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Great Way Wellness Center – Great Way Wellness Center is a whole-health clinic offering Traditional Chinese Medicine and therapeutic massage.

Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust (with bonus shortbread cookies)

I’ve always loved treats with an almond flavor or filling. Now that I’m doing almost all of my baking with almond flour, it’s easier to make healthy treats that satisfy my almond-loving palate.

I’ve been experimenting with my gluten-free pie crust recipe, and recently tried it out in an Apple Frangipane tart. Frangipane is a filling made of ground almonds, butter, sugar and eggs. Not all Frangipane recipes call for almond extract, but I like to include it to enhance the natural almond flavor. You can bake Frangipane in a variety of pie and tart pastries, often with fruit on top, or perhaps a layer of jam below.

Apple Frangipane tart is a classic French pastry. A sweet tart crust is filled with frangipane, topped with apples and baked. This recipe uses a gluten-free crust, but you could use whatever sweet crust you prefer. This recipe is a work-in-progress, and I think that pre-baking the crust for about 5 minutes would be a good thing, but I have not tested this theory yet (we can only eat so many sweets!), so I have listed the recipe just as I made it.

Bonus Shortbread Cookies: This crust recipe makes more than you’ll need for a standard tart pan (7-9″ diameter), so roll the leftovers into a log and refrigerate until firm, slice into cookies, and bake at 350 for 7-12 minutes for a delicious gluten-free shortbread cookie.

I used granular palm sugar/coconut sugar in my frangipane. Palm/coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (35), tastes delicious and behaves almost exactly like sugar. As a bonus, it contains some B vitamins and a generous amount of minerals like potassium and iron. It does not taste as sweet as refined sugar, but it brings a richer flavor to the finished product. You can find palm/coconut sugar in asian markets, packaged as a solid, hard-to-use lump (which is often combined with refined white sugar). I’ve also seen round shaker-type container of coconut sugar at my local Whole Foods Market, but it was outrageously expensive. I’ve been buying a nice, reasonably-priced granular palm sugar from Nutsonline.com, which is also where I buy my almond flour and many other wonderful things. Their palm sugar isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than what you might find at your market. Since it feels so much better in my body than refined sugar, I see it as a worthwhile investment in my health.

Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust

Almond and hazelnut crust

1.5 cps almond meal/flour
1 cp hazelnut meal
1 tbsp ground chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp melted coconut oil or fat of your choosing
5 tbsp liquid sweetener (honey, maple, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.)
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

Combine almond flour, hazelnut meal, chia seeds, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a big wire whisk (or any spoon, really) until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, liquid sweetener, almond extract and egg. Beat with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined.

Stir wet ingredients into dry, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is blended.

Put crust mixture into refrigerator to firm up a bit while you prepare the rest.

Fragipane

1/2 cp almond meal
1 tbsp flour (buckwheat is good, but any will do)
1/4 cp palm sugar (or regular sugar)
3 tbsp butter
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt

Combine almond meal, flour and palm sugar in a food processer, pulsing a couple of times to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth paste is formed, pausing to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Putting it all together

2-3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375. Thoroughly grease your tart pan, making sure to get to each nook and cranny.

Press about 2/3-3/4 of the pie crust mixture into the tart pan, making sure it is even on the bottom and sides. This is easier if it is a bit stiff and cold. Take extra care with the bottom edge, making sure that it is not too thick.

Pour frangipane into the crust and spread it evenly. Arrange apple slices on top, arranging them in a pretty pattern.

Bake at 375 for 40-60 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator.

Easy herb and grain salads

My patients have been requesting that I post recipes that are quick and healthy, and I can’t think of anything easier than a whole-grain salad made with some leftovers and a few things you probably have on hand already.

I almost always have some odd bits of left over brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat lingering in the fridge. I like to use it to whip up a salad as either a quick meal (made more filling with some canned beans), or a side dish to go with a piece of fish. It’s also a great way to put those bits of cilantro and parsley to use when you have just a little leftover from something else you’ve recently made.

