As the year closes, I find myself going deep into the quiet of the year, resting more, sleeping more, reading books, writing, reflecting, baking, and listening to music. The few days between the end of Christmas socials and the return to routine come the new year are some of my annual favorites because I usually can truly go internal, shut down as much as I prefer to from the world, and clear my calendar of most obligations. This year (and decade actually) have brought much — struggle, challenge, growth, overcoming fears and accomplishing goals — but they’ve also taught me the importance of rest.
If you too have a day or more before the return to activity in 2020, you might consider resting more, drinking warming tea, eating comforting, nourishing soup or stew, and perhaps catching up on some good reading or reflecting. These are my favorites lately:
Over on the Run Journal at Territory Run Co., I’ve shared this delicious recipe and tips for how to balance virtually any recipe to make it especially tasty.
When it’s cold and wintry outside, this is the stew to come in and warm up with after a long run. It’s also incredibly flavorful and wholesome, providing a balance to some of the treats and feasts of the season. Mushrooms of any type can be used, and are wonderful for eating in the winter. They are known to benefit the immune system through modulation of the inflammatory process.
Every December for the last several, I’ve taken a running or training break. It has looked different every year, from the sharp and abstract non-injury pain and extreme anxiety that marked the beginning of my autoimmune ‘journey,’ to the slow easy miles that were part of most of the entire year afterward, to racing and recovering from my first and third marathons at CIM.
And then there was last year when a late-summer flare, autumn of struggle and grief over my grandfather’s death culminated in a December of laryngitis and bronchitis, so painful I carried a pillow around the house, holding it against my ribs as I braced against the wall each time I coughed. Thankfully I have an amazing chiropractor that somehow received the x-rays that weren’t supposed to be sent to him, massaged out and adjusted my painful, strained ribs, and gave me the go-ahead to put my body back in motion the day before Christmas.
When one either chooses—or is forced—to take a break, the return process can be such an amazing gift.
But how to mentally navigate the season of food, festivities, and excess when one is not as active? This is a concept I’ve struggled with off and on over the years. For the most part, I try to be mindful and stay intuitive in my eating patterns, but let in room for enjoyment and celebration.
In a recent training on eating habits of those that struggle or have struggled with anorexia nervosa, I learned that two habits tend to stay with individuals long after they’ve recovered. They’re two habits I identify with, and believe are actually pretty common in the athletic community. First is the inherent choosing of lower-fat foods; either foods lower in fat than the average population or low-fat foods in general, since meals will then be lower in overall calories. For athletes, this can often result due to a focus on carbohydrates and protein rather than outright avoidance of fat. The other is adherence to somewhat rigid food rituals – in whatever way that might present itself for the individual. Interestingly, these two habits are generally encouraged for those that are needing/wanting to lose weight, and therefore habits that are considered within the spectrum of disordered eating are promoted within the weight loss community.
Why am I bringing this up? Because the holiday season is ripe for advice and conversations that promote disordered eating and behaviors that take away the intuitive tuning-in to one’s body and state of being.
Faced with a plate of decorated cookies or a sad, (or maybe even delicious-looking) vegetable tray, which food would you choose? The answer for you depends on a great number of variables, but I hope this holiday season the decision can more often be made with intention and desire to care for yourself rather than punishment or tuning out needs to “think about it in January.”
This December, I am taking a training break but will still be enjoying movement of my body, and likely more of it than any of the last several years. I chose an early December half marathon to finish my training year rather than a full marathon and finished it neither going into an achy flare, or being ill and unable to run. I did however finish the last few weeks with a couple foods outside my normal go-tos of gluten and dairy causing digestive problems. Because I tend to be achier and more prone to inflammation than others considering my eating patterns, I plan to take the remaining weeks of festivities to be especially mindful and supportive of my body. A little decadent, inflammatory foods are okay when I’m feeling relatively good but can be especially problematic in excess (for me), or when my system is already challenged.
Cookie baking and gifting is part of my family’s holiday tradition and because of that, these festive and delicious Oatmeal Persimmon Cookies are part of this year’s line-up. They are perfect for the athletes that can’t get enough oatmeal in all the things. ;)
To balance out all the baking I will be doing, I’ve also been tasked with bringing that sad or delicious-looking vegetable and dip tray to the family festivities. Since cold, raw vegetables are especially challenging on one’s digestion in the winter— especially for those of us with sensitive systems—I haven’t decided if I’m going to deviate from the request and change up the raw vegetable / cold dip routine to some version that’s more warm and inviting to the system. If I do, let me know if you’d like me to share the recipe. 😊
Oatmeal Persimmon and Hazelnut Cookies, makes ~26 – Any all-purpose gluten free flour blend can likely be used, but I only experimented with my own mix. It is 70% whole-grain by weight. – The addition of two types of sweetener and two types of oil are a result of years of trial, testing, and learning from the wise recipe scientists at Cooks Illustrated. If you only have one or the other sweetener, go ahead and use just the one. Keep in mind that honey is slightly sweeter than brown rice syrup. Likewise, if only using one oil, choose coconut oil. Or use butter if it poses no problems. Digestive challenges and conscious choice to not use animal products aside for some individuals, butter is fabulous for baking. – Either the flat Fuyu persimmons or the larger Hachiya varieties works for this recipe. If choosing the latter, just make sure it’s fairly ripe. If no persimmons are available near you, perhaps try for another seasonal fruit.
1 Tbs. chia seed, finely ground 3 Tbs. water 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, gluten-free as needed 2 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. sea salt 1/2 cup olive or canola oil 1/6 cup coconut oil (2 Tbs. + 2 tsp.) 1/2 cup honey 1/3 cup brown rice syrup 1 cup persimmon chunks 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk the ground chia seeds and water to form a slurry. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients and then set aside.
In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the oils, honey, and brown rice syrup. Then mix in the chia slurry.
Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and stir together until combined. Then stir in the persimmons and hazelnuts.
The mixture should be a little looser than standard cookie dough. At this point it can be chilled for about 30 minutes so the cookies don’t spread too much, or baked directly and they’ll be a little larger and thinner.
Using a medium cookie scoop or a spoon, drop onto a baking sheet or stone and bake for 12-14 minutes, depending on your oven.
If you’re online at all these days, you’ll notice October ended and we’re straight on to the holiday season. For many, this is a time of year that is especially difficult whether it be because of the dark and cold days, the pressure of the season, or the extra challenges of navigating all the holiday gatherings.
Historically, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays – until my food intolerances got in the way and it became much more difficult to enjoy the meal without anxiety, asking lots of questions, educating the host, and planning to bring more of my own foods so as to be able to enjoy it. I grew up in the kitchen and whether it’s in my own house or that of anyone else, I feel most comfortable in any gathering when in the kitchen with my hands in the food. So it’s a given that I absolutely love the idea of Thanksgiving, which is essentially a celebration of food.
For the past few years, I’ve gotten better at navigating this big holiday feast and partly because I’ve been better prepared, more comfortable as I’ve aged into this lifestyle of navigating food intolerances, and because I’ve been better at informing and educating the person(s) I share space with.
In light of that, I’m sharing a couple of my favorite recipes for the season, first, a platter of simple and delicious roasted vegetables that pleases just about everyone, and second a Moroccan-inspired seasonal millet, quinoa, and persimmon creation that fits most food intolerances and special diets.
If you have food restrictions that makes joining others for big meals a challenge, are hosting persons with food restrictions, or are just looking for some delicious seasonal whole food dishes for your holiday feasting, look no further. Though our Thanksgivings are always spent traveling to large family gatherings and only have marginal representation from the recipes below, this is the Thanksgiving meal that is my ideal — with a couple special additions per my loved one’s request and some savory recipes that have been big hits in the past. 😊
Notes about the Menu: – If you eat turkey and are highly sensitive to gluten, you may need to make sure your turkey has been processed without any gluten-additives. My first recommendation is always to purchase a turkey from a local farmer, if available, but I know that can be asking a lot, especially if you’re not hosting the meal. Otherwise, here is an excellent list of available brands that don’t process with gluten. – For dairy-free / vegan mashed potatoes, we tend to skip the russet varieties and opt for German Butterball, red potatoes, or Yukon Gold varieties. They have more flavor and moisture, and work well by mashing without butter, and just a bit of non-dairy milk, seasoning, and a splash of olive oil, if desired. – Most traditional stuffing recipes can be adapted to be gluten-free by using gluten-free bread or cornbread. Use vegetable broth and olive oil or a vegan butter to eliminate animal products.
