Be Careful What You Ask For

Dor photo by David Crow

A Welcome By Dor

Of the remaining nuisances I deal with related to mercury poisoning, by far the most troubling is the “brain stuff”. So this January I’ve decided to do the Terry Wahls protocol, which purports to be a highly neuro-protective elimination diet.  If you’ve never heard of Dr. Wahls, she is a medical doctor who was wheelchair-bound with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.
She reversed the diagnosis on food and has returned to vibrant health and athleticism.  
I will be eating lots of colorful vegetables, bone broth, coconut oil, olive oil, and reasonable quantities of organic meats and especially organ meats. No nuts, seeds, greens, legumes nor processed foods of any kind.  I expect that this will be the first of many activities I do in preparation for Suppers meetings devoted to brain health
If you’d like me to include you on the mailing list of people interested in brain health, please email me. I would love to hear what you’re doing to support your nervous system.  Yoga? Meditation? Exercise? Or maybe herbs, vitamins and avoidance of your demon food triggers?  Making sure you get enough sleep and, of course, love in your life.
We’ll do this the way we do everything at Suppers.  We’ll roll up our sleeves, cook delicious food, get our education, share our experiences and write stories!  
Here’s one to get us started, how one member unloaded debilitating fatigue and brain fog…

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Anita’s Story – Be Careful What You Ask For

Be careful what you ask for. I thought I wanted clarity about what was causing my bouts of debilitating fatigue and brain fog. But when I sorted it out, it seemed like the end of the world, as I knew it. My food journal yelled at me in plain English that wheat was keeping me exhausted. I was my own source of data and I’d repeated the experiments many times. After a Suppers meeting, I was usually a little disappointed there hadn’t been bread or dessert, but I never got that plunging fatigue after a meeting. Any morning that I allowed myself a bagel I was yawning by 10a.m., barely able to prop my eyes open. When I went to an Italian restaurant, I could not eat just one piece of bread while waiting for my dinner. The world narrowed, if I tried, and it took incredibly energy and concentration to resist that basket on the table. I could ruin an entire evening out trying to resist 62 cents of flour, salt, and yeast.

I dutifully recorded my reactions, hoping that other explanations would emerge; chronic job stress, exhaustion from dealing with my teenagers, even chocolate would have been better news.

No. It was the wheat. How I feel is data and my body was telling the truth.

Before I tried giving it up, I asked some other members for pointers on nutritional harm reduction and recommendations from friends who had accomplished this feat. I’m including their suggestions in my story; maybe it will make things less daunting for somebody else in my situation.

I’m not saying these tips made it easy. I am saying doing these things made it possible to five up some of my favorite foods, the same foods that gave me a lift followed by debilitating fatigue. I miss my comfort foods less and less as I enjoy my new way of eating more and more. And I certainly don’t miss nodding off in the middle of the morning after bagel brain fog rolls in.

Anita’s Tips on Avoiding Wheat

Be ready with delicious foods and don’t count calories when you first go off wheat. You can think about calories later if you want to. Nuts, seeds, fruits, leftovers all work. Where I used to have a handful of crackers, I now grab a handful of nuts.

Use ground almonds for quiche crusts. Just oil or butter the pie pan and swirl around 1/2 of almond meal so it coats the pan.

There are some wheat-free breads at the whole food store that taste pretty good, especially if you toast them.

The health food store also carries gluten-free flours that work just fine for making gravies and biscuits if you can’t face life without baked goods.

Make pizza on flourless tortillas (but don’t call it pizza if you have kids), also available at health food stores.

Eat more protein and vegetables at the beginning of the day and see if that reduces cravings for baked goods later in the day.


 

Making Clean Soup for a Clear Head, By Allie

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If you can make a pot of coffee, you can make a pot of soup. 

The Suppers Programs

Soup is all about layers. What goes in first, second, third, etc. The layers don’t change fundamentally, they are only altered slightly in terms of specific ingredients.

At the same time, flavor is also about layers. What goes in and when affects the flavor of your dish. Flavor can always be changed slightly in the balancing stage at the end — essentially, unless you burn something we can always fix flavor issues. However in order to achieve a layered dish; one which begins tasting one way and then builds towards other flavors in other areas of your palate (mostly the front and back) you must layer correctly during the cooking process.

So you’re probably like “jeez get to the layers” so here they are:

Layer One: Alliums (onions, scallions, leeks, garlic, etc.)

These vegetables need to cook for the longest amount of time. If you are unable to cook a leek for the proper amount of time alone, or with its family members, its sweetness is difficult to extract, for example.

Saute Alliums with a pinch of sea salt, cook for a few minutes, then add DRIED herbs if you would like to use them. 

Hey, how do you cut an onion? I’m not gonna say there’s a wrong way or a right way but…this is the way I do it and it’s also the way Julia Child did it so…yeah. There’s that.

Layer Two: Other vegetables (carrots, celery, green beans, cooked beans, kale, tomatoes, parsnips, peppers, etc.)

These vegetables only need to saute for a bit in the soup process. What they really like doing is simmering in stock.

Saute five minutes until very fragrant. I often use a lid on this step to speed up cooking time and so when I open the lid and all the steam comes out I can waft the good flavor in my face or my loved ones faces. 

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Layer Three: Stock or Water (from mushroom to beef broth)

If you can’t use stock and you absolutely need to make soup, it is possible to use water — particularly if you are making tomato based soups — with some extra seasonings. My favorite “oh my god I don’t have any stock” seasonings are Bell’s, Savory Spice Blends, Onion powder, and Old Bay.

If you used any other pan for a saute (like meat, for instance) deglaze that pan with 1 cup of stock or water FIRST, then add those goodies to your pot. 

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Layer Four: Starchy Vegetables, Partially Cooked Meats, or Grains (potato, sweet potato, rutabaga, quinoa, millet, bulgur, etc.) Since these ingredients need to cook in liquid, if you want to use them then now is the time.

Layer Five: Balancers and Finishers — Fresh herbs, acids, salts.

These ingredients are there to help you to tune your soup to the right note. Acid balances salt so if you have been heavy handed with the salt shaker, try to add a dash of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to reduce the saltiness. That works both ways so it’s likely you’ll end up going back and forth when you begin down your yellow brick flavor balancing road.

That’s it! Use the layers in place of steps and you will have this delicate, fantastic soup to enjoy.


 

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Anita’s Kale and Bean Soup (Variations by Allie)

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon Italian seasonings

8 cups curly kale, de-stemmed and chopped

2 15oz cans beans, rinsed and drained

2 ½ cups tomato sauce

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 bay leaves

4 cups water, vegetable, or chicken stock

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium high heat. Saute onions and garlic about 2 minutes, stirring often. Stir in sea salt and dried herbs, continue cooking another minute.

Stir in kale and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes until kale is very bright. Add beans, tomato sauce, fresh oregano, pepper, bay leaves, and water or stock. Bring to a simmer and simmer 15 minutes. Balance with sea salt and acid if necessary.

*optional: Anita adds 1 lb spicy Italian sausage or 2 cups chicken breasts, diced, to add protein. I did a vegetarian version of this recipe because of dietary restrictions.

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A Carol Christmas

Dor photo by David Crow

A Welcome By Dor

To our members who celebrate Christmas (and to those who don’t too):

We know our Suppers friends range from those who enter the season with great joy and abandon to those who must take care of yourselves and focus on self care over the holidays.  Every year at this time we share A Carol Christmas, a story of self care.
We look forward to more treats, fewer triggers, and lots of good food and camaraderie in the new year.

Carol’s Story – A Carol Christmas

I do much better things with this holiday than celebrate it. 
At least, after years of making myself miserable at the holidays, I’ve found a way to take care of myself. While my friends engage in what seems to me to be institutionalized abusive eating on a holy day, I choose to eat more simply at Christmas than I do all year.
There’s no clearer, kinder amount than zero when it comes to my holiday trigger foods. 
In Suppers I have learned to distinguish between treats – foods I can have occasionally – and triggers – foods that I can’t touch because they open floodgates. My diet program makes no such distinction. So for years I’d trigger binges at the holidays by tasting old family favorites I thought I could control by counting calories.
My formula for a perfect storm is being with my family combined with a buffet table. I have a history of eating to numb myself. I have a history of needing to numb myself when the family gets together. Confronted not only with Aunt Sally but Aunt Sally’s sweet potatoes with marshmallows, I’m likely to cave in and plough right through to the pies.
I don’t even recognize marshmallows as food the other 364 days! 
Sometimes I don’t feel related to my family. They seem to enjoy these family recipes without beating themselves up. Not me. Fortunately I’ve lost the taste for them as long as I avoid triggering situations. But that’s the key: avoiding triggers. In normal circumstances, even the sweet potatoes would be too sweet for my taste buds now that I’ve retooled my palate for whole food. In the old days I used to eat leftover mincemeat pie
with hard sauce for breakfast!
Triggering was such a problem that for a couple years I had to avoid work­related parties entirely because I couldn’t manage social anxiety without starting a cascade of unhappy eating. Now I go but I arrive late and leave early. What’s the point of staying longer if I’m not eating and drinking myself into a stupor that puts me on the same level with everybody else? And with my family I’m having a Carol Christmas. I’ll prepare my favorite almond muffins ­­ — a treat that isn’t a trigger –­­ to eat before I go so I don’t feel deprived. I’ll even light a candle and think about what this holiday is supposed to be about. Then, with a full belly and a kind heart, I’ll go and give everybody a hug, catch up with Aunt Sally, sing a few songs and head home before things start to deteriorate.
This is the best I can do this year to take care of myself. I don’t want to spend another holiday in isolation, nor do I want to trigger myself into several weeks of eating that require a New Year’s resolution and will power to stop. Maybe another year I’ll have the strength to remain with the revelers and not indulge. Not this year. My palate is smart enough, but my flesh is still weak.
Wednesday Night Suppers Meeting Recommendations for
Holiday Harm Reduction
* Don’t ever go to a party hungry if you know you’ll be among people who use guilt to get you to eat the wrong food.

* There is nothing like planning ahead. I make doubly sure to have delicious food on hand at this time of year. I also plan emotionally in case I meet any saboteurs.

* I have to work at giving myself permission to be my top priority. I keep the focus on my own needs. I take food I know I can eat and enough to share.

*Skip no meals.

* Drink lots of water. It’s good for just about everything.

* Volunteer to bring the guacamole and bring veggies instead of chips.

* Avoid trigger foods 100%. Enjoy an array of treats that aren’t triggers.

* Remember alcohol breaks down all kinds of barriers. It may be harder to resist the canapés with a drink in your hand.

* Seek out the healthier choices like nuts, cut up fruits and veggies and hummus.

* Serve yourself on small plates.

* I stay in my process of self­reflection. I track my progress. There is something about tracking the changes in my taste buds and ideas about quantity that makes me feel stronger.

* Take your conversation away from the buffet table and chat at the other end of the room.

* My family is threatened by my success. They are invested in keeping me the same. I give them the choice of having me come and accepting that I eat differently or not having me there at all.

