to blog more, so giddy up on that.  also, i plan to buy a go pro with some of our income tax money- so i will likely be sneaking in a few cooking videos on here. i know for a fact i have said such things in the past and never followed through, but i think i’m feeling it this time.   i have shut down both of my ETSY shops, just not feeling it anymore, and the fees- albeit small, do add up when you have lots of listings.  the nice thing is, they leave the shop intact, so that when you want to come back- all is as you left it.  sooooo, yeah- recent events:  March in Pittsburgh means more snow just when you become sick of snow.  it also means 60’s one day and 25 degrees the next.  it’s bananas.  i looked out the window this morning and the roads were clear.  i heard my dog barking like a loon an hour later, and the roads were covered and a car had wrecked and flipped over across the street!  i’m telling you, Pittsburgh weather is bananas.  we just got back from an amazing ten day tropical vacation on a small island forty minutes off the coast of Belize.  it was called Caye Caulker… and it was amazing.  i booked our little cottage on Airbnb and then secured some flights.  the exchange rate was fantastic, 2 to 1!  i highly recommend visiting that island if you are looking for something off the beaten path and free of huge resorts, huge hotels and large shopping malls- etc.  this place is tiny.  you can bike one end to the other in under fifteen mins, but it lacks nothing.  there are bars, restaurants, little markets, a bank, two cemeteries- but no hospitals- lol.   it is super authentic Caribbean, with a hippie vibe and lots of smiling happy faces.  which brings me to my dish i created.  HIPPIE STEW.  when in caye caulker, we ate a lot of what they called- “stew chicken” which was traditionally served with red beans and rice as well as coleslaw.  it was beyond delicious, yet so simple.  it inspired me to create a dish that i could enjoy eating for many days, and even freeze portions for quick lunches.  i wanted to be able to make it in under an hour- and have this large return for my time.  i succeeded!  this is also quite inexpensive to make- and actually gives you a whole extra chicken breast to create another meal with!  i made my husband a tomato based sauce with capers and sauteed onions and spices and added the chicken and served it to him in a bowl over linguine! (he loves pasta!)  i was happy with my healthy hippie stew and he was happy with his pasta!  win-win.


one package of bone in, skin on split chicken breasts (two breasts in pack- usually around five bucks total- maybe less)

1 cup of lentils (green or red- whatever)

1/2 cup white rice (not minute rice people… real rice)

1/3 cup orzo pasta (or pastini if that’s all you have)

1 tsp of curry powder

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

1 large onion diced

1 large carrot diced (2 if smaller)

2 celery stalks diced

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 small zucchini diced

large handful of fresh bagged spinach (chopped)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

few squirts of hot sauce


fill a large dutch oven halfway full with water. mine is a 6 quart pot.  adjust accordingly.



bring water to a boil and add your TWO skin on/bone in chicken breasts.  turn heat to medium and let these go for about a half hour uncovered.  prep all of your vegetables at this time.  slice/ dice your heart out.  put them into nice little organized cereal bowls so you’re ready to add to stew at given time.

this recipe is crazy versatile.  if you don’t like zucchini, don’t add it.  wanna use kale in place of spinach? DO IT!  hate chick peas?  Add black beans! celery turn your stomach? double up on carrots! you feelin’ me?

OK so after about a half hour, remove cooked chicken to a large plate and set aside to let it cool down.  turn heat up to high again and add the ONIONS, LENTILS, RICE AND ORZO.  cook these over high heat,  stirring occasionally for about five or six minutes.   Then add the carrots, celery, spices/herbs/salt/pepper/hot sauce,  and chick peas.  return to boil.   once this comes back to a boil, turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and let cook for 15 mins.  stir it once during cooking.  water should be starting to be absorbed by the grains a bit.

while it is cooking, take and prepare your chicken.  you are only using ONE of the breasts here folks.  we used TWO in order to properly flavor the broth- but all of that chicken would be waaay too much in this, so do as i said and utilize it for another meal.  ((shred for chicken salad, use it for chicken and waffles, make the kids chicken quesadillas with cheese,  whatever you can dream up.))   OK- slice or chop or shred or however you choose to create bite sized pieces of chicken to add back into the stew.  set it aside and be ready.

uncover the pot after the 15 mins and add in your zucchini, chopped spinach and prepared chicken.  stir well and cover again.  let cook a few mins more over medium heat and then turn off heat, leaving lid intact.   at this point i like to tidy up the kitchen and get ready to enjoy some hippie stew!  ladle yourself a small portion, allow to cool a bit and then taste.  tweak accordingly with salt/pepper or maybe some hot sauce.  take a picture and attach this blog post!!  let me know how it turned out.  i love to hear from people who have cooked from my blog.  food is love.  enjoy!!


“life is either a daring adventure… or nothing at all.”  ~helen keller


Allow your soul to rest,  stop and be amazed by the sea.   

Don’t listen to what i say… go and SEE !!

embrace the pace yo.  spags.


Fabulous Fall Stew! ~Chicken, butternut squash and quinoa! Oh my!!

Go on get happy!
Go on get happy!

Yes-sir-ee bobbo…. Fall is in full swing. The pumpkins are carved, the mums are lining my front stairs leading to the house, we’ve had our first frost, the leaves are falling by the second, pumpkin spice lattes are being consumed mid-day as i put off moving wood down the side of the house…. it is here and i am THRILLED!  Fall is my favorite season, hands down.  i welcome its chill after the long hot summer months… i love the smell it brings… the air is crisp, almost spicy smelling… the risk of colder nights gives full permission to go ahead and start that first fire of the season in the fireplace… switching out all the sundresses and skirts for those lovely corduroy pants in varying earthy fall hues… sipping hot apple cider at night after you put the kiddos to bed…. sweet magnolia there are SOO many good reasons to wrap your arms around Fall and love it with all you’ve got.  However, all of that goodiness being said… i haven’t even begun to speak of warm soups and stews being back in the weekday rotations -and the pure joy that brings to my foodie soul!  this stew i am about to blog for you is a winner.  a friend asked me last week if i had a recipe on my blog for quinoa**, as she had some she wanted to use up.  i was shocked to see that i did NOT- and set out to remedy the hell out of that ASAP! i got to researching quinoa stews… and stumbled upon one that used butternut squash- another of my fall faves.  giddy up i said… let’s do this.  i took some things i didn’t like out of the recipe (olives) and added some things i felt would lend heartiness and healthy benefits.  i tweaked it. i always do.

**let me first tell you about QUINOA – if you are not familiar with this superstar grain.  Quinoa is considered a high nourishment food source, because it is essentially a ‘complete protein source.’  (super important words if you are a vegetarian or vegan).  you’ve all heard the buzz words ‘SUPER FOOD’ … well this guy is one fo sho.   quinoa is also gluten free, in fact it is not even in the same family as wheat or barley or rye.  it has origins in South America around 1200AD- and most of the quinoa we consume today in the US comes from Peru, the largest commercial producer of it to date.  this little guy packs some punch- it is a valuable source of heart healthy supportive fats (ALA and oleic acid) … and making it a part of your regular diet greatly lowers your risk of inflammation related diseases.  eat some.


  • a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into half inch pieces (or if lazy- buy it recipe ready and packaged in your produce section) you need around a pound.
  • 3 cans chicken broth
  • some boneless skinless chicken (i cooked a bone in breast in the oven and then let it cool and chopped it) you could also cheat and get a rotisserie chicken and use the breasts of that- and then reserve the rest for making a pot of soup later in the week.  or cook up some tenderloins however you like- and cool and chop into bite sized pieces.  (see pic below for how much chicken)
  • olive oil
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • one large onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1 and a 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz can)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh spinach leaves, chopped


place your diced butternut squash into a pyrex dish and add a little water (maybe 1/2 cup) and pop it into a 350* oven for about 15 mins. check it. if you can get your fork into it fairly easily and it seems to be getting tender, take and remove HALF of it onto a plate.  set aside. put the other half back in the oven and keep it steaming for maybe 10 mins more.  at this point you should be able to mash it with ease. (if not cook longer and keep checking)  see visual.

mash it mash it.
mash it mash it.


set this aside, you will be adding it to the stew in a bit.   to a heavy pot, add some olive oil. maybe a generous Tbsp? i never measure.  get it on md/high. if you like some spice, give a shake of red pepper flakes into the oil. i literally start SO many recipes this way- i can’t even tell you.  to me, it is background flavor.  ok- add in your chopped onion.  saute until becoming soft. add in your garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, stir for a minute to heat up the oregano and release the oils.  then add in your broth (3 cans), your tomatoes, your beans, your mashed butternut squash (not cubes yet), and your quinoa. stir to combine. bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. cover and cook about 15 mins.  Add in the chicken, the spinach and the cubed/cooked butternut squash. stir gently, cover again and cook a few more minutes to warm through the last three additions.  SERVE IT UP YO!  ultra good for you and chocked full of vitamins to keep you healthy for flu season!  make some this weekend!

i used THIS much chicken. (i never measure)
i used THIS much chicken. (i never measure) (one whole bone in breast)
everybody in the pot!
everybody in the pot!
finito!  simple pure flavors shine through.
finito! simple pure flavors shine through.

ENJOY!! Happy Fall ya’ll.

7 ingredient Watermelon Cucumber Feta Salad

an unlikely combination... sure to wow.
an unlikely combination… sure to wow.

the first time I tasted this salad, a doctor friend of mine brought it to work to share with all of us.  I was smitten. somehow, the saltiness of the feta was the perfect, albeit unlikely compliment to the sweetness of the juicy watermelon.  Add in crunchy seedless cucumber chunks and fresh basil… and you’re about to board the happy train. I wanted to keep this very simple, but still chocked full of flavor- so I added as few things as possible to the mix.  technically, you could leave out the cucumber if you didn’t have it, and it would be just as yummy.  I do enjoy the crunch of the cukes though – and they bulk it up a bit more as well.  I added shallot, one small one, as I thought the red onion would be a bit overpowering.  the recipes I viewed on the internet called for mint.  I prefer basil in mine, so I went with it.  I like the taste of fresh squeezed lime, so I used some of that as well.  ok enough talk… HERE IS WHAT YOU DO.  

purchase: need

a bit of watermelon

a block of feta cheese (costs more than crumbled, but looks OH SO much prettier here)

a small shallot

a juicy lime

a small handful of basil (maybe 7 leaves) chopped

a seedless cucumber (or a few of those cute baby cucumbers Aldi carries)

two tablespoons of either red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar


decide what bowl you want to serve this in, and then make only that much.

carefully dice up some of your watermelon  **(I write this assuming everyone knows how to cut a watermelon… but if not here goes. Cut watermelon in half, lay one half cut side down on your cutting board and begin to carefully slice this into slices going from right to left or left to right. if you want to chunk it- carefully cut rind off and cube it nicely into a container. otherwise cut slices in half and place in airtight container if you are that person who likes to eat it off of the rind. I am NOT that person. I like my watermelon chunked and in a pretty container ready for me to scoop out a bowlful at any given moment.  my husband and my daughter are the rind types. I just don’t get it.)

cut your feta into pretty chunks.

slice/chunk your cucumbers.

wash and cut your basil

cut your shallot into thin slices.

in a small bowl, squeeze all of the juice from one lime.  to this, add a bit of vinegar. mix them and set aside.

in a large bowl (big enough to toss this with clean hands…) add all ingredients. pour the lime and vinegar juices on top.  toss together with clean hands.  transfer to your serving bowl.  if extra, store in airtight container for up to four days.  it won’t last that long, trust me.  Enjoy!!


spicy wheat berry chili… with or without sausage… you’re gonna like it!!


what berry??  wheat berry.  WHAT??  what the hell is a wheat berry?  this is how the conversation began when I started to tell my hubby about my dinner plans last weekend.  he immediately jumped on the laptop and proceeded to educate himself, and admittedly, me as well… on just what in the hell the wheat berry was.  I saw this recipe that made my eyes widen a bit while looking at Eating,  on there it was listed as ‘zesty wheat berry black bean chili’… and my recipe is an adapted version.   I tweaked it a bit, but not a ton-   it was a vegetarian recipe to start with… but the omnivore in me felt compelled to start it out with a bit of ground hot sausage, browned well, thus leaving a beautiful crust on the bottom of the pot, only to be ‘deglazed’ right the hell into the mix once the veggies began to sauté over it.  this created a ‘cooked all day’ taste, especially when the chicken broth was added.   so yeah… wheat berries.  this little guy is a superstar in the grain world.   easily put, the wheat berry is the whole grain form of the wheat, in its most natural state before any processing has occurred.  it’s full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  it brings copper, manganese, phosphorus and selenium to the table.  most of which are hard to find in every day foods.  selenium is great for our immune systems and our thyroid gland, and manganese helps boost our metabolism.  all good, right??  if the pure healthy reputation isn’t enough to convince you, the taste will.  wheat berries have a chewy, almost nutty sweet texture that blend seamlessly with even the boldest of flavors.  they could have easily stood alone here, (they even have protein!)  and  I compel my veggie friends roll with this recipe sans sausage.  just jump right in at sauté the onions, peppers, etc.  (and sub vegetable broth for the chicken broth)  Golden!! have it both ways.


the day you’re gonna make this, go ahead and cook the wheat berries ahead of time, as they take one hour to cook.  the preparation?? EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY.   put the wheat berries in a heavy pot. cover with water two inches or so above the grains.  bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.   once cooked, drain into a colander, rinse with cold water and set aside. This recipe calls for two cups- cooked.  I bought two cups of dry berries for 1.99/pound at my local Whole Foods.  i’m guessing any health food store is gonna have these guys.  they were listed as “hard red winter wheat berries” .  when they cook up, they plump a bit- so you end up with more than you need. Add what you think looks right to your stew,  (at least two cups but I did more) and then put the rest in an airtight container to use over salads, etc. for the rest of the week.  heck, they’re so versatile you can even add them to your morning yogurt!  ok, moving forward.


olive oil

about a half a pound of bulk hot sausage (ground not links) -anything under one pound will do.

1 large yellow onion (diced)

1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and small diced)

1 yellow bell pepper (diced) – (red would work here too, but i’m a ninny and think about the visual of the end product)

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)

5 cloves garlic (minced)

2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained)

your wheat berries from above

2 tsp chili powder

1.5 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 can chicken broth

1/2 cup water

2 tsp brown sugar

1 avocado (diced)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro- chopped


OK, like any recipe I tell you guys about, I say prep all of your ingredients first, and that way they are waiting on your ass when it’s go time.  trust me, it makes your life sooo much easier when you’re starting out doing these recipes.  it makes it hard to ‘mess up’ that way.   I still cook this way for the most part- and that is probably one of the reasons I keep loving it so much.  the old nursing adage applies here: work smarter, not harder. 

so hit up your pan with some olive oil- just a swirl will do…. and start to brown your hot sausage.  start out at medium high, breaking it up with your spatula as it cooks.  you have to keep at this, flip it around, break it up continuously until it is small lovely browned pieces…. ready to add in later.  remove the meat to a plate, and set aside.  the bottom of your pot should look crusty and a mess at this point.  perfecto.  we are gonna work all of those lovely browned bits into the mix here in a sec.   reduce heat to medium and add your pile of chopped onions.  stir around for a few minutes while they warm up.  add a bit of the diced tomatoes, maybe a 1/4 cup- and continue to try to ‘clean’ the bottom with the ingredients.  add in the bell peppers and the jalapeno and turn the heat up to medium high.  stir for a few mins and then add in the garlic and all of the dry spices.  stir around a few more mins, at this point, your pot should be deglazed, if not, a bit more tomato and make it happen.  once you’ve achieved that, add in your chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes, beans, brown sugar and add the sausage back in.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer like this for 25 minutes.


remove lid, stir well,  and go ahead and add in your wheat berries.  like I said, at LEAST two cups, but I just dumped in what I thought looked good as I gave it a stir. I wanted it to be thick.  it’s your rodeo people…. take charge.

cook it for like 5 minutes more,  and then remove from heat. give it a stir, and then you’re adding in the juice from one whole lime, and at least a half cup of chopped fresh cilantro.  (again, I did not measure, just take a big rip and chop it)  I reserved a smidge of the cilantro to sprinkle on top of the bowls, mostly because I love love love cilantro.   after you stir in your cilantro and lime juice, you’re ready to eat!!


serve up a bowl and top with a few pieces of diced avocado (if you dig it) –  and get ready for a flavor explosion in your mouth!!  I love this recipe, and can’t wait to cook it up again soon.  multiple co-workers liked it, my mom liked it, and hubba-lish liked it too!!  winning!!   Enjoy!

peace and love yo!  spags.

zesty chili pic



Juicing… living the good life.


we all want to do the best we can to ensure good health; not only for the present moment, but for the long haul down the road of life.  sometimes doing the right thing is a challenge, and I get that. sometimes with all of the hats we are donning and doffing… grabbing a healthy breakfast or lunch becomes an afterthought.  you find yourself grabbing a quickie packaged something or other from the cupboard and mindlessly consuming it at red lights on your way in to the office.  I am here to tell you that you deserve better. your body deserves better.  and it’s as easy as bulking up on your produce purchases and allowing yourself 15 extra minutes in the morning, a few days per week.  I am talking about JUICING.  I know, I know…. juicing seems to fall under one of those, “oh it looks wonderful, but who has time for it” or  “I’d probably buy the juicer and never use it” …and I’m here to body slam those negative thoughts.  I bought a juicer on Craigslist for 60 bucks. Rewind… first I BORROWED a juicer from a doctor pal of mine, and test drove it for a couple of months.  I was smitten.  then, when she asked for it back, I felt as if I’d lost a friend! (the juicer) -and I knew I had to have one of my own.  enter craigslist… and the very next day I was juicing once again.  the great thing about juicing, is that you can easily consume things that you would NEVER be consuming in their whole form at one sitting… unless you are a big fat bunny rabbit.  see visual below….

