TJ’s Lazy, Kicked-Up Tomato and Red Bell Pepper Soup

I don’t get sick often, but when I do it kicks my ass.  During my infirmity I find it hard to eat, let alone cook. If I have to cook while sick, I want it to take as little time as possible and not accrue many dishes at the end.  This is why I take a break from preparing my food from scratch and employ the help of Trader Joe.  I like Trader Joe’s because they do not have artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. They also have a very nice selection of organic foods.

With this (sort of) recipe, I took one of their pre-packaged soups and made it even better.


1 container Trader Joe’s Low-Sodium Tomato and Red Bell Pepper Soup

Dollop of Trader Joe’s Organic 0% Fat Greek Yogurt

1 T. Chopped Trader Joe’s Chives

about 1/4 tsp or to taste Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Hot Sauce


  1. Heat the soup according to the directions on the container.
  2. When proper soup temperature is achieved, ladle soup into bowls.
  3. Garnish with a dollop of greek yogurt topped with the chives.
  4. Lightly drizzle hot sauce. (This will make it look fancy and it makes me feel a little less sick)

Enjoy and be well!


Crockpot Vegetarian Borscht

Crockpot Vegetarian Borscht

Crockpot Vegetarian Borscht


2 bunches red beets

3/4 lb red potatoes

1 large yellow onion

4 cups vegetarian broth

1 plum tomato (seeded)

3 cups green cabbage (shredded finely)

1/4 cup fresh dill, with extra reserved for garnish

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Lemon wedges for garnish

Non-Fat Greek yogurt, optional (I always use this instead of sour cream, but you can use whichever you like… or not at all)


1. Remove tops from and peel beets. If the beets are larger than two inches, halve them.

2. In the following order place beets, potato, onion, tomato, and broth into the crockpot.

3. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 8 hours.

4. Using a blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth. Please do this in small batches and take care not to burn yourself. The soup will be quite hot.  Put the processed soup back into the crockpot and mix in the cabbage.

5. Cook in the crockpot on high for an additional 45 minutes.

6. Add the 1/4 cup dill, red wine vinegar and lemon juice.

7. Serve with a dollop of the non-fat Greek yogurt and a sprig of dill.



A little less than a year ago, I was laid off from a very demanding job. Having loads of extra time on my hands was driving me crazy, so I decided that I needed more hobbies. I decided that I wanted to brew something, but did not want to commit to expensive equipment. Furthermore, I wanted my end product to be good for me.

Kombucha is cheap and simple to make, delicious, and contains probiotics and vitamins! What’s not to love?

The following recipe will yield 1 gallon. You can adjust the recipe as you wish.

What You Need:

Filtered or pure water

6-8 tea bags

1 cup sugar

1 Scoby Culture (find one here!)

1 Stock Pot

1 gallon glass jar or two 2-quart glass jars muslin, cheesecloth, coffee filter rubber band

Multiple Bottles: Six 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids, 6 swing-top bottles, or clean soda bottles (I reuse glass bottles from the carbonated spring water I drink)

1 Funnel

Fermenting Instructions

  1. Bring 3 quarts of filtered water to a boil. (I have used unfiltered tap water from my parents’ 550ft bedrock well and the kombucha was great — just be sure to filter your water if you live in a city or if your well water is questionable)  Remove from heat.
  2. Next, add tea bags into the hot water. . Steep for at least 15 minutes (for a more for a full-bodied tea flavor, steep longer). You may use a naturally decaffeinated type tea or a regular caffeine containing tea. Black and green versions work best, but you may wish to experiment with other teas as well. Some herbal teas are okay, but others contain oils which harm scobies. (My favorite kind of tea for kombucha is a green and jasmine tea blend.)
  3. Now add in 1 cup of sugar and dissolve completely.
  4. Allow the tea/sugar solution to cool to room temperature – a neutral feeling to your skin. Be sure to keep the solution covered because this is the stage of preparation where the brew can easily become contaminated.
  5. Pour room temperature tea/sugar solution into your very clean culturing container/vessel.
  6. Now add your room temperature Kombucha SCOBY to the brew. It may or may not sink to the bottom of the vessel and this is perfectly fine.
  7. Next, add some room temperature Kombucha tea from a previously brewed batch to the culturing
  8. Top off with room temperature, clean or filtered water, if needed.

NOTE: If you do not have kombucha tea from a previous batch, you may wish to add a 1/4 cup of room temperature distilled white vinegar to the tea solution to help reduce the pH level. This acidic vinegar will keep your brew safe from internal or external pathogens. Living apple cider vinegar will NOT work for this process and will compete with the SCOBY during the culturing process.

