Winter: A Time To Reflect
By Ellasara Kling
“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons” Nei Jing
It seems that our already busy lives become even more filled with activities during the Winter months. Ironically, Winter is the Universal time for going deeply inward and conserving our resources. Nature shows us her pattern. Most of the trees/shrubs have shed their adornments and stand open awaiting a new surge of energy from within so they can sprout again in Spring. The Autumn harvest has given us its glorious bounty and now the most common foods of winter are root vegetables, winter squashes and humble cabbages. Thus, the Universe teaches us simplicity, elegance, frugality, equanimity, restraint.
This time of year is ruled by the Kidney system, a storehouse of energy to be used in times of transformation and/or stress. In nurturing our lives we can use this season to nourish our Kidney qi and thereby increase our vitality. The innate energy stored in our Kidneys is our jing, which can be understood as the energy of our constitution. According to TCM principles, our lives last as long as our jing lasts. Each season teaches us how to take care of ourselves and how to be healthy throughout our life.
True health is found in internal balance and harmony. We find it in the ongoing interplay of “forces” within ourselves as we walk through our lives. It is clearly up to us to nourish ourselves and strive for this balance/harmony. The Universal shows us clearly what is required. Darkness comes early: go to sleep sooner – get more rest. Cold and damp are prevalent: dress warmly, cover the head and feet, eat warming foods, conserve energy physically, mentally and emotionally. Allow time every day for reflection and/or relaxation without an activity. Use this quietude to learn more about yourself as well as family and friends. Like water, the element of the season, let yourself be soft like water. Release the tension. Get a massage, tuina, acupuncture or other energy healing treatment. It seems so simple and uncomplicated. It is when we get out of our own way. My longevity recipe for everyone is: follow the Universal, follow the seasons, follow your heart/higher intuition, nurture yourself as if you were the most precious person because you are.
Self-massage for Winter:
These two simple techniques are well-known and excellent for supporting your health especially during the cold days of Winter.
- Teeth Tapping: Lightly tap your teeth together 50 times in the morning (and any other time as well). The teeth are connected to the Kidney and by doing this you are stimulating you Kidney qi function. If you do this with a smiling mouth at the same time, you will find it to bring a surprise.
- Kidney Rub: Preferably while sitting, place your hands on your back at the bottom of your rib cage, letting them fall naturally covering your back to your natural waist. (Your thumb will be pointing towards the front of your body and your other fingers will be pointing towards your spine.) This should cover the area where your Kidneys are located. Firmly, but gently with vigor, rub the area up and down at least 100 times. Feel the warmth. Smile.
Some Foods That Are Particularly Good For The Winter Season:
Beets, Black Beans, Black Mushrooms, Blackberry, Black lentils, Black sesame seeds and oil, Black soybeans/tofu, Bone marrow, Cabbages, Cardamom, Celery, Chard, Chestnuts, Cinnamon, Cranberry, Ginger, Job’s tears, Kale, Kidney beans, Kohlrabi, Longan, Lotus seed, Miso, Mulberry, Mutton, Ocean Perch, Parsley, Pine nuts, Prunes, Raspberry, Rutabaga, Seaweed, Shrimp/Prawns, Soy Sauce, String beans, Turnips, Walnuts, Wood ear mushrooms. Generally, warming foods and spices and hearty soups and stews are good for Winter.
Urad Dal (split black lentils)
(Easily Available in Asian and Indian Markets)
1 cup Urad Dal
2 TB oil
½ tsp Salt and 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 large onion – diced
4 large cloves garlic – diced
2 TB shredded fresh ginger
2 TB crushed red pepper
1-1/2 C water
2 TB Turmeric
1 large Tomato – cut into chunks
¼ cup cilantro
Carefully hand rinse the Urad Dal until the water runs clear. Strain out excess water. Then place in a bowl, cover with fresh clean cold water, cover and let sit overnight. When rinsing, be certain to check for small stones, stems, etc.
Rinse the Dal again, strain and set aside in a bowl.
Heat a wok or skillet and add the oil, salt and black pepper. Heat until the oil shimmers.
Add Onion, garlic and ginger. Saute until the onion begins to become translucent.
Add the red pepper and Dal and stir everything lightly together.
Add the water. Stir and cover and simmer on low or medium heat for about 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the Dal is tender. (The time and liquid may vary depending on your pan and heat, so please check so as to neither burn the lentils nor make them mushy)
Add the Turmeric, tomato, and cilantro and stir together.
Cover. Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with rice.
This dish is particularly strengthening for the Kidney, Lung, and Stomach functions. Turmeric is especially good for breast health.
