The Pain Goddess (Or, What a Slipped Disc Taught Me)

SelfieBeachMaui

A year and a half ago, I slipped a disc in my lower back.

I was in constant pain for two weeks. My husband and kids had to help me walk to the bathroom. I was stuck at a 90 degree angle, like a human protractor.

While sorting through notes today, I discovered this piece I wrote on scrap paper in August 2014, just 11 days after that pesky disc slipped out of its rightful place. I called it “The Pain Goddess”:

I have not been writing. I create all kinds of excuses to avoid writing.  It hurts to write the truth, to see it on the page.

Pain – in my case, a slipped disc at L5/S1 – does strange things to this mama’s mind.

I have new empathy for the chronic pain sufferers I treat regularly. 

I had two kids at home and the pain of pushing out a wriggling ham can’t hold a candle to the pain of a teeny tiny bit of tissue slipping between vertebral body and nerve.  Constant, unrelenting, gripping pain without any of the fun serotonin birthy hormones.

I’ve been CrankyPissy with the kids, especially yesterday after driving for an hour and a half in acute pain to get them from schools on the other side of town.  Damn LA traffic, 200 Suburbs in Search of a City.

I think I called my son a Twit.

I said, sotto voce, I wish you were more like your little sister.  Why can’t you follow directions?  You’re SIX. (He didn’t hear me, but still.)

I threatened an early bedtime if they didn’t stop biting each other and get out of the car already, get into the house and take off their shoes, Mama’s in pain and it’s hot and WHY ARE YOU STILL IN THE CAR, I PARKED 5 MINUTES AGO?!

Please listen to me. I want to be heard.

They need to blow off steam after a full day of school, and they do this, understandably, by yanking the lid off a boiling teapot right in my face. 

But I am not a Mama who calls her son a Twit.  I am not a Mama who yells, cajoles, threatens or punishes. 

I am a grounded, empathetic, loving Mama who birthed her kids in the kitchen and nursed for 6 years straight…come to think of it, until 3 weeks ago, when it seems L weaned just a few days after her 4th birthday.  Have I written about that yet? No.  WTF?! 

Why can’t I be GROUNDEDLOVINGEMPATHETICNICE Mama all the time?

I know Pain is a cruel Master and he has thrown me into the DisposAll in the kitchen sink, where the meat scraps go. But that is no excuse for not writing.

So today, after two hours of responding to work emails while standing at my laptop perched on a  bookshelf (it hurts too damn much to sit), I said No to work. 

I said No to the calls of patients, employees, driving-kids-duties, meetings…even to the chiropractor and acupuncturist who are here to help. 

I said Yes! to a day in bed on the heating pad, stepping carefully through my garden, and napping. 

I am pushing the Pause button.  Making time to write.  (Because “finding time to write” is a fallacy.)

I am making Pain my goddess instead of my master.

I am listening to her message: “Slow the Fuck Down, Doctor Mama. Heal Thyself.”

I had completely forgotten about writing this, a year and a half ago, until I stumbled upon it today by accident, when I was procrastinating (doing admin work on my business) instead of working on the book I’m writing about my experience with postpartum anxiety.

Thankfully, the relentless and searing pain I described on that shard of paper is gone. I was able to heal from the acute pain in about 4 weeks. After 3 months, the little aftershocks stopped coming.

Now, I can exercise, treat patients, do laundry, shop, cook, clean, get acupuncture, garden, sit and write, drive – all without pain, most of the time.

I still deal with low-grade, achy lower back pain from time to time, but I’m able to treat it with acupuncture, massage and exercise.

I realize that my recovery from a slipped disc is not a typical one, and that I am fortunate, as a Licensed Acupuncturist, to have been able get the care I needed to heal from other care providers, without invasive treatment or pain medication. (What worked for me was a combination of acupuncture, chiropractic, CranioSacral Therapy, myofascial release massage, gentle yoga, meditation and rest.)

Finding “The Pain Goddess” now, I feel gratitude for that injury, as awful as it was.

The hardest part, during the acute phase of a slipped disc, was resting. Doing nothing. (I know I’m not alone as a mother of two who has a hard time slowing down, let alone doing nothing.)

During those days of rest, when it hurt just to sit and pee on the toilet, I heard a message from my Inner Physician (as the late, great Dr. John Upledger used to call it). My Inner Physician reminded me that I had no choice but to slow down in order to heal.

When I slow down, take a deep breath and respond calmly, I can stay present in the moment instead of spinning out and saying something bitchy to my kids. Now, if I start feeling lower back pain, I know it’s time to Do Less. When I slow down and do less, my body doesn’t seize up with armoring, the way it does when I’m in pain. I still feel guilty when I slow down, because really, can’t I handle this?, but I force myself to listen to the advice I give my patients. Slow Down.

I am reminded that the best remedy for procrastination about writing is to write. To simply pick up a pen and start free writing, wherever I am, even if I’m flat on my back in pain with only a Peppa Pig pen and a scrap of paper within arm’s reach. To not judge what I’m writing, but just get it out on the page and worry about it later.

And I am reminded to accept what I’m feeling in the present moment, whether that be pain, anxiety, irritability, or self-hatred for procrastinating.

In the wise words of an Anonymous Buddhist:

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

Copyright Abigail Morgan, 2016. 

Acupuncture & Massage During Labor and Birth: Jody’s Story

Today’s guest post is a testimonial offered by Jody, whose baby Soren was born on October 15, 2013-  two years ago today. (Happy birthday, Soren!) Jody generously shares her abbreviated birth story with you here, explaining why she found acupuncture support to be so helpful during her long and intense natural birth, which was expertly attended by her partner, Licensed Midwives, a Certified Birth Doula, a professional birth and family photographer, her sister and several close friends. All photographs are by Little LA Photography, and may not be shared or reproduced without express permission by the photographer.

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Abigail has been my acupuncturist for over four years. She supported me at my birth in three interrelated ways, each of which was invaluable and integral to my empowering birth experience.

First, during the long early stages of labor (which felt like active labor because my contractions were so close together!), Abigail drew on her experience as a massage therapist.

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Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

She provided soothing massage, effective counter-pressure, and strong, supportive touch to help me through difficult contractions.

My birth team created an incredible backyard birthing garden for me, complete with an inflatable kiddie pool!

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Abigail’s intuitive sense of what I needed and her willingness to do the work to support me in this way for hours was amazing. I would not choose to labor without Abigail at my side.

My birth team also included two phenomenal midwives, an excellent doula, and my loving partner.

Second, when my labor stalled and my midwife determined it was time to get it rolling again, Abigail was able to make that happen: after spending an entire night at my house, she used acupuncture in the wee hours of the morning to jump-start active labor.

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

I sat on the birth ball while she put acupuncture needles in my hands, feet and back. I felt so grateful to be able to DO SOMETHING to get labor going (or, really, to have something done to me).

And it worked! I started contracting regularly again, just as the sun was coming up on the second day of my labor.

Third, as the contractions started to get intense again, I was tired, concerned about conserving energy, and focused on being as comfortable as possible.

Soren's Mamas. Photo Copyright Little LA Photography.

Soren’s Mamas. Photo Copyright Little LA Photography.

At this point, Abigail did something really important: she spoke to me in an honest way, while holding space for how I was feeling.

She leaned right down to meet me eye-to-eye as I sat in the birth tub.  She told me that, in her experience, at a certain point in labor, it’s no longer about getting through the contractions and just waiting for the baby to make an appearance.

Abigail told me that eventually you have to go INTO the experience — INTO the intensity and pain — and get focused on bringing the baby down and out.

I remember looking at her, all innocence, and saying, “do you think this is that time?”

She looked me square in the eyes and unequivocally said, “yes.”

I heard her.

This was a turning point for me.

I felt strong and empowered.

I trusted Abigail implicitly, so now I knew what I had to do.

Now that I saw clearly that it was time to go INTO the intensity, I geared up to do what I had to do to get my baby out!  I gave birth to Soren ten hours of lunging, walking stairs, squatting, and pushing — ten hours of going INTO the experience — later.

We didn’t know until he was born that Soren was all wrapped up in the cord and that I was going to have to help him move down and out so much.  But I learned that I needed get INTO it to get him OUT! And I did it.

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Hello, Soren! Thank you, Abigail!

This guest post was written by Jody, and published on MamaFloat with permission. No part of this post may be reproduced in any way, shape or form. 

If you would like more information about finding a Licensed Midwife to support you during pregnancy and planned homebirth, contact the North American Registry of Midwives. For a list of homebirth midwives in the Los Angeles area, contact me at abigail at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com. For information on finding a certified doula to attend your homebirth, birth center birth or hospital birth in Southern California, contact the Doulas Association of Southern California

Locally Grown Organic Produce: Montrose Farmer’s Market Shines

This is the second in a series of posts on how to feed your family on a budget by shopping at your local farmer’s markets.  I’m focusing on the markets I go to most often, sharing tips on the best farmers, ranchers, bakers and makers in the Southern California area, particularly Northeast LA, the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. 

MONTROSE CERTIFIED FARMER’S MARKET: Part 1

Sundays, 9am-2pm, 2300 Honolulu Avenue, at Ocean View Blvd., Montrose, CA 91020.

The Montrose Certified Farmer’s Market is closed only one Sunday of the year (Easter).

Yesterday I took my kids for our weekly Sunday morning outing to the Montrose Farmer’s Market and gave them full access to the samples so I could photograph and talk to my favorite farmers and share their stories and goodies with you.

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In a typical week, I shop at 2-3 different local farmer’s markets in the Los Angeles area.  As a full-time working mom, I get teased by my friends for going out of my way to buy directly from the farmers when there are so many supermarkets nearby.

Stay with me here.

With a little planning, hitting up local farmers markets can end up saving you lots of money, makes a smaller carbon footprint, and allows you to connect with and learn from the farmers who supply you with food.  There is no middleman, and the produce you’ll buy was picked within the past 24-48 hours.  (Cold storage items such as organic apples are an exception.)

That said, when no one has broccoli because it was over 100 degrees for the past two weeks and all the plants started flowering, I have to find something else to substitute for the kids’ favorite vegetable.

Montrose is my favorite farmer’s market of the week.  It’s an Experience – it feels like a small town – and it’s really fun for families.  I’ve been going to it weekly for over 6 years, and we have become friends with many of the farmers who supply us with food.

Here are my kids about a year and a half ago, when I could still get away with a double stroller!

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In fact, there are so many excellent vendors I want you to know about, it’s too much for one post!  I will break up by coverage of the Montrose market into two parts: Part 1 (organic fruits and vegetables) and Part 2 (fresh bread, naturally fermented foods and beverages, Goat Soap and gifts).

Allow yourself at least an hour at this market (more if you’re bringing kids who want to play on the bounce house or check out the goats, baby pigs and chickens!), and get there early.  Oh and bring bags!

Highlights of the Montrose Farmer’s Market:

  • Easy parking (free street parking in the area, plus a big free lot S. of Honolulu, between Ocean View Blvd. & Market Street)
  • Certified California Farmers
  • Organic Produce
  • Fresh Baked Goods
  • Fresh Flowers
  • Nuts, Nut Butters and Sprouts
  • Packaged Foods (including hummus, spreads, jams, pickles, saurkraut, bone broth, kombucha)
  • Prepared Foods (including fresh juices, pupusas, kettle corn, Korean food)
  • Cheeses
  • Gifts (handmade jewelry, wooden toys, minerals/gems, hand lotion, etc.)
  • Chair Massage
  • Bounce House & Big Inflatable Slide
  • Hand-led Pony Rides, Small petting zoo
  • Live Music
  • Free Balloons for kids (find the Market Manager’s booth)

Some vendors at this market take debit & credit cards, but most don’t, so bring cash or visit one of the bank ATMs on Honolulu. Unfortunately, this market is not yet set up to take SNAP-EBT or WIC Benefits, nor do they offer the opportunity  but I asked the market manager and he said they’re working on it.  Here is an impressively long list of Los Angeles-area farmer’s markets that do accept SNAP.

Following are my favorite spots to get vegetables, fruit, honey and nuts, but this is by no means a complete list of what you can find at this market.

ORGANIC VEGETABLES

Azteca Farms 

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Azteca Farm (no website) is not a Certified Organic farm.  However, it is a small family farm in Piru, CA (near Fillmore) that has practiced organic and non-GMO farming practices since the 1970’s.  (They can’t use that word since they haven’t gone through the official certification process.)  After years of buying and eating their produce and developing a friendship with this family and visiting their farm, I am confident in the quality and safety of their fruits and veggies.

Co-owner Irma is here every Sunday except Easter, along with her two teenagers, who help sell their family farm’s bounty of fruits and vegetables directly to customers.

Azteca is known for a wide variety of leafy green vegetables, lettuces, several varieties of zucchini, beets, corn, melons, passion fruit and the most delicious strawberries I’ve ever had.  (Sorry, they’re between seasons right now on the berries!)  They also sell traditional seasonal Mexican herbs and vegetables such as purslane, cilantro and fenugreek.

Pricing is very reasonable: as of yesterday, one generous head of black or green kale, chard, red or green lettuce was $1.50 each (vs. $2.99 to as much as $5/head in the grocery stores); zucchini (4 different varieties) is $2 per pound; Corn 0.75 cents per ear.

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I have gotten many tips from Irma on my own home gardening over the years (“spray your Kale with peppermint soap and water: the aphids will stay away!”).  Yesterday, while I was shopping at her stand, we chatted about how her farm handles pest control without spraying toxic pesticides or using GMO, pest-resistant seeds.

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“People don’t realize that you often don’t need to do anything [i.e. spray pesticides on plants] because plants have their own natural pest control,” Irma says.  “Cilantro, for example, has no predators, because of its funny smell.  Dandelion is so bitter, bugs don’t like it.”

But the fact is, insects need to eat too; it’s all about co-existing.  Have the aphids left enough kale for us to pick?

I asked Irma if she had any tips for those of us who want to avoid buying plants that have been sprayed with pesticides: “If you don’t see some tiny holes in the leaves, that’s a bad sign.”

Once a year, Azteca hosts an Open House at their farm in Piru.  We went last month on a very hot Saturday and they let my kids pick strawberries, which was a blast.

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If you visit this stand, bring your questions!  Irma and her kids are full of fascinating answers, as well as recipe ideas. (Zucchini enchiladas, anyone?)

