Got the winter blues in the kitchen? Here are a few ways to feed your fertility in the darker months

Keeping Cooking Real

I was thinking this past weekend about how best to get across the idea of appropriate nutrition and nourishment….appropriate amounts of nutrient dense foods, eating in a way to enhance both absorption and enjoyment, and how to make it real and do-able. When Chef Eben of the Yardley Inn and I were planning our recent dinner, he mentioned that one of his goals is to make cooking accessible and real—it’s not about celebrity chefs, or watching a lot of fancy cooking on TV, getting intimidated and then ordering take out.  I so agree with him.

So here are some basics.  Not new for some of you:

The healthiest forms of cooking are steaming, stir-frying, sauteing, using a slow cooker or pressure cooking.  All of these will cook your food either quickly or in such a way as to avoid losing nutrients (or both!).  I also roast both meats and veggies, but I have to admit that there is more nutrient loss doing this, due to the longer cooking times.

Notice that microwaving is not on this list.  Nor is frying, for I hope obvious reasons. Grilling can be both healthful and not; foods that cook quickly on the grill with minimal fats, such as fish and veggies, are fine.  However, grilling meats that take a long time and form a hard crust, likely are building up excess nitrates on the surface, which though tasty are not good for you.

This time of year, when fresh veggies are limited, what’s in our pantries and freezers are even more important than usual.  It’s hard to cook well if you have nothing to work with! Here are my pantry basics:

Canned tomatoes and beans, canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, all from Vital Choice), jarred salsa, roasted peppers and olives.  Also canned coconut milk and chilies in adobo sauce, just to keep things interesting!

Oils (olive for cooking, plus flavored oils for dressings and finishing dishes) and vinegars (apple cider, other flavored vinegars) are important as well.  Hot sauces (we have a ton!) and ethnic sauces like fish sauce, hoisin, and chili oil also are nice to have around.

We have the usual grains:  several kinds of rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat. We’re actually trying to use less of these, as well as less of the pasta we keep around.  We also have dry beans and lentils, which are especially good during these chilly months. The beans are mostly from Rancho Gordo, and are out of this world!

Produce in the pantry includes onions, garlic, shallots and ginger, as well as sweet potatoes, white potatoes and various squashes.  (The small delicata and the spaghetti squash are especially nice, since they cook pretty quickly).

Everything else is in the freezer.  What we’ve made ourselves:  red sauce from local tomatoes, pesto, stock, green mole sauce.  Ready for cooking:  fish, local chicken and meat.  Also corn that we put up, and some green peas and limas from the store.

So with all this on hand, it’s hard to imagine not being able to throw something together, even if we don’t have a lot of fresh stuff in the fridge!  It takes some time, sure, but not really all that much.  If you aren’t sure how to get started, come to our Healthy Living Food Group on the first Tuesday of each month.  Also see the “Healthy Eating” portion of the resources on our website–soon to be updated.  And maybe start by cooking soup.  It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s the right time of year!

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about appropriate nutrition, here are two books I’ve just finished and found fascinating:  Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD  and Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas.  Both are a bit dense and a little technical, but very understandable, and really important.  A good read on a chilly day while your soup cooks!

Hearty Rainbow Vegetable Chili (vegan)

Posted: 21 Jan 2012 05:12 PM PST

Hope for Healing

It has been cold and wintry the past few days and there is no better way to warm-up the chill but with a big pot of vegetable chili. Lots of veggies and lots of beans to comfort the cold and weary soul. Warming on so many levels. Then you add the spices and some warm vegan cornbread and you are set to hibernate for a quick meal after playing out in the snow. Or at least set to hibernate for a few days!

Just look at all those colorful veggies- That’s why I called this “rainbow-vegetable” chili. It was one of those days when I was cleaning out the fridge in the middle of the latest snow storm I decided that the colorful arrangement of purple cabbage, yellow sweet potatoes, orange carrots and green kale was such a pretty color combo that they had to be put to good use in a big pot of something warm. Why not chili? And why not fill up on a colorful rainbow of veggies in one meal? You won’t be missing meat in this dish, the veggie combo and the shredded cooked cabbage (great ground meat sub) really make a perfect vegan meal. It is so simple and makes a huge pot of goodness to warm up for days or share with friends.

Plus, I have been inspired as of late to try and eat more vegetables in the winter months. I sometimes feel guilty for eating frozen, out of state, or canned veggies in the winter, and seem to sadly eat less for that reason. Which in return slows down your digestion and may even cause more digestive build-up in the end. Yeah yeah, it’s winter so it is time to be eating and digesting more slowly. And, spring is a time to detox and summer is a time to be rejuvenated with lots of vitamin D and fresh foods. But still, you have to keep trying to fill your plate with as many colors and vegetables as you can, all year long…so a bowl of this amazingly filled vegetable chili will be good for you on so many levels this time of year.

 I made a double batch of this chili so that I could have leftovers, freeze some and share with friends. So I will share the more ‘normal’ sized recipe and you can decide if you want to make a ginormous batch or not :0 It’s completely up to you. I always say that I rather do the cooking once and have something nutritious to warm up on the stove for lunches and dinners. I guess it’s convenience in the ‘real food world’.

Hearty Rainbow Vegetable Chili Recipe (vegan)
1-2 TB of sauteing oil (grapeseed, olive, ghee)
1 large yellow or red onion, finely chopped
1 heaping cup of chopped celery
1 large bell pepper chopped
4-5 finely minced garlic cloves
1 cup of chopped carrots
1-2 cups of finely chopped purple cabbage
1 cup of chopped sweet potato
4-5 cups of vegetable broth
4 cups of blended (pureed) stewed or canned tomatoes
1 15 ounce can or 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans
1 15 ounce can or 1 1/2 cups of cooked pinto beans
1 15 ounce can or 1 1/2 cups of cooked kidney beans
1 heaping cup of finely chopped fresh kale
1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 TB of chili powder
1 TB of ground cumin
1 ts. of ground paprika
dash or 1/4 ts. of ground ginger and cinnamon
cracked pepper and sea salt to your taste

In a large 8 quart pot, on medium heat, saute the chopped onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes until soft. Then add in the cabbage, carrots and sweet potato to cook and saute for a few minutes as well. Then add the tomatoes, broth and beans and bring to a strong boil. Then reduce heat and add in the kale and cilantro and spices. Then cook until chili is reduced and cooked. Time to cook varies from 45 minutes to an hour. You can also add all but the fresh greens to a slow cooker plus 1 cup of water and cook on medium to low heat for 7-8 hours (or medium heat for 4-6). 

Serve chili with fresh herbs, avocado, scallions, tortilla chips, over a bed of brown rice or quinoa. Or over some polenta or fresh corn bread. Perfect for a winter day. Perfect for hibernating. This recipe will serve 6-8 people.

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