Just as Punxatawney Phil predicts an early spring we're finally getting a winter here in the PNW. I’ve been waiting for it.. Last year it snowed during the third week of February, so I knew that despite our very mild winter we weren’t’ out of the clear. And here we sit, days after Phil’s prediction, in ten inches of snow and more expected later this week and next. Don't get me wrong. I love it. It's peaceful and it makes everything look beautiful but it also comes with its challenges like frozen barn water, difficulty getting to the store (we live two miles up a hill) and a grumpy husband who hates snow.
Snow aside, the winter months can be a struggle here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s grey and It can sometimes rain a lot, though it’s not as much as people think, but the hardest thing about our winters are the short days when it gets dark at 4:30 and you’re ready for bed at 6. If you’re like me, you are ready to shut it down when the lights go down.
Winter also means its time to get sick but contrary to popular belief this time of year doesn’t have to be cold and flu season. While there is science that indicates that the actual cold and flu viruses can last longer in colder temperatures, it’s really our gut health that dictates our susceptibility to illness. Yup, you heard it right. Gut health. Why? Because approximately 80% of your immune system lies in your digestive tract. It’s the first defense against what we consume and often the first to suffer if we don’t nourish our bodies.
We get sick this time of the year for many reasons. In November/December we have extra stress despite the loveliness of the holiday season, we spend less time outdoors and more time indoors in close proximity to other people, we typically get less exercise, eat more refined sugary foods and less fresh vegetables.
Last year between Thanksgiving and the end of February I was knocked-on-my-butt -sick four different times. I was under a mountain of stress; My mom had passed away in the middle of November and I was beside myself with grief while having to go through the motions of the stuff that you have to do after people die. It sucked. I had trouble eating without distractions and I couldn’t sleep. My gut was in knots and all I craved was bread and rice, not my usual fare.
As it turns out, stress does all of those things to the body and more. It releases glucose (blood sugar) from your cells in turn creating cravings for carbohydrates. Stress literally perforates the protective lining of your gut. The ripple effect gets worse. Your immune system suffers and so do many other systems in your body because the adrenal system, which manages the body’s stress, takes priority when nutrients are being doled out so everyone (your organs and whatnot) are left depleted.
This year I’m happy to report that I have not been sick once. In fact, I do believe that last year in February was the last time I got my ass kicked from a virus. I’ve worked hard to get and keep my gut healthy (where ~80% of the immune system resides) with a nutrient dense diet and supplements when I need them. I am sleeping well, moving my body, getting outside as much as I can (despite this working from home thing, which I love by the way) and meditating when I remember.
So, to celebrate the calmness and beauty of our currently snowy winter, Phil’s prediction of an early spring, and my almost one-year anniversary of being super sick, I give you a rutabaga recipe. Yes, you heard me right. Rutabaga.
I know that no one has ever said, “I’m really craving rutabaga right now”. It’s usually an afterthought vegetable, a filler. But earlier this week I came across this article which piqued my interest AND it just happened to be that the Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Cooperative has rutabaga in their CSA box this week. Pure coincidink. My favorite line from this article: “I feel compelled by a stubborn sense of underdog solidarity to give a home to the less-loved, less-cool vegetables. “ I like the underdog too.
Interestingly enough, rutabagas have tons of nutrients that support gut health and immune health. They are high in fiber, vitamin C and zinc, and high in tons of minerals like calcium, potassium and iron. They are good carriers for flavor with a texture that holds up which is why this recipe works so well. If you are a fan of the veggie noodle this may soon become your favorite and leave you with the unheard of rutabaga cravings.
Rutabaga “Pasta” in Garlic Cream Sauce
Your size of “noodle” will be dependent on your slicing/peeling apparatus and the size of your rutabaga. I used a Kuhn Rikon peeler which works great but you could also use a mandolin set to a pasta thin setting.
1 medium rutabaga
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chicken bone broth
¼ cup heavy cream
2 cups baby kale, chard or some other yummy green, chopped
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup grated parmesan
1. Peel rutabaga into thin strips. Set aside.
2. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a simmer for blanching.
3. Melt butter with oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
4. Add chicken stock to skillet and reduce by half.
5. Add heavy cream and reduce until sauce is thickened.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Add greens and toss until wilted. Remove from heat.
8. Place rutabaga into the simmering water and blanch for two minutes. Drain and toss into cream sauce.
9. Toss in parmesan.
10. Serve and enjoy!