Winter Blizzard Chili for Everyone

There is really nothing better in a crazy winter storm than a bowl of phenomenal chili. I concocted this version based on a venison recipe by Hank Shaw. If you are not a vegetarian, his version is really scrumptious and I think you might like it. I mean, it has slab bacon in it so there’s that. But for me a truly lovely thing about a bowl of chili is sitting around with a ton of friends and digging in. Because I know so many vegetarians, vegans and gluten free eaters, I like to make big batches of things that everyone can partake in. This spicy treat does the trick. And you know what Hank offered in his that sold me?

It’s the coffee.

(A rich decaf works just as well as full tilt if your crowd is caffeine free as well) The rich and earthy taste of this chili grounds the heat of the peppers and it’s just a damn joy. This recipe has some time notes so read it through first before attempting.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1c kidney beans, soaked overnight
1c cannellini beans, soaked overnight
4 dried chipotle peppers
1 dried ancho chile
1 medium sweet potato
2 large onions, diced
1 diced shallot
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon caraway, ground
5 all spice pods, ground
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons cumin, ground
1 tablespoon coriander, ground
2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 small can tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or one small can
1 cup of delicious coffee
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2c vegetable broth
2 tablespoons salt (you can use smoked salt here or chocolate salt if you have either. otherwise use seas salt or pink Himalayan. The pink is saltier so maybe start with 1 T and add to taste)
Cilantro to garnish
Get your beans and soak them in filtered water overnight. Alternately, use organic from a can in a pinch. I myself am in an Eden Foods boycott, but Westbrae carries great food. Pour 1c boiling water over the dried chiles and let them puff up (about an hour). Seed the chiles toss in the blender with their soaking water and the coffee.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

In a heavy lidded pot or Dutch oven, heat your olive oil. Add onion and shallots to the pot and cook until soft, stirring often. Now add your vampiric repellant garlic, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Cut your sweet potato in half, then long quarters and slice thin. Add the quarter moons to the mix. Cook another 2 minutes and add your apple cider vinegar. Now add the beans, paprika, cumin, caraway, allspice, coriander and salt all together and stir to bring it all together like a show tune. You probably want to let all of this hang out for a few minutes to become family.

Add your blended chile mix and tomato paste, then the chopped tomatoes, maple syrup and cover everything with your vegetable broth. Bring it all home and then put the heavy lid on.
Pop it in the oven for 2 hours. Hank says you want to check to see if you need more salt and broth (I haven’t yet, but you never know), and to see how the beans are doing. If you have the jalapeño, this is its time to shine. Dice it and add it in. THEN WASH YOUR HANDS REALLY GOOD. And don’t rub your eyes or any other delicate areas on yourself or anyone you like a lot.

Pop it back in the oven for 30 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve with your grain of choice, or bread, or chips and top with cilantro. Or if you are stuck in a storm and only have arugula like in this photo, use that.

ENJOY my little blizzard Amazons!

Also yummy with wild rice chips

The Doctor Says No Wheat, No Dairy, No Booze: Restrictive Health Protocols and Despair

You finally found a health care professional who has an idea that may help you feel better after months and sometimes years of feeling like absolute dogshit. You’re blotchy, bloated, your joints ache. You feel depressed and fatigued. Maybe your skin condition is out of control or if things are really really awful, maybe all of this and MORE.

Then comes the suggestion of an Elimination Diet. Or the GAPS Diet. Or an Anti-inflammatory Diet. Whether these suggestions are for the benefit of detective work to suss out what the culprit might be (eliminating all the usual suspects and then slowly bringing them back in to test reactions to substances) or perhaps the food suggestions/prescriptions are in response to allergy tests that pointedly spike in the face of certain foods, you’re not psyched. Regardless of which protocol is suggested or the root of why it is suggested, the news of cutting out EVERYTHING FUN IN THE WORLD can feel pretty crushing. For some, our health has deteriorated to such an extent that trying anything feels like a relief. Some people have been so ill for so long that a steady diet of goat milk, buffalo and steamed carrots might be just the ticket to heaven, that sweet relief someone has been waiting for. Food allergies and sensitivities can really wreck a functional life to an astonishing extent. It is my sincere hope that true misery and illness are not the only reasons a person might be brought to the place of willingness and compliance with various protocols.

So what can you do with this when the news comes in? When you think. “Holy shit. My friends won’t want to hang out with me. I’m going to be the irritating special food needs person at the table asking a billion questions of the waitress. Or I won’t be able to go out to eat at all. I don’t know how to cook. I don’t have time for this shit. I don’t have energy for this shit. I don’t have energy at all. Also, this isn’t sexy. Plus I have spent years recovering from diets and the negative effects of them on my body and my true soul. Why me?”

Well. I mean.
WHY NOT YOU?

The first thing I want you to know is you can do this. Because doing it might actually work. And not doing it has landed you exactly where you are, and following that path isn’t your desired life. So fuck that path. You deserve to feel good, heal your body, and enjoy your food along the way. What will it take?

1. Time to mourn: Being sick sucks. It sucks. Especially in a culture that wants clear answers for illness and then a nice pill to clear everything up. So I bet even if you are one of the lucky people who has suffered through mysterious symptoms that no one can figure out and you’ve actually LET yourself complain, I want to say that wallowing and mourning are not the same. Mourning requires a true kind of compassion for the suffering you’ve been doing. Really look at how hard this has been. If you need to look at a photograph of yourself to externalize your own image in order to have feelings for the human you are looking at, do that. Write about it. Ask someone who has been supportive and kind to reflect their experience of watching you weather the storm so you can adopt those kind feelings for yourself as well. Once you are to a place where you have some room free of blaming yourself, get willing to try something new.

