A Welcome By Dor
Are blueberries pivotal? It’s been a while since I read Violet’s story. But since Allie selected it for the blog, I re-read “Blueberries that Taste Like Candy” and marveled that another child had had a transformational experience with blueberries.
There seems to be a pattern here:
Child doesn’t like healthy food.
Mother at her wit’s end with child.
Mother and child pitted against each other. Blueberries save the day.
Violet’s Story: Blueberries That Taste Like Candy
It took more than a year to transition.
At my first Suppers meeting, we participated in a workshop that explained how addictive the standard American diet is. In the U.S. we have easy access to affordable, highly processed foods. The facilitator explained how eating processed foods provides a diet high in sugar, salt, and fat, which destabilizes blood sugar and causes cravings for unhealthy foods and excessive weight gain. We also learned that making dietary changes and eating more whole foods will not only improve health, but can also improve how you feel physically and emotionally. My family has many of the problems that Suppers is designed to help. We have problems with alcohol on both sides, depression, anxiety, and struggles with weight. I had no idea that these things are all connected and that the common thread is what we eat.
The facilitator said we might be surprised how taste buds change after a period of time without lots of sugar in our diet.
As curious and as hopeful as I was going into this meeting, I was equally overwhelmed and lost when it was over. We had talked about nutritional harm reduction, which is a conscious and steady effort to slowly reduce and eliminate unhealthy foods. But I shuddered to think about what my kids might do if I tried to take away their favorite snacks. There’d be war on Main Street!
The facilitator said we might be surprised how taste buds change after a period of time without lots of sugar in our diet. A dad in our group told the story of how he had a long illness and had not eaten much for weeks. When he felt better he ate some blueberries. He said they actually tasted like candy! His story gave me hope that if I started taking gentle steps with my children, their taste buds would change incrementally and eventually help them enjoy eating what is good for them.
“These are delishush.”
It took more than a year to transition. My family resisted my efforts: the kids complained, my husband lost his temper, and everyone needled me to bring back the treats. Even though I felt like giving up, I continued to make changes; I threw away a box of cookies, made fruit and raw veggies available for snacking, substituted baked sweet potato “fries” for white potatoes fried in oil, and refused to give in when the kids whined for candy bars in the grocery store. Then one day I handed my son a box of blueberries for his snack and he tossed a big handful in his mouth and said, “These are delishush.” Normally, I would have said, “Don’t talk with your mouth full, please.” Instead I smiled.
When I was frantic about my family’s health, Suppers offered me a different but achievable task. Group support was critical. I also needed to experience that “hatching chick” moment; the moment before which nothing can change and after which nothing can stay the same. That happened for me the day I could imagine blueberries that taste like candy.
Bitter Greens Before Blueberries For Violet’s Kids, By Allie
Before you can understand the blueberry you must first understand the brain and the bud. The tastebud.
There are six tastes, currently. Six flavors. A flavor is not so much how it tastes in this case but a biological reaction to a food. The receptors on our tongue – tastebuds – are responsible for identifying the potential nutrients in a food and telling our brains and other relevant organs what to do in their presence.
SWEET foods contain carbohydrates, or energy, and this is the first flavor the tongue experiences (think breastmilk) and therefore becomes accustomed to – for the obvious reason that there is no life without energy. In a similar sense, digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth and lets the pancreas know that it needs to be ready for Insulin production and distribution.
SALTY foods offer the essential nutrient, Sodium. This nutrient may sound scary because doctors tell you to watch it but that doesn’t mean you don’t need any at all. Sodium regulates and moves water around in the body, addresses blood volume, balances Potassium, and helps with nerve functioning. In modern times, however, sodium is found in nearly every processed food (because salt brings out the natural flavor in foods) and even in over-the-counter medications. Always try to get the purest salts you can find.
SOUR is the bright, acidic flavor found in vinegar, citrus fruit, and tart juices. These foods can zap the tastebuds, sometimes in a shocking way (think babies tasting lemon wedges) and, long ago, could have alerted the tongue to a poisonous food. Since then we have been able to study and differentiate what is a good “shock” and what is a bad “shock” and have found that vinegars, fermented foods, and citrus fruits are some of the most nutrient rich foods on the planet.
UMAMI is the tongue’s detection of protein so it is found in seared meats and foods with depth like mushrooms. Proteins are the building blocks of our muscles, every hormone and enzyme in the body is also a protein, and when we run out of carbohydrates to process, protein is there. Umami is a mild flavor – even at high concentrates – and wasn’t discovered until the early 20th century by a Japanese chemist who noticed that Dashi, a broth, had a little more going on than salty, sour, or sweet.
BITTER is a nuanced flavor as well. Humans have about 30 genes coded just to detect bitter flavors as an evolutionary response to toxins. Omnivores and herbivores have to get really good at telling which plants are poisonous and which are not, so our tongue has evolved to separate and notice bitter flavors the way we notice sour flavors. The more experience the tongue has with bitter flavors the more the tongue can detect other flavors.
FAT is the most recently discovered flavor. It may be difficult to comprehend that fat is a “taste” but know this: the moment the tastebuds detect fat on the tongue, the gallbladder wakes up and starts dealing with bile production and distribution. Fat is also responsible, in a culinary sense, for carrying other tastes over the tongue with its silky richness.
In terms of flavor balancing, Bitter and Sweet balance each other out. So, for example, if you have a kale salad and would like to cut the bitterness slightly, you can make a dressing sweetened with a dash of honey or some orange juice. Flavor balancing is all about the palate – both what flavors compliment each other in an external sense (like Bitter/Sweet) but also how the person’s palate responds to flavor.
Same thing with Sour and Salty flavors. Did you just oversalt that dish? Don’t fret, just add some lemon juice or another acid and tame the salt. If you overdid it on the lemon juice, sprinkle some salt to bring other flavors (besides lemon) forward.
You can retune your OWN palate…
Have you ever heard someone say “Well, your tastebuds change every seven years,” or something like that. They’re not wrong but it’s not a whole picture. In fact, our tastebuds can “change” much faster than that and cell production isn’t part of that – THE ONE WITH THE POWER IS YOU!
Yes, you heard me correctly. You can retune your OWN palate to be more sensitive to the flavors of real foods. The processed food industry has a monopoly on salt/sweet/fat – these flavors are the most basic ones, the most desirable ones, the most biologically recognizable ones. They’re the easy ones.
Bitter, sour, umami – these are more difficult to detect, more covert, more “unpalatable” and that’s what makes them so important. Tongues oversaturated with the monopolized easy flavors need a good cleansing to be able to truly appreciate the difficult flavors.
The best way to appreciate a blueberry is to learn to appreciate greens.
So how do you fix your tired, sad, monopolized tongue? How do you take back control of your tastebuds? Well, it’s pretty straightforward: concentrate on bitter and sour flavors. If Bitter balances Sweet it doesn’t mean the two are at odds with each other – it means the two understand each other. The best way to appreciate a blueberry is to learn to appreciate greens. It’s no wonder blueberries taste like candy after concentrating on the difficult flavors for awhile! It’s both more like the actual blueberry flavor and it’s a sweet relief for your more nuanced tongue too.
We’re going to ease into this process by making a delicious Suppers Friendly Spinach Pie. I went a little nuts in the kitchen yesterday because it was my anniversary and I was trying to make a one-dish-dinner that tasted as delicious as possible.
Spoiler alert, it passed the “Delishush” test with flying colors. Here’s how I did it.
Step One: In a traditional Spanakopita, the greens are cooked first by themselves and then squeezed. I would start there because it takes awhile for them to cool down enough to be able to handle. I used collards from Dor’s garden to compliment my lovely baby spinach and to turn up the bitter note.
Chiffonade the collards by de-stemming them, rolling them up (AGAINST the spine, NOT with the spine – see above) and slicing into 1-inch strips.
Then saute over low heat for 5-7 minutes. Even though they’re collards they do not need the everything cooked out of them.
Once done and cooled, squeeze out all the moisture and set aside.
Step Two: Flavor, flavor, flavor. What’s the foundation of flavor? Say it with me: ONION. Your choice. I did a large sweet Vidalia onion and three garlic scapes.
Hey, do you know what a garlic scape is? They’re in season RIGHT NOW and they’re basically a delicacy – once they’re gone, they’re not back until next year.
Each garlic plant sends out just one scape per season. The scape is the reproductive part of the garlic plant. Farmers snap them off so that the garlic plant will continue to focus on the bulb and will NOT focus on making garlic babies. Reproduction can be very distracting.
They taste like garlic but are a little sweeter. Awesome grilled. Great in pestos.
Step Three: What’s a spinach pie without a crust?! To keep things Suppers Friendly, we are doing a crust which is essentially Dor’s Almond Crackers but we’re adding some eggs to keep everything together.
Does it form a ball? Can it hold its shape? Then you’re good.
First slice the ball in half and then roll out JUST ONE half. Don’t laugh at my rolling pin, my wooden rolling pin is at work and, besides, it’s a good tip.
Press the other half of the dough into the bottom of a greased 9 X 13 glass baking dish.
Step Four: The filling. Saute onions, garlic scapes, add chicken thighs, shiitake mushrooms (I know, this is where I was going nuts) a can of coconut milk, and then stir in cooked and drained greens! Add some salt, the zest and juice of a lemon, a dash of apple cider vinegar, some freshly chopped herbs of your choice, and about a quarter cup of chopped fresh parsley. What’s great about this is you do everything out of the same pan except bake it.
Step Five: Pour filling over 9 X 13 pan with crust pressed into the bottom and even out. Then top with rolled out crust and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until top crust is golden and firmed up!
Suppers Spinach Pie
For the filling:
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1 pound spinach leaves
1 pound collard greens, de-stemmed, chiffonade
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
3 large garlic scapes, minced (or 3 large cloves garlic)
3 pieces chicken thighs, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 can coconut milk, whisked with a fork until incorporated
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
For the crust:
4 cups almond flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 Tablespoon dried herbs
dash ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water (pour in half and keep other half reserved)
1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large cast iron pan over medium heat, add 1 Tablespoon coconut oil and spinach leaves. Cook 5 minutes, just until wilted, and place in a colander. Return pan to heat and add chiffonade collard greens. Cook 5 – 7 minutes, until wilted, and place in colander with spinach. Allow to cool 10 – 15 minutes until cool enough to handle and then squeeze out all moisture.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add all crust ingredients except remaining 1/2 of the water and mix with hands. Be sure to thoroughly mix crust before adding any more water and only add if crust is crumbly and will not form a ball.
3. Divide crust in half and press one half into a greased 9 X 13 glass baking dish. Place the other between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out to very thin with a rolling pin. Place baking dish with crust in it inside the oven and par bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
4. Meanwhile, in cast iron pan, add 1 Tablespoon coconut oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute 3 – 5 minutes. Add minced garlic scapes and cook 1 more minute until very fragrant. Add chicken thighs and pan sear 2 – 3 minutes per side.
5. Remove chicken thighs and chop into large chunks and then return to pan. Add a dash of apple cider vinegar and scrape up any brown goodness on the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in shiitake mushrooms and coconut milk. Lower heat to low and allow to gently cook about 5 minutes.
6. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, fresh herbs, and parsley until everything is well incorporated. Pour over par baked crust and top with rolled out crust. Cut any edges or press down into pan to create a nice pocket and place dish in oven. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the crust on the top is golden and firm. Allow to cook 5 minutes before serving – it will be very hot!
Happy Spinach Pie-ing!!! June is parenting month at The Purple Apron!
If you are a member of the Suppers Moms and Dads Facebook group and want to submit a story of your successes and failures at the dinner table with the kids – send in a story to Dor! We will have future time slots for Parenting stories so share yours today!
As always, head to our website for recipes, tips, stories, meeting schedules, registration for workshops, and more! The Suppers Programs is dedicated to helping YOU make your own personal transition towards a healthier life. Join us and discover your path towards vibrant health, seated next to a caring Suppers member, enjoying a divine meal together!
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