Tips for a Smooth Transition Into Fall

 

ABM_1409323682

I love Summer.  I love the warmth, the sunshine, the playfulness that comes out in everyone.  I love spring.  The lushness that takes over the world, bird songs returning, and the air of possibility that is present.  Winter is something I am working on loving.  And even though Fall signals that Winter is approaching, it is my favorite season of all :-).  There is just something so magical about the crisp air, the kaleidoscope of  nature’s beauty, and the taste of that first cup of mulled cider.  I love it, I love it, I LOVE it!

Anyway, as amazed as I am that Summer is almost at its end, my body is starting to feel the shift and pull me naturally toward things that are more warming, comforting and yin in energy.  I find myself craving sweaters, tights and scarves.  I’ve been wanting more squash, more sweet potatoes, more soup.  I’ve been drinking tea like crazy, and even made my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip muffins!

This just goes to show how in sync our bodies and minds are with the season changes, and how when we flow with them in their natural rhythm, we can fully immerse ourselves in the lessons that each season brings.  Fall is a balance of moon and sun energy, yin and yang energy.  The moon is taking more dominance in the sky, as the sun falls back a little.  Weather cools down a bit, providing a need for warmth and comfort.  And this in turn creates an inward energy, where we begin to look inside of ourselves for wisdom and nurturing.  Fall is all about finding balance between day and night, dark and light, good and bad…

Here are my tips for a smooth transition into fall!

  1.  Clear out clutter, mentally and physically!  Start the season with a clean home and mind.  Release any toxic thoughts, habits, and relationships from your life.  Your outer environment is a direct reflection of your inner environment, so by working both on organizing your physical home and on organizing your mind to contain only positive thoughts, you can radically improve your life!  It feels great to love your home, and you can’t do that properly if you are always stressed trying to find things!  It also feels great to love yourself, but you can’t do that properly if you are always telling yourself “I’m too fat”, “I’m too stupid”, “I can’t do that!”…
  2. Change your diet.  Summer is a time for eating fresh, light foods like salads and smoothies.  Those are the foods that are most cooling to the body.  Fall is a time for moving into eating more root vegetables and foods that are starchier, and eating more soups.  Of course you can still eat salads and smoothies, but pay attention to what is in season.  In Fall I love to eat baked or mashed sweet potatoes, roasted root vegetables, lentil soup, chili and cornbread, casseroles, and baked apples or homemade applesauce for dessert.  I switch out my iced teas and iced coffees for hot ones.  I especially love rooibos tea in the Fall.
  3. Oil up.  Applying warm oil to your skin and hair is amazing for it, and will help keep moisture in much better than any commercial lotion you will find.  For this use coconut, almond, apricot or sesame oils (untoasted).  I mostly use coconut oil.  Just heat it in a pan until warm, not hot, and then massage into your entire body, beginning at the scalp and working all the way down to your toes.  Not only will this moisturize, but it will get circulation going all over and will give you beautiful glowing skin.  A little goes a long way, so you do not need much at all.  I try to do this at least once a week. I use room temperature coconut oil to moisturize on a daily basis.
  4. Switch out your decor.  Now I don’t mean to go run out and buy new fancy fall decorations.  I personally do not believe in having any decorations that are not functional, used on a regular basis, or are intimate to you, like you picked it up on a travel adventure or inherited it from a family member.  If it is just there for looks, it is a waste of money.  Just my opinion :-) Anyway, what I do mean by this is to make your home feel like Fall inside to match the way nature feels outside.  This really makes the transition a whole lot easier! I love to have a cool collection of beautiful leaves that have fallen, acorns and pinecones.  Making a Fall potpourri is very easy.  Just combine cinnamon sticks broken into bits, orange peel, whole cloves, and dried ginger.  Add a couple drops of essential oils of cinnamon and clove.  Anytime the mixture starts to lose its scent just reapply the essential oils.  Pull out your blankets and place them in convenient locations like the back of the couch, or slouched over a big chair, that way someone can snuggle up when it starts to get chilly.
  5. Make sure to still get outside every single day.  It can be tough to want to go outside if there has been torrential downpour all day, or if it begins to get quite cold.  But being outside is so important to our health.  And it is not just being outside, but having bare skin contact with the ground.  This can be running around the backyard or a park barefoot, or gardening with your hands in the soil.  When Winter comes, many of us will not be able to touch the bare ground for months, so it is especially important for us to get in as much time as we can before Winter.  Even if you are unable to get your feet or hands in the ground, fresh air, sun on the skin and the sight of nature are crucial for a happy and healthy existence.  Make it a priority!