I don’t really follow a recipe–I just use whatever is on hand, and dress it with olive oil and lemon juice (or vinegar).

Things that are nice to include:

* raisins
* nuts (pecans, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, toasted if you have the time)
* olives
* chopped fresh herbs if you have them (dried if you don’t)
* roasted red peppers
* capers
* beans (chickpeas are my favorite)
* cheese
* steamed veggies
* onions/scallions
* sprouts
* cucumbers
* tomatoes

For the dressing, think about combining 3 parts olive oil with 1 part vinegar/lemon juice. Add salt and pepper and any other seasonings to taste. You can also add 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard. It’s best to mix the dressing in a separate container, beat it with a fork and taste to see if you need to add any more of anything.

When you put it together, the grain should be the predominant item in your salad. Add as much or as little of the other ingredients as you like.

Mix everything together and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes (assuming you have that kind of time–otherwise just eat it right away).

The picture above comes from this nice blog I recently discovered, Tale of Two Vegans. Check it out!

Considering a cortisone injection?

I treat a lot of pain in my work as an acupuncturist. Many of my patients come to me from doctors who want to give them cortisone shots. Cortisone shots sometimes give near miraculous relief from pain, but amongst my patient population, it really seems like a 50-50 type of outcome. Often the pain relief is only temporary, even if the patient has the 3 shots allowed by their doctor.

Why only 3 shots? Cortisone causes deterioration in the tissue and bone around the injection site, and it’s thought that you can have up to three shots without causing major problems. It’s crazy to us in the natural health community that anyone would think it’s a good idea to risk tissue degeneration for maybe a 50-50 chance that you’ll get temporary relief from pain. Read what the Mayo clinic has to say about the risks of cortisone injections here.

Check out this article from the New York Times about a study on long-term outcomes of cortisone injections. The research doesn’t sound encouraging–people who got temporary relief are often set further back in their recovery over the long term.

Before you consider cortisone injections, consider alternatives like acupuncture, Rolfing or even massage. All three can give you pain relief while you work with a physical therapist to rebuild strength and flexibility in the affected area. None will cause tissue degeneration–something I think we’d all like to avoid.

2 great Korean food blogs

One of our favorite meals is “rice and soup.” It doesn’t sound especially appetizing, I suppose, but it’s our short-hand for a Korean/Japanese-style meal of short-grain white rice, miso soup, and a wildly varying (and often enormous) collection of vegetable and protein side dishes. The variety possible is endless, and many of the side dishes are easy to pull together. As a meal, it’s a bit like tapas.

Korean.food-Hanjungsik-01We learned to love these types of meals when we lived in Taegu, S. Korea. In the local parlance, such a meal was called “chung shik” (I think other parts of the country call it “bap shik”). “Chung shik” is a “regular meal.” Most restaurants serve some version of this–a soup, often deon jang jjigae, the Korean version of miso soup, rice, at least one type of kim chi, and a variety of small dishes of vegetables and a bit of protein. Restaurants near temples often specialized in vegetarian fare in recognition of the nearby buddhist monk’s vegetarianism, usually including delicious house-made tofu.

Every time I ate something delicious I would ask anyone who could speak a bit of English how to make it. We bought some English-language Korean cookbooks while we were there, but they’re only so-so.

So, I’m super excited about two new Korean food blogs I’ve found, Bap Story and Mangchi. They have great recipes and pictorial or video instructions on how to make them.

Our “rice and soup” dinners are better than ever now!

Photo is CC licensed by http2007.

Montreal and a quick egg recipe

Every few years my husband and I trek to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival has changed a lot since our first trip their. On this trip we realized that instead of going to mostly listen to music, we were going to mostly enjoy some favorite things about Montreal, and then listen to a little al fresco music in the evening. It was one of our best trips yet.

Community garden in Montreal

We rented a small apartment near the Atwater market and the Lachine Canal, two of the highlights of our trip. The lovely community garden pictured above was next to the apartment, and it was pure joy to walk past it several times a day and see gardeners tending their tidy plots.

Farm stand at Atwater Market

The Atwater Market was a delight for me–a permanent farmer’s market with a wide variety of small local vendors. Quebec is a bit behind Boston in their season, so they still had strawberries and asparagus. Both were delicious and so simple to enjoy in our our little kitchen. We also bought some delicious local goat and sheep’s milk cheese, some maple syrup and La Messagere, a wonderful Quebec-made gluten-free beer.

The Lachine Canal (with access conveniently located right behind the market) is an amazing urban park, perfect for biking. It was originally built as an industrial canal, and spurred development in that parts of Montreal that it traversed. Biking along it is fascinating–a range of historic stone buildings, modern buildings and infrastructure, crumbling factories, and luxury condos line the path. There’s even one section that travels parallel (and within a visible, but safely distant) section of a major highway. Despite all of this human-made scenery, sections of it are lush with greenery and overall it was a peaceful ride.

Our bike journeys were made possible by the BIXI bike share program that’s like the one we’re getting here in Boston. It was a great service and I’m so excited to have something similar in Boston.

Kusmi Tea store

We also found a shop dedicated to selling our favorite tea, Kusmi Tea. It’s Russian-via-Paris, expensive, decadent and totally worth every penny.

Most of our meals were simply prepared dishes with loot from the farmer’s market (like the egg, potato and asparagus recipe that follows), but I have to mention the fantastic vegetarian restaurant we visited in the Plateau neighborhood, Aux Vivres. They serve a nice variety of interesting and healthy vegetarian fare, including several gluten-free items.

I’ve found that one of the easiest and healthiest foods a vegetarian can prepare when you’re traveling is eggs.

They’re versatile–on recent trips I’ve made omlettes and fritattas, hard-boiled, scrambled and poached in spicy tomato sauce–all with minimal equipment and seasonings.
They’re healthy–the white is almost pure protein, providing slow-burning fuel. Eggs are also an important source of B vitamins for vegetarians, something in short supply in the vegetable kingdom.
They’re filling–perfect to fuel a morning or afternoon of walking around or biking (or after, to refuel for the next adventure).
They cook up fast! Perfect for a quick lunch after a morning of exploring

They’re also available everywhere, maybe one of their best features.

Taking advantage of the delicious local asparagus and some nice new potatoes, I made this “hash” for lunch after one of our bike rides. It’s so simple it’s hard to call this a “recipe.” If you can use real butter, I encourage you to do it tastes great! If butter is not you’re friend, use your favorite butter substitute.

Eggs with potato and asparagus hash

For 2

4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are, beaten
8 small, 2-3 medium or 1 large potato
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces.
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
butter
Salt, pepper
Optional additions: crumbled goat cheese (or any cheese), tabasco, avocado, chopped fresh herbs

Cut potatoes into a 1/2 inch dice. Boil until just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).
To prepare asparagus, either add to potatoes in the last minute of cooking, or parboil or steam them separately until bright green and just tender.

Heat butter in a large frying pan. Saute onion or shallots until soft. Add potatoes and allow them to gently brown in the butter (but don’t burn the butter!). Add asparagus, stir to coat with butter.

Push veggies to the side of pan, add a bit more butter and pour eggs into the empty 1/2 of the pan. Scramble until mostly cooked, then stir veggies and finish cooking the whole process should take about 5 minutes, depending on how well you like your scrambled eggs to be done). Salt and pepper to taste

Served topped with any of the optional additions you’d like.

Nice way to use Mangos

Ataulfo mangos have reappeared in the markets for the spring and I can’t get enough of them. They’re so rich and custardy and “stringless” which is a really nice thing. I always feel great joy when I eat orange things like sweet potatoes, but these mangos are an extra special joy.

I had an eyes-bigger-than-my-stomach moment at the store the other day and bought 4, all unripe, and all destined to ripen at the exact same time. I could happily eat them, just as is, but then I remembered this recipe I found over at Chef in You.

Chef in You is a healthy Indian food blog that I’ve recently discovered. I love this recipe for Amrakhand, a thick yogurt and mango lassi. I’m planning a dinner of spicy Indian food this weekend just so we can cool off with this for dessert.

You can read the original post here. I’ve simply copied and pasted the recipe below.

Amrakhand

2 cups plain yogurt (use Greek style yogurt if available)
2-3 fresh mangoes, to make about 1 cup mango pulp (you can use canned mango pulp too)
sugar to taste
1-2 tbsp chiroli nuts for garnish (optional)
few fresh slices of mangoes for garnish

Note: You can also use saffron, cardamom powder and nuts to flavor this further like Shrikhand.

Method

If using fresh mango pulp, slice the flesh of the ripe mangoes. I used sweet mangoes for this recipe.
Process mangos in a blender or food processor until smooth. You can strain the pulp to remove the string,s if any.
Make sure the yogurt you are using is thick. if not, you can tie the yogurt in a clean cotton cloth (or cheesecloth) and hang it up for an hour or so to drain off all the whey. Or if you can get your hands on Greek style Yogurt, go for it. I think its perfect for this dessert.
Whisk the yogurt in a bowl and beat it well.
Add sugar little by little and continue to whisk.
When the yogurt gets light in texture, stir in the mango pulp.
Stir it until blended and then chill it.
Serve cold garnished it with chiroli nuts and some sliced mangoes.

Spicy black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas with mustard greens

One of my favorite restaurants in my hometown of New Orleans is Bennachin. It’s not one of those classic New Orleans Creole or Cajun restaurants–it’s a simple, homey place that serves super-tasty African food. I think it’s really the owner/chef’s home cooking–that’s what it tastes like, anyway, delicious home-cooking. They have a big selection of vegetarian dishes (as well as meat and fish), and it seems that most things come with coconut rice and fried plantains. I’ve found that any meal accompanied by fried plantains is pretty awesome.

They serve this wonderful black-eyed pea dish that I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to reproduce at home. It’s a simple stew with onions, tomatoes and black-eyed peas, but it tastes like much more than that.

The surprising (and revelatory) thing about it, to me, is how tasty black-eyed peas are in a tomato-based stew. As a southerner I’ve eaten my share of black-eyed peas (especially on New Year’s day, when it brings you luck), and we might throw a chopped tomato in when we serve it, but it’s definitely not in a tomato sauce.

My most recent experiment included some garden-variety brown lentils and some split chickpeas. I ventured far from my Proustian memories of Bennachin’s black-eyed peas and into new territory with some Indian spices (and the addition of two other legumes). The split chickpeas are also known as Chana dal, and can be found in any Indian market. If you can’t get them, just use more black-eyed peas.

I usually throw a small piece (1 square inch, roughly) of Kombu/kelp in the pot when I make beans–it helps soften them and mineralizes the dish.

I like things spicy, so if you don’t, cut down on the chili. I encourage you to use the full amount of ginger though–it helps the digestion and really makes the dish tasty! I find that the heat of green chilis here in Boston is unreliable–they often taste like small bell peppers. Serrano chilis are usually pretty hot, and like with all chilis, the seeds are the hottest part. You can test for heat of your chili with a small nibble of the green part, and then decide how many seeds to include. I strongly recommend you do this! When I don’t, my dishes turn out either way to hot or disappointingly mild.

I always want to have something green with every meal, and this time I made mustard greens with onions, mustard seed and hing/asofetida.

Spicy Black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas

1/3 cp split chickpeas (aka Channa Dal, available at Indian markets) or just black-eyed peas
1/2 cp brown lentils
1/2 cp black-eyed peas
1 bay leaf
small piece kombu/kelp
1 onion, chopped
1-2 green chilis, chopped
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil, for sauteing
1 tsp cumin (or more, to taste
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2-1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I use no salt added tomatoes, reduce salt if yours have added salt)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2-3 tbsp lemon juice, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

If you are using the split chickpeas, bring them to a boil in about 4 cups of water, along with the bay leaf, kombu and about 1.5 tsp salt. Reduce fire and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add black-eyed peas and lentils and about 1 more cup of water (if you are not using chickpeas, just bring lentils and black-eyes to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes).

In the meantime, prepare the seasoning: Saute onion, garlic, chilis and ginger until onions soften. Add cumin, cardamom and coriander and briefly saute, making sure not to burn the spices. Add entire can of diced tomatoes (including juice). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add tomato mixture to pot of beans. Simmer on a low fire for at least 20 more minutes or until beans are soft and stew is thick. You might need to add 1-2 more cups of water to keep it from sticking, but finished result should be thick.

Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro and lemon juice, both to taste. Adjust salt and seasonings. Serve on rice.

Seasoned mustard greens

1 small onion or 2 shallots
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
pinch hing/asofetida
1 bunch mustard greens (or any hearty green–kale, collard greens)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion or shallots until they soften and give off some water. Add mustard seeds and continue sauteing until they start to pop. Add the pinch of hing, the greens and some salt. Saute until greens are bright-green and softened (maybe 5 minutes of sauteing). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Mark Bittman on cautious optimism about food

My favorite New York Times food columnist and cookbook author, Mark Bittman wrote this nice blog post about some good news regarding healthy foods. He points out that it’s getting easier (and hipper?) to eat healthy foods–there are more farmer’s markets, more emphasis on sustainable growing practices, and most importantly, a greater emphasis on healthy meals in our school systems.

Hopefully all of these changes really do turn us into a nation of healthy whole foods eaters instead of chubby processed foods eaters. I suppose we won’t see real change until we stop subsidizing corn (which is processed into all sorts of chemicals and sugars) and start subsidizing things like kale, fruit and whole-grains. I could get excited about my tax dollars being spent on that!
Read the original post here.

Quick and easy nut butter chocolate chip cookies

I recently discovered this great recipe for really quick, really easy, and not-too-naughty chocolate chip cookies. It’s quick and easy, and you probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now (doesn’t everyone keep chocolate chips on hand like I do?). I’ve been experimenting with reducing the amount of sugar from the original recipe, and replacing some with a liquid sugar like brown rice syrup. The liquid sweeteners affect the texture, but not in a bad way.

Flourless nut butter cookies

I made mine with almond butter, but you could use any nut butter you like. They tasted better with roasted almond butter than with raw almond butter. The picture above is from The Nourishing Gourmet, a great blog for healthy food ideas.

You can use whatever chocolate chips you like, or cocoa nibs. The nibs are nice. Since they’re not sweetened, they don’t add any sweetness to the recipe. I think of cocoa nibs as a guilt-free way to have chocolate every day. They are just coarsely-ground cocoa beans. There’s no added fat or sugar, as in chocolate bars, so you get the full wallop of antioxidants and nutrients and non of the bad stuff. I like to add them to my breakfast porridges. Chocolate for breakfast–what could be better?

These cookies tend to get crunchy as they cool, but using some liquid sweetener keeps them chewier.

Nut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cp any roasted nut butter
1/2 cp succanat/rapidura sugar
1/4 cp brown rice syrup/honey/maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cp cocoa nibs or chocolate chips
1/4 cp chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.
With an electric mixer, combine nut butter, sweeteners, eggs and vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips/cocoa nibs and pecans. Drop about 1 tbsp of dough for each cookie, leaving some room for them to spread out (about 2 inches).

Bake for 10-15 minutes.