Weekly Inspiration

Drying mushrooms doesn’t have to be scary! Mushrooms are one of the easiest foods to preserve. 1. First go out and pick your mushrooms! We … Continue Reading

November, the month of craziness. Halloween stuff barely out of stores, Thanksgiving decorations everywhere and Christmas decor edging all the rest out. I believe this is how are day to day living is during November.

Do you feel it? Are you doing more than normal in your routine, trying to get it all done? Sigh…

Take a break, make a big ole pot of soup, Tom Kha Soup. Soup nourishes you, soothes the soul and feeds that weakened immune system. I was fighting a cold since last week and FINALLY feel decent. I was NOT getting the flu, no way, no how!!!!

What did I do? 

  • 5000 mg vitamin C per day, sometimes more
  • Immune Tea daily – 24 ounces
  • Herbal tincture of echinacea, ginger, elderberry, goldenseal, mushrooms and sweet gum all in a healthy dose of elderberry syrup. 3-4X/day
  • Turmeric and ginger added to everything
  • LOTS of soup – recipe below
  • Rest – that is the hardest!
  • Lymphatic self massage
  • Kombucha

So what is Tom Kha anyway???

It actually is called Tom Kha Gai -tom kha gai means “chicken galangal soup.” It’s made from chicken lightly poached in a silky coconut milk broth which has been infused with galangal (kha), lemongrass, and makrut or lime leaves. BUT….. we have a simplified recipe here thanks to Rosalee de la Foret, I have added a few suggestions to it. I have been making this for a few years now with different variations.

EVERYTHING in this soup is so good for your immune system, you can feel yourself getting better as you eat it. I like to add sliced cabbage during the last 5 minutes for an extra crunch unless you have a bad sore throat. I make it with chicken breast or thighs or just a complete veggie soup.

Let me know if you have tried this before or if you have any variations that you do!


Tom Kha Immune Soup

A delicious, hearty soup that nourishes the body and feeds the soul.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8


  • 32 ounces chicken bone broth or mushroom broth
  • 24 ounces coconut milk
  • 2 stalks lemongrass find at international markets
  • 4 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp organic tamari sauce
  • 2 Tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 red cayenne fresh pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 4 Tbsp minced organic ginger
  • 8 cloves minced organic garlic
  • 1 pack skinless chicken thighs, cubed small
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch bok choy or cabbage, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp green thai curry paste
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil


  1. Heat large, heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter or olive oil and cook mushrooms, stirring about 5 minutes. Add broth and coconut milk. 

  2. Once liquids are heated, add fish sauce, tamari, apple cider vinegar. lime juice, ginger, cayenne and garlic.

  3. Bring to a slow simmer, make sure it does not boil and do not cover. Add the chicken, bok choy, kale, green onions, carrots and green curry paste.

  4. When chicken if fully cooked and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes, add the cilantro and shredded cabbage, if desired cook 1 minute. 

  5. Ready to serve with additional cilantro.

Make a big ole pot of it and if you find the veggies soak up the broth while in the refrigerator, no worries add some more broth of your choosing.



Flu season is upon us and if you are like me, there ain’t no way you are getting a flu shot! So what’s a person to do?

BOOST Your Immune System, Naturally!

If you do preventative care, you will be much healthier and less likely to get the nasties that are going around. Normally I take my elderberry syrup daily from September on through to March and I rarely get a cold or if I do it is short and sweet.

W-E-L-L…..I said normally right? 

I did not take my elderberry everyday, I got busy, I forgot yada yada yada. Sigh and now I am paying for it. All weekend I have been congested and feeling crappy but I am doing better today with a few tricks of the trade. IF I take it easy this week, I will be just fine. Let me share with you some helpful tips and recipes. 🙂

Why does our immune system get weak? It is not just from the germies. Environment, weather, stress, lack of sleep, bad eating habits can all play a part in wreaking havoc on our systems.