9.  Next, cover your brewing vessel with a clean, natural cloth/towel, unbleached paper towel or coffee filter, or several layers of unbleached cheese cloth to protect it from invading pathogens.

10.  Set your brew aside in a warm, quiet, undisturbed space – on top of your refrigerator is a great place. The newly forming SCOBY can easily break apart with too much movement of the liquid, so be patient. The more the SCOBY breaks apart, the more difficult it is for it to form and complete the culturing process.

11.  Allow the brew to ferment for at least 6 – 8 days at a consistent temperature of 80 degrees. If your home or brewing environment is in the 70 degree range, allow your brew to culture for at least 8-14 days. It is NOT ideal to culture kombucha or any other cultured food at 60 degrees or below.  (I usually sample the kombucha starting at day 6.) When the kombucha is the desired sweetness/tartness it is time to bottle or drink it!

Bottling Instructions:

Note: Do NOT use bottles with metal parts that are exposed to the kombucha.

Before you touch your SCOBY, wash your hands and sanitize with a white vinegar rinse Sanitize clean bottles with white vinegar

  1. With Sanitized hands, reach into the container and remove the mother and baby SCOBY.
  2. Place the mother and baby into a clean and sanitized glass jar and add about 2/3 cup of the kombucha.  Your next batch will be reset with this.
  3. Using the funnel, fill the bottles at most 1/2 inch from the top.  The less space you have, the more carbonated your Kombucha will turn out. However, The higher you fill the bottle, the more likely you are going to need to burp your kombucha to relieve the gas bubbles a bit.
  4. Once you have filled your kombucha bottles, place the lid on your kombucha.

a. You can drink Kombucha as-is. It will have less fizz but will still be delicious!

b. You can cap the kombucha and store in a warm, dark place and allow it to sit for 2-3 days.  This will create a really fizzy kombucha.

c. You can make kombucha  “soda” by adding fruit, juices, ginger, etc. Then letting the kombucha sit in the bottles for 2-3 days.


Healthy SCOBY cultures

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns about your SCOBY, Kombucha, etc. I am happy to help!

Crockpot Paleo Butternut Squash Soup

I am not into the paleo diet.
Being vegetarian, it would be difficult undertaking.
However, this is one recipe that is Paleo, healthy, vegetarian, and delicious.

1 large butternut squash (approximately 6 cups cubed)
1 3/4 cup coconut milk.
2 cups of vegetable stock (I made my own)
1 granny smith apple, cored, and cubed.
2 carrots, chopped into 1 inch sections
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
(makes about 2 quarts of soup)

1. Throw all of the ingredients into the crockpot and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours.
2. Purée using a blender or food processor (You might want to allow it to cool a little before doing this step)
2. Enjoy!

Paleo Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients before I say goodnight!

Sunday Morning 100% Buckwheat Pancakes

Once a week I like to take a detour from my morning smoothie.

100% Buckwheat pancakes are my special, weekly treat. But buckwheat is by no means a junk food. According to, It contains all eight essential amino acids, including lysine, and tons of fiber!

1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 T. olive oil
2 cups buttermilk (I never have buttermilk on hand so I just squeeze the juice of one lemon and top off with milk to 2 cups.)

  1. Heat the pan on medium heat.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk.
  3. Slowly mix in the oil and buttermilk — DO NOT overmix! Some lumps are ok!
  4. Oil the hot pan and ladle the batter onto it in whatever formation you desire.
  5. The pancake should be done after 2-3 minutes. My Poppie’s trick was to flip the pancake when you could see bubbles on the surface.
  6. Serve plain,  with butter and maple syrup, plain yogurt and syrup, fruit, or whatever you are craving! Be sure to keep hydrated as these are high-fiber and “cleansing.”
Buckwheat Pancakes

Ian likes me to add mashed banana, dark chocolate pieces, and walnuts. We call them “Monkey Pancakes.”

Super Easy Crockpot Vegetable Broth

This is the base I use for all of my soups. It is light, easy, and delicious!

1 T. Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
2 medium, yellow onions, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 garlic gloves, unpeeled and crushed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. crushed black pepper
8 cups water
2 tsp. liquid aminos (use can also use tamari or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp. salt (optional, I usually do not bother)

1. Drizzle the oil on the bottom of a 4-6 quart slow cooker.
2. Add the ingredients to the crockpot, liquids last.
3. Cover and cook on low for 8 to ten hours.
4. Allow stock to cool for a couple of hours.
5. Strain cooled stock through a fine, mesh sieve into a container.
6. Stock can be stored in tightly sealed container for a few days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.