Tag Archives: gluten-free

Christmas Spice Porridge

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William and I ventured out to a tree farm last weekend and cut down our first-ever Christmas tree. We then spent the day readying the house for the holidays, putting up lights, hanging stockings, decorating the tree, and rounding it all out with superfood hot chocolate and Harry Potter. I’m a complete minimalist and sometimes our home with so many empty spaces feels a little cold and less than comforting. Inviting in a tree after so many years without reminded me that the simplest traditions are sometimes the best comforts.

I’ve learned a lot this year about true comforts, what I need to thrive, and about seeking joy. I’ve even been sharing reflections about it over on Instagram. In addition to this porridge, a seasonal favorite which tastes like Christmas morning, I’ve collected a few bits of of inspiration towards taking care of yourself through the holidays and into this cold, dark time of year. Read along or find the recipe at the end.

 

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Self-Care and Introspection:
Renee’s 35 simple self-care practices for the highly sensitive person is absolutely essential in this season.
Dream Freedom Beauty is my new favorite podcast. It’s one for the intuitives/healers/spiritual/plant medicine people. I was led to it by episode 80 with Sophia Rose, which is one of many great ones.
Speaking of which, I love this Interview with Sophia Rose, in which she says:

There is very little in the outer world that is solid, unchanging, or steadfast. In reality, we are constantly flowing in and out of home, whether to go to the grocery store or travel to a foreign country.  Home is a construct.  All my things are there, and I have passionately devoted myself to the garden I’ve created, but it won’t be my home forever and I cannot predict the exact moment when this will shift.  Nothing belongs to us and we can’t take any of it with us when we go. Best to get real comfortable where we are, as well as comfortable in the knowing that it will all inevitably change, in ways both large and small.

and

Spend as much time alone in nature as possible. Spend time with people who delight you and who bring you into the world in ways that are foreign and novel. Make time to wander. And know that you might have to dissolve a bit first to make space for the magic that is trying to find you.  The world is not quite so solid as you might have thought. Be curious about what can shift within you, and the world beyond your own body, heart, and mind will begin to reflect this inner refinement.


A Good Book:

I’m recently loving Give A Girl A Knife
and more of a self-care/DIY inspiration manual, A Wilder Life
and the best I read this year, Paradise in Plain Sight.


To Listen: 

The playlist I’ve got on repeat.


To Make/Gift:

Kick-Ass Cookies. Five ingredients, all of them “more nutritious,” chocolate optional, and feedback of the best peanut butter cookies ever by William and a few of his co-workers. They hold up well too, for holiday gatherings or gifting.
Cashew Butter. (or any other nut butter). It’s suuuper simple and will make the best wholesome, thoughtful gift.
Muesli or Granola. I make one or the other every year to gift and my family loves the endlessly varying combinations I tend to come up with.
Spiced Nuts. Make the gently honeyed and salted hazelnuts, or switch them for pecans for a tasty, decadent treat. Add minced rosemary to turn them just a touch more special.
And if you must have all the holiday cookies, David and Luise’s Sunflower & Jam Thimbles are absolutely the best.


To Eat: 

I’m craving all sorts of warm, comforting, “soul-healing” meals lately and Renee’s spin on a super green miso soup definitely hits that mark, as does kitchari and countless variations on dals.
In fact, we ate dal the night before my marathon a few days back and while eating, I relayed to William, no wonder I like dal so much; it’s basically the exact same consistency as my morning oatmeal. He nodded along emphatically.

Speaking of oatmeal, this Christmas Spice version is the one I’m making daily. It’s loaded with creamy, sweet shredded parsnips, cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest. All together, it’s definitely infused with the flavors of the season, and will be a good start to any winter morning, but perhaps especially on days that are filled with meals rich with holiday feasting.

 

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Christmas Spice Porridge, serves 1-2

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (gluten-free if necessary)
1 small parsnip, peeled and grated
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. sea salt
a good pinch of ground cloves and cardamom
1-2 Tbs. raisins, dried cherries or cranberries
1-2 Tbs. ground flax seeds
zest from 1/4-1/2 an unwaxed orange
additional sweetener to taste

  • Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add grated parsnips, spices, oats, and dried fruit. Turn down to low and cook until the porridge is soft and to your desired consistency, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Stir in the ground flax, and zest the orange over the top.
  • Spoon into bowls and adjust sweetness as needed with maple syrup, honey, or stevia drops.
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sprouted wild rice + beet salad with muhammara bean puree

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In the moment 

I have a muhammara recipe bookmarked from a favorite cookbook and with a big bowlful of the last of the season’s peppers in varying shades of red, orange, and gold, all streaked through with green, I decide to make up a batch. In the last minute as I’m setting whole peppers in the pan to roast, I remember I have another muhammara recipe from a separate cookbook which I loved the last I made it. I double my peppers on the pan and make them both.

In the food processor, the first batch turns a lovely golden hue, subtly sweet from pomegranate molasses, but a little lemony to my taste. The second, the one I had loved before, is date-sweetened and much too sweet by comparison. The lemon is gone though and the paprika addition nicer.

In a dash of inspiration I decide to combine the two. I can’t stop licking the spoon and it’s not just that I’m performing this endeavor the morning after a marathon-season long run.

Muhammara, if you haven’t tried it, is the most delicious thing you’ll have all season. Traditionally a Syrian roasted pepper, walnut and pomegranate relish/dip for bread or meat, I next whim my way into pureeing half a batch into cooked white beans. When I want beans and rice to go down a treat, I take 30 seconds and puree the former in with a special sauce, and there’s nary a complaint of same old same. This is definitely what happens with the muhammara.

 

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sliding into the intuitive of it.

Next I bloom some wild rice. We’re into sprouting week in my raw foods cooking lab for my nutrition program, and though I’m arguably at the medium-experience level of sprouting as far as the norm of us goes, I’m learning new things. Sprouted wild rice is a dream that opens up into fat, fluffy grains, downright pillowy compared to standard wild rice. The extra few hours of hands-off sprouting makes all their nutrients more usable too, a practice I know I can stand to incorporate as much as possible.

After sprouting, I drain and rinse the rice and pour it back into my steaming pot, adding water afresh and steaming it for a further 40 minutes. It doesn’t need this extra step since we just sprouted, but on this day I’m craving warm and I have a feeling about this. I slide a handful of washed clean beets from the garden into foil and pop them in the oven.

I look in the fridge, grab the quick-pickle jar I emptied of onions but left the vinegar from a week ago, reserved for just such a day. I grab half an onion, slice it thin, and set it in the vinegar to marinate. William texts he’s on his way home. As he walks in the door, I’m later than usual, less rushing him as normal, and more like sliding into the intuitive of this dinner project.

Ten minutes, I say.
I’m sliding the rice off the heat, pulling the beets and slicing thin. Into the wild rice, going crimson by degrees as the steam rises. Cumin, a few sprigs off the cilantro that is almost ready for the compost, the slices of quick-pickled onion drained and spooned in. Salt. A couple dashes pepper. A little more vinegar. More salt, this time reaching into the back of the pantry for that crumpled bag of black-truffle salt, a fortune for such a small homely package. A dash is enough. A taste, and it’s done.


On the plates

A big spoonful of muhammara bean puree, moon-swiped over the half in a chef’s half pirouette and then heaps of the rice spooned atop.

If this is weeknight cooking, it’s the kind we shouldn’t be getting used to. A result of what happens when I’m sliding into the intuitive of the moment, letting my flavor memories and creative tendency take over. In the kitchen and on our plates, the experience is pure magic.

 

 

Sprouted Wild Rice  + Beet Salad
1 cup wild rice
5 beets, tops and bottoms removed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/2 an onion, quick-pickled
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/2 tsp. sea salt
black pepper
black-truffle salt (optional but adds subtle depth), to taste

  • To sprout the rice, start early in the day of cooking by measuring out 1 cup of wild rice, rinse well, and then soak in a 1 quart jar with 2 cups water in a warm oven on the lowest setting for about 6 hours. It will be ready when it has bloomed and the grains have become fluffy and open. Then, to cook, rinse and drain again, and bring to a boil in a small pot along with 1 1/2 cups water. Turn down, cover and steam for about 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  • While the rice is cooking, roast the beets by wrapping them in foil, and placing in the oven for about 40 minutes. They will be ready when they can slice through easily with a knife or fork.
  • To prepare the salad, slice the beets thinly and add, along with the quick-pickled onions, cumin, cilantro, and vinegar, salt(s), and pepper to taste.

 

Muhammara, makes about 1 1/2 cups
9 oz. / 250 g roasted red or orange peppers
3/4 cup / 3 oz. / 75 g toasted walnuts
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
4 tsp. / 20 ml pomegranate molasses
3 Tbs. / 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika (smoked or regular)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • In a food processor, puree all the ingredients and then taste, and adjust seasonings. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

 

Muhammara Bean Puree
half batch Muhammara
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or 1 can, drained and rinsed

  • To make the puree, leave half the muhammara in the processor, reserving the other half for another use. Add in the white beans and puree until smooth. Spoon into a small dish and heat gently on the stove or in the microwave to serve.

tempeh tikka masala

 

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Do you remember when I talked about my shame/pride of buying my tofu in bulk or that I was actually in the anti-tofu and soy foods camp for a whole lot of years? Well…let me tell you about the first time I bought tempeh, the fermented soy product that I now love and enjoy often.

At some point in mid-college I purchased a package of this wonky, brown and slightly moldy-looking fermented tempeh at my co-op since it was different and not meat. I was still eating meat regularly then but was also very veg/health foods curious. I took the tempeh home, cut it up and used it in something…and I thought it was gross. I didn’t try it again for a good number of years until after Deborah Madison in The New Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone convinced me it was actually quite good for me and not a “fake meat.” And following her cooking suggestions, I tried again and found I enjoyed it a whole lot!

One of the reasons tempeh is good for us is because it is fermented and it helps to inoculate our gut with good microbes. If you haven’t heard me gushing about the microbiome in past posts, well…you probably haven’t also spent an hour or two in my presence because I’m pretty sure the topic makes its way into everyday conversation on the regular. The two big reasons I’m pretty darn fascinated with the topic is that much of our immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal tract, thanks to the plethora of microbes that make their homes there AND about 90 percent of serotonin, one of the feel-good neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood, relaxation, sleep, and even appetite, is also made and housed in the gut. I’ve struggled with immune dysfunction for a number of years, thanks largely to food sensitivities and compromised gut health, and also with anxiety in various forms for much of my life.

This month, The Recipe Redux challenged us to share a recipe that promotes gut health, and good timing too, because cold and flu season is upon us, as are the dark, damp, and cold days of late fall and winter when moods tend to take a nosedive.

 

Before I do, I want to share three important things you can do to enhance your internal microbial community, and thus immune health (and likely mood too!)

The first is eating more fiber. The good bacteria that promote health need fiber, which they digest into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate and propionate. SCFAs are not otherwise available in the diet, and they’re responsible for a whole host of disease preventative effects, one of which is combatting inflammation. The more fiber we consume, the more diverse our microbial life (a good thing), the more short chain fatty acids that are produced, and the more health tends to improve. Fiber in foods comes in the form of fruits and vegetables, whole, unprocessed grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. If you have trouble digesting fiber-rich foods, it likely means you just need a little time to increase them in your diet gradually, as the good bacteria that digest them will grow prolifically if only given their preferred foods, and this can happen in a matter of just a few days!

The second thing to promote gut health, as I hinted above, is to eat more fermented foods like tempeh, miso, sourdough bread, raw sauerkraut and kimchi, and fermented unsweetened yogurt. When we eat fermented foods, we’re introducing the beneficial bacteria instead of feeding the ones already there. Aim for a large variety of fermented foods as this further promotes diversity of bacteria populations and optimal health.

The tempeh that I’m now so fond of is made from organic soybeans that are inoculated with a spore and then fermented. The fermentation process breaks down phytates, which are anti-nutrients and bind minerals and vitamins, so we can digest them. Tempeh is also rich in protein, B vitamins, fiber, phytonutrients, and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, and copper. What’s more, tempeh doesn’t actually have to be cooked so it makes for a quick addition to meals. What Deborah Madison taught me is that steaming it for about 10 minutes before adding into a dish does make it tastier, as it can sometimes be a little bitter without this extra step. I tend to steam when I have the time and just dice and toss into recipes when I’m ready for food on the quick!

Lastly for optimal gut health, reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates, as they promote the proliferation of bad bacteria. Like a kid on too much Halloween candy, more sugar makes the disease-promoting bacteria really happy and they grow in number and increase inflammation and a whole host of less than ideal health outcomes.

 

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Now, for the recipe! Tikka Masala is actually a British dish that came about when a tomato sauce was combined with Indian-spiced vegetables and meat. It is super popular in Britain and Ireland as simply “Chicken Curry,” and this recipe began a number of years ago as a quick dairy-free chicken curry that William and I loved. Over the years, I dropped the chicken, added tempeh, and made several gentle tweaks, and we now have a gut and immune-friendly tempeh tikka masala that can be adapted depending on the season, and comes together quickly without all the marinating and spice rubs of a traditional tikka. Any type of canned coconut milk can be used here, but the whole fat kind will obviously make for a richer, more-rounded dish, and it’s the type I favor these days.

 

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Tempeh Tikka Masala, serves four
16-oz. tempeh, cut into about 48 pieces
1 tsp. coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob of fresh ginger
2-3 cups chopped seasonal vegetables (yellow/orange/red bell peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, peas, etc.)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 medium garden-ripe tomatoes or 14 oz. canned unsalted whole tomatoes
1 cup coconut milk
juice from one lime
cooked brown rice to serve

  • In a small saucepan with steamer basket and 1-2 inches of water in bottom, steam the diced tempeh for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the coconut oil, and then add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Once the onions have begun to caramelize and turn golden, add the remaining vegetables and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes. Then add the spices and mix in.
  • Give the mixture a minute or two and then add the tomatoes and stir. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, and then add the coconut milk, tempeh, and lime juice.
  • Stir everything together, let the flavors meld for an additional 10 minutes or so, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, and enjoy over steamed rice.

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References:

BMJ. (2015). High dietary fiber intake linked to health promoting short chain fatty acids: Beneficial effects not limited to vegetarian or vegan diets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150929070122.htm.

Cresci, G.A. and Bawden, E. (2015). The gut microbiome: What we do and don’t know. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 30(6), 734-746. doi: 10.1177/0994533615609899.

Rich, P. (2017). Gut science is radically changing what we know of the human body. University Affairs. Retrieved from: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/gut-research/.


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