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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Mexico-Inspired Feast

As the weather starts warming slowly, I try to move my body more, breathe the fresh air even though it's cold, and eat more spicy food. Spice from the capsicum family (peppers and paprika) awakens the digestive system, accelerates the metabolism, and improves circulation.

I am inspired to share a Mexican-style meal, which reminds me of my visits to the Yucatan Peninsula. Every part of Mexico has its own regional cuisine. These dishes are familiar to me from my time in Chiapas.

Many of these ingredients, including garlic, cinnamon, and rice, have incredible healing properties.

With chills and weakness brought on by a cold, cinnamon's (cinnamomum sativum) anti-microbial activity stops the development of pathogenic bacteria. The active components in its essential oils warm the body. Try sprinkling it on buttered toast or adding it to applesauce.

Garlic, alium sativum, is one of nature's most powerful antibiotics. Its sulfur compounds reduce inflammation in the body. Effective in treating both viral and bacterial infections, fresh crushed garlic is a potent remedy. If your belly can tolerate it, mince or press 2 cloves of garlic, mix with 1/4 cup honey, and eat with toast or rice. You may also place a spoonful of fresh minced garlic in chicken soup.

Rice, oryza sativa, is the most common cereal grain world-wide. It is nourishing and soothing to a system that's depleted by cold and flu. It stops diarrhea, nourishes dehydrated tissues, and is one of the easiest grains to digest. When you are sick, make rice porridge with 1 cup rice and 3 cups water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to ensure that you are getting sufficient electrolytes. You can season it with thyme and cinnamon if you like.

Shopping List

  • cornmeal (non-GMO if possible)

  • long grain brown rice

  • black beans - please soak overnight

  • eggs

  • sour cream

  • milk (almond or cow)

  • olive oil

  • apple cider vinegar

  • canned / jarred tomatoes

  • salt

  • cinnamon

  • cumin

  • coriander

  • oregano

  • red chile flakes

  • onions

  • garlic

  • carrots

  • lime

  • orange

  • spinach

  • mushrooms

  • fresh cilantro (optional)

Black Bean Stew

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 2 carrots, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, oregano and salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon chile flakes (optional)

  • 1 cup cooked black beans

  • 2 cups water

  • juice of 1 orange

  • freshly chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Soak beans overnight or for 8 hours. Rinse, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer.

Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the top of the pot.

Simmer for 30 minutes or until beans are tender but still well-formed.

Rinse, drain, and set aside.

Chop onions, garlic, and carrots.

Place in a stock pot with olive oil and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add spices and black beans. Stir well and sauté for 3 more minutes, or until you can smell the spices.

Add water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the juice of 1 orange. Stir well.

Turn off heat and enjoy with cooked rice and a garnish of freshly chopped cilantro if you like.

Cornmeal Casserole

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a glass baking dish (9x9 or so) with olive oil. Set aside.

Mince:

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/2 pound mushrooms

  • 1 carrot

  • 1 onion

Place these in a deep skillet with 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Turn heat on high and then reduce to medium low once vegetables start to sizzle.

Add 1 teaspoon each: oregano, cumin, and coriander - mix well.

Splash with 1 tablespoon lime juice, stir once more, and cover.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. 

Turn off heat, add 2 packed cups spinach, stir well, and spread into baking dish.

For the topping, whisk together these ingredients in the order listed:

  • 2 cups cornmeal

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3 eggs

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 1/2 cups milk (almond or cow)

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Add a bit of water if the dough is too dry. You need to be able to handle it with your hands without it cracking or crumbling.

Shape dough into a flat disc and place over vegetables.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Remove from oven and serve with sour cream chile sauce.

GET CREATIVE! Avoiding cream and cheese? Put a fried egg or braised cod on top.

Sour Cream Chile Sauce

In a serving bowl, mix:

  • 2 cups sour cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

  • 1 teaspoon each: coriander and chile flakes

  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Serve immediately or keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

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Chicken and White Bean Stew

As Autumn Equinox comes near, I am gathering the abundance of the harvest and making basil and nettle pesto, elderberry syrup, tomato sauce, and blanched vegetables for the freezer.

The evenings are almost frosting and the mornings are misty and cool.

It feels like time for some warming, comforting 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.

CHICKEN AND WHITE BEAN STEW

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 2 onions, chopped

  • 1/4 pound free-range chicken, boneless (omit for vegetarians)

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped

  • 2 carrots, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups purple cabbage, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon each: coriander and cumin

  • ½ teaspoon each: oregano, chili flakes, and salt

  • 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed, or 4 cups

  • cooked canellini beans

  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

  • Parmesan cheese as garnish if desired

In a soup pot, saute onions for 15 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown.

Splash with apple cider vinegar.

Add the chicken and saute on medium high heat, stirring constantly with a metal spatula, until chicken is cooked through - about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the cut.

Add the celery, carrots, garlic, cabbage, and spices. Stir well.

Add the other ingredients (except the cheese) and bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer, cook for 15 minutes, and serve.

Garnish with Parmesan if you like.

Enjoy with sourdough bread or your favorite whole grain.

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