Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy New Year: Year of the Dog!

The Chinese New Year starts today, February 16, 2018.

Gung Hay Fat Choy: Happy New Year!

It's the year of the Dog!

2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922

Dog people are honest, loyal, and friendly. Dogs are also sensitive and can take on the issues of people around them, especially people they love most. Make sure this year is full of good self care.

Dog's energy is social and bountiful, making it a great year of opportunities, especially in business. Everyone will notice this energy and be able to take advantage of it, not just people born in dog years.

Celebrities who are born in these years include Benjamin Franklin, Prince William, Madonna, Queen Latifah, and Ellen Degeneres. You can find a more complete list here.

Welcome Year of the Dog!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lentil Sweet Potato Chili To Warm These Cold Winter Days

It's snowing again! And soooo cold out. I want to share with you one of my favorite recipes ever, though in the winter it somehow soars even higher than usual. Lentil Sweet Potato Chili. I make this recipe at least once a week. 

The original recipe is from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's 21 Day Kickstart, which I can't recommend enough. Fantastic whole food plant based meal plans and recipes which come to you for 21 days, starting the first of the month. Sign up for free and you'll get the recipes sent to your email. Or check the website out, the recipes are always there: here is week 1, week 2, and week 3. (Ooh, not to get off track, but today I think I am going to make the Aloo Gobi - Cauliflower and Potato Curry - from week 3! The only reason I'm not making the Lentil Sweet Potato Chili is I am out of lentils from making it so much!)

Yum, look at that sweet potato! Full of beta carotene and vitamin C, plus lots of other minerals and vitamins. In Chinese medicine, its sweet taste and rich orange color let you know it's beneficial to the Spleen/Pancreas and Stomach - Earth element - and excellent for digestion and to boost energy (qi).

Here is how I make this delicious vegan chili:

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2-3 handfuls of baby spinach (it shrinks!) or lots of chopped kale or other chopped greens to add at end
  • 1/2 -1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • red pepper flakes, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 cups water (or you can use broth or veggie broth cubes or whatever, I just use water)
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes or 14 oz tomato sauce or small jar tomato paste, whatever you have around


* Because I don't use oil in cooking and because I like to make things as easy as possible, I just put everything into a pot without sauteing things first, so...

1. Into 6 cups of water (or broth) as it comes to boiling, add:
  • both kinds of rinsed lentils
  • onion
  • celery
  • garlic
  • sweet potatoes
  • spices
2. Let that come to a boil, then cover and simmer until the lentils are cooked through, about 25 minutes, adding water and stirring as necessary so it doesn't burn.

3. Then add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, let it come back up to boil again.

4. Finally add the greens at the very end, and cook until wilted. 

5. Taste to adjust seasonings and enjoy!

I love to eat this chili with hot sauce.

If you don't have (or don't like) sweet potatoes, it is delicious with regular potatoes as well. 


~ Melissa

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cinnamon, Ginger, Onions, and Garlic Strongly Protect Us From Colds and Flu

Cinnamon sticks
As the winter progresses, the cold weather can affect our Lungs in the form of coughs, sinus issues, colds and flu. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the metal element corresponds to the Lungs. The taste that strengthens the Lungs is pungent: the spicy flavor of foods and spices like cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and onions.

In traditional Chinese medical theory, when one gets sick with colds or flu it is thought that an external pathogen has invaded the system. Western medicine similarly holds that colds and flu are caused by bacteria or viruses. Each of the five tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent) has a specific action. The pungent taste has the action of pushing outward and dispersing unwanted "invaders" through the skin, as evidenced by sweating.

When coming down with a cold or flu the herb to take is actually a food: scallions. Known as the Chinese herb cong bai, scallions release the pathogen by inducing sweating. Simmer scallion or other onion along with garlic and ginger and drink the broth to keep a cold or flu from going deeper.

If a cold or flu has gone deeper and has affected the muscles, the herb of choice is cinnamon, known in Chinese as gui zhi. Cinnamon is warming and can help when the person is feeling weak especially if sweating does not help them feel better. In this case, cinnamon will warm, strengthen and increase immunity.

Fresh ginger (sheng jiang) is also warm and releases the pathogen. Ginger is especially good if the person feels cold and is coughing. Similar to cinnamon, ginger strengthens the immunity for weaker people who are sweating without relief of symptoms.

A nice tea when feeling chilled and recovering from a cold or flu, is made by simmering a couple of cinnamon sticks and sliced fresh ginger in water for at least 20 minutes, strain and drink as needed.

If there are heat symptoms such as a sore throat or fever, switching to a cooler herb which still releases the pathogen is appropriate. One such herb is mint, or bo he. Flowers such as chrysanthemum (ye ju hua), honeysuckle (jin yin hua), and dandelion (pu gong ying) mix well with mint to cool the body and release the pathogen.

One important note: herbs such as ginseng, astragalus and bee pollen also strengthen the immune system, but these herbs have a sweet taste and will actually strengthen pathogens. They are wonderful to take as prevention, but if you end up coming down with a cold or flu, stop taking them and switch to one of the above remedies. Once the illness has passed completely, it is safe to take the sweet strengthening herbs again.

And of course acupuncture is always helpful to boost your immune system to prevent and/or recover from cold or flu. If you'd like an acupuncture appointment please give us a call at (412) 381-0116 and we'd be happy to see you!

Food is the best medicine! Eat well, drink lots of water, and incorporate these wonderful spicy tasting foods, herbs, and spices into your life!

Be well!

Melissa and David Sokulski, licensed acupuncturists
Birch Center for Health

(412) 381-0116

a version of this article first appeared in Natural News.