(n.) an attraction to darkness or night; finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness
Ahhhh, autumn is in the air.
And what better way is there to surrender into the transition of the season, than with hours spent in the kitchen meal prepping big batches of delicious stews?
Autumn tends to be the season in which I find myself most excited to spend hearty chunks of time cooking away in the kitchen. Perhaps it’s our ancestral roots as humans – as the air cools down and nights grow longer, we gravitate toward activities that generate heat (sometimes forgetting that once we start moving our body, we are incredibly efficient at generating our own heat from within, and once we get the blood flowing, we find that it really isn’t that cold outside).
While there is a yearning to hibernate as the space between earth and sky compresses with an interruption of clouds that heavily presses down, I still find myself drawn outdoors – to savor the crisp air that brushes against my skin, bringing my senses to life in a way that the warmth of the summer fails to achieve.
Perhaps the pull between hibernation and the outdoors seems contradictory, but I feel the yearning for stillness as an invitation to go inward. After the extroverted hustle and bustle of the fast-paced summer months, autumn is my permission slip to drop into my body, slow down, and tune into my energy.
Autumn is an invitation to sink softly into the rhythm of the season.
The fall months are ripe for mindfulness, and one way to tune into the present is to take moments to activate each and every one of your senses.
If we spend our time in a constant motion of automated busy-ness, it’s easy for us to become numb to sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing – even though, I would argue, feeling deeply into the experience of being human very much depends on a full immersion into each of these senses.
So if you find yourself feeling a little less connected than usual, how can you tap into a wider range of sensation?
Hit pause. Slow down. Breathe deep into your belly.
There is a simple pleasure felt by warm hands held oh so tenderly against rosy cheeks – one of those sweet contrasts of life. Is it just me, or do life’s contrasts feel just a bit sweeter as the temperature drops?
Unfold your ears for a moment, and you will hear birds conducting the symphony to your day as dried leaves crunch beneath your feet.
Taking an expansive breath all the way down through your belly, what scents do you catch floating through the air? Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger – their fragrance seem to hang a few moments longer in the air. Whether the air is thicker, the scents slower to dissolve, or it’s naught more than a figment of the imagination, I don’t know.
So often, we look, but we don’t see.
Instead of shading my eyes from the sun, I tilt my head back to allow the soft rays to drip slowly past my eyelids, like golden eyedrops.
And as the curtain of darkness is pulled earlier with each passing day, I take extra care to soak up the last evening rays of sunshine – a backlight shining through yellow and orange leaves of birch and oak and aspen, setting the forest on fire.
Sometimes food is fuel, and sometimes food is an experience to be enjoyed. How many flavors and textures do you taste against your tongue when you devote your attention to what you’re putting in your mouth?
But anyway, who cares about senses when you’re hungry and looking for a Paleo Chili recipe, right
2 lb / 1 kg ground moose
12 slices bacon
2 sweet potato
2 purple carrot
1 red onion
2 red bell peppers
4 garlic cloves
2 TBSP tomato paste
2 can (400g) pomodorini Italian tomatoes
4 c. chicken broth
2 TBSP cumin
1.5 TBSP raw cacao powder
1 TBSP cayenne pepper
2 c. roasted butternut squash
1 c. full-fat coconut milk
2 TBSP fresh rosemary or fresh herbs of choice
Healthy pinch of salt (varies depending on your broth choice)
For Topping –
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat the oven to 200° C fan (425° F). Bake one sweet potato and the butternut squash in the oven until soft (about 45 minutes). Set aside until cool enough to peel.
Chop the vegetables, remaining sweet potato, tomato paste, and garlic. Fry in a pan until the vegetables are soft (note: the parsnip takes a bit longer to soften. You can chop it into smaller pieces to shorten the time). Pierce with a fork to check the tenderness.
In a separate pan or cast iron skillet, fry the ground beef until browned.
In another skillet, or after frying the ground beef, fry the bacon. Cut it into small pieces before or after cooking – whichever you find easier.
In a large pot, add the sweet potato from the oven with 1-2 cups of broth. Mash or puree the sweet potato until it reaches a creamy consistency. Alternatively, you can blend the sweet potato and broth in a blender to make it smoother.
Add the cooked vegetables, bacon, and ground beef to the large pot. Heat the large pot on medium-high.
Add the spices and tomatoes.
Cook until the flavors have saturated and the beef is fully cooked. If using a crockpot, this takes 4-8 hours. If using the stovetop, this takes 1-2 hours, depending how strong you want the flavors.
In the last hour of cooking, add the butternut squash soup. This makes for a better consistency. You can add more or less, depending how thick you want your chili.
If you live in Stockholm, I hiiiiighly recommend signing up for the Ekolåden vegetable delivery box. Since June, I’ve been receiving the “Swedish Box,” and it’s made a significant impact on the amount of time spent at the grocery store. Plus, each week is a wonderful surprise, encouraging you to eat vegetables you might not normally eat – and of course, being local, sustainable, and seasonal.