Cooling Kitchari + End of Summer Notes

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After sharing about my experience with eating at the relay, I got a request to share the kitchari that I made and ate during the race. As I’ve told more than a few people, it is a variation on dozens of “beans and rice” meals that I regularly make and consume. One thing that is different, however, is that I’ve been paying a little more attention to the energetics of food these past few months, how certain things make me feel, physically and emotionally, and really asking myself, What do I need today? to feel my best. Part of this is perhaps just where I’m at in life, with my relationship to food and my body, and the other part is that I find when it comes to healing complex health concerns, which I’ve struggled with for a number of years, I believe we each individually have the internal knowledge of what is best for us, if only we tune in and acknowledge it.

I’ll share a little more about what I have adapted, and suggestions for how you can do the same in the recipe notes below, but first a few good articles, a video, and a podcast episode that I particularly enjoyed these past few weeks.

 

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Nutrition + Food:
Superfood or Super-Hype?: ‘My advice is to think twice before you succumb to the next cure-du-jour and run out to buy this week’s superfood. It might cure what ails you (though probably not). Better to take a thorough look at your lifestyle, habits, and diet. Choose from the widely available healthy foods and go for a long walk!’

The Antioxidant Effects of Acai versus Apples

A Vegan Dietitian Reviews “What the Health”: There has been A LOT of discussion and controversy over this new documentary, but I think Virginia Messina does the best job detailing the problematic nature with how the information was presented.

Microbiome: Increase Your Diversity: ‘However good your diet and gut health, it is not nearly as good as our ancestors’. Everyone should make the effort to improve their gut health by re-wilding their diet and lifestyle. Being more adventurous in your normal cuisine plus reconnecting with nature and its associated microbial life, may be what we all need.’

This Is Your Brain on Cheese: When I first learned I was reacting negatively to gluten and dairy and eliminated them from my diet, I found dairy was much more difficult to remove, and I went through weeks of anger and frustration at the sudden lack. After that ‘detox’ period was over, I have never craved cheese or other dairy again. Some of the evidence in this article explains why.

Are Endurance Athletes More Susceptible to Getting Diabetes? ‘If you’re eating like a Tour de France rider, just make sure you’re training like one too.’

A Cook’s Remedy: I absolutely loved Aran’s video showcasing her Spanish Roots and relationship to food and body, and her journey over the years. It is episode Three, parts one and two.

And Lastly, a podcast episode to really get you thinking about your relationship to food and buying in to diet culture–I know it certainly has been the start of a paradigm shift for me: Isabel Foxen Duke on Sanity around Food, Surrender, Diet Culture, Fat Phobia as a Social Justice Concept + So Much More

 

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Self-Care + Mindfulness:
The Mindfulness of Pure Experience

Turning Softly Towards Your Pain Rather Than Avoiding It: ‘I began to alter my relationship to negative selective memories and go towards them and soften them rather than avoid them. I would notice how they made me feel, where I felt them, breathing deeply, anchoring myself around the thought or memory in order to reduce the impact it had on me.’

The Tomorrow List: ‘Instead of listing what I was grateful for that day, which despite my inability to articulate was still aplenty, I made a list of what I would be grateful to have realised tomorrow. If all went according to my desire’s and the sake of my safety, how I would feel at the end of my day.’

I’ll shoot you straight: ‘If you are resentful and do nothing to change either your exterior or interior, you have not met yourself. If you go back to the same coping mechanisms over and over again with the same results over and over again, you have not met yourself. If you keep opening the same doors over and over and OVER again, there’s a whole untouched hallway ahead of you – and you have not met yourself.’ 

‘I sit here knowing my body will go through so many incarnations and I’m going to treat it like it’s royalty no matter what. I smile because I have not only a yoga practice on the mat but off the mat as well (life, yo) that strives to be authentic, layer-peeling, free of addiction and crutches and sameness, and I feel as if I am gliding down the hallway, door by door. And I realize I am free, I am whole, I am love. And I am not afraid.’

And to end on a slightly lighter note, I love Sophie’s suggestions on 12 Ways to Make Your Kitchen a Hippie Haven, combining both food, nutrition, and mindfulness topics.

