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licorice, astragalus, burdock, dandelion root, codonopsis

licorice, astragalus, burdock, dandelion root, codonopsis

Astragalus– immune stimulating (increases macrophages and natural killer cells) and adrenal tonic.  great for anyone with spleen qi deficiency, supports good digestion.  Very safe, mildly sweet flavor, overall tonifying.

Burdock root- Liver tonic, blood cleanser, alterative.  Mildly bitter and therefore stimulating to the digestive system.  Historically used for hormone balancing and skin conditions.

Dandelion Root- Alterative, liver tonic, nutritive.  Wonderful for detoxification and elimination processes.

Licorice Root-Anti viral, immune modulating, adrenal tonic.  Sweet flavor.  Used to treat colds, coughs, stomach upset, chronic fatigue. (caution in high doses if you have high blood pressure)

Codonopsis – Also known as Dangshen, or poor man’s ginseng.  Used to increase resistance to stress, increase energy, modulate immune response (increase response in cancer, decrease in autoimmune conditions).

Ginger– potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, carminative (good for nausea, gas, dyspepsia).  Warming.

cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper

cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper

Cinnamon-wow, a powerhouse of health benefits!  Anti-inflammatory (great for arthritis pain and menstrual cramps), antimicrobial, promotes healthy blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, can promote healthy cholesterol levels.  Warming and delicious!

Black Peppercorns– Helps with digestion, is antioxidant and antimicrobial.

Cloves-Pain relief, high in antioxidants, antibacterial, digestive stimulant.

The amount of herbs pictured (I’m bad about measuring things, but you can see it’s a tablespoon or two of each herb) made one gallon of chai.  Simmer the herbs for 45 minutes to an hour, add black tea and steep for 4 minutes.  Strain.  You can keep this mixture in the fridge for a week, heating up one cup at a time.  Add cream and honey to taste.  You might not need to add any honey as some of the herbs are quite sweet.

I recommend drinking super tonic chai daily to build strong adrenals, and keep your immune system healthy!

Yarrow

Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium

Yarrow is a common medicinal plant and familiar wild flower.  In traditional herbal practice it is used to stop bleeding, reduce fever, and also as a bitter herb to tonify the digestive systerm.  Herbalist Matthew Wood says in The Book of Herbal Wisdom, “Like a number of good blood medicines, Yarrow both stops hemorrhage and breaks up congealed blood.”

Who doesn’t love lavender?  Just about to pop into full bloom at the clinic.  My appreciation for Lavender deepens.

Lavender

Lavender

Lavender has potent volatile oils which are the aromatic medicine of the plant.  It is useful for anxiety, headaches, depression, insomnia, and nervous exhaustion.  Soothing and uplifting to the spirit.  The essential oils have powerful antifungal, antimicrobial action and the oil can be used in wound healing and for burns.  Next time you have an itchy bug bite try dabbing a drop of lavender oil and a drop of peppermint oil on it. The peppermint will help stop the itching and the lavender promotes healing!  To buy high quality essential oils click HERE.

Root Love

I’ve been doing a little hibernating lately.  It only seems appropriate during the shortest days of the year, and in soggy Portland.  My menu these days reflects my desire for warming, grounding, nourishing foods.

Chicken and root vegetables in white wine

Into my dutch oven start some chicken thighs cooking in white wine, added golden beets, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, rutabaga, garlic cloves.   Simmer in white wine with bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary, peppercorns, whole fennel seed, and a can of diced tomatoes, until the chicken falls off the bone, and the roots are tender.

Eat up and then go back to your good book by the fire!

roots and thighs

Grain Free Goji Berry Granola

I wanted to find a solution to what to eat with greek yogurt when I need a quick and easy snack/dessert.  Having discovered that I am much healthier and happier when I avoid grains in my diet, I’ve been missing my homemade granola.

seeds and such

Into a bowl I started tossing seeds and such.  Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chopped almonds, fennel seeds, ground cinnamon.  I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter and honey together, and tossed with the seeds until they were coated.

Next I spread it out on a sheet tray and baked in a slow oven (300)  until toasty and almost done.  Then I added some large flake coconut and put it back in the oven for a few minutes (watch it closely!) until toasty brown.

"granola"

After the mixture cooled, I added a few handfuls of dried goji berries (AKA wolfberries).  While I don’t usually indulge in dried fruit because it delivers such a big shot of sugar, goji berries have actually been helpful in balancing blood sugar, they are high in antioxidants, and protect the brain and the eyes.  If you are interested in reading more about goji berries click here.

Grain Free, Goji Granola

Store in an airtight container.  Eat as a snack or sprinkled on greek yogurt with berries.  Mmmmm.

Muffin beginnings

Still on my domestic roll here:

Grain Free Banana Raspberry Muffins

Makes 10 large muffins

6 eggs

1 banana, mashed up in the eggs

vanilla (I used a lot- like 2-3 tablespoons.  yes, really!)

cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 tablespoons coconut butter, melted (not coconut oil, but the actually fleshy buttery coconut spread-really hard at room temperature, but delicious and spreadable if you heat it up)

1/2 cup honey, melted

Mix together the wet ingredients.

almonds and coconut flour

1 cup whole, raw almonds

1/2 cup coconut flour

Grind finely in food processor.

