Revamp Your Lunch Routine

Fall is here, and it's the perfect time to look inward, slow down, and change the way that we eat. Summer's expansive energy is culminating in the harvest of beans, grains, root vegetables and winter squash. These are also essential foods to eat right now because of their immune-boosting benefits.

Try these lunch ideas to strengthen your immune response and simplify your diet.

To prepare:

Set aside 3 hours of time on a day off. Make a list and go food shopping.

Prepare a double batch of these two recipes and you will have lunches ready for the week ahead.

Green Leek Millet Casserole

You will need:

  • 1 cup millet

  • 1 teaspoon each: salt and black pepper

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large leek

  • ½ teaspoon each: sea salt and black pepper

  • 1 bunch fresh greens: dandelion, kale, chard, collards

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 teaspoon each: cumin and coriander powder

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • 2 Tablespoons stone-ground mustard (no salt added)

Place millet in a stock pot with 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes. Add salt and black pepper.

The millet will reach a thick, porridge-like consistency as you stir. Once it does, remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare vegetables. Chop 1 large leek into rounds. Heat olive oil in a skillet and add leeks.

Reduce heat to medium low. Add salt, black pepper, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add greens. Simmer for 10 more minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked out of the vegetables.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a pie plate with olive oil.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with cumin, coriander, lemon juice, and mustard.

Spread the millet on the bottom of an oiled baking dish. Place vegetables over millet. Pour eggs over the top and bake for 40 minutes.

Eggs: each one contains 6 grams of protein, 9 essential amino acids, and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat; rich in lutein, which helps prevent macular degeneration and cataracts; improve human lipid profile, thereby balancing cholesterol; contain naturally occurring vitamin D.

Leeks: strengthen lungs; anti-microbial; anti-bacterial; offer rich source of fructo-oligosaccharides, which stimulate growth of healthy bifidobacteria and suppress the growth of potentially harmful bacteria in the colon.

Buckwheat Cauliflower Shitake Casserole

You will need:

  • 1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)

  • ½ teaspoon each: salt, coriander, nutmeg

  • 1 large head cauliflower

  • 1/4 pound shitake mushrooms

  • 3 carrots

  • ½ teaspoon each: salt, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon

  • 3 cloves garlic

Place kasha and 2 ½ cups water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes until kasha begins to thicken. Add spices.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Chop cauliflower and carrots.

Oil a rectangular baking dish. Add carrots and cauliflower to the baking dish. Season with spices, Toss well to coat. Roast for 15 minutes.

Chop shitakes and add them to the roasting vegetables. Roast for 15 more minutes.

Mince garlic. Remove vegetables from oven and mix in garlic. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a thin layer of cooked kasha. Cover kasha with the vegetables. Cover vegetables with the rest of the cooked kasha.

Bake for 15 more minutes. Cool, slice and enjoy!

Buckwheat: this little seed is not technically a grain, but is often treated like one. It is gluten-free and contains more protein than fiber or fat. It is filling, nourishing, and offers a warming quality during the colder months. Buckwheat helps maintain balanced cholesterol, stable blood sugar, and low blood pressure. Its beneficial effects are due to its high flavonoid and magnesium content. Kasha is the name for toasted buckwheat groats, which cook up much more quickly than raw buckwheat.

Garlic: high in Vitamin C and pungent sulfurous compounds, which reduce inflammation in the body; nature’s strongest anti-biotic; contains polysulfides, which trigger blood vessel dilation to reduce blood pressure; anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, controls overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the small intestine thus helping to reduce heartburn and eventual ulcers.

Mushrooms: anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and anti-oxidant. These members of the fungal family have rich, earthy flavor (umami), are high in protein, and are the fruiting bodies of a network of mushroom mycelium that runs underground throughout the entire planet. They contain a special fatty acid called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which may be able to bind onto aromatase enzymes in breast cancer cells and lessen their ability to produce estrogen.

Would you like to dive deeper into changing your lunch routine?

I have created a week-long menu plan of plant-based lunches, which includes recipes, a shopping list and cooking tips. You can prepare each of these lunches easily as you make breakfast in the morning.

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Build Immunity Now.

Fall equinox passed us last week, providing a balance point, a moment of equal day and equal night before we delve into the inner journey of fall and winter. By strengthening our immune systems now, we bolster our bodies to prepare for a healthy winter.

Here are some ways to honor this transition:

  • Take a deep breath before you eat a meal.

  • Stop to appreciate fall foliage.

  • Wake up affirming that something wonderful is going to happen today.

  • Set aside time to prepare a healing, delicious meal. May these recipes inspire you.

