Hi, I'm Kim

Hi, I’m Kim Christensen, M.Om., Dipl.OM, L.Ac. I’m a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and owner of Constellation Acupuncture & Healing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Back before going to school and becoming a healthcare practitioner, Affairs of Living was my creative outlet while healing from chronic health issues. There's big changes coming to the site - it will soon be the home of my new health coaching practice! Stay tuned. 

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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

Entries in Nutrition & Diet (18)


June SOS Kitchen Challenge Kick-Off


Last month's carob challenge delivered many delicious submissions, from the sweet to the savory. As in past challenges, Ricki and I offered up prizes to two lucky participants: a one-pint jar of Harrison's Sugar Bush Maple Syrup, harvested by my family in Fence, Wisconsin, and a copy of Ricki's new e-book "Good Morning! Breakfasts without Gluten, Sugar, Eggs, or Dairy".

We randomly selected two recipes from the entries, and are excited to announce the winners:

Congratulations to the winners of the prizes. We will be contacting you to get your information!

And now, for this month's Challenge. . . .

By now many of you are probably sick of familiar with the term, "superfoods": those comestibles that have been found to confer extra health benefits along with their nutritional value and taste.

Well, this month Ricki and I are happy to share our SOS Kitchen Challenge key ingredient, one of the best superfoods out there. These gems are perfect if you're into eating for better health; in fact, it's been reported that they have the highest antioxidant capacity of any fresh fruit! They're also bursting with phytonutrients, vitamins, good fiber, and virtually no fat.  They provide a popular ingredient you can use either cooked or raw with equal delight, something that will go well in sweet OR savory recipes.  A food that is low sugar, low glycemic, yet sweet in its natural state.  A food that everyone should eat and enjoy!

And just what is this magical food, you ask?  

Well, this month's ingredient is BLUEBERRIES


For those of us in North America, blueberries are truly a fruit of summer, available (depending on your location) from May to September. Blueberries are grown virtually around the world these days, from Germany and Italy to Argentina and Australia (where, apparently, they first tried to grow them in the 1950s without success, but tried again in the 1970s and have been growing them since).

Related to cranberries and bilberries, most blueberries are not truly "blue" but rather pale to deep purple, with a white interior. More important than their cute little shape or sweet-tart flavor is the blueberry's incredible nutritional punch.  These little gems provide a huge does of Vitamin C, manganese, vitamin E and fiber, all while tasting delicious and providing virtually no fat and few calories. Like cranberries, they can help prevent or treat urinary tract infections. In a recent analysis of 60 fruits and veggies, blueberries were rated Number One for their free radical-fighting capabilities!

The antioxidants in blueberries are called proanthocyanins, and they are remarkable at neutralizing free radicals (cancer-causing molecules).  As a result, blueberries are able to prevent a host of cancers, cell damage, or damage to the vascular system. They're also great for cardiovascular health and help prevent macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that often causes blindness (leafy greens also are helpful this way). In addition, blueberries contain both types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, which means they work well to keep you regular.

Once picked, blueberries are best eaten fresh, but they will keep a few days in the refrigerator.  Look for uniformly colored, firm berries that have a  pale white "bloom" on the skin.  They should also roll about freely when you shake their container (if they're stuck together, they may be overly ripe or moldy). I line the carton in which they are packed with a layer of paper towel and allow it to absorb any excess moisture, thereby keeping the fragile berries from damage.  You can also freeze blueberries by placing them in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, then freezing. Once frozen, store in an airtight bag or container in the freezer (and the frozen berries will retain their antioxidant properties, too).  


For this month's SOS Kitchen Challenge - our last SOS before we begin our summer break - we're asking you to focus on all the amazing blueberry possibilities in your own cooking! Sure, you've we've all used blueberries in baking and desserts and jams, but how about salads? Or, say, a quinoa pilaf? Or a savory blueberry sauce? Anything goes - as long as you adhere to the usual SOS Kitchen Challenge guidelines. :)

As always, it's easy to play along!

To participate, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Cook up a recipe--whether yours or someone else's with credit to them--using the challenge ingredient. Your recipe must be made for this event, within the month of the challenge--sorry, no old posts are accepted.  Then, post the recipe to your blog (if you don’t have a blog, see instructions below).
  • Be sure to mention the event on your post and link to the current SOS page so that everyone can find the collection of recipes. Then, link up the recipe using the linky tool below.
  • As a general rule, please use mostly whole foods ingredients (minimally processed with no artificial flavors, colors, prepackaged sauces, etc.).  For example, whole grains and whole grain flours; no refined white flours or sugar (but either glutenous OR gluten-free flours are fine).
  • Please ensure that recipes are vegan or include a vegan alternative (no animal products such as meat, fish, chicken, milk, yogurt, eggs, honey).
  • Please use natural sweeteners (no white sugar, nothing that requires a laboratory to create--such as splenda, aspartame, xylitol, etc.). Instead, try maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, dates, yacon syrup, Sucanat, stevia, etc.
  • Feel free to use the event logo on your blog to help promote the event
  • Have fun and let your creativity shine!
  • You may enter as many times as you like, but please submit a separate entry for each recipe.

If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate!  Simply email your recipe, or recipe and a photo, to soskitchenchallenge@gmail.com. We’ll post it for you. 

Now, let's all get cooking with blueberries! Ricki and I can't wait to see what you come up with this month. :D

SOS Kitchen Challenge Submissions: Blueberries


"April in the Raw" and recipe for Layered Rainbow Salad

Brittany at Real Sustenance is hosting a great blog event this month called April in the Raw. I was thrilled when she asked me to participate. All month long, bloggers will be posting about their experiences with raw food and sharing raw and raw inspired recipes.  Be sure to check out the April in the Raw home page to see all the posts and recipes from other participating bloggers.

Sometimes the raw food culture can seem intimidating. The soaking, the sprouting, the dehydrating, the mixing, the requisite dehydrator, the frequent expensive (and often imported) specialty ingredients - it can be overwhelming. Don't get me wrong, I'm not attacking the way that many individuals choose to incorporate raw foods in their life. I like a young coconut and a raw flax cracker as much as the next person. But when it comes to incorporating raw food in my diet, I prefer to take a more simplistic, more local approach. I am privileged enough to choose the foods I eat each day, and I want to make sure that my choices support my health, my local economy, my values, and the overall well-being of the individuals, animals, and land that produced them, whether I'm making a raw vegan meal or roasting a brisket. Simple salads and slaws, raw cultured vegetables and sauerkraut, smoothies, fresh green juices, sprouted chickpeas and homemade broccoli sprouts - these are my favorite way to eat raw foods.  I eat raw foods most in the spring and summer, when produce is fresh and the temperatures are warm.  In autumn and winter, as temperatures cool and my body needs to expend more energy to stay warm, I stray from eating as many raw foods and incorporate more cooked vegetables.  I find I feel best when I connect my dietary choices to the season, so that's what I do.

As a smoothie addict and lover of salads, my excitement for warmer weather - and all the food that goes with it - is pretty intense. 


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March SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal: a bean of many names

Merry March! A new month brings a new SOS Kitchen Challenge, the monthly recipe event hosted by Ricki and me celebrating vegan, sugar-free, natural recipes using a featured ingredient. Rather than focus on something obvious like oats, cabbage, or potatoes this month - the blogosphere loves St. Patrick's Day - we've gone a different direction entirely. This month's food goes by multiple names, has multiple sweet and savory applications, and can either be eaten cooked or raw and sprouted.

Here's a photographical hint:

[image source]

Did you guess correctly? This month's SOS Kitchen Challenge features none other than the adzuki bean, also known as azuki, aduki, asuki, adsuki, field pea, red bean, Teinsin red bean, or feijao.  No matter what name you prefer, one thing is certain: the adzuki bean is marvelously versatile, nutritious, and delicious.  I love most beans dearly, but adzuki beans truly top my list of favorites. 

A Bit About the Bean

Adzuki beans are thought to originate in China, and are prized in Asian cuisine, used in sweet and savory applications, and often used for celebratory and festival dishes. These dark red beans are relatively small, with a distinctive white ridge on one side. They cook quickly, and are more easily digested than many other beans.  

The most common use of adzuki beans in Asian cuisines - especially Japanese - is in sweet drinks, dessert soups, and various buns and pastries stuffed with sweetened red bean paste.  Western cuisine has adopted the adzuki bean most commonly in savory applications, such as soups, stews, casseroles, and burritos. Adzuki beans are excellent in vegan dishes, as their texture is hearty and somewhat "meat-like".  Adzuki beans are also very delicious when soaked and left to sprout - azuki bean sprouts are crunchy and absolutely delicious in salads, stir fries, and wraps. 

Adzuki beans have a rich, earthy, nutty, and sweet flavor, and rich red color when cooked.  They are complimented by warm spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, or chile powder, and go well with other ingredients such as tamari, miso, onion, coconut milk, rice, yam, sweet potato, squash or pumpkin.

Nutritional Benefits

Adzuki beans, like all legumes, are an excellent source of nutrition. The website Knowing Food has a great write up about the adzuki bean, featuring this information: 

Adzuki beans are a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc copper, manganese and B vitamins. As a high-potassium, low-sodium food they can help reduce blood pressure and act as a natural diuretic. When combined with grains, beans supply high quality protein, which provides a healthy alternative to meat or other animal protein. 

Like most beans, adzuki beans are rich in soluble fibre. This type of fibre provides bulk to the stool and binds to toxins and cholesterol aiding in their elimination from the body. 

In Japan adzuki beans are known for their healing properties and are used to support kidney and bladder function. Gillian McKeith is a huge fan of the adzuki bean and refers to it as the 'weight loss' bean as it low in calories and fat but high in nutrients.

source- Adzuki Bean: Health Benefits and Nutrition Information on Knowing Food

Additionally, the The Ayurvedic Cookbook by U. Desai and Amadea Morningstar states that adzuki beans have excellent ability to rebuild adrenal function and kidney energy. 

Adzuki Bean & Yam Hash, image and recipe from Whole Life Nutrition [image source]

How to Cook Dry Adzuki Beans

Cooking dry adzuki beans is easy and economical.  It is also often a necessity, as canned adzuki beans are not always readily available. Eden Foods makes organic canned adzuki beans that are cooked with kombu and packed in BPA-free cans, so if you can't cook your own beans, those are a great option. But if you have access to dry adzuki beans and have the time to plan ahead, I'd recommend simply cooking your own. 

To cook beans, you must soak them first to rehydrate. Soak 1 part beans overnight in ample water. Drain and simmer on the stovetop in 4 parts water for 40 minutes to an hour, until tender but still intact (if adding salt, add at end of cooking). If you have a pressure cooker, follow instructions in your pressure cooker instruction manual.  Then drain beans and use as desired, rinsing as necessary. Reserve bean cooking liquid to use as a broth or nourishing warm drink (it is loaded with vitamins and minerals!).

How To Enter the Challenge

If you are interested in trying your hand at cooking or baking with the adzuki bean this month, join us in this month's challenge! To enter, simply cook up a new recipe–either sweet OR savory (or both)–using adzuki beans, following the usual SOS guidelines for ingredients and submission requirements.  Then submit it by linking up to your blog post with the linky tool, below.  Be sure to add a link to this page on your post, and if you wish, include the SOS logo. 

Your recipe will be displayed on both Ricki's and my blog in the Linky, and will be featured in a recipe roundup at the end of this month.  We look forward to more of your delicious, creative, enthusiastic entries this month!  

March SOS Kitchen Challenge: Adzuki Beans


Creamy Hemp Milk (gluten-free, vegan, raw, ACD)


This is my go-to recipe for a quick milk, a simple combination of filtered water, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. Hemp seeds do not contain phytic acid, are easily assimilate by the body, and do not need to be soaked for optimal digestion like other nuts, seeds, grains, and beans. Although you can make this recipe without the chia, including it lends a creamier, thicker consistency and better mouthfeel.  

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Beyond Milk: Dairy-Free Sources of Calcium

Updated on Monday, February 7, 2011 by Registered CommenterKim

Do you know that 2 cups of cooked kale has more calcium than a 1/2 cup of milk?

The government recommendation for adults ages 19-50 is 1000 mg of calcium per day. One cup of milk has 296 mg, but there are plenty of reasons you might not to drink milk, from personal preference to medical reasons.  If you avoid dairy due to intolerance or allergy, you may think that you don't have very many options to get adequate calcium. How wrong you are! A diverse diet of whole foods provides endless ways to get easily absorbable calcium, without having to take supplements.  

Maximizing Calcium Absorption

These suggestions are adapted from World's Healthiest Foods:

  • Vitamin D accelerates the absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal tract.  Fish oil, cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, sardines, liquid and pill vitamin D supplements, and various non-dairy milks fortified with D are good ways to get vitamin D in your diet.
  • High consumption of potassium reduces the urinary excretion of calcium.  To learn more about dietary sources of potassium, check out this post. 
  • High intakes of sodium, caffeine, or protein cause an increase in the urinary excretion of calcium.
  • Certain types of dietary fiber like the fiber found in wheat and oat bran, may interfere with calcium absorption by decreasing transit time (the amount of time it takes for digested foods to move through the intestines), limiting the amount of time during digestion for calcium to be absorbed. Dietary fiber also stimulates the proliferation of "friendly" bacteria in the gut, which bind calcium and make it less available for absorption.
  • Phytic acid, found in whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes, can bind to calcium to form and insoluble complex, thereby decreasing the absorption of calcium.  To reduce phytic acid content in these foods, soak your grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes before consuming. 
  • Oxalic acid, found in spinach, beets, celery, pecans, peanuts, tea and cocoa, can bind to calcium and form an insoluble complex that is excreted in the feces. While research studies confirm the ability of phytic acid and oxalic acid in foods to lower availability of calcium, the decrease in available calcium is relatively small. 

Chickpeas pack 105 mg of calcium per cooked cup

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