The New Year inspires change and reflection. It is a time to look at the past year retrospectively and decide what we would like to change and focus on for the upcoming year. We tend to make New Year “resolutions,” but what does a resolution mean? It is a solution to a problem. What do you see as a problem or something you would like to improve on this coming year? For me since I am kind of a health fanatic I almost always choose something impossible and then it’s easy to feel like I have failed in my attempts. So what have I learned all these years of making resolutions? I have learned to set more realistic goals and make slight changes to facilitate the bigger picture of what I have in mind. This year I decided to do more yoga and seek out more health care for myself. As a new mother and healthcare practitioner it is really easy for me to just focus on others. One valuable lesson that I am learning everyday is that the more I can give myself the more I am able to give others. I recently joined a local yoga studio, Yoga Refuge and feel so much more vibrant when I can take that time for myself to honor my body and spirit. And as far as getting more health care I am not talking about going to the hospital to get every test under the sun. I am talking about preventative health care. Getting health care and body work that is rewarding because it instantly makes me feel better. I am blessed to work at An Sen Clinic (Integrative Medicine Clinic at 4424 NE Glisan) as an acupuncturist with other great practitioners that have wholistic health care in mind. If you want to do one simple thing for yourself this coming year just come in and we can help you get your health on track.
Ok so if you haven’t had acupuncture before you are probably wondering how can getting stuck with needles help with stress? Even for me, as an acupuncturist, I don’t like to get poked with needless when I go to the doctor… but I love getting acupuncture. So in other words, I can relate to your hesitation.
For those of you who have had acupuncture before you know this is a typical acupuncture experience… coming into a nice office (obviously some serious feng shui going on), relaxing atmosphere, nice calm acupuncturist who is listening to all that I want to work on. Then after having my pulse taken I get to lay down on the treatment table getting some points done (wow, did I even get any needles in?) and then just drifting off to acu-land where I feel like I am somewhere between sleeping and floating. Then my acupuncturist does some additional body work (maybe moxa or massage) and off I go back to the world. But now my world feels much more carefree and I have more energy to deal with all that life throws my way. Ah such happiness with free flowing qi.
I hope I have painted a picture of how relaxing and beneficial acupuncture is in reducing stress. But now I want to talk about how acupuncture actually does promote relaxation and stress reduction.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
I will answer this question from a western medicine perspective since this is the perspective most of us have, unless we have been trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Acupuncture works by:
- Stimulating our parasympathetic nervous system (aka the “rest and digest” system by releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins into the body).
- Regulating our immune system (that’s how it can both treat allergies/autoimmune diseases AND also boost the immune system of someone immunocompromised).
- Reducing inflammation by changing circulatory patterns (i.e. brings fresh blood to an acute or chronic injury and takes the inflammatory process away leading to pain relief and increased healing).
Another great source for explaining how acupuncture works comes from the John Hopkins Medicine Health Library.
I recently joined NW Veg as a business sponsor and if you are a NW Veg member you get $20 off your first treatment. Call the An Sen Clinic at 503-236-6633 to book an appointment.
Holiday Body Products Class
A great Holiday Class on making all natural vegan body products for gifts or for pampering yourself! This class will be about 2 hours long taught by Genevieve Johnson, L.Ac. with snacks and tea provided. We will make: a spicy body scrub, face cream, facial toner and fresh feet salve.
When: Saturday, December 13th at 10:30 am – noonish
Where: This class will be located at the An Sen Clinic, 4424 NE Glisan, Portland, Oregon 97213. Registration is limited, please email Genevieve at email@example.com to confirm registration.
Cost: $30/person… you get a container of body scrub, face cream, toner, and foot salve. And the chance to personalize/decorate your containers for gifts.
Hawthorne Berry a Holiday Favorite
Hawthorne Berry or Shan Zha is an herb that is extremely popular is both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine alike. In Chinese Medicine we use this herb to alleviate food stagnation by assisting in digesting meats and greasy foods and to nourish the heart and improve circulation. In Western Medicine hawthorne berry is used to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and help maintain a healthy weight. Since the most gluttonous of all holidays is quickly approaching (Thanksgiving) I thought it would be a great herb to focus on this month.
