Wild Rice Stuffing, Sage-Roasted Squash, Braised Cabbage, and Rosemary White Beans: a 2022 Holiday Menu

We went from a hot, smoky, and dry October this year to a cold, rainy, (and for a couple hours snowy), November. During a recent day’s of non-stop downpour at 33 degrees, I had one of my last long run’s for my fall training block and returned soaked, frozen, and less enthusiastic about the return of the rain. I normally love the rain.

This last weekend our temperature dropped to 24 degrees. I woke up to a fortunately clear and crisp day to run one of my fastest half marathons (a formal race PR, though around the same time as a solo time trial effort during the pandemic.) Winter and the holiday season is most definitely here.

In northern Washington, where my parent’s now live, that flip of the switch went from summer to a foot+ of snow. We’re taking a long holiday week there this year for Thanksgiving, and are already “enjoying” the beautiful but freezing, powdery snow.

I’ve been asked for holiday recipes of late, and I gave some thought to a simple menu that is nutritionally balanced, easy to digest, tasty, seasonal, and able to prepare without spending hours in the kitchen. At the time I initially prepared this meal, I began cooking after a long work week and for a “quick” evening dinner. That being said, if you’re going to prepare this delicious meal within an hour, there will be some prep and hands-off cooking to do.

As a reminder, I only share recipes on this blog / website semi-seasonally, but do still share recipes in my newsletter. Sign up here to receive more regular recipes and nutrition tips and suggestions.

In whatever way you’re spending the holiday season this year, I hope you are surrounded by those or what you love and reminded of what brings joy to your life.

Savory // recipes below
Wild Rice Stuffing with Rosemary, Hazelnuts + Astragalus
Long-Cooked Creamy White Beans with Rosemary + Thyme
Sage-Roasted Buttercup or Butternut Winter Squash
Holiday Braised Cabbage

Other savory ideas:
Broccoli Rice Bake
Roasted Vegetables with Autumn Roots + Mushrooms
Simple Sourdough Stuffing {Gluten-Free}
Persimmon + Grains with Moroccan Seasoning
For the Joy Salad
Delicata Squash, Rosemary + Cranberry Flatbread
Mushroom, Butternut + Butterbean Stew

Sweet //
Apple Pie with a Fabulous Gluten + Dairy-Free Pastry
Pumpkin Pie
Boysenberry or Blackberry Pie
Holiday Cinnamon Rolls {gluten-free, dairy-free}
Oatmeal Persimmon Hazelnut Cookies
Oat + Almond Chocolate Date Cookies
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Neah’s Apple Loaf Cake
Pumpkin Ginger Bran Muffins

Further Menu Suggestions: If you’d like some other ideas, check out previous holiday recipe and menu’s I’ve shared over the years or check out the Recipe Index in general for even more suggestions!
2021
2020
2019

Wild Rice Stuffing with Rosemary, Hazelnuts, and Astragalus

Astragalus is an excellent qi tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is warming, drying, and slightly sweet in an earthy, rooty way. Medicinally, it can be useful for conditions which are cold in nature, when your energy is depleted, and if  you are suffering from chronic fatigue. Used over time, it can strengthen and enhance immunity. As an ingredient addition, the amount used here is not medicinal, or at least it’s not medicinal if used as an ingredient only randomly. If you do not have access to it, it’s okay to leave it out. See the notes below for where to source.

Prep:  4-8 hours  | Cook: 1 hour  | Serves: 4

Wild Rice:
1 cup wild rice, ideally soaked in water for 4-8 hours
⅛ tsp. mineral salt
½ Tbs. astragalus root pieces or 2 slices astragalus root (see Notes)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed and minced
2 ½ – 3 cups water

Add-Ins:
2-4 Tbs. raisins
2-4 Tbs. dried cranberries
⅓ cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
½ Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. fresh orange zest

  • Drain the soaked wild rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it briefly. 
  • Then in a medium pot, add the salt, astragalus pieces, and fresh minced rosemary, along with the water and rice. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 45-50 minutes. When it’s done, take off the heat, fluff slightly and leave the top off a little to allow it to cool slightly. 
  • In a serving dish or platter, gently mix together the wild rice, raisins and cranberries, chopped hazelnuts, and balsamic vinegar. With a micro-grater, grate a small amount of fresh orange peel over the top, and then gently mix that in too. You don’t want to overdo the orange – just add an additional lively seasonal topnote to round out the dish. 
  • Serve warm or at room temperature. While this “stuffing” is not used to stuff anything, you can also make it just as written and then use it as actual stuffing if you are making a holiday roast (turkey, etc.) or to stuff and bake a pumpkin, squash or other large vegetable.

Notes: Astragalus root can be purchased in many well-stocked herb or natural food stores in the bulk section, or online from trusted retailers. Mountain Rose Herbs is an excellent source. 

Sage-Roasted Buttercup or Butternut Squash 

A simple and delicious side dish that can be added to any number of fall and winter meals, whether it’s for a feast day meal, or for a simple weeknight. 

Prep:  15 minutes  | Cook: 30 minutes  | Serves: 4-6

1 medium (~1 – 1 ½ lb.) buttercup or butternut squash
¼ tsp. mineral salt
Pinch of black pepper
6-8 fresh sage leaves, minced
2-3 tsp. olive oil
water to cover

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F, and prep a large baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  • Split the squash in half, then take out the seeds. Slice the two halves into medium-long slices, and lay them on the baking pan in a single layer. 
  • Sprinkle over the minced sage, salt, and black pepper. With your hands or a mixing spoon, stir the squash so the seasonings are dispersed. Then add a little water to the bottom of the pan so it comes up to about ¼ – ⅓ of the way up the sides of the squash pieces.
  • Roast in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the squash is totally soft when pierced with a fork. The water should all be absorbed and baked off. 
  • When the squash comes out of the oven, drizzle over a little olive oil and transfer to a serving platter, or atop the wild rice stuffing. 

Notes:
– Buttercup (shown in the photos) is a different, smaller variety of winter squash than butternut. It is lovely – if you find it at your local market, try it out. The flesh is a little more yellow and slightly less dense than butternut squash.
– Wait to add olive oil until the vegetables have been removed from the oven and are cooked. High quality olive oil is extremely rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals – but they are sensitive to high heat and will turn toxic and inflammatory to the body when oxidized. Think of extra virgin olive oil as an olive smoothie. You wouldn’t roast your green smoothie, would you? 

Creamy White Beans with Rosemary + Thyme

It is very common for many people to not tolerate beans and lentils – either any/all beans and lentils or the types that are larger, thicker-skinned, and more difficult to digest. This is often the case when digestion is compromised. Instead of eliminating these nutrient-packed foods from the diet and decreasing diversity, many people will find they can actually tolerate them when cooked with spices/seasonings that aid in digestion. Adding herbs and spices is beneficial for digestion of most meals. In most cultures, the foundational reason that spices are added is for digestion and absorption first, and for taste as a secondary bonus. These white beans are cooked until creamy and soft; their texture is lovely, flavor delicious, and they are easier to digest too!

Prep:  8+ hours  | Cook: 2 hours  | Serves: 4-5

1 cup dry cannellini, flageolet or similar white beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
½ tsp. mineral salt
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme or about 1 tsp. dried thyme
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
Pinch of fenugreek seeds
water to cover

  • Add the soaked and drained beans to a medium saucepan along with the salt, herbs, fenugreek, and enough water to cover by a couple inches. Bring to a medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Then turn down to a medium-simmer and partially cover. Cook for about 2 hours, until the beans are soft and beginning to break apart easily on their own, or when lightly pressed. 

Notes: Fenugreek can be found in the bulk spice aisle at many natural food stores, or at Banyan Botanicals or Pure Indian Foods

Holiday Braised Cabbage

Cabbage cooked simply has a subtle natural sweetness that comes through. It rarely looks show-stopping, but as a bitter / extractive vegetable, it’s quite the quiet powerhouse. Use any type of cabbage here, from bright red/purple, crinkly savoy, or your standard green variety.

Prep:  5 minutes  | Cook: 20-30 minutes  | Serves: 4

1-2 tsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. mineral salt
½ tsp. fennel seeds
¼ tsp. black cumin / kalonji / nigella seeds (see note)
1 medium cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Then add the salt, and seeds and warm until they start to develop an aroma. 
  • Turn up the heat slightly and stir in the sliced cabbage, along with the water. When the water begins to simmer, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer over low heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cabbage is very tender. Check and stir the cabbage a few times while cooking and add a little more water if it begins to dry out or starts to stick. When it’s done cooking, you don’t want any water left in the bottom of the pan, but you don’t want it to be dry either. 
  • Enjoy as a simple, tasty side dish.

