To Naturopathic Medicine…and beyond!

Yesterday was a big day. For me. And sometimes we need those days…just for ourselves. Even if you have kids. Make time.

As we all grow and learn, sometimes changing things about ourselves for the better can be difficult. I am judgmental of others and have looked deep within myself lately to answer “why”. Sometimes I judge others because of something that I fear about myself. And these are usually superficial things I judge. I have been trying to look inward to see how I might let the need for me to do this fall away. When I judge others’ for flaws that I don’t carry, however, I now try to think to myself, “I am not that person, I don’t know what it is like to be them, what they have been through in life, etc.” But I still also think, “Why aren’t they trying to be the best them they can be?” This is where I usually judge. So, I have made a decision to work hard to step back and really embrace people for who they are, for their struggles AND successes! And, if approached by someone to help them deal with these flaws through eating more healthfully, I can use my own strengths and weaknesses to relate to them, work with them and support them to find their best selves. Bottom line is, I am aware of it, and I am working on it. I am learning to EMBRACE people for who they are, find the goodness in them and in doing so, I hope to be a better friend, partner, family member, community member and health coach. The following really resonated with me and it’s WORTH THE READ:

From Deepak Chopra, MD:  “The Hidden Side of Judgment”

Not every person gets to the point in their life when they question the value of judging against others. After all, society depends upon a healthy regard for the difference between right and wrong. Many people, perhaps the vast majority, are content with a system where rules are meant to be obeyed, lawbreakers are punished, and so on. But the mechanism of justice is not the whole of life. When I was young, I was struck by a passing remark from the lips of a spiritual teacher: ‘Where love is not, there must be laws.’

At a certain point, a new and different kind of view begins to oppose our certainty that we have a right to judge others. Insight begins to dawn. It’s not the same insight for everyone, yet I’d guess that something like the following begins to make sense:

Judge not lest you be judged.

We condemn in others what we are afraid to see in ourselves.

Blame is the projection of guilt.

Us-versus-them thinking is destructive to both sides of the equation.

How would you label such thoughts? If you are a rigid adherent to “an eye for an eye,” these insights are corrosive; they must be rejected to keep your black-and-white moral code intact. But there’s a reason, despite the intricacies and cruelties of the system of law, why the spiritual side of our nature is attracted to non-judgment. We want to love and be loved. At a deeper level, we realize that all suffering is ultimately related to self-judgment. Seeing yourself as fallen from grace, you feel justified in treating everyone else as fallen, to one degree or another.

Yet at a certain, highly unpredictable point, the urge arises to move beyond self-judgment, and when that urge arises, the need to judge others begins to decrease. There is an evolutionary impulse in everyone, or so the world’s wisdom traditions teach us. We believe in our higher or better selves. We want to reconnect with the soul. The selfish demands of the ego wear us down and begin to seem pointless. Whatever the trigger, moving beyond judgment is evolutionary. A breakthrough is possible, after which a path opens up.

Walking this path transforms the entire person, over a period of time, and leads to many stages of realization. At one stage you may want to rebel against rules and authority. That can be a satisfying stance, but eventually it is seen as untenable. At another stage you may feel humbled and therefore more judgmental against yourself than ever before. That, too, is just a stage. Ahead are various roles we attempt to play—martyr, saint, ascetic, child of God, child of Nature, etc. It would be too ironic to judge against any of these steps in personal growth; they are convincing while they last and rather empty once they are finished. Whatever the way stations that you experience on the path, the goal isn’t the role you play; it’s fulfillment within yourself.

Fulfillment is all-inclusive, which is why it is often labeled as unity consciousness. You exclude nothing from your being; there is a common thread running through you and everyone else. At that point, when empathy is effortless, you have succeeded in something that is at once very desirable and very rare. You have transcended the war between good and evil, light and darkness. Only in that state does the war end, and the perplexing issues around judgment are solved at last. Short of complete fulfillment within yourself, you cannot help but participate in duality, because the entire play of right and wrong, good and bad, light and darkness, depends upon self-division. Your ego will persist until the very end in labeling A as good and B as bad, for the simple reason that duality requires choices. As long as you prefer one thing over another, a mechanism will sneak in that says, ‘If I like it, it must be good. If I don’t like it, it must be bad.’

Fortunately, even as the game of judgment keeps society running smoothly, constantly dictating our likes and dislikes, our loves and hates, human beings are born to transcend. We can go beyond the setup of society, the ego and judgment itself. In that innate capacity for seeking the higher self, every hope and promise offered by the world’s great spiritual teachers rests.”

I am writing this in response to my own reflection on yesterday, the big ME day. We all need a me day, and should not feel bad for taking one. I went to visit my dear friend Maureen in Sepastopol, stopping off in Petaluma to purchase seeds from The Seed Bank, (what an amazing place), then lunch at a scrumptious Indian/Mexican fusion restaurant where we shared a spinach salad with feta, tomatoes and veggie curry on top, followed by a seasonal special: fresh crab and pumpkin enchiladas – a warming and hearty dish. So tasty and an interesting combo.

Looks like a regular ol’ bank, eh? LOOK CLOSER! Heirloom seeds galore!

So many optons. I am not a huge melon fan, but man…so many melon varietals! We got such amazing items as bulls blood beets, watermelon radish and the bitter lettuces…FUN!

Pumpkin and crab enchiladas – a lada it.

That afternoon, my friend Maureen had to work (she is an Ayurvedic Practitioner at The Dhyana Center in Sebastopol (more on that later)) so I went for a little drive out to Bodega Bay, watched as the thick fog stood in front of me as I meandered amongst some of the west coasts’ most beautiful farmland and made my way back inland after some quiet time in the fog.

Hanging with Mr. Seagull

The Dhyana Center is wonderful; a safe place to visit for Ayurvedic healing and other health sciences. Maureen referred me to a clinic session that evening, and offered a treatment session for massage with all kinds of intense goodness. Cupping, hot rocks, gua sha’s, etc. I didn’t know much about these tools or techniques prior to the session, but with numbness happening off and on on my left side and with everything that I have been learning in school, I was excited to learn more…and it makes sense to me. Read MORE ABOUT MAUREEN! And yes, she is really IS just as happy as she appears in her photo.   : )

The morning view from Maureen’s room. It’s hard to wake up on the wrong side of the bed when you wake up to a view like this…

Needless to say, I didn’t really mean to book myself solid for so many healing sessions in one 24 hour period, but my day proceeded as follows:

  • Acupuncture at the Berkeley Acupuncture Project (a favorite spot…and so affordable!)
  • Appointment with my Primary Care Physician in Oakland to ask why I have been feeling crazy and tired in the morning after 8 hours of sleep, but awake in the evening after a long day filled with activity. Question: Why do I feel this way and what can I do to help it? Answer: Just get a bit more exercise. I feel for MD’s. They don’t have a lot of time to meet with each patient. It’s just not the model, I suppose. And I wanted to compare these two caregivers…
  • First appointment with Dr. Sara Knuth, 2 & 1/2 hours later she addressed me with, “So I think this is what is going on with you: adrenal fatigue. And I have some great tools to give you to try out…”  Your adrenals glands, above your kidneys, are chiefly responsible for releasing hormones in response to stress through the synthesis of corticosteroids such as cortisol (your stress hormone) and catecholamines such as epinephrine. Mine are apparently a bit tired and overworked. AS for Dr. Knuth, she was great. I felt listened too, and it was a great example of how a caregiver should mediate a conversation with a patient or client. I also highly recommend my deeply respected colleague Dr. Jennifer Strider (who has helped continuously with my care) of Simple Family Health, for all of you East Bay residents, and Dr. Elspeth Seddig or Dr. Laura Figoski if you live in San Francisco.
  • Time for bed, and to wake up to a new awareness of my gifts, my strengths and successes, weaknesses and failures, that will help me to be the best me, who can hopefully help many new you’s be the best you’s in the future through Embrace Health & Nutrition.

