I frequently share with nutrition clients about the connection between mental and physical health, particularly between the gut and brain, but also just a reminder that it’s all connected. We’re all connected. Something that’s been labeled “all in your head” is also in your body, and vice versa.
That’s the paradigm I work out of.
In my own life, I’ve had a long journey with things in the realm of “mental health;” in the last few years mostly related to low grade anxiety that can simply be summarized as high vata dosha in Ayurveda. So I try to balance myself with daily habits that invite in slowing down (physically and as a result mentally), practices that sooth my nervous system, and a practice of breathing and meditation that’s begun to infuse into my days.
For the last few weeks, I’ve felt like I really hit a flow with presence and slowing down my brain’s looping and too-quick thoughts.
I’d cracked the code! (haha, right).
Then over the weekend, I set out on the longest run of my current marathon training cycle. As I settled into the last hour of running, when my body was tired and my pace/effort was meant to get higher, my brain kicked in.
My brain kicked in in all the ways I’ve been working to slow my thoughts down or just observe them rather than let them dictate my actions.
The run wasn’t a failure. Today, a few days beyond it, I mostly feel really good about how it went physically. But I’m disappointed with how I coped and let my mind decide to take it easier than planned in that last hour when I’d prepared for and practiced something else.
I guess that’s why we call it a practice. A running practice. A meditation practice. A breathing practice.
In fact, my last conversation with my long-time naturopath who sadly moved away was on this very topic. She told me that if I wanted to keep running marathons, I was going to have to balance the running out with yoga. And she didn’t mean the physical asasa of yoga poses–although that can be helpful too! She meant that if I was going to continue the going fast of running, I needed to balance it out with the slowing down of practicing breathing, presence, and eating slowly and mindfully, to digest food well.
It’s safe to say I’ve made progress from where I was then. But I have not cracked the code of always getting it right. Nor will I.
We’re all works in progress but as reminder to you, and to myself, we rarely make linear progress.
This recipe for creamy black bean tacos with lightly baked and seasoned winter squash, a simple sliced cabbage and creamy sauce to drizzle over the top, is one of those many-years-in-progress, mind and body are all connected recipes. It’s truly delicious for your fall and winter taco nights.
But I also wouldn’t have been eating it a couple months ago, when my gut health had temporarily returned to a compromised phase – I had to do a bit more healing and re-balancing first to return to eating a “more complicated meal.” That’s all to say, if you’re still in an iffy-digestion state, save this one for a little later. And let’s see about getting your system working optimally first.
And if you’re like me and tend toward too-fast, scattered thoughts, I encourage you to keep up the practice of breathing and returning to presence. I’ll be right there with you.
A true fall and winter favorite, these tacos have all the elements of a balanced meal with the six tastes, and are prepared in a way that makes them easier on digestion. The black beans are next level flavorful when cooked from scratch into a creamy, easier to digest consistency.
Any type of full-flavored winter squash works for this recipe. That includes basically all varieties of winter squash commonly used for eating except spaghetti squash and delicata. See what you have available from your local farmers and try a couple new varieties! I used a super tasty variety called Burgess Buttercup.
Nearly all components of this can be prepped ahead and gently reheated if you want to turn this into a weeknight meal. Additionally, I’ve shortened the preparation time with the way I slice and bake the squash.
Prep: overnight | Cook: 3-4 hours (for beans); 45 minutes to finish | Serves: about 4
1 medium buttercup squash, or similar variety (butternut or any hubbard variety of squash)
Pinch of mineral salt
½ tsp. smoked paprika and/or taco seasoning (without preservatives/fillers added)
3-4 cups of red and/or green cabbage, thinly sliced
⅛ tsp. mineral salt
1-2 Tbs. lime juice
Cooked black beans, see below
Cashew crema, see below
12 small corn tortillas (6”)
½ pound / 1 cup black beans, soaked overnight
¾ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
Water to cover by 3-4 inches
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 4-8 hours or overnight
¼ tsp. garlic salt
1-2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
a pinch of ground turmeric and dash pepper
a pinch of ground cayenne, optional
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast, optional
½ cup water or more
- For the Black Beans: A few hours before or in the morning, cook soaked black beans in a medium pot in the spices and water until very soft and flavorful and creamy, almost to a refried bean consistency.
This is best done for at least 3-4 hours, adding water as needed.
- For the Baked Squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice your squash in half, and remove the seeds and pith. Then rub the salt and smoked paprika and/or taco seasoning onto the flesh of the squash.
Then place the two squash halves in a large, rimmed baking pan (like 13×9-inch), with cut side down/skin facing up. Add water to about ⅓ of the way up the side of the squash and bake until completely soft when pierced with a fork. This will take about 30-4o minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing. The water should all be absorbed and the spices infused into the flesh.
- For the Cashew Crema: Drain and rinse the cashews.Put all the crema ingredients, except the water, in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend, adding water a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
- While the squash is baking, prepare the sliced cabbage. If your digestion is strong, you can thinly slice and dice the cabbage, stir in the salt and lime juice, and allow to sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to soften.
If digestion is compromised, gently steam the cabbage instead, just until lightly soft. Then remove to a bowl or dish, add the salt, and lime juice.
- Heat the tortillas over high heat, in a clean cast iron skillet.Do this by working in batches, two tortillas at a time and heat for 30-60 seconds per side of each tortilla.
- To serve, spoon the black beans into each taco, followed by sliced squash pieces, cabbage, a pinch of minced cilantro, and then a drizzle of crema. Enjoy!
Much of my nutrition practice is focused on individuals and athletes with digestive health issues such as leaky gut, food allergies and intolerances, chronic GI distress, malabsorption of foods and nutrients, and inflammation. If you’re tired, stressed, and not really sure what to eat to help or hurt anymore, I invite you to reach out to me for more personalized support.