Plant Based Living

Plant Based Living

 A plant based diet comes with a multitude of flavorful health benefits and little to worry about.

Food For Thought? Nutrition for mental health…

Think of food as the foundation to getting us back to where our mind and body naturally wants to be. I like to call it good mood food…  

It wasn’t that long ago, if someone dared to share that what we eat connects to how we feel, we might have been labeled one of those new age people. A new field of psychiatry is showing some exciting links between what we eat and our mental health. Thank goodness science has caught up with the divine wisdom of nature.

Did you know that eating certain foods like refined processed carbohydrates such as white bread and sugary foods can zap your energy and give you brain fog? 

~  In addition to adding on some extra pounds.

Let’s clear up the carb confusion. Some trends suggest that carbs are the enemy. I disagree, at least a little. I admit I do pay attention to my carb intake. However, If you are eating whole foods, picked at the right time, grown in a healthy environment, you don’t have to obsess about it. For example: complex carbs like whole starchy vegetables, and grains are a healthy source of carbohydrates, and gut loving fiber, and have a host of health promoting nutrients for the mind. 

I can not hide how happy it makes me to cook and eat with the seasons, knowing my body is getting exactly what it needs, and when it needs it. The biggest joy for me is to explore and share the delicious pairings of seasonal ingredients with friends and folks like you. 

Oftentimes, there are very small windows to create with a seasonal ingredient.  Asparagus and English peas come to mind. Which has me thinking of one of those perfect pairs to cook a delicious Spring Minestrone. 

So Go Cook!  Make something that nurtures you and the people around you, with the intent to inspire and nourish your soul.  Explore, laugh, daydream, visualize a beautiful day, and remember to take notes… Journaling is a wonderful way to inspire new ideas, especially when the fog is lifted.

The key thing to remember when embarking on a health journey is to be patient with yourself, as your body needs time to physically adjust to the changes in your diet as well as maintain this new healthy habit.

To get you started, here are some perfect pairings that will decongest the body, balance the gut flora, and feed it delectable important nutrients that increase energy, therefore increasing the quality of your life. Who doesn’t want that?

Foods to boost daily energy ~

Grilled Radishes with Herbed Yogurt (a beneficial probiotic for the gut)

Steamed Salmon over English Pea Puree, with Tarragon Lemon Clarified Butter 

Market Minestrone

To your good health ~ If you are a curious cook, join me on my Podcast  ~ A taste for All Seasons ~

It is a cooking, cultural, and inspirational way for us to explore the world of food. And… as always, l will share a seasonal recipe, cooking tips, and kitchen essentials that will inspire you in the kitchen.  All recipes at

You can listen to all the shows, on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcast.  We talk to local farmers, and wellness experts, where you can learn how to cook your way through the seasons. 

Laurie Richardone is a seasonal gluten free chef and certified health coach.  

To work with Laurie, visit

Put More You into Your Wedding Day

Put More You into Your Wedding Day

A wedding day is filled with symbolic tradition, from varied religious customs to the never-ending circle reflected in the rings and the types of flowers accentuating the celebration. Even with all the traditional rituals to consider, nearly every bride and groom can find ways to give their special day some unique touches that reflect their personality and love.

Music sets the mood for every wedding, and it’s an easy place to put your own spin on the celebration. Whether you forgo the traditional bridal march entirely or simply look for an arrangement that gives an updated twist to the classic version, let guests know this isn’t your average wedding by setting the festivities against a soundtrack that lets your true character shine.

The wedding party is intended to be a collection of those nearest and dearest to the bride and groom, who help ensure the day goes off without a hitch and who lead fellow revelers in celebrating the start of the new couple’s life together. That being said, there’s no reason this group must be limited to women on her side and guys on his, or even that it’s limited to humans – a beloved pooch can make for an adorable ring-bearer, after all.

Photography is an essential element of your big day, but think beyond the images you’ll capture throughout the wedding and reception. Photos lend a personal touch, no matter what your color scheme or theme. Integrate photos of the two of you at various stages of life, together as a couple and with loved ones (perhaps even some you’re honoring in memoriam). You can display these at a table with the guest book, as part of the table centerpieces, or even on the gift table. Or take things digital and load all your images into a slideshow set to music.

Make favors meaningful. Forgo more common items like bubbles and chocolate, and instead send a little of yourself home with your guests. Maybe it’s a memento from a place with special meaning to you both, or a bottle opener shaped like a bicycle to represent the way you met. Just think about the moments and things that define you as a couple and do some searching online. You’ll probably be surprised by how quickly the options pile up.

