I’ve always followed the food trends—what’s in, what’s out? They can be as trendy and entertaining as fashion. As the new year, new food articles come out, sometimes I laugh and sometimes I grit my teeth. We’re inundated with how to be healthy and hip.
Apparently in 2020:
Eating blue food is in. (Blueberries have always been “in” for me.)
Awareness that how we eat affects global warming is up. (A necessity, not a trend.)
Impossible Burgers lead the food industry parade of new food. Everybody’s excited about a burger made of plants with meat-like qualities. (But—are they really made of plants?)
Here’s the trend I’m seeing: it’s simplifying.
Wouldn’t it be great to take the stress out of going into the kitchen? Make cooking NOT this complicated thing in our lives, especially when there are so many demands on our time?
We’re all being bombarded by a LOT of information, about the planet, the politics, your kids, your dogs… life happens fast, but we have to keep ourselves nourished. We need to find a simple way.
I look back at my first cookbook and think gosh, could I have made this recipe more complicated? With a laundry list of spices, including ⅛ teaspoon of cardamom? Like I couldn’t live without that? I say this as the author of 5 cookbooks and someone who’s helped chefs in restaurant kitchens, home cooks, community cooks… the whole spectrum.
This is my year to crack the code and come up with a formula.
I’m putting it out there, the challenge I’ve set myself that I think will help many of us. What if it could just be simpler?
My hope is that you’ll find serenity in the New Year, the calm within the storm, within yourself.
In this world, we need that calm, centered place!
As I write, I’m looking out at the sky. Moments ago it was pouring down rain. Now there’s a break in the clouds, the light is streaming through, and it’s spectacular!
If we watch and listen, we can find that place again and again.
HEALTH. SERENITY. GRACE.
That’s what I hope you see in the New Year.
It’s that time of year again when we think about how to show our love to family and friends and community, especially those in need. What shall we give? I’ve been thinking that gifts don’t necessarily come wrapped in a little box. Though they certainly can!
The gift of time
Some of the most meaningful gifts are gifts of time, which is ENORMOUSLY valuable.
We can volunteer, helping in any way that calls to us—visiting elder folks, cooking for people with cancer, reading to children, pitching in to clean up a river, serving meals at a soup kitchen. Good for your community, good for the soul.
We can spend time with someone we love. Hang out and play cards, listen to music together, or read aloud to them if they’re not well. Or make a kitchen date! Make 3 pots of soup and split the proceeds. There’s nothing like laughter to season the soup to perfection. Or duck out to a movie together! Excellent for keeping holiday stress levels in check.
We can make something for someone we love. Imagine how much your dear friend would love 2 quarts of soup or a soup assortment! A box of Triple Triple Brittle (see below) all dolled up in a box with ribbon. A certificate for dinner at your house (a favorite of mine in a pinch). Be at my house at_______to be fed! A work of art, a lovingly knit cowl, or a hand-sewn sachet filled with lavender and rose petals fall into this category, too.
And then there are chocolates.
What does “enough” mean to you? In what ways do we press ourselves when we’ve already done enough? When we own enough? When we have (more than) enough to do? When we are already...enough?
The recent publication of Shauna M. Ahern’s extraordinary new memoir, Enough: Notes From a Woman Who Has Finally Found It caused me to take a deep dive into the concept of enough, which can involve quite a lot more than you might imagine!
I read the book on the plane on my way to visit my dear mom on the occasion of her 86th birthday (Happy birthday, Ma!).
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy since I have been following Shauna’s writing from her Gluten-Free Girl days up to the present, in which she has established herself as an original and remarkable essayist. Along the way she had a TIA (transient ischemic attack, a stroke that lasts only a few minutes) and it made her reflect on her life and how she was living it.
Can anyone relate to that? We’ve all had something that has led us to re-evaluate or draw a boundary. We’ve said, something’s got to give. Or maybe we’ve outgrown certain things.
Drawing a boundary can allow us to open up and find something more nourishing.
You know how it is when you’re feeling like crap? It’s your body’s way of saying, look, we need a re-boot! Listen to me and just clear your books. We need a rest! You know it and I know it when that happens. The question is: do we pay attention?