We are all works in progress, and we should be glad for this freedom to grow and evolve. EMBRACE THE MOST EMBRACEABLE YOU!

An Unexpected Combo

We all know that one of the greatest sweet and savory combo’s is that perfect salty smokey flavor and smell of bacon with the sweet, significant, but subtle maple syrup. There are bacon maple cupcakes, ice cream, chocolate bars (now THAT’s a sweet tooth) and so many other creations.

I was craving a warming, sweet and savory something, a dip to be exact, to bring to a friends’ house for a potluck. My friend Tara was bringing  Zachary’s pizza (even though I can’t eat the crust anymore, that stomach ache from all that cheese is DEFINITELY worth it for Zachary’s deep dish), Meg was bringing salad (and she’s a pro at the salad) and Molls, chips and guac (ALWAYS a good choice). I had some garnet yams in the produce bowl at home. What to do, what to do…

I have been obsessed with goat cheese lately (and goat milk butter – but that’s a whole other blog posting). I looked up some recipes for a sweet potato goat cheese spread or dip. I found some good contenders, but decided to make up my own concoction. The portions in this recipe don’t really matter – it’s as indulgent and cheesy or sweet as you want to make it.

What to throw in:

  • Two large garnet yams
  • One large log of goat cheese from Whole Foods (just their generic brand, I think it was around $3; we are trying to really watch the budget these days)
  • Pepitas (the pumpkin seedlings that are a light greenish color)
  • 1 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp maple honey
  • Pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Puttin’ it together:

Preheat over to 325 degrees. To start, cut up yams into 1 inch cubes (skins left ON) and toss in 1 tbsp of the olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Next, roast yam cubes on a non-stick cookie sheet for about 15 minute or until soft enough to mash.  Next toss pepitas in remaining olive oil, salt and pepper for just under 5 minutes. Take out of over and let cool. Set aside.

Take out the yams, put into a bowl or blender, whichever is easier for you to mash them with, and mash until very smooth, like mashed potatoes. Spread into a casserole or dip dish (this will be your first layer of the dip).

Next take the cheese and, with a fork, start to crumble as much goat cheese as you wish over the mashed yams. I covered the yams, but could still see a bit of the orange peaking through. It depends on your taste.

Ready to chow

Depending on where you are going or if you are serving this at home, it should be warmed up RIGHT before serving, so plan on having an oven available. Warm up in a low temp oven (300 degrees) for 5-10 minutes, checking to see if it’s warm enough for your taste. Take out, sprinkle with pepitas. I served it up with Totopos, maca quinoa corn chips, from Casa Sanchez – my favorite chips in the entire universe.

The greatest chip of all time

Clearly no one liked it…

Now for a few tid-bits on why this is a fun alternative to your store bought dips and spreads:

Garnet yams, with skins on (the best part, where all the nutrients from the soil have been leftover and the garnet’s themselves are a great sweet without being refined and a great source of beta-carotene, found in our orange produce; squashes, carrots, etc.

Goat milk products are great alternatives for cow milk cheese and butter if you can’t do the dairy, like me. They have shorter chain fat molecules which are easier for humans, in general, to digest. Many people don’t realize they are not ALLERGIC to milk, but are intolerance of its properties. And it’s hard to give up for anyone.  ; )  There are so many fun herbal flavors, such as those from Cypress Grove in Arcata, CA. I have also heard that this place is legit, just up from the Bay Area in Bodega Bay: Worth the visit!

I have to admit I am not a huge fan of pepitas and the way they taste raw, although they are really good for you (and good when roasted). In addition to their anti-imflammatory benefits found for arthritis patients, they are a great source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and are a solid source of iron, copper, protein and zinc. Throw a quarter of a cup into a salad, or roast them lightly like I did for this recipe). To read about even more fascinating health benefits from pepitas, visit:


Holy Soaked, Sprouted and Dehydrated Buckwheat, Batman!

