South Boston Yoga grand opening

Yoga is my favorite form of exercise. It’s a great workout, but the real joy of it is the peace and stillness you feel when you do it. It takes you out of your head and lets you truly be in the moment.

My favorite yoga studio, South Boston Yoga, has opened a fabulous new space and is having a grand-opening celebration this weekend, October 1-3. All classes are free this weekend.

One of the things that is most exciting about the new space is their aerial/swing yoga studio. Similar to the Anti-gravity yoga class I went to in NYC, you do the entire class in a special yoga swing.

Hope you can check it out!

Quick and healthy: Poached egg on kale and millet grits

My work as an acupuncturist allows me to have lunch at home several days a week, and it’s something I’ve come to enjoy immensely. I love to cook, but I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble in the middle of the day (too much time, too many dirty dishes), so my challenge is to find something quick and healthy that I can whip up quickly.

Lately, all of my lunches involve eggs in various forms. I never get tired of eating them since you can do so many things with them. Eggs are an excellent source of protein for my mostly vegetarian diet, and pack a whallop of solid nutrition. The whites are almost pure protein, and it is a complete protein with the full compliment of all 8 amino acids. The yoke has gotten a bad rap in the past since it contains most of the fat in the egg, but it turns out that that fat is not so bad for you as they used to think. The yolk also contains most of the other nutrients, including healthy doses of B vitamins and minerals. They have an extremely low glycemic index, a 2 out of 100.

When I eat eggs, I feel comfortably full for longer, with steady-burning energy the whole time.

I feel best when I pair them with a whole grain and something green. Kale is another of my favorite super-foods. It has similar, almost complete amino acid compliment like eggs, along with a host of vitamins and minerals, including a hefty dose of vitamin A. Kale also has a low glycemic index.

I made this dish last week when I had some left over millet grits. Next time I have some of my Millet-Amaranth-Quinoa blend on hand, I think I’ll make this again.

This recipe is for 1 serving, and the quantity of kale is up to you–I like having a lot!

Poached egg on kale and millet grits

Millet grits (or other grain), prepared according to package instructions with small pat of Earth Balance dairy-free “butter” added (or real butter)

1-2 hands full of chopped kale (or any other leafy green)
Chopped garlic, to taste
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 eggs
Sriricha chili-garlic sauce (optional)

Place small pot of water on to boil for poaching your eggs (use a larger pot if you plan to poach more than 1 egg at a time). Add 1 tsp white vinegar to the water (this helps keep the egg together while it poaches).

Saute garlic and kale in a skillet. Season with small pinch of salt. If necessary, add a bit of water to steam the kale a bit until you get a texture that is soft but still toothsome.

In the meantime, poach your egg(s). Poaching instructions can be found here and here. You want to have a nice, runny yolk at the end.

Serve in a bowl large enough for you to stir everything together. Start with your grains, then top with sauteed kale and then your egg. If you like spicy things like I do, garnish with your favorite hot sauce (mine is Sriracha). Stir, making sure to break up the yolk and stir it in.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

Every summer my husband and I seem to need to have at least 1 home-made blueberry pies or we feel like we missed something. The problem is that it’s too hot to want to turn on the oven! I’m also still experimenting with gluten-free crusts, which sometimes feels like a lot of work.

So, because of the heat and the gluten-free challenge, we haven’t had a blueberry pie in 2 years!

I’m taking the week (mostly) off of work to have a mini-vacation while I take the morning intensives in the South Boston Yoga teacher training program. I’m having a great time!

Monday I finally got over the heat/challenge thing and made this superb blueberry pie with almond crust. I found a recipe at Elana’s Pantry for this nice almond-flour crust. Since Elana’s instructions said to pat the crust into the pan rather than roll it out, I knew it would have a crumbly consistency. I decided to double the recipe and use 1/2 of it as a crumble topping, which I added in the last 15 minutes or so of baking.

Make sure you have vanilla ice cream on hand–the first bite makes it clear that you must have it a la mode! I love either Purely Decadent or Cocobliss‘s vanilla coconut milk ice cream for this.

The crust is not as cohesive as a wheat-based crust, but it crumbles charmingly and tastes delicious.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

For the crust and crumble (see Elana’s original posting here):

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp light-flavored healthy oil of your choice (Elana recommends grapeseed)
4 tbsp agave/brown rice syrup/maple syrup/honey
2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

2 pints fresh blueberries
2 tbsp tapioca flour
1/3-1/2 cp sugar (I used Succanat)
1 tsp cinnamon
butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust and crumble:

Combined almond flour, salt and baking soda in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine oil, agave and vanilla.

Stir oil mixture into almond flour mixture, mixing well to combine. Consistency should be fairly crumbly.

Press 1/2 of the almond mixture into a pie plate, reserve rest for topping.

To make filling:

Combine tapioca flour, sugar and cinnamon. Gently fold into blueberries, making sure everything is evenly distributed. If you’re using butter, put small pieces here and there on top of the blueberries.

Put blueberries into prepared pie crust and cover tightly with foil with a few small holes punched to let some steam out.

Bake covered for about 40 minutes. Uncover and distribute reserved crumble topping over pie (don’t touch! It’s hot and sticky).

Return pie to oven, uncovered, and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until crumble topping is nicely browned.

Holiday fun and an antioxidant blueberry facial mask

I gave myself last weekend off–with July 4 on Sunday, I knew my practice would be slow, so I decided to take Friday and Sunday off. I love being active in the city, so I planned to do a different fun thing for each day.

I did a few hours of paperwork in my office in Davis Square on Friday, which was O.K. because I spent the afternoon biking the Minute Man Bike trail from Somerville to Lexington.

It was a beautiful day, and I hung out for a spell in Lexington.

Saturday’s activity was a walk from Central Square, up Main Street and over the Longfellow bridge into Boston.

My destination was Boston harbor.

Sunday morning was yoga with David at South Boston Yoga. It was super sweaty! We sweat more and more easily in the summer because our body’s energy (or “qi”) is up at the surface so it can open and close the pores and keep us cool. Which is what sweating is–your body keeping you cool.

Since I had spent so much time outside, I decided to give myself an soothing blueberry antioxidant mask to repair my skin from all the sun exposure. Here’s my recipe. The quantities are approximate–the goal is to have a smooth and creamy mask with a medium-thick consistency. It should be easily spreadable but not runny.


You should always patch test any home made beauty products before you smear them all over your face.

Antioxidant blueberry facial mask

1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp honey
a few drops of Vitamin E (optional)
1-2 tbsp cosmetic clay of your choice (I used Betonite clay).

Combine first three ingredients in a blender and blend well. Pour blueberry/yogurt mixture into a bowl, and stir in clay a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.

To use: Spread thin layer of mask onto clean skin. Relax for 5-10 minutes. Rinse.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Nancy (not her real name) came to see me for acupuncture to treat her lupus symptoms of chronic neck and upper back pain. She had a host of other issues, too–anxiety, poor sleep, low energy, intermittent joint pain–but the neck and upper back were the worst.

When someone has pain, Chinese medicine believes that there is usually an element of stagnation present–blood stagnation, dampness causing stagnation, maybe cold causing stagnation–and we do a treatment to move that stagnation, and strengthen the patients qi so that their bodies can keep battling stagnation off of the treatment table.

When I agreed to work with Nancy, I encouraged her (actually, I practically begged her, at almost every visit) to get tested for Celiac disease and food allergies. I have seen in my clinical practice that a condition called “leaky gut syndrome” can be the cause of autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Leaky gut syndrome can occur when someone has an overgrowth of candida, or if they are consuming food that their body can’t tolerate. Overuse of oral antibiotics can be a factor, too, since they destroy all of the “good” bacteria in the intestines, leaving them weak and inflamed. The small intestine becomes porous and toxins leak out into the body, stimulating an autoimmune response.

Western medicine has not gotten on board with the idea that a leaky gut could have anything to do with autoimmune disease. I can’t say that it’s the only cause, but I’ve seen it in a few patients.

Nancy finally had to get allergy testing after two severe allergic reactions that sent her to the emergency room for anaphylactic shock. Her first test showed that she was allergic to at least 90 different things. No wonder she was so sick!

Food intolerances are not a part of Chinese medicine, but digestive health is believed to be one of the most important keys to well-being. People with digestive problems often have dampness, which can lead to pain. So, while we don’t have traditional explanations for a problem like leaky gut syndrome (at least not that I’ve encountered), it fits into our medical theory that problems with the intestines can make problems in the rest of the body.

To avoid another experience with anaphylactic shock, Nancy needs further testing to check for other allergenic foods. Her doctor has her eating the foods that she seems least allergic too until they can get more test results. Unfortunately for Nancy, it’s only 2 items–dairy and eggs.

It’s a difficult and depressing situation for her, and she’s hungry and getting tired of eating only eggs and dairy products. But, her pain is already starting to recede. For the first time in years, her neck is not in excruciating pain all the time. I expect that as her body detoxes (and as she is able to incorporate other foods into her diet), she will feel better than she ever has.

Jake Fratkin, and acupuncturist and naturopath in Boulder, has a great article about leaky gut syndrome. You can also go to his website here.

Dr. Andrew Weil has a brief posting here.

Quinoa for dinner

quinoa-kale pesto

Tonight for dinner I decided to try the Quinoa with Spring Vegetables and Walnut-Kale pesto recipe from this new blog I’ve been reading, Gluten Free Girl and Chef. I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand, and produced something that I think uses the structure of the original, but with a bit different result. I think the key to this recipe is the pesto. You can play with the other details to put more flavor into them, or you can keep it simple and serve a dollop of the pesto over simply cooked quinoa and steamed veggies. I’ve also made a vegan version of this by using a bit of nutritional yeast to replace the romano cheese. Here’s a link to the original posting.

Here’s my version, devoured by my quinoa skeptic husband:

Quinoa and broccoli with cilantro-kale pesto

For the Quinoa:

1/2 yellow onion
1/2 Tbsp Butter or Earth Balance
1-2 Tbsp olive oil, more if needed when you add the Quinoa
1.5 cups quinoa, rinsed
3 cups veggie stock (I used Imagine Foods No-Chicken Broth)
1/2 tsp salt

For the Pesto:

1/2 cup pecans
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch or more cilantro
1 bunch lacinato kale, aka Dinosaur Kale, or any other kale
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
optional: 1-2 tbsp grated romano or parmesan cheese (or, add 1 tsp nutritional yeast for vegan version)
Salt and fresh-ground pepper

For the Veg:

2-3 crowns of steamed broccoli florets
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 bunch cilantro
Olive oil

To make Quinoa:

Add butter and olive oil to a hot pan, and add onions when butter has melted. Saute until tender, then add rinsed quinoa. Saute until quinoa is dry and smells slightly toasty, adding more olive oil if needed to keep quinoa from sticking. Add 3 cups of stock and 1/2 tsp or more of salt. Put the lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Removed lid when done to let some of the steam out.

To make pesto:

Puree pecans and garlic in food processor until uniformly chopped. Add cilantro and kale (you might need to add it in several small bunches). Puree until everything is uniform and drizzel olive oil in while machine is running. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure the pesto is uniform. Add more olive oil if necessary to achieve a silky pesto consistency. Add optional romano or parmeson and lemon juice, blend. Taste for salt and pepper.

To prepare veggies and bring it all together:

Saute the other 1/2 onion in olive oil. When it starts to soften, add cilantro and toss briefly. Add steamed broccoli and toss until reheated. Add quinoa and peraps a bit more olive oil, gently stirring to combine and maybe brown some of the quinoa.

To serve: either toss quinoa/veggie mixture with all of the pesto, or spread a small amount of pesto on the plate, and top with the quinoa-broccoli mixture. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of kale pesto, or to taste. Top with some grated cheese, if desired.

Anti-inflammatory Foods

You hear a lot these days about inflammation.  In the past, inflammation was viewed as an unfortunate byproduct of disease.  It made a lot of trouble for the patient, but the thing to do was to bring it down with things like steroids and non-steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAIDS–like Advil).

These days, inflammation is seen as a cause of illness, an integral part of the disease process. It’s something to be avoided as best you can, but how?

One of the best things you can do to protect your health in both the short and long term is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. You hear that all the time,  but what does it mean in practical terms?

The very best diet for minimizing inflammation in the body is primarily vegetarian + fish/seafood, with a little bit of lean meat on occasion.  Whole grains, lots of veggies, extra-virgin olive oil–these foods deeply nourish the body and help it make qi (or vital energy). My husband and I have been lacto-ovo vegetarians (meaning we eat eggs and milk) for over 15 years.  We also recently decided to add some seafood to our diets.  We feel great on this diet, and are the thinnest members of our families.

In Chinese medicine, we believe that food is a type of medicine.  You must be mindful of what you are eating at all times, and do your best to eat foods that give your body something to work with.  Refined, packaged and fast foods are convenient, and in a pinch, are fine to consume occasionally, but they should the the exception and not the norm.  Take the time to prepare healthy meals for yourself and the dividends will be tremendous.

Dr. Andrew Weil has redone the food pyramid to reflect our understanding of what to eat to minimize inflammation in the whole body.  Following this type of diet should pay off in more energy now, and some protection from bigger health problems in the long run.

Dr. Weils Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

One thing about this pyramid that I disagree with is the notion that you need to eat chocolate “sparingly.”  I think that so long as you eat dark chocolate, you can (and should) eat a little every day.  I see dark chocolate as a special “vitamin” that we need regularly.  So indulge, but don’t over do it.