Santa Rita Organic Farm 

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A Certified Organic farm for “a decade or so,” Santa Rita Organic Farm is located in Lompoc, on the Central Coast of California in Santa Barbara County. They’re owned by couple Jeff & Roxanne Hendrickson and are well-known for rare and heirloom varieties of produce. They bring a gorgeous selection of seasonal organic vegetables and fruit, including the best carrots and bell peppers I’ve ever had, which are currently in season.  At $2.50 a pound, they’re HALF the price of the organic peppers you’ll find in our local health food stores, and they’re not shrink-wrapped.

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Currently, Santa Rita also has delicious Chandler organic strawberries, Early Girl Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes, Lacinato kale, zucchini, basil, beets, leeks, Anaheim and Jalapeno chiles.  When they’re in season, be sure not to miss their Blue Lake beans. 

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Santa Rita’s sales associate Tom told me where else you can snag their yummy goods in SoCal: in addition to the Montrose Sunday market, Santa Rita sells at the Thursday Thousand Oaks farmer’s market, the Friday Topanga market, and the Sunday Santa Clarita market.

ORGANIC FRUIT, HONEY & NUTS

Benzler Farms

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Benzler Farms has been family-owned and operated since 1953, and was the fourth farm in the state of California to receive the USDA Organic certification.  I spoke with farmer Hugh Benzler and sales associate Deena about their organic farming practices.

“Pest control is about being proactive,” Hugh told me while handing out free samples of organic peaches to eager customers. “You need to plant crops nearby that don’t attract the wrong kind of pests.”

He mentioned the importance of not planting tomatoes near grapes and peaches, for example, unless you want tomato worms to destroy your delicious fruit.

Hugh talked in detail about the Glassy-Winged Sharp Shooter, the biggest threat to grapes in California: it sounded like the bane of his existence, and he muttered something about “that’s why you get crop insurance!”

(At this point, my daughter pulled on my shirt asking for samples of Benzler’s honey, her absolute favorite, so I lost the thread of what Hugh was saying.)

Benzler’s grapes and raisins are fantastic:

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Their Freestone yellow peaches ($3.00/pound) are among the best I’ve ever had:

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and their honey is a wonderful remedy for seasonal allergies (it’s also great in hot or iced tea):

BenzlerHoney

Benzler also sells terrific walnuts, almonds and pecans from 30-year-old organic trees (pollinated by those awesome bees!).  I failed to snap a picture.

I learned from the folks at Benzler that 90% of honey sold in the USA is from bees that have been fed sugar water or corn syrup (yuck!) and only 10% is from small family farms (like Benzler) that just let bees be bees. The bees that pollinate Benzler’s fruit and nut trees are never fed sugar water, which means their honey contains the necessary characteristics to be effective in treating allergies.

During January and February, when there’s not much fresh fruit to be had even in SoCal, I turn to this farm for their Valencia and Blood Oranges.

But for now (and likely a few more weeks) they still have peaches! Be sure to check them out, and enjoy the samples they hand out liberally.

Sweet Tree Organics

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Tied for best peaches in Cali is Sweet Tree Farms, owned by Certified Organic farmer Annie Florendo. This farm stand is my go-to farm for organic Asian Pears, grapes and an impressive list of heirloom stone fruit.  (“Emerald Beauts” are my son’s and my favorite, and they’re perfect sliced into Greek yogurt.)  Peaches, plums, apricots, Asian pears and grapes are $3.50 per pound, which isn’t cheap, but you’ll still save money here vs. shopping for organic stone fruit at your local grocery store. They also grow the best organic blueberries (June and July).

I appreciate knowing how the crops are doing week to week – Josh gives us updates – and knowing my fruit hasn’t arrived in my hands after carrying its own plane ticket.

My kids and I have been friendly with Sales Associate Josh for over 4 years now. The sample tray at Sweet Tree is a fruit bat’s (ahem, 7-year-old’s) idea of Heaven.

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Josh tells me there’s about 2 weeks left of peaches and plums (through late September) and about 6 weeks left of grapes (end of October).  Next up to be picked and brought to the markets are pomegranates and persimmons, as well as more Asian pears.

Asian pears, by the way, are an excellent Traditional Chinese remedy for dry cough, which I’ve been treating a LOT of over the past few weeks of ridiculously hot dry weather here in Los Angeles.  Slice one in half, core it, and steam it for 30-40 minutes, adding 1T of local raw honey (such as Benzler’s!), and eat with a spoon.

I’ll let the pictures tell you the rest of the story about this super-sweet, woman-owned farm. Prepare your tastebuds for a happy dance when you visit Sweet Tree’s stand…

You can also find Sweet Tree at the Silver Lake farmer’s market on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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Fresh Raw Coconut: The Perfect Beverage!

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After a hot morning shopping and visiting our farmer friends, there’s nothing like sipping a fresh raw coconut!  You can find these for sale indivudally at the Kettle Corn stand.  (I can’t vouch for the Kettle Corn as I haven’t tried it, but the coconuts are amazing.)

Part 2 of my coverage of the Montrose Farmer’s Market (fresh bread, naturally fermented foods and beverages, Goat Soap and gifts) will be up by the end of this week, in time for you to make a visit on Sunday if you can.  Stay tuned!

All photos are property of Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., FABORM, and may not be reproduced without written permission.

Farmer’s Markets in the Los Angeles Area: Grass-Fed, Pastured Meat & Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon

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This is the first in an upcoming series of posts on how you can feed your family from your local farmer’s markets in the Los Angeles area.

As a Licensed Acupuncturist and mom of two little ones, I get an overwhelming number of requests for information and links to the vendors who supply my family of four with our weekly food.  I fill ridiculous number of post-it notes and emails with names, websites, tips and lists of who has the best this and that.  It’s time to put it all in one place!  (NOTE: I do not make a single penny from referring you to these farmer’s and ranchers; just satisfaction from sharing my love of shopping locally and supporting small family farms, as well as helping my friends, patients, neighbors and readers prepare nourishing food for themselves and their families.)

The #1 question my patients ask me is how to get locally and humanely raised, organic, grass-fed/pastured meat without spending a fortune at a place like Whole Paycheck.  (The #2 question I get is how I transitioned from being a vegetarian for 20 years – 12 of those years as a vegan – to being an omnivore…but that’s another story for another day.)

I am of the belief that there is no point in eating meat if you’re not eating meat from an animal that was raised to graze on the food it’s meant to eat, tended with love, and killed in a humane way once it was of the proper age.  Cows are not supposed to eat grain, chickens are not supposed to eat corn, livestock should not be raised in over-crowded, unsanitary feed-lots, and fish are best when caught sustainably in the wild.

Last Fall, my husband and I bought a quarter grass-fed steer from a friend’s ranch in Northern California for $5/pound – possibly the greatest joint decision we have ever made, other than deciding to have kids – but that’s ALSO another story for another day.  If you’re not ready to invest in buying organic grass-fed meat in bulk (and a stand-alone freezer to keep it in), which is a big undertaking, it’s quite easy to buy meat from ranches that sell directly to the public.

Each week, I visit between 2-3 different farmer’s markets in order to buy locally grown fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, cheese, dried beans, and the occasional snack such as musubi (seaweed-wrapped rice balls).

I will be reviewing the markets I visit the most, in an effort to share with you my favorite tips, over the next few weeks.

