The best seasonal braised cabbage, kitchen morning mindfulness, and connecting to our food’s story.

When I wake in the morning, my tendency is to go towards some distraction immediately, whether it be reading emails on my phone, putting on a podcast to hear others talk at me, or perhaps even social media, though that’s much less my go-to than it was. When I am in the kitchen a little later cycling the dishes and making breakfast, my tendency is to reach for a distraction again.

Last year, I listened to a really impactful series of short podcast episodes on BBC’s Slow Radio about Benedictine Monks meditating on the nature of silence. One of the monks spoke about listening to the pauses in the everyday noise of our life, not filling it, but letting it be there, for it’s in the pauses that we hear guidance about our life (whether you’re religious or not, I’m guessing you have experienced this). So instead of filling the early hours with someone else talking, I’ve taken to letting my attention go to the moment and what I’m doing, walking this stack of bowls from the dishwasher to the cupboard, tracking back to the dishwasher, stacking the plates and walking them across the kitchen to the cupboard, pouring the boiling water over my first cup of tea, asking Alexa for a three minute timer, turning to the other counter, picking up the pear and knife, cutting the pear into haphazard pieces and scraping them into my oatmeal pot. Making my experience of the everyday morning hours, still technically dark outside, a fits and starts routine with less distractions from the outside world.

This kitchen meditation is important because it sets my whole day. My mind has a tendency to jump around, jump ahead, form conversations that will never happen, and turn unimportant moments and experiences into catastrophes, dreams and goals into hopeless pursuits. I’m not consistently mindful in the mornings, not able to have this presence always, nor do I carry it through for the rest of the day. But the daily practice lately is helpful. When I stack days on days of this practice, I notice I become more present for longer stretches elsewhere and thus my go-to mind chatter and on-too-much stress cascade is triggered less or bounces back a little quicker.

I have this Ayurvedic Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell, which I love for its easy meal inspiration and adaptability, but even more I love the introductory section, which makes up a good chunk of the book. Part of Kate’s introduction has a story about her yoga practice. She asks a long-time practitioner about the myth of mental calm through yoga and he tells her, “Do less physical monkey business and more concentration. Count your breaths.” She tells of not being particularly impressed with this advice, but then says, “When I practiced counting my breaths, I began to wonder – who is that counting and observing, and who is that telling me that I should be doing something else? So often, we identify with only the turbulent aspects of our minds, because they tend to be the loudest, and we are in the habit of joining their conversation. It takes patience and focus to stay tuned to the calm center, but it is possible. With practice, I stopped listening to the person arguing and began truly concentrating. It was in this state of focus that I finally found calm.”

Beyond this practice of paying attention, not engaging with the chattering, turbulent mind, is food, nutrition, and lifestyle. We have consistent research now backing up what the yogis and buddhas have known for centuries –that the mind and gut are connected. That there are energetic frequencies between the foods we consume and their effects on our mind and body. That the state of mind we prepare our food in has an affect on how we process it. That the symptoms we continually fall into, anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and on –they are symptoms, not problems, but symptoms of the body trying to get our attention.

As I’m writing this, it is the beginning of NEDA week –National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and as such it has been fairly routine for me to reflect on my own place in recovery annually. This week, it’s become apparent through my morning kitchen mindfulness practice that I’ve been connecting a little more into the beginning of my recovery, which began haphazardly about 13 years ago. What worked for me then, what really was my life raft out of my mental control and self-sabotage through food restriction was really connecting to my food community. I grew up on a ranch and our family had a garden growing up. Local food was really a way of life even if it was far from the romanticized version of farm life we all think of. As I found my way into nourishing instead of punishing my body, I needed that connection again, not to awareness of my mind’s tendencies–I wasn’t that far along and mindfulness wasn’t a thing that was ever brought up in therapy–but connection to my food. Who grew my carrot? What were the steps involved in getting that _____________(name that ingredient) to my store or farm stand and then to me?


Lately, I’ve been putting more emphasis on getting to my local Saturday market. It’s inconvenient to do so, I have to drive across town on a busy weekend at an inconvenient time of day, find a place to park, walk a few blocks, get cash ahead of time, deal with traffic back home, build the extra trip into my schedule, etc. But each time I do this, I’m reminded of the faces that feed us. The farmers themselves –often the farmer’s employees but still farmers—standing for hours on concrete in the middle of winter on cold, blistery, rainy days selling what we think of as ‘expensive food for the elite’ for mere dollars, and at the end of the day and year only making the farming business work because of a spouse or partner’s off-farm job or health insurance. If that sounds totally unglamorous, it was meant to—being aware of the reality of our thoughts or situations is rarely glamourous.

