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Blackberry Cream Shortbread Cake (GF)

This will give you a good reason to go blackberry picking!!

I made this for my friend’s birthday, BBQ and dance party! There’s nothing like fresh cream and locally picked blackberries on a shortbread cake to top a perfect summer afternoon!

I used Gluten Free flour and coconut sugar to create a more shortbread style cake that wasn’t too sweet, but regular flour and sugar are fine, too!

Ingredients for the Shortbread Cake:

  • 2 Cups Organic Brown Coconut Sugar (Big Tree Farms)
  • 1 Cup Butter (2 sticks at room temp)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla extract

Grease and flour 2 x 9″ pans. Mix the coconut sugar and butter together until creamy. Beat in the eggs, ONE at a TIME, and add the vanilla extract.

  • 3 Cups Flour (Bob’s Red Mill GF 1 to 1 baking flour)
  • 3 teaspoons Baking powder
  • 1 cup Half & Half or whole Milk
  • 2 tablespoons Apple sauce

Mix the baking powder into the flour and fold into the creamed mixture. Add the milk and apple sauce. Keep mixing until smooth and creamy! Pour into pans and bake at 350 for 30 mins! Let cool.

Ingredients for the frosting & filling:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1.5 tablespoons maple syrup if the blackberries are too tart

Heat the blackberries in a pan until simmering, keep stirring until you have a nice thick reduction. Cool in the fridge and strain into a bowl.

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup organic seedless blackberry fruit spread / jam


Whip cream until fluffy. Set aside 1/4 cup reduction. Add remaining COLD reduction to the cream and stir. Keep the blackberry cream in the fridge.

Filling: Tap the COLD cakes out of their pans. Spread a very generous amount of seedless blackberry fruit jam over the bottom cake and a layer of blackberry cream. Then spread a generous amount of blackberry fruit spread on the BOTTOM of the top cake before you place the layers together.

Frosting: Cover the cake with fresh whipped blackberry cream and drizzle the 1/4 cup of reduction over it. Cover it all all with fresh blackberries; et Voila! Delicious Blackberry Shortbread Cake ~

Recipe by Sooz at Melinas Garden! Please let me know how yours turns out! 🙂

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East Cape, La Paz, the wind & sinking in!

After visiting Cabo Pulmo, I started to make my way up the coast.

I was supposed to meet a friend in La Rivera who became sick with Covid-19, and unfortunately our rendezvous never happened! So, I continued up the coast alone to Los Barriles and met up with some friends I’d made on the beach in Santispec!

I camped on the beach at Playa Norte but opted to stay at the RV park as I wasn’t sure of the area. It was a great place to get to know the area from. The bathrooms and location are good and at $10 a night for dry camping, I had no complaints. On my first night I was invited to join a wedding party, and we celebrated into the night with some local Tequila! These kind of invitations only seem to happen when you travel alone!

I stayed a couple more nights and then moved to another great camping spot called Baja Sunrise RV Park. I ended up staying ten days here enjoying my beach front spot, the hospitality of the Owner, Manager and a new friend who was staying for the winter. I took these shots and scouted the area from here!

While in Los Barriles I did a lot of day trips. El Triunfo is high on my list of places to visit in the mountains. The quaint village is in the midst of being renovated which could take a while. Visit the bakery and buy a loaf of their home baked bread. Their almond croissants are the best!!

I got lost on the way to the waterfalls and hot springs near Santiago, but once I finally made it (the next week with friends) I was so glad I had made the effort. What a gorgeous place! Get there early and stay all day hiking the falls, swimming and soaking in the hot springs!

I love taking photos of doors, plants and churches! Oh, and of course food! Here are some of my favorites……

Swimming at Los Barriles is great. The sea is calm, easy to swim in and so clear and blue! I really enjoyed dropping in deeply to the area at my perfect beachfront spot. Across the road next to the gas station is a tiny rustic restaurant which is well worth a visit or two!

La Paz was my focus on the way back up the peninsula. I just love the Malecón. I found a local spot to sit and people watch as I sipped my coffee. The water was calm and perfect for a ride on the SUP. I felt like I was in the South of France! The beaches to the North of La Paz are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. I spent a wonderful day frolicking in the water, hiking up the rock between Tecolote and Balandra and and hanging out until sunset. My only complaint was the food at the main restaurant in Tecolote. Eat at the smaller less touristy ones, or bring your own picnic and only buy drinks on the beach!

As I slowly meandered my way back to the USA, I stopped at mostly local restaurants and cafes where I was greeted with the kindest of smiles and grateful restaurants who were happy for my business. Speaking Spanish fluently definitely made a difference to the way I was able to drop in with the locals and chat about my adventures. Not once did I feel unsafe or unwelcome. At the security checkpoints I was definitely a curiosity and at each stop they wanted to have a good look at the inside of my van. One security guard was happy when I offered him my guitar to play, and he turned out to be really good!

My next stop was Loreto. I stayed at the Rivera del Mar RV camping for $5 a night! This place is great for a couple of nights to regroup. They have laundry facilities, clean bathrooms/showers and an outdoor communal kitchen area. It’s such a great deal! I took myself out to dinner and walked to Orlando’s Restaurante. It was excellent!

I had been told to visit Bahia de Los Angeles on the way home. I’m glad I took the detour and spent a couple of days resting at Archelon Eco Camping. This was one of my favorite camping spots of my trip. There’s a little cafe/restaurant at the campo called Siete Filos to sit and watch the world go by, read and rest. It was such a relaxing place. I took a long blustery walk on the beach to view the lighthouse on the sandbar and watch the gulls dropping shells. There’s a little museum to visit here called, Museo de Naturaleza y Cultura.

Beware of potholes on the way back to the main road!

After Bahia de Los Angeles I was ready to go home and only stopped to sleep. I returned via Mexicali instead of Tijuana and enjoyed the newly finished road north. I’d like to return and check out the beachside communities of this area.

It was a relief not to have to watch out for potholes all the time, and I soon began to get excited of seeing family and friends back in the US. As I approached the border, I put my GPS on and followed the directions. As I drove by a very long line on my right, wondering what they were waiting for it I dawned on me that I was in the wrong lane!!! I could only go forward, so I made my way to the gate and started to explain in Spanish what had happened. The border patrol quickly informed me in English that all was ok, and I didn’t have to go to the back of the line! Phew! It was the only time I felt nervous at a checkpoint during my whole trip! Haha!

This will forever be a journey to remember!

Thank you Baja!

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Raspberry Butter Cream Cake

I love making birthday cakes for friends when I have the time! Last weekend was one of those days when the ingredients were in the cupboard and I had a couple of hours to spare! I decided to make a gluten free cake as the birthday boy doesn’t eat gluten! It turned out very well and was a huge hit!

You’ll need 2 x 9″ cake tins or glass dishes for this! Preheat the oven to 350….. Here are the ingredients:

Sponge Cake:

  • 2 cups flour (gluten free or all purpose)
  • 4 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 1/8 tspn salt
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbspn unsalted butter
  • 1 + 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk

If you don’t have buttermilk just make some!
Measure 1 cup of milk with 1 tbspn lemon juice, stir and let stand for 5 mins. That’s it!

  • Lightly grease and flour the pans
  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together
  • Mix butter until creamy
  • Add sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and stir well
  • Add egg whites
  • Add flour mix and stir until smooth and creamy
  • Divide mixture between the two baking pans
  • Bake at 350 for 30 mins (poke with a chopstick to check it’s done. If chopstick comes out wet, it needs a few more minutes. Keep checking)

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 tspn lemon juice
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1.5 cups fine baking sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • Mix the butter and cream cheese together until smooth
  • Add vanilla extract and salt
  • Gradually add sugar and apple sauce to sweeten. Stir as you go. If you want it sweeter just keep adding sugar! You can use up to 4 cups of sugar for this recipe and omit the apple sauce if you don’t have it!

Filling:

I used Organic Raspberry fruit spread because it’s made with all fruit and juice with no added sugar, and it’s delicious!

  • Let the cakes cool while you make the frosting
  • Tap the cakes out of the tins once cool
  • Place frosting and cakes in fridge until ready to frost
  • Generously spread raspberry jam over one sponge
  • Stack the second sponge on top of the first and spread thickly with dollops of frosting
  • Decorate with crushed cacao nibs or grated chocolate and fresh raspberries

Why did I cut the cake like this? If there are more people than you bargained for that want a piece of this delicious cake, simply cut a big circle into the cake and make small pieces of the outside circle followed by slices of the inner circle. You’ll gain at least 4 and sometimes 6 extra pieces!

I hope you love this as much as we did!

