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.”
When I was a young girl, I remember my mother writing a shopping list each week before we went to the market. In hindsight I realize now that she didn't just pull the ingredients randomly out of thin air; she wrote down what she needed based on her meal plan Meal planning feels passe in today's fast-paced world of eating out and taking in prepared meals. 95% of my clients do not have a meal planning practice. When they come to me they are frustrated with the weekly cooking and lost about what to eat. Of all my culinary nutrition tips, tricks and tools, meal planning is the #1 tool I use to help clients succeed in the kitchen and in achieving their health goals. Research has even shown that those who cook their own meals, as opposed to eating out, are happier*.
WHAT IS MEAL PLANNING?
Meal planning is a way to organize the week's meals so that the shopping, prepping, and cooking are less stressful and more manageable. It involves a menu of what to cook, recipes (if necessary), shopping list, and some people write down how to divide up the cooking over the week so that it is not overwhelming. Like any habitual practice, one needs a plan to accomplish the task at hand. Without a meal plan it is easy to waste food, run to the store more often than necessary, derail from a nourishing diet, and forgo cooking altogether. A little time planning each week can solve these problems.
Do you feel like you’re butting your head up against a wall and no matter how much you try, nothing seems to come together? This is what happens when you’re out of the flow.
Do you feel at other times as though your life is miraculously unfolding in ways that far surpass your wildest dreams? This is what happens when you’re in the flow.
Like a pendulum swinging to and fro, I’ve experienced both extremes. I’ve noticed this especially on my birthday.
My 36th birthday was a disaster. I’d had my heart broken by a man who I thought had potential to be “the one.” And no amount of birthday cheer could pull me out of the dark hole I’d fallen into. My mom tried absolutely everything to cheer me up, but it was for naught. As a result of my spiraling depression, there was no flow to the day. My mom had organized a day of pampering, but somehow nothing turned out as planned. We went to Sephora to have our makeup done, but the woman was out with the flu. As we were walking down the street, my shoe broke. Things that should have been simple appeared as massive hurdles.
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.
This blog is the first of a three-part series on meal planning. For anyone looking to create more organization and improved quality of their weekly meals, it's important to have a solid place to start from. Have a colorful plant-based list of foods that all of the meals each week will be based around. The list below will give you enough color, variety, and flexibility to choose from seasonally. These staple ingredients are part of a Mediterranean diet, the most well researched diet, showing benefits for many of the chronic diseases the Western world faces today, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and mental illness. Keep reading to see examples of how to apply the science into a weekly meal plan.
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!
Come and get 'em! The last of this seasons heirloom tomatoes, in the full array of glowing oranges, reds, and golds. But—what to do with them? If you haven't yet tried slow-roasting tomatoes, you MUST! This caramelizes and intensifies the flavor. Be prepared to have your socks knocked off. :)
On my countertop right now I have a collection of tomatoes. It looks like they’re having babies! We’re at the pinnacle of tomato season, when they’re the juiciest, the most flavorful, the most irresistible. I can’t THINK of anything I don’t want to incorporate them into!
Besides slicing the most perfect tomato, drizzling on a little olive oil, sprinkling on some sea salt and just eating it, my other favorite thing to do with tomatoes is to roast them. When you roast tomatoes, they give up their amazing sugars and become so sweet! I’m very fond of roasting the yellow heirlooms, which are lower in acid, meaning they’re sweeter and easier to digest. I peel the bubbly skin right off and throw them into the blender with a handful of basil. People say, “Are you kidding me? That’s ALL you did?” It’s like drinking summer. Or add roasted tomatoes to any soup to turn it into something special. It’s like magic!
Do you ever turn your life into an “if-then statement?” If I have this, then I can do that. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work that way. What if you can’t make the “if” part of the statement true? The second thing can’t follow, and instead you sit around waiting. Sometimes it’s worth just jumping ahead to the “then” part.
Alternatively, do you ever put off doing things because you don’t want to do them alone? A number of years ago, for instance, I wanted to go apple picking but thought that it would be more fun to do with someone else. When I couldn’t find a friend to join me, I decided to go by myself, leaping over the “if” and going right to the “then.” I took my dog, Molly, and found an organic U-Pick apple farm nearby.
Summer heat getting to you just a little bit? Have I got the coolest, most refreshing ideas for you! Soundtrack included.? An excellent solution from the archives. Enjoy!
My friends, cucumbers have changed! When I was growing up, cucumbers were fat and stubby with waxy skins and big, blah seeds. They were relegated to three uses: a garnish on the plate, sliced in a salad, or finely sliced in little tea sandwiches with butter on white bread. Honestly not a major player, nothing spectacular. The texture was unexciting, the seeds were annoying, the skin was bitter. Meh.
Oh, there was one other cucumber use! Me and my friends all put them on our eyes :) We had sleepover dates, in which we would rummage through our mother’s beauty supplies, slather our faces with face masks and put cucumber slices over our eyelids to get rid of puffy eyes. (Really? Did we really need to worry about puffy eyes?) We listened to Seals and Crofts “Summer Breeze,” face masks hardening on our faces like cement. Straight out of a Patty Duke Show.
This morning I spent an hour on the phone with Verizon Wireless to undo an erroneous charge.
Although this was not how I planned to start my day, it helped me realize something about manifestation. As I dialed Verizon, I asked myself, “What do I want?” Once my intention was clear, I was able to pursue it with determination. Yet, I wasn’t attached to the outcome, which kept me calm and focused. I wanted my account credited, but I knew I’d be okay if it didn’t happen. After talking to four different people, however, I eventually got it.
Whatever your dreams—a refund on your cellular data plan or something much bigger—set your intention, release attachment to the outcome, and feel it with all your might. My mom calls this “acting as if.” Act as if your future is already a reality and believe it or not, once you truly feel your dreams, they do indeed come true.
Cherry, beefsteak, sungold, green zebra. Who doesn't like a ripe, juicy tomato in the peak of summer? They seem to pop out all at once in our gardens, CSA baskets, and markets, which is why we eagerly wait all summer for them to appear. There are so many varieties to choose from, each with a distinct taste, scent, and texture. Even the health benefits vary from one variety to another: smaller cherry tomatoes contain higher levels of beta-carotene than the larger beefsteak and field tomatoes.
Across the board, tomatoes are a nutritional powerhouse. The vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids (a type of phytonutrients) can help protect against cancer, maintain healthy skin, maintain blood pressure, and lower blood glucose in diabetics. Let's dive in a little deeper about some of the health supportive effects of tomatoes.
Did you know that fresh herbs and spices don’t JUST 10x flavor (as if that weren’t enough), but that they have magical healing powers, too? Many contain compounds capable of modifying gene expression to potentially keep cancer and other diseases at bay, plus providing immune support, controlling inflammation, and warding off bacteria and viruses—i.e., they have superpowers! So we’re not talking just enhancing taste, but improving wellness and possibly increasing longevity when you reach for that spice jar or throw some chopped herbs in whatever you’ve got cooking.
I’m delighted to share one of my favorite posts from the archives on this topic. If you haven’t seen it before, take a few moments to absorb this truly remarkable knowledge developed over the past decade of nutrition research. Plus get 2 superb recipes, including one of my most popular potato recipes ever. Serious yum!
Often the effort we put into something has a direct correlation with our satisfaction. If you are a picky eater or if you have children who won’t touch a vegetable with a ten-foot pole, grow a vegetable garden. It sounds like a crazy idea, but you may discover a latent penchant for kale, tomatoes, or zucchini as a result of the love and time that you put into your little patch of earth. There is power in growing your own food, be it a small pot of mint on your kitchen counter or an acre of vegetables. I’m constantly in awe of nature’s majesty when I see what one tiny seed can become.
What other things in your life might you perceive differently if you spent time tending to them and nurturing them?
Have you experienced hangry? I recently got called on it. I had worked myself into a snit in conversation with my friend when she turned to me and said, “When’s the last time you ate?” I looked at her wide-eyed, and thought, Oh my God! When was the last time?
I work really hard and forget to eat. I lose track of time and my blood sugar runs a little low. At that point, I’m slipping into fight or flight and my mood is taking a dramatic dip. Have you thought through how deeply hangry can affect your productivity, your behavior, your relationships—and why?
