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Almond, ginger and blueberry slice

02/04/2014

ginger almond blueberry slice plateAs regular readers of this blog may be aware I am a big fan of ginger. Aside from its myriad of therapeutic properties, I value it just because it so delicious!

So here is a slice based on ginger that I baked for our wonderful team of ladies I work with at the clinic in West End: The Acupuncture and Natural Therapies Centre. We have an excellent team of health professionals at this thirty year old health centre: three acupuncturists (Nicola Macdonald, Amber Fulton and me), another massage therapist (Sia Carlyon) and two lovely ladies at the reception and dispensary, Shelley and Jane.

So this recipe’s key ingredient Chinese medicine properties are:

  • Ginger: Warm, pungent and sweet. It benefits the Lung, Stomach and Spleen.
  • Almonds: Neutral in temperature and sweet, they benefit the Lung, Spleen and Large Intestine.
  • Blueberries: Cooling, sweet and sour. Blueberries benefit the Liver.

Even though the sugar is reduced in this recipe, overall it is still sweet in flavour and so tonifies the Earth element and Qi, and nourishes the Spleen and Lung. It is high in fibre and protein (for a sweet snack) but should still be only consumed in moderation.

The recipe is adapted from this one and I have altered it to be lower in sugar, gluten and dairy free with added blueberries.

ginger almond blueberry slice

Ginger, almond and blueberry slice

Ingredients

  • 175g coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar & stevia combination (equivalent to 1 cup caster sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 100g almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 125g ‘naked’ uncrystallised ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 70g flaked almonds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. Grease an 18 x 28cm rectangular baking tin. Line with baking paper.
  3. Beat coconut oil and sugar together until light in colour and well mixed. Beat in egg, then alternate the additions of coconut milk and flour.
  4. Add almond meal, ground ginger and uncrystallised ginger and mix thoroughly.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared pan and press down evenly with a clean fist.
  6. Evenly distribute blueberries on top of mix, pressing in gently.
  7. Evenly sprinkle flaked almonds over the top of the slice.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.
  9. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in pan, then cool on a rack.
  10. Cut into small squares or fingers.

For further information on TCM dietary therapy contact Sarah George.  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.

Quintessentially autumn: cauliflower, butter bean & dill soup

31/03/2014

cauliflower soupCarrying on from my post about everything you need to know to be “Living well in autumn“, I prepared this delicious soup that sums up the essence of the season in one bowl.

Chinese medicine five element theory assigns autumn to the metal element. The colour associated with the metal element is white. The flavour is pungent. Although we can add a nice mix of bitter and sour to this. We use cooking methods that take a little longer but preserve fluid content (such as soups) to benefit our Lungs, Large Intestine and skin. Foods that are neutral to warming are ideal depending on how far through autumn you find yourself. This concept is further explained in the living well in autumn link above.

The dish that pops into my head as quintessentially autumn is cauliflower soup. It is white, creamy and nourishing, which a slight pungent and warming quality. It was a childhood favourite for me. Perhaps this is because as a dairy-free child, cauliflower soup offered a soothing, ‘creaminess’ not found often in the rest of my diet. In addition to the texture, I also think I just enjoyed the flavour. Fans of cauliflower cheese will know what I’m talking about.

Some of the key ingredients in this soup and their Chinese medicine properties  are:

  • Cauliflower (of course) –  Neutral-cooling and nourishes Yin. It is said to be sweet and slightly bitter, benefitting the Stomach, Spleen, Lung and Large Intestine.
  • Butter beans – Neutral-cooling and sweet, these beans nourish Yin and benefit the Liver, Lungs and skin.
  • Onion and garlic – Garlic is hot and onions are warming. They are pungent and may also be sweet. They benefit the Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach and Spleen.
  • Dill – Warming, pungent and slightly bitter.
  • Nutmeg – Warming and pungent.

Here is the recipe for cauliflower, butter bean and dill soup. You’ll be eating in about 30 minutes – it’s quick to cook. I used one and a half tablespoons of fresh dill rather than the dried herb. I do love dill. And for those with food sensitivities, it is free from dairy, gluten and eggs. It’s a good meat-free dish too as the beans add some protein and contribute to satiety.

For further information on TCM dietary therapy contact Sarah George.  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.

Dairy, Chinese medicine and your health

23/03/2014

milkDairy is one of those things that polarises people. Just like daylight saving and which way the toilet roll should face on the holder.

What I like about Chinese medicine is that we don’t judge any naturally occurring food to be good or bad, but rather consider that the properties of a food are beneficial to certain individuals at times and maybe not at other times as their health situation changes. Some people, due to their constitution, may never tolerate a particular food well but that does not mean that the food is bad for all of us. No naturally occurring foods are…. evil.

Dairy is not considered in our classic Chinese medicine texts to represent the huge problem we have assigned it in the West today. This is described in this excellent post by Chinese Medicine scholar, Eric Brand. As Eric points out it’s likely that cow’s milk products were used in smaller amounts, less frequently and were prepared differently to how we do now in the West (eg. homogenised and pasteurised). For instance, the Chinese most likely did not regularly consume cafe latte, chocolate milkshakes, banana smoothies, pasta carbonara, creamy dips, full cream dairy milk chocolate, creme brulee and cookies & cream icecream, or even just a big glass of milk straight from the fridge, as part of an every day diet. The problem with most of the foods I’ve just listed is that they are also combined with more fat and sugar that the average Chinese probably consumed too, and this changes the properties of the dairy once again.

Eric points out that milk products have medicinal qualities when used with people who are in need of those properties. Cow’s milk is considered to be thermally neutral, sweet and benefits the Lung, Stomach and Heart, depending on the source that you read. It moistens dryness. It should be used with caution in people with loose bowels due to weakness and coldness, and phlegm-damp in the middle burner. Eric also describes the properties of other mammal and plant-based ‘milks’.

Dairy is often considered today to contribute to phlegm-damp. And there are many people who will share their story of this effect. I even have my own:

“When I was three years old I had been suffering from recurrent ear infections. This was treated with repeated courses of antibiotics. Next stop was to have grommets inserted into my ears. My mother heard a doctor on the radio discussing his experience with taking cow’s milk out of the diet of children with recurrent ear infections. Well, my mother gave it a go. (She also boosted my diet with non-dairy calcium foods.) The ear infections stopped, the grommets weren’t needed. I’ve stayed away from dairy, mostly strictly, ever since. I do get sinusy, phlegmy and partially blocked ears when I occasionally let it creep back in.”

There are equally as many people, or actually probably a lot more, who don’t have a story like this. So dairy is not bad for us all.

And dairy is not the only contributor to phlegm and dampness. You can read more about dampness and what to do about it here. Phlegm is not the same as dampness.

It really comes down to being aware of your own body regardless of what the theory says. For instance, there was a study published finding that cow’s milk made no difference to mucus production. There seems to be more factors to this picture.

So, in my humble opinion I’d say that the jury is out. The theory and the practice don’t quite match up for those whose symptoms (whether respiratory or digestive) seem to be definitely worse for the ingestion of cow’s milk. Or perhaps Chinese medicine is right and it is just good for some people and not others, and at different times in their lives.

It comes back to listening to your own body. If your symptoms are worse for dairy or any particular food, don’t consume it. If you suffer from digestive or respiratory symptoms seek help. You can also have allergy and sensitivity testing conducted. In my clinic I do some food sensitivity testing.

If you are removing dairy foods from your diet, you don’t have to give up everything you love, there are alternatives and often they are very good. And I have lots of experience with this. Also, if going dairy-free makes you feel better you won’t want to touch the foods you used to eat – you know it just isn’t worth it.

Here are some ways to substitute for dairy:

  • Cakes and baking. I often substitute plain water for milk. But sometimes soy, rice, almond or coconut milks are better.
  • Cheesecakes. Vegans have been making quite palatable cheesecakes based on cashews for a long time. The internet is full of recipes.
  • On cereal, smoothies, tea and coffee. Substitute again with soy, rice, almond or coconut milks. Many coffee shops now offer alternative milks.
  • Yoghurt and icecream. There are wonderful coconut milk based alternatives these days. However they can be fatty and sugary and not overly healthy in anything more than small, infrequent serves (particularly the icecream).
  • Cream. Cream can be made with coconut cream. you’ll find tonnes of recipes online.
  • Sour cream. A mix of a milk alternative with some lemon juice or vinegar usually does the trick. Again get a recipe online.
  • Cheese. Cheese can be tricky. Expecially for a tasty, meltable kind. You can experiment making a white sauce with the milk alternative of your choice thickened to your requirements for pizza or lasagne (grill the finished meal to firm and brown it on top). You can also buy cheese alternatives from vegan suppliers (shops or websites). Some are reported to be quite good but you may need to try a few.
  • Other substitutes. The recipe book and website godairyfree.org are laden with alternatives to dairy products that can be easily made at home.

Be aware that if milk does not agree with you then some of the substitutes may not either as you are looking for the same kind of texture and quality as the milk has in your substitutes – energetically they may be similar. Test them out for yourself. And also due to the different processing to make different kinds of dairy products you may find that some dairy agrees with you but not all of them. For instance, some people tolerate whey powder, butter and yoghurt. The way the dairy is prepared changes it thermal and energetic properties, so all dairy is not the same and may have subtle differences in how it affects you. So, test them for yourself.

What about calcium?

Everyone asks this question. There are many non-dairy sources of calcium. If you are avoiding dairy you need to actively include other calcium sources in your diet. Of particular note are sesame seeds (including tahini), fish with soft bones (salmon and sardines), tofu, nuts and green leafy vegetables.

Here are some links to calcium food sources and recommended dietary requirements:

Removing dairy from your diet is not the end of the world. If you feel better for it, then it may very well be the start of a new lease on life. And it may not be forever either.

If you feel as though dairy may aggravate your symptoms, please feel free to discuss your symptoms and your dairy consumption with me or your health practitioner at your next consultation.

For further information on TCM dietary therapy contact Sarah George. Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.

Two smile-worthy videos for International Happiness Day

20/03/2014

Happy International Day of… Happiness! Yes, the United Nations proclaimed that 20th March is the day to officially recognise that Gross National Happiness is just as important in creating policy as Gross National Product.

Today I thought it was fitting to share two videos with you. The first an entertaining and warm take on compassion and interconnectedness with others to our well being. These are ideas we can all include in our daily lives – starting right now. Robert Thurman, the first American to be ordained a Tibetan Monk by the Dalai Lama, gives us this short little gem of a TED talk.

Secondly, if you want something more light hearted which will put a smile on your face right now, well you can’t go past Monty Python’s Always look on the bright side of life. It actually reinforces one of Robert Thurman’s points that even in times of suffering making the effort to smile is more beneficial to you than the alternative.

I have written before on happiness tips:

I hope you enjoy today’s happiness offerings. And while we are chatting about happiness, why not drop me a comment about what contributes to your happiness?

For further information on happiness and stress management contact Sarah George.  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.

Change – The Secret Guide To Change

12/03/2014

Sarah J. George:

Join The Health & Happiness Collective for our last post on our ‘Change’ blog hop. The amazing aromatherapist and homeopath, Sandra, shares with us how to make change easily. Thanks for joining us on this blog hop – I hope you’ve got something good from our excellent bloggers.

Originally posted on Natures Healing:

Health & Happiness Collective

What is Change?

Change Mahatma Gandhi

What is Change?

Have you been saying things such as

  • why do the whales gets hunted?
  • why is there so much hunger in the world?
  • isn’t it sad to see so much war in the world?
  • isn’t it awful that those children were molested?

These questions make us dwell on what is not right in the world, or even in our world. Mahatma Ghandi stated that WE must be the change we wish to see in the world.

This is so very important when we are wishing for things to be different, we need to begin within, to make the changes we wish to see. One person can start a change.  Are you that person?

How do you begin to change?

Change Winston Churchill Quote

How do you change?

Change begins one step at a time.  I have been listening to some podcasts recently, and a couple…

View original 653 more words

crazy little thing called change

09/03/2014

Sarah J. George:

Here we have the latest post in the Change series from The Health & Happiness Collective. Jan shares with us changes from her garden. Gosh I admire people with the skills, time and space to create beautiful outdoor green spaces like this does. I also admire their gardens. Enjoy!

Originally posted on The Eloquent Garden:

Humans seem  fascinated, sometimes obsessed with change. In the name of change, humans embark on some fabulous,  interesting, and some might say quite crazy behaviours.

I’ve just read “Maddadam’ by Margaret Atwood. Now she’s an author who’s  terrific at imagining change. She  takes our fantasies, our dreams of change and details them in dystopian comedy-dramas. “God’s Gardeners” in charge of the world. Hmm. Not so practical, it turns out. And that marvelous  fantasy that males and females have -  ‘if only we knew exactly when someone wanted to mate with us’ -  that would save us so much time and heartache we think. It’s wonderful what Atwood does with that one. I won’t spoil it for potential readers, but it does involve spontaneous colour change of body parts.

And plants and animals  change too in surprising, fascinating ways.  Convergent evolution, where two unrelated species take on the characteristics of one…

View original 739 more words

Living well in Autumn

06/03/2014

From the cartoon genius that is Michael Leunig. I thought this was incredibly cute.

Many people say that autumn is one of the most delightful times of year in Brisbane with beautiful clear skies and moderate temperatures.

Autumn is the time when the heat and humidity from summer dissipates gradually and we begin to dry off and cool down in the transition towards winter.

Here’s something to put you in the mood: Tchaikovsky’s Autumn (or October in the northern hemisphere) – the inspiration for Leunig’s ‘The Autumn Circle of Magpies and Ducks’ perhaps?

As a follow up to my summer livin‘ post I thought I should introduce you all to good living tips for autumn too.

The following are a collection of ideas (in no particular order) associated with autumn:

  • Gathering
  • Harvest the mature
  • Build storage for winter
  • Yang Qi (energy) falls and Yin Qi (energy) rises gradually
  • Qi (energy) moves inward and downward
  • Bright and crisp
  • Cool and dry
  • Clarity and simplicity
  • Reflection and reconnection
  • Slowing down
  • Lungs, large intestine and your skin
  • Preserving a harmonious mood
  • Pungent flavours and aromas
  • The colour white
  • The metal element

Gradually add even just a few of these tips as the weather changes to maximise your health in the autumn:

  • Lifestyle:
    • Get more sleep. Go to bed earlier than in summer and rise a little later.
    • Don’t tire yourself out physically or sweat too much.
    • Feel the weather getting cooler but don’t feel the need to rug up to be ‘over’ warm until the weather gets colder. Layers are good! On the other hand, be prepared with some warm clothes and bedclothes in the case of a cold snap.
    • Exercise should be more about building strength than sweating it out in the autumn. This relates to gathering muscle and preserving body fluids. However, if you wish to lose weight, Chinese medicine considers autumn a good time to exercise more to prevent further ‘storage’ over the winter.
    • Look after your skin. Find yourself lovely aromatic, natural facial and body moisturisers/oils to keep your skin nourished in the drier climate. Don’t forget to moisturise after a bath too.
    • This is also an excellent time to pull out some books, cards and board games for a little bit of inside time with friends and family in the evenings.
  • Emotional health:
    • If you love summer then autumn can be a sad time. Make the most of bright and crisp autumn days, getting some safe exposure to sunlight. This could involve a walk in nature, exercise in a park, and sightseeing around mountains, rivers or lakes.
  • Foods:
    • More substantial meals than in summer, yet not as heavy as in winter – simple and sumptuous!
    • Savour the deep, complex flavours of autumn.
    • Moisten dryness with foods such as pears, spinach, nuts, seeds, avocado, milks (if they agree with you, including soy) and honey. Porridge with honey and banana can be very moistening.
    • Eat some pungent and warm foods (Eg. leeks, radishes, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, onion and chilli) but not until you sweat.
    • Also gradually include sour (preserve fluids) and bitter (descends to store) flavoured foods.
    • Make the most of: wild mushrooms, garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, swedes, beetroot, broccoli and borlotti beans. A lot of these foods are naturally white in colour which is synonymous with the metal element.
    • Avoid excessive cool/cold/icy foods and drinks.
    • Use cooking methods which will maximise food aromas such as baking (warming) and saute (preserving moisture content). Use your slow cooker to gently warm and keep the moisture in your food – plus you will come to the aroma of a home cooked dinner!

If you find that autumn brings out the worst in your health (eg. moodwise, asthma or respiratory symptoms, skin conditions, constipation or other digestive orders) talk to me about acupuncture, herbal medicine or other lifestyle methods which may benefit your condition.

For further information on living with the seasons contact Sarah George.  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.

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