Finding the Upside of Winter

Juliaearthy, glowing, nourished, soulful, Uncategorized0 Comments

What sorts of thoughts and feelings does wintertime bring up for you?

Are you basking in the joy of your favourite winter sports and coziest jacket, blankets and fires…or are you dreaming of tropical paradises (or maybe even flying off to them!) and counting the days until summer? Are you content, annoyed, sick, peaceful, anxious, sad, or somewhere in between?

The interesting thing about winter is that it’s here to teach us – sometimes harshly and against our will – that every single one of these feelings is normal and completely okay. Actually, what isn’t natural or healthy – is constantly seeking the light at the expense of respecting the dark. More on that in just a minute!

It’s been a really mild winter for those of us in typically frozen and snow-covered climates this time of year – and yet, many of us are still feeling the wintertime blues. The feeling of dread that comes mid-January when we realize, oh my goodness – there is still two months of this shivering, this darkness, this dry skin, these cold toes and layers upon layers of clothing. Then there’s the whole other side of winter – that which goes beyond the physical elements of discomfort and strikes at a deeper, psychological and emotional level of darkness for many of us.

Some of us feel the need to escape to warmer places where the sun shines everyday and actually warms our bodies. Some actually move there for the winter! Many of us will hibernate, retreat, spend much more time indoors, perhaps by a lovely fire, perhaps by the stove cooking warming meals. Some head into the great outdoors to play in the snow and enjoy the winter wonderland. Some of us get lost in the darkness altogether and find it hard to overcome negative thoughts – waiting for brighter days to come and asking “when will this be over??”.

Exploring the Darkness

“It’s like a yin yang symbol – we are both the dark and the light, the strength and the weakness. We need both and we need each other.” -Heather Plett

Always in life, in order to see the good, the positive, the upside of anything – and truly appreciate it – we need to have known it’s opposite and known it well. Take joy for example – we taste it’s sweetness only in direct contrast to the sadnesses we have all been dealt.

In the same way, we cannot appreciate the light and hope and warmth within ourselves – and present in the shifting seasons – if we do not allow for the darkness to have it’s time, to teach us it’s valuable lessons.

We have just reached the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, which means most definitely that the light is increasing and returning to the Earth and our souls. Allow for this knowledge to seep into your bones, as the darkness shows us how powerfully and endlessly our inner light glows, even when sometimes we ourselves cannot see it.

Photo on 2016-01-29 at 3.38 PM #3

On Coziness

One last note on surviving the cold and seeing just how beautiful it is! While living in Copenhagen one winter – a very cold and dark place that time of year – I learned an important lesson that I’ll carry with me throughout the many winters of my life. It’s how the Danish survive – and thrive during! – days that for a time consist of 17 hours of darkness.

The Danes have made it a deeply entrenched part of their culture – year round – to create a feeling of hygge, or coziness in their homes, cafes, restaurants – anywhere you go! This means plenty of candles glowing throughout the day, fireplaces lit, blankets galore, comfy cushions, records playing, friends sharing a delicious dinner or warm beverage together often.

Instead of resisting the darkness and cold, they embrace it by bringing their own light and warmth into everyday life. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s a feeling that we can all create for ourselves in the smallest of ways. But the impact on our well-being is huge. Now go get cozy!

To Warm Your Belly & Soul

A couple of my favourite wintertime recipes that will warm you from the inside out and also make you glow with happiness and health. Now is the time for comfort foods that actually nourish your body! Only yumminess and satisfaction, no deprivation – enjoy!!

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Burritos
*lightly adapted from Oh She Glows

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cubed, & roasted
1/2 cup uncooked short grain brown rice
1-2 tsp. light olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee
1 cup chopped sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
2 tsp. ground cumin, or to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
One 15-oz can black beans (or about 1.5-2 cups cooked from dried), drained and rinsed
3/4 cup cheese of choice (cheddar or feta are delish)
4 whole grain tortilla wraps (large)
Toppings of choice: (avocado, salsa, spinach/lettuce, cilantro, etc.)

1. Preheat oven to 425F and line a large glass dish with tinfoil. Drizzle oil on squash and give a shake of salt and pepper. Coat with hands. Roast chopped butternut squash for 45 mins. or until tender.
2. Cook brown rice.
3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add oil, onion, and minced garlic. Sautee for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add in salt and seasonings and stir well.
4.  Add chopped red pepper, black beans, and cooked rice and sauté for another 10 mins. on low.
5. When squash is tender remove from oven and cool slightly. Add 1.5 cups of the cooked butternut squash to the skillet and stir well. You can mash the squash with a fork if some pieces are too large. Add cheese and heat another couple minutes.
6. Add bean filling to tortilla along with desired toppings. Wrap and serve. Leftover filling can be reheated the next day for lunch in a wrap or as a salad topper.

Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
*lightly adapted from Nigella Lawson

1 lb. sweet potatoes
10 oz. (approx. 2 cups) penne or other small short pasta of choice
4 tbsp. soft unsalted butter
3 tbsp. plain flour, or brown rice flour
2 cups full-fat milk or dairy-free milk of choice
1 tsp. English mustard
¼ tsp. paprika, plus ¼ teaspoon to sprinkle on top
3/4 cup feta cheese
1 1/4 cups aged Cheddar, grated, plus 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top
4 fresh sage leaves
sea salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Put on a large pan of water to boil, with the lid on to make it come to the boil faster.
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them roughly into 2-3cm (1 inch) pieces. When the water’s boiling, add salt to taste, and then the sweet potato pieces, and cook them for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. Scoop them out of the water into a bowl – using a ‘spider’ or slotted spoon – and lightly mash with a fork, without turning them into a purée. Don’t get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta in later.
3. In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan off the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it’s all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard and the ¼ teaspoon of paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding Cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.
4. Cook the pasta in the sweet potato water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than package instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn’t lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pasta to the mashed sweet potato, and fold in to combine; the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in.
5. Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the grated Cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.
6. Check for seasoning again, then, when you’re happy, spoon the brightly sauced macaroni and cheese into  a large rectangular dish measuring approx 12x8x2 inches deep and 6.5 cup capacity. Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar over, dust with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.
7. Pop into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, by which time it will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat it!

To coziness, embracing your darkness, and trusting your inner light!

Sending warm winter love to you from the Islands of Toronto,

Julia

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