It was Thanksgiving 23 years ago that I decided to go vegetarian, and then subsequently vegan and more recently gluten free. When I was 12 I had my first pet, Buddy, a parakeet. This little bird really made me think twice about the turkey focused holiday and I decided I could not eat my beloved Buddy’s relative the turkey. So I am thankful for Buddy for laying the groundwork for many positive changes that I have come to make. I am also very thankful for my amazing and supportive family. Okay now back to the topic at hand… hawthorne berries!!!
Since we tend to eat lots of high fat foods during the holidays hawthorne berries are a perfect herb to help us digest our favorite holiday foods. Hawthorne berries are available in tea, tincture, powdered and capsule form. Making tea is a great way to enjoy this herbal medicine and you can have it with your meals to help you digest your food.
Hawthorne Berry Tea
- 1-2 teaspoons dried berries
- 1 cup water
Boil water and pour over berries. Let steep covered for 8-10 minutes. Strain out the berries and enjoy! Can also add some sweetener and or lemon juice to taste. A sprinkle of cinnamon is good too.
Formulas for Improving Digestion
There are many great Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas for eliminating food stagnation and helping to aid digestion of our heavy holiday meals.
Bao He Wan- Contains hawthorne and other herbs like Shen Qu* (fermented massa) to digest all types of foods. *Shen Qu is a fermented product, but sometimes contains gluten.
Curing Pills (Kang Ning Wan)- is another great formula for reducing food stagnation, but again contains Shen Qu (gluten).
Mu Xiang Shen Qi Wan- aids in digestion and is even supportive for digestive issues from a stomach flu. Gluten Free!!!
Even though there are great formulas and herbs to improve digestion the best way to feel good over the holidays is to eat healthy foods, eat slowly and chew your food!!!
Here is a great blog for more fun things to do with Hawthorne Berry. Have fun!
Finally it is Fall in the Pacific Northwest
Well we finally moved back to Portland, Oregon after living at the coast for the past 5 years. This has not changed my passion for all things vegan and gluten free. Especially since my daughter was born almost 2 years ago. With her arrival I have been on the quest to not only do vegan and GF, but also as many super densely packed nutritious meals with minimal ingredients.
As all of you Portlanders know we have had an amazingly beautiful spring, summer and fall! Very dry in fact. At times a little too dry with the surrounding droughts. But alas the rains have finally come and mother nature has indicated that Fall is here.
Fall in Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine Fall is a time of the Lungs, which belong to the Metal Element. This is traditionally a time when dryness and wind have a factor in our health. The Lungs are associated with the exterior of our body and when we catch a cold (or wind-cold in Chinese Medicine) the Lungs have been compromised. This is evident by the chills, fever, body aches, sniffles, and cough that may be productive or dry.
What can we do in Chinese Medicine to treat a cold/flu?
First and foremost there are many common herbs you probably already have in your kitchen that are great for those beginning stages of a cold; ginger, green onion, mint, garlic.
Make a really strong ginger tea with a 2-3 inches chopped fresh ginger root in 6 cups water. Boil the ginger and let simmer for 15 minutes and add some maple syrup or honey to cut the super pungent flavor (optional). Let the tea cool slightly and drink throughout the day.
Go see your acupuncturist or get one!! They will have some great formulas on hand like, Yin Qiao San, Gan Mao Ling or Chuan Xin Lian. These are all great formulas to have on hand for the cold and flu season, but you want to make sure to get them from a trusted source. Also acupuncture can cut the time you are sick in half and who doesn’t want to feel better now.
How we can strengthen our immune system to prevent getting a cold/flu
The best way to strengthen our immune system is to eat a whole foods diet that has lots of veggies!!! This is probably redundant to many of you who would be reading a health blog. But still eat lots of veggies!!!