I did when this happened to me recently, and I wanted to tell you how I wrangled self-care while feeling lousy.
It’s that time of year, September/October, when we’re transitioning into fall. We’re going from raw foods and the heat of summer to the precariousness of fall, that changes from warm or hot to rainy and cold in the blink of an eye. We’re a little more vulnerable. This is the perfect time to really pay attention to what your body is asking for, and what it’s rejecting!
A one-woman show of my paintings opened at Commonweal in Bolinas, California (August 14 - October 31, 2019) on a Saturday in mid-August. It’s called Daily Bread, from a quote I’ve always loved of Emerson’s: “The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” As I wrote in the introduction to the show,
“The sky is the daily bread of my imagination—always there, ever-changing, never static, vast, wondrous, soul-nourishing, full of mystery and awe.”
“The sky is a visual way to think about life—and to keep perspective on our own experience. It’s so much greater than the sum of its myriad parts, overarching everything, seductive with the constant movement of the atmosphere, enchanting as it keeps us engaged in the present moment.”
Having my own show, at Commonweal, where I had cooked for the Cancer Help Program 20 years ago, was an astounding experience where, in the healing space of Commonweal, my paintings took on a magical life of their own.
I’d never seen these 13 new paintings together before, much less in the beautiful 1,500 square-foot gallery at Commonweal. I couldn’t truly know how they would look and feel until I hung the show in the gallery the Monday before, and until the people were there to interact with them—people who are really special in my life, along with memories of people who have passed.
Have you ever experienced that rare moment when you’ve been around long enough to see signs of system-wide transformation occur before your very eyes? Dear reader, such has been the case with the role of food and medicine in the span of my professional career, during which I’ve devoted myself and my talents towards this very end—bringing science to the table, and food to the treatment plan.
The moment that filled my heart!
My foundation, Healing Kitchens, works with different hospitals and cancer centers to provide culinary content for their patients. We recently accepted an invitation to pay a call at Stanford Health Care. We’ve done some interesting work at Stanford in the past, including online, live and printed material for neuroendocrine cancer patients and for their survivorship program and website. We had modified my Cancer-Fighting Kitchen approach with specific protocols for neuroendocrine and carcinoid syndrome—two very specialized forms of cancer—and word got out. A colorectal surgeon at Stanford putting together a trial for pre-op prep for her patients suggested we meet and talk about the role food can play in patient preparedness and recovery.
The surgeon and her team were curious: what would happen if we have people shift their eating to an immune-boosting diet full of anti-inflammatory foods and also include exercise? Would it help people recover faster and with less chance of complications?
This was MUSIC to my ears! The notion of helping patients BEFORE they go into surgery with food!!!! We introduced her to my famous healing, nourishing Magic Mineral Broth. Oh my gosh, she said, is this a clear broth? I can give this to all my patients!!! Long story short, we’re working on a package to go into this critical trial.
I’m fresh off the plane from Japan, where in addition to sampling the cuisine (see my field report below) we followed the peak of cherry blossom blooms from place to place by train. Peak bloom is only one week, and which week is not entirely predictable. We hit it! And we were utterly and delightfully besotted. :)
Sunny one day, rainy and cold the next. Peaceful, then wildly windy! Warm, then here comes a snowstorm! Spring is so beguiling… and so fickle!
Let’s not forget, we’re in another transition time. Spring is a little bit of a seesaw. So our immune systems can be tricked! We can get colds or leftover remnants of the flu.
It’s been super rainy here in the Bay Area, in fact, super rainy in many parts of the country. And while you may be yearning for those bright, fresh spring greens it isn’t quite time to jump into a big salad yet. But it is a time when you want to perk up and feel a little brighter.
How do you welcome in the green of spring and still successfully juggle all the vagaries of what’s going on outside?
Soup is the answer!
On a recent Sunday, I was in my pantry trying to find baking powder. If you know me, you know I’m not a baker. Soup, yes! Baked goods, not so much. So I have a little bin at the top of my cupboard where I keep less-used things that I have to get on a step stool to reach. I stretched up, got down my little box, pulled out the baking powder… and noticed the expiration date. Embarrassing!
I started going through everything in my cupboard and putting things on the kitchen table. Oh my gosh! I had forgotten about all this stuff. Here’s what I realized: My cooking patterns have changed.
Maybe kids go off to college… maybe you stop entertaining so much, or you start entertaining a lot more! When I’m recipe developing, I explore a dazzling number of ingredients that I certainly don’t need when I’m not. Things change in our lives and in how we cook. We’re always shifting.
When you think of February, do you picture the color red, matters of the heart and that Hallmark holiday right in the middle of the month? I remember those old-fashioned paper valentines! Sitting at the table, filling them out, and taking them to school, one for every classmate. And the cupcakes parents would bring in, iced with colors not found in nature. And those hard little pastel, heart-shaped candies stamped with messages (BE MINE). As I got older, it was all about, am I going to get a valentine from a CERTAIN PERSON? And then, am I going to have a date?
Fast forward: when I was 44, I met the love of my life. And he wooed me by cooking me dinner on Valentine’s Day!
The irony is, Gregg Kellogg does not cook. He can make toast. He can pick up Thai food. He can go to the market with a very specific list, with pictures. He can make a pumpkin pie, too, but that’s it. He really doesn’t cook.
You may not be surprised to learn that when I’m thinking about food to have on hand for the holidays, I’m thinking soup!
This is the time when you’re entertaining both formally and (more often than not) informally. Your kids are home from college, and their friends drop by. Your favorite Aunt just arrived hungry from Cincinnati. The family is suddenly hungry, and a quick, comforting impromptu meal is in order. Soup!
Even when you’re having neighbors over for a holiday meal, instead of always thinking you’ve got to make a big deal, soup and salad with brownies for dessert can be a friendly, even fabulous menu! If you’re doing a buffet or potluck, blended soups in 5-ounce shot glasses can make a very pretty, tasty and unexpectedly warm treat for your table.
It’s such a busy time of year—who needs to make things more complicated?
Here are some of my easy, pretty star-quality favorites for the holidays, from my popular Clean Soups. Make a big pot, serve warm and freeze some to have on hand for those impromptu gatherings.
What’s the reason to buy a cookbook? For me, it’s either because it’s a good story or because the author has something excellent to teach me. My favorite cookbooks become companions in my kitchen, wise chef/authors I commune with to enhance my kitchen creativity. I love books that share a unique point of view, that tell a compelling story, that are beautifully designed and have gorgeous photography.
Here’s my 2018 list of the best of the best! These would be great gifts... or fit rather nicely on your wish list. :)
If you have been thinking that the new Yotam Ottolenghi might be a great choice, you are SO right. I’ve been cooking out of this one a LOT and loving it. Meals are deliciously simple—made in 30 minutes or less, with 10 or fewer ingredients—and of course with his yummy Middle Eastern style.
This will fit right in with your life! A total winner.
Thanksgiving can be full of joy, gratitude, warmth, friends, family, and of course, good food! But it can also be an emotionally wrought holiday, especially when it comes to food.
Everyone has a favorite dish they look forward to on the table. Remember Campbell’s Classic Green Bean Casserole, created by Dorcas Reilly, Campbell Test Kitchen Manager, in 1955 that went viral in a pre-internet world? Apparently, the distinctive combined flavors of cream of mushroom soup, green beans, soy sauce, and French’s pre-cooked crispy onion rings has proved unforgettable to a multitude of Americans and is still a staple on Thanksgiving tables.
Are you already surrounded by people coming down with sniffles and coughs? I'm reposting one of the most potent food as medicine—and delicious!—cures I know. If you've never really taken this superfood seriously before, do it now! It will do you a world of good.
Have you been trying to ward off colds and flu as the season changes? Watching out for trick or treating vampires? Have I got the fix for you!
From one of my all-time favorite references, Healing Foods: “Native to Central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world... Sanskrit records document the use of garlic remedies approximately 5,000 years ago, while the Chinese have been using it for at least 3,000 years.”
Wow! Am I ever intrigued with a recent article in the New York Times entitled, Why Following Your Passions Is Good for You (and How to Get Started). This features a 2015 study published in The Annals of Behavioral Medicine which found that pursuing your passion both lowers stress and contributes to greater happiness overall. My dears, this is RIGHT up my alley!
