The Root of It All

November 20, 2014

With cooler weather as the order of the day, we look to our food and cooking styles as our first line of defense against the harshness of cold days. And with the holiday season soon upon us, we will need strength and stamina to get through it. Root veggies are not only sweet and warming to the body, but they help us to feel grounded and centered and who doesn’t need that?


According to traditional Chinese medicine, there is a close relationship between nutritious food in the winter season and finding balance between cold and warm. During cold weather, heartier food is especially effective in improving our overall health and strengthening our immune system.


With root vegetables, we discover energy that is “warm” or “hot” in its energetic nature, which can strengthen the kidney energy and help improve the body’s ability to resist cold. Eating warm, rich soups and stews made from root vegetables and plant-based proteins also helps heat the body’s core and keep us well-nourished.



The perfect autumn stew…hearty and warming, yes, but that’s not all.   This dish has perfect autumn energy, too.  Tempeh, being a fermented soy product, has a substantial texture and a warming energy in the body.  The lotus root, a many-chambered tuber vegetable is beneficial to our lung function, balancing moisture and increasing our breathing capacity.  Add to that, the long-pickled sauerkraut, fresh ginger, stewed onions and cabbage, which warm and nourish the digestive tract and you have one gutsy autumn dish that will have your insides toasty warm come winter.




8 ounces organic tempeh, 1-inch cubes

Avocado oil for frying

1 onion, thick wedge cut

1/4 head green cabbage, shredded

1 small lotus root, halved lengthwise, 1/8-inch thick slices

spring or filtered water

½ cup sauerkraut, drained well, rinsed if too salty

1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated, juice extracted

organic soy sauce

1-2 teaspoons kuzu or arrowroot, dissolved in small amount cold water

small handful fresh parsley, minced for garnish


Cube tempeh.  Heat about an inch of oil in a deep skillet, over medium heat, to thoroughly warm.


When the oil is hot (when wooden chopstick tips, submerged in the oil, draw lots of tiny bubbles around them, the oil is hot enough to fry), shallow-fry tempeh until golden brown.  Drain on paper and set aside.


Layer onion, cabbage, lotus root and fried tempeh in a deep skillet.  Add water to accumulate ½ -inch in the pot.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until cabbage is quite limp, about 15 minutes.  Add sauerkraut, ginger juice and season lightly with organic soy sauce (lightly, remember the salt in the sauerkraut).  Cover and simmer 5-7 minutes more.  Stir in dissolved kuzu to form a thin glaze over the stew.  Transfer to a bowl and serve garnished with parsley.



There’s nothing quite as comforting as sweet, creamy soups.  Relaxing to the middle organs–spleen, pancreas and stomach, great for strengthening digestion, a rich bisque-like soup is like the fountain of youth.  The smooth, creamy consistency of the soup is easy to digest, supporting digestive function, which helps to strengthen the blood to nourish our skin to be line-free and flawless and our hair shiny and strong.




1 onion, diced

1 small leek, split lengthwise, rinsed well, diced

6-8 parsnips, diced

3 cups unsweetened organic almond or soy milk

3 cups spring or filtered water

1/4 cup mirin or white wine

2 ½ teaspoons white miso

small bunch fresh parsley, minced for garnish


Hazelnut Pesto

1 cup hazelnuts, oven toasted, skins removed

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat leaf parsley leaves

3 shallots, diced

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons white miso

2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar, red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon brown rice syrup


Layer vegetables in a soup pot in the order listed.  Gently add milk, water and mirin.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until parsnips are quite soft, about 30 minutes.  Remove a small amount of broth, dissolve miso and stir into soup.  Simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes to activate enzyme activity.


While the soup cooks, make the pesto.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.  You will have more pesto that you may need for this recipe.  It will keep, refrigerated, for about a week.


Transfer soup, by ladles, through a chinois or food mill, to create a smooth puree. You may also use an immersion blender or food processer. Return to pot and simmer for 1 minute.  Serve, garnished with a generous dollop of pesto and sprinkled with minced parsley.



I love the simplicity of this dish. It’s so easy you’ll be all smiles as you serve it. And I love the energy of this dish; it relaxes and tones the middle organs. Easy and relaxing…sounds like the perfect side dish to me.




6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 cups cubed unpeeled delicata or butternut squash

4 cups mixed mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, oyster), stemmed, halved

Juice of ½ fresh lemon


Preheat oven to 425F (220C). Place oil, salt, squash and mushrooms in a mixing bowl and toss to coat. Spread in a rimmed baking sheet, avoiding overlap. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 35 minutes, until vegetables are tender and liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Remove from oven and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve hot.



A variation on a classic dish.  Usually, we make this vitalizing dish with only carrot and burdock–rocket fuel in a cup, I call it.  Combining the intensely strengthening burdock, with gently strengthening carrot, cooked as a high fire sauté for energy and then simmered for quiet endurance.  This version, a powerhouse of energy in its own right, has a few more ingredients and is simply sautéed, giving high energy and enduring stamina.




Avocado oil

½ dried chili pepper, seeded, minced

1 small sweet onion, thin half-moon slices

sea salt

1 cup fine matchstick pieces burdock

1 cup fine matchstick pieces carrot

1 cup finely shredded green cabbage

Organic soy sauce

1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated, juice extracted


Heat a small amount of oil in a deep skillet.  Sauté chili for several seconds.  Add onion, a pinch of salt and sauté until onions are limp, about 2 minutes.  Add burdock, a pinch of salt and sauté for 2 minutes more.  Add carrot, a pinch of salt and sauté 1 minute.  Finally, stir in cabbage, season lightly with soy sauce, add ginger juice and cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is limp, 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.