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Seasonal Recipe: Black Rice Pudding

Seasonal Recipe: Black Rice Pudding

This sweet and soothing dessert is perfect for the rather wintry fall weather we’ve been having lately.

By Barbara Adach, R.Ac

Registered Acupuncturist in Ontario

The ingredients support Lung and Kidney (Chinese medicine organ systems that relate to the fall and winter seasons respectively) health to help us get through these shorter, colder, windier days.

If you haven’t tried black rice yet, this recipe is an easy way to do so.

Black rice is touted as a very healthy type of rice.  Unlike polished white rice, it retains its hull and, therefore, has a high fibre content.  The dark purple to black colour of the grains is due to the presence of potent and protective antioxidants called anthocyanins.

Most grocery stores carry black rice – you don’t have to go to a specialty shop to find it.  However, easy access to black rice hasn’t always been the case.  In ancient times, it was strictly reserved for China’s Emperor and family.  Hence its other common names ‘Emperor’s Rice’ or ‘Forbidden Rice’.



¾ cup of black rice

2+ cups of water

¼ cup dates, chopped

¼ cup of almonds, chopped

1 tart apple (Granny Smith, Winesap, Honeycrisp, etc.), peeled, cored and chopped

2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped

1 tsp grated or minced fresh ginger

Garnish (optional):

1 tbsp. grated orange zest

1 tbsp. almonds, finely chopped


  1. Rinse rice with plenty of cold water.
  2. Place rice in a cooking pot along with 2 cups of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Keep the pot covered.
  3. Add chopped dates and almonds. Continue to stir occasionally until the dates are very soft (at least 15 minutes).  If the mixture is sticking or starting to look dry, add more water to keep a moist texture.
  4. Add the chopped apple and stir to mix. Cook until the apple pieces and rice are soft.  Again, if the mixture starts to dry out, add more water.
  5. Add the pears and fresh ginger, mixing well. Cook until pears are soft.
  6. Spoon pudding into serving dishes. If desired, garnish with a little orange zest and chopped almond.  Serve warm.


  • Black rice is quite hard and takes a while to cook to a pudding texture. To reduce cooking time, soak rice in 1 ½ cups of water for at least an hour.  Soaking overnight is ideal.  Discard the soaking water before cooking.
  • With cooking, black rice will change to a beautiful purple colour.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition Points:

  • Pears, apples, almonds and ginger all help to fortify the Lung organ system. This is exactly what we should be doing at this time of year.  The Lung system is associated with the fall season and the colour white.  Note that, while the peels of pears and apples may be a variety of colours, the flesh is white!
  • Black rice, like other types of rice, strengthens our digestive function. What is different about this rice is its striking deep colour.  Black, purple and dark blue foods assist the Kidney organ system which helps sustain us through the upcoming winter.  In addition, it is said to promote healthy Blood.
  • Dates, the main source of sweetness in this recipe, warm us, give us energy and also strengthen Blood.
  • Orange zest can help optimize digestion.
  • This pudding is well cooked and served warm. Both of these factors ease the burden on the Stomach and Spleen (TCM organs of digestion).
Chunky Chicken Vegetable Soup

Chunky Chicken Vegetable Soup

By Sonam Patel, BSc. HK

This comforting fall soup has a kick of heat to it that will warm you up on the chilliest of autumn days.

It can be enjoyed with a thick slice of sourdough bread or a handful of multigrain crackers. Portion out leftovers into containers to freeze and reheat for a quick, hearty meal. This recipe can also be made in a slow cooker – combine all the ingredients in the low setting before heading to work and return home to a cozy meal and delicious aroma in your kitchen.

Chunky Chicken Vegetable Soup


  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, about 1 inch minced
  • 1 jalapeno (optional), sliced
  • 6 chicken thighs, bone-in skinless/skin removed
  • 3 shanghai bok choy, leaves separated
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 handfuls kale, torn
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, for cooking


  1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat, and add red onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook for a few minutes until onions start to turn translucent.
  2. Add chicken thighs, cook for 5 minutes, flip, and cook another side for 5 minutes to brown both sides.
  3. Remove chicken thighs from pot and set aside.
  4. Add zucchini, carrot, and celery to pot and cook for about 5 mins. Stir to evenly cook.
  5. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, kale, bok choy, and jalapeno to the pot, as well as the reserved chicken. Pour broth over vegetables and increase heat to high.
  6. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for an additional 10 – 15 mins.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the cilantro.  Enjoy!
Sonam Patel has been working for the Pacific Wellness Institute as a clinical assistant.  She holds a Bachelor of Science, Human Kinetics & Nutritional and Nutraceutical Science degree from the University of Guelph.  She has graduated from Eight Branches Academy of Eastern Medicine in Torontowith two diplomas in Acupuncture & Moxibustionand Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Green Brassica Slaw

Green Brassica Slaw

Since we are on the topic of spring cleaning, I felt it was appropriate to include a recipe that spring cleans your organs. Bitter greens like kale and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts enhance the liver’s ability to detoxify, which is it’s primary function. Supporting our detoxification pathways through diet ensures that we are removing wastes effectively, leading to improved digestive, skin, and hormonal health. This salad has about 50 shades of green which screams spring (and healthy)! This recipe calls for a pre-chopped kale slaw which makes it quick and easy to put together. You can find kale slaw at regular grocery stores near the boxed salad greens. This can be eaten as is, as a side dish, or topped with your choice a protein for a more substantial meal. It serves 2-4 depending on the size of your portion and if you are having it with something else.

Green Brassica Slaw


  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 5 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp raw/unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 small package kale slaw
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted almonds, chopped
  • 1-2 avocados, quartered lengthwise
  • Small handful of parsley leaves, left whole
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450F. Toss broccoli with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread in an even layer on a rimmed  baking sheet. Roast, flipping once, about 10-15 minutes until deeply browned. Let cool.

Whisk together the remaining 4 tbsp olive oil, shallot, vinegar, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Add kale slaw and toss to coat evenly. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Add roasted broccoli, almonds, and parsley leaves to slaw and toss again. Divide slaw between plates and top with 1/2 an avocado (2 quarters) on each. Serve as is or with a protein of choice.

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments four days a week.  If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment.  The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.

Paleo and Vegan Mushroom Pie

Paleo and Vegan Mushroom Pie

It’s common for people to lean toward more plant-based foods at this time of year. After a holiday season of indulgence, it is a great idea to balance it out with some healthful plant-based meals. However, we are still in the depths of winter, and a cold salad probably does not sound particularly enticing.

Enter this mushroom pie – warm and comforting, and happens to be completely Paleo AND Vegan (not an easy feat). It also contains some fantastic immune supporters including dark leafy greens and mushrooms. I have adapted this recipe from Laura Wright of The First Mess (blog and cookbook) to make it Paleo friendly while keeping it vegan. There may be a few steps in this recipe, but they are simple and well worth it. Plus, you can make this ahead of time and freeze/refrigerate and reheat as needed.

Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND

Paleo and Vegan Mushroom Pie

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups chopped and packed kale (about 6-7 stems-worth)
  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed into 2cm pieces (no need to peel)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and divided
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil plus more, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond, cashew, coconut), divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small cooking onion, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons minced, fresh hearty herbs (ie. sage, thyme, rosemary)
  • 2 ¼ lbs (1020 grams) mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch if necessary)


Preheat oven to 425F. Toss cubed squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread squash evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until squash is tender and lightly golden. Set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Add cauliflower florets and one of the peeled garlic cloves and simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove cauliflower and garlic using a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.

Drop the kale into the same boiling water and simmer until kale is just-wilted and bright green, about 1-2 minutes. Drain kale and run cold water over it. Squeeze all of the excess moisture out.  Set aside.

In a food processor or blender, combine the drained cauliflower and garlic, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the non-dairy milk, and plenty of salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Transfer the mashed cauliflower to a medium bowl. Roughly chop the cooked kale and fold it into the potatoes. Set aside.

Lower the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 9×13 glass or metal baking dish (about 2 inches deep) with olive oil and set it on a baking sheet.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and cook until slightly soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves and add them to the pot along with the herbs. Stir until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms and stir. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and let it sit for 2 minutes.

After two minutes, remove the lid and season the mushrooms with pepper. Stir. Place the lid on and let the pot sit for another two minutes.

Add the roasted squash to the pot. Stir the mushroom and squash mixture and then add the balsamic vinegar, tamari or coconut aminos, and tomato paste to the pot. Stir and scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Season the mushrooms liberally with salt.

Add the vegetable stock to the pot and stir. Bring the mushrooms to a boil. In a small bowl, stir together the arrowroot powder and the remaining 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk to combine. Add the arrowroot slurry to the pot and stir. Let the mushrooms simmer until the surrounding liquid is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Dollop the mashed cauliflower on top, and gently spread them over the surface of the mushrooms with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Drizzle the pie with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Carefully transfer the pie to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the cauliflower is lightly browned about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the mushroom gravy pie from the oven and let it sit for a minute or two before serving.

Serves: 6

Dr. Bianca Drennan is available for nutritional consultations at The Pacific Wellness Institute.  If you have employee benefits that cover a naturopath you can claim this service.  Call our front desk at 416-929-6958 to inquire.

Seasonal Recipe: Pineapple Fried Rice

Seasonal Recipe: Pineapple Fried Rice

If you are trying to add more rice into your diet as you become gluten-free, or you are just a huge fan of rice and need to try something with a twist, the following recipe is for you! Packed with flavour and easy to make, this dish won’t have you spending hours agonizing over how to jazz up your dinner. And as a bonus, you can use up your leftover rice from the night before! Simply pair with a warm, saucy curry or stew, and you’ll have yourself a plate of comfort food for the cold nights ahead. Try a coconut milk-based curry if you are also dairy-free!

By Sonam Patel, B.Sc

Pineapple Fried Rice Ingredients:

  •  Oil (for cooking)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 5           Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1.5”       Ginger piece, minced
  • 1           Onion (cooking or red), medium-sized, chopped
  • 2-3        Eggs
  • ¼ cup    Cashews (unsalted, raw), chopped into quarters
  • 6 cups   Balsamic rice, cooked
  • ¼ cup    Soy sauce (approx.)
  • ¼ cup    Rice wine vinegar (approx.)
  • ¼ cup    Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 cup     Pineapple, chunks (fresh or canned will work)
  • 2            Green onions, sliced

Pineapple Fried Rice Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot or wok on medium heat.
  2. Add garlic cloves, ginger and onions, sauté until onions are partially cooked.
  3. Crack eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork until combined, add to the pot.
  4. Stir egg mixture until cooked (just like scrambled eggs). Add cashews and combine them.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add cooked rice to the pot and stir in.
  6. Season with soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Stir in pineapple chunks.
  7. Take the pot off the heat and garnish with green onions.
  8. Serve with chili paneer, any curry (masaman, green, panang, etc.), or other saucy dishes.


Sonam Patel has been working for the Pacific Wellness Institute as a clinical assistant.  She holds a Bachelor of Science, Human Kinetics & Nutritional and Nutraceutical Science degree from the University of Guelph.  Currently, she is pursuing a diploma of Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Traditional Chinese Medicine at Eight Branches Academy of Eastern Medicine in Toronto.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Tahini Dressing and Arugula

Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Tahini Dressing and Arugula

All the various types of winter squashes get me really excited about fall and it’s seasonal flavours.

This is a great side dish to any holiday feast, but is simple enough any night of the week. The squash and sauce can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature. Drizzle the dressing over the squash and top with the arugula and seeds just before serving. Winter squashes are full of vitamins A and C, fibre, and many other vitamins and minerals. They are also a source of low glycemic, complex carbohydrates – meaning they can take the place of more starchy foods like white potatoes, rice, or pasta on your table. Most people peel their squashes, but often the skins are so thin that they soften when cooked, and provide a nice texture contrast, along with loads of fibre – so save yourself the effort! Feel free to use whatever type of squash you like best (Kabocha, buttercup, acorn) – although butternut is a crowd pleaser.

Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND

Ingredients: Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Tahini Dressing and Arugula


  • 1 2-3lb butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt

Maple Tahini Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup


  • 3 tbsp unsalted, toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups baby arugula


Preheat the oven to 425F. Rinse the squash well and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and discard them. Cut the squash into 2-inch irregular pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. To the bowl, add the oil, spices, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Toss well and coat each piece of squash in the oil mixture.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the squash evenly in one layer, trying not to overlap any pieces. Place squash in oven and roast for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and caramelized.

While the squash is roasting, combine the dressing ingredients with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. It should be the consistency of thick cream, so add more water as needed. Set aside.

When the squash is done roasting, place on a platter and drizzle with maple tahini dressing. Sprinkle over toasted pumpkin seeds and baby arugula, and serve.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Dr. Bianca Drennan is available for nutritional consultations at The Pacific Wellness Institute.  If you have employee benefits that cover a naturopath you can claim this service.  Call our front desk at 416-929-6958 to inquire.