All Healing Anti-Inflammatory Green Soup

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This time of year with the dark days, cold mornings, and heavy clouds, my system desires to go internal even more than usual. If I had my way I’d stay home, work from home, and spend the winter in the remote countryside or forest to calibrate even more with what nature does in this season (i.e. rest) rather than partake in all the festivities.

This is not to say I don’t enjoy socializing, but too much noise, people, stimulus, clutter, travel, and food really compromises my wellbeing. I think a lot of us can relate.

This is especially true when it comes to how the holiday season can be havoc on the digestive system. For the last few years, I’ve taken to making the first couple months of the new year about resetting my system with healing anti-inflammatory meals because the time between mid-November and January can mean weeks of need for digestive ‘rest’ and healing, even when I try to be careful and deliberate about what foods I choose during these weeks. I believe a big part of this is because digestion is so much more that what we eat. It’s also how we eat, and in what environment.

It is very difficult to digest, absorb, and assimilate properly when the nervous system is not in rest and digest mode. And for those of us that are a bit extra sensitive, that state of relaxation can be challenging to achieve in these special, celebratory weeks.

I’ve spoken to a number of nutrition clients the last few weeks with similar dietary constraints as mine. They’ve all reflected how I’ve felt and dealt with the season: trying to simultaneously take care of themselves while not wanting to be too much of a bother to others or completely self-deprive from the feasting foods. Over time, I’ve been slowly advocating for myself more, speaking out about my needs and being an assertive houseguest by opting for my own meals rather than risk options that I know will lead to discomfort later. For some, this is especially important–but so too is taking a time out and getting into a state of relaxation as much as possible between or during the holiday gatherings.

 

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A few things I’ve taken to lately is adding Ayurvedic spices to many meals such as cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cardamom, turmeric, and ginger, as well as loading up on lots of anti-inflammatory greens, warm soupy meals, and herbal tea to support my extra finicky digestion. This soup is a good base for this type of eating and it’s high on my list to make this week after Thanksgiving. I tend to cook the split mung beans or red lentils, and then puree the greens and remaining ingredients raw, gently warm them, and then serve. That way the nutrients and good bacteria from the miso that degrade with heat are still present, and food that is pureed makes eating even easier on compromised digestion.

 

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Anti-Inflammatory Green Soup, serves 3-4

1 cup split mung dal or red lentils
2 ounces (2 handfuls) turnip greens, kale, or spinach, de-stemmed
1 large celery stalk
1 ounce parsley leaves (1 handful)
1 ounce cilantro leaves (1 handful)
1 clove garlic
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tablespoon white miso
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 cup whole-fat coconut milk
2 cups water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper
Optional Toppings: Sunflower + Brazil Nut Sprinkle (below), thinly sliced spring turnips or radishes, minced celery, parsley, or cilantro

  1. Combine the split mung dal and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and then turn town to low simmer and cook until they are soft. Cool slightly, and then transfer to a high speed blender along with the greens, celery, parsley, cilantro, garlic, spices, miso, nutritional yeast, and the water. Puree until smooth.
  2. Transfer back to the pot and add the coconut milk, apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper. Heat gently until hot but not simmering. Taste, and adjust with a bit of salt, vinegar, or more miso, if needed.
  3. Serve topped with whatever toppings you have on hand or prefer.

 

Sunflower + Brazil Nut Sprinkle
1/2 cup brazil nuts and sunflower seeds, toasted
1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a food processor, combine 1/2 cup of toasted nuts and seeds (in ratio you desire) with the nutritional yeast and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse until broken down into a ‘sprinkle’ texture, but not yet a paste. Add to the top of soups, salads, and other meals for a nutrient boost and texture contrast.

 

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buttercup squash soup with coconut, sage + quince

buttercup squash soup with coconut, sage + quince

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a few weeks ago, i discovered there’s a seemingly abandoned quince tree a couple streets over from us. instead of inquiring about picking the fruit to the nearby house or walking my ladder down the neighborhood and being for real about the situation, i instead ended my marathon-season track workouts for weeks by practicing my plyometric jumps into the lower branches, snagging one golden floral fruit each time, and smuggling it’s precious but ugly self back home to add to my for-soup collection.

i had an idea in my head about updating this soup and instead of sending the floral quince notes throughout, piling a few thin sauteed slices on top with fresh sage. the result is absolutely holiday (or just really nice self-care) worthy.

 

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speaking of holidays, here is what i’m making for the Thanksgiving weekend:

i. a brussels-heavy variation of this salad.

ii. apple pie. i’m planning to recreate the best gluten + dairy free pie crust i’ve made so far, adapted from Alanna’s recipe and fill it with apples + spice inspiration from Renee.

iii. if the weekend calls for more cozy time in the kitchen, i’ll be making cornbread stuffing (per William’s request), and/or pumpkin, sage + rosemary baked risotto, or perhaps just end the weekend with that cornbread alongside my favorite deep/rich vegetable-heavy chili with chocolate and walnuts.

iv. and more of this soup! the Recipe Redux challenge this month is to add some naturally colored holiday treats and trimmings to the table and this soup is definitely colorful! and, importantly, it’s also tasty. i gobbled up the first and then second batch before i took time for photos, so the third round, whipped up in the final days before we head to eastern oregon for family time, is going home to share.