* I treat Christmas like Lent. If I give up one ingredient like sugar or flour, it’s easy to avoid the foods that get me into the most trouble.

* Take more yoga classes.

* If alcohol is the issue, visit when there’s least likely to be drinking, or maybe host a holiday brunch yourself (without the champagne).

* Guilt trip if you don’t clean your plate? Remember no food is wasted if you compost!

* If necessary, resort to little white lies and get out of Dodge.

Baking and Singing Christmas Carols for Carol, By Allie

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OK so I totally get the holiday malaise. Yesterday was literally the shortest day of the entire year. Sun gives you endorphins and stuff. Sugar addicts — so, like, everybody — beware the whole next two weeks! And Oh. My. God. My FAMILY IS GOING TO BE IN THE ROOM WITH ME!!!

PS, last year one of the grandmothers went particularly crazy. It was insane, this is a hilarious story. She’s a little dementia-y so let’s all remember that this woman is sweeter than a meringue dipped in sugar. Sweeter than a sweet tart. She’s always been that way. So it was surprising when she walked in and my cousin greeted her warmly,

“Hi Grandma!” and she was like,

“Shrimp.” Nicole said,

“What?” (cause that’s what anyone would say). And the retort —

“I want shrimp.” Nicole obliges and puts shrimp on a plate and gives it to her. So she goes,

“What, you’re not gonna put any sauce on it?”

That was just a shadow of the beginning. The elderly women of the O’Brien/Gindraux household sit together at the appetizer table (which we keep relatively under control in terms of not ruining my beautiful dinner that takes weeks to plan) and, depending on the year, bicker about just how terrible we’ve all gotten. I think. That’s what it sounds like at least.

So they’re all sitting there and the woman in question, whose name I shan’t reveal, let’s just call her Sweetness, is having trouble with her hearing aid. The trouble is, she needs a new one. So she can’t hear anything! Imagine the frustration, honestly. But everyone, including Nicole, is talking around them and so at some point Nicole asks her grandmother a question. Sweetness responds,

“Who are you?” Because I guess she can’t see either. Nicole goes,

“It’s me Grandma, Nicole.” Sweetness goes,

“I should have known it was you from how much you’re eating.”

Nicole — “Was that a fat joke, Grandma?” Now at this point, my other little cousin who has…let’s just say she doesn’t have any filters and is young and positioned at the table as well, throws her hands up and starts screaming at the top of her lungs,

“Fat jokes fat jokes fat jokes fat jokes!!!!!”

And then my boyfriend walked in, at that moment, to meet my extended family for the first time. It was special.

So, yeah. Christmas can tear up the emotionally fragile, the strong, the compulsive eaters, and those who are in control of their impulses for the most part. Christmas is bittersweet, a reminder of loss, of love, of warmth, and obviously can be full of coldness, depending on the family or the way the family members are……feeling that day.

But at the same time I’m like, hey. Christmas is alright. In fact, Christmas is the BEST! Santa? He’s my man. I’m 30 years old and Santa is still alive and well in my little heart. Santa represents thoughtfulness, generosity, and magic. For me, Christmas is about laughter, joy, exploration of menus, and being together. For someone who cherishes time with family, Christmas has much to offer.

But I get that some people aren’t cool with it.

So let’s get to the muffins. These muffins are SUPER easy — remember in Carol’s story, for those of us who need to fall back on some protein and satiation before they face their families, here is an easy recipe for preparing before the madness begins. Keep in your pocket for emotional support. Crumbs, scrumbs.

It’s baking. There are a few tips:

Generally, mix your dry ingredients separate from your wet ingredients. Sugar, and all forms of sugar, are considered wet ingredients because they dissolve in water

For gluten free recipes like this one, you are battling for texture. Gluten, a protein, creates long, strong, strands of gumminess that hold air bubbles expertly. So, in order to create a similar texture, you need to focus on leaveners, gums, and starches. (Eggs, tapioca, xantham, guar, etc.)

Don’t overmix things. That crushes air bubbles and renders things flat.

If you are a beginner, follow the recipe the best you can. Also, read the recipe all the way through before you get going. I’ve told my students that oh, probably 1,300 times and they still don’t do it. That’s how they ruined about four batches of apple bread, seven attempts at real mayo, dumpling dough, and countless other things that we still ate. Except the broken mayo. Gross.

Once you become a more confident baker, you can change up the recipe in certain ways. People say baking is unlike cooking because it’s science, which is mostly true. However, if you learn why ingredients react you can apply that knowledge to other similar ingredients. Like eggs for vegans.

One egg equals:

  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 Tablespoon flax in 2-3 Tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon chia soaked in 1 Tablespoon water at least 10 minutes
  • 1/2 medium sweet potato, baked and peeled
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu, blended
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 bananer mashed (yes, bananer, or banana if you wanna be boring)
  • X amount potato or tapioca starch, according to the box

Rotate your pans halfway through the process. Learn the hotspots in your oven and you won’t overbake things. 

There are more tips but those are some basic ones to get you started. Now we should get us started. In the end, you’ll have this fantastic lemon muffin:

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Step One: Mix your wet ingredients separate from your dry ingredients. Also, preheat your oven. That’s super important.

Step Two: This recipe says to use a food processor but MY food processor currently has a crack in it and doesn’t like too much liquid. Plus this looks like it’s going to be a wet recipe. So I used a bowl and I whipped up the eggs, ricotta cheese, and some vanilla before blending it into the dry almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Lemon zest is a dry ingredient. 