Roasted Garlic Miso Cauliflower with Caramelized Black Plums
4-6 cups raw Cauliflower cut into “natural” florets
¼- ½ cup Oil
A large head Garlic
1-1/2” Ginger – finely minced
3 TB light Miso
3 TB dry sherry (optional)
1 cup water/plum juice/pear juice
4 black plums cut into eighths
3 TB honey
1 TB balsamic or black vinegar
Roasting the Garlic (can be done the day before)
Remove most of the outer papery layers covering the garlic head, but try not to break the head into individual cloves
Cut off the top of the garlic head so that the individual cloves can be seen
Brush a little oil on the exposed cloves
Wrap the garlic head in foil and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes. Set aside and let it cool.
Preparing the Cauliflower
Cut the cauliflower following the stem of each floret so that there is an individual “flower head” and stem.
Toss Lightly in oil
Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about ½ hour or until the cauliflower is just beginning to brown.
Preparing the Miso Sauce
Unwrap your head of garlic and cut out each of the individual roasted cloves
Mash about 2 TB of garlic into 3 TB of miso so that it is well mixed.
In a small bowl mix together the sherry, water, ginger and the miso/garlic mixture.
Heat in a small pan for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
Put the roasted cauliflower in a large skillet or wok and pour over the Garlic/Miso sauce.
Toss lightly and heat through.
Cut the plums into eighths
Heat a pan and add 1 TB of oil, the honey, and vinegar. Stir and add the plums
Coat them lightly in the mixture and let them heat through until they begin to caramelize.
Remove and serve with the cauliflower. (Can be made while the garlic\miso sauce is reducing)
This dish uses seasonal foods with a variety of flavors and becomes representative of all the elements.
Basic Bone Marrow Soup
1 lb marrow bones
2 quarts water
2” sliced ginger
6 scallion whites
1 bay leaf
1 diced carrot
1 diced stalk celery
1 quartered plum tomato
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup cilantro/parsley
Put the marrow bones, bay leaf, ginger, and scallions in the water and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 3 hours – add water as needed.
Let cool–Poke marrow out of bones and discard everything except water. You should now have about 3 cups of broth.
Add veggies, cover and cook till veggies are done. Add salt and pepper to taste…..serve and sprinkle with cilantro
To this basic recipe you can add other root vegetables such as turnip, or green vegetables such as kale. Adjust this to your own taste.
Bone marrow soup is considered to be a strengthening soup that is good for prevention and also for recuperation if someone has been ill. It is also very warming to the bones. Most cultures with cold winters have some version of bone marrow soup for the winter time.
A variety of vegetables cut for roasting
Black sesame seeds
Optional: Toasted Walnuts or Pine Nuts
Rinse the rice and cook as directed.
Choose a variety of vegetables and cut them into large pieces – Try to choose colorful vegetables such as orange squash, white sweet potato, carrots, celery, kale leaves, and so on.
Toss lightly with oil and roast in the over until tender. If you have added kale or other leafy green, they will roast faster than root vegetables or squashes so it is easiest to roast them in a separate pan that can be removed and set aside.
While they are roasting, toast the sesame seeds in a pan on the stove – they toast VERY quickly.
Serve your vegetables over the black rice sprinkled with the black sesame seeds. The black rice forms a background that will make your vegetables “pop” with color.
Some people use toasted seaweed such as Nori on this dish instead of sesame seeds.
Choose your amounts based on the number of servings you wish to make.
Basic Ginger Tea
1” fresh ginger – sliced, chopped
4-5 scallions – whites only
Rind of one dried tangerine
4 cups of water
Rock/ Brown sugar/ honey to taste
Add all the ingredients together and bring to a boil Simmer for no more than 5 minutes as it will get bitter. Remove the foods. Drink hot.
This common recipe for Ginger Tea is especially warming. Among other things, ginger assists circulation. This tea is also known for “clearing” head colds and sinus congestion. Many people who drink this tea daily claim it keeps their respiratory system clear all winter long.
ENERGY SNACK: Mix together equal amounts of crushed toasted walnuts and toasted black sesame seeds. Add some honey to make a thick paste. This delicious snack is excellent for an energy boost and can be especially helpful for an elderly person or someone whose appetite is weak.
Wishing you good health! Remember to smile at all things.
The information in this article is based on the theories and principles of Chinese Medicine. Ellasara has been studying Wu Ming Qigong with Master and Dr. Nan Lu for many years and has participated in special classes through TCM World Foundation and the Tao of Healing in New York City. For comments, questions, consultations, firstname.lastname@example.org