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An Ayurvedic Spring: Food for the Season

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Namaste Dear Sangha!

Greetings from the Northeast woods of Maine! Despite it officially being spring, the snow is still present- albeit slowly receding. The nights are cold and our wood stoves stay warm. Yet the lengthening days with increasing sunlight give us great hope. Our maple trees are tapped, and the sap is slowly dripping on sunny days, filling the buckets. I boiled the first batches of sap into syrup and put it up for next year. As I write this- a pot of kitchari with ginger and beet broth simmers on the stove, and the fragrance of cumin, coriander and fennel wafts in the kitchen air. My daughter loves to tell me it smells like “something” and then slinks off to eat her sweet banana bread on the couch by the fire. That’s ok with me I tell her, knowing her agni is strong, and in the younger years of life- kids favor sweet, which is building her foundation and tissues. I also smile in the silent “mom knows” kind of way- I baked the banana loaf with organic spelt flour and maple syrup.  

 

We are in the beginning of Kapha season; we sense the seasonal changes are a-coming. Early spring in the Northeast is far different than the deserts of Arizona, or the climate of southern or northern CA, or India for that matter- but we know Ayurveda is supportive and has that lovely way of saying “it depends.” It depends on your region and your dosha. As a general rule of thumb- aligning with the seasons is a beautiful way of living. At this seasonal cross-over, what will help support us, is following our dinacharya (daily) routine as well as our ritucharya (seasonal) routine paired with food choices for a blend between Vata (winter) and Kapha (spring) seasons. 

 

We all are made up of a particular combination of the 5 elements- and that elemental makeup creates our blueprint for optimal health. This is known as our dosha or constitution. This is what we were born as- also called our Prakruti- our original creation at birth. This elemental combination will guide us through our choices for diet and lifestyle. I am a Vata-Pitta, predominantly  Vata, which is air and ether, fire and water. It took me some time to understand how to “harness” that energy and understand how to eat and live to support my being. Now I move with the wisdom of Ayurveda, which has been liberating, life altering and satisfying. I once lived life at a very rapid, creative, sometimes whimsical and scattered pace. I wasn’t grounded in my body and mind, and kept a dizzying speed of experiences and erratic eating patterns. Once I finished my 200 hr YTT in 2017, I slowly started to land in my body. Ayurveda has had the most profound effect on my experience of my dosha, and has given me a deepy aligned seat in my life. Coupled with this past year of quieter COVID times, things have simplified and slowed down to a delicious, digestible and intentional pace. All the qualities of each dosha are lovely, and so appreciated, yet when we live out of alignment  with what each dosha needs, the imbalances lead to disarray, chaos or dis-ease. Finding and practicing dinacharya (daily)  or ritucharya (seasonal) routine, has its place and benefit for a reason. 

 

As we look at Kapha season from the perspective of food, we may notice that we sense a feeling of lightening up, to detox and get moving. What we ingest as food and experiences contributes to our overall health, so these seasonal guidelines can be deeply supportive. My preferred Ayurvedic cookbooks for each season are Kate O’Donnell’s ‘The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook’ and her third book: ‘The Everyday Ayurveda Guide to Self-Care.’ She has organized each book by seasons, making it an easy go-to guide for all doshas with in- depth explanations and recipes.

 

Spring Food Guidelines:

We want to choose bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. As we are at the juncture of seasons, however, you can slowly integrate those spring tastes with the winter tastes of: sweet, salty and sour. Think: butternut squash tossed in ghee and balsamic vinegar and roasted on a sheet pan, or broccoli, or light vegetarian broths with ginger, green soups such as asparagus and white beans or a hearty, yet light carrot ginger soup with 1 sweet potato added for the quality of sweetness and grounding. I’ve included 3 recipes at the end of this post that are a combination of tastes for the early part of Kapha season. Notice if you are feeling more dry at this time of year, and if so, drizzle olive oil on your meals, cook with ghee, and body oil (abhyanga) at least 1x a week with sesame or coconut oil.

 

-Grains: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, cornmeal (tortillas), millet and rye. You can still use oats, brown rice, and red rice as a mixture between the seasons.

-Proteins: lean- beans, lentils, egg whites and if you eat meat (Vata dosha) consider eating less of it per week, or sticking with white meat. You can prepare a nice, homemade chicken or turkey bone broth to cook your grains with. For example if your digestion feels sluggish, or you feel heavy, try eating meat only 2x per week to increase your agni. This would apply if you generally consume meat more than 2x a week.

-Beans: Black beans, chickpeas, green lentils, red lentils. *pre-soak for 2-12 hrs and rinse them. A quick black bean dip or a hummus can be whipped up and served with chopped veggies or rice crackers.

-Vegetables: artichokes fresh & marinated, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, daikon radish, endive, fiddleheads, leeks and radicchio. Beets are a great aid in detoxing in the spring and add such lovely color to any dish! If you have a lot of vata, root veggies are still good, as well as sweet potatoes. Bitter greens include dandelion greens when they are available.