As we transition into this most magical season, let us all remember it is here to remind us to go inward, to find our wisdom and to provide ourselves with all of the comfort and nurturing we need.  :-)

How do you transition to Fall?

Persian Rice Pilaf

ABM_1406073124

This is a delicious, hearty dish with a mild curry flavor.  It makes a great lunch on its own, or serve in place of plain rice with curries, vegetable dishes, etc.  It is also incredibly easy to make, as all ingredients go into the same pot at the same time!

Persian Rice Pilaf

1 cup uncooked brown rice
1/3 currants
1/2 cup lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp. curry powder

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to near boiling, careful to not fully boil as this will make the lentils mushy.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Turn off heat and let sit covered another five minutes or so.  Fluff with a fork and serve.

Variation: Use 1/2 cup millet and 1/2 cup brown rice for an earthier version.  You could also add some seeds like sunflower or pumpkin for some crunch!

Cucumber-Ginger Green Smoothie

ABM_1407787205

yummmmm….This utterly refreshing smoothie is the perfect drink for summer energy.  Pour it into a big jar and head outside, barefoot if you dare :-)

Cucumber-Ginger Green Smoothie

1 banana
1 large handful greens (mine was a blend of spinach, kale, chard, mizuna and arugula!)
1 small cucumber, skins and seeds remaining
1 small chunk of ginger, peeled
1 small handful frozen fruit (whatever you have on hand!  Today I used mango, but usually I use berries)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. Maca powder (optional)
1 tsp. Astragalus powder (optional)
1 handful ice

Throw all ingredients together in a blender, it is that simple!  Ahhhhhh, it is so good!

BBQ Tofu Wraps

ABM_1406655006

Sweet and zesty barbecued tofu meet tangy potato salad, in this wrap that sums up summer :-) This recipe was inspired by a wrap I used to get at one of my favorite vegan restaurants in Seattle, Hillside Quickies (or The Sage Cafe…same place).  I was hooked the first time I tried it and have been recreating it at home ever since.  You don’t have to do a wrap either…a burger  or sandwich would be just as yummy…or just eat the two things on their own!

Barbecue Tofu 

1 lb. tofu, cut into strips
4 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. tamari (soy/shoyu)
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tbsp. agave or maple syrup
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Mix all of the ingredients (except tofu) in a small dish.  Lightly oil a baking dish and place tofu strips into dish.  Splash each piece with a little tamari.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake tofu for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with barbecue sauce, spreading as evenly as possible over the tofu strips.  Bake in oven another 10 minutes.  Serve hot in a bun or wrap, next to potato salad!

ABM_1406654888

Potato Salad

5-6 medium potatoes, cut into chunks and steamed
1 green onion, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1/4 cup freshly chopped dill
1/2 cup vegenaise
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
salt +pepper

Once the potatoes have cooled, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir together. So easy!

ABM_1406654942

10 Ways to Get More From Your Herbs

ABM_1406655249

 

Have you ever wanted to incorporate herbs into your daily life, but just don’t know how?  Or maybe you use them regularly, but are looking for different ways to use them?  Either way, this post should help spark your creativity when it comes to using herbs…you don’t always have to brew tea!

Infusions - Okay, so this seems like tea…but its not!  Infusions are much more potent than teas.  They fill the role of a multi-vitamin, providing huge amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals.  Nettles, Red Clover Blossoms and Oatstraw are the main ones that I drink.  You can read more about them here.  To make an infusion, first put a handful of dried herbal material into a quart sized mason jar.  Pour boiling water all the way to the top, cover and let steep at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.

Broth Ramp up the nutritional value of your soups by first brewing up some herbal vegetable broth!  Start saving ends of vegetables (mushroom stems, potato ends, onion ends, etc) and keep them in a freezer bag in the freezer.  Once the bag is full, empty the veggies into a large stock pot and cover with water.  Add in herbs such as: astragalus root, reishi mushroom, black peppercorns, cloves, star anise, dandelion root, burdock root, hawthorn berries….the possibilities are endless!

Add to Grains/Beans when cooking – Whenever I cook beans or grains, I throw in several slices of either Reishi mushroom or Astragalus (remove before serving).  Astragalus and Reishi are both very powerful immune system builders, and Astragalus is an adaptogen, which means it helps the strengthen the body’s resistance to stressors of all kinds.  Another great thing that I do from time to time, is cook Red Clover blossoms in with my rice (don’t remove, eat them!).  For this, just add a handful to the pot and stir in with the rice, then cook as normal.  Red clover is super nutritious, anti-cancer and a great fertility promoter!