Mushroom and Carrot Pilaf

You will need:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 teaspoon thyme

  • 10 ounces cremini and shitake mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • 5 medium carrots, grated

  • 4 Tablespoons flaxseed meal

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, thyme, salt and pepper; stir to coat in oil, and cover skillet.

Cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add mushrooms and lemon juice. Cover and cook until mushrooms release most of their liquid, about 10 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, grate carrots.

Remove skillet from heat, mix in carrots and flaxseed, and serve warm.

Carrots are an excellent fall and winter food because they tonify the intestines and support immune health. Mushrooms are immune-boosting and high in vegetarian protein.

Quinoa and White Bean Sauté

You will need:

  • 2 cups white beans (soldier or cannellini), cooked

  • 2 inches seaweed (kombu or wakame), for cooking the beans

  • 3 cups quinoa, rinsed and cooked

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 shallots, minced

  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, minced

  • 2 large bunches kale, or other hearty green, chopped

  • apple cider vinegar and olive oil for dressing

Soak beans overnight. Rinse, drain, and cook with 2 inches seaweed.

Cook beans and quinoa.

Meanwhile, mince shallot and chop kale, parsley and basil.

Sauté shallot and ginger in olive oil for 4 minutes, or until browned. Add kale. Sauté for 5 more minutes. Add ½ cup water and sauté for 5 more minutes. Stir to incorporate, turn off heat, and mix with cooked beans and quinoa. Toss with olive oil and vinegar.

Serve at room temperature.

Shallots and ginger are warming, digestive, and stimulate the immune system.

Miso Walnut Porridge

You will need:

  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1 cup walnut halves and pieces

  • ½ teaspoon each: coriander and cardamom

  • ½ cup rolled oats

  • 1 cup water

  • ½ teaspoon miso

Heat coconut oil in a small stock pot.

Add walnuts, coriander, and cardamom. Toast on low heat for 3 or 4 minutes.

Add oats and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, add miso, stir to incorporate, and enjoy!

This is a terrific breakfast or a wonderful addition to a dinner of poached chicken and steamed kale.

Have you ever had savory oats? I think they're delicious. They also soothe the nervous system and support healthy transit time and elimination. They're a perfect warming grain for fall and winter.

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Immune Soup

A food’s energetic quality is inherent to it. Cooking can modify it, but only to a certain extent.  A cooling food like fruit, even when cooked, is still relatively cooling. Ginger or cinnamon can be added to an apple to increase its warming quality, but the fruit’s original cooling effect remains.  As we prepare for winter, we can eat warm and warming foods to prevent illness and strengthen ourselves for the colder months to come.

Foods rich in protein and fat have more calories and thus are more warming. Vegetables that grow more slowly are also more warming. For example, cabbage is more warming than lettuce and root vegetables are warmer than peppers or tomatoes.

The fire element is related to heat in the body. Metabolism and circulation depend upon this stimulating quality to transform food and body chemicals into functional substances and circulate them throughout the system. Foods that are hot, both in temperature and spice level, increase metabolism and circulation.

To support healthy immunity, we must first promote healthy digestion.

To do so during the fall and winter, eat plenty of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and slow-growing vegetables for protein and vital energy. Increase fats from nuts and seeds, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, olive and/ or sunflower oil.

Steam, bake or roast vegetables (use coconut or sunflower oil for roasting) and garnish with oil and garlic. This practice helps the body assimilate of fat soluble vitamins like A and D, which are also found in whole milk, dairy, and eggs.

Enjoy hearty meat and or bean-based stews, root dishes, and spices, whole grain porridges as winter comfort foods that are both heating and healing. 

IMMUNE SOUP

Start heating a pot of cold water on the stovetop.

Add:

  • 3 chicken legs, stew beef with bones, lamb shanks – leave meat out if you prefer

  • A handful of astragalus root and/or codonopsis root

  • A handful of fresh or dried shitake or maitake mushrooms

  • 2 inches of rinsed kombu seaweed

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 carrots, chopped into quarters

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped in half

  • 1 onion, whole with peel removed

  • 1 head garlic, whole with peel removed

Cover the pot and bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, until any meat falls off the bones.

Remove bones, herbs, any dried mushrooms and roots from the soup.

Now, you can add other vegetables and herbs, such as:

Aromatic vegetables like parsnips, turnips, mustard greens and leeks – these reduce congestion

Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash – these are rich in carotenoids, which support immunity and respiratory health.

Spices such as thyme, black pepper and oregano – these are anti-microbial and reduce risk of contracting a viral or bacterial infection

Simmer the soup until everything is tender, then add more fresh garlic and ginger if you like. Taste for salt.

Serve with a drizzle of your favorite oil and a whole grain.

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