The soft autumn colours are slowly fading and winter is just around the corner. With it comes the whispered invitation for us to embrace stillness and introspection. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter correlates with the deep yin, or feminine energy, reflected beautifully in the frozen lace of morning frost, the surge of power and pure energy within the lightning bolt, the shower of life-giving rain from above. Winter is a time to step back, rest and recharge the mind, body and spirit. It is the season for hibernation, storage and restoration as reflected in nature’s own habits.
In this period of change, take the time to savour nutritious meals with friends or family, eating slowly and deliberately engaging our senses as part of a daily mindfulness regime. At times we can be stuck indoors, sedentary, whilst the winter weather wars on; however, our intellect and mental and emotional health all need due care and attention and winter patiently provides an opportunity for personal reflection and restoration of inner power. There are any number of mindful habits to choose from coming into winter; perhaps a daily diary or art/sketch pad entry will help to pique and nourish your emotional and creative side. A daily affirmations Youtube playlist can roll on whilst you sit down for breakfast each morning. Gentle stretching exercises early in the morning or late at night will help to minimise the contractive effects the cold weather can have on our body. Even taking the time to watch the rain fall on the ground whilst sipping a warming herbal tea such as ginger or peppermint can enliven the senses and evoke feelings of gratitude and belonging. The famous naturalist John Muir puts it nicely- “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks”.
In the past, winters were experienced as the most arduous time of the year, in which humans were forced to sustain themselves on limited sources of fresh ingredients as nature slowed its production of edible foods; it was a time of preservation- especially of energy- and keeping the body well-fed until the days lengthened and the air grew warmer.
Today we have the luxury of a seemingly endless supply of fresh foods to eat, obtainable at various supermarkets and no doubt a stone’s-throw from our home. I urge you, however, to support your local farmer and buy local during this time as, not only are you getting food produced with love, but food predominantly produced free of pesticides and toxic elements that inevitably cause harm within the body. Choose nutritious whole foods during this period and experiment with slow-cooker meals – Taste.com.au has almost 400 recipes to choose from, incorporating various hearty winter vegetables and warming spices.
Cold weather and indoor living will place pressure on our lungs and respiratory systems, as well as our immune health, so it is important to include ‘warming spice and all things nice’ into our diets. Below is a list of helpful aromatic additions:
Cinnamon: warming, has a strong affinity for the kidneys and helps stabilise blood sugar
Garlic: acts as a natural antibiotic and antibacterial in the blood stream
Turmeric: a natural antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory properties and aids liver detoxification
Cayenne Pepper: helps relieve chills, coughs, congestion and contains vitamin C
Ginger: garlic of the east, valued for its antibacterial, warming and kidney supportive properties
Horseradish: acts as a strong decongestant, also good for the digestion of fatty foods
Black Pepper: warming, with digestive, antiseptic and antioxidant properties
Cardamom: acts as an expectorant, assists with cleansing respiratory passages
Cloves: soothing, anti-septic, warming, anti-inflammatory and aids digestion
Source: Complementary Medicines Australia
All these spices are readily available to us and weekly market shops need not be difficult or expensive. In contrast to the stigma that fresh whole foods are more expensive than processed foods, I’ve deliberately taken only $20 to spend on ingredients to prove to you, my readers, it is indeed possible to spend wisely to obtain nourishing ingredients for meals for you and your family. Below is a recipe (based on my $20 worth of ingredients) for a slowed cooked meal for a family of 5:
RUSTIC BEAN SOUP
Beans for a large part of the winter diet, not only do they possess a wealth of nutritional benefits, but the longer cooking time needed for beans makes them extremely warming in cool weather. If you chose to use packet beans, soak them overnight to improve digestibility and reserve some of the cooking liquid to add to this hearty soup for more flavour. This dish can be served with a homemade seed or sourdough bread if you desire.
Olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 leek chopped, 3 carrots chopped, 2 cloves garlic chopped, 1 tomato chopped, 3 celery stalks chopped, ¼ cup parsley chopped, 1 turnip peeled and chopped (or ¼ cup of daikon radish), 2 potatoes peeled and chopped, 2 cups butternut chopped, 2 cups cooked kidney beans, I love to add 1 cup butter beans right at the end too. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat oil in large pot, add onion and leek. Sauté until tender and then add carrots, garlic, tomato, celery and parsley, stir well after each addition.
- Add turnip, potatoes and butternut, and cover with water. Simmer for 10 mins before adding kidney beans.
- Continue cooking until all vegetables are tender. Mash lightly with a potato masher, add butter beans and season and serve. You could add some grated cheese to the soup for added fat content, but leave out if you have a dairy sensitivity.
With warmth and gratitude,