Thursday, September 16, 2010

Transitioning Into Fall Without Faltering

The energy of transition is pervasive in the air these days. School has begun and we’ve already set the clocks back one hour here in Israel. The morning light is markedly different, darkness descends a little bit earlier each day, and there is a hint, just a hint, of the cooler weather to come.

Whether or not you invite or desire these changes, they are happening, and it behooves us all to align our bodies and spirits with the flow of energy in nature. Seasonal changes, especially from summer to fall, can be a bit harsh for some of us, especially if we’ve had an indulgent summer of late nights, excessive sugar consumption (including fruit!) and iced coffee! Some symptoms you may notice are digestive disturbances, dry itchy skin, moodiness and sluggishness, and excess mucus production (look for these signs in your children as well!) This is our body’s way of telling us to pay attention and shift with the seasons!

The best way to align with the seasonal changes around us is to slow down! We can support ourselves now by resting more and going to sleep earlier (this is a personal challenge for me and I am humbled by how long I have been working on this one!) It’s also appropriate to shift our diets from summer foods to fall ones. Summer foods are more expansive and cooling; ideal fall foods are more warming and help us get grounded for the cooler weather and shorter days. Practically, this means reducing foods like fruits, ice cream, and iced drinks and increasing our intake of warming foods. It’s also a great time to add more WHOLE GRAINS into your diet. (For more on whole grains, see my previous post).

One of my favorite whole grains, and the one I recommend most often to my clients, is quinoa. Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is an ancient grain originally grown by the Incas living in the Andes. Historically called the “Mother Grain,” quinoa is known as a powerful healing food. Technically not a “grain,” quinoa is actually a species of goosefoot or (Chenopodium) and is closer related to veggies like beets and spinach.

Unlike most grains, quinoa actually contains a full and balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a complete. It is also high in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and vitamins B and E and is a gluten-free food. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) quinoa is considered a warming food that strengthens and detoxifies the kidneys to bring them into a state of balance, making it the perfect food to eat as we move into fall. Quinoa is especially good for vegetarians and vegans looking for a healthy source of filling protein.

Quinoa is a quick and easy food to prepare and is a great addition to your staple diet. It is easy to digest, won’t leave you feeling bloated or bogged down like some heavier grains and will give you ample amounts of sustained energy.
Most quinoa needs to be rinsed thoroughly before cooking. Quinoa naturally contains a bitter insect repellant coating known as saponins. (When you rinse your quinoa and it looks soapy, those are the saponins!) Even more ideal is to soak the grains in a bowl of water for at least two hours (or overnight). After soaking rinse well in a fine strainer under running water. Soaking all grains helps to make them more digestible by removing and neutralizing the phytic acid found naturally in all whole grains.

Basic Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ tsp salt
Bring water and salt to a boil in a small pot. Add quinoa, cover tightly and reduce heat to med/low. Cover and simmer for 15-18 minutes until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ will appear as tiny white curls coming out of the seed in the center when cooked. Double, triple or quadruple the recipe for a bigger family or to use later in the week.

Once you have your basic quinoa cooked, you can store it in the fridge for a few days and then transform the already cooked quinoa into other delightful dishes. Here are a few ideas:

Bountiful Breakfast Quinoa
1 cup cooked quinoa (as directed above)
½ cup fresh seasonal berries
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts (or any nut of your choice)
a touch of raw honey or a few raisins for sweetness
almond milk (or milk of your choice)
Gently heat the milk and add quinoa. Stir to combine, and add other ingredients.

Curried Quinoa and Roasted Summer Vegetable Salad
3 cups cooked quinoa (as directed above)
½ cup diced zucchini or squash
½ cup diced eggplant
½ cup canned or cooked fresh chickpeas
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp curry powder
1tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Toss diced zucchini, squash and eggplant in 1 tbsp of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread vegetable on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 15-20 minutes until slightly browned and soft. Meanwhile mix the olive oil, curry powder, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a small bowl. Let vegetables cool after roasting, and then toss with the cooked quinoa and chickpeas in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil mixture over and dress to desired taste. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

Quinoa Tabbouleh
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup diced red or yellow peppers
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh mint (nana)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
Toss cooked quinoa with cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.