Hibernation time has arrived, and although we might like to spend the next couple of months conserving energy in a cave, us humans have designed a society that operates through all seasons. Sometimes, while struggling to unearth myself from under my flannel sheets, I curse this fact.
Although it’s funny how, just like wild animals, we humans also tend to eat more, sleep more, and generally retreat as the days become darker and colder.
If you are someone who looks upon winter as a vast, bleak expanse of time that simply must be endured, listen up! The fun doesn’t have to stop when the leaves fall! I have some ideas for how to warm up your winter and brighten up your mood…
Take Some Vitamin D
Part of the reason you may be feeling glum could be a physiological response to a vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, and risk and severity of depression increase as vitamin D levels get lower [Source]. Depressed women felt better when they supplemented with vitamin D to treat their depression [Source]. We get vitamin D from the sun, and my favourite way to keep vitamin D levels optimal is still to sunbathe. But who’s going to expose even an extra forearm to the outdoor elements let alone most of your body at this time of year?! Vitamin D supplementation, for most Canadians (especially those with darker skin), is wise. I recommend at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day for adults, and around 400-1,000 IU for children.
Consume Warming Spices
Comforting sweet spices like ginger and cinnamon, as well as bold, pungent spices like cayenne, garlic, and horseradish not only taste warming and delicious, but they actually have medicinal benefits too. All of these spices actually help to warm the body by increasing circulation (so maybe your feet won’t feel like two frozen clubs next time you go out for a walk). They are also good for the immune system, as they help to fight off pathogens and break up excess mucous. These yummy spices are easy to incorporate into teas and foods every day.
I never dreaded winter when I was a child, because winter brought its own particular charms to look forward to: mounds of snow in which to burrow into and make secret hideaways, and slippery soft surfaces on which to slide down. Adults are more likely to hate winter because they don’t embrace it. Talk to a snowboarder or a skier and they do not have the same dread of winter as someone who doesn’t participate in winter activities. The secret is dressing properly for the weather (and often relinquishing vanity for the sake of enormous boots, puffed outerwear, and bizarre knitted headgear)! Get outside for regular walks, especially during daylight hours, and make a point to have some winter fun on the weekends. You are never too old to go tobogganing, visit a farm and go for a hayride. or build a snow man. Fresh air and sun are essential for our well-being all year round.
Eat Delicious Baked Onion Bhaji…
Obviously the most important tip is saved for last. Onion bhaji is a traditional Indian appetizer often made with chickpea flour. My recipe uses whole chickpeas instead of flour, is baked instead of fried, and incorporates some of those lovely warming winter spices.
Baked Onion Bhaji
5 medium yellow onions, diced
3 Tbsp coconut oil or ghee
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1.5 tsp sea salt
3 cups chickpeas, soaked and cooked (or roughly two 15 oz cans, drained)
2 Tbsp psyllium husks
olive oil for drizzling
-Add onions, oil, and dry spices, and salt to a skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent, or about 10 minutes
-While onions are cooking, add chickpeas to a food processor and process until smoothish (it’s ok if some random chickpeas are left whole). Transfer puree to a large bowl.
-When onions are done, transfer to the large bowl containing the chickpea puree. Add psyllium husks. Mix until all is incorporated.
-On parchment lined baking trays, spoon golf ball-sized amounts onto the parchment. Pat down with spoon if needed. Drizzle with olive oil.
-Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes, then remove trays and gently flip bhajis over. Place back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
-Bhajis should be lightly golden brown at the tops when done. Let cool slightly before removing from baking trays.
1 cup parsley, packed
1/2 cup cilantro, packed
1 green chili, seeds removed
1 tsp ginger, minced
3 small green onions, ends trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
-Throw all ingredients in the blender and puree. Serve with baked onion bhajis.