Archive for Nutrition

Mujadara for a Movement, As I Rise.

In the place where Gus used to watch me work, I put an art desk. His blanket lays under my feet.

It’s been a little over three weeks since Gus died. And it’s time to have people over for dinner.

I’m not gonna lie: I spend some of my days off sobbing, this new specific loneliness a pointy rake across my ribs. I kneel at Gus’s grave and picture his pointy little perfect face. It’s unbelievable that I will never see it again. Not ever. But I am practicing, with his love, to learn about death. Because it is going to keep coming. On the branches of my family tree. Within my cherished client list and at my communal table of friends. I don’t want to have the relationship to death that my culture has. So I think about that. And I watch the news.

So I am also thinking about Cleveland. About the scores of black activists and the activated, a powerful gathering of black humanity coming together in strength and love and thought and rage. I am thinking about Mike Brown and Sandra Bland and India Clarke and Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and Michelle Cusseaux and Eric Garner and Rekia Boyd and London Chanel and Cynthia Hurd and Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Tywanza Sanders and Myra Thompson and Ethel Lee Lance and Susie Jackson and Daniel L. Simmons and Depayne Middleton and the countless other Black lives I have not named here, taken too soon, in violence, in a long perfectly straight line right up from the slavery we built this country on. This is another kind of death.

As my friend J. Bob Alotta says,

“this country makes monsters out of it’s power-keepers, corpses out of so many of it’s children, renders so many sedated in complicity or agony or both… but it will make warriors out of the rest of us.
my gd, it surely will.”

And for this work, we must stay strong. We need to care for ourselves and each other in this work. Because it will be hard work. It will be work that is constant and difficult and exhausting. Sometimes it will be devastating. This work of making sure we support the voices of the #blacklivesmatter movement will call on our reserves if we do this work justice. If we give it what it deserves. And we must.

I will do this work. (Photo from Getty Images)

To do this work we need nourishment. We need community, love, sleep, friendship, and for me, faith. Luckily, these things often feed each other. And lifting my head from a dog’s grave to the news of yet another Black Mother burying her child at the hands of police who tried to cover it up, I am ready.

Harvest Duds.

From the earth that houses both the dead and this life, I harvested a bunch of ingredients to make this food, build community, care for my body, and come to share with you. I first made a version of this dish after seeing a recipe in The New York Times by Melissa Clark. I’ve since made several versions from cookbooks and blogs each employing variations from this Middle –Eastern dish. This is a dish from lands of people that have been nourishing themselves through war and heartbreak for many, many, too many years. It’s a rich concoction of deep flavor and vegetable protein and fiber and warmth. The flavors come from a long history of each region with local, class, and religious traditions varying the ingredients and the presentation. It is delicious and affordable and grounded.

Here I present to you a mash-up of different recipes that all come out in this fragrant and addictive version. There are a lot of ingredients, so if you’re new to longer recipes, it’s good to get all the ingredients out and prepped first. Have your garlic crushed and your shallot sliced into rings and so on. This amount will feed about 6-8 people.

1 c green lentils                                                                1 ½ t ground cumin
¾ c brown basmati rice                                                     1 T coriander seeds
2 leeks, trimmed                                                               ½ t ground allspice
1 shallot, sliced                                                                 1 bay leaf
¼ c olive oil                                                                      1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic, minced                                                      1 t sea salt
4 c vegetable broth                                                           ½ t ground black pepper
4 c trimmed and chopped leafy greens                                handful fresh mint
(kale, chard, mustard)                                                        ½ t turmeric

Soak your lentils in warm water while you prep all your goods. Leeks often have dirt and grit inside them. Hack off the dark green fanned edges and the slice up the center of the leek lengthwise. Rinse the dirt out then cut them all crosswise, pretty thin. Heat your oil in a large heavy soup pot and toss in your leeks and sliced shallot. Cook until golden brown. It’ll take about ten minutes. They should get crunchy.  Then set half the mixture aside in a bowl and dust with some salt. This is going to be a garnish at the end and everyone will wrestle for each last crumb. You’ll remember this later and use crunchy leeks and onion for all manner of things in the future. Like for topping your soups. Put your garlic in with the rest of everything and cook that for about a minute. Now add in your rice, cumin, allspice, turmeric, black pepper and coriander. Cook all of this for about 5 minutes. Now drain your lentils and add them to the pot. Cook it all for another minute. Add your vegetable broth, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and bring everything to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook everything for an hour.

