Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ratatouille (nutrient-dense : dairy-free : grain-free)

Ratatouille (pronounced rat-uh-too-ee) is a perfect summertime side dish. French in origin, ratatouille consists of seasonal vegetables including zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes, simmered with olive oil and herbs.  One of my favorite things about ratatouille is that it is just as delicious when served cold as when served warm. I make up a large pot of ratatouille and then eat it as an easy, cool side dish throughout the rest of the week.

Traditionally, ratatouille contains eggplant, but since no one in my family likes eggplant, I make my ratatouille without it.

Serves 4-6
  • 6 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (red, orange, and/or yellow peppers work well in this dish)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped 
  • 2 yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp celtic sea salt (or less if your tomatoes are salted)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • one 18-ounce jar of Jovial diced tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 Tb fresh oregano, minced (or substitute 1 tsp dried oregano)
  • 2 Tb red wine vinegar (or substitute 1 Tb balsamic vinegar and 1 Tb apple cider vinegar)
  1. Put the olive oil in a 4-quart, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onions, 1 tsp salt, and bay leaf. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the bell peppers, zucchini, and squash. Keep the peppers separated from the squash since they will be added to the pot at different times.
  3. Stir the bell peppers into the pot and cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mince the garlic.
  5. Add the zucchini and summer squash to the pot, and sprinkle with the other 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir it all together and cook about 3 more minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, mince the oregano.
  7. Stir the garlic into the pot and cook about 2 minutes, just until the garlic is nicely fragrant.
  8. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and oregano to the pot. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low, to maintain a simmer. 
  9. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.
  10. Turn off heat and serve! Fried potatoes make a nice pairing with ratatouille. Leftover ratatouille is fantastic when served cold.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Hawaiian Chicken Long Rice (grain-free : dairy-free : gluten-free)

Chicken Long Rice is a simple, delicious Hawaiian dish. Chicken thighs are simmered in ginger-and-garlic infused chicken broth, with green onions and bean thread (cellophane) noodles added at the end. My 7-year-old son declared this to be the "best soup he's ever had," and the rest of us really enjoyed it too.

Chicken Long Rice
Recipe adapted from
Serves 5-7
  1. Combine the broth, water, garlic, ginger, salt, and chicken thighs in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam.
  3. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Allow the chicken to cook for 35-40 minutes, until fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the green onions, separating the green parts from the white parts. Slice the white parts about 1/4-inch wide, and the green parts about 1/2-inch wide.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool.
  6. Stir the soy sauce, cayenne, and rice vinegar into the broth in the pot. Taste the broth and add more salt as needed.
  7. Add the white parts of the green onions and the noodles to the pot. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  8. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the bones and chewy bits. Discard most of the skin (or set it aside for the dog!). Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces.
  9. Add the chicken and onion greens to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook just long enough to re-warm the chicken. 
  10. Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Desk Cycle - Easy Physical Activity Booster For Desk Workers

The Desk Cycle is a small stationary bike that fits under most desks. It allows a person to easily incorporate physical activity into times that would normally be sedentary, such as reading a book, watching TV, or while working on the computer.  I received a complimentary Desk Cycle and my family has been testing it out for the last few weeks.

The Desk Cycle has turned out to be useful to all four members of our family, so I'm excited to share our experiences with it. In this post I will focus specifically on the use of the Desk Cycle by my husband and myself while working on a computer. In a separate post, I will share our experiences using the Desk Cycle while homeschooling.

Our Immediate Impressions

The Desk Cycle was well-packed and easy to assemble with the supplied tools. Given that there are so many poorly made products on the market these days, we were surprised by how well-built the desk cycle is. It is sturdy and has rubberized feet that keep it from slipping away while being used, though at higher resistance levels the bike can slide away if it's on a smooth surface. There is a simple solution included with the Desk Cycle, a Velcro strap used to secure the bike to your chair.

The Desk Cycle is amazingly quiet while in-use; we were able to use it unobtrusively while doing a variety of tasks. The Desk Cycle has an attached display unit that shows the speed and distance, along with other information. We have found the display unit to be easily read while the bike is under a desk, however, the display unit can be moved to the desktop using the supplied stand and extension cable.

Fitting the Desk Cycle Under Desks

For reference, we thought it would be useful if we included some measurements of our desks and legs. I am fairly short at 5 feet 1 inch, but my legs are a little long for my height such that petite pants are always too short for me. My inseam (from crotch to floor) is just short of 30 inches. My husband is 5 feet 10.5 inches, and his inseam is 32.5 inches.

At-Home Desk Measurements

  • Height to bottom of keyboard tray - 23.75 inches 
  • Desk height - 28.75 inches 
  • Depth of desk - 23.75 inches without keyboard tray extended; 32 inches with keyboard tray fully extended 
  • Seat height - 20 inches 
Husband's Work Desk Measurements
  • Height to bottom of keyboard tray - 26 inches (it has a support arm in the middle of the tray that extends downward, but doesn't seem to have any effect on using the Desk Cycle since it is in the middle of the tray) 
  • Desk height - 30 inches 
  • Depth of desk - > 5 feet since it is a corner desk Seat ht: 18 inches

How Does the Desk Cycle Work?

The Desk Cycle is quite simple to use. It has a knob that allows the user to easily choose among eight resistance levels. The resistance levels are actually achieved through the use of magnets, with Level 1 being fairly easy and Level 8 requiring quite a bit of effort.  The Desk Cycle fits well under most desks but can also be used while sitting on a couch or chair away from a desk.

My Husband's Experience Using the Desk Cycle at Home and Work

My husband has to be a little careful when using the Desk Cycle at our home desk, as he can bump his knees on the keyboard tray while cycling if he's not paying attention. For him, the Desk Cycle actually fits better under his desk at work than under our desk at home. At work, he is able to easily cycle without hitting his knees on his desk due to a combination of a higher keyboard tray and lower seating position.

The desk cycle is so easy to use while working that my husband has had to be careful to not use it too much, at least until his muscles become accustomed to it. He has been easily cycling about 5-8 miles per day at resistance level 2 on the Desk Cycle and is looking forward to going further once he is ready. His knees, which have always been problematic, were initially a bit sore from using the Desk Cycle, but they are getting into the groove of being able to use the Desk Cycle.

We wondered if the Desk Cycle would be a useful tool to help my husband overcome the disadvantages of his desk job. 40+ hours per week of sitting at his desk for over 11 years have given my husband chronically tight, weak lower back and hip muscles. After just a few weeks of using the Desk Cycle, my husband is able to tell that it is having a positive impact; his lower back and hips are more flexible and feel stronger. Though he has a long way to go, the short-term improvement has been surprising. Combining the Desk Cycle with some yoga stretching has even allowed him to begin doing some light strength training, which was previously hindered by his back and hips.

My Experience Using the Desk Cycle at the Computer Desk

I typically exercise 6-7 days per week with yoga, walking, hiking, gardening, and/or strength training. Nonetheless, I do sit at a desk ~15-20 hours per week. Our at-home desk, where I do most of my blogging and homeopathic consulting, works well for me with the Desk Cycle. I can easily cycle without having to rearrange anything.  

Resistance level 2 or 3 works well for me without breaking much of a sweat or messing up my typing abilities. My posture is actually much better while using the Desk Cycle, as I tend to sit up much straighter while cycling instead of slouching on my chair. Typically, if I am sitting for an extended period of time I will have some stiffness when I stand up, but I've noticed that if I cycle while I'm sitting I feel much less stiff when I stand up. 

Overall Impressions

Overall, my husband and I are very pleased with the Desk Cycle. It is a fabulous tool for helping us increase our physical activity levels and improve our physical health while at a desk. Although my husband and I have substantially different levels of physical health, the Desk Cycle has proven to be effective and enjoyable for both of us. In fact, the only real disadvantage is that testing out the Desk Cycle has made me want to have another one, so that one can remain at my husband's workplace and one can be used at home.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hawaiian BBQ Huli Huli Chicken (gluten-free : dairy-free : nutrient-dense)

The last stop on our homeschool "trip" around the USA is Hawaii. In searching around for Hawaiian recipes, I found Huli Huli chicken, which is the Hawaiian version of BBQ chicken. The BBQ sauce is actually quite similar to teriyaki sauce, but with the unlikely addition of ketchup.  I developed this Hawaiian-inspired recipe for Huli Huli Chicken last week, and my family absolutely devoured it. This is a recipe we'll definitely be coming back to again and again.

Huli Huli Chicken

Serves 4-6
  1. At least 8 hours before dinner, prepare the marinade. Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, stir well, and give a few minutes for all of the dry ingredients to dissolve and become incorporated. 
  2. Stir up the marinade and reserve 1 cup which will be used to make the basting sauce. 
  3. De-bone the chicken thighs. There is a simple tutorial here that shows how to remove the bones. (I save and freeze the chicken thigh bones until I have accumulated enough of them to make a pot of homemade chicken bone broth.)
  4. Cut the de-boned chicken thighs in half. This allows the chicken to have more contact with the marinade and also allows it to cook faster.
  5. Nestle the chicken into the remaining marinade, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. Cover and refrigerate for ~8 hours (and refrigerate the reserved marinade as well).
  6. About 35 minutes before dinnertime, remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Make sure the oven rack is around the second rack of the oven from the top, not too close to the broiler but also not down in the lower half of the oven.
  8. Put the reserved cup of marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon.
  9. Generously grease a baker's half sheet pan with sunflower oil.
  10. Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange it on the sheet pan, skin side down. 
  11. Once the oven is preheated, place the chicken pan in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  12. Remove the sheet pan from the oven, baste the chicken with the thickened sauce, and flip the chicken over. Baste the chicken again and place back in the oven.
  13. Set the oven on broil and allow the chicken to cook for 6-8 minutes. The broiler will nicely crisp up the chicken skin, but be sure to watch the chicken CLOSELY to make sure it does not get burned. 
  14. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before serving. If desired, the remaining thickened sauce can be served alongside the chicken.
  15. Serve and enjoy! Nutrient-dense white rice or pineapple coconut rice (recipe coming soon!) would make a great side dish for this meal.

Do you have a favorite Hawaiian-inspired recipe?

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Homeopathic Ignatia - Remedy for Grief, Heartbreak, Homesickness, Disappointment, and Emotional Stress

If I could have have just one homeopathic remedy on-hand for acute emotional stresses, it would be Ignatia amara. From grief to homesickness to disappointment, this remedy is indispensable for many of life's emotional stresses. Like all homeopathic remedies, Ignatia works by stimulating the body to fix whatever is wrong, be that on the emotional, mental, or physical level. Rather than suppressing symptoms like conventional medicines do, homeopathic remedies actually work with the body to heal the underlying problem. In the wake of an emotional stress, Ignatia can help the body and emotions become re-balanced, just as they should be.

Emotional Stressors

Ignatia is known to help with the following types of emotional stress:

  • Grief, such as after the death of a loved one or pet
  • Heartbreak or relationship troubles
  • Homesickness
  • Disappointment or failure
  • Hearing bad news
  • Worrying about a loved one, such as following a specific event such as a car crash or medical diagnosis)

Symptoms That Often Point to Ignatia

Some of the symptoms that may be present when a person will benefit from Ignatia include the following. These symptoms do NOT have to be present in order for Ignatia to be indicated, as they represent just a few of the many possible symptoms that can indicate Ignatia.
  • Sighing and/or yawning
  • Sensation of lump in throat or stomach
  • Mood swings or alternations/mingling of tears and gaiety
  • Unexpressed emotions (silent, withdrawn)
  • Paradoxical symptoms (sore throat relieved by swallowing, toothache relieved by chewing, etc.)
  • Any symptoms that appear in the wake of an emotional stress (grief, heartbreak, loss, etc.)