-Fruits:  Apples, berries, dried cherries, cranberry juice, grapefruit, pears, pomegranate juice, prunes, raisins. The cross-over fruits are: apples, bananas, dates, grapefruit, mangoes, oranges, papaya, and pears.

-Lighter oils: grapeseed or almond. Richer ones are Ghee and sesame oil

-Fats: Goat cheese, grapeseed oil, hemp milk, rice milk and soy milk. Lighten up on dairy, (Kapha governs the respiratory tract, and this season tends to produce more mucus).

-Pungent spices:  ginger, black pepper, lemon, and turmeric. Make a salt blend with dried lemon zest, pink himalayan salt, black pepper and keep it in a pinch pot by the stove. You can even add a little cayenne for heat and basil for a smooth savory flavor. Also fenugreek, mustard seeds, red chilies, and star anise.

-Sweeteners:  Maple syrup, and after it gets warmer- raw honey in moderation. It’s the season to lighten up on the sweets.

-Add-ons: apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar.

 

Signs of imbalance occur when we eat too much of the same element food as the qualities of our doshas. This is a general idea of what to avoid for each dosha and what qualities these imbalances can create in the mind/body.

For Kapha- sweets, heavy grains, bananas or toasted wheat bread may make the qualities of earth and water too binding/ moisture heavy. This could result in tamas in the mind as well.

For Vata- eating cruciferous veggies and sauerkraut might produce too much wind. There may be a rajasic quality of the mind, but also a tamasic element as well.

For Pitta- eating hot sauce, spicy chilies, or tomatoes often may be a little too much fire. This will incite rajas in the mind and can lead to over-active tendencies.

*Notice the qualities of the foods and see how you feel after eating them.

 

Our dinacharya (daily routine) gives us a place to build from. It is a building block to support you AND to promote health. Magic can come from simple, cleansing routines that are followed day in and day out. I also find that following the same meal times each day creates a good structure. As a Vata, this was hard to learn at first, but as your body acclimates to what you are doing, it will then organize itself and be hungry at mealtimes. It will be fine in the hours in between, but if hunger gets a bit sharp, a small handful of the nuts or seeds (appropriate for the season) usually will do the trick.

 

Guidelines:

-Eat a lighter, earlier dinner- this was a wild concept for me to adopt. I had learned how to cook in the restaurant industry, putting all attention and cooking into the large and elaborate evening meal. This is all well and good on rarer occasions- but overall- early is better. (5-6:30pm)

-Make lunch time your largest meal.

-Honor the spaces between meals. Really, no snacking! What am I talking about, how can I take away all those little snacks that are sold at every single corner store and line the check out aisles at grocery stores?! Well, if I am honest, they cost too much and they distract my agni from doing its job of digesting the meal I had last eaten. Tough lesson, but your body will align with the times of your meals. 

-Stop eating when ¾ full, or when you feel/sense that first tiny burp. It’s your body’s way of saying- “I am all done now!” OvereatingOver-eating can make it difficult for the body to properly break down that meal. We want room for food, air and liquid. 

– Try switching to room temperature water or even warm or hot water instead of cold. I truly couldn’t believe I would ditch the ice cubes, but now I much prefer warm water. Drink when thirsty, don’t over do it with a gallon a day, everyday, in all seasons. There will be a slight adjustment to how much you consume each day, per season. Try to drink less with your meal, give food a chance.

 

Now, on to my favorite go to foods for this cross-over season. This past year of COVID times has taught me how to stock my pantry and prep foods to keep my home well prepared and healthy. I also have more time to prep foods 1 full day per week and then do another ½ day fill in mid week. I cut my hours at work to allow myself to be home mid- week with my daughter so we both can attend to our remote learning. The best “side effect” was slowing down, spending time together, enjoying the food we cook and the space in our day.

 

Early Kapha/ Cross-over Season Pantry staples:

-Oats, millet, corn tortillas, barley.

-Golden Turmeric Granola. This granola uses mashed banana, coconut oil, maple syrup, turmeric and sesame seeds for a delicious, colorful, grounding granola. * see recipe below*

-Red, black and white basmati rice- these are a must-have in my pantry. I make alot of kitchari, so a handyI handy supply of rice is helpful.

-Sesame oil, coconut oil, homemade ghee.

– fresh sesame tahini dressing  – I make a fresh batch every month.

-Homemade hummus

-Limes- always have limes on hand. Their quality is slightly more oily and grounding then lemons, nice addition to your warm water. Plus they are great squeezed on any kitchari, soup or stew.

-Apple/pear or cranberry bread or muffins. Use spelt flour if you want to lighten up on the wheat.

-A large jar of dates or prunes. When I crave sweet- I reach for 1 date and feel satisfied.

-Soups- I make a different soup every single week. One is always vegetarian, once a month I make a meat based stew, or use a bone broth as the stock base for a soup.

-Cashews- never without a jar of cashews in my cupboard.

– A bunch of fresh cilantro.

– roasted root or cruciferous veggies. 

-Homemade veggie broth- every trimmed piece of vegetable that I chop goes into a bag in the freezer for making stock.

-Chicken thighs, bone-in. (I make bone broth.)

-Ground beef

 

I learned this year that it is ok for food to be really simple. The days I spent as a prep cook are long gone and I am not here to impress with multi- layered, visually enticing plates of food. Once I let go of that mode of thinking, I was delighted at how light and free I felt to prep simple meals. Of course, when you prepare food in a loving manner, and with several vegetables, the colors will naturally be visually enticing and the wabi-sabi element of pure, honest cooking will speak wonders. I hope you enjoy and can take away sometips and inspiration for this season! 

Namaste, Mariah

 

Late winter/ early Kapha season Spinach Artichoke Dip: Vegan

1 cup raw cashews, soaked* and drained

1 cup unsweetened plain hemp, rice or soymilk. 

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice.

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp.sp. salt

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

2 Tbsp.. frozen spinach, thawed, or 1 clamshell container fresh squeezed out**

1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts packed in water or brined in olive oil), roughly chopped. 

 

Preheat: oven to 400 degrees.

In a blender, combine soaked cashews, almond or cashew milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, and cayenne pepper. Puree until completely smooth, stopping a few times to scrape down the edges. (If you don’t have a high-speed blender, this may take a few rounds. Using long-soaked cashews will help!)

Add spinach and artichoke hearts to a 2-quart baking dish (8×8, oval, or round will work).

Pour cashew cream mixture over the artichokes and spinach and use a fork or spatula to stir  and combine until the spinach and artichokes are well distributed and coated in the sauce.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. If you’d like more browning, you can broil the dip during the last 2-3 minutes of baking, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Remove dip from the oven and serve with rice, seed crackers, or sliced veggies. 

 

Golden Turmeric Granola:

2 cups oats

½ cup sesame seeds 

½ cup millet (optional)

¾ cup sunflower seeds

¾ cup pumpkin seeds

⅓ cup chia seeds 

1 cup coconut flakes or shredded coconut

1 ripe mashed banana 

½ cup coconut oil

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract 

1 tsp ground turmeric 

½ tsp ground ginger 

½ tsp Himalayan salt

 

Heat oven to 300°

Combine mashed banana, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, turmeric  in a sauce pan. Heat on low heat until warm. mix and stir until banana softens. 

Combine oats, seeds and coconut flakes in a bowl. Add salt and ground ginger. 

Combine wet and dry ingredients mixing to coat the dry ingredients. 

Spread on a large baking sheet on parchment paper. 

Bake for 13 minutes at a time stirring and rotating. You will do this 2- 3 times, just watch the edges as they start to brown and pull it out when you see the very slightest browning. Check to see that the banana has been baked and not slimy and soft. Let cool and store in a large glass jar. *can omit the banana entirely, it will make a drier, less sweet granola, but you can also mix in dried cranberries or raisins at the very end AFTER you take it out of the oven.*

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup 

1 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil 

¼ cup onion diced, or use hing 

2 lb asparagus, or 2 bunches, chopped and peeled. *Broccoli can be substituted for the asparagus

½ tsp salt. If you follow Kate’s seasonal salt recipes- use the spring salt mix. 

1 cup white beans

4 cups vegetable broth

Olive oil to top 

Black pepper to taste. 

 

Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion or hing and gently warm, until translucent or fragrant. Add the chopped asparagus and stir gently to coat with ghee. Add the white beans. Add the vegetable broth. Bring to a gentle boil and then turn down heat, to medium low for 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Transfer ingredients to a blender and blend on high speed until very creamy & smooth. You can also use an immersion blender in the soup pot. 

Return soup to pot and gently heat. Serve with a fresh squeeze of lemon or a swirl of olive oil. * if you would prefer to use cashews instead of white beans, soak the cashews overnight and then blend in the blender with the asparagus. Coconut milk is also a nice alternative. 

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Mariah Brinton

About the Author:

Mariah is an Intuitive Ayurvedic Wellness guide working to inspire others to take conscious, healthy action in their lives. She is a YA certified 200-hr Yoga instructor, a Reiki Level III Master healer, a mother and a cook. Mariah incorporates yoga, meditation, reiki, healthy eating, outdoor activities and artistic expression into her professional and personal life for balance and growth. She is focused on these qualities as a means to offer a pathway to healing. Through Mariah’s own personal experience- yoga & food became a way to heal and empower. She completed her first Whole30 in 2012, in 2017 a 200-hr YTT, an Ayurvedic yoga training in 2018, and currently in training to become an Ayurvedic Health Counselor through the Boston Ayurveda School. She has been able to clearly define what works for her dosha and commit on a deeper level to her goals of mind-body health and sharing and serving others on their path to wellness and self-empowerment. IG: @mariahbrinton
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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Sri Devi  April 3, 2021

    Wonderful post! I really appreciate all of the reminders for the change of season and all of your suggestions for a cross over pantry. Great recipes too. Thanks!

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