Winter winds present the true meaning of cold; that deeply chilling force that seems to have been released from some underground place, where it was storing up strength all Spring and Summer long. Sometimes it feels cruel, the bitter cold blasting an uncovered face or momentarily exposed hands. But other times it feels like a close friend come to greet me again and remind me of parts of myself that were a bit lost in the busier, warm months. The cozy, quiet, still and dark of Winter is what I wait all year for. That excuse to do what I love, which is stay home with piles of books and films and cup after cup of hot tea. And then occasionally wander outside to gaze at the brilliantly icy blue sky or stand beneath snowflakes falling infinitely from a ceiling of white above.
For many people, (post holiday) Winter feels like a season of inactivity, of boredom, of weariness and even dread. In truth, even I have experienced a little too much quiet during past winters, where I wasn’t quite sure about life and how it was engaging me. But this year, I’m finding it to be the perfect time to dig deeper into purposes and dreams and to attend to the transformations that I feel are trying to take place. I think there is a mystery and magic that rides in on such pure cold waves of January, February, and into March. I try to listen to what is being whispered, what is shifting, what is becoming more clear and defined in these uncluttered days and weeks of shivering and seeking warmth. When basic needs are more obvious, there is less availability to be frivolous and flighty. There is more definition, more restriction, more limitation. Yet, I think in that there is also opportunity to see more severely and more starkly what needs to be changed, to be altered, to be allowed to transform.
I see visions of swirling and whirring snowy winds grabbing at the needless and even ugly things in me and taking them up up and away into the dark night to be gone forever. To be overcome by the powerful icy chill so that what is left in the Spring, after the defrosting and the melting, the unfolding and flowering, is only the best, purest, prettiest. My aim this Winter is to let the cold strip away anything and everything that is not me. To abandon what I have unnecessarily collected over time, to release what I have wrongly held onto, to claim freedom from that which has held me against my will.
What may sound like an intense and heavy aim is rightly set against Winter’s quiet, still, peaceful landscapes. It is pondered and prayed over amongst those piles of books and films and cups overflowing with tea. It is settled over nourishing meals, full of comforting spices and balancing flavors. I love simple moments of warming up with a bowl of sustenance while idly staring out the window into Winter’s abyss. Something shifts inside as you listen to the call to better care for and protect yourself. I think that is what Winter wishes to be, an opportunity for recollection, clarity, definition, and purification. Despite that seemingly cruel wind, there is great kindness to be found. A great love settling upon us amidst the majestic snow. Wild and yet gentle. Fierce and yet calm.
Maple Roasted Pears with Buckwheat, Hazelnut, Cacao Sprinkle
Pears, in my opinion, become 100% more delicious when cooked and combined with other sweet flavors such as maple and chocolate. Here I have created a simple, versatile recipe that accentuates the juicy sweetness of pears while not overwhelming them with other ingredients. It can be enjoyed as a dessert, but would also make a lovely breakfast with some warmed nutmilk poured over.
3 small pears, halved and cored
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple butter or syrup
½ cup oat flour (or other whole grain flour)
½ cup chopped hazelnuts
¼ cup cacao nibs
4 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
4 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon each cardamom, nutmeg, and sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Gently melt the coconut oil in a pan over low heat (or place in the oven for a few minutes). Combine all other sprinkle ingredients in a medium bowl and then add the oil. Spread into a baking dish and bake for 40 minutes.
3. With clean hands, gently rub the halved and cored pears with the oil and maple. Place in a baking dish and roast in the oven for 35 minutes, until juicy and caramelized.
4. Once the pears and sprinkle are done, allow to cool slightly on stovetop. To serve, spoon the sprinkle into the pear cores and around and all over! Drizzle any excess liquid onto the pears as well and enjoy!
Warm Sesame Daikon, Adzuki Bean, Brussels Sprout Salad
I find this to be a really tasty, balanced salad that makes a perfectly satisfying meal when served with some brown rice and an extra dash of shoyu! It is nutty with plenty of umami flavor and is a nice change from the common soups and stews of these colder months.
1 cup adzuki beans, soaked in 3 cups filtered water overnight
2 cups filtered water
½ teaspoon salt
1 small piece kombu seaweed*
1 tablespoon untoasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon shoyu
1 teaspoon mirin
2 small daikon radishes, cut into matchsticks*
1 ½ cups Brussels sprouts, ¼ inch slice
2 tablepoons brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon untoasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon mild miso paste (such as sweet white)
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon shoyu or tamari
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of dulse flakes
1. Drain soaked adzuki beans and place in a medium pot with water and salt over high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer for 40 minutes, or until soft. Drain cooked beans and discard cooking liquid or save for other recipes (such as soup).
