Weeknight Winter Soup with Chicken Bone Broth & Vegetables

wintersoupfinished

We’re having an actual winter in Los Angeles: kind that requires coats, boots and sweaters. The ground has frozen several times in the past month, I’ve had to defrost my windshield before leaving for work at 6:30am. We even had a hailstorm last week, evidenced by the Tupperware of hail stones in my freezer. (Thanks, kids…)

This week has been all about rain! Along with the rain and older weather comes the desire to stay in bed all day with a hot cup of tea and a good book. Alas…I have a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old, I’m a busy acupuncturist, and staying in bed is rarely a choice.

But oh, how LA drivers in the rain stress me out! All I want is to eat is soup.

At 4:45pm tonight, after I got home from work and realized the meal I had carefully planned (on paper) had somehow not made itself, I opened the fridge for inspiration. The brown paper bag of Shitake Mushrooms that I’d picked up at the Pasadena Saturday farmer’s market were calling to me. I had made chicken bone broth over the weekend and still hadn’t frozen all of it in jars yet. “SOUP CAN STILL HAPPEN!” I thought, rummaging in the fridge’s vegetable drawer.

This is a 1-pot meal, an Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Soup, using what I had on hand, very forgiving. I have rarely used baby bok choy and string beans (Blue Lake!) in a soup (typically I stir-fry or steam them) but I found that as long as you don’t overcook those greens, they blend nicely into this warming soup. (NOTE: Baby bok choy tends to be less bitter than bok choy, so use the former for this recipe if you can.)

The seasonal vegetables included are all in season right now here in in Southern California, and the bone broth boosts immunity by nourishing the kidney system. If you don’t have bone broth, it’s OK to use store-bought organic chicken broth. (I’ll share my bone broth recipe in another post soon!)

Follow my recipe here or adapt it and make it your own – then tell us what you did in the comments section.

______________________________________________________________

Weeknight Winter Soup

with Chicken Bone Broth,

Shitake Mushrooms & Vegetables

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves 4-6

_________________________________________________________________

INGREDIENTS:

3 Green Onions, finely diced (discard the outer layer)

5 cloves garlic, peeled & diced

1/4 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)

1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley

10-12 Shitake mushrooms, sliced (cremini or button mushrooms can be substituted, but really there’s nothing like fresh shitakes!)

3 heads of baby bok choy (white & green parts), chopped into ribbons

2 large handfuls (about 1/4 pound) of Blue Lake string beans, ends trimmed, chopped (sub regular green beans if Blue Lake beans aren’t available – the season is ending soon!)

2.5 cups chicken bone broth

2 c. water

1 sprig (about 3 inches long) of fresh rosemary

2 T pastured butter or Ghee or coconut oil

1 c. cooked organic basmati rice (cook separately according to package directions, or use leftover rice like I did)

1 c. cooked pastured chicken, chopped into small pieces (I had leftover on hand; you can skip this step if you prefer not to add chicken)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 tsp. Salt

Freshly ground pepper (to taste)

1/4 tsp of dried cumin, chili powder or organic chicken seasoning

______________________________________________________________

DIRECTIONS:

1.) Melt 2 T. butter (or ghee or coconut oil) in a large pot or Dutch Oven.

2.) Add chopped green onions, garlic and ginger (if using), saute until fragrant (a few minutes)

3.) Stir in mushrooms, saute about 3-5 minutes

4.) Add baby bok choy, parsley, green beans along w/ a splash of olive oil; saute another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally

5.) Add chicken bone broth & water, stir, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

6.) Add sprig of fresh rosemary; add cumin and/or chili powder/chicken seasoning along with another splash of olive oil.

7.) Simmer for 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

6.) Stir in cooked rice & chopped chicken.

7.) Add salt and pepper (to taste).

8.) Simmer another few minutes, taste the soup for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Some pics…

Here’s what I started with (I ended up not using the carrots, but you could easily add those after sauteeing the green onions):

ingredientswintersoup

Here’s the soup with all veggies & herbs added, before adding broth & water:

veggiessauteed

Serve with fresh sourdough bread and some dill pickles!

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. 

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

LittleOneBisonFolks

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…

GoldCoastBisonSeptember

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!

DiamondMtnRanch

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.

NovyLittleOne

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.

NovyWhiteBoard

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.

FishermansDaughter

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.

WildSockeyeSalmon

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. 

