Change is in the air. Sure, the days are still warm and even humid, but you can almost smell autumn. It’s time to lament the end of summer and leave the dreamy days of beaches, backyards, and barbecues behind and return to school, work, and… the kitchen.
I don’t know about you, but as much as I adore summer, I love those first cool days when I race to the kitchen, turn on the oven, and begin cooking in ways that will warm us for the cool weather ahead. The house fills with the perfumes of fall cooking, making the world a more delicious place.
These ten simple tips, ideas, and recipes will help you transition smoothly from summer to fall with your health intact.
1) Eat as though the season may never end. As summer wanes, this simple recipe will help you hang on to the last vestiges of the season (tomatoes)while also aiding your body in making the transition to fall (escarole).
The Mother of All Tomato Salads
Makes 4-5 servings
There is nothing fresher, easier or yummier than a tomato salad. If this baby takes you more than three minutes to put together, well, I will be stunned.
2 containers cherry or grape tomatoes, rinsed and dried
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Generous pinch dried oregano
1 small red chili pepper, seeded, finely minced
1 clove fresh garlic, very finely minced
Cracked black pepper
1 small bunch escarole, rinsed well and hand shredded
Place the tomatoes in a mixing bowl. Whisk together oil, vinegar, oregano, chili, and garlic with salt and pepper to taste. Toss dressing with tomatoes to coat. Arrange escarole on a platter and mound tomatoes on top. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
2) The Body Scrub
The end of summer means our golden, sun-kissed glow will fade as fast as we can say “the end of summer,” leaving us with dry skin that is not so well adjusted to the cooler weather. This simple scrub, done daily, will result in moist, supple (albeit paler) skin that will stay nourished right through the cold days to come.
Quarter fold a cotton washcloth (or use a cloth spa glove from the pharmacy). Using hot water, wet the cloth, and begin to scrub your body (without soap), rubbing gently with just the weight of your hand until your skin turns pink all over. Start with your hands, rubbing palm and back side, between your fingers, and work your way up your arms toward your chest. Next, rub your chest and back; women, avoid the breasts and both men and women avoid the genitals, but scrub your groin area. Work your way down your belly, scrub your buttocks, and then work your way down your legs, front and back to your feet, scrubbing the tops of your feet, between your toes, and even the soles of your feet.
At first, you’ll notice that your skin turns a mottled pink. As the body breaks down accumulated, hardened fats, your skin will turn a uniform, rosy pink in minutes. After one month of faithful scrubbing, you’ll notice a new softness to your skin -- and you’ll be addicted. In about two months, you’ll find that you no longer need moisturizer, that you don’t have flaky shins or crusty heels.
For the best results, scrub every day. And then wash your lovely skin with natural, yummy-smelling soaps and you will fall in love with your skin all over again.
3) Clean Your House!
As the weather turns cold and we begin to close the windows to ward off the winter chill, take the time to ensure your home is clean, orderly, and fresh. Remember, it’s about to be closed up tight for months to ward off the cold. Skip the commercial cleaners that leave behind a chemical haze, and clean your home with products that are kind to people and the planet while still cleaning as well as any chemical you can buy.
If you haven’t used it, lose it. Get rid of clutter and avoid accumulation by going through your stuff and weeding out what you do not need or use. Recycle where you can; donate items in good condition to those who might make use of them.
4) Kale Power!
As hearty dark leafy greens come into season, they are at their most tender, sweetly flavored, and oh so yummy. Incorporating them into your daily eating will make you big and strong as they provide us with most of the vitamins, minerals (and fiber) we need to nourish our vitality.
Crunchy Tuscan Kale Salad
Makes 3-4 servings
Seriously, I never thought I could like raw kale, but in this salad, the textures and flavors shine. This is no ordinary salad. The few ingredients come together to make a spectacular side dish in minutes.
1 bunch Tuscan kale, called lacinato (“dino” or “dinosaur” kale), but regular kale will work
1 teaspoon avocado oil
¾ cup coarse bread crumbs
1 clove fresh garlic, mashed
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons avocado oil
Juice from ½ fresh lemon
Rinse the kale leaves and towel dry. Shred the kale leaves, removing the stems if they are thick.
Place a teaspoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the bread crumbs until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
Mix together garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, oil and lemon juice. Adjust seasonings to your taste and mix well.
Toss kale with bread crumbs and dressing to coat. Allow to marinate for about 5 minutes before serving.
5) Go Outside and Play!
It’s not too cold to get out and play in the warm sunshine and cool, crisp air of autumn. Done right, your active life can stay outdoors all year long!
- Layer, Baby! Layer clothing so you are warm -- but not too warm -- and can shed layers as needed to stay comfortable as you bike, hike, run or play sports in the fresh air.
- Stay Hydrated. Even though you may not be sweating like you do in the summer, staying hydrated helps you retain body heat. So drink water as needed… and eat chia to help your body hold on to moisture as you exert effort.
- Cover Your Fingers and Toes. Keeping your extremities warm will help the body retain heat, so wear gloves, warm socks, and shoes to keep your tootsies warm. Also, wear a hat on really chilly days since we lose so much body heat through the top of the head.
- Wear Sunscreen. I know, I know… summer is over, so what’s up with this tip? Even with clouds, overcast days, and less intense rays in general, you still need to protect your skin from damaging rays so you look as vibrant as you feel. Get a natural sunscreen without yucky chemicals that doesn’t clog your pores.
- Eat with the Season. Enjoying foods in season not only ensures the most delicious flavors for your dishes, but also helps your body adjust to the cooler weather as well. Autumn fruits and veggies are heartier with less moisture so you stay warm when it’s cold outside.
With lots of variety to choose from, you are guaranteed a most delicious Fall! And you can get lots of yummy recipes at christinacooks.com to whet your appetite! Fall brings us some wonderful fruits and vegetables. Here are some examples:
Chinese Long Beans
7) Eat Your Greens! You thought I was done with my greens lecture with the kale tip, right? As I always say, you can never eat too many of these nutritional powerhouses. Essential to vascular and heart health, dark leafy greens are also delicious ways to get the calcium we need for strong bones, the chlorophyll we need to produce healthy red blood cells, and other vitamins and minerals essential to creating a strong body. Dark leafy greens are also great for digestion because they are loaded with fiber!
Yes, there’s more to life than kale. Try this recipe, for example.
Makes 3-4 servings
Mixing more bitter-tasting greens with good olive oil and a bit of fruit makes them so yummy your loved ones will never complain about eating their veggies again. And the benefits of the apple cider vinegar for digestion make this dish just perfect.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 ripe, but firm apples, thinly sliced, do not peel
Cracked black pepper
1 bunch dark leafy greens, like collards, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, escarole, etc., rinsed well and cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Place oil, garlic, and apples in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the apples begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté for 1-2 minutes, just until the apples begin to wilt. Stir in the greens, a light seasoning of salt, and cook, stirring just until the greens turn a deep green and wilt, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and gently stir in vinegar. Serve immediately.
8) Make Soup! We eat soup all year round in my house. But as the days cool, it becomes more important than ever. Soup helps us to retain precious body heat in cold weather. But that’s not all. The warm liquid carries the nutrients from the veggies efficiently through the body so you feel vital and energized… and cozy.
Try this easy and delicious recipe to get started.
Red Lentil Soup
Makes 3-4 servings
This protein packed soup is creamy and satisfying and cooks in about 20 minutes. It freezes beautifully, so make a big batch, and freeze it in portioned containers for future use.
2 teaspoons avocado oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced green cabbage
2-3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well
1 bay leaf
grated zest of 1 lemon
5 cups spring or filtered water
thin lemon slices for garnish
Heat oil in a soup pot and sauté onion, with a pinch of salt, until limp and translucent, about 1 minute. Add cabbage, a pinch of salt and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in carrots and celery, a pinch of salt and sauté for 1 minute. Add lentils, bay leaf and lemon zest. Add water and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until lentils are quite soft, about 20-25 minutes. Season lightly with soy sauce and simmer 2-3 minutes more. Serve garnished with lemon slices.
9) Sleep! Bears hibernate all winter long. And while I am not proposing that, I think that sleep is under-rated. As the chaos of life takes over and the glorious fun of the holiday season approaches (sooner than you think), make a commitment to yourself to sleep enough. Proper sleep ensures that we are at our best throughout our days. In these challenging times, no one can afford to be anything less than their best.
Six to eight hours of good sleep, consistently will change the way you move through your days. You will be more alert, have more focus, will manage day to day stress with more grace. You will also have a moist, supple, lustrous complexion.
Don’t snooze and you will lose!
10) Bake Cookies! As the weather cools, we seem to have stronger cravings for baked treats. Commercial and even some natural brands can land heavy on our hips and leave us lethargic and addicted to sugar. Beat them at their own game by baking your own cookies that are both healthy for you and delicious. Make a batch and freeze them in portions so you have them when temptations threaten to derail your commitment to health and wellness.
And can you think of a better way to spend a chilly afternoon?
Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies
1 stick Earth Balance or 8 tablespoons, softened
½ cup brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup creamy or chunky organic peanut butter
1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
Pinch sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 (3.5 oz) bar dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (optional)
½ cup coarsely chopped peanuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350o and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Place Earth Balance, rice syrup, coconut sugar, vanilla and peanut butter in a mixing bowl and whip until creamy. Add flours, salt, cinnamon and baking powder/soda. Mix by hand to create a soft dough. Fold in chocolate and nuts (if using).
With moist hands, roll the dough into 2-inch spheres. Place cookies on baking sheet leaving space between then for spreading. With a fork dipped in flour, make a criss-cross pattern in each cookie, flattening them slightly. You will get about 12 to a tray.
Bake for 13-14 minutes. The cookies should still be soft when they come out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.