As day length decreases in the winter months, people may find themselves suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  This syndrome shares many of the same characteristics of clinical depression but is only present during the fall and winter (note: some people have a type of seasonal depression that is only associated with the spring and summer.)  This disorder is more common in the northern latitudes because the day length is shorter.  It is thought that the reduced sun exposure decreases serotonin production in sensitive people.  Common symptoms are lethargy, increased appetite, depression, excess sleep and antisocial feelings.  It is likely that people with jobs that keep them indoors during the day have greater risk.  Cloudy or rainy days that decrease sunlight exposure may also increase the frequency of this disorder.

If you think you are suffering from SAD you should consult you doctor for treatment. There are lots of things you can do to prevent and treat this disorder.  Increasing your exposure to available light by getting outside during the day is very helpful (be sure to wear sunscreen).  Using broad-spectrum lights that mimic the sun’s light may also provide benefit.  Exercise, especially aerobic exercise improves the mood for hours or days afterward.  It is also very important to eat enough protein so that your body has the building blocks to make enough serotonin.  Foods high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, are especially helpful.

If these simple tips aren’t enough be sure to seek medical attention.  Untreated depression causes needless suffering for many people.  A trained naturopathic doctor can use herbs, vitamins, amino acids, homeopathy or medications to help bring you back into balance.

Turkey and Rice Stew

warming winter soups for comfort and health, recipes by Dara Thompson N.D.

Are you wondering what to do with that leftover turkey?  This nourishing one pot meal will warm your belly and heart.  The trick to a tasty home made stew is to include the skin and bones when making the stock; they contain all of the flavor.  If you are on a low carbohydrate diet, just leave out the rice.

–       8 cups of water or soup stock

–       4-5 lb. of leftover turkey; include any skin, bones and ripping you have leftover 

–       1 bay leaf

–       2 strips of wakame seaweed

–       1 t. sea salt (you may need to decrease this amount if you are using a salted stock)

–       2 cups of diced carrots into bite sized pieces

–       2 cups of diced celery into bite sized pieces

–       1 cup of  finely chopped onions

–       ½ cup of brown rice, soaked overnight and rinsed well (or try millet or quinoa)

–       1 t. dried sage, thyme or rosemary (these may be used singly or in combination)

Place the turkey, water, bay leaf and seaweed and salt into a large heavy bottomed pot or crock-pot.  If you are using a large turkey carcass it may not be fully covered by the water.  That is fine; it will cook in the steam as long as your lid is tight. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Covered the pot and cook the meat over low heat for ~ 3 hours on the stove or overnight  in the crock-pot. Remove the turkey from the stock with a slotted spoon and allow it to cool to room temperature. Discard the bay leaf. The seaweed should be dissolved into the stock by now but if any pieces remain, dice them and return them to the stock. When the turkey has cooled, remove the meat from the skin and bones.  Dice the meat and add it back to the stock.  Bring the stock and meat back to a boil and add the rice, onions and celery and dried herbs. Reduce the stew to a simmer and cook it for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for ~20 minutes more.  If too much of the water remains you may want to boil the stew uncovered for the last 20 minutes.  The carrots and rice will be soft when it is done.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve. This stew freezes well.

Note: Feel free to add more vegetables such as chard, peas or zuchinni

Millet Mash with Sage

cruciferous cauliflower masquerades as mashed potatoes - recipes by Dara Thompson N.D.

This is a great mashed potato substitute for people who are sensitive to nightshades.  Cauliflower and millet are bland so they take on the flavor of anything that they are cooked with.  Try this mash with gravy, an herbal pesto or just melted butter.

–       1 medium sized head of cauliflower

–       2 sprigs of fresh sage (other fresh herbs such as rosemary may be used if desired.)

–       1 cup of millet soaked 8 hours, rinsed and drained

–       ½ t. sea salt

–       2 T. olive oil, or butter

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Break the cauliflower into small florets and chop the stem.  Add cauliflower sage and salt to the boiling water and allow it to return to a boil.  Add the millet.  Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer covered for 30 -40 minutes. The dish is done when the millet is soft and the cauliflower breaks apart easily with a fork.  Remove the sage sprigs and add the butter.  Mash the mixture with a potato masher or hand mixer until creamy, adding more water or milk if neccesary.  Be sure to serve the mash while it is warm because it becomes very firm as it cools.