In TCM we look at things a little differently, our immune system has a direct link to the Lungs (remember they govern the exterior of the body to protect us).
Some simple foods to support or tonify the lungs are: nourishing soups (recipe below), pears, pumpkin, apple, brown rice, porridges, and mushrooms.
Foods that can help get phlegm out of the lungs are: garlic, fresh ginger, fennel, and seaweeds.
Foods for a dry cough (meaning the Lungs need to be moistened) are: microalgaes, pears, string beans, herbs like lily bulbs, marshmallow root, and licorice tea.
Time for Fall Soup (Nourishes the Lungs)
- 2-3 stalks green onions
- 3 cloves garlic (double with a cold)
- 1-2 inches fresh ginger (double with a cold)
- 2 astragalus roots (optional for extra immune boosting)
- 4-5 mushrooms (I prefer shiitake)
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 1/2 package tempeh
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4-1/3 cup miso
Chop the green onions, mushrooms, carrot, celery, and tempeh (the garlic and ginger can be grated ro finely chopped). Add the 2 astragalus roots whole (so you can remove them before eating the soup). Add all ingredients to the water and boil for 8-10 minutes. After all veggies are tender turn OFF heat and add sesame oil and miso. A tip for the miso is to whisk up with 1/2 cup water before adding to soup so it will be uniform in texture. Also we add miso at the end after heat is turned off to preserve all the healthy probiotics.
This soup has nourishing ingredients (astragalus, carrots, mushrooms, celery, tempeh and miso) to boost the immune system. And it has Lung opening and phlegm reducing herbs (green onions, garlic, and ginger).
Also by boiling the ingredients we preserve the nutritional elements in the soup broth and this method of cooking is seen as very neutral in Chinese Medicine. Meaning that it is great for all constitutions so enjoy!!!
Here is a super simple pancake recipe that is baby friendly and approved!! Actually the whole family will love them!
Oatmeal and Millet Pancakes
- 1.5 cups oatmeal
- 1 cup millet*
- 1 banana
- 2.5 cups water
- * can use brown rice, quinoa, corn meal or amaranth instead of millet
Blend all ingredients in a vitamix or high speed blender. Use coconut oil in a large skillet or stainless steel pan and cook on one side until the edges look slightly dry and then flip over and cook the other side. Since these are blended they do have a nice light texture, but without the leavening agent they are not super fluffy. They are kind of like a crepe and pancake combo. Very good with fresh fruit and can even top with maple syrup. This recipe makes 15-18 pancakes that are medium sized.
Hemp Hazelnut Power Cookies
These raw and good for you cookies are a snap to make in your food processor. No waiting time to bake or let cool, just blend up and form into balls and done!!! They are a great treat or even a filling snack when you are on the go. Even our 14 month old daughter Jade loves them too!
Hemp Hazelnut Power Cookies (yield: 1 dozen)
- 1 cup oats
- 2 TBS hempseeds
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts (I blended them into a meal first)
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 5-7 medjool dates
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 TBS coconut oil
- super tiny pinch of sea salt
I blended the dry ingredients first just to make sure they were a smaller size our toddler wouldn’t choke on, but you can just blend them all at once for a more chunky consistency. Then after blending the dry ingredients I added the others to the food processor. When it is done it is still pretty crumbly, but you know it is the right consistency when you can form into balls, makes a dozen almost golf-ball sized cookies.
Delicious Almond Sesame Cookies
I love this time of year… yes the holidays! Because there are always amazing vegan potlucks and great times to share with family and friends. I have always loved anything almond or sesame inspired especially when it is combined with sweet. These cookies are super fun and easy and are kind of cheating because I use a cake mix.
I typically don’t have sugar in the house and I was almost out of medjoul dates, but I really wanted something sweet. I did have Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Vanilla Cake mix so I used some of that to be the base of these super chewy cookies. I took these to a vegan white elephant Holiday Party and they were a hit, everyone kept asking for the recipe and here it is!!!!