Serve up a menu that shows guests more about your life together. Your loved ones can order basic beef or chicken anywhere. Instead, give them a glimpse into you. Make your main course the same food you enjoyed on your first date or during another monumental moment in your courtship. Or plan the entire menu around a region that you hold close to your heart.

 Weddings are filled with traditions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own touches on the day for a special event filled with memories that are uniquely your own. Find more advice for life’s special moments at

Women Making Music – Dani Cox

Women Making Music – Dani Cox

Who is Dani Cox? That’s the first question I pose to my newest female music acquaintance. Leading up to our scheduled interview, I didn’t prepare questions beyond that one. Once I asked it though, this bright, articulate, effervescent soul did not skip one beat during our robust 45 minute conversation.

“My work as of late has been to undo who I think I am. We tend to believe we are the things we do, the things we want to do, or we think we’re our parents carrying their baggage, to do them justice because we love them. I am a black, young, woman; intelligent, crafty and funny. However, those are ways I’d like for people to see me so they’ll like me and want to be around me. The reality is I am entirely without fault, love made physical. I believe that of everyone, and it is my job to meet and introduce love in its widest apparatus. I’m love eternal and I want you to discover me.”

Captivated, I ask her to continue: “Believing that love is the only real thing truly narrows my focus and so it helps me make decisions based on what is important and what is not. When I make music, I ask myself, what do I have to say through music? What do I want people to hear? If love is the foundation then all of the other stories that I want to tell, take a back seat.”

I probe for more clarification of that statement. I can’t help but reflect on the music I gravitated toward, 30 years ago when I was Dani’s age.  After all, the day of the interview was her 33rd birthday. She explains that her journey right now beckons songs of hope; ones that may tell of strife, heartbreak and even tragedy but that in the end they are songs of revolution and resolution.

“We want to tell people so badly who we are, and of the beautiful struggle we’ve experienced. But I’m seeking a way of uplifting and bringing what I’ve been through toward how I can use it to do better, be better and stronger. If I’ve had a challenging experience and I want to sing about it as a way to let people know who I am, I will find a way within my story, to tell them what’s going on but I will also tell them through the music, what I plan to do with what I’ve learned.”

Writing music is her main source of creating. “I write some songs for other singers to tell the story because sometimes the story is not mine to tell.“

I risk pigeonholing her by wondering what genres she gravitates toward when writing and/or choosing others’ songs to sing. “Artists get caught up in labeling because they feel labels are limiting. People want to know what genre so they can figure out who your audience is, but it’s not about that. It’s about the process of creating or interpreting in freedom, and we see at the end when it’s done, what category it might fall into.”

Open to all genres, Dani enjoys writing country music and she explores Rhythm and Blues. It pleases her to hear Classical and Jazz music. She throws me when she exclaims, “I want to try more Metal, because it matches my very high voice. Coming from a musical theater background I understand how those stories progress with emotions throughout and when I hear Metal music it reminds me of musical theater. To me, they’re the same thing!”

When I hear Dani sing it makes me feel good all over. Her ability to find the nooks and crannies of a multi-note trill, and actually feel it is refreshing. While other singers show off these abilities, Dani has heart placement ability when she phrases. She knows her essence is what we want to hear.

Future goals include putting together an all-female band. While that dream percolates, she is concentrating on the “physical and mental work around freedom” and how that shows up in her music. “I’ve been a singer ever since I can remember but I’m an introvert. When I was little, I didn’t want to share my gift of singing, I just wanted to keep it for myself because it was pleasurable. What makes art hesitant for some is that we are driven to create it, present it and put it out there and then we move onto creating the next thing. We forget to enjoy it. By putting it out there it’s exposed to comparisons, criticisms and monetizing.”

“I’m in a place where I just want to get to know people and that has nothing to do with money. The benefit in meeting and getting to know certain people within the laws of attraction, allows for receiving money. “

The goal is to move through her voice with more ease and to continue to seek performance opportunities in order to create cyclically pleasing experiences. “When people say I’m a good singer it’s a confirmation of the hard work I’m putting into finding my true voice. Singers deserve the credit for what we do.”

 “I’ve identified as being one thing for the last 30 years, but now I’m undoing what I think that thing is. When I sing, I’m feeling myself, my whole body. It doesn’t really matter what the other person hears as long as I am totally immersed in the expression of the emotion. Someone told me that when whales sing, sometimes it’s a mating call and sometimes they gather in a group to just sing with no apparent purpose. Researchers believe the only reason why they’d do this is for the pure enjoyment the vibration allows them for just being.”

