Chinese medicine

Greens with Roasted Butternut Squash and Garlic

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So, November came and went. December is just beginning. I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to get swept up in the fast pace of this time of year. I find I benefit from a little reminder to tune in to my body instead of just going through the motions of that annual game of chicken I play with my immune system.

As we transition through the seasons, we also need to change up the foods we eat in order to work with the changing energies and weather patterns. Wintertime is a chance to rest and reflect as we seek refuge from the chill. It follows that we should consume foods that help promote the retention of warmth in the body.

This time of year, I find myself stepping checking back in with some alternative practices that complement western nutrition therapy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, for example, salty and bitter foods are thought to foster a centering quality and help cool the body’s exterior while drawing heat in—we notice the cold less when the surface of the skin is cooler. As discussed in Paul Pitchford’s classic TCM text, Healing With Whole Foods, some key things to incorporate into our winter diet are dried foods, small dark beans, seaweed, and steamed winter greens.

It is also important to get adequate amounts of fat, as we are especially susceptible to dry skin and hair in the wintertime.  It also helps our body absorb the nutrients in the other food we eat. Sure, you can eat a s*** ton of winter squash, but you’ll reap the benefits of all that fat-soluble vitamin A if you’ve got some enough fat in your diet to allow your body to utilize it!

squash and greensAnyway, enough science talk. I know it’s Monday morning. I just wanted to share a new recipe with you. This dish combines nurturing greens with slow-roasted squash and garlic. If you don’t have coconut oil for the squash, you can use olive oil.

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil (melted if below room temp)
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 large bunch kale, washed and trimmed
  • 1 bunch chard, spinach, or other dark green, washed and trimmed
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp white wine or lemon juice

 Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Toss squash cubes with coconut oil. Roast at 400, stirring every 15 minutes or so until soft and caramelized (~60 minutes). Set aside.
  3. Slice pointy top of garlic cloves and rub ~1 tsp olive oil into each head. Wrap garlic and foil and bake at 400 ~40 minutes, or until cloves are soft. Slice cloves and set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove cloves
  4. Steam greens in a large pot with a little water until wilted.
  5. Combine greens and squash in a large bowl.
  6.  Heat remaining oil in a skillet. Add sliced garlic and stir, cooking ~2 minutes. Add wine/lemon juice. Bring to a boil and turn off heat when volume is reduced by about half.
  7. Pour sauce over vegetables and toss well to coat. Season with sea salt as desired.

What are some of your favorite winter foods? 

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Avocado Face Mask

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I never thought it would happen, but I finally have to deal with dry skin. From a distance, age 27 always sounded too young—but my mother has dry skin! I still listen to Bright Eyes when no one’s around! And then I recently remembered that, well, my mom had me when she was 26, so maybe it’s not so ridiculous. So it goes.

After making sure I was eating enough healthy fats and drinking enough water, I even cracked open a few Chinese medicine textbooks  (long story, but working for a wonderful acupuncturist is basically what led me to go back to school to become an RD) to see if there were certain nourishing foods to include on my shopping list to address what I had going on or whether I was neglecting a certain flavor (sweet/sour/bitter/etc) I might benefit from using more. Say what you will about  Eastern medicine, but I think a balance of east-west is a very sane way to take care of ourselves.

Anyway, though I can’t say the yin-nourishing, “sweet” foods (like brown rice, cabbage, white mushrooms, and other things I swapped in for other foods) hurt, I wanted some quicker results (God bless America). A little “It’s okay…” blurb from Glamour magazine about using half the avocado for a face mask and eating the other half reminded me that nature really does provide some of the best beauty treatments around—f*** wandering the aisles of Duane Reade and emerging $40 poorer with an assortment of stuff that doesn’t work!

IMG_2132This face masks costs around 55 cents and made my skin feel amazing. It’s even better if you listen to whatever your guilty-pleasure music is because that’s, like, what girls do when we’re wearing face masks or something…Or you could just work on your super-nerdy stats assignment, like I did.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a ripe avocado
  • ~2 tbsp honey

Directions: 

  1. Mash avocado in a bowl or other container. Stir in honey.
  2. Spread on face. Leave for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Wipe off mask with a damp washcloth and rinse.

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite at-home beauty ritual? 

Late-Summer Pasta

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This should really just be called “what the hell am I going to do with these random leftover veggies” pasta, but since heirloom tomatoes made an appearance, the seasonal moniker seemed like the better option.

This last month of summer is also the fifth season in traditional Chinese medicine, bridging the gap between the growth of spring, the playful, active energy of summer, and the cooler, inward energies of fall and winter. This is when things slow down and people get in their last vacation days, savoring the last few bits of warmth while also looking around and ahead. I won’t go into the ways in which this season is said to rule the stomach, spleen, and pancreas, but  it does have to do with the notion that this is the time of year where we transition from grilling foods to sautéing them and other gentler means of preparation.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this time of year, I find that my tastebuds get a bit confused as to whether they want hot-weather or cold-weather foods. This pasta dish bridged the gap quite nicely. 

The recipe isn’t really a recipe but more a brief description of that time I threw a bunch of stuff into a pot of strained whole wheat linguine and stirred over low heat until it was hot enough.

Ingredients:

  • Pasta of choice (I used whole wheat linguine)
  • Leafy greens (I used spinach)
  • Any veggies you like (mine were roasted–eggplant, broccoli, and pepper)
  • Mini or whole heirloom tomatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Garlic (fresh or powdered) and red pepper flakes to taste
  • Oregano (optional, but what the hell)
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 c fat-free ricotta cheese (part skim or whole milk would work too)

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to directions. When straining, reserve a little bit of the cooking liquid.
  2. Return strained pasta to pot. Add greens, vegetables, peas, and spices. Cook over low heat until greens are wilted and vegetables are warm. Add lemon. Stir well.
  3. Add ricotta. Cook another couple minutes until the desired temperature is reached.
  4. Plate and serve. Enjoy.

Do you have any favorite late summer dishes? 

5 for a Dollar

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I feel a bit funny about always taking the extra banana from the fruit vendor on 9th, but I do it anyway.
My sister tells me this is how people like me get into trouble. What she may or may not realize is that I wrote the book on trouble—it’s just that nobody bought it.
I’ve actually written several books on various sorts of trouble. I’ve only showed one or two manuscripts to people, only actually shopped one around. One agent wrote back to me, “When you have a story that is not your own, get back in touch with me.”
No thank you. I had a weird moment of clarity a few months after that in which I realized that instead of using my writing to share painful stories, I could use it to spread positive ideas that could help people more directly.
Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for neglecting my fiction and essay-writing since I spend so much time and energy doing other work for my jobs and school. I do get to do a ton of writing and blogging, at least, it’s just about different subject matters.
It’s been an interesting path so far, and kind of funny to see how after a while, writing about sex is so much less interesting than writing about, oh, I don’t know—Chinese medicine, vegetarian protein sources, or weird findings and goings-on around the city.
The closest I come to writing about sex lately is when I have to write fertility-related blog posts (check here for the latest one), but somehow, I think that’s okay. I feel like in a few years (or many), I’ll look back and see that the stars were, in fact, in alignment.