Featured post

Your Guide to Ultherapy

As we age, the skin loses its natural elasticity and shine as the cells die out through a degenerative process. Though there are a lot of skin products that help in making the skin retain its smoothness and softness, most are still a temporary solution and in the long run become a hefty cost. Surgery can also be done but the pain and the costs often make people shy away from taking the option. Now here comes Ultherapy, a new alternative that gives you healthier and younger-looking skin.

What is Ultherapy?

Ultherapy is a skin treatment that doesn’t involve going under the knife or getting wheeled into a surgery room. This uses ultrasound waves to make the skin more loose and then lifting it without the need for surgery. Ultherapy stimulates the deep layers of the skin that are often addressed in skin surgery, but this therapy works without the need of injuring the tissues at all. Because of ultrasound, healthcare professionals are capable of visualizing the skin and just the right amount of energy is applied to the specific area of the skin to be treated.

How Does it Work?

Ultherapy makes use of ultrasound waves to stimulate the tissues beneath the skin, even reaching several layers up to the muscles. This makes the skin grow tighter, close pores, and make the skin look smoother. Regarded as safe by the medical community worldwide for over 50 years, Ultherapy eliminates the need for one to undergo surgery or other invasive procedures in order to make the skin look healthier and younger.

Contributed By:

Skin Tightening Clinic Singapore
Blk 125 Bt Merah Lane 1, #01-174, Singapore 150125

15 Iron-Rich Vegan Food Combinations

15 Iron-Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Today I’m checking in with a continuation of my series of posts on nutrient-rich combinations of plant foods. First I tackled protein, and then I addressed calcium. Today I’m chatting about iron within a vegan diet, and I’m offering you 15 iron-rich combinations of plant food, along with ideas for how to enjoy them.

All About Iron

Iron is needed by red blood cells in order to deliver oxygen throughout the body. It’s essential for energy maintenance, and it also plays a role in DNA synthesis and immunity. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, and it’s more common among women than men, in part because women lose iron through menstruation. Low iron stores lead commonly to iron-deficiency anemia; symptoms include fatigue, pallor, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath.

When we think about iron, our minds might immediately turn to red meat, liver, or any of the foods we were told to eat for iron when we were growing up. It’s true that red meat is a great source of iron, but so are many plant foods, including lentils, soybeans, and leafy greens; in fact, an average serving of lentils contains more iron than a 3-ounce serving of beef. A cup of cooked turnip greens or beet greens contains about 20%. Surveys of vegans show them to be at no greater risk for iron deficiency than omnivores [1, 2], and some research suggests that vegans may consume more iron, on average, than do non-vegans [3].

Vegan Diets and Iron Absorption

In spite of the fact that vegan diets can easily be abundant in iron, there are some factors that vegans should consider beyond the actual amount of iron consumed–namely, issues of bioavailability and absorption.

The type of iron in plant foods, known as non-heme iron, is less well absorbed than heme iron, which comprises about 40% of the iron found in meat, poultry, and fish. Some research suggests that the bioavailability of iron from diets that contain substantial amounts of animal protein is about 14-18%, while it’s closer to 5% to 12% from vegetarian diets [4]. Vegans may need to consume more iron in order to account for this difference. 

Many iron-rich plant foods are also high in phytates (also known as phytic acid). Phytates bind to iron and other minerals, preventing their absorption. Phytates are abundant in some of the most healthful and nutrient-dense plant foods, including whole grains and legumes, and they’re associated with some potential health benefits, so they shouldn’t be avoided; rather, vegans should take care to eat ample iron-rich foods and be mindful of strategies than can help to increase absorption.

One of these strategies is to eat foods that are rich in vitamin C (ascorbic acid) along with foods that are rich in iron, since vitamin C significantly increases the absorption of non-heme iron. Vitamin C, which is found in plant-based foods including bell pepper, strawberries, certain crucifers, and citrus, can increase iron absorption up to six-fold, which may ultimately outweigh the differences in bioavailability between heme and non-heme iron [5]. The fermentation process used to make breads such as whole wheat sourdough can also help to increase absorption.

Finally, tannins–found in coffee and tea–can decrease iron absorption, as can calcium. For this reason, it’s wise to each iron-rich food a few hours before or after coffee and/or calcium supplements, if you take them [6].

Iron Recommendations

As far as iron recommendations go, the RDA for women between the ages of nineteen and fifty is 18 milligrams daily. It’s lower for men–8 milligrams daily–to account for the fact that women lose some iron through blood loss during menstruation.

While the Institutes of Medicine recommends that vegetarians and vegans get 1.8 times the RDA [7], an increased intake of this magnitude may not be necessary. In her iron primer for vegans, Ginny Messina notes that the current iron need determinations were based on limited research. She also cites studies suggesting that human bodies may adapt to lower iron bioavailability with enhanced absorption [8, 9].

In other words, it probably behooves vegans to increase iron intake above the RDA, but it may not be necessary to essentially double iron intake beyond what’s recommended for omnivores. No matter what, vegans should keep in mind the additional factors (like vitamin C consumption) that impact how iron is absorbed.

The plant-food combinations I’m sharing in this post, and my calculations of how they help you to reach the RDA, use the standard recommendation of 18 milligrams per day for women. My vegan readers can increase intake well beyond that by maximizing consumption of beans, soy foods, leafy greens, certain grains (especially quinoa, bulgur, and pearled barley), blackstrap molasses, cashews, and sesame seeds/tahini, among other foods.

Vegan Foods that are High in Iron

Now we get to the fun part: food! Specifically, the vegan foods that can best help you to source ample iron in your diet. Here’s a list of twenty plant-based foods that are particularly rich in iron:

Spinach, cooked, 1 cup: 6.4 mg (36%)
Tofu, 4 ounces: 6.4 mg (36%)
Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 4.4 mg (24%)
Swiss chard, cooked, 1 cup: 4.0 mg (22%)
Blackstrap molasses, 1 tablespoon: 3.6 mg (20%)
Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup: 3.3 mg (18%)
Potato, cooked, 1 large: 3.2 mg (18%)
Turnip greens, cooked, 1 cup: 3.2 mg (18%)
Quinoa, cooked, 1 cup: 2.8 mg (16%)
Beet greens, cooked, 1 cup: 2.7 mg (15%)
Tahini, 2 tablespoons: 2.7 mg (15%)
Peas, cooked, 1 cup: 2.5 mg (14%)
Tempeh, 4 ounces: 2.4 mg (13%)
Black eyed peas, cooked, 1/2 cup: 2.2 mg (12%)
Cashews, raw or roasted, 1/4 cup: 2.1 mg (12%)
Kidney beans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 2.0 mg (11%)
Chickpeas, cooked, 1/2 cup: 1.8 mg (10%)
Black beans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 1.8 mg (10%)
Bok choy, cooked, 1 cup: 1.8 mg (10%)
Bulgur, cooked, 1 cup: 1.7 mg (10%)

A quick note about spinach: while it’s very high in non-heme iron, it’s also high in polyphenols that are thought to inhibit absorption [10, 11]. So it’s a particularly good food to consume with vitamin C.

15 Iron-Rich Combinations of Plant Food

It’s always one thing to see, or read about, or be told about foods that are high in this-or-that nutrient. From a practical standpoint, though, I think it’s so much more impactful to be told how to incorporate such foods into a real-world, everyday diet. That’s what the goal of this post truly is, and without further ado, here are 15 iron-rich combinations of plant food, as well as some thoughts on how you might enjoy them.


Spinach (36%) + quinoa (16%) = 52%

Prepare a simple quinoa pilaf and stir in cooked spinach, or combine quinoa and spinach in a hearty soup or stew (you can try topping my cream of broccoli and quinoa soup with tempeh bacon or lemon pepper tempeh cubes!).


Blackstrap molasses (20%) + black beans (10%) = 30%

Prepare a batch of baked beans with blackstrap molasses, or try making my iron vegan sweet potato and black bean enchiladas.


15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Potato (18%) + turnip greens (18%) = 36%

Prepare a baked potato and stuff it with vegan sour cream or buttery spread and a cup of cooked, dark leafy greens. Or, try combining potatoes and turnip greens in an easy vegan hash.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Tempeh (13%) + bulgur (10%) = 23%

Make a batch of vegan tabbouleh and top it with my lemon pepper tempeh cubes, or prepare a simple bulgur and vegetable salad, then pile it high with tempeh bacon.


Chickpeas (10%) + quinoa (16%) = 26%

Quinoa and chickpea salads to the rescue! Start with my quinoa chickpea caesar salad, or my quinoa, carrot, and spinach salad with spicy carrot chili vinaigrette.

Other iron-rich options (featuring different beans) include my protein packed black bean and kidney bean quinoa salad, or my quinoa, corn, black bean, and tempeh salad with creamy cilantro dressing.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Tofu (36%) + spinach (36%) = 72%

Create a quick and easy stir fry using seared tofu, spinach, and your favorite whole grain. Or, for a comfort food meal, try whipping up my vegan eggplant rollatini.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping
15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Soybeans (24%) + bok choy (10%) = 34%

Create a stir fried rice dinner with soy beans and bok choy, or try my bean noodles with bok choy, edamame, and miso sesame sauce.



Lentils (18%) + quinoa (16%) = 34%

Where to begin? Both of these ingredients are abundant in vegan recipes, and they can be easily folded together in salads, pilafs, and grain bowls. I love combining them in my festive, holiday-worthy quinoa salad with dried cranberries, apricots, lentils, and pecans, or you could try serving my slow cooker masala lentils over a bowl of fluffy quinoa.  


Blackstrap molasses (20%) + cashews (12%) = 32%

Combine molasses and cashews in a bowl of morning porridge or oatmeal, or try combining them in nutrient-dense muffins or quickbread!


Black beans (10%) + quinoa (16%) = 26%

There are so many things I like to do with this combination of ingredients that I’m not sure where to start! They play very nicely together in salads, bowls, and more. Try combining them in my black bean and quinoa salad with quick cumin dressing, or throw them together and let them simmer in my slow cooker black bean, quinoa, and butternut squash chili.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Turnip greens (18%) + black eyed peas (12%)

Of course you might combine these two in a simple bean & green skillet (sort of like my simple stewed pinto beans and collard greens). But for something a little more traditional and festive, try combining them in a vegan hoppin’ John dish, and using turnip greens in place of traditional collards.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Bulgur (10%) + kidney beans (11%) + tahini (15%) = 36%

Try throwing these ingredients together in a Middle Eastern stew or soup dish. Or, throw together a simple bowl with bulgur wheat, kidney beans, and either tahini dressing or a nice big scoop of hummus and tahini.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Tofu (36%) + bok choy (10%) = 46%

Try combining these two ingredients together in a simple stir fry dish–with some bell pepper and/or cauliflower thrown in for extra Vitamin C!


Quinoa (16%) + peas (14%) = 30%

I love these ingredients on their own, and I also think they work really nicely in grain salads and pilafs. Try my purple asparagus and quinoa salad with peas, or my lemon herb quinoa with hemp seeds, spring peas, and basil.

15 Calcium Rich Vegan Food Combinations | The Full Helping

Tempeh (13%) + black beans (10%) = 23%

I love putting these two plant protein superstars together–especially in Mexican dishes, like chilis, but also in everyday salads. They’re great in my quinoa, corn, black bean, and tempeh salad.

As you can see, it’s truly not difficult to obtain quite a bit of non-heme iron within a single meal. It’s simply a matter of picking the right foods and then taking care to pair them, if you can, with vitamin C.

More Reading

Curious to read more? There are plenty of great resources on the web, including some of the articles that have helped me to write this post today. Start with Ginny Messina’s practical, comprehensive iron primer (and then take a moment to explore her other vegan nutrition primers). The Vegetarian Resource Group also has a great iron article that includes a comprehensive list of vegan sources of iron. True to form, Jack Norris offers extremely thorough and carefully researched information in this article. And finally, you can download the AND’s PDF on iron and vegetarian diets here.

Questions? Comments? Request for recipes or meal ideas? Let me know! I hope you find this post useful and practical, and I’m always happy to hear about other nutrition-themed posts that you’d like to read.

And because I can’t resist thinking in recipes, I’ve got one to share with you tomorrow that’s very rich in iron–and also quick, easy, and very delicious. Till soon!


1. Haddad EH, Berk LS, Kettering JD, Hubbard RW, Peters WR. Dietary intake and biochemical, hematologic, and immune status of vegans compared with nonvegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70(suppl):586S-93S.
2. Obeid R, Geisel J, Schorr H, et al. The impact of vegetarianism on some haematological parameters. Eur J Haematol. 2002;69:275-9.
3. Mangels R MV, Messina M. The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets. 3rd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2011.
4. Hurrell R, Egli I. Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1461S-7S.
5. Hallberg L. Bioavailability of dietary iron in man. Ann Rev Nutr 1981;1:123-147.
6. Gleerup A, Rossander Hulthen L, Gramatkovski E, et al. Iron absorption from the whole diet: comparison of the effect of two different distributions of daily calcium intake. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61:97-104.
7. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc : a Report of the Panel on Micronutrients. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.
8. Hunt JR, Roughead ZK. Nonheme-iron absorption, fecal ferritin excretion, and blood indexes of iron status in women consuming controlled lactoovovegetarian diets for 8 wk [see comments]. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:944-52.
9. Armah SM, Boy E, Chen D, Candal P, Reddy MB. Regular Consumption of a High-Phytate Diet Reduces the Inhibitory Effect of Phytate on Nonheme-Iron Absorption in Women with Suboptimal Iron Stores. J Nutr 2015
10. Rutzke CJ, Glahn RP, Rutzke MA, Welch RM, Langhans RW, Albright LD, et al. Bioavailability of iron from spinach using an in vitro/human Caco-2 cell bioassay model. Habitation 2004;10:7-14.
11. Gillooly M, Bothwell TH, Torrance JD, MacPhail AP, Derman DP, Bezwoda WR, et al. The effects of organic acids, phytates and polyphenols on the absorption of iron from vegetables. Br J Nutr 1983;49:331-42.

The post 15 Iron-Rich Vegan Food Combinations appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf | The Full Helping

As you might have noticed, I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately. Part of this is seasonal: fall is baking season, and I experience a frisson of excitement for muffins and loaves and pies every year at this time.

It’s stronger this year, though, and it feels more intentional than merely partaking in the season. There’s something particularly comforting to me right now about the rhythms of measuring and sifting flour, mixing batter, waiting for things to harden and rise. This vegan pumpkin chocolate marble loaf is my latest effort, but I think it’s only the start of a new culinary pursuit.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf | The Full Helping

In fairness, this is more of a return than a new expedition: my first forays into cooking took the form of baking. There were sugar cookies each year during the holidays, a multitude of tea loaves, and the outlandish pride I felt as a high-schooler when I baked my first apple pie. Then, years later, I became so interested in the creativity and spontaneity of the cooking process that baking took a backseat. For a long time it felt overly formulaic and confining to me, inherently less interesting than sautéing and simmering and mixing and blending.

But everything is cyclical, and baking is returning to my life in a way that feels very pleasurable and right. I think part of it is that baking is currently an antidote to the process of testing cookbook recipes. That work can be creatively draining and totally unpredictable; baking can be unpredictable, too (we’ve all had things that didn’t set or rise or cook in the predicted amount of time), but it does involve giving oneself over entirely to a recipe, which can be a relief.

There’s a feeling of surrender that overtakes me when I bake, an acceptance of the fact that, once something is put into the oven, it’s no longer within my control. It’s a powerful corrective for all of the time I spend trying to make new recipes go my way, and it’s a balm for my anxiety, too–something I didn’t appreciate until this past year.

I think there’s also something to the idea that, when life feels chaotic or difficult, we seek out sweetness in a different way. In my life as an eater I tend to gravitate toward salty, savory stuff, but these days I can appreciate a cookie or a muffin or a slice of cake in a way that I haven’t always. The ripple of pleasure that comes from eating something sweet (maybe with a cup of coffee or tea) has taken on new meaning for me: it’s a little salve in an otherwise confusing time.

This pumpkin chocolate marble loaf combines two favorite things (chocolate and pumpkin), but more importantly, it’s my first ever attempt to “marble” anything. I’m not entirely sure I got it right (rather, the bread looks like pumpkin bread with a great big oval of chocolate in the center), but it tastes great, which is what matters. The technique will get better over time.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf | The Full Helping

It’s a good time to be into baking, because I discovered nonstick ceramic bakeware from the GreenLife company this fall. GreenLife products are made with safe, nonstick, ceramic technology. They make healthful cooking and baking easy. It’s a small thing, I know, but sometimes having to oil or line bakeware becomes just another step in a process that can already feel daunting (especially if you’re a novice baker!).

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf | The Full Helping

Being able to simply pour my batter into the GreenLife muffin tins, cake pan, and loaf pan and then put them into the oven has made baking all the more appealing lately. And I get a little thrill each time I watch my baked goods simply slip out of the bakeware–no prying things out with a butter knife, no sticking, no crumbling.

About this loaf: if the thought of a pumpkin-chocolate marriage does not thrill you as much as it thrills me, you don’t actually have to bother with the marbling. You can simply follow the instructions without adding melted chocolate to a cup of the batter, bake, and slice. You’ll have a moist, fragrant, delicious pumpkin loaf on your hands, to which you can add chopped walnuts or pumpkin seeds or another nutty mix-in, if you like.

If the idea of a dense, chocolatey swirl in your pumpkin bread is making you drool, then follow the instructions as listed. The resulting loaf will be more dessert than breakfast, in the best possible way.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf | The Full Helping

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Recipe type: dessert, baked good
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free optional, soy free optional, nut free
Prep time:  15 mins
Cook time:  45 mins
Total time:  1 hour
Serves: 10 slices
  • 1 cup whole wheat, white whole wheat, or spelt flour
  • ¾ cup unbleached, all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as olive, grapeseed, or safflower)
  • ¼ cup almond or soy milk
  • 3 ounces vegan dark chocolate, melted
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Stir the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk together the sugars, pumpkin puree, oil, and non-dairy milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together until just evenly combined (some clumps are OK).
  3. Place a cup of your batter into a small mixing bowl and fold in the melted chocolate. Mix well.
  4. Pour about half of the non-chocolatey batter into a ceramic or oiled loaf pan. Pour the chocolate batter on top, then pour the rest of the regular batter on top of that. Take and knife and swirl it through the loaf; a few zig-zag motions are fine. Don’t overdo it, or the whole loaf will be mixed and muddy, rather than marbled.
  5. Bake the loaf for 45 minutes, or until the top is set and a toothpick emerges mostly clean (I recommend checking the loaf at 40 minutes). Allow the loaf to cool for twenty minutes, then remove it from the pan, transfer it to a cooling rack, and allow it to cool completely. Slice and serve.
In place of the flours, you can use 1¾ cups of an all-purpose, gluten free flour blend (store-bought, or a homemade blend of choice).

Once baked and cooled, loaves can be wrapped and frozen for up to 4 weeks.


Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf | The Full Helping

If you give the bread a try, don’t worry too much about getting the marbling right. It’s easy to fret over technique when it comes to baking, because technique and detail is undeniably important. But I always have the best baking experiences when I simply proceed with confidence and humor. Maybe my cookies are misshapen and my marbling looks like blobs, but so long as my home smells great and I like what I taste, it’s all good. And if I don’t like what I taste, there’s always another baking project for another day.

I hope you’ll enjoy this very seasonal loaf; it would make a pretty great gift for Halloween giving, whether to neighbors or friends! And I’ll see you all soon.


This post is sponsored by the GreenLife brand. All opinions are my own, and I love this nonstick cookware. You can learn more about GreenLife products, purchase online, or find GreenLife near you here. Thanks for your support!

The post Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Marble Loaf appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

Weekend Reading, 10.16.16

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy Sunday, and thanks for welcoming Elizabeth’s brave and open Green Recovery Story to the blog this past week. I so appreciate the comments and supportive words, and I’m sure that Elizabeth does as well.

It’s been an interesting week. It began with an unexpected obstacle–something I didn’t see coming, or didn’t quite accept as it came. It has been a long time since I handled curveballs with grace. For me, struggling with anxiety means having to work very hard in order to access feelings of safety and stability. I can get there, but not without effort, and often only by arranging my circumstances in a particular way.

The problem with this pattern is that it’s a little delicate: I can handle things, but only my life is organized just so. There’s a constant sense of worry that, if things should happen to shift around unexpectedly, and I’ll be unmoored, cut off from the sense of calm that I’ve worked so hard to foster.

Yet that’s exactly what happened this past week: things shifted around. On Tuesday, I learned that my routine will be turned on its head, at least for a few weeks. And somehow, in spite of this, I managed to keep my cool.

Don’t misunderstand: my initial response was anything but elegant. There was tremendous resistance, the emotional equivalent of stomping my feet. But as the week went on I came to accept that there’s really nothing I can do to avoid this little plot twist, which means that it’s in my best interest to make the best of it. Whatever that means.

Making the best of things, accepting what can’t be changed and then moving on, is of course what I should be doing. It’s wisdom, or maturity, or adulting, or whatever you want to call it. But accepting or even embracing things as they are, rather than how I’d like them to be, is not exactly my speciality. And I’ve never struggled with it more than I do these days, as I continue to grapple with personal demons.

So, as I wrap up a weekend that was meaningful, productive, and pleasurable in spite of an unsettling week, I feel grateful for having mustered up the ability to roll with the punches, or go with the flow, or whatever it is I did when I decided to put down my arms and simply make the best of something I hadn’t planned for and didn’t want.

This is a kind of resilience that I’ve always valued and tried to foster in myself, but it has been a long time since it came easily to me. That I can still access it gives me hope, and it reminds me that adaptability is not something I’m not capable of. It’s just a sensation that’s difficult to unearth right now. The important thing is not to conclude that it’s beyond my reach, but rather to cultivate the patience and faith it takes to bring it to light.

This week’s recipe round up is full of soup and sweet things (apropos for the season), as well as a striking and very compassionate article on modeling body-love and body respect for kids–or for anyone. Hope you enjoy it.



Soup season is officially here, and I’ve been stockpiling new recipes this week. Danielle’s farro tomato soup is one of my favorites, and I’m so glad that there are still tomatoes in season to make it with.


Another must make pot of goodness: Lindsay’s gorgeous curried cauliflower rice and kale soup. When I first saw this recipe, the cauliflower rice was so authentic looking that I didn’t realize that there’s no actual rice in the soup! I’ll probably add brown or white basmati rice to mine when I try it, but the cauliflower and curry make it a no brainer regardless.


Maya’s roasted chickpea, mushroom, and wild rice bowls are so hearty, so full of umami, and so pretty to look at. An easy and cozy recipe for fall.


Double dessert this week! I usually don’t start bookmarking cookies until a bit closer to the holidays, but why wait? Kathleen’s maple molasses chocolate cookies look so chewy, gooey, and good.


I’ve never had the courage for creme brûlée, let alone a vegan creme brûlée. But Bek is a braver soul than I am, and her vegan creme brûlée with orange roasted rhubarb looks just beautiful.


1. This is a heart-wrenching link to begin with, but I was incredibly moved by it, and I wanted to share. Peter DeMarco thanks the hospital staff who cared for his young wife over the course of her sudden decline and untimely death following an asthma attack.

We often hear about the callous or unfeeling treatment of patients within hospital settings, so it was heartening to hear about the generous, compassionate gestures and actions that helped to ease DeMarco’s grief as he stood vigil by his wife’s side. That he can summon up so much articulate gratitude in the midst of his mourning is striking. And the article certainly puts a lot of things into perspective, at least for me.

2. Much is written about failure, but as the author of this article notes, the advice is often doled out by people who are notably successful, or even famous, as they reminisce on their earlier stumbles. Inspiring though this may be, it can also miss the mark, because it still frames the experience of failure as something that happened and was surpassed en route to triumph.

I’m of the mind that failure, in and of itself and regardless of whether or not one succeeds differently later on, is valuable. At least it has been for me. I don’t only mean small failures, the missteps and errors in judgment that we ultimately write off as being “mistakes” (which, we’re told, everyone makes). I mean big failures, colossal failures. I mean trying your best and giving it your all and failing anyway, or making an error in judgment that was too profound to write off as customary human error.

That’s what my post-bacc was, and no other life experience has conferred on me a greater sense of resilience or appreciation of what my life is when I strip it of my goals and wants. It was phenomenally painful, and now, a few years later, I can say honestly that I’m so glad it happened.

So I appreciate Bene Cipolla‘s words on failing big. I especially like this conclusion:

What feels most honest, to me, is to consider the possibility that failure is a richer and more intriguing experience than I’ve given it credit for. Perhaps it’s not a stage that I ought to move through as quickly as possible, but a place to hang out for a little while.

That bit about “hanging out for a little while” is, I think, the toughest part. For me, failure is always something to be survived and recovered from quickly, something I rush to contextualize and then strategize past. But the experience of failing at something is a particularly rich one. It can teach us about who we are and what we truly want; it can show us how our conceptions of ourselves might be faulty or out of step with who and how we truly are. I’m not suggesting that we wallow in it, but I do believe that there’s much to be learned from experiencing it fully, and remaining open to the possibility that we stand to gain more from the failure than we did from whatever it is we failed at.

3. VegNews magazine reports on an interesting study on the impact of food marketing on empathy, especially as it relates to meat-eating.

4. A new report on how medical studies–in particular, the meta-analyses that are often considered a gold standard for quick reference–can be tainted by funders’ influences. I hope that the proliferation of reports like this one help to create better and more rigorous standards of impartiality within medical research.

5. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to encourage kids to value their bodies. I read about it through social media, in magazines, and I even come across research in my graduate studies. The pieces of guidance that feel most impactful and sensitive to me always focus on behaviors that parents can model themselves. If we want our children to grow up respecting their bodies, we must work on respecting our own.

Lisa McCrohan, a psychotherapist who focuses on somatic experiencing, has some wonderful things to say on this topic. I love that her advice is focused on cultivating the parent’s capacity for self-care first and foremost: “treat yourself with compassion” is her number one offering. But her other advice–“heal the hurry,” “bring soften into your everyday vocabulary,” and “show your children how to rest”–are valuable, too.

I also like McCrohan’s emphasis on gentleness, which is a quality that so often gets lost in our contemporary lives. She writes,

Like compassion, gentleness has transformative power. Gentleness is both soft and strong. By bringing gentleness into situations where we are often prompted to become harsh and controlling, we support connection.
How? Trying asking yourself: “What would ‘practicing gentleness’ with my body look like in my life? What would it look like in my children’s lives?” Is it to go at a slower pace in the day? Is it to use a softer, more accepting tone of voice? Is it a gentle hand on your child’s shoulders when he or she is feeling anxious?

While this blog post is geared at parents, I think it can apply to all of us, because the behaviors that McCrohan is suggesting we model aren’t only valuable to children. They’re valuable because, if we all cultivate them, they can help us to create a culture in which body acceptance, respect, and self-care are a norm, rather than an exception.

A few years ago I vowed to stop putting my body down and making remarks about my shape or appearance. This wasn’t for me, though it did ultimately prove to be an important step forward in personal body-respect. It was because it finally hit home for me that part of the reason that body hatred and self-loathing are so prevalent is because they’re so socially acceptable. Each time we make a joke or say something uncaring at our own body’s expense, we contribute to a culture of body shame. I’d thought that my self-deprecating remarks were only hurting me (as if that would be acceptable, even if it were true), but I realized that they were strengthening a kind of vocabulary that hurts everyone.

I like articles like this one because they emphasize the fact that self-care does not only benefit the individual; it touches everyone on whom that individual ultimately makes an impression. This might be kids, but it might also be a friend, colleague, niece, nephew, or even a passing acquaintance.

I hope you enjoy the reads, everyone. And there’s some great stuff ahead on the blog this week, including a new, autumnal baked treat (yes, I’m on a baking kick) and a new nutrition primer (similar to this one on calcium). Till soon!


The post Weekend Reading, 10.16.16 appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

When You Take a Step Back, You Can See the Big, Beautiful Picture: Elizabeth’s Green Recovery Story


In the years since I began writing this blog, I’ve received so many comments that have stayed with me. Comments from readers have helped me to process, clarify, and deepen my own thoughts; at times, they’ve helped me to see an alternate perspective or to understand a dimension of an experience or an issue that I hadn’t considered before. They’ve incited me to be more empathetic.

A few years ago, when I wrote about having bad body days, a reader named Elizabeth left me a comment that stuck with me in a powerful way:

Thank you for this post, Gena. After coming back from a week’s vacation that included a lot of indulging, your insights into how to deal with a bad body day were exactly what I needed to hear.
It’s been roughly two years since I’ve recovered from a 5-year eating disorder, and every once and I while I have “bad body days.” Sometimes they’re brought on by an especially heavy meal, sometimes it’s triggered by seeing a girl that is thinner or fitter than I am, and sometimes it’s brought on by stress at work that I can’t control.
Whatever the cause is, I like to repeat a mantra: this feeling will pass. Feelings are ephemeral, not indelible, and no choice that we make is permanent. My body is not radically different than it was yesterday, and it won’t be radically different. tomorrow. On my bad body days, I remind myself to take comfort in the joy that my long term choices bring me – the choice to take care of my body, eat a vegan diet, and take pleasure in eating and sharing meals with loved ones – instead of focusing on the fleeting guilty or negative feelings that surface after short term choices.

Elizabeth was gesturing at something I was starting to learn then and am learning all the more powerfully now, day by day: things change. Experiences and emotions are always in a state of flux. How we feel at one moment is not how we are destined to feel forever.

It’s not only feelings or sensations that prove mutable. Two Sundays ago, I quoted Nora Ephron as saying, “You are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever.” And indeed, I’m learning that even one’s sense of identity–which feels so fixed at times–can shift and transition. It’s a humbling thing to realize that this is how things are, fluid and rhythmic. But I find it exciting, too, and hopeful, because it suggests to me that we’re not our own prisoners.

I’ve remembered Elizabeth through the years, thanks to her remarks, and so I was truly honored and delighted when she shared the following green recovery story with me. I think Elizabeth has created a remarkable depiction of perfectionism and its profound dangers, and I so appreciate her honesty in doing so. I love the hopefulness and wisdom of her narrative, and I hope you’ll be as moved by it as I was.

My story begins like many others.

Despite my idyllic childhood and adolescence, where I was nurtured emotionally, socially, and intellectually, I carried what I believe can act as an ED starter pack. I’m a type-A perfectionist, with a habit of avoiding situations where I might fail, and a predilection for self-punishing thoughts/actions when I fall short of my expectations. Do I think that I was predestined to develop an obsession with food restriction? No. But I think these characteristics tend to make for fertile ground, allowing the eating disorder to take root all the more easily, and all the more deeply.

Although I grew up chubby and had moments of low self-esteem as a teenager, these things never weighed too heavily on me. After all, I had developed meaningful friendships, excelled at school, and cultivated a deep passion for the arts and athletics. Never once did it occur to me to inextricably link my self-worth to a number on a scale, clothing tag, or nutritional information label.

Then the tipping point came: the mental shift that caused me to start treating my body like an enemy that needed to be beaten into submission. For me, this was the moment (warning: #firstworldproblem alert) I got waitlisted at Harvard. Ever since I can remember, Harvard had been my holy grail. Not only was I seduced by the sirens of prestige and excellence, but my father was a Harvard grad and my brother had started there 3 years prior. Not getting in was not an option: I had to prove that I was as good, as “perfect” as them.

My case of tunnel vision was severe, and ultimately debilitating.

So when I got the impersonal, anonymously signed message on Harvard university letter-head that informed me that I was, in fact, not exceptional enough to join the class of 2010, I was in disbelief at the magnitude of my failure. That letter could have said anything, really. All I saw was an official, black and white confirmation that I was less worthy than my brother and father.

That summer, my spirit broken and confidence shattered, I headed off to one of the country’s top liberal arts colleges. But because it wasn’t Harvard, not even an Ivy League, it smelled of epic failure, of a choice that had been thrust upon me. That first year of college, I couldn’t even visit my brother’s Cambridge dorm room without breaking into sobs, overburdened by feelings of self-disgust and disappointment. In my eyes, an injustice had been committed and someone needed to pay for it. Because the admissions team couldn’t be made to suffer the consequences, that someone turned out to be me. Instead of appreciating my accomplishments and all that my new school had to offer, I turned to anorexia for comfort. And the bad thing was . . . I was good at it.

Food restriction came easily to me, fueled by my natural drive and willingness to do anything to achieve a goal. I was all too capable of silencing what I called “my present self” (aka my starving body) in favor of my “future self” (aka the elusive, perfect body I was working towards). I got hooked on the instant gratification I felt when pounds came off or every time I refused to succumb to “overly caloric “ temptations. Developing an eating disorder became the ideal crutch to cushion the blow I received from the college admission process. My desire to stand out, my need to regain control over my life, and my quest for quick, “easy” success allowed me to fashion a makeshift bandage for my wounded pride.

I clung to my restrictive behaviors like a safety blanket for 3 years. They were my identity, they were what made me “stand out,” even though it was for all the wrong reasons. The ironic thing about eating disorders, or at least mine, is that you try so hard to separate mind from body. I thought that my discipline and mental strength were outsmarting my body, cheating it out of what it needed and mercilessly driving it to achieve a very simple goal: get smaller.

Except that it’s impossible for the mind to escape meeting the same fate as your body. My eating disorder made my entire world smaller, until the only thing to keep me company in my epic loneliness was my almighty monologue of incessant, taunting thoughts. My monologue was the only thing that knew everything, as I had shut my friends and family completely out.

Obsessing over minute details ruined many experiences that I should have enjoyed. I scoured the teeny print of every food label, I only agreed to go out to certain restaurants where I knew I could order something “safe,” and I passed on social events where I thought I would feel crushed by the pressure to “indulge.” I spent a good part of every single day inside my head, listening to my ED badger me. In essence, I created a small, short-sighted, self-contained and self-controlled world where I could be free to live out my eating disorder in secrecy.

I let myself become completely defined by my eating disorder, to a point where it became way too scary to ask myself, “If I’m no longer the skinniest person in the room, then who am I?”

I guess it’s unsurprising that you lose your sense of self when your sole purpose in life is to literally self-efface. Over the span of 3 years, I had turned the Elizabeth with a larger than life joie de vivre into a tiny sliver of her former physical, emotional and spiritual self.

During her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high” when speaking of bullies. On my road to recovery from the eating disorder that was bullying me, I was unknowingly guided by a similar mantra: “When they go small, you go big.”

The bodily implications of my mantra were the most excruciating and simplest part of recovery. At first, putting the body’s needs before the mind’s taunts, reversing the scale and reaching a non-dangerous BMI is a horrifying exercise. Gaining weight felt like failing at an old goal, even though it meant progress to a new one. But it was also the simplest part for me. When my monologue relented and I had moments of mental clarity, I was able to admit that there no way of sugar coating reality: if I wanted to escape the suffocating mental smallness I felt every day, I would have to learn how to eat again and yes, get bigger.

But for me, “going big” mantra manifested itself as more of an antidote to my obsessive thinking. I went big in two ways. Firstly, I left the county and pursued my dream of living in Paris. During the second semester of junior year, I was able to escape the world that had known my pre-ED body/self and go to a place where I could start anew. I threw myself into French culture, expanded my vocabulary, grew my friend circle, made myself at home in the winding streets of Paris, and met and fell in love with the man who is now my husband. I witnessed first-hand the way the French relate to food: their respect for whole foods, their artful cooking and plating techniques, and their fierce belief that eating is as much about what’s on your plate as it is about connecting to your loved ones. Sitting silently at the table and timidly picking at my food would have been a cultural faux pas, so I put my body through the gestures despite my mind’s protests.

All of these experiences made my world a little bit bigger and helped me take baby steps outside the grips of my monologue. Here in Paris, where I felt more like my “true self” than ever, I saw with such clarity all of the big joys my small, obsessive thoughts were robbing me of.

So I made the decision to recover, to break my silence and to let others into this small mental prison I built for myself.

When I got back home to the US I started therapy and I threw out all of my frozen dinners and canned soups that made my obsessive calorie counting a breeze. I found food blogs (Kath Eats Real Food, Healthy Happy Life, and, of course, Choosing Raw) that allowed me to repair my broken relationship to food. Not only did these blogs serve as a crash course in nutrition, but they opened up a whole side of myself that I didn’t know existed: the creative, meticulous master chef. My newfound passion for cooking was the gateway to the détente in the war I had declared on food and my body.

While I had become a vegetarian during my ED days as a way to legitimize my food restriction, my decision to adopt a plant-based diet was about breaking free of those chains. We often hear that vegan diets are all about making kind, compassionate choices, mostly in reference to animals and/or the planet. But when you are recovering from an eating disorder, this quest for living out compassion starts first and foremost with your own body.

Through veganism, I figured out how to nourish rather than punish myself with whole foods that made my mind, body and soul thrive. During recovery, I realized just how amazingly resilient my body was, and that no single food decision was ever going to be able to derail this well-oiled machine. I learned how to reincorporate compassion into the mind-body connection, turning monologue into dialogue.

Today I’m back living in Paris, where the vegan food scene continues to blossom. As I said in a comment on one of Gena’s honest and eloquent posts about bad body days, the journey to recovery is a mosaic of good and bad episodes.

But when you take a step back, you can see the big, beautiful picture.

My plant-based diet, in addition to putting joy back onto my plate, connected my food choices to a larger purpose. I found solace and happiness in the fact that what I ate was saving innocent lives and was better for the environment, not to mention my own health! Slowly but surely I replaced the small, taunting thoughts about calories and molecules with encouraging thoughts about my body and the big, beautiful world around me. That’s how mealtimes went from being individual exercises in cruelty to global acts of kindness.

And I couldn’t be more grateful for it all.

I, for one, couldn’t be more grateful for Elizabeth’s vivid words. She captures one thing so perfectly, which is the reduction that happens at the hands of an eating disorder. I love her account of how mind and body can’t be rendered separate during the act of self-restriction: starve your body, and you starve your entire life. It’s something I learned the hard way, too. When I think back to who I was and how my life operated during the worst of my anorexia, the isolation and confinement–the smallness of my world back then–are what haunt me the most.

Whether you are on the recovery journey or not, I hope that Elizabeth’s story gives you some inspiration and comfort. As a former ED person who finds herself now caught in a very different, yet not entirely foreign, struggle, I feel lifted up in publishing this post today. Elizabeth, thank you.


The post When You Take a Step Back, You Can See the Big, Beautiful Picture: Elizabeth’s Green Recovery Story appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats

Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats | The Full Helping

I’ve never been a cold cereal person. It’s a little weird, I know. Even as a kid, when most of my friends ate milk and cereal every morning for breakfast, it wasn’t my thing. Instead, I gravitated to the warm and starchy: cream of wheat, oatmeal, slices of toast or English muffins. Never something cold and crunchy.

This did’t stop me, however, from enjoying sweet things made with and from cereal, rice crispy treats included. They were one of my favorite treats as a kid, and these vegan caramel cinnamon crispy treats are a grown up tribute to the sweet, sticky squares I remember so fondly.

What makes the squares just a little more adult-friendly, I think, is the heaviness of cinnamon, the generous pinch of sea salt, and the fact that, unlike the childhood treats I remember, these aren’t aggressively sweet. I’m a firm believer that dessert should taste like dessert, sugar included. But I don’t like when sweetness drowns out other flavors, like nuttiness or spice, and I love the balance in this recipe.

Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats | The Full Helping

The crispies I’m using are also a little grown up–a wholesome departure from the rice crispies I remember. They’re 100% whole grain crispy brown rice from Erewhon, a brand that makes wholesome, simple breakfast cereals using whole grains as a base. I was introduced to the brand long before I wrote this post, because I happen to be living with a cereal lover.

Unlike me, Steven ate cereal for breakfast pretty much every day as a kid, and he continues to do so now. When we first started dating, I was amazed that he could enjoy the same thing daily: I have my standard rotation (breakfast tostadas, oats), but my love of breakfast tends to express itself as an interest in variety and trying new recipes.

Steven’s does not. He loves breakfast, too, but part of what he loves is the reliability and constancy of the meal, the fact that–unless it’s a weekend, and I’m making something special–he knows what he’s going to eat, and he knows he’ll like it. I can certainly understand the comfort and value of his ritual.

Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats | The Full Helping

Steven introduced me to Erewhon crispies after finding them at our local health food store. He’s also a fan of the brand’s Harvest Medley, which is also gluten free and simple (a mixture of sorghum, brown rice, and quinoa). The crispies are impressive: so reminiscent of the ones I remember from childhood, but with a slight nuttiness. I use the plain crispies in this recipe, but it’s worth saying that Erewhon also makes cinnamon crispies, which helped to inspire these squares.

Erewhon is one of the brands, along with Peace Cereal and Sweet Home Farm Granola, that makes up Attune Foods. All of the Attune products are made with whole grains, many are made without dairy, and the company offers a variety of vegan and gluten products as well. Nearly every one of their brands features at least one vegan cereal. Peace Cereals are Steven’s favorites (the granola options contain honey, but most of the flakes and clusters don’t), and I can see why: you can really taste the hints of vanilla and cinnamon along with the wholesome flavor of whole grains.

Even though I probably won’t become a cold cereal convert, it’s been fun to get to know these brands, and it’s useful for me, too, since one of the top questions that clients tend to ask me is whether or not I can recommend a good cereal brand. Cereal is a convenient, easy breakfast option for busy people, and it’s great to see that whole grain, vegan-friendly, flavorful options are around.

Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats | The Full Helping

Back to the crispy treats. There are so many different ways I could have approached these: I could have made them with cocoa, or carob. I could have stuffed them with nuts and dried fruit and called them snack bars. I thought about drizzling them with a chocolate ganache. But what I really wanted these to taste like was cinnamon, and the caramel overtones–thanks to sea salt, a hint of vegan butter or coconut oil, and brown rice syrup–were a really happy surprise.

Once I’d tasted them, I knew the crispy treats didn’t need any fancy embellishment or adornment or mix-ins. And this is a good thing, because as it is, the recipe is delightfully simple. It’s something to make when you want a homemade sweet, but you don’t have the time for a baking project. The bars are indulgent but light, perfect for serving with coffee or tea, and just a little nostalgic.

Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats | The Full Helping

Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Recipe type: dessert, snack
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, soy free
Prep time:  5 mins
Cook time:  10 mins
Total time:  15 mins
Serves: 9-12 crispy treats
  • 4 cups brown rice crispies
  • 2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread or coconut oil
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup
  • ½ cup almond butter
  1. Place the crispies into a large mixing bowl. Line an 8 x 8 square baking dish with parchment or saran wrap.
  2. Place the buttery spread or coconut oil into a small saucepan over low heat. When the buttery spread has melted, add the cinnamon, salt, vanilla, brown rice syrup, and almond butter. Whisk rapidly, until the ingredients are evenly combined and just beginning to bubble. Remove the saucepan from heat and pour the mixture over the crispies.
  3. Use a spoon or spatula to mix the crispies with the coating. The crispies will start to get sticky and firm, so it’s important to mix quickly. Transfer the crispies to your prepared baking dish and use a spatula to smooth over the top. Place the dish in the fridge for an hour before cutting the crispies into 9-12 squares. Enjoy the crispy treats right away, or wrap individually and store in a cool, dry place for up to 5 days (if they last that long!).

 Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats | The Full Helping

I don’t have many fond recollections of childhood sweets: my eating disorder began so early that a lot of the favorites young people enjoy regularly were lost on me. So I cherish the happy dessert memories that I’ve held on to. They include chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, my best friend’s family recipe for snickerdoodles, sampling the season’s first batch of New Hampshire maple syrup each fall, and making birthday cake–straight from the box!–with my mom.

They include rice crispy treats, too. I’m so happy to have a new, vegan version to savor. And I’m grateful to have a whole grain base to make it with. Hope you try the recipe sometime, too, and that you’ll enjoy its simplicity and sweetness.


This post is sponsored by Attune Foods. All opinions are my own, and I love these whole grain products. Thanks for your support!

The post Caramel Cinnamon Crispy Treats appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

Weekend Reading, 10.9.16

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

“When you don’t know what to do or how to move forward, stand still.”

This is a piece of advice that my mother gave me during my post-bacc years. That time in my life was marked by a lot of indecision and agonized choices–most often, the choice of whether or not to keep going with my program for another semester or not. I’d receive yet another poor score or a discouraging comment or simply be hit with a spell of burnout, and I’d doubt what I was doing and why. Why had I quit a job I liked for an academic track that I hated? Why had I moved cities? Was was I laboring so hard at something I seemed to be so bad at?

I’d be hit with these questions, call my mom, and we’d talk about it. She couldn’t tell me whether or not to quit, of course. But she could encourage me to slow down, to resist the urge to panic, to stop piling unnecessary anxiety and urgency on top of a serious decision. In telling me to stand still, she was doing her best to issue the gentle reminder that I didn’t always have to come to a determination while I was at the height of unhappiness and confusion. It was the same advice that another friend had given me, in different terms: “never decide whether or not to quit a marathon while you’re running uphill or downhill. You decide if you want to keep going when you’re running flat.”

It’s funny to reminisce on these times now, because when I look back on my post-bacc experience I can see clearly that I was handed many good indications that going to medical school would not have made me happy. I think I’d have appreciated the work of being a doctor, but I don’t think I’m cut out for the education, training, and lifestyle. I can’t help but feel that I was spared something massive when I got rejected, even if it felt shattering at the time. So the question becomes, why didn’t I stop sooner?

The only answer I have is that I couldn’t have come to this conclusion without allowing myself to experience the process in its entirety: the hopeful beginning, the humbling disillusionment, the rebuff. I know it’s a cliche, but there’s a lot to be said for not wondering “what if?”

I also like to think, or hope, that my post-bacc was a learning experience, even if it didn’t take me where I thought I wanted to go. I think it taught me to be more resilient, or at least aspire to resilience; I think it taught me that no goal is worth the price of my own happiness. And, to circle back to my mom’s advice, I think it taught me how to stand still in a moment of self-doubt, overwhelm, or indecision.

It’s not a lesson that has come easily to me, because standing still in the midst of turmoil and allowing clarity to surface demands patience, and patience is not exactly my personal forte. Left to my own devices, I’d often choose forced decisiveness over an uncertain pause. Still, I suppose that half the battle of learning a new skill is to be handed good tools and guidance. My mom’s advice hasn’t left me; I return to it again and again when I’m not sure what to do or how to move forward.

This week, feeling a little stuck and more than a little overwhelmed, I experimented with pausing and slowing down rather than coming to hasty conclusions. It was not an easy experience, but it was certainly interesting. And it reinforced another lesson I’ve been learning lately, which is that turmoil, indecision, and uncertainty are not fixed in stone. When I’m feeling something strongly I tend to assume that I’ll feel that way forever. All I want is to chart a course of action that will allow me to leave the feeling behind. The problem with operating this way is that it never gives me the benefit of watching my own perspective shift, and consequently recognizing that resolution and calm can emerge from the process of waiting.

To what extent this sort of patience will ever feel like second nature I’m not sure, but I guess it doesn’t have to. It can be a practice, like so much else. The practice is teaching me that uncertainty is not just a meaningless haze; it can serve a purpose, so long as I can learn to accommodate it.

I’m sharing an article on anxiety today that evokes some of these same themes; it certainly made me think about the dangers of working to shut down or appease emotions before we’ve had time to process them. And on the topic of pauses and patience, I’m linking to an inspiring article about the benefits of welcoming meditation into schools. All that, along with some really wonderful fall recipes.



I’d really never think to put figs into a pasta dish, but Lindsay’s creamy garlicky pasta with charred broccoli and figs has me more than convinced. I love how simple this dish is, and I love that the sauce is legume-based!


I admit to never having been much of a nougat person, but put “sweet potato caramel” in the title of just about anything, and I’m on board. Anya’s vegan sweet potato caramel nougat looks like a delicious treat for snacking.


Making a vegan Po’Boy might sound like an impossible proposition, but this recipe proves once again the amazing versatility of cauliflower. I can’t wait to share this one with my New Orleans-dwelling bestie!


I know that summer is generally thought of as prime salad season, but I always get equally excited about colorful fall salads. I’m loving this vibrant mixture of roasted beet, lentils, fennel, and citrus from Jennifer of Delicious Everyday.


It’s really hard to say what I love best about Gina’s creamy almond butter fall pasta: the tender roasted squash, the creamy almond butter sauce, the bitter broccoli rabe (one of my super favorite greens, even though I don’t use it nearly enough), or the crumbly, crunchy cracker topping. So much texture in one dish!


1. As I mentioned, this article details what happened when one elementary school started sending students who had misbehaved to a brightly decorated meditation room instead of to the principal’s office, or to detention. The practice has cultivated patience, engagement, and even excitement about social service projects and outdoor activities. Really uplifting–and evidence that the benefits of meditation extend to any age group.

2. There are so many incredible vegan food brands and companies these days that it’s hard to keep track of them all; each week, it seems as though I hear about an innovative, new plant-based product. Still, I always like to pause and give thanks for all of the brands that have been pioneering and supplying vegan products for years, and Follow Your Heart is at the very top of this list. It was the first vegan cheese I ever bought, and Veganaise was my first vegan mayo.

This week, Andy Bellatti shares a short history of how this brand–led by a few committed individuals–helped pave the way for all of the exciting developments we’re seeing in the vegan food market.

3. I loved this interview with Meredith Osborn, a medical illustrator who specializes in molecular biology. I knew very little about medical illustration before I read it, but it seems to be a fascinating field, perched right at the intersection of art and science. Osborn makes the point that, because there’s so much we still don’t know in the sciences, illustrators must often use their imaginations to map out unexplored territory. In other words, they’re often called upon to be pioneers.

Osborn also has some interesting things to say about our reverence of science and why it may be problematic:

For better or worse, I think science is put up on a pedestal in our zeitgeist in general. If you say that you’re doing something scientifically—whether you are or not and whether doing it scientifically is the best way or not—that word just carries weight. Sometimes that’s very well earned. Science as a collective endeavor to pursue knowledge and go through the scientific method to answer questions and discover new things—that deserves a lot of respect. However, there are limits to science, so making science the “king of all truth” is a little bit erroneous. That’s a fallacy of our culture but it’s the way it is right now.

This certainly resonates with me. It’s not that science isn’t worthy of respect or awe–I think it is–but rather that we tend to take scientific findings at face value, forgetting that the field is always unfolding and shifting to accommodate new discoveries. Anyone who studies the sciences is, I think, trying to pursue understanding of how our world works, and perhaps to unearth new truths, but part of what makes the field so interesting is that it’s full of mystery.

4. There are lots of great resources out there for helping new and longtime plant-based eaters to eat well and pleasurably on a budget. But this article, written by vegan lifestyle coach Vicki Brett-Gach, is truly one of the most comprehensive and practical guides I’ve seen. Even if you know your way around your own grocery budget, it’s worth reading to pick up some new tips — I definitely felt inspired by it.

5. One of my readers shared this article about high-functioning anxiety with me in last week’s weekend reading post; she said it reminded her of some of my recent musings on my own anxiety. I’m so grateful that she thought to share. Yes, I saw a lot of myself in what the author described, but more importantly, the article is so honest and so real, and I think it’s worth sharing for that reason.

In trying to capture what her anxiety feels like, Sarah Schuster writes,

It’s waking up in the middle of the night sobbing because the worst-case-scenario that just went through your head at high speed seems so real, so vivid, that even when it’s proven to be untrue, it takes hours for your heart to slow down, to feel calm again.
Because how “OK” are you when a day without a plan is enough to make you crumble? When empty spaces make you spiral at the very anticipation of being alone with your thoughts? When you need to make a list to get through a Sunday: watch a show, clean your kitchen, exercise, answer five emails, read 10 pages, watch a show… ?
It’s feeling unqualified to write this piece because I’m getting by. It’s when you’re social enough to get invited to things, but so often find yourself standing in a room where it feels like no one knows you. It’s being good at conversation and bad at making close friends because you only show up when you feel “well” enough. Only text back when you feel ready. Because you’re afraid they’d hate you if they really knew you. That the energy would overwhelm them, and you’d lose them.

That last graf in particular resonates poignantly right now.

Recently I was asked to describe my own anxiety, and I described it as a fog or a mist–something that clouds my vision and gets into my lungs when I try to breathe. The thing I dislike most about being anxious is that, when I feel it, I can’t feel much of anything else. And so, in the interest of getting my life back, all I can think about is shutting the anxiety down.

The problem with this is that it creates a cycle in which fear of anxiety and quelling anxiety become your primary motivators. And the things we need to do in order to keep anxiety at bay are often not the same things that enable us to be creative, brave, or open-hearted. When I live with the primary intention of being not-anxious, I can’t help but also become meek, defensive, and uncommunicative. Perhaps I manage to stave off a bout of anxiety, but I lose a part of myself in the process. I think I’m writing about anxiety so often these days because I’m trying to fight against that mode–to stay open and truthful, even though my instinct is to retreat.

Speaking of courage, Schuster’s piece has a courageous ending. Living with anxiety, she concludes, means

. . . learning how to say, “I need help.” Trying to take care of yourself without the guilt. It means every once in a while, confiding in a friend. It means sometimes showing up even when you’re scared.
It’s when answering a text impulsively and thoughtlessly is an act of bravery.
It’s fighting against your own need to constantly prove your right to exist in this world.
It’s learning how to validate your own feelings . . . It’s finding your own humanity in the anxiety, in your weaknesses. It’s trying to let the energy inspire you, instead of bring you down. It’s forgiving yourself when it wins . . . A first good step is staring at it straight on and calling it by its name.

I agree. Thanks to my reader who thought to bookmark the article for me. There’s always comfort in an honest dialog.

Alright, friends. I hope you’re having a nice Sunday — it’s cold and dreary here in New York, which I’m taking as an excuse to defrost leftover soup and bake something sweet. I’ll see you soon.




The post Weekend Reading, 10.9.16 appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

Autumn Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Succotash

Autumn Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Succotash | The Full Helping

I’ve always been a little smitten with the word “succotash.” It goes in that class of words (along with, I’d argue, skillet, cobbler, casserole, dumpling, ragu, and pie) that seem to evoke warmth, coziness, gathering around the hearth–all that.

In fairness, it’s not just the word that gets me. I’m also very partial to the real-life dish. Succotash is one of those meals that’s all the better because it’s so very simple, a tribute to fresh ingredients no matter what produce you use. I typically make the dish with tomato and zucchini, as a way to savor the end-of-summer bounty each year, but lately I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to try an autumn lima bean and butternut squash succotash. It is even better than I thought it would be.

Autumn Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Succotash | The Full Helping

If you’re on the hunt for easy, one-skillet meals, this one is worth a try. You do need to steam the butternut squash beforehand, but after that, you simply cook everything together in the biggest sauté pan you have. I’m giving options to use both dry, baby lima beans and frozen limas; the picture you see is of the dish with frozen limas, which make the cooking time for the whole dish very fast. But I’ve tried succotash with soaked and home-cooked lima beans, too, and it’s also delightful.

Funnily enough, I don’t share the aversion that many people have to lima beans, even though I’m pretty sure I was given the same ones in childhood that most of us remember with a grimace (frozen limas, tossed with butter and salt). I always liked the starchiness and the mild sweetness of the beans; I only wish I’d tasted them (and other legumes) prepared in a greater variety of ways.

In any case, I’m happy to be featuring a bean that I don’t use very often in this recipe. And speaking of the wide world of beans, this is a good moment to mention that this recipe is a new contribution to the Pulse Pledge initiative–a movement that celebrates the UN’s recognition of pulses as a sustainable, economical, and nutritious protein source. As regular readers know by now, the Pulse Pledge encourages everyone to commit to eating pulses at least once a week for 10 weeks. The Pulse Pledge website contains tons of recipes from food bloggers who are excited about showing off the versatility of pulses in their cooking. The list is growing every day, and it’s worth taking a look if you’re hungry for more plant-based inspiration!

If you don’t have lima beans on hand–or if childhood memory is enough to make you squeamish about them–you can use essentially any cooked bean you like. I’d probably substitute pinto beans, black eyed peas, or kidney beans, but I think chickpeas would be great, too. As you’ll see, this is a very low key and adaptable meal.

Autumn Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Succotash | The Full Helping

Autumn Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Succotash
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Recipe type: Side dish, small plate
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, soy free, tree nut free
Prep time:  10 mins
Cook time:  15 mins
Total time:  25 mins
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 1 small squash, after preparation)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan butter
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into half moons about ¼-inch thick
  • 3 medium sized ears corn, kernels removed (about 1 heaping cup kernels)
  • 3 cups cooked lima beans (defrosted or prepared from dry beans–see note below)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For serving: Cooked rice, millet, barley, quinoa, or whole grain toast
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and fit it with a steamer attachment (or a large sieve). Steam the butternut squash till it’s fork tender but not mushy (about 8-10 minutes).
  2. Heat one tablespoon of the oil or butter in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and shallot. Cook, stirring every now and then, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is clear and tender. add the zucchini and corn. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender. Stir in the butternut squash, herbs, and lemon. Stir in the remaining tablespoon butter or oil.
  3. Taste the succotash and add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with a cooked whole grain or toast.
To prepare lima beans from scratch, soak 1 cup baby lima beans overnight. The following day, drain and rinse the beans. Add them to a pot with enough fresh water to cover them by 3-4 inches. Bring them to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 60 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Drain any remaining liquid from the beans, which will now be ready to use.

Autumn Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Succotash | The Full Helping


The succotash is especially lovely served with millet or quinoa, but I have to admit that more often or not I like to simply scoop it over a few grainy, wholesome slices of toast. It’s such a comfort when food this simple can taste so good, and be so satisfying.

Hope you’ll enjoy the recipe soon! Note that in pace of the butternut, you can use another cubed winter squash (like kabocha or delicata), or you can try the recipe with sweet potatoes instead. (I haven’t done that yet, but it sounds like a really good idea to me.) The weather has been in the low sixties for a few days now, dipping even into the high fifties at night, and so it seems fall is finally here. I’m very ready to enjoy my favorite season of food.


This post was created in partnership with the USA Pulses and Pulse Canada. Opinions are my own. Thank you for your support, and I can’t wait to share more pulse recipes with you this fall! To learn more about the Pulse Pledge, visit www.pulsepledge.com.

The post Autumn Lima Bean and Butternut Squash Succotash appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

Classic Vegan Banana Bread

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

It’s important to be careful when naming a blog recipe. This is something I’ve always known, but I was reminded of it this past week, when I read Food52‘s take on the many internet recipes labeled as “best.”

The gist of the article is that the pressures of search engine optimization have compelled us all to throw around a superlatives (best, easiest, etc.) a little too liberally. These titles may speak the truth, but they might also be more strategic than honest, which means that it’s still a reader’s job to sift through mountains of content and find recipes that truly are “the best” (or just very good). To prove the point, Food52‘s editors did a taste test of numerous loaves of banana bread, each of which touts, if not the label of “best,” a claim to being definitively good.

This got me thinking about banana bread–specifically, about the fact that I have yet to post a recipe for vegan banana bread on this site, in spite of the fact that it’s possibly my very favorite thing to bake. I’m not somebody who has a lot of treasured or tried-and-true baking recipes tucked away into a cherished binder or family cookbook; I didn’t grow up around bakers. But I do have a vegan banana bread recipe that I think deserves the title of “classic.”

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

In truth, I can’t say for sure what makes a recipe worthy of that word. I’m not expert enough to have developed a criteria. But I know that this bread has been adored by everyone I’ve ever shared it with. I know that, while it’s baking, it makes your kitchen smell exactly the way banana bread should (like bananas, cinnamon, and burnt sugar). I know that it’s been tested many times over, in pretty much every kitchen I’ve cooked in as an adult, and that it has proven itself to be sturdy and reliable. I know that it features simple, cherished banana bread ingredients: flour, brown sugar, mashed bananas, vanilla, a (very) little milk. Cinnamon. Walnuts, if you like.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping
Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

And for all of these reasons, this feels like classic vegan banana bread to me. And I’m very happy to be sharing it, inexplicably late in my blogging game, with all of you.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

This recipe is perfect for those of you who are new to the world of vegan baking, or for novice bakers in general. There’s not much you need to be particularly wary of here, except that the bananas should be very, very overripe (the spottier, the better!) and that you shouldn’t overmix the batter.

Other than that, the recipe takes care of itself, resulting in thick, moist, fragrant slices of banana bread goodness. Steven declared this “perfectly sweet” the first time he tasted it, and noted that it seemed to be just the right amount of crumbly. I have to agree–or else it wouldn’t be the recipe that I come back to again and again, in spite of playing with new formulas and ratios.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

The time may actually be just right for posting a recipe that is–to me, anyway–something of a classic. Over the years, I’ve experimented with a lot of alternative baking flours and techniques, and I love the creativity that this has fostered. Lately, though, I find myself returning to simple baking recipes and time-honored flavor combinations. And it doesn’t get more time-honored than this.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

Classic Vegan Banana Bread
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Recipe type: Breakfast, baked good, dessert
Cuisine: vegan, soy free optional, tree nut free optional (see note for gluten free option)
Prep time:  10 mins
Cook time:  45 mins
Total time:  55 mins
Serves: 10 slices
  • 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt or whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • ½ cup soy or almond milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (such as grapeseed, safflower, avocado, or canola oil)
  • ¾ cup tightly packed, light brown sugar
  • 1 heaping cup mashed banana (3 medium or 4 small ripe bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, plus more for decorating
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly oil a standard size loaf pan. Pour the almond or soy milk into a bowl and add the apple cider vinegar.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Add the oil, sugar, mashed banana, and vanilla extract to the non-dairy milk and vinegar. Whisk to combine. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix till everything is evenly combined. Don’t over-mix; some clumps are OK. Fold in the walnuts, if using.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with extra walnuts, if you like. Bake the bread for 38-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out mostly clean.
  5. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes. Gently remove the loaf from the pan and allow it to cool to room temperature before cutting into slices and enjoying.
Leftovers: Leftover banana bread slices can be wrapped individually and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. The banana bread can be frozen for up to 1 month. It makes a great gift!

Gluten free option: The best results I’ve had for making the bread gluten free are to use a combination of ⅔ cup sorghum flour, ⅔ cup superfine brown rice flour, ⅓ cup tapioca flour, ⅓ cup potato starch, and 1 pinch xantham gum. You can also use a GF, all purpose flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1), but the homemade flour blend results in a lighter texture.


 Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

I can understand the urge to use superlatives for recipes–even apart from the practical, SEO considerations. If you’re passionate about food (and most food bloggers are), then it’s hard not to speak with exclamations when a recipe turns out to be not only as good as you’d hoped, but better; the best, even, that you’ve ever tried. It’s a special moment for a home cook.

Classic Vegan Banana Bread | The Full Helping

None of us can go out and taste all of the recipes that ever were for a particular dish, and so we might not be able to say for sure what’s best and what isn’t. Plus, there’s the issue of subjectivity: as I’m learning through my cookbook testing process right now, tastes differ, plain and simple. The world’s “best” fudgy brownies probably won’t be all that appealing to a cakey brownie person.

But we know what tastes best to us. We know when we’ve struck gold, so to speak, with a particular set of ingredients and quantities. We know when our many frustrating attempts to perfect a recipe have finally paid off in the form of a dish that we know we’ll treasure and keep for a long time. When we talk about a recipe in glowing terms, we’re really just communicating our own, unique tastes. In the end, that’s what keeps the world of food blogging vibrant and interesting.

So, I can’t say for sure if this is the best vegan banana bread you’ve ever tasted. But I can tell you that it’s my favorite. I can promise you that it has served me very well. And I hope it gives you some of the happiness it often gives me.


The post Classic Vegan Banana Bread appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico

Weekend Reading, 10.2.16

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

For a long time, I thought of myself as someone who thrived off of being busy, very busy. At the least, I knew that I tended toward being hyper-productive, which felt sort of like the same thing. When I look back now on my post-bacc years, or my last two years at FSG, when I was working full days, taking pre-req classes at night, and blogging into the wee hours, I’m not sure how I got it all done. Surely being busy must have come naturally to me, if I chose it so decisively and for so many years?

I’m honestly not so sure. More and more, I wonder if hyperactivity is a hiding place, a way of avoiding being quiet with myself. I have no proof of this, except the fact that it’s not always easy for me to say who I am, apart from what I produce or do. And the fact that, as soon as things settle down, sadness invariably creeps in, which makes me eager to dive back into the fray.

Lately, though, my experience of being busy has changed. The quick pace and full plate that used to give me energy tends nowadays to overwhelm me, and I find myself looking for an escape route. I realized this last year, when I caught more colds and viruses than I had since childhood. The busier I became, the more pesky illnesses I seemed to contract: if it wasn’t a sniffle, it was a sinus infection, or an ear infection, or acute gastroenteritis. At some point it seemed obvious that I was desperate to slow down, and my body had figured it out, even if my conscious mind was slow to catch on.

I wonder if, rather than being a naturally very quick and hyper-productive  person, the opposite is true, and I’m in fact someone who needs a lot of time and space in which to rest and recharge. Or maybe both things are true a the same time. Either way, it makes for an interesting theory.

This week, I’m sharing an article about women and exhaustion that’s well worth reading. The author notes that “there are some people who are naturally more energetic than others, and may have a higher ‘setpoint’ for stress. This stress tolerance also ties into questions of resiliency, which is a huge hot-button topic in psychiatric research.” I’ll avoid making big declarations about whether or not I’m at this end of the spectrum or the opposite end; one thing I know for sure is that our tendencies can shift around, and the behaviors that serve us at one point might become an impediment later on.

Right now, though, my stress setpoint is unmistakably low. This was proven last week, when what should have been a fairly manageable difficulty sent me into a tailspin of anxiety and panic. It was unsettling, mostly because I’d been thinking that the work I’ve been doing for the last few months had finally started to pay off in the form of newfound happiness and equilibrium. It would seem that whatever equilibrium I’ve unearthed is still pretty delicate. Or rather, it’s dependent on my life being arranged in a certain way.

I’m trying to simply acknowledge that this is so, without diving into my usual, tiresome spin of self-criticism. I’m reminded of a moment nearly a decade ago, in ED therapy. I can’t remember what exactly I said to my therapist, but the gist of it was that I didn’t feel that recovery was moving at a brisk enough pace for my liking. She paused to ask me how many years I’d been struggling (thirteen), then gently suggested that perhaps the habits and tendencies I’d spent over a decade cultivating would not resolve themselves entirely within, you know, a few months.


I suppose the same is true now. Self-discovery, self-help, mindfulness, healing–these things really do take time. And little breakthroughs are often met with humbling reminders that we are still very much at the start of what’s going to be a long journey. The last week has given me cause to remember my own words: recovery is a practice.

On that note, some wonderful food and reads.



I’m just loving Ana’s creamy cauliflower soup with mustard roasted chickpeas–I can’t imagine anything more comforting or tasty for fall. (And I’d probably love anything involving mustard roasted chickpeas.) It’s also making me excited to whip up a batch of my roasted cauliflower and parsnip soup, an old favorite which has been retired for way too long.


I love the addition of miso to hummus, and the idea of adding it to edamame hummus sounds more intriguing still. Alana’s miso edamame hummus with baked furikake sweet potato chips is all things savory, crunchy, and salty. Yum.


Fresh fig season seems to be over already here in New York, which is making me sad. I had all of these grand plans for baking a fig cake, and then poof–they were gone. But in any case, I can take comfort in thinking about figgy things to make next year, and at the top of the list will be Heather’s quinoa, fig, and mint salad. So simple, fresh, and beautiful to look at.


Tofu scramble is one of my go-to breakfasts, and no matter how many times I make it, I’m always on the hunt for new recipes. My latest favorite is the lovely Ella’s 5-minute turmeric tofu scramble, which is just so simple–the kind of savory breakfast that’s realistic for a busy weekday morning. This is also a good moment to say that Ella’s book, Cut the Sugar, is full of tasty plant-based and gluten-free recipes that are every bit as easy and accessible as this one! A great investment if you’re looking to enjoy sweets with less and/or natural sweetener.


Speaking of sweet stuff, Amy has outdone herself with this decadent vegan twix tart–stuffed with layers of chocolate, coconut caramel, and vegan shortcake. Is it too early to start thinking about holiday gifts?


1. Many food bloggers, myself included, were reading Smitten Kitchen long before we’d considered writing our own blogs. I’ve always been a fan of Deb Perelman’s smart, honest writing and her wholehearted approach to food. From Deb, I’ve learned the art of perfect oven-roasted tomatoes, clumpy granola, and having a sense of humor about cooking.

So, I was excited to read Deb’s reflections after a decade of food blogging. She talks about how dramatically the landscape of food blogs has changed, which made me somewhat nostalgic for my own early days of blogging, circa 2009-2010. I miss the collegiality of blogging back then, the shared excitement and community. I also miss a blogging landscape that felt more hobbyist than professional–which isn’t to say that I haven’t professionalized my own blog over time. It’s just a pang for what was a very different online experience.

Deb has wise words for anyone who wants to start blogging nowadays, and she validates the urge to write about food so gracefully:

The field may be more crowded now than it has ever been, but as long as people are reading about food and hungry to cook dinner, not the same dinner they always cook, an “in” exists.There’s a way for someone who doesn’t want to do things the way they’ve always been done, and who is eager to sharpen their skills, to put themselves out there and find people who will listen.

2. While we’re talking about culinary lives and people who lead them, I enjoyed these facts about Julia Child, courtesy of The Awl. Of course few culinary figures are more beloved and well-biographied than Child, but there are many details of her story that I actually don’t know, and this list helped to fill in some of the gaps. I was interested to learn that she defied her father’s expectation of “a conventional life,” starting with work as an intelligence researcher and later, of course, as a chef. And I had no idea that she helped to develop a shark repellant.

I was also inspired to learn that cooking is a craft Child discovered and honed only as an adult; she began culinary school at 37. As someone who feels as though I’m still very much in the process of figuring out who I am and what I want, both professional and personally, I value reminders that life is long and the opportunities for self-discovery are many.

3. So, we’ve all read our fair share of lists of life guidance from women to women. But Jo’s recent list of 15 career tips from smart and passionate women struck me as richer than most, and I loved reading it. Some highlights:

No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it . . . At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is — if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
“Don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. You are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever.” ― Nora Ephron
“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith.” — Cheryl Strayed

Of those, Ephron’s really stood out. I’m prone to assuming not only that I will be forever as I am (a grim prospect when I’m feeling particularly frustrated with myself), but also that every feeling, experience, and emotion is destined to last forever. Lately I’m trying hard to hang onto the idea that things are always changing, always in motion; my feelings, be they pleasant or painful, are not destined to last forever, if only because my outlook is likely to shift over time.

4. A new research study suggests that stress may have a greater impact on pro-inflammatory responses than food selection. The implication of the study is that the benefits of healthful eating can be outweighed by stress and anxiety.

I find this totally unsurprising, though I’m glad the topic is getting attention. In my work, I see time and time again that stress–including, unfortunately, the stress associated with eating healthfully–can seem to override the benefits of wholesome food. I suggest this to my clients, many of whom are prone to fretting about precisely what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, and how to eat. The suggestion is often greeted with resistance, because in some ways it’s easier to obsess over what we’re eating than it is to ask ourselves why we’re stressed, or anxious, or so fixated on food in the first place.

It’s not that I don’t think selecting wholesome foods is important. It’s simply that the pressure attached to healthy eating can create stress that is–in a very real, and possibly measurable way–more harmful to our bodies than a couple of sub-optimal food choices would be. For this reason, I think that our definition of “healthy” eating should include not only what foods are selected, but also what frame of mind and emotional state we bring to the act of eating. The healthiest meal at any given moment isn’t always the one that features the most nutrient-dense ingredients: sometimes it’s the one that gives us the most pleasure or comfort.

5. Speaking of stress, a really interesting article, written by a psychiatrist who lives and works in the high-octane D.C. area, about chronic fatigue among women. The piece begins with a provocative question and equally provocative answer:

As Hillary Clinton heads toward shattering the ultimate glass ceiling for American women, let’s pause to assess the landscape that surrounds us. How do we feel?

Kim goes on to detail the impact that work, motherhood, and care-taking have on women’s mental and physical health. I appreciate that the article takes a multi-faceted perspective. Kim addresses women’s propensity to place the happiness of others above their own fulfillment; of some of her former patients, she writes, “Their identity almost seemed invested in their self-sacrifice, even self-annihilation.” It’s a tendency I see all the time in my own counseling work, too.

As she acknowledges this predisposition, which is probably culturally enforced, Kim also takes interest in the biological factors that make women more prone to fatigue and exhaustion:

Women also have to cope with gender-specific biological vulnerabilities that increase mood and anxiety disorder risk such as menstrual-cycle-related issues (such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder), peripartum and postpartum mood and psychotic disorders as well as perimenopausal mood disorders all from female-specific hormonal fluctuations. These hormonal changes can trigger underlying genetic susceptibilities to developing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia. The fluctuations can also magnify under situational and environmental stress, where increased cortisol levels cause their own cascade of negative biology such as fight-or-flight systemic responses, and over time worsening risk of diabetes, vascular and cardiac disease, and more.

She notes that women’s vulnerability to burnout and exhaustion is also a product of financial circumstance and resources:

. . . [F]or women who aren’t financially privileged, especially single mothers, the lack of social support is almost untenable. Major choices mean major sacrifices . . . American individualism also makes it lonelier for women despite the appearance of community that workplaces and school systems provide. Extended family networks aren’t as prominent or established for many Americans, especially immigrant families, nor is extended family support a cultural given here, putting additional pressure on the nuclear family to take care of itself.

This isn’t to say that men don’t also grapple with exhaustion, stress, depression, anxiety, and more. But Kim makes a good case for women’s particular susceptibility.

Last spring, I came face to face with the fact that I was exhausted. I don’t mean this in the sense that I felt tired, as if I needed better or more sleep, or a vacation. I mean that I felt empty, as if I had nothing left to give anyone anymore, myself included. The word exhausted can be defined as “the condition of being very tired,” but it has another meaning, which is “the act of using up completely.” I think this is the feeling of being “drained” that so many women describe. And it’s precisely that feeling that has–along with other forces–encouraged me to re-examine how I live my life.

If you’ve been struggling–as so many people do–with feeling worn down, used up, drained, or empty, then I encourage you to check the article out. It may be nothing you don’t know, but it helped me to see this problem more clearly, and to understand it a little better.

Alright, friends. Enjoy the reads, and I’ll be back soon with some seasonal fare. It’s autumn, finally and really.


The post Weekend Reading, 10.2.16 appeared first on The Full Helping.

Powered by WPeMatico