Healing Fall Foods: Get Warm and Grounded with Plant-based Meals
There is a lot of information available these days on food and nutrition – what to eat, what not to eat, and everything in between. As an energy healer, holistic nutritionist, and cook, my approach to food takes in the energetics, nutritional profile, and most importantly the taste of food.
While I agree that it is important to nourish our bodies with foods high in nutrients, I also believe that priority should be placed on the energetic properties of the foods we consume.
Having this expanded approach to nourishment on more than one level has allowed me to create an intuitive eating chart (pictured below). This chart illustrates the connection between different foods and different chakras (energy centres) in the aura. For example, foods that grow underground (potatoes, turnips, root vegetables, etc.) or on the ground (squash, mushrooms, etc.) have a very grounding influence, which is connected to the root chakra.
So if someone is feeling uncentered or ungrounded, I would recommend that they eat more foods that are grown under or on the ground. This is also linked to the energy of the earth as an element – grounding, centered, and balanced.
This approach also embraces the properties of foods as colour therapy. For example, returning to the root chakra, not only do foods grown on or under the soil have a grounding influence, but so do foods that are reddish in colour or hue (i.e. apples, cherries, pomegranates, etc.). The energetic frequency of the colour red, when consumed by our physical body, gets absorbed into our aura (energy field). This allows the grounding energy to permeate through the field, connecting with healing frequencies of the root chakra, and bringing balance both to the physical and energetic bodies.
On the other hand, fruits and vegetables that grow on branches have more of an airy or ethereal influence. For example, while it’s true that eating an apple nourishes us physically, it also nourishes us on a spiritual level through the aura, which in turn helps to build and activate the light body.
Eating for the Seasons
As we head into the cooler Autumn season, it’s important to honour the cycles of Mother Nature by nourishing our bodies (and energy fields) with warm, grounding foods. This provides hearty fuel as we go back to school and work, and helps build our stamina for the busy days ahead.
Below are three plant-based recipes that not only taste good, they also help to nurture and balance our earth star, root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
A delicious show-stopper of a main course, this dish is great to serve for Thanksgiving as a plant-based option. Simply omit the cheese to make it vegan, if desired. (Yield: 2 servings)
1 medium acorn squash (also known as pepper squash)
1 cup of already cooked grain of your choice: brown rice, quinoa, or farro*
1 shallot, peeled and minced finely
2 cloves garlic, peeled chopped finely
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp lemon zest
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 Tbsp roasted slivered almonds
1 Tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp dried cranberries
2 Tbsp grated parmesan (optional)
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
(Farro is an ancient grain that looks similar to brown rice, available at health food stores and some grocery stores.)
- Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Top and tail the acorn squash (cut a little piece off the top and bottom). Set the squash on a cutting board, and carefully use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the squash in half from tip to stem. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and strings, and discard these pieces.
- Place the squash halves cut side up on the lined baking tray. Drizzle a bit of olive oil (about 2 tsp) over the squash, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Rub the oil and seasoning into the squash. Then turn the squash over, so that the cut sides are facing down on the parchment paper. Bake until the flesh of the squash is easy to pierce through with a small knife, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- While the squash is cooking, prepare the stuffing. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat, and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add minced shallot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until softened. Add chopped garlic and cook for 30 to 60 seconds until fragrant. Add 1 cup of already cooked grain of choice (brown rice, farro, or quinoa) and mix.
- Add 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (reserving 1 tbsp for garnish), thyme, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, slivered almonds/pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and grated parmesan (if using). Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat.
- When the squash halves are cooked, remove from oven. Turn the cooked squash halves over so that the cut sides are facing up. Using a spoon, divide the stuffing mixture evenly between the two squash halves. Top with a bit more olive oil, and a bit more parmesan cheese (if using). Return the squash to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle the stuffed squash halves with remaining 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley, and serve warm. Can be eaten on its own or enjoyed with a salad/other side dishes. Enjoy!
• Cook grain of choice according to package directions. You will need 1 cup total of cooked grain, so if for example you are using brown rice, you only need to cook ½ cup as it will double when it cooks and become 1 cup.
(NOTE: You can prep this recipe in advance by making the filling the day before, and roasting the squash on the morning of. Stuff the squash, wrap and place in fridge. Remove from fridge 1-2 hours before you want to cook it, and heat it up in the oven (350°F) for about 15 minutes, or until warm. Serve and enjoy!)
Portobello (or Tofu) Pot Roast
Warm, comforting, and tasty – this is a wonderful dish to throw on the stove on the weekend. Double or triple the recipe to have easy leftovers during the week. (Yield: 2-3 servings.)
2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into bite-sized cubes (substitute tofu cubes for the portobellos if you don’t like mushrooms)
7 new potatoes (also known as baby potatoes or creamers – aka small potatoes), cut into 1/8ths
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp vegan or regular Worcestershire sauce
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp tomato paste
½ cup red wine
2 dried bay leaves
6 sprigs of rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 pieces of your preferred bread (optional – to accompany the meal and dip your bread in the sauce. Can use crusty bread, baguette, gluten-free, etc.)
2 Tbsp chickpea flour (or cornstarch)
2 Tbsp water
- Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large, medium-deep pot.
- Add diced shallot and sauté until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add carrots and portobello mushrooms; allow to cook for 3 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, and let it cook out for about 2 minutes.
- Deglaze pot with red wine, and let liquid reduce by half.
- Add new potatoes, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable stock, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook until all veggies are knife tender, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Remove thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Taste + adjust for seasoning (salt and pepper).
- Make a slurry by mixing 2 tbsp of water with 2 tbsp of chickpea flour (or cornstarch) in a small bowl until smooth. Stir into pot, and bring to a boil to let it thicken the dish.
- Serve in a bowl with bread and enjoy!
Coconut Quinoa Curry
This is my non-traditional twist on a curry, and one of my most popular recipes. The quinoa gets cooked in an aromatic coconut milk broth, and soaks up every drop of flavour. You can swap the sweet potatoes for any other roasted root veg (think carrots, parsnips, beets). If you’re not into quinoa, you can explore other grains – but will have to adjust liquid ratios/cooking times accordingly. (Yield: 2-3 servings.)
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small (1 cm) cubes
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2” piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped (or 1 tbsp jarred puréed turmeric)
1” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp garam masala
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup quinoa
¼ cup water
1 can coconut milk (398 ml)
2 cups of greens such as arugula, chopped spinach/kale/chard, your choice
¾ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Toss sweet potato cubes in a bowl with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and about ¼ cup of olive oil (or enough to coat).
- Place sweet potatoes evenly on a lined baking tray and roast for 40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and set aside.
- While the sweet potatoes are roasting, start the curry. In a food processor, pulse shallots, garlic, turmeric, and ginger while slowly adding enough olive oil until it makes a paste (about ½ cup).
- Heat a deep pot on medium high. Add the paste, and let it cook out for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the paste begins to brown lightly, add the spices. Toast the spice and paste combination for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the quinoa, water, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, and let sit covered for 5 minutes.
- Fluff quinoa with a fork. Fold in sweet potato cubes and whatever greens you like (arugula, etc.)*. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
(*Note: If preparing this ahead of time, don’t add the greens until you are ready to eat. If added too far in advance, they turn a gross green colour that is not appetizing.)
Roasted Root Vegetable Medley
A delicious seasonal side dish that can be prepped ahead of time, and kept in the fridge as a quick meal accompaniment during the week. The key to this dish is making sure that everything is cut into roughly the same size, so that the veggies cook evenly. You can substitute any veggies you don’t like for other options such as rutabagas, potatoes, etc. (Yield: 4-5 servings)
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces, (optional to peel or leave skin on. Scrub if leaving skin on)
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional to peel or leave skin on. Scrub if leaving skin on)
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
½ bunch fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Peel and cut the vegetables into about 1-inch pieces. You can leave the peel on for the carrots and sweet potatoes if desired, but be sure to scrub them if you do.
- Place the cut vegetables and garlic cloves in a large mixing bowl. Add about 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix until all vegetables are evenly coated.
- Spread the vegetables evenly over the two baking sheets. Place 4 rosemary sprigs on top of vegetables (2 per tray).
- Roast for 25 minutes. Remove baking sheets from oven. Using a large spatula or spoon, stir the vegetables to bring the outer pieces towards the middle, and the middle pieces towards the edge of the baking sheets.
- Place back in oven for another 15-25 minutes, until vegetables are golden and tender, and a sharp knife can pierce each type of vegetable easily.
- Remove thyme leaves from stems, and remove rosemary leaves from remaining 2 sprigs. Chop rosemary leaves until they are roughly chopped.
- Sprinkle thyme leaves and chopped rosemary leaves over the vegetables. Stir with spatula to coat evenly. Taste a piece to check for seasoning – add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
- Serve warm as a side dish, or allow to cool and keep in the fridge to have ready for meals during the week. Simply re-heat and serve.
Please enjoy these wonderful grounding meals. Remember that staying grounded during the autumn season helps us to prepare for the slow, hibernating, and reflective energies that the upcoming winter season can bring.