Now lay your greens and mint over the whole pot and return the cover. Cook for another 5 minutes, then remover from heat and let sit covered for another 5-10 minutes. Serve with the crispy leeks and shallots.

OPTIONS: You can toss in a little cardamom for your spice mix. Toss in fresh squeezed lemon before you serve. Have it as a chilled side the next day. Make a yogurt sauce to go with it.

Some ingredients with Lilith Rockett’s beautiful porcelain and my novice, and cute, stoneware.

Steve and Tim came over from across the hill where they run Spirit Fire Retreat, home of my forthcoming October Lucky Devil Autumn Getaway. Stay tuned for details. In the mean time, enjoy this food with friends and activists and survivors. Enjoy it with a love of this life if at all possible. And if not, enjoy it any way you can.

Sara Elise.

Not Just for Hugging Trees: Cauliflower Millet Mashup

Like Birkenstocks, millet isn’t just for hippies anymore. If I can be any force for the reintroduction into the mainstream of the wonders of millet, let it be so. As far as grains go, it has a good amount of vegetarian protein (6 grams), it’s gluten free for people practicing an auto-immune protocol, or those who are sensitive to the gluten, AND it tastes relish.

One of the problems with millet is it’s gotten some pretty bad PR. But look, if Helen Mirren can proclaim her love of Crocs and still be so hot, then you can give millet a try.

Let’s start with my current food darling, Amy Chaplain, and cook up a version of her mash. I have made this stuff EVERY week for 3 weeks since I got the book. I’ve served garlic greens on it, eggs, stirred in mushroom medleys and stuff roasted squash with it. It’s divine. Not only do you get a kind of corn-like flavor profile, you also get the added nutrient dense benefits of cauliflower along with it. PLUS, for kids who love grains and stray from vegetables THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN MESS WITH YOUR KIDS!!! It all looks beige to them and goddess knows, children love boring beige food. Look, I’m not trying to insult your kids, but AM I WRONG??!?!?! No. So try this. They won’t suspect a thing.

It’s fast, it’s versatile, it’s great for a whole family and it’s so affordable as quinoa skyrockets and cauliflower comes into season.


1 medium head cauliflower
1c millet, soaked overnight
1 1/2t sea salt
1/2t ground black pepper
2 1/2c water or vegetable stock

Rinse off your soaked grains and put them in the pot with the florets from your cauliflower, the broth/water and the S&P. Which is to say, PUT EVERYTHING IN THE POT. Bring the mix to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Check to see if all the liquid has been absorbed right about now. Then mash everything together.

You can add sautéed mushrooms, crispy onions or leeks, top with tamarin, flax oil, walnut oil or any other flavor you’re going for. Stirring in fresh spinach is delicious. Adding hippie dust is great too. The render greens are flash-cooked just by the heat of the mash and it’s DELICIOUS. Top with a toasted seed and nut mixture for crunch or have it on seed toast. Experiment! Let me know your favorite concoctions.



So. You Wanna Lose Weight.

I have avoided writing a post about weight loss since I started this job. Yet one of the most common things clients come to me wanting is, well, weight loss. They come with numbers or they come with a pair of pants they want to get back in. They come with diet plans, supplements, meal replacements and they come with Zumba dreams. People come with fat positive roots and a sense of feminist betrayal, they come with a desire to overthrow the patriarchy and a tug between the weight and the expectations of a misogynist culture. They come with diabetes and doctors orders and they come with menopause. People come from Europe, from Canada, from the Deep South. People arrive armed with fears and defense tools and shame and more shame. I say welcome to all of you as I am as much a member of this parade as I am a loving host to your desires.

I cannot speak to anyone’s experience but my own. I try not to talk about how I eat so much here because my work is not about me. I do find, sometimes, that a sharing of my experience has brought clients some ease and so after almost four years of this weight loss inquiry, and after dodging the direct questions from people all the time, I thought instead I’d just tell you a little bit of my story.