2. Gather your people: Before you worry about the kitchen, the shopping, the cooking, the time suck, the impossibility of it all, look around you and see if you can find some people who are willing to help. And by help I mean everything from listening to cooking to a meal companion. Find a trusted group from 1-4 people to rely on for the first couple of weeks of your trial here. Let everyone know the specifics of your protocol, how long it might take, what you are afraid of, what you are actually great at,  and how they can help. At the center of this reliable core is, well, you. Be reliable. Be supportive. Be nice. Try your best to be your own ally.

3. Toot your own horn: This process means you have to ask yourself these questions as well. What are your strengths? Are you a great cook? Do you like to shop? Are you fucking hilarious? Are you good with recipe research? How can your skills be the things you commit to in this process and where can you use support? This will not only inform you about how to ask your people for help, but it’ll help you rediscover how you do have skills and you are competent and every little piece of you matters. Because when we feel sick, we forget.

4. Look for what you get: When you begin to find yourself wandering toward the Land of Wallow, remember this: even if you can’t have these things: beer, cheese, weed, soy, wheat, tomatoes, citrus, nuts, bacon, corn, peppers, potatoes, a burger, milk, eggs, half and half, bourbon, sugar, honey, cigarettes, pizza ,and COFFEE, for fuck’s sake, there are still over 4 billion combinations of food you CAN have, many of which are incredibly delicious. March your brain to a different tune. What are the things you do get to have. Who are the bloggers that work with those things?  Are there cookbooks to support you in the library?

5. Avoid minefields: Sometimes, in an effort to not feel left out socially or to diminish our feelings of freakishness too early on in our efforts to recover from food related illness, we may find ourselves saying “Fuck it” and go to a bar with friends to watch the Super Bowl. We are then surrounded by beer, tipsiness, the entire nation of everything fried (which smells so good), bowls of pretzels and salted nuts, and popcorn. Our football journey may serve to alienate us even further or tip us over the edge into a chicken wing bonanza with jalapeno poppers. Doesn’t help with healing the gut. Instead, throw a small party yourself, invite your crew over, make snacks and request friendly ones to your protocol.

6. Find rewards outside the realm of food: Bring your salad and steamed sesame broccoli with shiitakes and rice to a baseball game. (In April-October) Treat yourself to a long walk you keep meaning to take. Take a sick day and go see a matinee. Let yourself turn the phone off. Get a new cookbook that supports your challenges. Go on retreat. Get a foot massage. Knit. Listen to music on headphones while you lie on the floor in the dark. Pick anything. I usually pick Yo Yo Ma when I’m in this place, but just as easily pick Tribe Called Quest. Go look at art. Pet the dog. Get a dog. GET A DOG!

7. There’s no wagon to fall off of. I know a lot of practitioners get all, “Well just one slip up and you have to start all over.” It sounds very infantilizing and scolding. In my humble opinion, it’s a very damaging way to talk to a patient who is struggling. The last thing you need is a fear driven voice in your mind. Even if this direction is based in science or whatever, you can only be where you are. If you veer off your protocol, so be it. Don’t blow it all up. Just begin again. It’s what life is, after all. We all just start over all the time. Everything you are doing in service to your health is bigger than not doing it. Just do your best. Imagine if you gave yourself as much of a pat on the back for things you’re doing well as the bullshit flogging your give yourself for all the things that don’t go as planned. No, really. Imagine it.

And you know what?
Write to me.
Especially with specific hurdles. I love to get an email. I read tons of blogs on cooking and health, know about a slew of resources for various diagnoses, and I coach people on these things all the time.
Look,
you can do this.

It’s not forever and it’s in service to a future version of yourself who experiences less pain, more joy, and more fun. If you can’t tolerate being sick, you can certainly learn to roast vegetables. It’s the same skill set as a friggin’ Pop Tart.

YOU GOT THIS.

GET A DOG!!!

Resentment: A Malignancy. Some ideas about how to work with it.

A postcard project by the artist Xylor Jane

I hear about resentment ALL THE TIME. Whether it’s from clients working through a 12 step program in recovery, people digging through the rubble of a break-up or friends struggling in a horrible job situation, resentment isn’t simply having bad feelings or being caught in a rough spot. Resentment is a SITUATION, friends. It’s a situation in which we re-injure ourselves again and again, a cycle of self-suffocation under the weight of an original pain. It’s picking a scab over and over, a festering infection we then blame on someone else. We ignore our opportunity to heal and instead, we tread in the pond of fetid despair and rage. It’s downright Shakespearean.

When you break the word down, it means “to feel again”. To re-feel, re-sent. So we have an original thing, for example, a close friend betrays us, deserts us in our hour of need. Or maybe someone lies to us. Performs underhanded business practices or acts with divisive and sleazy intentions at work. Regardless of the wrong done to us, harboring the injury, a fugitive lugged around town in our gut like a sweaty culprit with a knife, there is a point at which we have to make a change.

Because the wrong has been done, and now here we are with our life. As Mary Oliver would say, “Our one wild and precious life” and we are now spending it in our minds plotting revenge or looking for pity or triangulating with other people and basically functioning in a fictional land of seeking a justice that will never come. It is a mythic justice we imagine again and again, hours on a hot pillow in a cold dark that digs acidic paths in our collective soul. Like somehow, if we raise the stakes, we can win something. Some kind of prize like redemption or vindication.

On a larger level, we call this war. Here: Take a second and put your Resentment goggles on and read the front page of any newspaper other than the New York Post or National Enquirer. All of the death and war and destruction you see there is rooted in massive cultural and historic resentment. It is the worst case scenario of YOU ARE WRONG AND I DESERVE TO BE RIGHT AND I SHALL BE VICTORIOUS AND YOU WILL PAY. Sure, sometimes resentment starts as “I just want my side to be heard”, but when we replay the hurt over and over, water the garden of pain with the fertilizer of being wronged, the only possible fruit is larger, deeper pain. More constant, more robust, and frankly, boring as fuck. That entire swath of real estate could be swapped out for something fun. Or kind. Or loving. Or hell, even neutral. That poison whose effects serve to reduce your humanity can be served an eviction notice. Often the oldest residents take the longest to pack up their shit and leave, but why not clear the deck of our lives? And the more we practice, the better we can do with all the opportunities for resentment that are sure to arrive any second. Because we will continue to be hurt and feel wronged. But we do not have to be driven by those experiences entirely.

Write it down. Get it out.

So.
What do we do?

Well, I’ve studied a ton of different views on this feeling. The common opinion is that resentment is one of the greatest toxins we have in this life. Even if our bodies are ripe and fit, our bank accounts wild with Benjamins, and we are surrounded by people who want our attention and love, the bitter obsession can grow to trump all of it, placing its blinders on our eyes and obstructing our way to seeing everything we have that’s phenomenal.

The world of addiction recovery has a formal process for members to work with resentments. Those in recovery believe that resentment is a path to relapse which is ultimately a path to death. The suggested work in recovery is this.

1. Make a chart with four columns. In the first column list all of the people, institutions, places ideas or principles you feel angry at or injured by.

2.In the second column, write out why you feel hurt. What happened? Be specific and exhaustive.

3.The third column is where you identify which part of you was injured. Was it your heart? Your fiscal health? You emotional security?

4. HERE’S THE DIAMOND: The 4th column is where you say what YOUR part is in the situation. What is you RESPONSIBILITY in this resentment? What might you have done differently?

Now, within a program of recovery, it is suggested that people work on this with a trusted guide, a sponsor. If you are not in a program of recovery, you might want to do this with a trusted friend, a spiritual teacher or peer, or whomever you feel emotional safe with. The writing of these lists, which are called inventories in recovery, can bring a kind of clarity to where we get to take some responsibility for our own part in this hell. And when we get honest, vulnerable, and clear, we are able to soften some and regain our humanity, relinquish some shame, and walk toward healing.

For some people, this kind of formal work might be too structured. Maybe writing a journal could be helpful. Something more in line with someone’s style, but rather than a catalog of the wrongs, it’s IMPERATIVE that we engage with this externalization process in a way that we participate with agency. At its core, resentment is something we are DOING. So the lynchpin of moving past it is regaining our vision of self as an agent of choice. We can admit, if only to ourselves, that place where shame hides in hurt. We can let ourselves take responsibility for our part in something, which seems so terrifying, so of course it’s exactly the thing that sets us free.

Another path is one in the tradition of lovingkindness. In this tradition, we use our thoughts and our hearts to practice sending our good thoughts to those we are wronged by. I know that sounds awful. Who wants to send chocolate to a demon? But part of the process undoes the idea that the person is, in fact, a demon. We begin by sending these thoughts of peace and freedom to those we love the most. That’s easy. And as our hearts open, we then send these feelings out to kind acquaintances, people we like, have warm feelings about. Then we make offerings to strangers we have never met, the billions of people we have no baggage with yet no particular love for either. And once we get here, our hearts are a bit softer, more willing. We send thoughts freedom and peace to irritating people, harmless folk who bug the shit out of us. And then to jerks, but not our special jerks. Maybe famous jerks or our friends’ jerks.

And then,
Here we are.
Our hearts are open and we attempt to send these kind thoughts to those who have harmed us.
It may be awkward and we may feel full of shit, but we try.

And then,
my friends,
we do this for ourselves.
We wish ourselves peace.
We wish ourselves freedom.

As time goes on, we begin practicing living in ways that short circuit resentment before it begins. We try to cultivate behavior that invites honesty and integrity in the moment so that these situations do not arise so much later.

1. We try to give without expectation. When we throw a party for a friend’s kid because that friend has connections we think we need or because we want to feel important to that person and we then don’t get the reaction we desire after we’ve worked so hard, there is a recipe for a resentment to begin. But if we are honest, and we throw a part for a friend’s child because we love to throw a party and because that friend is overwhelmed and we actually have time, then the results are in line with are true intentions. And then, we have a killer party.

2. We practice gratitude. When we take time out from our daydreams of resentment and revenge, and we consciously make choices to notice all that is going well in the world, in our bodies, with our loved ones, something happens in our bodies, with our very chemicals, that heals old wounds and prevents some new ones. Like the world might be going to hell in a hand basket and our boss is a slimy creep and our lover is sick but goddamn if the view from here isn’t gorgeous anyhow. We make a conscious choice to look at what’s good, most especially in the face of the worst.

3. We go outside. We are citizens of the planet. Whether our place is among the incredible streets of a city teeming with a billion stories of a billion people or we are living in a shack on a beach watching the massive tide of saltwater wash animals we never see onto the shore, being in touch with the sense of being both in the enormity of our life experience and simultaneously the experience of being so small, such a piece of elemental minutiae in the universe and in history, that sense of life matters.

Look, I’m not coming from a place of total idealism. I am not out here in the woods swimming in a secret cove with lavender waterfalls among miniature dolphin friends and sunning myself in the light of patchouli rainbows. I’m not delusionally having mai tais with Sapphic ponies blessed by shamanic eagles.

I am all for every feeling you got.

I understand the transformative power of rage and despair.
I know what it’s like to wander through the city streets,
devastated. I know what it is to be in fear and loss and betrayal and often,
All at once.

I have been petty and vindictive and small and mean and stupid.
I’ve been wasteful, entitled, brooding, unkind and wallowy.
I’ve been feverish with revenge, with disgust and with blame.

Which is to say,
Like you,

I’ve been human.

But this last week, In looking with so many people at the last year and forward to this one, the theme of resentment has come up over and over and over again. Some with the scales larger than others. So I wanted to offer some things to work with. See what you are willing to do.

Oh, and even though I haven’t actually been being blessed by Shamanic eagles, I did meet this guy yesterday. And I put him at the top of my gratitude list.

 

 

Who Has the Energy to Cook, Dammit?

IMG_0464

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Welcome back to your regularly scheduled life! The holidays can be pretty draining. Even when they are the most fun and exciting and delightful. Plus there’s the possibility that the holiday season is extra awful for a person. So, a human can really grind the gears moving from extended holiday back to work. And what if on top of that, you had to do all the laundry and answer 11,846 emails and mop the floors and get groceries and follow the old dog around the yard in 19 degree weather because everything is covered in ice and he slips and falls and can’t get up. What if all that is happening and now it’s time for dinner and you just don’t have it in you to call up your inner domestic goddess.

IT’S COOL. You don’t have to resort to mac and cheese from a box. (But, of course if you want to, I get it, and I won’t stand in your way. I will say, however, that I find a little Cholula really helps it along.)

But it’s a brand new year! You want to keep your healthy intentions intact. You also want to eat pretty quick and you want something warm.

Here’s an easy dish that tastes delicious and is ready in about the same time as the dang mac and cheese. You need to have a few supplies on hand but I bet you do. This is the exact reason I always have a few cans of organic vittles around.

The Best Lazy Chickpea Stew

1 onion
1 clove mashed garlic
1/2 t sea salt
2T olive oil
1t dried oregano
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 c vegetable broth
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 can organic chickpeas

Throw that olive oil into a skillet and heat it up. Slice your onion into moons and cook it until it’s translucent. Then add your garlic and spices. When you see the oregano start to plump add the can of chickpeas and and cover with all the spices and oil. Stir for about 2 minutes. Then add in your veggie broth and bring to a boil. Once you’ve got your broth going add in your can of tomato goodness and stir. You can add salt to your liking.

BOO-YAH!!!

20 minutes later you have a healthy meal PLUS leftovers for lunch this week. So delish. When you’re not in a rush, you can make this from scratch in the summer with soaked chickpeas and fresh tomatoes from the garden. It’s just killer.

 

Lucky Devil Bread

I have gotten so many requests for this bread recipe, I’m gonna cut right to the chase.

NO GLUTEN.
NO REFINED SUGAR.
NO FLOUR.

I found the original recipe here and along with half the internet, could not believe my good fortune. After following the recipe spot on a few times, I wanted to make some changes to it for myself.

Then I got into making traditional bread and did a lot of reading from Josey Baker who taught me to always toast the nuts and seeds first. I do it for everything now. It’s an extra step, not nearly as much of a pain in the ass as everyone makes it out to be, and it increases the depth of taste like 42 times. So toast the seeds and the nuts.

This recipe is incredibly forgiving and you can make it your own a hundred different ways. The important things that you want to stick to are the psyllium husk and the chia. They hold the bread together. Plus they provide so much fiber. And I should say, this bread is a great comrade in the Getting Digestion Moving department and is more enjoyable than anything a doctor will give you. Plus, it wows guests. And it’s easier than falling off the sidewalk. Which, come to think of it, is sort of a challenge, so pick a new metaphor. Just like in this bread feel free to do swapping. You can use walnuts, dried cherries, cacao nibs… whatever. The important part is that you try it. The tough parts are the ones where you have to wait. DO THE WAITING. Even though, as Tom Petty has told you a million beautiful times, the waiting really is the hardest part.

Dry Ingredients

2c gluten free oats (make sure the package says GF!)
1/4 c psyllium husk
1/2 c raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
2T + 1t chia seeds
1/2 c chopped raw almonds
1t sea salt
3/4 c flax seeds

Wet Ingredients
1T maple syrup
2T olive oil
1T melted coconut oil
2c warm filtered water

Preheat the oven to 350 and in a thin layer on a baking sheet, toast your sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds along with the chopped almonds for 12 minutes. Combine the toasted goodness with the other dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together your wet ingredients, then add the wet to the dry in the big bowl. Mix everything together. A LOT. You can use a rubber spatula or just your clean paws.

Put the mash into a loaf pan you have oiled well with coconut oil. Now chill the “dough” for AT LEAST two hours, but if you can chill it longer, do it. See? There’s The Waiting, Part 1. Now preheat oven at 375 and when it’s ready, move your loaf pan to the oven for one hour. Now. Here’s The Hard Part #2: let the loaf cool for 2 hours. I know it’ll be tough, but it helps the bread come together in a way that’s worth it.

I like to double toast my slices. My favorite is to double toast, smear a quarter avocado on the slice, add sliced radish and an egg over medium. DELISH! Other nice things: melted coconut oil with cinnamon. Slathered in butter, straight up. Topped with banana slices. Topped with sautéed mushrooms and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.

Have at it people. DO YOUR THANG. And let me know how it goes!

 

 

August Book Group Launch

Happy Birthday to me!
I mean soon.
Not yet.
But you’ll know because I’m a LEO
and that’s how we roll.

I’m turning 44 in August. I like to spend some time leading up to my birthday thinking about the past year and seeing where I’ve been. Because I don’t keep a daily journal (I just never have for longer than a couple months at a time) I take a look back at photographs, I look through emails and I talk to my friends and family about what they’ve seen as well. Bearing witness is an enormous part of my life and I am truly grateful that I have trusted and beloved people I can look to who also do the same for me. Maybe it was growing up Jewish. I’m not sure exactly, but something about seeing and being seen is a lynchpin of my spiritual practice and ritual. I have come to believe that consciously witnessing and also letting myself be seen deepens my practice of true solitude.

So this year a ton happened for me, not the least of which was an enormous relocation geographically and also in terms of pace. I moved from San Francisco to a tiny town of 711 people in western Massachusetts. The next town over, you know like when you say, “I’m going into town”, has a population of 18,168. I changed major things in my personal movement practice. Plus there’s a garden out in the yard now that spits up salad like a champ. Thanks, Ginger!

One of the things I have loved getting back in touch with is reading a book. On paper. And I’ve been re-reading some heavy hitters that have absolutely changed the fabric of my life. For my birthday year, I decided to start a book group. Each month I’ll facilitate a small group of people and we have a virtual meet-up to discuss the book.

The book for August will be Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance. I love this book so much and return to it in pieces often. What I’m looking forward to is reading it again, cover to cover, in this hammock.

Because I really want to chew the fat on this thing, please be committed to spirited participation and discussion before claiming a spot. Also I am going to try and make each month’s group full of new people if there are a lot of people wanting to participate. These groups are my year long present to myself and they are free for all of us. I’m really looking forward to it. Thank you, in advance, for making my year.

 

Solstice is Coming. Be the Khaleesi of Salad.

This is the Western part of the greens coming in.

I know this is not Westeros, and in fact it’s just Western Mass, but I have just wrapped up this season of Game of Thrones where Tyrion Lannister solidly WON Father’s Day. In the land in which I am Khaleesi, the dog wanders the yard and has finally figured out which greens not to pee on. The salad greens. In the mornings I meander about in an oversized SF Giants T with leggings, toting a colander about the plot. I gather green leaf lettuce, arugula, mizuna, some baby mustard, striated oregano, basil, spinach, lemon mint, red butter lettuce and some other tufts that “salad mix” envelope of seeds spit up. Radishes are coming along as well. So far the big money items haven’t formed yet so I augment with the farmer’s markets and at the store. Here’s a pretty good list of some things I check out and you, too can pick up for a good, colorful, nutrient rich time:

Summer squash, pluot, radish, spinach, tomato, purple cabbage, and cucumber in a roasted garlic vinaigrette.

Cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, fennel bulbs, carrots, cauliflower (all the colors), tomatoes, bell peppers, peaches, pluots, plums, strawberries, blueberries, jicama, celery, red onion, Chioggia beets, grapes, purple cabbage, avocado and asparagus. Any or all of these will take you out of the standard “garden salad” place of feeling like you SHOULD be eating salad into the glamorous world of Salad is Delicious. Building a salad can be super fun. Part of it is the dressing as well, which I think I’ve talked about before. OH, yes, there it is.

Last March I wrote a post with the goal of supporting each and every reader here to NEVER BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN. Making your own is easy, it’s cost effective, it’s free of preservatives and creepy Monsanto shit and the best reason: it tastes better. This isn’t even to mention the long term benefits adding your kitchen into your regular creative vault of delights, the ways that making your own stuff builds confidence as well as competency, AND you can use the money toward actually getting the salad. There’s some good recipes there and a great one from a reader in the comments section. So run with those. But let’s chat about building a hearty, interesting, beautiful salad.

Celery, radish, shaved fennel, purple cabbage, black & white sesame seeds tossed with lime juice, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

1. Work with color: Green salads are phenomenal. But you can have a thousand shades of green in a salad. Each one will bring a certain depth that’s pretty to look at AND the color of your produce reflects the nutrients it contains. So the more color you serve, the deeper your nutrition, yo. So even in a green salad, go with speckled lettuces or dark greens with lights, red edges and yellow stripes. Moving out from green, go for the rainbow. More color means more nutrition, more taste, and it goes with more outfits. I like to mix in purple cabbage with my greens, add radishes and different colored peppers. Get the purple cauliflower sometimes or the red. Or those fancy heirloom carrots that are all different colors. Let yourself branch out and make the salad bowl into a riot of color.

3. Add fresh herbs: It’s so great that now we can walk into a produce section at any given market and find that lettuce has moved far beyond iceberg and romaine. (WHICH I’M NOT KNOCKING). Varietal strains come in all shades and shapes and various flavors from bright to bitter. People are getting into slicing kale super thin and adding that to a raw salad offering. Here’s what I’m begging you to do: add in herbs. You can grow an easy kitchen garden on a sill or you can get little bunches at the market. Just toss in your basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley and savory. Add in fresh chives with the blossoms and dice up some chervil and lemon mint. These greens wake up the entire experience with bright flavors and unexpected combinations that really come together.

4. Toppings, Toppings, Toppings: One of the easiest ways to take your salad to the next nutritional level is to throw seeds and nuts on it. Put a sprout on it. Any extra kaboom you can hit on will up your healthy fats, your omegas, your protein, and it’ll add a good accessorized look to the whole shebang. What works? Here are some ideas off the top of my head: crushed walnuts, almond slivers, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, any color sesame seeds and extra points for a mixing of shades, flax seeds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pecans and any sprout that strikes your fancy. For extra points: throw seeds and nuts in a dry cast iron skillet and toast them over a low heat until the release some of the scent.

Baby spinach, toasted maple cardamon walnuts, and flame grapes roasted with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

5. Add some protein: Me? I love a legume. Give me a harissa chickpea. A stewed chipotle pinto bean. A lemongrass hunk of tofu. Take any kind of protein you have and add it into a salad. This will turn your side dish into a whole meal. For the vegans, I vote for legumes the most. Tofu is great on occasion (it has a lot of phytoestrogens in it in addition to being pretty processed so I think it’s great sometimes, but I don’t like to advocate for it as the main source of vegan protein.) Also nutritional yeast is great as a sprinkle or also as an ingredient for your dressing. Especially a miso one. Vegetarians can add hard boiled eggs. And for the seafood lovers out there, adding fish to a salad is a favorite of so many people I know who swear by salads as entire meals. Especially in the summer, a well-built salad in a pretty bowl really does it for me.

And so, my friends, Happy Summer Solstice to you. May your pagan rites be merry. And may your salads kick some serious ass.

I’m Done with CLEANSING

Cleanse.
It has never sounded right for my practice.
From the very start it struck me sideways on a few different levels:

1. It smacks of moral superiority. One must get rid of impurities: bad foods, bad habits, bad weight, a kind of soul scrubbing through a culturally sanctioned and nutritionally hip process that celebrated doctors and gurus have repurposed from traditional eating ideas practiced for generations. It’s the boutiqueing and upscaling of something that is at its core absolutely regular and daily. It becomes not about relating to one’s own body, the food the earth offers, and the ways we change as the great world spins. The term’s undercurrent of guilt and shame is diametrically opposed to what the experience is about and it’s been scraping at my brain this whole time.

That’s me in the pink bandana. See? Still not skinny.

2. The word brings up a reaction of deprivation in people. The vision of a “cleanse” often strikes readers as a lonely and painful three weeks of sucking cider vinegar and cayenne out of a cocktail napkin and peeing fire out one’s butthole as a kind of rite of passage to purity. The Cleanse experience is about doing without, enduring, will power and perseverance through punishment. That’s like cramming every bad feeling from high school into three weeks and snorting all the cocaine you can get your hands on just to fit into a prom dress.  I mean, can I get a “Fuck That” from the choir here?

3. “Cleansing” is a secret diet. Let me clear my throat. CLEANSING IS A SECRET DIET. And I don’t believe in diets. They don’t work in an inside job kind of way, which is what matters to me as a health coach. Diets are cruel, shaming, restricting reactions to a culture that would have people of all genders living under the confinement of a body that’s Just. Not. Good. Enough. Sure you can lose weight on a diet, but so what. The big thing that happens with diets, as we know, is that not only are you tasked with gaining the weight back, your are also tasked with carrying the true weight of shame, exhaustion, disappointment, and self-loathing as well. While carrying physical weight can have consequences, I have come to understand through this work that the physical weight is only a manifestation of ways in which we cannot show ourselves true care born of, well, true love. You can be anyone you want and still practice loving oneself. A punk, a goth queen, an anarchist or a pudgy middle aged lesbian Jewess Holistic Health Coach with a cute dog. The word “cleanse” has come to be about losing 21 pounds in 21 days. Whatever.

I know many people find toes creepy, and to you, I offer my apologies here.

For two years now I’ve been leading these seasonal journeys with groups so people can take stock of where they’re at nutritionally, creatively, physically, and hopefully have some transcendental insight after a group journey. Because the practices contained in this facilitated experience are culled from so many different places: from various traditional, science-based food studies, fitness expert’s advice, client feedback, creative practice and habit forming coaching experience, it’s been a challenge for me to settle on what to name these journeys. For the duration of the series, I’ve been calling them “Cleanses” while sustaining this pronounced but hard to grasp unease with the title. As time has marched on, the unease grew to a point where I had to find the words to do it differently.

The work has moved from being named for the seasons to incorporating a notion that feels central to both an experience and goal I have as a health coach and in life. It’s been big enough that the words were tattooed on my toes in 1997 in Olympia, Washington when I set out on an adventure called Sister Spit that fundamentally changed the course of my life as a creative person. The enormity of the gratitude I experienced, and have continued to experience around this path can, in many ways, be traced back to this lineage of writers that continues to evolve each year. That gratitude and creative writer impulse is at the root of how I came to be a Holistic Health Coach and it continues to guide my work with group experiences and individual clients.

Hence, Lucky Devil.

And here’s the new word I finally came to for these seasonal expeditions:
RESTORATION.

These experiences are designed to help people restore the conversations they have with their bodies, to bring back honesty, gratitude, FUN, and forgiveness.  They are designed to restore people’s confidence that they can get in the kitchen, that busy lives can also be lives that provide space for what truly feeds the bottom line of each individual life experience and they are designed to be about taste and pleasure. These experiences bring people together for support, laughs, creative practice and exercise. Together we gather to restore our senses that we are capable of caring for ourselves, we can enjoy it, and we are not sentenced to a life of tasteless lentil loaf and soul starving notions that a steady stream of diarrhea is a sign of success. These experiences are not about exorcizing demons, but rather rubbing elbows with them as we bring in new friendly companions of walking, of writing, of meandering through the halls of art museums and leaving our desks for lunch so we can remember to chew.

The next round is scheduled for July 11, The Lucky Devil Summer Restoration.

Fuck Cleansing.
You’re not impure and never have been,
You Lucky Devil, you.

 

Thrift Score Feelings: Sesame Creminis with Field Garlic

Ginger’s New Ride

I always want the expensive one. Especially if it’s a mushroom. I want the morel. I want the chanterelle. I want the porcini and the black trumpet. But sometimes, it’s really not in the budget to be blowing my wad on fungus. Let’s face it, sometimes there’s not even a wad to blow. And now is one of those times. And thankfully, instead of going into an infantile state of counting out all the scarcity smokescreens on my block, I find myself looking instead to the ways in which life isn’t about what I’m doing without, or the fungus I am daydreaming about, but rather what I have to work with. Now, as I wrap my head around a new set of living demands (for instance I’ve never had to budget for, say, a riding mower before), I’m also presented with a pile of new lenses through which to observe how my kitchen continues to be a perfect place to work it all out.

Enter the humble cremini mushroom (Agaricus bosporus), otherwise known as the Baby Bella. As a tender sweet young thing, this mushroom looks like a brown button mushroom. If left to its own devices, it will grow up to be a portobello mushroom, the vegetarian steak of fungus. Spring has been a slow time coming in these parts, teasing us in a calendar dotted with a couple seventy degree days and then a string of clouds and rain, with one staggering, and kind of bananas, Passover snowstorm. As such, my cravings for different foods has been a bit strange as the weather has changed and I’ve been easing off the Lucky Devil Spring reboot. While I am tending toward wanting lighter foods and smaller portions, my flavor cravings are still steadfastly earthy and umami.

Free from the wildNow, speaking of the mower, as the snow melted and life began popping up all over the yard, one thing I noticed was clumps of skinny green wispy things in gangs dotting the perimeter of the lawn. Holding court on the outskirts around the woods, I couldn’t help but investigate a hunch from working in a co-op for years. Sure enough, when I went and rolled one of those greens around in my fingers the scent pummeled me with joy: field garlic. My love of garlic pre-dates my love of vampires, although I do tend to like both in steady rotation. But this new life of finding it growing wild in my yard is really something special. After making sure there was plenty to harvest so I didn’t kill off the possibilities for years to come, I set out to incorporate the Little Darlings into my lunch with my modest mushrooms. I imagine that between the affordable mushrooms, the free garlic and the rice, this lunch would cost less than a dollar for anyone partaking, even including the exciting oils, seeds, and vinegar. Plus, it’s just divine tasting.

Sesame Crimini Mushrooms with Field Garlic

Handful of Field garlic
*If you don’t have that handy, substitute with Spring Garlic and greens OR 3 cloves diced garlic
3 crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
1t coconut aminos OR tamari
1t ume plum vinegar
2t olive oil
1t toasted sesame oil
black and white sesame seeds
1/2c cooked rice seasoned with rice vinegar

Make sure you have prepped rice ready to serve this one. I season a 1/2 cup with a drizzle of rice vinegar and sometimes and tiny bit of toasted sesame oil. Have it waiting in a bowl you really like.

Dice your garlic, whichever kind you are using for this. Then slice up your mushroom real skinny. You don’t need a ton of mushrooms because the little suckers pack a lot of flavor. Heat your olive oil in a skillet on medium/low and cook your mushrooms until they are floppy. Add your coconut aminos or tamari in here with the garlic. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes on low. Now turn off your heat and add the ume plum vinegar. Toss everything and serve over the rice with a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top.

When I sat myself down in front of the window and put this in my very favorite bowl, I got that same feeling I get when I get a perfect score at an estate sale or in a thrift store. I mean except it tastes better and is more nutritious. I really hope your enjoy it as much as I did.

On Creative Worth, Self-Respect, Scarcity and Deep Fear

I got a pretty nice letter this morning from a founder of a wellness website. She said she’d found my writing, liked my work and would love to have me guest post on their site. It’s pretty much like the other website I used to write for where wellness writers are crowd-sourced or they submit work with promises of having traffic driven to their personal business sites and getting more exposure. And, well, it’s true.