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By the way, did you know that cinnamon helps to stabilize blood sugar? It makes the insulin receptors on the outside of the cell more sensitive to insulin. I call it the Marriage Counselor for Insulin and The Cell in my “The Tragic Love Story of Insulin and The Cell”. I just said insulin and the cell a lot of times.

Step Three: Bake it in a greased pan of some kind. I did a cupcake/muffin pan because they’re going to be as cute as they are delicious and I like sharing baked goods. Remember that when you reduce the size of your baked good from a loaf pan to a muffin tin, you’re going to need to modify your baking time quite a bit. Use your eyes. Watch yo stuff.

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When in doubt, use a toothpick. If it comes out clean, you’re good. If it’s bread and it comes out almost clean, you’re good. Bread will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven. 

That’s it! You should know that this recipe is very, very versatile. Use other ingredients — any you like! Use applesauce instead of eggs, add diced apples to seal the deal. Use spices like cinnamon and cardamom. Use shredded carrot and coriander, caraway, or poppyseed. Use lemon and poppyseed. Be creative. This recipe can take it.

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Almond Bread Variations

This recipe contains dairy products but no gluten. The result is a sliceable, toastable loaf, like a heavy pound cake. It can be made sweet or savory.

Ingredients

2 1⁄2 cups almond flour
3 eggs
1⁄4 cup ricotta or dry curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda (scant teaspoon)
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Yields: 7 muffins or 4-6 servings bread

Additional Notes

Variations:

Add a little stevia and some lemon zest or food-grade lemon oil.
Add minced herbs such as rosemary or sage.
Add 1/2 cup chopped dry fruit like raisins or apricots.
Add caraway seeds for a result more like rye bread.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients except the almond flour in the food processor and process until thick and uniform. Add the almond flour and blend well.
  2. Butter and flour (with almond flour) a 4 x 8 loaf pan. Pour the dough in the loaf pan, and bake for about an hour or until it is a little brown on top and a knife inserted comes out clean. The top will crack a little.
  3. Allow to cool thoroughly. You can loosen the sides by moving a knife or spatula along the sides. Remove and finish cooling on a rack. The texture will not be right if you slice it before it is done cooling.

Recipe and MORE, MORE recipes available on The Suppers Programs website HERE!!!!

Love, The New Cook

A Welcome By Dor

Recently, we were visited by a very special group from the Bay Area of California — The Institute for Responsible Nutrition. These folks have knowledge, experience, and followers. At first glance, it would seem they have all of the answers to solving the health crisis. Upon meeting Suppers and being welcomed into kitchens around Princeton, Executive Director, Wolfram Alderson, felt he found the Holy Grail of behavioral change.
“We’re high tech,” he said. “You’re high touch.”
Love must be a part of health. Suppers offers first a place for individuals built on non-judgement. Yes, we cook. Yes, we educate. First, however, we support. We love. If you would like to read the response article by Wolfram on Suppers, visit the IRN website here.
Now, for this week’s words of wisdom.
Anyone who has been in my kitchen on a busy day knows that I bark orders — in the nicest possible way.  Genetically unsuited to following recipes, I usually have a basic idea of what we’ll be cooking two hours before 12 people arrive to make lunch, and a firmer idea an hour later when I see what looks wonderful at the Whole Earth Center. But recipes?  Not so much.
One day, a 62-year old woman with a self-withering image of herself as a cook walked in. I had no idea until she shared her story how a few words can turn a self image around. Meet Luna. A New Cook.

Luna’s Story – A New Cook

Our family story has typically generated sentences like, “Luna can’t cook;” “Luna won’t cook;” “Luna doesn’t cook;” and “Luna’s a lousy cook.” Responsibility for this reputation was as much mine as anyone’s.

It’s no small task making a living – perhaps I should say making ends meet – as an artist. I’m proud of my work. But success in one area of my life is not protective of other areas.

And there came a day when I finally accepted a friend’s invitation to Suppers because I knew how I eat is a problem.
I arrived on a chaotic day in the kitchen, people scurrying around and the facilitator calling out directions to a roomful of women of mixed cooking skills. I made it clear to all who were listening that I don’t cook. I don’t know what reaction I was expecting, but I didn’t get any. The facilitator told me to wash my hands and then sat me down at the counter to shred lettuce when I said I did not know how to operate a lemon reamer. “We’ll do introductions when we start the meal,” she said helpfully. As I shredded I thought to myself, I’m not just scared of the vegetables, I’m scared even of the words “kale” and “arugula”, as if they harbored some dark secret known only to rabid vegetarians. When I was done, somebody wanted me to finely mince the carrots and I blanched because even with my expensive poet’s vocabulary, I didn’t know what “mince” meant. “Luna’s a new cook,” the facilitator called interveningly from the other end of the room.
“New cook. Me?”
It felt like we were starting a new chapter in the story of my life. It was like the mother I never had had arrived wearing a purple apron. Even though writing is my trade, I had not personally experienced a fundamental shift in my identity over a few small words. “I’m Luna, pleased to meet you. I’m a new cook.” I practiced my new lines. How kind. How accepting. How free of the sadness of my mother’s kitchen and the unhappiness of the kitchen of my former marriage. This was completely different from my usual. “New” felt shiny and filled with possibility, as in new shoes for the first day of school.
When I went home, I wrote “Luna is a new cook” on sticky notes and stuck them up all around. In the pages of my journal, on the bathroom mirror, on the door of my refrigerator, everywhere I looked there were 2 x 2 reminders that I am a new cook. Hurray for me!

My son has suffered the worst of my mood swings and what I now know to be food-driven personality changes. As my moods became more normal, he asked if I was on mood stabilizers, meaning a psychotropic prescription medication. “Yes”, I said. “I’m on mood stabilizers, but not from prescriptions.” He wondered what else is there. “Food” I announced. He was incredulous. He was amazed. But he, the quintessential skeptic of anything new agey that his mother embraces, could not deny the changes. So slowly he started to eat more fiber and cut down on sugar and gluten too. His moods also became more stable. It was a slow process, but one day we realized that we were not triggering each other’s outbursts. We were having calmer conversations. He told his father how I used fresh herbs and cooked from scratch. “Now she learns how to cook? I was married to her for 20 years and we ate frozen food from a box.”

At age 62, I, Luna, am a new cook.

Cooking With Love For Luna, By Allie

Big Food has figured out how to use flavor to trick us into feeling giddy, happy, thrilled, ecstatic, and warm. Big Food has figured out how to create the experience of eating like a child, as an adult. It’s somehow acceptable for many to see children eating things like chicken nuggets with a side of animal crackers. Big Food has figured out how to shape food differently so that adults eat like children too. However Big Food has never been able, will never be able to figure out how to create a dish that makes us feel loved. The feeling you get from tasting and enjoying a bowl of your mother’s soup. What it tastes like when you share a meal with your partner. When you cook with girlfriends. Big Food isn’t interested in that drug. But there is no drug more powerful in the world than that of love.
I left New Jersey on the 4th of January and didn’t come home for 9 months. When I left I didn’t know if I would ever come back to stay. So I really wanted to visit a place I loved, called Nomad Pizza. They used to run this pizza special called Tartufo. It’s like….you guys. It’s so good. (They independently realized this fact after a while and put it on their regular menu). The day I tried to visit Nomad it was closed. I cried and cried because I cry a lot anyways and at that point I was crying a lot lot, having mixed feelings about going away. So I left without my Tartufo. For a place with generally yucky pizza but some acceptable pizza.
After our Culinary Showcase event, which was essentially the culmination of the program, I came home for just one week. Duh, of course I went to Nomad! Pleased to see that they had Tartufo that night, I ordered and waited. It arrived, I took a bite and…I cried. It was because that meal was so special, a meal I shared with people that I loved, that I love, in a place I love, near a home I love. They were bittersweet tears but in a way I was feeling as though individual bites of my pizza Tartufo were like little sweet hugs from my past life. It was like being hugged by pizza except if pizza was like someone taller and bigger and cleaner. Like a hug from Santa. And not creepy mall fireman truck Santa. Real Santa.
This week I wanted to share with you a recipe I have made many times — a recipe that, when you taste it, feels like that hug. You might not understand yet but I promise you, if you make this casserole, you will.
Step One: Slice two large sweet potatoes and try to make them the same size. I used my knife but usually I use a mandolin but not everyone has one so I wanted to make this the most like you will. If you do get a mandolin I promise it will be the best 40 bucks you ever spent. (Hint: don’t spend over 50 on a mandolin. The expensive ones are stupid.) Once you’re done, place them in a preheated oven at 350 and bake just a little bit — about 10 minutes! You want to dry them out slightly so that they feel like noodles in your mouth.
Step Two: Saute slice your onion and slice two portobellos. Set the portobellos aside for later. “Saute slice” means cutting the onion along the grain instead of against. Against the grain gives you half moon slices and is great for caramelizing. Saute slicing with the grain allows for the onion to stay together better in a saute.
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 Step Three: Melt a scoop of coconut oil in a stainless steel skillet. Coconut oil is a high heat cooking fat with medium chain fatty acids. I almost understand what that means for your brain but know this: it’s a good, stable oil to use that won’t transform into a trans fat in the cooking process. Plus it tastes, smells, and feels divine. Are your hands feeling dry? Don’t worry monkey. Just use some coconut oil.
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Step Four: Saute onions at least 10 minutes, then throw in mushrooms and place a lid over top. Lower heat and let that moisture come out. Hey did you know mushrooms are more absorbent than HAIR and they’re used to clean up oil spills?!?!?! Mushrooms are CRAZY awesome. The other night I dreamed that I made ravioli with a mushroom scallion filling and instead of tomato sauce it was a butternut sauce. Yes, I dream about cooking. Sometimes I get to taste what I eat but most of the time I wake up when I am finished plating, which is terribly devastating.
Step Five: Add kale to your saute and pop the lid back on. Use your hands as much as possible here — a recipe made with love must be made with hands.
Step Six: Make cashew cream. This is a huge element of the recipe — cashew cream is da bomb. People still say that, I think. The secret to cashew cream is using a ratio of 3:1 ish. Three parts cashews to 1 part liquid. Ish. Add smashed garlic, lemon juice, salt, olive oil, and use veggie or chicken stock for liquid. Add Nutritional Yeast if you want to but it’s not necessary. Blend until silky smooth. My chef professor used to say: it should look like sour cream. I always found that to be helpful.
Step Seven: (optional) Make gluten free breadcrumbs by toasting some gluten free bread plain, ripping it up, throwing it into a food processor with minced fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt. Blend until crumbly.
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Step Eight: Look back and marvel at how many steps this recipe takes. Trust Allie that all of the steps are necessary and all of the steps are steps that you can accomplish, even if you think you can’t cook. You can. It’s in your DNA.
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Step Nine: Put it all together! The layers are: 
Sweet Potato
Cashew Cream
Mushroom Onion Kale Mixture
Cashew Cream
Optional Gluten Free Breadcrumb Topping
Pop that baby in the oven for 25-25 minutes and enjoy. Each bite will feel like a person with the same build and joy as Santa is hugging you.
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 Sweet Potato Casserole

