I love Chocolate.

I also love Simple.

Here are simple recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Some of these recipes will also give you the theanine and "feel good" nutrients in chocolate - without all the sugar!

My favorite this winter is not really a dessert - but I enjoy it just about as much! 🙂

KETO HOT CHOCOLATE

This has been my favorite beverage this winter!  Super simple.  Delicious. Truly a relaxing cup of, "AHHH!" 🙂

1 TBSP CACAO POWDER

3 TINY SCOOPS NOW STEVIA

BIG SHOT OF CREAM (Raw is AMAZING, but I use whatever is available!)


For extra long mental clarity - or if I am wanting to pause or suppress my hunger a bit I add:

1 TBSP GRASS-FED BUTTER

1 TBSP MCT or COCONUT OIL (If this is your first time using MCT be sure to start with a teaspoon and ease your way up to a Tablespoon over a few days to a week.  (The first time I had MCT oil, my brother-in-law gave be an overflowing, heaping tablespoon - I RAN to the bathroom and didn't touch MCT oil again for months!)

MINI KETO CHEESECAKES

I tested this recipe out at two holiday parties this year!  Each time they were a big hit!  

In order to make it easy to transport, I left the mini cheesecakes on a serving tray with a glass ball jar containing defrosted blueberries or fresh raspberries with a serving spoon so each person could add fruit as they pleased.  I would definitely do it again!

Mini Keto Cheesecakes Recipe:

8oz Cream Cheese

1 Egg

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3-6 scoops Stevia

     Blend together and bake in pyrex dish or mini muffin cups 350° for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Serve topped with fresh berries and/or real cream whipped with a scoop of stevia.


Keto Chocolate Mousse


Ok.  So, MY Keto Chocolate Mousse didn't look like the above picture - more of a faded look to the chocolate, yet still beautiful enough for a party with the blueberries and chocolate chunks on top.

I honestly just eat the mousse as is.  Who wants to wait?  This is chocolate!

Keto Chocolate Mousse Recipe:

  • 1/4 - 1/2 Ripe Avocado
  • 2 Tbsp Cream (raw is amazing!)
  • 1 Tbsp Cacao Powder
  • 3 Scoops Stevia

I put the above ingredients into my personal Ninja cup - but blending it up any way you have handy will work!

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Quick, Simple Chocolate dipped Strawberries are the perfect Keto Dessert!

Healthy and delicious!  

MELT 85% Dark Chocolate Chips are my favorite out of the package, but there is some sugar!  The best keto option, of course has no sugar.  You can either use Lily's chocolate chips or use 100% Dark Chocolate chips (a client insists that a handful of dark chocolate chips instantly reduces his blood pressure when high - I'd love to hear if you have found this true!)

DIP Strawberries into melted chocolate by holding the top.  (Make sure your strawberries are organic as they are one of the "dirty dozen" and usually has lots of pesticides used to grow them.)

PLACE onto waxed paper and

REFRIGERATE for two hours.

ENJOY!

As our children were growing I read a wonderful book on how to handle children’s ailments singing the praises of Lemon Balm or Melissa Officinalis (aka: Bee Balm as the greek word for bee, I am told, sounds much like melissa). Lemon Balm makes a light, fresh, delicious tea that even children will drink! It has relaxing qualities. #Lemon Balm Tea is helpful in getting a fussy child to relax and maybe even sleep. There is a lot of research on Lemon Balm on PubMed for use with hyperactivity, impulsiveness and to help with concentration1 (I think I need some tea;-))

Lemon Balm even has some research as an antiviral and has on benefits with acyclover resistant bacteria2

You may want to take a minute to search the Pub Med site for more uses of Lemon Balm.

The Extract may be used by putting drops into hot water (the alcohol will dissipate in the steam):

Organic Tea Bags are also available:

Save money/Buy in Bulk:

For a cup of tea:

For a quart of tea:

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! email me at:
Cynthia@SoCalGardenHealth.com

Sliced Luffa In Soap

Young, edible luffa

Mature Luffa Vine

Luffa aegyptiaca Climbing Wall of House!