As you might know, I’m pudgy. Sometimes I’m more pudgy than others and over time, my weight has spent a bunch of time fluctuating. When I am at what I feel are my HEALTHIEST times: eating for my body’s needs, not obsessing, not logging or counting or berating myself over a donut. When I am happy, exercising regularly, relatively low in self-judgey bullshit and laughing easily. When I am cooking and my choices for food are in line with my body’s needs and not my emotional havoc or terror, I still look thick by conventional standards. And when I feel great and healthy, this shape looks great to me. I look at myself and feel powerful and competent and sexy and solid. The truth is, I go through 99% of my life not looking at myself. Maybe more. I BARELY KNOW WHAT I LOOK LIKE. So to place a value on the 1% of the time I look at myself over the 99% of the time when I discover how I feel in the world just doesn’t make good sense. Obviously, as we’ve learned through Republican fund raising dinners, the 1% is often given all the power in our country. But I say our bodies deserve a coup. Let the 99% win.

Move no matter what

Because people ask me the most effective ways to lose weight all the time, I am going to tell you about the 3 times I have lost a SIGNIFICANT (20+ lbs) amount of weight  in my life.

FAR AND AWAY, I have to say, the most effective way I have found to lose weight so far in my life was doing a ton of crystal meth. The pounds just fell right off me. I snorted it mostly but free based it as well. I can still remember the exact smell of the blue smoke that swirled in the bulb of the pipe. Sometimes during hot summers when people have their air conditioners cranked up so high you can smell the freon, the scent is so powerful, I get flashbacks to being tweeked out on meth. I kind of lucked out because when I first moved to San Francisco, there was a dealer that got a crush on me so I never paid for it either. I didn’t start doing it to lose weight. I did it because it felt incredible. I felt invincible and gorgeous and sexy and brilliant and charming and hilarious and productive and genius. Until I didn’t. Until my feet started going numb and my skin looked like I had mold inside me just under the surface snaking through my body and my brain fell into chaos and despair. That year I was consistently svelte and people loved to tell me how great I looked. WOW, they’d exclaim, YOU LOOK AMAZING! At first I’d smile and feel lit up like a pinball machine. The weight loss was some kind of side bonus I hadn’t even considered. I didn’t even think about food. I was too busy thinking about solving the crisis of the prison industrial complex and unhinging the oppression of queers dying from, essentially, hatred. Self or otherwise. I didn’t have time to fucking eat, and the thought of it freaked me out anyhow. Being free of food obsession for the first time ever was incredible. Better than being thin. BETTER THAN BEING THIN. As time went on and I found myself with hollowed out yellowish dead eyes and wearing blotches on my skin like embarrassing hickeys from ill advised dates, getting a size 4 pair of pants didn’t bring the thrill of victory I’d always imagined it might. One more person told me how “Great” I looked and I just said, “Well, I’m pretty strung out on speed so I’m glad I have that going for me.”

Get a friend to move with you!

ANYHOW: I definitely lost a lot of weight and so I can attest to that method. However. I don’t recommend it. Side effects include loss of money, teeth, friends, lovers, jobs, housing, and life. I was lucky, but my dead friends were not, and every last one of them would rather be here than skinny.

A little less dire for effective weight loss is some really down home Emotional Devastation.  Now for me, a general malaise, a protracted sadness, or a vague depression won’t work. Those have traditionally driven me to comfort eating and obsessively thinking about what to eat instead of feeling whatever feelings I may be avoiding. But true annihilation has brought me so low at times that I just don’t feel like eating at all or I can’t. Again, here, the pounds melted away as the Magical Misery Fairy tapped on my throat to make it feel like it was choking almost constantly. Anxiety, pain, and near constant crying jags banished those pesky pounds away like a dream. Again people, even ones knowing how much pain I was suffering, took great pleasure in telling me how wonderful I looked. What a compliment! Unlike my Game Show Hostess on Meth alter ego, this version of me wanted to kill people. In this state, I truly wanted to feel good and how I looked meant nothing, Just like Ranier Maria Rilke says. It really made me think a lot about beauty and what it could mean to be a beautiful person, like in a Prince song.

Then a few years ago during a pretty happy time of life, I decided to try Weight Watchers. I did it for 10 months and I lost a bunch of weight and felt pretty goddamned happy about it. I felt proud and so excited to go to a wedding and look a certain way. This method did not involve me filling my body with toxic drugs that would make my teeth rot out of my head, nor did I feel, at any time, devastated or bereft. I kept track of what I ate daily and meticulously and frankly, this process offered me some things I found helpful. I liked the structure of it and I liked having an understanding that if I changed the portions of some things, I still felt satisfied. (Note: The DubDubs has rules that lets a person be well within their program and still survive on Skittles, a bagel, and 2 light beers every day. You can get in with your points and still lose weight and have a victory on your hands. Hell, on weekends you can even add in a Skinny Fudgesicle and tequila shots. Again, weight loss over health.)

