Help fight flu and colds with this delicious elderberry syrup recipe.
Well, it has happened once again. The summer has flown by and suddenly I find myself in the middle of raking leaves and quickly shortening days. Between a remarkably mild summer largely devoid of New England's typical heat and humidity and a fall which can't seem to decide if it should be summer or winter, this year of the Horse has been quite the crazy ride.
The Fall for many of us comes with it two puzzles. One is how to take advantage of the amazing variety of fresh and local produce. The other is how to avoid catching one of the many colds that seems to crop up this time of year. To that end, I thought I would send along a few tips and a recipe that is just great for this time of year. Soups are a simple and wonderful way to enjoy many of the foods available this time of year while at the same time boosting our immune system or helping it to fight off colds that have managed to sneak past out defenses. The recipe is a mix of many different recipes and can ingredients can be swapped out or added as your preferences and whim may dictate.
3 Fall tips to stay healthy:
- Keep warm: Despite the wide range of temperatures we are experiencing here in New England, our bodies still need to prepare for the colder temperatures to come. Keep light gloves handy to warm hands and dig out those socks that have been idling in your drawer since last spring. Swap out your iced coffee, lattes and cold salads for hot beverages and warming soups & stews. If you just love a great salad, have a hot drink along with it to help your body digest it more efficiently. Think of it this way, if you want your furnace to keep your house warm, putting cold water in it will make it much harder for it to do its job. The same is true of our digestive systems.
- Protect the back of your neck: In Chinese medicine, colds are considered to be invasions of external "wind". The back of our neck can be thought of as the back door of our house. If we leave it exposed to the wind, that can invite the unwelcome guest to saunter right in. Wearing a scarf can both be a fashion statement and can help to keep that back door protected and nasty colds out.
- Stay flexible: With the typical stress that comes with the end of summer vacations and the resumption of school, work and everyday life, many of us may find that our necks and shoulders are tighter and those toes we used to be able to come close to touching feel farther away. Doing some light stretching after getting out of a hot shower or after a workout will help keep you limber and can help avoid or alleviate the soreness, tension and discomfort of tight muscles. A hot pack or heating pad used while sitting at your computer or chilling out at night can also help those muscles remember how to relax.
Fall harvest soup:
Based on the Lentil Soup recipe in "Soups and Stews" by Cook's Illustrated.
A delicious way to enjoy the bounty of fall and great for boosting our immune systems, this soup is very versatile, so feel free to tweak it to make it your own special recipe. Onions, garlic and kale are all warming in nature and can benefit the lungs by easing congestion and boosting the body's Lung "qi" which is an important part of our defense system. Lentils and carrots are neutral in temperature, but benefit the energy of the Kidneys and Lungs respectively.
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed through a garlic press
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (you can also use fresh and just add additional liquid later)
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 cup lentils, washed & picked through
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 cups additional liquid (you can use a combination of white wine or simply add water)
- 4-6 stems of Kale, stems removed and leaves cut or torn into small pieces
- Salt & ground black pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
- Optional: meat of your choice (bacon, pancetta, sausage or chicken are all nice adds to this soup)
- In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and sauté onions, garlic & carrots until soft (about 2-3 minutes). If using a meat in your soup, cook this in the oil first, allowing it to brown slightly, then add in the onions, etc.
- Add tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme, cook an additional 2 minutes.
- Add lentils, salt & pepper, cover and cool on medium low heat for 8-10 minutes. Lentils will become darker and vegetables soft.
- Uncover, increase heat to high and add broth and other liquids. If using white wine, add that first and allow it to simmer for a minute before adding the rest. Cook the soup partially covered for 30-35 minutes until lentils are soft, but still hold their shape.
- About 5 minutes before the soup looks to be done, stir in the kale and allow it to soften. It will turn a vibrant green color and will cook down quite a bit, so do not be alarmed if it seems like a lot to be adding to the soup at first.
- Finish the soup with balsamic vinegar, adjust salt and pepper to taste and remove bay leaf.
- Serve hot with some crusty bread for dipping.
Synergy Acupuncture & Wellness' Winter Newsletter!
Celebrating Winter & the Year of the Water Snake
It is incredible to me that we already find ourselves in the second month of the 2013! For those of us who never got around to setting a resolution or who have already fallen off the wagon despite the best of intentions, the Lunar New Year is the perfect time to recommit yourself to your goals for the year, or to set new ones. This Lunar New Year finds the Fire Dragon yielding to the Water Snake. These two zodiac signs are inextricably intertwined as the Snake's Yin strives to balance the Dragon's Yang of the previous year. So it is within each of us, the struggle to find balance between action and stillness, work and play, caring for others and caring for ourselves. The image of the snake can be especially useful for all of us on our journey towards our better selves. As the snake sheds its skin, so can we shed those things which no longer serve us or which hold us back. This allows us to grow more fully towards our potential. So, take a moment to reflect on the past year with its ups & downs. Set your intention towards letting go of those things which are holding you back from being more present and open to your loved ones and the opportunities around you. We wish you a peaceful & prosperous New Year!
Winter, the season of the Water element Here in New England, early February is usually the time of year we find ourselves knee-deep in snow, bundled up to our eye balls against the cold. Mother Nature seems to have decided that we are in need of a bit of excitement this year with a wild weather roller coaster ride, offering us some brief tastes of spring before plunging us back into the cold of winter and, in the coming hours, sending us a bounty of snow. All of which seems appropriate as the element associated with Winter is that of Water.
Water is a unique element. It can take many forms from fog to rain to snow or ice. It has the ability to be calm & reflective, fluid & yielding or hard & impenetrable. No matter what the form, water has great power for change whether slow and subtle or sudden and violent. It can carry us gently to our next destination, nourish us with it's calm, thrill us by awakening the child within or fill us with fear at its power. Sometimes, it forces us to stop in our tracks or other times wipes everything away leaving behind only a clean slate on which we must begin again.
Winter is also associated with the energy of the Kidneys. The Kidneys supply us with our deepest energy (Jing), which we are given at birth and fuels us throughout our life. As water is required for continued life, so is the energy of the Kidneys. When we over-work ourselves or dwell too much upon our anxiety & fears, we deplete this energy. As a river that has too many demands on its supply slowly dries up and eventually is unable to reach the ocean, our supply of Kidney energy is not inexhaustible. No matter how much we might wish otherwise. However, it can also be replenished. Care must be taken to allow ourselves time to rest, recover and restore ourselves from life's demands and Mother Nature's wisdom calls all creature to do that this time of year.
The emotions associated with the Kidney energy are fear and wisdom. Fear, when the Kidney energy is out of balance, can make us freeze as water into ice, unable to move, imprisoned and unable to interact with the world around us. However, when the water element is in balance, this fear transforms into wisdom. It is this wisdom which gives us the will to move forward and adapt to the ups & downs of life in the same fashion that the river moves decisively towards the sea, always finding a path around whatever obstacles lie in front of it.
For many of us in the northeast, winter is a time for hibernation. A time when many of us do our very best imitation of a bear, eating lots of comfort food and hunkering down in our dens waiting quietly for the warmth of spring to rouse us from our slumber. This doesn't mean that this is not also a time of activity, however. Rather, that the activity which was previously outward has turned inward to its deepest reaches. Winter is a time for reflection & contemplation, the work of our inner selves. A time for planning the year ahead from a place of calm and quiet. A time when seeds, deep in the earth garner their strength in preparation for the activity of spring.
So take season of Winter and Water to reflect and cultivate the fluid, adaptable aspect within you so that it can carry you through the rest of the year and give you the will and determination to achieve your goals.
And by all means, take some time to indulge your inner child and go out to play in the snow!
Each issue we will pass along recent articles or research to our readers. So, feel free to let us know if you read anything you would like us to pass on!A
- A quick way to boost your immunity this flu season
Penelope Cruz's Ear Bling
- Ms. Cruz was photographed with a set of press balls in her ear, leading one reporter to give auricular acupuncture a try herself
Give the gift of health to your Valentine: Gift certificates are available for purchase to treat that special someone Refer a friend and you'll also get 20% off your next visit! Double happiness!
With Flu season in full swing, it is a terrific time to consider all the ways in which we can help ourselves stay healthy. One of my favorite tips comes from my father-in-law, a retired surgeon. When asked how he managed to stay so healthy when he spent so much time around sick people he replied "Wash your hands frequently & keep your fingers out of your nose."
- Hand washing: Whether it is with soap & water or hand sanitizer, this is still the number one cold preventative.
- Bundle up: In chinese medicine, it is believed that pathogenic qi (i.e. colds, etc) can slip past our body's defenses when it is exposed to the elements. So while it may be macho to see who can wear shorts the furthest into winter, think of it as an open invitation for the passing cold to come for a visit.
- Zinc: If you start to feel a cold coming on, increase your intake of Zinc. Products such as Zicam (or the generic equivalent) have concentrations of Zinc which have been scientifically shown (http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001364/zinc-for-the-common-cold) to reduce the length of a cold by inhibiting viral replication. Even if your cold is already in full swing, adding Zinc to your cold treatment regimen will still help give the virus the old heave-ho and have you back on your feet sooner. As a preventative, making sure Zinc supplementation has also been shown to reduce cold frequency.
- Food as medicine: When a cold is coming on or has already taken hold, increase the amounts of garlic, onion, ginger & cinnamon in your diet. All are considered to be warming foods which "release the exterior. In other words these foods open the door so your immune system's "bouncers" can kick that cold to the curb. Put them into a nice brothy soup and not only will you feel warmed up from the inside out, but you'll keep away any vampires that might be in the neighborhood.
- Acupressure: Check out the article in our News section for some handy self-care acupressure points to help boost immunity
adapted from TheCulinaryLife.com Congee, or rice porridge, is a staple in Asian households and a perfect meal to warm up a winter's day. This recipe can be used as a base to create your own tasty soup. Made in a slow cooker or on the stove, you can set it up and have a wonderful warm bowl to welcome you in from the cold.
Yield: 6 servings
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 cup short-grain or glutinous rice (which is gluten-free)
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 4-8 cups water
- 1 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 small head of bok choy, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste
- 4 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sauteed garlic
1. Soak mushrooms in enough hot water to cover them. Once they are soft, discard water, drain mushrooms and remove the stems. Chop coarsely and set aside. 2. Rinse rice once and set aside. 3. In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil over high heat. Once the stock is boiling, add rice and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to very low, allowing to gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary to create a creamy consistency. 4. After 30 minutes, add mushrooms, ginger, carrots, and bok choy. Let cook for another 60 minutes, continuing to add water and stir occasionally. You’ll need to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot every few minutes to keep from burning. 5. Once you’ve got a nice, creamy consistency and most of the rice grains have melted away into the stock, salt to taste. Serve hot in individual bowls, garnished with minced scallions and sauteed garlic.