Autumn Nourish Bowl

November 12, 2017

I have some good news to share! I recently stopped taking antidepressants after slowly reducing the amount over about six months. It's been around five years since I started taking St. John's Wort for depression (it's commonly prescribed in Germany, less often in North America) and it helped a lot - I stopped having suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and general depressive thoughts after having depression since childhood. I know through personal experience that my diet changes have heavily contributed to my mental health improvement and there are some good studies backing sugar intake and inflammation being causes of major depression. I had a long-term inflammation from eating dairy, high sugar foods, and refined flours, and my diet was generally very high in sugar and refined foods up into my early 20s. I'm strict about what I eat now and it certainly makes some things, like eating out, a bit tricky, but you get used to it. Of course there are other factors in my ongoing health, including regular exercise like yoga, walking, and biking, a good routine, and working on healthy relationships. Self-care can sometimes look like selfishness, especially in regard to relationships, but sometimes you just have to reduce your contact with shitty people.

I know that if I'm not careful I'll get sick again, but I feel so lucky to be well without the medication I thought I'd be taking for the rest of my life. It's hard to wrap my head around being healthy on my own without having to take pills every day. I can't remember a time in my life, from when I was just a little kid, when I wasn't anxious and depressed. It was a difficult adjustment when I started taking medication to be able to do simple things like sleep without nightmares or drive without thinking about running into a truck on the highway, but being on the pills also dulled some of my more creative thoughts and slowed everything down a bit. I had to learn how to function without depression. Now I'm relearning how to live without that illness, and also without medication altering the way my brain functions. I don't think I'll ever be as happy as Graham, for example, who is just endlessly positive, because I can't just forget being depressed for the vast majority of my life. Heading up to my 26th birthday at the end of this month, though, I'm hopeful that the next three quarters of my life might be free of mental illness.

All that said, however, without my medication I probably would have committed suicide a long time ago. Medication is deeply important to people struggling with depression and other mental illnesses, and food and other lifestyle changes can only make so much of a difference. Think of it like diabetes. A diabetic person needs insulin but can help support their illness or reduce the amount of insulin they might need down the road by making some lifestyle changes, but the insulin is first defence. Make sense?

My blogging friend Gena posted a recipe a few months ago for turmeric rice bowls. I really love Gena's recipes but this one in particular really spoke to me - pickled onions, my favourite spice, carbs, chickpeas, greens - I made variations of it all summer and turmeric rice became my number one way to cook rice. I think I read the recipe once and then made loose versions of it the rest of the time, but the inspiration for the rice in this dish is absolutely from The Full Helping. The rest of the bowl is filled with autumn flavours. A speedy napa cabbage slaw, roasted butternut squash, spicy black beans, and pomegranate seeds. It's a great mix of textures and temperatures and you could easily mix and match some of your favourite things to add in. I had wanted to add apples to the slaw but we had a really bad season for them this year, and they cost an arm and a leg. We had a few from my grandmother but mostly we've just been going without. Sad.

This meal does come together pretty quickly, but the rice takes about 40 minutes to cook because it's whole grain. Everything else is prepared while the rice is cooking and if you start the squash a little late for example, the rice will keep on the stovetop. Err to the side of having the rice done before the other elements instead of the other way around. There isn't an additional sauce to add to the bowl, but this dressing would be an excellent choice if you want one. 


Autumn Nourish Bowl
Serves 2

Turmeric Rice (Inspired by The Full Helping)

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 small white onion, chopped (60 grams)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb ginger, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup / 160 grams short grain brown rice, soaked if possible
2 cups water or vegetable stock*

Heat a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the coconut oil, then the onion, and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds, then stir in the salt, turmeric, and pepper. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for a minute. Pour the water into the pot and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Roasted Butternut Squash

1/2 medium (750 grams) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3cm squares
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat the oven to 180C / 350F. Place the squash on a large, rimmed baking sheet and add the oil and spices. Use your hands to mix until the squash is coated, then bake for 30-35 minutes, or until soft and golden.

Mustard Cabbage Slaw

1/2 napa cabbage (400 grams)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive or walnut oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard*
1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Core and slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. If you have a mandolin, you can use it, or a very sharp knife. Place the sliced cabbage into a medium bowl, and add the vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to massage the cabbage until it's coated in the dressing, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers will only keep for a day.

Spicy Black Beans

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 cup / 170 grams cooked black beans
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a frying pan over medium heat with the oil. Add the beans and spices, and cook, stirring, for about two minutes to heat the beans and coat them with the spices. Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to suit your tastes.

To assemble, halve each element and place into bowls. Top with pomegranate seeds and serve immediately.

Notes:
1. I always use water. If you use vegetable stock, reduce the salt and add it to taste when the rice is finished cooking.
2. If you don't like mustard that much, use a 1/2 teaspoon instead.

5 comments on "Autumn Nourish Bowl"
  1. This Nourish Bowl is everything good about Fall food! And those spicy black beans.... can it get any better?!

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    1. Thanks, Laurel! One of my favourite ways to have black beans :)

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  2. coming over from Instagram to see the recipe (I'm sweet.bee.garden), this looked just delicious! I've been trying to get more tumeric in my diet (and tried the whole golden milk crazy but not my thing) so this rice sounds great!

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    1. Hi Melissa, I'm so happy to see you here!! I'm also not a fan of golden milk. If it's not chocolate milk I don't want it, hah. I started eating the turmeric rice for the same reason and it's by far the best way, in my opinion, to get more turmeric into our diets!

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  3. I really appreciate your sharing so candidly and bravely about your depression, Alexandra. It takes courage to speak about an experience that can be so isolating! I'm so happy that you're at a place right now where you feel a sense of peace and calm, and it sounds as if you have the tools you need to take good care of your mind and body as you move forward.

    In the meantime, these bowls! Yum. Can't wait to try them, and so happy that my turmeric rice could make an appearance :)

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