LA CANADA-FLINTRIDGE FARMER’S MARKET (close to Glendale, Pasadena, Northeast LA)
On Saturday, my 5-year-old daughter (pictured above) and I spent a good two hours at the La Canada-Flintridge Farmer’s Market (9-1 Saturdays, 1301 Foothill Blvd, La Cañada-Flintridge, CA 91011).  I love this market, especially from June through October when it’s overflowing with bright colors and fresh smells, but I don’t get to go very often because I usually work on Saturdays.  (For Labor Day weekend, though, I gave myself and my staff the whole long weekend off!)

GRASS-FED BEEF, BISON, BACON and MORE…

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We LOVE the grass-fed bison (buffalo) and bacon (from heritage pork) from Gold Coast Bison and Diamond Mountain Ranches.  (They sell bison, lamb, beef and pork, all grass-fed; depending on the season, they also carry goat, rabbit, chicken and turkey.)  From their website: “Diamond Mountain Ranch is an all-natural, family-run ranch nestled in the hills of northern California. We provide high quality, free range, grass fed food to the Golden State. Our animals include chicken, pork, beef, rabbits, lamb, and our specialty: Bison.”

I’ve been buying bison from these folks for over 5 years.  If you haven’t tried bison, it’s time!  It has twice the iron of beef, and in Chinese Medical terms it is profoundly blood-nourishing: an excellent choice for post-menstruating women, kids on a growth spurt and anyone who does a lot of physical activity.  Bison bones make my favorite bone broth!

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Today we picked up our pre-order of ground bison (for grilling burgers on Labor Day weekend!) and heritage bacon (for brunch and snacks); one of the awesome things about Diamond Mountain Ranch is their weekly newsletter, which allows you to place an online order of whatever you need; they have such a following, they almost always sell out of everything they bring in their umpteen coolers.  All meats are vacuum-sealed and frozen, so you can buy as much as you need (or have space to freeze) if this market is not a convenient one for you.

Co-owner September (pictured above) is also a Special-Ed teacher, and I love how she always takes the time to answer my Little One’s 3,478 questions, such as “where is the mommy buffalo’s uterus?” and “how do you know if it’s a mommy cow or a daddy cow?”

BisonReadingLO

We learned today that technically, you can only use the word “cow” if the lady has given birth to a calf.  Otherwise she’s a heifer.

So a “daddy cow”?  Nope- he’s always a “bull.”

See the things I learn from my 5-year-old’s incessant questions?

Here are the farmer’s market locations in SoCal where you can find Diamond Mountain Ranch; note that the La Canada Farmer’s Market is missing from their list of Saturday locations, but they are there every week.  If you have questions or want to pre-order for pick-up or place an online order from them, click here.

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We also love Novy Ranches (based in Simi Valley), which specializes in Certified Grass-Fed Angus Beef, and also offers online ordering.

In fact, Little One has been known to chat with Jerry for 15 minutes straight, sharing her favorite ways to drink bone broth.  (“I like it with rice and broccoli, but I don’t like the smell when my Mama’s making it.”)  I buy from Novy Ranch at the Altadena Wednesday market and/or the La Canada Saturday market, but they sell at 14 markets in SoCal.

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From Novy’s website: “The ranches are the ongoing life work and commitment of Dr. Lowell Novy, a veterinarian whose interests in conservation, cattle-ranching and animal welfare have influenced his decision to turn away from “traditional” feedlot cattle production by developing an entirely grass-fed program that is healthy for the land, cows and people.”

Novy has the best beef knuckle bones around, along with some terrific recipes.

WILD-CAUGHT ALASKAN SALMON

The real treat today was meeting Pat Ashby, owner of Fisherman’s Daughter.

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Once a year, Pat spends two months in Alaska, catching 150,000 pounds of wild Alaskan sock-eye salmon at their peak. According to Pat, he sells 140,000 pounds of these salmon to the Japanese, and brings 10,000 pounds back to LA to sell at the local farmer’s markets.

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Because wild Alaskan salmon have a season that is just about 4 weeks long per year, they have to be frozen anyway, and this allows Pat to sell them year-round.  His salmon has been pin-boned and flash-frozen, and is offered in 1/3 pound, 1 lb and 2lb (whole fish) packages.

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is incredibly high in Omega-3’s, as well as the fat-soluble vitamins D, E, A and vitamins B and B6: it is considered by many cultures to be the perfect food for pregnant and lactating women and a terrific starter food for babies. Sockeye salmon is also very low in mercury and other environmental contaminants, as they are less carnivorous than most fish: they mostly eat krill.  Many studies have been done on the cardiovascular benefits of wild salmon, including its ability to lower LDL (“bad”) and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterols.

Pat explained to me that since salmon are swimming incredibly fast upstream in their death-wish to end up where they were born, they’re “all muscle.”

From a Chinese Medical perspective, salmon is one of the few fish that is “neutral” – i.e. it is right in the middle between a cooling food (which helps “heat” conditions) and a warming food (which helps “cold” conditions).

Sadly, I have an anaphylactic allergy to all fish, including salmon.  My allergy is so bad I have to carry an Epi-pen and am trained in injecting myself if I should become exposed to fish or seafood.  I can’t even wash the dishes if they have fish on them.

Thankfully, my husband and kids do not suffer from this allergy, so we make sure they get to eat good-quality fish cooked at home once a week (this gives me an excuse to go to a dance class or meet a friend for tea during evening routine, Ah-hem).

Little One and I bought about 1.5 pounds of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon from Pat.  He said if we’re planning to cook it within a week, to just put the frozen packages in the fridge; otherwise, they can stay frozen for later use.  Our meal plan for this week includes Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon (which hubby will cook on the grill in foil) with quinoa and veggies.  Pat said to cook the salmon filets on a gas grill (350 degrees) for 10 minutes on medium-high, skin-side down; after 10 minutes, turn off the grill, let the fish sit in tented foil for another 10 minutes, then serve.

LittleOneSalmon

One of thing things I love the most about taking my kids to the farmer’s markets is the relationships they’ve developed over their short lives with these vendors.  Our favorite family farmers (Azteca Farms in Piru, CA, near Fillmore), from whom we’ve been buying produce every Sunday for 6 years, have watched our kids grow up.  They save the best strawberries for them, and welcomed us to onto their farm for an open house last month.  (I’ll profile Azteca in a week or so.)

Raising kids in a major city means we have to make an effort to educate them about where their food comes from.  When kids know where their food comes from, they are much more likely to eat it.  They develop healthy eating habits, waste less, and become connected to the Earth in a new way.

I feel endlessly grateful, as a woman who grew up in the inner city of New York in the 1970’s and 80’s, to have a back yard with an organic garden with vegetables and fruit trees, and to be able to find broccoli grown within 60 miles of LA in January.  In spite of my dreams of becoming a Los Angeles version of SouleMama, I still kill tomatoes and cry about it.  I will likely never be raising goats, heifers, pigs or sheep on my 7500 square foot lot.  (Maybe chickens.  Maybe.)  The farmer’s markets of Southern California give me community, and lift the veil of smog just a little bit, inspiring me to plan my family’s meals around what is fresh, in season and affordable.

KidsPearsFarmersMarket

Which markets are your favorites?  How do you balance working, raising kids and preparing food for yourself and your family? I want to hear your stories!  (Please share in the comments section.)

Next up in this series: End-of-Summer Bounty at the Montrose Farmer’s Market, Glendale, CA (Sundays)

All photographs copyright Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.