How Do We Fix This?

  • Simplify lifestyle – learn to say NO
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Go outside in nature 4-6 minutes a day, at least!!
  • Go to bed an hour earlier to recharge
  • Make good food choices – whole foods, real food
  • NO fast food or packaged foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce
  • Meal plan a few days in advance and freeze some meals for a quick meal night.
  • Drink nourishing and restorative beverages: warm teas, mushroom drinks, broths, green drink
  • Immunomodulatory Herbs

Immuno – what? Alright, I am going to geek out you for just a second.

Herbal immunomodulators are herbs that can be used long term to tonify and support the immune system. Herbs such as astragalus, eleuthero, shiitake, turkey tail and many wild mushrooms facilitate greater immune system flexibility in the body’s natural response to disease.

These herbs act slower than immunostimulant herbs. An example of an immunostimulant is Echinacea which is used at the onset of illness.

3 Hot teas come to mind when it is flu season whether you are sick or not.

Holy Basil/TulsiOcimum sanctum is a Life Medicine, Adaptogen, Anti-inflammatory, Expectorant. Drink this tea regularly, 1-2 cups a day, to help your body respond to long term stress. Reduces cortisol and adrenaline levels.

Immune Tea – you can find it in my Etsy Store or the recipe HERE. This tea is full of herbal goodness to help put a force field around you, it is a super hero! I have an alternate version coming shortly with mushrooms added. Here are the herbs in the tea:

  • Holy Basil, explained above.
  • Stinging Nettle a nutritional powerhouse and an anti-inflammatory
  • Oat Straw is nourishing and can help frazzled nerves
  • Lemon Balm is a tasty addition and an anti-viral
  • Astragalus to support immune function, especially for one that gets frequent colds
  • Mullein for lung support, anti-inflammatory for all respiratory conditions
  • Licorice nourishing, soothing to the throat and mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract **If you have hypertension, be cautious using licorice**
  • Ginger a warming stimulant, anti-inflammatory and tummy soother
  • Cinnamon is a warming herb that is stimulating to the circulatory system and soothing for the digestive system

Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals

I keep a box of this tea around because it is so soothing to a sore throat, even if you just have that tickle in the throat or you have lost your voice. It contains licorice root, marshmallow root, slippery elm, wild cherry bark, cinnamon, fennel, orange. Yum!

Back to that Elderberry Syrup! You can buy Sambucol at the grocery store and spend a crazy amount of money OR make your own. It is so easy, if you can boil water, you can make this syrup, I promise.

Here is the recipe that I use and if you REALLY need help, I put together some little Elderberry Kits that include the berries, cloves, cinnamon, ginger all measured out.


Elderberry Syrup

Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 37 minutes


  • 1/2 cup dried organic elderberries
  • 3 cups water, non chlorinated
  • 1-2 organic cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole organic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp organic fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup raw honey


  1. Place berries, spices and water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes.

  2. Simmer until liquid looks like it has reduced to about half. Smash berries down with a potato masher.

  3. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth or muslin cloth, be careful since it is really hot!  You can let it cool a bit first.

  4. Measure how much liquid you have. Ideally it will be 2 cups or a little less. Add the 1 cup of honey and stir until honey is incorporated. If needed, heat slightly to mix. 

  5. Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Take 1 Tablespoon daily for a preventative or 1 teaspoon 3-4x/day when sick. Children take less.

More Immune Goodness coming throughout the week! Please share with your friends and I LOVE comments!!!



You want to hear a secret?

There was a time, not very long ago, where I absolutely HATED mushrooms. Yep, it was true. Then something amazing happened!

I wanted to learn how to grow mushrooms for my husband, he loves mushrooms. So I had a friend teach a shiitake mushroom class here and she brought this hummus…mushroom hummus. I tried it. Guess what? I could not get enough, I LOVED it!!! LOVED!!! Mushroom hummus with shiitake mushrooms that were log grown, not those white, tasteless, weird textured store bought mushrooms.

