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.

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Weeknight Winter Soup

with Chicken Bone Broth,

Shitake Mushrooms & Vegetables

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves 4-6

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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

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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!

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.

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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.

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 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.)

10 Ways to Thrive In Cold & Flu Season

A few days ago, I participated in a Fall Health Panel at BINI Birth in Sherman Oaks, along with Dr. Lauren Feder, MD and homeopath (of Center for Natural Family Medicine) and Rachel Myers (of Green Hugs).  The following is adapted from the material I presented at the panel.  Thanks to SoCalMOMS for inviting us to speak at this panel!

Do you want to stay healthy through cold and flu season?  Are you overwhelmed by the amount of Tylenol and antibiotics you take every year?  Read on for some holistic tips on thriving through cold and flu season…

1.     Wear a scarf

Grandma was right!  It is crucial to cover your neck, especially the back of your neck and the occipital ridge.  There is a saying in Traditional Chinese Medicine, “wind is the leader of a thousand diseases.”  Cover your neck (and head too, when it’s really cold) so the wind doesn’t whisk pathogens into the body via the acupuncture points along the back of the neck and head.  Even during summer, it’s important to keep our necks covered and away from drafts when we are constantly in and out of air conditioning.

2.     Get Acupuncture

It is especially important to get acupuncture at the change of the season.  Acupuncture helps boost immunity, regulates the endocrine system, reduces inflammation in the respiratory system (and elsewhere), and is excellent at bringing your immune system into high gear when you are fighting a cold or virus.  If you think you’re coming down with something, see your local acupuncturist, and get her to prescribe some herbs for you to take home.  This time of year, many of our patients call us for a treatment at the first sign of a cold; we often get a call the next day letting us know they are once again feeling 100%.

3.     Take adaptogenic tonic herbs to help fend off colds and flu

Adaptogenic herbs are plants that have a regulating, normalizing effect on the body; in other words, they stimulate our body to do what it should in order to restore us to optimal health.  One single herb may cool down your mother’s night sweats while it warms up your cold hands and feet.  Adaptogenic herbs are useful for reducing stress as well as keeping us healthy through the Cold & Flu season.  The best way to determine the best herbs for you is to see a Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist.  We can prescribe stronger, medicinal herbs to treat illness and we can also prescribe more gentle, tonic herbs to boost immunity and keep you healthy.

4. Get as much sleep as you can! 

This may seem impossible if you have young children (as I do), but if you want to stay healthy through the cold and flu season (roughly October through March), sleep is worth prioritizing.  Getting restful sleep is more important than having a clean house.  It’s more important than keeping up with social media.  It’s more important than dashing around “trying to get stuff done” as soon as your kids are asleep.  When we sleep, we build new cells, our Nervous System and brain regenerate.  Nighttime is Yin Time; we need a balance of yin and yang each day, and if we do yang activities (such as working out at the gym, cleaning the house, catching up on email) during the yin time, we drain our yin substances and make ourselves more open to getting sick.  So go to sleep already.

Ahh, sleep is so good…

6.     Take Fermented Cod Liver Oil (liquid or capsules)

The best source of Vitamin D in food form, FCLO helps boost immunity through cold and flu season, improves foggy headed-ness, and is an excellent source of essential fatty acids during pregnancy and nursing.  You can find it here.

 5.     Eat Real Food that is in season

Salads are for summer!  In the colder months, when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, we are supposed to eat food that is grown locally and in season, and that warms our body.  Check your local farmer’s markets: right now, in Southern California, the markets are full of root vegetables, pumpkins, dark leafy greens, apples, pears, pomegranates, and fermented foods such as pickles and saurkraut.  You’ll also find organic grass-fed beef, bison, pasture-raised chickens, local eggs, goat cheese.  You won’t find a lot of lettuces, cucumbers and spinach: even in Southern California, the cold raw veggies don’t like the colder nights.  In the Fall and Winter, the best thing you can feed your body is a variety of freshly prepared COOKED vegetables, warming slow-cooked soups and stews, organic cooked grains such as barley, oatmeal and rice, fermented foods, and good fats.  Locally grown organic fruits in moderation are also helpful.

7.     Eat your meals sitting down

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, meals should always be eaten sitting down, with both feet on the floor.  This encourages better digestion and absorption of our food.  Try to resist the easy quick meal eaten in the car or while chasing your kids around.  Take time to enjoy a meal with your family.  When you’re at work, don’t eat at your desk, in your car, or while shopping at Target.  Please.

8.     Eat Nature’s probiotic: fermented foods

80% of your immune system is located in your digestive system.  “You are what you eat” has never been more true!  Probiotic foods (such as fermented veggies, saurkraut, pickles, beet kvass and kombucha) can modulate your body’s immune response via your gut’s mucosal immune system.  Avoid cheap commercial brands with added vinegar, and make your own or buy them at your local farmer’s market, a good health food store, or my favorite local “food club,” Culture Club 101 in Pasadena.

9.     Sit in a Salt Room

If you are prone to chronic colds, allergies, or you or your child has a history of asthma, spend time relaxing in a salt room.  According to Salt Studio Pasadena, halotherapy (also known as salt therapy) is “an all-natural, drug-free treatment that benefits the lungs and skin with the use of dry sodium chloride (salt) aerosol…salt therapy reduces inflammation in the respiratory tract and aids in mucous clearing, leaving patients breathing easier.”  Some traditional Korean spas also have salt rooms.  45 minutes spent chilling out in a salt room will leave you refreshed and feeling like you had a 3-hour nap!

10. Meditate

In a recent study at Harvard Medical Center (May 2013), Dr. Herbert Benson reported that “a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group.”  (Citation.)  So, meditation is not only for stress relief: it keeps you healthy.  I enjoy doing mini-meditations with my kids (who are 3 and 5) on weekend mornings when we’re not rushed, and in between patients during my busy days at the clinic.  I also wake up before the rest of my family a few days a week so I can do 20-30 minute meditations by myself when the house is quiet.  I am convinced that meditation helps keep me healthy, especially when I’m treating sick people every day.

If you’ve never tried meditation before, check out Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience.

Or try sitting in a quiet spot outdoors, closing your eyes, and listening to the birds.  Focus on your breath, count to 100 and back to 1 again.  But if it’s chilly, wear a scarf.

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

Foods for the Lung

 

In Chinese Medicine, Autumn correlates with the Lung system, which includes our lung organs, the entire respiratory tract, as well as our skin.  This is part of why so many people experience common colds or skin dryness this time of year.  By incorporating foods that support the lung system into our diets, we can keep our bodies healthy in a natural way.

The color of the Lung system is white and the flavor is acrid, so you may notice many of these foods have both qualities, such as horseradish or garlic.  Other foods on this list, though they may not be both white and acrid, still support the Lung system in other ways.  Pear, for example, is sweet but also particularly moistening for the lungs and can help cure a dry cough.

If you are experiencing common colds or skin problems every year at this time, consider added some more foods in your diet to boost your Lung Qi!

(Post and infographic by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts)

20 Benefits of Bee Pollen

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, bee pollen is considered a mild Jing tonic: it directs energy to the Kidney system.  Royal jelly is an even stronger Jing tonic, and can be used for more serious cases of deficiency.

  1. Fertility Fertility Fertility!
  2. Protein-rich (half of which is free amino acids that are easily used by the body)
  3. Great source of vitamin B12
  4. Energy tonic
  5. Helps balance blood sugar
  6. Used by cultures around the world for several different applications
  7. Improves endurance and vitality
  8. Aids recovery from chronic illness
  9. Helps add weight during convalescence
  10. Reduces cravings and addictions
  11. Can be taken between meals in place of a snack
  12. Regulates the Intestines
  13. Builds new blood
  14. Improves immunity
  15. Antibiotic properties
  16. Thought to protect against radiation
  17. Used as a remedy for hay fever and allergies (especially when it is local to your region)
  18. Considered an important supplement for vegans and vegetarians
  19. Great to take before a workout
  20. Used during recovery from UTIs

Keep in mind that raw bee products are not considered suitable for children 1 year or younger.  And you should always test yourself for an allergy to bee pollen by trying just one tiny pellet first and waiting to make sure you don’t have a reaction.

About 1 tsp is generally enough for a dose; not much more is usually needed.  It is most easily taken with a glass of water.  The taste of bee pollen is an acquired one so try it before adding to your food.  I do like the taste when it is on top of a little yogurt with fruit or nuts, but I despise the taste when blended into smoothies.

For more information on Chinese Nutrition and Whole Foods, check out the wonderful book by Paul Pitchford, “Healing With Whole Foods.”

(Photo and Post by Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts)