Winter Warm-up Soup

It is cold up here in the Pacific Northwest! At the beginning of the month, we had some  days where the world was softened with white, sounds muted by the quiet snow. Now it finally feels as if  the heart of winter has passed, and that Spring is just around the corner. But it isn’t here yet, and I look out my window at another grey, wet day.

I haven’t written here for a couple of months. January was full of activity, with both my daughter and my birthday’s, along with all the regular busyness of raising kids.

Then, during  the snow days, both my husband and son got the flu. It hit my little six-year old and held him down for days. It was hard to take care of him at the same time that I felt his suffering, almost as my own. Thankfully that is behind us, and health has been restored!

How do we warm ourselves up and keep our internal fire burning strong through this cold season? As usual, my remedy is born in the kitchen. I had this soup in the crock pot during our snowy days and it truly fortified me for all that I had to take care of. My family LOVES it when I make this, and I know it fortifies them, too.

Rosemary smells amazing. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, and helps keep our memory healthy. Living with Hashimoto’s, a memory boost is much appreciated 🙂  Garlic is a wonder plant. It has anti-bacterial properties that give our GI tract a tune-up. Garlic backs up the ‘good guys’ within our micrbiome – the little world going on within our bodies. Pepper is a powerhouse this time of year. Black pepper helps dry out any excess phlegm in the system. It also gives our internal fire extra pep – something we all need this time of year in the Northern hemisphere.

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ON CUTTING VEGETABLES

I invite you to make this soup. Cutting vegetables is a truly soothing activity, so even if you feel too tired, or too busy to try making this, consider taking a Sunday afternoon, or any time you have free, and doing it anyway. Put on your favorite music, use it as a time to BREATHE deeply and evenly. It always amazes me how centered I feel while I’m cutting vegetables. Maybe having our hands on earth’s bounty somehow makes us feel more connected to the natural environment. Whatever the reason, making this soup feels like a healing activity for me. And it is YUMMY.

RECIPE for WINTER WARM-UP SOUP

First we create the broth. I have talked about the numerous benefits of bone broth in other posts. It will strengthen you from the inside out!

Broth

1. Buy quality grass-fed beef bones. Neck bones are fabulous, and it’s good if they have some meat still on.

2. Roast a few bones in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, to bring out a yummy flavor.

3. Place bones in large stock pot and cover with 4 quarts of filtered water. You can easily double the amount by adding more bones and more water.

4. Add a couple tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

5. Let it sit without heat for twenty minutes. The vinegar will begin to pull minerals from the bones.

6. Add sea salt and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.

7. Turn the heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 24 to 30 hours.

Soup Recipe

Slice three organic sweet onions and add them to a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add five cloves of garlic, and lots of fresh rosemary leaves. Sprinkle pepper over the mix. Stir often and let the onions lightly glaze.

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Cut up your veggies. I use lots of zucchini, some red potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, purple potatoes and carrots. Put these veggies into your crock pot. Scoop the top layer of fat off your broth with a ladle and pour it onto your veggies, careful to keep the bones out of the crock pot. Add the onion mixture, a generous amount of additional pepper, a few more garlic cloves, and sea salt to the pot. Browned beef chunks are also an option; I personally like it without beef chunks better, but both ways are good. Simmer on high for five hours, and enjoy. You can turn the heat to low and keep it in the pot for 24 hours, eating as desired. Keeping this in your system for a couple of days will fortify you, warm you up, and make you strong! The picture below shows my soup right as it’s starting to simmer in the crock pot. After it’s cooked, it will look more like stew. Oh so good!

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When Springtime throws you a Wintry Day

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Springtime in the Pacific Northwest is never predictable. Last week my five-year old and I met friends at the beach for a sunny day that satisfied my Vitamin D craving, and more; today, the sky is characteristic grey, a cold wind is making the leaves shimmy, and I think it may rain.

When I saw today in the forecast, I was actually happy. A soup day!

I had been a pescatarian for a very long time – almost twenty-five years – when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This means that the only meat I ate was fish, on occasion. But, after the diagnosis, I quit eating gluten completely and after so many years of being mainly vegetarian, I realized that I just may need some animal products. The healing protocol I designed for myself, based on the amalgamation of many experts, included bone broth soup.

This week is my two-year mark of being 100% gluten free, and I feel so much better that it still feels like a miracle. If you’re interested in exactly why I cut the gluten, check out my earlier post entitled “The Gluten Piece.” Here, I will only say that while some are still skeptical whether leaky gut syndrome  exists, I am convinced that it is quite real, and able to be healed.

