Cilantro: The Little Plant That Packs a Really Big Punch

contributed by Allison Plesko

 The many benefits of Cilantro include:

  • Helps eliminate from the body heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and aluminum from the body
  • Oils contain digestive enzymes assisting with digestion and nausea
  • Anti-Bacterial properties- contains Dodecenal which has been shown to fight salmonella
  • Anti-Inflammatory effects
  • Naturally contains iron, magnesium and dietary fiber
  • Immune boosting properties
  • Raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol
  • Assists with urinary tract infections
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Contains phytonutrients and flavonoids such as Quercetin, which helps the body fight free radicals


Cilantro Pesto


Enough cilantro (not packed down) to fill blender

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 lemons or limes

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, juiced

2-5 cloves garlic, pressed

sea salt to taste

1/2-1 cup walnuts (or preferred nut or seed)

How to make it:

1. Put in blender and process until course.

2. You may have to stop it and push it down with a spatula.

3. Enjoy with gluten free crackers or chips.


Apple-Pear-Cilantro Smoothie


1 small, ripe, organic red apple of your choice

1 small, ripe, organic pear of your choice

2 large handfuls of organic cilantro leaves

1 large handful of organic mixed greens

1-2 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

2 cups pure water (can use coconut water)

1 tablespoon of protein powder- gluten free (Pro Zone Vanilla)

(Optional- honey or agave nectar to taste)

How to Make:

1. Wash and core pear and apple, leaving the peels on them.

2. Wash cilantro well and place all ingredients in a blender.

3. Add protein powder and ice if needed.

4. May add honey or agave to your preferred taste.

5. Blend, pour into a glass and enjoy.

Gluten-free recipes, contributed by Allison Plesko

 1.Carob-Walnut Brownies


1/4 cup melted butter or ghee

6 Tablespoons carob powder

½ cup honey

2 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup quinoa flour (Can substitute other GF flours)

2 teaspoons vanilla [optional]

1 cup chopped walnuts

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Mix the honey, ghee, egg whites salt, and vanilla together.

Add the carob powder.

Mix in the flour and then the walnuts.

Put the mixture into a non-stick 8′ x 8′ pan (or use nonstick spray).

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Read More »

Recipes with Blueberries

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes
1 cup buckwheat flour
½ tsp stevia powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 egg replacement*
1 ½ to 2 cups coconut milk**
2 Tbsp melted ghee
1 tsp cinnamon
Blueberries to taste (fresh or frozen – I have also used the dehydrated organic bluberries from Just Tomatoes company, found at Whole Food Market or online)

Mix all ingredients and cook on hot griddle.

* Egg replacement:
1 Tbsp ground flax seed meal combined with 2 Tbsp warm water – mix and let stand until it thickens into a gel – 6 to 8 minutes.
Combine 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil with 1 Tbsp water and 1 tsp baking powder.

** Coconut milk:
I usually use Native Forest coconut milk and water it down until it is similar to the consistency of milk. Otherwise it’s a little too thick.

Mini Blueberry Muffins

2 cups garbanzo bean flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ cup sunflower oil
¼ tsp stevia powder
1/3 cup honey (or ½ cup agave nectar)
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg substitutes
¾ cup mashed acorn squash, cooked**
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium size bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oil and honey until well blended. Add the applesauce and eggs alternately. When they are well blended add the acorn squash. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low speed until well blended. Fold in the blueberries. Pour into a lined mini muffin pans. Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. Time can vary depending on oven, so start checking around 12 minutes. To check muffins for doneness, insert a toothpick into middle – if it comes out clean the muffins are done. Remove from the pan and continue cooling on wire rack.

** I cook and mash acorn squash in. I bake until soft, then mix in a little ghee and cinnamon and sometimes honey, to taste. Then I mash. You can make a big batch of this and freeze for future use.

Pumpkin Bread

2 cups garbanzo bean flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ cup sunflower oil
¼ tsp stevia powder
1/3 cup honey (or ½ cup agave nectar)
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg substitutes
¾ cup canned organic pumpkin
½ cup pecans (or walnuts), chopped
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium size bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oil and honey until well blended. Add the applesauce and eggs alternately. When they are well blended add the pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low speed until well blended. Fold in the nuts and raisins. Pour into a greased and floured bread pan. Bake at 350Ëš for about 1 hour. Time can vary depending on oven, so start checking around 40 minutes. To check bread for doneness, insert a toothpick into middle – if it comes out clean the bread is done. Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and continue cooling.

I use cooked and mashed butternut squash in place of the pumpkin. I bake until soft, then mix in a little ghee and cinnamon and sometimes honey, to taste. Then I mash. You can make a big batch of this and freeze for future use.

Making kefir

If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be buying raw goat milk from a farm and allowing it to sit out un-refrigerated for 24 hours with gooey globs of friendly bacteria mixed in, I would have told you that you were crazy. If you would have told me that I would encourage my children to drink this stuff and use it daily as an integral part of my own health regimen, I would have told you that you were insane.

Well I am sure you have guessed from the title of this article that indeed this is the path I have taken. What started as an idea very foreign to me has become a completely normal, natural, and very healthy way of life.

I will start with a little background on this wonderful cultured milk drink.

Kefir is an ancient cultured, enzyme-rich food filled with beneficial microorganisms. Kefir’s tart and refreshing flavor is similar to yogurt, yet its consistency is much thinner. It contains beneficial yeast as well as the friendly probiotic bacteria found in yogurt.

More than just beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains minerals, essential amino acids, and is abundant in B vitamins that help the body with healing and maintenance functions. The proteins in kefir are partially digested and therefore more easily utilized by the body.

Since kefir does not have to be heated, it can be made from true raw milk. Kefir can be made from any raw milk including goat, cow, or sheep – although after talking with people and through my own experience I have found that raw goat milk is easier to digest than the others.

There are sources for raw milk that can be picked up at the farm or at various co-ops or farmer’s markets around town. For information see

There are some excellent farms in the outlying areas of Houston, and milk can be picked up fresh straight from the farm. Raw milk is perfectly safe as long as you know and trust your source, and are sure it is made according to specific health guidelines.

In the Houston area is a dairy goat farm that is licensed by the state to sell raw goat’s milk. The license means that Texas Department of Health personnel inspect the farm every month unannounced and test the milk for purity. Anala also sells their goat milk (frozen) at several farmer’s markets around Houston on different days every week.

For full health benefits, it is especially important to use only raw milk to make kefir because it contains unspoiled healing proteins. The “undenatured” whey proteins found only in raw milk have the ability to bind to toxic metals like mercury inside the body neutralizing them and promoting their excretion from the body.

Pasteurizing milk denatures these proteins causing them to lose their healing properties. It also damages enzymes, diminishes vitamins, destroys vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, and kills beneficial bacteria.

Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particle globules that are then covered in milk and left to culture for at least 24 hours. These globules contain a friendly and complex microorganism mixture clumped together with milk proteins and complex sugars that ferment the milk. These globules incorporate their friendly organisms to create the cultured product.

The globules are then removed with a strainer, and the strained liquid is your kefir to drink. It will continue to improve if you allow this strained kefir to rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours before consuming (although it is perfectly safe to drink immediately). The strained globules will then be added to a new batch of milk. This is all done at room temperature (optimally around 70 to 75 degrees, but will work fine at lower and higher temperatures also)

The comment I hear the most is “I don’t think it turned out right.” My advice is that it is probably fine, and you will become much more confident with kefir the more you make it. Ideally, if you know someone who makes kefir, you could ask to try it, so you know what to expect.

The kefir should be somewhat thicker than the original milk, but that can vary from slightly thicker milk to a thick milkshake consistency. There will be very small white lumps or curds in the kefir; this is normal, and you will not notice them while you are drinking it.

When the kefir is being made it can begin to separate and you will see pockets of clear liquid at the bottom. This is the whey and this, too, it is perfectly normal. To make it easier to strain, just stir everything back together right before you strain it. The kefir should smell a little sour and a bit yeasty. The smell is a pleasant and fresh one.

The easiest and best way to flavor Kefir if you prefer not to drink it plain is simply to add 1 tsp of Frontier No-Alcohol Vanilla or Almond Flavoring and 4 to 6 drops of clear stevia liquid extract (adjusting more or less to taste) into 6oz of homemade kefir and stir to blend.

Processing kefir in a food processor can damage very important components of the raw milk, so if you plan on making a smoothie, it is best to process the fruit and then mix it by hand into the kefir.

For more information and step-by-step instructions and pictures of the kefir making process, see

Most farms that produce and sell raw goats milk also provide kefir grains on request. Otherwise they’re available from

Natural Fruit and Nut Bars

from Janice Welch

There are some great snack/dessert bars available at health food stores. They are uncooked, so they are full of raw nutrition. The sweetness comes from dates, so there is no processed sugar added. They have lots of fiber and no trans-saturated fats. Sounds great, right? Well they are until you realize that one bar is $1.50 to $2.00. That can get pretty expensive when your child wants one for dessert every day.