For the best flavor in your holiday recipes it pays to use a little fat.  Oils improve the flavor and texture of foods.  They also improve satiety, the feeling of satisfaction and fullness.  This prevents us from overeating and makes high quality, organic oils a healthy addition to the holiday table.

Dairy free ice cream recipe by Dara Thompson, Naturopathic Doctor

Ginger-Vanilla Ice Cream

Coconut milk is an excellent substitute for cow’s milk in ice cream and other frozen desserts.  Coconut is high in saturated fat, but over 60% of it is medium chain triglycerides.  This easy to digest oil has long been used to correct malnutrition.  Because coconut has a naturally sweet flavor, very little additional sweetener is required.

–       2 cans (~3 cups) of organic, unsweetened coconut milk (not lite!)*

–       2 tablespoons of raw, organic honey**

–       2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

–       ¼ teaspoon of sea salt

–       ½ cup of candied ginger, minced (This is for ginger lovers!  Feel free to use less.)

–       ½  cup of chopped, toasted macadamia nuts or other unsalted nuts (optional)

Place the coconut milk, honey, vanilla, and salt in a blender and process for ~ 30 seconds until the mixture is well blended.  Place the liquid in an ice cream maker and process it until it is starting to freeze but is still soft.  Add the nuts and ginger and continue to process until done.  If you do not own an ice cream maker you can freeze the coconut milk mixture in popsicle molds.

*  I like Native Forest brand because their cans are BPA free.

** Do not serve raw honey to children under the one year of age.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Thyme a recipe by Dara Thompson, Naturopathic Doctor

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Thyme

This is a variation on the classic recipe “Green Beans Almondine”.  The preparation also works well with brussel sprouts or broccoli.  If you don’t eat butter you may substitute olive oil and a pinch of salt.

–       2 cups of green beans cut into 2 inch pieces

–       ½ cup of hazelnuts chopped

–       1 teaspoons of fresh or ½ teaspoon of dried thyme.

–       2 tablespoons of organic butter

–       Add salt and pepper to taste

Steam the green beans for~ 10 minutes, until they are tender.  While the green beans are cooking melt the butter in a medium sized sauté pan.  Add the hazelnuts and sauté them over medium heat until they are golden brown ~ 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the thyme and remove the butter mixture from the heat.  Add the green beans and mix well.  Serve this dish warm.

The winter holidays bring a multitude of social events and time with friends and family.  Unfortunately they can also be stressful and physically taxing.  Use the simple tips listed below to keep yourself healthy while still enjoying this time of celebration.

1)   Get enough sleep.  With all of the parties, extra food preparation and shopping, sleep can end up on the back burner.  Don’t compromise; the restorative properties of sleep cannot be replaced.  It is fine to stay up late for a special occasion, but get to bed as early as possible on the other days.

2)   Minimize your sugar consumption.  During the holidays candy and other sweets can become a permanent fixture.  It O.K. to indulge, but eating candy constantly will lead to weight gain and lowered immunity.  Instead try a conscious splurge.  Pick you favorite holiday treat and eat it with abandon, savoring every bite.  Just don’t do it too often!

3)   Stay hydrated.  As we rush from event to event it is easy to forget to drink water.  This is even more important when drinking alcohol and coffee.  Since these beverages can be dehydrating you need to drink more water compensate.

4)   Choose high quality ingredients.  By making your holiday dishes with organic, wholesome ingredients you can enjoy a delicious meal and feel great the next day.  Over the next 3 weeks the Solutions Naturopathic Care blog will be focusing on healthy holiday recipes.  There is no need to be deprived.  Learn how to make your favorite dishes without any wheat, dairy or refined sugar.

 Shitake mushrooms support the immune system says Dara Thompson A naturopathic Doctor in Hilo, Hawaii

Shitake Mushroom Gravy

Savory shitake mushrooms are rich in immune stimulating polysaccharides.  Maitake mushrooms may also be used.  Components in these mushrooms have been shown to stimulate white blood cell activity.  Be sure to use the soaking liquid. It contains most of the medicine and the flavor.

