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.

GreenRedLettuces

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.

SantaRitaPeppers

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:

BenzlerRaisins

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

FreestonePeachesBenzler

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

SweetTreeOrganicsJosh

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.

SamplesSweetTree

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.

Turkey Bone Broth

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We had a terrific Thanksgiving this year…

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…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.

Skype Consultations Now Available with Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.

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I am now offering Skype Consultations for patients who live outside of the Los Angeles area or cannot get to our office, or those who would like to have a longer conversation with me than I can offer on a quick phone call.

The cost is $150 for a 60 minute one-on-one session, which includes one brief follow-up email exchange.  (All credit cards accepted.)  Obviously, I can’t do acupuncture through the phone or computer (darn!), but what I do offer via Skype is this:

Initial Consultation: a conversation about your health history, current concern(s), current plan of care (if you have one)

Discussion about how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help you with your health concerns

Brief nutritional consultation

To set up your Skype Consultation, email us at frontdesk at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com, or call our clinic: 818-392-8797.

I look forward to meeting you virtually if you’re not able to come to our office!

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

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

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We might not have actual snow here in the Los Angeles area (I took the selfie above last week while visiting family back East), but we still have cold & flu season.

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of antibiotics you and/or your kids take every year? Eager to stay healthy through the holidays and germy season?

Here are my top 10 holistic tips on how to thrive through cold and flu season…

1. Wear a scarf

Grandma was right!  It’s 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.  Pack a scarf in your carry-on bag while traveling; those vents on airplanes blow air (+ all kinds of germs from other passengers) directly at your head and neck. 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 them 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 or email the next day letting us know they are once again feeling like themselves. Book with me here.

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. (And please…don’t buy herbs on Amazon.)

4. Get as much sleep as you can! 

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Ahh, sleep is so good…

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, spacing out in front of screens) during the yin time, we drain our yin substances and make ourselves more open to getting sick.  So go to sleep already.

6. Take a Cod Liver Oil supplement

Cod Liver Oil contains the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which support the immune system, eye health, bones and epithelial tissue. It contains Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

At FLOAT we carry an excellent and affordable Cod Liver Oil in shelf-stable capsule form, made by Standard Process ($42.50 for 180 capsules). It is extracted from fish found in deep Norwegian waters, and contains 100% of the FDA-recommended amount of EPA and DHA for pregnant and nursing women. Standard Process supplements are only available from Licensed healthcare practitioners.

 5. Eat Real Food 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. Sit down at mealtime

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

Buddha

In a 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.”  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, FABORM, 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)

What's in Our Garden?

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

Welcome to our new series – What’s in Our Garden?

Here at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, we are passionate about our backyard edible gardens, and we want to share photos, ideas and recipes with you!

Each week, we’ll be posting photos of what’s growing in our home gardens now, what we’re harvesting, what we’re struggling to keep alive, and the recipes we’re using to cook what we’ve picked.  (Today I’ll be talking about passion fruit!)  We also welcome your comments and invite you to share with us what’s growing in your garden.  I have been inspired by my favorite blogger, SouleMama, who has been posting a series called “This Week in My Garden” all summer.  So, a big tip of the hat goes out to Amanda Soule.

We get a lot of questions from patients about how they can work, raise a family and still eat healthy, organic, real food.

We think the best way to do this is to grow your own food and shop at your local farmer’s markets.  (I’ll be taking you through a typical day at my favorite farmer’s market in a blog post later this week.)

I grew up in New York City in an apartment building, so I still wake up some mornings in a state of happy shock that I actually have a garden with a 10 month growing season, and not just the local patch of grass we referred to as Tip-Toe Park (owing to the piles of dog poop).

 

ChardKaleEggplant

Chard, Kale and Eggplant

Garden Options

Some people have their entire garden in containers on a patio or indoors near a window.  Others use a plot of land in a local community garden.  Another great option is the Tower Garden, by Juice Plus+, an aeroponic 5-feet-tall vertical indoor garden that fits in even the smallest apartment.  If you want more information about this, please send an email to frontdesk at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com or ask us about it at your next office visit.

If you aren’t into gardening but you like to eat locally and with the seasons, getting to know your local farmer’s markets is the way to go.  If you live in Southern California, here is a useful guide:  http://projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets.  Those of you who live in colder climates may have a shorter outdoor growing season, but you may still be able to find mostly year-round farmer’s markets, and/or subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Tell us what works for you!

In our garden, we don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, but rely on compost and natural methods of pest control.  We never grow genetically modified plants, focusing instead on heirloom varietals that require more maintenance but produce delicious, interesting crops.

We also love to cook; I do much of the planning and cooking for my family of four, and Jacqueline is quite a well-known food blogger and recipe-writer (http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net).  Heidi, our office manager, has been gardening and cooking for years and often brings flowers or herbs from her garden to display at our front desk.

Involving Kids

Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is one of the most affordable, healthy and holistic ways to feed your family.

It’s also a great way to get picky toddlers and older children to get involved in cooking: when they pick it and help prepare it, they are so much more likely to eat it!  Even organic, heirloom seeds cost just pennies, and you don’t need to have an enormous back yard (or even a back yard at all!) to grow your own produce.

 

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

 

My kids are 3 and 5, and they are part of the reason I have become so passionate about our garden.  There’s nothing like getting your hands in the dirt, and falling into the zen rhythm of plucking off dead leaves.  It’s one of my favorite ways to decompress after a long day.  When I realize my kids have stopped whining and shouting at each other, I know they must be busy in the back searching for zucchini.  Gardening has also become an amazing way to teach them about where their food comes from, and how to have respect for the Earth.  I have been inspired by the ideas in Sharon Lovejoy’s book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children.”

 

My kids, last summer, with a giant zucchini they picked

My kids, last summer, with a giant zucchini they picked

 

My son has taken to picking mint and ginger and making his own creative tea when he has a tummy-ache, and my daughter likes to pick lettuce and feed it to her stuffed animals.  They also love love love to help me prepare meals.  When I’m not in a rush, I welcome their help, and give them simple tasks to do (“Go pick some basil and spinach, please,” or for my 5-year-old, “cut these carrots, please”).  When I am in rush, I have to remind myself that my kids’ pace is slower than mine, and though it may take an extra 30 minutes to involve them in making dinner, they will be more likely to eat it and rave about it if they’ve helped prepare it, from garden to plate.

In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be featuring photos of an area of our garden along with a recipe we made with stuff we picked from it.  Please post a comment in the comment section if you have a specific type of dish you’d like to see, or a plant you have questions about.

So now let’s get to the pick of the day, along with a recipe.

Passion Fruit in the City!

This week, my kids and I harvested the first ripe passion fruits of the season.  Passion fruit are super easy to grow (they do require some  pruning!), and they love full sun.  They will climb on anything, so training them along a fence is the best way to go.  We put our passion fruit plants in from seedlings in March 2012, and they started producing fruit about 4-5 months later.  We had some yummy ones last summer, but this year the yield is about three times as much, and the fruit seem to be ripening more predictably.

Here are some not-quite-ripe passion fruit growing on the vine along our fence:

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

 

And here they are, ready to eat, in my hand:

Ripe passion fruit

Ripe passion fruit

Here is the fleshy fruit part inside:

 

Passion Fruit flesh

Passion Fruit flesh

 

And – the other amazing benefit of growing passion fruit vines are the spectacular flowers we started seeing along the vines this past Spring!  This one just bloomed yesterday:

 

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

 

My son will tell anyone who visits our garden that you know the passion fruit are ready when “they’re purple and pruny and look like an old lady’s skin.”

According to Chinese Medicine, passion fruit is cooling and slightly bitter, and is said to calm the Shen (in other words, it has calming and sedative effects).  Which is always a good thing for a harried mama.

If you’re not growing your own passion fruit, look for them at your local farmer’s market or specialty store, especially in the summer.

I missed the chance to snap a photo of the Passion Fruit Ambrosia, but I’ll give you the recipe my 5-year-old came up with:

Passion Fruit Ambrosia (Serves 2)

1 c. organic plain yogurt (ideally, from grass-fed cows)

1 ripe Passion Fruit, sliced in half like a lime

1 T honey or maple syrup

1 T unsweetened shredded coconut

Put the yogurt in a bowl.  Scoop out all of the fruit and yellow fleshy bits (you can eat the seeds!), stir into the yogurt along with the coconut and honey or maple syrup (which helps cut the tart flavor of the passion fruit).  Yum!

What’s growing in your garden, if you have one, and what are you making from it?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, mother of two, licensed acupuncturist & herbalist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  All photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, all rights reserved.

What’s in Our Garden?

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

Welcome to our new series – What’s in Our Garden?

Here at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, we are passionate about our backyard edible gardens, and we want to share photos, ideas and recipes with you!

Each week, we’ll be posting photos of what’s growing in our home gardens now, what we’re harvesting, what we’re struggling to keep alive, and the recipes we’re using to cook what we’ve picked.  (Today I’ll be talking about passion fruit!)  We also welcome your comments and invite you to share with us what’s growing in your garden.  I have been inspired by my favorite blogger, SouleMama, who has been posting a series called “This Week in My Garden” all summer.  So, a big tip of the hat goes out to Amanda Soule.

We get a lot of questions from patients about how they can work, raise a family and still eat healthy, organic, real food.

We think the best way to do this is to grow your own food and shop at your local farmer’s markets.  (I’ll be taking you through a typical day at my favorite farmer’s market in a blog post later this week.)

I grew up in New York City in an apartment building, so I still wake up some mornings in a state of happy shock that I actually have a garden with a 10 month growing season, and not just the local patch of grass we referred to as Tip-Toe Park (owing to the piles of dog poop).

 

ChardKaleEggplant

Chard, Kale and Eggplant

Garden Options

Some people have their entire garden in containers on a patio or indoors near a window.  Others use a plot of land in a local community garden.  Another great option is the Tower Garden, by Juice Plus+, an aeroponic 5-feet-tall vertical indoor garden that fits in even the smallest apartment.  If you want more information about this, please send an email to frontdesk at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com or ask us about it at your next office visit.

If you aren’t into gardening but you like to eat locally and with the seasons, getting to know your local farmer’s markets is the way to go.  If you live in Southern California, here is a useful guide:  http://projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets.  Those of you who live in colder climates may have a shorter outdoor growing season, but you may still be able to find mostly year-round farmer’s markets, and/or subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Tell us what works for you!

In our garden, we don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, but rely on compost and natural methods of pest control.  We never grow genetically modified plants, focusing instead on heirloom varietals that require more maintenance but produce delicious, interesting crops.

We also love to cook; I do much of the planning and cooking for my family of four, and Jacqueline is quite a well-known food blogger and recipe-writer (http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net).  Heidi, our office manager, has been gardening and cooking for years and often brings flowers or herbs from her garden to display at our front desk.

Involving Kids

Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is one of the most affordable, healthy and holistic ways to feed your family.

It’s also a great way to get picky toddlers and older children to get involved in cooking: when they pick it and help prepare it, they are so much more likely to eat it!  Even organic, heirloom seeds cost just pennies, and you don’t need to have an enormous back yard (or even a back yard at all!) to grow your own produce.

 

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

 

My kids are 3 and 5, and they are part of the reason I have become so passionate about our garden.  There’s nothing like getting your hands in the dirt, and falling into the zen rhythm of plucking off dead leaves.  It’s one of my favorite ways to decompress after a long day.  When I realize my kids have stopped whining and shouting at each other, I know they must be busy in the back searching for zucchini.  Gardening has also become an amazing way to teach them about where their food comes from, and how to have respect for the Earth.  I have been inspired by the ideas in Sharon Lovejoy’s book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children.”

 

My kids at 2 and 4 with a giant zucchini they picked

 

My son has taken to picking mint and ginger and making his own creative tea when he has a tummy-ache, and my daughter likes to pick lettuce and feed it to her stuffed animals.  They also love love love to help me prepare meals.  When I’m not in a rush, I welcome their help, and give them simple tasks to do (“Go pick some basil and spinach, please,” or for my 5-year-old, “cut these carrots, please”).  When I am in rush, I have to remind myself that my kids’ pace is slower than mine, and though it may take an extra 30 minutes to involve them in making dinner, they will be more likely to eat it and rave about it if they’ve helped prepare it, from garden to plate.

In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be featuring photos of an area of our garden along with a recipe we made with stuff we picked from it.  Please post a comment in the comment section if you have a specific type of dish you’d like to see, or a plant you have questions about.

So now let’s get to the pick of the day, along with a recipe.

Passion Fruit in the City!

This week, my kids and I harvested the first ripe passion fruits of the season.  Passion fruit are super easy to grow (they do require some  pruning!), and they love full sun.  They will climb on anything, so training them along a fence is the best way to go.  We put our passion fruit plants in from seedlings in March 2012, and they started producing fruit about 4-5 months later.  We had some yummy ones last summer, but this year the yield is about three times as much, and the fruit seem to be ripening more predictably.

Here are some not-quite-ripe passion fruit growing on the vine along our fence:

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

 

And here they are, ready to eat, in my hand:

Ripe passion fruit

Here is the fleshy fruit part inside:

 

Passion Fruit flesh

 

And – the other amazing benefit of growing passion fruit vines are the spectacular flowers we started seeing along the vines this past Spring!  This one just bloomed yesterday:

 

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

 

My son will tell anyone who visits our garden that you know the passion fruit are ready when “they’re purple and pruny and look like an old lady’s skin.”

According to Chinese Medicine, passion fruit is cooling and slightly bitter, and is said to calm the Shen (in other words, it has calming and sedative effects).  Which is always a good thing for a harried mama.

If you’re not growing your own passion fruit, look for them at your local farmer’s market or specialty store, especially in the summer.

I missed the chance to snap a photo of the Passion Fruit Ambrosia, but I’ll give you the recipe my 5-year-old came up with:

Passion Fruit Ambrosia (Serves 2)

1 c. organic plain yogurt (ideally, from grass-fed cows)

1 ripe Passion Fruit, sliced in half like a lime

1 T honey or maple syrup

1 T unsweetened shredded coconut

Put the yogurt in a bowl.  Scoop out all of the fruit and yellow fleshy bits (you can eat the seeds!), stir into the yogurt along with the coconut and honey or maple syrup (which helps cut the tart flavor of the passion fruit).  Yum!

What’s growing in your garden, if you have one, and what are you making from it?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, mother of two, licensed acupuncturist & herbalist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  All photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, all rights reserved.

Foods for the Heart

We have already covered the Foods for the Liver, so the next organ system is the Heart.  In Traditional Oriental Medicine, Summertime is associated with the Heart and Small Intestine.  The color of the Heart system is red and the flavor is spicy, so small amounts of foods with these characteristics are often used to treat disharmonies of the Heart system, such as anxiety, insomnia, irritability, cardiovascular problems and hypertension.  Fresh, cooling foods in season right now, such as lettuce and basil, are also very beneficial for cooling the body in the hottest months.  It’s important to have a clear understanding of your Chinese diagnosis before making any major dietary changes.  Many licensed acupuncturists use nutritional consultation as part of their plan of care.

(Co-Written by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac and Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; image by Jacqueline, all rights reserved.)

Honey-Sesame Chicken with Vegetables (Slow-Cooker Recipe)

ChickenHoneySesameBefore

As a busy working mom committed to serving my family real food at every meal, avoiding processed foods and eating organically with the seasons, I often rely on the slow-cooker for dinners.

When I plan ahead, I can usually come up with a quick-prep meal that will cook slowly at home while my kids are in preschool and my husband and I are at work. (Or when I’m home with the kids too busy breaking up sibling squabbles to watch a pot on the stove!)

There’s nothing quite like realizing it’s 5:00 pm, we’re all cranky and hungry, and dinner is already ready. It’s much easier to make a side of brown rice or quinoa and steam or saute a side of veggies, and serve it along with a slow-cooker meal, than it is to plan a meal from scratch at 4:50pm.

Here’s a slow-cooker dish I came up with on the fly yesterday morning, when I realized it was 7:00am, I had no plan for dinner, and we all had to be out of the house for the day.  I picked some fresh herbs from our garden (while still in my PJ’s), and chose organic chicken thighs because that’s what I had fresh in the fridge.  You could easily substitute chicken breasts if you prefer.

Serves 4, with leftovers
Prep Time: About 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 hours in a large slow-cooker

Ingredients:
6-8 Organic Chicken thighs (boneless)
4 organic Russet potatoes, sliced into small pieces
6 organic carrots, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 organic red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic (whole & peeled)

For marinade:ChickenHoneySesame
1/2 c Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (cold-pressed)
2 T. Shoyu or Tamari
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T. raw Apple cider vinegar
3 T Really good local raw honey
1/2 cup water
1 sprig fresh thyme (cut into pieces)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (cut into pieces)
8-10 leaves of fresh sage
6-8 generous pats of organic grass-fed/pastured butter
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Directions:
1) Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a glass bowl.
2) Place the potatoes, onions and carrots at the bottom of the slow-cooker.
3) Put the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables.
4) Pour the marinade over the chicken and vegetables.
5) Sprinkle the sesame seeds & sea salt over everything.
6) Tuck the fresh herbs between and on top of the chicken thighs and vegetables.
7) Place one pat of butter on top of each chicken thigh.
8) Turn the slow-cooker on LOW for 5 hours.
9) Serve over brown rice or another grain of your choice. I also served with a side of sauteed fresh zucchini, which is what was ready for picking in our garden.

Try making this for your family, and let us know what you think!