The above is a pop culture reference. I know, I know. You shouldn’t even attempt a joke if you have to explain it. But this headline popped into my head, so I had to use it because it was so absurd and way too long. Just go with it, people.  :)

I recently embarked on a seemingly laborious task recently: making buckwheat flour from scratch (the scratchiest of scratch), and then making the most EPIC buckwheat pancakes imaginable. Who knew it would take a few weeks.

The story began around my birthday (January 8th). We went down to Carmel Valley with a few friends, and all I wanted to do for the big 3-0 was cook ridiculously scrumptious food. I had the idea to make buckwheat pancakes from scratch, or getting raw buckwheat groats, soak them, sprout them, dehydrate them and then grind them up into flour (using the VitaMix, for the right consistency). This was a task that wasn’t so much laborious as it was time consuming. I went into soaking the groats thinking I could get all of this done in a day, but without a dehydrator, like the one’s found here that all of my vegan friends say are the top of the line:, there wasn’t enough time or experience. And the real questions are: why soak? Why sprout? Why dehydrate? To make the flour, I had to dehydrate. But sprouting essentially wakes up a dormant seed that you are getting ready to consume, making it easier to digest and absorb. According to our friends at The Nourishing Gourment, taking advice from Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions (an amazing cookbook and reference guide) it makes sense to eat grains, legumes, seeds, etc., that have been sprouted because this brings them back to life, for one, and because there are coatings that can be released from encasing some grains that inhibit proper absorption of the nutrients you are expecting to get from those foods in the first place…and soaking them before sprouting releases these inhibitors. Phytic acid, or example, keeps the body from absorbing some essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and zinc, two of the most important. Sprouting can also produce more vitamins and minerals in the seed, packing that particular grain, seed or legume with more of a nutritional punch. How can you go wrong?

This leads me to the fundamentals of taking this project on. I soaked my buckwheat groats overnight, in the fridge (I think ideally you leave them out,at room temp, covered with cheesecloth or something of the sort) and submerged in water. Then I put them into a very fine meshed colander to dry out and help the oozy, mucosa (sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?) drain out. As this was an experiment, I didn’t realize that buckwheat had such a think substance that was released through soaking, so I drained it with water a couple of times, running my hands through the grains with water running to get most of this substance loose and draining. Then I left the buckwheat in the fridge overnight and it sprouted very quickly. Ideally, they should be left in a jar, or a similar container, to germinate at room temperature. Check them often, as you should use them for cooking JUST as they start to sprout (or sprout them all the way FOR sprouts, for a salad or sandwich!)

The groats close up, with the sprouts showing quite nicely. It’s ALIVE! And healthful

The sprouted groats, not as yellow as they seem in this photo. Pre-dehydration.

Next, after spreading the groats out on a non-stick baking sheet, I set my oven to the lowest temperature it would go to: 170 degrees (again, I am without an Excalibur at the moment). True raw foodists, who do a LOT of soaking, sprouting and dehydrating, won’t go above 118 degrees and stay within the range of 104 and 114 degree usually (for more detailed information, check out this reference site. VERY informational: Cafe Gratitude-style food prep! I doused the sprouts in about 2 tbsp of cinnamon before dehydration, coating the groats, and dehydrated the groats for what seemed like about 5-7 hours. My husband and I were in the house all morning, so it wasn’t a problem, but you can see why a dehydrator can be a really useful tool. You don’t have to watch it, and you can leave it unattended overnight or throughout the day, just like a rice cooker. Just ensure that your machine is in a well ventilated spot on the kitchen counter.

5-7 hours later, after checking to make sure there was less and and less moisture surrounding the groats (I would check them every hour or so), I took them out, let them cool for about 30 minutes and tossed them into the VitaMix. After a quick minute on speed levels 6-9 in the VitaMix, I had BEAUTIFUL fresh buckwheat flour, perfectly ground. It was a REALLY wonderful feeling to see how smooth and fine it turned out.

