Food Friday: Stovetop Lemon Chicken

 Photo by Seasons and Suppers

Photo by Seasons and Suppers

A basic chicken breast or thighs have never been my favourite thing to cook for dinner. I usually prefer it pre-cooked added to a salad or wrap for lunch, in a saucy fajitas or a whole cooked chicken with all the juices. However, this recipe, by Seasons and Suppers, caught my eye and it will definitely be a go-to weeknight dinner option from now on (if only he liked capers…). It is great served with any green veggie of your choice, green beans are perfect. Or if you are craving something a little heavier serve it over gluten free pasta with a salad on the side.

The garlic and shallots in here are great immune boosters as we head into cold & flu season so don’t be shy about these and finally you all know my love for lemons.

Do you have a favourite chicken recipe you’d like to share?

Ingredients: (serves 5 people)

  • 2 small lemons cut into thin rounds

  • 1 1/2 tsp white sugar

  • 4 garlic cloves halved

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter or ghee DIVIDED

  • 1 tsp minced shallot

  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic

  • 1 thyme sprig

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or additional 1/2 cup chicken stock

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1 tsp all-purpose flour (or sub gluten free flour)

  • 2 Tbsp capers

  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, add lemon slices and garlic halves. Sprinkle with sugar. Set aside.

  2. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add chicken to pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate.

  3. Add a splash more oil to the pan if it is dry. Add lemon slice mixture to the pan (keeping bowl handy) and cook, turning occasionally, for about 1 minute or until lemon slices are lightly browned. Return lemon mixture to the bowl.

  4. Wipe pan with paper towel and heat over medium heat. Melt 1 1/2 tsp of butter in the pan, then add shallot, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic and thyme sprig. Cook for 30 seconds or so, then add wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes or until liquid almost completely evaporates. Add chicken stock, and flour to the pan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced to about 2/3 cup.

  5. Remove pan from heat; discard thyme sprig. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and capers, stirring until butter melts. Taste sauce and add additional salt and pepper, as needed. Return chicken and any juices to pan and re-warm in sauce, turning to coat with sauce. Top chicken with lemon mixture and allow to warm with chicken slightly before serving. Garnish with parsley.

Enjoy!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

September is RESET Time!

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Every year around this time is it a common theme that we need to reset after a summer of less routine. September 1st, or when the kids go back to school, is usually a set point to do so for many. So if you have fallen off any of your health goals this summer, remember there are many just like you and it IS possible to get back on track! 

With that said, I want to remind you of simple things you can do to optimize your routine, and ultimately your energy, sleep, weight and mood. 

1. Set a wake time and bed time:

There is much research on the benefits of getting up at the same time every morning and going to sleep at the same time every night. Our body LOVES routine so it thrives when this happens. You may notice that after waking at the same time for a couple weeks with an alarm, your body will then naturally wake on its own at that time. Try using the bedtime app on your iPhone, but then put it on the dresser across your bed (not beside your head!) so you have to actually get up to turn it off. Wear earplugs, or a face mask, if need be while you adjust to this schedule.

2. Lemon Water in the Morning:

There are two reasons I love this for my patients. One, the warm water and lemon are wonderful for gut health. It acts as a gentle detoxifier in the morning and stimulates digestive juices. This can initiate a bowel movement or simply prime the digestive system for food. Second, it forces you to sit and relax in the morning (yes, please set out time to do this and not while running to get the kids packed up, or during a workout). Taking a few minutes in the morning for calm sets the tone for the day. We want to carry that feeling throughout the day. Meditation could be this time of calm for you as well if that suits you. 

3. Exercise in the Am:

The best time in chinese medicine to exercise is between 9-11 in the morning. It is the time of the Spleen, which in chinese medicine controls the muscles. I understand this is unreasonable for most but the point to take here is the earlier the better for exercise, especially if you have trouble sleeping. We want to wind down and calm the nervous system in the evening so a gentle yoga class is fine but a vigorous one may not be helpful. I love getting up and working up a sweat in the morning and then be ready to take on the rest of the day without worrying about exercise. 

4. Greens, Greens, Greens:

I always like to challenge my patients to try and get at least one serving of greens in a day (getting two?...even better!). Add spinach to a smoothie, make a breakfast hash with kale, eat a big salad at lunch or roast broccoli for dinner. Just something green, once a day 🙂 

5. Roll Back on Sweets:

Ice cream galore, cold ciders or coolers a plenty…summer staples for some. Let’s roll back on the sweets this September to balance blood sugar and energy as the darker days approach. If you know me, I have a sweet tooth, but I try to limit myself to a healthier treat such as a couple pieces of dark chocolate, a energy ball with dates or a few chocolate chips in the evening or during that 3pm slump. Out of sight, out of mind right! 