Success With Ignatia for Emotional Stresses

Some examples of using Ignatia for acute emotional stress from the homeopathic literature include the following:

  • "I was called to a young girl who during several weeks had vomited frequently and who was rapidly losing strength and weight. She told me that she had no pain in the stomach or anywhere else... Her illness had followed a grave mental upset. Since then she would not speak to anyone, had become very morose, and she wept often. These happen to be the leading symptoms of Ignatia. She was therefore given... Ignatia..., and immediately the vomiting came to an end, and the girl lost her melancholy disposition and became perfectly normal." [Materia Medica Viva, Vol. 12]
  • "One thin, nervous, alabaster-pale girl of twelve, suffering from growing pains in the legs, had not been placed in the honor section of her class. High expectations of herself had been cultivated by her parents, so she was mortified and began to feel an aversion to everything connected with her school... a dose of Ignatia... was prescribed. Shortly afterwards, one evening at dinner, she volunteered, 'You know, I'm really glad I didn't make the fast track in school. Now I have more time for extracurricular activities. I've signed up for drama and glee club, and I think I'm going to love them!' Thus, instead of brooding on her failure... she cheerfully and confidently went on to something else." [Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines, Vol. 2]
  • "Another Ignatia-requiring situation is homesickness, as was perceived in the case of the ten-year-old... boy at camp, who begged his mother to please let him come home... The ... mother sent her son some Ignatia instead, to be taken twice a day until he felt better. After several days, there were no more pathetic phone calls and the parents received a bracing postcard: 'The food here is wonderful, the activities are just great, and my cabin leader is a real neat guy!' " [Homoeopathic Sketches of Children's Types]
In my own family, Ignatia has worked well for various emotional stresses in daily life. One such example was a couple years ago, when one of my daughter's chickens was taken ill. That same night, my daughter was suddenly ill, with a high fever and by the following day she was quite ill. Ignatia proved to be the right remedy for her, and quickly cleared up her acute illness.  On subsequent questioning, my daughter told me that she had been worried that her chicken was going to die.

Since then, there have been several other times when my daughter has felt grief over animals dying, and I've been able to give her Ignatia earlier before any physical symptoms have developed. I've used Ignatia for myself, as well, at times when I've had large disappointments that I kept dwelling on, and other times when there has been loss or grief. Each time, Ignatia has allowed me to quickly get out of the rut I was becoming mired in, and  re-normalize my emotional state. 

Dosage and Potency Guidance

I generally use homeopathic Ignatia in the 30c potency for treating acute emotional events. When used very soon after the precipitating event, typically only one dose is needed for the body to restore balance. When there has been a time lapse between the event and the usage of Ignatia, sometimes more than one dose is needed.

With all homeopathic remedies, the least number of doses is always the best.  Homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body to heal itself. Anytime there is a noticeable improvement, no more doses should be given unless the symptoms start to regress (or unless there is a plateau, where the symptoms get better to a point but then stop improving). And if no improvement is observed within 3 doses of taking a remedy, the remedy should be discontinued.

While Ignatia typically works quite well for treating acute emotional events, in cases of long-standing feelings of grief or loss the selection of the appropriate remedy is typically more complex. Ignatia might still be helpful in those instances, but often the chronic state will instead morph into needing a different remedy such as Natrum mur, Phosphoric acid, or Aurum metallicum


[1] Vithoulkas, George, Materia Medica Viva, Vol. 12, pp. 2677-2723, International Academy of Classical Homeopathy, Alonissos, Greece 2009.
[2] Coulter, Catherine R., Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines, Vol. 2, pp. 107-151, North Atlantic Books, California, USA 1988.
[3] Coulter, Catherine R., Homoeopathic Sketches of Children's Types, pp. 163-168, Ninth House Publishing, West Virginia, USA 2001.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are provided for educational use only.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Review Request: My eCookbooks on Amazon

My two eCookbooks are now for sale on Amazon.  Will any of you who have enjoyed my cookbooks and/or recipes please leave a review on Amazon?  Here are links to each of the cookbooks:
Nourishing Eats
Nourished Cooking

And for those of you who have not bought my cookbooks, the prices are now quite low on Amazon. Nourishing Eats, released in 2012, is now only $6.99. Nourished Cooking, released in 2013, is only $7.99. The recipes in these cookbooks are free of refined sweeteners and gluten, and nearly all of them are grain-free as well. Both of my eCookbooks are perfect for those who eat:
  • traditional, real foods
  • whole foods
  • gluten-free diets
  • grain-free diets
  • Primal diet
  • GAPS™ Diet
  • Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Nourished Cooking

Nourishing Eats

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Blini - Russian Pancakes - With Savory or Sweet Toppings (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Blini - I had never heard of these thin Russian pancakes before our homeschool world studies last fall.  Now blini are an adored recipe in our household, and everyone is excited for Blini Night. On Blini Night, I work at the stove, cooking the blinis, while everyone keeps coming back for more. We have both savory and sweet toppings ready, and it feels like a simple feast.

For the savory blini, we use sour cream with smoked salmon, thinly-sliced cucumbers, capers, and green onions. Our sweet blinis are topped with sour cream and jam, honey, or strawberries. Sour cream, salmon, and honey are all traditional Russian foods, so these toppings work well for our Russian-inspired meals.   

Traditionally, blini are made with either buckwheat or wheat flour. Since two members of our household are still most often avoiding gluten, and tolerate other grains to varying degrees, I make our blini primarily with white rice flour. Tapioca starch is used to give the blini a bit of holding power, since blini made with only rice flour break very easily. Milk kefir gives these blini a fantastic taste.

Blini - Russian Pancakes

Makes 12-14 blini

For the Blini:
  1. Combine the white rice flour, tapioca starch, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine. 
  2. In a small bowl, beat two eggs with a fork.  Add the milk kefir and stir well to combine.
  3. Using a hand mixer or whisk, mix the kefir mixture into the flour mixture.
  4. Mix in the 2 Tb melted butter.
  5. Set aside the blini batter for 10 minutes.
  6. In the meantime prepare the toppings (ingredients listed below).
  7. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. I like to use a cast iron skillet to cook the blini.
  8. Melt some butter in the skillet, coating the bottom of the skillet well. Use a 1/4 cup of batter for each blini (a 1/4 measuring cup works well for this). Immediately after pouring the batter into the skillet, give the skillet a gentle swirl to allow the batter to spread out. 
  9. Cook the blini until golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes), then add more butter to the skillet and flip the blini. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Top the blini with savory or sweet toppings and enjoy!
Savory Blini Toppings:
  • sour cream
  • smoked salmon
  • green onions, green parts only, sliced thinly
  • thinly sliced cucumbers
  • capers
  1. Start by spreading the sour cream over the blini, then add the rest of the toppings. 
  2. If desired, fold the blini over the toppings.

Sweet Blini Toppings:
  • sour cream
  • honey
  • jam
  • strawberries
  1. Start by spreading the sour cream over the blini.
  2. Add jam or honey, and fresh strawberries if desired.  
  3. If desired, fold the blini over the toppings.

Affiliate Disclosure - Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site! 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Scotcheroos (gluten-free)

I have fond memories of one particular item that was part of the school lunch program when I was a kid. It was a peanut butter bar, covered in chocolate, and I was always so happy on the days it was served. I never knew the name this dessert until recently, when I was researching recipes for the midwestern United States. I kept seeing Scotcheroos mentioned, and I was gleefully surprised to see that Scotcheroos were the treasured relic from my childhood cafeteria!

Most Scotcheroo recipes are loaded with high fructose corn syrup combined with butterscotch chips, peanut butter, sugar, rice crispies, and chocolate chips. I initially tried to dismiss the idea of making Scotcheroos, as they obviously are not a healthy item. High fructose corn syrup plus butterscotch chips (made with even more undesirable ingredients, such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil); not for my family!

But yet, I kept thinking about Scotcheroos, remembering how much pleasure they brought to me as a child and thinking how sweet it could be to share that with my own children. So I finally decided to embark on creating a healthier Scotcheroo, one that was devoid of those uber-processed ingredients and instead made with healthier ingredients such as honey, sucanat, and butter.  I'm not claiming these Scotcheroos are healthy and perfect; they do still have some processed ingredients, but they are much healthier than the typical Scotcheroos.

It has been fun to share this food-from-my-childhood with my kids. Oh, and did I forget to mention? These Scotcheroos are DELICIOUS! Rich, sweet, creamy, crispy, and oh so yummy.


Serves 20-30 
Make the Peanut Butter Mixture
  1. In a med-large pot (4-qt), combine the honey, sugar, sucanat, peanut butter, and salt. 
  2. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  3. Turn off heat. Allow to cool slightly, and then stir in the rice crisps cereal.
  4. Use butter to grease a 9X13 glass baking dish.
  5. Spread the peanut butter mixture evenly in the 9X13 dish.
  6. Place the dish in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes before adding the chocolate topping.
Make the Chocolate Butterscotch Topping
  1. In a medium-sized pot, combine the butter, sucanat, milk, vanilla, and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted and all is well-mixed.
  2. Add the chocolate chips and continue to cook over low heat. Stir frequently, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and well-combined.
Bring It All Together:
  1. Drizzle the chocolate mixture over the peanut butter layer. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread out the chocolate as evenly as possible.
  2. Place the 9X13 dish back in the fridge to cool for at least 1.5 hours.
  3. Once cool, slice the Scotcheroos into squares and serve with a glass of raw milk. These Scotcheroos are quite rich, so we generally get ~30 servings out of one batch. 
  4. Leftovers can be stored in the freezer so there is no pressure to consume them all quickly. Parchment paper works well to keep the Scotcheroos from sticking to each other.

What is your favorite childhood dessert?

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Cobb Salad (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

As my children and I are wrapping up our unit study on the United States, we're "visiting" the west coast.  Cobb Salad is a California specialty that has become a mainstay salad all over the country.

An easy way to remember the ingredients in Cobb Salad is to use the acronym EAT COBB - Egg, Avocado, Tomato, Chicken, Onion, Bacon, Bleu cheese. My family enjoyed this hearty salad recipe, although it was preferred to substitute goat cheese for the bleu cheese.