Sooz xo

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Baja Adventures in my Eurovan! Part II…… continued from Finding my way during the Storm

This is part II of my adventures camping in my VW van through Baja, Mexico for two months……

After a short overnight stop in Loreto to reconvene, do laundry and get out of the wind, I continued South to El Pescadero to visit friends who had planned a rooftop concert on their ‘pizza oven’ home, for their live music starved friends! We gratefully soaked up the sun and the music! …….Loreto will get a bigger mention on the way back!

El Pescadero is a really lovely area on the south west Pacific side of Baja, near the trendy town of Todos Santos. I literally went from sunrise on the Sea of Cortez to sunset on the Pacific Ocean in one day! Here you can find everything from a good cappuccino (Baja Beans) to a Pickleball game, sip cocktails while watching whales frolicking with their young just off the coast in the sunset (the Green Room) , surf to your hearts content and walk for miles on sandy beaches. My only gripe is that the Pacific here is too dangerous for a good swim. I ended up going to Los Cerritos to swim in the gorgeously warm and shallow water there. It’s a kid friendly beach and a good beginners surfing spot. A visit to Sunset Restaurant at Cerritos Beach Inn is well worth the effort. The owner, Julie, is a gem and the food is excellent!

After driving too fast over ‘Topes’ (speed bumps), dipping into potholes and the relentless washboard roads leading out to the sea, my van started to rattle more than I felt comfortable with. I was extremely hesitant at first to find a mechanic in Mexico. My van is a 2003 VW Eurovan, so, I knew parts could be a problem along with anyone who knew anything about them. But low and behold, I was recommended a mechanic in San Jose del Cabo who I could trust to do the work and who specialized in VW’s!! I could hardly believe it! So, of I went in search of repairs.

I made my way to San Jose del Cabo. After sleeping in my van since the start of my trip, I treated myself and stayed at El Tropicana Inn. It’s in the old part of town; the Arts District, and it’s lovely! Restaurants in the area are spendy, but I was on a mission to fix my van. I had the place to myself as the pandemic was rife at this time. I couldn’t resist a morning visit to the French Riviera Bistro and Bakery for a freshly baked almond croissant and coffee! The sign outside the pharmacy made me giggle. What the heck is an Intelligent Pill?!

I received excellent service and work on my van at Frenos y Embragues! My van sounded great, and I felt confident for the rest of my trip! I guess I’ll be going to Mexico for car work and dental from now on! 😉

I was told the best place to snorkel was at Cabo Pulmo, and I have to agree! Well, just south at Playa los Arbolitos is actually the best! Definitely stop at Cabo Pulmo for Tacos and Beer and then drive the extra 10 minutes for fantastic snorkeling in the sea that Jacques Cousteau called the aquarium of the world! You can van camp at Los Arbolitos for 50 pesos or stay at Cabo Pulmo for a whole lot more. Both are amazing. You’re off grid here. The landscape and silence is intoxicating.

That’s part II….. stay tuned for Part III

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Finding my way during the storm ~ Part 1

Back in December, I had just about come to the end of my tether with boredom and loneliness. I started yet another course to keep my brain working on something other than depression. Then out of the blue, I decided to follow through with a road trip I had wanted to do for a long time to search for locations and gather information ….. to the tip of Baja, Mexico and back!

Once I made the decision it all fell into place easily. I found a friend who travels to Baja every winter to surf, and I asked if he’d be willing to caravan with me across the border and part of the way until I felt comfortable traveling in Mexico on my own. He gladly agreed and we set off, him in his van and me in mine. I was excited to be on the road with a mission.

When crossing the border at Tijuana, I’ll never forget seeing The Wall that separates Mexico from the US. It snakes its ugly way as far as the eye can see……

We drove as far south as we could from San Diego in one day, which turned out to be El Rosario. After dinner at Mama Espinosa’s and a good night’s sleep at Baja Cactus Motel, we were on the road early heading further South. This is where the scenery really started to change and get interesting with huge boulders and large cactus covering the landscape. Cataviña is a gem of a place to stop and snap a few pics! It reminded me of Joshua Tree….

Baja is arid desert in most parts with pockets of diverse landscape and oases that are welcome pit stops along the way. Pemex petrol stations offer clean and well maintained bathrooms, which is always appreciated when traveling in a van! There are very long stretches between them, so, it’s a good idea to fill up often, even if you aren’t empty! It’s also wise to follow the speed limit which is in km not miles, as there are unexpected deep pot holes and “Topes” (tall speed bumps) at the beginning and end of every town. I swore silently each time I missed seeing these until it was too late!!

The second night was spent at a rustic campsite on a little laguna in San Ignacio. Falling asleep while listening to the frogs and at $10 a night, you can’t go wrong! This is a lush little town with loads of palm trees and friendly faces. Shortly before San Ignacio we passed through a check point where I was politely asked where I was going and what I was doing. By the time I got to the third checkpoint, they knew I was coming and where I was going!

After brunch the next day in the charming town of Heroica Mulegé, we set off for the coast. I then continued the journey alone! I was ready!

There are places that take your breath away, like seeing Lake Tahoe in California on Highway 50 for the first time, and Bahia de Concepcion is one of them! As I drove down the mountain pass and perilous curves of Route 1 to the little bay of Santispec and the turquoise blue sea, I let out an audible, Ahhh!

All of the little beaches in this area are beautiful and worth a visit. The only setback if you’re a kayaker or on an SUP is the wind! It can kick in for days! I was lucky enough to get a few calm and wonderful days here. Foraging for clams in the low tide provided deliciously fresh appetizers. There’s a great family owned restaurant on the side of the road by El Burro beach if you get bored of the two restaurants at Santispec. Their tacos were great at 25 pesos each washed down with an ice cold Tecate. They were also happy for me to use their WiFi, too! Another favorite spot in this area, with good food, good company and full bar, (especially on Taco Tuesdays) is at Playa Buenaventura!

Traveling alone is the best way to meet new people. I made new friends wherever I went and ended up meeting them again at different points throughout my journey.

There are dogs everywhere in Baja. They are some of the friendliest I’ve met. I was offered a dog four or five times while there, and I very nearly came home with one! It is a battle to get them spayed and neutered, so they proliferate easily, even though there are agencies in a few towns that offer these services for free. Here is one of those clinics Baja Exiles to donate to if you feel inspired to help with this ongoing situation. Just $20 donation will pay for a spay surgery.

I was told several times not to drive at night as the cattle wonder onto the road and like to lie down on the warm tarmac. They also just meander along the sides of the roads in daylight, so, being alert is important.
Sadly, I did see the occasional dead cow or goat that had been hit and left beside the road, all swollen in rigor mortis.

You feel the vastness of the desert in the open empty spaces on Route 1. Sometimes I drove for an hour or more without seeing another vehicle. I felt safe though and had ample water, food and petrol on these long remote stretches. When I did see another vehicle, I’d wave and get a joyful response from the other driver. There’s a special camaraderie with others ‘on the road’ in Baja.

To be continued……… with my next stop in Loreto!

Thanks for stopping by to read my blog!
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Autumn break foraging for Chaga and Reishi!

North Carolina

       

Autumn is such a pretty time of year with the leaves turning to hues of golden yellow, orange and red. The days are shorter, and the long nights are cooling down. We’re digging out our beanies, gloves, scarves and warm fuzzy sweaters.

This year is an especially poignant time as we deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. It seems we must all surrender to another few months of uncertainty and alone time.

Trail walking has been a happy pass time for me and a place to reflect on recent events in the USA with a new President being elected in an exciting and unusual election.

At this time of year, I’m especially happy when I stumble across medicinal herbs and plants that are ending their cycle or beginning a new one. My newest products are Chaga and Reishi mushrooms that are free foraged in the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you’re looking for a strong immune booster over the winter months that is full of antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins and minerals and is fiber rich, then this is for you. Reishi adds to these qualities as well as reducing stress, improving sleep and fighting infection. Both Chaga and Reishi mushrooms have been used in the treatment of cancer and respiratory disorders.

Simmer the mushrooms in water and use as a tea drink or as a soup base depending on what additional ingredients you use.

There are directions for both on the label. Buy your mushrooms on my product page:
https://melinasgarden.com/product/reishi-mushroom-1-2-lb-bag/
https://melinasgarden.com/product/chaga-mushroom-4oz-pouch/

Enjoy some photos of my recent travels to where these wonderful mushrooms are found!

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Turmeric Golden Honey

Nature’s cure for cold and flu season!

Golden Honey for balancing Immunity during cold and flu season!

