Spring Cleaning Morning Toddy

1 small lemon, juiced
1 tsp raw, local honey (or maple syrup)
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
Dash of cayenne pepper powder
½ cup hot water

Add ingredients to a mug in the order they're listed. Stir to combine. Drink first thing in the morning while warm, within 5-10 minutes. Wait at least 20 minutes before consuming any other food.

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Ahhhhhhh, spring.

The earth is waking up. The days are staying lighter longer. We are starting to feel more motivated.

At this time of year, however, we may also be feeling sluggish after the coldest months during which we tend to eat warming, heavier foods, move a bit less, and sleep a bit more.

Well, I’ve got the morning pick-me-up you need to put some spring in your step! (pun totally intended)

Reaching waaaaaay back to my Chinese medicine study days, I can tell you that every season is ruled by an element and has a dominant organ. If I recall correctly, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine a season’s dominant organ is the one (or part of a group of similar organs) working hardest, needing the most attention and the most likely to have issues during this season. Spring is ruled by wood and the dominant organ of spring is the liver. Makes sense, right? Nature is coming into a fresh bloom after shedding off unneeded parts to its whole. Winter is like a cleanse and without that cleanse period, spring wouldn’t be so vibrant.

It’s kind of the same for humans. We will be much more vibrant and capable during the next season if we are cleansed from the inside out and getting all we need though natural, whole foods nutrition. This Morning Toddy is a great drink to help clean up your gut, kick start your metabolism, boost your immune system, and keep your blood sugar levels even all day!

I’m sure you’ve seen some variation of this recipe before. I’ve been drinking this for years — long before the lemonade cleanse trend was trendy. While I don’t personally believe in long fasts like the lemonade one, I do believe in cleansing by eating with the seasons, and using foods to bring us into alignment. This can mean cleaning our guts in gentle ways that keep the flora there healthy. I also agree with why the lemonade fast thing is the lemonade fast thing… the ingredients all do wonders for balancing our ph levels, cleansing our guts gently, and keeping us nourished and hydrated. I just don’t believe you need to deprive your body of other nutrients in order to get clean inside. That said, I’m talking about what works for me at a normal state of health and honor the fact that extremely toxic people may feel the need, and benefit from fasts such as the lemonade one.

The basis of my Morning Toddy is lemon juice. Citrus fruits are full of a flavonoid called nobiletin as well as d-limonene and narngenin. In English that means: Flavonoids are health boosting antioxidants and nobiletin (see the word bile in there?) switches on the genes that are responsible for burning fat. d-limonene is a compound that flushes toxins out through the liver. Narngenin is also a flavonoid. This one improves your cells’ sensitivity to insulin by 64% which can ward off blood sugar crashes, cravings, mood swings and weight gain.

My version of this is not meant to be a meal replacement, but I do recommend starting your day with this drink, drinking it about 30 minutes before you consume food. I feel best when I wake up and chug 6-8 oz of water while heating the kettle for this toddy. Then I enjoy the ritual of making and drinking this before I go about my morning. Full disclosure: sometimes I do this AFTER I practice yoga because I like to practice on an empty stomach as tradition dictates, but often I don’t have the time to practice first thing in the morning so usually I start my day with this and get to yoga and movement afterward. So far the yoga police have never issued a citation (though, there is very likely a warrant out for my arrest. LOL!) My nature tends toward hypoglycemic attacks, even when I’ve eaten. I notice that my metabolism stays much more even throughout the day when I start with hydration and this cleanse-drink. Then I get on to the business of movement and yoga and I’m a happy mama.

Ancient yogic texts are full of guidance about daily cleansing rituals, and while this isn’t one of them, it is a great one in alignment with them all. For me, this is a fantastic replacer to swallowing salt water-soaked gauze and regurgitating it back up by holding onto one end and then pulling it back into the mouth! Yes. That is a thing. Some people swear by it. Being the teetotaler that I am, I’ll stick to having this warm, balancing drink do the cleaning for me.

This is also my first go to for immune boosting if I feel like I’m coming down with something. I’ll drink some variation of this mixture throughout the day and it usually really helps! This is safe to drink everyday, but I am more diligent about this in the transitional seasons of fall and spring so I have what I need to enter the more draining seasons in total health.