So, why not make them? A trip through the Whole Foods bulk aisle and you will be set. Everything you could possibly need is right there. The great thing about these bars is, every time you make them you can add different dried fruits and nuts for different taste combinations. A few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa will give you a nice chocolaty bar that goes especially well with dried cherries or cranberries thrown in. The only necessary ingredient is the dates (actually figs might also work) and almond flour (or other nut flour) for the base. Almond flour can be purchased at Whole Foods, but is much less expensive when ordered in larger quantities online at or After that the sky is the limit in terms of flavor combinations! So have fun and enjoy.

The following recipe is my daughter’s favorite so far:

Fruit and Nut Bars (Cinnamon Apple)

8 oz dates
4 oz dried apple
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almond flour
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup roasted nuts ñ any kind (gives a little bit of crunch)
1 cup flaxseeds (grind them to a powder in a coffee bean grinder)
Approximately 2 Tablespoons applesauce to achieve good consistency

Combine the dates, 1 tablespoon of applesauce, almond flour, ground flaxseeds, and cinnamon in a large food processor. Process until well mixed. Add the dried apples and roasted nuts and process to your desired consistency, adding more of the applesauce if necessary. Press the mixture out on a parchment paper-lined pan and cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator or freeze.

Homemade Baby Formula

(summarized by Janice Welch from the article “Healthy Alternative to Conventional Infant Formula” by Marie Bishop, Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD in the magazine “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts,” published quarterly by the Weston A. Price Foundation, Volume 6, Number 2, Pages 18-28)

While government officials and orthodox pediatricians are often appalled at the thought of a parent mixing up baby formula, especially one based on raw milk, the feedback we have received from parents has been extremely positive. Make no mistake though, the best food for baby is breast milk from a healthy mother.

If that is not possible, there should be healthy alternatives to conventional store-bought baby formulas. The following milk-based formula takes into account the fact that human milk is richer in whey, lactose, vitamin C, niacin, and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids compared to cow’s milk but leaner in casein (milk protein).

The addition of gelatin to this cow’s milk formula will make it more digestible for infants. Use only true expeller-expressed oils in the formula recipe, otherwise it may lack vitamin E.

The ideal milk for baby, if he cannot be breastfed, is clean, whole raw milk from old-fashioned cows, certified free of disease that feed on green pasture. For sources of good-quality milk, see or contact a local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

If the only choice available to you is commercial milk, choose whole milk, preferably organic and unhomogenized, and culture it with a piima or kefir culture to restore enzymes (available from G.E.M. Cultures 707-964-2922).

Homemade Whey

from Janice Welch

Homemade whey is easy to make from good-quality plain yogurt.

First, line a strainer with a clean linen kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth. Place 2 quarts of yogurt in the strainer. Cover with a plate and leave at room temperature overnight. The whey will drip into the bowl. Place the whey in clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator. Makes about 5 cups.

To read frequently asked questions and other homemade formula variations visit:

Milk-Based Baby Formula

from Janice Welch

2 cups whole milk, preferably unprocessed milk from pasture-fed cows

º cup homemade liquid whey (See recipe for whey, below)

4 tablespoons lactose*

1 teaspoon bifidobacterium infantis*

2 or more tablespoons good quality cream (not ultrapasteurized), more if you are using milk from Holstein cows

1 teaspoon regular dose cod liver oil or 1 teaspoon high-vitamin cod liver oil*

1 teaspoon expeller-expressed sunflower oil*

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil*

2 teaspoons coconut oil*

2 teaspoons Frontier brand nutritional yeast flakes*

2 teaspoons gelatin*

1-7/8 cups filtered water

º teaspoon acerola powder*

Add gelatin to water and heat gently until gelatin is dissolved. Place all ingredients in a very clean glass or stainless steel container and mix well. To serve, pour 6 to 8 ounces into a very clean glass bottle*, attach nipple and set in a pan of simmering water.

Heat until warm but not hot to the touch, shake bottle well and feed baby (never, never heat formula in a microwave oven!). Makes 36 ounces.

* Available from Radiant Life 888.593.8333

Healthy Scented Candles

by Janice Welch

As we head into the holiday season you can’t help but be bombarded with fragrances in every store or home you enter. The rooms are filled with artificially scented cinnamon,
pumpkin, apple, etc. I don’t wish my home to smell like these places, yet I do yearn for a different smell in my home besides steamed broccoli and cauliflower (my son’s favorite
vegetables). Essence of Cabbage is not my idea of a Holiday Scent.

