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 These days, I'm in a new phase of life, and this website is no longer updated.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 Tips & Tricks (30)


My Favorite Food Storage Containers

If you're spending money on high-quality food, and taking the time to prepare it, it doesn't make sense to store it in a bad container.  Storing your food in quality containers has a number of benefits.  Want to hear more about the virtues of good food storage containers, and see some of my favorites?  Watch my very first video post!

Okay, so did I get you pumped up about food storage containers?  I hope so.  To really drill it home, here's all the basics:

Click to read more ...


Guest post on Lymenaide: "Lyme-friendly Food: What is There to Eat?"

I'm excited to announce that I am a guest blogger on Lymenaide, an excellent Lyme blog started by fellow Lymie Ashley Von Tol.  Her vision is for Lymenaide to become a great source of information for Lymies, written by other Lymies, and I'm honored to have been invited as a contributor.  

I will be doing regular posts about Lyme-friendly food and will share recipes, as well as provide some Lyme-specific and general healing dietary advice garnished from my own experience, practitioner's advice, and obsessive research and reading.  I just posted my first post, "Lyme-friendly food: What is there to eat?".  It is just an introductory post to kick off my article series, briefly discussing some of the struggles with the Lyme diet, and features a number links back to recipes on this site.  

After being diagnosed with Lyme, I was thrilled to find out the diet I had intuitively settled on for myself fit in line with Lyme treatment protocol.  Without knowing it, I had been addressing Lyme from a dietary perspective all along!   My naturopath believes that is one of the reasons that I was able to return from the teetering brink of disaster I was at a couple years ago and manage my symptoms fairly well, and not continue to get even worse.  Truthfully, I feel like I saved myself from a whole world of trouble that I can't even imagine.  It scares me to think about, and I'm thankful that I will most likely never need to visit that place.

Be sure to check out Lymenaide for lots of great posts on various aspects of living with and treating Lyme.  Earlier in the week there were posts about the potential dangers of electro-magnetic fields and another post about the benefits of infrared saunas during treatment. I'm hoping to be able to get a feed set up on this blog to import posts, but in the meantime, I'll be calling out when I post a new article!



Dad's Top Five Grilling Tips and Mesquite-Smoked Grilled Chicken Breasts (gluten free)

This is a great guest post from my grill-loving father! He's a master at the grill, and whenever I go home I eat more meat than I normally eat in a week.  The man knows his way around a piece of meat, I'll say that much. Here's his tricks for grilling good chicken breasts.

Hi from Kim's dad.  Grilling is one of my favorite things and I grill just about anything.  A few years ago I purchased a combination grill and smoker--it was one of the best things I have ever bought.  I particularly like the sweet smoky taste light meats like pork and chicken take on when cooked in the smoker.   You don't need smoker, a normal gas or charcoal grill will work just fine.  The process is simple, but the results are wonderful.

  • Pay attention to the food you are cooking.  
  • You don't want to incinerate the food.  So watch your temperature.
  • Spices, rubs, and marinades are best applied a few hours before grilling.  So  plan ahead. 
  • Don't be afraid to experiment with different wood chips depending on the food you are cooking - I use hickory, mesquite, and apple.
  • Clean your grill.  Every time.
(Note from Kim: These tasty little chicken breasts were part of the Pre-Memorial Day Party backyard family get together.  And my dad is an awesome griller/smoker!  He's spoiled me for all grilled and smoked foods from anywhere else.  And his smoked salmon will bring you to your knees.  Anyway, the mesquite chip-smoking adds an amazing flavor to everything.  Hickory chips are also really good - he made hickory smoked hamburgers the night I arrived.  I scarfed them down.)

Update 6/15/10: This post is now linked to Friday Foodie Fix at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.  The theme this week is Dad's Favorite in honor of Father's Day, so I thought this was the perfect submission!