In essence, leaky gut is when the wall of our small intestine becomes compromised due to food sensitivities. When the intestinal wall is irritated, it can become more porous than it should be. Small particles escape into the bloodstream and alert our immune systems, leading to inflammation, and if left unchecked, autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s. Modern day gluten causes food sensitivity in some people, due to its difficulty to break down by the digestive system. I say ‘modern day’ because the gluten we eat is not the same product that our grandparent’s ate, but that’s another subject altogether.

If you’re not sure if this applies to you, I invite you to cut gluten out of your diet – 100% – there is absolutely no grey area on this one. Give yourself about a week, and then check in with yourself. Have any digestion issues improved, even somewhat? Have you noticed a difference in your energy levels, even subtle? If so, you may want to continue your gluten fast, and work on repairing your gut.

Bone broth is a powerhouse in this respect. Homemade bone broth contains numerous minerals and amino acids that are readily usable by the body to restore damaged tissue in the small intestine, connective tissues, and other organs. It is a truly healing food – I can attest to this firsthand after healing from the state of total exhaustion and inflammation resulting in daily hives – to a state of wellness I have never experienced in my life. The bone broth has been one component in my healing, and an important one. Using organic ingredients whenever possible is important, to minimize chemicals and toxins. I still eat meat rarely, having been vegetarian for so long. But the broth can be amazing in veggie soups too!

As the Mother of two kids – my little girl is eight and my son is five – and the wife of a big, hungry man, my soups have come in handy. Tonight, my family will enjoy a beef soup that has been simmering in the crock pot all day.

Here is the recipe. If you get handed a Wintry day this Spring, give it a try.

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Bone Broth

4 or 5 Grass-fed beef marrow or neck bones (organic if possible)

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

12 cups filtered water

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 pinches black pepper

To prepare:

Bake the bones in an oven heated to 350 for 30 minutes to improve flavor. Place bones in a large stock pot along with the water and vinegar. Allow to soak for 20 minutes to extract minerals. Add salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Boil for three or four minutes and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 12 to 24 hours. Pour broth through a strainer so that only the liquid remains.

 

Wintry Day Beef Soup

2 large red onions

8 peeled cloves garlic

2 tablespoons sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves

Lots of fresh thyme

One pound steak cut grass-fed beef chunks

4 large yams

4 large zucchini

2 cups baby carrots

Coconut oil

To prepare:

Cut sweet potatoes and zucchini into large, bit-sized chunks. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in skillet. Add carrots and fry on medium heat for fifteen minutes. Pour bone broth into crock pot. Add vegetables, including garlic and and basil. Turn crock pot on high.

Cut onion into long pieces. Warm onions on low in 2 tablespoons coconut oil in skillet. When onions become translucent, add beef and sprigs of thyme, and fry until beef is cooked on the outside, adding a couple pinches of salt. Place meat and onions into soup. Add 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves and stir well.

Cook soup on high heat for six hours. Serve to someone you love, and let the healing begin!

 

“Let thy Food be thy Medicine”

In Ayurvedic thought, the root of all disease lies in the digestive tract; faulty digestion leads to the buildup of a toxic sludge in the intestines, that eventually leaks into the blood and other bodily systems. Interestingly, this was the same line of thought taken by the father of modern western medicine, Hippocrates. Hippocrates was born in 460 BC on the Greek isle of Cos. Being among the first physicians to contend that disease was not in fact inflicted directly by God, but rather was the result of natural causes, beginning with poor digestion, Hippocrates was a thought pioneer. Thus, his famous quote “Let thy food be thy medicine.”

Ayurveda offers the same advice.

In order to practice this form of medicine, a person must bring awareness to the process of cooking. The recipe I created for this article includes steps beyond the usual chopping and cooking. At first glance this may seem a lengthy process – but the process is part of the medicine. As we use cooking as a time to relax and unwind, the time taken for oneself becomes a healing practice.

The first step in this recipe is obtaining the food. I went to my local Farmer’s Market last Saturday. Ambling through the white tents, letting my eyes feast on the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, inhaling the scents, was a healing experience in and of itself. My kids also enjoyed it!

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We bought fat nectarines and sat on chairs, listening to live music – a quartet playing traditional Scottish, folk music – as juice from the fruits ran down our chins and the sun shined on our faces. I took home a basket of vegetables that was comforting just to look at.