So in my quest for a delicious natural-smelling house, I have opted for the scents of essential oils. There are many great little oil heaters and ceramic rings for the oils, but none of these fit in well with my personal taste. I love candles. The warmth they add to a room at the holidays is unparalleled in my opinion.

The problem with candles is that 99% of what you find in stores is made from paraffin. Paraffin is the leftover by-product from the petroleum refining process. This petroleum by-product releases harmful carcinogens into the atmosphere when burned. It produces toxic black, sticky petrol-carbon soot, which I am sure you have noticed when a candle is burned next to a white wall. This same soot is also inhaled into your lungs. Couple this with the fact that many wicks are made with lead or zinc, neither of which should be inhaled, and you have your own health hazard.

Now if you find yourself fretting that you will never have the ambiance of a candlelit dinner, don’t despair. There are alternatives. Although I have not found many at stores (Whole Foods has a few), the Internet is full of healthy candle makers. I have ordered 100% soy, palm and beeswax candles and been very pleased with all of them. They all have either 100% cotton or hemp wicks, and they are very clean-burning with no oily soot emissions.

Many of these candles are sold already scented. Steer clear of artificial fragrances; inhaling these chemicals is not good for you either. If you truly want a scented candle try one scented with 100% essential oils. The only problem I have found with these is that they are not good at holding their essential oil fragrance and therefore are not very effective at scenting a room.

So my favorite way to scent a room naturally and enjoy my candles for the holiday season is to create my own scented candle. Simply purchase an unscented, undyed soy candle (or other vegetable wax candle) with a cotton or hemp wick. Burn the candle for at least five minutes or until there is a pool of wax at the wick and snuff out the candle. Add some drops of your favorite essential oils into the melted wax and carefully relight the candle with a match (not one of those powerful handheld lighters; they can ignite the oil). It is very important to add the oil to the melted wax, because the oils are very flammable and will burn immediately if added directly to the flame.

This process lets you control the scent and the strength of the scent every time you light the candle. My favorite combination this time of year for my living area is equal drops of
cinnamon, clove, and peppermint oils.

Citrus oils are the easiest to burn, so you may want to stick to only the spicy and minty scents for candles. But feel free to use citrus or any of the essential oils in other simple
ways. For instance, add some drops to a cotton ball and drop in the bottom of the wastebasket, or in your dresser drawers, or add some drops to an old (but clean) washcloth and put it in the dryer with your clothes. Happy Scenting!

Drinks and Teeth

by Janice Welch

We have had quite an adventure in the last month. My son, who has an incredibly high tolerance for pain, hit his limit. He came to me rubbing the side of his mouth and when we pried his jaws open and used a flashlight we saw the unthinkable – a very bad cavity. We brush Nathan’s teeth every day, but it is not easy, and getting the back molars is next to impossible. I still was somewhat surprised because of the fact that Nathan eats no refined sugars and no starches. His basic diet is meat, vegetables, fruit, and homemade goat yogurt.

I did a lot of panicking and pondering. “How in the world did this happen?” and I think I now have a good idea.

You don’t have to tell me that water is the best drink for everybody. The problem is that Nathan thinks water is for spitting and without some slight taste to the water he will not swallow. So in our quest for health and wellness, we decided to juice fresh pineapples (great enzymes, etc.) and mix it 1/3 juice to 2/3 water.

After all this tooth decay was discovered, I realized that the juice, although diluted, still contains a lot of sugar. After consumption of sugar there is acid production for 20 minutes, which feeds the streptococcus mutans that dissolves tooth enamel and demineralizes teeth. Add this to the fact that he carried around his sippy cup ALL day long, and you have constant breeding ground for decay.

So now we were on a mission to lightly flavor water using xylitol as a sweetener. Xylitol is a naturally sweet 5-carbon sugar alcohol that can be used exactly like sugar, but is not digestible and actually has the added benefit of being a natural antibacterial. Because of these antibacterial properties Xylitol actually reduces tooth decay rates. 4 to 12 grams daily is the optimal intake for dental cavity prevention. Large amounts (35 to 40 grams) can produce diarrhea or intestinal gas, so watch the intake level. Also, look for birch tree-sourced Xylitol (as opposed to corn-sourced).

The favorite drink ended up being Santa’s Candy Apple Herbal Tea by Celestial Seasonings (don’t worry there is no sugar added). Steep one tea bag in a cup of boiling water for 8 minutes. Remove tea bag and stir in 2 teaspoons Xylitol (8 grams). Add 3 to 4 cups cold water. This mixture yields a lightly flavored drink that I am happy to let him carry around and sip on all day. It took two weeks, but now Nathan loves it too (and we are glad to not be juicing pineapples nightly!)

