Finding my way to StraightUpFood
When I was growing up, my mother used to say, “If you can read, you can cook.” So from the very start of my cooking career, I carefully poured over the instructions in the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls, certain if I followed the instructions faithfully, my creations would turn out perfectly. This was reinforced dramatically for me when at 8 I undertook to make the Molasses Crisp recipe in the book for my brownie troop. I had carefully measured the salt and the baking soda to the exact teaspoon, but had spilled quite a bit in the process. My Dad entered the kitchen, and seeing the pile of flour, soda and salt on the cutting board, thought he’d “help” me by scraping it up and adding it to the mixing bowl, against my protests that it shouldn’t go in. (My Dad, by the way, God rest his wonderful soul, didn’t read anything except the newspaper. And he was a terrible cook. Cause? Effect?
) It took me a long time to get over the mortification I felt watching the faces on my brownie troop as they bit into these salty, tough cookies, and my troop leader tried to smooth over the unavoidable grimacing. From then on I was a fastidious stickler for following the recipes I tried to the letter, and for keeping any well meaning "helpers" out of range. I never lost the assumption that my early and voracious reading was an indispensible companion to my developing skill as a cook and a baker.
So when I first started eating this way, naturally I automatically went on a long, long recipe reading "walk about." From the moment I typed in “fat free vegan recipes” to see what would come up on Google, I was enchanted to find the wonderful world of Susan Voisin’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I cut my teeth learning to cook fat free on Susan’s witty blog posts and delicious recipes, and in that process also became blessed with her friendship. With the help of Susan’s wonderful companion web site, I surfed the world of vegan and low fat vegan blogs, web sites and recipe sites. This activity became a profound source of support and education. Reading recipes and thinking up what I wanted to try making for the next week or so became one of my ways to relax. That’s how I found Dr. McDougall’s site. For a long time I confined myself to the Food and Recipes section. I’m pretty sure the first post I ever wrote had to do with a blueberry muffin recipe.
I learned a lot in the first two years surfing this way on a daily basis. Through another blog on Susan’s list, Soul Veggie, I discovered Dr. and Rip Esselstyn. Venturing into the Lounge on Dr. McDougall’s site, I learned about The China Study, and took it out of the library, along with Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
And in the first two years I was so delighted to have lost the 10-15 pounds that would edge up on me from time to time before that, and not have to worry about what I was now eating to keep it that way, that I baked. And baked. And baked. The first year I did what I call a "science experiment" and reintroduced wheat to see if only the elimination of the saturated fats was necessary to manage the MS symptoms. But by the beginning of the next winter, my gut was telling me I needed to listen to that ELISA test of long ago that said I was intolerant of wheat. That had not shifted. So I became gluten free.
That Winter, I went through my Muffin Period. All gluten free. I went back and forth between Susan’s blog and Gluten Free Goddess blog (another amazing blog, but it’s not fat free), making the former’s recipes gluten free, and the latter’s fat free. I got pretty good at it.
But into the third year, the falls I had taken and even the low amounts of sugar I was using began to heighten my pain response so much that I finally had to ask the doctor the question that had nagged me for some time, but that I had avoided asking: do you think I have fibromyalgia?
The answer to that question was an undeniable yes
. So I cut out the sugar. And I cut down on the flour products. I decided not to bake regularly, which was a big change for me. But it has made a huge difference in my pain level.
Nearly two years ago in the Fall, I was looking for a cornbread recipe that would not require any sugar or sweetener or yogurt or flour, which menat giving up the one on Susan’s site that I’d successfully made gluten free. I don’t remember exactly what I typed in but this recipe came up:
Quinoa Cornbreadhttp://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2010 ... cornbread/
I had found Cathy Fisher’s StraightUpFood blog.
As I read the recipe I got intrigued. There was no refined flour or sugar. The cornbread was sweetened with banana and apple juice or dates, and cooked quinoa took the place of the flour. I was in. I made this cornbread over and over, in fact so many times that I finally decided I had better write Cathy and tell her how much I liked it. I also got hooked on the persimmon bars over the holidays, and enjoyed her homemade ketchup (sweetened with a pureed apple!), and on and on. That was the start of a wonderful correspondence and friendship.
Here is a picture of part of our Thanksgiving meal last year. The soup in a pumpkin idea comes from Mary McDougall. The particular soup recipe is a version of one of Susan’s fantastic recipes. And the cornbread is Cathy’s. You can see that it’s not missing anything in texture and appeal, even though it is pretty much made with out much of what usually goes into a cornbread recipe.
(If you’re curious, here’s a link to Susan’s fabulous soup recipe> I also recommend her Mexican pumpkin soup.)http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2011/11/et ... isque.html
There is lots to learn on Cathy’s blog. On the home page, if you click on “about” you'll learn that the recipes on her blog respresent those she has demonstrated and cooked at either the McDougall Center or True North. She focuses on whole foods, avoiding sugar, salt, and refined flours and most of her recipes are also gluten free. There is always an option for making any recipe with nuts or avocado or non-dairy milk MWL.
If you are a recipe reader-adventurer like me, here are a few of my favorites to click on:
Persimmon bars: http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2011 ... mmon-bars/
I can’t say enough good things about these. I made them for my birthday one year. You can sub out some or all of the walnuts with buckwheat groats for a delicious lower fat alternative. I never got around to frosting them I liked them so much plain.
Creamy Potato Leek Soup: http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2010 ... leek-soup/
Never Give Up and I both love this soup. I think she’d agree that it’s so good you may have to fight yourself about not eating it all at once. And I’ve made it with different greens, or a combination of greens. All good. And so easy because you can mash the potatoes right in the pot and don’t have to transfer anything to the blender. I don’t use all the sesame seeds the recipe requires. I just put in a teaspoon or two of tahini if I have it. But for MWL that can be left out.
The ketchup recipe: http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2010 ... e-burgers/
I got so distracted by how good this is that I forgot all about trying the veggie burger recipe so someone will have to tell me how that is. This ketchup made my “oven fry phase” last winter heavenly.
Cabbage salad with Dijon lime dressing: http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2012 ... -dressing/
I ate a version of this off and on all summer. It’s very flexible, and I added whatever sounded good to me in terms of extra veggies or beans.
Breakfast Burrito Bake: http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2012 ... rito-bake/
Which I never ate for breakfast, but happily gobbled it up for lunch and dinner.
But what if you’re not into recipes? Cathy has another section of her blog that I also find invaluable. It’s under “My Meals.” Here Cathy describes and gives lovely photos of simple meals she eats at home that do not follow recipes. I really like this section because it gave me permission to simplify and experiment without making a whole recipe. It’s now one of my favorite things to do. I just draw on the “library” of recipes in my head from so much reading and whatever sounds good to me in the moment.
Another great tip I learned from Cathy on a guest blog post she wrote for the Engine 2 blog is the way she makes her grocery lists. Fold a sheet of paper into 4. Then head each of the four squares of the paper with the headings “fruits,” “veggies,” “bulk” and “other.” For me, this is a great way to organize my list. I can read it more easily when in the stimulation of the store, and it also helps keep me on the whole foods track and not get too caught up in the “other” more processed stuff.
One of the "foodie" things Cathy and I have enjoyed corresponding about is our adventures in nut milk making. Her newest post is a complete primer on how to make nut and grain milks yourself. I find this very helpful since when I DIY the only two ingredients are the nut or the grain and the water. None of the other "stuff." The closer to whole, the better my digestion, and the milder any of my problems are when they flare up. If you’re interested in learning how to do something like make the almond milk I wrote about in my Summer Breakfasts post, now you can also check out Cathy’s primer:http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2012 ... iry-milks/
Although I didn’t find straightupfood blog until my recipe quest was slowing to a crawl, in a way it ended up being a case of saving one of the best for the last. The ideas and encouragement and delicious recipe ideas I needed to take my eating to a new level more focused on whole foods without sugar, salt, flour, and now, soy, were all there. I found I could avoid them all and not feel deprived. Doing so helped me get a much better handle on managing my fibromyalgia pain. So like the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I will always be grateful to both Susan and Cathy for their wonderful blogs that form the “bookends” of my adventures in reading and learning to cook this way. They have both always steered me true and cheered me on, and keep me licking my own lips and impressing my guests, all the while improving my health.
(For those of you with MS who might read this, one of Cathy’s many duties for the McDougall Programs has been to assist with various tasks involving the MS study. She tells me the results in the patients are indeed very encouraging to see. Just another reminder of what we have to look forward to when the official results of the first phase of the study are released.)
I now realize my Mom's pronouncement (God rest her
vivacious soul, too) was not necessarily accurate, but I still love to read recipes. I now also love to break free from them, reinvent them, or do entirely without them. Low fat plant based cooking has helped bring out this kind of creative adaptation and variation from the norm, because in essence that's what this kind of cooking is
. I remember reading Anne Esselstyn's words that in time a cherry tomato or a bite of watermelon would taste very sweet, and a bowl of frozen grapes or banana ice cream would make a satisfying dessert. I also remember saying, out loud, "Well, I don't know about that
." But it has turned out she is right. And I read it before I lived it. Which helped me recognize it when It happened. So maybe there is
something to this mysterious connection between words and literal tastes. Thanks, Mom.
Star McDougaller's I think the reason that I need your help is the sweet potato still seems like desert to me. Even though I read this quote from Ellen Jaffe Jones just today. She is another Star McDougaller featured for her book in this months newsletter.
It wasn't that long ago when I was trying to lose 25 pounds. I eventually did using Mary's Mini. I read that some of you are struggling, and I would encourage you to make sweet potatoes your "starch." I taught cooking classes before my book came out, and I found that if you stick to the program, it works. I had a woman lose 120 pounds in 8 months never counting calories and loving the food. (The newspaper did a story with her before and after pix...on my Facebook book page.)
I know now it's fine from another Star McDougaller, but I am not sure I am doing it correctly. So, I put it to you to critique: this is my plan and a few questions as well.
B: nuked sweet potato w/ cinnamon/mixed fruit
L: salad and nuked sweet potato w/ salsa
D: salad and cubed sweet potatoes w/ greens
Snack & desert - fruit - sweet potato with a tiny bit of maple syrup
Is this OK.
I plan to vary the greens for dinner; not to avoid monotany, but to hit the best prices, hahaha! Greens cost big greenbacks here!
My big confusion comes from this excerpt from the one of the two Mary's Minis, as introduced in the newsletter:
Grazing works better for weight loss and lowering cholesterol—which means snacks are fine. But snacks should be of the same foods as your meals, like boiled or roasted potatoes and dry-fried French fries with the diet pictured above of potatoes—not crackers and pretzels
My confusion is that I am trying to get my head around what this means: since I have been thinking on MWL you are eating your starch along with a veggie at no greater than a 1:1 ratio and for more weight loss more veggies. Is the above quote saying you can just eat the starch ALONE in between meals, like I plan to do, if I need something after dinner?
I have seen in many forum threads that people take precooked small potatoes to work for snacks - so, I guess just having the starch without veggies is OK - but I am so not sure about this.
Help please! And thank you too! Michelle
Frozen Ve gave this approval so it's fine