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 These days, I'm in a new phase of life, and this website is no longer updated.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 Recipes: Sides (35)


Smoky Dandelion Greens with Spinach and Pine Nuts (gluten free, vegan, ACD)

Spring is here!  That means that fresh greens are too.  One of my favorite spring greens are dandelion greens.  Yep, same dandelion as the lovely little yellow flower that grows in your yard!  Dandelion is a powerhouse of nutrition.  Dandelions were traditionally eaten as a spring tonic, and are perfect for cleansing! I love to include them in green smoothies.  Like all bitter greens, they encourage secretion of digestive enzymes.  They are also very supportive to the liver and kidneys, and help cleanse the system of toxins.  On top of all that, dandelion greens are chock-full of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium!  

In addition to the greens, the flowers and the roots can also be used culinarily and medicinally.  Dandelion root tea - also known as chicory - is a wonderfully robust, dark, strong-bodied beverage that makes a satisfying coffee replacement.  It is also very liver-cleansing, and is delicious.  Dandelion root is also used to make one of my favorite beverages, Dandy Blend.  Dandelion root extracts are mixed with water soluble extracts of barley and rye (it is gluten free how they brew it, read about it here) and it makes the most awesome coffee-like beverage EVER. I got my mom and a bunch of my friends hooked on this stuff.  Dandelion flowers can be added to teas or water kefir to make cleansing beverages or tinctures.  Or, of course, the infamous dandelion wine.  :)


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Rutabaga Fries (gluten free, vegan, ACD)

My aunt, uncle, and I made the trek back to Wisconsin this weekend to visit my parents and grandparents.  Tonight we got together for a big family dinner, all eight of us.  My dad grilled hamburgers, which were accompanied by a big greens salad, roasted potatoes, and rutabaga fries.  I introduced my parents to rutabaga fries last year and ever since they've become a regular staple at their dinners.  

Rutabaga, in my opinion, is one of the tastiest vegetables around, but is also misunderstood and underappreciated! First of all, a rutabaga is not a turnip.   Rutabagas are golden yellow with a purple top and are generally fairly large, like the size of a baseball to as large as a softball sometimes.  Turnips are most commonly white with a purple top (although there are heirloom scarlet turnips), and usually fairly small (ranging from golf ball to baseball-size).  Since rutabagas are often mistaken for other things, they get overlooked, and underused.  You can almost always count on them being in stock at the grocery store, because they aren't very popular. For those of us in the know this is great, because they are totally inexpensive.  Rutabagas are full of vitamin C and fiber, and have naturally antibacterial properties like all crucifers.  Rock on!  Plus, they are awesomely versatile. Rutabagas can be eaten raw or cooked.  Eaten raw, they are crisp and crunchy, with a slightly sweet, bity, cabbagey flavor.  Sometimes I eat them grated in salads, or just plain with bean dip. My mom used to grate them and put them in these huge sub sandwiches we ate on car trips when I was a kid. Cooked, they are earthy and awesome.  I love them in stews and soups and vegetable pies, and they are amazing roasted. 

But my favorite way to eat rutabaga? You guessed it: fries.


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Broccoli with Garlic Chips (gluten free, vegan, ACD) 

This recipe is one of those quick and easy recipes that doesn't really even require a recipe.  It is one of my standby I-don't-feel-like-cooking things to make.  It takes about 5 minutes, and there aren't really any measurements.  

The basic idea?  Steamed broccoli with caramelly, crispy slices of garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.  About as simple as it gets - but always a winner.  Make as much as you want to feed yourself or to feed a crowd. Love garlic?  Add a bunch.  Only like garlic?  Keep it minimal.  I like it really garlicky, so I usually use 2-3 big cloves for about 1 1/2 cups of broccoli.  The trick is to make sure your garlic is just slightly crisp, but not burnt.  keep your heat low, and remove the pan from the flame when the edges just start to turn golden.

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Rice Cooker Wild Basmati Pilaf (gluten free, vegan, ACD)


Aren't those grains beautiful?  The simple beauty of uncooked rice will never escape me, truly.  

Earthy and herby, this dish is super simple and very tasty. It takes only about 5 minutes of prep time to throw together, and with the magic of a rice cooker, you don't have to do a thing after that. Just throw everything into the pot, flip the switch, and return to find perfectly cooked rice!  I love using a mixture of brown basmati rice and wild rice, but feel free to use all of one or the other, or use another grain instead.  Add other vegetables or seasonings as your palette dictates.  Easy pilaf wonderment.  Serve it with sauteed greens and steamed vegetables, with broiled fish, or with sauteed white beans.  Add a scoop to soups or stews.  It isn't anything complicated or super fancy, just a good basic pilaf to have in your recipe toolbox.  Best yet, it can be made for pennies on the dime.  Seriously, from what I figure, it is about $.35 per serving.  

A rice cooker is one of the best things you could ever get, in my opinion.  There are lots of fancy ones out there on the market, all sorts of different sizes with timers and all sorts of settings.  Some come with steaming baskets to use for steaming vegetables or other foods.  But don't feel you need to break the bank to get good rice.  Mine is super simple, a modest little 8 cup cooker with only two settings (cook or warm). I've had it for about 10 years - it is the same on I had in my dorm room in college - and it still cooks rice just perfectly.  The benefit of a rice cooker is that you get perfect rice, every time, without an open flame burning on your stove.  I love love love my rice cooker. You can also cook quinoa, millet, and other grains in it.  I've even thrown lentils and split moong dal (both quick cooking!) in with my rice before.  So simple.  I love listening for the switch to flip itself from the "cook" to the "warm" setting.  Why?  Because I know that twenty minutes of steaming time later, I will open the lid to find fluffy, perfect, delectable rice.  Yum.


serves 4

1/2 cup brown basmati rice, soaked 8 hours

1/2 cup wild rice, soaked 8 hours

1/2 onion, minced

1 stalk celery, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp dry parsley

1 1/2 tsp dry basil

1/4 tsp dry thyme

1/2-1 tsp Herbamare or sea salt

freshly cracked pepper

a glug of olive oil

water or broth

Rinse rice in a colander, put in a bowl, cover with 4 cups fresh water, lightly cover the bowl with a cloth or kitchen towel, and let sit on your counter.   Let soak 8 hours.  This starts the sprouting process and breaks down the seed coat, which will make the grain more easily digestible.

After soaking, drain and rinse rice, then place in rice cooker.  Prepare vegetables as directed, and add to cooker pot, along with herbs and spices, Herbamare/salt, a few turns of fresh pepper, and a glug of olive oil. Add amount of broth/water according to your rice cooker's instructions (I used 2 cups) , and then cook, per your user manual.

Go relax and kick your feet up while your rice cooks.  Return later to find perfect rice.  Voilà!



If you want to add about 5 more minutes prep time, lightly saute the onions, garlic, and celery in a saute pan with a little olive oil first, until golden and tender.  Add to cooker with rice and herbs, and cook.  This will intensify the flavor the vegetables and add a richer flavor the pilaf.



Don't have a rice cooker?  No worries.  Place rice, vegetables, herbs, and spices in a pot, add about 2 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Let cook 45-55 minutes, or until rice is tender and water is absorbed.


Russian Salad with Sauerkraut and Creamy Mustard-Herb Dressing (potato-free, gluten free, vegan)


Привет (Privet)! Hi!

Do I speak or read Russian?  Um, нет (net).  No.  But I can say very basic things like hello and goodbye and sing folk songs.  Why?  In college, I played in my campus Balalaika Ensemble.  Balalaika ensembles are traditional Slavic folk music groups featuring instruments like domras and balalaikas, and sometimes accordions, fiddles, guitars.  I played the alto domra, a lovely and bulbous little stringed instrument you strum like a mandolin.  We played Slavic and Klezmer folk songs, wore Russian outfits, and went to Slavic language conferences all over the U.S.  You see, our group was rather special, one of only a few college Balalaika ensembles in the entire country, so we were a bit of a hot commodity in the whole Slavic folk music scene.  

Obscure, right?  

I thought so too.  After I saw them perform the first time, I was hooked.  The minor chords, the throaty singing, the percussive beats, I was in love, Dr. Zhivago-style.  And thus, it set off this whole obsession with all things Slavic.  I had many favorite songs, but our traditional way of ending a great performance was with a rollicking round of "Kalinka" (Калинка).  My good friend Derek and I still sometimes break out in rounds of "Kalinka"; he was our vocalist, a towering, dark-haired tenor who looked quite handsome in an embroidered Russian shirt.  Curious to see this song yourself? Here's the Red Russian Army Choir doing a very boisterous rendition of "Kalinka", complete with dancers.

My Balalaika college friends and ensemble director still sometimes call me by my chosen Russian name: Zoya, a variant of Zoë, meaning "life".  I like to say my name with a low, breathy voice, heavily accenting the first syllable, just for drama. So, imagine me speaking like that, serving you this salad.  

It hails from Russia, by way of my kitchen, with love.

Russian Salad is usually made of potato, various vegetables, and finely diced meats, all mixed together with mayonnaise.  Many of the vegetables are boiled or pickled, and there are lots of different versions that contain everything from tuna to tongue, from pickles to peas.  I have eaten traditional Russian Salad before, and while I enjoyed it in theory, in practice it never worked out so well.  I always found it a bit too heavy and stifling for my digestive system.

This version is a whole lot lighter, and touch more allergy-friendly.  Inspired by a recipe in Paul Pitchford's wonderful Healing With Whole Foods with my own tweaks and twists, it would probably be scoffed at by Russian Salad traditionalists, but it is really tasty.  I mixed together beets, turnips, and carrots with sauerkraut and peas, and drizzled it with a creamy, flavorful mustard and herb dressing in lieu of mayonnaise.  Later on, when I ate leftovers, I added a bit of olive oil-packed tuna, in the style of the Spanish version of Russian salad.  Delicious!  Pitchford's original recipe calls for chickpeas, which I'm sure would be equally delicious.  Hooray for mayonnaise-free, potato-free Russian salad!

Just like the Balalaika Ensemble, this salad has grabbed my heart and won't let go.  I shouldn't be surprised; it contains most of my favorite foods in one dish.  I think I'll be making more versions of this salad in the future, so stay tuned.  It is, as they say, пальчики оближешь (palchiki oblichesh).  That would be "very tasty" to you. 

If you want to learn some basic Russian phrases to impress your friends and lovers, check this or this out.  You can learn to say things like "I love you" and "I can't live without you", just in time for Valentine's Day, as well as a number of other phrases, ranging from useful to inappropriate.  In the meantime, Приятного аппетита (prijatnogo appetita).  до свидания (Dos svidaniya)!

(Thank you Google translator for giving me the Cyrillic translations!  That's one thing I didn't learn in Balalaika Ensemble.)


Potato-Free Russian Salad with Sauerkraut and Creamy Mustard-Herb Dressing

Yield: 5 cups


1 cup cooked turnips, thinly sliced in half moons (about 2 medium)

1 cup cooked beets, thinly sliced in half moons (about 4-5 small)

1 cup cooked carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal (about 3-4 small)

1 cup sauerkraut, drained

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

handful fresh parsley, chopped

optional: 1-2 tsp caraway seeds

optional, for the fish eaters: 5-oz can water or olive oil-packed tuna 

1 batch Creamy Mustard Herb Dressing (recipe follows)

Cook turnips, beets, and carrots per desired method (steaming, roasting, boiling, etc).  I roasted my beets whole until tender (450º F, wrapped in foil, for about 1 1/2 hours), cooled them slightly, then peeled and sliced them.  Beets can also be boiled, steamed, or pressure cooked, which takes less time.  For the turnips and carrots, I peeled and sliced them, then steamed the slices until tender.  

Place cooked, slightly cooled vegetables and sauerkraut in a large bowl.  Add thawed peas, parsley, caraway seeds, and tuna, if adding. Drizzle with about 1/2 cup of Cashew Herb Dressing, and stir to coat, adding more dressing as desired, and stir to combine.  Serve immediately, or for a fuller flavor, refrigerate and let marinate for up to 12 hours before serving.  Garnish with freshly cracked pepper and fresh dill sprigs.


Creamy Mustard-Herb Dressing

Yield: approx. 1 cup

1/2 cup raw cashews (try blanched almonds, or for nut-free, try hemp, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds)

1 cup water

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground dry mustard

1/2 tsp dry dill weed

1/2 tsp dry basil

1-2 tsp umeboshi vinegar, to taste

freshly ground pepper

Place cashews in a blender or food processor and grind to a powder.  Add 3/4 cup water, herbs, mustard, pepper, and umeboshi vinegar, and blend until totally smooth, adding remaining 1/4 c water and seasoning to taste.  Add additional water as needed to reach desired consistency.

Refrigerate leftovers in a tightly sealed jar.