 

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buttercup squash soup with coconut, sage + quince, serves about 4

Curious about quince? They’re a seriously old fruit, similar in many ways to pears, but much more floral in flavor and aroma. They require cooking too, as their heavy tannins and raw texture will dissuade even the hungriest neighborhood scavenger! Since they’re slightly precious and can be difficult to find outside of local shops and markets, a pear or apple can be substituted, or completely left out for a less sweet/interesting ending. For a little more substance, I’ve often been stirring in either cooked garbanzos or sometimes marinated/seasoned tempeh to my soup and rounding it out with some whole grain sourdough bread for a full meal deal. Also, use any squash you like. I used the last of the Buttercup from my garden. It’s a sweet, dense, slightly dry flesh variety, and any of the Kabocha, Hubbard and Butternut varieties are also good alternatives. 

2 lb. buttercup winter squash, exterior rinsed of any remaining soil
1 + tsp. coconut oil, divided
1 large onion, medium-diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 cups water or vegetable broth
2/3 cups full-fat coconut milk
1 1/2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
ground black pepper
1 quince, cored and thinly sliced
1-2 tsp. minced fresh sage

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Slice the squash in half and turn cut-side-down on a baking dish. Add 1/2- to 1-inch water to bottom of pan and roast for about 45-60 minutes, until a fork slides easily through the skin and flesh of the squash. Let cool at least 5 minutes before handling.
  2. Set a large pot on medium heat and add coconut oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it softens and becomes translucent. Then stir in the thyme and water or broth.
  3. Once the squash is done roasting and is cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and discard. Then scoop the flesh into the pot. You can either discard the skin or toss it in, as it is definitely edible and will add a little texture towards the end result.
  4. Add the coconut milk and apple cider vinegar.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then using either a blender or food processor, puree in batches until you have a smooth consistency. Turn it back into the pot, and add salt and ground black pepper and taste to adjust seasoning.
  5. For the quince, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of coconut oil, sliced quince, and minced sage. Try to spread the slices out over the pan so they are not overlapping and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are becoming golden and crispy on the edges.
  6. Serve the soup hot with the sauteed quince scattered on top. Enjoy!

 

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Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme

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Near the end of my spring term, my biochemistry professor began a week on both an uplifting and cynical note: he encouraged us not to stress about the class or final too much and then relayed the stark truth that we never know what the next day will bring and we should make the most of enjoying the present. I could tell from the weeks previous that something was happening in his personal life that was challenging, and though he shared only a hint beyond that particular day, his words really stirred me.

 

I’ve shared only a little of it here, but in the past couple years I’ve been going through somewhat of a personal growing up/life upheaval. Above all, I guess I’m slowly learning to simplify and downsize what I accomplish in a day and opt for a little less stress and “striving to.” I’m also working on letting go of a manic hold on the future and just let it happen. My mantra of High Intention, Low Attachment, one I learned from a Running on Om podcast, is one I have to remind myself daily. In the spare moments I have now, I’ve been trying to take it all in with all my senses: the colors, the scents, the sounds, and yes, the flavors.

 

I can for sure say I fail as much as I succeed, but I think it’s a growing up kind of pursuit that I need in the way that only big life challenges can ask of us.

 

One way I’ve been achieving more of living in the moment is by moving many meals outside. The other is by working with the freshest produce, whether it’s from our own garden, harvested right before dinner, or from local farms. We are truly spoiled in this season and getting to walk outside and harvest a basket of something different each day has me being reminded that being able to do so was both a major priority for William and I, and that we are so privileged to do so. It is a privilege I do not take for granted.

 

Wherever you’re at in this season within the grand scheme of things, whether everything is wonderful or larger struggles have come your way, I hope you take a little moment to stop and look around, and find simple joy in the process.

 

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Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme, serves 4-5
Soup might seem an ironic thing to eat in this warm season, but energetically, it is helpful to our bodies to be heated mildly so we can use our internal thermostat to self-regulate back to a comfortable state. It is much less harsh and draining than eating very cold foods, like ice cream or large helpings of cold melon, to cool down quickly. For this reason I think, I tend to favor light soups more in the summer than in other seasons. This one, with its emphasis on fennel, is quite light and simple. The flavor of the fennel really shines through, and there is just a sweet hint of the honey and thyme with each bite. You’ll want to serve it as starter or on days when only a light meal is preferred. As I note in the directions, taste and adjust flavors at the end. Depending on preference, you might want to add more or less salt, honey, lemon, or even cashew butter. 

1/2 tsp. coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 large fennel bulbs, diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup cooked white beans or garbanzos
1 tsp. salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbs. cashew butter
2 tsp. honey

  • Melt the oil over a medium heat in a large pot. Add in the diced onions, celery, fennel, and thyme. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened but haven’t yet browned. Add a splash or two of water as needed.
  • Add in the garlic and cook, uncovered, for about a minute more. Add in the beans, then pour in the broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • When the soup is done simmering, pour it into a blender in batches, to bring it to a smooth puree. On the last batch, spoon in the cashew butter and puree in.
  • Add all the now pureed soup back into the pot and then bring up to a simmer again. Add the lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and honey. Taste to check for seasoning and adjust as needed. You might find it needs more salt, pepper, lemon juice, or honey. Add a small amount of whatever it needs until it tastes balance and “right.” You’ll know and it will be lovely.
  • Ladle into bowls, and serve with warm bread as desired.