Making Ghee

from Janice Welch

For those of you aware of casein-free diets, you are probably also quite familiar with ghee. Ghee is butter that has been clarified by heating the butter and separating the milk solids from the oil, hence removing the casein and lactose from the finished product. Ghee is wonderful for baking, frying and using to season vegetables. It is also wonderful because it contains fatty acids that are beneficial to the brain.

Okay, so what is the problem with ghee? Mainly, that if it’s good quality, it is very expensive (13 ounces of organic ghee is $9.99).

I tried many times to clarify butter (which is in fact a very simple procedure), but in my zealousness to obtain a casein-free product, I became obsessed with different ways of trying to remove everything I thought could be a milk solid, and the result was usually disaster.

My allies in the fight to cure my son Nathan (my sister and parents) always keep me well-informed on cooking tips that they catch off the Food Network. One such idea was about an easy way to clarify butter. Simply add water to the separated butter and chill. The oil and water theory kicks in and you’re left with a water layer between your solids and your oil. Another idea was to chill the whole thing after separating, pop it out, and scrape off the unwanted layers.

These are probably both adequate and easy ways to clarify butter if you are just using it for culinary purposes. But they are not satisfactory if you are a mother that is a little bit nutty when it comes to dietary infractions (here I am merely speaking of myself!).

With that being said, and with the amount of ghee that we use around my house, I set out to make the most straightforward and pure clarified butter I could. It turns out that the easiest way to do it is also the one most frequently listed under culinary techniques. I have just added an extra step to appease my ever-worrying mind.

Here’s how to do it:

Melt 3 to 4 sticks of organic or a hormone-free unsalted butter (Whole Foods 365 brands are the least expensive at $3.99 and $3.49 a pound respectively) on low heat in a small stainless steel pan. There will be a thick white layer of butterfat that appears on the top.

Skim the white parts off as it simmers on VERY LOW heat (too high a temperature will brown the milky solids, which may be okay for Indian cuisine, but it is not okay for putting on broccoli or making cookies!). The white parts may fall as they are disturbed by your skimming but as it settles, they will rise again and you can skim them off.

Once you have taken off all of the white foam, remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.

Slowly pour off the clear yellow liquid into another small stainless steel pan, taking care not to mix up the milky solids that have settled on the bottom.

Pour off as much as you can without getting any of the milky solids, which are then discarded.

Here is the extra step. Once again over VERY LOW heat, warm up the pan with the clarified butter. If you have missed any of the white gunk on the top, you can easily take it off now. The butter should be clear and as it warms only clear small bubbles will appear on the surface. Remove from heat and let it cool a few minutes.

It is now time to pour it off again. If you have left any gunk at the bottom it will once again be evident as you pour it off.

Pour into a glass storage container. (I keep mine in the refrigerator, it may not be necessary but it makes me feel better)

A word of caution: I prepared the ghee using a gas range and was able to set the heat VERY LOW. I am not sure how low a heat setting can be achieved on an electric range. A heat diffuser ring from the cooking store might help with the heat.

Ghee will keep for quite a while, so don’t worry about making a large amount (three to four sticks) at a time. You can do less, but it gets a bit tricky when pouring it off.

The extra warming step may become totally unnecessary as you do it more times. Or it is already totally unnecessary if you are not worried about tiny amounts of casein.

So, two pounds of butter later, I am quite pleased with the result. So pleased that Nathan sat down to his nightly cauliflower topped with homemade ghee. He loved it.

Savings on a 13 oz. bottle of ghee: $6.50. Not having to run to the health food store for my ghee (I don’t have one very conveniently located): priceless!

Almond Ginger Cookies

from Janice Welch

3 cups almond meal
3 teaspoons Stevita liquid stevia
1-1/2 tablespoons almond oil or sesame oil
1 1/4 teaspoons ginger
boiling water as needed

Mix almond meal, stevia, oil and ginger. Add one tablespoon of water at a time until dough forms. Drop by spoonfuls and flatten on to cookie sheet. Bake at 300? until firm and golden brown.