Turmeric, which contains the active compound curcumin, has become widely known in the last couple of years as an anti-inflammatory, immune booster, natural antibiotic and blood pressure regulator amongst many other remedies. Golden Honey (a mixture of turmeric, honey and black pepper) is a natural remedy that can be taken by the whole family. (Check with your physician if you are taking medications for blood pressure or gall bladder disease before consuming)

Golden Honey Recipe and how to use:

At the first signs of a cold, flu or feeling run down, make Golden Honey and consume it in this way.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of raw organic Honey
  • 1 tablespoon of organic Turmeric powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of black Pepper (do not omit this ingredient. It’s necessary for the benefits of Turmeric to enter your bloodstream)

Mix together and store in a glass jar.

  • At the onset of a cold or the flu, take 1/2 a teaspoon of the Golden Honey every 2 hours until symptoms are alleviated. Let the honey sit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing.
  • Use as cough mixture. Take 1/2 a teaspoon for annoying tickling coughs or sore throat.

This Golden Honey also makes a great cup of Golden Milk to give you a good nights’ sleep! Just add a spoonful to a cup of warm milk of your choice (cow’s, coconut, almond, etc.)

Stir and enjoy!

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Know Your Spices!

Choose spices that work for each family member!

It’s hard to cook a meal for a family that everyone likes or that is ‘beneficial’ for everyone!
Well, there’s a solution to this if you understand spices!

For example; you might have a child who is putting on weight eating the same amount of food as another child in the family. Perhaps one child is predominantly Kapha and the other Pitta or Vata. Of course, there could be various reasons, like not exercising or other underlying causes, BUT with spices you can help this child’s digestive system manage the food better.

I make different pots of spice blends for each family member according to their constitution (Kapha, Pitta, Vata). At meals they are able to use their personal spice to create a more compatibly healthy meal.

Try it and see! Make one for you and your spouse, too.

For more details and help choosing which spices, book a session with me here![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Addressing Pain Relief with Scraping Therapy

With so many options now on the market for this ever expanding health issue, we are faced with the question of what is best for us as individuals.

As an Ayurvedic Practitioner I use a number of tools to help with pain management. My first go to is a tool called a Guasha. This ancient hand held tool scrapes away pain and blocked lymph. It literally means ‘To Scrape Toxicity’ (Gua – Scrape, and Sha/Chi – Toxicity or blocked Energy).

History of the Guasha – Scraping Therapy

Originating in Asia, families would rely on the guasha as relief and prevention for many maladies. The Guasha was always used as first aid prior to calling on a physician. Every household would have one, and eventually the Guasha spread to become widely used in most of Asia and India, and more recently in the West.
Originally, Guashas were carved from buffalo horn or Jade. More recently wood, bone and resin have become popular materials in their production. Guashas are also made from Jade, Rose Quartz, Tourmaline, Agate and other semi-precious stones. These are for using on parts of the body where the skin is thinner, like the face and chest.

Most painful issues on the body and so a wooden guasha is a perfect tool for working on those areas. You can purchase a sandalwood one here, and I’ll send you a leaflet to go with it on how and where to use the guasha for many painful areas of the body. If you need further assistance, I am happy to give you a complimentary consultation on Zoom or by phone. See the options in the SHOP for a personal consultation with me.

Let’s get you out of pain and leading a more joyful life!

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Empathy on an Apocalyptic kind of day ~

 

“I saw a beautiful red squirrel get hit by a car today. I quickly parked and ran back to help him but he couldn’t get up and there was blood coming out of his nose. He died as I told his mate, who was watching and squawking from the sidewalk, how sorry I was. His perfect little body quietly surrendered to passing as I cried.
It’s as if his sacrifice has allowed me to just let my strength collapse for a moment and grieve for what is happening around me……I wanted to move his precious little body to the side of the road, but I didn’t. I was frozen. Everything in this moment was so raw, as I know we all are on the West Coast of North America today.
Let my tears turn to rain and quench my desert home that it’s fast becoming…..”

Sometimes we just need to surrender to the overwhelming emotions that arise at unexpected times. Holding back and fighting them down can lead to undigested fear, sadness, anger and a plethora of other unhealthy emotions that can turn to dis-ease in the body.

If you are an empath you ‘feel’ with others, whether they be human or animal. Finding time to ground those emotions out through a few minutes of meditation can keep you healthy and protect you in the future.

Try this 15 minute meditation session if you are having trouble releasing unwanted emotions: https://melinasgarden.com/15-minute-meditation/