Dad's Mesquite-Smoked Grilled Chicken Breasts

mesquite chips (mix of small and medium size)
chicken breasts
seasoning of choice (herbs, spices, etc) - a little mesquite flour rubbed on is REALLY good!
BBQ sauce if desired
About an hour or two before grilling soak a small hand full of mesquite chips in water.  I like to use smaller chips with a couple of medium size pieces.

Clean and trim the chicken breasts and pat dry.  Season the breasts with your choice of spices.  I have a personal spice blend that includes garlic, chili powder, cumin, some salt, black pepper, cayenne, dry mustard, oregano, and paprika. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Allow the chicken to "marinate" for at least two hours.
Soaking up the seasoning, yum yum yum.
When you are ready to grill drain the wood chips. Place the chips in an aluminum foil "pouch" and poke a couple of small holes in the pouch. Place the chips in the grill when the breasts go on to cook.  I have found a temperature of about 400º F works well and doesn't burn up the chips too quickly.  Turn the breasts during cooking to allow for even smoking.  Cook until juices are clear.  If you want to brush with barbeque sauce do so during the last minutes of cooking.  Serve!

Portland, Oregon: gluten-free travel adventures

Portland Chinese Gardens

So, I just got back from a long weekend in Portland investigating Oriental Medicine schools. I've decided on the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine - hooray! And Portland was AMAZING; I felt like I walked into a dreamland. The co-ops! The friendly people! The vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free restaurant options! The bike-centric culture! I felt like I was at home. And in a way, that makes sense - it reminds me a lot of Minneapolis. Portland has all the great niche things about Minneapolis, but instead of them being niche, they are commonplace and way more accessible. In a little over a year, I will pack my bags and head westward, and become an Oregonian. I can't wait!

Anyway, I wanted to share a few of new things I found/discovered/ate while there. In preparation for the trip, I did a lot of research on restaurants, co-ops, etc so I would know where to find what I needed and wanted when I got there. I brought along my own safe snacks to make travel on the plane and my all day school student-for-a-day events easier, and bought food to cook while I was there staying with friends. The great thing about Portland is that I could actually eat at restaurants EASILY instead of having it be crazy complicated, even with all my allergies. Amazing! The culture there is very aware of alternative dietary choices, and instead of feeling like the weird allergy girl, I felt completely comfortable. What a sigh of relief.
Research in advance totally makes traveling with restrictions easier - it is worth the work, and made me feel totally at ease and prepared once I arrived. Instead of being stressed out about finding a restaurant for lunch or trying to figure out where I could find some tasty treats, I could just relax and have fun. I hope this information is helpful for any of you traveling to Portland, or at least fun to read about! I can't wait to live there and be able to take advantage of all this stuff. So, here goes - photos to come as soon as I get them off my camera!

Stirs the Soul Organic Raw Chocolate
: holy yum! These chocolate bars are organic, soy free, corn free, vegan, raw, and sweetened with agave instead of sugar. And they taste great. You can find them in natural food markets all over the city. They aren't cheap (like, $2.50 for a 1 oz bar), but for a special happy treat, it was totally worth it. I tried the Goji Berries in Dark Chocolate and the Maca Mesquite. Both were great, but the goji bar was amazing - it was creamy and delicious, studded with tart, chewy goji berries. The maca mesquite had an earthy, smoky flavor that I really enjoyed. I brought home a Lavendar and an 88% cocoa single-origin Ecuadorian variety for later. The single-origin bar is bigger, and also more expensive, but it should be divine! The best thing about these chocolates is that they aren't too sweet and they don't leave you feeling like you just ate some kind of crazy sugar crack bar.
Coconut milk yogurt: I tried a brand of vegan, agave-sweetened coconut milk yogurt that I have never seen
before - it wasn't SoDelicious by Turtle Mountain. It was some other brand that I can't find online anywhere, but it was GOOD. I got it at the Alberta Co-op, and I'd recommend it. I tried the plain flavor, it was relatively low in sugar and carbs, and they claimed to be low on the glycemic index. It tasted really good and had a nice texture. Way better than SoDelicious, which I think is way too sweet, weirdly flavored, and weirdly textured. SoDelicious is still better than Ricera, though, which is terrible.

Eden Organics Brown Rice Flakes
: I have been looking at these online because I can't find them in stores anywhere in Minneapolis. Lo and behold, I found them at New Season's Market - see entry for that below. I have already used some in recipe experiments for brown rice "granola" clusters - check back soon soon soon for that recipe!

Enjoy Life Very Berry Crunch "Granola"
: If you aren't familiar with Enjoy Life, they make food products that are free of pretty much all possible major allergens, which is great. I don't buy their products much, if ever, but I had been curious about this gluten-free brown rice-based granola product. I see it in the stores all the time, but didn't want to fork over the $5 for a bag of cane juice sweetened stuff that I shouldn't really be eating anyway. At my visit day event at the National College of Natural Medicine, they had a bag out on the breakfast buffet table (don't we love natural medicine colleges and their gluten-free offerings?). I tried a handful; it really was too sugary for my taste (ack, cane juice!) and the berry flavor tasted a little too fake, even though it is made with real berries. But, as a special treat granola substitute, it was tasty, crunchy and not all bad. I wouldn't buy it though. Not surprisingly, it has inspired me to make my own brown rice granola, which is looking promising...

Alberta Co-op
located in the quirky Alberta neighborhood, this co-op was really nice. Nice bulk, lots of specialty items, smaller produce section but good selection. Tons of seaweed in bulk, lots of bulk teas, and a good selection of local sauerkrauts.

People's Co-op:
located in SE Portland, this co-op won my heart in an instant. Great bulk selection, beautiful produce, nice selection of raw and vegan items, as well as locally produced sauerkrauts, misos, and grab-and-go options. It is so charming, the staff were really friendly, and they have a little trailer parked out in front that serves up fresh fruit and veggie juices, freshly brewed teas, and fair trade coffee. Awesome. I had a cup of yerba mate and ate a chocolate bar while sitting outside watching cute boys and girls ride up on bikes with homemade trailers to buy avocados and fresh salsas. Plus, they offer a year-round farmer's market at their store, and have a bunch of community classes and workshops, from yoga to Spanish. And if I lived in Portland, you can be damn sure that I would be attending the upcoming square dance on Wednesday night from 7-9 pm.

New Season's Market
Imagine a locally owned hybrid of a more affordable Whole Foods, a normal grocery store, and the best deli/salad bar you've ever seen. This is New SEason's Market, located in multiple locations around Portland. In addition to the impressive grocery area of their store, they have an AMAZING salad bar/deli/grab-and-go with tons of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. You can make big salads, or throw everything in a bowl and they stir-fry it up in a wok for you. For the bread eaters, they make sandwiches too, and they have a variety of other hot bar entrees. They even have a seating area! I ran through one afternoon between appointments and made a rice noodle-lettuce-bean sprout-black bean-bamboo shoot salad to eat on the run. It was $3.50 and I was in and out in under 10 minutes. Amazing. As for the grocery area, they have everything you could ever want and more, from fancy raw stuff to Australian rice cakes to specialty ethnic items (flavored ghee!) and more Bob's Red Mill and Eden Organics products than I have ever seen in one place. The produce section was beautiful, it had a nice health and beauty department, and they even carry a bunch of really cute home and kitchen stuff.

Laughing Planet Cafe
: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and allergyt friendly fast food, in multiple locations all over the city. Whoa. They were really accommodating and had a big binder with ALL of their ingredients that they were willing to pull out for me in an instant. I got a beautiful bowl of steamed vegetables with happy chicken and brown rice for $8, and had enough to take home leftovers. And it was served up in, like, 5 minutes. Amazing. Gluten-eating, meat-eating, dairy-eating, egg-eating people will like this place too; they have some really good looking burritos, sandwiches, and soups. All in all, a great variety of options, and totally affordable. And for you beer and soda drinkers, they have lots of beers and BlueSky sodas on tap. Cool.

Hawthorne and Corbett Fish House
: Wisconsin-style, gluten-free fish fry in Portland; they have two locations. This place rocks; it was a total dream come true. Let me explain: I'm a total Wisconsin girl. And while you can take the girl out of Wisconsin, you can't ever take the Wisconsin out of the girl. Sure, I like clean, fresh food full of vegetables and wholesome ingredients. But sometimes I want to return to my roots and eat some fried fish. A perch and walleye fish fry is as Wisconsin as you can get; and where better to get it than Portland?
gluten-free fried walleye - amazing!
The only restaurant to serve walleye and perch on the West coast, the Hawthorne and Corbett Fish Houses use rice flour and rice bran oil to create a light, crunchy batter around perfectly moist fish. Amazing. I substituted fries for a salad, and had the most satisfying fish meal in ages! Get the walleye, it is tops. The best thing about this place is that it actually FELT and LOOKED like we had just been teleported to Wisconsin, from the tacky fish and Green Bay Packer paraphanaglia hanging from the walls, to the crop of oddly Midwest-looking clientele that seemed to be pouring in the door. If you've ever been to a fish fry at a Wisconsin supper club, you know what I mean. Go here!

New Cascadia Traditional Bakery
their gluten-free breads and confections looked beautiful. But sadly, most of the breads contained yeast, everything except the vegan chocolate cupcake contained eggs, and the vegan chocolate cupcake contained soy, so I didn't try anything. But definitely try it out if you can! It is a little tricky to find - it is located in the entryway to Trader Joe's. They also had a large ingredient book that they were willing to pull out when I asked about ingredients.
I didn't get the chance to eat or stop at the following places, but came across them in my research or while driving around - so I thought I'd share! These all have gluten free options as well as vegan and vegetarian friendly menus.

Blossoming Lotus
: located in the Pearl disctrict, inside Pearl Yoga studio. They have a lot of raw stuff, and some really tasty looking grain-bean-veggie bowls.
Chaos Cafe: vegan/vegetarian place in SE, cheap, good looking menu, and looks cool from the outside. I want to try their cashew sour cream!
Proper Eats: looks good, vegetarian and vegan, some gluten-free options on their menu
Papa G's Vegan Organic Deli: this place looks fantastic and quirky, and although I drove by it twice, I didn't have the chance to stop. Next time! They have hot entrees and grab-and-go, by the looks of it, some is gluten free. They make gluten-free gravy that sounds tasty.
Food Fight Grocery: all vegan grocery store - for real
Bellagios Pizza: if you can eat eggs, they have a gluten free crust, so check it out
The MIssissippi Pizza Pub: not sure what is in their crust, but they also have gluten free pizza options
Picazzo's Pizza: more gluten free pizza options
Grolla Restaurant: Looks fancy, higher priced, tasty looking menu
Old Wives Tales Restaurant: lots of different gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, and meat options. Looks great, especially if you can eat eggs or soy - their brunch looks good
Francis Restaurant: they have a separate gluten free, vegan menu that looks pretty fantastic.
And here are two great resources with even more info, written by people that actually live in Portland and know the place. Hooray!

This link is especially awesome - it has TONS of links and information, check out the link for Grandma Leeth's restaurant, it looks great :http://www.glutenfreeportland.org/restaurant-list/

Also good:

So, if you travel to Portland, I hope this information helps! It is a great town, and I can't wait to make it my home. 2010 will be here in no time!
chrysanthemum tea with goji berries at the tea house in the Chinese Gardens
The fine city of Portland, with Mt. Hood in the distance

Basic Vegetable and Chicken Stocks (gluten free, vegan option, ACD)

I adore chicken stocks and vegetable stocks in soup, to cook rice or other grains, to use for sauces, or sometimes just to drink warm like tea. They are nourishing, satisfying, and versatile, and form a good cornerstone for every kitchen. But buying high quality broth and stock that is free of preservatives, sugars, yeast extracts, and crazy additives can be very expensive, and can sometimes be hard to find. Sure, t is great in a pinch or when you just want something convenient, but the cost adds up! So whenever possible, I like to make my own in a big batch and freeze it up for later use. Not only is it incredibly easy, it is also incredibly economical. You really don't need to buy anything extra to make stock, because it uses all the leftovers and "waste" that is leftover from cooking endeavors: bones, skin, scraps, vegetable trimmings, etc. The best stock is cooked for a long time over low heat; it allows for the flavor to become full and rich. Whether making a vegetable stock or a chicken/turkey stock, the same rule applies: the longer you simmer, the richer the flavor. The richer the stock, the more delicious your soup or other dish will be!

There's a million stock recipes out there, some are more complex with others. I usually make a really big batch at once, and just keep it simple so it can be more versatile later on in recipes. Here is what I do for making vegetable and chicken stock. I've never tried making beef stock before, but would like to try my hand at it! You can make as little or as much stock as you choose - obviously, the ratio of water to vegetable/chicken, as well as the length of cooking time, will determine how flavorful your stock becomes. My favorite way is to make it in the slow cooker, because it requires no effort at all and you can leave it simmer all day. once you spend 10 minutes getting your ingredients together, your work is done!

VEGETABLE STOCK (gluten free, vegan)

Instead of throwing away vegetable scraps when you cook, save them! For example...

  • carrot peels,
  • onion peels (not too many)
  • parsley stems or other herb scraps
  • celery ends
  • broccoli or cauliflower staulks
  • mushroom stems
  • green bean ends
  • other vegetable trimmings
If you cook frequently, you'll have plenty of good scraps in no time! Sometimes I"ll keep a container in my fridge for scraps, they will last for a few days without going weird. When you have a a couple cups worth of scraps, throw them in a big stockpot or slow cooker with a bunch of water, a little salt, peppercorns, and maybe a bouquet garni of fresh herbs (if you have any on hand), and if desired, a coarsely chopped carrot or two, celery branch, and an onion for extra flavor. Then let it simmer away for 6-24 hours (if using a slowcooker, put it on low and let it sit), and soon enough, you've got great vegetable broth!
Pour through strainer to remove vegetable scraps and herbs, and if desired, add salt to taste. Use immediately, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze for later use. Will keep 7-10 days in the fridge; bring to boil before using in recipes if storing in fridge.


CHICKEN (OR TURKEY) STOCK (gluten free, dairy free, egg free)

My favorite stock ever is chicken stock. I love cooking whole chickens, removing the meat, and then using the drippings and leftover skin and bones to make stock. Sometimes, if I don't feel like cooking a whole chicken myself, I'll buy a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods or the co-op. Once I get that sucker home, I'll eat some right away, and by that I mean LITERALLY the second I get in the door, because those things are so good fresh and warm. Like chicken candy.

After I've finished gorging myself on chicken (sorry for that image, vegetarian and vegan readers), I'll separate the rest of the meat from the bones and skin, freezing most of the chicken for later. Don't throw away that skin and bones when you disassemble your bird! That's the good stuff! That stuff just wants to be transformed into nutritious, delicious stock. This is the perfect thing to do after cooking a holiday turkey! You could also do this with any other poultry - cornish hen, duck, capon, etc.

All you need is...
leftover bones, tendons, and skin from 1 chicken
any chicken drippings
1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 celery branch, coarsely chopped
a splash of apple cider vinegar
If you want to get fancy...
a bay leaf
other herbs or seasonings
other vegetable trimmings

Put the chicken in the pot with the vegetables. Fill the pot with water, add the vinegar. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 6-24 hours. Strain broth to remove solid matter - remove vegetables and use them for something else, and discard chicken bones and skin. Use immediately, or freeze for later use! Will keep in the fridge for around 7 days, boil before using.

If making in the slowcooker, sometimes I like to start it in a stockpot to bring it to a good boil - this well help kill any unwelcome bacteria on your chicken bones - then transfer it to the slow cooker. I'll leave it on low for up to 24 hours, and get the tastiest stock ever! Again, strain before using.


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