About Judy

 Welcome to my blog. Since the early 1990's, I've been on a personal quest to find and maintain good health while eating great food. My mother had been diagnosed with lupus, and my husband was found to have Epstein Barr virus - both immune system problems. I saw acquaintances adopting a healthy lifestyle only after a major health crisis or serious diagnosis. I was motivated to learn how to strengthen and keep my immune system strong and change to a healthy lifestyle permanently. I quickly learned that diet was a critical component, and mine needed a major overhaul.

The more I learned, the more convinced I became that my personal lifestyle "diet" could not be the prevailing American diet of over-refined, over-processed, chemically altered, nutrient deficient, genetically modified, environmentally poisoned, inhumanely raised, fumigated, irradiated, oversweetened, and otherwise compromised foods.

Fresh eggplant from my garden, for my Baked Vegetables Parmesan
In the process of self-educating, I experimented and learned about growing, harvesting, preserving, purchasing and cooking good food... which also tastes great. Fortunately, my recipe successes have outnumbered the failures, and I think my good health, stable weight, and high energy level attests to the benefits of the way I've designed my lifestyle diet. I get pleasure in sharing this knowledge, and my recipes are often requested. Sharing recipes easily was my initial motivation to create this blog, and it also helped get all my favorite recipes in one place for my own reference!

Biscotti are favorites of mine, and I've created many kinds.
My grandmother and mother passed on their love of cooking from scratch, and I've taken it a few steps further. I rely on whole foods and I organically grow many vegetables, fruit, berries, and herbs. I buy fresh local ingredients to augment what I grow myself, going to pick-your-own farms, swapping with fellow gardeners, and buying from the local Menonite farm stand and nearby farmers' markets. My diet emphasizes plant foods more than meat, poultry or fish, and I prefer tastes not too sweet. I try to buy what's in season and ingredients which have not travelled far to reach me. I avoid foreign raised ingredients as much as possible, since I know even less about how they are produced. My Vitamix super-blender gets lots of use, particularly for smoothies. When I switched to green smoothies many years ago, I discovered great greens and flavorful herbs to grow and add fresh from my own gardens. In July 2012 I made another major dietary change and began to eat gluten-free, after a 6-week trial without gluten had some immediate positive affects for me. This required loads of research and experimentation, and many new recipes resulted. I have an additional interest in wild harvested foods; winter salads sometimes include fresh wild chickweed and chopped wild onions, in spring I pick tender young leaves in my woods from trillium and muscadine vines. I've eaten seed pods from redbud trees, young shoots and unopened buds of garden daylilies, pansies and nasturtium flowers. My green smoothies might include dandelion greens, red and white clover leaves and flowers, or young sassafras leaves. Not bad for someone who was the classic "picky eater" as a kid!

One of my paintings
Incidently, I am not a nutritionist or chef or scientist. I'm a commercial graphic artist by day and moonlight as a fine artist in acrylics and watercolors. You can view my paintings at judy-lavoie-art.com. I'm also a banjo player and fiddler, knitter, photographer, dog lover, and too many other interests! I come from a family of fitness-buffs - my dad was still doing a 2-mile walk every other day at age 89 - and I've been walking daily for decades. I work out at the local gym several times a week and gardening tasks keep my muscles toned too. My husband and I maintain walking trails through our woods and harvest our own firewood from our land, burning loads of body energy! My lifestyle beyond my diet is also an important component in my good health. I have been married since 1976 to my best friend Rick. Over the years, we've intentionally simplified our lives and resisted much that makes the lives of our contemporaries so stressful. Our home is a one-bedroom house we built ourselves in the middle of 65 acres of woods, fields, and a spring-fed stream. We live in a small town with no traffic lights, bordering a beautiful National Forest. We have an active social life and love to have fun. And we are not attached 24/7 to devices!

These recipes have all been created by me (unless I state otherwise), often by making healthy substitutions to existing recipes... or having fun experimenting! They've also been taste-tested by me and my very honest husband Rick, as well as willing "guinea pigs" among my food friends. So they only appear here after receiving positive reviews! I won't subject you to some of my craziness - like mixing homegrown raw peapods in with my breakfast granola... just lots of good food choices. I enjoy preparing and eating raw foods, salads, baked goods, entrees, breakfast foods, side dishes and most other meal categories. My much-used kitchen equipment includes my food processor, hand blender, spice grinder, dry and wet containers of the Vitamix, grain mills, pressure cooker, gas grill, rice cooker, spiralizer, dehydrator, slow cooker, oven, and more.

My gardening endeavors include year-round vegetable gardening (I garden in USDA plant hardiness Zone 7), perennial and annual herbs, perennial vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus, berries and fruit trees, loads of perennial flowers, and a planted wildflower "specimen" garden. I primarily use my harvests fresh, but I also preserve by freezing, canning, and dehydrating. I've made culinary extracts from home-grown stevia, chocolate mint, lime basil, and other flavorful garden herbs. I dry many herbs, and make a blend of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme - my "Scarborough Fair" mix. I've made salves with comfrey, cough syrup with elderberries, lotions with calendula petals. I grow a special variety of red hibiscus and lots of lemon flavored plants to steep as teas. I eat parts of vegetable crops not commonly harvested, like the leaves of sweet potato vines and peas, pods of radishes and flowers of squashes. I love to experiment with new garden crops, growing my own turmeric, ginger root, horseradish, and goji berries. Past years I've grow unusual crops like garbanzo beans, black beans, buckwheat, grain sorghum, pyrethrum chrysanthemums, and other fun experiments. I grow primarily heirloom plants and have an addiction to saving seeds! I hate to throw plants away, and hundreds of cuttings from my strawberry beds, iris gardens, and other flowers are now in friends' gardens. Beware if you visit during growing season - you won't leave empty handed.

The information I share in this blog is based on my research, readings, and personal experience, and I only provide it as a guide. The kitchen and gardening tips are based on my own learning, research, experience and experimentation. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, I am "but a young gardener," always learning more about the complexities of Mother Nature.

A list of many ingredients I use is provided on the INGREDIENTS page, some with specific brands or tips on selection. If the text is in red in a recipe then you'll find more detail about that item on the Ingredients page. For ease in finding one of my recipes, a FAVORITE RECIPES page lists them by category.

As you might gather from reading my blog, I am somewhat unconventional and I live an unadorned lifestyle. My interest in natural foods doesn't end there - I use natural, non-chemical products as clothing, health and beauty aids, cleaning solutions, laundry products, and alternative health care. I've never colored my hair, pierced any body parts, gotten manicures, pedicures or facials, or tattoed myself anywhere! I am blessed to be married and deeply in love with my high school sweetheart Rick, who is also my best friend and busines partner. We live in a blessed place, on 65 wooden acres in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in southeast Tennessee, with an amazingly rich variety of flora and fauna.

Use my recipes as a guide, and do your own experimentation - that's how I've discovered new taste sensations! If you get just one good idea for making your food experiences better or improving your gardening results, I will consider that a fulfillment of my goal in creating this blog. I welcome your feedback and comments. Enjoy!