As I write this afternoon, I am seated in the sunny kitchen of a beautiful home in York, PA. It is a day away from home, and a day that is far from my routine.
Life is full of disruption! Yesterday was a travel day. Up WAAAAAAYYYYY early to get to the airport. My exercise for the day consisted of schlepping my suitcase and backpack through Houston Hobby, DFW, and BWI airports. Too much sitting to fly, and then to drive, I can tell that I need to MOVE. There is a treadmill in the upstairs bedroom, which I will use later. I’m planning a walk in the neighborhood after dinner. It is what I can do, and it’s the best I can do — so that is the solution for today, and probably for the next few days.
Sleep is disrupted as well. I function best on 7.5 hours of sleep each night. My internal alarm clock is reliable. However, two short nights — the night before travel, and then the long settling in process last night in a different bed — and I can tell I am under-slept. Since I am on vacation, there’s the tantalizing possibility of a nap later in the afternoon. I’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, and perhaps that will hit the internal “reset” button and tomorrow will be better.
Since I started following the Eat to Live plan eleven months ago, I have been able to create a food environment at home that is supportive of my health goals. Since I don’t travel for a living, I don’t really have routines and systems set up so that I can eat constructively when I do travel. However, so far I have been able to stick with the plan while I am at my cousin’s home. I had a glass of wine (or two) last night while visiting, and that was my splurge. We’re going out for a family dinner tomorrow after my aunt’s memorial service, and I will probably have another small splurge — a glass of wine, or a bite of dessert. It helps me to tell myself, “It is easy and convenient to stay on this plan, even when I travel. It is easy to make good choices 90% of the time.” If I instead told myself, “This is so hard! How will I ever do it? There are so many temptations!” I would be completely focused on what I don’t want, instead of what I DO want.
It is not my intention to say, “Am I not amazing? Look how resilient I am!” However, perhaps people would feel better, stronger, and more in-control of their lives if they would say that to themselves. Humans have survived as a species because we are adaptable to a wide variety of circumstances and environments. Our internal regulatory systems strive to bring us back into balance — homeostasis — so that life systems can continue. Emotional shocks, or threats to the comfortable and familiar, are sometimes less easy to take in stride. Moshe Feldenkrais spoke and wrote extensively about the various adaptations, positive and negative, that individuals devise to “get through” particular situations. To do the best you can with what you have to work with in any moment — that’s the best you can do. Surely, when I remind myself that I do have the capacity for resilience, and I do have the resourcefulness to adapt, each day can be enjoyed for what it is: a gift of opportunity and possibility.
When this website launched a few weeks ago, I intended to write about movement, sleep, and healthy eating. Recently, I have posted several pictures of my dinners on Facebook and Instagram . Yes, I have become that person who photographs their food. Never say never, I say! Those images have stimulated so much curiosity and engagement, that I thought I would just go ahead and write about what people are interested in at the moment: What am I eating?
I have been following Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s eating plan as outlined in the book, “Eat to Live.” It is a whole-foods, plant-based diet, that allows me to eat virtually unlimited quantities of delicious food that is super-high in nutrients. For the past ten months, I have reduced my consumption of processed foods and all animal products to less than five percent of my total intake. The goal is to eat as much of the highest-nutrient foods as possible. Happily, these foods are also very high in fiber, and low in calories. The weight has been flying off (right at 60 pounds at the moment), my blood pressure is now in the optimal range, BMI is out of the “obese” range and into the “normal” zone, and other biometrics are also positive. This way of eating is not appealing to everyone — or at least, the IDEA of eating this way is not appealing to everyone. However, every time I post an image of what I am actually eating on a daily basis, people consistently comment: “That looks amazing!”
Frankly, I was on the road to heart disease and Type II diabetes if I didn’t do something. I am determined to be pharmaceutical-free, vital, and healthy for the long haul.
So, by popular demand, here is how I made tonight’s dinner: Creamy Kale and Almond Soup with White Beans, and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms on Fresh Avocado with Cilantro Pesto. I do need to work on my food photography — or more precisely, I need to work on the neatness of my plating and presentation! Anyway — it still looks yummy, don’t you think? Oh, it was!
Before we get started, I need to tell you that I frequently make things up as I go along. I tend to cook from my pantry, and whatever is on hand (or needs to be used!) in the fridge. The exact measurements: I have no idea. Yes, I realize it must be infuriating to have vague instructions of the “A little of this, not too much of that” variety. Sorry. The truth is, I sort of eyeball it. These quantities seem right. As they are going together, they just LOOK right to me, and I go with it. That’s a big part of creativity: having enough experience to know, sort of, where you are headed, even if you don’t know exactly how you’ll get there. This applies to cooking, music, writing — lots of situations. Just dive in, and do the best you can with what you have. You’ll be surprised how often that actually works.
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of kale
4 cups lowest-sodium-possible vegetable broth (I make my own with no added oil or salt, and freeze it in 2 cup packets. MUCH better than store-bought!)
4 cups water
1/2 cup raw almond butter
1 15 oz can organic white beans, rinsed well; or 2 cups cooked white beans of any kind
1/2 cup (more or less, to taste) seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon no-salt seasoning (Mrs. Dash, Spike, etc.)
Heat the soup pot. Add a splash of water, broth, or seasoned rice vinegar, and add the onions and garlic to water sauté until the onion turns translucent and soft. Add more liquid, a few tablespoons at a time, as needed to keep the mixture from sticking.
Prepare the kale: wash well, spin or pat dry. Remove the leaves from the stems. Chop the stems fairly small and add all of the kale to the pot. Cover with vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the water, and as soon as it begins to bubble again, turn it down to simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the almond butter and kind of mash it so that it breaks up a bit in the liquid. Use an immersion blender to make the soup a more uniform texture. You may still have a few leaves of kale in there, that’s fine. Add about half of the beans, and continue to blend. For this step, you can also ladle a few cups of the mixture at a time into a regular blender to process the soup until it gets frothy, then return to the pot.
Add the no-salt seasoning, the remaining beans, and the seasoned rice vinegar to taste. Stir and serve!
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
I followed the instructions from one of my favorite food blogs, The Post Punk Kitchen. However, I reduced the amount of oil in the marinade from 1 Tablespoon to just 1/4 TEASPOON. I eat plenty of fats, but they are from whole-food sources like avocados and nuts — no (or very little) added refined oils, even olive oil. Next time, I may leave it out completely. I used a quick spray of coconut oil on the grill pan, but you could use something like PAM, or the tiniest bit of olive oil, just to keep the mushrooms from sticking. They turned out PERFECTLY.
While the ‘shrooms are cooking, prepare the pesto.
You can make pesto out of any herb you like, and/or any green and leafy vegetable: traditional basil, parsley, cilantro, spinach, kale, steamed aparagus! You can also use any kind of raw nuts: traditional pine nuts (pignoli), walnuts, or sunflower seeds are my favorites. Tonight, I happened to use:
1 cup cilantro leaves (a few stems are OK)
juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup?)
seasoned rice vinegar, to taste
a big handful of raw walnut pieces (a bit less than 1/4 cup)
Put all ingredients, except for the vinegar, into a food processor and pulse. Stop, scrape down the sides with a spatula, and pulse some more.
The mixture will need more liquid. Start with two tablespoons of water, continue to pulse, scrape, pulse.
Have a taste and add a little more vinegar if you think it needs more acidity. Otherwise, keep adding water a tablespoon at a time, until you can just run the food processor and the mixture gets smooth and creamy.
Instead of serving the portobello on a bun or foccacia bread, I sliced 1/2 of a good-sized avocado for each of us, and arranged it on the plate. Put the grilled mushroom on top of the avocado slices. Put a good dollop of the pesto on top, and garnish with a leaf of cilantro or parsley.
No added oil, no added salt, no animal products. Big on flavor, fiber, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, protein, disease-reversing-and-preventing delicious and satisfying, filling amazingness. Dessert? Absolutely. We had wonderful watermelon.
My omnivorous partner, C., has enjoyed eating whatever I have put in front of him, and he has lost 30 pounds by just hanging around with me. He declared this dinner “Outstanding!” Enjoy.