In that case, I wrote for a site that had close to a million likes at the time and on the days my articles appeared, lots of people throughout the globe clicked on them. I’d get a thrill, obsessively checking as the numbers grew and grew that day. But they were clicking on work that had been edited within an inch of its life, all of my personality, my love of the profane and my penchant for run on sentences: POOF, vanished. So when people came to find me, I wasn’t what they had looked for. Here was a woman less polished, less traditionally professional, and certainly without the coiffed headshot or yoga pose that goes with many wellness practitioners. WHICH IS GREAT if that’s how you actually are. But I’m just not. I’m pudgy, I still can’t do my hair right at 43 and my expression of femininity is decidedly tomboy for mainstream readers.

After maybe a little less than a year of sporadically sending articles to this site, I read this article in the New York Times about how many writers are being solicited to GIVE their work away in exchange for, well, Nothing.

Traffic. Likes. Exposure.

The writer, Tim Kreider, talks about how most of the people who ask him to write for free, besides The Huffington Post, aren’t the man but still, these people, these strangers, have the balls to just ask you for shit for free. A THOUSAND WORDS, and in this case, they want it copy-edited and with IMAGES to boot PLUS, they wanna OWN the shit. They won’t even let you post your own work on your own site once they have it. FOR FREE. So after I read his article I made a promise that I just wasn’t going to do it anymore except in ways that made true meaning for me either in my work, in my community/ies, or in my gut.

I wrote to the editor of the enormous site, rife with cash-generating ads and links, built on the backs of unpaid writers and expressed my concerns. The editor, once so chatty and friendly, never wrote me back. No thank-you. No conversation. Nothing. Over the next week, I felt overcome by fear, like his silence was a sentence. Like: How Am I Going to Get My Name Out There? I tossed the “free advertising” argument around in my head over and over, panicked and sweaty, but every time I felt ready to cave, or particularly mired in economic fears around my plans to move, or just awash in your garden variety self-doubt or loathing, I’d write an article and as I edited it to send in to the big fancy site and have my name up in lights next to famous featured practitioners, my heart would sink. I’d try to imagine someone calling up my contractor friend and just ask them to replace a window real quick for free. Or I’d think about the oncology nurse I’ve known since she was 19 and picture her leaving her family, getting child care and going to the hospital for a few hours with no compensation but the good feeling in her heart. Would she do it? You know, she might. But would anyone have the audacity to ask her to? No. This is why I pay for music. This is why work in trades with people that have meaning. This is why I sit in front of painters’ works and let my heart beat loud and fancy at witnessing those things I love and cannot accomplish.

Since then, I’ve gotten no less than 10 letters from web editors asking me for free content. All come with the promise of exposure and all come with the stranglehold that says once I do this work, FOR FREE, I give it to them and forfeit my rights to my own words. I feel thrilled to say I really have developed enough self-respect over the years to stick to this. And I bet you have to. 

Your creative work, no matter what medium, is sacred. You get to set the terms that work for you. And so when you get to that place as a sculptor or a tattooer or a dancer or a pianist that feels like you gotta get on your knees and be at the mercy of a big organism using your work in a way that feels shitty, just know that people believe in you. People out here believe that your skills are worth better than crappy editorial headlines pulled out of someone’s ass with an algorithm and a “success” formula. Be yourself, make deals that feel fair to you and don’t leave your chest tight when your head hits the pillow. Your creative voice is truly one of the only things you will ever own in a world that is past privacy and awash a viral culture. A culture that values a virus as something to strive for, when we all know that naturally occurring viruses are built to take their hosts down.

So here’s a template in case you feel like crafting a nice letter to the next editor who wants you to surrender your creative magic to their administrative skills.

“Hi Person…

Thanks so much for getting in contact. I appreciate your reaching out. I went to your site and read the guidelines you have posted for submissions. After doing many guest blogs for sites that feature unique content from wellness writers, I came to a place where I’ve decided not to do this kind of work anymore. One of the things I really have going for my work is that I’ve been a writer for years and I have a very distinct voice. I’ve found that when I send my work to people, it gets edited to fit the voice of that place and that doesn’t serve me in the long run.
In addition, the idea that a site would own my work and reserve it so I couldn’t even republish it on my own site with no fiscal compensation feels unfair to me. I support people making a living for their work and I generally pick and choose doing unpaid guest posts on sites that foster a sense of community or collaboration with other practitioners, artists, writers, or communities I have longstanding relationships with. The promise of “hopefully getting some traffic and more exposure” to my site is not enough for me to give away rights to my creative work.
I’m hoping that as holistic workers we can find ways to really participate in each others worlds more, rather than pointing and clicking, and that creative work that takes such care and time will be valued in a way that has true meaning and participation. So for me, if I am not being paid for being a long time professional writer, I look for a connection of exchange and true support that is about more than traffic and likes.
Again, I thank you so much for getting in touch and wish you well in your endeavor.
Warmly,
Sara”

 

**** UPDATE: After I sent this response yesterday and wrote this post about it, I actually got my very first letter back from an editor. It surprised me in the best possible way and left a door open for productive conversation.

Here’s a piece of it: “…after your feedback I completely agree with you a few of the guidelines are unfair. I have removed the line about re-publishing from the guidelines, authors need the right to re-publish their own work. As for editing, we never edit any of our pieces – in fact seeing as we don’t I have removed this stance from our guidelines also…. Thanks for the feedback, you have definitely opened my eyes ”

Here’s to speaking up. And I’m looking forward to sending her an article in which I own the work and we work together in the spirit of collaboration.