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The holidays are nearly upon us, and every year it’s fun to try something new in addition to our favorite old standbys. This year I was very fortunate to receive some samples of Bhakti Chai concentrated chai mix to try. While you can simply mix the chai concentrate with dairy, soy or nut milk, you can also use the flavors of black tea, ginger and spices to whip up a few of the company’s awesome holiday-perfect recipes. They sent some along, and I can’t wait to try them.

3 Bhakti Chai Holiday Recipes


Bhakti Chai Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a holiday favorite. Try spicing it up with the warming taste of ginger and herbs using Bhakti Chai concentrate.

All Butter Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

6 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

To make dough:
1. Spoon flour into a one cup measure and level the top by sweeping a knife across. Measure two cups of flour this way into a medium bowl.

2. Add salt and butter. Cut the butter into the flour with two knives or with a pastry cutter (or with a paddle if using a mixer) until the butter is pea sized or slightly smaller.

3. Slowly add ice water and mix until the dough comes together in a ball and there are no dry patches. Flatten the ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 90 minutes. (This can be done several days in advance.)

To prepare pie crust:
1. Roll dough to approximately 1/8-inch thickness. Turn pie tin upside down on the dough and, using a paring knife, trace a circle 2 1/2 inches larger than the tin. Turn pie plate right side up and line it with the pie dough. Roll the edge down and crimp tightly. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until firm.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pie shell on a baking sheet. Line shell with parchment paper or foil and fill with dried beans or rice.

3. Bake shell until edges appear dry and slightly golden. Remove beans and parchment/foil, prick bottom and sides with a fork and return to oven until the bottom of the shell appears slightly puffed and dry. Set aside. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.


3 cups Bhakti Chai Concentrate

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed 

1/2 cup granulated cane sugar 

1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs 

3 egg yolks 

1 1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Boil Bhakti Chai Concentrate in a saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup. Set aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together brown sugar, cane sugar, salt, eggs and egg yolks.

3. Whisk in reduced Bhakti Chai.

4. Sprinkle chopped pecans in the bottom of the partially baked pie shell. Pour filling mixture over the pecans.

5. Place pie in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until filling is firm when pressed in the center.

6. Let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired. —courtesy The Little Bird Bakeshop

chai nog

Bhakti Spiked Nog

I don’t care for traditional egg nog, but this spicy chai mix with rum warms up a cool night.

1/2 cup Bhakti Chai concentrate

1/2 cup Silk Nog, RiceNog or EggNog

1 shot of your favorite rum or whiskey

Mix all ingredients and warm on stove to serve hot, or pour over ice and serve cold. Makes 1 drink.

chai nuts

Bhakti Chai Spiced Nuts

I love the idea of making spiced nuts for the holidays. They have less sugar and more nutritional value than many holiday treats, and they package up beautifully as a gift for a favorite neighbor, teacher or coworker.

2 cups unroasted (raw) mixed nuts

1 cup hot Bhakti Chai concentrate

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried ginger

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Warm up Bhakti Chai on the stovetop or in the microwave. Soak nuts in hot Bhakti Chai for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Mix brown sugar, spices and salt together.

4. Strain nuts (save leftover Chair, reheat and enjoy with your favorite milk or dairy!) and mix with sugar/spice mixture.

5. Lay a piece of parchment paper or spray/coat a baking sheet with oil and lay nuts in a single layer. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until nuts are fragrant and browned. Keep an eye on them so the sugar mixture doesn’t burn!

6. Let cool before removing and enjoy!

—courtesy Dana Villiers of Whole Foods in Boulder


Creams, lotions, moisturizers, shampoos—body care is expensive! Especially for those of us who want to the avoid potentially toxic chemicals found in many conventional body-care products. The great news is that nature provides us with affordable and effective alternatives—after all, who hasn’t heard of Cleopatra’s alleged natural beauty regimen, which included milk and honey baths and essential oil perfumes? We love offering natural DIY beauty tips throughout the year in Mother Earth Living, and many excellent blogs provide the same kind of recipes on a weekly basis. Here are a few of my favorite recipes from the blogs of natural health pros. Mix away and enjoy!  

Body Scrubs 

Coffee Body Scrub by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a fabulous organization fighting the use of toxic chemicals in makeup. The group’s site is an excellent source of information and, as an added bonus, they also have some great recipes for DIY body care. Try this invigorating coffee scrub!