 

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Cooling Kitchari
, serves 4
Adapted from What to Eat for How You Feel

Kitchari is a creamy porridge-like blend of beans and rice that has been a staple of Ayurvedic cuisine for many centuries. It is often consumed during times of healing or for detox, as simple frugal fare, and as a comfort meal. There are countless variations on it, and I adapted my own, choosing to cook the beans and rice separate for a less porridge-like texture in lieu of a more soupy curry served over brown rice. I’ve made it with both split yellow mung dal and red lentils. Both are lovely but the red lentils will break down more into that porridge consistency, and the split mung beans will retain a little more texture. The spices used here are more in favor of consuming this during the summer heatwave we are once again experiencing, with cooling and digestion-friendly fennel, and smaller amounts of the heating and pungent ginger and turmeric spices. Additionally, use whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand. I chose to use more grounding vegetables from my garden like golden beets, yellow summer squash, carrots, and white ‘salad’ turnips and their greens. My garden is bursting with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant too, and though I really do enjoy those foods, I’m noticing that they’re not leaving me feeling my best so I left them out. If you choose to make this, I invite you to adapt it as needed, adding in one or two minced chili peppers if you’re feeling a little stuck or sluggish, or taking out the black pepper if you’ve been overheated.

1 cup yellow split mung dal or red lentils
3 cups water or vegetable broth
2 cups diced seasonal vegetables
1-2 cups dark leafy greens
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a spice/coffee grinder
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, if desired
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup long grain or basmati brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, basil, or parsley
lime wedges, to serve

  • Soak the mung dal or red lentils for at least 30 minutes, then drain, wash well, and and drain again. Do the same in a separate dish with the brown rice.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil, cover, turn down to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes or until all the liquid is completely absorbed and the rice is plump.
  • Combine the mung dal or red lentils and broth or water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir occassionally and skim off the froth that comes to the surface.
  • Add the vegetables and fennel, bay leaves, ginger and turmeric, leaving out the greens for now, and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the beans are soft and fully cooked. Stir occasionally as needed so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  • Then stir in the greens, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just a little longer until the greens soften.
  • To serve, spoon the kitchari over a bowl of rice and top with minced cilantro or other cooling fresh herbs and a few squeezes of lime juice.
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summer calm herbal latte

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Did I tell you my summer term was a real whopper? I probably did because I complained and/or used it as a (valid) reason to opt out of a whole host of summer social activities that I wanted to partake in on many an occasion these past weeks. If I’m remembering correctly, I was singing the same tune last summer too so clearly I need to learn how to say no more to heavy lifting during the long seasons when I want to relax, socialize, and travel more. I somehow ended up taking three of the best but most time-intensive classes and most of my weekends for May/June/July were spent polishing off weekly deadlines and term checkpoints.

Realistically though, it wasn’t all bad. My herbal class textbook went along well with both my pathophysiology and personal life learnings, and I found myself scribbling this recipe for a summer calm herbal tea blend and latte in my notebook while reading the nervous system chapter on herbs on a day that I was also laying on the grass under the tree in our backyard, listening to the buzz of insects and children playing nearby, and feeling generally rather chill. So yeah, it wasn’t all tough going. I had a lot of relaxing afternoons where I could read or study from anywhere as long as I got it done. Many days, I chose outside in the backyard or the local forest.

And then it got hot and term project deadlines brought me indoors and reliant on the internet. And I forgot all about my recipe that includes a few nice herbs to infuse calm.

 

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Since we’re now closing in on just a few last weeks of summer and the back to school or work frenzy has got some of us a little higher strung, it’s definitely time to bring out this recipe. I might just be sipping on it a ways into the next season as well as it will be perfect for those cool, dark afternoons and evenings that are sadly coming our way. It’s got a few perhaps new-to-you herbs that are really good ones too.

 

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Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora // One of the best anxiolytic/nervine herbs for calming a racing mind, or at least I think so! Skullcap is one of the original herbs used in herbal medicine in the United States, and has a rich history of use here since at least the early 1800’s. In addition to being useful for anxious, nervous, and stressed mindsets, it is also a great anti-spasmodic for tight, painful muscles–both of these reasons are why I love it so much! Personally, however, I think its flavor is one that “grows on you.” When I first began working with skullcap, I found its stronger flavor slightly off-putting, but now I use it so much I tend to really favor it.

Holy Basil/Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum // With a very long history of use as a revered herb in India, and used there as a rasayana or rejuvenative, Holy Basil brings about health and long life. It is known as an adaptogen, meaning it will restore stress levels back to a balanced state, and also has antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities.

Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis // In the springtime on my trail runs, I often stop along the way and rub my hands in the lemon balm, especially if I’m in need of a mood lift. The fresh herb smells and tastes very lemony, but in the dried form, it is much more subtle, and acts like a gentle mood elevator. Some studies also show it enhances cognitive function, and may even relieve some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease like forgetfulness and irritability. It’s also great for stress headaches and improving focus.

Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia // Lavender is a mild nootropic herb, which means it “acts on the mind,” helping cognitive function. Additionally, it is good for nervous headaches, exhaustion, or anxiety. The essential oils in the flowers have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well, and I find their aroma just lovely.

 

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Summer Calm Herbal Latte, makes 1 large drink (18-ounces)
In the last step, I like to combine the steeped tea and warm milk in a liquid measuring cup and then have about a mug and a half of latte, as it tends to be the perfect amount for me. 

