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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
+6567504536
http://www.skintighteningsingapore.xyz/

Weekend Reading, 1.15.17

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Once upon a time–and by that I mean as recently as 8 months ago–I spent a lot of time reading articles and lists and impassioned bits of advice about productivity. I listened to podcasts about time management, efficiency, and entrepreneurship. In spite of the fact that I wasn’t crushing my goals or organizing my time in some spectacularly economical fashion, I remained fiercely attached to the idea of operating that way.

In many ways the fixation on productivity was an expression of longing for my old self, for the person who could accomplish 10 tasks before 9am. I missed being someone who impressed everyone with my multitasking, who took on more than seemed advisable and somehow carried the load.

I miss this person. I miss her single-minded focus, her boundless energy and self-assurance. I miss having constant reminders of how capable I am in the form of daily accomplishments and completed tasks. It’s been a long time since I felt spectacularly efficient. I need to tackle projects one-at-a-time, and sometimes I need to stop and do nothing at all, because my head is whirring and I feel too overwhelmed to make a start.

Interestingly–so interestingly–none of the terrible things I thought would happen have happened since I slowed down. I probably get less done, but there have been no catastrophic consequences. My work has not collapsed. I’m not bankrupt. I haven’t permanently disappointed or infuriated professors, colleagues, or friends. I’ve adjusted my schedule and put a lot of stuff on hold. It’s a challenge to my impatience, but that’s about the extent of it.

In fact, the only thing that’s happened as a result of all this is that I’ve had to change my perception and expectations of myself (no small thing, I realize, but still: not a disaster). And as a show of respect for that process, I’ve lately been letting go of my fixation on living a perfectly productive life. I’ve stopped seeking out advice on how to manage my time, stopped reading about the five things that so-called successful people do each morning. I’m just greeting each day with an open mind and a vow to work as mindfully as I can.

There’s a lot of really smart, insightful advice out there about getting stuff done. I wonder, though, how useful it is for me at this juncture in my life. I think it heightens my anxiety about what I’m not doing while also clouding my appreciating of what’s being experienced or seen or done outside of my to-do list. Letting go of my old pace felt like a loss at first, but I’ve gained so much as a result.

I’m bringing more thoughtfulness and intention to my blog, for one thing. The words and food I share these days feel more heartfelt than much of what I shared during my post-bacc. My day-to-day communications–from emails to passing conversations with strangers–feel honest and meaningful, rather than rushed and impatient. The time I spend with friends is less hurried and often richer as a result. Even the small, everyday stuff, from cooking to cleaning my home, feels fuller.

In her article on learning to live with and love anxiety, Laura Turner notes that

…there is an American obsession with productivity that has infiltrated how we deal with anxiety. In recent months I’ve come across a spate of articles advising that people, by some alchemical turn, spin their anxiety into something better, more useful. “Turn Your Anxiety Into Productivity/Success/Excitement,” business-minded headlines declare.
I worry that I am only as valuable as I am productive. A recent bout of sickness kept me in bed for nearly a week and inspired a handful of panic attacks focused on my lack of productivity. Stuck inside without even the ability to write a coherent sentence, I felt my own worthlessness as near to me as the yellow bowl I kept by my bedside for occasions when I couldn’t make it to the bathroom to throw up. To be productive is to have constant justification for existing: See? I did this. I’ve earned another day. If I can outwork my anxiety, perhaps I can outsmart it, outstrip it, outrun it.

As a fellow anxiety sufferer, I know the feeling. My guess is that many of you know it, or have known it in the past, too.

Turner goes on to claim that anxiety does serve a purpose in her life, not because it can be translated into something “better” but rather because it is so powerful that it forces us to stop and pay attention. “Anxiety functions as an important warning system, alerting people to potential threats,” she writes. And for this reason, anxiety is often the first sign that something in our lives has gone awry, that we’re headed in a direction that isn’t safe, or right, or healthful for us.

For me, irritability and anxiety were powerful warning signals that I was burning my days, moving so quickly and with so much focus on what was or wasn’t getting done that I could no longer see the forest for the trees. Anxiety slowed me to a halt, literally; as anyone who copes with anxiety or panic can attest, you can’t go very far or get much done when the simple act of breathing feels like a challenge. In forcing me to stand still, anxiety also forced me to take a good look around me, to see what I had been missing as I rushed from one place to another.

I wouldn’t wish anxiety on anyone, but I can see that it has served a purpose in my life, just as it served a purpose in Turner’s. I wish I’d been able to learn my lessons another way, but if anxiety was my teacher, that’s OK. I don’t want to glamorize anxiety–mine or anyone else’s–but in my case there are reasons to acknowledge, and maybe even to thank it, all the while hoping it will visit me less often now that I’ve learned to listen.

I hope that Laura Turner’s essay will resonate with some of you. And I’m sharing a few other, incredibly powerful reads about health this week. One is a Jon Mooallem’s profile of a hospice director who is trying to challenge the way we think about the experience of death. Another is Anna Altman’s powerful essay about migraine headaches and other chronic illness. Finally, I’m linking to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s incredible longform piece about survivors of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco in the 80s, which was published last year.

I hope you enjoy the words, and also these recipes.

Recipes

I wish I’d made a batch of Jackie’s butternut squash and bacon soup before this chilly weekend! It’s simple and delicious, and it features one an awesome vegan product (the benevolent bacon strips from Sweet Earth Foods).

Radicchio is one of my favorite winter vegetables, and I definitely don’t spend enough time finding ways to cook it (usually, it ends up in salads). I love Sherrie’s idea to make a creamy, pink-hued radicchio risotto. She’s got a traditional version and a vegan version with cashew cream in the post.

I’m always on the hunt for new ways to enjoy BEPs, and right now I’m loving Traci’s BBQ black eyed pea collard rolls; they hit that sweet spot of being both very green and very wholesome.

I can never have too many vegan chili recipes, so I was delighted when Nina shared her loyal lentil chili recipe from her new book, which looks so sumptuous and beautiful!

Finally, a healing and comforting winter dish that comes together in a flash, courtesy of Renee at Will Frolic for Food. Her super green miso is packed with veggies, miso, and legumes, and it’s beautiful to look at.

Reads

1.  First, Laura Turner’s meditation on anxiety, via Pacific Standard Magazine.

2. Anna Altman’s thoughtful, illuminating essay on the experience of being a chronic migraine sufferer. This is as much a piece about chronic pain as it is migraines in particular, though Altman has a lot to say about the uniqueness of migraines, too: “It’s inconceivable to most people that this is it—there is no other, underlying condition. The headaches are the condition itself.”

Altman weaves together her own experiences as a patient with her recollections of watching her mother struggle with neuropathy and sometimes crippling chronic pain as a child. I have no experience of migraines, but I think I understand a little better what it’s like to experience them, thanks to Altman’s descriptions. She also helps to explain why chronic illness is so difficult to explain to outsiders:

Pain is a message from the body to the mind that something is wrong. Headache pain, though, is opaque, and its source and its message are hard to divine. There’s no tissue damage, no trauma, no infection. A headache can alert one to something as sinister as a tumor, or it can come and go with a rainstorm.
A migraine attack blurs the distinction between “sickness” and “health.” Headache, dizziness, nausea, trouble concentrating, fatigue, poor verbal skills—these symptoms could just as easily result from a hangover or a bad night’s sleep. That the same symptoms can result from irresponsible decisions gives patients an air of culpability. The same can be said for many of the symptoms of chronic autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Altman doesn’t sugar-coat her narrative, but she ends on a resilient note:

Illness is the space where I came to understand the limitations of my being. It’s a lesson we all learn but one I learned harshly and twice, first watching my mother and then enduring my own suffering. Now I know that I can lie down for hours without moving. I can meditate. I can stare at the wall and not despair. If I discovered something redemptive in this experience, it’s that capacity for stillness.
In Chicago, I asked my mom how I could face this future. She didn’t miss a beat. “You will make a new life for yourself,” she said. I believe her.

3. A few weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine published Jon Mooallem’s profile of BJ Miller, a physician and hospice director who is working to create a different, more normalized and dignified experience of end-of-life care. Miller is famous for his capacity to connect deeply with patients, and part of this is because he himself has crossed paths with death. As a college student, Miller suffered an accident that left him a triple amputee. According to the author of the article, Jon Mooallem,

He now talks about his recovery as a creative act, “a transformation,” and argues that all suffering offers the same opportunity, even at the end of life, which gradually became his professional focus. “Parts of me died early on,” he said in a recent talk. “And that’s something, one way or another, we can all say. I got to redesign my life around this fact, and I tell you it has been a liberation to realize you can always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left.”

The article goes on to profile Miller’s guidance of the hospice care of a young man who was diagnosed at only 27 years of age with mesothelioma. It’s a moving portrait of how the stories of physician and patient intersect.

