The Thoughtful Kitchen

Is Summer Really Over?

NOOOO, say it isn’t so! Being from New England, fall is one of my favorite times of year. It signals a reboot. I haven’t cleaned my house (don’t judge) since June because I was doing fun stuff outside. We can open our windows because the mercury has dipped below 70. Heck, we might even be able to start a fire in the fireplace.  

Food is definitely one of those things that changes when fall rolls around. The kids are back in school, and vacations are a pile of sand in the back of the car. Our lives are more scheduled than they were three months ago. With all of this change, our eating habits change as well. All of the sudden, we don’t have time to prepare dinner and we cannot get everyone to sit down together at the same time. The produce doesn’t look as it once did. The corn has vanished, and don’t get me started on the end of tomato season. 

We tend to reach for more convenient foods quicker. I was in a store recently and a woman was buying a vegetarian (pre-packaged) sandwich and juice box. When she got to the register, she explained “the sandwich and juice were for my son. I’m just getting back into the swing of things and didn’t have time to make him lunch”.  

It made me think. Why did she feel compelled to “explain”? Are we making people feel bad, because they didn’t put a four-course lunch together for their kid? I wanted to hug her and tell her it was ok. Have you watched the movie “Bad Moms”? I have watched it four times already. If you get a chance, get it. I think it hits home for a lot of us, kids or not. The premise is we cannot do it all, all of the time. We do what we can, the best way we can.   

I will come clean. I bought Trader Joes spicy pork sausages a couple of weeks ago, I LOVED THEM. I grilled them with white beans, rosemary and white wine, then put it all on top of Boston lettuce leaves. Think lettuce tacos. I cannot remember the last time we had sausages. Eating those sausages didn’t kill us, but if we ate them all of the time, it wouldn’t be good. At all.

Eating whole foods regularly allows us to venture off the tracks every now and then. Even though the produce section isn’t as colorful as it was a couple of months ago, there is still great produce, it’s just different. Cooking is actually easier to do in the fall and winter because everything is so freezer friendly. You make one big meal, eat what you can, then freeze the rest for later on! I love nothing more than opening my freezer and seeing a slew of food that I prepared just waiting to be thawed, heated and then joyously eaten with little to no clean up.

We may be entering fall, but even in California, we can still “bulk up”. Our freezers, that is. Preparing whole foods couldn’t be easier during this time of year, really. Don’t let those funny looking squashes get the best of you. They are super nutritious, filling, and easy to prepare. That goes the same for beans, lentils, beets. In our October class, we are making a red curry lentil soup. It is amazingly simple and delicious. I hope to see you there.

If you have any questions or thoughts, I would love to hear from you: chefjennoc@gmail.com

Thanks for stopping by, Jenn

Whole Foods & Farmers Markets

What a week. My heart is heavy at the passing of Aretha Franklin. I grew up on her music. I saw an interview with Stevie Wonder who talked about his relationship with Aretha. At the end of the interview, he mentioned the cancer she had and said something that I think resonates with all of us. “What we do and what we eat affects us and everything around us”. This is even more prevalent when we, eh hem, start moving a bit slower.

Eating whole foods isn’t a diet. It is using your local produce (and boy, do we have a lot of it here in California) and a bit of imagination to sustain you and your family. A great place to start is your local farmers market. You can purchase the makings for an entire salad and probably make a friend or two. Grab your coffee, some bags and behold the beauty.

If going to a farmers market is new, start out with a salad. I walk around first, to see what is available and maybe get a couple of samples on the way. My next walk through is for purchasing. I always try to buy something I have never worked with and that looks interesting.

Think about buying your salad for the week. A salad kept covered, refrigerated and not seasoned (no salt, pepper or dressing) should keep for the week. As the week goes on, you can add grilled/roasted chicken, a piece of fish, grilled steak, etc. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes (minimal, tomatoes do not like the refrigerator), carrot (ribbons, more on this later). The varieties of lettuces alone are staggering, and all have a different taste and texture. Sometimes, I buy iceberg and a more expensive lettuce. This mixture offers a nice variety of textures and colors and is economical. You can let the farmers help you pick. They are eager for you to like what they are selling and willing to give you a taste of anything before you purchase. The grocery stores generally won’t let you do that. The more you go, the more comfortable you will become in your purchasing, and you will get to know your farmers.

Get the kids involved. You may have to “nudge” them a little, but letting them pick out what they want to eat/cook is important. It shows them who grows their food and where it comes from. Have them help in making the salad.

On a recent trip home, my 12 year old niece was in the kitchen with me. I asked her to help make a salad for dinner. You would have thought I asked her for the nuclear passcode. Well, after some “persuasion”, she was making carrot ribbons (here it is: peel the carrot, cut the bottom off, holding the carrot at an angle, with the vegetable peeler, slowly peel carrot, viola, ribbons) like nobody’s business. She ended up finishing the salad with a high five from auntie and conversation! She took pride in that salad when we all sat down for dinner.

Incorporating more whole foods in your diet makes a difference. This is totally doable and doesn’t require a complete rerack of lifestyle or dieting. Visit your local farmers markets, they would love to help you out. Don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at: chefjennoc@gmail.com with any thoughts or questions and don’t forget to check out the listings for our cooking classes. This could be a great way to get started with those whole foods.

Thanks for visiting, Chef Jenn

Recovery from Chronic Pain and Stress

laine-webOver the course of a year, Laura taught me, a harried graduate student with severe neck pain, to learn how to breathe without pain or tension by meeting my body where it was, lying on my back, day in and day out, until it became natural. She listened patiently and warmly to what caused stress in my life and gave me the tiniest steps of breathing, shoulder movement, meditation and chants. She made adjustments along the way as new suggestions worked or didn’t for me, until those steps turned into bigger and bigger ones and I made progress. She also taught me to expect and feel happiness in a way that motivated me to make the bodily and psychological changes I needed to make to feel happiness more often.

If Laura hadn’t had the tremendous skill and belief that the tiniest changes can lead to a reorientation to life, I don’t think I would be the calm, happy person I am today. She is one of the most gifted, spiritual people I have ever met.

Laine Walters-Young

 

Holistic Healing – What Can You Expect?

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I was stopped in my tracks by an interview I heard recently on NPR. In it, Bruce Kramer spoke openly of his struggle, according to him, to “live while dying from ALS”. He died on March 23, 2015. His story touched my heart and inspired me.

I was moved by his courage – first, to share so honestly. And further, by the strength he exhibited in his response to the disease. He chose to be vulnerable and discuss feelings that we all experience but are rarely able and willing to face.

I sometimes wonder how effective I can be when working with clients who are facing difficult disease conditions that are not expected to improve. Bruce reminded me of the great good we can do through yoga – to help people be fully present with themselves wherever they are and in whatever situation they face. By bringing people together in community, safety, and acceptance, we can create a space where internal healing of mind and spirit can occur.

Bruce spoke of such a place during yoga class even while in his wheelchair and needing others to bring movement to his uncooperative limbs. He was able to connect deeply with the music of his soul, heart and spirit. He said that he experienced joy. He spoke of ALS being his greatest teacher, without which he might never have embraced the life lessons he encountered.

Most of us don’t have a terminal illness prompting us to grow, but nevertheless, the lessons lay before us for the taking. Many of us experience other, ongoing chronic health conditions like diabetes and autoimmune disease. Yoga affords us the opportunity to heal on many levels. For some, physical healing will happen. Others will find acceptance. As we become observers of ourselves in action, we begin to hear the body and soul speak. With this gentle practice of self-awareness, we too, can experience deeper understanding and personal transformation. We can start to notice when our life feels out of balance and learn tools to bring things back to center.

At some point in the progression of the disease, he realized the need to forgive his body. How many of us need to do the same? To have courage, and look deeply within? He spoke of the shift that took place after he forgave his body for failing him. I related this to the concept that in yoga, we stop struggling, get still, and relax enough for a little space to develop. Life asks much of us. We try so hard. Yoga asks only that we surrender, let body and breath find one another, and once reunited, let the music within each of us come forth. The Yoga Sutras teach that in this space, true healing and transformation erupt – spontaneous, slow, and steady. It is our choice to come, practice, listen, and allow healing.

Bruce’s example encourages me to keep teaching – and practicing. Breath and movement is accessible to anyone, regardless of your health status. To learn more, visit the classes and workshops page.

To listen to the whole interview visit:

http://www.onbeing.org/program/bruce-kramer-forgiving-the-body-life-with-als/7420

Results with Nutrition

I worked with Laura for a number of months with great success!  Laura went beyond the traditional approach of any other nutritionist that I had worked with in the past.  She helped me to understand the lifestyle patterns that were causing my downfall when it came to eating healthfully.  She also worked