Hot Salad [pair with protein of choice!]

I get a lot of requests for quick and easy healthy meals, so I thought I would share one of my favorite go-to recipes: Hot Salad.

What, you may ask, is a hot salad? Well it’s essentially my fancy term for a leafy-greentastic stir fry.

Stir fries are a hot commodity in my home. We will almost always have one stir fry in some form at all times, but I confess we sometimes run out because it’s just so darn tasty!

The beauty of Hot Salads are the copious varieties that you can come up with, plus you can customize it to fit your palate and budget. I love the harvest time of the year because we are inundated with such a lush collection of fresh vegetables, so making a fresh, local, organic Hot Salad is that much easier! We will usually utilize whatever vegetables we happen to have on hand, as long as they all seem to pair well together.

We always attempt to eat seasonally when at all possible, so the Hot Salad pictured to the right reflects this week’s selection of local vegetables:

Eggplant, Onion, Yellow Zucchini Squash, Red and Black Cherry Tomatoes, Tuscan Kale, and Swiss Chard – oh, and of course garlic, Himalayan salt, and pepper to taste.

Is your mouth-watering yet?

Feel free to use whatever vegetables that you like or that you have on hand, as long as you feel like the flavors will all be a good match!

I usually cook by intuition, which makes following (and writing) recipes a little tricky. But one of the many benefits of Hot Salad is how easy it is to make – simply chop up the vegetables of choice, throw them in a wok or deep saute pan, and cook away! The most important thing to remember when making Hot Salad is to put vegetables in the pan in the correct order – for instance, you would not want to start your Salad with your leafy greens (which will cook quickly) and end with your starchier or crunchier vegetables like yams or broccoli that take longer to cook.

My rule of thumb when cooking a Hot Salad is to assess what vegetables you will be using, and then order them from toughest/starchiest to lightest/non-starchiest. For example, with the vegetables used for this recipe, I started with onions (in my world, you ALWAYS start with onions) with a little organic extra virgin coconut oil over medium heat. Once the onions were slightly translucent, I then added the eggplant with a little Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids for flavor. I let that cook while I chopped and then added the yellow squash with a little  Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). You’ll notice as the Salad is cooking that as the harder veggies are softening, the newer, less-firm vegetables cook at a slightly quicker pace, and end up being cooked at relatively the same time as the first veggies you added.

Your leafy green vegetables will cook very quickly in comparison to your other vegetables, so I always throw them in right before the Salad is ready. In this case, I added the Tuscan Kale first (since it’s a little tougher than the chard), followed by the chard. If you’re cooking in a pan with a corresponding lid, I usually will pile my greens on top of the other veggies and cover for a couple of minutes to let them steam slightly; then I mix them in.

To top this Hot Salad off, I sliced my red and black cherry tomatoes in half, turned off the heat, and threw them in with the cooked vegetables, and let it all sit for a couple more minutes – enough time to let the tomatoes warm, but not enough that they would completely fall apart.
And voila! You have a delicious and nourishing meal that is easily paired with whatever protein you desire (as you can see, we may have been craving bacon when we made this last night).

Some other wonderful flavor options to enhance your Hot Salads are (but are not limited to) the following: curry powder, sage, rosemary, thyme, and basil. Play with your favorite spices and come up with your own unique and mouth-watering Hot Salad blends!

Frozen Non-Dairy "Ice Cream"

Who doesn’t like ice cream? I know that I happen to be one of those individuals who LOVES it! But even though I love it, I never feel super great after eating it – grogginess, fatigue, bloating, and “blah-ish” feelings tend to accompany my ice cream extravaganzas.

Does this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, even ice creams from quality sources tend to have an outrageous amount of sugar per serving – and let’s be honest, who is able to keep themselves from having more than one serving of a delicious ice cream treat? If you can, well then my hat goes off to you!

So what is one to do when you continually have cravings for your favorite frozen dessert, but you don’t want to eat all of that sugar? Well you make your own of course!

Amazingly, this recipe does not have dairy or any added sugar to it. Wait what? How is this possible for an ICE CREAM recipe? Well, let’s just say it’s not what you would call a “traditional” ice cream treat – but rather a healthy alternative that is easily customizable to accommodate your favorite flavor combos and – dare I say it – is even more delicious than its traditional counterpart (in my humble opinion).

Basic Recipe

For a great base recipe, all you need are some frozen green-tipped bananas. I usually will chop up and freeze several at a time to have some on hand for emergency cravings. You want to use green-tipped bananas because they have less sugar content compared with their more ripened stages, so if you’re going for less sugar, go for the green-tipped bananas.

