Throughout my childhood, our family had a February tradition. During this grey, rainy month, my sisters and I were allowed to stay home from school for one day and do whatever we liked (within reason). This personal holiday was created by my mom, simply because February tends to be such a dreary month.
Mahara Brenna, an outstanding mediator and master rebirther in Vancouver, recently commented to me that, in this geographic region, we would have a tough time making it from November to March without the bright lights and celebrations that occur in December. She admonished, “Think Cozy. We’re meant to dive deep during these dark months. The Spirit totem for the West is the bear. And so too, as West Coasters, we are meant to hibernate. Rest more, slide into comfy evenings of introspection and personal healing work. Light lots of candles, play inspirational music and cultivate the inner light that can seem more luminous in contrast to the darkness outside.”
As winter drags on and spring is not yet emerging, we can also come up with treats for ourselves. One healthy pleasure is to come in from the outdoors on a chilly afternoon to enjoy the scrumptious aroma of potatoes baking in the oven. In fact, with savoury toppings such as the Naam restaurant’s gravy along with some diced red pepper and a side of steamed broccoli, we can build a very pretty meal around the simple baked potato. Another favourite of mine is black bean soup simmering on the stove, with the aroma of onion, oregano and cumin wafting from the pot. Serve this with a sandwich of slices of fresh tomato and avocado, heaped on toasted, whole grain bread.
February’s redeeming feature is, of course, Valentine’s Day, and for many people, along with all the wonderful love, that includes chocolate. The recipe included here appears in both The New Becoming Vegetarian, and in Canada titled Becoming Vegetarian (by Melina and Davis) and The Food Allergy Survival Guide (by Stepaniak and Melina, Healthy Living Publications). As these squares don’t require baking, they can be stirred together by the resident, young assistant chefs at your house. For a gluten-free version, use corn flakes or other gluten-free, flaked cereal.
Chocolate Mint Nut Bars (makes 20 bars)
Love chocolate? Here’s a treat that’s bursting with nutrition. If you use almonds and almond butter, it also provides a source of calcium. For a zinc-rich treat, make it with cashews and cashew butter. For omega-3 fatty acids, try walnuts plus nut butter. For economy, try peanuts and peanut butter. Rice syrup is an excellent choice for this recipe because of its thickness; get it at health food stores. Maple syrup is delicious, although the squares are not so firm at warm temperatures. You may use 2.5 ounces of carob chips instead of the chocolate, and vanilla in place of mint.
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) nut butter
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) syrup: rice, barley, malt or maple
• 71 g (2.5 oz.) unsweetened baking chocolate
• 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) mint extract • 500 ml (2 cups) flaked cereal such as Nature’s Path millet rice cereal
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped, unsalted nuts
• 30 ml (2 tbsp) oat bran or wheat germ
Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and author of nutrition classics; she consults from her home office in Langley. www.nutrispeak.com , tel. 604-882-6782 .