How to Grow Luffa

  • Luffa's Botanical Names include:  luffa aegyptiaca (smooth luffa) and luffa angulatica  (angled luffa)
  • Angled luffa or L. angulatica is grown in Asia and known as Chinese okra or ridged gourd.  It's flowers are night-blooming, unlike the day blooming yellow flowers of the Luffa aegyptiaca.  
  • Luffa's Other Names may include, loofah, loofa, luffa plant, a luffa sponge, loofah sponge plant, loofah gourd, luffa vine, loofah vegetable, vegetable sponge, esponja, sponge vines, dishrag gourd, seed cloth,  loofah melon (luffa is a relative of c.pepo - a separate Genus and Species in the Cucurbitaceae Family that includes melons, but luffa's not a melon!  See luffa seed saving below.)
  • Luffa aegyptiaca  is  an annual, heat-loving vine whose fruits are edible when young!  It looks like long zucchini, but has a distinctly lemony flavor - it makes the zucchini consistency more enjoyable!  In India the immature fruits are used in curries and in Asia the young luffa is prepared and eaten as you would use a summer squash in recipes or try a stir-fry with a young luffa before it becomes a big gourd!
  • Luffa aegyptiaca is the botanical name of the smooth luffa pictured to the left (climbing the wall!) and at this stage it would be way too tough to eat!
  • Luffa gourds don't really require a trellis as you can see on this picture where the luffa is climbing the wall on its own.  It has tendrils that seem to grip the wall to support the weight of the plant and fruits.  (See below for a picture of luffa plant with flowers climbing a flimsy fence as a trellis!) 
  • Luffa requires a very long growing season, so if you don't live in a temperate climate (like the Southern states of CA, AZ, NM, TX , LA, AL or Fl.) or have a greenhouse, you may need to  start the plants indoors or in a greenhouse six weeks to two months  before last expected frost date for your zone.
  • Luffa Sponges
    Luffa acutangula sponges are softer than the ones from Luffa aegyptiaca, but the outer skin of the plant is more difficult to remove from the fibrous core.  We have always grown the L. aegyptiaca and have found that even if tougher, they make the perfect skin-sloughing loofah for the shower or bath. (see pictures below) These luffas are especially valuable for slicing horizontally and placing into a soap-making mold and using the ensuing bar on rough feet!

Saving Luffa Seeds

Luffa Varieties & Seed Identification
Angled luffa (Luffa acutangula or L. acutangula) seeds are a bit pitted and black.  L. aegyptiaca seeds are also black, but smooth or unpitted and also differ in that they have an outer margin rim that the black seeds of the angled loofah lack.  An occasional white seed may appear, but they may just be immature. 

To Save Luffa Seeds  - ideally you will want to let the gourds dry thoroughly on the plant before harvesting.  If that is not possible, let the fruit or the gourd dry thoroughly in the sun before attempting to peel the skin.  The seeds seem to hide in the crevices, but are easy to shake out into a bowl once the skin is removed.

Dried Luffa And Seeds

Dried Luffa And Seeds

 Luffa acutangula Seeds
If you are planning to save seeds, know that the different types of luffa can possibly cross-pollinate as smooth luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca) can cross-pollinate with angled lufa (Luffa acutangula or L. acutangula) that is within a half mile.   Luffa seeds seem to last a long time - I have had some for ten or more years and found them still viable (but I do keep them in a container that keeps moisture out.)  The seeds dry readily as the gourd dries and you can hear the seeds as the dried gourd is shaken! 

 Hand-pollinate or separate by great distances if you plan to save seeds.  At one time, even though luffa is an out-breeding plant, it was believed that these two varieties would not cross.  A gourd authority, Charles Heiser found otherwise and said the two could cross into a hardy hybrid, but the next generation of seeds would not be viable1.


Starting Luffa Plants

Sliced Luffa In Soap

Sliced Luffa In Soap

Starting Luffa - We start luffa when we start tomatoes around mid-January... Plan to keep the luffa protected from frost until thirteen months later - yes, the following February for the mature  sponge that you can peel to reveal the loofah you will use in your shower, make into exfoliating soap bars, or use to scrub your dishes like a dishcloth!

Scarifying Luffa Seeds - Luffa seeds have a very hard shell that soaking alone takes a long time to penetrate.  I prefer to scarify the seeds by carefully nicking off a corner of the edge of the seed.  This allows water to get in and start the seed faster.  

Soaking Luffa Seeds - Once the seeds are nicked or scarified, I soak them in a glass of water for 24 hours before planting in moist, warm soil.  

Germinated Luffa Seeds - If you are in a cooler climate, you will need to place a warming mat below the seeds to keep the temperature between 72 and 80 degrees in order for the seeds to germinate.  We live in sunny California and I have also taken an extra gourd or loofa fruit and buried it in compost directly in the garden - but sometimes that way can take a year or more before the seeds sprout.  (I started cacao seeds that way - it took a few months before they started!)  The best way to start the plants is to scarify, soak and plant in warm soil in your backyard garden, provide a trellis and protect from cold and the seeds should sprout in 10-14 days.

Harvesting Luffa is rather simple as it just needs to dry and keep them on the plant as long as possible.  This will vary according to where you live, but I have found the biggest gourds take a full year to mature.  Let the vine wither or harvest when you can no longer protect the fruits from frost.  Cut the fruit from the vine and let dry thoroughly.  Once dried, the skin can be peeled off the loofah and the seeds shaken out.  

Making Soap with a Loofah is as simple as cutting the loofah in horizontal slices and placing them in the mold that the soap will be poured into.  When the soap has cured the resultant luffa soap bar will be amazing for a scrub for rough feet and to remove dead skin.  The luffa soap in the above picture is made with a soap made with charcoal and frankincense (thus the dark color!)

Can Luffa grow in a pot?  Luffa should be planted in the ground or, possibly a huge pot - but  I cannot imagine it growing well without a large area of soil.  It can be a very large plant that needs a lot of soil to support it nutritionally.

How Long does a Loofah Last?  When a Loofah is left out to dry in its casing, it will actually last for years!  The picture below shows a loofah that I harvested after five years of sitting in the greenhouse!  It was drying out too much and beginning to disintegrate, though, so I wouldn't wait that long next time!

Dried Too Long Luffa

Dried Too Long Luffa


References:

1.) Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth 2002 Seed Savers Exchange (I only got a little info from here, but if you want to save seeds, this reference is the best I have found to make it easy for a beginner to start with!)


YOUR FOOD FOREST SoCalGardenHealth exists to give you control of your health.  One of the


(Withania Somnifera) Indian Adaptogenic herb Helps the body adapt to stress! Aswagandha (Withania Somnifera) RestorationSeeds.com  is


Any gardening success I have had...Is because of COMPOST!60lb Pumpkin grown in compostThe Carbon Cycle"...the

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Genovese Basil

We are looking to expand our repertoire of beneficial interactions between plants in a Permaculture model.  Last year we planted Basil on the North side of a young Grapefruit tree – both flourished!  The Grapefruit tree consistently has more new leaves than any of our other citrus and the Basil has produced all year and even through our (very mild) winter!

Another idea for summertime abundance is Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes – sooooo yummy – and

worth the wait!
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Roasted Tomatoes as Pizza Sauce

Ideally, cut Cherry Tomatoes in half (Picture above shows them baked whole and then cut to make them cook faster.   Still yummy, but cook faster and have more uses cut in half.) and place in pan lined lightly with Olive Oil.

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Place the cut side up so the tomatoes are like little bowls.
Season with Salt, Pepper and herbs like Thyme or Oregano and maybe a touch of Balsamic Vinegar.
Bake at 250° for @ 3 hours.

May be stored in the fridge 2-3 weeks with Olive Oil poured over the Roasted tomatoes, frozen, or dehydrated further to last longer.

As a sickly teen, mom introduced me to fasting,  nutrition and showed me how to get my health back.  This started my lifelong quest for optimal health. Continually in school  (right now at Huntington University of Health Sciences, the only accredited school of nutrition in the US), with a passion to stay up on current research.   


Science plus Practical Application = the best of both worlds.

Passionate to give people tools to help them enjoy their best health!  

