Seven Benefits of Eating Pomegranates

I wanted to get this post up before the pomegranate season was completely over. I have loved pomegranates since I was a child, we had several trees in our backyard in Central Phoenix. I loved to just pull them off the stem, crack them open and eat them outside.  Now we have had pomegranates in our yard in Mesa since we moved in, but this is the first year that I really paid attention to watering them accurately. In the weeks before I went to Mexico City this fall, I was patiently waiting for my pomegranates to be ready.

Hanging out amongst my trees

When I arrived back from the Distrito Federal, (D.F. as many call the Capitol of Mexico) my pomegranates were ripe and waiting for me! Hurray! I was so excited (it’s the little things in life)!

Pomegranates have become extremely popular in the last decade or so, but they are truly an ancient fruit, originating in the Near East – Persia and India. They eventually made their way to the U.S. with the Spanish explorers who called them granadas, and now they are in my backyard, lol!!

Some of the our pomegranate harvest

HORTICULTURE

The pomegranate is actually a shrub rather than a tree as is generally thought. It grows well in arid areas, which makes it nice for those of us whose live in the 115+ degree summer weather! Given the proper amount of water and in the proper way, these shrubs/bushes will flourish even in the desert!

This summer I noticed that while some of my pomegranates were growing nice and large, some were also splitting. I made a call to the friendly and helpful Maricopa Cooperative Extension https://extension.arizona.edu/maricopa and they gave me some great watering tips. Apparently the reason my fruit was splitting was because I was watering them unevenly, too much some times and not enough at others. So I put them on a consistent deep watering plan and that seemed to really help.

Large but some about ready to split

Pomegranate Health Benefits

Pomegranates have so many health benefits, it will be hard to list all of them here! Some of the most important are:

Very in high antioxidants, which could aid in preventing cancer and fight certain types of tumor growth. Contain flavonols which may decrease inflammation in the body.

Improves memory

Supplies Iron to blood

High amounts of Vitamin K and C

May lower blood pressure

May reduce plaque in carotid artery and improve heart health, this study in the Clinical Health Journal found that patients who were given pomegranate juice demonstrated reduced LDL and blood pressure https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(03)00213-9/fulltext

May have anti-tumor effects in fighting breast cancer. The National Institute of Health studies have been conducted that shown pomegranate extract can inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359482

The pomegranate leaf is also edible and has many health benefits.

*As always, the information provided here is not medical advice. Remember to consult with your medical provider to ensure that adding this or any food/herb/supplement will not contraindicate any medicines or health situation you may be experiencing.

Organic vs non organic? 

Well of course I always recommend eating organic foods a much as possible.  Regarding pomegranates, I researched the “Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen” and found them on neither,  maybe because the market is still emerging regarding this fruit and there have not been many studies done.  However, I did find in my research that the largest pomegranate producer in the USA does use pesticides in their production.  My suggestion as always is to grow your own if possible, if not then try the farmer’s market before buying conventional.  I have seen several posts on social media platforms from folks offering to sell pomegranates from their yards, please use discernment in these cases.

Finally ripened!!

My favorite way to eat pomegranate is straight from the tree. But I would also soon like to add a recipe for Chiles en Nogada. I first learned about this dish when I read the book “Como Agua Para Chocolate” and saw the movie. It looked so wonderful with all the different colors and flavors.

I do plan to make this dish in my kitchen some time soon and will share my recipe, but in the meantime here is a recipe you can try: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chiles-en-nogada-recipe4-2062175

What is your favorite way to eat pomegranates??


Flor de Calabasa – The Amazing Pumpkin Blossom and Why It’s Healthy to Eat!

A precious bee is pollinating a pumpkin squash blossom on a farm I visited last month in
Hidalgo, Mexico

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, I have been fascinated lately with this wonderful little flower! Who knew that the beautiful flower we see growing in the garden with our squash could be so healthy! It is just the simple squash blossom, but until my dear friend Gloria showed me how to cook with it, I never paid much attention to it.

Besides having a lovely light and mildly sweet taste, the squash blossom has many nutritional benefits. It primarily offers vitamin C and A, as well as folates, phosphorous and magnesium, which are all very important nutrients for body function and health. They have very few calories and are low in carbohydrates so they make a great light snack.

Since squash blossoms are very delicate, you probably won’t find them in grocery store, it is possible that a local farmer’s market may have them from time to time. The best to place to get these flowers is from your own garden!

My pumpkin squash blossoms at home
Trying to get a selfie with my blossoms!

I have found it to be fairly easy to grow squash and pumpkin in my area, but I’m just trying to figure out how to get rid of the tiny ants that have been hanging around – without using any pesticides. I am also learning that there are male and female blossoms, and of course bees are needed to pollinate in order to produce fruit. I think that God is just so amazing in His design that He planned for the females to become fruit and the males are left for us to consume!! See this article for more information on how to distinguish the blossoms: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/squash/female-male-squash-blossoms.htm

The male squash blossom is the one to eat!

In the past Gloria spoke many times about the wonderful squash blossom quesadillas that she used to eat when she lived in Mexico. I never imagined it back then, but I had the chance to try this incredible dish with her near her family’s farm in Hidalgo last month!

While visiting the hot springs in Tlacotlapilco, we got to eat at the cocinas (or kitchen booths) that edged the pools. The ladies there made corn masa tortillas fresh on the griddle and served a comida corrida (daily special) as well as a la carte choices. Of course my choice was a flor de calabasa quesadilla and one with quelites (wild amaranth greens) both with melted Oaxaca style cheese that is very similar to mozzarella.

Oh my goodness were they ever delicious, and of course even better topped off with a spicy fresh salsa!

Handmade corn tortillas
Squash blossom quesadilla
Wild amaranth quesadilla

Amaranth greens are another incredible superfood. In my part of the world we call them bledo, has anyone ever heard of that? Like the squash blossom, the greens contain vitamin C, magnesium and phosphorus. Surprisingly they also have a marked amount of protein and calcium. This article gives a great summary of the amaranth health benefits: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/amaranth.html

You can make a great authentic Hidalgo style quesadilla right in your own kitchen as well! Here’s what we did to make ours:

Hidalgo Style Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Find the freshest squash blossoms available, (these can come from zucchini and other squash as well)

Clean/rinse gently but thoroughly, slice open to make sure there are no bees hiding out! Remove the stamen/pistil from the middle and set aside to dry.

Make the corn tortillas. I always try to use organic corn masa, Bob’s Red Mill has a really nice one. Cook the tortillas on a cast iron comal if possible, but take them off heat just before they are completely done. Set in a cloth towel to keep warm.

Chop the squash blossoms and about 1/2 white onion and a clove of minced garlic.

To make the quesadillas really authentic you will want to add some fresh chopped epazote herb as well. Dried will work also if you can get fresh. Taste this first, as it has a very distinct flavor and might take some getting used to! (:

Epazote Herb

Saute the chopped ingredients in a small amount of avocado oil or organic beef tallow, add salt and pepper to taste. Shred the Oaxaca cheese. Now you can start to fill the corn tortillas with the sauted ingredients and cheese and heat them in a hot skillet with a small amount of oil. Gently heat the quesadilla until cheese is melted, then add some fresh salsa if desired and ENJOY!!

Slicing the blossoms
The corn tortillas
Sauteing the blossoms and onions
Our Quesadillas de Flor de Calabasa!

These were really fun to make with the kids and they tasted great (almost as good as the ones in Hidalgo) Haha – there’s nothing like the real food on location!

What ideas do you have for cooking squash blossoms? I would love to hear about it!


My Visit to the Amazing and Beneficial Hot Springs of Tlacotlapilco, Hidalgo Mexico!

