It currently feels like spring where I live. There is no snow on the mountains, the cherry blossoms are out, making the world beautiful (and attacking my husband’s sinuses), and I haven’t worn a winter coat in at least two weeks. I may even have gotten a suntan today, I’m not complaining, it is a little weird though; it’s February! It’s also noticeably lopsided considering on the other side of the country there are people creating tunnel slides in the 7 feet of snow in their backyard.
It is still winter though, and I’m sure our West Coast winter coats will get a little more action before spring officially arrives. For this reason, and for the sake of the rest of the shivering country, I want to talk about foods that keep us nourished and warm through the colder months.
Being cold suppresses our immune system, making us more susceptible to colds and flu. Supporting it helps us prevent getting sick and it also fights the cancer cells, so keeping warm during the winter is just another way to keep ourselves healthy. Here are some tips on what to eat to stay warm:
Raw food has a strong reputation as being healing and also very good for you. This is true for some, but it is also very cooling and difficult to assimilate if your digestion and overall health are not ideal. I have seen this especially in people going through or recovering from chemo. If it is winter, you have been sick a lot (whether or not you have cancer) try including more gently cooked foods, you may find more of the nutrients get where they need to go, boost your immune system and keep you warmer.
Herbs and spices can be very warming and easy to incorporate into recipes. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, black pepper and cinnamon (among others) can make any soup or stew recipe more interesting and flavourful while warming up your insides (as well as offering a host of other health benefits). You can also add them to a cup of tea (more warming than a glass of water and just as hydrating). My favourite tea recipe here includes three of them. If you do a lot of juicing year-round, add some ginger and turmeric to offset the cooling, raw aspect of the juice.
Vegetables that took longer to grow (such as cauliflower and cabbage) are more warming than those that grew more quickly (such as lettuce and zucchini). Tropical fruit (bananas, pineapple, mangoes) are cooling, which makes sense considering they grow in place where people more often need to cool down (rather than warm up).
Lastly, let’s talk leftovers: heat them up! If you are eating a delicious warming meal from the night before, ice-cold, right out of your fridge, it’s going to make you cold too. Heat it up in a dish, in your oven or toaster oven. There are many reasons not to use your microwave, but one good one is that it doesn’t impart nearly as much heat as other, more natural ways. I store tea towels in mine.
I have created a warming recipe this week for those of you still in your winter boots (or who will be pulling them back out again in another week). It is made with layers of fresh (low gi) veggies, lentils, meaty walnuts and portobellos. It is baked in the oven until nice and bubbly. If you are in a warmer part of the world, serve it with some fresh greens to balance things out. If not, enjoy the cozy heat it will create all the way down to your toes.
- ½ c Lentils, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
- ¾ c Walnuts, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed and chopped up to lentil-sized pieces
- 2 Carrots, diced
- 2 Celery ribs, diced
- ½ Leek
- ½ Fennel bulb, diced
- ½ Red Onion, diced
- 2 Portobello Mushrooms, Diced
- 4 Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp Dried Turmeric (one Tbsp if fresh)
- ¼ tsp Cinnamon
- 1 Sprig Rosemary
- 1 Sprig Thyme
- ½ c Tomato Passata (purée)
- 1½ c Water
- 2 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Several grinds of Black Peper (to enhance turmeric absorption)
- 2 bunches of Kale (or other hearty green), de-stemmed and roughly chopped
- 3 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- ½ Head of Cauliflower, cut into 6-8 chunks
- 2 medium-sized Parsnips, cut into large dice
- ⅓ c Cashews, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
- ⅓ c + Water
- Preheat the oven to 325*F
- Sauté the onion, leek, carrot, fennel, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary & thyme in the coconut oil and a splash of water, until soft.
- add the turmeric, cinnamon, lentils, walnuts, passata and water, and stir together.
- Simmer until the liquid has reduced to almost nothing.
- Season with sea(weed) salt and black pepper
- Layer the bottom of a casserole dish (or individual ramequins)
- in extra virgin coconut oil and a splash of water, sauté the greens until they are bright green and wilted.
- Layer on top of the base layer.
- Steam the cauliflower until soft, transfer to a bowl.
- Steam the parsnip until soft, transfer the the cauliflower bowl.
- In a blender purée the soaked cashews and water until it creates a smooth cream.
- Put the steamed veggies and cashew cream into a food processor and blend until smooth-ish (I don't mind some texture, but it's up to you.)
- Season with sea(weed) salt to taste
- Scoop and Spread on as the top layer
- Bake for 35-45 minutes or until it bubbles up the sides
- Cover and freeze until you need a meal.