Nourishing our Bodies Through Seasonal Foods

by Stephanie Perkinson

I like to think that the our connection to food is more that just “make and eat.” I love it when there is a bit of magic thrown into the mix. There is always an option to choose foods for a reason and a season. Winter is a great time to experiment in the kitchen.  We all sort of innately feel that shift. We crave warmer foods and drinks, spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. We want to layer on the clothing and get a little bit more rest. We can choose foods that help to nourish and support this internal shift. Think of root vegetables like parsnips, burdock and daikon, sweet and grounding squashes and fennel, crisp and hardy winter greens like cabbage and kale. While sometimes our food choices can seem overwhelming just keep in mind that a little bit of effort can go a long way. Think of it like giving your body a little loving squeeze. After all, it houses the you who make you, YOU, why not give back a little, right? 

This infusion of love and mindfulness becomes ritual. Ritual becomes nourishment. Nourishment becomes balance. Balance helps us find our wholeness in the season at hand.


Generally, I like to lean on eastern dietary philosophies to guide and ground me. According to traditional Chinese medicine each season has an element, a flavor, a color and a corresponding organ. In winter the element is water, the flavor is salty, the color is black or indigo and the organs are kidneys, adrenals and bladder. In Ayurveda the winter is ruled by wind and is considered a dry season for the first half and since it's January we'll focus on that piece. Today I'll be sharing two recipes, one based on the 5-Element theory and the other on Ayurveda. These recipes are specifically tailored to meet your winter needs. 

I have always lived close to the coastal waters of the Atlantic and love fresh seafood but never thought to try sea vegetable until college. That first bite of seaweed salad hooked me and I have been experimenting ever since. For those of you not really all that comfortable with the though of sea veggies, this recipe is a great introduction. Think of gomasio as a nutrient dense salt alternative. While it does contain a bit of salt, the mild, briny flavor from the seaweed mixed with the nuttiness of the sesame seeds make pretty much everything it touches delicious. I sprinkle it on fried eggs, steamed veggies and rice and even fresh popcorn hot out of the pan.  The salty nature of this condiment coincides with winter's flavor (salty) while the sesame seeds nourish the water element. I chose to add black sesame seeds in to reflect winter's color and to nourish the kidneys. The addition of seaweed gently supports the adrenals while the nettles support the kidneys. I love seeing all the ingredients working together like that, it's beautiful isn't it? This is what the 5-Element theory is all about. 



You'll need:

1 cup black and white sesame seeds (nourishes the water element)
1/2 cup pre-made dried seaweed flake mixture (aids the adrenals)
1/4 cup dried nettle leaves (nourishes the kidneys)
1 TB sea salt (nourishes the water element)


Lightly toast your sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium-low heat, stirring continuously. You definitely don't want to burn these babies. Add them to a small bowl along with the salt, nettles and seaweed. I like to crush up 2/3 of the mixture with a mortal and pestle or in my food processor. Place it all into a glass jar and shake well to combine together. Store in a cool dark place and nourish your body all winter long. 


Up next is an Ayurvedic recipe for kitchari. Kitchari is a traditional Indian dish using mung beans and rice as a base. During the cold and dry winter season you want to make sure that you are eating warm foods that have been cooked a little longer. This balances out the quick paced and somewhat restless qualities of Vata season. Ghee is a wonderful fat to cook with that soothes and calms the body. This dish is incredibly grounding and super adaptable. Play around with whatever spices you like (mustard seeds, garam masala, curry blends, coriander, etc) or add in toasted nuts, fresh herbs and/or dried fruit. In this version I have kept it mildly spiced and added ghee and vegetable. Think of kitchari as another piece of the healing puzzle when you aren't feeling all that great or are looking to cleanse your system after all the holiday partying. This dish will tone, purify, cleanse and deeply nourish your body, perfect for these cold, winter Vata days. 


You'll need:

1 cup mung beans, split or whole (if whole soak overnight)
1/2 cup organic basmati rice
3 cups filtered water
3 TB. of ghee
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds 
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cups of chopped vegetables, whatever you may have on hand

Pour 3 cups of water into a large pot and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for the water, rinse your beans and rice together very well. Add your beans and rice to the boiling water, cover and reduce to a simmer.

Now begin to prepare your vegetables, anything like carrots or sweet potatoes need to be diced very small. Grab a sauté pan and add the ghee, melting it over low heat. Add the caraway, fennel, cumin and turmeric into a mortar and pestle and grind it up as best you can. Add the spices into the pan with your melted ghee, along with the garlic,  ginger and cinnamon stick. Sauté for a minute of so and then add your veggies and cook for 5 minutes.


Add the spiced vegetables when the beans and rice are no longer covered by water but the pot is still at least half full of water. Take care to really get all the yummy goodness into the pot using a spatula. Mix the vegetables with the rice and add a touch more water. Continue to simmer until all the water is absorbed. If your vegetables aren't tender enough add a bit more water, cover and steam some more. To serve, remove you cinnamon stick, season with salt or sprinkle with your Winter Gomasio (very balancing for Vata season). I also like to top it with a little spicy chutney if I happen to have some on hand.

Stephanie Perkinson

Stephanie Perkinson is a certified holistic health & lifestyle coach and owner of Wellness by Design. She teaches women how to live “in-season” by introducing them to the magic that each earth-phase holds. She gently guides her clients back to balance on their plates, in their bodies and around their homes. She believes that with loving support, every body can find it's way home and become deeply rooted wherever it may be.

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