This recipe is full of wonderful healthy fats, antioxidants, and blood sugar-regulating spices like cinnamon – not only will this recipe satisfy your ice cream craving, but it will also help regulate your blood sugar levels so that you can maintain an even blood sugar state (this will prevent you from experiencing the all too common sugar “high” and subsequent sugar “crash”).

Once you have your frozen bananas, you can let your creativity run wild – below is my favorite combination (at the moment), but feel free to include whatever flavors and tasty additions that strike your fancy!

Blue Banana Frozen Cream

·        1/2 green-tipped banana, frozen

·        1/4 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh (if in season)

·        1 spoonful almond butter or ~6 raw almonds

·        1 spoonful coconut butter (optional)

·        1 tsp. vanilla extract

·        1 tsp. or dash of cinnamon

·        1 cup full-fat coconut, hemp, or almond milk (add more or less depending on desired consistency)

Instructions: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy and smooth. Enjoy!

Urinary Tract Infection: What to do?

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are perhaps one of the most unfortunate ailments a woman can experience. Granted, there are any number of health issues that can be worse than a UTI, but in the moment when you are plagued by the awful cramping, urgency, and fire-piss you experience, you will give just about anything to make it go away.

So what is going on that makes a UTI so outrageously uncomfortable?

For starters, a UTI is inflammation of either your urethra (urethritis) or your bladder (cystitis) – these types of UTIs are often classified as Lower Urinary Tract Infections (LUTIs) because the infection resides in the lower portion of your urinary system. Sometimes, when an infection becomes worse, it can spread into your kidneys (nephritis), which can be a serious condition – one that you should immediately consult with your physician on for treatment.

A UTI can develop from any number of reasons but the most common reason is the introduction of a foreign bacteria. This happens more frequently in women rather than men because the opening to the urethra is so close to the anus, so bacteria can find its way to the urethra and begin to proliferate if unchecked. Furthermore, having oral sex and intercourse can also irritate the urethra and provide bacteria opportunities to cultivate the sensitive tissue – therefore practicing proper cleanliness is vital (i.e. peeing immediately after sex, washing yourself, wiping from front to back, etc.).

For the purposes of this post, I will be discussing some remedies that I have found helpful for LUTIs.

If you have never had a UTI before, your first occurrence can be unsettling. Common symptoms include:

·        Burning sensation upon urination

·        Lower back and abdominal pain and pressure

·        Chills or fever

·        Urgency (meaning you do not feel relieved after peeing – and when you try again, only small amounts of urine is released)

·        Dark, cloudy, or excessively strange/foul-smelling urine

·        Tiredness and feeling shaky

When I first notice symptoms (or potential symptoms), I immediately begin drinking a TON of water. You’ll feel like you have to urinate a lot, but that is what you want because you’re trying to flush the infection out.

Furthermore, I like to support my membranes by drinking demulcent teas (licorice root, marshmallow root, or slippery elm bark are my go-to teas). These herbs are mucilaginous, meaning that they help promote mucous production. This is helpful with a UTI because it helps coat the internal membranes of the urethra where the infection is attempting to attach itself and spread further. By drinking a demulcent tea, you can further help flush the infection from your body by making your membranes more slippery.

I am also partial to using tinctures, which I know some people don’t like because they are concentrated herbs extracted in alcohol. However, I find them very helpful because they make the herbs far more potent than when used in teas, plus they are easier to take than drinking a whole bunch of tea. I like to use Uva Ursi tincture when I first start noticing discomfort. Uva Ursi has particular chemical components that help bind the infectious compounds of UTIs and excrete them through urination. I warn you, it has a VERY strong flavor, as the herb itself is very bitter. However, it is far more pleasant taking a quick swig of tincture than drinking a full 16 oz of very bitter-tasting tea! I use a standard dosage when I take this tincture (3 droppers at a time). You can take this amount up to 3x/day as needed; although I have found that when I take just one or two doses when I first notice symptoms, the UTI doesn’t fully develop and goes away.

Apple cider vinegar is another excellent option for helping as a preventative against UTIs (amongst a number of other health benefits). You want to make sure you get RAW, UNFILTERED apple cider vinegar (I like to use Bragg’s) because the live culture does wonders for your overall health (and “apple cider” vinegars without the live culture are simply white vinegar with artificial colorings and flavors).

Unfortunately, these remedies don’t always work, and if you feel the infection has worsened to the point of severe discomfort, I would recommend doing a urine test and getting some antibiotics. I understand all too well that sometimes you simply can’t wait for them to take effect, especially in the case of a particularly painful UTI.  Sometimes the infection can be too painful or severe for these holistic remedies to quickly affect them; however it is my belief that given enough time and diligence, these herbs and protocols will make a significant difference for you.