Holy moly, I just knew this was the start of something very, very cool. Fast forward 5 years….I am absolutely CRAZY about mushrooms, wild mushrooms, homegrown mushrooms, all mushrooms!!!

Sometimes you just cannot get the mushrooms you want on any given day so you have a choice or a couple choices. Wait for them to come in season, grow your own, have a supply of mushroom tinctures or keep a supply of instant mushroom elixirs.

Four Sigmatic Elixirs to be exact! I have been drinking these powerful, dual extracted mushroom powders for about a year and a half now…maybe longer. I got my first Sampler Pack from a dear friend once and I was instantly hooked! There was a couple mushroom hot chocolates and a couple mushroom coffees, each specific to a certain time of day or a need in the body.

This type of coffee is:

*Less acidic than normal coffee (no heartburns/acid reflux)
*Extremely high quality (no pesticides, no mycotoxins)
*Includes powerful antioxidants and immune boosting properties…
*Boosts your brain & productivity
*Reduces stress, improves concentration, memory, and alertness..

And best of all — it tastes great.

My favorite? Hmmmm… I have 2!


The Mushroom Hot Cacao with Reishi is wonderful at night to help you have a better nights sleep or it can be used in these incredible Reishi Truffles, yep TRUFFLES! Chocolate + Mushrooms = LOVE!

Second fave would have to be the Mushroom Coffee with Chaga and Lion’s Mane for a “kick in the butt” so to speak. The “get” in your “Get up and Go”. 🙂

I will be talking about mushroom goodness all week and share some wonderful recipes for you to try too! Also we will have a couple special treats!!!

First treat? How would you like to have a Sampler Pack of these delicious mushroom elixirs?

The sampler box consists of 8 single serving packs – one of each of the coffees, elixirs and hot cacaos. I am giving one away on Sunday evening – Sunday, October 8th. How can you win one?

#1 Comment here on the blog if you have a favorite Four Sigmatic product or which you be interested in trying

#2 OR comment on the Facebook post on the Bella Vista Farm page

#3 OR send me an email, mybellavistafarm@gmail.com

But you MUST do 1 of the above to be entered.

More shroomy goodness coming, stay tuned!!!





I get this question a lot. Puffballs, the round blobs on the front lawn, you know the ones…. that when left become dark, brittle and then “poof” into blackish smoke-like dust.

Yes, those blobs are edible mushrooms. BUT and I do mean a BIG but, you must cut open each and everyone to be absolutely sure it is a puffball mushroom and not an immature toxic or worse, poisonous mushroom.

I will explain in a moment.


Puffballs encompass a few different genera,  CalvatiaCalbovista and Lycoperdon. I am still working on proper identification of each that I find. Puffballs contain their spores within instead of under gills as in regular mushrooms. As the spores develop and the puffball matures and gets brittle, the slightest disturbance even from a raindrop can crack it open enough for the spores to explode out and “poof”. There are some species of puffballs that are inedible or toxic like the stalked puffball or the Scleroderma.

So how do we know we have a puffball? First pick one.

It should be firm but somewhat squishy.

It can be all white or slightly cream color with spots.

It may be pear shaped.

Now cut one in half from TOP to BOTTOM – it should be WHITE marshmallow-like and sometimes looks like sliced white bread…seriously!

There should be NO outline of any baby mushroom, gills, cap or otherwise. period.

It should not be black or any other color.

The puffball should be peeled and it should easily peel with a knife or potato peeler.

If it is hard like a rind, throw it away – could be poisonous.

So would you be confident to pick and eat one? Maybe not yet. Find a knowledgeable friend and have them positively ID it for you.

What do they taste like? Puffballs are kind of like tofu, they take on any flavor you want by marinating them or adding a sauce to them. I usually just cook along side other mushrooms in butter or olive oil and garlic.