Almond Cookies (gluten-and casein-free)
from Janice Welch

2 1/4 cups almond flour (or any raw nut except peanuts, ground into flour)
1/3 cup of ghee (at room temperature)
1 tsp Frontier brand non-alcohol vanilla flavoring
1 tsp Frontier brand non-alcohol almond flavoring
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp Xylitol
2 eggs
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour with baking soda and salt, set aside. Beat ghee until creamy. Add xylitol and honey. Beat in vanilla flavor, almond flavor, and eggs. Beat in flour until combined. Mix in coconut with a spoon. Line an airbake (the bottoms brown fast) cookie sheet with parchment paper, and drop dough by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Cook for approximately 12 minutes. Recipe yields 25 cookies (keep a batch on hand in the freezer – they even taste good frozen).

Homemade Yogurt

1. Bring one quart (or liter) of milk to the simmer stage, stirring often to prevent scorching and sticking to the bottom of the pan, and remove from heat.

2. Cover and cool until the milk has reached room temperature or below (may be placed in refrigerator to speed cooling). It is very important that you allow the temperature to drop sufficiently or you will kill the bacterial culture you are now ready to introduce.

3. Remove about 1/2 cup of the cooled milk and make a paste by mixing it with 1/4 cup of good quality commercial yogurt. The commercial yogurt you use should be unflavored and unsweetened. Buy one that contains only milk or milk solids and bacterial culture, if possible. It is usually unnecessary to buy yogurt culture separately since commercial yogurt is very satisfactory to use as a starter. If you find it impossible to buy commercial yogurt that contains only milk and bacterial culture, then you are advised to buy yogurt culture (“starter”) separately. After removing what is needed, return the container of commercial yogurt to the coldest part of the refrigerator for it to be used as a starter for the next batch of homemade yogurt.

Saving some yogurt from a previous batch of homemade yogurt to use to start a new batch is not as satisfactory as using commercial yogurt as a “starter” each time. Manufacturers of commercial yogurt make every effort to use “lively” bacterial strains and extremely large numbers of bacteria in the manufacturing process. The conditions of home refrigeration most often do not promote the survival of yogurt bacteria to the same degree as the conditions maintained by the commercial producers of yogurt. Homemade yogurt, made by using some from the last batch as a “starter”, often fails to solidify (coagulate) properly due to insufficient live bacteria to properly convert the milk sugar.

4. Mix the paste with the remainder of the cooled milk and stir thoroughly.

5. Pour milk into any appropriate sized container, cover, and let stand FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS at 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. (38 to 43 degrees Centigrade.) If you forget to remove it after 24 hours, and the fermentation goes on longer, all the better. Under no circumstances should the fermentation time be decreased to less than 24 hours. This fermentation time should supersede any other instructions that may accompany a commercial yogurt maker. ommercial yogurt maker.

The source of heat used during the 24 hour fermentation is critical. It is very important to get the temperature correct at 100 to 110 F (38 to 43 C) before you proceed with the fermentation. Too high a temperature will kill the bacterial culture and will prevent the proper “digestion” (conversion) of lactose. Too low a temperature will prevent activation of the bacterial enzymes and will result in incomplete “digestion” of the lactose.

A thermos type of yogurt maker may NOT be satisfactory for this long fermentation period inasmuch as the hot water surrounding the thermos will not stay warm. Commercial electric yogurt makers control the temperature perfectly but the amount of yogurt that can be made at one time is limited.

The ideal source of heat is a large electric warming tray. If it has a temperature-regulating dial, use a thermometer to set the dial properly (a mouth thermometer is satisfactory). If the warming tray does not have a dial to control the temperature, cover the surface of the tray with a thickness of metal (such as a metal cake rack), or FIRE-RESISTANT material (such as a Teflon treated ironing board cover). Then allow the tray to remain on for about five minutes before placing the thermometer on the surface to determine the temperature. If too warm, use a thicker piece of metal or material. By using the large surface of the electric warming tray, a gallon of yogurt can be made at one time in two plastic or ceramic half gallon containers. An electric crock-pot (set to low) or heating pad, both checked for temperature, may be used.

Some people use their ovens; the pilot in a gas oven usually keeps the temperature in the oven within the correct range. If using the oven of an electric stove, change the oven light to a 60-watt bulb. Turning on the oven light (with a 60-watt bulb) should create enough warmth to make yogurt but always check the temperature with a thermometer first. Sometimes the oven door must be propped ajar with a little stick to achieve the correct temperature range. CAUTION: upon completion of yogurt fermentation, replace regular oven bulb.

6. Allow the yogurt to remain on the heat for a minimum of 24 hours to insure that all lactose is completely “digested.” Remove from heat gently, pour into smaller containers if desired, and refrigerate.

While this yogurt may not be as thick as commercial yogurt, it will be a true yogurt since virtually all of the lactose has been digested by the bacterial culture and further lactose digestion will not be required by intestinal cells.

For more information on yogurt makers and cultures, visit

True yogurt: is it the missing link to optimal health?

When discussing yogurt, we must first realize that virtually everything that is sold as yogurt in retail stores is far from the real thing. Commercial yogurts are loaded with sugar, dyes, and other additives to enhance taste and consistency, and are never fully fermented in order to avoid a taste people might think is too sour.

True yogurt is the result of a fermentation process whereby different strains of bacteria collectively known as lactic acid bacteria (LAB) convert the lactose in milk to lactic acid. A review article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 71: 861-72) discusses the health benefits of yogurt and the research supporting them.

During the fermentation process, LAB also put out enzymes that break down the protein and fat in milk. Therefore, fully fermented yogurt does not contain lactose and the proteins and fats it does contain are partly to fully digested. This makes them much easier to assimilate than those in milk and less likely to cause allergic reactions, even in very sensitive individuals.

The proteins in fully fermented yogurt are rich in sulfur-containing amino acids that help support detoxification. In addition, the lactic acid itself helps promote intestinal health because the bacteria in yogurt have been shown to support normal digestion and immunity.

I have often recommended the yogurt from White Egret Farm near Austin in Texas (see The benefits I perceive are that the farm produces yogurt the right way, allowing it to ferment for thirty hours at the correct temperature, using a broad variety of beneficial LAB strains and their own goat’s milk. The benefits of goat’s milk are that it is even easier to digest and less likely to cause reactions than cow’s milk. Unfortunately, since it is a small family-run operation they are sometimes out of yogurt for extended periods.

So I recently started using and recommending a type of yogurt starter produced by Klaire Laboratories, a top-quality supplement company with great expertise in the area of probiotic bacteria. This product is called Culturaid.

To make great yogurt at home, you don’t need to buy a yogurt maker because over time you’ll find it to be mostly a hindrance. All you need is a good ceramic pot and a kitchen thermometer. If your oven has a warming light, that could provide all the heat required.

First, fill the pot with water and see if your oven will keep it at a steady temperature ranging between 90 and 110 F. If your oven won’t do this, another option is to buy a warming tray. In my experience most warming trays generate too much heat, even at the lowest setting. To achieve the right temperature I put a couple of trivets over the warming tray and the pot on top of the trivets. This separates the pot slightly from the heat source. Remember that achieving the right temperature is important because too much heat will kill the bacteria and too little will prevent it from growing properly.

It might take you a while to determine how to maintain the right temperature, but once you figure it out, all you have to do is to repeat the same procedure every time. I recommend that you use whole goat’s milk from Whole Foods because it is not homogenized and will make better yogurt than any milk that has been homogenized. If you don’t like the taste of goat’s milk, you can use cow’s milk and still get acceptable results. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a source for non-homogenized cow’s milk in Houston. If you know of one, please let me know.

Next, slowly bring the milk to a boil and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes. Then let it cool to about 100 F, stir in the Culturaid as directed on the label, cover and keep at the desired temperature for a minimum of 24 hours or, for even better results, up to 36 hours. Then stir, transfer to glass jars you can close tightly and refrigerate. Homemade yogurt stays fresh in the fridge for at least a month.

No Carb Lasagna

1 lb ground beef or ostrich, buffalo, turkey or other meat)
1 clove minced garlic or diced onion to taste
3 tablespoons minced dry parsley
1 tablespoon minced dry basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz can undrained tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste (use 2 cans for more tomato flavor, if desired)
1 5 oz package baby spinach or equivalent amount of fresh cabbage leaves, torn into small pieces
2 12 oz cartons cottage cheese or two 8 oz goat chevre
2 beaten eggs
1 lb sliced mozzarella, shredded or Alta Dena goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (optional)
1/2 c parmesan or shredded Alta Dena goat cheese

Brown meat in a skillet (no oil needed, but you can use a little olive oil if you want) and drain. Add garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, basil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, tomatoes, tomato paste. Simmer 30 minutes with top off, until thick. Combine cottage cheese, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and parmesan. Spread half of the meat sauce in a 13x 9x 2 baking dish, then a layer of spinach, then the cheese mixture, then the mozzarella. Repeat layers. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Carb-free comfort

‘Carb-Free Comfort’ is a collection of recipes compiled by Elizabeth Caldwell to help those challenged with cutting carbs from their diet. Elizabeth was put on a diet free of all simple carbs but could not stay on it until she started adapting familiar ‘comfort food’ recipes that she missed. In this way she was successful in avoiding simple carbs and staying on the diet, and in the process regained her health.