Cynthia Cruz ‧ Author

Today is March 29th. In Southern California we have Tomato plants that survived the winter, fully mature Cabbage, Chives, Cilantro plants and Brussels Sprouts Kept small by a wild bunny. In a quandary about what to make for a quick, healthful lunch for our children and I, I threw this together and it was a big hit! Enjoy!

1/2 C. Mini Brussels Sprouts (about a handful)

1/2 C. Rapini

2 Tomatoes, chopped

2 Chives, chopped

Clove Garlic, pressed

2 Red Jalapenos, roasted, peeled, with seeds removed

2 Tbsp Butter

Soy Sauce

Brown Rice, cooked

Hamburger or Chicken, chopped small (leftover from last night’s dinner @ 1/2lb

Chop the prepared Jalapenos. Stir-Fry all veggies in the Butter. Add Soy Sauce. Add Brown Rice and meat. Heat Thoroughly and serve with quartered (seeds removed) Red Pepper. Yum!

Quick and Easy, yet everyone loved it!

Toma Verde Tomatillo

The Story

Ugly little red dots all over the leaves of my one tomatillo plant.  
One site recommended destroying the plant! 

Let me tell you what happened...

Red Mites on Tomatillos:

As I saw the little red dots all over the leaves of my one tomatillo plant I was heartbroken.  Up until this point it had been a gorgeous plant and amazingly green - maybe because it had followed a crop of peas that fixed nitrogen for the tomatillo!


Mental note:  Follow peas with tomatillos for extra nitrogen uptake!


The red mites left their damage and made a few leaves look more white than green... the white was like a web up close.  Research revealed the white was the damage the red mites leave behind ~ one site recommended destroying the plant!


I had unsuccessfully tried three times to start tomatillos from seed this year - destroying the one plant of three batches that survived was not an option!


Chemical pesticide sprays are also not an option!

The Solution:

Water turned out to be all it needed!  

Further research revealed that red mites thrive in very dry environments ~ and can be drowned with sufficient water.
A short hose covered the South side of the plant revealing no red mites(!) during the evening inspection.
I also watered deeply and sprayed the tomatillo plant again in the middle of the hot day.

The Tomatillo plant ended up producing a few large harvests very late in the season!

End Note: When we dug up the tomatillo at the end of the season, we found roots from a palm tree on the other side of the fence had been sucking up all the tomatillo's water!

I am so glad we didn't use pesticides or even pull the plant as one website had recommended!  That tomatillo produced an amazing quantity of delicious salsa that year!

Salsa

Red Tomato From Garden
Green Wet Tomatoes

Green Wet Tomatoes

Red Tomato From Garden

Red Tomato From Garden

Heirloom Tomatoes

Ahh, Tomatoes!!  Could we ever really produce enough to have extra for selling after eating them in the garden AND bringing them in for sandwiches AND making tomato sauce AND sharing with our neighbors?!

This year I thought it would happen.  The plants from last year survived the winter by covering the plants with blankets when frost threatened...

Can Tomato Plants Survive the Winter?

California winters are usually pretty mild, but covering a tomato plant helped ours survived three frosty nights!

Only a few tomato leaf tips succumbed to frost-bite and the rest of the plants produced tomatoes VERY early in the season to get us through until the new plants began producing.

What to do with Too many Tomatoes:

Now we are gathering handfuls of large, red tomatoes every day!  There are the two types that I planted ~ an heirloom variety with a funny shape and yummy flavor, and a beefsteak tomato that I got from a friend and saved the seeds from.  There are also some volunteer cherry tomatoes (here is a delicious idea for when you have an abundance!) and funny pear-shaped tomatoes that appeared near the neighbor's fence about 15' from the main tomato plant garden!

Six days later we are having an abundant harvest of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes!  We always set aside one as a tomatillo salsa ingredient!

How to Handle End Rot

We had a wild tomato plant growing, but the ends were hard and black.  Looking it up, it said bottom end rot may be from a deficiency of calcium in the soil.

We crushed eggshells and watered them well into the soil.  The next tomatoes to come out were healthy and prolific!

Is this further proof of the Health of the Soil being critical?!  I am so amazed at how many plant issues can be solved by the simple addition of crushed eggshells and/or compost!

Rotten Tomatoes

Overcome by processing this abundance, I left a bag of imperfect ones for too many days.  Interestingly, below a smelly pile of soft, moldy tomatoes was a perfect, unmarred tomato!  

Is this further proof of the Health of the Host being the most important factor?!  

As a sickly teen, mom introduced me to fasting,  nutrition and showed me how to get my health back.  This started my lifelong quest for optimal health. Continually in school  (right now at Huntington University of Health Sciences, the only accredited school of nutrition in the US), with a passion to stay up on current research.   


Science plus Practical Application = the best of both worlds.

Passionate to give people tools to help them enjoy their best health!  

Cynthia Cruz ‧ Author

Today, July 1, 2011, I harvested our little (big for us!) plot of onions.  In a 4′ x 8′ space there were 24 pulled at harvest time, about 5 pulled earlier in the season to eat as needed, and three remaining to reproduce for next year.  One of those has begun to form seeds and another looks like it is beginning to produce bulbs underground by splitting into many.

The onions that were planted closest to a two-story building got considerably less sun and it is visible in the size of the bulbs ~ they are MUCH smaller.  Earlier in the season, the shorter daylight exposure slowed the formation of bulbs making the onions look like humungous chives!

Health of the Host

Why a virus doesn't make everyone sick

The above video is one section of Module 1 in a 12 Module Course we created to help your young people learn REAL Health.  If you are interested in more information on our courses, click here.

Health of the Host

Why a virus doesn't make everyone sick

We don't always get sick when we encounter a virus.  Why not?  Sometimes the most important thing is not the virus we encounter, but how healthy the host is.

What if you are the host.  Your body is the host to trillions of bacteria - more bacteria than you have cells in your body!  Did you know that is true?  Keeping  the balance of bacteria in your body to favor the beneficial bacteria is what keeps us healthy; this is what,  in my opinion is more important than the virus you may be exposed to.  Here's an example from our mini-farm to demonstrate why...

Do Antibiotics prevent coccidosis?

We were told to use antibiotics in the chick feed... but we chose a more natural route...

When our family got chickens.  Learning to care for them naturally was a priority.  We wanted to have healthy chickens, but we were told antibiotics were necessary to prevent problems.  We decided to do all we could to promote beneficial bacteria and none of the things (like antibiotics) that could destroy beneficial bacteria in order to strengthen the health of the host - our chickens' hosts.  Read on to learn what happened!

What is Coccidosis?

Coccidosis is  not an issue with proper management practices...

Coccidosis has been shown to be a parasite that feeds on the host of a particular animal.  For example, with our chickens, coccidosis caused a couple to die in the early years.  But we found that over time by focusing on a variety of animals in our yard.  Coccidosis is the biggest problem when a parasite can jump from one host - or chicken - to the next host.  Because we didn't have hundreds or thousands of chickens at one time, and they are free to roam a relatively large area, natural management practices made coccidosis on our mini-farm a non-issue.  Giving our chickens room to roam and promoting beneficial bacteria, we never had another health issue with our chickens over the 15 years we had chickens.

health of the host Management Practices

Ways you can encourage beneficial bacteria in your yard.

Pay Dirt by J.I. Rodale is an amazing book because it helped me to make the quantum leap to thinking about gardening in terms of how healthy I can make the soil. Traditional gardeners and farmers think about how to increase N-P-K values to raise better crops. A beginner in organic gardening thinks in terms of N-P-K in the addition of bat guano – bone meal – ash. Pay Dirt helped me to grasp that the quantity of these elements is not as important if the soil is truly healthy. Creating compost from a variety of materials can provide the microorganisms and “biologic life” that is what makes uptake of nutrients in the plant so much greater ~ even when less N-P-K is measurable.  Could it be that, just like in the soil, the beneficial bacteria or biologic life in our bodies keeps the "bad bacteria" in check and plays a larger role in our level of health than previously believed?!  Promoting beneficial Bacteria is just one way we keep our host healthy!


For another way to avoid what might kill beneficial bacteria, see "Grow Your Own"

or

For specifics on Antibiotics and 5 reasons we need probiotics...