If you don’t do honey, substitute maple syrup which is full of iron and easier on blood sugar levels. Using local honey helps keep me boosted in spring, staving off seasonal allergies. This recipe is super simple and really forgiving so play with the ratios to make it work for you — you can omit the cayenne pepper altogether, but know it’s part of this because it is extremely good at supporting total health and lowering blood pressure. When you start the day with a little cayenne, you start the day calmer and more even-keeled. The apple cider vinegar in this drink also supports blood sugar levels staying even as well as general cardiovascular and cholesterol balancing. The honey (or maple syrup) relieves some of the intense tartness of the lemon and vinegar. That said, I wouldn’t make it super sweet! The more you drink this, the more used to the tartness you’ll become. It’s good for you. Just swallow it! With almost 10 years of parenting under my belt, I can speak this like a real mom, can’t I?

Ok. Enough! Try the recipe. Enjoy a little internal spring cleaning and drink in total health! I can’t wait to hear how it works for you. Cheers & Namasté!

Summer Solstice Pomodoro

Ahhhhhhhhh, summer.


Even though I live in the hot, hot desert, I still love summer!  I love it even more since our raised bed garden has been growing magnificently the last couple years and our tomato “yield” is great.  Because I mean, come on, what says “summer!” more than fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes?!

At least to me.

And my husband.

And our daughter.

You see, our heritages are Italian and we looooove tomatoes!  I’m pretty certain my raised bed garden mostly exists so my husband can solely grow tomatoes.  He humors us with lots of greens, herbs and various seasonal veggies in the garden that, honestly, mostly he and my daughter care for, but those could all die and, as long as his tomatoes survived, he’d feel like a successful farmer.  

Each year he learns more about caring for the soil and when to get tomatoes planted here so we can enjoy them the longest without them stewing on the vine in the desert heat.  Every morning he gets up with the sun and scours his babies, I mean, plants for hornworms, he plucks off unworthy sucker leaves, he rubs himself down with the aroma of fresh tomato stalks (or something, I just know he comes in smelling like tomato plants most mornings).  And each year it gets better and better.

Why not love tomatoes so much?  They’re so full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that they have been proven to help protect heart health, lower blood pressure, improve vision, reduce cholesterol, provide relief from skin irritations, urinary tract infections and diabetes, and stave off certain types of cancers!

Um, wow!  Veggies are UHmazing, UHstounding, and UHtterly fantastic, aren't they?

This early spring, we were super stoked to find organic San Marzano tomato seedlings at our local nursery.  My husband practically broke out in song, dance and tears.  

You see, San Marzanos are his absolute favorite kind of tomatoes.  I know.  He has a favorite kind of tomato.  Don’t you?

These are the Roma tomatoes he chooses to make his infamous “gravy” with.  “Gravy” is what our families call marinara.  It’s a northeastern americanism based on the definition of the Italian words for pasta sauce.  It was a bonding moment for us when we met waaaaay back when because in Miami — where we lived then, there’s not a lot of people saying, “Man, I could really go for some pasta with gravy!”

Our grandmothers called it gravy.  So, it’s gravy!

Gravy is great!  Admittedly, though, it’s a little heavy in the summertime.  Enter (my personal favorite use of San Marzanos):  POMODORO SAUCE.  This one is not called gravy by our families.  I don’t exactly know why other than that it is fresher and lighter and quicker to cook.  


I digress…


Ahhhhhhhhh, summer.  It’s the summer solstice.   


I absolutely love celebrating nature.  Living in the mojave desert, we don’t experience the full spectrum of seasons at our house, but I have found that celebrating them with ritual and observation anyway makes them all the more meaningful.  

In my yoga practice, I pay extra attention to Suryanamaskara (sun salutations) during a seasonal shift.  I drink in every inhale and fully release every exhale.  I honor the rising and the setting sun every time I reach upward or fold forward.  I do a few more rounds of these than usual and I mix in every traditional style of sun salutation.

Through yoga, we are always working toward true balance — just like nature does.  We are part of nature.  We reflect it, and nature reflects us.  Nature is constantly moving in the direction of equal light!  We are either ascending to long days full of light, or descending to shorter ones with more darkness.  Our bodies, through yoga, are equally expanding and contracting into and out from a state of balance, equilibrium, symmetry.  

Additionally, as a family we do something to acknowledge the change of seasons.  Sometimes we spend time in nature.  Other times we leave gifts for the birds and fairies in our garden.  We may make little alters or tablescapes with seasonal goodies.  And then there are the days when we decide to fully enjoy nature’s bounty and make a delicious meal out of only seasonal vegetables.  