Over time, however, the constant tracking and monitoring felt increasingly creepy and horrible.  I became my own vicious food prison warden, and this is on the kindest diet I have ever undertaken. Diets are inherently broken. They are the work of the devil, or misogyny. I know this because when I wanted a little freedom from any of it, when I decided to abandon the plan and stop babysitting my own food intake and carrying around weird scraps of paper to enter into the computer later, I went insane. Or sane. I mean first, insane, then sane.

The microculture of restriction and denial serve to starve our inner ideas of thriving. They sent me from feeling like I was a little bit in the weeds directly into the damn wilderness. My newly found self-esteem turned out to be a thin reflective mirror easily shattered by the truth of my real depth of self-loathing. Underneath all the desire to be thin or perfect or pretty or NORMAL was the monstrous truth that I was just not enough. Not successful enough or desirable enough or talented enough or … I’m sorry. Am I boring you to DEATH?! On top of that, to discover my utter edgeless lack of original despair, the desperately boring female trope lodged in me like a vestige of postmodernist Snoresville, the wholly disappointing discovery that at my core I was a delicate fucking flower that wanted to be a wisp…. Jesus. It was a true terror. Even my most private failures turned flaccid.

I not only had the original pain but the judgments of that pain as well. My inner 3rd wave feminist critic spit on my thrifted Doc Martens and my Body Positive crusader packed up the vintage slips and Sharpie body tattoos and deserted me. I had no politics to bring me comfort with a truth like this. That at my true core, I was, well, alone.

And turns out, that was the perfect place for me to start rebuilding. Because I live here in this body: ALONE. This is the place I think, dance, run, eat, snore, read, kiss, swim and ski. I experience everything in here. And finally having that agency to shut out the pressures of outside expectation let me slowly build some kind of new relationship to my own home here. I own this body and it’s my responsibility not to be a shitty landlord. Because no matter what I choose, that choice lives here.

This is when things really started to make a shift for from getting thin to getting comfortable. I don’t even want to say “healthy” exactly. Because to me, part of being healthy is being free and having agency for the first time in my life to say yes or no to things. To be able to have food and know when it’s a dessert and when it’s a coping mechanism disguised as a flourless chocolate tart.

So instead of weight loss, I found that developing a relationship to my body and to food that works to support my happiness and my actual physical needs will let my body exist in a space that’s comfortable for it. And now that this particular body is officially in menopause, and pretty early I might add, NOT TO BRAG, it’s got some new things it’d like to tell me. I need to really be a grown ass woman and decide what the cross section is of what do I want to do, what am I willing to do, and how do I want to feel when I do it. Eating and moving are the general crux to all of my experience here in this body, and therefor, the way I practice the sacred in this life. It is a work in progress and with any luck at all, it will last the rest of my days.

Just like The World Champion Giants: it’s a State of Mind as well as body. Mostly I just wanted to rep myself as a Giants Fan.

1. How I Eat is Just as Important as What I Eat: I don’t eat standing up anymore as a general rule. I don’t eat while driving. I try to take a few breaths before I begin to eat. Say a quiet thank you to the workers, the planet, the resources, the privilege and the sheer luck that brought me to this food. These breaths and that thanks usually lead me to a place where I am reminded to chew, promoting good digestion and more help for my digestive organs and gut health, and more sheer pleasure to enjoy the sensory fiesta of eating. Eating compulsively is always a sign that something emotional is up and it also robs me of the experience of enjoying the food. Which then often leads to eating AGAIN and therefor overeating when a body doesn’t need any more fuel.

2. Staying Hydrated is Key: I am so shitty at drinking water. TERRIBLE. Here’s the thing. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things we can do for our sense of well-being. It’s detoxifying, it helps with systemic inflammation and it keeps our conversations with our bodies honest. When we are dehydrated, our body will do anything it can to get water, including telling us we are hungry because obviously we are not giving it water. It’ll be like, “Okay then, girl. Get get yourself some food I can syphon the water out of it because if you keep trying to turn me into a damn raisin, I will die, and I’m not having any of that.” When we are hydrated (drinking someplace between 75-100 oz of water or herbal tea a day) our brains are much more clear in contact with what the body wants. The more water you drink, the more you want to drink it. Now there are tons of easy little apps on your phone that can remind you to have water that don’t require tons of obsessy logging and stuff.

3. DIGESTION!!! The Ayurvedic tradition suggests eating our largest meal closer to the middle of the day and letting dinner be lighter so that our bodies don’t have to work so hard as they are sleeping is the kindest to our digestive tracts. Ideally, the body has deeper cleaning to do while we sleep and if we let it do that work, our bodies are more efficient with our fuel. I try to keep 12 hours between when I finish dinner and start breakfast. I don’t always accomplish this, but I notice that when I do, my body feels, like, more ready to rumble. The lethargy quotient is so much lower.

4. Move. Start where you are. If you move a lot, bring in some variation and mix it up. If you don’t move at all, just start. Walk more. Take the stairs. Do a squat. Pick something you like. If you hate the gym, don’t go to the fucking gym. There is no such thing as a Gym Person. People tell me, “I’m not a Gym Person.” No one is a gym person. Going to the gym is a behavior. You go or you don’t. Who were people before gyms? Certainly still people. So. Maybe you find a gym you like. Maybe you start to hike. Or you dance at home between work breaks. Or maybe you go for walks or try running. Maybe you play tennis or you do the 7 minute workout a few times on your lunch break. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Don’t worry about what Bethany does because Bethany doesn’t have to live your life in your body. Do what you do. Bring a pal. Or if you’re very social, use movement to be alone. Leave your phone at home. Climb rocks and sightsee. Snowshoe. Ski. Swim. Lift weights. Shovel. Garden. Ice Skate. ANYTHING. Get a gang together. Just Keep on Moving.

5. Eat when You’re Hungry. Period.

6. Enjoy Eating. Really. It can be difficult, or impossible, to truly enjoy eating if you are also working or watching The Vampire Diaries or having an argument. So put pleasure first. How about that?

These are some things that have NOT helped me to lose weight. They have helped me to feel good about my life in this body, and over time, my weight has shifted. I cannot tell you that doing these things will help you to lose weight but I can tell you that if you do them, your relationship to your body will be so much happier. You might lose weight or change shape. You will learn what foods your body likes and which ones make it feel not so hot. You will sleep better. You’ll have more energy and zest for life. You will cook more and get better at it and you’ll be more attracted to vegetables. They’re pretty. And here’s a weird one: you’ll save money. First because you will get better at food shopping and you’ll cook more and second because you won’t spend so much money looking for happiness in ways that have nothing to do with happiness. All because of food and exercise, you ask?


And because you give a shit about where you live.

Cook More!

Lucky Devil Bread

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


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!



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

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:

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.

Hippie Dust: How We Fell In Love

Throw some hippie dust on that!

And so, with that direction bellowed over an enormous bowl of popcorn one fateful evening about 12 years ago, began my love affair with nutritional yeast. Actually, the love began as many affairs do, in a state of acrimony and denial with undercurrent of a tug pulling me toward something inexplicable. My first taste resulted in a somewhat crumply face of disgust as compared to a popcorn bowl full of delicious melted butter and salt with fresh ground pepper. But something about the nuttiness of the unexpected yeast pulled me back. And in no time at all, I was all in.

Nutritional yeast has an enormous benefit to many people over its cousins brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast. This yeast, grown mostly on beet sugar is an inactive yeast which means it can be incorporated into a nutritional arsenal of a system that is often challenged by other active yeasts. (Of course, ask your doctor or nutritionist their view on this for your health.) Hippie dust is a dynamo of benefits packed into a magic flourish over foods for a nutty, almost cheesy, flavor. Look here:

1. Vitamin B-12- This is a crucial nutrient for the body involved in the production of red blood cells and for producing and maintaining myelin, the protective insulation around your nerves. Most sources of Vitamin B-12 are animal based, so nutritional yeast is a major player in the nutritional well being of vegans and vegetarians. One tablespoon will provide an adult with a full day’s supply of B-12, if you can keep the tastiness to that!

2. Protein- 2 tablespoons of hippie dust contains 9 grams of protein. That’s more than in 1 cup of whole milk (8g), a large egg (6g), or one oz. of beef (7g). It’s a wonderful source of energy for your workout mornings.

3. Fiber- Fiber is one of my personal favorites in terms of gut health and functional digestion. It also helps our systems regulate blood sugar giving us a more sustainable even store of energy throughout our days and at higher levels. Nutritional yeast provides 3 grams of fiber per tiny serving.

4. Gluten Free- Not only a boon for the Vegans out there, but this treat is also gluten free providing all of this power with an anti-inflammatory ease.

5. Folic acid- Nutritional yeast is also a great source of folic acid. Especially important for women out there trying to get pregnant or carrying future citizens of the planet, folic acid is known to prevent spina bifida and other major birth defects. For those not planning to get pregnant, folic acid is still important for its role in cell maintenance and production.

Here’s one of the easiest recipes in the world and it’ll wow your dinner guests as well.

1 head cauliflower
1T olive oil
1t black sesame seeds
1/4c nutritional yeast
Sea Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350. Take all the ingredients and drop them in a mixing bowl. Toss it with your hands until all is coated. Spread on a cooking sheet with parchment paper or foil and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Cauliflower should be a golden light brown. THAT’S IT!

*Originally, I wrote this article for a wellness site here on the web that I’ve decided not to write for anymore. As it has grown to a pretty impressive size, the site continues to insist on not paying its writers for their work. (COMMON PRACTICE) Not even a dollar. Not with coupons or anything, just “Since we do not compensate contributors for posts, we’re more than happy to include a byline and your brief bio containing links to your website, Facebook, Twitter accounts, which we will promote when your post goes live.” I suppose I got lulled into this belief that I had to continue, after many years as a professional writer, to work for free to promote someone else’s content. In the agreement I found myself also letting my voice be compromised, which is actually my favorite part of writing. When I inquired to the editors about when they planned compensation, fiscal or otherwise, for the writers that wholly drive their content, I got no reply at all.  So I decided to simply write here on my own site and accept that I may stay small, but whatever. At least I’ll stay true. 
This text has been edited from its original form to be reprinted here.

Old School Potato Leek Soup

One of the things I love about winter is the angle of the light. It’s not good for driving and it flees from the low perch too quickly each day, but the way it hitches sideways, a smirking dandy with a walking cane. Handsome, and a little bit lazy. I grew up on the east coast before we were melting the ice caps so rapidly and my life revolved in four real seasons. Year in and year out. Roughly every three months, something changed, and with winter, along with the light, I loved the frost.

Weirdly, here in San Francisco, there’s been frost on the ground every morning for a week straight. That’s more mornings than the rest of the 14 years I’ve lived here all together. In addition to providing shiny surfaces for a sunrise to ping around on, it makes a lady want stews and soups. And this old soup is one of my very favorites. I had a few potatoes and leeks left over from Hanukkah and whipped this up in no time.

The first thing I did was pull all the ends of squashes and celery and onions and garlic out from the freezer and make a vegetable broth. This one was sweet from the squash and so my soup turned out extra comforting.

For the broth, I keep a ziplock bag of all the ends of my vegetables to go in as I cook during the week: ends of scallions, squash hats, onion skins, broccoli stalks, cauliflower cores, kale spines… all of it. By the weekend the bag is full and I add 8 cups of water and bring it all to a boil then reduce and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Voila. Broth.

4-6 leeks, sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 yellow potatoes
1t celery salt
1t fresh ground black pepper
2T olive oil
6c vegetable broth or water
2T half and half (optional)
cilantro or parsley to garnish

I like to prep everything before I start. I slice the leeks into coin and soak them in a bowl to get the grit and dirt out.  I peel my potatoes (I used yukon golds here, but I actually think the humble russet works better in this soup. It comes apart easier.) and slice them into quarters, then into 1/4 inch discs. The onion gets taken care of.

In a heavy bottomed pot I throw in the olive oil, and heat it up. Then go the leeks and the onions for about 5-7 minutes, until soft. Then I put in the potatoes, the salt and the pepper. I like mine to have kick. when everything is good and soft, add your broth or water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce and let cook for an hour. You can mash up your potatoes or let them fall apart. I like to leave some hearty chunks in mine. If you like, near the end of cooking stir in the half and half. Then you’re ready for your warm soup!!