I tried something different this time. I dehydrating them because my hubby found a bunch – too many to eat! And they don’t keep in the fridge like other mushrooms, you must eat or do something with them within a day or 2 max.

To Dehydrate:

Peel all of the mushrooms
They look like little fresh mozzarella balls!
Slice into thin slices

Turn the dehydrator on and check them after an hour, then after 2 and they should be ready by the 3rd hour. They should break easy. Let cool and store in glass jars. 🙂

5 from 1 vote

Dehydrated Puffball Mushrooms

Easy, peasy method of saving your mushroom harvest for later.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Author Anne-Marie Bilella (Bellavistanaturals.com)


  • puffball mushrooms


  1. Take out your dehydrator and take out the trays, lay them out on a table.

  2.  With a sharp knife, cut EVERY puffball in half lengthwise (from top to bottom) Look inside to make sure they are indeed puffballs, marshmallow-like white interior with no baby gills or discoloration!

  3.  On a large cutting board, peel the thin "skin" off your halved puffballs with a potato peeler.

  4. Slice your mushrooms thin with a sharp knife.

  5.  Spread out your slices on the food dehydrator trays, do not crowd.

  6. Stack trays, not tightly and turn on machine. Check after each hour, they should be done in about 2 hours, maybe 3 depending on your machine.

  7.  Allow to cool completely, sliced should break easily. Store in glass jars until you wish to grind or use.

Have a Lovely Day!

Anne-Marie Bilella

Over the next few days, this blog will go through some changes. Please bear with me and I complete the new web site.

Beautiful new changes take time! 🙂

Have a great day –


Chocolate + Mint + alcohol = Chocolate Mint Extract.

How does that sound? Simply delicious!

Cookies and Holiday baking are months away but I am trying to think ahead this year. Each Christmas I decide to make something different whether it be hazelnut cookies, chocolate truffles or mint chocolate brownies…then I check the spices and extracts to see what I have in the cabinet. Sure enough every season, without fail, I forget to have in stock a particular extract. Then I go out and buy it! Ughhhh….you spend like $5-7 for a teeny tiny bottle of extract!

I do make vanilla extract but I am down to my very last bottle so more needs to be done, soon! First I decided I will make a Chocolate Mint Extract. Have you ever had those weird imitation mint extracts??? Yuck, I don’t even think there is real mint anywhere in them. Here is an easy peasy, takes you 10 minutes MAX to put it together recipe…and then you wait!

Chocolate mint

I have every kind of mint growing. Chocolate mint, peppermint, sweet mint and spearmint. For this recipe you can use any one of those except maybe the spearmint. If you do not have chocolate mint, then you will add extra cacao nibs to the jar.

The hardest part will be waiting for it to finish extracting!

mint 2

Chocolate Mint Extract

  • Approximately 2 cups of mint, rinsed, thick stems removed.
  • 1-2 Tablespoons raw cacao nibs
  • 14 ounces of either 80 proof vodka or a mixture of 60% pure grain alcohol and 40% well or distilled water

Loosely pack a 16 ounce glass jar with the mint and the cacao nibs.

mint 3

Measure and pour in your alcohol.

mint 4


Cover. Shake. Label.

mint 6

Wait 2-4 weeks. You can taste it after 2 or leave until 4. Strain through muslin cloth into amber bottles and label. 

Now to think up all the scrumptious recipes to use this in. I bet ya it would even taste good just by itself, just saying… 😀

I will be doing this with vanilla, almond and maybe raspberry. Yum!!

Enjoy your day today!


This is my 3rd year of having interns help me out with planting, harvesting, product making, foraging and more.

Early Spring garden planted…

early spring 2017

We also go on fun adventures!

You never know what we will be doing…it all depends on what is growing and who calls me to come harvest an abundance of something. This Spring we went to Dawn’s to harvests lots of elder flowers and will be going back there shortly to harvest the berries.