For the noodles:
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch coins
For the filling:
1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, saute sliced
2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 bunch green curly kale, de-stemmed and ripped into large pieces
sea salt
2 Tablespoons fresh herbs, minced (savory, sage, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
For the cashew cream:
4 cups raw, unsalted cashew pieces, soaked at least 3 hours
1 1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
pinch sea salt
1 – 1 1/2 cups stock
2 Tablespoons olive oil
For the breadcrumbs:
6 slices gluten free bread
2 Tablespoons fresh herbs, minced (savory, sage, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
pinch sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350. Place sweet potato pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of sea salt and saute 5-10 minutes or until onions begin to get translucent. Add mushroom slices and place a cover over top. Stir occasionally. Add kale and place a cover over top. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and allow to continue cooking until liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir in herbs. Set aside.
3. Place ingredients for cashew cream in a good blender and blend until smooth. You may need to add more liquid to help blend and more salt or lemon juice to balance flavor. Set aside.
4. Place dry ingredients for breadcrumbs in a food processor and pulse to combine. Turn on and drizzle in wet ingredients until crumbs form. Remove and set aside.
5. Layer casserole in large glass or ceramic dish in the order: sweet potato, 1/2 cashew cream, filling, 1/2 cashew cream, breadcrumbs. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 or until sweet potato pieces are tender. Serve warm.

 

Popcorn

A Welcome by Dor

It is a cruel feature of the natural reality that what drives our pleasure often drives pain too. It happens with love (we know this). It happens with parenting (we know this, too). It happens with food (really?).

Our member Jenny had a problem that was very simple to solve, but she lives in a medical culture that doesn’t wonder about the possible role of food as a driver of pain.

She got a diagnosis and lots of treatments but no relief. Until she was asked the right questions. This week, we focus on one very simple, very straightforward philosophy:
Problems that are caused by food need to be resolved with food.

Jenny’s Story – Popcorn

I am used to our medical system, to getting a diagnosis and then receiving whatever prescription or procedure matches the diagnosis.
I have had mostly good experiences, and my doctors and therapists of various description would generally say that I am compliant. Well, I’m compliant and I do appreciate our medical system, until I reach the point where nothing works. That is the point I reached with Plantar fasciitis as the diagnosis and complications related to it.
All I know is that I was in a lot of pain and nothing was working. As someone who loves to walk and to hike, I knew I had to find a solution; the pain had persisted for almost nine months. During that time, I tried exercises, orthotics and a night-time splint. I tried massage. I tried reflexology. I tried acupuncture. I bought little balls to roll around to soften and stretch the soft tissues in my feet. I bought several pairs of new shoes. Pain killers might have been a possibility, but I didn’t just want to pop pills; mightn’t I do more damage if I couldn’t feel?
One day I asked a therapeutic friend what she would do if she had received this diagnosis. She said simply: “I’d examine my diet. Pretend food is causing the inflammation in your foot, which food do you think would — “POPCORN!” I said, almost immediately.
I recalled the meeting in which we talked about how our inflammatory foods tend to be the ones we adore. I remembered the rationale: it relates mostly to the cascade of endorphins and pleasure chemicals we experience when we eat a food stressor. But of course, it was hard to identify with the concept because, well, it’s just popcorn.
At the time I ate a lot of popcorn. A LOT OF POPCORN. Popcorn had become a universal solution for me. I could even convince myself that it was a healthy option as long as I didn’t add much oil, though, once asked the right question, I could not remain naïve. I had to test popcorn. To my shock and relief, the longstanding foot pain vaporized when I stopped eating all corn products. It took just a few days for the pain to begin to subside, and after about 10 days I was pain free. It’s now nine months later and the pain has not returned.

I don’t want to end this story leaving the impression that popcorn is the villain. I do want to champion experiments and especially the food elimination diets we try out at Suppers to identify the extent to which our favorite foods drive our inflammatory processes individually. Since having my own compelling experience with popcorn, I have engaged in many experiments, including food elimination diets and testing new foods and assessing their potential to energize and satiate me. I have three questions for my readers:

1. Do you experience pain or inflammation anywhere?

2. Is there any food you habitually eat that does more than satisfy normal hunger, like provide comfort, sedate you, or change your mood?

3. Is it worth it to you to eliminate the comfort food for a few weeks to see if it’s really acting more like a pain killer than a food?

Maybe my popcorn is your bell peppers, pizza or ice cream. All I know is that half a dozen interventions that worked for me for other problems couldn’t touch the pain in my feet. The match between my problem and my solution was giving up popcorn.

Snackfoods for Jenny, by Allie

Did you guys know that I went to culinary school in Berkeley, California? Well, I did, I crushed it, then I missed you and no one there got my jokes so I came home. The thing I miss the most about California, besides maybe the views? The grocery stores. I’m telling you, those grocery stores are just bonkers. The bulk sections are bigger than my house and they have ridiculous selections of dried mushrooms, chilies, dates from all over the world, bulk Celtic Sea Salt, like four thousand different dried beans, corn husks, banana leaves, exotic (but not for California) dried fruits, and the list goes on. In fact I feel as though that list was not even that impressive. Imagine a way bigger, way more impressive list. I used to make extraordinarily versatile snack mixes from those bulk sections but for some reason…they never satisfied for long.

Snacking is different for everybody in terms of food selection but the one thing which unites us all is, when we need a snack, WE NEED A SNACK. Like, GET OUT OF MY WAY. I’M HANGRY.

(Hangry = hunger + anger). 