Some options: do it with sweet potatoes. Swap the half and half for a hunk of coconut butter to keep it vegan. Take out the onion and use extra leeks. Add garlic. Add a dried chipotle pepper for a smokey taste. You could use a turnip too if you like.

My Article on Quitting Sugar from MindBodyGreen

Quitting Sugar is a tough fight, but it’s worth it.

Sugar is taking a public beating this week, as the internet is crammed with articles on why to avoid it, including Michael Moss’s fascinating NYT Magazine piece on processed foods as well as yesterday’s NYT column column by beloved chef Mark Bittman.

Bittman’s article explores findings from a study that links sugar consumption, not obesity, to diabetes. According to the piece, “researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity. In other words, according to this study, obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.”

Going beyond the link, Mr. Bittman finally says from the center of chefdom what health coaches and researchers like Dr. Robert Lustig have been saying for years:

Sugar is toxic.

Which is the best reason to quit sugar.

One of the forty million times I quit eating refined sugar (and hopefully the last), I had the magnificent idea to start a journal and track not just my food, but my THOUGHTS about food. How much of my intellectual life was being held hostage by food obsession? And how much of that chokehold was related to sugar? And finally, what might be available to me mentally if all that room was suddenly liberated for me to use in a less exhausting manner than the vicious mistress of obsessive thinking?

I also decided to do a little research about my sweet tooth and see why I felt so helpless in the glitter of its outstretched fingernails. I found this lecture that Dr. Lustig gave a lecture called Sugar: The Bitter Truth in which he shows us that sugar actually stimulates the exact same region of the brain that cocaine goes to work on. I like to call it the Euphoria Lounge. Who doesn’t want to be transported from feelings of suffering, boredom, fear, or betrayal simply by adding a substance to our systems? It is so much easier than talking it out, going for a run, being present in pain or accepting responsibility for things that are causing us harm. NO WONDER I LOVE SUGAR!!

But my journal revealed that the effects of sugar didn’t end simply with the stimulation. Without indulging in the initial impulse, I was able to keep my brain off the endless hamster wheel of desire and denial. “I want this but that’s bad so I can’t.” and then on an even worse day, “I want this so I WILL and now I AM BAD.” Then the sugar appears and the blood sugar Olympics begin their relentless training: the high, the crash, the craving, and mental gymnastics to deny the desire and so forth. And the whole time the mind is engaged in this cycle actively, countless hours are robbed from our waking lives.

So how do we get off the ride? Here are some basic tools for support in quitting sugar, serving the health of your body, and freeing your mind from obsession so you can go about the fantastic business of living.

1. SOUR: Just like on a color wheel where hues opposite from each other cancel each other out, so too is the landscape of our tongues. Having a sugar craving? Grab a pickle. The sour taste will physiologically kill the impulse long enough for you to make a different choice for yourself and mindfully return to the life you are in the middle of living.

2. SUPPORT: Grab a friend or a posse and do it together. The first few days and even two weeks can be so intense when we try and let go of a crutch that no longer serves our health. It’s ok to ask for help and having a friend engaged in a common goal serves to strengthen the entire team. I see this over and over in my group cleanses, how the power of community creates a momentum for everyone.

3. CHANGE OF SCENERY: When the impulse feels at full banshee-monster-head-banging massive, make a physical move. Walk around the block. Take yourself up and down the stairs at the office. Go swimming. Take the dog out. Move from one room of the house to another. Call up your sugar-free pal and talk it out. Remember the craving will pass. Everything does.

4. ADD MORE PLEASURE: Congratulate yourself each day by furnishing yourself with a pleasure. Giving up sugar is not about living in denial, it is about a new perspective of pleasure. Run yourself a gorgeous bath with essential oils and bath salts for added detoxification, aromatherapy, and muscular relaxation. Bring yourself flowers. Treat yourself to a mani/pedi or give one to yourself. Masturbate. Let’s face it, no one is ever mad about an orgasm.

When I was finally able to let go of sugar, I realized through my journal how much of my mental space had been taken up not just by the sugar craving and acrobatics around that, but by just food obsession in general. My mind is now so much freer to be creative, to be curious and alive. My focus is more clear and my relationships with people are deeper, more authentic and loving. I don’t sit with my friend over tea and wonder how long until I get to eat. I sit with my friend over tea and I think about how nice it is to have time to catch up with such a hilarious woman, and how lucky I am to know her.