I recently returned from an amazing trip to Mexico City where I visited with a dear friend and her family. There is so much to say about my trip, I will be posting bits and pieces here on the blog as often as possible. One of the highlights of the trip was an excursion to Aguas Thermales (hot springs) of Tlacotlapilco, in the Mexican State of Hidalgo. https://youtu.be/pSOEa95eLak

When my friend Gloria asked me if I would like to go to the hot springs in Hidalgo, I didn’t have to think twice about it. I have been wanting to try bathing in thermal waters for years but never had the chance. And after seeing how my friend was quickly healed from her digestive issues after spending some time in the water, I thought that it might helpful in battling against the blood cancer I was diagnosed with.

The drive to Tlacotlapilco was beautiful, the green mountains and fields of maguey and nopales (prickly pear cactus) abounded everywhere. Hidalgo is such a beautiful state! It was a bit cloudy, but it never rained on us, thank goodness. Just enough cloud cover to make the sky even more beautiful.

Beautiful green landscape of Hildalgo, MX
Rows and rows of nopales
Famous maguey of Hildalgo

So back to the hot springs- we were blessed to have the water pools almost all to ourselves that day. There were three different pools, with varying degrees of heat. My favorite of course was the very hottest ( I love hot baths, showers and infrared saunas!) I got right in, and spent 15 minutes intervals in and out. After that I spent some time at the actual source of water pouring in from a large hose directly from the spring.

The hottest spring was in the middle of the larger pools

I was also able to swim a lot and spend time just floating and relaxing in the water with my dear friends. My friend Gloria and I had a deep conversation about a recurring dream that I have had, when I saw the river that flowed next the to hot springs I realized that it resembled the dream almost identically. Maybe in the future I will write more about that in the book that I hope to write someday soon- At The Feet of Christ.

The river is hidden in the background behind the palapas

While there is not an abundance of studies showing a correlation of thermal waters healing illness, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that claiming that because of the mineral content in the fresh water, hot spring bathing may aid in curing digestive disorders, skin disorders, circulation and high blood pressure. Here is a study suggesting that hot spring bathing could reduce systemic blood pressure https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00380-011-0220-7

I really enjoyed the hot springs, and yes I have to say that is was very therapeutic, and I felt really good afterwards. I really needed to drink a lot of water though to make sure I didn’t get dehydrated. I would have liked to take a blood test a few days after being in the water to see if there were any changes in my white blood cells and lymphocyte levels. I definitely recommend trying this if it works for you.

**Of course as in all cases, always check with your medical professional to confirm that entering a hot springs or any kind of balneotherapy treatment is safe for your particular health situation.

Feeling great at the hot springs!

And to make my experience even more incredible in Tlacotlapilco, we took advantage of the “cocinas” (kitchens) that were on premises. The food was amazing, keep an eye out for my post coming soon!

Now that I’m back in the states, I will be seeking out some hot springs that are easily accessible from Phoenix. Have you tried out any hot springs? Tell us about your experiences!


How to Make a Scrumptious Organic Peach Pie!

Organic Peach Pie from our Home Bakery – Hollyhock and Nopál

I’m back to writing now after enjoying celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) last week! It was a joyous time dwelling outdoors and just focusing on the presence of God and His beautiful creation. This is a photo of the sukkah we built in our backyard.

Our backyard sukkah

So last post I talked about the incredible nutritional value of peaches, and now I want to share my recipe for a sweet peach treat with you!

My love for peach pies started when I was very young. Around seven years old, my mother did me the wonderful favor of entering me into the Kids Cook summer cooking contest at the Arizona Republic/Phoenix Gazette Newspaper.  Each week we kids were to try a recipe and then mail a short report back to the newspaper about how it went. The peach pie recipe was my favorite!

My mother saved the recipes for me from the Phoenix Gazette Summer 1977! That’s me on the lower right at 7 years old.