Cobb Salad
Serves 4
  • For the chicken:
    • 3 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
    • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped roughly
    • 1 celery stalk, chopped roughly
    • 1 white onion, in large chunks
    • Celtic sea salt
    • filtered water
  • For the bacon and eggs:
    • 6 slices of bacon, preferably nitrate-free
    • 4 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
    • filtered water
  • For the salad:
    • 1/2 head romaine lettuce
    • 1/2 head red leaf lettuce
    • 2 small endives, diced
    • 2 ripe avocados, chopped
    • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
    • 3 Tb diced green onions, green parts only
    • 1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese or goat cheese
  • For the dressing:
Cook the chicken: 
  1. Place the carrot, celery, and onion in a 4-qt pot. Add the chicken thighs, cover with filtered water, and add a generous pinch of salt. 
  2. Bring the pot of chicken to a low simmer. Cover the pot and allow the chicken to gently simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. Use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool until it can be handled easily. (The super-delicious broth leftover from cooking the chicken can be used for some other meal later on. It makes fantastic nutrient-dense white rice.)
  4. Once the chicken is cool enough, remove and discard the chicken skin. (Or feed it to the dog!) Remove the chicken meat from the bones, being careful to avoid any cartilage or other chewy bits. The bones can be saved for making chicken bone broth
  5. Chop the chicken into small pieces.
  6. The chicken can be prepared earlier in the day or even a day in advance of the meal. If so, just allow the chicken to sit out for a few minutes before adding it to the salad, so the chicken isn't refrigerator-cold. 
Cook the bacon:
  1. Cook the bacon until it is nicely crisp. My favorite way to cook bacon is to bake it in the oven at in a 9X13 glass baking dish. It takes about 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees, and seems to cook best on the bottom rack.
  2. When the bacon is done, place it on paper towels to remove the excess grease. Once the bacon is cool enough, it can be chopped or crumbled for the salad. 
  3. The bacon can be cooked earlier in the day or even a day in advance of the meal.
Boil the eggs:

  1. Boil the eggs to your liking. My preferred way to make boiled eggs is as follows: Put the eggs in a small pot and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Set a timer for 15-18 minutes (depending on the size of the eggs). When the timer goes off, pour out the hot water and then add cold water and ice to cool the eggs down quickly (so they don't continue to cook).
  2. Once the boiled eggs have cooled enough to handle, peel them. Chop the eggs into wedges or slices.
  3. The eggs can be boiled and peeled earlier in the day or even a day in advance of the meal.
Prepare the dressing:

  1. Combine the red wine vinegar with all other ingredients except for the olive oil.
  2. Whisk or shake vigorously to mix it all up. I like to use this salad dressing bottle so I can just put on the lid and shake it all together.
  3. Add about 1 tsp of the olive oil and whisk/shake vigorously again. Adding a small amount of oil first helps the dressing become better mixed so it won't separate back into oil and vinegar as quickly.
  4. Add the rest of the olive oil and whisk or shake to combine.

Prepare the salad:

  1. Rip the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and chop the endive. Wash and dry the lettuces and endive. A salad spinner works excellently for this. I use this method to easily wash and dry all of my salad greens.
  2. Chop up the avocado, slice the tomatoes, and dice the scallions.

Bring it all together:

  1. Place a generous amount of lettuce on each plate.
  2. Create stripes over top of the lettuce, adding the avocado, bacon, eggs, bleu cheese (or goat cheese), chicken, and tomatoes. Sprinkle the green onions over it all.
  3. Shake up the dressing and drizzle to taste.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

10 Fantastic World Music Stations on Pandora

Last year, as part of our homeschool "world trip", my kids and I delved into music from around the globe. We discovered that, in addition to the great Putumayo world music CD's, there are actually many fantastic world music stations on Pandora internet radio. To be sure, there were some world music stations we did not enjoy (ugh, Japanese pop music drove me nuts!), but there were also many world music stations which have become a regular part of our musical experience at home. With our Blu-Ray player, we are able to listen to Pandora radio very conveniently in the main living space in our house.

Our 10 Favorite World Music Stations on Pandora

Punjabi Hits Radio - Upbeat music from India

La Camisa Negra Radio - Latin American pop music

Bluegrass Radio - Appalachian-inspired music, typically with fiddle and banjo

Celtic Radio - Music from Ireland and Scotland

African Radio - Calming mix of African music, including one of our favorite artists, Mamadou Diabate

Cuban Radio - Music featuring African-inspired drums and Spanish lyrics

Mariachi Radio - Traditional Mexican music featuring violin, guitar, and trumpets

Samba Radio - Brazilian music featuring African-inspired beats with Portuguese lyrics

Russian Traditional Radio - Classical Russian music, featuring composers such as Shostakovich

Zorba's Dance (From "Zorba the Greek") Radio - An interesting mix of classical music and classical renditions of modern music

Do you listen to world music? Which stations or artists do you recommend?

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Butter Smash Potatoes (gluten-free : grain-free : nutrient-dense)

This recipe for Butter Smash Potatoes is a super simple yet tasty way to prepare potatoes. Although I love mashed potatoes, on busy nights all of that peeling and mashing feels like too much work. The beauty of this recipe is that it requires much less hands-on work, and my family loves the results. Butter Smash Potatoes is the potato recipe I use most often.

Butter Smash Potatoes
Serves 6-8

  1. Wash the potatoes and remove any bad spots.
  2. Chop the potatoes into large chunks of approximately equal size.
  3. Put the potatoes in a large (4-quart) pot and cover with filtered water. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water.
  4. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
  5. Allow the potatoes to cook until they very easily break apart just by piercing them with a fork. Depending on the size and freshness of the potatoes, this usually takes about 35-45 minutes.
  6. Drain the potatoes. I just use the lid of the pot to hold back the potatoes while I pour the water down the sink.
  7. Nestle the butter down in the potatoes in the pot, and put the lid on so the butter can melt.
  8. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt. I generally use about 1&1/2 tsp finely ground Celtic sea salt, but use more or less depending on your taste preferences.
  9. Once the butter is melted, lightly stir the potatoes using a large spoon. Keep turning the potatoes over just until all of the butter has been soaked up by the potatoes.
  10. Serve and enjoy! This recipe is a great all-purpose side dish to pair with chickenParmesan fried chickenbeef roast, meatloaf, or any other main course.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tips for Planting the Summer Vegetable Garden

Here in southern New Mexico, we pass our last frost date near the beginning of May, so it is time to plant the summer garden. This will be my family's 9th year of vegetable gardening, and in that time we have learned many lessons on what makes gardening successful here. Every location has its own unique challenges, yet there are some basics that every garden needs, including good soil, the right amount of water, and plenty of sunshine.