The Lunch Break: Parenthood’s Most Underrated Hour

IMG_0764 When I became a mother, I had no idea how many things I had previously taken for granted. Like my lunch break. That simple hour in the middle of the day during which you sit, eat, talk, read a magazine, catch up on phone calls…maybe you even DO LUNCH with friends once in a while. That hour which, before becoming a parent, did not require you to wear noise-canceling headphones to preserve what hearing you still have left. Five and a half years into motherhood (a month or so ago), I realized I had not taken a proper lunch break in over half a decade. WTF? How could things get this bad? Don’t get me wrong-  it’s not that I don’t eat lunch.  It’s not that I don’t take breaks.  I eat.  I take breaks.  Just not in the middle of the day.  Not when I’m at work or at home with my kids.  That midday break is darn near impossible to make happen when you have young children.  It gets last place.  Well, last place right before Mom herself. The lunch break of the typical working parent I know goes like this: grab a sandwich.  Eat it while returning 6 text messages about carpools, permission slips, groceries, the strep outbreak at preschool, and maybe, if you’re nursing, while also balancing the flanges attached to bottles into which you are pumping fresh milk.  Errands to run?  Totally out of pull-ups back at home?  Don’t wanna hit Target at 5pm with two toddlers?  Most working moms and dads I know will choose to squeeze this errand into the “lunch break” whenever possible, if they are lucky enough to get one. The lunch break of the Stay-At-Home-Parent?  What lunch break? At work or at home, where is the “break” in this Lunch Break of the modern American parent? There isn’t one. Why have we all forgotten how important it is? I love my kids, and I love my work.  I feel fortunate to have healthy, loving, fascinating children (who sometimes give each other massages), and work that is fulfilling and exciting. GnLmassage Really, I shouldn’t be complaining.  But I know I’m not alone as a parent in feeling overwhelmed and wishing I had a Pause button. Right? Two books I’ve read and loved recently, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink” by Katrina Alcorn and “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” speak to this core issue. Our culture does not support parents well enough. Whether a parent is working for pay or not (we all know parenting is hard work!), most American moms and dads feel stretched thin. Time that is BOTH kid-free and work-free is hard to come by.  Sure, there is the blessed 90 minutes (2 hours on a good night!) after they’re asleep before my own bedtime, but I have found that kid-free time when I’m brain-dead from a long day is just not the same as when I’m sharp and the sun is still shining. In an effort to make positive change in my own life, I’ve decided to start taking a lunch break every single day. I’m trying to emphasize the “break” part. Whether I’m home with my kids or at my place of work, I am trying (*trying*) to protect one hour a day during which I’m not doing work and also not doing mundane household or child-related tasks. When I am home with my children for lunch, I look at the lunch break as a time to eat together and then have Quiet Time.  My daughter still naps, and my son loves having sister-free time with me and/or his Dad.  We eat.  We talk.  We play Footsie. When I’m at work, I try to spend an hour taking an actual break from work. It’s amazing how the simple act of putting my feet up on the couch or desk tells my brain We’re Resting Now. Also amazing is how hard it is to stop myself from puttering around the house picking up stray toys, dirty socks, bills, or from starting to prep dinner, fold laundry, note how dirty the bathroom floor is and choose to be irritated by it yet also ignore it…Daughter napping, son happy crafting?  House quiet?  Hurry, go balance the checkbook! This is what I’m trying to resist. It’s been shockingly hard to break out of my pattern of rushing to Get Shit Done during the one hour a day when I’m not treating patients, running my clinic on an administrative level, or home with my kids. But I know it’s important for my mental, emotional and physical health to take that lunch break.  It’s also important for my children to see me taking that break, and to share it with me, when we’re home together. If I’m at the office, my new “lunch break” might include any of the following: Walk around the block of my office building.  The jacarandas are blooming, and birds never fail to take their lunch hour loudly, which is lovely to hear during a solo walk. Visit the farmer’s market, which is a mere one mile from my office building, every Thursday. IMG_0919 Sit and meditate for 20 minutes, then write in my journal. Catch up on one of the books I’m reading.  (I feel like an overachiever if I get to read more than two pages a day before being interrupted or falling asleep.) Sit down and eat my lunch with both feet on the floor.  Resist the urge to do something else simultaneously. Once I took a hike.  Not rest, per se, but a different, invigorating kind of break. If I’m at home for my lunch break, that usually means there’s kids with me.  Sometimes we take our lunch break at one of the local gardens. IMG_0943 Sometimes we all sit around the table and light candles and for about 3 minutes, it’s nice and quiet. IMG_0461 According to the classical texts in Chinese Medicine, it is said that when eating, you should not do anything else. Just eat; chew your food well.  Don’t watch TV, read, check your phone, Facebook, catch up on patient charts (who, me?), or drive a car. That’s a tall order for most Westerners.  Just eat?  How boring! Let me explain. In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and Stomach organ systems are the center of our digestive system, and the Liver organ system helps out with digestion in its role as Traffic Cop of Qi (maintaining the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body).  When we are thinking too much (reading, staring at a screen), the Stomach Qi goes up instead of down (leading to heartburn, acid regurgitation, after-meal headaches).  If we are stressed out while eating, the Liver can’t keep the Qi in check – in addition to being the Traffic Cop of Qi Flow, the Liver is also in charge of metabolizing Stress – and so digestion goes haywire. I have understood this intellectually for about 14 years, but the New Yorker in me, who is used to doing 143 things at once, has always found it hard to JUST EAT.  Until now, when I am forcing myself to take a one hour lunch break, every single day, for the sake of my sanity. I will admit to you: it doesn’t happen every day.  There are days when I’m home with my kids and we all just bicker and screech until we collapse into bed. Or someone throws an entire container of raw milk down the steps to the backyard.  Followed by a water balloon. IMG_0802 You know those days, right? There are days at work when I am so behind on paperwork that I plow right through my lunch break, catching up on patient emails, phone calls, charts, pausing only to heat up my leftovers in the toaster oven and grab a fork. But I’m getting better. More days than not, I’m taking that break, even if it involves cranky children demanding water/milk/spoons/a pickle/more napkins every time I sit down. On those days, I take a deep breath, send it down to my Stomach/Spleen, and plant both feet on the floor.  I remind myself that I am modeling the value of slowing down, honoring mealtime, making a ritual out of taking a break. Eventually, it will become habit, and I’ll forget I ever went half a decade without a proper lunch break. (Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, acupuncturist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  Photo Credits: all photographs by Abigail Morgan, all rights reserved.)

Cooking with Kids: Slow-Cooker Chicken Drumsticks with Vegetables

Cooking with Kids

As a mother of two young kids and a small business owner, I struggle with Work/Life balance.  Don’t we all?  Whether a parent is working outside the home or not, finding balance is a challenge for most of us.  How do we find time to thrive in the work of being an adult as well as the work of parenting?  (Let’s face it, as joyous as parenting can be, it’s also fucking hard!)

The balance of Work and Life is never perfect.

I’ve stopped expecting it to be.

I wear a lot of hats: Worker (owner of a busy acupuncture clinic), Mother (two kids, 3 and 5), Wife (partnered for over 13 years with an amazing man), Daughter, Sister, Friend, and – most importantly – a Self who needs self-care and time alone.  (I’ll be blogging more about THAT topic soon.)

Whew, that’s a lot of hats.  And a lot of time.

We all have them, right? – those various Identity Hats.  But when you become a parent, Time gets sucked into a vortex.  Where, oh where, does it go?  Since I haven’t yet figured out an acupuncture treatment that will create an 8th day in the week, I look for quality over quantity of time.  There are only so many hours in a day.  The more practice I get in being a parent, the more I continue to learn (and learn, and learn) to be gentle with myself, and not try to do so many darn things each day.  If I can satisfy a need for each of my roles each day, in some small way, I feel happy.

Today I’m thinking about one of the needs I have as a busy mom – in particular the need to find one-on-one time with each kid.

My boy and girl are close in age, play like twins, share a room, even shared my boobs for awhile (yay, tandem nursing!).  Time with both of them is wonderful (if LOUD), but we all get a little punchy if we don’t have at least a little bit of one-on-one time every week.  (Mama/Daughter Time, Mama/Son Time, Mama/Daddy Time, etc.)

Cooking with my kids is one of the ways I create Special Time while also creating the organic, homemade meals that keep us all healthy and happy.  Recently, I’ve started finding time to prepare dinner with just ONE kid.  It’s pretty awesome.

Today, my daughter and I made up a recipe together using the fresh veggies we had bought this morning, organic chicken drumsticks, and some herbs from our garden.  (If it weren’t January, we’d have more vegetables from our own backyard garden to choose from too, but how lucky we are to have year-round farmer’s markets every day of the week in SoCal!)

We chose rosemary and thyme because she can easily identify them, and gets great pleasure out of cutting them “all by myself!” with kitchen shears.  Rosemary and thyme are wonderful herbs to bring out the flavor in chicken, and I like combining them with lemon, apple cider vinegar and bone broth for extra immune-boosting properties.

One tip: if you have not yet found peace in cooking with a kid or two, keep in mind the Triple-Time Rule: however long you think it’ll take to prepare a meal, multiply that by THREE.  Otherwise known as Lower Your Expectations.

Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken Drumsticks with Vegetables & Potatoes

Serves 4

Prep Time: 30 minutes (w/ a young child), 10 minutes (adult working solo)

Cooking Time: 3 hours on HIGH in a slow-cooker (we have the large oval 6.5 quart All-Clad, with ceramic insert, which is the workhorse of my kitchen)

1 pack of 6 organic chicken drumsticks (you could also use a whole chicken, cut-up)

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, small dice

4-6 small potatoes, quartered

1 lemon, quartered

1.5 c. bone broth (I used my homemade bison bone broth, but you can use chicken broth, or substitute water for the broth; just don’t use bouillion cubes, yuck!)

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1 T. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt (or substitute sea salt)

Black pepper, freshly ground to taste

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)

1. Wash the chicken and place on the bottom of the slow-cooker.  (You don’t need to grease it first.)

2. Place the potatoes (quartered) around the drumsticks.

3. Add the carrots, celery, and red bell pepper, sprinkling them over the chicken and potatoes.

4. Squeeze each lemon quarter all over the ingredients in the cooker.  (This is one of those “I DO IT MYSELF” steps for toddlers and preschoolers.)

5. Add the bone broth, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  You may want to drizzle additional olive oil over the entire dish after all ingredients have been added, depending on your taste.

6. Tuck the sprigs of rosemary and thyme between the drumsticks and vegetables.

7. Place the slow-cooker insert into the slow-cooker and set for 3.5 hours on HIGH.

8. Serve over rice or quinoa, or with some fresh sourdough bread on the side.  (Or just serve it in bowls on its own.  It will be slightly soupy, and we think it’s delicious over organic white basmati rice.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have young children in your family, please be mindful that small bones can come detached quite easily from chicken; be sure to check your child’s plate carefully for small bones, or remove all chicken from the bone before serving.

PREP-COOKING NOTES: I washed the chicken drumsticks by myself.  My daughter helped me wash the vegetables and potatoes, then sat in my lap and helped me cut them on a cutting board.  (Obviously, at 3.5, she’s not old enough to be left alone with my Sudoku knife.)  When I’m having Mama-Son cooking time, my 5-year-old will wash and peel vegetables by himself, and I allow him to cut them with a butter knife while I cut things like onions and garlic with a sharper knife.

One of the lovely things about the slow-cooker is you don’t have to be in the kitchen with an eye on the stove: once it’s on, you can safely leave the house!  Our slow-cooker automatically turns to “Warm” after the cooking time is finished, but I’ve found with this dish, it’s tastiest if it doesn’t sit on “warm” longer than 2 hours.

What slow-cooker recipes does YOUR family love?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, all photographs by Abigail Morgan or Dave Clark, all rights reserved.)

"Rest and Digest" vs. "Fight or Flight" – How Stress Affects your Health

by Anna Gutermuth

You may have heard the terms “Rest and Digest” and “Fight or Flight,” but do you understand what that really means for your health?

“Rest and Digest,” sometimes alternatively referred to as “Feed and Breed,” is shorthand for the Parasympathetic Nervous System.  On the other hand, “Fight or Flight” (also known as “Fight Fright or Freeze”) is another way of referring to the Sympathetic Nervous system.  Together they make up the Autonomic Nervous System which is what controls all the involuntary actions in our body.

These two systems very much reflect the concept of Yin and Yang because they are opposing forces which regulate and balance each other.  The Parasympathetic nervous system is more Yin in nature and the Sympathetic is Yang.  Just as Yin and Yang seek to balance each other, so should the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems.

The purpose of these systems is to assess our environment and allocate bodily resources according to importance.  Cortisol, the main stress hormone in the body, dominates the “Fight or Flight” system where energy is sent to our eyes, lungs and muscles and allows us to make quick responses in the face of impending danger.

In most of human evolution, “Fight or “Flight” was only needed in life-or-death situations.  The problem with modern lifestyles is that they can trigger cortisol release all day long.  Low blood sugar levels from irregular diets, work or family-related stress, and over-stimulation from TV/internet/phones can all cause stress.

Unfortunately, this constant flood of cortisol causes many people to find themselves permanently stuck in “Fight or Flight” mode, even at night when cortisol levels are supposed to be the lowest.  In Chinese Medicine we would call this Yin Deficiency because the body is not getting enough “yin time,” meaning it is not the “rest and digest” state enough.  This can lead to chronic stress, insomnia, inflammation, headaches, digestion problems and eventually Adrenal Fatigue.

Hammock by StuartAlternatively, the “Rest and Digest” system focuses on relaxing, properly breaking down food, procreating and sleeping.  This is the system that focuses more on our long-term health, since it is activated in response to a calm, safe environment.  It’s important to understand that “Rest and Digest” is not something we only do on vacation; it needs to happen every day to keep the body functioning properly.

In our clinic, we often see overly stressed patients having problems with menstruation or getting pregnant.  This is because the body is constantly getting the signal that it is in danger, so it focuses on surviving day-to-day rather than diverting resources for long-term health.

The good news is the Acupuncture is amazingly effective to snap out of the “Flight or Fight” mode and relax into the “Rest and Digest” state.  This is why patients complaining of insomnia and anxiety often have no problem falling asleep during an Acupuncture treatment.

If you experience stress, insomnia, chronic inflammation, problems with your reproductive health or you feel your “Flight or Fight” system may be overstimulated, then consider adding Acupuncture to your routine of self-care.  Practices like meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, massage, and hypnotherapy are all helpful tools to manage stress as well.  Find what combination works for you.

(Post by Jacqueline Gabardy of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; Photo credits: 5/365 by Anna Gutermuth, Hammocks by Stuart)

“Rest and Digest” vs. “Fight or Flight” – How Stress Affects your Health

by Anna Gutermuth

You may have heard the terms “Rest and Digest” and “Fight or Flight,” but do you understand what that really means for your health?

“Rest and Digest,” sometimes alternatively referred to as “Feed and Breed,” is shorthand for the Parasympathetic Nervous System.  On the other hand, “Fight or Flight” (also known as “Fight Fright or Freeze”) is another way of referring to the Sympathetic Nervous system.  Together they make up the Autonomic Nervous System which is what controls all the involuntary actions in our body.

These two systems very much reflect the concept of Yin and Yang because they are opposing forces which regulate and balance each other.  The Parasympathetic nervous system is more Yin in nature and the Sympathetic is Yang.  Just as Yin and Yang seek to balance each other, so should the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems.

The purpose of these systems is to assess our environment and allocate bodily resources according to importance.  Cortisol, the main stress hormone in the body, dominates the “Fight or Flight” system where energy is sent to our eyes, lungs and muscles and allows us to make quick responses in the face of impending danger.

In most of human evolution, “Fight or “Flight” was only needed in life-or-death situations.  The problem with modern lifestyles is that they can trigger cortisol release all day long.  Low blood sugar levels from irregular diets, work or family-related stress, and over-stimulation from TV/internet/phones can all cause stress.

Unfortunately, this constant flood of cortisol causes many people to find themselves permanently stuck in “Fight or Flight” mode, even at night when cortisol levels are supposed to be the lowest.  In Chinese Medicine we would call this Yin Deficiency because the body is not getting enough “yin time,” meaning it is not the “rest and digest” state enough.  This can lead to chronic stress, insomnia, inflammation, headaches, digestion problems and eventually Adrenal Fatigue.

Hammock by StuartAlternatively, the “Rest and Digest” system focuses on relaxing, properly breaking down food, procreating and sleeping.  This is the system that focuses more on our long-term health, since it is activated in response to a calm, safe environment.  It’s important to understand that “Rest and Digest” is not something we only do on vacation; it needs to happen every day to keep the body functioning properly.

In our clinic, we often see overly stressed patients having problems with menstruation or getting pregnant.  This is because the body is constantly getting the signal that it is in danger, so it focuses on surviving day-to-day rather than diverting resources for long-term health.

The good news is the Acupuncture is amazingly effective to snap out of the “Flight or Fight” mode and relax into the “Rest and Digest” state.  This is why patients complaining of insomnia and anxiety often have no problem falling asleep during an Acupuncture treatment.

If you experience stress, insomnia, chronic inflammation, problems with your reproductive health or you feel your “Flight or Fight” system may be overstimulated, then consider adding Acupuncture to your routine of self-care.  Practices like meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, massage, and hypnotherapy are all helpful tools to manage stress as well.  Find what combination works for you.

(Post by Jacqueline Gabardy of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; Photo credits: 5/365 by Anna Gutermuth, Hammocks by Stuart)

$25 Off Initial Visit for New Patients Only

25off_spaced

 

Now through December 24, 2013 – take advantage of a rare discount on the initial visit for new patients!  As you’ve surely noticed, the holiday season insanity starts with Halloween (yesterday!), and along with it, stress, common colds and the lack of self-care time.  Prove ’em wrong and thrive through it!  If you have a friend or family member considering acupuncture, please share this post with him or her.

Posted by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, Owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.