In college, I started to use a recipe from the Fanny Farmer Baking Book. Now as a mom, I learned to perfect my pie crust preparation by taking tips from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook. It’s been a work in progress and I’m sure I’ll learn some new methods as time goes on!

These days I am using only organic ingredients for my peach pies since conventional peaches have high amounts of pesticide residues.

Peach Pie and Pie Dough

Basic Pie Dough Adapted from Marion Cunningham’s and recipe

For a 9 inch 2 crust pie:

2 1/4 cups organic all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

3/4 Organic palm shortening

6-7 Tbs cold filtered water

Mix flour and salt together in a food processor. Have cold water ready at hand. Place the palm shortening in bits onto the flour salt mixture. Pulse just until crumbly, don’t over mix. Add cold water one tablespoon at a time and pulse each time. Give two or three more pulses, just enough that the dough holds together, but again do not over mix. You should have a nice soft dough that is not sticky but not dry either. Remove dough from processor, cover and set aside.

Pie Filling

About 5-6 peeled, pitted, and sliced organic peaches

5 tablespoons organic flour

1/4 cup organic or coconut sugar

1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

1 Tb organic lemon juice, preferably fresh squeezed

2 Tbs organic unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 425 F

Roll out half of your dough on a floured surface and lift carefully into a glass pie pan. Then roll out other half and cut into 1/2 inch strips.

2nd half of dough cut in strips

Place peach slices in large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl mix flour, sugar, and salt, pour mixture over peaches and toss gently but well, add lemon juice. Pour fruit mixture into dough lined pan and then dot with butter. Don’t forget the butter!

Dotting with butter!

Moisten the edges of the bottom crust and then weave a lattice top. This is not required but sure makes for a pretty pie!

Sprinkle a little bit (or a lot) of organic sugar on top crust before baking. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes. Reduce to 350 and bake another 20-25 minutes until the top is browned. I always put a cookie sheet under the pie as it is baking since sometimes peach juice may bubble out of the top of the pie and make a big mess in the stove. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Enjoy!!


What I Didn’t Know About Peaches!

Fresh organic peaches from Utah

I think most people love peaches!  Eating a wonderfully sweet, ripe peach in the late Arizona summer is one of the most delicious taste experiences I know. Since I was a young girl I have been eating peaches and making peach pies every summer, so after reading this article by Dr. Axe https://draxe.com/nutrition/peach-nutrition/  I was pleasantly surprised to find out the amazing benefits of the Prunus persica (peach) 

According to the Dr. Axe article, eating peaches can be effective in the following areas:

1. Combats Free Radicals

2. Fights and Prevents Cancer

3. Prevents Dangerous Heart-Related Conditions

4. Reduces Inflammation

5. Treats Gut Disorders

6. Destroys Candida Fungus

7. Supports Healthy Eyes

Since I recently received a cancer diagnosis, the findings that the polyphenols in peaches can inhibit cancer growth was very encouraging. “A study at the Texas A&M University found that tumor growth and lung metastasis were inhibited in vivo by peach polyphenolics and may be considered as al chemopreventive tool to reduce the risk of metastasis  which can be supplied by consuming two to three peach fruit per day or alternatively using a dietary supplement peach polyphenol extract powder.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24745759). Even more reason to eat this delicious fruit!

Of course the best way to eat peaches is organic, fresh and never having been frozen or cooked.  I typically eat my fruit only once a day, separate from other foods to aid in digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

Dr. Axe posted a recipe for a great salad https://draxe.com/recipes/balsamic-peaches-and-goat-cheese-salad-recipe/ . I tried it at home with what I had on hand! Here’s my adapted recipe below.

Dandelion Green and Romaine Salad with Balsamic Peaches

Dandelion Greens with Balsamic Peaches Salad

Becky’s recipe adapted from Dr. Axe

  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon fermented balsamic vinegar
  • 2 organic peaches, cut into wedges
  • 1-2 pounds dandelion greens and romaine lettuce rinsed
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 cup raw walnut (soaked if possible)
  • 1 bunch basil, cut into thin strips
  • 4 ounces organic feta cheese, crumbled (reserve for last)
  • ⅓ cup kefir (preferably raw fermented)
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon organic dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon raw honey
  • 2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoon fermented balsamic vinegar
  • ⅓ cup organic olive oil
  • 1 or 2 organic garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic powdered garlic
  • Himalayan sea salt and organic black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 tbsp. honey and vinegar; add peaches and coat.
  2. In large pan, sear peaches over medium heat for about 2 1/2 mins per side or until peaches are carmelized. remove and let cool.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together peaches, dandelion greens, shallot, walnuts, basil
  4. Whisk together last 8 ingredients or combine in a Mason Jar
  5. Drizzle over salad and Serve with 1 oz Goat Cheese on top.

Carmelizing the Peaches with Fermented Balsamic Vinegar and EVOO
Making the dressing

Later I will share my peach pie recipe for those times when you want to splurge a little bit on a sweet treat!  

Enjoy your salad and your peaches too!


Teas for Health -How to Make Healthy Homemade Chai!

Since drinking herbal teas is one of my most favorite things in the world to do, I thought my first recipe post should be about them!  My first experiences drinking herbal teas began in my late teenage years when I sat with my Nana Belia having some te de manzanilla (chamomile tea) after I told her my stomach was hurting. Sometimes she would offer me peppermint tea as well.  To this day, the smell of chamomile takes me back to those wonderful old times sitting with her in her kitchen with the peach colored curtains hanging delicately in the window next to the table where all the Gallego family would share meals. I have a bottle a chamomile essential oil that I love to just take a whiff of sometimes and recall those days… 

The chamomile flower

People have been drinking tea for thousands of years for both taste and medicinal values.  What started out as a way to remedy a stomach ache has now become a way of life for me and my family.  While I like to drink traditional teas like darjeeling, oolong and green tea (which both my Mayo Clinic and Naturopath doctors have prescribed for me daily, because of its high levels of antioxidants) my favorites are herbal teas.  Interestingly, herbal teas are not really true teas since they do not come from the Camellia Sinensis bush.  Herbal teas are actually infusions of organic matter like spices, leaves, roots, flowers, etc.1  The Merriam Webster dictionary defines these infusions using the French word tisane which is “an infusion (as of dried herbs) used as a beverage or for medicinal effects” 

There is also a term called decoction which means that organic matter is boiled continuously for a period of time in order to extract the oils and healthy properties of the plant being used.  A decoction would describe the majority of teas that I make at home regularly I use them as daily immune boosters and to fight off viruses and bacterial infection. They may also be effective in cleansing harmful yeasts and intestinal parasites. I might use fresh ginger, fresh or dried citrus peels, cinnamon bark, cardamom seeds, dried elderberries or citrus leaves.  One of my favorites is lemongrass from our plant in the backyard!

Lemongrass plant in our backyard

Making teas (or decoctions) at home is a very simple process, you can purchase organic herbs online or at health food stores, or even better grab them out of your home garden! Wash thoroughly, chop or pound a bit with a mortar and pestle, boil and enjoy with raw honey or stevia if you desire.  

Some of the benefits of making these healthy beverages yourself are that you will be getting the freshest ingredients possible in your tea, and you will know exactly what has gone into every drop. No worries about chemicals lurking in tea bags either. Best of all it’s usually much cheaper than buying organic tea bags from the store!

I really do emphasize using only organic herbs in your teas. Non organic herbs are irradiated or treated with ethylene or propylene oxide gas to fumigate them before packaging. Also if you buy prepackaged teas, you’ll want to be careful about the actual tea bags used since many contain chlorine and other toxic chemicals used in production.  I have researched Stash brand teas and they state that their bags do not contain chlorine dioxide or epichlorohydrin.  Many teas (even organic ones) also contain “natural flavoring” the content of which is not disclosed on the package.  So I just prefer going with unsweetened to avoid any doubt.

