Thursday, June 28, 2012

5-Element Nutrition: Balance Your Wood Element - Recipes

As requested, from my recent workshop, these are the 4 recipes we ate to balance our Wood Element (Liver/GallBladder).  Unless noted, recipes are my own.

1) Kindness Water

In a 1 gallon water pitcher, combine the following:

Organic lemon slices
Organic lime slices
Organic grapefruit slices
 - remove any seeds, but leave the peel on all of the citrus fruit to intensify the sour flavor that benefits the Liver.
 - use 2-3 thin slices of each.
1 sprig fresh mint leaves

Fill with purified water, let sit for at least 15 minutes, serve.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, water is best served room temperature.  Ok to refrigerate this up to 3 days.

2) Green Apple Salad
Tart green apples are excellent for the Liver.  In addition, this salad is light and refreshing, making a great Spring side dish.

Combine in a bowl:

3 organic Green Apples, peeled, sliced into small pieces
4 stalks organic Celery, rinsed, chopped into small pieces
¼ cup toasted Walnuts, bake at 250 degrees for 20 minutes then chop
½ cup Raisins, I used organic Sunview brand green seedless, which are really plump and sweet.

Drizzle 1 large spoonful honey over the top.  I used Wee Bee Honey, naturally raw with pollen, propolis, and honeycomb bits in it.

Add 1 cup plain yogurt.

Stir everything together and serve.

3) Potato Cauliflower Curry (Aloo Gobi)
This is a recipe I tried from a great book, The Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, 2011.  I included it because it highlights Turmeric which is a spice that is incredible for the Liver. It's also very important to find delicious ways to get anti-cancer vegetables into our food as often as possible (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts).


2 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 ½ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
½ tsp diced fresh ginger
½ tsp chili power
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs garam masala (Indian spice mixture)
Salt, to taste
¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the turmeric and cumin seeds until the spices render their aroma, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped shallot and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft, about 8 minutes.

2.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, ginger, chili powder, and ground pepper.  Reduce the heat, cover partially, and cook for 40 minutes, stirring frequently.  If the curry appears too dry and the vegetables start to stick to the pan, add some water.

3.  Add the garam masala, simmer 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep covered until ready to serve.  Sprinkle with cilantro, if using, and serve.

4) Millet & Maitake Mushroom Curry
I thought the above recipe for Potato Cauliflower Curry needed something to go with other than plain rice, so I made this dish as a similar complement.  Millet is a delicious yellow earthy grain that benefits the Liver, and Maitake is a medicinal mushroom which strongly supports the Liver.  This recipe also highlights turmeric, “guardian of the liver”.

1.  Put the millet on to cook.  Use 1 cup millet to 3 cups water, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer until done – about 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit covered when done.

2.  Make the Maitake Mushroom Curry.


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 fresh Maitake mushroom, rinsed and chopped.  Ok to substitute a re-constituted dried Maitake if fresh is not available.  8 Shiitake mushrooms (fresh or dried) would also be a viable substitute.
1 28-oz can peeled, ground tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder (I used a Madras Curry variety from Summit Spice & Teas)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1.  In a cast iron or other skillet, heat the olive oil.  When hot, add the ajwain seeds and turmeric.  Wait about 15 seconds then add the chopped garlic and ginger.  Stir.

2.  Add the chopped Maitake mushroom and stir until the mushroom is starting to brown, about 5-8 minutes.

3.  Add the can of tomatoes, turmeric, ground cumin, garam masala, and curry powder.  Stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste, stir again.

4.  Add the millet 1 large spoonful at a time, stirring in, until desired consistency is formed.  Ok to add a little more water if needed.  I like this to be slightly on the wet side, rather than thick and dry.  Serve.

Keep any unused millet refrigerated for 4-5 days.  Add to a soup like rice, or even mix with oatmeal in the morning.

Cynthia McMullen, Program Director at Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture & Massage Therapy, teaches a very popular 12-chapter series in 5-Element Nutrition.  Workshops are held once each month, open to the general public.  For more information: