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Nov 28, 2021

Middletown Woman Focuses on Health and Happiness with New Cookbook

By Lauren Lavelle

Slowing down can often be hard to accomplish. Throw work, family and social obligations into the mix, and it can seem like moving at a fast pace is the only option as you try and navigate life’s twists and turns. 

This couldn’t have been more true for Carla Bushey, a busy mom of three with an extensive culinary background, whose days were filled with commuting, working and supporting her household. 

“It was a hectic lifestyle,” she said. 

Bushey’s life came to a screeching halt though when her husband had a heart attack 12 years ago. Suddenly, their chaotic way of living didn’t seem like the right fit anymore. Bushey knew she needed to make a change. 

“We decided to slow down,” she said. “My husband was born and raised in Middletown, so we decided to come back. We bought a home with a little bit of land, and we started raising chickens and then we added goats, and my husband took up beekeeping as a hobby.”

Bushey decided to make use of the products she got from her backyard farm, and soon enough, she was making soap with goat’s milk and bath bombs with beeswax. Friends encouraged her to share her creations locally, so she set up shop at a few local markets. 

“We got more of a local presence and realized a lot of people are craving this kind of slower lifestyle in this area,” Bushey said. 

She and her husband decided to open Oak Hill Farms in Holmdel in August 2020. Although the pandemic still had its grip on New Jersey, business soared, and Bushey was doing better than ever. 

“We offer an experience,” she said. “People come, they grab a cup of coffee, buy their honey and all the natural products we make, but they also enjoy the slower pace of living.”

Even though her business was thriving, Bushey wanted to continue sharing her lifestyle with others. Family and friends had always encouraged her to exercise her culinary skills and write a cookbook, but Bushey said she was never sure if it was the right path for her. 

“My dad always said, ‘You should write a cookbook. You have really good recipes, and when you cook, it’s always so effortless.’ But he’s my dad. I do no wrong in his eyes,” she said. “When I got an Instagram account and I started sharing my love for my farm and my recipes, people were like, ‘You should write a cookbook and, if you do, please tell me because I’ll buy it.’ So now, my dad is telling me, and he might be biased, but my customers, they’ll buy this book. They planted the seed.”

And that’s how Bushey’s first cookbook, “Keepin It Real,” was born. Chock full of simple, healthy recipes that can be made in a pinch, “Keepin It Real” is for the average woman who wants to look like a “queen in the kitchen,” according to Bushey. 

“They’re really easy recipes that are going to make people either want to cook or at least give it a try, while focusing on a quick meal and more time spent together,” she said. “I give you my secrets and shortcuts, so you don’t have to go through a drive-through and put all those bad ingredients in your body.”

Originally from Peru, Bushey infuses some Peruvian flair in a lot of her dishes, often borrowing recipes from those close to her and making them her own. 

“Both of my grandmothers are huge inspirations for me with all my recipes,” she said. “A lot of the recipes [in the book] are family recipes that I give a twist to to make them simple.”

One recipe in particular that brings Bushey back to her roots is her grandmother’s scones recipe.

“I have the scones on the breakfast side,” she said. “It’s my grandma’s traditional recipe that I have perfected, and I share every single secret just to make it perfect.”

A few of Bushey’s other favorites from the book include a 15-minute, five-ingredient pasta dish; her take on pasta fazool; and a hoagie roll appetizer. 

All in all, Bushey hopes “Keepin It Real” helps people slow down and focus on what matters most in life. 

“I want to give women the strength and the encouragement that they need to cook and to focus on the recipes being simple, so they have more time to spend with their families and loved ones,” Bushey said. “Just keep it real, give yourself some grace and keep going.”