This is probably why snacking is a super personal experience and something we all should experiment with! I have finally found that keeping a small bowl of unpeeled, hard-boiled eggs makes for a great Allie snack. Or a scoop of yogurt with almond butter or even popping some whole Tamari Almonds. I guess I go for the protein because if I go for the carbohydrates, it’s a very slippery, cabinet-slash-fridge-opening-extravaganza-midnight-on-Thanksgiving-style slope. Was that too much? Also my brother runs and he likes to follow up his jaunts with a soft boiled egg, which I tried when he was home last week. It was YUCKY. But I tried it cause, experiments. Plus, Suppers.

(Suppers = experiments + hugs + delicious food)

This week, I tried to find a snack that would be in the same salty flavor profile as popcorn, which was Jenny’s temporary downfall. I also tried to stick to something that can be prepared really quickly and stores fairly well. I chose a very simple preparation of kale chips–so simple it may in fact blow your mind.

Last thing I’ll say is, store-bought kale chips have nothing on kitchen kale chips. Nothing. I’m going to share with you the super speedy, zoomy fast way to prep simple kale chips, though I do want to mention that there are many ways to amp up your kale chip game if you have a food dehydrator.  If you’d like any tips on kale chips or dehydration, please use the comment section to start a discussion on the matter. I’m happy to share more.

Now, let’s do this.

Step One: Let’s talk about the type of kale you want to use. For this recipe you want a leafy, curly, or red russian kale and not the flat dino or lacinato kale. Those are great for kale chips in general but not for this prep.

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Step Two: Strip and Rip. Are you right handed? I don’t know if it matters but I am, so I hold the end of the kale leaf (stem side UP) with my left hand and then use my right thumb and forefinger to rip off the beginning of the leaf sides and then quickly strip the leaf, keeping those fingers close to the stem and holding it steady with my left hand. It sounds more involved than it actually is, seeing as how stripping one kale leaf takes about .75 seconds. Rip the kale into large pieces and throw into a bowl.

Step Three: Dry those babies so the oil and seasonings stick to the leaves. Season your kale chips with olive or melted coconut oil, then use any dried seasonings you want. I generally use salt and pepper but have been known in some circles to use garlic powder, smoked paprika, turmeric, nutritional yeast, and cumin. Not at the same time.

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Step Four: Place on a baking sheet (use parchment paper if you want) and spread out so kale is nice and even. Place in a preheated oven at 350 and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remember to check them halfway through and toss kale chips gently so that they crisp up evenly!

Step Five: Toss into a bowl and enjoy! I dare you to not finish them in one sitting and at the end, you’ll have eaten a bunch of kale, not a bag of chips.


 

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Kale Chips

1 bunch green curly kale or Red Russian Kale, de-stemmed and ripped into large pieces

1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted, or olive oil

sea salt, pepper, and any other seasonings

1`.  Preheat oven to 350. Pat prepared kale leaves dry or almost dry and toss in oil. Sprinkle seasonings over leaves and toss gently with tongs — do NOT massage kale leaves! That will just make them take longer to cook.

2.  Place kale leaves on a prepared baking sheet and spread out as evenly as possible.  Bake 10-12 minutes, stopping to toss kale chips halfway through to ensure an even bake and perfect crispyness.

For more Suppers recipes, remember to check out the recipe index on our website here. We have over 500 recipes for you to begin to create your own experiments!

No Room For Fruit

A Welcome By Dor

Allow me to introduce you to Susan, one of the original Suppers, and one of the most ornery, resistant, difficult and delightful success stories I’ve ever met.  Susan has grappled with so much pathology around food that we have shared several of her stories over the years, as small insights inched her closer and closer to normal weight and the release from compulsions around food.
Susan’s story drives home Suppers absolute, non-negotiable dedication to honoring biological individuality above all else.
It was 59 years of dieting, binges, anxiety and therapy before she came to understand that it was food that was driving her compulsive eating.
She lived to eat her trigger foods and was indifferent to the rest.  Hers was a journey into understanding her individual biological needs.
When you read this week’s post, remember that Susan is a gifted psychotherapist. She has helped hundreds of people.  But it took decades of feeling fat, eating compulsively, dieting brutally and finally doing the right experiment to be released from her food prison.

Susan’s Story – No Room For Fruit

I was so resistant to changing the way I eat that the best I could do was add one piece of fruit a week to my diet, and I only did that to make Dor happy.

The mind of a woman with disordered eating has its own special way of calculating food value, and I can tell you, it’s not pretty. My eating pattern was to starve on the days I was being “good” and binge on the days I felt out of control. In spite of having an advanced degree in social work and decades of experience as a talk therapist, I didn’t have the presence or logic to call myself on my even more disordered thinking. In my mind, eating a piece of fruit on a day I was being “good”seemed like too many calories.  How dare Dor suggest I eat one piece of fruit per week! That was 60 calories I had other plans for. I did the right thing for the wrong reason – if you can call social pressure a wrong reason – and submitted to eating a weekly piece of fruit.

My second step was more productive.  I used to get very angry and food driven after work,wanting to kill anything or anyone who got between me and my after-work food. Dor actually put lentils in my refrigerator and told me to eat two tablespoons at 4 p.m., a prophylactic dose.   I did, and it changed my life.  The lentils stabilized my blood sugar so that my after-work mood was smoother and less driven.

The lentils convinced me that eating differently could have an impact on my eating drives, and over the following years I became increasingly more able to eat foods that stabilized my urges and my weight, but it still took effort and I still experienced compulsive eating.

The biggest change occurred less than a year ago.  My husband had joined a one-month paleo cleanse hosted by Jess, a Suppers facilitator, to see if it would help with the arthritis in his hands.  Bolstered by the group support he found at  Suppers, he was successful in conforming to the new way of eating.

