Seasonal Harmony

Seasonal Harmony

By Ellasara Kling

For most of us it is still Winter and we have all the snow, cold, and perhaps excessive rains that come with it. Generally, we consider Winter as a bleak, darkened time during which the Universe stores its energy and causes things (except modern humans and our unique lifestyles) to retire, rest, hibernate, or otherwise lie dormant until the earth has slanted sufficiently towards the sun to warm the world and cause life to regenerate and bring us that miraculous First Day of Spring. However, during this fallow time we find that most cultures celebrate various rites of renewal and light, many on the Winter Solstice and others somewhat before or shortly afterwards, in acknowledgment that within Yin, there is still Yang, the inherent understanding of the circularity and interconnectedness of Life is Universal.

During Winter, when it appears that little is happening in nature, nature is actually quite busy gathering its resources to display its renewal in a brilliant array. Asleep? Resting? Perhaps. But also gathering, storing and preparing. During the Winter months, the seeds of Spring are preparing for their birth. This time of rest is part of the developmental cycle and it requires energy to accomplish its purpose. Overlaying a year of seasonal changes onto a 24 hour period, (our nighttime is Winter) is a time of rest, rejuvenation, and storage so that the morning (Spring) can be fresh and filled with new life.

Make every day a healthy year starting with this season, this moment.

RECIPES

Walnut, Figs and Tangerine Dessert

Ingredients

  • 6-10 figs depending on size
  • 3-4 TB honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 3 tangerines – seeded

Soak the figs (if dried) in about 1 cup of hot water until soft (reserve ½ cup of water that is not absorbed) In a saucepan mix the honey, cinnamon and ¼ cup of “fig water.” Heat over medium heat and then add the walnuts thoroughly, coating them in the syrup. Heat, stirring occasionally until all of the syrup is absorbed. The walnuts will have a dark reddish color and since they are hot, they will be tacky. Quarter the figs and place them in a pyrex pie or small baking dish. Pour the remaining fig water over the figs and bake till slightly roasted. On a serving dish pleasantly arrange the sections of the tangerines, fig quarters with the honeyed walnuts. I like to put the walnuts in the center of the plate and lay the figs and tangerine sections over them. Sometimes, I also bake the tangerine sections with the figs. Play around with this and find the variations that suit you.

Wood Ear Mushrooms with Tomato

  • ¼ cup dried wood ear mushroom (soak in hot water for a few minutes and when re-hydrated, slice into ¼” ribbons)
  • 1 tomato cut in 8 wedges
  • ¼ cup oil mince
  • 1/2 clove garlic, 3 green onions (whites only),
  • 1” ginger,
  • 4-5 dried small red hot peppers
  • salt to taste
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1 tsp. black vinegar (balsamic vinegar may be used)

Heat a large heavy skillet or wok, add and heat the oil, then add the mushrooms. After a few minutes add the garlic, green onion, ginger, hot peppers, sugar, and salt individually tossing them in with each addition. Then add the tomatoes and cook until they have begun to sweat. Remove from the heat and serve. The vinegar may be sprinkled over the dish right before serving. It adds just a touch of “zest.”

Salty Soy Soup

Ingredients

  • Plain, Unsweetened Organic Soybean Milk
  • Dried Shrimp – the little white ones
  • Szechuan pickled mustard greens (optional)
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Chili oil (optional)
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame Oil (optional)
  • Sea Salt

Directions

Bring the soybean milk to a boil, add the shrimp and simmer for one minute; then pour over a bowl containing all the other ingredients. As for quantities, it’s intuitive and somewhat personal to your own taste. This is a wonderful, light winter soup that you easily lends itself to innovation.

Easy Basic Black Bean Sauce

  • 4 TB light oil, grapeseed or walnut are good for this
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 spring onions, chopped – whites only
  • 2 TB finely chopped fresh ginger** 1 TB cornstarch, 16 oz fermented black beans* 3 TB sugar 3 TB soy sauce ¼ cup vinegar – balsamic adds a mellow flavor, 3 TB rice wine or dry sherry

* If fermented black beans are not available, other cooked black beans (or turtle beans) may be substituted. Drain them well. Add 1 tsp each extra salt and vinegar

Heat oil in a wok or heavy skillet, add the garlic, ginger, and the chopped scallions and sauté for two minutes over medium heat. Rinse black beans in a strainer under running water, drain them well and mash them lightly – just so the skins break. Blend cornstarch and sugar with the beans. Turn into the wok or skillet and mix in with the ginger, garlic and scallions. Add soy sauce, vinegar, stock & wine and cook until it begins to thicken.