Plan It Out

Each year, before we start planting, I take a little time to plan out the garden. When it comes time to actually plant, there are always a few deviations from the plan, but the initial planning gets us started in the right direction. When planning our garden, I make sure to do each of the following:

  • Take stock of old seeds - We always seem to have some old seed packets from previous years of gardening. We typically find that most of the old seeds will still germinate well for a few years beyond the "Best By" dates on the seed packets. If we're unsure, sometimes I will test a few seeds to make sure they will germinate by planting them in a small pot indoors where I can water them daily in the weeks leading up to our last frost date. 
  • Plan for companion plants - One way to help plants thrive is to plant "companion" plants which are mutually beneficial to each other. For instance, tomatoes will benefit from being planted near parsley and dill, and would enjoy the afternoon shade offered by sunflowers. Basil likes to be planted near tomatoes. For more ideas, check out my article on companion planting with herbs
  • Get a rough idea of plant placement - We always make sure to plant the summer garden in a location with at least 6 hours of sun per day. Although we've tried experimenting with raised bed gardening and container gardening, we have found planting in the ground to be our most successful method for summer gardening. To reduce pests and diseases, we also make sure not to plant the same type of plants in the same location year after year. Based on the expected size of each type of plant, I will make a rough plan of where different types of plants will be located.

Prep the Soil and Add Compost

Good soil is key to a flourishing garden. The ideal soil will have plenty of nutrients for the plants, will drain away excess water to prevent root rot, and will also retain enough moisture to keep the plants from drying out too much between waterings. Although I have experimented with several no-till methods, I generally find it beneficial to turn over the dirt in my garden annually down to a depth of about 12-18 inches. This ensures that the ground is not too hard-packed so that roots can easily grow, and it also helps to mix nutrients evenly into the soil since certain areas may have been depleted by previous plantings.

Overly sandy soil drains too quickly and the plants can dry out too much, whereas areas with a high clay content in the soil can have the opposite problem of draining very slowly and becoming very hard-packed (which makes it hard for roots to grow). Since the native soil in my garden area is very sandy and highly alkaline, I amend it each year to improve its nutrient-content and water retention. Compost and peat moss are both excellent additions to my garden soil. [In places where the native soil is acidic, peat moss would not be a good addition to garden soil (since it is highly acidic)].

Compost is my favorite soil amendment, as it adds many nutrients to the soil as well as humus (which helps with water retention). Compost can be expensive if purchased by-the-bag, but by having an active compost pile it can be produced at home with vegetable scraps and yard waste. Another good option to check into is whether or not there is compost available at the city landfill. In my area, we can get compost for free at the city landfill.

At our house, we let our chickens do the work of composting for us.
Using a method I learned about in The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, we have deep mulch in our chicken coop, which consists of leaves and other dried vegetation from around our property. The mulch combines with kitchen scraps and chicken manure to make compost. The chickens do most of the work of turning and mixing the compost; I only occasionally need to turn over the soil under the roost areas where the manure can start to pile up. Because we live in the desert, I do need to water the mulch fairly regularly in the hot months to ensure that the compost is moist enough. With this deep mulch method, I was able to harvest 5 wheelbarrows full of beautiful compost to be used in our summer garden this year.

Each year, I add more compost to my garden so that over time, our garden soil is improving year by year. One caution when using compost is to make sure that it is fully composted before planting vegetables in it to ensure it will not burn the seedlings. A good general rule of thumb is to amend the soil with compost and then wait 1-2 weeks before planting.

Get to Planting

Once the soil is ready, we can start planting! Some plants, like tomatoes, are planted individually with plenty of space between plants. Other plants, such as corn and beans, are planted in rows. And then squash, cucumbers, and melons are planted in hills. Seed packets for each type of plant include instructions for how deep to plant the seeds and how far apart they should be spaced.

We typically plant everything from seed except for tomatoes. When transplanting tomato plants, it is a good idea to plant them much deeper than other seedlings. The bottom of the main stem (which includes some leaves) should be buried in the ground. This will give the tomato plants a head start as roots will grow off the main stem.
This year, the edible plants we're growing will be:
  • Tomatoes 
  • Pumpkins 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Sunflowers and Marigolds 
  • Sweet Potatoes 
  • Watermelons
  • Green Onions
  • Carrots 
  • Bush Beans
  • Basil, Thyme, Oregano, and Rosemary

Make it Beautiful with Flowers

Planting flowers in the vegetable garden makes the garden beautiful to look at and it aids the vegetables, too. For instance, sunflowers can provide late-afternoon shade for tomatoes, marigolds can benefit strawberries, and zinnias can attract lots of beneficial pollinators. Nasturtiums are also great to plant as bugs are more attracted to them than to the veggies. My daughter, especially, loves to plant lots of flowers in our summer garden.

Set up the Watering System

Where we live, the yearly rainfall is only 8-11 inches so supplemental watering of the garden is absolutely required. I have experimented with many different types of watering systems for our garden, including sprinklers (which end up using the most water), watering with a hose by hand (which I find time-consuming and laborious), and drip irrigation (which doesn't work particularly well in our very sandy soil as the water drains straight down rather than spreading to an area around each emitter). Thus far, my favorite watering methods are using soaker hoses and/or sprinklers in combination with an automatic timer. In areas where the soil has more natural humus content, drip irrigation may be a good match.


Once we are done transplanting and our seeds have started growing well, it is highly beneficial to apply a layer of mulch to the garden. Mulch helps to keep the ground from drying out too much, and it also keeps the plants off of the moist ground. I have successfully used alfalfa hay, shredded wood, broken down sticks/vegetation from our property, and pine needles as mulch in our garden. One key is to make sure that I apply the mulch over the top of the soaker hoses, which allows the moisture to be retained very well in the ground.