6. Blood Work to check:

If you have been feeling sluggish or anxious even during these summer months, I suggest getting some blood work done to assess a couple things. Vitamin D is key to have in a healthy range as we move into fall, as well as thyroid levels (TSH). Both affect your mood and energy and your thyroid controls your metabolism. Hypothyroidism is often missed and TSH is often something I find can be out of an ideal range yet not actual out of range for your MD to catch it yet. 

There you have it, a few basic things to check in with for yourself as we RESET this month! Any questions, I am always here to help. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen 

Food Friday: Anytime Minestrone Soup

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The rainy day this week finally got me craving some cozy soup and what better way to use up leftovers and random cans of beans than make a minestrone soup! To be honest, I have never made minestrone soup before, mostly because I don't usually like really brothy soups, BUT I have to say this is a winner! I made some adjustments to the typical soup recipe to make it more hearty and it turned out delicious! 

So, if you are in the mood for something cozy, yet still summery AND you want to use up those leftovers, look no further! :) Feel free to use any veggies you'd like in this one. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced 
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes 
  • 2 small celery stacks, diced
  • 2 small/medium carrots, diced
  • handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into pieces 
  • 1 cup gluten free pasta 
  • 1 19 oz can white kidney beans 
  • salt and pepper 
  • 3 cups chicken, veggie stock (or water and bullion cubes)
  • parmesan to sprinkle 

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and saute for a few minutes until golden. Add carrots, celery, garlic, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano and some pepper and saute for a few minutes more until fragrant.
  2. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes and stock and simmer covered until carrots are slightly tender, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile mash 1/2 the beans with a fork - this adds a little more bulk to the soup. Cook pasta as well and strain. 
  4. Add beans, green beans and salt to taste and simmer 7-10 minutes more until veggies are tender. Add pasta at the end and adjust seasoning. 
  5. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan, if dairy is ok, and a slice of sourdough bread if desired. Enjoy! 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Adaptogens for Healing Burnout

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Do you feel like you are running on empty but you can’t find the time to refuel and replenish? A feeling of overwhelm can eventually turn into burnout and it is an unfortunate epidemic in our society these days. We tend to have too much going on than our bodies can handle and we don’t take the time to recharge our batteries. Women are more likely to feel the impact of overwhelm and burnout on their mental and physical well-being but that doesn’t mean we don’t see it in men. You may be a nurse who does shift work, a police officer needing to pump out adrenaline on the job, a new mom getting little sleep, or a menopausal women taking care of both teenagers and elderly parents. It all leads to the same thing if we can’t take care of ourselves! 

Some mild symptoms you may commonly experience are fatigue, poor sleep, sugar cravings and irritability. It can eventually lead to symptoms you may not acknowledge as burnout such as anxiety or depression, insomnia, poor memory, low libido, muscle soreness, inability to lose that dreaded belly fat, and a poor immune system. What we really need to watch out for is when the body can’t support itself anymore and autoimmune conditions such as Hashimotos thyroiditis or rheumatoid arthritis occur or potentially blood sugar issues or chronic hives. Eekk!

What is burnout?

I have explained this in a few different blog posts, but basically burnout is when you have pushed your stress response system pasts its limit of resilience. Your body is putting on the brakes to protect itself as best it can, forcing you to take it easy. Its the little white flag saying “I surrender.” These are the clues for you to take a step back or support your way through it. This is where adaptogens come in! Thank goodness all is not lost! 

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs and fungi that have been around for many years. They help us adapt and heal from stress, hence the name, and they definitely come in handy in my practice! There are a few categories of adaptogens - calming, nourishing and stimulating - therefore best to know where you're at in the “burnout phase” to get the most out of them. If you use something too stimulating when you need more nourishing you may be adding fuel to the fire and cause more anxiety. 

Stimulating: These are helpful when you aren’t quite burnt-out but need support to get through an intense time, eg. studying at medical school, meeting a work deadline or working a night shift. Examples - panax ginseng, matcha, rhodiola.

Nourishing: When you need to fill the bucket up again and refuel these come in handy. They acts as building blocks lets say to boost cortisol. Most of the adaptogens fall into this category. Examples - ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, licorice (not advised for high blood pressure), medicinal mushrooms. 

Calming: When someone is feeling anxious and their body needs to hit the reset button, these calming adaptogens are very helpful. They slow down the output of cortisol. Examples - schizandra (calms the mind), avena sativa, holy basil, motherwort. 

A reminder that adaptogens should not replace nourishing lifestyle habits that support a calm and relaxed state, such as meditation, sleep, nourishing food, time in nature and time with loved ones. Adaptogens are also not suitable during pregnancy. 

If you are feeling burnt-out and need a reset come chat! I’d love to help pick the right adaptogen for you. 

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen