Bracing for Winter Part 1 – Food!

Posted on January 7, 2012. Filed under: Food and Cooking, Seasons and Climate | Tags: , |

Here in Boston we just recently had our first real blast of wintery cold with lows in the single digits and wind chills below zero. The kind of days where you feel the cold creeping deeply into you and you can feels parts of yourself withdrawing inward.

All of which got me thinking about things that I like to help deal with winter’s onslaught.

Ice Fortress of Doom (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbals)

For me, it boils down to incorporating three types of things into what you eat, take and do – things that are:

  • Grounding,
  • Nourishing, or
  • Warming

are so important.

Let’s start today with food because one of the foundations of health and happiness is what you eat. Let’s look at a soup I made the other day.

Root Soup (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbals)

It was really a thrown together soup of assorted root vegetables including daikon, potatoes, golden beets, celeriac, garlic and onions with some seaweed and spinach thrown in – and seasoned with a bit of gluten freed tamari and maple syrup.

Non Recipe (I don’t “recipe” but instead tend to just throw things together and they work): I started with about a quart of water (I added more water as it looked like it needed in the course of things), threw in a couple of tablespoons of tamari and a 1/2 cup or so of dried seaweed. I love the stuff from Maine Seaweed I turned it on high and while it was warming up, I chopped up a half a garlic bulb and a couple of yellow onions and threw them in. I left it to simmer while I peeled and chopped a couple of each of daikon, potatoes, beets and celeriac and threw them in. Then washed, chopped and threw in a bunch of spinach. Simmered for an hour. About half way through, I threw in a couple of table spoons maple syrup. When done – pure awesomeness.

Root vegetables can be very grounding (and nourishing!) and I like incorporating them in a lot of things. Beyond the ones above parsnips, carrots, turnips and rutabagas work well for soups.  I also love incorporating the wonderful varieties of winter squashes around.

I also like  bakes like the one I made the other week:

Root Bake (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbals)

(This was just some peeled and chopped winter squash sweet potatoes and walnuts with a little olive oil and water to keep in moist baked for just around an hour at 400 F)

Other great things for winter bakes are beets, parsnips and carrots.

As part of the nourishing, I like to also have greens in things – plus they can add that feel of spring’s hopeful return.  Never underestimate the awesomeness of spinach, chard, kale and collards in things. Plus if you can get them dandelion greens, are a great addition.

I also love cooking with seaweed and I keep a variety of dried seaweeds around. The easy to cook ones like dulse, I just throw into potato bakes or stir fries. The longer cooking ones I put in soups, cooking rice and cooking beans (Paleo pals can just ignore the last two and just cook it with your meats but soak them well first – all day or overnight – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.)

The better mushrooms (like Shiitake, portabella, etc.) are nourishing and grounding. I like putting them in where I can find the excuse – and when I have them around! You can use them into just about anything or centerpiece them like maybe make a mushroom based soup with a couple of varieties and throw in some leeks, greens and maybe serve over some quinoa! (I’m going to have to try making that, it sounds great!)

It’s not thought of in this way, but sweet is nourishing to your spirits in proper amounts. (Wean yourself off adding processed sugar to things. The less of that crap you have in your diet the more you appreciate the nourishing ones in cooking.) In winter, I like throwing a touch of maple syrup in soups, bakes, stir fries and sautes. It really makes a difference. And throw in honey with tea or a little with heated cereal in the morning!

For warming things – garlic, onions, leeks are my frequent friends. I sometimes like turmeric, mustard and even a dash of curry in things. Or I put some sliced ginger root in bakes, soups, etc. for just that extra kick. If some of these things bother you, try smaller amounts and pre-cooking them by starting them cooking in with the water and sauce on a low simmer while you chop and prepare everything else, then cook them with the rest of the food as normal. That way the warming effect can suffuse through, but mellow a bit so it is easier to deal with.

Wow, that’s a whole lot about foods in winter. Part 2 will be either be about herbs or about actions – with Part 3 being whichever I don’t do in part 2! 😉

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