Roasted Vegetables with Autumn Roots + Mushrooms – I find roasted vegetables to be pleasing to just about everyone, including picky young eaters and those that ‘don’t like vegetables.’ Just about any vegetable tastes great when roasted correctly, which means that it is deeply golden brown, a little crispy and caramelized around the edges, and soft all the way through. – I add a bit of herbs and spices to round out the flavors and help support adequate digestion, a needed component with these heavy-feasting meals. Use equal parts of all vegetables or what you have, in an amount to fill your roasting pan or to feed your number of guests.
Small red, striped or golden beets Parsnips Carrots Red or yellow onions Mushrooms, any type you prefer a tablespoon or so of coconut oil per baking sheet to provide moisture and flavor dry thyme seasoning Balancing Spice blend (see below) salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub clean and dice the vegetables and mushrooms until they are medium in size and roughly uniform. Combine them on a large roasting pan and mix in about 1 tablespoon each dried thyme leaves and the Balancing Spice Blend, along with salt and pepper to taste, and just enough coconut oil to provide moisture and flavor (about 1 tablespoon for a large pan).
Roast in the oven for about 40-60 minutes, until all vegetables are completely soft all the way through. Since the mushrooms will take less time than the rest, you can add them in about half-way through if you’d like them less well-cooked.
Balancing Digestive SpiceBlend(makes about 1/4 cup) 1 Tbs. coriander seeds 1 Tbs. cumin seeds 1 tsp. fennel seeds 2 tsp. ground ginger 1 Tbs. ground turmeric a dash of black pepper
Toast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds in a frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly for approximately 3-5 minutes, until you can just smell them.
Cool and then grind the seeds together with the rest of the spices until it reaches a uniform powder.
Persimmon + Grains with Moroccan Seasoning, serves 4-6 as a side-dish – Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend, somewhat similar to a garam masala. The name actually means “Top of the Shop” and each spice house will usually have their own blend which features their best spices. I made my own (see below), but there are several good ones available to purchase, or improvise with the Balancing Digestive Spice Blend above, or curry powder, knowing it won’t provide quite the same flavor profile. – Use any gluten-free whole grain such as quinoa, millet, rice, wild rice, buckwheat, etc. I love the combination of millet and quinoa here, but choosing just one also works well.
1/2 cup each of millet and quinoa 1 small onion or 2 shallots, thinly sliced 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tsp. Ras El Hanout 2 Tbs. tahini 1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice 1 clove garlic, smashed and minced 2-4 Tbs. water, as needed salt and pepper, to taste a large handful of cilantro, finely minced 1 large persimmon, sliced thin into half-moons a handful of toasted and chopped hazelnuts or sunflower seeds, as desired for flavor / texture
If you have the time, cover the grains with a few inches of water in a pot and soak for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse. If you don’t have time for this step, it’s okay!
In a pot, heat a splash of olive oil on medium and soften the onion and garlic until tender. Add 1 teaspoon of the ras el hanout and sauté until fragrant. Add the grains and stir well to let the flavors infuse for a few minutes. Stir in a big pinch of salt and 2 cups of water, cover, and simmer on low heat until the grains are cooked through, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, remaining clove of garlic and season to taste. Thin as necessary with water.
Tip the cooked grains into a serving bowl and then toss with the cilantro, tahini dressing, and sliced persimmon. Add the nuts or seeds as desired, stir, and taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Ras el Hanout seasoning Blend this up by weight or by teaspoons.
4 parts cumin 4 parts ginger 4 parts turmeric 3 parts black pepper 2 parts coriander 2 parts cinnamon 2 parts cayenne 1 part cloves 1 part allspice 1 part cardamom 1 part rose petal powder