4. Early in 2016, Erin Allday, a health reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, profiled the “last men standing” from the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s. I found the article recently, and I had to stop and start reading it many times before I could make it all the way through.

The tragedy of the article isn’t only the memory of a lost generation, or the grief of those who watched their friends and lovers die too young. It’s also the story of men who were told to prepare themselves for death, but death never came.

Instead, it came for the people they loved, while they lived on, in many cases having made life decisions as if the end were near. Many of them have suffered economically and professionally as a result, surrendering important pursuits and endeavors in the expectation that they wouldn’t have time to see them to fruition.

The article is painful to read, but I think it’s powerful and important. Many of us have had our awareness of AIDS filtered through statistics and news headlines, but this essay is all about stories: the stories of people who lived through it years ago and live with it still.

5. I was really charmed with Sam Anderson’s essay about windows, which is framed by the comparison of windows and screens. We spend a lot of time gazing at the latter these days, and perhaps not enough time looking out of the former. Anderson recounts a recent experience in which his observation of events outside his window forced him to contend with his own preconceptions and assumptions. It’s humble, humorous, and wise.

Enjoy! I’ll be back this week with a new breakfast bowl recipe, some ideas for incorporating fermented foods into everyday meals, and my closing thoughts on the Veestro Yes I Can challenge.

xo

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Veestro’s 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway!

Veestro's 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! | The Full Helping

No matter how much time I spend thinking about nutrition in my work life, it’s not usually a topic that comes up with friends. So it came as a surprise the other day when a good friend brought up healthful eating over the phone. “You know,” he said, “it’s amazing how much in my life changes when I’m taking the time to eat right, exercise, and sleep.”

He went on to say that, while he never gave much thought to his diet in the past, he’s been paying more attention lately to what he eats and how it makes him feel. He cut out dairy, at first because it made life with his girlfriend, who is lactose intolerant, easier. Now he’s sticking to it because his own digestion is so much better. He’s trying to rely less on sweets for quick energy, to squeeze in more vegetables, and to cook more often. And it’s making a huge difference.

My friend told me that he’d never realized how much better he could be feeling until he made these shifts. I was struck by the comment because it’s one I can relate to. For years I assumed that my IBS had to be as bad as it was. I thought it was normal to crave a nap every afternoon at work, to feel more tired than awake in the morning.

Becoming vegan didn’t fix everything: IBS is still a part of my life, depending on my stress, and I have other everyday challenges, like allergies and a tendency to get run down. But the dietary changes I’ve made–first going vegan, then taking the time to explore what works for me within plant-based eating–have made a huge difference in my overall well-being. Diet may not be a cure-all, but I think it’s a vital part of the self-care toolkit—one that might also include sleep, hydration, stress reduction, and movement.

As a new year gets underway, many of us are giving some thought to the resources we need in order to feel our best. For most of us, nutrition is one of them. No matter how knowledgeable we are about food, though, it can be difficult to maintain a healthful diet. As I mentioned in last week’s post, life is challenging, and many factors can get in the way of cooking and seeking out wholesome ingredients.

This is why I appreciate Veestro and other brands that help to bring healthful, plant-based food within reach. Meal delivery can be a powerful tool for folks who are facing demanding life circumstances, travel, or a shortage of cooking time. It’s also a perfect option for those who are hoping to eat better but don’t have a sense of where to begin.

Veestro ships vegan, non-GMO, organic, and preservative-free meals to busy customers all over the country. It offers both a la carte and customized packages, including a gluten-free bundle, a starter pack, a high-protein pack, or a bundle that’s geared toward supporting people with weight loss goals. The meals are designed to be tasty, satisfying, and pleasurable as well as wholesome.

Right now, Veestro is hosting a 21-day “Yes I Can” program, which is geared toward helping people nourish mind, body, and spirit. The program includes either one or two daily meals, which are ready-to-eat, along with encouraging emails, wellness checklists, optional fitness challenges, and the resources and guidance of a vegan nutritionist. It’s not all about food, but nutrition plays a starring role, and the email updates include information on how plant-based diet can support weight loss goals, help keep us satisfied (thanks, fiber!), and maximize nutrient density. I’ve been participating happily in the program, and I shared some early thoughts on it last Friday.

Steven and I have continued to love our experience with the Veestro meals this week. We’re both savoring the food, and I’m enjoying having a little extra time that I can devote to work and school. More importantly, I love having varied meal options to choose from. When things get busy, I tend to rely on repetitive batch cooking. It does the trick, but I know how important diversity is within a healthy diet, and I’ve really benefitted from being prodded to try new things.

Veestro's 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! | The Full Helping

This includes a new favorite breakfast! The Veestro 3-layer scramble features black beans, tofu, and quinoa, all layered together with tomato and a bit of vegan cheese to create a scrumptious morning meal. It’s basically a vegan protein bomb, thanks to the combination of legumes and quinoa, and I’ve enjoyed it both for breakfast and also as a simple supper.

Veestro's 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! | The Full Helping
Veestro's 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! | The Full Helping

Veestro meals run the gamut of classic comfort food to globally inspired fare. This week, we enjoyed the country fried chicken, which was cozy and homestyle, topped with a savory vegan gravy. We also tasted the Moroccan melange, which is a bed of quinoa, millet, and vegetables topped with a gently spiced stew of red lentils, onions, and potato. It’s easy to taste the ginger in this dish, and it was right up my alley.

Veestro's 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! | The Full Helping

Another global highlight is the red curry with tofu and veggies. It’s made with red curry paste, garlic, broccoli, tofu, and cauliflower, and it’s served over a bed of brown rice. So fragrant and good.

Veestro's 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! | The Full Helping

One of my favorite lunches this week was the chicken quesadilla, which is packed with vegan chicken, melty vegan cheese, and veggies. It comes with a hearty black bean dipping sauce, which was so good that I saved some extra to use as a snack dip later that day.

Steven had the same dish a few evenings later, and he thought it was as tasty and authentic as I did, not to mention filling. Some of the Veestro meals are heartier than others, so it’s important to modify them in a way that works for you: we’ve made veggie sides or extra grains to serve with some of them. But for the most part we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how satisfying they are.

Veestro's 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! | The Full Helping

A few nights ago I tasted the mushroom risotto, and it quickly took first place as my favorite Veestro dish. It’s a creamy arborio rice and mushroom mixture that’s served with kale and baby carrots. It has the traditional risotto flavor of shallots and white wine, along with some garlic (I added a little vegan parm, too). I was surprised that risotto could hold up to freezing and reheating, but it really did, and it’s a highpoint of my “Yes I Can” experience so far.

Last week, my friend Jessie said something insightful about the process of cooking. “Each meal is only hard to make once,” she said, and “it’s all about the muscle memory.” It’s so true: cooking, like a lot of other things in life, is difficult until it’s not. Time, patience, and the willingness to keep trying are what make it into a habit.

Ready-to eat meals can help to drive that process forward, giving people a taste of what’s possible with plant-based food. Many folks who are trying to become vegan or reduce meat intake don’t know what to cook. They’re confused about how to replace animal protein in their diets, or maybe they’re nervous about trying new things. Being exposed to a diverse range of vegan meals and ingredients can help to set the learning process in motion.

If you’re hoping to build that muscle memory–or to get back in touch with it after a period of struggle with food–the “Yes I Can” challenge is a nourishing and welcoming place to start. Today, I’m hosting a giveaway to offer one reader free access to the challenge, along with 21 complimentary, ready-to-eat vegan meals from Veestro!

The prize includes:

  • 1 meal daily for three weeks (gluten free or regular options available)
  • Email updates from Veestro’s founder, Monica
  • Access to a supportive FB community
  • Optional fitness challenges
  • Recipe ideas from Jenne and Isabelle of So Buddhalicious

The giveaway is open to all readers in the US (including Hawaii and Alaska), and I’ll be announcing the winner next Saturday, when I wrap up my own experience of the program and share my closing thoughts. You can enter below for a chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! I’m so excited for more people to share in this challenge. And I’ll be back on Sunday for the usual roundup of reads and recipes.

xo

This post is sponsored by Veestro Foods and its 21-day “Yes I Can” program. All opinions are my own, and I think this wellness initiative rocks. Thanks for your support!

The post Veestro’s 21-Day Nourishment Program: Update and Giveaway! appeared first on The Full Helping.

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Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes

Fully Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes | The Full Helping

I often hear folks say that it’s difficult to eat enough vegetables in the winter. Many of us crave warm, dense foods at this time of year, which I think is natural: they help to keep us grounded and brace us against the cold. Vegetables don’t always fit the bill, or maybe they could, but it’s not immediately clear how to prepare them in a really soulful, comforting way. Last weekend, in the middle of all-day snow and freezing temperatures, I whipped up these simple, loaded garlic kale potatoes. They felt like the best of both worlds: comfort food that was also packed with nutritious, leafy greens.

Part of what I love about this recipe is that it has stick-to-your-ribs appeal, but it’s a lot less labor-intensive than making a fancy casserole or gratin or some other baked dish. Russet potatoes and garlic roast at the same time, and when they’re finished you squeeze the sweet, tender roasted garlic cloves right into the potato flesh and mash away. You add chopped, steamed kale, top with a bit of vegan parm, and transfer everything to the broiler for a couple of minutes.

  Fully Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes | The Full Helping

After that, you’ll have crispy stuffed potato skins with a creamy filling. The kale adds texture to the potatoes, as well as color. The dish reminded me a lot of my kale colcannon, which I love, but with an Italian twist: the delightful combination of roasted garlic and cheesy nutritional yeast.

Fully Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes | The Full Helping
Fully Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes | The Full Helping

As you can see, my potatoes got a little burnt (I always underestimate what even a minute too long under the broiler can do), but that ended up being a happy accident: I loved the crispy exterior. I used nutritional yeast in the mashed potatoes themselves, and I used vegan parm on top (my go-to is Go Veggie Foods vegan parmesan). My hempesan would also work really nicely, as would any homemade vegan parm (I’ve made it with walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and lots of other nuts/seeds: essentially you blitz the nuts, nutritional yeast, and some salt in a food processor, and you’re good to go).

This was my first time adding roasted garlic directly to mashed potatoes, and I’m in love. I’ve always added garlic powder in the past, which is fine, but the roasted garlic has a sweeter, deeper flavor. You can use this recipe to make regular mashed potatoes, with or without the kale–though it seems like a shame to waste the crispy potato skins as a handy vessel.

Fully Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes | The Full Helping

Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes
Print

Recipe type: main dish, side dish
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, soy free optional, tree nut free
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 5 mins
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large head (or 2 small heads) garlic
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 small to medium-sized russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked
  • ½-1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk (as needed)
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread or additional olive oil, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Fine salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ bunch kale, stems removed and finely chopped (about 6-8 ounces, or 5-6 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons vegan parmesan (I love Go Veggie vegan parm, homemade hempesan topping, nutritional yeast, or breadcrumbs)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Cut the top of the garlic head off crosswise, so that the cloves are exposed. Rub the half teaspoon olive oil over the cloves, then wrap the head of garlic in foil. Place the garlic and the four potatoes onto a baking sheet. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely fork tender. Remove the potatoes and garlic from the oven. Allow the potatoes to cool for about 10 minutes, until they can be handled. Raise the oven temperature to a broil.
  2. About 15 minutes before the potatoes and garlic are ready, bring a pot of water to boil with a steamer attachment. Steam the chopped kale till tender (about 3 minutes).
  3. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to gently scoop the flesh out, making sure not to break the skins. Transfer the potato flesh to a mixing bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic right into the potato; the cloves should be very soft and slip out of the skin easily when you give it a good squeeze.
  4. Add the non-dairy milk (starting with ½ cup), vegan buttery spread (I used about 1½ tablespoons), and the nutritional yeast to the potato/garlic mixture. Use a potato masher or a large fork to mash the potatoes, adding extra non-dairy milk as needed to achieve a creamy texture. The potatoes should be a bit chunkier and less fluffy than traditional mashed potatoes, but the garlic should be well incorporated; if any cloves are hard to mash, you can use the back of a fork to break them down. Taste the potatoes and add salt and pepper as needed. Fold in the kale, taste again, and adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Scoop the potato/kale mixture into the empty potato skins. Top each with about a half tablespoon of vegan parmesan, hempesan, nutritional yeast, or breadcrumbs. Place the baking sheet under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until the tops of the potatoes are crispy and gently golden. Serve.
Notes
Leftover potatoes will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
3.5.3208

Fully Loaded Garlic Kale Potatoes | The Full Helping

This recipe that calls for a little kitchen intuition. If your potatoes are on the bigger side, you’ll probably need more almond or soy milk. I also recommend tasting the mashed potatoes before and after you add the kale, so that everything is nicely seasoned. Feel free to add fresh herbs, like parsley, or dried herbs, like oregano, to the potatoes, too. I’d love to try my next batch with oregano and thyme as well as the garlic.

And it’s worth saying that any leafy green–from broccoli rabe to chard to collards–would work well in the recipe. You can also used finely chopped broccoli or broccolini, if that’s what you have. You can serve the them as a side dish, or you can pair them with soup or salad for an easy, but very comforting, meal.

Winter is here to stay, at least in my neck of the woods, but this kind of food makes me feel ready for it. I’m wishing you all warmth and comfort, and I’ll be back on Friday with a special giveaway.

xo

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Weekend Reading, 1.8.17

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy Sunday, all. We made it through our first week of 2017!

One of the links I’m sharing this Sunday is Stella Blackmon‘s reflection on making friends as an adult. It’s refreshing, an honest look at how hard it can be to explore new situations, to put oneself out there, to accept that intimacy takes time.

A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend. It had been too long–at least six months, if not more. As he and I got to talking, it became clear that we’d both had challenging years. I told him about my depression and other experiences that have changed the way I look at things. He told me about his own struggles, which sprung from a different source than mine and yet manifested in strikingly similar ways.

A day or two later, I emailed him to thank him for the conversation. As we wrote, it became clear that we both felt some remorse that it had taken us so long to open up to each other; after all, we live in the same city. Here we were, miles away from each other, wrestling with similar problems and yet totally unaware of what the other was experiencing. We even exchanged a few sunny and casual text messages along the way. Had we confided sooner, we might have supported each other through tough times.

What matters, of course, is that we did find a way to communicate. But our exchange prompted some important realizations. For my part, I became aware of my tendency to isolate when I’m struggling. I don’t usually communicate hardship until after I’ve processed it, which makes me feel protected but also tends to enhance the loneliness of the experience. By the time I do share, the urgency of what I’m feeling has often passed by.

My friend noted that our conversation had made him aware of the extent to which social media and virtual communication give him a false sense of connectedness; he has the sensation of knowing what’s going on in his friends’ lives because of what he reads and sees in the form of updates and shares. But what we put on social media is selective, and sometimes it belies what’s really going on.

To some extent, I can relate. When I open up about something in writing–through blogging, or over email–I feel a sense of disclosure. But to put things in writing (a process that’s easier for me than spoken communication) is not the same as connecting with a friend face-to-face, spontaneously. It doesn’t replace eye contact, the touch of a hand, a shoulder to lean on or be offered for leaning.

This isn’t to say that I don’t value deeply my written communications, or that I don’t clasp my virtual friendships tightly to my heart. I do, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them. I also value the importance of privacy, of turning inward in order to reflect and process. But for someone like me, face-to-face or voice-to-voice communication–sitting down for coffee, picking up the phone–is both uniquely challenging and also especially meaningful once I’ve had the guts to do it. I’m grateful to my friend for reminding me of this.

It’s not easy to make oneself vulnerable, to embrace new situations, to stride bravely into a room of strangers. It can be difficult to accept that adult friendships might mature more gradually than the intense friendships of childhood and adolescence. But to flex the muscle of connection is still, I think, a meaningful experience, one that gives us a chance to discover and delight in our differences as well as to take comfort in what we share. Props to Stella for writing about it with humor and honesty.

I hope you’ll enjoy the other reads this week, and that you’ll be inspired by these vibrant recipes.

Recipes

Maybe 2017 will be the year in which I learn to do a lot more with buckwheat groats than put them into granola clusters. Thomas’ vibrant cashew buckwheat curry with kale is good inspiration, a reminder that buckwheat can a great addition to any soup or stew.

Speaking of kale, I’m really loving the simplicity of Harriet Emily’s cavolo nero in tomato sauce. It reminds me of a dish my grandmother used to make all the time, which was green beans simmered in a rich, thick tomato sauce. It was a childhood favorite of mine, and I imagine it would be wonderful with dark leafy greens, too.

I love a good taco, and right now I’m eyeing Samantha’s recipe for Mexican style street tacos with cauliflower and chickpeas. So much texture here, and a tasty spice mixture of turmeric, paprika, and cumin.

Speaking of tacos, I bet Ashley’s winter slaw with jalapeno tahini dressing would be a perfect accompaniment (as well as a flavorful side dish for any other meal). I love the simplicity of this recipe: the dressing is just four ingredients!

It’s been a while since I made a good, wintery casserole, but I’m feeling mighty inspired by Anthea’s lentil and purple sweet potato shepherd’s pie. The purple potatoes make for a stunningly colorful and pretty dish.

Reads

1. As many of you may have seen, Tilikum, the orca who was featured in 2013’s Blackfish, died of a bacterial infection on Friday morning, still in captivity at Sea World. Live Science shares some important reflections on how Tilikum’s story may have changed our conversation about keeping animals in captivity for human entertainment.

2. On a related note, I was inspired by the Humane Society’s roundup of victories for animal rights in 2016. (This includes Sea World’s commitment to stop the breeding of orcas, and to stop capturing orcas in activity.) As Wayne Pacelle notes, “[i]t hardly means that we’ve been on a glide path to reform. And it doesn’t mean that we haven’t had setbacks or that we don’t have immense challenges ahead.”

But any reform that both improves the lives of animals and indicates public concern for animal welfare is, I think, worthy of celebration. And it’s reason to look forward to, and keep fighting for, progress.

3. I really enjoyed these insights, from a first year PhD student in structural biology, on the ambiguities and contradictions of science and scientific research. It’s a compliment to Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl, which I’m also reading. That, too, considers the mysteries and contradictions of science, as well as its consolations.

When one is just being inducted into scientific study or research, there’s a tendency to regard the field as being bracketed by absolute knowledge. It’s something I felt even as a pre-med student, though I had little research experience to speak of. What I learned over time–what I think a lot of science students learn–is that the process of scientific discovery, like so much else in life, is imbued with uncertainty. As Sara Whitlock writes,

Active research is ambiguous. It’s piles of data sets with contradicting results. It’s mistaken hypotheses and failed experiments. It’s doing three experiments that show the protein I’m studying does one thing, a fourth that shows the exact opposite, and then having to figure out what’s going on, tweak the experiments, and do them all over again.

Whitlock is growing into maturity as a scientist, and that maturity is shaped by her capacity to embrace uncertainty. It’s no small task, since the quest for answers, for explanations, is what drives many people to study the sciences in the first place. But she’s determined, all the same:

So while certainty is a nice philosophical construct, in my world I’ll trade in the currency of uncertainty to get my degree. Within the contradictions and troubleshoots of my experiments, I’ll need to string together enough evidence supporting the questions I’ve asked to publish at least a couple of papers. I’ll have to both demonstrate understanding of my field and add new knowledge to move the field forward…
My task in the next four to six years (hopefully not seven) is to embrace this ambiguity. I have to be uncomfortable. I have to be able to throw out what I know and let new ideas take root.

Throwing out old ideas, giving new ones room to grow–it sounds to me like a universal challenge, one that’s part of everyday life just as much as scientific research.

4. I read The Body Keeps the Score earlier this year, and in spite of its length and complexity I was struck by how humane and sensitively written it was. Bessel van der Kolk is a psychiatrist and PTSD researcher who’s particularly interested in the mind/body connection when it comes to healing trauma. His work might have special meaning and relevance for anyone who has experienced the reverberations of trauma physically, in the form of anxiety, digestive disturbances, immunological problems, or even cardiovascular disease. In spite of the difficult subject matter–stories from the front lines of van der Kolk’s work with trauma victims–the book is a surprisingly hopeful testament to human resilience.

I really appreciate Maria Popova’s reflections on the book, which take the form of a summary but include plenty of novel insights, too. It’s interesting to consider the book following a conversation about friendship and connection, because empathy and reciprocity–what you might call being “mirrored” by another person–is, according to van der Kolk, a key experience in healing. So, too, is learning to inhabit the body again, to fully experience and acknowledge what it feels. Popova describes these insights beautifully.

5. Finally, Stella Blackmon on making new friends. In addition to being funny and real, the post also includes some good tips. I like her advice to give things time, to invite others to join you in rituals, and especially her encouragement to “enjoy the world around you.”

Lately, I’ve been making an effort to strike up more human connection in day-to-day life. My goal isn’t really to build friendships (though if that happens naturally, great). It’s an effort to experience and be receptive to the connections that are all around us, all the time, simply because we’re surrounded by each other.

This effort might take the form of making eye contact when I thank someone for something, or chatting with a stranger when I’m in line, rather than burrowing into my phone or my Kindle. It has yielded some poignant, memorable exchanges, and I agree with Blackmon that, while these fleeting connections don’t lead to lifelong friendship, they allow us to recognize the community we already have.

Today, I’m appreciating this community. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be around this week with a cozy winter recipe.

xo

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“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro

“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro | The Full Helping

Change. Whether we like it or not, change tends to be on people’s minds at this time of year. I’ve already shared my intentions for 2017, and they don’t involve any big lifestyle changes–just a few subtle shifts in perspective, which have been underway for some time already.

Still, I’m thinking about change because I’ve just gotten started with my nutrition counseling course. The course is dedicated to giving us the tools we’ll need to empower people to change the way they eat, and this begins with acknowledgment of the fact that lifestyle change is hard. Part of this is the power of habit: we become so entrenched in certain ways of being that changing them starts to feel inaccessible. But I don’t think that we resist change simply because we’re stuck in our ways.

So far as I can tell, change is hard because life is hard. Many of us face enormous daily challenges. They might be practical, like financial constraints, busy work schedules, or the demands of care taking. They might include management of an illness, depression, or chronic stress. Lots of things stand in the way of our changing the way we eat, no matter how much we might want to. Time and again, clients tell me that they know what they need to do to eat healthier, and it’s true. The issue isn’t a lack of knowledge or motivation. It’s the fact that life is complicated, and food is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

When I’m working with a new client, I try to identify areas of his or her life in which healthful eating can be made just a little easier. If a client has gotten carried away with trying to make everything from scratch, I might suggest a few frozen meals or products to help ease the cooking burden. I might recommend simpler recipes or investment in a time-saving kitchen tool. Sometimes I encourage someone to make “upgrades” to her favorite foods, rather than seeking out a brand new style of eating.

Small shifts that take practicality into consideration can make a huge difference, whether someone is simply trying to eat more healthfully or considering a big dietary change, like going vegan. And that’s why I love brands that are working to make healthful eating easier. Veestro is one of them.

I first met Monica and Mark Klausner–the co-founders of Veestro–in 2013, when I reviewed some of the vegan start-up’s meal delivery options. I was immediately struck by Monica’s passion for making veganism more accessible for the busy person, which had clearly grown out of her own experience.

Monica and Mark grew up in Costa Rica, raised on a diet of freshly cooked foods. When they moved to the US for college, they found themselves relying on processed and convenience foods that were less than optimal, and their health suffered as a result. When they discovered plant-based eating, they became inspired to create ready-to-eat, vegan meals that were delicious, nutritious, and convenient.

Today, Veestro delivers organic, preservative free, and non-GMO vegan meals to customers around the country. The company offers tons of subscription or ordering options, which means that customers can explore the meals in a way that fits their individual needs. Maybe you work long hours and need dinner waiting for you when you get home. Maybe you need a few lunches each week that you can defrost and bring to the office with you. Maybe you’re traveling, unpacking, or managing a difficult time in your life, and you need all of your meals taken care of. Veestro offers options that fit all of these circumstances, and more.

Right now, in acknowledgment of a new year, the folks at Veestro are hosting a “21-days of yes” program that’s designed to nourish mind, body, and soul. The program can be customized to include either 1 or 2 meals daily, and it comes with 6 juices to enjoy with the meals or as snacks (or however you like). There’s a gluten-free option, and of course, all of the meals are 100% vegan.

What I love about the program is that the emphasis isn’t just on food. It’s designed to help make healthful eating and lifestyle change feel like a reality. Many folks who are trying to go plant-based don’t know where to start, and these vibrant, tasty meals can help to inspire them and provide future recipe ideas. The program also comes with recipes and ideas from the awesome ladies behind So Buddhalicious, who help to make vegan meal-planning (in bowl form!) feel easy and fun, and guidance from a vegan nutritionist.

In other words, the program helps provide tools for lasting change at home, as well as some meals to help kick-start the process easily.

I’ve had a chance to savor Veestro’s meals in the past, and I’m impressed with how the options have continued to grow. There’s so much to choose from, ranging from super familiar, comfort food dishes to global fare. A sampling of meals from the “yes I can” program includes savory croquettes, Spanish torta, veggie lasagna, red curry, and Southwest BBQ chicken. There’s something for everyone, from people who are looking for plant-based alternatives to mainstream fare to folks who are already vegan and have adventurous taste buds.

“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro | The Full Helping
“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro | The Full Helping

So far, a personal highlight has been the oatmeal breakfast pie, which is made with gluten free oats, sweet potato, apple, and chia seeds. It’s hearty and delicious, and it has kept me surprisingly full, in spite of my morning tendency to get snacky. I’m not big on juices these days, but they’ve been a great compliment to the morning meals. I’m particularly digging the Johnny Appleseed, which is a tart, sweet green juice with apple.