Smoothies Powdered herbs make an excellent addition to smoothies and shakes!  Some of my favorites to add in are Astragalus powder, Maca powder, Eleuthero powder, Nettle leaf powder, Slippery Elm powder, Vitex berry powder, Elderberry powder and Hawthorn berry powder.  Check out my favorite smoothie powder recipe!  In that recipe, I use spirulina (blue-green algae) and while I love spirulina, it can be crazy expensive!  I recently have been experimenting with using nettle powder in place of spirulina, and find that it is an excellent substitution!  Nettles are the seaweed of the land anyhow :-)

Add to Spreads, Dips, Sauces…- After reading the first four ways, Astragalus and Eleuthero probably seem like old news.  They are truly wonderful for you, but their effects depend upon consistent use!  So, naturally, I add them to everything :-) Add powders to: hummus, pasta sauce, vegan mayo, vegan “cheese” sauces, guacamole, refried beans, barbecue sauce, chocolate sauce etc.  Essentially if I would put spices in it, I will put one or both of these powders in here.  They do not add a detectable flavor to any of the foods mentioned.  Maca is one that I love to use in desserts, particularly because it imparts a “malt” like flavor to things…yum!

Add to Baked Goods I bet you can guess what herbal powders I’m going to suggest you add to your baked goods.  If you guessed Astragalus and Eleuthero, you would be correct!  When I am adding these powders, I again use them just as I would spices.  There is another wonderful herbal powder for baking, and that would be Slippery Elm bark powder.  When I use this herbal powder, I actually reduce the amount of flour by say, 1/4 cup and use slippery elm powder in place of that flour.  Slippery Elm is very mucilaginous and that in nature makes it a very great aid for keeping treats moist and bound.  It actually used to be one of the main flours used in Europe, back in ancient times! 

Wild Foods Yes, foods that are wild, foods that were not cultivated by man.  In my opinion these foods are crucial for our health, and while we would have been consuming practically nothing but wild foods until the boom of agricultural industry several hundred years ago, we now rarely if ever consume these foods.  As long as you know exactly what you are harvesting is edible (the help of a quality field guide is a must) there is nothing to be afraid of.  The easiest way to eat wild foods is to forage your own backyard (only if you do not spray chemicals!).  Most (unsprayed) yards will have a host of edible plants growing which may include: dandelions, burdock, nettles, red clover, plantain, chickweed, purslane, garlic mustard, cleavers, and so many more.  Pick up a wild foods cookbook, or look up some recipes online.  Make Dandelion fritters  or a yummy salad made with only wild greens! Roasted burdock root, nettle spanakopita, garlic mustard pesto….so many yummy delicious new foods await! 

Flowers – This one goes hand in hand with the wild foods one.  People used to eat flowers (think rose petal jelly, candied violets…) but I rarely come across flowers in food these days.  Based on the doctrine of signatures, one would assume flowers are healing to the reproductive system (as the flower is the reproductive organ of the plant).  Its a far out theory, but perhaps one of the reasons we see such high levels of reproductive issues is the fact that we no longer eat flowers? Maybe not, but either way flowers are a delicious and nutritious food to be eaten!  The easiest way is to throw petals into salads.  Nasturtiums are especially yummy in salads, and you can throw the whole flower in there.  Look up old fashioned flower recipes, or try these yummy sounding squash blossom recipes here and here.

Infuse Beverages – It can be fun to infuse other kinds of beverages with herbs…try adding some to kombucha or wine, removing after a couple of days.  Lavender, hibiscus, sweet woodruff, and ginger are yummy additions.  Also try adding herbs to lemonade, sangria, juices, and sparkling water.  Some of my favorite combinations are lavender lemonade, strawberry mint sparkling water, cinnamon and clove mulled cider, and sage cranberry juice.  Be creative, the possibilities are endless! 

Just straight up eat themThat’s right, just eat them!  You are more than likely already using common cooking herbs on a regular basis, now just try to do it with more intention.  Instead of throwing in whatever spices a recipe calls for, try to figure out why each spice is used.  For instance, the reason why cumin and coriander are often present in bean dishes (think mexican food) is because they are carminative, meaning they help expel gas and are tonic to the digestive system.  Another common flavoring herb is thyme, which is antiseptic and antibacterial.  People would have used these herbs originally to help preserve the food longer!  Every spice has a reason, and it can be very fascinating to get lost in the history.  I highly encourage you to learn about your most used cooking herbs! 

 

So there you have it.  My 10 top ways that I get more from my herbs.  I hope this helps inspire others to start using herbs in their daily lives more, and also to spark some new creative ways to incorporate them!  If you have other ways you like to use herbs, I’d love to hear!  Tell me below in the comments :-)