Category Archives: Seasonal living

Raw Crackers that Smell Like Pizza!

Greetings Dear Readers,

My boyfriend Kasey does not like to follow a cook book, and, as in many areas of his life, prefers to find his own unique way of doing things even if it costs him.   I’ve tasted many of his culinary inventions – including the “snow pea chip” which left a lot to be desired.  However, like our dear Canadian Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb, there can be many failed attempts before the final success that changes modern living forever.

This cracker recipe is epic!   It smells like pizza and tastes even better.  Try it! It’s like a meal in itself.

Watch the video or read below for this amazing recipe.

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds)

juice of 3 lbs of oranges (2.5 cups)

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes soaked in 1/2 cup water

1 Tablespoon onion powder

1 1/2 Tablespoons basil

sea salt to taste

Steps:

1. Soak flax seeds and hemp hearts in the orange juice for 1-4 hours, covered, longer time is better.

2. Soak sun-dried tomatoes in water for 1 hour.

3. Blend tomatoes plus soak water with flax-hemp-orange juice mixture in blender with onion powder and basil.

4. Pour mixture on to dehydrator sheets and sprinkle with sea salt.

5. Dehydrate at 145 F for 1-2 hours, then turn down to 115 F for 8 – 24 hours until desired

crispiness.

Mmm delicious:)

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Enliven Your Liver this Spring with a Fresh Twist

Hello All,

Yay! it’s finally Spring!!

Spring is associated with the Wood element which governs the Liver and Gall Bladder systems. Foods that are sour and foods that are green, especially young green foods such as micro-greens, A.K.A. sprouts (alfalfa, mung, brocolli sprouts, etc.) are excellent for the Liver/Gall Bladder systems. Here’s an interesting raw vegan salad dressing recipe you can try

with yourfresh green salad.

images-7

images-8 This recipe comes from FullyRaw Kristina’s video blog. Yes, it’s an unusual combo but like many of her recipes, sure to please the taste buds.

Ingredients:

3-4 cups fresh cut mango

1 cup pitted dates

1 large tablespoon fresh rosemary

*optional – sliced pineapple

Mix ingredients in a blender and serve. Fun things are often so simple!

Yoga Exercises for Spring

Certain yoga postures such as twists are especially good for the Liver/ Gall Bladder systems because they help move qi in the “Middle Jiao” (area just under the ribs, between the rib and the navel). There are many variations of the yoga twist that you can try. Here are a few below that you can incorporate into your daily routine. images-5images-3images-4images-6

On the mental-spiritual plane, the Liver is associated with irritability, anger, frustration.  One way to channel this energy is to engage in creative projects that allow the mind feel expansive and open to seeing life as full of infinite possibilities.  It’s also helpful to remember that the people we may feel anger towards also suffer in many ways too.

Wishing you a dynamic and healthy spring.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

How to Dissolve Kidney Stones

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you have kidney stones or are worried about possibly having them, there is an easy solution:

asparagus! Yes, that’s right, asparagus.  Go down to your local market and pick yourself up 2 or 3 bunches.

Raw Asparagus spears

Eat one cup of asparagus (steamed or juiced, however you like it) each day for 3 or 4 days.  You’ll know this is working when you see the appearance of a white sand in your urine.  This is the dissolved kidney stone material leaving your body. Yay!

Asparagus dissolves the oxalic acid crystals as well as the calcium stones caused by too much calcium supplementation either in pill form or from drinking calcium-fortified soy or almond milk.  Read the labels. The body only needs a set amount of calcium at one time and will deposit excess calcium in various places in the body such as the arteries (arterial plaque) and the kidneys (stones).  The body often cannot absorb calcium because it requires various cofactors, namely magnesium, which is extremely deficient in modern diets owing to poor soil quality.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, asparagus purifies the Lung system of toxicities, strengthens the Kidney Yin, and calms the Heart which helps the mind become more peaceful (Heart houses the mind, known as “shen” in TCM).

Happy healing!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Winter Wisdom Gleaned from the Plant World of Seeds

A lady in deep thoughts.
A lady in deep thoughts.

Greetings Dear Readers,

Welcome to the beautiful, mystical winter season.  In Asian medicine, all living things – humans, animals, plants – are connected to the seasonal cycle of nature.  Although the modern scientific view puts more focus on the microcosm – the tiny cells and microbes – to understand disease, Asian medicine takes into account the macrocosm, which includes the energies in and around us such as the emotional environment in our mind, our social milieu, the food we eat and the way we go about our lives. There are a multitude of influences on the state of balance our body systems are always trying to achieve.  We can learn so much from the natural world.

English: Brown Flax Seeds. Français : Graines ...
Brown Flax Seeds

Winter is associated with this dormancy stage of the seed.  It is a period of waiting; a time when it appears not much is happening, at least externally.  It is a time of cocooning and inner transformation.  We reap the benefit of the winter season by following this example in nature and taking time to rest.  Long, deep sleeps in winter let the body rest and rejuvenate.  We restore balance by cultivating the Yin energy after the very active spring and summer seasons.  We conserve our energy so that it can re-emerge again strongly during the spring season when the Yang energy pushes forth again.

Seed wisdom is about  holding the vital life force within its’ shell.   In winter, our body also pulls its’ energy deep inside.  Like the seed, we benefit from protecting ourselves from with cold with an added layer of warm clothing.  We also benefit from eating winter vegetables such as kale, cabbage, squash, turnip and collard greens.   These plants have a special ability to withstand cold climates.  By eating plants that winterize well, we also gain their same inner resilience to cold.

Still waters run deep.  Our consciousness runs at a much deeper level in this most Yin season.  As winter is when our qi is submerged to its’ deepest level within our bodies, so too do our thoughts turn to the deep, the spiritual and existential.

Winter bird in the snow

Winter has a beautifully mysterious quality.  Everything is hidden under a blanket of snow.  No longer are the blooming flowers inviting us to dance in the garden.  Now the cold wind sends us indoors where we nestle by a fire.  In the quiet spaces of our mind, deep thoughts emerge from the subconscious bringing forth insights (insight=in+sight=inner sight).  It is a time to look within ourselves for answers.  It’s a time to listen more to those little callings in our mind we hear in the quieter moments of the day.  Some call these little nudges the higher self, the Buddha within your heart, intuition, or God who is speaking to you. However we frame it, it’s a time for resting, listening to the inside, and being deep.

Wishing you a Happy Winter Season!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Raw Cashew Cheese Dip Soothes the Lungs and Large Intestine

Greetings Dear Readers,

Many who have transitioned to a dairy-free or vegan diet enjoy cheese and dearly miss it

Creamy Vegan Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting
Creamy Vegan Cashew Cream Cheese

when they feel called to eat this way.  Many have tried dairy alternatives such as soy cheese and found it to be a poor substitute, myself included.   Alas!  There is a very rich and dreamy food experience that many have not yet discovered: raw vegan nut cheeses!  Try something different today!  Delicious rich nuttiness blended with nutritional yeast for extra cheesey flavour and vitamin B nutrition combined with tangey citrus and a little garlic or herbs for flavour and show, a red pepper mixed in to make an orange coloured raw cheese dip – oh the creative possibilities in texture, colour and flavour are endless!  Nut cheeses are a gourmet art.

Here I’m just giving you a simple basic recipe to get you started along with, of course, health information from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) so you can understand the health benefits of your health food adventures.  From a TCM perspective, dairy cheese is Damp-forming.  Too much Dampness (runny nose, cysts, sinus congestion, weight gain, coughing up sputum, sluggishness, foggy-mindedness, etc.) is often a reason why vegetarians run into digestive problems and end up going back to eating meat.  Many vegetarians eat “salad and cheese” meals regularly which quickly leads to “Cold-Damp” (lettuce is thermally Cold and dairy is Damp) which then leads them to an acupuncturist who tells them they need to quit being vegetarian and start eating meat.  This is a very common story.  Well, as a vegan myself for many years, I’ve learned to adjust the diet to achieve good health.  Here we are mixing the old with the new.  The TCM sages of yesteryear did not have access to marvellous electrical appliances such as blenders which pre-digest the food to make it less work for your body.  These raw vegan cheeses will counter-balance the Cold nature of dairy because nuts are warming and the garlic, mustard and vinegar will help clear Dampness.

Cashews

Cashews moisturize the lungs and colon.  The lungs and colon belong to the Metal element in TCM which also corresponds with the autumn season, the best time of year for eating nuts.   Cashews treat Lung Dryness issues such as dry cough, wheezing (dyspnea), bronchiectasis, external pathogens (i.e. “colds and flus” in Western terms) and Large Intestine dryness such as dry stools that are difficult to pass, dry mouth and throat and chronic Yin and Blood deficiency.

Nutritional Yeast

This is a great addition to most people’s diet if you haven’t yet discovered it.  It is a healthy kind of yeast that contains an abundance of B vitamins and certain minerals.  Not to worry, candida, or “yeast infection” in your body is not the same species of yeast.   Nutritional yeast is a great food supplement especially for vegetarians and vegans due to its’ high levels of b12 and folic acid.  For the nutritional profile of nutritional yeast click here.

  • 2 cups raw cashews (soaking 2-4 hours improves nutritional quality)
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup filtered water (add a bit at a time until desired thickness)
  • 1/4 cup juice of fresh lemon (or lime)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic minced (optional)
  • 1 tsp Celtic sea salt
  1. Place the cashews, 1/2 of the water, 1/2 of the lemon juice, garlic and sea salt in the food processor and pulse until roughly blended.
  2. Gradually add in more lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, mustard powder, garlic and salt to taste.  Garlic as optional but does add a lot of flavour.
  3. Use as a dip for celery, carrots, or dehydrator chips/breads.
  4. Enjoy!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Cookies for Kidneys

Greetings Dear Readers,

RAW cookies
RAW cookies

Cookies for Kidneys.  If it sounds like a charity campaign for your organs, well, it is.  Actually the Kidneys are the most depleted organ in modern people.  It’s extremely rare to meet anyone with very strong kidney system even if they eat all the right foods and meditate daily.  In grade school, our school had a campaign to raise money for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. We had to sell little snack size bags of roasted peanuts to our family and neighbors.

Now if only we were selling sesame seeds instead, then according to Eastern Food Therapy, we’d really be

Dry sesame seeds
Dry sesame seeds

doing the kidneys a huge favour.  Sesame (hei zhi ma) is warm and sweet and  a tonic for the Kidneys and Liver.  It is said to strengthen Yin, Jing and Blood as well as “blacken” grey hair  (use black sesame) and build the spirit (Shen).  Yes, you can eat cookies for a good cause.

The Kidney system is in fact the most charitable organ of our bodies.  Whenever one organ is deficient in Yin or Yang, eventually it asks the Kidney system for an energy loan.  The Kidney is like the savings account of the body so it always needs to be replenished for those “rainy days”.  The Kidney system includes the adrenal glands in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).   The World Health Organization recently (2010) recognized adrenal fatigue as a disease, calling it “21st Century Disease” a condition whereby frequent, prolonged and intense stress caused the adrenal glands to release cortisol which over time leads to burn-out of the adrenals or “Kidney Yang Deficiency” in TCM speak.

The Kidney system is associated with the emotion of fear in TCM.  In this “Age of Precariousness” as some are calling this time of economic and job insecurity, fear is rampant.  The stress toll on the body is evident as people often wake up feeling tired in spite of a long sleep, using caffeine to stimulate their adrenal system which is not strong enough to provide the energy boost and motivation (Yang) for the day ahead, having frequent infections, environmental sensitivities, and doing aerobics (which further depletes the adrenals – do weights/sit-ups instead) to eliminate the excess fat around the waist or “spare tire” which is actually caused by the adrenal insufficiency in the first place.  There are a whole host of symptoms and conditions that have adrenal insufficiency at their root.  I highly recoomend Dr. Wilson’s adrenal fatigue quiz as well as his book .

Now, let’s get on to those yummy cookies!

Ingredients  (Makes about 20 small cookies)

  • 1 ¼ cups almond flour (can grind almonds into flour using food processor or coffee bean grinder)
  • ¼ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • ⅓ cup pitted dates or agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds(un-hulled has double the calcium than hulled)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract
  1. Grind almonds until finely crumbled in a food processor.
  2. Mix in sea salt, dates, sesame seeds, olive oil and vanilla.
  3. Blend until fairly even.
  4. Place mixture in fridge for a couple of hours to harden.
  5. Form dough into small cookie shapes with a cookie cutter or small glass jar (just improvise!)
  6. You can also roll the formed cookies in whole sesame seeds for decoration.

Enjoy!

Yours in Health,

Cynthia

Liver Qi Gets A Move On

triangle
triangle (Photo credit: daniel.julia)

Greetings Dear Readers,

Liver Qi Stagnation is a very common condition.  The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (energy) in the body.  One famous quote in TCM “Where there is movement, there if life, where there is no movement, there is no life”.  Acupuncture is an excellent way to move qi that has become stagnant.  Between treatments there are many additional ways to help your Liver system with this process.

Lifestyle:  Liver energy is the energy of Wood.  It is likened to young plants in spring pushing their way through the earth and bursting with new life on the surface.  This pushing upwards energy is similar to a healthy assertiveness on the mental level.  When Wood energy is low there is timidity and lack of action and decisions to make things happen.  When Wood energy is stuck or too strong there is aggression, anger or irritability. 

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeolla...
500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeollanam-do, South Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diet: The colour green is associated with the Liver and the Wood element.  Eating green foods such as lettuce, kale, green tea, dandelion leaves, broccoli, sprouts, artichoke hearts, asparagus, olives, etc. is especially helpful to do each day.  Sour foods such as all citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), vinegar, cranberries, also assist the Liver system.

Exercise:  A stretch for the Liver channel is wide-angled forward bend.  Triangle pose and Fish pose also open and release energy in the Liver channel.   Walking is associated with the Liver system and walking in a lush green forest is even better.    

English: Finger Painting.
English: Finger Painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Helpful thoughts:  The mind has a powerful influence over the body.  The mental/spirit side of Liver energy is called the “Hun” which is related to our ability to create visions, have dreams and perform visually creative activities such as art.  Here are some thoughts or affirmations that relate to balancing Liver energy:

“I can see my dreams coming true.”

“I am free to make my own healthy choices.”

“I allow myself to express my creative spirit.”

Acupuncture is also an excellent way to move Liver Qi and results are felt quite quickly in most people.

How’s your Liver Qi doing? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Strengthening the Spleen Qi

Purple Carrots
Purple Carrots

Greetings Dear Readers,

Now that we are entering Earth season, also called “late summer” in TCM, here are some seasonal tips to support your Earth energy and Spleen.

Lifestyle:The Spleen is about nourishment, mothering energy and feeling grounded and connected. It’s about the way food is eaten, ideally sitting down, chewing thoroughly, enjoying regular meals eaten mindfully in a peaceful setting.  The mental side of the Spleen is the Yi (say “yee”) which means intellect.  Students, people who study a lot, or anyone doing a lot of concentration and difficult mental tasks are using Spleen energy which can be supported by these tips here.

Exercise: The Spleen governs the muscle tissue of the body.  Massage is excellent for the Spleen system.  A balanced amount of exercise, neither too much nor too little is ideal.  Listening to your body is important.  Regularity is best, a little each day, even 10 or 20 minutes of walking, dancing, stretching, or weights is great. A stretch for the Spleen channel is a yoga pose called “Reclining Hero Pose”. A Qi Gong exercise for the Spleen can be found at: http://cynthiamcgilvray.com/2013/02/07/5-yin-organ-exercises/

Diet: The Spleen belongs to the Earth element in TCM.  Earthy things are round and have earthy colours such as brown, orange and yellow and as such Spleen foods include grains, squash, carrots, potatoes, and beets (esp. good for women).  The Spleen is associated with naturally sweet foods such as dates, grapes, maple syrup and molasses.  The Spleen needs Yang (warm, dry) energy to function at best so adding some warming foods such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and clove to foods will help with digestion and strengthen Spleen Qi.

Happy Earthiness!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

The Small Intestine Channel = Spam Filter of Your Heart

Greetings Dear Readers,

As human beings in this modern age we are more stimulated than ever before.  A seemingly endless barrage of sights, sounds and information.  How much is meaningful?  How much is true?  The Small Intestine energy is responsible for separating the pure from the impure.  If the Small Intestine channel is weak, it may not be performing this discrimination function at top capacity.   On a mental level, a person may not be weighing their options correctly to come to the right decision.   Small Intestine energy allows us healthy discrimination or discernment (not the same as judgment).   When this happens we use the clarity of wisdom to decide what we take in and what to leave out.

Today at Sarvodaya's Early Morning meditation
Today at Sarvodaya’s Early Morning meditation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you ignore advertising pop-ups when you’re emailing or doing some internet research?  This is your Small Intestine energy (A.K.A. your “Inner Spam Filter”, as my teacher says) working extra hard so you can concentrate.  In Buddhism this work is actually a type of spiritual practice called “restraining the doors of the sense powers”.  It means guarding ones’ eyes, ears and such by avoiding looking at or hearing things which disturb the mind.  In this way our mind can be clear and sharp.  This kind of a mind allows us to communicate well, make good decisions and focus on what adds value to our own and others’ lives.

Romantic Heart from Love Seeds
Romantic Heart from Love Seeds (Photo credit: epSos.de)

The Small Intestine is the outer gateway to the Heart channel.  Small Intestine is Yang while the Heart is Yin.  The Small Intestine energy protects the Heart (also called the Emperer in TCM) by filtering out energies or thoughts that would damage this inner most aspect of our being.  In TCM, as well as many Asian philosophies and religions, the heart is the residence of the mind/spirit/subtle mind (depending upon which philosophy you ascribe to).

Getting stuck in life can result from not enough sorting through our experiences to inform our actions.  Or once we’ve made a decision, a lack of Gall Bladder Qi is often a cause of procrastination; this decision is made but we fail to act.  The Small Intestine belongs to the Fire element.  Fire=light, a light which can show us the truth, a light on our path so we can see which steps to take next.  During the Fire season of summer, or any time you feel your mind is too busy and not clear, it’s helpful to support you Small Intestine energy by clearing your mental clutter.  Meditation, de-cluttering your space and/or trying to keep life simple allows room for you to gather your focus and sort things out.

Happy Sorting!

Cynthia

Strengthening Kidney Yin

Greetings Dear Readers,Do you have issues with night sweats, low back ache, dry mouth at night, dizziness, nocturnal emissions, poor memory, ringing in the ears, or fatigue?  If so, you may have signs of Kidney Yin deficiency.  You can check with your acupuncturist or TCM practitioner to be sure.  In the meantime, here are some tips on how to strengthen your Kidney Yin.Lifestyle:

The Kidney in TCM is like the savings account of your body’s energy.  It’s important to find ways to conserve and restore your energy.  Simplifying life by focusing on the essentials and letting go of non-essential tasks and concerns will help you conserve energy.  Making a bit of time each day for meditation can increase calm and focus.  Connecting with your Source can help bring in energy from a higher plane which can be very restorative.  Kidneys govern the feet and ears so massaging the ears and feet will be helpful.  It’s also important to get enough rest or “down time” as well as sleep.  When a person experiences too much stress and overwork without rest it begins to weaken the adrenal glands causing caffeine cravings.

Suribachi (small) and surikogi (medium) with b...

Exercise:

It’s important to not over-do aerobic exercise with this condition.  Hatha yoga (not fast or power yoga), Tai Chi, Qi Gong or weight lifting in moderation are exercise choices.  “Seated forward bend” is a yoga posture that strengthens the kidneys.  Yin yoga classes involve many postures which open the Kidney channel and restore to the Kidney Yin.  “Yi Jin Jing” (please see the video I posted on this “Yi Jin Jing and What is Bone Marrow Washing?”) is a qi gong set which builds Kidney strength.

Diet:

Kidney Yin tonics include: pomegranate, potato, pears, aduki beans, wheat grass juice, barley grass juice, parsley, black sesame seeds, nettle tea, vitamin B12, spirulina, chlorella, almonds, rhemmania tea, berries, seaweed.  Many green drink powders available in drug stores contain several of the above ingredients.  Yin by nature is fluid so it’s important to drink enough water, juices, soup/rice congee meals to build the Yin up.

Kidney Yin deficiency is a condition which takes some time to heal.  Steady effort using the above tips will pay off.

Yours in health,

Cynthia