One of my favorite lunches so far is the golden chickpea stew. It’s a fragrant mixture of chickpeas, cauliflower, spinach, quinoa, and potatoes, enhanced with warming spices like ginger and curry. This meal is light on its own–the Veestro meals vary in size and density, which means that it’s important to customize them as needed–so I enjoyed it with extra quinoa, and I threw in some arugula that I had left in my fridge for texture.

“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro | The Full Helping

For midday comfort food, I recently loved the enchilada casserole, which is packed with plant protein, thanks to tofu and veggies. Steven has been enjoying the meals right along with me, and he gave this one two big thumbs up.

“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro | The Full Helping

I loved the creativity of the adzuki bean spaghetti entree. It’s topped with garbanzo veggie balls, summer squash and mushrooms, and a flavorful marinara sauce. I think it’s cool that it’s made with a bean pasta for extra protein power, and that it’s a suitable dish for both GF and non-GF folks.

“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro | The Full Helping

Finally, one of the dishes I remember most fondly from the first time I sampled Veestro was a kale salad with quinoa, cranberries, tempeh, and a tahini dressing. It was a great combination of sweet and savory flavors, and I thought that the quinoa and tempeh pieces gave it really nice texture contrast. This meal has stood the test of time, and it’s still on the Veestro menu. And I still love it.

“Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro | The Full Helping

For me, personally, experiencing the 21-day kick-start comes at a really nice time–a period of rest after cookbook writing, a really busy month of coursework, and the start to a new year. I mentioned that change is on my mind because of my studies, but the challenge of self-care hits home for personal reasons, too.

Last spring, maybe for the first time I can remember, I felt overwhelmed by cooking. For years, I’d listened to folks tell me how daunting the task of food preparation seemed, and while I understood, I’m not sure how directly I could empathize. I’d always taken comfort in cooking, no matter how busy life got. Even during my post-bacc, when I had practically no free time, I got it done.

Then depression hit, and everything changed. Small tasks, chores, and errands started to feel overwhelming. I was less interested in socializing, and with that came a disinterest in sharing food with others. Cooking, which usually gives me so much a pleasure and satisfaction, started to feel joyless and exhausting.

Things shifted, and I happily found my way back to the kitchen this summer. But I have a new perspective now. I know exactly how it can be that nourishment falls by the wayside in the face of a personal struggle. I know that there are many circumstances in which cooking is anything but straightforward or simple. And I appreciate any resource, tool, or service that can step in, offer support, and provide practical solutions.

If meal delivery is something you’ve considered, and you’d like to explore it through a vegan brand that’s focused on food that’s both accessible and wholesome, the Veestro 21-day kickstart is an awesome place to begin. In addition to the vegan meals, you’ll get weekly fitness challenges and wellness checklists. These are optional, of course (I’m just using the wellness checklists myself), but the resources are there if you want them, and they’re a great reminder that wellness goes beyond food.

Thinking about it? Or maybe you’d like to suggest it to a loved one who’s trying to go vegan or eat healthier in the new year? Right now all readers of this blog can sign up for the 21-day Yes I Can program at a 20% discount, using the code 21daysTFH at checkout. You can also explore the program offerings, see a list of sample meals, read FAQs, and learn much more over at the Veestro website.

There’s more cool news: the Veestro team will be offering one of my readers a chance to get a free 21-day kickstart package in a giveaway that I’ll be sharing next weekend–along with more meal reviews, and some thoughts on food and nutrition as a part of the self-care process.

As always, I’m starting this new year totally committed to helping all readers of this blog feel empowered and inspired. If you’re just stumbling on this space, and you’d like to sign up for email updates, you’ll get my free plant-based starter kit delivered to your inbox. It includes easy recipes, tips for making the transition to veganism, a sample grocery list, and more. And of course, you can always check out my recipe page for meals that suit your dietary needs.

I’m excited to tell you more about my experience with the “Yes I Can” challenge–and how it’s helping me to think about self-care–next week. For now, happy Friday, and I’ll see you for weekend reading.

xo

This post is sponsored by Veestro and its 21-day “Yes I Can” challenge. All opinions are my own, and I think this wellness initiative rocks. Thanks for your support!

The post “Yes I Can”: 21 Nourishing Days with Veestro appeared first on The Full Helping.

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Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf

Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf | The Full Helping

January has been mild here in New York so far, but we’re moving into that time of year when winter becomes a reality. The holiday lights have been taken down, the new year’s commotion has passed, and we stare ahead at a long few months of slush. I’m a cold weather person at heart–a homebody who secretly relishes any opportunity to nest–but even I feel susceptible to gloom during this seasonal stretch. I fight back with as much colorful, warming food as possible, and this golden Moroccan millet & roasted carrot pilaf is my latest antidote to grayness outside.

It took me a long time to warm up to millet; when I first tried it, it seemed dry to me, less fluffy and flavorful than quinoa and less dense and substantive than farro or barley. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate its mild sweetness and its texture, which is perched nicely between the lightness of quinoa and the heft of rice. Still, there have been some prerequisites to really loving it: one option is to mix it with quinoa (as in this lovely, lemon-scented whole grain breakfast porridge), which seems to offset millet’s tendency to get dry.

Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf | The Full Helping

Another is to fold the millet together with lots of moist, flavorful ingredients, and plenty of bold seasonings. And that’s exactly what’s going on in this Moroccan-inspired pilaf: the millet is cooked with onion, celery, spices, and a little extra liquid than is generally suggested (it’s usually a 1:2 ratio of grain to water or broth, but I used 2 1/2 cups broth for a cup of millet). After it soaks up the spices, it’s combined with sweet, spice roasted carrots and drizzled with lemony, garlicky tahini dressing.

Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf | The Full Helping

The result is a millet pilaf that’s bright and flavorful, sweet and savory, and really beautiful to look at. A pinch of turmeric gives the millet its orange hue, and I threw some pomegranate seeds and pine nuts on the finished dish for extra color and crunch. Chickpeas add plant protein and texture contrast. I love how their sturdy shape holds its own in the pilaf, but you could use cooked lentils, white beans, or adzuki beans instead.

Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf | The Full Helping
Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf | The Full Helping
Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf
Print

Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: gluten free, soy free, tree nut free optional
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Total time: 55 mins
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1½ lbs carrots, trimmed and peeled or scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (substitute another ½ teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
  • 1 cup uncooked millet
  • 2½ cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ⅛-1/4 cinnamon, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas (1 can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1-2 tablespoons lime juice, to taste
  • Arugula, for serving
  • Optional toppings: Chopped parsley or cilantro, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate molasses
Lemon Garlic Tahini Dressing:
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 5 tablespoons warm water
  • 1-2 cloves (to taste) garlic, finely minced or grated on a microplane
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss the carrots with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, maple syrup, and ground cumin. Transfer the carrots to the baking sheet and sprinkle generously with coarse salt and black pepper. Transfer the carrots to the oven and roast for 30-35 minutes, or until they’re gently caramelized.
  2. While the carrots roast, heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a medium sized pot. When the oil is shimmering, add the cumin seeds. (If you’re substituting ground cumin, add it when you add the broth and other spices instead.) When the cumin seeds begin to smell fragrant and sizzle, add the onion and celery. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onion is soft and clear. Add the millet and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until the millet smells slightly nutty. Add the vegetable broth, salt, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the millet from heat and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  3. While the millet cooks, whisk together the lemon garlic tahini dressing. Add water by the tablespoon as needed to achieve a consistency you like.
  4. Fluff the millet gently with a fork, then fold in the chickpeas, roasted carrots, and lime juice. Taste the pilaf and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve the pilaf over a bed of fresh arugula, if desired, and top with chopped fresh herbs, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds or molasses (or all of those). Drizzle generously with the lemon garlic tahini dressing.
Notes
Leftover pilaf will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
3.5.3208

Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf | The Full Helping

As you can see, I’m pretty loose with my spice and seasoning suggestions for this recipe. We all have different likings for heat and intensity, so feel free to boost any of the spices, to use a heavy hand with the crushed red pepper flakes, or to amp up the garlic in the lemon tahini dressing. If you have harissa paste or powder at home, you can try adding it to the carrots before roasting for extra flavor and heat. You can also try throwing some raisins, currants, or sliced apricots into the pilaf if you’d like more sweet and savory contrast. It’s all good.

In spite of the longish list of ingredients, the recipe comes together pretty painlessly, and it makes a good amount, so you’ll be able to use it for leftovers. The millet will get a little dry as the leftovers sit, but you won’t notice it once you heat the pilaf up again and break out the tahini dressing 😉

Wherever you are, and especially if you’re face to face with gray skies and chilly days, I hope this pilaf will brighten your day and lift your spirits. Enjoy it.

xo

The post Moroccan Millet & Roasted Carrot Pilaf appeared first on The Full Helping.

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Weekend Reading, 1.2.17

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy new year, everyone. I hope that 2017 will bring peace and happiness to all of you, and to the world.

I’ve been laying low on social media for the last two days, intentionally. The collective resolution and goal setting isn’t for me. In past years I tended to poo-poo and complain about it, but there’s no need for that. I can simply be selective about what I read, listen to, and ponder as the new year gets underway.

While I tend to avoid resolutions, I do think that this is a powerful time of year to reflect back on where we’ve been, and perhaps to set some intentions as we move ahead. To me, “intention” has a very different ring than does “resolution.” The latter implies something firm, while the former feels more open and exploratory. I once heard intention-setting described as writing on a chalkboard: something is being expressed, put in writing, and witnessed, but the nature of the medium is such that it can be erased and written over if need be. If life demands it. I like that idea–the idea of purpose without permanence.

My state of mind this January is such that even setting an intention feels like cautious business. 2016 was quite a year, one of the most humbling I can remember, and in its wake I’m not really sure what my intentions are. For a while it seemed as though being visited by depression and anxiety had caused my world to shrink: just getting through the days felt like a challenge sometimes, something I could no longer take for granted. It’s been a long time since I thought about big dreams or life goals or professional ambitions.

In some ways, though, I wonder if what I have experienced as my world contracting is actually an expansion of sorts, an unfolding that comes from a dramatic shift in perspective. It’s no fun to go through months of feeling, as a good friend called it, like “anxious shit,” to perceive everyday tasks as insurmountable challenges. But if nothing else, it has helped me to appreciate and take thanks for small things. What buoyed me in 2016 wasn’t goals or accomplishments. It was an accumulation of small, everyday pleasures: morning toast and coffee. Hot showers. The sound of the door opening when Steven came home in the evening. Poems and recipes.

For years I’ve read about the importance of appreciating the present moment, of not dwelling in the past or being so fixated on the future that lived experience becomes an afterthought. And now, for the first time, I’m doing it. I’m living in the moment.

Of course it’s important to dream, to have a vision of one’s life that includes hopes and aspirations. And if 2017 opens the door to some of those for the first time in a long time, I’ll certainly welcome it. I’m curious to see what form dreaming and aspiring is going to take for me now that everything seems to have changed. In the meantime, what I saw as a narrowing of perspective is starting to strike me as a dilation instead, because I’m capable–maybe for the first time in my life–of really taking notice and giving thanks for what is.

If I have an intention for the new year, I think it’s this: to continue observing and paying attention to what’s in front of me. I hope that I can continue to see the meaning and beauty of small things and everyday moments, the tiny pleasures that are scattered throughout my days. I hope that I can accept things as they are, rather than forcing them to conform to a vision and then feeling disappointed when life refuses to be manacled. I hope to be receptive and open, to translate the humility I’ve acquired this year into compassion and kindness whenever I can.

That’s about it. Of course there are some little goals: I’d like to get back into batch cooking on weekends, my monthly budget could use a reappraisal, and it would be great to spend more time meditating each day. But I’m not making any promises, except that I’ll try.

Whether your intentions for this new year are tiny or grand, I wish you interest and meaning and learning experiences as you set them in motion. And if they need to be erased and written over at any point, I wish you fearlessness in making the change.

This week’s reads include some backward glances at the year in science and health news, along with a mother’s vulnerable and honest thoughts on talking to her daughter about having a body and taking care of it. As always, I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Recipes

It’s my goal to focus on super simple food this month, and I can’t think of better place to start than Ali’s easy lentil and avocado tacos. The whole recipe takes about 30 minutes, and it’s packed with plant protein and healthful fats. Ali suggests some optional cotija cheese for topping, but crumbling my go-to cashew cheese would work nicely as an alternative.

What better way to start a new year than with a simple, bright, three-ingredient green dip? Alex and Sonja’s very verde dip is just cilantro, green peas, salsa verde, and salt, and it looks fabulous. I can’t wait to pile some on my breakfast tostadas.

I really love the idea of seasonal tabbouleh recipes, and Alexandra’s fall tabbouleh is the latest to catch my eye. It features apples, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds, and it’s so pretty and colorful.

I’m used to putting sweet potatoes in curries and curried soups, but I’ve never thought to coat them in curry before roasting. I love how Amanda uses this trick to make crispy, flavorful roasted sweet potato rounds–and what could be a better topping than simple chopped avocado, cilantro, and lime?

Finally, how about hot chocolate for breakfast? Ashley’s hot chocolate steel-cut oats are calling out to me in all of their chocolatey glory, and I can’t wait to top them with Sweet and Sara marshmallows.

Reads

1. To begin, a pretty fascinating and provocative look at the physics of melanin, which is the pigment that causes variation in human skin tone–and is therefore a determinant of racial identity in our society.

2. In the past year, health reporter Gina Kolata followed two individuals–one male, one female–as they prepared for, underwent, and then recovered from bariatric surgery. Her profile of their experiences is thorough, nuanced, and sensitive.

I like that Kolata isn’t only interested in weight loss outcomes within the first year, and indeed, her point is in many ways not to focus on weight change. Rather, she takes a hard look at the disappointments and questions of identity that linger after the surgery and subsequent weight loss have passed. The article is proof that, while bariatric surgery certainly leads to major systemic changes in the body, it may not be life-altering in the way that patients’ hope.

3. STAT News has become one of my favorite resources for cutting edge, provocative reporting on medicine and health, and I spent a lot of time on the site this past year as I was putting together weekend reading roundups. The website’s end-of-year photo roundup captures moments that speak to the year’s most important health headlines, but it’s every bit as intimate as it is emblematic.

4. 2016 is being called a major year in brain science and neurological research. NPR rounds up some of the most promising and innovative advances in neuroscience from the last 12 months, ranging from drug therapy for Alzheimer’s to a new gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy.

5. Two readers sent me the link to this candid, thoughtful op-ed by writer Jeanne Sager. Sager is the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, and she is also bulimic. She meditates on the challenge of talking to her child about bodies in light of her own struggle.

We all wonder about how best to model body positivity and create a positive dialog about bodies in our culture. Sometimes I wonder if there is any right thing to say. A lot of what I read suggests that we’d do best to focus on health, rather than weight, but part of me wonders if we don’t then run the risk of overly problematizing illness, which is part of living in a body, too. If we exalt strength, rather than thinness, do we suggest that those bodies that don’t meet certain standards of physical vigor are less worthy than others?

In the end, I’m not sure how best to approach all of this. I became a godmother in 2016, and I often wonder whether I’ll have an opportunity to leave a small impression on my goddaughter that helps her to love and value her body in ways I couldn’t when I was growing up. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll say or do, but I think I’ll try to focus my language on appreciating the body as a vehicle that carries us through life–a journey that looks very different for all of us. I’ll take care not to put my body down, make unkind comments about it, or suggest that I’m only satisfied with it if it looks or behaves a certain way.

There’s a fine line between making too much of bodies and silencing the topic so completely that we stigmatize the body as a result. It seems important that we be able to speak openly about bodies without shaming them or presenting one shape or state as an ideal. “We talk about her body now so she’ll be able to talk about it later,” Jeanne Sager writes. Sager doesn’t feel that she has the words to talk about her own body struggles with her child, but she’s nevertheless committed to communicating that bodies are precious and worthy of care. I appreciate how much it must have taken for her to open up about all of this.

Enjoy the reads. This week I’ll be sharing a new winter grain salad, along with some thoughts on wellness and self-care this winter and beyond. And, as I always like to write in my first post of a new year, may all beings living be happy and free.

xo

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Grain, Green & Bean Skillet with Yum Sauce

Grain, Green & Bean Skillet with Yum Sauce | The Full Helping

If nothing else, the start of a new year gives us opportunity to think about where we’re coming from. Twelve months ago, as 2016 got underway, I was buzzing with excitement at the prospect of a new book project. My mind was overrun with recipe ideas, ingredient lists, and images of finished dishes in all of their plated glory.

Having spent the last year bringing those recipes to life–a process was by turns exciting and also far less glamorous than it promised to be at the outset–I’m in a different place. I’m dipping my toes back into cooking, and what I’m craving isn’t creative or novel. It’s food that is simple and grounding. In light of this, I thought it was appropriate to make my last recipe post of 2016 something that’s both uncomplicated and also very representative of how I love to eat. This grain, bean, and green skillet with yum sauce is what I make and crave when I’m not really in the mood to wrangle a recipe. It’s a complete, nutritious, hearty meal that comes together in minutes and always leaves me feeling satisfied.

