The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


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Miso Soup with Maine Seaweed

Today is a lovely rainy spring day -perfect for my first time making miso soup! Miso soup is a light broth soup. It is made with miso paste, which is a salty fermented soy bean paste -that sounds gross, but it is quite good and quite good for you.

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miso soup

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kombu (left) and wakame seaweed varieties

Miso soup typically has seaweed both floating in it (typically wakame) and soaked to use for the broth (kombu). I went shopping for these two seaweeds at a local health food store and was happily surprised to discover a little coastal Maine company that harvests the sea vegetable, VitaminSea (their Web site has lots of recipes I can’t wait to try with the leftover seaweed).

Benefits of Miso

Miso is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s really healthy stuff. An insert I found in my miso container sighted a recent study linking miso consumption to reduced risk of breast cancer. There are a few different kinds, with slightly different flavors. I honestly am no miso expert (here’s a link that gives a brief overview of the different kinds), but it is the white kind you want for the soup.

Benefits of Seaweed

From reading the back of the package, I found out that kombu seaweed is a great source of soluble fiber, iodine, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Wakame is equally nutrient rich, having the highest source of calcium of any sea vegetable, along with B complex vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and K.

The kombu needs to soak quite a while (the recipe I used said at least an hour and up to overnight) to create the broth or dashi. I started soaking mine mid-morning and made the soup in the early evening. But after that prep time, it comes together quite quickly. The seaweed is really fun to work with, watching it expand to more than double its size in the pot.

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soaking wakame, smelled like the ocean in my kitchen (in a good way)

I used this miso soup recipe, at Je suis alimentageuse, a vegan cooking blog. This version of the recipe is vegan because you don’t add bonito flakes (dried fish), which worked for me because it was one less pricey and hard-to-find ingredient I had to buy. The other ingredients besides the seaweed can be found in most American grocery stores -tofu, scallions, miso paste (usually refrigerated and found near the produce), and I added some mushrooms to mine because in my book, everything is better with mushrooms!

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white miso paste

This made a nice big batch that I ate with dinner tonight and can eat throughout the week for any meal -miso soup makes a nice breakfast! However, I read you don’t want to cook the miso, as it looses its flavor, so if you’re making a big batch I suggest putting all the other chopped ingredients into the broth then refrigerate. You can reheat the broth, then you’ll just need to whisk in about 1-2 tsp of the miso paste with a fork for each serving.

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yum, miso soup feels so good!

What can you do with the leftover kombu seaweed after it soaks?

Make natural plant fertilizer!

Here’s my serendipity for the day. I spent the morning potting some houseplant clippings that had rooted. Then I went to the store to buy some tofu and was hoping they had a basil plant I could get, since I found this recipe for some red cabbage I needed to use up. They had one, and since it was in sad shape they gave it to me for free!

I read up online how to care for said sad basil plant and it needs fertilizer. It just so happens that all this seaweed I have lying around makes a great plant fertilizer, containing all of the nutrients plants need. So, I will be re-soaking the kombu, because I’m sure not all of its nutrients have left it yet, and use that water to fertilize my basil plant and the rest of my houseplants. I’m resoaking it in the water that the wakame rehydrated in.

Isn’t life and the Internet wonderful?

One more thought on red cabbage

The red cabbage recipe above turned out so delicious, I wanted to share a little more. The recipe is called Asian Red Cabbage Slaw with Peanuts, and I got it off of the Food Network’s Web site. But since I think raw red cabbage is a bit bitter, I wanted to cook it. So I sauted it for a few minutes, and since I was sauteing, I added 1/2 an onion. The result was kind of like a red cabbage pad thai. Very yummy, not to mention -what a healthy pad thai alternative!

Do you cook with seaweed? Got any good seaweed or miso recipes to share?

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Succumb to Winter’s Lingering with Comfort Food: Vegetarian Chili

I have not been in the mood to try any new recipes lately, but rather have been finding comfort in digging up some old familiar ones. This weekend it was my mom’s banana bread, and this vegetarian chili. The recipe is a combination of an old friend’s and a few ingredients from my mom’s beef chili (minus the beef). This is a really hearty chili that makes a lot! I decided it will be chili for lunch for the rest of the week (and a few more portions I’ll freeze –it really does make a lot!)

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diced ingredients before cooking

This is a veggie-loaded chili –shredded carrots, peppers, tomatoes, corn, three different types of beans, mmm, mmm! I like to use canned diced tomatoes, but you could do one can of diced, and one of whole or stewed, or use fresh if they’re available, which I’ve done before. The tomato paste was the key ingredient I stole from my mom’s chili recipe. It really thickens it up and makes it more rich. The ingredient portions don’t need to be specific at all, and you can play around with different vegetables, or different types of beans, and make it as spicy as you like. This time I added turmeric (not included in recipe below), since I’m adding it to everything these days for its anti-inflammatory properties. It didn’t seem to taste any different.

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simmering, mid-way through its cook time

This recipe is vegan if you can resist topping it with cheese. It is definitely tasty enough to stand on its own, but there is nothing more comforting than that ooey, gooey cheese melting on top. And of course using tortilla chips spoons. veg (4)

Ok, mouth watering yet? Here’s the recipe.

Vegetarian Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can black beans

2-3 shredded carrots

1 green pepper, diced

1/2 orange pepper, diced

1-2 onions, diced

1 small can tomato paste

1 can kidney beans

1 can garbanzo beans

1 small can corn

Favorite Chili Spices, or a mix of the following:

2 Tbls salt

1 Tbl black pepper

2 Tbls chili powder

1 Tbl cayenne powder

1/2 Tbl chili flakes

1 Tbl cumin

1 Tbl garlic powder

1 Tbl onion powder

1/2 Tbl basil

1 bay leaf

How to make it:

Mix first seven ingredients in a large pot, also adding about a can of water. Bring to a slow boil. Cook until diced vegetables are tender. Then add all of the spices. Cook until vegetables are soft enough to eat, then add the kidney and garbanzo beans and corn. Cook down on low heat for 30 minutes to an hour, until it reduces and gets nice and thick. The longer you cook, the more the flavors mingle.

Remove bay leaf. Serve in bowls, garnished with shredded cheddar cheese, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, dark leafy greens –whatever you like. You’ll have enough to try all of these options!

Enjoy! veg (3)If you’d eat this, please share!:


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My Night In: Easy Tofu Alfredo

I’m spending the night alone tonight, which means I’m on my own for dinner. This usually means I will be eating pasta, or creamy sauce, or tofu –tonight it is all three! When trying to decide what to eat, browsing my Pinterest boards, I remembered I had my emergency stash of thin spaghetti. My fiance is not a pasta eater, which is generally fine with me, but every once in a while I just need some pasta, tonight felt like one of those nights. I have been wanting to make this Happy Herbivore recipe for a long time.

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the liquid alfredo straight from the blender

The idea of making alfredo from scratch is a bit intimidating, but that’s not at all the case with Happy Herbivore’s Instant Vegan Alfredo. It really is quick and easy. Read the full recipe here. And I’ll give you my experience of it, and variations on it here:

First off, I halved the recipe, which said serves two, since it was just me, but I easily ended up with two hearty portions any way. So I’ll have some nice leftovers for lunch one day this week. I used the silken tofu that’s in that square container at the grocery store, which is a pound of tofu. The recipe calls for 12 ounces. Since I was halving the recipe, I just estimated the tofu amount, using a little over 1/3 of the block of tofu.

You blend most of the ingredients in the blender, so it’s super easy. Then whisk in a few more. Since I’m not vegan, I just used real milk, and I happened to have some real parmesan cheese to grate into it, instead of vegan parmesan as the recipe calls for.

It takes about 10 minutes on medium heat to thicken. I added steamed broccoli. After tasting this rich and creamy (and, don’t forget, full-of-protein and healthy) sauce, I could see it in other dishes as well. It would make a great base sauce for a white pizza, and an amazing dipping sauce for bread sticks.

Here’s the final product over a bed of thin spaghetti with steamed broccoli (I added frozen peas to the lunch leftovers instead).

healthy tofu alfredo

healthy tofu alfredo

Confession time: Ok, so above is the the pretty made-for-blog final photo of a healthy recipe, fit for a yogi. The next photo is what I actually ate, an approximately healthy dinner. I added to the first version: more sauce, more salt, more grated parmesan, some marinated mushrooms I found in a jar in my cupboard for a little zest, some crusty bread to dip with, and a little red wine, cause it was just that kinda night.

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approximate healthy dinner

This recipe reminded me of the roasted cauliflower sauce I made a few months ago, but was much quicker and easier! I would definitely make this again. It has that great rich creamy texture that feels unhealthy, but it’s not! And it’s quick enough to be a nice easy weeknight meal.


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2 Energy-Boosting Sweet Snacks

Here’s two simple and yummy snacks using dates.

The Scoop on Dates

Date Palm, photo credit: seedsofhopeinc.com

Date Palm, photo credit: seedsofhopeinc.com

If you have a sweet tooth, like I do, dates are wonderful things! Not only are they sugary sweet, but they are actually good for you, unlike refined sugar.

Ok, if you’ve never had dates, they are a bit scary to look at, but taste much much better than they look. If you can’t picture yourself eating them plain, then try using them in different forms, as in these two recipes.

When you buy dates, they are fresher and last longer if you buy them with the pits in. To remove the pits, simply cut the date in half and take the pit out. Medjool are the type most commonly found in American grocery stores, and what I use.

Health Benefits

Dates contain many important trace minerals and vitamins. They’re an excellent source of potassium, and good sources of magnesium, calcium, and iron. Because of this, they are good for building muscle and strengthening bones, making them a great recovery food after an injury. Dates are great energy boosters, since they’re a good sources of fiber and contain natural sugars. You can read more about other possible health benefits here.

Date Milk

Date Milk is a recipe from The Aquarian Teacher Level One Instructor Textbook that I have been meaning to try for quite a while. The book says of this drink:

This is a very nourishing, youth-maintaining beverage. It gives energy and is good for people of all ages, especially when they are recovering from fevers or other diseases.

Here’s the recipe. It couldn’t be easier. date milk (6)

Ingredients

8 ounces (1 cup) milk

6 dates

Pit and roughly chop the dates. Then place them in a sauce pan with the milk.

You can use any kind of milk. In the Kundalini tradition though they actually encourage cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is a good source of protein and calcium, as well as having the benefit of lubricating the throat and mouth, especially important if you are doing lots of breath of fire, which can be quite drying. But if dairy is not your thing, milk substitutes would work as well.

Mash the dates into the milk. They don’t mash very well, but using a metal potato masher does loosen them up a little bit.

Simmer on low heat 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. date milk (7)

Strain and drink. Save the actual dates. We’ll be using them for Snack #2.date milk (1)

This is another soothing warm drink, perfect for sipping bundled up in an afghan on a quiet afternoon. Enjoy! date milk (2)

Chai Date Smoothie

Throw in your blender:

1 handful of greens007

1/2 frozen banana

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

dash of cinnamon

all of the strained dates from the date milk

1 cup chai tea (premade and chilled)

1/4 cup milk, any kind

Blend until liquid. I like to top with chia seeds. This is quite a sweet smoothie. If you like your smoothies a little less sweet, you could just use half the dates. If you don’t have chai tea, you can just add more spices. You can also add wheat germ, or oatmeal flakes instead of or in addition to the ground flax seed.

Don’t let this ugly duckling smoothie fool you -it’s delicious! People may ask you in earnest, as my coworker did yesterday morning, if you are drinking dirt. That’s okay, you can keep the secret deliciousness all to yourself, and also know how healthy it is!

Happy Snacking!

Resources: The Aquarian Teacher, Level One Instructor Textbook; http://www.organicfacts.net; Wikipedia


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2 Pumpkin Recipes -1 Indulgent, 1 Healthy, Both Delicious!

Hello friends, I’ve missed you! I just couldn’t stay away for the entire month! I am happy to announce I completed my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month early, so I thought I’d let myself do a quick post. It was an amazing challenge that I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to complete. Now comes the (probably year-long) challenge of editing the beast I created!

But for now, a break. Thanksgiving is probably my very favorite holiday – a holiday that revolves completely around food and giving thanks, what’s not to love? I wanted to share with you two pumpkin recipes. One is old, a lovely tradition in my family, a Thanksgiving staple; the other is new, something to do with the leftover pumpkin.

This first recipe I want to share with you is Pumpkin Log Roll. Don’t let the name deceive you – this is a rich, decadent, and elegant treat. When I made this for my good friends, Lisa and Mark one year, they were skeptical when they heard the name. I had never given it a second thought till then, growing up with it, but I guess it isn’t the most pleasant sounding dessert name. They soon changed their tune when they ate it. I’m taking applications for new names!

I’m not pretending this is a healthy recipe. I often try to “healthy up” traditional recipes, but there are some traditions you just don’t mess with. This is one of them. So, I am deviating here from my typical healthy recipes, but isn’t that what we do for the holidays? My advice: try to get a nice walk or run in on turkey day. My family and I all (most of us, anyway) participate in a local turkey trot 5K race before we start feasting, it’s a great healthful tradition, and a great way to spend time together.

Pumpkin log roll is a recipe that my mom got from her sister years ago, whom I think got from a co-worker of hers. My mother has made this for Thanksgiving and Christmas for as long as I can remember. The last few years, the torch has been passed on to me. I learned to make this recipe hands-on, by her side a few years ago. Actually, I’ve been by her side while she’s made it since I was little and she would let my brother and I lick the beaters. This was one of our favorite treats. I remember making my way downstairs whenever I heard the beaters whirring, hanging around the kitchen, or just outside it, waiting until we heard those words.