In the article, Laura Vanderkam, a productivity expert and author of Off the Clock: Feel less busy while getting more done, advocates finding time for yourself as a means to greater happiness overall. “Life just feels better when you have things in your hours that you want to do,’ Ms. Vanderkam said. ‘There’s moments where time almost has no meaning because we’re so happy about what we’re doing. The more time you can spend in that zone, the better life feels...
Maybe you can carve out a few hours of really fun, cool stuff per week. That will make the other 165 hours that are in a week feel a lot more doable,’ she explained.”
What could be cozier or more welcome than homemade soup? If you've never tried cultivating this admirable culinary skill before, this popular post from the archives will guide you to success! Friends, family, and YOU will be thrilled.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s soup season!
When I get that first whiff, that first little inkling of Fall, I take my big old soup pot out and I start sauteeing onions -- the beginning of broth, the foundation of soups to come, the veritable core of both health and flavor, the indescribable difference. The YUM!
I come by my love of soup making honestly. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the little girl who learned to make soup while sitting atop the kitchen counter, watching in wonder as three generations of women worked their culinary magic over my Ma’s flame-enameled Le Creuset cast iron soup pot.
There was something about soup that enchanted me from the get-go. I think I instinctively knew that soup had the power to heal not only oneself -- I always felt better after having a cup or bowl -- but others as well. At my alma mater, Northwestern University, exhausted classmates would straggle by at all hours looking for a bowl of my Nana’s chicken soup.
Referencing the old saying, Everything old is new again—all of a sudden, cooking at home is trendy! A recent article in Bloomberg Business with data about current eating habits says,
“Home cooking would be making a comeback if it ever really went away. Restaurants are getting dinged by the convenience of Netflix, the advent of pre-made meals, the spread of online grocery delivery, plus crushing student debt and a focus on healthy eating. Eighty-two percent of American meals are prepared at home [emphasis mine]-- more than were cooked 10 years ago, according to researcher NPD Group Inc. The latest peak in restaurant-going was in 2000, when the average American dined out 216 times a year.” Read the full story.
Way back in the day, you just didn’t have a choice! You grew and cooked your food or you starved, with none of the distractions or choices that people have today. Being in the kitchen, cooking and feeding a family was a necessity. Things started shifting after World War II when convenience features and choices like frozen TV dinners manifested. Now we’re eating IN by choice, because it’s more economical and because we’re more concerned about our health and well-being.
In the past decade we’ve placed SO much emphasis on whole foods, clean foods, paleo vs. vegan, gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant... I think we’re there already, don’t you? We know what healthy eating is. ENOUGH ALREADY! I want to move beyond the research, the data, the shoulds, the restrictions (and the ensuing guilt), and plant my flag right here: are you really being nourished by what you eat?
What is nourishment?
I’ll always remember the first retreat I cooked for at the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in Bolinas, California in 2000. With transient taste changes and discomfort resulting from treatment, people with cancer may eat so little they become malnourished. My challenge was to provide appealing, healing, tasty food. (In fact, this became a centerpiece of my culinary work.) It wasn’t just about nutrition; it was about comfort and nourishing these beautiful people on a very deep level. I rose to the occasion, and watching their faces as they took tentative bites and responded with closed eyes and blissful expressions was unforgettable! That’s nourishment. Deep comfort and delight. I’ve been signing my books “nourishing thoughts” ever since.
Do you have annual food rituals that you love? Making tomato sauce when the season's at its peak, freezing ripe blueberries or making stock when soup season begins in fall? The fizz of anticipation, the planning ahead, the sheer contentment when the treasure is stored away for future delight. If you haven't tried it or tried it with a friend yet, do! Working side-by-side with a dear friend in the kitchen is one of the most nourishing experiences in the world. Enjoy!
Every year around the 2nd week of August, Gravenstein apples make their entrance at our farmer’s market in Marin County, California. Gravenstein is an apple cultivar that originated in the 17th century or earlier. The fruit has a superbly tart flavor cherished for cooking, and it has such a short harvest! Blink and you miss it — which makes it all the more precious. My culinary co-conspirator Julie Burford is our spy. When she sees the apples come in, she orders 40 pounds from the farmer. We are preparing to preserve!
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