So here is the recipe for my absolute favorite tea (decoction) that I make at home.  It can be enjoyed hot or cold, and has a ton of immune boosting elements in it!  Important caution: as with any herb, please consult your physician before ingesting to ensure that there are no contraindications with any medical condition or prescription drugs you may be taking. 

Chai mixture steeping. Can you see the wonderful oils on top from the herbs? This is where all the healthful properties are collected.

Becky’s Favorite immune boosting Herbal Chai:

1 gallon filtered water

About ¼ cup finely chopped or mashed fresh organic ginger root (if not available use a couple TBs of powdered ginger instead)

⅛ cup whole organic cardamom pods, mashed in a mortar/pestle including seeds

2-3 organic ceylon cinnamon sticks crushed

2-3 tsp organic whole clove then freshly crushed (remember clove is very spicy so start out slowly)

About 2-3 long lemongrass leaves chopped coarsely and mashed

Optional: ½ cup orange, lemon or grapefruit peels fresh or dried

Optional  3-4 lemon leaves mashed

Raw honey to taste

Boil water in a stainless or non reactive pot, at boiling point add chopped ginger, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and clove, bring to a medium boil for about 10 minutes.  After boiling, add lemongrass, citrus peels and lemon leaves, let steep covered for at least 20 minutes. Strain tea to serve. Add raw honey to pot if desired or add into individual servings to taste. Can be cooled and refrigerated 2-3 days in a glass container. Enjoy your tisane!

1 Green, Jeffrey, http://www.naturalaz.com/ARIZ/June-2019/The-Power-of-Tea


What Does Living Naturally Mean to Me?

First and foremost, living a simple and natural life to me can be summed up by what the Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans paraphrased here:  … Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him.  But here is a more nuts and bolts description of just a few of the things that I have done over the years to try to live a more natural life.  Some were simple changes, others took a little more time, and some I’m still working towards!

  1. Eating healthy whole foods as much as possible! Homegrown vegetables and homecooked meals are the best!
  2. Removing processed foods and refined sugars from our diet and choosing organic as much as possible, especially clean meats and dairy products.
  3. Removing toxic cleaning products from the house and replacing with natural cleaners.
  4. Not using a microwave – We removed ours from the house more than 10 years ago and have never missed it! Well actually the only time I miss it is the day after Thanksgiving when I want to heat up a plate of leftovers.  But I just heat it on the stove or in the oven.
  5. Trying to stay away from WiFi and cellular waves as much as possible -that can be challenging in today’s world.  We still run DSL in the house.
  6. Try to wear mostly cotton clothing, organic cotton being the best!
  7. Using very few skin care, makeup products, and commercial fragrances.
  8. Try to avoid watching too much television and/or internet
  9. Getting outdoors and exercising a lot! 
  10. Going gray naturally and loving being myself!

Why I Started this Blog

It’s been more than ten years that I have wanted to start an online blog. I remember the first time I saw Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s blog and I was hooked on her healthy cooking ideas and recipes and lively humor as well. I knew I wanted to do something similar, but honestly didn’t think I had the skills or the time with 4 young children at home. As I have grown older and the kids have become more self sufficient, I realized that now is the time to get started. I have been studying natural living themes and making my best attempts at living a natural life for many years, and I want to share what I have learned and experienced with you now. I hope that this page will serve as a resource for you and encouragement as you also live a natural life! -Becky


Hi I’m Becky Barranca

Thank you for visiting my blog! I am so excited to share what I love doing everyday with you here! My hope is that this blog will be an inspiration for living a natural and simple life, and provide information and resources for you to be able to do that. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you!