The cookbook also contains tips for using organic ingredients and substitution ideas for those with allergies. It has 39 dessert recipes made with acceptable sweeteners.

Elizabeth has shared two of her recipes, below. If you are interested in the cookbook, call her at 512.567.1075, email her at or visit the website at

Dyes and holiday baking

by Janice Welch

It is closing in on the holiday season and holiday baking is right around the corner. One of the best memories I have of the holidays is helping make and decorate Christmas cookies. This is a tradition that I hope to hand down to my daughter.

She already loves to help me bake. We make all sorts of cookies using healthy ingredients. The problem is, they all end up a very boring brown color. They taste great, but at this time of year I want to add a little pizzazz, a little of the magic that I remember from my own childhood.

If you are committed to avoiding artificial dyes, you’ll find this is not an easy feat. Finding natural colors has become quite a challenge. Spinach powder offers a not-so-pretty Army-green hue. Annatto seed gives a nice orange, but I have yet to be able to disguise the taste (I am still working on it, and will keep you updated).

However, my latest experiment with beet powder resulted in a beautiful reddish-pink that will work well for any stocking or Santa Claus goodies. It is also wonderful for drinks, whether you want pink homemade lemonade or a bright red fruit smoothie.

I had a hard time finding beet powder in local stores, so I ordered mine online at (it’s in the flavored powders section).

If you want something super-easy, just mix some beet powder into organic spreadable raw honey (the creamy kind, not the liquid kind). The light brown color of the honey mixes with the beet powder to make a burgundy color.

It will also mix well into any white frosting recipe; just break up any lumps in the powder before mixing it in. Start with half a teaspoon and add more, little by little, to get to your desired color. A word of warning though: you will probably never get to a deep red unless you want beet-flavored frosting!

To make frosting a little healthier, try replacing the sugar in your recipe with half the amount of Xylitol plus 5 to 10 drops of liquid stevia extract.

Another nice addition for a very special cookie is sprinkles. Whole Foods carries a brand of sprinkles that, although full of sugar, are naturally colored. In my house, just a few sp rinkles are enough to make all the difference!

Nut flour

As parents, we find it difficult to streamline our children’s diet with balanced nutritional ingredients and still keep our little ones pleased with their food, especially snack foods. Most snack foods (even gluten- or casein-free) have little or no protein and tons of carbohydrates.

Many of you have probably read or heard of recipes that called for flour made from ground tree nuts. I am guessing that many of you dismissed this idea, because how in the world will a nut flour stack up in baked goods? We really want to try new things, but we are so tired of using new ingredients that have created spectacular flops; and we simply draw the line at using ground nuts for flour.

However, this alternative ingredient deserves a second look. Almond flour (my personal favorite) does wonderfully in baked goods. From cookies to crackers to breads to pound cakes, it really works. One reason I am fond of almonds, besides the nice flavor it adds, is its nutritional makeup. It is balanced between carbohydrates and protein and offers a good source of fat. So, as long as you keep sweeteners in your recipes to a minimum, you can have a balanced snack that is easy to pack and go.

The thought of finding raw nuts and grinding them seems expensive and labor intensive, so you may wish to order almond flour in bulk. Initially, purchase a small quantity and try some recipes to see if it is a product you will use. If you are satisfied with the results, you can order in larger and therefore more economic quantities.

Two places I found online are, and Even with added shipping charges, buying the flour this way seems to be price- effective as long as you order a large enough quantity (at least 10 pounds).

Nut Protein Bread

from Going Against the Grain by Melissa Diane Smith

1-1/2 cups raw almonds or hazelnuts or 2 cups raw pecans
7 eggs, separated
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried basil leaves
? tsp each of dried garlic powder and parsley flakes or 2 tsp of caraway seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Lightly grease a jelly roll baking pan. Grind nuts, half a cup at a time, in a food processor. Whip egg whites until soft (this works best with an electric mixer. If you don’t have one, beat vigorously with a whisk or blender; you’ll get an acceptable bread but it will slightly flatter). In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, seasoning and ground nuts together. Beat egg yolk mixture into one quarter of the whipped egg whites. Then fold this mixture into the remaining whipped egg whites. Pour into the pan and spread it evenly. Bake 20 minutes or until brown. Allow to cool, then cut into bread-sized slices. Layer slices with parchment paper to prevent the bread from sticking together and store in a covered container. Refrigerate or freeze.