Just LOOK at the size of these bushes!

dawns house

Calendula later in the spring…

calendula late spring

One day we ventured over to Athens to the UGArden, run by the UGA students. My friends Maisy and Noelle take care of the Medicinal Garden and love the additional hands to help harvest. Here is the chamomile we harvested  –

uga chamomile

As soon as the pine catkins were starting to fill with pollen, we harvested the catkins. Unfortunately this year I only got out a couple days so did not collect as much as I wanted! Still a fun time 🙂

pine catkin harvest 2017
Pine catkins full of yellow goodness

The passionflower took over the garden so it needed to be desperately harvested –


lots and lots …

passionflower harvest

Sometimes we just need to take off on a hike into the woods, more often than not!


We only found 1 good mushroom – ONE!!! A beautiful reishi and yes in the background those are kudzu flowers, KUDZU FLOWERS in June!!! That is plain nuts, they should not be out until August, crazy weird Georgia weather this year.


I forgot to get pictures of our wild cherry harvest but we made cherry shrub, a fruity vinegar and sugar syrup that was sooooo darn delicious. 🙂


I love my interns and feel so blessed to be able to have them here helping me and to be able to teach them about herbal medicine. This is just a dream come true and it is all about the journey!

Blessings to you all,


I don’t know about you, but here in Georgia, Lemon Balm can overtake a garden when you don’t trim it back and soon it will be like kudzu! Nah, not THAT bad and much easier to pull out.

lemon balm

Lemon Balm is a delicious and wonderful medicinal herb! I like herbs like lemon balm because it takes no effort to grow it, just plant it and it will spread if you let it, like any other mint family plant. I have been harvesting it here, at a friends house and even had some given to me….it is like the yellow squash of herbs. 🙂


I have a few recipes below but this one is, “use it all, no waste” kind of recipe. Don’t throw away those stems – they make a delicious lemonade drink and it is easy peasy!


Before I get to it, let me tell you a bit about the properties of this herb.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – looks like mint, is in the mint family but as soon as you crush a leaf, you get the vague scent of lemon pledge! I know…weird but then TASTE it. Sweet and lemony!

Medicinal Benefits: anti-viral –  useful for herpes/shingles, anti-anxiety, calming, for mental clarity, great stomachache herb for children especially when it accompanies anxiety/nervousness, relaxation, ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic  Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism), chronic fatigue and more.

**from Herb Wisdom 

“The herb is used for nervous agitation, sleeping problems, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps and urinary spasms.

It is thought that the volatile oils in lemon balm contain chemicals that relax muscles, particularly in the bladder, stomach, and uterus, thereby relieving cramps, gas, and nausea.”

To make a regular tea – take 1-2 teaspoons of lemon balm to 1 cup of boiling water, steep 10-15 minutes. and now for my tea/drink –

Lemon Balm Stem Iced Tea

  • 1 bunch of fresh stems, chopped up,
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar, I used costa rica free flowing sugar – yum
  • 1 lemon, squeezed
  • water
  • ginger slices



Fill a 1 qt jar or coffee press with the stems.


Boil a quart of water. Pour over your stems and let steep 20 minutes.


Strain and put into a 2 quart container, add sugar or honey and ginger. Mix well. Add 1 more quart of water or ice. Chill and enjoy!


More recipes:

Lemon Balm Glycerite: Weigh 2-3 ounce of fresh lemon balm and add to a pint jar. Measure 6 ounces of vegetable glycerin and pour over lemon balm. Mixing well, cover it. Shake daily for 3 weeks and strain into an amber bottle.

Dosage is 2-3 dropperfuls for adults or less according to weight of child. I have even used this for dogs in small doses for upset stomachs.

12 Things to do with Lemon Balm

Honey Lemon Balm

I hope you enjoy your day today!!!


One of most favorite recipes….thought it was time to revisit it! Enjoy. 🙂