Put down those smoothie bowls and cold kombuchas, vata season is here. In Ayurveda, everything in nature – from our bodies and minds, to the seasons around us – can be categorized by three primal energies known as the doshas, which consist of the five elements. Vata Dosha is the element of air and ether, it governs the season of fall and early winter. The qualities of vata and fall are alike – dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, quick and mobile. When these qualities are in balance, we can experience creativity, connection, stability, and peacefulness. But when vata is unstable, the experience of anxiety, fear, insecurity, constipation, dry skin, arthritis and more can manifest in body and mind.
Because like increases like, we aim to avoid foods and activities that contribute to an increase of vata during fall. This means avoiding cold, dry and hard foods like smoothies and iced beverages, crackers, chips and dehydrated foods, hard cheeses and even raw salads, which can all decrease our agni in a time when we want to be building our internal fire. To increase digestion and create stability in body and mind, opt for your favorite soups, stews and warm cooked foods as we move into colder weather – hydrating and grounding are key to staying balanced. Favor healthy fats and oils like ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, flax and avocado to help lubricate the internal body. And add warming spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and black pepper to your meals. Want to explore more specifics? Banyan Botanicals has a great guide to creating a Vata Balancing Diet.
In colder weather, there’s nothing more comforting than a good hearty bowl of chili and a thick slice of cornbread. Though not a traditional Ayurvedic dish or combo, it’s pure comfort food and soul nourishment for me this time of year! Taking a healthier approach to this standard combo, this four bean vegan chili uses sprouted legumes to increase digestibility and a warming mix of savory and sweet spices. It’s the perfect base recipe for a variety of grounding root veggies, swapping out the sweet potato for pumpkin or butternut squash as it calls to you.
2 tbsp olive oil
½ large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 cup dried du puy lentils, soaked overnight
1 cup dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 cup dried kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 cup dried adzuki beans, soaked overnight
1 7oz jar of organic tomato paste
4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed & minced
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp cider vinegar
10-12 cups water
1 large sweet potato, cubed
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 ½ tbsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 ½ tbsp mustard seed
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne
1 tbsp salt
Place the beans in individual bowls and cover with warm water. Allow to soak overnight to release the phytic acid and reduce cook time. The next day, drain and rinse well before using.
In a medium pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until lightly golden. Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, jalapeno and spice blend to the pot with a cup of water. Stir until well combined and simmer on medium low heat for 5 minutes. Next, combine the beans and cover with water. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and adding water as needed. When the beans are soft, add the chopped sweet potato, maple syrup and cider vinegar. Continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until root veggies are tender but not mushy and beans are fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of Greek yogurt or kefir, a slice of corn bread and your favorite brew.
Makes 6-8 servings
GLUTEN-FREE SKILLET CORN BREAD
3 cups fine-grain cornmeal
3 cups oat flour or sprouted spelt flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups almond milk
2 tsp Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp flax meal
¾ cup hot water
2 organic eggs
½ cup olive oil
½ cup maple syrup
1 15oz BPA-free can organic golden corn
Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a 10-inch cast iron pan with olive oil.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the almond milk with the apple cider vinegar. Whisk in the flax meal and hot water. Set aside.
In separate mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Then, fold in almond milk and flax mixture. Next, add the maple syrup, olive and eggs, and mix until well combined. Fold in the corn kernels. Pour into the greased cast iron and place in the over to bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden on the outside and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Makes 10-inch skillet