Next Steps

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Part 5 is the final entry of my series, forgive me, I forgot to assign a number to my blogging partner's post. Mandy's contribution was perfectly timed, and so well done, thanks again Mandy!

I've been reflecting over the best way to wrap this series up, however I feel like my journey is really just beginning.

After discovering what foods helped me feel better and heal, the meals I used to eat changed dramatically for the better. I learned how to tune into my body and make the best decisions based on how I feel. I'm able to identify ingredients on labels and know whether they are good or bad, and realize the immense benefit of eating a variety of foods as well as finding that balance from a daily perspective. All of this has been so empowering, I don't recall feeling better than I do right now and so much of that has to do with what I put into my body.

There have been some incredibly challenging moments and learning curves to tackle, but all of this brought me here. Now, let me share some great insight I've gained along the way.

After scouring the web for some recipes and ideas, I compiled a list of my favorites that are easy, quick, and delicious.

On I discovered healthy one pan recipes, one in my regular rotation is “Lemony Chickpea Stir-fry". Heidi Swanson, the creator of the site, was an integral part of my process in finding healthier meals. On her site I used the search box to find recipes for ingredients, or categories like: eggplant, cauliflower, soup, noodles etc. Many hours were spent scanning her site and perusing the recipes she had created over the last 7 years. She has been my go-to since I found this resource, and her physical cookbooks are outstanding.

I’m a huge fan of one pan meals, and if you can do the prep work beforehand it will save you time in the long run. Preparation is especially helpful when you’ve just gotten home, and the last thing you want to do is rinse, dice, and then prepare your meal. When you have a block of time, whether it’s after your grocery store run or a day off, rinse, dice, then cook the ingredients ahead of time for your meals.

As soon as I walk in the door from the store with any produce I take time to assess next steps to conserve it so there’s less risk of spoilage.

How does it need to be stored? Does it need time to ripen? With heartier greens like kale or Swiss Chard I’ll drop them in the strainer and rinse them off, I then snip off the ends with some kitchen scissors and plunge them into a vase of water. I place the vase in the fridge to keep them as fresh as possible until I use them.

For herbs with more significant leaves like parsley, cilantro, or basil I also rinse them off in the strainer, snip the ends, and put them in a glass of water these can easily be stored on my windowsill. And for smaller leaf herbs like thyme, marjoram, and dill I treat them with kid gloves so they don't lose their leaves. I rinse them gently and place them on a towel to dry. Similar to the other herbs, I snip off the ends and also store them in a glass of water. I currently have a glass of thyme on my windowsill sending off new shoots ready to continue the cycle.

When storing produce together in a bin, like apples, pears, and cucumbers it’s best to keep the different items from touching because the gas they give off can lead to spoilage. I may leave them in their original bag or toss them into a glass container, my preference is to get them out of plastic if possible.

I’ve been researching the best way to store many other foods as well. Besides consuming it more quickly (like that opened bottle of white wine), I recently read about freezing lemons, yogurt, and cottage cheese. I’ve had success with them all. However, with lemons there is a caveat, if you need to zest them then I would keep a few out, or zest it prior to freezing and store the zest in a separate container. After freezing they resemble a stress ball, all squishy and difficult to drag a device like a microplane, grater, or vegetable peeler across. They’re pretty simple to freeze; rinse, dry, and seal them in a container.

Really, the ultimate game changer for me was learning Tamar Adler’s philosophy on cooking. Magic is the best way to describe the effect she has had on my thought process and the results.

She explains what cooks in the world’s great kitchens know: that the best meals rely on the ends of the meals that came before them. With that in mind, she shows how we often throw away the bones, skins, and peels we need to make our food both more affordable and better.
— An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

Her simplistic, resourceful approach was very timely, especially since I had been increasing my intake of produce. After getting the opportunity to see her participate in a local demonstration at a food conference in Birmingham I knew I had to have her cookbook. Each of the chapters is written like a story, and she includes recipes applicable to the content as opposed to just listing recipe after recipe. Since embracing her approach, I find my trips to the grocery store are less frequent, staples are plentiful, and my refrigerator doesn’t need to be filled to the brim to accommodate an exorbitant amount of groceries to simply prepare one meal. Quite frankly, it’s been liberating.

Everyone’s bodies are different so what worked for mine, may not work for another. However, the beauty of this journey is when you get clear and tune in to what’s going on you have the power to correct your trajectory; from there things can improve rather quickly and easily.

The human body is amazing, having the power to heal from injury, trauma, sickness, or even poor eating habits as long as we provide the necessary ingredients to foster that healing.

Several years ago, I had a nasty spill and crushed my right wrist bones, and chipped the radial bone on both edges. I thought I would be incapacitated for the rest of my life. However, under the guidance of my physical therapist, I committed to the process, eating calcium rich foods, increasing my protein intake, and participating fully in my rehabilitation exercises I’m now thankfully back in full swing. Know this is possible! We all have the tools and the power to make it happen; sometimes you just need some information, impetus, or encouragement. Don’t be afraid to reach out or make those changes.

So, what's next? Next steps are fluid, and I'm okay with that.




Versatile snacks from "Grab 'n go" to unexpected lunches

Things my blogging partner Mandy says.... (Hint: they're always good!)