Warming Azuki Vegetable Stew (gluten free, vegan, ACD-friendly)

It is 6º F outside right now.  This is an improvement; yesterday morning when I left the house it was -21º F with a windchill of -33º F.  For those of you unfamiliar with windchills (lucky you), it is what the temperature feels like due to the added factor of wind.  These kind of temperatures are completely and totally insane, and somehow manage to shock me every year.  I think that our bodies block out the memory of cold weather, kind of like when many women say that can't really remember the actual moment of childbirth.  Adrenalin kicks in and takes over our brain, making our memories glaze over the pain.  If we could remember how trying it is to survive through this kind of cold, we would never stay.

It is almost impossible to get warm in weather like this.  I keep my hat and scarf on inside almost all the time.  Sometimes I even sleep in them.  I'm not joking!  Granted, I tend to run a little cold, but still.

The best solution is to make hearty soups and stews flavored with warming spices, like this one.  I have literally been like an ice cube all day, and after a bowl of this soup, I was finally able to take off my winter hat, scarf, and third layer of shirt.  My nose started running.  I even started sweating.  Thank you cumin, coriander, and ginger!

Quick to throw together and completely delicious, this soup is a great way to warm up on a chilly day.  It is also a perfect soup to make if you are starting a detox or cleansing cycle for the New Year!   Azuki beans are a very detoxifying bean, helping to clear phlegm and dampness from the body, and the rest of the vegetables and seasonings all have incredibly health supporting qualities.  If you are choosing to undertake a cleansing regimen, it is helpful to seek out resources and research different methods. There are a many different ways to approach cleansing diets, and it is important to consider your body's specific nutritional needs and your health situation when selecting a program.  Many cleanses can be very severe, and can be too much a shock on the body, especially if you are battling chronic illness or a compromised immune system.  Instead of providing a good, solid space for healing, these severe regimens can often throw your body into survival mode instead, making it hard to build your immune system!   It is also important to consider seasonal needs in regards to your cleansing diet.  If you live in a cold climate - like here in Minnesota, for example - January is probably not the best time to undergo a raw foods fruit cleanse.  Why?  It is completely counterintuitive to the cycles of seasonal foods and our body's corresponding cycles.

I've done a number of different cleansing regimens (multi-day fasting included!), and have found the most success to be with programs that focus on eating simply prepared, anti-inflammatory, whole foods.  Last winter I did an 6-week cleanse with the help of my naturopath, and found it to be incredibly supportive and helpful; I'd like to do that program again this year.  By taking a more gentle approach to cleansing, the body is given time to adjust naturally and slowly.  It is also more approachable from a psychological perspective, and therefore, easier to commit to.  If you view your cleanse as a struggle or some kind of terrible process, it will never work;  while you may be eliminating some toxins with your diet, you will be adding emotional toxicity.  Your cleanse choice is very important and very personal.

Ali and Tom over at Whole Life Nutrition are a great resource for starting an elimination and cleansing diet - check out the latest post!  This soup, if I'm not mistaken, should fall in line with all phases of their elimination diet, so eat up.

Full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein, this soup will warm you up and start you off on the right foot for a healthy - and warm! - 2010.


WARMING AZUKI VEGETABLE STEW

serves 4

4 cups Butternut squash, peeled and cubed (or other winter squash)
4 cups broccoli florets and stems, chopped (fresh or frozen)
2-2 1/2 cups cooked azuki beans
2 shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
optional: 1 Tbsp chickpea tamari
1 quart water, broth, or leftover bean cooking liquid
1-2 Tbsp ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil

garnish: 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Prepare vegetables as directed.  In a large soup pot, heat oil until hot, then add cumin seeds.  Heat until fragrant, turn heat to medium-low, and add scallions.  Saute until tender, then add coriander and ginger, and stir.  Add butternut, and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Then add liquid and cook until butternut is almost tender.  Add cooked azuki beans and broccoli, and simmer until all vegetables are tender.  Add tamari, if using, and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve hot, garnished with thinly sliced scallion.