vibrant winter dal with roasted cauliflower + toasted seeds

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I took a real slow down in the days after Christmas and into the first part of the new year and in that time I gave this space a little update. With it, I also set the intention to align the content a little more towards what has been calling to me these last few months.

Like the couple years before it, 2017 was a particularly challenging year. Even as I was in it, I knew it was a year of lessons and great strides were being made, even as it was difficult to see through the moment. Out of it, or out of those years I should say, I’ve developed a fairly different relationship with myself, one where the person before writing this blog post is like a long-ago friend I no longer know well. I spent a lot of the past couple years delving into the silence, watching the chaos in my brain, going far back into memories of my childhood, seeking to understand what and where I lost myself. I wouldn’t say I’m done with all that necessarily, (because are we ever?), but I do believe I’ve forgiven, learned about, and let go of the events and traumas that were keeping me stuck between being the person I am and the one I thought others wanted me to be.

I feel a lot more like me these days. And more free.

Because I’m drawn to the concept of food as medicine, slightly shifting my eating habits, not just the food but the way in which I try to eat it, has been a big component of the shift. I’ve taken to noticing how I feel, whether it’s cold, anxious or ungrounded, hot and fiery-tempered, or calm and assured, and then adjusting my meals to accommodate. I learned this method of tuning in and then adjusting from Ayurveda, and though to explain it, the idea sounds trite, I’ve noticed improvements in my digestion and mental health from the subtle change in how I season foods, the mindset I prepare them in, and how much attention I give while eating. Ayurveda, like other ancient medical systems, puts digestion as the foundation of health since what and how we eat, so we become.

The biggest difference? There’s rarely mind chatter in the line of “diet culture” thinking, i.e. too much, guilt about eating this or that, wanting a different body or trying to control the one I have, etc. If food is medicine and food is fuel, it’s also nourishment, and nourishment for more than just the physical self.

So to get me through the cold and dark of winter, I’ve been making routine bowls of creamy dal, sometimes simple with a few random root vegetables and greens thrown in, and sometimes fancied up with a quick puree, roasted cauliflower and toasted seeds. Either way, after trying a couple dozen different versions of dal these past few years, I’ve come to this recipe. I’ve taken many concepts from Divya Alter’s What to Eat for How You Feel in making it, and compared to many dal recipes, this one tones down the spices and keeps them to those that gently warm and ground “airy” mind and digestion in this cold season.

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Part of the process in making this is preparing your own grounding spice blend to season the roasted cauliflower and dal. It’s a quick extra step but definitely worth it–I tend to add the blend as a quick sprinkle to many meals that need a little extra something, or on days I feel particularly all over the place. My spice grinder is a favored and frequently used kitchen implement, but if you’re without one or prefer to skip this step, using your favorite curry powder will work as a substitute–however, I tend to think a lot of the magic here is in using tailored spices.

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The spices in this blend are ones that particularly help with digestion and tend to be warming and pungent without being outright hot (like cayenne or chili). This results in open circulatory channels and the ability to warm up and eliminate toxins and congestion. It is especially helpful in the cold season or for the cold person. Specifically,

Coriander improves digestion, calms the mind, and binds toxins in the blood.
Fennel regulates and improves digestion, and is a cooling spice in smaller amounts. It balances the warming spices in this blend.
Cumin stimulates digestion, eliminates toxins, and helps with the absorption of nutrients.
Cloves improves digestion, reduces toxins, and opens circulatory channels.
Black pepper improves digestion, opens circulatory channels, eliminates toxins, and enhances oxygenation in the brain.
Turmeric cleanses the liver and helps break down fats, improves digestion, and is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

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Vibrant Winter Dal, serves 4
1 cup split mung dal (split mung beans) or red lentils, or a combination of both
1 Tbs. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbs. minced ginger
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. grounding masala (see recipe below) or ground coriander
3-4 cups water
1 cup frozen peas
a couple large handfuls diced greens (spinach, kale, etc.)
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more as needed
cilantro and fresh lime slices, to serve

  • Soak the mung dal or red lentils for 30 minutes. Then drain and rinse well.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add in the turmeric and toast for about 10 seconds. Then add in the minced ginger and bay leaves. Cook for about 30 seconds more and then add in the masala or coriander and mung dal. Stir and cook until the beans are almost dry.
  • Add 3 cups of water and bring the soup to a boil. Then cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the beans have become tender and begin to disintegrate. Stir in the frozen peas and greens and cook a few minutes more, just until they are warm and wilted. Add the salt and more water as needed.
  • Then, transfer the dal to a blender and puree, working in batches. Add back to the saucepan and gently warm. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Serve bowls of dal topped with roasted cauliflower, toasted seeds, cilantro and freshly squeezed lime, as desired.


Roasted Cauliflower
1 large cauliflower, outer leaves removed and cut into small florets
coconut oil, as needed
1 Tbs. grounding masala
sea salt and black pepper

  • Line a large baking pan with parchment and toss the cauliflower, spices, and oil to coat. Roast in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until fork tender.
  • Remove from the oven and spoon atop individual bowls of dal.


Toasted Seeds
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

  • Heat the oil in a small pan over medium-low heat and add in the hemp and cumin seeds. Toast them until they begin to turn golden brown and release their aroma.
  • Divide among bowls to top finished soup.


Grounding Masala Spice Blend
, adapted from What to Eat for How you Feel
2 Tbs. coriander seeds
2 Tbs. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. whole cloves
3/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. ground turmeric

  • Add all the spices to a coffee or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Put into a labeled container and store away from light.

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Cooling Kitchari + End of Summer Notes

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.