On the grind…and half way done!

Finished and lookin’ fine!

Use some now and save some for later. Looks just like store bought – but without fillers of other flours and from sprouted grain!

So, you may be saying that this just looks like a ridiculous project. Let me challenge you to think back to your first history class, where we were learning about people living on the prairie, or farmer’s working the fields hundred of years ago…thousands of years ago. The native’s of this country; they respected the bounty of the land and got as much out of it that they NEEDED, not that we WANTED or DESIRED or thought they deserved. This is old school, folks. One recipe for grinding your own flour also suggested used a grinder, a hand mill, which can take a really long time and grinds in very small quantities. THIS was even less time intensive than it could have been…and was a wonderful lesson in what goes in to making food products, and processed food, even at the most basic level.

Carrying on…now it was time to showcase the flour and test it out. I found what will now be a staple breakfast recipe in my household, and one that you could easily turn into a savory recipe, that tasted MUCH like a particular 9 grain skillet pancake that my husband and I enjoyed at the famous Big Sur Bakery down HWY 1. I definitely recommend making a trip down to Big Sur not only for the camping, hiking and views, but for this gem of a spot for the pancake. And be sure to share it with at least one other person.  : ) My recipe, adapted from Ester Perez at Thank you Ester! What an amazing recipe:

Buckwheat Pancakes (Gluten Free & Vegan)

  • 1 1/2 cups of water (next time I am going to try half of this water and half almond milk, just to make it creamier)
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1  cup of our homemade buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 heavy dashes of each: cinnamon, fresh ground nutmeg and cardamom
  • pinch of Himalayan Salt (I use larger pink chunks that I have in a salt grinder)
  • 2 tbsp raw honey, melted on VERY low temperature on the stove top, slowly
  • 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I love Bragg’s)
  • 3 Tablespoons of unrefined, raw coconut oil, melted with the honey)
  • Goat butter (SO delicious) or raw butter
  • Coconut nectar or Grade B Maple Syrup


  • Heat griddle or cast iron skillet on medium heat.
  • Put chia seeds in water, mix and set aside for 3-5 minutes (photo below)
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, spices, salt and baking soda.
  • Stir chia seed and water mixture and add to flour mixture.  Add honey, oil and vinegar.  Stir well with a fork and taste for flavoring.  You may want to add more spices.  Batter should be on the thinner side. (photo below)
  • Use a ladle to pour the pancake batter onto the griddle.  When bubbles cover pancake, flip over gently but quickly.  It is about 10-15 seconds per side on medium heat.  Pancakes will be medium brown when ready, but don’t overcook (photo below).
  • I like to serve these with maple syrup and the goat butter – it adds a really nice tang. (photo below)

The chia’s soaking. Ch-ch-ch-chia!

Readying the batter, and some of our ingredients.

See the bubbles? The more they rapidly pop as they surface, the more ready the pancake is to flip. We used a non-stick pan, but the use of your cast iron skillet would make it even tastier.

They came out a bit dark, from having the pan heated a bit too hot, but you can play with the temperature to see what works best for your taste. The slower and not as hot the better, though!

Our friend Tim came over to test them out, and with my husband’s famous slow cooked, soft scrambled eggs (THE best ever) served on the side, it turned into a wonderful breakfast for him. He seemed very happy with the texture and the taste.I was also thinking they could be manipulated into a savory pancake recipe, as well. Cutting out the coconut oil and using extra virgin olive oil, and cutting out the honey might work to prep the recipe for other ingredients. For example, you could put some cheese in there, some fresh herbs and spices, chives and sour cream (if you aren’t vegan) or a savory cashew cream topping. Perhaps some grated sweet potato or zucchini? You could also turn this into a great latke recipe. Just some food for thought!  :)