As summer gives way to autumn, it becomes important for us to make appropriate changes in our diet to support our bodies in the cooler weather. While cooling foods like salads and other raw vegetables are good for our bodies during the hot weather months, once the outdoor temperature begins to fall, we need to incorporate more warming foods, such as cooked vegetables, soups, and stews into our daily menus. This helps our body in many ways, especially when we look at the digestive processes from a Chinese medical point of view.
In Chinese medicine, the process of digestion utilizes a great deal of metabolic heat (digestive fire) to break down, absorb, and integrate all the nutrients from our food. Because of this, our digestive organs (the spleen and stomach in Chinese medicine), are highly susceptible to the pathogenic influence of cold. If we collect too much cold in the digestive system, we don’t process and absorb the nutrients from our food efficiently. In addition, we might also get unpleasant physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gassiness, constipation, or diarrhea. By keeping the relative balance of cold and heat in check in the digestive system, everything flows much more smoothly, and our bodies are able to function optimally.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are, of course, very supportive to the digestive processes in our body. These modalities can help regulate digestion and elimination, as well as normalize metabolism. Dietary therapy, however, is a crucial part of maintaining the balance that we achieve from therapies like acupuncture. This is why dietary therapy, along with acupuncture and herbal medicine, is one of the very important branches within Chinese medicine.
Many of my patients have been asking for another recipe, and this seems like the perfect time to share one of my very favorite stew recipes. During fall and winter, I think I make this stew about every other week because I love it so much. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!
QUICK SAUSAGE, WHITE BEAN & SPINACH STEW
1 ½ tsp olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped and divided OR 1 tsp dried thyme, divided
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped and divided OR 1 tsp dried rosemary, divided
2-4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1 lb sweet or hot sausage cut into one-inch chunks
1 (19 oz.) can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup dry white wine (I use cooking sherry)
½ cup chicken broth
3-4 roma tomatoes, cored and cubed OR one can peeled, diced tomatoes
Hot pepper sauce
1 bag baby spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onions, salt, pepper, half the thyme, half the rosemary, and half the garlic. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Put sausage in a skillet and cover with ½ cup water. Cook over high heat 8-10 minutes, or until the water evaporates. Remove the sausage from the skillet, and add to the soup pot with the onions in it. Brown all lightly – about 4 minutes. Add beans, wine, broth, tomatoes, and a dash of hot pepper sauce. Add remaining thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook an additional 15-20 minutes until the sauce is somewhat thickened.
Serve with a crusty baguette and ENJOY!