emotional health, food, food allergy, recipe

For the love of chocolate

I've made this several times and this is the best photo I have so it'll just have to do!
I’ve made this several times and this is the best photo I have so it’ll just have to do!

A great friend who I have not seen in a very long time texted me yesterday and said she had a dream where the two of us found a secret stash of chocolate. Ah! The perfect dream.

So, it’s Valentine’s Day.

Which has really become a commercial occasion – but hey, it’s still nice to celebrate love. So instead of buying some sort of generic gift, why not make your loved ones a chocolate heart from your secret stash? There’s nothing like presenting a chocolate heart with a blunt knife to someone close to you and saying “go on, break my heart.”

I found the basic idea for the chocolate heart in a book and adapted it a little for a gathering I was going to – it was my job to bring a finger-food style dessert. And then, a stroke of genius hit me: instead of pouring the melted chocolate into a boring old square tin, why not use a heart shaped one? It was a hit. Even with the non-chocoholics in the group. (Yes, there is such a thing as a non-chocoholic apparently.)

So here’s the recipe. It’s not dairy-free if you use the small amount of white chocolate – so vary the types of chocolate as you wish. The white chocolate just makes it look pretty but definitely is not essential.

Two things I will say is:

  • Use fair trade chocolate – it’s worth paying the real price for what it costs to produce ethical chocolate,
  • And, good quality dark chocolate has quite a few health benefits when eaten in moderation.

The Chocolate Heart

Ingredients:

  • 300g dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa & dairy-free)
  • 1 cup of mixed fruits and nuts (I used crystallised ginger, toasted blanched almonds, dried blueberries and goji berries)
  • 100g white chocolate

Method:

  1. Line a heart-shaped tin (or whatever shape you’d prefer – about 15-20cm²) with plastic wrap. Make sure to have as few creases in the wrap as is possible.
  2. Melt dark chocolate (70% +) in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently steaming water. (Make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl).
  3. When melted, mix fruit and nuts into the dark chocolate.
  4. Pour chocolate mix into the prepared tin.
  5. In another bowl, melt the white chocolate.
  6. When melted, spoon the white chocolate on top of dark chocolate in the tin and muddle it with a skewer to create a marbled effect.
  7. Refrigerate for an hour or so until set.
  8. Peel the plastic wrap away to serve.
  9. You will end up with a thick block of fruit and nut chocolate. Serve it on a wooden board with a blunt knife to break it up.

Happy Valentines Day! May you all enjoy a piece of  broken heart. 🙂

And as a side note, if you are struggling with a real broken heart you might like to read this.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

aromatherapy, Diet, emotional health, fertility, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

In the summertime… you have these good living tips on your mind.

It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere! And so here’s a cliché summery tune to put you in the mood – just press play as you read on…

I recently attended a workshop on living with the seasons and the theme of course, was summer – and how to do it well. Chinese Medicine places great importance on living with the seasons to optimise our health in the present but also in the seasons to come.

Here’s a few ideas on living well this season. Pick and choose the ones you like to make sure that you absorb a year’s supply of summer energy (or yang) while it is abundant.

Summer is all about these (and this is not conclusive and they are in no particular order):

  • hibiscusPleasure.
  • Blossoming. Showing your true, wonderful self to the world.
  • The Fire element. Red. Heart. Small Intestine. Bitter foods. Joy.
  • Fertility. Bearing fruit.
  • Watching thunderstorms.
  • Abundant yang.
  • Nourishment.
  • Walking barefoot on the sand and grass.
  • Sips of iced peppermint tea. (Cold drinks in moderation.)
  • Stargazing.
  • Soaking up a little sun. (How much do you need in your region?)
  • Prosperity and beauty.
  • Social butterflies. Extroversion.
  • Siestas.
  • An open mind, curiosity and an optimistic mood.
  • Rosewater, mint and cooling aromatherapy face & body mists.
  • Colourful, light and flowing clothing.
  • Pretty frocks.
  • Outdoor dinner parties.
  • A slice of fruit after a meal.

Not everyone loves the summer. Think of what makes you more comfortable in hot weather and prepare yourself in late spring or early summer with these:

  • A change in diet. Lighter, more cooling foods with bitter and acrid flavours. Read more about summer eating.
  • Lighter sheets and bedclothes.
  • A fan.
  • Earlier to rise, later to bed with an after-lunch nap if you can.
  • A change in wardrobe or at least storing your winter wardrobe away.
  • A new hat and/or sunglasses.
  • Getting close to (or in) the ocean, a lake or river.
  • Be most physically active in the coolest parts of the day.
  • Resist the urge to spend the whole day in airconditioning – get some summer air each day.
  • It’s okay to perspire but be sure to rehydrate by increasing your water intake.
  • Chat to your Chinese Medicine practitioner if you are still struggling to embrace the summer.

What does summer mean to you? And what tips do you have to enjoy the summer?

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, emotional health, herbal medicine, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine for the broken heart

I’ve seen many a brokenhearted patient in my clinic. Traditional Chinese Medicine has much to offer in helping you through this tough time.

I have recently been asked to write on the topic for the Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Wellspring Blog.

Check out five heart-healing tips in Mending a broken heart with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, emotional health, food, food allergy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

A heart warming curry and sweet tropical treat for Valentine’s Day

heart chilliThis week I leafed through a few of my vegetarian recipe books looking for inspiration for something interesting to make for a special someone.  Neither of us tolerate dairy well, so dairy-free was a must.  But really, I was searching for a menu that was flavoursome, fragrant and delicious.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the heart is represented by the fire element.  The temperature of the fire element is hot – warming and spicy – it builds our Yang energy (our internal fire), think of chilli, onions, garlic, ginger and the myriad of spices we have at our finger tips in the modern kitchen.  Interestingly, the corresponding emotion is joy.  Have you ever felt grumpy when eating a perfectly spiced dish?

What first caught my eye was a recipe for dessert: tropical fruit sushi.  This sounds weird but looks divine, and was the perfect mix of sweet rice, coconut, spice and the last of summer’s mangoes.

Continuing with the tropical Asian inspired theme, I chose a vegetarian Penang curry for the main course and tweaked the recipe to suit my preferences, maximising produce from my very own balcony herb garden.

Okay, so these weren’t cooked and eaten on Valentine’s Day, but I thought you might like to take advantage of these ideas for a romantic meal (even if it’s just for you – I’m all for spoiling oneself!)

Here are the recipes:

Eggplant and tofu Penang curry

Ingredients

  • 2 large red chillies (seeded and sliced)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (white part chopped into 1 cm pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 400g cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups snow peas (trimmed)
  • 2 cups eggplant (cubed, salted, washed and dried)
  • 200g tofu (sliced and fried)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons basil, sliced

Method

  1. Blend chillies, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and salt in a food processor until herbs resemble a thick paste.  Add a little of the coconut milk to help this process.
  2. Add the paste to a saucepan and fry a little until fragrant.  Add coconut milk, eggplant and tofu, simmer.
  3. When eggplant is almost cooked add snow peas.
  4. Season with soy sauce and maple syrup, stir well.  Cook just until snow peas are tender.
  5. Serve with steamed rice and top with basil.

Tropical fruit sushi

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sushi rice
  • 150mL coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons caster sugar*
  • 1 mango
  • 4cm  fresh ginger (grated finely)

Method

  1. Boil rice with just enough water to cover it and allow to simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain.
  2. Then line a steamer with muslin, add rice and steam for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Transfer the rice to a small saucepan and mix with coconut milk, nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 6 minutes and rice mixture is thick and creamy.  Cool.
  4. Line a baking dish (18 x 25 cm)with cling wrap leaving enough at the edges to wrap over the top.
  5. When rice is cool spread into the baking tray at about 2 cm thick.  Smooth the top.  Fold cling wrap over the top. Refrigerate.
  6. Slice mango thinly and cut into small rectangles (2 x 4 cm).  You’ll need 16 pieces.
  7. In a small saucepan combine remaining 4 tablespoons of caster sugar with 1/2 cup water to make sugar syrup*.  Stir over a low heat until combined, then bring to the boil for 2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat and add mango and ginger.  Cool.
  8. Slice rice into 4 x 2 cm slices.  Top each slice with a piece of mango.  Drizzle with ginger syrup on the serving plate.

*The sugar syrup can be made with stevia instead – here is a recipe although you’ll only need 1/2 cup so reduce the recipe to an eighth.

Another idea for a love inspired sweet are these red bean heart biscuits.

And if you are not feeling the love, maybe Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you find your happy heart again.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, food, food allergy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Red bean heart biscuits

It’s Valentine’s Day.  And somehow I’ve gone all mushy.  I have been meaning to make these gluten and dairy-free adzuki bean biscuits for a while.  They were originally supposed to be circular but the vibe of the day got to me and I used the heart shaped cutters instead.  They have a crisp outer layer but you’ll discover that the inside is sweet, soft and mushy.

These little treats feature adzuki beans.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, adzuki beans are valued for their ability to reduce dampness in the body.  Dampness translates to feelings of heaviness, waking sluggish, having a fuzzy head and experiencing digestive symptoms that are worse when consuming dairy, fatty and excessively sweet foods.  High humidity in the air or rainy days will also aggravate people who are holding dampness. The recipe also features some healthier sugar substitutes to keep the calorie count down.  These biscuits are based on this recipe, which is based on the red bean sweets that are popular in China. I’ve made a few changes to the recipe as detailed below.

Filling ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked adzuki beans
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons xylitol
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

 Biscuit ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons xylitol
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Filling method

  1. Place adzuki beans, agave nectar, water, xylitol and salt in food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Place mixture into saucepan and heat until it thickens (approximately five minutes).  Then add coconut oil and stir until the bean mixture looks glossy.   Remove from heat and cool.

Biscuit method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C .  Grease two biscuit trays.
  2. Combine brown sugar, water, xylitol, vanilla extract, almond meal and vinegar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add coconut oil and beat well.
  4. Mix in remaining dry ingredients and gently knead into a dough.
  5. Flour a clean, dry surface.  Roll out dough to about 3mm thick.  Use heart shape (or any shape you like) biscuit cutters to cut dough.
  6. Take one biscuit and place a teaspoon of bean mixture into centre.  Place another biscuit over the mixture.  Pinch the edges to avoid the mixture escaping.  Then smooth the edges over.
  7. Dip one flat side of each completed biscuit into sesame seeds.
  8. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until firm and golden.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, emotional health, health, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The acupuncturist and the broken heart

Today is the 16th February, just two days after Valentine’s Day.  It’s gorgeous to see that many people are wandering around still exhibiting the after-glow generated by gifts of flowers, chocolates, champagne and time with their loved one. (Although, shouldn’t it be like this most of the time?)

Valentine’s Day, even though it’s origins are in nothing more significant than a greeting card marketing exercise, has become symbolic to many as a day to celebrate romantic love.  This day has been responsible for igniting new love, but sadly, with the pressures it brings, has also been known to be a catalyst in the demise of relationships.

Recently, I have seen several patients in my clinic, looking for support in matters of the heart.  (Yes, who would have thought it?  Acupuncture can do more than just relieve physical pain!)  So, today it seems timely to discuss ‘the broken heart’ from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.

Break-ups are rarely ever easy, for either partner, and the emotions they conjure up can create undesired effects in our bodies.  The old saying “time heals all wounds” is applicable here as the broken-hearted embark on an emotional journey (often laced with mysterious physical symptoms like nausea or muscle tension) to mend.  When these issues do not resolve in a timely manner, professional counselling is highly recommended.

The five element theory that is deeply rooted within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) gives us some clues in treating matters of the heart.  This theory pairs the organs of the body with emotional states.  Whilst, the heart is seen as the organ that is tied to our ‘spirit’, many other organs are also tied to common emotions that may be experienced following a break up.  I should point out here, that in TCM each organ is given some additional ‘energetic’ functions in addition to their biomedical functions so you can have a TCM ‘liver disorder’ without having a physical liver problem.

So, simply and generally put, the five elements can explain some of the mental and physical symptoms of a broken heart as follows:

  • Fire Element – Heart and pericardium – the pericardium is the protector of the heart and emotionally characterised by feeling anxious or a lack of joy.  Physical symptoms may include insomnia, palpitations or inappropriate behaviour.
  • Wood Element – Liver – for feelings of anger, ‘stuckness’, resentment, irritation, frustration, depression and mood swings.  Physical symptoms may include neck and shoulder tension, chest tightness, nausea and digestive disorders that have a direct correlation to your emotional state.
  • Earth Element – Spleen & Stomach – for feelings of worry, obsessive thoughts and inability to concentrate.  Physical symptoms may include lack of appetite, low energy, digestive disorders and sweet cravings.
  • Metal Element – Lungs – when grief and sadness are the principal feelings surrounding the break-up.  Physical symptoms may include low energy, respiratory disorders, concave chest posture, weak voice and skin problems.
  • Water Element – Kidneys – when fear is a primary emotion.  Physical symptoms may include poor memory, urinary problems, reproductive system disorders and lower back ache.

Through discussing a person’s emotional and physical symptoms an individualised acupuncture treatment for supporting someone with ‘love sickness’ can be designed.  It would usually include some lifestyle advice so that the patient may begin to take control of their own situation and feel better, more quickly, between treatments.  I have seen many patients respond well to acupuncture treatment in gaining clarity of mind and renewed energy allowing them to face their new path with enthusiasm.

What to do now? Check out my five Chinese Medicine tips for mending a broken heart.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.