Get the Kids Involved

Gardening is an integral part of our homeschool curriculum. When kids are involved in the garden, they gain an appreciation and understanding of where their food comes from. It teaches them about the life cycle of plants, lets them feel responsible and confident, and gives them skills for their own gardening endeavors as they grow up.

My children have each had their own gardening space in our family's garden since they were 3-years-old. As they grow older they are given larger areas to garden in each year. Many family memories have been made when we are working alongside each other in the family garden. And my children are immeasurably proud when they get to harvest food for our table from their own gardens.

Watch it Grow and Enjoy the Harvest

Once our garden is planted, it's time to enjoy watching it grow until the foods are ready to harvest. Years ago, a friend gave me the great idea to keep a gardening journal. Each year, I record what was planted, when it was planted, and how it faired. This helps me keep track from year-to-year of what worked best, which specific varieties did not tolerate our climate well, etc.

Vegetable gardening is beautiful and healthy way to be involved in the production of healthy foods. It allows us to celebrate the seasons as we observe the cycles of growth, abundance, and decay. For our family, gardening is a tradition that enriches our lives as well as our relationships with each other and our land.

Do you have a vegetable garden? What are your favorite things to grow?

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Poutine: French Fries with Gravy and Cheese (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Last semester when my family "visited" Canada on our homeschool world trip, we discovered poutine, which is essentially french fries topped with gravy and cheese. This semester, while focusing on the United States,we discovered that poutine is also a treasured food in the northeastern states. New Hampshire even has a poutine festival!

When making the homemade oven fries, I use a combination of refined coconut oil and sunflower oil. Coconut oil is ├╝ber healthy, but its smoke-point is too low to use it alone. By combining the coconut oil with sunflower oil, the overall smoke-point of the oil is higher so I can achieve a nice crispness to the fries by cooking them at a high temperature.

Poutine is not gourmet, and not even particularly pretty, but it is SO good! My family does a happy dance every time I make poutine. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do.

Serves 3
Make the Oven Fries:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Wash and dry the potatoes. Remove any bad spots. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise.
  3. Slice the potatoes thinly, a bit less than 1/8-inch thick. Spread them out on two baking sheets. I like to put the smaller pieces (from closer to the ends of the potatoes) on one baking sheet and the larger pieces on another baking sheet, since the smaller ones tend to cook faster.
  4. Drizzle the sunflower oil over the potatoes. Add the coconut oil, and mix all around to make sure the potatoes are well-coated with oil. I find that using my hands work best for this. 
  5. Spread the potatoes back out to make sure they are in a single layer. Sprinkle with finely ground Celtic sea salt.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges of the potatoes are starting to brown. 
  7. Remove the potatoes from the oven (one sheet at a time) and flip over the potatoes. Then swap the placement in the oven (whichever sheet was on the upper rack should now go on the lower rack). Bake again for ~10-15 minutes longer. The smaller fries will tend to cook faster than the larger ones, so they'll probably be done a few minutes before the larger fries.
  8. While the fries cook, prepare the gravy as described below.
  9. As soon as the potatoes are done baking, sprinkle them again with salt.
  10. Place the cooked fries on a paper-towel-lined-plate to drain off most of the excess oil. 
Make the Gravy and Prepare the Cheese:
  1. Cut the cheese into smallish cubes and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. 
  3. Whisk in the rice flour and allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Whisk in the chicken bone broth. Add the salt and bring to a boil. (My homemade chicken broth is not salted. If you are using salted broth, make sure to reduce the amount of salt accordingly.)
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a few minutes to let the gravy thicken.
  6. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally, until the fries are done.
Assemble the Poutine:
  1. Divide up the fries evenly onto plates. Do NOT eat any fries yet, or you'll never stop 'cause they are addicting!
  2. Top the fries with the Mozzarella chunks.
  3. Spoon gravy over it all. There will likely be a little leftover gravy, but better too much gravy than not enough.
  4. Serve and enjoy! Some perfect accompaniments would be marinated cabbage salad or a green salad topped with honey mustard mayo dressing.

*Traditionally, poutine is made with cheese curds. However, I can't purchase cheese curds locally at any of the stores where I shop, so I have substituted Mozzarella. 

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Homeopathic Remedies for Treating Vaccine Reactions

Although my husband and I have made an informed decision not to vaccinate our own children, I believe that the decision of whether or not to vaccinate is a fundamental right of parenthood. For parents who choose to vaccinate, or for people who are compelled to vaccinate by law, I wanted to share information about how homeopathy can be used to treat vaccine reactions.

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Vaccine Reactions 

The unfortunate truth is that vaccine reactions do really occur. Sometimes the negative effects are obvious, and other times the effects take longer to develop and have a detrimental effect on long-term chronic health. According to the National Vaccine Information Center [1]:

 "Some vaccine reaction symptoms include:
  • Pronounced swelling, redness, heat or hardness at the site of the injection;
  • Body rash or hives;
  • Shock/collapse;
  • High pitched screaming or persistent crying for hours;
  • Extreme sleepiness or long periods of unresponsiveness;
  • Twitching or jerking of the body, arm, leg or head;
  • Crossing of eyes;
  • Weakness or paralysis of any part of the body;
  • Loss of ability to roll over, sit up or stand up;
  • Loss of eye contact or awareness or social withdrawal;
  • Head banging or onset of repetitive movements (flapping, rubbing, rocking, spinning);
  • High fever (over 103 F)
  • Vision or hearing loss;
  • Restlessness, hyperactivity or inability to concentrate;
  • Sleep disturbances that change wake/sleep pattern;
  • Joint pain or muscle weakness;
  • Disabling fatigue;
  • Loss of memory;
  • Onset of chronic ear or respiratory infections;
  • Violent or persistent diarrhea or chronic constipation;
  • Breathing problems (asthma);
  • Excessive bleeding (thrombocytopenia) or anemia."

