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 These days, I'm in a new phase of life, and this website is no longer updated.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 Giveaways (26)


Blueberry Soaked Oatmeal Smoothie (gluten-free, vegan, ACD, raw


The secret to this smoothie's magical color is frozen blueberries. Whenever there is an abundance of natural color, there is usually an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other great stuff. This smoothie is no exception, and I feel lucky to have access to such nutritional wealth! And to top it off, the opulent indigo hue makes me feel fancy, like I'm drinking some kind of beverage fit for royalty. 

In addition to the rich color, this smoothie boasts a wonderfully creamy texture, a result of blending the blueberries with soaked steel cut oatmeal and hemp seeds.  Soaking does more than soften the oats for easier blending -  it also breaks down the phytic acid and allows for easier digestion.  Hemp seeds to not contain phytic acid, and are easily assimilate by the body and do not need to be soaked. 

If you've never used hemp seeds, this smoothie is an easy way to start.  For more information about hemp seeds, I recommend reading this post by Food Renegade. According to the post,

Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids — those building blocks of protein which our body can not manufacture on its own. Flax seed also contains all the essential amino acids, but unlike flax seed, 65% of the protein found in hemp seeds is globulin edistin.  What is globulin edistin? It’s a simple protein that our bodies need to build the immunoglobulins necessary to repel infection. The best way to ensure your body has enough amino acid materials to build these globulins is to eat foods high in globulin proteins.   [see References for source]

Pretty cool, right?  With each sweet sip, you are getting all sorts of things your body needs.  It has a beneficial balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and provides bioavailable nutrition that will keep you satisfied. I love this smoothie as a breakfast-on-the-go - as long as you do a little planning ahead the night before to soak your grains and nuts/seeds, it takes mere moments to prepare in a busy morning. It would also make a great recovery drink for after a good exercise routine.

I'm including this recipe in February's SOS Kitchen Challenge, which features stevia. My co-host Ricki and I are encouraging our readers to use stevia in delicious, sugar-free recipes this month. Four lucky participants will receive a stevia prize from NuNaturals, our favorite brand of stevia. 

Each prize contains:

For full Challenge guidelines, please see this post, then check out the Linky below the recipe to enter your recipe in the round-up and be eligible for the giveaway! Good luck, and we can't wait to see what you make with stevia this month. 


This recipe is linked to  Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free, written by Amy Green. As a side note, Amy just released her new cookbook and it looks fantastic, so check it out!


Blueberry Soaked Oatmeal Smoothie

yield: 2 cups 

I use hemp seeds in this smoothie.  Hemp seeds are high in protein, omega fatty acids, and amino acids, and have a nutty, warm flavor that I love. Unlike other nuts and seeds, they do not contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that can inhibit digestion. If you do not like, have or tolerate hemp seeds, feel free to use 2 Tbsp of any other nut or seed, and soak them with the oats to break down the phytic acid and allow for optimal digestion (and creamier blending).

  • 1/4 cup gluten-free steel cut oats, soaked for 6-12 hours in 1 1/2 cups water and 1 tsp raw cider vinegar, raw coconut vinegar, whey, or lemon juice
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 Tbsp finely ground flax seed or chia seed
  • 2 tsp flax oil or hemp oil
  • plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to taste (I like NuNaturals brand)

Place steel cut oats with 1 1/2 cups water and acidic medium in a bowl, cover lightly with a cloth, and let soak for 6-12 hours. Drain and very rinse well.

Place soaked oats and all remaining ingredients in blender, and blend on high until smooth. Sweeten with stevia to taste. Serve immediately,  or refrigerate until ready to serve.


February SOS Kitchen Challenge: Stevia



Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Kefir Ice Cream with Mixed Berries, No Ice Cream-Maker Required

Perfectly pink and full of probiotics.

My housemate Mary has been making coconut milk kefir lately, and our refrigerator was rather full of the stuff. She is using these kefir grains from Cultures for Health, and process couldn't be easier. I'm not going to go into details about how to make the kefir in this post, because you can read about it on Cultures for Health's website. She uses cans of organic coconut milk, not the coconut milk beverage, adds the grains, and lets it sit. After a day or two, it's ready to go! Every so often she needs to divide the grains and innoculate them in goat's milk, just so they stay active. Her grains are mulitplying like crazy, so I am going to take some from her and get my own batch started.  

The cultured coconut milk kefir is quite lovely. As the coconut milk cultures, it thickens considerably, resulting in a rich, very thick, very creamy and tart kefir that is much thicker than any dairy kefir I have ever eaten. In fact, it is so thick that in order to strain out the kefir grains, we have to thin out the kefir considerably with water! Mary has been eating it like yogurt and adding a dollop to soups, and I've enjoyed adding it to smoothies and spreading it on muffins and bread like cream cheese.

I thought it might be fun to try making it into a frozen yogurt/ice cream type thing.  It was a breeze to make - no ice cream maker required - and tasted delicious. It tastes a lot like a strawberry malt, is very coconutty, and has just a hint of that cultured tartness on the finish. A mixture of berries, a bit of agave nectar, and some stevia liquid add just the right amount of sweetness. And let's not forget the best part - it is filled with beneficial probiotic bacteria! Could there be a better dessert to show your special someone how much you care this Valentine's Day? I think not. Nothing says I love you like happy bacteria.

Click to read more ...


February SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal, and a Sweet Giveaway

[How do you like our new event logo?] 

When Ricki and I discussed which ingredient to use for the SOS Kitchen  Challenge this month - the month of Valentine's Day - we both agreed that we needed something that could help showcase desserts.  After all, we wanted our ingredient to be suitable as we whip up healthy sweets for our sweethearts (which includes anyone you care about - even yourself!). 

Whether you follow a Lyme-specific diet like me,  the ACD like Ricki, or just want to reduce the amount of white sugar in your life, this month's key ingredient is a fabulous natural sweetener and a healthy alternative to sugar.  That's right - this month's SOS ingredient is none other than both Ricki's and my favorite sweetener:



Stevia, an herbal sweetener dervied from the stevia rebaudiana plant (native to Paraguay) has become massively popular in the US over the past couple of years; it’s been available in Canada since 1987. (In Japan, it’s been a staple since 1971, and remains the most popular sweetener in the country–more popular than white sugar).  

Just about a year ago, Ricki devoted an entire post to this herbal sweetener.  For those of you who are new to it, here’s a recap and some updated information.

Our favorite shrub with the sweet edible leaves, stevia, was given US designation as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in 2008. That’s why you’ve likely seen more and more foods recently that contain stevia, either in its pure form or a combination with fillers like cellulose or maltodextrin.  In Canada, stevia is still considered an herbal supplement, so while you can buy it in its pure form, you won’t find Canadian soft drinks, puddings, or diet foods sweetened with stevia. 

Stevia provides a natural sweeteness with zero calories and without raising blood sugar levels (it scores “0″ on the Glycemic Index).  When the stevia leaves are dried, the compounds stevioside and rebaudioside are extracted to give stevia its sweetness (about 250-300 times sweeter than sugar).  These resulting compounds can be dried into powder or used in liquid form; either way, they are usually augmented with fillers, since the pure extract is so sweet the amounts used would be infinitesmal.   You can also consume the fresh leaves, which are about 30-45 times sweeter than sugar. 

What Does Stevia Taste Like?

According to Chet Day on his Health and Beyond website, stevia acquires its sweetness from ”its complex stevioside molecule that is composed of glucose, sophorose and steviol. A second compound called rebaudioside, which is present in Stevia, also contributes to Stevia’s sweetness.”  I personally have never had any problems with the unique taste that stevia confers in foods, but I know that some people do consider that it has a slightly bitter aftertaste; some notice a very subtle licorice undertone. Apparently, the better the quality, the less likely you’ll notice any kind of bitterness. 

In addition, since stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, it’s important to remember that a little goes a (really) long way.  When first starting out with this natural sweetener, it’s better to err on the side of slightly less sweet than too sweet, to avoid this potential problem.

Types of Stevia and How to Use It

Stevia is available in many forms, including pure liquid, pure powder and both with added ingredients (usually fillers to render it easier to measure, since pure stevia is so sweet that the amounts needed are sometimes too small to portion accurately).  I prefer liquid stevia as the dropper makes it easy to measure, but both Ricki and I use the powdered form as well. (There are also one-for-one stevia-based sweeteners on the market that allow you to measure one cup of the mixture for one cup of sugar, but these always contain bulking agents.  While they produce a good product, they may cause digestive distress for some people). 

You’ll find pure stevia liquid in purified water, glycerin, or food grade alcohol.  While the alcohol helps to preserve it longer, it’s not always suitable for those of us on the anti candida diet.  The powder in its pure form is extremely potent, so it’s often mixed with fillers such as cellulose or maltodextrin.  Again, if you’re sensitive to any of those ingredients, you’ll want to opt for pure stevia.

I tried my hand at growing my own stevia herb last year in my garden, which was a lot of fun. I ended up with a lot of stevia leaves, which I added to the tea pot with fresh lemon balm, peppermint, and lemon verbena for a lovely, sweet, digestive system-friendly tea. I also dried some of the leaves and made my own natural stevia powder. That stuff is intense. 

If you’d like to try stevia for this challenge, keep in mind that the most difficult substitutions occur in baking, where both the wet and dry ratios of ingredients will be altered; it’s difficult to replace 1/2 cup of maple syrup with only 1/2 tsp of powder.  If you’re just starting out, you might prefer to try any one of the following types of recipe:

  • salad dressings
  • syrups
  • puddings or custards
  • oatmeal
  • smoothies or other beverages
  • sauces
  • fruit-based desserts
  • any other items that use very little sugar (pie crust, savory baking, pasta sauces, etc.)

If you type “stevia” into the search box at the right of this page, you’ll find a plethora of recipe ideas you can try.  Remember, your entry to the SOS Challenge doesn’t have to be an original recipe–so feel free to use one of Ricki's or mine if you’re new to stevia!

AND PLEASE NOTE: For this month’s Challenge, you can combine stevia with other natural sweeteners (maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, etc.) for your recipe(s).  There is no need to create a recipe that uses stevia-only! That will also make a transition to cooking with stevia a little smoother for many of you. 

Health Benefits of Stevia 

Several studies have shown that stevia in its pure form (not processed products like Truvia or PureVia) may confer many types of health benefits.  It’s been shown to be safe without containing toxins or producing side effects in those who consume it. And because it’s zero calorie and doesn’t spike blood glucose, it’s a great sweetener for diabetics or others with blood sugar issues.  Recent research suggests it may help to stabilize insulin levels as well, and some studies even suggest that it can regulate blood pressure. A Japanese study (where stevia is immensely popular) found that stevia can help to prevent plaque buildup on teeth. In addition, stevia (like all plants) contains antioxidants, known to help fight free radicals that can lead to chronic conditions and cancer.

[Some of the many products offered by NuNaturals]

And Now. . . Some Stevia for Four of You!

This month, the amazing folks at NuNaturals (often described as the only “non-bitter” stevia extract) have offered a fabulous giveaway prize for our SOS Kitchen Challenge!  By submitting a recipe to this month’s Challenge, you enter to win one of four prizes. (For full Challenge guidelines, please see this post).  And remember, it’s perfectly fine to combine the stevia with other natural sweeteners in the recipe–no need to use stevia all on its own!  

I just recently had the opportunity to try NuNaturals products, and their stevia has risen to the top of my "favorite stevia brands" list. The flavor is great.

Each prize contains:

At the end of the month, Ricki and I will choose the four winners at random and ask that you send us your full names and shipping addresses–so be sure to come back here and check if you won at the beginning of next month!

We’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm and incredible creativity you’ve all shown over the past Challenges.  So put those (sugar-free) thinking caps on, and start cooking with stevia this month!  We can’t wait to see what sweet things you develop for our February Challenge!  :D  


February SOS Kitchen Challenge: Stevia




January SOS Kitchen Challenge Round-Up & Giveaway Winner

Like the new logo? Ricki and I sure do. We thought it was time for an update, something a little more playful and fun to fit the spirit of the challenge.  

January's Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge was an exciting one, featuring none other than coconut oil. Health promoting and versatile, coconut oil is perfect for everyday use, functioning equally well in everything from raw desserts to savory curries. You exhibited your love for coconut oil in full force, presenting a wide array of delicious looking recipes. Every recipe in the roundup looked delectable - even the Coconut Oil Body Lotion from The Mommy Bowl looked good enough to eat!  That said, we want to highlight a handful of recipes that particularly caught our eyes...




Be sure to check out all the great recipes in the Linky for delicious, creative, and health-conscious ways to incorporate coconut oil in your diet. Speaking of coconut oil, January's challenge featured a great giveaway for one lucky cook: a 32-oz jar of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions. We randomly picked a winner from all the submissions and qualifying comments.  

The winner of the coconut oil giveaway is...

VeganLisa from Vegan Culinary Crusade

Congratulations! Please contact us at soskitchenchallenge@gmail.com with your shipping information. 

A big thank you to everyone who participated, you continue to impress us with your creativity and raise the bar with every challenge.  Soon we're announcing the February SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient (and another giveaway) so get your aprons washed, your measuring cups poised for action, and stay tuned for the details! 


January 2011 SOS Kitchen Challenge: Coconut Oil



Diet, Dessert, and Dogs: "A Year to Eat Freely" Recipe Calendar Review & Giveaway

My good friend Ricki over at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs just posted a lovely review of my recipe collection "A Year to Eat Freely: 2011 Allergy-Friendly Recipe Calendar."  This 12-month calendar features seasonally-appropriate recipes that are free of Gluten, Rice, Dairy, Casein, Eggs, Soy, Corn, Tree Nuts, Peanuts, Potato, Tomato, Citrus, Shellfish and Cane Sugar.  I self-published it last fall, and all the recipes, photography, and design work are original. It was a wonderful project, I love the recipes, and the feedback so far has been great.

In addition to posting a thorough review, Ricki is giving away a copy to one lucky reader and is sharing one of my favorite recipes from the calendar, my Smoky Zucchini Dip.  

Smoky Zucchini Dip from "A Year to Eat Freely", as made by Ricki. Image courtesy Ricki Heller at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs

Head on over to Diet, Dessert, and Dogs to read the review, enter the giveaway, and get the recipe. If you read closely, you may even find a special coupon code for my etsy shop.

If you'd rather not take your chances and just want to purchase a copy of my calendar, head on over to my etsy shop.  The new sale price is $11 plus shipping & handling. 

So, what are you waiting for? Go, go!