The Equinox and Striving for Balance

FallEquinox2016.pngToday is the Autumn Equinox and it has me thinking about balance.

The equinox is a single moment in time, which occurred today at 7:21am PST. The equinox happens twice a year and it is the moment when the Sun shines directly on the Equator and the length of daylight and nighttime darkness is equal.

Similarly, balance is not a quality that we can reside in, because it can never really exist for more than a moment. Whether we are talking about balancing lightness and darkness, happiness and sadness, health and sickness, or strength and weakness; we may strive for balance but it often seems just out of reach. Cultivating balance is a life-long practice and it requires patience, and ultimately compassion and forgiveness. We will never find a state of perfection and so we must keep moving forward toward an ever-changing target, always adapting to a new reality and letting go of our past expectations.

Easy Chicken Tacos with Swiss Chard and Mushrooms

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Want an easy go-to recipe for healthy weeknight dinners? These delicious and flavorful chicken tacos are bound to be a new family favorite. Swiss chard is packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, and magnesium; and since it picks up the flavor of the salsa it’s cooked in, it’s a sneaky way to eat more veggies.

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/3 cup crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 4 tsp unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 14 oz container fresh mild salsa (usually found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese (optional)
  • 1 package corn tortillas

sauteed-chardSeparate the chard stems from the leaves. Chop the chard stems into small, 1/4 inch slices. Set the leaves aside. In a large skillet, heat 2 tsp of the oil over medium heat.  Add the chicken breasts and sear, approximately 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside onto a plate. Add the remaining oil to the skillet along with the chard stems, mushrooms, and onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the chicken back to the skillet. Pour in the salsa, making sure to cover the chicken. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the salsa doesn’t burn. In the meantime, roughly chop the chard leaves into 1/2 inch pieces. Flip over the chicken breasts and allow to simmer, covered, for 8 minutes more. Add the chard leaves to the skillet and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully shred the chicken using a knife and fork. Stir together the mixture and spoon over warmed tortillas. Sprinkle a small amount of feta on each taco before serving.

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Delicious Paleo Chocolate Truffles

 

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Got chocolate cravings? Try this recipe for amazingly decadent yet wonderfully healthy chocolate truffles. Best yet, they’re Paleo, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Once you make the basic recipe you can experiment with different flavors by substituting the vanilla extract with other flavored extracts like peppermint, almond, or orange. You can also try rolling the truffles in finely chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts to garnish.

Makes about 30 truffles

Basic Truffle Recipe

  • 8 oz. unsweetened 100% chocolate pieces
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 4 Tbs raw honey
  • 1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt

For Chocolate Coconut Truffles

  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

For Spicy Cinnamon Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne powder

To make the basic truffle recipe use a hot water bath method to melt the chocolate. If you don’t have a double boiler you can nest a smaller pot inside of a large pot. Fill the large pot with about 2 inches of water and heat over low. Add the chocolate pieces, coconut milk, vanilla, and salt to the small pot and heat gently until completely melted, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Once melted, add in the honey and remove the pot from the heat. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a small bowl and let cool in the fridge until it is firm (about 60-90 minutes).

Once the chocolate has set, get your other ingredients ready. If you are making the coconut truffles place the shredded coconut on a small plate. If making the spicy cinnamon truffles then mix together those ingredients and spread on a small plate.

Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out a small amount of chocolate mixture. Roll the mixture using clean hands to form a small ball. Roll the ball of chocolate in the coconut or spicy cinnamon so that all sides are covered and set aside. Continue until all of the chocolate has been used. The truffles can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (but they likely won’t last that long!).

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Naturopathic Pediatrics: Holistic Health for Kids and Families

I am excited to announce that I am now a contributing writer for the wonderful website Naturopathic Pediatrics! Naturopathic Pediatrics is an online resource filled with natural health tips for the whole family, all written by licensed naturopathic doctors who are experts at treating children with natural medicine. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do! You are bound to find lots of useful information from how to treat fevers without Tylenol to how you can safely use essential oils with your child. And while you’re there you can read my latest article, “MTHFR: The Link Between ADD/ADHD, Folate, and Genetics“. Find out why issues with folate metabolism may play a key role in managing ADD and ADHD in kids and adults.

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Adressing Concerns About Folate And Autism

folic acidHave you seen the frightening headlines saying that high folate levels in pregnant mothers are associated with an increased risk of their child having Autism? Once again, there is so much more to the story than meets the eye.

1) This is only a preliminary study and it looked at blood levels of folate, NOT how much folate a woman was taking while pregnant. The evidence associating high levels are folate and Autism is premature and the real story is much more complicated than the study from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health  suggests.

2) High levels of folate in the blood are often related to slow metabolism of folic acid. Slow folic acid metabolism is linked to a number of genetic mutations collectively called MTHFR, which we already know are associated with an increased risk for Autism. The MTHFR mutation is VERY common and may affect up up 40% of Caucasians. MTHFR mutations are also associated with a higher risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD, neurological disorders, migraines, miscarriage, infertility, lymphoma, and leukemia.

3) Women are told to take folic acid in pregnancy  to prevent birth defects, but if they have an MTHFR mutation they will be less able to utilize this form of the vitamin. When folic acid is not properly activated and used by the body for normal functions it is more likely to hang around in the blood, showing up as high serum folate. To complicate matters even more, many processed foods (bread, tortillas, crackers, protein bars, energy drinks, etc.) are fortified with folic acid. This was a public health decision that has successfully decreased neural tube defects like spina bifida, but may be detrimental to the many people with MTHFR mutations.

4) Fortunately there are forms of folate (and other B vitamins) that people with MTHFR can properly metabolize. Folate is extremely important for blood cell development, neurotransmitter function, and detoxification pathways.

5) I recommend that all women who are considering pregnancy be tested for MTHFR mutations so that they can start appropriate supplements before they become pregnant.

Just to reiterate, high levels of folic acid in the bloodstream are most likely the result of a genetic mutation associated with autism and are NOT the cause of Autism.

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Creamy Paleo Butternut Squash Soup

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This dairy-free Paleo butternut squash soup gets it’s creaminess from coconut milk. This soup is slightly sweet and full of flavor. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods and it’s super easy to make. Butternut squash is a great source  of Beta-carotene and Vitamin C, nutrients that are important for immune function and healthy skin. Butternut squash also contains Vitamin B6, Magnesium, and Calcium, which are beneficial for promoting a calm, relaxed mood.

Serves 4-5

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 apple, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 quart chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped finely
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the coconut oil in a large stock pot over medium low heat. Sauté the squash for 10 minutes, or until slightly softened, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning. Add the onion and apple, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Then add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Pour in the stock or broth and bring it to a boil, before reducing the stove temperature to allow the soup to simmer for 5-10 more minutes. When the apple and squash are tender, add the spices and coconut milk and remove the soup from heat. Blend the mixture using an immersion hand blender, or if using a tabletop jar blender, allow the soup to cool slightly before carefully transferring to the blender. Serve warm.

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