He effortlessly lost seven pounds and got rid of the pain in his hands.  

Being a compulsive eater, I was most impressed with his weight loss.   On a day I was feeling particularly fat, I decided to try a month of a modified Paleo diet. It was a stunning success for me. After a lifetime of being convinced that I couldn’t feel satisfied without a starch, I gave up all grains for a month. In a short time, I felt free of binges and cravings. To my astonishment, I lost 10 pounds without effort in nine months, my binge eating vanished, my cravings greatly reduced, and I actually learned to love my diet, which is rich with vegetables, protein and delicious healthy fats.

I had searched for 59 years for a way to treat my compulsive eating, having been set on the path at age 12 when the family doctor and my mother started me on Dexedrine and thyroid meds. In all those years I had never entertained the possibility that it was food itself that drove my compulsions. I can’t be the only woman whose disordered eating was launched by her adults.

By profession I am a psychotherapist. I have spent many years in individual and group therapy trying to understand the psychodynamic reasons for my overeating.

For a long time I have had a good understanding of the emotional and psychological stories that I believed caused my compulsiveness, but still I struggled with my food and weight demons. Now I am free.

In my case, I was surrounded for years by Suppers messages that in my mind applied to other people but not to me, all the while hearing about other people’s successes while standing up for my God-given need to eat starch. But I did absorb the message that some people have life-changing experiences after making simple changes in how they eat. I hope my story will function as a nick in the armor of people’s stories, if they defend a way of eating that’s actually keeping them fat or sick.It leaves me with this question.

Are our stories really as important as we think in contributing to our disordered eating? Is it possible that it is primarily or even totally the food we eat? The only way I know to find out is to make experiments. If I hadn’t, I would still be eating one piece of fruit a week.


Searing Steak For Susan, by Allie

So one time I was at this party in Princeton and I had JUST come from waitressing so it was pretty late and pretty much everyone had left except a girlfriend of mine and this guy she was hanging out with, who turned out to be her brother. I was weary, not as feisty as I am normally, and in favor of having a calm, non-challenging conversation with her and her brother. Eventually we got around to what we do for work (as young people who have just met tend to talk about early on in conversation) and I was like, “oh, I’m a chef” and went on to discuss my very first cooking job, which was on Long Beach Island at an adorable vegan deli called Living on the Veg. So THIS guy (her brother) is like,

“Oh, so then, do you know how to cook meat?” And I’m like,

“Yeah. I can cook anything. I’m trained as a chef.” So he’s like,

“Well I bet I can cook a steak better than you.” And I’m like,

“Do you? Cause you should know that that’s not the case.” (Banter).

We set a date for the challenge, there were non-partisan judges invited to sit at the panel, worksheets printed for them to fill out, rules written, and steaks cooked. And guess who won? It was me, I won. Ned, my opponent, would, has, and will continue to say that I won “on a technicality,” and I would answer that I did win on a technicality–because my score was TECHnically higher than his. We’ve been dating for almost two years now.

Here’s some tips for cooking steak and broccoli, which are two of the easiest things that you can cook in the shortest amount of time, ever.

Step One: Salt and pepper your steak. You can be generous. This is also the time to add any other dried seasonings you desire.

IMG_1836 I just did salt and pepper. I’m a simple girl.
Step Two: Heat up a stainless steel skillet and sear your steak to desired doneness using the handy chart below.
IMG_1842 Adding some fat to your pan would help make this particular steak look more appetizing.
To sear a steak on a pan, always cook one minute extra on the first side, then flip and finish other side. 
Doneness     Time for 3/4 Thick             Time for 1-inch Thick
Rare                2 minutes / 1 minute        3 minutes / 2 minutes
Med Rare      3 minutes / 2 minutes      4 minutes / 3 minutes
Medium        4 minutes / 3 minutes      5 minutes / 4 minutes
Med Well      5 minutes / 4 minutes      6 minutes / 5 minutes
Stop, you’re overcooking that beautiful steak, I won’t tell you anymore!
Step Three: REST YOUR MEAT!!! What you have just done is rearrange a bunch of proteins inside of the meat by placing it over a very hot surface. While those proteins were being rearranged they were SQUEEZED free of all their tender, delicious juices. Now the meat needs to be able to be like “Phew! That was crazy!” and for those fibers to soak back up all those juices so that your steak can be full of flavor and moisture.
Rest meat at least 5 minutes and no more than 10.
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Step Four: While that’s happening, fill a pan with a steamer basket with water and bring to a boil. Prep yo broccoli using a pair of kitchen scissors.
Step Five: Steam that broccoli, man. Hey, did you know that Alfred Broccoli (producer of James Bond movies) and his family acquired their family wealth by INVENTING BROCCOLI?!?!?!?! Broccoli is a cross between cauliflower and broccoli rabe (cause Italy) and we can thank Al and his family for figuring that out. Also for the James Bond movies.
 Just till it’s green and mostly fork tender.
Step Five: Plate, season, photograph, eat!
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Simple Seared Steak and Steamed Broccoli

Ingredients

1 6 oz. sirloin or strip steak, salted and peppered

1 head broccoli, florets removed.

Procedure

  1.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat for a couple of minutes before adding steak to sear. For a nice brown color, add some coconut oil to pan. Place steak on pan and sear to desired doneness using the handy dandy chart above.
  2. Set a pan with a steamer basket over high heat and bring to a boil. Place prepared broccoli in and cover. Steam 5-8 minutes or until broccoli is very bright green and mostly fork tender.
  3. Season broccoli with salt if desired and slice steak once 5-minute rest time is through. Serve warm.