vegetable forward
vegetable forward

but somehow, when you put it all together, balancing the veggies with a nice tart apple and a chunk of citrus fruit… it tastes amazing!! keeping in mind, more often than not, the color is less than desirable. my hubby equates it to pond water at times.  However, that being said, if you throw a beet in the mix… prepare to drink, hands down, the most beautifully vivid liquid you will ever touch to your lips!! I was blown away by the bright bold hue of pure beet juice. not the purple watery liquid you strain from the can that inevitably stains your cutting board and counter… but PURE beet juice created from squeezing it mechanically.  ((see below))

one raw beet will do it.
one raw beet will do it.

I shared this blend with my seven year old daughter, who loved that it gave her a PINK moustache!  juice up fruits that are about to go bad, combine them with things that are wicked good for you, but that you may not want to consume on their own in their raw form… example, beets, kale, spinach, rhubarb, raw ginger, a big rip of parsley, the nice thing about juicing is that you can use the stems and all… I like to save the core of the pineapple, adding that into a mix for my sweetness one day, hence wasting less, and getting more from the pineapple than I did before! I also like knowing that the variety of items you see on my cutting board below will transform into a liquid that will supply me with over half of the vitamins and antioxidants I will need for the whole day!  literally, after I drink my JUICED breakfast from my mason jar in the morning, about a half hour later I feel like I could take on the world! the energy is SO PURE and SO FAST… you won’t even think about eating again until lunch time. juice your mix, and place in a mason jar with lid secured. stash in your work bag. when you arrive at work, give it a shake and sip away (or gulp like me) for good health!!  you just gave yourself a breakfast like no other.  I call it Rockstar food.   OK time for another pic.

one of my favorite mixes.
one of my favorite mixes.

OK so let’s talk health benefits. oh and before I do that… you will have the critics who will say, YES but you are missing out on all the fiber by juicing!!  -and to them I reply… take the back carriage off of your machine, and whisk in a few tablespoons of the lovely pulp to your beverage! VOILA! there you go.  this pulp helps make an AMAZING COMPOST by the way.  waste not.  so for starters, there are the vitamins. A,D,K,C, all of the B’s, chlorophyll, (linked an amazing little article there for ya’ll) enzymes, phytonutrients (help us fight off disease), and the list goes on and on. the take away point here is that you are feeding your body, your cells, your ‘machine’… LIVE FOODS… foods that nature created, and that your body knows EXACTLY what to do with!  –and your body knowing exactly what do with these foods, is the EXACT energy boost that you are FEELING almost immediately after drinking these juices!!  we stress our bodies to the max these days, not only physical stress and lack of sleep and sometimes lack of activity, but mental stress as well.  money troubles alone are enough to wreak havoc on our sense of well being and our overall body health. stress ends up breaking down and deteriorating our cells, thus causing (or opening us up to) degenerative disorders.  this is one small way that you can fight back and do something great for your body. for your health and well being.  I can GUARANTEE that not a one of you, after juicing for a couple of days, will utter the words- “man I wish I wouldn’t have drank that”, or “boy I sure feel lousy now”…. WON’T HAPPEN.  but did you ever feel that way after eating a big donut or two?? uh-huh.  how about after eating a pop tart and a diet soda? you’re feeling me.  those food are offering you nothing, yet we waste money on them and worse yet, consume them.  I challenge each reader to take ownership of your body. become accountable, and watch how your life changes.  show up each day.  think about what you are putting in your mouth and what it has to offer you. I am not saying you should deprive yourself of things you enjoy eating… treat yourself well.  I eat a frozen snicker bar next to the pool in the summer sun probably twice a week! -and I don’t think twice about it.  you know why?? because when you make healthy decisions a majority of the time, you’re allotted those freedoms!  it’s a give and take, and the old adage, everything in moderation is key.  but JUICING…. you’re gonna like it.

peace and love yo.