1/4 cup flax seeds

Add to wet ingredients.

dry and wet

Mix together and add frozen berries of your choice.  I used raspberries, and I put in about 1 cup and a half.  Fresh berries would work too, but it is January.

Spoon into buttered muffin pan, bake at 325 until done.  I know, that’s skirting the issue.  But it’s true!  You want to check them after about 15 minutes and see how they are coming along.  Then every 10 min or so after that.  You can tell that they are done when they are browned on top, maybe cracking a little, come out of the muffin tin easily.  By all means, break one open and test it!

These muffins are high in protein, good fats, and fiber.  And fairly low in sugar.  They keep well and are a handy snack to have around!  I’m going back to my den now!

raspberry muffins

pumpkin pie

I love my pumpkin pie, but I am determined this year to not have regrets about what I ate over the holidays!  How many times do I need to learn that the recovery time is not really worth the few bites of gluten laden decadence?  For those of you looking for a delicious alternative to feeling regret, read on!  I started with a real pumpkin because my CSA gives them to me!  But working with canned pumpkin is just fine too.  The only thing is you won’t have the yummy roasted pumpkin seeds to snack on while you are waiting for the pie to cool!

Start by baking a pumpkin, if that’s your plan.

pumpkin

pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scoop out the guts and seeds of the pumpkin.

pumpkin guts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake face down on a sheet pan at 350 degrees until soft.  Let cool before scooping the flesh out of the shell into a measuring cup.

baked pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, separate the pumpkin guts from the pumpkin seeds.  Rinse the seeds and roast with a little oil (I used delicious, nutritious coconut oil which I got here) until you hear popping sounds coming from the oven.  They should be crunchy and irresistible, especially with good salt.  Pumpkin seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition.  Known to be a good source of minerals including zinc and magnesium as well as protein and essential fatty acids.  Research suggests they are useful for prostate health, bone density, parasites, arthritis and healthy blood lipids.  Find out more here.

pumpkin seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a food processor make the crust:

3/4 cup raw pecans or pumpkin seeds (grind ‘em up real good in the food processor)

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1/2 cup coconut flour (find out why I’m such a fan of the coconut here and here)

1/2 tsp good salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup  coconut sugar

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 free range egg

 

Process dry stuff, add the coconut oil and process.  Then add egg and pulse until it comes together.  It will be sticky.

Press into a pie plate or tart pan.  Freeze for 15-20 minutes, then bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees until lightly browned.

crust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next mix up the filling in the food processor:

Filling:

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup (or less)

1/2 tsp good salt

1/4 tsp allspice

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

pinch of cayenne

pinch of ground cloves

1 can coconut milk (not LITE)

Blend everything together until it is a smooth puree.  Pour into partially baked pie crust.  Tap to release bubbles.

unbaked custard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake 45-55 minutes at 325. Be sure to let it cool before you serve it.

Delicious ending to a healthy fall meal, but honestly it makes a darn good breakfast too!

 

 

dig in!

 

Anyone out there have tomatoes piling up?  Attracting fruit flies?  Tired of BLT’s? (Never!)

tomatoes from MY YARD!

I realized today that if I didn’t act, and act TODAY my tomato harvest would be fruit fly food.

 

I had yellow tomatoes, green stripey tomatoes, and red, red tomatoes.

 

If I mixed them all together I would create a really attractive brown tomato sauce!  So I made Cream of Tomato Soup with the yellow and green ones, and Roasted Tomato Sauce with the red ones.  I’m pretty pleased with the results, so I thought I would share!

Cream of Tomato Soup Indian Style

Saute in coconut oil:

  • ginger, onion, garlic

Meanwhile toast your whole spices in a dry skillet:

dry toasting spices

  • cumin, coriander, black pepper corns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds

Grind the whole spices and add them to the onion mixture.  Add a healthy dose of turmeric (if I’d had fresh turmeric I would have used it, but dried ground turmeric is fine.  Remember how good it is for you?  Anti-inflammatory?), and a dash of cinnamon.

Saute the spices for a minute. Then add a bunch of cut up tomatoes.  I used yellow and green ones which worked great with the turmeric which is bright yellow too.

Add a little chicken stock or water to get the tomatoes to start breaking down.  Put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for a while, checking occasionally and stirring.  When the tomatoes are completely broken down, puree the whole she-bang.  I used my trusty Vita-Mix, but those immersion blenders work well too.  After pureeing the mixture, put it back in the pot and add a can of coconut milk and salt to taste.  Heat it gently at this point.  You don’t want the coconut milk to boil.

lunch. check.

 

 

Depending on how sweet your tomatoes are you might want to add a handful of sugar, honey, or maple syrup to balance out the acid of the tomatoes.  I decided against that.  I portioned out the soup (after eating some, of course) for lunches for the next few days!