Grain, Green & Bean Skillet with Yum Sauce | The Full Helping

I’m not usually a fan of catch phrases or neat dictums when it comes to the business of healthful eating. But if there’s any motto I can get behind–at least for the purposes of easy meal planning–it’s the very wise advice to focus on “a grain, a green, and a bean.” This food trinity provides protein, carbs, fiber, and phytonutrients. Depending on the bean and the green you select, you’ll probably get a good dose of calcium and fiber, too. Add a bit of healthful fat–with avocado slices, olive oil, or a vegan dressing of choice–and you’ve got a meal that covers your nutrition bases in one fell swoop.

The nice thing about this skillet meal is that you can customize the grain, green, and bean to fit what you have at home. I’m using brown rice, chickpeas, and kale because they’re ingredients that I always have in my pantry and fridge. Rice is inexpensive and easy to batch cook, and kale is easy to find year-round in my neck of the woods. But I’ve made this dish with many different grains, including farro, barley, wheatberries, quinoa, and millet. I’ve used broccoli rabe, spinach, and collard greens in place of kale. I’ve made it with lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and black beans.

No matter what liberties you take with the recipe, don’t skip the sauce (or at least a sauce). The skillet gets flavor from garlic, lemon, salt, and pepper, but the yum sauce adds acid, brightness, color, and some healthful fat (in this case, from tahini).

Grain, Green & Bean Skillet with Yum Sauce | The Full Helping

You may be wondering what the heck “yum sauce” is, and the answer is that it’s a mixture of tahini, nutritional yeast, lemon, vinegar, mustard, and–surprisingly–turmeric. It was inspired by the yum sauce at Dobra Tea, which I tasted in Asheville over the summer; I wasn’t sure what the ingredients were, but I knew that mustard and turmeric were in there. I loved the sauce so much that I rushed to re-create it when I got home, and I’ve been fiddling with it ever since. I think that this is my favorite version. Be sure to tweak the seasonings (salt, pepper, turmeric, and acid) to fit your liking.

And, in the spirit of easy customization, you can substitute another favorite dressing or sauce, too. My lemon hemp dressing, delightfully green tahini dressing, creamy cashew carrot dressing, and truly amazing cashew queso sauce would be great choices. If all of that fails, the skillet is great with an extra drizzle of olive oil, some creamy avocado slices, or a big dollop of hummus.

Grain, Green & Bean Skillet with Yum Sauce | The Full Helping

Grain, Green, and Bean Skillet with Yum Sauce
Print

Recipe type: main dish, quick & easy
Cuisine: gluten free, soy free, tree nut free, oil free optional
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 2-3 servings; 1 cup sauce
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (or 1-2 tablespoons water)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced (to taste)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (or another grain of choice)
  • 1 bunch curly kale (or another dark, leafy green of choice)
  • 2 cups (1 can) cooked chickpeas (or another bean of choice)
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Yum Sauce:
  • ½ cup water
  • 6 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 heaping tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • Generous pinch black pepper
Instructions
  1. To make the yum sauce, whisk or blend all ingredients together till smooth. Adjust salt, pepper, and lemon/vinegar to taste. It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It will thicken up a bit as it sits.
  2. Heat the oil or water in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced garlic. Allow the garlic to cook in the oil for about a minute, or until the slices are sizzling (but not browning). Add the rice to the skillet and give it a good stir. Add the kale the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the kale is tender and bright green (about 3 minutes). Stir in the chickpeas. Mix all ingredients well, then add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste (I like about a tablespoon of lemon, a generous pinch of coarse salt, and a few turns of pepper).
  3. Plate the skillet mixture and drizzle it generously with the yum sauce. Serve.
Notes
Recipe can be doubled. Onions, mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini all make great additions to this meal!
3.5.3208

Grain, Green & Bean Skillet with Yum Sauce | The Full Helping

Simple food is often presented as having only so many ingredients, or taking only a certain number of minutes to cook. That’s one way of looking at it, but those constraints always feel a little arbitrarily limiting to me. My idea of simple food is food that’s unfussy and purposeful. It employs ingredients and seasonings with intention. It knows the difference between ingredients and efforts that truly do enhance a recipe’s quality, versus those that are extraneous.

This month, I’ll be focusing on simple food and simple cooking. I always try to think about simplicity when I create and post recipes, but I like to tackle more ambitious or playful culinary projects, too. Those have a place, to be sure, but this is a particularly auspicious time of year for getting back to basics and keeping things straightforward. I’ll also be touching on themes of self-care, practicality, and careful listening to one’s own body and needs–practices that can powerfully complement the intention of eating simply and well.

So, I’m signing off for 2016. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on how I’m approaching the new year on Sunday, when I check in for the first weekend reading post of 2017. Till then, be well.

xo

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Vegan Apple Bran Muffins

Vegan Apple Bran Muffins | The Full Helping

I used to have a weakness for bran muffins. Not the homemade kind, but the ultra-sweet, supersized variety that I could pick up on my college campus. I’m sure they weren’t remotely vegan, but I loved them: there was something so irresistable about the dense texture, the deep color, the contrast of earthy bran and sweet, plump raisins. It’s been a long time since I’ve had proper bran muffins–probably years–and these vegan apple bran muffins are my effort to re-create all of the things I love about the muffin with slightly more wholesome ingredients, not to mention the addition of moist, juicy apples.

The apples in question here are the sweetest and most flavorful I’ve had in a long time: they’re Autumn Glory Apples, which taste amazingly like caramel and cinnamon (when I first tried them, I immediately thought of candy apples, but there was no sticky caramel coating in sight). They’re the essence of fall, but their season stretches right through wintertime, for which I’m grateful. Because the apples are so naturally flavorful, the they’re ideal for everyday snacking (dipping them in almond butter is pretty heavenly, too). But they also have the perfect juicy, crisp texture for baking, as I learned when I folded them into these easy, healthful snack muffins.

Vegan Apple Bran Muffins | The Full Helping

The muffins get a double dose of apple, from both the fresh, diced Autumn Glory Apples and also applesauce, which I used to add moisture. In the past I might have used raisins as a mix-in for the muffins, but I so prefer the use of apples here. They create juicy, fresh pockets of texture throughout the muffins.

Of course, you could add dried fruit to the muffins if you like, or you could add some crunch by stirring in chopped walnuts, pecans, or pumpkin seeds. No matter what, these muffins are packed with fiber (thanks to the oat or wheat bran), iron (thanks to a little molasses for sweetening and color), and they’re just a little richer in protein than your average breakfast muffin–especially the muffins I used to get!

Vegan Apple Bran Muffins | The Full Helping

Vegan Apple Bran Muffins
Print

Recipe type: breakfast, snack
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free optional, soy free, tree nut free
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Serves: 12 muffins
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups light spelt or whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached, all-purpose flour)*
  • 1½ cups oat or wheat bran
  • ⅓ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 flax egg**
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil (such as safflower or grapeseed)
  • ¼ cup molasses
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly oil or line a muffin baking pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, bran, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Fold in the apple pieces, making sure they all get nicely coated.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, flax egg, oil, and molasses. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is just combined. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until the tops of the edges of the muffin tops are just browning and a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out mostly clean. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or individually wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month.
Notes
*Gluten free, all purpose flour can be used in place of spelt.

**To prepare a flax egg, whisk together 1 tablespoon flax meal and 3 tablespoons warm water, then allow the mixture to thicken up for a few minutes.

3.5.3208

Vegan Apple Bran Muffins | The Full Helping

The next few months are going to be busy ones, and busy in a different way than the last few have been. This past fall I was burrowed into book writing and recipe development, which meant that I could work from home most of the time. This winter I’ll need to be on-the-go a little more often, which means that I need tasty, healthful, reliable snacks. My wintertime snack cravings are a bit denser than my summertime ones, which is to say that a wholesome muffin appeals more than a piece of fruit. I know these bran muffins will be just what I need, and I’m sure I’ll be whipping them up often. Perhaps you’ll try these for a vegan snack, too, or you’ll pair them with something for an easy breakfast on-the-go. No matter what, I hope you enjoy the texture, taste, and the juicy bites of apple within them.

It’s hard to believe that we’re now in the final days of December, preparing ourselves for a new year. I’m giving some quiet thought to how I’d like to think about and approach 2017, and I’m sure that I’ll have more to say on Sunday, when I check in with weekend reading. As far as the coming month is concerned, I think it’s a good time to focus on simple, hearty food, and those are the sorts of recipes I’ll be sharing, starting with an easy skillet meal on Thursday. Stay tuned!

xo

This post is sponsored by Domex Superfresh Growers. All opinions expressed are my own, and I love the flavor of these juicy, sweet apples. Thank you for your support!

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Weekend Reading, 12.25.16

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy weekend to you all, and to those of you who are celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, I wish you a wonderful holiday! I spent last night and this morning with my mother and Steven, and I’ll be gathering with a small group of family friends later today. I haven’t done much cooking–I’m still climbing back from some post-cookbook burnout–but I do have my lentil and sweet potato loaf ready for sharing.