But when I see the hands that feed me and stay more connected to the origins of my food, I stay on the right side of my relationship to food in the recovery process. My relationship with my body is better, I care more for the livelihood of those that grew my food, I have more gratitude for our extremely happy and spoiled ‘ladies’ (hens) who provide the best eggs I’ve ever eaten, I translate that energy of good vibes into my presence in the kitchen and my emphasis on being in a state of calm and clear-mindedness, rather than cluttered, flustered, or not caring for myself well. Again–mostly. This takes practice. It’s certainly not my go-to mindset.

So much of each of our trajectories in this lifetime are like hiking up a slippery, icy mountain. We take a step towards improvement in whatever regard and then we slip back, sometimes giving up for a while before starting anew. As eating disorders and other mental health conditions become a little less stigmatized, or at least acknowledged, it’s important to remember that the glamorous recovery stories we read or hear, of healing through this or that process or someone else staying on the straight and narrow while we slip and slide up and down the same stretch of mountain, are not actually glamorous like they may appear. William’s ladies might lay golden, delicious, nourishing eggs, but there’s a lot of chicken manure in the process. The same goes for the beautiful food brought to the town square – freezing fingers and toes, big waterproof coveralls to wash off all the winter mud before it gets there are more the reality.  And have you ever picked vegetables for at least a day? I have. Once. For a day in the middle of a hot and humid July in Virginia as a community service project. It was back-breaking work. Truly uncomfortable and challenging. And there were giant spiders.

Connecting to the story of your food has a real way of anchoring in gratitude and mindfulness, whichever way that background story goes.

This National Eating Disorders Awareness week, if you’re inclined, I encourage you to try some sort of mindful connection, to the source of your food, or to the process of preparing it for yourself and/or family. Count your breaths. Tune into the process of preparing your food. Thank a farmer. And most especially, give yourself a big hug.

The Best Simple Braised Cabbage, serves about 4, if you’re lucky. ;)

Cabbage is one of my all-time favorite foods this time of year. I crave it every winter before all the new colorful fruits and vegetables start to appear again. Truthfully, I enjoy it just about every way, steamed simply with some salt and pepper is at the top of my list, then braised, roasted, boiled in a flavorful broth, or lastly shredded into some sort of raw salad creation–they’re all good. Cabbage cooked simply has a subtle natural sweetness that comes through and it’s just one of those still wintery-filling foods that walks the line between the green leaves of spring. At my local farmers market, all the different types of cabbage have been catching my eye lately. Use any type here, from bright red/purple, crinkly savoy, or your standard green variety.

a little splash of olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. raw apple cider vinegar
1 medium cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes, or until tender and starting to turn golden brown.
  • Turn up the heat slightly and stir in the salt, apple cider vinegar, and sliced cabbage, along with the water. When the water begins to boil, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is very tender. Check and stir the cabbage a few times while cooking and add a little more water if begins to dry out or starts to stick.
  • Season with pepper, additional salt as needed, and then enjoy as a simple, tasty side dish.

Apple Pie and a fabulous gluten + dairy-free Pastry

I’ve been making apple pie as long as I can remember, a fall / holiday season staple since at least my early teens.

Still, it’s taken all these years of tinkering with filling and pastries to get the combination just right.

I’m not a pie person, per se. I’d take a really dense and elaborate layer cake, a quick bread / loaf cake, or even a muffin over pie most days. But I do like pie and if you’d ask, I’d take apple pie every single time.

We’re at the point in our outdoors / landscaping overhaul that our apple trees are producing this year. So the timing of getting this pie right is pretty special since a good portion of the apples came from one of the trees, a Goldrush variety.

And the pastry, though this version is latticed and rustic, is dreamy to work with, particularly when it comes to being gluten-free. If there’s a downside to it, I’d say it rolls out too well, meaning I can get overly enthusiastic and roll it too thin, knowing I can pick it up and transfer it easily with no breaking or falling apart.

And, after several years of tweaking and testing it out on all sorts of folks that don’t have to avoid gluten or dairy (or any other foods), I can say it meets with approval, and often is favored over the other pastries during the holidays because the flour blend makes for a little more nuanced flavor profile that plain white wheat flour will never have.

Enjoy this one. Fill it with the best and most local apples of the season, or whatever filling you most prefer.

Apple Pie, makes a 9″ pie with double crust
The key to a good apple pie is to use a mixture of at least two different apple varieties, one slightly softer, and one that’s more crisp. I used Goldrush and an unnamed “pie apple” from a local farm and it was delicious.
For the pastry recipe, I’ve listed the preferred flours first, and another option second, depending on availability. It’s important to use a mixture of flours to get the right flavor and texture and many trial versions has lead me to this particular combination and ratio.
For a non-dairy butter, I like Miyoko’s European Style Vegan Butter most. It has the right texture, flavor, and is simple on the ingredient list. If you can tolerate dairy, a nice quality unsalted butter is also a preferred option.


3 pounds assorted apples (about 6-8 cups sliced), peeled and sliced
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. coconut sugar
2 Tbs. maple syrup
2 tsp. arrowroot starch
3 Tbs. sorghum flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough into a 12″ circle, dusting the dough lightly with flour as needed, rotating and flipping it to prevent it from sticking. Ease the dough into a 9″ pie pan, fit it into the corners, and trim it to a 1″ overhang.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together apples, lemon juice, sugar, maple syrup, spices, and flour.
  4. Turn the apple mixture into the pie pan.
  5. Roll out the top crust and add atop, making a lattice crust if desired. Fold the overhang of the crust under, and flute the crust by pressing it between the thumb of one hand and the index finger and thumb of the other hand. Freeze it for 20 minutes, then remove and put in the preheated oven to bake.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, until the crust begins to turn a golden brown. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until browned on top and the juices are bubbling in the center, about 60 to 70 minutes.
  7. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.


Gluten + Dairy-Free Pie Pastry, makes a double crust pastry

160 grams  / 1 cup brown rice or teff flour
70 grams / ½ cup sorghum flour
70 grams / ½ cup buckwheat or millet flour
60 grams / ½ cup arrowroot starch
30 grams  / 3 Tbs. tapioca starch
30 grams / 5 Tbs. finely ground chia seed
1 1/2 Tbs. coconut sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
230 grams/ 16 Tbs. cold, unsalted vegan butter, sliced ¼” thick
12-16 Tbs. ice water
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, ground chia seed, sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter pieces on the top, and work in with your fingers until the mixture resembles gravel, with lots of butter chunks the size of large peas.
  2. Stir together 12 tablespoons of the ice water with the apple cider vinegar, and drizzle the mixture into the flour mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing the dough with a rubber spatula to moisten evenly. Add just enough water for the dough to hold together when you give it a squeeze, and add it directly to the dry floury bits that like to hang out on the bottom of the bowl; you may need 12 tablespoons or more of water.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a rough square that is about ¼” thick. Fold it in thirds like you’re folding a letter, then roll up from a skinny end into a loose spiral. Gently press to flatten it slightly, and chill for 30 minutes before rolling out. This folding, rolling and chilling technique will yield a flaky, delicious pastry.

Moroccan Butternut Squash + Wild Rice with Garbanzos

Moroccan Butternut Squash + Wild Rice with Garbanzos

 

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so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

– from To the New Year by W.S. Merwin

 

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Moroccan Butternut Squash + Wild Rice with Garbanzos, serves 4-6
Near the tail end of winter last year, I made a rendition of this off the Kinfolk website. I declared it the best thing I had eaten all winter and couldn’t wait until squash season came back. This year, I realized the recipe had disappeared and so I set about to recreating it. Unlike the original, I added cooked garbanzo beans and a good couple handfuls of winter greens. It is now more of a one-dish main grain salad than the original, which served as a side. It’s a good one for a cold winter evening and makes an excellent leftover lunch. Enjoy!

1 cup uncooked wild rice
1 1/2- 2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2/3 cup parsley, minced
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
4 cups chopped kale or other winter greens
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste, divided

Dressing:
2 Tbs. coconut or good quality canola oil
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/16 tsp. clove
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
splash of water, as needed

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cook rice by combining with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bringing to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the rice is light and fluffy and the water is completely absorbed, 50-60 minutes.
  • Mix the dressing ingredients in a small dish or jar.
  • Place squash cubes  and diced onion in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 2/3-3/4 of the dressing over the vegetables, and sprinkle with salt. Mix it well with your hands or wooden spoon until the vegetables are evenly coated. Place them in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until the squash begins to brown on the edges and completely soft.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss together the garbanzos, parsley, greens, dried fruit, and hazelnuts. When the rice and vegetables are done cooking, allow them both to cool slightly and then add to the bowl ingredients. Stir in the remaining dressing and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.