Simple Winter Kitchari

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Following in the footsteps of my last post, I’m creating lots of quick and comforting meals lately. Late-winter is when I typically become the least inspired by seasonal ingredients, but this year I’ve relegated to always having some batch-cooking or roll-over ingredients on hand for ready meals. And I actually haven’t lost inspiration per se, but the hours in the day for cooking creatively and sharing those meals has been taken up elsewhere.

Instead, I’ve really been putting my focus into creating space for in between moments and pauses, and it’s kind of funny to realize when life is really full and can feel rushed that pausing and watching the mind slows everything down. All that rush tends to fall away and around, instead of inside me, and I realize it’ll all get done. There are little checkoffs this season. Taking my ServSafe test and receiving certification, sitting for and passing a lengthy comprehensive exam before graduation this spring. Working on and completing my last group project for my Life Cycle Nutrition class. Successfully completing my last clinical course. Continuing to grow in my experience and working with new and continuing nutrition clients. And turning down my entrepreneur ‘what’s next’ business brain for when I have the ability to put my focus there.

And then setting it all down and going to work, where I focus on teaching kids to cook and learn about the basics of healthy eating.

And then dropping my energy into marathon training and keeping my body healthy.

Layers. Like peeling an onion, my doctor said the other day, only she was talking about layers of healing. We all have these layers of aspirations, or obligations, or activities that we’re simultaneously putting our energy into and even though it might be nice to compartmentalize and separate them, they tend to bleed over and into each other. Or at least mine do.

Over the last few years, I’ve tended to go in and out of stress reactions that will last a few weeks or more. I’m told they are really autoimmune-like flares, even though I’ve also been told I’m a touch too healthy to be diagnosed by conventional medicine, even with lots of ‘little signs’. Every time a flare happens I try to scramble and make sense of it, trying to identify the cause or the trigger, but ultimately when my physical body is a little too out of balance, my mental body becomes equally so, worrying and putting energy into the hurts and aches physically. And vice versa. And the two go round and round together, making the episode worse until I ultimately decide to set them both down, “give up,” and invest my energy elsewhere. That’s all to say that with two big end goals on the table right now, one being finishing my graduate program and the other the marathon that occurs just a few days after, I’m in a space right now of enjoying the process, enjoying the little things about the everyday today,  and not getting so caught up in the what if’s or shoulds, or what’s next. It will come regardless.

And for now, I’m eating lots of kitchari, even accused of making lentils and rice way too many meals in a row lately. But it’s what I’m craving and need after running in the rain or cold, or before rushing off to work.

 

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If you’re feeling like you’re holding lots of ‘layers,’ and could use a little space and pause for calming and grounding, I encourage you to turn off the noises around you that you can, tune into the ones that are still there (like family, the wind or rain, the heater), and immerse your senses in the process of cooking kitchari. Soaking the lentils and rice. Chopping the vegetables, measuring the spice. And then eat in the same fashion, for once without distraction, slowly, slowly. Tasting each bite.

Simple Winter Kitchari, serves 2
This works great as a quick lunch or dinner, and can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, or very few if you’re needing super simple. Double or triple the batch if you’d like, or just make this one for a couple lunch days when your partner doesn’t care to share in your need for more lentils and rice.

3 1/2 – 4 cups water
1/2 cup brown rice, ideally soaked overnight or at least a few hours
1/2 cup red lentils, ideally soaked overnight or at least a few hours
1/2 Tbs. Grounding Masala spice mix (below)
1 cup greens or seasonal vegetables, chopped (mine featured peas, greens, fennel stalks, or turnips depending lately)
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 Tbs. coconut oil
1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
cilantro or parsley, as desired

  • Drain the rice and lentils if you soaked them. Then in a medium pot, bring them to a boil with about 3 cups of water and the spice mixture. If you’re tossing in hardier root vegetables, add them at this time too. Turn down, cover partially, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Check after about 20 minutes and add additional water as necessary and again at the 30 minute mark. After 30 minutes, add the greens or more tender vegetables and stir in, and then continue to cook 10 minutes more until everything is nice and porridge-like.
  • Meanwhile, in a small fry pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and add the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. Cook just until they begin to turn golden and smell fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour them into the kitchari.
  • Stir, add salt and black pepper to taste, and serve with some cilantro or parsley on top as desired.


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.