They say it takes twenty-one days to create a new habit—but how long does it take to break one? In my experience, it’s somewhere around four. At least that’s how long it took me to get used to not cooking during my recent stay at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I am studying to become an Ayurvedic health counselor. Renowned for its healthy-ish buffet line, chock with appetizing Ayurvedic and seasonally-inspired meals, a gut-healing Buddha Bar with staples like kitchari and steamed veggies, a sandwich bar, and every kind of tea you can imagine, it’s a foodie’s paradise—but dangerous if you are used to working a little for your food.
Returning home from school, my mind and body were overwhelmed by knowledge, questions, and enthusiasm about all the ways I learned to take care of myself, my friends, and my family (including you, dear reader). And yet, much to my surprise, I was more excited than not to get back in the kitchen. Ayurveda teaches that food is the first and ultimate medicine; our first kosha, or sheath, is literally called “the food body.” Without food, we are nothing—we can neither carry out daily functions nor aspire to higher duties like our dharma or sattvic living. And so having an intimate, respectful relationship with food is the first way we can respect ourselves—a lesson I’ve long been learning while managing anorexia.
While crafting this meal, I had two objectives: 1) To avoid wasting any part of the ingredients, thereby honoring the wholeness of the foods; and 2) To explore combinations of seasonal and dosha-specific tastes. Ayurveda’s two foundational principles are like increases like and opposites balance, and we can look to nature as illustrations of both. Fall is known as vata season, dominated by elements air and ether, and nature balances those with the opposite qualities of grounding, heavy foods like root vegetables, squashes, and spices that make us feel warm and cozy—all featured here in the parsnip, carrot, and turnip chips and pumpkin sauce that will beat a Starbucks latte any day. By combining the more bitter and astringent greens, which normally aggravate vata, with these more grounding foods, we can round out all the tastes and avoid wasting any ounce of nature’s bounty. The crispness of the chips also contrasts the creamy soup and sauce, so each bite captures your mouth’s attention. It’s the enemy of multitasking, which we should all try to avoid for a happier gut and tastier meal.
Choosing to prepare your own foods might feel like a chore compared to walking through a buffet line, where anything you choose will be delicious and good for you (for the most part). And yet as this complete meal illustrates, whole, natural foods contain everything you need for a balanced, seasonal meal—the ultimate convenience.
Root Vegetable Chips with Green Soup and Pumpkin Sauce
Root Vegetable Chips
- 3 carrots
- 3 parsnips
- 1 bunch small white turnips
- 1 small red onion, quartered
- 2 garlic cloves, whole
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 bunch turnip greens
- 2 bunches spinach
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp white miso
- 1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- dash cloves
- 1 tsp harissa sauce
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 3 tbsp hot water
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- For the veggie chips: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the vegetables using the attachment of a food processor or by hand with a mandolin (this method will take much longer than time listed). Spread on a baking sheet with the onion and garlic, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for about 30 minutes or until crisp and browned at the edges.
- Meanwhile, prepare the green soup. Coarsely chop the greens, and combine all the ingredients except the apple cider vinegar and miso in a large pot with 2-3 cups of water, depending on your desired thickness. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid, and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the greens are very soft. Remove lid and let cool slightly. Puree with an immersion blender until very smooth; or, let cool completely and transfer to a high-speed blender, working in batches. Stir in the vinegar and miso, and if you want to give it another blitz to make sure it's well incorporated you can.
- While everything is cooking, combine the ingredients for the pumpkin sauce in a small bowl, adding the water in 1 tablespoon increments until you reach the desired consistency. Adjust the spices to your taste. You will have extra sauce.
- Separately, toast the 1/4 cup coconut flakes in a skillet over medium heat until gently browned and fragrant.
- To serve, ladle the green soup into bowls. Spoon the veggie chips on top with a dollop of pumpkin sauce, and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
- Store any remaining soup, veggies, and sauce in separate containers in the refrigerator.
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