Earth-Centered Eating

It’s hard being a sensitive human in the world today. There is so much going on politically and environmentally these days it can be overwhelming, especially when adding our own personal struggles into the mix. It’s easy to feel stressed out about these things and we have good reason to stress - but let’s not let that stress sink in and affect us physiologically, if we can help it. Self-care practices are essential, time to think, process, and rest are required for many of us (both yin responses, relatively), while action and activism are equally important tools in balancing how we deal with this kind of stress (the yang of it). One way we tend to deal with stress can be over-eating, eating our “stress food” of choice, going too long without eating and over-working, or doing too much thinking while we are trying to eat and nourish ourselves / digest. All of these common practices can lead to stagnation in the gut or other organs, digestive deficiency, or chronic depletion. What if we all adopted a new way of “stress eating”? One that worked towards balancing our already over-burdened bodies and allowed for more space, ease, and ability to function at our highest potential when we truly need it most. This type of eating is what I call Earth-Centered eating, and I love teaching people the reasons why it works so well and how it aims to restore and aid digestive function, nourish qi and blood, and support us in our most trying times.

Earth-Centered eating is based on Chinese medicine dietary therapy and some simple rules of food energetics. When we are stressed out, our bodies are working on dealing with that stress in many biological and hormonal ways - none of which are geared towards digesting food well. Our rest/ digest state and our stress state are two very different places to reside. A stress state could be due to challenging parenting phases, periods of no sleep, a stressful job that requires much of your time on and off the clock. relationship crises, illness recovery, family dramas, shocking political events, etc (and perhaps a combination of several of these, as is normally the case). We carry these tensions with us as they happen, sometimes deep within us, and it’s hard to let them go, especially if they are ongoing or chronic in nature. When so many of our resources are being used to survive stressful situations, to endure that fight, flight, or freeze mode, we have minimal resources left for digestive function and optimal nutrient absorption. If we have less energy going towards digestion and the transformation of food into energy - the worse we feel, and our stress grows even more! With this in mind, what can we do to help our digestion when we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t really drop our stress easily? I promise that eating that pint of ice cream at night is not the answer - although, I feel you. Our digestion falls under the phase of Earth in Chinese medicine 5 Element Theory. Earth phase is about nourishment, grounding, centering, return, stability, care of self and others. You can easily see how eating and the digestion of food belongs to this phase in the scope of all that. To boost the qi of our Earth organs (the spleen and stomach), we can eat foods that require less energy to digest, that are warm, pre-cooked, moist, and slightly warming in nature. Think of our digestion like a boiling cauldron pot, with each food we put in, we have to cook that food in the pot before we can digest and transform it into energy. If we put raw, cold, or frozen foods in - the pot will get much weaker as it works to bring it back up to cooking temperature. This slows down our entire metabolic process and requires much more work from our bodies. If we put in foods that have already been pre-cooked - steamed, blanched, or sauteed - our cauldron stays boiling as it breaks down these components and quickly whips them into usable energy for our cells. We can help our digestive function in this way, especially when we know we have limited resources to begin with. One of the main foundations of Earth-Centered eating is to eat mostly cooked, warm foods, to enable your digestion to stay as active as possible. Soups are a great way to start. I look forward to sharing more on Earth-Centered eating and how to apply it to your life here on the blog, as I see this becoming more and more important to people across the board. Meanwhile, here is one of my favorite recipes for an Earth-Centered chicken soup that I return to over and over again when we are in big transitions, need a reset, or just having a stressful week:

green chicken soup with rainbow carrots

Green Chicken Soup with Rainbow Carrots

2 organic chicken breasts

8 C water

Olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

4 stalks celery, chopped and leafy tops reserved

1 bunch green onions, chopped and ends reserved

2-3 rainbow carrots, chopped and tops reserved

1 C white or brown jasmine rice (can sub cauliflower rice, if desired, at 2-3 C)

1 large handful parsley, chopped

1 large handful cilantro, chopped

Kosher salt

In a large pot or dutch oven, bring 8 C salted water to a boil and place chicken breasts, celery tops, onion ends, and carrot tops inside. Boil about 25 minutes until cooked through and tender. Remove chicken from pot and set aside, strain & save all broth. On medium heat, saute garlic, green onions (save about 1/8 - 1/4 C of these for garnishing at the end), and celery in a few glugs of olive oil in the same pot for a few minutes, then add chopped carrots. Saute a few minutes more, then add the rice, stirring it all together well. Add back in the reserved chicken broth you made earlier, cover and cook for another 20-25 minutes until rice is cooked completely. While this starts cooking, shred the chicken and add back into the pot, giving it enough time to cook along with the soup for awhile. Once the soup is almost done, add in most of the herbs - chopped parsley and cilantro - and give it a whirl. Taste and add more salt, if needed. When you are ready to serve, add more fresh herbs and green onions on top for garnish.

  • Shortcut — Shred an organic / hormone and antibiotic-free rotisserie chicken and skip the homemade chicken broth step. Start with cooking your garlic and veggies in oil and just add in 6 C of store bought organic chicken broth (that’s 1 48 oz box) + another 1-2 C water, in place of the homemade broth. Saves a lot of time and makes this meal super easy to prepare. I do it this way 50% of the time!

Dark Cacao + Collagen Seed Bark

To me, there is no better sweet combo than simple fruit and chocolate. I am known to make chocolate covered fresh and/or dried fruits at any time of the year and it is often my favorite dessert for any special occasion. Sometimes I marvel at how our bodies can give us insight into how we naturally feel healthiest - this is one small example. This dessert is naturally gluten, dairy & refined sugar free - an ideal combo for me! I just feel good eating it, so much more than other types of sweets or cakes. Intuitive eating can be so helpful when trying to determine what makes our bodies tick. It’s also important to have indulgences that support us instead of hurt us. This is a big part of learning how to care for yourself!

I started making variations of this “bark” recently for my chocolate fix - a very thin layer of chocolate drizzled over a flat sheet of finely chopped fillings. I added collagen powder & cinnamon to the melted chocolate to level it up this week - you can add any superfood or herbal / adaptogenic powder to your chocolate mix after it has melted. Spirulina, ashwaganda, maca root powder, ground ginger, astragalus… plenty of options will work.

I loved the mixture here - puffed quinoa (just gradually heat 1/4 C quinoa in a skillet with lid, like popcorn, until you hear it start popping up), chia seeds, sunflower seeds, toasted sliced almonds, finely chopped pecans, hemp hearts, dried goji berries. Lay it all flat on parchment paper so that it all touches each other but is not more than one layer thick. Then, pour on the chocolate. I also like to add a bit of Maldon sea salt flakes to the top before it sets in the fridge.

dark chocolate collagen seed bark

This will be our Valentine’s treat - with broken bark leftovers going into a tupperware to store in the fridge. It’s so simple and good, endlessly versatile. Hope you enjoy.

Dark Cacao + Collagen Seed Bark /

1/2 C coconut oil

1/4 C maple syrup, or a bit less even

1/2 C raw cacao powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp collagen powder (or other level-up ingredients)

2 dashes ground cinnamon

Maldon finishing salt

Crushed and finely chopped “fillings” for the bark - chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, nuts of your preference, goji berries, sunflower seeds, puffed quinoa or puffed rice, dried orange peel, tart cherries or apricots - all finely chopped…

Heat the oil over medium-low heat until fully melted, add maple syrup and whisk together until combined. Take off the heat & add cacao + vanilla and whisk until totally smooth. Add your collagen + additional superfood / level-up powders & spices and whisk again. Arrange your seed mixture in a flat layer on parchment paper in a sheet pan. Lightly pour the chocolate sauce over the seed mixture very evenly in a thin layer. Use a fork to spread the mixture around evenly if needed. Sprinkle Maldon sea salt flakes on top evenly to your liking. Refrigerate. This must be kept cold during storage so as not to melt. Once it has set solid (2-4 hrs), break into pieces and store in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for even longer duration. Serve with berries, mint, edible flowers…