so i go through spurts where i plug through a span of days taking care of business, nose to the grind (ok i lied, those words have never been used to describe me) and in general ‘making it happen.’  — i’m getting my 7-8 hours of sleep, i’m packing lunches, i’m sipping coffee, i’m feeding my family, i’m working on my body, laundry,  ironing, dusting, vacuuming, organizing, homework, tending the tots… wake up next day, repeat.  you feel me.  ……and then i will have these days…. these lovely transcendental days… where all my mind wants to do is think about WHY…. yes why….and wonder… how….  and swim in my intuition… and realize how in charge of my life and my thoughts i really am… and find connections in how i got to my ‘here and now’…  and i think about, without that, not this… and if not this… then that…. and well, today is one of those days…. and on days like these… not much gets done (in the way of tasks, etc)  because it is a most delicious place to be in… and i have a hard time unfocusing my mind and my SELF to become again alert to less meaningful activity.  have i lost anyone yet??  anyway… this is the part of me that loves to write and create and.  just.  be.  sadly, this is a part of me that many others never get to meet.  my co-workers? never.  being a nurse requires critical thinking and continuous interruption of thought as a rule.  discussions are scientific, as they should be when focusing on physical medicine, especially in an emergency medicine type setting.  my friends?  maybe a smidge.  even in the best scenario, ie: a quiet dinner over drinks, where discussions can flow and evolve… interruptions exist. our phones, the food, time constraints, things you hold back saying, counter opinions, a loss for words.  even some of the best philosophical conversations i’ve had with others, were mediocre at best.  sometimes i think booze or drugs could help elicit a response… an openness… a lovely path upon which the conversation can bounce and bumble and frolic….  and ripen.  even with this goal in mind, both have at times left me a blubbering mess, incapable of a clear thought. lol. it’s a fine line… one i tend to have trouble walking and balancing on.  my family? again, a smidge.  some reading this will assume transparency where husband and wife are concerned… but i can assure you, such is not the case.  although i have had the quintessential words uttered to me (on numerous occasions) “i know you better than you know yourself”… which i always laugh at hysterically.   the human mind is a miracle unto itself… and a proclaimation like that… well, i would never claim such a feat.  there are things about my spouse i would never even pretend to understand, reaching far into the psychological aspects of parenting and his childhood… analysis far outreaching my capabilities.   my point in all of this??  if clarity is even seldom found amongst ourselves, in our own minds, with our own private knowledge… HOW can we ever expect others to see who we really are?  inside each of us is a gem.  a precious gem.  we can choose to polish it, or chip away at it… both of which others get to see from time to time as they catch a glimpse of our gems in living our lives…  when others see your gem, will they smile at its shine, will they envy its beauty,  will they sadden at its cracks, look away from its blackness,  grab a cloth and help polish, or grab a hammer and help destroy?  (damn that was good, i should write that shit down and publish it!!!!)  (goodness i wish the right person would discover me one day and get me the hell out of medicine. lol.)  a while back, i read a portion of a blog article on success in life, and key ideas for happiness as a way of life… you feel me.  well, a portion of this article never left me, and i use its concepts often in my daily life.   here it is:

Gratitude and Appreciation as a Secret for Success by Jack Canfield
Jack Canfield, America’s #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success.

The best attitude you can possibly aspire to express year-round is one of gratitude and appreciation.
Being truly grateful for what is already present in your life will automatically and effortlessly attract more good into your life.
Make a conscious decision to appreciate and acknowledge all that you have already been blessed with. These emotions are of the highest vibrational frequency, and through the Law of Attraction they will attract even more to be thankful for.
Try to be grateful for even the difficult and challenging situations that arise in your life.
It is often through these situations, that we experience the most profound spiritual and emotional growth. You can learn to view each apparent obstacle as an opportunity to develop a new quality, strength, skill, insight or wisdom and be grateful for the lessons. Each challenge is an opportunity for growth and expansion.
Rise to these occasions, and appreciate all that you are learning in the process. Keeping your attitude positive and appreciative through these times will not only help to avoid attracting more of these difficult situations into your life – it will also create a field of positive energy that will attract more of what you do want.
“Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely
the attitude of gratitude is the most important,
and by far the most life-changing.”
– Zig Ziglar

A Token of Gratitude
Try carrying a small token, stone, crystal, or some other meaningful object with you each day in your pocket. Throughout the day, each time you reach into your pocket for your money or keys it will serve as a tangible reminder to stop and think of something you have to be grateful for. This is a great way to increase your awareness of all that you have to be appreciative of.
Take a moment to breathe, and really feel the emotion of gratitude. This simple mindfulness technique helps to raise your vibrational frequency and keep you in a state of constant gratitude.

Your Gratitude Journal
Start keeping a daily Gratitude and Acknowledgement journal. This is a necessary and valuable tool in the development of your growth and awareness. This book is not intended to be a long, drawn out “diary” sort of thing, just a short, simple list of things you are grateful for on that particular day. This is a place to honor and appreciate the good in your life.

Each evening, before going to bed, take a few minutes to review your day. Think about the day’s events. Become aware of how many good things actually happened on that day, and remember to appreciate even the challenges that you encountered. Select the five things, or people, or events that you are most grateful for. There is no right or wrong here, just whatever, or whoever you are sincerely grateful for on that particular day. It may be the warm sun on your face, a cool breeze, a kind word, a friend, or just feeling good about what you got accomplished that day. It may be the way you handled a particular situation that would have thrown you into a tailspin in the past.
Anything you are grateful for. As you write them in your journal, feel the gratitude and appreciation. Give thanks.

Take a moment to acknowledge the changes that are occurring for you personally. Write them down. Acknowledge just how well the Law of Attraction is working in your life. Write down any specific event where the Law of Attraction was at work- the parking space you envisioned, the meeting you wanted to schedule, the bonus check you received, the grade you wanted, the person who said yes when you asked them out.
Miracles can and do occur on a daily basis. They are happening all around you. Honor them, and notice them. Through acknowledgement, you will become more and more aware of the amazing synchronicity that is already at work in your life.
Make the time you spend in contemplation and writing in your Gratitude and Acknowledgement journal a sacred part of your daily routine.
Your continued expressions of joy and gratitude will draw even greater joy, love and abundance into your life.
You will begin to notice a change in your perception of each day‘s events. You will become more aware of the positive things that happen all around you every single day. Your focus will shift, your energy will shift, and you will begin to appreciate how blessed you already are. And … the Law of Attraction will respond to the higher vibration you are creating.
Enjoy the journey.
Live each day in joy and gratitude.

good stuff. believe me when i tell you… it’s all true.  i’m living it.  it works dude.  give it a shot… what do you have to lose? other than negativity maybe.  so the title of my blog is something i’ve been looking into more recently.  the concept of synchronicity.  first introduced in the 50’s by psychologist Carl Jung.  talks about ‘meaningful coincidences’.   cliff notes version: in my own words-  tells us that life is not a series of random events, but each of us holds power and insight to express and create order in our lives… a spiritual awakening- by simply being mindful more times than not…  of events and ideas and objects around us.  this higher awareness in turn can have an avalanche effect on other parts of our lives… seemingly unrelated, but in fact… meaningful.  to the average person, it sounds like a crock of bullshit, but to me… i find this kind of thing absolutely intriguing.   obviously i’m not the only one… for there are too numerous to count articles on this subject… and leading into Buddhist principles and zen masters teachings… one could get lost in the beauty.  in fact, this whole thing has been compared to the Buddhist principle of  ‘pratityasamutpada’… (don’t ask me to pronounce it)… think Karma… think ‘this is, because that is’… etc.

wikipedia tells us a bit about it (that long word above) through a translation by Thich Nhat Hanh (a famous Zen master) :  ‘~In the sutras, this image is given: “Three cut reeds can stand only by leaning on one another. If you take one away, the other two will fall.”  For a table to exist, we need wood, a carpenter, time, skillfulness, and many other causes. And each of these causes needs other causes to be. The wood needs the forest, the sunshine, the rain, and so on. The carpenter needs his parents, breakfast, fresh air, and so on. And each of those things, in turn, has to be brought about by other causes and conditions. If we continue to look in this way, we’ll see that nothing has been left out. Everything in the cosmos has come together to bring us this table. Looking deeply at the sunshine, the leaves of the tree, and the clouds, we can see the table. The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one.’

i dig it yo… i could spend hours on this stuff… well, i just did.   become present.  love your life and live your life. 

peace and love yo.

my journey into fermentation…



so yeah… Kombucha tea.  it’s happening.  it’s been happening for months.  i am in the thick of it.  i’ve shared one SCOBY already, and i’m ready to gift my second upon completion of this batch.  i have ARRIVED, i suppose you could declare, as far as the Kombucha brewing crowd is concerned.  what IS Kombucha you ask???  it is a fermented tea, helped along by something called a SCOBY.  which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  it begins as a batch of plain and simple tea… with a cup of sugar added… brewed under near sterile technique… but that, my friend, is the boring part.  the real magic happens when the SCOBY is added to the jar with a cup or two of the starter liquid, and it is left unattended in a dark and lonely space for 7-10 days or so.  when you bring that lovely and hard working jar out into the light of your kitchen, and you note the bubbles around the scoby- and you remove your paper towel and rubber band…. VOILA! you see that your scoby has grown, seemingly doubled… from living and breathing and working with your sugar and caffeine in the tea.  it is ‘foodie science’ at it’s finest people.   set aside the probiotics and other health benefits you are about to experience, although these are huge… i am addicted to the TASTE of this stuff.  it has the most lovely balance of sour and sweet, and it’s FIZZY!!  how did all of this happen from plain tea??  you feel like you are a part of a science class, and you just aced your class project.  if you are any part nerd, like i am, you are gonna dig this whole scene… trust me.   enter then more coolness… the ability to do a second ferment- adding some juice or dried fruits to your cleaned (boiled if glass) bottles, adding tea up to the neck, capping, and allowing them to sit out at room temp (in same dark space) for three more days.  this builds carbonation, naturally, and gives it the fizziness as well as allowing it to feed a bit on whatever fruit or juice you have added.  the first time i brewed, i added some dried cherries to one or two bottles, a few slices of dried mango to another, and some “just blueberry” juice to the others.  just make sure your juice is 100% juice without additives- and of a high quality.  when i started out doing this, i used cleaned and sanitzed small coke bottles so that i could squeeze them a couple of days into the second ferment… if they were stiff- i knew there was carbonation happening.  warning: do not neglect or forget about these bottles, they can explode. unlike soda, which does not continue to carbonate as it sits… these WILL.  they are living and working cultured drinks.  putting them in the fridge nearly stops the fermentation process, and they can be stored and enjoyed for up to a month.  the recommendation is to start out slowly in your Kombucha consumption.  4 oz. a day is a good rule of thumb.  also, drink PLENTY  of water after enjoying.  although kombucha has a sweet taste, keep in mind that it IS an acidic beverage, and consuming too much can wreak havoc on your system, throw off your acid/base balance and literally make you sick. as with everything in life, too much of even a good thing, is… well… too much.   after a week or so of adjusting and comforting your body to the presence of the Kombucha, you may find a morning and night routine to be appealing.  i find that when i consume a few ounces of this before bed at night- it aids greatly in digestion and does it’s best work while you sleep- at a time when you’re not adding anything else to your tummy.  just my two cents… but it works well i find.  you will read these things about kombucha as you leave my blog and do some homework:  it is low in calories and sugar, it may or may not contain trace amounts (1% or less) of alcohol as a by product of the short fermentation process.  it is full of probiotics and antioxidants, which our intestines love. It  can boost overall health, aid in anxiety and depression,  heart burn, arthritis, improve your skin and nails and the list goes on.  pretty amazing stuff actually.  no wonder it has been consumed for centuries in ancient China and touted “the elixir of life.”   enzymes boost metabolism.  this is a proven fact.  so you do the math.  although you may actually see a one or two pound weight GAIN when you start on this, it is simply due to it causing your gut to function WAY more efficiently.  for a short time, i know, TMI… i saw a decrease in output for a few days… maybe i wasn’t drinking enough water, who knows… but shortly there after, i was on the regularity train, and how!!   Kombucha tea costs anywhere from 2 – 7 dollars a bottle when you buy it at health food stores, no joke. it’s not cheap.  when you brew your own… we’re talking pennies a bottle when it’s all said and done.  if you don’t have filtered water (either on your tap or a Brita in the fridge) it is recommended to use distilled water.  i buy a gallon of it each time i brew. just to be safe. the last thing i want to do is mess up my scoby. lol.  i look at that thing as my mother ship to all future brews… well, because it IS!  i have decided to NOT advise you how to brew Kombucha on this blog… simply because it is a lot of typing, a lot of steps, and i would feel AWFUL if i missed an important step and it didn’t work out for you.  google it. you will have fun clicking from site to site- learning as you go. take notes. heck, start a little journal, jot down notes with each brew and then add notes about taste and whatever you encounter with your body as well.  again… there’s the nerd in me coming out.  i found some useful info on the  site, as well as .  there is kombucha eric- who is a high energy dude with oodles of good info for you surrounding kombucha.  he is one of the founders of kombucha brooklyn.  you can order scobys from them, starter kits, flip top bottles, etc.   but most sites you will visit will link you to places and hook ups for starter kits.  anyway, yeah… Kombucha… i’m loving it.  enjoy!!


040 008

036 006




Blog at

Up ↑

Cup of Jo

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

Everybody Likes Sandwiches

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

Sew Mama Sew

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

Not Without Salt

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

%d bloggers like this: