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. These days, I'm in a new phase of life, and this website is no longer updated.

Want to stay up to date? Check out my new website www.constellationacu.com.

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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 Seasonal Foods (56)


We're back....it's the October SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal!

Sweet or Savory Kitchen CHallenge

Darling readers, it's been a long time since you've seen this logo, huh? The last time that my friend Ricki and I hosted a Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge was back in June. Remember? It was early summer and we paid honor to the noble blueberry. You created wonderful sweet and savory recipes featuring the blueberry and shared them for all to see. We were so pleased with the turn out!

And yet, despite our love for all your inspiring entries, Ricki and I decided to take a break through the summer to focus on our friends, our families, and our selves. In my case, this holiday from the blog turned out to be a significant blessing! With limited internet access, multiple housing changes, a broken laptop, and a very busy schedule of cooking demos and travel and food swaps, I've hardly been online all summer.

With the coming of Fall, I am happy to say things seem to be finding a place of balance. And thus, Ricki and I are excited to bring the SOS back to life! So, without further adieu...

Our featured ingredient this month has a humble history, but has recently joined the ranks of “super foods” like blueberries, spinach, and pumpkins. Their ravishing red color is  unmistakable and their sweet-tart flavor is unique and versatile. 

Any guesses yet? Okay, okay, we’ll tell you. Our featured ingredient this month is...

image from http://glyndk.blogspot.com/2009/09/land-of-cranberries.html


Basic Cranberry Information

Cranberries are related to blueberries, and grow in sandy bogs in cool climates of the Northern hemisphere. The short shrubby plants have long trailing vines, featuring evergreen leaves, distinctive pink flowers, and shiny plump berries. Unripe cranberry fruits are white and the fruits deepen to the characteristic red color as they ripen.

Native Americans used cranberries as food, medicine, and dye. Soon after they arrived, the European settlers  caught on to the versatility of cranberries and incorporated them in their meals. In fact, the early colonialists are responsible for the name cranberry, which derives from “crane berry” - the distinctive shape of the wiry stem and flower petals and stamen reminded them of the neck, head, and beak of a crane. American colonialists shipped plants to Europe in the early 1800s, where the cranberry quickly gained popularity throughout Great Britain and Scandinavia. 

Ricki and I are lucky, as we both live in cranberry country - cranberries are grown throughout southern Canada and in northern portions of the United States. In fact, my home state of Wisconsin leads the way in U.S. production, pushing out more than 50% of the crop!  As a native Wisconsinite, I take cranberry bogs for granted, as a drive through the countryside always revealed low-lying bogs dotted with shining red berries. I grew up eating fresh cranberries prepared a variety of ways in the fall, and my family often had bags of fresh cranberries in the freezer. But it doesn't stop there. My grandparents took my brother and I on a tour of the Ocean Spray cranberry plant in Tomah, Wisconsin, and I’ve visited the Cranberry Festival in Eagle River, Wisconsin more than once. What can I say, I’m a cranberry lover from the get-go!

image from http://www.thecamreport.com/images//CranberryHoW.jpg

How to Select and Store

Cranberries are in season from October through December, and can be found fresh at grocery stores and green markets. Frozen berries can be found all year round. Almost 95% of the cranberry crop is processed into juice, dried cranberries, and sauces, while the other 5% is sold raw. When selecting fresh, raw cranberries, look for firm fruits that are deep red and free of blemishes. Firmness is a key indicator, and ripe cranberries will actually bounce when you drop them. This has earned them the nickname “bounceberries”. 

Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or can be frozen for several years. If freezing them, rinse the berries then lay on a flat baking sheet or pan, and freeze. Then place in a freezer bag and seal tightly. Frozen cranberries can be used as-is in recipes; there is no need to thaw. Cranberry juice should be stored in the refrigerator or frozen for later use. Dried cranberries will keep for 6-12 months if well-sealed.

Culinary and Nutrition Benefits

The fruits are incredibly versatile; thanks to their sweet-tart flavor they can be used for a variety of sweet or savory applications. They can be used for sauces, chutneys, relishes, smoothies, and in baked goods and other desserts. Dried cranberries are an excellent addition to breads and muffins, granola or meusli, or as a snack on their own. For a savory option, try adding to stuffings, salsas, salad dressings, salads, or for adding a tart flavor element to soups or stews. Cranberry juice can be used to make everything from agar agar molds to punches to flavorful apple cider blends. Ricki and I have both enjoyed using cranberries on our blog. Check out Ricki’s Stevia-Sweetened Dried Cranberries or my Stevia-Sweetened Apple-Cranberry Sauce

In addition to amazing culinary variety, cranberries pack a lot of nutrition in a small package. They are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and dietary fiber. Additionally, they contain powerful phytonutrients that may help support the cardiovascular system, immune system, and may even reduce the risk of cancer. Cranberries also contain compounds that may help prevent and eliminate bacterial infections of the urinary system, particularly in cases of urinary tract infections. Cranberry pills or unsweetened cranberry juice are often suggested to people and animals struggling with UTIs!

What an amazing fruit, huh? Ricki and I think these little red berries pack an admirably powerful punch. 

image from http://www.plantcare.com/oldSite/httpdocs/images/namedImages/Cranberry.jpg

How to Participate in the SOS

To participate, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Cook up a sweet or savory recipe--whether yours or someone else's with credit to them--using cranberries. 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.

For all the details (and to view past challenges), check out the SOS Kitchen Challenge page.

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. 

Deadline for submission is Monday, October 31, 2011.


Ricki and I look forward to seeing what you do with cranberries this month. It’s good to be back!

October 2011 SOS Kitchen Challenge: Cranberries


How to Can Tomato-Free Peach Salsa 


This recipe is adapted from the Ball® Complete Book of Home Preservation. I love this book! I have been canning a lot lately - rather obsessively, actually - and it has been a pleasure to work my way through its pages. 

This time of year is always marked by a bevy of stone fruit, and this recipe is a great way to preserve some of it for for another season. I like this recipe a lot because it has all the yumminess of salsa without tomatoes. As a tomato-avoiding person, I was darn excited to see this. I have made the recipe twice, and each time it has turned out great.  The first time I prepared it as written in the book, and the second time I prepared it with a few tweaks of my own and doubled the recipe. I have a lot of peach salsa in my canning cupboard right now, it's kind of ridiculous.

I know it is delicious because one of my jars was a dud and it didn't seal properly, so I had to eat it up. And boy, is it good! Whether you avoid tomatoes or not, I think you'll love it. The salsa is also very good fresh, so feel free to reserve some to eat right away and can the rest. 


Click to read more ...


Low-Sugar Gingery Plum-Apple Jam (cane sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan)

Gingery Apple Plum Jam

While reading through the Ball® Complete Book of Home Preservation recently, I came upon a variety of pectin-free jam recipes. Instead of pectin for thickening, these recipes used homemade applesauce made from whole, uncored, unpeeled apples and whole unpeeled lemons. The high amount of natural pectin in these two fruits thickens the jam naturally. Additionally, using the homemade applesauce as a base helps to extend your other fruit - be it plums, cherries, berries, peaches, or the like - much further, allowing you to make more jam with less of this other fruit. I was totally intrigued, and liked the idea of not needing pectin to thicken the jam. Sure, I love my Pamona's Pectin dearly, but wouldn't it be nice to take a break?

The recipes looked easy to adapt to include unrefined sweetener instead of cane sugar, and I had all the ingredients on hand. So, I whipped up a batch of jam with apples, plums and a bit of ginger, sweetened with agave nectar. It turned out marvelously. The jam is soft and spreadable, but still thick enough to mound on the end of a spoon. The color is fantastic, and the flavor is sweet and bright. I knew immediately I had to share it with you!

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Minted Papaya Avocado Salad (gluten-free, vegan, raw)

Minted Papaya Avocado Salad

It is so hot in Minneapolis. We have a heat index of 115º F and a dewpoint that is higher than the Amazon. I'm not kidding. Our dewpoint was 86 on Sunday. The only other place in the Western Hemisphere with a dewpoint over 80 at the time was the Amazon, and that was in the low 80s. Take that, Brazil, ha!

Why do I live in a place that tortures residents with windchills of -30º F in the winter and then does this in the summer? Am I insane?

To add insult to injury, the power went out on my street last night. I was out picking up an air conditioner from my friend, and returned home about 10:30 pm to find my block powerless. So, I left the air conditioner in my car, and I spent the evening sweating my brains out. The air was still, heavy, and hot, and had it not been 11:30 by the time I was ready to get to bed, I would have sought refuge at someone else's house! It was awful. I kept waking through the night, only to find myself drenched in sweat and feeling faint. At 5 am I gave up, took another shower, gathered my stuff, and went to work, which is where I sit now, basking in the air conditioning. The power on my street may not be fixed until 6 pm tonight, and I'm imagining that all the food in my fridge is going bad as I write this. Ugh. Being without electricity is fine when you are living in a situation that doesn't require it, like when you're camping or at a cabin. But when everything you need to live your daily life is dependent on electricity, it sure is a pain to not have it.

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Maple-Sweetened Blueberry Rhubarb Jam (gluten-free, vegan, cane sugar-free)


I love making low-sugar jams that with unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, evaporated palm sugar, or coconut sugar. These low-sugar jams aren't at all hard to make, thanks to the thickening power of pectin. There are a few brands of pectin available, and you can even make your own out of apple scraps, but I always go for Pamona's Pectin. Eventually I'll try making my own pectin, but right now the cheery blue box of Pamona's is a reliable and easy choice.

Pamona's Pectin can be a little tricky to find in stores. In the Twin Cities area, I know for sure that the Wedge Community Co-op and Whole Foods both carry it (the price is better at Whole Foods). I would recommend calling your local co-ops or natural foods stores to see if they have it before making the trip. If they don't stock it, they may be able to order it for you, so be sure to ask. And if you can't find at any of your local grocers, you can find it online very easily, either by the box or in bulk. I'd love to order a bulk bag of it, since it is much cheaper and pectin lasts forever. Every box of Pamona's has very detailed instructions and basic recipe frameworks, so if you've never canned before, they make it very easy to start.

I'm on a bit of a canning kick this summer and had a bevy of blueberries and rhubarb, so I thought it a good idea to combine them and make a delightful jam. I chose maple syrup for the sweetener, thinking that it would play very well with the blueberries, almost reminiscent of pancakes. For a little twist, I added freshly grated ginger, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.

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