2. Place cooked beans in a bowl and toss together with remaining ingredients. Allow to marinate in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
3. Heat untoasted sesame oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add daikon and Brussels sprouts and cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Lower heat and add in vinegar, toasted sesame oil, miso, ginger, shoyu, and garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add in the marinated beans and cook until warmed through.
4. To serve, sprinkle with dulse flakes and enjoy!
*Note 1: To cut daikon into matchsticks, slice thinly at a diagonal, then stack the ovals and slice thinly, lengthwise.
*Note 2: Kombu is a seaweed that is used in stocks and broths as well as in cooking legumes to help neutralize phytic acid and also add valuable nutrients. It is optional!
Soft Polenta with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Rosemary Mustard Roasted Roots
This recipe was prompted by an adorable little jar of black trumpet mushrooms gifted to me by a dear friend over Christmas. I then instantly thought of a polenta napolean dish that my class at the Natural Gourmet Institute created for our final dinner, which we topped with sauteed black trumpet mushrooms. It was my first time trying them and I knew it wouldn't be my last! I loved the pairing of the mushrooms and polenta, so here you go...
1 cup polenta
3 cups filtered water
1 cup mushroom soaking liquid (see below)
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup dried black trumpet mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup filtered water for 10 minutes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Roasted root ingredients:
2 handfuls purple fingerling potatoes (about 1 ½ cups), halved or quarted depending on size
1 medium scarlet turnip, ½ inch dice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1. For the polenta, combine polenta, 2 cups of the filtered water, and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Lower heat and stir fairly constantly for about 30 minutes, adding the 3rd cup of water little by little. You want the polenta to be very soft and creamy -- not too loose and not too chewy.
2. For the roots, preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Toss the potatoes and turnips together with the olive oil, rosemary, and garlic powder. On a parchment lined baking sheet or in cast iron skillet (as pictured), roast for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, add mustard, toss with a spatula, and return to the oven for 5-10 more minutes, until crispy.
3. For the mushrooms, drain the them, reserving the soaking liquid. Heat the oil in a small sautée pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sautée for just a couple of minutes before adding garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
4. To serve, top polenta with roasted roots and mushrooms and enjoy!
*Note: If you need to reheat the polenta, add the reserved mushroom liquid as needed, for a bit of extra flavor!
Classic Creamy Hummus with Za’atar Roasted Vegetable Sticks
Although I enjoy pretty much all variations of hummus, I love those that are super creamy and lack that starchy, slightly gritty texture. The key here is to peel the outer skin off the chickpeas once cooked. Yes, this is a bit time consuming and tedious and not totally necessary, but it does help achieve that lusciousness I love. Soaking them overnight with a little baking soda shortens the cooking time and softens the skin as well. Feel free to add more garlic or lemon or even throw in a pinch of cumin, coriander, paprika, or cayenne! So many possibilities.
As for the vegetable sticks, they are just one way to enjoy this classic middle eastern dip. But I love 'em as a change from crackers or pita bread. Although not much beats warm pita bread with creamy hummus. But I have yet to try my hand at pita bread... One day.
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in 3 cups filtered water + 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups filtered water
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 small piece kombu seaweed (optional)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons tahini (preferably toasted)
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons sea salt
juice of 1 lemon
Vegetable Stick ingredients:
2 medium carrots
1 large parsley root
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon za’atar spice blend (usually thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac, sesame seeds, salt...)
1. Drain and rinse the soaked chickpeas. Place in a medium pot with water, salt, and kombu and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until very soft.
2. Meanwhile place the garlic cloves with their skin on in a small pan and heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Flip them over and heat for a couple minutes more, until fragrant. Once cooled, the cloves should slide out of their skins easily.
2. Drain the cooked chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Once cooled, slip off the chickpea skins with your fingers (yes, one by one, if you have the patience!). Combine all ingredients, including the peeled garlic, in a food processor along with ½ cup cooking liquid and blend on high for about 5 minutes, or until super smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Vegetable Stick method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Slice carrots and parsley root into small wedges (halving and slicing lengthwise). Toss with olive oil and za’atar on baking sheet and roast for about 35 minutes, until browning.