This is a terrific simple item to keep in your refrigerator to use as an instant sauce on your veggies, shrimp, scallops, or other.

Seasonal Self massage: Increasing Energy

Known as “Kidney 1” or Yongquan (Bubbling Wel)l, this point is located on the sole of the feet, in line with the web between the 2nd and 3rd toes about 1/3 down toward the heel where there is a depression. Massaging this point with your thumb can assist in increasing your Qi and can feel very calming at the same time. Massaging this point (or using moxibustion) can also aid in sleep.

Teas

Astragalus (a/k/a Yellow Vetch) ginger and red date tea Time for an immune boost? Astragalus, is well-known in many cultures for its immune augmenting abilities. Enhanced by the addition of Ginger and Red Dates, it is not only a strengthening tea, it also tastes great — naturally sweet with a ginger zing!

Astragulus (Sweet Yellow Vetch) is a root that is usually sold in packages of root slices.

3-4 slices Astragulus, 2 TB minced Ginger, 6-10 red dates (depending on size) and 3 quarts of water. Put the Astragulus in cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Tea will reduce down to about 1 quart. Then add the ginger and red dates. Cover and simmer for about 20 more minutes. Drink hot. Usual recommendations are 2-4 cups a day, but follow your own feeling.

­Health Topic: Sleep

Every day we spend some time in sleep, but are we renewed by the sleep we are receiving? Most, if not all of us have had the experience of being so tired that we could not get a restful sleep, indicating that even sleeping well takes energy. Awakening refreshed from a good night’s sleep amplifies our sense of well-being. It is during sleep that our bodies have the opportunity to access our vital energy to recharge and rebuild without the interference of other “distractions.” This important life activity is not one we generally take into account when we think about cultivating our energy. We usually consider cultivating energy so that we can have access to and reserves of energy for our waking hours and do not put sleeping into the equation. However, it takes energy to sleep. Consider the cycle of the “meridian clock” during the hours that most people sleep: 9 p.m. -11 p.m. Triple Warmer; 11p.m. – 1 a.m. Gallbladder; 1 a.m. – 3 a.m. Liver; 3 a.m. -5 a.m. Lungs; and 5 a.m. – 7 a.m. Large Intestine. The energy of each system “changes over” in these two-hour cycles. If there is a particular time that you find yourself always awakening, for example, TCM theory says that it is possible that you do not have enough energy in that system to make that change or to continue through the entire cycle. It is also, according to TCM theory, a window into an imbalance in the organ system that is .prominent at that time. (If you are reading this article and have the symptom of insomnia, I would suggest seeing a practitioner of Chinese medicine.)

Our practice is part of developing restful sleep. Consistently practicing whatever system we are using (qigong, taiji, meditation, long walks, yoga, or whatever other practice you have that brings a sense of harmony and balance and develops your energy) will contribute to regular nights of good sleep. Other factors that can help create great sleep are: going to bed early – 9-10 p.m., for example. Eating a lighter last meal of the day a little earlier to make a 9-10 p.m. bedtime more possible. Eating more for the season you are in and/or to support your weakened system. Not overindulging in stimulants such as coffee or alcohol. Handling stress. Using some self-massage perhaps as described above.

Wishing you good health! Remember to smile at all things.

 

[Following the threads of her personal tapestry, Ellasara, a long-time student of Master Nan Lu, weaves her life around the exploration and sharing of self-healing through a variety of modalities, primarily focusing on food, common herbal plants, Qigong Meridian Therapy and Qigong for Women’s Health.  For comments, questions, consultations, ellasara00@gmail.com]

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One Response to Seasonal Harmony

  1. marlena santoyo says:

    Thank you for these healthful & tasy sounding recipes

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