That’s what we've done for this summer solstice.  One by one, we’ve been picking the San Marzano tomatoes and setting them aside from all the other varieties our garden is gifting us this year.  We’ve been eating and enjoying the cherry tomatoes, the heirlooms, the beefsteaks and the pear/grape ones while the San Marzanos piled up in a bowl in the fridge awaiting a very special event:  Solstice Family Dinner!

The star of the dinner show?  Pasta Pomodoro!

As I mentioned, Pomodoro is a light, fresh, summery tomato sauce.  It’s very quick to prepare and very hard to mess up.  It’s utterly delicious when you strike the right balance of flavors and it goes well on virtually any kind of pasta, spiralized veggies or spaghetti squash.

In the true tradition of our grandmothers and moms, there’s no real “recipe” for this dish, so I’m going to do my best to give you base quantities to use, but I want you to use your eyes, nose and tastebuds to make it perfect for you.  If it seems too dry, moisten it up with a little more olive oil.  If you looooove garlic, add more.  Be sure to salt it just enough to brighten the tomato flavor without overdoing it, and do not, I repeat, do not give in to the urge to cook this just a little bit longer.  Turn off that heat and step away from the stove!  After all, it’s summer.  Keep it cool!

May the longtime sun shine upon you and may you share this meal with people you love!


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for approximately 1lb of pasta

We love this so much, for our solstice meal we broke out the fancy china pasta bowls!  It’s super tasty as is, or, for some added pizzazz, sprinkle on a little parmesan or drizzle on hot pepper oil/add a dash of dried hot pepper flakes.

10-15 Plumb/Roma Tomatoes (preferably San Marzano variety)
20 small/10 large Fresh Basil Leaves
12 Fresh Garlic Cloves
¼-½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

  • Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Then slice each half in half lengthwise again. From there, cut the long strips into chunky pieces, approximately 2 inches thick.

  • Stack the basil leaves and gently slice them into thin strips or ribbons.

  • Carefully peel the garlic cloves and remove the root edges. Thinly slice each clove into discs.

  • Add the olive oil to a deep skillet and heat it over medium heat. Once the oil is just warm, add the garlic and let it cook mildly for 3-5 minutes. Do not burn the garlic and avoid over-stirring so the pieces maintain their disc shape and do not break. Once the garlic is softening, add tomatoes, basil and salt to the skillet. Stir to coat everything with oil. Cook over medium heat 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat, crack in some fresh black pepper and toss again. Let sit in the warm skillet for up to 5 more minutes and then pour over hot cooked pasta or veggies.


Hibiscus Hydrator Chia Seed Water

Have you noticed?  


That’s because they are …

SO tasty.  

SO good for you.  

SO easy.  

I plan to do a series of chia seed waters and the like to brighten all our lives — especially the kiddos.  “Waters” like this one are a great way to introduce kids to tea and to get them to drink that little extra bit to stay hydrated and nourished in a fun way!

My 6.5 year old LOVES this — as you can see from her silly bedhead-ponytails pic.  She was very happy to wake up to this concoction awaiting her in the kitchen!

We are always looking for ways to make hydration fun and interesting.  Not to mention all natural with no sugar-spike, and free of artificial food dyes!

May you and all your favorite people to share bedhead time with enjoy this refreshing treat!!  Let me know in the comments how you all like it … bedhead photos encouraged!  ;P


High Potency Hibiscus Hydrator

By Maggie Verderame

This keeps nicely in the fridge for a day or so without the chia seeds turning to pudding, so it’s nice to make a big batch and sip away — especially in the warmer months!  In cooler months, this makes a nice alternative to fresh juices and smoothies by simply not icing it very much.

This recipe makes 1, 16oz serving:

1 TBS Chia Seeds
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2-3 TBS White Grape Juice
¾ Cup Fresh Water
1 tsp Coconut Sugar
½ Cup Strong Hibiscus Tea*

Soak chia seeds in the apple cider vinegar, grape juice and ¼ cup of the water for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the chia seeds from clumping together.

Mix coconut sugar into hot hibiscus tea so it melts.

Add the sweetened hibiscus tea to the chia mixture.  Top with a little ice and enjoy!  It’s like nature’s Boba Tea ... only, in my opinion, MUCH better!

*To make strong hibiscus tea:  steep 1 TBS dried hibiscus flower pieces in 2 cups of boiling water for 15-20 minutes.  Add 1 tsp of coconut sugar for every High Potency Hibiscus Hydrator you plan to make.  This amount of tea will make 3 of the above drinks.

If you live in the US, I recommend getting organic dried hibiscus flower petals from Mountain Rose Herbs.