Almond Sesame Cookies (375 for 8-12 minutes)
- 2 cups Bob’s GF Vanilla Cake Mix
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup oats
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup water (maybe slightly more if needed)
Mix all dry ingredients first and then add the tahini (ground sesame seeds) and water. Slowly mix it up and you may need a couple more teaspoons of water to achieve the right cookie consistency. Roll into balls (slightly smaller than ping pong balls) and you will get about 3 dozen cookies.
My DJ Husband Likes Beets!!!
So typically it is not a challenge for me to make something that my overly enthusiastic husband will love to eat… except when it comes to beets. I always joke that since he is a DJ he should like “fresh beets.” I know I always say even though I’m vegan I sure like the “cheese” or puns in this case.
Well anyway I had success in my culinary achievements when I made a beet soup that he actually had seconds of and even the next day was asking if we had any of that delicious beet soup left over.
So here is the recipe:
Beet Soup with Lemon Dill Sour Cream
- 3-4 Beets
- 1 Sweet Potato
- 1 Potato
- 1/2 medium onion (chopped)
- 2-3 cups beans (I used black beans)
- 2 cups cooked rice (optional for more texture)
- 1/2 bunch kale or other greens
- 2 cups chopped cabbage
- 1 Lemon
- Salt or liquid aminos to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon each (oregano, cumin, celery seed, chipotle or black pepper)
Wash and cube beets and potatoes (no need to peel them). In a large skillet saute beets with half the onion and half the sweet potato for 5-10 minutes until the beets are starting to get tender. Add enough water to the pan to cook fully cook beets and sweet potato and blend in a food processor or blender. Set Aside.
Then in another pan cook the rest of the onion and cubed potatoes and boil for 10 minutes with the seasonings listed to make a nice veggie broth. I used about 4 cups water, but feel free to use more or less depending on how thick you like your soup. Add the rice, beans, and whole lemon halves after they have been juiced and cook for another 5-10 minutes. I added the kale, cabbage, and juice of 1 lemon at the end since I don’t like my greens very mushy. Add salt to taste and REMOVE the lemon halves. Then add the pureed beet, sweet potato and onion mixture. Remember to garnish with some delicious Lemon Dill Sour Cream (see recipe below).
*side note on why I add the lemon halves to the soup… the skin of the lemon has all the essential oils and a very potent lemon flavor so I like to add them just to up the lemony goodness.
Lemon Dill Cashew Sour Cream
- 1 cup raw cashews (soak them first if you don’t have a high-speed blender)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon + a little lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon dill
- pinch of salt
If using a high speed blender add a little bit of water and blend until super thick and creamy (almost as thick as sour cream). Then put in freezer while heating up soup to thicken and spoon it on top. If using a food processor make sure to soak the cashews ahead of time (at least 4 hours… can even soak overnight for convenience) and only add water as needed. You may want to double this recipe to have some amazing sour cream on hand… keeps in refrigerator for about a week.
Delicious Summer Soup (Hot or Cold)
I love summer time with all the fresh veggies and farmers markets. I am super lucky that there is a local farmers market, Cannon Beach Farmers Market. I do a CSA (community supported agriculture) box with Kingfisher Farms and get an abundance of local, organic goodies. This is a soup made from those treasures…
Delicious Summer Soup (serve hot or cold)
- 2-3 large tomatoes
- 1 red pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds (could substitute with cashews, hemp seed, sunflower seed, etc.)
- 2-3 cups of water (more or less depending on how creamy you like it)
- salt to taste (I actually used liquid aminos because I prefer the taste)
- chipotle (just a dash… more if you like it spicy)
- 3-4 cups chopped greens: kale, chard, arugala (whatever yummy greens you have on hand)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion or chives
Blend the tomatoes, red pepper, zucchini, sesame seeds and water in blender until smooth and creamy. Then add salt and chipotle to taste. You can heat this up if you would like or just super chop the greens and onion, add to the soup and serve… Enjoy!!!