Many blessings,

Sierra T, NTP

My Journey to Nutritional Therapy [unabriged]

Ever since a young age, I have been fascinated by the natural world. My childhood was spent on my family’s beautiful 5-acre country home where I roamed the creek beds and discovered new and exciting plants and wildlife in the grass and woodland undergrowth. Many a childhood fantasy game and adventure were experienced in this setting, and it ingrained in me an appreciation and reverence for all things Mother Nature – including homegrown organic foods.

Sadly my childhood was also punctuated with a range of health issues. At the young age of 4 years old during a very memorable Thanksgiving weekend, I may have overindulged in a certain dessert item *cough – whipped cream – cough* which resulted in a most unfortunate flare up of digestive distress – let’s just say, it was mighty unpleasant. I attribute this moment as my start of digestive health issues, although my parents assure me that I was a colicky baby who never quite seemed satisfied with mama’s milk or other dairy equivalents. My pediatrician announced I was lactose-intolerant, and my food items were promptly limited to non-dairy or lactose-free products such as margarine, lactaid and soy milks. In addition to the prompt evacuation that my bowels would experience upon consumption of dairy, I also suffered from mid-meal stomach aches and pains. These pains would sometimes hit me mid-bite, and I would have to run to the bathroom just in case I couldn’t settle my stomach. This resulted in me always having to be on the watch, especially when we would eat meals out. I got very good at listening to my body, and if I began feeling even the slightest hint of discomfort, I would stop eating my meal and would wait until returning home to finish it. As you can imagine, this created some anxious feelings regarding meal times for me, which perhaps in retrospect also contributed to my digestive distress.

However, I didn’t let these health issues deter me: in my young mind, I didn’t quite understand that these occurrences were not normal, and I simply assumed that I was just more sensitive than my family and friends, who didn’t have to worry about such things (to my knowledge). I continued to be an active child, if with a few setbacks and hiccups here and there when I would have a digestive flare up.

At 8 years old I began thinking about what I was eating – specifically animal products. I became inspired by some family friends who were vegan at the time, and I just thought that that was WAY TOO COOL – a down-to-earth diet with no animal slaughter? Sign me up! So I told my parents that I wanted to be a vegetarian (I couldn’t bring myself to give up the little bit of cheese that I could eat, or my scrambled eggs), and they said okay! My parents have always cooked wholesome meals that usually included a meat/protein dish, salad, and usually some sort of vegetable dish, so it was easy for them to add a tofu or alternative protein side-dish to our family meals. It was surprisingly easy for me to give up meat because I have always had a fondness and bond with all living creatures and I liked the idea of not having to participate in the deaths of my animal friends.

Granted, giving up meat did not result in new digestive health; rather, I continued my stagnate state of perpetual digestive upset.

As I grew into my pre-teen and teen years, I began feeling extremely fatigued and sluggish; I began gaining weight that my peers were not, and I was assaulted by excruciating lower abdominal cramps for a week each month during my menstruation. At 13 years old, my pediatrician made the astute assessment that my thyroid appeared to be enlarged; the subsequent blood tests confirmed his suspicion that I was Hypothyroid – and that I would have to take a medication of synthetic hormone for the rest of my life. As upsetting as this was at the time, it wasn’t altogether surprising since it runs in my family – however, most family members developed this condition in their 40’s, not their early teen years. If I knew then what I know now about the estrogen-mimicking properties of soy, I might have made the dietary connection to my health issues, but alas that was not to be.

So I continued my vegetarian lifestyle, relying far too heavily on soy and pho-meat products and continually dealing with digestive distress, although I didn’t have to make quite as many runs to the bathroom mid-meals as I had previously, thanks to probiotics and a relatively balanced vegetarian diet.

Despite my health concerns, I thrived in my teen years: I participated in my county’s Search & Rescue Youth Program where I furthered my knowledge about backpacking, wilderness first aid, map/compass techniques, and wilderness survival; I excelled in school where my teachers pushed me to my full capabilities and my friends surrounded me with outrageous activities filled with giggles and good times – all in all, a wonderful youth-to-adult growth experience.

It was in high school biology that I realized this was the topic of study for me. All of my passions for the mysteries of the natural world were slowly being unraveled as I delved deeper in the biological spectrum – with of course new mysteries being introduced. I loved it! Learning about evolution, the natural order of the world, and how intricate life and the human body is astounded me, and continues to do so today.

Long story short and after much deliberation, I ended up pursuing a Bachelors of Science pre-Med Biology degree from the University of Oregon with minors in Organic Chemistry and Latin American Studies. My Search & Rescue experience, as well as my dad’s participation in Ski Patrol and Fire Department Volunteer work, fueled my subconscious desire to help people heal. For most of college, I believed the best way to do this was to go to medical school to become a doctor – for surely as a doctor I would learn how to help heal individuals through the natural medicines provided by our Mother Earth, right? Yet, as I slowly learned more about what the modern medical field is like, I realized that it wasn’t the right path for me. I did not want to have to rely on Big Pharma, which primarily focuses on stopping the symptoms, while not necessarily healing the underlying cause of those symptoms. The main factor in this decision was my Senior Honor’s College thesis entitled, “Diet, Market Integration, and Chronic Inflammation in an Indigenous Amazonian Ecuadorian Population” (yes, I know it’s a mouthful). Through this project, as well as my interactions with my primary and secondary thesis advisers, I was introduced to the concepts of Weston A. Price and Frances Pottenger – two leading authorities on the importance of optimal nutrition to one’s health. Essentially, my thesis analyzed the health and dietary patterns of two Amazonian indigenous tribes, one with access to processed foods and the other, more remote group, with only limited access. I found that “foods of commerce” (i.e. processed food-like products) have not only caused increased inflammation in these Amazonians, but that they are most likely a significant contributor to the drastic increase in health concerns and maladies we’ve witnessed ever since their introduction to the world starting in the 1930’s.

And so I realized this was my passion: learning how to heal people through the foods they eat and the food preparations that they utilize – essentially cutting out the crap our modern food industries try to sell to us as “real-food” which, in reality, are sorely lacking in what is needed to properly nourish and fuel our bodies. Finding the knowledge to be able to do this, however, was another story.

Post-graduation I was blessed again with the opportunity to work closely with a family nurse practitioner, first as her medical office assistant and now as her Office Manager, where I have learned the intricacies of running a small-scale healthcare practice with a holistic focus and utilization of natural and alternative protocols to modern illness and diseases. In addition to my work at the clinic, during the first year after college I continued my nutritional investigations via blogs and scholarly articles about optimal foods and diets – and oh my goodness the information out there is vast and accompanied by many a contradiction! Still a vegetarian, I was convinced that food paradigms relying too heavily on meat and animal products were not the correct dietary regimens, and I attempted to try new methods of eating by tweaking the recommendations and using meat alternatives instead (again, mainly soy-based).

And then one day I was perusing one of my favorite blogs (shout out to Lauren at Empowered Sustenance!) and came across the certification of NTP. Not knowing what this stood for, I looked it up and came across the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), a vocational nutrition school focused on teaching students how to become Nutritional Therapy Practitioners through the study of holistic and traditional nutrition methods, heavily based on the findings of Weston A. Price and Frances Pottenger. And, as you can imagine, I was hooked! Nine months later, after cramming the equivalent of a two-year program into that time with almost 800 hours and 50+ hours hands-on clinical training, I became a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner – and my life has changed.

After being a vegetarian for just over 15 years, within the first month of the program, I began eating seafood – and oh what a glorious transition it was! I knew my body wasn’t getting the support it needed through my protein-alternatives, and it gave me a big resounding “YES! FEED ME THIS!” upon my first meal with fish – I subsequently craved seafood for the entire following week. 6 months later, I began eating meat – but not just any meat; I still do not believe or condone the cruelty occurring on factory farms, and I don’t believe eating meats produced by these atrocious methods should be consumed by any means! However, I do believe that eating grass-fed, pastured and humanly-raised animals and animal products is essential for optimal wellness – hence, the reintroduction of meat into my diet.

Although healing is an ever-constant action, I am happy to say that my digestive issues that plagued me throughout my youth and young adulthood have all-but disappeared. I am now probably one of the most regular individuals you will meet (I know, TMI), and I have very little, if any, menstrual distress anymore. I cannot attribute all of my healing to diet alone; optimal health is achieved by a healthy lifestyle and seeking out alternative modalities of healing too, not just making adjustments to your eating habits. Yet, I firmly believe that by sustaining yourself through your body’s nutritive roots and requirements, and recognizing that you are a bio-individual with unique needs and desires, that you can rediscover a new vitality and wellness that has perhaps eluded you up until now.

YOU DO NOT have to accept your health conditions as your “new normal”. Embrace your nutritive roots and discover how good you can feel!

In health,

Sierra T. NTP