real raw kitchen: October 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

RECIPE: sweet and spicy pumpkin chili, cooked

So I never really understood the whole pumpkin phenomenon but last year I decided to hop on the bandwagon for the sake of exploration (I'm all about exploration!) and I have to admit I still didn't get it all that much. This year, however, it finally clicked because I made Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Chili.

I have always made a pretty spectacular chili that I developed quite a reputation for (even meat eaters requested it!) so when I decided to add some pumpkin to this thang I thought it would naturally be a hit.

It was indeed a hit.

I won't bore you with any sort of story about this recipe because this was it: 
I woke up. 
I put the ingredients in the crock pot. 
I went for a run. 
I went to the beach. 
I went to an Afro Brazilian dance class with my girlfriend. 
I came home and showered. 
I photographed the chili and then I served it to my girlfriends at our Saturday book club.

At the book club--after we chatted about the book for a deep and magical hour--we cleared the table and loaded up our goods. We had pumpkin chili, my basic raw sour cream, some Brazilian collards, and homemade tea. A beautiful afternoon with some beautiful women. And a beautiful Miami canal view.

And I can't tell if this recipe is spectacular because it was so effing delicious or if it's because it allows you to have a spectacular day while all the flavors just get cozy with each other.
It's perfect for those of us with busy lives AND for those of us with limited kitchen skills. Enjoy your pumpkin, people. 

Enjoy. Your. Pumpkin.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Chili, cooked

for the chili:
  • 1 can, each, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans (drained)
  • 2-3 cups chopped squash/sweet/potato or pumpkin (I used butternut squash)
  • 4-5 tomatos, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock, as needed (water works as well)
  • 3-4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 2 T cinnamon
  • 2 t  cumin
  • 1/2 t allspice and ground cloves
  • 1/2 - 1 t chili flakes or cayenne, depending on your love of spicy-ness (I LOVE it)
  • sea salt and pepper as desired

for the raw sour cream:
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t sea salt

for the chili:

  • Soak your cashews while the chili cooks.
  • In the bottom of the crock pot add the oil, chopped garlic, chopped onion, chopped celery and allow it to sauté in your crock pot* on the low setting.
  • Once the vegetables have softened, add all the seasonings and mix well. Allow it to continue to cook this way for about 10 minutes.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil and then add the chopped squash/potato/pumpkin. Boil for 5-10 minutes until the color pops but it is not too soft (I did it about 7 minutes). Drain and then toss the cubes into the crock pot. 
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the crock pot and stir. Cover and allow it to cook for 4-6 hours on low.
for the sour cream:
  • Drain the soaked cashews and add all of the listed ingredients to a high speed blender.
  • Blend until completely smooth and creamy.
  • Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate (it will thicken just a bit). 
  • Add a spoonful to your chili :)
Optional garnish: 
  • Chopped green onion
  • Avocado slices
  • Cinnamon
*Note: If you do not have a crock pot that has been handed down from the women in your family like me, you can do this same exact process in a very large pot on the stove. Add a little bit more vegetable broth, as needed, and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to cook, covered, for about 45 minutes to an hour.

At least three satisfied bellies ...

No crock pot? No problem :) See the note above or invest in one like this one:

And in the spirit of full disclosure, if you purchase anything I link to you via Amazon I make a small percentage out of it at no cost to you! So cool for me, so cool for you!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

REVIEW: Happy Hormones by Kristy Vermeulen ND

A long, long time ago--before my little hiatus--I received a book in the mail that, at the time, I couldn't wait to dive into: Happy Hormones, by Kristy Vermeulen ND. This is the same woman behind the seed cycling post that I did and I'm SO happy to piece through her work again! You can check out Dr. Kristy's full website here.

If you've been following this blog for quite some time then you may remember that I've tried several things before to manage my hormones, one of my favorite methods (and most popular posts!) was seed cycling. At the time my cycle was so out of whack that I would have one cycle that lasted 35 days followed by another cycle of 20 days. My cramps were out of this world and my acne was just kicking into full force. Seed cycling really helped me reign in my hormones to the point of a predictable cycle and less inflamed cramps.

So when I received this book in the mail I felt like it had come at perfect timing. 

What Is Happy Hormones?

This book is broken down into six parts:

  1. Happy Hormones Explained
  2. Hormone Diagnosis: Questionnaire, symptoms and lab testing
  3. Happy Hormones Treatment Program
  4. Putting It All Together
  5. Appendix
  6. Happy Hormones Recipe Collection
The book first touches on the importance of hormone balance and explains how almost every single aspect of our lives can impact our hormones ... which, in turn, impact our health and overall functioning.

Then a quick questionnaire with symptoms and indicators is provided to help you focus in on your particular imbalance. It's easy, quick, and uses easily identifiable terms and symptoms that make the entire process approachable (i.e. irritability before menstrual cycle, heavy vs light flow, etc.) Once you are able to identify where your potential imbalance is you can then flip to the particular treatment program designed for you.

The treatment programs are broken down into different steps:

  1. Diet Suport
  2. Lifestyle Support
  3. Nutritional Support
  4. Herbal Support
  5. Homeopathic remedies
This section I found to be exceptionally helpful as it provides easy, measurable solutions for the reader. Meaning, I could easily cut back my caffeine, increase my hours of sleep, take the supplements (or even food listed) and know why I've selected these methods and what I can expect to see from each of these methods. In a culture of fix-me-now this section allows us the opportunity to get to work almost immediately. 

What Are My Thoughts?

My very first impression is this: I like it. 

I think the entire topic of hormones is incredibly intimidating and often times can seem like such a daunting task that most women shrug it off. I loved the quiz and the accompanying treatment programs. I, for instance, found that my main trouble hormone is Cortisol and that this really is impacting my overall health. My stress has been through the roof for the past few years and so my body is screaming at me to get myself in check. (Yes, years. ) This book and quiz allowed me to shift my perspective and get me to stop focusing in on estrogen and progesterone only. 

I moved away from home, across the country, to such a foreign and tough city like Miami. I quit my career and tried to start over from scratch. I entered a hostile romantic relationship (that I wouldn't realize was hostile and abusive until after exiting it). I tried to immerse myself in a different culture, one in which I felt extremely out of place. Every single thing about my life had changed--everything--and just when I was getting used to it, everything got uprooted and flipped on its head all over again! 

This kind of stress can really mess with a person, particularly in a Psychological sense (think: fight-or-flight response), which directly affects hormones. You see how everything is connected??

So my cortisol levels first spiked to compensate for all the changes and when I didn't straighten out my lifestyle to reduce the stress my body, in a way, stopped producing Cortisol to help push me. In a sense, it said "fuck it." The whole purpose of Cortisol is to get me through the struggle out to the other side and when I failed to get to the other side my body withdrew its help! Pobrecita! 

And that is an entirely new post for another time ...

All this to say that I NEVER would have thought I had a Cortisol deficiency had I not used this book, nor would I have known how to properly address this deficiency!

My Recommendations

I really enjoyed this read, truly. It was easy to go through, it made solid recommendations that I agree with and it made identifying your own particular set of imbalances very easy.

However, I felt it was a little too easy. That's not to say that it's bad information or that it's too simple for the common reader, not at all. In fact, I think this makes it perfect for mass consumption! The thing for me, though, is that I often ask "Why?" .. with everything. Everything I hear, see, feel .. I always ask "Why?" (In fact, my friends have begun to roll their eyes at me as I'm notorious for asking "but why?" every single time someone makes any kind of statement!)

As the curious type I really appreciate knowing the science behind these things. I want to understand the Endocrine System and I want to understand my neurotransmitters. I need to know about my particular cycle and I need to know about the Psychological diagnoses and connections. 

I'm weird like that.

So what I recommend is that you pair this book with (one of my favorite books of all time) Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I've raved about it before, here, and I'm happy to mention it again because it really is an all-encompassing book. It would really help facilitate your treatment program with this particular book.

Another addition I'd recommend is pairing these books with Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. Her book helps look at the greater spiritual and emotional connection with our bodily ailments. The reason it comes to mind for me, here, is because fertility and hormonal imbalances are directly tied with our power as women, our role, our intimate relationships, our presence, and our confidence with our place in this world.

You may think I'm insane to recommend reading three books simultaneously but I'm NOT exaggerating when I say that I do this with almost every book I read, in general. Even the fiction books; I read fiction with a dictionary on my lap! (You should see my bookshelves ...)

Bottom Line

I dig it. I recommend it. And I'm a bit information-obsessed. If you get a chance then grab a copy for yourself! (Along with my other two recommendations, really, they will change your life and I don't take that phrase lightly ...)

And in the spirit of full disclosure, if you purchase anything I link to you via Amazon I make a small percentage out of it at no cost to you! So cool for me, so cool for you!

Check them out and let me know what you think!