• 2 cups coarsely ground coffee 
• 1/2 cup raw sugar or sea salt 
• 2 to 3 tablespoons massage oil 

Mix all ingredients together. Take a hot shower to moisten your skin and open your pores. Using wide, circular motions, rub the coffee exfoliant onto your skin with strong, even pressure. Shower off, pat skin dry and apply a thin layer of your favorite body lotion. Read more

DIY Dry Shampoo by In Sonnet's Kitchen

Certified holistic health coach Sonnet offers delicious recipes for food and body care on her blog. Here’s a simple DIY dry shampoo.

• 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
• 2 tablespoons organic cacao or cocoa powder (omit if blonde)

Combine ingredients and store in a small container. Use a makeup or blush brush to apply a small amount of dry shampoo to the roots. Then, working in sections, brush powder through hair until it blends in with hair and oil is absorbed. If needed, apply a bit more and repeat. Read more

Luxe Homemade Facial Oil by Vintage Amanda

Certified health coach Amanda offers excellent recipes and advice on her blog. Here is her recipe for a home version of a rich face oil.

• 50 milliliters (about 2 ounces) of carrier oil
• 15 drops of essential oils (either 15 of 1 oil, or 5 drops each of 3 different oils … just make it 15 drops total)
• 1 vitamin E capsule (optional)

Put a few drops of oil on your hands, rub your hands together gently and massage into your face, concentrating on the drier areas.  I like to do a few minutes of facial massage in the evening when I apply the oil. Relaxing! Read more.


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but it’s not necessarily the best for our health with its combination of sugary treats and cheap plastic costumes. This year, I’m trying to make my holiday fun a little healthier for my family and the environment. Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with. Please share your tips with me!

girl 2

1. Host a costume-swap party. I love this idea of saving and passing on used Halloween costumes, especially for kids. If you have a group of parent friends, especially whose children are a few years apart in ages, make it an annual tradition to save your children’s costumes and swap them next year. The site National Costume Swap Day offers registration and tips for hosting a swap. A friend of mine used to host an annual "soup swap" party. Everyone would make a large batch of soup, then package it in 1-quart plastic freezer bags. Everyone would bring four to six servings and trade. We all left with many kinds of soup for the freezer. You could host such a party and add a costume swap into the mix.

2. Get thee to the thrift store. I love thrift store shopping, but depending where you live it can require some hunting to find nice, normal day-to-day clothing. Lucky for us we aren’t looking for nice or normal when it comes to Halloween. Take a few  hours on an upcoming Saturday to visit your local thrift store and see what inspirational (aka weird) clothing options you can find.

3. Make your own face paint. When the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested children’s face paint for lead and other heavy chemicals, they found lead present in 10 of 10 samples. Fortunately, it’s fun and easy to make your own nontoxic version by mixing natural food coloring (available at health food stores or here) into unscented lotion or pure cocoa butter. offers video instructions


4. Candy, man! It’s a major bummer, but most conventional chocolates are made using horrible working conditions and in some cases child slave labor. The good news, though, is that you can find a number of delicious organic, fair trade candies via the Natural Candy Store. Try the OCHO bite-sized organic candy bars or Halloween lollipops. All Natural Candy Store candies are also free of artificial colors, dyes, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives.

5. Make a healthier treat. While candy doesn’t offer much in terms of nutritional value, a few Halloween favorites are better from a health perspective. Caramel apples, for example, offer all of the fibery goodness of the fruit and, if you add them, nuts provide healthy fats. This recipe from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition uses cream, sucanat (unrefined cane sugar) and honey to make caramel. Another tasty treat that’s pretty good for us: Caramel corn. This healthier version uses almond or peanut butter and honey to make a sweet topping for popped corn (always avoid microwave popcorn bags, which are lined with the chemical PFOA—instead opt for air-popped, skillet-popped or simply use a brown paper bag in the microwave). 

Photo By Whole Lifestyle Nutrition


It may not be a metropolis, but my home of Lawrence, Kansas, is pretty cool. A college town filled with art, music and intellectuals (we’re the 9th-smartest city in America, according to this recent study), we’re also lucky to have access to some pretty amazing food. One of our leading businesspeople is Hilary Brown. The founder of the visionary café Local Burger—think healthy, local fast food—Hilary has now moved on to be the owner of an expanding veggie burger business, Hilary’s Eat Well, making her delicious burgers available at Whole Foods and other grocery chains nationwide. We’re all proud of this local dynamo (and quite lucky that she will be catering some events surrounding our upcoming Lawrence Mother Earth News Fair). Hilary agreed to share some of her recipes with us. The great thing about these delicious vegan recipes is that they are much healthier alternatives to the conventional versions of these classic comfort foods: nachos, sloppy Joes and Swedish meatballs. Enjoy!

Hilary’s Nacho Typical Nachos!

nachos 2

Adzuki Bean Burgers add amazing flavor and extra crunch to these nachos. The secret to great vegan nachos is the cheese—we love WayFare cheese dips because they're dairy-, soy-, egg- and gluten-free and taste really (really) good! Also great with black olives, WayFare sour cream, jalapenos and extra salsa!

• 30 tortilla chips
• 2 Hilary's Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burgers (toasted)
• 1/2 cup black beans (rinsed)
• 4 green onions (chopped)
• 3/4 cup WayFare Mexi Cheddar Spread
• 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (quartered)

1. Heat cheddar spread in a small saucepan over low heat.

2. Arrange chips on large plate. Crumble toasted burgers over chips and add black beans.

3. Drizzle with cheese dip and top with green onions and tomatoes.

Hilary’s "Sloppy Joannas" Vegan Sloppy Joes Recipe

sloppy joanna

This is a great gluten-, soy- and meat-free version of sloppy Joes! Sir Kensington's Spicy Ketchup is perfect with this recipe—it has great flavor and is made with real, whole-food ingredients.

• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 green pepper, chopped
• 4 Hilary's Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burgers, chopped into ¼-inch cubes
• 1 tablespoon oil
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
• 1/4 cup yellow mustard
• 1 cup Sir Kensington's Gourmet Scooping Ketchup, Spicy
• 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
• Gluten-free hamburger bun
• Sliced red onion (to serve, optional)

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent.

2. Add bell pepper and cook another 3 minutes or until softened.

3. Add burgers and cook until browned and heated through.

4. Stir in brown sugar and chili powder. Add mustard and ketchup and stir until combined. Add salt to taste.

5. Serve heaping on a gluten-free bun with sliced red onion.

Hilary’s Vegan Swedish “Meat” Balls Recipe


This easy-to-make vegetarian version of Swedish meatballs is great for parties!

• 4 Adzuki Bean Burgers, crumbled
• 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
• 1/3 cup raw unsalted almonds, chopped
• 1-1/2 cup vegan, soy-free Diaya
• 3 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon corn starch
• 1/3 cup almond milk
• 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
• 1 tablespoon Pickapeppa or vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
• 2 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg (omit if vegan)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and shape mixture to walnut sized balls.

3. Place in a lightly greased or oiled pan and bake covered with foil for 20 minutes. Turn periodically to brown each side.

4. Remove from pan and let sit 5 minutes before serving. For Vegan Swedish Meatball Sauce follow a traditional recipe and substitute Vegan Sour Cream or find a recipe here.


Next week, I, along with my 1-year-old Julian; husband and Mother Earth News Fair Programming Director, James; and about 30 other members of our staff here at Ogden Publications will be heading east to our fourth annual Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. If you’ve never heard of the Mother Earth News Fair, you’re missing out. As I mentioned, my husband, James Duft, is the programming director, and with such a close view of this event, I can tell you how much care, conscientiousness and planning goes into it every year.

Each year, more than 10,000 enthusiastic people descend on Seven Springs Mountain Resort, a gorgeous spot in the mountains of Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half from the Pittsburgh airport. More than 150 speakers and presenters (myself included) present on a range of topics focused on self-sufficiency and sustainability. You can see the full program guide here. This year some of the highlights for me include the always entertaining and informative Joel Salatin presenting “Don’t Be Scared, Be Strange”; a legend in the herb world, Rosemary Gladstar, presenting on Herbs for Family Health; the excellent author Lisa Kivirist presenting on “Organic Eating on a Dime”; and, because cheese is just one of the greatest foods, a workshop on making cultured raw milk mozzarella—yum!

Mother Earth Living has its own stage with its own lineup of presenters, covering such topics as herbal remedies, DIY home necessities and more. Plus there is tons of fun for the whole family outside the presenters—dozens of animals are on display including alpacas, llamas, pigs, chickens and sheepdogs. There is delicious food, ongoing presentations of old-fashioned skills such as weaving, plus a marketplace of more than 200 vendors. Plus, everyone stays together at the resort, so breakfast might find you comingling with actor Ed Begley Jr. and our publisher, Bryan Welch. If you love living simply and living well, I would highly encourage you to join us at one of the upcoming Fairs. We are adding a Midwest location this year in Lawrence, Kansas, (where many of us live) on October 12 and 13. West Coast residents can visit the Puyallup, Washington, Fair every June, and anyone in the Southern regions can look forward to our first-ever Asheville, North Carolina, event this coming April of 2014. 


Here is an overview of last year's Pennsylvania Fair


You're coming, right?? 


Weleda Calendula Baby Face Cream: This wonder cream is my go-to for any skin problems my baby is having. Whether it’s a raw chin from teething drool or a mild rash outbreak, this miracle cream makes it disappear. Incredibly effective yet gentle and free of harmful chemicals, this cream is a must-have for sensitive baby skin. 1.6 ounces: $13


Pura Bottles: I’m in love with my Pura baby bottles. I didn’t want to use plastic bottles, and glass is great but it can crack or chip. Hence, the stainless steel solution. Pura makes excellent bottles with a wide range of nipple styles. The other amazing thing they’ve thought of? The steel rim also comes with a silicone sealing disk, so as baby gets older, you can use it as a container for snacks or whatever else you’re toting. I love them! Pura Kiki 11-ounce infant bottle: $16


Earth’s Best Organic foods: Although there are a few companies making high-quality organic baby foods, Earth’s Best Organic is the only full line, including cereals, purees, snacks and more for infants, toddlers and kids. Every ingredient is organic, the company tests its ingredients for pesticide contamination, and the foods are sourced from American farms. Plus they make lots of interesting flavor combinations such as Apple Butternut Squash, Chicken Mango Risotto and Summer Vegetable Dinner (zucchini, corn, green beans, brown rice, carrots and garbanzo beans). 4-ounce jars: $1


Ubbi diaper pail: Made of durable stainless steel, Ubbi diaper pails don’t absorb odors like plastic cans often do. They have a tight seal you close at the top, which helps hold in odors, and they use standard garbage bag sizes, unlike some that require custom bags you have to keep buying. And, unlike some of the plastic options, Ubbi pails have a modern design. It’s a great product. Ubbi diaper pail: $80


Honest Diapers: I have been totally satisfied with the service from Honest Diapers. Figuring out what kind of diapers to use was one of my hardest decisions when pregnant. Although I love the idea of cloth, working full time made it sound unappealing to spend so much of my precious baby time doing laundry. But I definitely didn’t want to use chemical-laden and landfill-clogging conventional diapers. Enter Honest Diapers. Chemical-free and biodegradable, these disposable diapers arrive at your doorstep each month, along with saline diaper wipes. The quantity is perfect: I’ve never run out of diapers, yet I have very few left when the next batch arrives. They come in a variety of adorable patterns, including seasonal and holiday patterns, all of which are updated periodically. It’s fun, easy and better for the environment than conventional. Another advantage: I never have to think about buying diapers. Honest Diapers and wipes, monthly subscription: $80 


solar panels 2

My husband, James Duft, is the programming director for our Mother Earth News Fairs, a series of hands-on celebrations of sustainable living. This year will be the first one we’ve had in Lawrence, Kansas, where we live. A couple months ago, we met for coffee and breakfast with a few of our city leaders as he started developing content plans for the Fair. It was a fortuitous meeting, because we met Ian Spomer, sales director for Cromwell Solar, which is now leasing solar panels in Lawrence. As an editor for Natural Home & Garden (now transitioned into Mother Earth Living), I had talked to and featured many people who had financed solar panels, most notably Matthew Grocoff, the host of GreenovationTV, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He made the good point that “most people can walk into a car dealership and walk out with a $25,000 car and financing. Yet navigating solar rebates, tax credits, incentives and financing requires an advanced degree. Investing in solar should be as easy as buying a car.” (Read about Matt's net-zero Michigan home.

In California and many other places in the U.S., solar leasing has made investing in solar just about as easy as buying a car. Major companies such as SunRun and Sungevity have been making this opportunity available for years. But solar leasing didn’t exist in Kansas—until now. Using a solar lease, the bank owns your solar panels and leases them to you for a period of 15 years. The first step is applying for the loan. Then the company determines how much solar you’ll need by pulling your electricity bills for the past year. In our case, our south-facing roof and smallish house meant that our solar array will be able to provide 98 percent of our energy needs. If we can cut back on energy use at all, we should be able to achieve 100 percent solar.

We will make payments to the bank, which is financing the panels, which will cost less than our current electric payments. The payments go up with inflation over the years of the lease, but less than the expected cost of electricity increases. At the end of the 15-year lease period, we buy out the remaining cost of the panels—contractually not more than $1,000. Then we own them and they continue producing free energy on our roof. The panels are under warranty for 25 years.

None of this requires a down payment. The bank gets big tax credits for financing the alternative energy; we get an expensive alternative energy system with bite-size payments we can afford. Of course, you may also be in the position to take out a loan and take advantage of tax credits on your own, but for us, this was a workable solution.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to come home to solar panels covering our roof! They’re not turned on yet—we’re awaiting a final inspection by the energy company. I am so excited for the day we start producing solar power! 

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