Notes:
Black cumin (also called black seed) is warming and an excellent addition for digestion. If you cannot locate it, add a pinch of brown mustard seeds instead.

Beet and Banana Pancakes

Pancakes.

A food I had a love/hate relationship with for many years. But after realizing they don’t have to be glorified breakfast cake or particularly even eaten at breakfast (which also isn’t my go-to), I’ve fully embraced pancakes in all the wonderful ways. 

This version is just about as whole-food as you can get, with oats, beets, banana, eggs, and not a lot else. These days, I tend to add on greens and maybe an additional egg to make pancake meals a balanced meal.

Hope you enjoy!

One more big / little thing

I’ve decided to share most of my recipes in my newsletter going forward this year, rather than publishing all of them here on the blog portion of the website. If you enjoy regularly receiving recipes from me as well as focused nutrition topics, I encourage you to sign up to receive my nutrition newsletter.

Beet Banana Pancakes, serves 2

Inspired by David of Green Kitchen Stories
Prep:  40-60 minutes to roast beets (can be done ahead) | Cook: 15  minutes 

2 eggs
1 banana, peeled
1 cup /100 gr rolled oats
2 – 4 Tbs. filtered water, or more as needed
⅛ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
2 medium / 100 gr cooked beets
coconut oil or ghee for frying

To Serve:
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1-2 handfuls of greens
1 fried or scrambled egg, for each serving

  1. Prep ahead: Wash and halve the beets and wrap them in foil. Roast in a 400 degree F oven until soft, about 40 minutes. You can prepare more while you’re at for other meals or snacks. 
  2. To make Pancakes: Crack the eggs into a blender; add the banana, water, oats, salt and baking powder and blend until smooth. 
  3. Then pour into a bowl. Grate the cooked beets and add into the batter and stir through. 
  4. Heat a little oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. 
  5. Whisk the batter and thin it a little as needed, then pour in ⅓-½ cup amounts into the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining batter. If planning to have some leftovers, reserve the unused batter, so you can cook and enjoy them fresh. 
  6. For the greens and eggs: Heat the remaining coconut oil, add a pinch of salt, and stir in the greens, and a splash of water if needed. Steam/sauté for a couple minutes until wilted. 
  7. Then fry or scramble one additional egg per serving
  8. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt, molasses or applesauce, and with the fried egg and greens on the side. 

The Time That Healing Takes

image drawn by the author

I’ve been having lots of conversations lately about the expectations we have for ourselves. We expect once we begin taking action to improve our health condition, that a shift to doing better will come quickly. 

We read books, or internet articles, or hear someone’s gospel-like miracle healing story, and we expect that for ourselves too.

And sometimes that’s the case. We feel substantially better almost immediately. 

But that’s not always the reality. 

In fact, if you listen to nearly any respected academic researcher or health practitioner, or expert in their field, they often stray away from miracle stories and black and white health panacea protocols. And they instead use language more along the lines of “…it depends” and “not one thing that helps but a combination of [diet and lifestyle] factors.” 

Healing Isn’t Linear

Rarely ever is healing, or improving in whatever goal we have for ourselves, linear.  One finite example, is that it takes at least five days for the lining of the gut to repair itself after it’s been damaged, and a full three to five weeks for a food that triggered the inflammatory process to fully leave the system.

So as we already switch our calendars over from the first month of the new year into the second, this is my gentle reminder to you. 

Go easy with yourself. 

Expect less linear lines and gold stars at the top, and more nuance, (adventure!), overcoming fear, stepping into the unknown, and learning more about yourself and your needs.

Something Practical

And for something practical to guide you, here’s a little practice to try: Ask yourself what you need today by really stopping what you’re doing and resting a moment in complete not-doing-or-thinking-ness. And then ask yourself, what do I need today to feel better? How can I care for myself better today? 

Our bodies are meant to heal themselves. Sometimes we have to mentally get out of our own way and give them care and time(!) to do so. 

Reach Out 

If nothing comes up for you in the reflective exercise above, or you’re ready for more nutritional guidance, I invite you to reach out to me for more personalized support on digestion, sports nutrition, or both.