On Thursday, March 10th, Dani will be presenting and sharing a mix of Soul, R&B & Jazz songs with anyone who would like to attend, at Isis Music Hall, 7:00pm. For tickets:

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at

Vegetable Soup & Basil Pesto

Vegetable Soup & Basil Pesto

Serves 8

1/2 lb. haricots verts, cut into 3 inch long pieces or in half

2 cups carrots, (1/2 inch dice)

2 cups red potatoes,or other (1/2 inch dice)

1 cup yellow squash (1/2 inch dice)

2 cups chopped yellow/white onion

2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)

2 tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

3 qt. homemade vegetable stock (recipe below) or organic box stock

1 tsp. saffron threads

1 cup pesto (recipe below)

Fresh parmigiano reggiano for finish

Heat the oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Add onions and leeks and saute over low heat, until they become translucent. (about 10 minutes)

Add in potatoes, carrots, salt, pepper and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and saffron. Bring to a low boil. Then, lower the heat and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender but still firm. (about 15 minutes)

Add the haricot verts and squash. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn heat off, and let sit for 10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning. 

Remember you are adding parmigiano, which is salty, therefore wait until the end to add more salt if needed.

When ready to serve add 1/4 cup of pesto to hot soup. Then season to taste.

Serve soup in bowls and top with extra pesto and grated parmigiano.

Pesto (makes 1 cup)

Adding the tomato paste gives this traditional pesto a french flare

4 garlic cloves

25-30 large basil leaves

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place the garlic, basil, tomato paste and parmigiana in a food processor and pulse a few times.

Start to add the olive oil and continue to pulse until incorporated. You do not want to over mix as the basil can get a bitter taste.

Can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature when serving.

Buon Appetito

For scheduled Cooking Classes in Asheville, Visit:

The Gift of Self Love

The Gift of Self Love

According to myth, Cupid was the winged messenger of the gods, and Venus, the goddess of love. Cupid encourages us to give gifts to those we love. Does this include giving a gift of love to ourselves?

Could loving yourself be the path to receive the fruitful relationships that we all desire, and deserve, along with a true sense of well being.? Loving thy self pushes us to take care of our own needs, as well as the needs of the people in our life that we care about.

In a world where we’ve been raised to put others first, self-love can often feel selfish. Setting aside time for ourselves can cause feelings of guilt, and we can struggle to maintain a dedicated self-love practice. Intellectually, we know we need to love ourselves, yet oftentimes, we have difficulty giving ourselves permission to experience it. This could simply be a 20 minute yoga class of gentle stretching to get you ready for the day; Or even a beneficial way to end the day. Personally, I have incorporated this practice into my mornings, which has opened the doors to a more rewarding day.

Many of us have learned the importance of success. We learned how to work hard and the importance of making money; Not to say these lessons can’t support us, they do indeed. However, many of us didn’t learn how to keep ourselves feeling fueled for this exciting journey called life.  

Fortunately, we’re living in an era where the self-love revolution is gaining momentum, yet we often have trouble doing the work. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were taught self love and self esteem in elementary school? There are so many opportunities to practice this nurturing essential skill, no matter what our age is. This will support us to move forward in
our life authentically, therefore attracting healthy nourishing relationships.

Let’s find our own inner happiness, so we can give love without feeling depleted, and gain a genuine sense of self.

Shall we bring a bit of self love into the kitchen.?  Why not?  It could be making a special dinner for yourself, perhaps a beautiful savory soup, or a healthy sweet, to then share with a friend.

For what better gift than the gift of food…

However you go about this, like any other skill we want to master, takes practice, practice, and practice.

To your good health, 

If you are a curious cook, join me on my Podcast ~ A taste for All Seasons ~

It is a cooking, cultural, and inspirational way for us to explore the world of food. And… as always, l will  share a seasonal recipe, cooking tips, and kitchen essentials that will make your life easier in the kitchen. 

You can now listen to all the shows, on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcast.  We talk to local farmers, where you can learn how to cook your way through the seasons. 

Laurie Richardone is a seasonal gluten free chef and certified health coach.  

To work with Laurie, visit

Women Making Music – Linda Shew Wolf

Women Making Music – Linda Shew Wolf

She’s a graduate of Cornell University. This published author, mother to Julie and Chris and professional saxophonist and electric violinist moved to WNC in 2017 and has been tooting her horn in various ensembles and bands ever since.

