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It’s Just Being Neighborly

To you, this may just be a pile of pine straw, but there is more to it than that.


“The duty of helping one’s self in the highest sense involves the helping of one’s neighbors.”   Samuel Smiles

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How to Make Your Own Kombucha

Make your own kombucha

Kombucha is a delicious, lightly-fermented beverage with proven anti-microbial benefits and naturally occurring probiotics. Thought it’s a trendy drink these days, kombucha has been used for centuries as a tasty health tonic.

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Michael’s Homemade Chai Recipe

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

I love chai, but for a long time I couldn’t drink them because every commercially-produced chai tea contains ginger, and I am one of the unlucky few who happen to be allergic to the delicious rhizome. After years of pitiful pouting, I had the idea to deconstruct an ingredient list and thus began my experimentation with homemade chai.

It took a few tries, but after some trial and error (and error, and error…) I came up with a recipe that I think is pretty damn good, and it takes less than 15 minutes.

One big mistake I made early on had to do with the spices I was using. As you probably know, the spices are what makes the chai. If you are using old, outdated crap out of the back of the cabinet, your chai is going to taste like that unwrapped mint you found in the bottom of your granny’s purse when you were four. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Get your butt to a store that carries a good selection of spices, and make sure they aren’t old. Trust your instincts; if you feel like you should ask a manager how old those cinnamon sticks are, just buy them somewhere else. And if you live in the middle of nowhere, you can find inexpensive spices online. I’ve had great service from Penzeys (and they’re not paying me anything to say that).

chai spices

Michael's Homemade Chai Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 servings
  • 3 cups water
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 4 cardamom pods (green if you can find them)
  • 3 pieces of star anise
  • 2 small sticks of cinnamon, broken into pieces
  • 4 cloves
  • 1" piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs of sugar
  • 3 tsp or 3 bags of black tea
  • 3 cups milk (I prefer soy, but do what makes you happy)
  1. In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add the peppercorns, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
  2. Boil for 5 minutes and reduce heat to low.
  3. Add tea and sugar and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add soy milk. Let simmer for another 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and strain.

You can either strain your chai right into a mug or do what I do and pour it into a French press. It’s more convenient and easier to strain that way, plus you can take the pot with you for refills.


White Bean and Basil Stew

The other night while out for dinner with my fiancé, I spotted a soup special on the menu board that intrigued me. The chef had combined chickpeas with tomatoes and basil. Sure, that sounds like a winning combo, but for some reason it had never occurred to me to combine them as a soup. I took this as a challenge.

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Lentils with Brown Rice

Beans & rice are a staple food for many around the world, and I can remember a time when a younger version of me practically lived off the stuff. They’re inexpensive and packed with nutritional benefits. Not to mention that legumes and rice together are a complete source of protein.

This is a more grown up version of beans and rice, using quick-to-cook lentils along with brown rice and Mexican-inspired spices to give it an out of this world flavor.

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Homemade Vegetable Barley Soup

Soup is easy to make, and it’s a great comfort food that can be made ahead and stored for several days in the refrigerator just waiting to be warmed up for a quick meal. This is a definite favorite in my house, and I love to use whatever vegetables I have on-hand to supplement the base ingredients.

Just use this as a starting point from which you can go anywhere you want to. Have some leftover zucchini? Dice it and toss it in at the final step!

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Steamed Zucchini with Raw Tomato Basil Sauce

How about a light, refreshing, yet totally filling meal that is every bit as tasty as pasta without the simple carbs that will leave you feeling bloated?  This steamed zucchini noodle recipe is good enough to use with any standard pasta sauce, but it is even more amazing when you couple it with my raw tomato basil sauce.

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Creamy Cauliflower Roasted Vegetables with Brown Rice

Creamy Cauliflower Roasted Veggies and Rice

Who says you can’t have a creamy, flavorful meal that isn’t high in fat, calories, or processed junk? My creamy cauliflower roasted vegetables with brown rice is a meal that will leave anyone satisfied. It is one of the dinner meal options in my soon-to-be released 7-Day Body Vacation food plan (more on that in a future post).

For now, let’s get to the food.

This dish is seriously delicious. It doesn’t use any actual cream and very little fat (in the form of heart-healthy olive oil). The cauliflower transforms into a velvety delight that really rounds out a light but filling meal.

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Super Easy Refrigerator Oatmeal

refrigerator oatmeal

Don’t have time to make breakfast? Before you skip the most important meal of the day or reach for those instant oatmeal packets, give my Refrigerator Oatmeal a try. All it takes is a couple of minutes the night before and you’ll have breakfast on demand ready to eat with your morning coffee!

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New Smartphone App Lets You ResQWalk for the Animals

A smartphone app that makes it possible for me to help animals in need without spending any money? I’m all over it.

A few months ago, a friend brought to my attention an app that supports your choice of dog rescues. It earned an indeterminate amount of money through ads within the app itself, and though I used it several times I was always a bit wary of the lack of financial transparency.

Yesterday I was intrresQwalk1oduced to a new app called ResQwalk and those concerns were immediately alleviated. Available for iPhone and Android users, the ResQwalk app not only allows you to choose from lots of rescues, by default it sorts the list by location, showing you rescues that are closest to you. It also allows you to mark several rescue groups as favorites, and select one each time you start a walk.

Once you begin a walk, you have the option of pausing it at any time. That came in handy for my trip this morning. I started at my favorite doughnut shop (Revolution Doughnuts, heeeeeeey!) and walked to the nearby MARTA station, which was about half a mile away. Then I walked the station platform until the train arrived, and paused the app while I rode to my stop.

ResQwalk2Once I stepped off the train, I started the app again and walked another half mile home. When I walked through the door, I had walked 1.26 miles and donated a little money to a charity I strongly believe in. Even better, the app updates weekly with the number of miles walked and number of dollars raised for each organization, so the transparency issue is solved for me as well.

Here’s the pitch: I would love for each of you with a smartphone to download the ResQwalk app and use it daily. Use it when you walk the dog. Use it with you go for a jog. Use it when you walk to the mailbox, or even when you walk in circles in the living room.

As I mentioned, there are lots of hardworking charities from which to choose, all of which no doubt need the money. I’m sure you can find one that is important to you. If you would like my suggestion, I support Full Circle Farm Sanctuary in North Carolina.

Whatever you do, do something. It’s easy, takes seconds, and costs you nothing.