 

 

 

Next up:

Roasted Tomato Sauce

The recipe is thus:  Cut up a bunch of tomatoes, toss with olive oil, salt, fresh thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

red tomatoes ready for the oven

 

 

Roast in a 350 degree oven until they break down and start to dry out a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

herbaceousness

 

 

Add some fresh garlic and chopped basil and spoon over  spaghetti squash, roasted cauliflower, zucchini ribbons, or…. pasta!

I spooned mine into a jar, and froze it for some winter day when I need to conjure up the bounty of these last fall days!

 

 

 

 

 

after roasting

 

 

Tomato’s nutritional claim to fame is high levels of a carotenoid called “lycopene.” Carotenoids act as anti-oxidants in the body and high intake of lycopene has been found to be protective against prostate cancer.  Lycopene is what gives tomatoes, watermelon, and guavas their pink/red color.  Lycopene is more available to the body when tomatoes are cooked, and they should be cooked with some oil to aid absorption.

 

   

swimming hole bliss

 

Many years ago when my kids were little, and we were poor, young, frazzled parents, someone wise asked me what was one thing that made me happy.

 

I didn’t have to think long before answering “sun and water.”  Living in Seattle at that time, it was fairly easy to pack a lunch, throw the kids in the car and end up on the banks of Lake Washington for the day.

 

It is no wonder that my kids have grown up to love swimming in lakes, rivers, and oceans.  It is one place where we are all happy.  Together.

This fall my youngest son goes off to college.  Last week was the hottest week we have seen in Portland, and he and I packed a lunch of fresh tomatoes, salami, bread, cucumbers, and carrots, and headed for one of our favorite swimming holes.

Reading by the River

 

 

I ask you:  Is there anything more nourishing than doing what you love with the people you love?  Especially when there are tomatoes and salami involved?

If you have your finger on the pulse of what’s new in Natural Medicine you’ve probably heard about oil pulling.  Folks are talking about it, blogging about it, making you tube videos about it.  There is great debate about it.  Is it the magical cure-all or a complete waste of time?  But first of all what exactly IS oil pulling?

Oil pulling has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine but was made popular by Dr. F. Karach, M.D. in the 1990’s.  The technique involves taking 1 tablespoon of oil (most commonly cold pressed sesame,  or sunflower oil) into the mouth and vigorously swishing the oil through the teeth and gums for 20 minutes.  Then spitting it out and washing the mouth with water and brushing the teeth.  The claim is that during this process toxins are pulled from the blood into the viscous oil and then expelled with the oil.  There are many anecdotal claims on the internet that this practice not only is good for oral hygiene (cures gingivitis and bad breath, whitens teeth), but that it can cure chronic diseases such as blood disorders, arthritis, hormonal dysregulation, sinusitis, immune disorders and cancer.

Let’s face it:  I’m a sucker for crazy ritualized health routines.  I mean I have fully embraced the castor oil pack, dry skin brushing, jumping into cold water, eating organ meats, and more.  So when I first heard about oil pulling from an interview with Bruce Fife ND, I was intrigued!  Sign me up!  I’ll try it!  I could not think of any reason it would be a BAD idea to swish oil around your mouth.  If nothing else, perhaps we absorb some good fatty acids through the mucus membranes in our mouth.

I do know that our mouths often harbor plenty of bacteria on a good day, and on a bad day can be the source of ongoing, hidden infections that the body has to  continually fight off.    Having a low grade infection takes lots of energy to keep the immune system so revved up and can lead to further complications.   Coconut oil is especially antimicrobial, so there’s that.   With my training in physiology I can’t say that I buy into the idea that toxins are being “pulled” into the saliva/oil mixture through this process.  But I am the first to admit that there is a lot we don’t know about the human body and I don’t need to understand something for it to benefit me.  I mean, I practice homeopathy after all!

So I have been practicing oil pulling with coconut oil (I am a big fan of the many health benefits of coconut oil and I buy it here) for about 3 weeks now.  I do it once a day, in the morning, on an empty stomach.  The first thing I noticed was that my teeth feel like I just came from a dental cleaning appointment.  Smooth!  Clean!  Sexy!  I’m watching my receding gums and hoping to see a change there.  My chronic back and hip pain is improved (!).  I don’t suffer from allergies or chronic sinusitis, but I do feel my sinuses drain each time I do it.  And (accepting the risk of TMI)  my last menstrual period?  A breeze.

I’ve been asking friends to try it and tell me what happens.  I mentioned to my naturopath that I had started oil pulling, and her face lit up!  She’s been doing it for 8 months and has been using it with patients as well.  I must say, I’m optimistic that it can help at least some people.  And really, the risk/benefit ratio is fairly low, so why not?  Try it and report back.

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    I’ve been doing a little hibernating lately.  It only seems appropriate during the shortest days of the year, and in soggy Portland.  My menu these days reflects my desire for warming, grounding, nourishing foods. Chicken and root vegetables in white wine Into my dutch oven start some chicken thighs cooking in white wine, added golden […]
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