For the past 20 years, she’s played in a Middle-Eastern, psychedelic rock group based out of Chicago called Ovadya. Closer to home, you’ll find her performing with Magenta Sunshine, an original Caribbean-funk-pop group as well Swing Step, a swing and jazz quintet. She’s a member of the Rewind House Band, playing 50s-80s dance music. And she’s part of the “red hot” original funk-jazz group called GrudaTree. The band leaders of these and other groups have invited her to be part of their circles, calling her inspiring and humble.

In July of 2018, I was asked to join Swing Step for a one-off show at The Asheville Guitar Bar. Our first rehearsal for that performance is where my acquaintance with this excellent player and genuine
person began.

Because of the hectic holidays and the Omicron variant, Linda and I thought it best for me to send her questions she could write answers to in her own words.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Chandler, AZ in October 1952, and I’m the firstborn of four. I have two sisters and a brother, all born within 5 years, so we were quite a tight little tribe. Once my dad was finished with his Air Force career, we moved back to Ithaca, NY where I was raised.

How old were you when you found yourself drawn to the saxophone and violin?

I took violin in grade and high school but didn’t take it seriously in the sense of a calling or passion. My mother would not let me quit and being an obedient kid, I kept at it. I spent my college years listening to a boyfriend’s collection of vinyl. He had everything from Hank Williams to the Grateful Dead, from John Coltrane to Charlie Parker. It was the R&B saxophone players who caught my ear. The joyful, physical voice of the saxophone literally pulled at me, and it became my greatest desire to find that voice for myself.  I worked at restaurants by day and taught myself the saxophone by night. I was out jamming on an old student model Conn just a few months after I bought it; I was in love!

In my 40s I joined an original band that focused on Middle Eastern modalities (Ovadya) which drew me back to the violin. Since the band was large and loud, I moved to electric violin with all the cool pedals and effects.

Can you cite a technique in the way you play that sets you apart from others?

My sound is more based on lyricism than on impressive speed. I gravitate to melodies and harmonies more than to solos. My greatest satisfaction comes from playing harmonically interesting horn lines and heads. My favorite thing is to listen and respond to what my fellow musicians are doing.

For swing music, I adapt to the kind of campy style horn players had back in the day. For edgy funk music, I like taking liberties with rhythm and searching for the notes that really push the envelope.

What is your rehearsal routine?

I own an editorial company so I relish band rehearsals when I can walk away from my devices and enter the music zone. When I am developing new tunes with a band, that gives me the impetus to refine parts on my own, and that’s when I dedicate time to personal practice. I like to focus on complicated jazz heads and solo riffs I admire and play them in all 12 keys until they become like old friends.

When it’s your turn to solo, what are you thinking about, other than the chord progression? Do the lyrics influence your choices and phrasing? Does the tone and texture of a lead singer’s voice influence the way you play?

Absolutely. What a great set of questions, and you answered them in the way you phrased it. I do find myself responding to the singer’s style and phrasing in the way I start a solo, and it’s satisfying to play something complimentary that leads back naturally to the vocals.

Do you work out your solos ahead of time or do you play in the moment?

I’m totally in the moment. I work at keeping the rhythm fresh. I have such a tendency to listen and then respond. I play like a singer who allows a chord to land and then shows it some love.

When playing an instrumental score with a saxophone solo section do you hear evidence of your playing creating something the rest of the band is inspired to follow?

Those are the best moments of co-creation. If someone expresses an idea, I support and augment it. If I’m expressing an idea, it’s wonderful when others in the group do the same. Weaving lines, ideas and rhythms together is the high point of the night.

Who writes the horn arrangements in the original groups?

There are times that it’s a clean slate situation and one of us will sail in with an idea that is then refined by others in the group.

“They” say that playing saxophone is the closest thing, physically speaking, to singing. Do you aspire to sing more in the future?

I have rare moments where singing is almost as much fun as playing. But my real voice is the alto sax.

Linda met her now deceased husband, Bobby Wolf when she was in her 20’s. Their daughter Julie posted on social media, this tribute to him in Feb 2020, 4 years after his passing: The first time my dad met my mom, she was playing saxophone in a band he was trying out for in Chicago. When he saw her, he told his friend he was going to marry her because of the way she played. They would play secret love tunes back and forth during rehearsals. They fell in love and got married. They chose each other for 40 years until he passed away at 64 with her by his side.

“Playing music is when I feel most in communion with the spirit of my husband as well as with my own.”

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at