I’ve been hearing from many athletes lately about the (hopeful) return of summer and fall races. Mileage ramping up. Adventures to look forward to. Giving special attention to day to day workout recovery.
After going virtually no where for the last 14 months, save a weeklong trip over the cascades last summer to spend a few days running and adventuring and seeing no one else, I signed up for a race (out of state!) earlier this week. And then promptly realized I should have double-checked that William and I were in firm agreement about the trip before committing for the both of us.
Oops. Apologies accepted and forgivenesses offered – the excitement is real!
Over on the Run Journal at Territory Run Co., I’ve shared another seasonal recipe series for a day of eating. As per usual, my idea was to keep ingredients seasonal and simple, with balanced flavors, and of course nutritionally sound for a solid day of fueling busy (and likely active) bodies.
Usually when I test recipes multiple times when working on new ideas, I get burnt out on them and quickly move on after sharing. This hasn’t been the case with this trio. They’ve been on repeat in various renditions for the last couple months. My favorite is definitely the soup. It’s super delicious.
Get the full article and recipes here, and check out some of the other great trail running articles submitted by other content ambassadors while you’re at it — there are so many good ones.
One of the practices that routinely helps us to continue in or return to health is to eat with the seasons. In the springtime, that means more super-green tasting and often slightly bitter greens. Traditionally, all cultures enjoyed bitter foods during their mealtime rituals, especially in the spring. In both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, particular attention is brought to the liver and gallbladder in spring. These are digestive organs that are important for storing bile to emulsify and breakdown fats, and to process metabolic wastes, environmental and food toxins, and to store and secrete vitamins and minerals.
In early spring, the new plant growth – if you’ve ever plucked greens from the wild or even from your backyard – is often bitter. But farming, and to a certain extent climate change, has actually changed the taste of many of our bitter greens so they’re milder, more sweet, and pleasing to modern eaters.
The Bitter Taste is Critical for Healthy Digestion
The bitter taste is so important because it activates the liver and stimulates the release of digestive secretions which promote the digestion of food and help the body to absorb and use the nutrients in the foods you eat.
The bitter flavor also promotes gentle movement in the gastrointestinal tract (GI), which reduces cramping, bloating, and sluggish or stagnant digestion. Ever feel particularly heavy and lethargic after a rich and decadent meal? That’s the feeling that the bitter flavor prevents or alleviates.
The bitter flavor is especially helpful when digesting foods is problematic.
While you may not particularly enjoy the bitter flavor, it works best when you taste it directly on your tongue. If you put a few drops of a bitter herbal tincture on your tongue, you just might have a brief whole body, chill-like, reaction. That’s a good thing. That’s the stimulating effect that bitters have on the digestive system.
Just like other flavors, bitter foods and herbs range from mild to intensely bitter. Often, we don’t need to overdo a good thing. For this flavor, a small amount is helpful. And depending on you, starting with incorporating more mild bitters is plenty effective.
Burdock is a tried and true liver and skin tonic. Often used in it’s dried form, in herbal teas, it’s also wonderful to use fresh. If you can get your hands on some (found in the produce section of a grocery store that carries local items) or from a local farmer, I highly encourage you to incorporate it into your spring meals. Chopping and cooking into soups, stews, stir-fries, and sautéed in a little oil and spices is where it really shines.
I consider burdock root to a be a mild but highly effective bitter that’s a little different than all the other bitter spring (green) foods. One, because it’s a root instead of a leaf, but also because it contains a high percentage of inulin. Inulin is a pre-biotic fiber that is food for the beneficial bacteria in our lower GI.
Common bitter foods and spices to incorporate into meals
Bitter Spring Vegetables: Arugula Broccoli Fresh Burdock Root Cabbage Dandelion Greens Other Dark Leafy Greens Kale Radicchio + Chicories Watercress
Spring is a good time to incorporate more fresh greens and bitter herbs—local if possible—into your routine. This soup is an example of how to balance flavors so there is a hefty dose of liver-supportive bitter herbs, but the end result is balanced and delicious. It tastes like a smooth bowl of comfort rather than a bitter stew. I had a busy day when I first made this and texted William to tell him about it so he could have dinner ahead of me. He’s one of the best recipe testers because he’s one of those supertasters that picks out anything strong flavored or off. When I got home and asked him about this soup, his response was “That’s A LOT better than I was imagining.” And an empty bowl. This is a true spring tonic. Enjoy!
2 Tbs. olive oil 1 large onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. fresh ginger, finely grated or minced 1 tsp. turmeric Small pinch of ground black pepper 1 fresh burdock root, peeled and diced 1 pound sweet potatoes, (4 cups chopped) 4 cups mineral broth or water 1 Tbs. dried nettle leaves (or 1 handful of fresh nettles) 2 cups arugula or similar seasonal greens (watercress, spinach, chard, nettles, etc.) 4 cups kale 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar Fresh herbs to top Cooked lentils to top (recipe below)
In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Stir in the chopped onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic, salt, and ginger and cook a couple minutes more. Add the turmeric and black pepper and let it cook just until the aroma comes up. Then stir in the sweet potatoes, burdock root, broth and nettles. Bring to a boil.
Once it boils, cover and turn down to simmer for 15 minutes or more, until the sweet potatoes and burdock are soft through. Then add arugula and kale to the top. Cover and allow them to steam soften for a couple minutes. Stir them in.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before pureeing in batches until smooth. Return to the pot and add the apple cider vinegar and taste to adjust seasoning. When it’s missing something, I find it often needs just a tiny bit more acid to balance – try adding a few more drops of vinegar.
Serve topped with fresh herbs and cooked lentils. I chose lemon balm since that’s what is growing abundantly in my garden right now. Mint or parsley would be wonderful as well. For an active individual, pairing this with a slice or two of a nice whole grain sourdough or similar bread may round out the meal even more
A Good Pot of Lentils, serves 3-4 Portions to Serve 1: 1/2-3/4 cup lentils
1 cups green or brown lentils 1/2 tsp. salt 3 cups water
Optional Aromatics: Choose 1-2 1 tsp. coriander seeds; ½ carrot; fennel fronds; 1 sprig thyme; 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley; ½ celery stick; 1 small bay leaf
Place 3 cups water, lentils, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 1 to 2 of the aromatics and return to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender and no longer chalky at their core, about 30-45 minutes. Let them cool slightly in their cooking liquid.
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.
Dropping in to share a realtime lunch idea for you all lately. This is a meal concept that’s super seasonal, which makes it all the more delicious.
Food Confusion and Eating Seasonally
I know some of you who read this regularly may not eat eggs. But some of you do. I’ve personally waxed and waned about eggs and many other foods over the years but ultimately have come right back to my initial conclusion: Eating is personal. And over time you change, go through phases, or learn more of what is needed to sustain you.
One thing that is very personal to me about eating is seasonality and locality. It’s what helped me through a time when I was as perplexed about what to eat as some of you – when I was following too many food trends and afraid of what to put in my body or of eating “too much.” I compared myself to everyone around me but I didn’t know how to gauge my own hunger, symptoms of imbalance, or simply get out of my head and into my body.
William began keeping hens about three years ago, and prior to that I had largely avoided eggs for several years. That phase where eggs didn’t sound good, I didn’t like spending $7+ per dozen for local eggs, and didn’t like the conditions involved in the traditional egg production industry. But also that phase where I was following trends and wasn’t entirely eating for me.
And so, slowly, two new chicks each spring that began laying a few months later and brought such big personalities. I grew up on a farm with lots of various animals but in the years in between that time and the introduction of our first two hens, Marge and Pepper, I had somewhat forgotten how every animal comes with her own personality and desire to please.
It’s normal for hens to stop producing eggs over the winter due to less daylength and it being cold outside. Though this winter has actually been the first for ours to take a break. Not being a daily or often even a weekly egg-eater, the winter egg break was just fine at first. But as it went on for weeks and then became a few solid months, I started to realize how I was dropping even more into the quiet of the winter season – and eating even more that way too.
Eating seasonally traditionally means less variety and abundance in the winter. It also traditionally means a change in gut microbes that can help us break down the foods that are in season.
As the first eggs began to arrive back in the laying box and our hens began strutting around, proud of their golden tokens, it made me more aware of the gifts of each season.
Quick Egg Flatbreads with Bitter Greens + Gold Spice Dressing, Serves 1 I use two things that make this super quick. A ready-made dressing and some leftover veg to add in and round out the meal. Otherwise, you can steam what vegetables you have on hand while you’re cooking the rest. Or skip the extra vegetables, but it will be a fairly light meal and may not be enough – this of course depends on the person. One other note about the method: this late winter/early spring time of year is marked by a season of cold and wet in most regions (in the northern hemisphere). To counter that and retain balance in the body, it’s best to eat meals that are warm and cooked, and to start to add in more astringent greens like kale, chard, and spinach, while avoiding excess foods that cause mucus and damp in the body such as dairy and rich, heavy meals or sauces.
1-2 Tbs. Gold Spice Dressing 1 handful of seasonal bitter-ish greens, chopped or torn splash of water 2 small (6-inch) corn tortillas 2 eggs, scrambled one at a time salt and pepper
toppings/add-ins to accompany: leftover roasted or steamed vegetables OR roasted/steamed sweet potato, daikon radish, etc. cilantro, parsley or dill
Make dressing or prep it ahead.
In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a splash of the Gold Spice Dressing and a pinch of salt, and wait until the spices are just beginning to smell. Then add in the greens and a splash of water. Stir and then cover to steam-sauté for just a minute or two. Remove from the pan and set aside for a minute.
Wipe the sauté pan clean and then add another small splash of the dressing. Pour in the first scrambled egg and a little sprinkle of salt. Don’t stir. Let it cook for 30 seconds to a minute and then set the first tortilla over the top of the egg. Cook another minute or more, just until the bottom is set. Then flip and cook 1-2 minutes more until the egg is cooked all the way through and the tortilla is warm.
Repeat with the remaining egg and tortilla.
Finish by layering your plate with the egg / tortilla flatbreads, the sautéed greens, and the steamed or roasted vegetable add-ins and herbs. Drizzle a little extra dressing on top as desired.