An article in the Washington Post this month entitled “If you’ve ever been hangry, this is what your body may be telling you” got me thinking about the whys of hangry, and how much it makes perfect sense! All your neurotransmitters are cycling through your enteric nervous system. If you’re not feeding and nourishing your brain, your mood’s gonna dip! Things that would never irritate you normally are suddenly the most monumental issues in the world. I get possessed! Who is that person? Angry, irritable, upset-out-of-nowhere and often doesn’t even realize it!
As soon as I feed myself, usually a good combination of fat, protein and carbs (enter the nut or seed), I go from possessed… back to my normal self. That little goblin goes away. Is it literally that simple? Yes.
Do you ever feel jealous of posts on Facebook about summer adventures? When you’re working long hours or stuck at home with a summer cold, even little things like a photo of a homemade smoothie or a mention of a walk with a dog can elicit envy. Do you want to experience the carefree feeling of the summer of your youth, to swing for hours under a grand, old oak tree, dig your toes into the sand at the beach, and wipe the sweat from your brow as you slice, dice, pickle, and preserve the bounty of a summer harvest?
One summer a few years ago when I was down with the flu and had to succumb to a bowlful of cough drops and endless hours of Netflix, I looked out the window and heard the kids next door running through the sprinkler and smelled another neighbor’s charcoal grill. I longed to join them.
Don't you get to the point on hot summer evenings when all you want to eat are fresh, crispy salads? Here's a deliciously special post from the archives with the salads of your dreams—and a fun video showing you chef's secrets for how to properly dress a salad. I'm telling you, this is a game changer!
Let’s talk salads.
I started making salads for my father when I was 7 years old. He was in the salad dressing business, and he liked his salads a particular way -- big, crunchy, crispy salads, full of vegetables, draped in dressing. Chopping up salad for him was a HUGE deal. I, Rebecca, was making salad for the Salad King!
Fast forward. When I studied cooking in Italy, I had to revamp my knowledge of salads and learn the refined art of dressing an elegantly simple salad -- lightly dressed and full of tender greens such as arugula, radicchio, and mache, varieties I wasn’t exposed to in the states. By European standards, my father’s salads were uber chunky, and way overdressed!
How do you go about dressing the perfect salad?
It’s really very, very simple.
First of all, your greens have to be dry and crisp. I like to spin them in a salad spinner then put them in a flour sack towel to pick up any moisture clinging to them. So you’re starting with the right texture, with the leaves ready to absorb the dressing and receive just a gentle coating. In contrast, if the greens are soggy the salad dressing will roll right off, down to the bottom of the bowl. This step is numero uno! Very important.
My dears, we are approaching picnic season! Including the grandaddy of picnics, 4th of July. I've got you covered with potluck etiquette, recipes and strategies to help make hosting or participating a delicious—and delightful—success!
It’s that time of year! We’re invited to block parties, 4th of July fests, family reunions, picnics, and potlucks of all shapes and sizes. This is when we’re supposed to show up with the PERFECT dish that everyone loves, something that won’t wilt in the heat, will go with whatever everyone else brings (or at least out shine all those other dishes).
Here’s my favorite potluck story ever.
When I moved in with my husband on his street in San Rafael, California, no one in the neighborhood knew about me yet. I was working really hard doing heavy-duty cancer retreat cooking at Commonweal at the time, and, well, I was like the shoemaker with holes in her shoes! The summer party invitation arrived, asking us to bring something for the grill, and something for the cooler. I thought, corn! I bought a whole blue bag full from our farmer’s market. Gregg brought a bottle of wine and some fish for the grill. We walked a few doors down to the Burford’s home, and on the counter were ALL these gorgeous dishes, the most AMAZING spread. Frittatas, tarts, grain salads, gorgeous vegetables. It was like, oh my God! I did not get the memo. I’m a trained chef, I had just come out with my first cookbook and I’m walking in with a bag of corn. Granted, it was shucked! And it wasn’t a bad thing to bring, actually. But ouch! Not the ideal first impression. I could have brought a million more sophisticated things!
Upcoming Online Events
Join Soulspring for conscious insights...
...on all things life, wellness, love, transformation and spirituality...
PLUS! Get your FREE Guide: 12 Mindfulness Practices to a Peaceful Mind