My First Blog Post

About Me

I’m Becky Barranca, many know me by my maiden name, Rebecca Lynn Rodriguez.  I am a daughter of God, I like to call him Yahweh.  I’m married to Fernando Barranca the love of my life, and the mother of 4 beautiful children that we were blessed with. I am a daughter and a sister and a stepmom and have been blessed with a wonderful extended family. I am a 4th generation proud Arizonan of Mexican descent, so I enjoy a colorful culture that blends the rich heritages of both the USA and Mexico together.  I was in the life insurance business for more than 20 years, and now I dedicate my time to homeschooling my children, ministry work and a home bakery.

GROWING UP and now, I have always been drawn to nature and I spend a lot of time outdoors.  Like many in my culture, as a young girl, my grandparents taught me about using natural remedies for minor ailments.  My Aunt Carmen taught me about using malva (mallow) for hair and “bledo” (amaranth) and “verdolagas” (purslane) to make healthy green dishes for dinner.   My Tata Kiki taught me about grapefruit tree flowers to make tea and Nana Belia gave me “manzanilla” (chamomile) for tummy aches.  Auntie Marilyn taught me about using chaparral (creosote) for healing.   Using plants as nutrition and for possible healing of ailments has been a part of my life and culture since childhood.  I look forward to sharing what I have learned with you!

One common aspect of our Hispanic culture is that we LOVE our tortillas, sweet breads and sugary drinks! So in addition to learning about nature’s remedies, as a child I also enjoyed having fresh tortillas from Carolinas, pan dulce from Food City, which usually included my Tata Kiki’s favorite, cochitos!   Sometimes my cousins and I would try to sneak one of my Tata Vic’s Strawberry Barq’s sodas in a glass bottle.  But he always caught us lol!! 

Unfortunately for me, the refined carbs and sweets took a toll on my teeth resulting in lots of fillings as a young person. And I still struggle a bit with my weight, because I really do like bread!  But what I have changed now is that I don’t have as much of those things anymore, and I have found healthier alternatives to the refined sugars and grains.  Instead of soda, we drink fresh organic Jamaica (Hibiscus tea) sweetened with a little raw honey or coconut sugar. Instead of tortillas, we’ll have some Forbidden Rice (black rice) to complement our dishes.  As for the delicious pan dulces and cochitos– well we do splurge a couple of times a year!  Now though, we try to focus on grain free and organic desserts and sourdough breads at our home bakery Hollyhock and Nopal Bakery LLC.    

CANCER?  As I have grown older, I have learned more about healthy eating and living. But even though I have tried to live a healthy life for many years now, I’ve always been aware that just being human puts us at risk for cancer! My concern as a woman had always been focused on breast or reproductive organ cancers.  In fact, in the early 2000’s I ran a non profit organization that focused on Hispanic Women’s breast health issues.  I spent several years teaching on the importance of taking care of ourselves. Unfortunately through the years I have lost several friends to cancer and their passing has left scars on my heart. 

In early 2019, feeling very tired and thinking I had a thyroid imbalance, I went for a regular checkup and had my annual blood tests done.  I was shocked the following week when I was given a diagnosis of cancer! Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.  I had never had anemia or blood issues and in fact had never heard of CLL. The next couple of months became a whirlwind of more blood testing and visiting cancer centers for specialist opinions. I even took a trip to Monterrey, Mexico to visit with one of the top hematologists there to get a third opinion and confirm the diagnosis. Now I’m under care at Mayo Clinic and SCNM and I am so thankful to God to say that this cancer is not aggressive and that most people live many years without needing treatment.  However, in the meantime because my immune system is under more stress, I tire easily and I need to be extra cautious and aware of my health. 

The cancer diagnosis has changed my mindset about life. It has reminded me that life is precious and we have to make the most of every moment! At the same time I know that God is able to heal me!  It has been quite a life change and a journey that I am just embarking on, and I hope you will join me as I walk through this and all the seasons of my life!   

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.