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This experience was medicine. If you have access to a Farmer’s Market – use it. Otherwise, finding a place to buy organic vegetables and spices is crucial. At first you may feel as if you’re spending a bit more money on food, but you will save that cash in co-pays for doctor’s visits down the road.

When you are home and ready to begin cooking, take a moment to prepare your space. Turn on some of your favorite music that is both soothing and energizing to you. Perhaps light a scented candle. Lay out all the ingredients on the list, so that everything is at your fingertips. Work with a nice, sharp knife. If you don’t have a decent chef’s knife, buying one is a good investment. It is important that the preparation of your food is pleasurable.

As you chop vegetables, take this opportunity to find the rhythm of your breath. In our hectic modern lives, this practice is easily forgotten. Cooking is the perfect time to cultivate a breath of ease: deep and smooth. Chop and slice with awareness. Rein in your wondering mind; the bills can wait, as can the to-do lists. This is YOUR time. Hold your attention steady. Notice the amazing purple of the beets as you slice into them. Inhale the scent of the simmering spices as you stir. Allow time to slow down as you notice ONLY this moment.

The recipe calls for making your own spice paste, something I will continue to offer in articles on this site. While it is easier to purchase already mixed spices pastes, it is well worth making your own, whenever you feel in the mood to do so. Thus, you are ensure that no added yucky-ness or fillers are in you paste. In addition, it is a healing experience to stir your spices, inhaling the aroma as you go. The herbs and spices we use in the recipes on A Year To Heal, are truly medicinal.

For example, coriander seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition. The oils within these little seeds are FULL of minerals including iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Minerals are sorely lacking in the standard, modern diet. This may seem insignificant, but allow me to assure you, it IS NOT. Hashimoto’s is associated with mineral deficiency. The body needs minerals such as selenium and zinc to produce thyroid hormone, which affects every cell in the body. Minerals are essential to good health. Coriander seeds also provide oil that aids in smooth functioning of the liver and the bowels. They also contain anti-histamine properties, staving off the dreaded anaphylaxis, as well as hives. Yes, these little seeds are medicine. As are the leaves of their plant, which is cilantro. Cilantro is a true super food, with the ability to bind to heavy metals in our bodies (in today’s world, we have no shortage of those) and usher them out. Thank you, cilantro!

I will discuss other spices and their healing properties in future articles.

For now, let’s get cooking. And once you are sitting to eat, remember to enjoy your food, chewing thoroughly. As you dine, save discussions about worrisome subjects for another time. Ingesting this meal is a time to relax and enjoy. Sink into the moment, relish the food, and the sensation of nourishing yourself. You are alive, and life is good!

cilantro

INGREDIENTS

4 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter – can be found at a health food store or ordered online)

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

1/2 Tablespoon cumin powder

1/2 Tablespoon turmeric powder

1/2 Tablespoon sea salt

1 Tablespoon finely chopped, fresh, ginger root

1 clove garlic chopped

1 can of pure coconut milk

2 or 3 beets, chopped into cubes

2 or 3 carrots, chopped into wheels

2 large yams, chopped into cubes

1 sweet onion, sliced along the natural lines of the onion, so that they are long and slightly curved

Half a cup of fresh cilantro leaf

1 cup cooked Basmati rice (soaking the rice for 4 to 6 hours prior to cooking it makes it easier to digest. Drain the water                    you soaked it in before cooking. If you are on autoimmune paleo diet, skip the rice of course)

To Prepare:

Chop all your vegetables. Place the potatoes and beets in a steamer, and begin steaming. After about five minutes of active steaming, add the carrots. Prepare your rice, and put it on to cook. In a cast iron frying pan (or whatever you use – Teflon not recommended), heat the ghee on low heat. Add the coriander seeds and stir. When the seeds begin to pop, add the cumin and turmeric and continue stirring. When the paste has blended (you will still see the seeds, but the spices will look blended), add the onions, ginger and garlic. Continue to stir. When the onions look translucent, add the coconut milk and salt, and stir well. Now, add the steamed veggie mix. Stir everything together. Let this simmer on a medium-low heat for around fifteen minutes. You will know it is done when the beets are easily pierced with a fork, and the coconut milk and potatoes have taken on a vibrant color. Place the rice in the center of your plate, and pour your creation over the top, adding the fresh cilantro at the last moment.

Enjoy, and allow your food to be your medicine!