I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this first blog post for a while now. For a multitude of reasons, really. Traveling back and forth from Chicago to DC for the holidays. Putting together my first workshop at the beginning of the year. Flying to Alabama to stay with a close friend for a week and, while there, stumbling upon the realization that I needed to be back in DC spending time with family and doing what I love full-time. Then, moving two short weeks later in the dead of winter.
All of these reasons are, of course, valid on some level or another -- those things can be time consuming and draining. But, if I’m being real, my fear has just gotten the best of me. Sharing my work with others and putting myself out there has never been my strong suit.
For a good portion of my life, I’ve fought and resisted most, if not all, forms of creative work. The thought of pouring my heart and soul into something, sharing it with others and possibly having it rejected pushed me to pursue less imaginative endeavors. I decided early on that I was perfectly content sitting behind a computer screen in a windowless basement, tucked away from the criticism, judgment and ridicule that the harsh world potentially held. That worked for a while, until it didn’t.
The initial steps were the hardest. Quitting the comfortable job. Going back to school to focus on writing. Actually letting others read that writing. It’s been a long, slow process of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable and even though I’ve come a long way in seeing and being in the world differently, putting myself out there is still really difficult.
Starting this business has challenged me in all the ways that I had never wanted to be challenged and, as a result, the past two months have held some high highs and some low lows. It has been exciting and terrifying and exhausting and rewarding all at the same time.
Through it all, two things have sustained me: yoga and this Nourishing Winter Soul Bowl. It – the bowl – has provided me comfort on cold winter nights when I’ve found myself questioning the decisions I’ve made and wondering if I can really do this – create and write, work face to face with people, stay present enough to help them work through the intimate details of their lives while being open, honest and willing to share the intimate details of my own.
On Sunday nights, I’ll boil a big pot of brown rice and roast an entire butternut squash so that after those particularly long days, when I’m having a hard time mustering up the energy to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, I can whip up a quick bowl by sautéing everything in a pan and topping it with creamy avocado, smooth and smoky tahini, crunchy sprouted seeds and refreshing lemon juice.
The rice and roasted butternut squash make this bowl such a hearty meal, you won’t even realize that the bulk of what you’re eating is good-for-you vegetables like kale, zucchini, onion and red pepper. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do; that it will brighten and add warmth to your remaining winter nights, nourish your soul and provide you with the sustenance you need in order to follow your heart and pursue your dreams.
Now, for the nitty-gritty…
Grains have gotten a bad rap lately with the proliferation of the Paleo Diet. But truly whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa and millet, in their purest form, contain essential enzymes, iron, dietary fiber, Vitamin E and B-complex vitamins that are essential for our health.
In this recipe, I use a brown and wild rice blend. Brown rice is especially rich in manganese, which helps us convert proteins (from beans, nuts, seeds, eggs and meat) and carbohydrates into energy. It’s also involved in the synthesis of fatty acids (found in foods like flax seeds, walnuts and even leafy greens like kale), which are essential for a healthy nervous system (think brain and spinal cord function).
If you’ve got the time, soak the rice from one to eight hours before boiling. It makes the grain easier to digest by eliminating the phytic acid found in the outermost shell of the grain, which is usually the culprit behind the bloating that we associate with eating rice. Phytic acid can also inhibit the absorption of all those beneficial vitamins and minerals. So, for the sake of your digestive system, put the rice in a pot beforehand, cover it with water, let it sit for an hour, then drain and rinse.
Who doesn’t like butternut squash? Really. It’s the winter squash I’m most fond of and the one adored for its creamy texture and subtle sweet flavor in winter soups and stews. Outside of its traditional use, though, it’s phenomenal when paired with grains like brown rice.
In addition to its ability to satiate your palate, butternut squash has a ton of health benefits. As its orange hue suggests, it’s one of the best sources of carotenoids. It has high levels of beta-carotene, in particular, which is essential for healthy eyes and skin. Recent studies have also shown that the starchy-component of the squash holds powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can regulate blood sugar levels – a big plus for people with diabetes.
Nourishing Winter Soul Bowl
1 cup brown rice
1 large butternut squash*
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 small white onion
2 medium carrots
1 red pepper*
1 bunch kale*
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 Tbsp. Bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup Go Raw’s Spciy Seed Mix
juice from 1 lemon
*These vegetables have been found to carry high levels of pesticide residue. For that reason, the Environmental Working Group has labeled these items some of the most important to buy organic. You can find the EWG’s full list here.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Prepare brown rice while oven is preheating. If soaked overnight, be sure to drain, rinse and combine with 1 and ¾ cups fresh water. Otherwise, rinse a few times and place in a pot with 2 cups water. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, bring to boil and reduce to simmer. For soaked rice, cook for 30 minutes. If preparing rice the usual way, cook for 50 minutes. Check on rice periodically to avoid burning. When done, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
3. While the rice is simmering, prepare butternut squash for the oven. Slice off top and bottom of gourd, cut lengthwise and peel. Cut into cubes, toss with 1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil and sprinkle with pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes.
4. With the butternut squash roasting and the rice still simmering, peel and mince garlic. Chop onion, carrots, zucchini and red pepper. De-stem the kale. Place kale leaves aside and chop the stems. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. coconut oil. Add garlic and onion; cook just until fragrant and beginning to brown, about a minute. Add carrots, zucchini, red pepper, kale stems and 1 Tbsp. of Bragg’s liquid aminos. Sauté until liquid is absorbed and vegetables are soft, 5-10 minutes. Add kale leaves and the remaining 1 Tbsp. of liquid aminos. Stir to combine and cook until greens have wilted, about 3 minutes.
5. Divide vegetable stir-fry. Top with cooked rice and roasted butternut squash, about 1/3 cup of each. Add ¼ avocado, drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of tahini and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of Go Raw’s Spicy Seed Mix. Finish off with juice from ¼ lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.
I'd like to give a special thanks to my sister, Kitska, who took time out of her busy family schedule to shoot and edit the photographs for this blost post. They're absolutely beautiful.