“Who wants to lick the beaters?” We’d both come running. Licking every inch of the rich cream cheese frosting off until the metal beaters gleamed.

We spend Thanksgiving with my entire father’s side of the family, and we have all grown accustomed to certain traditions for this special meal. Pumpkin log roll is one of them, so the pressure is always on to deliver!

Without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Log Roll

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a 10×15 inch cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, and line with wax paper.

Mix in a bowl:

3 eggs

2/3 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup flour

Pour onto the lined pan.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Prepare a clean dish towel by covering generously with granulated sugar. When the cake is done, flip onto the sugared towel. Remove wax paper. It should peel off easily. The first moment of peeling is when I freak out, thinking it has completely stuck to the paper, and I have ruined it. In this split second I calculate in my head if I have enough ingredients and time to start over again, but as I continue to slowly and gently peel, the cake easily pulls apart from the paper. I go through this every year, yet every year, it always peels apart just fine.

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peel the wax paper off cake

Then roll the cake lengthwise in the sugared towel to prevent cracking while it cools. In my pictures, I’m rolling the opposite of lengthwise, because I forgot, so this is one of those do the opposite of the pictures.

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I should be rolling this lengthwise, but I didn’t realize until after the picture. It easily unrolled, and I fixed it

While it is cooling, prepare the filling by beating in an electric mixer until smooth and a little fluffy (about 5 minutes):

2 tbsp butter, softened

3/4 tsp vanilla

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

I still lick the beaters. Spread onto completely cooled cake and re-roll. Wrap in wax paper and store in fridge.

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It’s easier to package up and store if you cut it in half

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Now, you will have some leftover pumpkin from the can, what to do?

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie!

I love this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie recipe from The Happy Herbivore, find it here.

It really does taste like pumpkin pie! I have been going smoothie crazy lately, drinking them for breakfast about four or five mornings a week. After a while, you get into a groove and they become really quick and easy to make. I will probably add some greens, like spinach, to my pumpkin pie smoothie tomorrow morning. About a handful added to most any smoothie really doesn’t change the flavor, but packs a lot more nutrition. It’s such a quick and easy way to get your daily dose of greens. It does change the color. It tastes so much better than it looks, that’s why there’s no picture.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 008

I feel sooo grateful and blessed for all of you! You have all made me feel like a real writer this year and given me more courage than you know.

I’d love to hear what you are grateful for this season. Also if you try any of the recipes, let me know what you think of them! Post a comment below.


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Immune Boosting Yoga and Meditation + Other Goodies

It’s that time of year again -cold season. Here is a kriya and meditation you can do that specifically targets strengthening the immune system. Remember, the more days in a row you do it, the more powerful it will be (read this post).

Kriya for Disease Resistance (find complete instructions here).

This is a fun kriya, with a nice mid-set relaxation, wrapped up with one of those crazy Kundalini poses (elephant walk). You’ll notice that many of the exercises target digestion or elimination. Good digestion is so tied to our immune system and fighting off illness. The relaxation in the middle really reminds you how important rest is to your health, slowing down, giving yourself enough time for good health.

Remember that taking the time to rest and take care of yourself actually saves time in the long run, avoiding a lingering illness that could knock you out of commission for a while.

summer solstice sun

find your inner sun

Meditation: Immune System Booster: The Inner Sun (find complete instructions here).

This is a quick meditation that can be built up to a longer time gradually. It is recommended in the instructions to wear a head covering while practicing to avoid a headache. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy -a winter hat, bandana, or hood on a hoodie, but I’d follow those instructions.

Another great thing you can do for your immune system, and a comforting self-care routine -drink yogi tea!

Find my recipe here.

You can also re-read my spring allergy regime, which is another way to strengthen the immune system.

Completely unrelated note: I will be taking the month of November off from blogging as I participate in National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org), and will need all my writing energy for that project. 🙂 I will also take a break from social media.

I will miss you, but I’ll be back in December! In the mean time, I’ll wish you good health, and a happy Thanksgiving, if you live in the states, one of my favorite holidays, since it consists of a couple of my favorite things -food and family.

You can check out these posts for some nice vegetarian dishes for the fall holiday:

Gem Squash with Pesto & Pine Nuts;

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apple Cinnamon Stuffing

Acorn Squash with Spiced Chick Peas & Kale;

Carrot & Beet Salad;

Quinoa & Feta Stuffed Peppers;

Potent Potatoes;

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Sauce

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Squash, Squash, Squash! 3 Quick Recipes for Fall Harvest

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from left to right: gem, acorn, butternut squash (with some little gourds)

Ah, another way I can tell it’s fall is that I am in the mood to cook! I’m loving to get the chance these last couple weekends to spend some time in the kitchen. Keeping it low key, I’ve been cooking a different squash each week from all that squash I bought at the farm stand the other week (see this post). (I’ve since bought more, they keep so well). So I thought I’d spread the deliciousness and share the recipes I came up with. Here are 3 squash recipes with 3 different kinds of squash and 3 different flavors -all quick (not necessarily cooking time-wise, but prep time), easy, delicious, and, of course, healthy. All are vegetarian and can easily be made vegan. Enjoy!

Gem Squash with Pesto & Pine Nuts

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gem squash with pesto and pin nuts

1 gem squash, cubed and steamed

butter (optional)

1-2 Tbs pesto

small handful pine nuts

feta, cubed (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

After squash is steamed, mash in a medium bowl with the butter, salt and pepper. Stir in the pesto and pine nuts, then top with feta. Or you can omit the butter and feta for a vegan version that would still be delicious!

I had never eaten or seen this squash before, but was attracted to its bright orange color. Some of them looked like a pumpkin, so I asked the farmer if it was a cooking pumpkin and he told me it was a gem squash, and that his wife chops it up and steams it. You don’t even need to peel it -well, I was sold with that! The peel really is delicate enough that it just mashes up with the rest of it after it’s cooked, making it really easy. The flavor is quite similar to butternut, but maybe a little nuttier, which is why the added pine nuts are nice. I bet hazelnuts would work as well.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apple Cinnamon Stuffing

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butternut squash with apple cinnamon stuffing

1 butternut squash, cut in half with seeds and pulp removed

1 large apple (or 2 med-small), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

1-2 Tbs brown sugar

1 Tbs cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamon

small pinch of ground clove

about 1-2 Tbs butter

salt and pepper to taste

handful dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash on baking sheet. Mix apple with spices and sugar (or omit sugar). Now you have 2 options: cook squash by itself for about 15 minutes, then add apple stuffing, or stuff with apple mixture at beginning of cooking time, but cover just the apples with tin foil for last 20-15 minutes if apples start to brown too quickly. Either way, total squash cooking time is about 40-50 minutes depending on size. Poke a few wholes in squash flesh and spread a thin layer of butter on it.

Let cool for a few minutes. Then scoop out apples and set aside. Scoop out the squash from its skin and mash in a large bowl. Then add the apples back in (you could mash it all together, but I like the apples in chunks). Throw in some dried cranberries.

Butternut squash is really the classic squash and such a comfort food for me. Baking it makes life so much easier because it is difficult to cut and peel. I liked this dish for breakfast, as a side with dinner, or a light dinner by itself, throwing in some nuts or seeds (I used leftover pine nuts)

Acorn Squash with Spiced Chick Peas & Kale

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sauteing spices, chick peas, and kale. acorn squash already roasted and looking pretty for the picture

1 acorn squash, halved, with seeds and pulp removed

1 can chick peas, drained and washed

1/2-1 onion

1/2 bulb garlic

Spices -a few shakes of each to taste:

salt and pepper

cumin

garam masala (if you don’t have this, Google its contents and see what you do have)

tumeric

cayenne

1-2 cups kale, roughly chopped with stalks removed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and roast the acorn squash until it is soft when you stick a fork in it, about 20 minutes. In a large pan, saute onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. Next time I may roast the garlic right in the squash beforehand, then add it to the pan.

An aside: I wanted to get a load of onion and garlic in me today, as I’m feeling like I’m fighting some virus off (I think I’m winning, thanks to veggie power!). I went to a great herbal medicine workshop yesterday that reminded me how amazing those two roots are for fighting colds. Yogi Bhajan also talked about how great those two are in a team with ginger (which you could also add to this dish, but I forgot).

Then add chick peas and spices. Cook another minute before adding kale. Then cook until kale is slightly wilted, or a couple more minutes. Score the acorn squash so that you can remove it in square pieces and add to the pan. Mix together and you’re done. You could end with a little more olive oil if it looks a little dry.

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my pre-cold fighting lunch: acorn squash with spiced chick peas and kale, and fresh vegetable juice (the beets are giving it that beautiful color)

I ate some right after cooking for lunch and it was so good! I’ll have leftovers for dinner some night this week, probably adding some quinoa or rice to it and placing on a bed of greens for a more complete dinner.

What are your favorite squash recipes?