I’ve had mixed feelings about the holiday season this year, for reasons that are complicated. I’ve written about some of those feelings here on the blog, including my own struggle to balance holiday socializing with introverted tendencies, as well as the pressure that I think many of us feel to greet the holidays a certain way, to summon up very particular feelings about them.

Yesterday morning, as I drafted part of this post, I got to thinking about the deeper dimensions of my holiday ambivalence. Part of it, I think, is that I’ve been struggling to create meaningful holiday traditions for myself as an adult, so to speak, as a grown-up person who has quite a bit of choice. I have a tiny little family–it’s just me and my mom, really. In some ways this is a blessing: it affords me great freedom, and it has also encouraged me create family through friendship, partnership, and so on.

It’s not always easy, though, and this is especially true during the holidays, when most people tend to celebrate within their biological families. There is a sense of rootedness that I sometimes lack, a feeling of belonging to something that is bigger than me. The feeling has crept up on me especially in the last couple of years, in part because most of my friends are now building nuclear families of their own. I watch them settle into marriage and parenthood, and while I can’t necessarily imagine those things for myself, at least not right now, I envy my friends’ sense of purpose and kinship.

Oddly enough, I put these thoughts on paper nearly a day ago, and today my perspective is quite different. I still acknowledge these feelings, but in the last 24 hours I’ve been poignantly reminded that tradition and belonging take many different forms. My holiday traditions are small, but they’re no less meaningful for being intimate. I’m not part of a big clan with longstanding rituals, but I’ve got small customs of my own: stirring a batch of steel-cut oats every Christmas morning. Christmas eve dinner with my mom (and lately, my mom and Steven). Burning pine-scented candles, watching classic movies, baking shortbread, wrapping gifts.

This, really, is the stuff that holidays are made of, and in the end, it isn’t scale that matters. It’s the power of observance, the meaning that resides in repeating the same festive gestures year in and year out. No matter what changes in our lives, no matter how we’re feeling or what’s going on, there are certain motions we go through at this time of year, and if we’re lucky, they bring us home.

Perhaps I’ve been looking for roots and rootedness in the wrong places. As is so often the case, I think I need to become more finely attuned to the microscopic. So much beauty, joy, and comfort reside in the little things, the sights and smells and actions that we take for granted precisely because they’re a steady part of our lives. Today, on this Christmas of 2016, I’m more committed than ever to not taking them for granted. Indeed, I am so deeply grateful for each and every one of them.

Whatever your holiday observances are, be they big or small, shared or personal, I wish you peace and happiness as you partake in them, today and always.

And now I’m transitioning over to one of my favorite observances, which is weekend reading. In honor of Christmas, I’m sharing five holiday cookie recipes today (I couldn’t resist), along with the usual roundup of articles.

Recipes

Let the vegan Christmas cookie parade begin! First, I love Katharina’s simple, stress-free vegan peanut butter cookies. These are easy enough to make at the last minute, and they happen to be gluten-free, too.

In true holiday spirit, Jackie has whipped up some double chocolate peppermint cookies that are drizzled with white chocolate and candy cane pieces. Festive, playful, and fun.

Jessie’s awesome Christmas cookie post features not one, but three creations, each of which are calling my name. But I’m particularly intrigued by her peanut praline cookies–yum!

I’ve seen tons of recipes for Boston cream pie cupcakes or cakes, but I have yet to see a cookie version. Leave it to Amanda, whose vegan Boston cream pie cookies look just awesome (and like all of her recipes, they’re simple to make).

Finally, what would Christmas be without a great gingerbread cookie? These ingenious vegan gingerbread cookies are infused with citrus, as well as all of the traditional spices. Yum!

Reads

1. It’s been about four years since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s improved school nutrition standards went into effect. And we are little by little gathering some evidence on how effective those standards have been. Predictably, there are gains, challenges, and some stalled fronts. Bettina Elias Siegel, who is a smart and passionate champion of school lunch and other childhood nutrition efforts, analyzes where we are and where we need to go.

2. Interesting research on the impact of glucose on the immune system as it fights of systemic inflammation. This research complicates the time-honored advice to “feed a cold, starve a fever,” as well as the assumption (commonly spread around in health/wellness circles) that sugar is always pro-inflammatory. Instead, it gives credence to the idea that different nutrients can behave differently based upon the type of crisis or infection the body is facing; it’s also evidence that sometimes our cravings (for hot tea with sugar during the flu, for example) are wise.

3. In spite of being one of the major killers of Americans each year, heart disease is highly sensitive and responsive to changes in diet and lifestyle, which means that it gives dietitians and physicians a special opportunity to intervene during early phases. A new study, reported on this week by the New York Times, demonstrates that very simple, realistic lifestyle changes can have an enormous impact on the progression and morbidity of heart disease:

The researchers divided people into three groups based on these factors. “Favorable” required at least three of the four factors, “intermediate” required two of them, and “unfavorable” required one or none. Across all studies, those with an unfavorable lifestyle had a risk that was 71 percent to 121 percent higher than those with a favorable lifestyle.
More impressive was the reduction in coronary events — heart attacks, bypass procedures and death from cardiovascular causes — at every level of risk. Those with a favorable lifestyle, compared with those with an unfavorable lifestyle, had a 45 percent reduction in coronary events among those at low genetic risk, a 47 percent reduction among those with intermediate genetic risk, and a 46 percent reduction among those at high genetic risk.

In real-world numbers, the risk of a coronary event was reduced by half in a ten-year period. That is a very meaningful shift–and I think it’s a super helpful message to those who are at risk for, living with, or caring for a loved one who suffers from heart disease.

4. Until recently, eating disorders have widely been categorized as one of the most lethal and difficult-to-treat mental illnesses. High rates of relapse are commonly reported and cited as evidence of the diseases’ fundamental intractability.

This week, new research has emerged that calls into question the idea that EDs are among the most stubborn or untreatable diseases. The study suggests that about two thirds of women with anorexia or bulimia nervosa will recover, which is a hopeful statistic, especially in light of previous research. Of course there are limitations: the study focused on only two types of EDs, and larger sample sizes and more long-term follow up will probably give more information. But it’s still good news. Kamryn Eddy, the doctor who spearheaded the study, notes,

With my patients, I try to emphasize how serious these illnesses are to help mobilize them for treatment,” she says. “Our current data argue both that early symptom change increases the chance for long-term recovery, which can motivate new patients to engage in treatment, and that improvements continue even over the long term, which can encourage patients who have been ill longer to keep working towards recovery.

5. As you’ve probably guessed, I love first-person narratives and reflections from health care givers and workers–especially those that call into question those ways in which medical care sometimes fails to be adequately empathetic or patient-centered.

I loved this short, yet important essay from Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu, who reflects on how her grandmother’s heart attack changed her approach to practicing medicine. Okwerekwu is incredibly candid about the anxieties that befall her when she needs to communicate with a patient’s family:

When I’m at the hospital, talking to families by phone invariably takes more time than I have. A five-turned-30-minute conversation in the middle of the day sometimes means I don’t have time to consult a specialist, or it means the difference between getting a procedure done today versus tomorrow. I always tell myself, I’ll call the mom or sister later today, and, I confess, I’m sometimes thankful when I can just leave a vague message.
When patients’ families show up to the hospital, however, I know I have to talk to them. Sometimes I stall. It’s not a matter of practicality — I’m afraid. Patients and their families have questions. They rightly deserve accurate, honest, and thoughtful answers. As a new doctor, I feel like I need to double-check everything before I say anything. I constantly fear disappointing the people who depend on me to do my job well.

Doctors are no more immune to fearing difficult conversations than any of us are–and the conversations they’re up against are often unimaginably consequential. The solution to this, Okwerekwu suggests, isn’t feigned confidence or a steely exterior. It is the capacity to humbly admit unknowns while remaining as reassuring and informative as possible:

I once confided these fears to my supervising resident and she reminded me I’m the person who ordered all the labs, the imaging studies, the consults, so I know more than anyone else on the team.
She reminded me that, when I’m talking to families, it’s OK to tell them, “I don’t know,” and to explain what steps we’re taking to find out.
…While the grind of medicine can make new doctors feel the need to operate like a machine, I’m taking a vow now: I’m promising my future patients that I’ll always try to take a few minutes to make myself as a doctor more visible. I hated being in the dark, so I’m going to try my best to bring the families into the light, making them my first priority and not my last.

It’s a touching essay, a meaningful reflection on the power of empathy and firsthand experience.

On that note, I’m off to experience Christmas. I’ll be back this week with an easy recipe that can double as breakfast or snack fare, as well as a simple skillet meal to help you welcome the new year. Stay tuned.

xo

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