Can Homeopathy Really Help?

Homeopaths have long known that there are specific homeopathic remedies that can help counter the negative effects of vaccines. For instance, in the 1800's homeopathic remedies were found to work well to counter the negative effects of the smallpox vaccine. J. Compton Burnett M.D. even wrote a whole book filled with cases where homeopathic Thuja was able to reverse vaccine-induced damage in his book, "Vaccinosis and Its Cure by Thuja", published in 1884 [2].

Disclaimer: The uses of homeopathic remedies described in this article are provided for educational use only. 

Thuja - The Top Remedy for Ailments From Vaccination

Homeopathic Thuja occidentalis is the remedy most often considered for ill effects from vaccines. As described by Catherine Coulter in Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines Vol. 3, "Although it was originally noted for its helpful effects in negating smallpox vaccine reactions, "Thuja has proved to be invaluable in a number of the wide range of physical and neurological disorders whose onset can be traced back to the time of inoculation: repeated middle ear infections, eczema, asthma, enuresis, chronic nasal catarrhs or diarrhea, sleep or eating problems, head-banging in infancy and excessive rocking in the older child. It is either the prime remedy for a particular affliction, the cleanser after inoculation, or a supportive remedy to Silica, Sulphur, and others" [3].

Dr. Margaret Tyler also wrote of numerous cases of vaccinosis cured by the use of homeopathic Thuja in her book, Homoeopathic Drug Pictures [4]. Some examples from her book include the following:

"Small girl, ever since vaccination, pustules on legs, or alternately, when these disappeared, epileptic fits. Thuja quickly cured.  
"Small boy, purulent onychia [infection in the fingernail], very intractable. Nail removed and thumb healed. Then abscesses in different parts of the body, till it was discovered that he had been eight times vaccinated by a persistent and conscientious G.P. Thuja promptly ended the trouble... 
"Years of incapacitating headaches in the mother of a very noisy family of young children. Much vaccinated. Was given Thuja. This was some thirty years ago. Seen recently. 'Never had a recurrence of those headaches.'"
Clearly, Thuja is a hugely beneficial remedy for dealing with negative after-effects from vaccination.

Other Helpful Remedies

Beyond Thuja, homeopathic Silicea is one of the more prominent remedies for dealing with vaccine reactions. Silicea is known to have helped with post-vaccination convulsions, nausea, diarrhea, skin eruptions, and swelling of the upper arms. Other remedies such as ArnicaLedumCalcarea carbonicaMezereum, and Sulphur are also known to be helpful in treating vaccine reactions. The homeopathic form of the vaccines themselves has also been used by some homeopaths with good success, such as using homeopathically potentized DPT vaccine. Some more remedies that can be helpful after vaccination are described here and here.

The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine, which is the "P" in the DPT, Tdap, or DTaP shot, is known for producing more negative after-effects than other vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website acknowledges that "mild problems" occur after the DTaP shot in up to 1 out of 3 children, and also lists "moderate" and "severe problems" which are known to occur in lesser numbers [5]. In Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines Vol. 2Catherine Coulter recommends the following uses of homeopathic remedies to counter the negative effects of the whooping cough vaccine:
"If the parents decide to vaccinate the child against whooping cough, homoeopathic remedies can play a significant preventive role in mitigating the vaccine's ill effects. Several procedures are possible. Hypericum, the principal remedy for nerve injuries, can be administered in medium potency prior to the injection, thus minimizing damage to the central nervous system. Shortly after the injection the remedy to give is Ledum ('ill effects from punctured wounds': Boericke), also in medium potency, to counter the ensuing high fever or inflammatory reaction. Thuja can also be administered preventitively, to avert or minimize future ill-effects of vaccination; it should be given soon after the shot, before any symptoms have developed.
"If the child reacts violently to the vaccine (high fever, high-pitched screaming, excessive drowsiness, fainting, convulsions, holding of breath, etc.), either Ledum should be repeated more often or other remedies should be tried: Belladonna for the high fever, Chamomilla for "arrested breathing suddenly in children' (Kent), and so forth." [6

Disclaimer: The uses of homeopathic remedies described in this article are provided for educational use only.  

Dosing Information

As a general rule of thumb, 30c is a medium potency that can be used successfully for most people. However, for newborns or anyone with hypersensitivities, lower potencies (such as 6c) may be more appropriate.

Typically, if there is no obvious improvement within 3-4 doses of any particular homeopathic remedy, the remedy should be discontinued.

With all homeopathic remedies, the least number of doses is always the best. Anytime there is a noticeable improvement, dosing needs to be slowed down and observation is key to determining when to give any further doses. Homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body to heal itself; once the body has started healing itself no more remedy is needed unless the symptoms start to regress (or unless there is a plateau, where the symptoms get better to a point but then stop improving).

Disclaimer: The uses of homeopathic remedies described in this article are provided for educational use only.  I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are provided for educational use only.  


[1] National Vaccine Information Center, If You Vaccinate, Ask 8! What You Need to Know Before & After Vaccination, retrieved from
[2] Burnett, J. Compton, M.D., Vaccinosis and Its Cure by Thuja; With Remarks on Homoeoprophylaxis, The Homoeopathic Publishing Company, London, England, 1884.
[3] Coulter, Catherine R., The Child and "Vaccinosis", Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines, Vol. 3, pp. 107-116, Quality Medical Publishing, Missouri, USA 1998.
[4] Tyler, Dr. M.L., "Thuja", Homoeopathic Drug Pictures, pp. 1012-1024, B. Jain Publishers Ltd., New Delhi, India 2004.
[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Possible Side-effects From Vaccines, retrieved from
[6] Coulter, Catherine R., Silica Appendix, Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines, Vol. 2, pp. 102-106, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, USA 1988.

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