Tummy Trouble

Gdu23

My 6-year-old is having some big feelings about school.

Today he came home from 1st grade complaining of a stomach ache.  He said his pain was a 1,110 out of 10.

“Wow, that’s pretty high,” I said.

“You don’t sound very worried!” he said.

I wrapped him up in a hug.  “Tell me what’s wrong, baby.”

We talked, he debriefed about his day.  Some diarrhea this morning, but he ate all of his lunch and snack.  No desire for dinner tonight, and lots of dramatic statements about the quality of pain.  I checked his tongue and pulse.  No fever, sweat or rapid heartbeat.  His eyes were bright and complexion normal.  This was not a stomach virus brewing, but a clear case of Liver Overacting on the Spleen.  In other words, Anxious Tummy Syndrome.

After a nice hot bath (sans little sister) and some chamomile tea, he got an acupuncture treatment from me in his top bunk.  I needle him the way I needle all kids: “1, 2, 3…you say go.”  Once he says “go,” I insert the needle.

“That one didn’t hurt!”  (He says this about each needle, as if surprised.)

Gli4

Gst36

Fifteen minutes later, he reported that his tummy ache was only a 5, instead of 1,110.

Not bad, with some room for improvement.

Does your child suffer from Anxious Tummy Syndrome?  Here are some things you can try at home (obviously, please don’t needle your child unless you are a Licensed Acupuncturist!):

  • Weak ginger, chamomile or barley tea with honey
  • Rest and limited stimulation (no screens, early bedtime if possible)
  • Don’t push food – aversion to food may mean your child is not digesting well, and may need rest more than food
  • Avoid cold foods and ice
  • Gentle parent-massage to the tummy: place one hand gently under your child’s back at the level of the navel, and the other hand over the navel.  Hold, without applying any pressure, for a minute or two.  Repeat as needed.
  • Acupuncture, Moxibustion and/or Tui-Na from a Licensed Acupuncturist
  • Talk it out: often the Tummy Trouble symptoms indicate your child is working something out, and may need extra parent support and empathetic listening
  • When your child is ready to eat again, offer naturally fermented foods such as pickles or saurkraut.  (Once they get used to the unusual taste, kids often love fermented foods.)
  • Soak 1 c. of organic hulled barley in a glass bowl, cover with plenty of water, stir in 1 T apple cider vinegar; cover; soak 8-12 hours (overnight); drain and rinse well; cook barley in fresh water, like rice, about 45 minutes or until tender.  Eat like rice or oatmeal.  Barley is a Spleen tonic, and helps us recover from digestive upset.

If your child continues to have trouble, call your pediatrician.  If you would like to find a Licensed Acupuncturist in your area, check acufinder.com by zip code and look for a L.Ac. with lots of experience treating children.  (Or if you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can bring your child to see me.)

Photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., all rights reserved. 

Family Meditation

MamaFloatMeditation

Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.

I am always telling my patients, “Really, you can meditate anywhere.”

This picture is proof!  (Messy house, jammies and all.)

The back story…

Earlier tonight, I had a fierce headache.  I don’t get headaches very often, but this one was bad.  It sent me into a dark room with a tall glass of water and earplugs, determined to take a power nap and needle myself before launching into the bedtime routine with my 4- and 6-year olds.  It gave me new empathy for all the migraine sufferers I treat.  (Acupuncture is awesome for headaches, but it is more than challenging to needle oneself while in pain, and there aren’t any other Licensed Acupuncturists in my immediate family.)

Ah, a cool pillow, dark room, soft bed…but after seventeen interruptions by my kids within a ten minute period, I ditched the earplugs and emerged into the bright light of the living room.

My first grader was doing homework, and my preschooler was battling Daddy over how to de-knot-ify her wet, post-bath hair.

The bright light of the living room pierced my temples.  This headache wasn’t going anywhere.

I moved the coffee table aside, providing me with enough space to do a little bit of yoga.

My 4-year-old threw her comb aside and joined me in a few sun salutations.  Before I knew it, she was showing me yoga postures I didn’t know she could do.  If you want to be humbled, watch the effortless movement of a Gumby-like preschooler on a hard wood floor.

My 6-year-old ran up to us, shoved his assignment in my face and said, “Look, Mama, I’m done!”

The three of us moved around, scooped up the moon, poured it onto our heads, and rolled on the floor like snakes and cobras.

The headache was gone before I got to savasana.

I kept going, because I like to end each day with a brief seated meditation.  Usually do this after the kids are asleep; they usually only see me meditating in the early mornings, if they’re up before they’re supposed to be.

We sat in a semi-circle in perfect quiet for about a minute.

My husband grabbed his camera.

4-year-old moved into my lap because everything good is even better in Mama’s lap.

Husband snapped the photo above before 6-year-old climbed into HIS lap.

Then the four of us sat in perfect silence for at least three minutes.

Which as you know if you’re a parent, never happens.

So, yeah, I think I’ll stop saving meditation for myself and continue sharing it with my family.

What do you do for stress relief? What helps your family unwind after a long day?

Copyright Abigail Morgan, 2015.

Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup with Bone Broth

YummySoup

On Friday, I taught you how to make Turkey Bone Broth using your leftover turkey carcass from Thanksgiving.

Now you get to use that delicious bone broth (or chicken broth, if you prefer) to make Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup, a nutritious and comforting one-pot meal that makes use of the random extra vegetables, potatoes, herbs, beans and meat you may have in your fridge.

This soup is nourishing to the Spleen and Stomach organ systems, easy on digestion, and a great immune booster, so it’s an excellent choice for this late Fall/early Winter time of year.  It’s also a great fertility food: a nice way to get in your daily dose of bone broth when you’re trying to conceive.

The idea of this soup is that it’s EASY.  Although Turkey or Chicken Bone Broth takes about 24-36 hours to make, most of that time is passive: it leaves you with lots of broth to freeze for later use.

If you don’t have bone broth, and just need a quick soup for tonight’s dinner, this recipe fits the bill.  You can use store-bought broth in place of bone broth, it just won’t be quite as nourishing.  Feel free to use your creativity and substitute whatever vegetables and herbs you have on hand, and toss in leftover cooked chicken, turkey, sausage, and/or beans.

TurkeyBeanVeggieSoupBowl

Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup

Serves 8

Total Cooking Time for Soup: 50 minutes

Active Time: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients:

3 c. Turkey Bone Broth (or substitute chicken bone broth or store-bought broth)

3 c. water

1 red onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 red, yellow OR orange pepper, chopped

2 large russet potatoes, diced

2 c. cooked beans* – I used 1 c. pinto beans and 1 c. kidney beans

*My homemade beans recipe: 1 c. dried organic beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc., or combination of the above), washed, soaked 6 hours or overnight in a bowl, then cooked 5.5 hours on HIGH with 8 c. of water, 1 bay leaf and 1 pinch cumin powder in a slow-cooker.  You can use canned beans if you don’t have homemade ones on hand or are short on time.

1 c. cooked turkey (boneless), or 1 c. cooked chicken or sausage  – use what you have!  You can also omit this step.

1 T. coconut oil

1 bay leaf

4 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped

Pinch dried thyme

Salt to taste (I like fleur de sel for soup, but you can also use pink or grey salt or sea salt)

Parmesan Cheese, freshly shredded (optional)

Directions: 

1.) In a large stainless steel or cast-iron pot on the stovetop, heat the coconut oil.  (My absolute favorite kitchen item is my 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven – perfect for soups and stews.)  

2.) Saute onion, garlic, chopped sage and a pinch of salt on medium, until transparent and fragrant.

SauteeingOnionsGarlicSage

3.) Add bone broth, water, vegetables and potatoes.  Turn to high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, stir, add bay leaf and simmer 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

4.) Stir in cooked beans and the cooked turkey (or chicken or sausage) and simmer another 10 minutes.

5.) Add salt to taste.

6.) Reduce from heat and let sit 10 minutes or so.

FinishedSoup

7.) Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top of each bowl, and maybe some crusty sourdough bread on the side. 

ThumbsUpForSoup

My kids (4 and 6) polished off their helpings and declared this soup “yummy.”

My daughter (above, sitting in my lap – her favorite place to eat dinner) gave the soup two thumbs up.

My son described it as a “creamy beany veggie soup with turkey.”

What’s your favorite kind of soup for late Fall?

 Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.; photos by Abigail Morgan and Dave Clark, all rights reserved.

Turkey Bone Broth

GeatingSoupCrop

We had a terrific Thanksgiving this year…

HappyTDaybanner

…banner courtesy of my kids.

It was just the 4 of us: me, Dave, our son (6) and daughter (4).  We shopped early, used Good Eggs to deliver our turkey and a bunch of organic produce on Tuesday night, and cooked only our favorite dishes.  We kept the day really simple.  Dinner at 5:30, because that’s when we usually have it, and because we couldn’t bear the idea of rushing to serve the entire meal by 3:00 while also running interference between little kids, who would then be hungry again right at bedtime.  It worked.  And we have lots of leftovers.

The day after Thanksgiving, I’m all about leftovers.

A nice soup is my answer to what to do with the turkey carcass, extra raw vegetables and herbs you may have on hand after Thanksgiving.  Basically, you 1) make turkey bone broth in a slow-cooker while doing other stuff, 2) add leftover turkey meat, beans and vegetables, and you have a crowd-pleasing, nutritious meal in a bowl.  Easy.

You might balk at how long it takes to make turkey bone broth.

Don’t.  It’s worth it.

The active time is minimal, and if you have a slow-cooker, you can allow it to do your cooking while you sleep and/or are at work or chasing after your kids.  You will have SO MUCH BROTH, you’d better have some jars on hand to freeze the extra!

Here’s my yield from this batch of turkey bone broth (minus 3 cups which I used to make the soup recipe I’ll share with you later this weekend):

TurkeyBoneBrothinJars

As a working mom who prioritizes making organic, nutrient-dense meals for my family, I rely on what I call slow food shortcuts. Once every two weeks, I make a massive batch of grassfed beef bone broth and another batch of chicken bone broth in a slow-cooker, and freeze them in small glass jars so we always have some on hand.  I sneak it into all kinds of dishes, not just soup – it’s my #1 Immunity Secret during cold season.  It’s also super tasty!

This post is in two parts: right now, my turkey bone broth is done.  The beans are cooking in the slow-cooker.  The veggies are prepped.  I’ve written the recipe.

Part One, which I share with you here, is how to make a turkey bone broth in a slow-cooker.  Part Two, which I’ll share on Sunday, will include the Turkey, Bean & Vegetable Soup whose base is this turkey bone broth.

I’m excited to capture the responses from my family tomorrow night…For now, get started on the bone broth!

Turkey Bone Broth

Makes about 5 Quarts of broth (enough for several batches of soup, plus more broth to freeze for later).

Active Time: 10 minutes to prep, additional 10 minutes over a 24 hour period to check on it, remove from heat, transfer to refrigerator.

Total Cooking Time for broth: 24 hours, plus another 8 hours overnight to cool in fridge.  If you’re using a slow-cooker, it’s best to start this recipe at night.

Ingredients:

1 turkey carcass, with most of the meat removed (ideally from an organic, humanely and pasture-raised, and/or heritage turkey)

1 yellow onion, chopped into large chunks

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks

2 stalks celery, chopped into large chunks

2-3 stalks of fresh thyme, tied together

2 T raw apple cider vinegar

1 bay leaf

Water (to cover the carcass)

Directions:

It is easiest to make bone broth in a 6.5 Quart Slow-Cooker, but if you don’t have a slow-cooker you can make it on the stove-top in a stainless steel stock pot.  It just requires more hands-on time and “soup-sitting,” as the broth should be on a simmer continuously.  (NOTE: I actually started the turkey bone broth on the stovetop this time, because my slow-cooker was in use; I brought it to a boil and then simmered, covered, for about an hour.  Then I transferred it to the slow-cooker.  Normally, I would just start it in the slow-cooker.)

1) Toss the turkey carcass into the slow-cooker.

 

2) Add enough water to completely cover the bones.

3) Add chopped vegetables, thyme, bay leaf and apple cider vinegar.  Stir a few times with a wooden spoon, making sure all the bones and veggies are submerged in water.  Add more water if necessary.

TurkeyBoneBrothBegin

4) Turn the slow-cooker to HIGH for 12 hours.

Go do something else.  (i.e. Sleep.)

5) After 12 hours on high, lift the lid and add about 3 cups of water.  (Some water will have evaporated in cooking.)  Stir.  Cover again.

6) Re-set the slow-cooker and cook another 12 hours on HIGH. I checked the broth a couple of times within this 12 hour period, giving it a gentle stir with a wooden spoon, and adding another 1 cup of water.

After 18 hours it looked like this:

TurkeyBoneBroth after 18 h.

7) After the broth has cooked 24 hours, remove the slow-cooker from heat, and place on a counter, out of reach of small hands.  Let it cool enough to handle (1 hour or so).

8) Strain out the veggies, bay leaf, thyme stalks and all the bones.  Toss this heap of stuff into the trash.

Carcass

9) Pour the broth into a stock pot with a mesh strainer placed inside it.  (Not an affiliate link.)  Skim off any remaining bits of detritus from the broth using a slotted spoon.

Strained Broth

10) Place the pot of broth on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and cool overnight.

11) The next morning, you should see a layer of gelatin on top of the broth.  (Homemade gelatin is a superfood, containing proline and glycine, used for centuries  to improve digestive health, immunity, and strong bones.  Don’t throw it away! Reserve it in a glass container in the fridge for later use.  More on that here.)  You do need to separate the layer of gelatin from the broth in order to make a tasty soup.

Photos of the finished meal to follow tomorrow night!  Stay tuned…

What meals do you like to make using Thanksgiving leftovers?

Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, All Rights Reserved.

Cooking With My Kids: Two Meals for the Fall Equinox (Squash Soup & Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos)

ButteringTheButternut

Today is the Autumnal Equinox.  Happy Fall!

I love this time of year.  Although here in Los Angeles it does not have the cool crisp feeling of Fall that I grew up with in New York City, the shift from summer to Fall is palpable.  The days are getting shorter, the 100+ degree heat wave is over (though it’s still hot!), and some of the trees are even boasting bright orange and yellow leaves.

In spite of the heat, we are in a time of transition from one season to another, and nourishing the Spleen and Stomach organ systems (the Earth element) with the right foods is crucial for creating groundedness during times of transition.

Many of you have asked me to share recipes and give tips on how to feed your family an organic, Real Food diet without losing your mind or going broke.  This series, Cooking with My Kids, is my attempt to do just that.  I will be posting more about the dishes we make and where we get our ingredients.

In my house, Sundays and Mondays are when I get most of the cooking and prep done for the week.  As I’ve shared here before, my kids and I hit our favorite farmer’s market early Sunday morning, and based on what we haul back and what (if anything…it’s been HOT here!) is growing in our garden, I create a meal plan for the week.

KidsPearsFarmersMarket

Then I wash, chop, prep and cook as much as I can on my days off (Sunday/Monday), so the fullness of my work week, shuttling kids to and from school and making meals is not so overwhelming.

Family dinners this time of year feel particularly important, and when they don’t result in sibling rivalry and food fights, they are also very satisfying.

We had these butternut squash growing in our garden…honestly, I had almost forgotten they were there, as I fell a bit behind on weeding what with the 100+ degree heat wave that hit L.A. this month.  (Seriously: my poor garden.)  As my Little One and I were watering our new fruit trees this morning (thank you, TreePeople, for the free mango and peach trees!), she reminded me of the butternuts hiding beneath the grass and overgrown green chard.

Oh, right: squash!

Here’s one as a baby (before I caught up on weeding):

Baby Butternut Squash

I should have taken pictures of the ones we picked yesterday…oops!

We planted them along with pumpkins in May, and unlike the pumpkins, they have been trucking along in spite of crazy drought conditions and being ignored for all of August and September.  (Those poor pumpkins.  They didn’t even make it to Halloween.)

The squash snapped right off the vine, and I almost expected to see worms crawling out when I sliced them open, but there was the bright orange flesh with its shiny seeds glistening like teeth.  The sage in my herb garden seems to thrive whatever the weather; I love using it for baked chicken, and it pairs very well with all kinds of winter squash, so worth having in your outdoor or container garden.

I grabbed my favorite cookbooks for soup inspiration, Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” (the 2010 version: I haven’t checked out the new one yet) and Sally Fallon’s in “Nourishing Traditions.”  I compared their cooking times for butternut squash: Madison says 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Fallon says 350 degrees for an hour.

To be honest, I hate following recipes.  I like to refer to them for ingredient inspiration, cooking temperatures and total cups of water or broth, and I have to give credit where credit is due for providing the spine of a recipe, but beyond that I tend to go off book and improvise.

You’ll find more specific instructions in the recipes in Madison’s and Fallon’s books, but my point here is that it’s easy to do your own thing: be inspired by a recipe but amend it to what’s in season, what you have on hand, and what your intuition and patience tells you to do.

For the butternut squash, for example, I split the difference and baked it at 360.  I forgot to set the timer.  (When prepping and cooking with an active 4-year-old, I have little time for left-brain stuff.  I follow my intuition!)

Since I knew I had to bake the butternut squash (I don’t have a dehydrator, and yuck, that would be gross), I figured I might as well bake some sweet potatoes while I was sweating indoors, and make two meals at once.  Make it three if you do a double batch of the soup!

This is one of my tricks: when you meal plan for the whole week, you can prep and cook similar items together, then refrigerate or freeze them until needed.  I make a big batch of bone broth (beef, bison or chicken) every other week, and freeze it in glass jars for when I need it.  (I keep meaning to freeze some in ice cube trays, for the perfect serving size to add to soups or stir-frys, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.)

Here’s the menu for two meals for the Autumnal Equinox.

Meal 1:

Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken Bone Broth & Fried Sage Leaves

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Heirloom Tomatoes*

*I’m not including photos or a detailed recipe here, but you can make any sort of grilled cheese sandwich using good organic grassfed cheddar, gruyere, or swiss; I added sauteed spinach and some slices of heirloom tomato, and my favorite sourdough bread that we get at our local farmer’s market; I spread one side with butter and the pan with coconut oil, and cook until lightly browned.

Meal 2:

Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos with Spinach, Sour Cream and Salsa

Sauerkraut (on the side)

Future Meal:

Leftover Butternut Squash Soup (freeze half the batch – or double-batch- in a glass container)

 

ButternutSoup

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH CHICKEN BONE BROTH & SAGE

Serves 6-8 (depending on the age & appetites of your family members)

(Double it if you want a freezer meal for later use)

3 small-medium butternut squashes (about 2 lb total, I think)

1 large red onion

8 cloves garlic, whole peeled

10 fresh sage leaves

1/4 tsp dried sage

1/4 tsp dried lemon verbena (oregano or lemon thyme are fine substitutes)

2 tsp Himalayan pink salt (+ more to taste)

6 c. chicken bone broth (follow my associate acupuncturist’s recipe for bone broth here) or chicken stock.  If you are vegetarian, you can use water instead, but you might need to add a little more salt or seasonings to enhance the flavor of the soup.

Pinch of cumin

Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) organic grassfed butter, for spreading on squash and sauteeing veggies

Fresh goat cheese (about 1/4 c.) or freshly grated pecorino romano (optional)

COOKING DIRECTIONS 

NOTE: I made the soup, the grilled cheese sandwiches and the ingredients for the Lentil-Sweet-Potato Baked Burritos at the same time; it requires some multi-tasking but means less time in the kitchen overall.  If you plan to do the same, read through this whole post before you start cooking.  If you’re only making the soup, ignore the part about putting the sweet potato in the oven and cooking the lentils and spinach (unless you need spinach for the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.)

1. Preheat oven to 360.

2. Wash the butternut squash.  (Or ask your minions to do so.)

3. Cut squashes in half, remove seeds and discard.

4. Grease a baking sheet or glass baking pan with coconut oil.  (I let my 4-year-old do this with a paper towel.)

5. Spread organic, grass-fed butter all over the cut sides of the squash.  (Again, my daughter did this for me while I prepped some of the ingredients for the Lentil Sweet Potato Baked Burritos.)

6. Place squash pieces on the baking pan, cut-side down.  BAKE for 45 minutes.  (If you are making the Sweet Potato Sort-Of Enchiladas at the same time, BAKE the sweet potato on the lower shelf in the oven.)

7. Saute onions in a large soup pot with a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes.

8. While the squashes and sweet potato bake, cook the lentils for Meal 2 (if you’re making them both), and saute the spinach.

9. Scoop cooked squash from the skin with a spoon, being careful not to burn your hands.

10. Once onions are lightly browned, add the cooked squash to the onion mixture.  Break up chunks with a wooden spoon.  Mince garlic cloves directly into the squash/onion mixture, and add 1T of the butter.  Cook on medium, stirring continuously for 3-5 minutes.11. Add 8 c. of water to the soup pot, turn heat to high, and cook until boiling.

11. Saute sage leaves in olive oil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on a paper towel for a few minutes, then chop finely and add to soup.  Reserve a few leaves for garnishes on the soup.

12. Add dried herbs to soup.

13. Simmer soup for 20 minutes.

14. Puree soup with an immersion blender (or handheld blender).  If the soup is too thick, add water or more broth.  If too thin, add sour cream or make a roux with flour and water, and puree for another moment.

15. Ladle soup into bowls, top with goat cheese (optional), drizzle with olive oil.  I served this alongside Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Heirloom Tomatoes, which are extra delicious when dipped in the soup.  You could serve it with the following Baked Burritos instead, or make the Burritos for another night.

SWEET POTATO LENTIL BAKED BURRITOS

CrispyCheese

Serves 6

This is a recipe inspired by an article I read in the now-defunct Mothering Magazine about 5-6 years ago.  (The online Mothering is awesome, but I do miss that magazine in my mailbox every month!)  I have tried and tried to find the original recipe online, so I can give the author proper credit: was it Peggy O’Mara?  Cynthia Lair?  (I’m big fans of both.)  My searches come up blank.

Anyway, over the years I have made this recipe my own, changing ingredients and making additions here and there, sneaking in stuff I want my kids, surplus veggies from our garden or those extra chunks of cooked chicken.  You can cook the sweet potato, lentils and spinach the night before, then assemble the burritos right before you want to bake them.  Alternatively, you assemble the whole dish, cover it and put it in the fridge, and take it out the next day – dinner will be ready in 20 minutes.

It is a very versatile recipe, and the main ingredients are super cheap, even when bought (or grown) organic.

6 organic whole wheat or sprouted wheat tortillas (we avoid corn in our family, but if you are allergic to wheat you could use gluten-free tortillas)

1 large organic sweet potato

1c dried brown organic lentils

1 small red onion

2 bags organic washed spinach (or 2 bunches fresh) – I have also used cooked kale in place of the spinach

1 cup of shredded organic grass-fed cheddar or monterey jack cheese

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 tsp salt (pink or grey, ideally)

1T cumin

1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter

Coconut oil (for greasing glass pan)

Mild or medium tomato salsa

Organic sour cream

COOKING DIRECTIONS 

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Grease a 9 x 11 glass pan with coconut oil.

3. Wash sweet potato, prick in 2 spots with a knife.  Bake for 60 minutes, or until soft.

4. Wash and drain the lentils.

5. In a medium pot, cook lentils with 2.5 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of salt; bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the water is cooked off and the lentils are soft and aromatic.

6. In a medium saucepan, saute the red onion in coconut oil or butter until tender.

Onions

7. Add the minced garlic to the onions and cook another 3 minutes or so.

8. Add the spinach to the onion/garlic mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.

 

9. Once the sweet potato is done cooking, remove the skin and discard it.  Put the cooked sweet potato into a large glass bowl.  Turn the oven down to 325.

10. Add 1T butter, 1 tsp salt and 1T cumin to the sweet potato, and stir with a wooden spoon until well-mixed.

sweetpotato

11. Spread all 6 tortillas on a large working space.

12.  Spoon equal amounts of sweet potato into the center third of each tortilla.  (I’m being vague with the amount because it will depend on the size of your sweet potato.  4T cooked sweet potato per tortilla seems about right.)

13. Add equal amounts of lentils, then cooked spinach/onion/garlic mixture, on top.  Finish by adding some shredded cheese.

LentilSwtPotatoSpinachCheese

14. Fold in both sides of each tortilla, then flip it over and place in the greased glass pan.  I find that six tortillas fit nicely in a 9 x 11 pan with a little room to spare.

FoldedOver

15. Shred additional cheese on top of each tortilla (if you wish).  You may cover the dish and refrigerate it at this point for up to 24 hours, if you’d like to cook it the next night.  You could also freeze it, if you plan to bake the dish more than 24 hours from now.  Or you can go ahead and bake it now if you want to eat it soon!

16. Bake in a 325 oven for 15-20 minutes.  The dish is done when the cheese is nicely bubbling.

17. Serve with salsa and sour cream on top.  (My kids won’t eat salsa but they LOVE getting to add their own sour cream.)

Again, this recipe is super versatile.  You can try adding different cooked vegetables, chunks of cooked chicken or pork, and experiment with different kinds of cheeses.

Please let me know what you think in the comments section, and Happy Fall!

All photos are copyright Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kicking Off the NELA Fertility Support Group

ToddlerKissBelly9mo

Supporting women who are struggling to conceive is not easy.

As an acupuncturist specializing in Reproductive Health, I see and hear it all.

Primary infertility, secondary infertility, recurrent miscarriage, failed IVF’s, premature ovarian failure, tubal defects, “unexplained” infertility…it takes a toll on a woman’s mental health.

Whether she’s married to a man, a woman, partnering with her gay friend, using a surrogate, a live egg donor, or is a Single Mom By Choice, she most likely feels alone, isolated, and struggles with the shame of not being able to set her mind to getting pregnant and make it happen when she’s ready.

It seems as though every single other woman she knows got pregnant on her honeymoon, or as soon as the first kid was out of diapers, or the first cycle back post-pregnancy.  The baby shower invites, Facebook ultrasound pictures and blossoming bumps conspire to make her feel like a total failure.  Her sex life has become utilitarian.  She’s tired of hearing the questions from her Mom at Thanksgiving (“when are you gonna make me a Grandma?!”), not to mention her 4-year-old (if she’s trying to conceive #2): “Mama, I want a SISTER!”

It sucks.

I hear stories of shame, sadness, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness every single day.  Stories that would break your heart.  I am not a therapist, but I do a lot of listening and giving empathy.

Daily meditation keeps me grounded, positive, and allows me to stay present for each story and each person I work with.

I want my patients to know they are not alone.  If only they knew how many other women are going through a similar journey!  But I can’t open to the door to each treatment room and say “hey, talk to the woman in room 2, she’s in the same boat!”

Thankfully for my patients, I am bound by federal privacy laws to keep my mouth shut, and not introduce Sally A. to Jane Z.

Quite often, I ache to normalize their experience, to let them know they’re not alone.

Today I had lunch with Robin Starkey Harpster, LMFT, my co-host and co-founder of the Northeast L.A. Fertility Support Group, which starts in a week at my acupuncture clinic, FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  (Sign up here!)

Robin is awesome.  A fellow mom of two and small business owner, she and I were introduced by our birth doula, Elena Vogel, about six years ago.  We’ve been referring patients to each other, running into each other at birth community events and sharing the occasional brainstorming lunch for several years, but last summer we started collaborating on this idea…

What if all these women we treat, who are struggling to feel sane in the process of trying to get and stay pregnant, had a place to go and share their stories?  What if we could create a safe space for them to vent, learn mindfulness techniques, and be moderated by a psychotherapist and an acupuncturist, both of whom are moms on the other side of the TTC journey?

Individual therapy is awesome, and often an integral part of the journey to parenthood.  Chinese Medicine is amazing for addressing the mental and physiologic aspects of infertility.  But sometimes a woman needs group support surrounded by other women who are going through the same struggle.  Sometimes she just needs to talk, be heard, and SEE that she is not alone.

For years, I’ve tried to refer my fertility patients to a support group on this side of town.  There isn’t one.

So Robin and I are starting one.  A Mind-Body-Spirit approach to support for infertility and miscarriage…bring it on!

The Northeast LA Fertility Support Group will be meeting once a month starting on Sunday, September 28th from 11am-12:30pm, at FLOAT.  More Info/Sign Up here.

If you or someone you know/love/support is struggling to get and stay pregnant, please let them know about our group.  It’s free (suggested donation $20), and we will have tea and yummy snacks.

We will explore grief and loss, shame and guilt, sadness, anger and fear.  You will learn creative, holistic techniques and resources for becoming more mindful and less overwhelmed by this journey, and share your story.  Topics will include: Expectations, Sex, Radical Acceptance, Trauma, Dealing With Family, and anything else the group wants to bring up.

I can’t wait!

(Copyright 2014 Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.)