It’s hard being a sensitive human in the world today. There is so much going on politically and environmentally these days it can be overwhelming, especially when adding our own personal struggles into the mix. It’s easy to feel stressed out about these things and we have good reason to stress - but let’s not let that stress sink in and affect us physiologically, if we can help it. Self-care practices are essential, time to think, process, and rest are required for many of us (both yin responses, relatively), while action and activism are equally important tools in balancing how we deal with this kind of stress (the yang of it). One way we tend to deal with stress can be over-eating, eating our “stress food” of choice, going too long without eating and over-working, or doing too much thinking while we are trying to eat and nourish ourselves / digest. All of these common practices can lead to stagnation in the gut or other organs, digestive deficiency, or chronic depletion. What if we all adopted a new way of “stress eating”? One that worked towards balancing our already over-burdened bodies and allowed for more space, ease, and ability to function at our highest potential when we truly need it most. This type of eating is what I call Earth-Centered eating, and I love teaching people the reasons why it works so well and how it aims to restore and aid digestive function, nourish qi and blood, and support us in our most trying times.
Earth-Centered eating is based on Chinese medicine dietary therapy and some simple rules of food energetics. When we are stressed out, our bodies are working on dealing with that stress in many biological and hormonal ways - none of which are geared towards digesting food well. Our rest/ digest state and our stress state are two very different places to reside. A stress state could be due to challenging parenting phases, periods of no sleep, a stressful job that requires much of your time on and off the clock. relationship crises, illness recovery, family dramas, shocking political events, etc (and perhaps a combination of several of these, as is normally the case). We carry these tensions with us as they happen, sometimes deep within us, and it’s hard to let them go, especially if they are ongoing or chronic in nature. When so many of our resources are being used to survive stressful situations, to endure that fight, flight, or freeze mode, we have minimal resources left for digestive function and optimal nutrient absorption. If we have less energy going towards digestion and the transformation of food into energy - the worse we feel, and our stress grows even more! With this in mind, what can we do to help our digestion when we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t really drop our stress easily? I promise that eating that pint of ice cream at night is not the answer - although, I feel you. Our digestion falls under the phase of Earth in Chinese medicine 5 Element Theory. Earth phase is about nourishment, grounding, centering, return, stability, care of self and others. You can easily see how eating and the digestion of food belongs to this phase in the scope of all that. To boost the qi of our Earth organs (the spleen and stomach), we can eat foods that require less energy to digest, that are warm, pre-cooked, moist, and slightly warming in nature. Think of our digestion like a boiling cauldron pot, with each food we put in, we have to cook that food in the pot before we can digest and transform it into energy. If we put raw, cold, or frozen foods in - the pot will get much weaker as it works to bring it back up to cooking temperature. This slows down our entire metabolic process and requires much more work from our bodies. If we put in foods that have already been pre-cooked - steamed, blanched, or sauteed - our cauldron stays boiling as it breaks down these components and quickly whips them into usable energy for our cells. We can help our digestive function in this way, especially when we know we have limited resources to begin with. One of the main foundations of Earth-Centered eating is to eat mostly cooked, warm foods, to enable your digestion to stay as active as possible. Soups are a great way to start. I look forward to sharing more on Earth-Centered eating and how to apply it to your life here on the blog, as I see this becoming more and more important to people across the board. Meanwhile, here is one of my favorite recipes for an Earth-Centered chicken soup that I return to over and over again when we are in big transitions, need a reset, or just having a stressful week:
Green Chicken Soup with Rainbow Carrots
2 organic chicken breasts
8 C water
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped and leafy tops reserved
1 bunch green onions, chopped and ends reserved
2-3 rainbow carrots, chopped and tops reserved
1 C white or brown jasmine rice (can sub cauliflower rice, if desired, at 2-3 C)
1 large handful parsley, chopped
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
In a large pot or dutch oven, bring 8 C salted water to a boil and place chicken breasts, celery tops, onion ends, and carrot tops inside. Boil about 25 minutes until cooked through and tender. Remove chicken from pot and set aside, strain & save all broth. On medium heat, saute garlic, green onions (save about 1/8 - 1/4 C of these for garnishing at the end), and celery in a few glugs of olive oil in the same pot for a few minutes, then add chopped carrots. Saute a few minutes more, then add the rice, stirring it all together well. Add back in the reserved chicken broth you made earlier, cover and cook for another 20-25 minutes until rice is cooked completely. While this starts cooking, shred the chicken and add back into the pot, giving it enough time to cook along with the soup for awhile. Once the soup is almost done, add in most of the herbs - chopped parsley and cilantro - and give it a whirl. Taste and add more salt, if needed. When you are ready to serve, add more fresh herbs and green onions on top for garnish.