1 Tbs. summer calm herb blend (below, or herbal tea of choice)
3/4 cup nut milk
1 tsp. coconut butter
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  • Add herb blend to a tea ball or basket and then pour 12 ounces freshly boiled water over the herbs, cover or cap the mug or pot to capture all the beneficial essential oils, and allow to infuse for at least 10-20 minutes.
  • While the herbs are steeping, gently warm the nut milk, coconut butter, and vanilla extract on the stovetop or in a microwave safe dish.
  • Remove the tea ball or basket and carefully combine the tea and nut milk blend.


Summer Calm Herbal Blend

Dried herbs are best purchased in small quantities in bulk from a natural foods store, if you have access. Alternatively, an excellent place to source them online is from Mountain Rose Herbs.

2 parts skullcap
2 parts holy basil
2 parts lemon balm
1 part lavender flowers

  • In a jar, or other glass container, combine the dried herbs in parts, either by volume using tablespoons or measuring cups, or by weight. Then gently shake or stir the herbs, cap, and label with ingredients and amounts for future reference.

 


What I Ate For a Relay Race + Beet and Berries Cacao Smoothie Pudding

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I spent last weekend running around central Oregon in a heatwave with a group of 11 other runners, sharing space in our two vans, running the Cascade Lakes Relay. This year was my fifth relay and though I’ve meant to share some of the food aspect of races in the past, I decided this year it is time. For virtually all races, I have a policy of fueling as much as possible with “real food” that I eat on a regular basis, and don’t like to introduce foods outside the norm, even though they may be more convenient. For relays, I tend to wait until the last day or two before the race and then make about two recipes that sound like they’ll hit the spot food-wise. Essentially, if they sound like something I’d like to eat one-two days out, chances are they’re going to be what I’m desiring throughout the race.

For the past four years, I’ve run with my (now former) work team, and each year it seems, we’ve improved our team time, gaining slightly faster team members when we need a handful more. This year our team finished in the top 10 out of more than 200 teams and averaged a 7:33 pace throughout. The fast pace offered up a whole new learning curve of needing to adjust what I ate as the race progressed based on how much time I had to digest. For me, I always struggle with the balance between fueling and hydrating properly and keeping my stomach happy with minimal sleep and extra hot temperatures (high 90s most years and this year was no exception). Even though I never go into this race with the mindset that I’m tapered and “racing”, I still try to run a good effort each leg for my team while also trying to sustain some more reserve for both another run in a few hours and because I know I’m going into at least another week or more of hard training once I finish the race. After years of observing others’ methods of fueling, I can say it is a highly individual process both in general and for these types of events, but I want to share what worked for me especially because out of my five relays, this year my stomach handled what I did the best.

The Relay started Friday morning and I ran in our team’s first van. We stayed together as a team both before and after the race at my former boss’s house in Bend, and we had a 2-hour drive to the race start Friday morning. The relay conveniently finishes in Bend, only a few minutes from where we stayed.

 

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Thursday Night
Dinner: a version of this Summer Quinoa Salad before heading over to Bend to meet the rest of the team.
Dessert: Apple +  small handful Salt Water Taffys

Friday
5:30 am Breakfast: Chia + Peach Overnight Oats

Morning Snack: 1/2 a Picky Bar
2-3 hrs pre-run: Zucchini Carrot Muffin + apple

12:00pm 7.7 mile run: It was hot already and this was an unsupported mostly-trail run on a sandy path with a 3 mile hot, flat finish on the highway in the direct sun. Temps were pushing 98 degrees that afternoon, and I’m guessing they were at least in the low 90s by about 1:00 pm when I finished. I drank about 10 oz. water throughout and swish and spit the last ~2 oz. in my bottle (I good method in the heat when you don’t truly need to hydrate more but cool water helps the mind/body sustain the effort).

Post Run: Beet + Berries Cacao Smoothie Pudding (Recipe Below)
Coconut Water and Water and a few tortilla chips

Afternoon “Lunch” around 3:00 pm: Cooling Red Lentil Kitchari. It may sound completely unappetizing to eat an Ayurvedic stew during a relay race, but the mixture I made of cold stewed red lentils and brown rice with turmeric, ginger, fennel and coriander spices and some seasonal vegetables really hit the spot.

5pm snack at the park after our first van exchange: watermelon

Dinner around 7:00 pm: Cooling Red Lentil Kitchari with tortilla chips

10:00pm 4.4 mile run: Physically and mentally, this was my hardest run of the race, even though on paper, it was by far the easiest. Physically I felt great at the park during our rest break, had stretched out, self-massaged, relaxed, and done some yoga to keep from getting too stiff. After two hours back in the vans, however, my body was not happy. On top of that, my stomach was a little wobbly for the first couple miles or so. I tried to not focus on the discomfort too much and eventually it felt better. After about a mile of a smooth paved road, the pavement ended and I hit a tough gravel road for the duration of the run. The vans were all driving alongside us and with a strong direct-in-the-face wind, dust from the vans in my eyes and headlamp, and a body that was less than happy, I was glad this was a short run. I ran the best and picked up my pace every time a van was behind me (because it was much brighter and I could see the road ahead more clearly), and I chose to do something throughout the run that I would normally never do: each time a van was behind me and I was about to pass a person, I chose to move a little more in to the center of the road and make the van wait so I could pass the person rather than me waiting for the van to go around. I did this only because I knew at that hour and because we were so remote, the only vehicles out there were relay vans going slow, and making them wait so I could have more light and less dust was a real mental boost.

Post run: apple + small handful of a teammate’s Jelly Bellys

 

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Saturday
intermittent uncomfortable napping in the van post run

3-5am: 2 hr nap

5am early wakeup call: our team was ahead of schedule and I had an OH SHIT moment as soon as we got our gear packed and loaded and were on the road, knowing I needed to eat something before my last run in an hour, but had limited time to digest. Ultimately I chose a Picky Bar and a small plum. It was enough to help me feel ready to run, but the peanut butter in the bar was not the best idea that close to a hardish effort on close to no sleep.

~6:30 am 7 mile run of a slight gradual uphill: The last 4 or so miles were on a gravel forest road away from vans. It was downright cold, I took water but didn’t really drink it, wore mittens and left them on the whole time, silently thanking my wise insight for packing them, and though I was tired physically and mentally and not particularly happy with the somewhat difficult-to-run-fast-on washboarded gravel, I really enjoyed the serenity of a quiet, early morning mountain road. I saw absolutely no one and it was extremely peaceful.

Post run within an hour or so: Overnight Oats with Chia + Peach plus Elk Lake “Resort” coffee to warm up. I’m not normally a coffee person as I prefer black tea, but that coffee tasted amazing and it was so nice to have something warm in my system for the first time in over 24 hours. The post-run damp cold had started to set in and bundling up in all my layers, standing in the early morning sun, and sipping mountain coffee was pure bliss. I was warm again in no time.

Snacks: a tiny handful of nut + seed trail mix from a teammate.

Lunch: Back at our lovely abode post shower and almost ready to go to the finish line to run across with our team: Summer Quinoa Salad.

Post-Race: 2 glasses Lemon Ginger Kombucha, which really helped to settle my tired stomach.

Intermittent drinks throughout the relay: water (lots of it, as determined by thirst), and coconut water, often diluted to 1/3 coconut, 2/3 water.

Post Race Celebration Dinner, prepared by my former bosses: Run Fast Eat Slow quinoa salad and cabbage salad, grilled Steelhead, and more tortilla chips + guac.

Dessert: small plum +  a couple squares of dark chocolate

 

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Beet + Berries Cacao Smoothie Pudding, serves 1
I developed this “smoothie pudding” specifically for this race to enjoy post-run or in the afternoon as a hefty snack. It’s got a good mix of carbohydrates and protein in the 3 to 4:1 ratio as recommended by much of the sports nutrition literature for post workout recovery, and due to the nature of the event and because I broke my food processor/blender earlier in the week before the race, I wanted to include some of the beneficial phytonutrient and vitamin/mineral-rich foods like greens and beets, but do so in a tasty, appliance-free way. If you haven’t access to beetroot powder, finely grating a small raw beet will work also but won’t yield a result that is quite as smooth. Also, I included an adaptogen powder in my blend since I’ve been developing one in my herbal classes this year, and using daily for stress reduction and workout recovery. My current formula contains reishi, cordyceps, rhodiola, ashwaganda, amla, eleuthero, and ginger. You can essentially use any of those herbs or other adaptogens, or leave them out entirely. This recipe is definitely going into my regular rotation because it is so, so good, kind of like a chocolate pudding with the season’s best berries mixed throughout. Enjoy!

1/2 cup unsweetened plain coconut yogurt
1/2 a medium banana, mashed and chilled
1 Tbs. beetroot powder or finely grated small beet
1 Tbs. raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp. spirulina
1/2 Tbs. adaptogen powder of choice, if desired.
12 grams // 1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used plant-based Vega)
1 2/3 cups blackberries, raspberries and blueberries (fresh or frozen)

  • Stir the mashed banana and powdered ingredients into the yogurt until thoroughly mixed.
  • Spoon into a jar or bowl and then top with the fresh or frozen berries. Chill for best results, as the berries will slowly soften and drip their juices down into the pudding.
  • When ready to eat after a workout, push or stir the berries into the mixture gently so you’ll taste bursts of smoothie pudding and berries together as you enjoy!

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