–       ¼ c. dried shitake mushrooms soaked for at least two hours in ½ c. hot water

–       ½ c. each minced onions and celery

–       4 fresh sage leaves or 1 t. dried sage

–       1 sprig of thyme leaves or ½ t. dried thyme

–       1 T. coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee

–       1-2 t. Bragg Liquid Aminos (if you are very sensitive to soy, use ¼ – ½ t. salt instead)

–       2 c. “milk”; you may use any unsweetened milk or milk substitute.  I think that homemade cashew milk and store bought unsweetened oat milk have the best texture

–       1 T. arrowroot starch dissolved in 2 T. water

Remove the shitakes from their soaking liquid and reserve it.  Remove the coarse stems from the shitakes and slice the mushroom caps.  If you are using fresh sage and thyme remove the coarse stems and mince the herbs. Add the oil to a heavy bottomed pan and add the mushrooms, herbs and vegetables.  Sauté the mixture over medium heat for ~ 10 minutes, until everything is lightly browned.  Add the soaking liquid, 1 T. Aminos and simmer it covered for 5 min. Add the milk and warm but do not boil the mixture. Taste it and add more Braggs if you prefer a stronger, saltier flavor. Bring the gravy to a boil and quickly add the arrowroot rue, stirring constantly. As soon as the mixture thickens, remove it from the heat and serve it with grain, mashed potatoes, meat or poultry.  This recipe makes 3 cups.

Power packed immune smoothie by Dara Thompson a naturopathic doctor in Hilo, Hawaii

Immune Smoothie

This smoothie is designed to enhance and protect the immune system. The berries supply concentrated flavonoids. The pineapple, kiwi and papaya are rich in proteolytic enzymes to reduce inflammation. The nuts and seeds supply essential omega 6 fatty acids and protein. The flax or fish oil supply omega 3 fatty acids. The ginger and mint stimulate digestive function. It is meant to be gently cleansing, nourishing and easy to digest.  All of the ingredients should be organic if at all possible.  This recipe makes two servings. If you are only serving one or your blender is two small, just reduce the quantities by half.

–       2 cups of dark berries such as blueberries, raspberries, dark cherries, etc. (these may be purchased frozen)

–       1 cup of cubed pineapple, kiwi, papaya or other low sugar fruit in season

–       2 cups of rice milk, soy milk, kefir or coconut milk*

–       1/4 cup of raw nuts or seeds such as hemp seeds or almonds, or 2 tablespoons of nut butter

–       1 T. cold pressed flax oil, or 1 teaspoons of cod liver oil

–       2 slices of fresh ginger or a few sprigs of fresh mint

–       2 T. of high quality protein powder such as organic rice protein or hormone free whey protein

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree, starting at low speed and increasing to high. This recipe is fairly thick. If you prefer a thinner smoothie, just add more liquid.  Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator, but should be consumed the same day.

  • Rice milk is a low fat, hypoallergenic milk substitute.
  • Soy milk is a thick high protein milk substitute, but many people are sensitive to soy
  • Kefir is a cultured dairy product with very little lactose and lots of beneficial bacteria. It is suitable for lactose intolerant individuals, but not those with an allergy to milk protein.
  • Coconut milk is especially good for weight gain and increasing nutrition through its high quality, easily digested fats, medium chain triglycerides.

Cold season is upon us.  With the arrival of fall comes the predictable increase in coughs and sneezes.  It is impossible avoid all colds, but by following these four steps many can be prevented.

hand washing prevents the spread of colds says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor in Hilo Hawaii

1)   Wash your hands.  Many different viruses cause the symptoms of the common cold, but they are all transmitted the same way.  These viruses pass from person to person by two major routes.  They can travel on respiratory droplets when one person coughs or sneezes close to another person.  Respiratory secretions can also contaminate hands or objects.  We then collect “germs” on our hands, and infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose or mouth.  This is why frequent hand washing is so effective at preventing the spread of colds.

2)   Nasal lavage.  In this process a salt-water solution is used to wash out the nasal passages.  This removes allergens, bacteria and viral particles.  It also keeps the nasal passages moist.  Many viruses can only attach to mucous membranes when they are dry.  There are many types of neti pots for nasal lavage/irrigation, and most come with detailed instructions for use.  Saline nasal spray is also helpful, especially in a dry environment like an airplane or an air-conditioned room.

3)   Boost your immune system.  When viruses get past our outer defenses, a strong immune system is our best protection.  To provide the building blocks for our immune cells we need to eat a diet rich in omega 3 oils, high quality protein and darkly colored vegetables and fruits.  Certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, selenium and vitamin A can also be used to boost immunity.  However, these should be used under the guidance of a health care professional, because many of them can be toxic at high levels.  Above all, we need to reduce stress.  Cortisol, the hormone that is produced in response to mental or physical stress is a potent immunosuppressant.

Excess sugar suppresses immunity says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Hilo Hawaii

4)   Skip the sugar.  Sugar inhibits the absorption of vitamin C.  This decreases the activity of white blood cells and suppresses immunity.  Around the holidays sweets can be hard to avoid, but practicing moderation is your best defense.

Don’t miss next week’s immune boosting recipes!

Quinoa Smoked Salmon Salad

Packed with protein and calcium, quinoa is quick and easy to prepare.  Because it retains its shape after cooking, it is a good gluten-free substitute for bulgur in tabouleh and other marinated salads.  It can also be used in place of rice or pasta in many dishes.  Quinoa has a bitter coating, so always be sure to rinse it well before cooking.

quinoa recipes by Dara Thompson a Naturopathic Doctor in Hilo Hawaii

–       1 cup of quinoa

–       2 cups of water

–       ¼ teaspoon sea salt

–       6 oz. smoked salmon, diced (hot smoked or lox)

–       2 tablespoons of olive oil

–       1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

–       1 cup of cooked green beans, cut into 1 inch long pieces

–       ½ cup of red onion, thinly sliced into half moons

–       1 cup of toasted walnuts

For the best results, you should cook the quinoa ahead of time and cool it before making the salad.  This prevents the grains from becoming gummy.  To prepare the quinoa* rinse it well in a mesh strainer.  Boil the water and the salt in a saucepan and then add the quinoa while stirring.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and allow the grain to cook for 15-20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.  Cool the grain and then mix in all of the other ingredients.  The salad tastes best if it is prepared at least 2 hours before serving so that the flavors can marry.  This dish works well as a main course or a side dish.  It is even better the next day and makes a great portable lunch.

Variation:  Smoked salmon provides both protein and salt in this recipe.  For vegetarians or vegans you can substitute 1 cup of cooked black lentils and ½ cup of crumbled feta cheese (cow, goat or sheep), or ¼ cup of chopped salt cured olives.

* For an energy saving method for cooking quinoa, soak the grain for 8-12 hours in enough water to cover.  Before cooking, rinse and drain it well.  Because it has absorbed some of the soaking water, you will only need to boil 1½ cups of cooking water.  Add the grain to the boiling water, simmer it covered for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat.  Keep it covered and allow it to sit for 10 more minutes before cooling.  Presoaking grains and seeds also makes them easier to digest.


Thumbprint Cookies

I would love to give credit to the original creator of this recipe, but it has been circulating around health food and macrobiotic circles for as long as I can remember.  That is not surprising, it’s free of dairy, eggs and sugar, and still delicious.  There are so many variations that it can be made to suit almost everyone’s diet.  The version below is gluten-free.

gluten-free thumbprint recipe by Dara Thompson a Naturopathic Doctor in Hilo Hawaii

–       1 cup of rice or millet flour

–       1 cup of gluten free oat flour

–       1 cup of roasted almonds or hazelnuts  

–       ½ cup of coconut oil

–       ½ cup of maple syrup

–       1 teaspoon of cinnamon

–       ½ teaspoon of salt

–       all-fruit jam

Grind the nuts in a food processor or coffee grinder.  A coarse grind will give you a nutty, crunchy cookie; a fine grind will yield a more delicate dough.  Mix the nuts with the flour, cinnamon and salt.  Add the oil and maple syrup and stir until the dough is well mixed.  If the dough is still dry and crumbly, add ¼ cup of water.  Take @ ¼ cup of dough, shape it into a ball and then press it into a thick disk shape.  Place it on a cookie sheet and press your thumb into the center of the disk, making an indentation.  Repeat this with the rest of the dough and then fill each thumbprint with jam.  Bake the cookies in a 350 degree F oven for 20 – 25 minutes until the edges are brown and the jam has bubbled.  Cool them for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Variations: This recipe is so versatile.  It can be made with any flour combination, any nuts or seeds, any liquid sweetener and any oil.  For example you could use all rice flour, shredded coconut, butter and honey.  For a less sweet cookie, substitute juice for the sweetener and fruit puree for the jam. It also makes a great pre-baked pie crust.  Just press the dough into a pie pan, bake it for 30 minutes and cool it before adding a no-cook filling like fresh fruit and whipped cream.  Experiment and enjoy!