Shortcut — Shred an organic / hormone and antibiotic-free rotisserie chicken and skip the homemade chicken broth step. Start with cooking your garlic and veggies in oil and just add in 6 C of store bought organic chicken broth (that’s 1 48 oz box) + another 1-2 C water, in place of the homemade broth. Saves a lot of time and makes this meal super easy to prepare. I do it this way 50% of the time!
It’s taken me a long while to sit down and write about this topic of motherhood. Six years, just about. It’s complicated to write about something that has changed you so much, and taught you so many lessons. I write about it because in my experience with myself and my clients/friends, mothers generally relate and quickly bond in many ways - and one of these ways is that we are often overworked & under-cared for, mentally overloaded, or even burnt out. But we go through it all with a positive attitude and grateful heart, because there is also SO much magic in motherhood. Motherhood is a unique challenge (especially in the early years) in that it combines so much physical work with emotional and spiritual work. As moms, our nervous systems have been overwhelmed for years, and our culture still has a lot of learning to do in how to support us better so that we can thrive more easily. Ive gone through many different phases within motherhood, and this is my story of how riding these waves has led to a current quest for doing less, and a mission to spread the good word of rest (where we can get it).
For me, after the elation, joy and many happy tears that were shed after meeting our first child, the first big stop along motherhood was the Depletion phase - the overwhelm and exhaustion that came like a postpartum tidal wave. This came shortly, and I mean very shortly, after my first son was born, as I had a pretty long, traumatic birth and difficult recovery. The bliss of meeting and holding my child melted into something else as I struggled so much with such a drastic lifestyle change and physical set backs. I couldn’t sit in a chair for many weeks due to birth complications. There was shock and awe. I was hit hard with how difficult the sleepless nights were (11 months of them for us!), the physical recovery time, the around-the-clock breastfeeding, and the lack of professional help. The constant vigilance I felt in my bones was amplifying in a way, but also exhausting. I was classically ‘wired and tired’. My husband had only the short 2-3 weeks of paternity leave. The load on my nervous system was significant at this time and back then I didn’t know how else to support myself besides taking my supplements and “napping when the baby naps,” and we all know how easy that is to do. I know this is not a universal postpartum experience (and I hope one that is less and less common with time), but I also know I share a similar story with many.
Secondly came the Get Back to Me phase. I stepped back into part time work after 3 months mostly because I was afraid my practice would fall to pieces if I stayed away too long. I started to exercise slowly, started to see clients, find my rhythm with my practice again, got massages regularly, and regained some personal time each week. It felt good, but I was still tired, recovering, and hesitant. I was initially content that I didn’t have too much on my plate as work was slow starting back, but there were also feelings of doubt. How would I get back to my normal schedule… would I ever get back to seeing so many clients each week like I had before the baby… what if this was a mistake to not push myself harder right out of the gate… would I ever be able to contribute financially to our home as much?
Then came the Identity Crisis phase. What WAS I doing in my work? Did I want to be away from my son? Was this the kind of work I really needed now, being tied to an office all the time? I felt more creative energy inside myself and started considering all kinds of jobs from interior design, to opening a retail store, to throwing in the towel and getting a basic part time job so I didn’t have to run a business at all! It was a never ending parade of thoughts, potential turns, changes and needs that I had no clue how to navigate. I also didn’t have the wisdom to be gentle with myself yet, and I started to feel lost. The grass always looked greener when I looked at other moms and imagined what their lives were like. The mental load was very heavy and this rocky phase lasted for a long time. I made some new mom friends, kept treating clients and did some interior design jobs on the side to dip my toes into new water. New work path (maybe?), new friends, new baby, new role, new lifestyle - I didn’t realize what an enormous transition period my life was in and how it had really turned me upside down. My Earth center had shifted so sharply that I truly didn’t know how to nourish myself in this new life. I obviously needed something, but I didn’t know what it should be. It was a very confusing time. I was looking for ways to get footing, but not landing on anything solid.
Then, about 18 months after my first son was born, I got pregnant again. I was thrilled it happened so easily as I felt quite underweight and deficient (hello, body on overload) and had been to my acupuncturist for a couple months to seek some restorative care, but there we were! I got severely ill during my pregnancy with morning sickness in my first and second trimesters. I was vomiting 5-6x day, cancelling work, not able to do much besides worry and rest for days. Another hit to the nerves! But my second birth was a dream compared to my first, the recovery was much simpler and easier, and now we had two healthy boys (& our second didn’t sleep through the night for almost 2 years)! My postpartum period was so much smoother this time around as well - I had more support in place, our lifestyle didn’t need to shift drastically, I knew how to nurse and pump and I didn’t have any new physical trauma from the birth, I also was tremendously more flexible with myself and my second baby. I appreciated every second of being home with my kids this time around, knowing that it goes by so fast. But having a baby is a particular kind of upheaval on its own - full of the most high and low intensities life can bring - and every new mother should know it’s normal and expected to experience great shifts after such a transformative event, even if it was 100% positive.
With my new uplifting experience of birth and the first few months postpartum, I went into an I Got This phase of motherhood. We started plans to renovate our house, we moved out for a year to get that done, I got a new office space, I amped up work because of this new office space, I forged ahead throwing energy into these new projects and started to feel more confident in my parenting of two and myself. I was inspired and motivated, but I knew I needed a better support system of friends and colleagues if I wanted to sustain my work life outside the home. So, I found that by creating it myself and formed my own women’s business networking group (basically creating yet another job for me)! Life was full & good and I felt so fortunate to have all this momentum and creative energy around me in both my work and personal lives. I felt fulfilled, encouraged, tired, yes, but also knowing that was part of the gig.
As all this happened, I quickly accelerated into the I Can Do It All / I Can Do Anything phase. At first this was so exhilarating, it was like a high. I was doing so much during this period in both my work and personal lives that in retrospect, it seems totally bonkers to me. I was also dealing with an ever-increasing list of health complaints that never seemed to improve. My hair that had fallen out after my second son was born didn’t grow back. I was underweight again. Fatigue was setting in. Anxiety was flaring up. I could not eat enough to fuel my needs if I tried. I started making small adjustments as I realized I probably had too much on my plate. I felt myself getting maxed out, but couldn’t fully stop what was a very exciting train to be on. I capped off my number of clients I saw per week to allow for a few hours of down time. This down time usually ended up being spent cultivating a social media presence for my business or dealing with matters from the quickly growing business group. Or dealing with other life issues & family illnesses. I started to get some regular bodywork again to unwind each month. I meditated when I could. I went on for over a year like this, at peak sympathetic dominance, running from my office to school pick ups in a mad rush, project managing our house build, trying to continue work at home around my kids doing social media, texts, sending emails or reminders, facilitating monthly meetings for our group, volunteering at our school, acting as the primary parent for the boys as my husband worked 8-6pm, and staying up late to do everything else (or simply zone out and shut down for a couple hours.) I was short with my kids, sitting them in front of the TV more than I wanted to admit, and hearing them ask me to pay attention to them or put my phone down at times. I acknowledged I was stressed out - but so much of it was a good, growing type of stress that I kept at it despite feeling it was getting hard to keep up.
Then I had a Turning Point. One day after work in a freak yoga/sneeze accident, I tore a muscle in my abdomen and it was the most vulnerable, internal type of pain - right smack in my core (I had an umbilical hernia after my second was born, so my abdomen was already vulnerable at this time). The kind of pain where something feels really wrong and scary. I ended up with an urgent care visit, a doctor’s visit, an ultrasound, an MRI, and findings of other issues like nodules on my thyroid and masses in my liver (totally benign, thankfully) - but it was my wake up call, for which I’m now very grateful. I couldn’t pick up my 2 year old for 2 months, and my abdomen is still healing over a year later. This led directly to a new phase of motherhood, one that takes into account my own physical and spiritual health more than just about anything else. It could certainly be called a Do Less phase, but Slow motherhood sounds right to me. As someone in the healing arts, I love self-care practices and preach them widely in my work, I know what fuels my fire and recharges my batteries, but those things weren’t enough to get me where I needed to be a this point. I needed a full down-shift of my pace of life, so I gave myself permission to have it. It also came with redefining what I needed as self-care on the deepest level - time for myself to heal, more space, less commitments. It was an overhaul.
I don’t think doing less comes naturally for most people these days, and it’s not something someone wants to be told to do, usually. It actually took me almost a full year to take enough baby steps to finally allow myself to do less enough to make a difference in my life and health. Even now, it’s a conscious decision I make. I accept that I cannot do everything all at once. I accept that my limitations may be different from someone else’s and that it is my time to slow down. I own it now, after spending much time feeling conflicted about it. I also chose to embrace the fact that I even COULD slow down and that my husband and I could make it work for our household for awhile if I stepped back from hustling so much. I realized after almost 6 years of being a mom that I had never really given myself permission to just be with my kids. That sounds crazy right?! But I’m serious. Beyond the 2-3 months of their lives when I took maternity leave (when all you did was hold them), I have always been doing more than one thing when I was with my kids by myself. As a small business owner, I would either be texting regarding work or projects throughout the day, checking emails, returning client calls, sending reminder emails, creating social media posts, planning, trying to read up on something of note, etc, etc, etc while half playing, entertaining or comforting, supervising, disciplining my boys. These are tiny things we do all day but they add up, and they are work, without a doubt. Because of this constant juggling, it never really felt fun or relaxing to be around my kids during the week, to be perfectly honest. My sympathetic nervous system was always on alert - a little bit frantic, stressed and frustrated each day. When we live like this for a prolonged period of time, we suffer physically. And I think we suffer mentally and emotionally as we miss major opportunities for connection and growth with our children, family and selves in our haste. It’s important to know that you simply cannot heal in an ongoing sympathetic state. You need your body to go into parasympathetic (rest and digest) state for healing to occur. Period. It has been revelational to me to experience the slowness of purely being with my children. It can be relaxing, even restorative, to be with them without trying to simultaneously do other work in every spare moment. The type of play children engage in is actually very beneficial for your adrenal glands and nervous system. Play. Nature. Imagination. Touch. Being present now, without thoughts of tomorrow. These are all things kids are so great at, and all things we deeply need for balance as we take on so much in our adult worlds. When I do less, I can appreciate this more and gain more from it. I can’t stop being a mom, it’s the biggest commitment of my life, but I can cut out the things that don’t need to be my priority right now. I can ask myself regularly, What is my priority in this moment? And that is a singular question & answer. It helps every time to get back to what matters most and why - whether it’s work related or my family or my needs.
I wonder what the next wave of motherhood will look like for me. What is the next stop on the map? I feel my nervous system healing and repairing itself after years of pushing it so hard. Slowing down has been generative and deeply therapeutic for me, but if the last 6 years has taught me anything, it’s that a change is coming. The tides are always changing. Having flexibility to change - with myself, and my children - is one of the biggest lessons I have learned from motherhood. I offer this story because I know there are other women who have gone through this and so much more, and sharing with each other about our highest ups and downs is so important. Doing less, even if just for now, even if just for a moment, has been the best thing I ever had a chance to do… but I know it’s not forever. I look forward to forging ahead again in time, with new boundaries for myself and renewal practices in place.
*** Where are you in motherhood? What phase are you in right now, what wave are you riding? Next, I look forward to sharing with you action steps and methods of supporting your health according to all these different phases you may encounter. So, stay tuned for some helpful tips on that. Also, there are many necessary and valid reasons in life we keep forging on despite having stress at our upper limit (aka surviving mode), which is why I always have a devoted highlight on my Instagram devoted to REST and methods we can all use to get more of it & recharge amidst the chaos. Taking rest can actually be a growth strategy for us. ***
Spring is an optimal time for some gentle cleansing. In our lives, we naturally tend to clean, reorganize, lighten up our loads during the spring season and applying these actions to our internal health is also appropriate and encouraged. This is where dietary cleansing comes in. In the picture above are some of my favorite foods to use for Liver and Gall Bladder cleansing during the spring. Both the liver and gall bladder are the organs paired with Spring in the TCM Five Phase Theory, so focusing on this organ system makes sense now - especially as it is so connected to detoxification (cleaning and lightening) and the breaking down of heavier, fatty foods (hello, winter meals from last season). Over the colder months, we tend to eat heavier, hearty meals, and the liver / gall bladder can get a little bogged down from this, accumulating bile sediment or even gall stones over time (depending on the diet and person) as they try to break down these foods so frequently. Too much fat, chemicals, processed foods, intoxicants, and stress all disrupt the many nuanced biochemical processes of the liver and gall bladder. These Wood element organs of spring are often the most congested of all organs in the modern person, in fact! Radishes are one the best foods to aide the gall bladder in cleansing out these deposits and restoring optimal function to this system. Beets and beet greens are also useful, as is flax oil, flax seed, chamomile, cleavers, milk thistle, apples, pears, seaweeds, turmeric, and lemon/lime/grapefruit.
A Spring Cleanse (Adapted from Healing with Whole Foods) //
You can simply eat 1-2 radishes per day (in between meals) to gradually cleanse the gall bladder over the course of 3 weeks, or you can make a beet and radish slaw to eat daily for a few weeks if you want to get fancy. My recipe for liver/GB slaw is included here, which I hope you will try, as it makes this ritual pretty tasty. While doing this spring cleaning, lighten up the liver and gall bladder’s load by removing heavy meats, alcohol, dairy, eggs, and most nuts from your diet for a few weeks. These foods are highest in saturated fats and cholesterol which are hardest to break down for most of us (even though they carry lots of nutritional value - except alcohol, which is excluded to enable the liver to function without burden). Focus on vegetables of any kind (including those foods listed above), greens, unrefined grains, legumes, vegetarian soups, sprouts, fruits, some seeds, lean meats like fish or poultry. Drink plenty of water and 2-3 C of chamomile, cleavers, or milk thistle tea per day. These herbal teas support the liver and lymphatic system in detoxification, clear blockages and heat, and help your body get back into flow after being more stagnant over the winter. Finally, drizzle 3-5 tsp of flax oil on your food per day. This cleansing method is largely effective for gradually reducing bile sediment and cleansing the gall bladder of deposits and small stones. With a gradual cleanse like this, better movement and flow is restored, you will feel lighter, and your body will be primed for better energy and function throughout the year. A deficient or excess type person can try this cleanse as you are eating full meals each day vs. fasting. I personally love this gradual method of cleansing as it doesn’t act harshly on the body like the “gall bladder flush” you may have heard of. That purging method is best approved by your health practitioner, especially if you have never tried it before.
Beet & Radish Slaw with Preserved Lemon
1 large golden beet, sliced paper thin on a mandolin
3 large radishes, also cut on mandolin (preserve some radish greens for garnish)
1 Tbsp (or more) of finely chopped preserved lemon
1/2 large lemon, juiced (or whole small lemon)
3 Tbsp flax or olive oil
Prep the root veggies and add to mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl mix together dressing ingredients of lemon, lemon juice, salt, and oil. Adjust to your liking with additional salt or oil. Pour dressing over beet and radish mixture (you may have some left over and not need to use it all - save it, if so, for the next batch). Add a few pinches of finely chopped radish greens for garnish and stir to fully coat. Eat 1-2 spoonfuls of this mixture per day, in between meals, for a few weeks during your gradual spring cleanse. You can alternate this slaw with plain radishes for that purpose as well. Or make this anytime to give your liver and gall bladder some extra support.
In systems of Eastern medicine food therapy, food is classified into 5 flavors (the Chinese medicine way) or 6 tastes (the Ayurvedic way). The sixth taste in Ayurveda is something called Astringent, which is also fully recognized in Chinese medicine (especially with herbs) although since it has more to do with lingering sensation, it is not counted as a “flavor” in TCM. The 5 Flavors of TCM food dietetics are sweet, pungent, salty, sour, and bitter.
Why does the concept of 5 flavors matter? What does it have to do with our healing process and physiology? Each flavor is representative of something bigger in TCM, and carries the potential to activate and nourish different organs and functions in our bodies. This is why it’s so important to eat a diverse selection of foods in your diet, incorporating all 5 flavors into your meals. If you go too heavy on one flavor, like eating too many sweets regularly, you will find your body leaning towards imbalance - like too much weight is on one side of the scale. Finding balance is always key in Eastern medicine. I wanted to share the most basic ways to incorporate all 5 food flavors into your diet and how they will benefit you overall.
Rice & wheat, corn, oats, carrot, sweet potato, cabbage, squash, beans, ripe fruit, fruit juices, sweeteners, whole milk, cream, most nuts, butter, beef, chicken, eggs.
The sweet flavor enters the spleen and is the most prevalent flavor in our food, harmonizing all other flavors and acting as the center of our diet. This sweet flavor does not translate to the sweet taste of refined sugar or candy - which is totally excessive and exaggerated form of sweetness, but the natural sweetness of the whole foods listed above. Excessive sweet taste can cause phlegm and dampness, contributing to weight gain, hormonal imbalance and cravings.
Garlic, onion, scallion, ginger, chiles, pepper, mustard seed, radish, horseradish. Most cooking spices are pungent to some degree, and could be combined as pungent-sweet (like cinnamon), pungent-sour (coriander), etc.
Pungent foods enter the lungs and are great at dispersing stagnation, circulating qi, and helping to break down heavier, damp foods. They tend to lift energy up and if they are consumed too much have potential to exhaust and over-stimulate the body.
Sea salt, rock salt and any salt, seaweeds, miso, tamari.
Salty enters the kidneys and and tends to move energy down and inward towards the root of the body (where the kidneys reside). It can regulate moisture in the body and is essential for the nervous system to stay grounded.
Citrus fruits, tomato and tomato sauce, fermented foods, yogurt and some cheeses, vinegar, umeboshi plum, pickles, olives.
The sour taste is associated with the liver and helps to break down fats and prevent stagnation from sluggish digestion. Sour will stimulate secretions from the gall bladder to aid in digestion. Sour foods are generally cleansing but if over-eaten can lead to too much contraction and astringency that will actually worsen stagnation instead of help it. Moderation is key here.
Dark leafy greens and wild greens - collards, dandelion, chicory, endive, kale, some sprouts, chard, coffee, rhubarb.
Bitterness will enter the heart and generally help cool the body down and reduce dampness and fluid accumulation. Bitter can also balance sweetness (help reduce sweet cravings) and help the body digest by guiding energy down and drying excessive moisture from sweet foods.
Astringent - this is a sensation of dryness or chalkiness that lingers in the mouth. Some foods that have an astringent nature are green & black tea, artichokes, asparagus, sprouts, cranberry. Astringent foods tend to dry, contract, or hold-on to tissue. We say that astringent herbs “stabilize and bind” in TCM, and the lightness of these foods are said to purify the body.
Happy eating :)
I was overjoyed to contribute to the first ever Tribeza Wellness issue this month - and shocked to be on the cover of the issue as well! Pick up a copy of this local Austin gem and read my Inside Out piece, written along with my incredible friend, holistic esthetician Elizabeth Bentley of Neu Skin Austin. We talk all about the healing properties of aloe vera and how you can utilize this medicinal plant for the most healing benefit at home. You’ll find a recipe for a Pear & Aloe Gut tonic drink as well as a DIY Aloe face mist, too!
To me, there is no better sweet combo than simple fruit and chocolate. I am known to make chocolate covered fresh and/or dried fruits at any time of the year and it is often my favorite dessert for any special occasion. Sometimes I marvel at how our bodies can give us insight into how we naturally feel healthiest - this is one small example. This dessert is naturally gluten, dairy & refined sugar free - an ideal combo for me! I just feel good eating it, so much more than other types of sweets or cakes. Intuitive eating can be so helpful when trying to determine what makes our bodies tick. It’s also important to have indulgences that support us instead of hurt us. This is a big part of learning how to care for yourself!
I started making variations of this “bark” recently for my chocolate fix - a very thin layer of chocolate drizzled over a flat sheet of finely chopped fillings. I added collagen powder & cinnamon to the melted chocolate to level it up this week - you can add any superfood or herbal / adaptogenic powder to your chocolate mix after it has melted. Spirulina, ashwaganda, maca root powder, ground ginger, astragalus… plenty of options will work.
I loved the mixture here - puffed quinoa (just gradually heat 1/4 C quinoa in a skillet with lid, like popcorn, until you hear it start popping up), chia seeds, sunflower seeds, toasted sliced almonds, finely chopped pecans, hemp hearts, dried goji berries. Lay it all flat on parchment paper so that it all touches each other but is not more than one layer thick. Then, pour on the chocolate. I also like to add a bit of Maldon sea salt flakes to the top before it sets in the fridge.
This will be our Valentine’s treat - with broken bark leftovers going into a tupperware to store in the fridge. It’s so simple and good, endlessly versatile. Hope you enjoy.
Dark Cacao + Collagen Seed Bark /
1/2 C coconut oil
1/4 C maple syrup, or a bit less even
1/2 C raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp collagen powder (or other level-up ingredients)
2 dashes ground cinnamon
Maldon finishing salt
Crushed and finely chopped “fillings” for the bark - chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, nuts of your preference, goji berries, sunflower seeds, puffed quinoa or puffed rice, dried orange peel, tart cherries or apricots - all finely chopped…
Heat the oil over medium-low heat until fully melted, add maple syrup and whisk together until combined. Take off the heat & add cacao + vanilla and whisk until totally smooth. Add your collagen + additional superfood / level-up powders & spices and whisk again. Arrange your seed mixture in a flat layer on parchment paper in a sheet pan. Lightly pour the chocolate sauce over the seed mixture very evenly in a thin layer. Use a fork to spread the mixture around evenly if needed. Sprinkle Maldon sea salt flakes on top evenly to your liking. Refrigerate. This must be kept cold during storage so as not to melt. Once it has set solid (2-4 hrs), break into pieces and store in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for even longer duration. Serve with berries, mint, edible flowers…
Eating out of shallow bowls will always be my preferred medium for meals. Bowls are so colorful, so diverse, so fun. They never go out of style. Here is a recent one from my house with one of my favorite current toppings - sauteed mixed mushrooms in butter and thyme. These gorgeous mushrooms smell just like a steak as they cook and are great on bowls, omelets, smooth and pureed soups, stir frys, or if you’re feeling lavish - on top of crusty chunks of toasted bread with more butter sauce and herbs for dipping.
Do your kids eat mushrooms? Mine don’t. It can be a difficult texture and form to wrap your head around - but don’t sweat it. I modify many of the meals I cook for our kids by adjusting or omitting 1-3 items, if needed. This is a great example pictured above - both my boys ate this same bowl but decided against the butternut squash, amaranth sprouts, or mushrooms. But, focusing on the positive, they ate almost 100% of their brown rice (with coconut milk for one), green beans, romanesco, avocado, and ground turkey. Win-win. Do you modify meals for the kids? Do you struggle with how to make one dinner for the whole family? Bowls are a great solution - make a grain + several toppings (at least 2 you KNOW they will enjoy) and let the kids choose what they want to go in it - or just create their bowls for them with their favorite things, keeping your favorite things to yourself! Presenting all healthy options, you won’t stress about what they eat - even if it’s just a bowl of brown rice with coconut milk and nothing else (this happens with my 3 yr old often, you are not alone if it’s happening at your house too!).
There is such a wide variety of sea vegetables, or seaweed, to use when cooking at home. Outside of the ubiquitous dried nori snacks, we can easily use hijiki, kombu, dulse, wakame and more. Pictured above is salmon + hijiki rice made together in one pot - a very simple way to cook a filling meal, just add some fresh vegetables on the side and you’ll have plenty of leftovers for lunch. I found this recipe over on Happy Donabe Life, a great resource for Japanese inspired cooking.
Seaweeds are some of the most nutritious, naturally salty foods on the planet, with many benefits:
They supply all the minerals that we need, most significant being iron, sodium, phosphorous, calcium and iodine.
They are rich in vitamins, including vitamin B12.
They can help with thyroid disorders, blood deficiency disorders like anemia, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and can even help stabilize blood sugar levels. They can also aid in fat digestion.
Each variety of seaweed is slightly different and here is a quick breakdown for your reference:
Nori - highest in protein of all seaweeds, coming it at around 45% of dry weight. Has more vitamin A than carrots, and is the most easily digested of all the seaweeds due to its delicate structure.
Dulse - a dark red color seaweed, best for building blood as it has the highest iron content of any known food and is medically used to strengthen the adrenals, kidneys, blood and muscle.
Hijiki - stronger taste and needs to be soaked prior to eating due to its tougher texture. Has an extremely high mineral content, especially of calcium. It contains more than 10x the calcium of milk. It is said to strengthen the hair and help lower blood sugar levels.
Kombu - kelp is super high in minerals, and kombu is one variety that can be easily found and used at home. Many people actually prefer using kelp powder in place of sea salt as it has such a substantial amount of macro and trace minerals, the most important being iodine which is required by the thyroid gland to produce thyroxin. You can use kombu to make dashi broth, while cooking beans to make them more digestible, or in soups and seaweed salads, but if not cooked properly it can be tough and slippery.
Seaweeds are naturally cooling and moistening to the body and enrich the yin. They can soften nodules and hard masses when used clinically, moisten dryness, improve water metabolism, act as lymphatic cleansers, and help in weight loss.