It feels fun to be drafting my very first weekend reading post of the new year! Happy Sunday, friends, and I hope the weekend has been good to you. I had a very quiet new year’s celebration on Thursday (Steven and I stayed in) and have spent the weekend working, meditating on 2015, batch cooking for the week ahead, and catching up on recipes from fellow bloggers and reads from around the web. Here are some of the highlights.
My blog theme for January, recipe-wise, is going to be something along the lines of “back to basics.” This means simple, easy recipes for weeknight meals and for incorporating into my routine when school and work heat up again this month. Erin’s caramelized cauliflower salad is a great example of this sort of recipe–deceptively easy and quick for a dish that is so full of flavor, color, and texture.
Since making my pistachio spinach falafel a few weeks ago, I’ve been resolving to keep homemade falafel in the fridge more often. It’s such an easy, versatile, and tasty protein source. I’ll have to start with a batch of Elenore’s lovely baked pumpkin falafel with saffron sauce. I love the color contrast!
Winter sniffles or other pesky bugs dragging you down? Fend them off with this beautiful, bi-colored, immune boosting smoothie from Ana of The Awesome Green.
For a wintery and festive spin on traditional guac and chips, try Tieghan’s scrumptious-looking pomegranate guac with fried plantain chips. Awesome game day eats for sports fans out there (and you can substitute some tofu feta for the regular feta).
There are few things I love more than coffee-flavored desserts (OK, coffee flavored anything, or just plain coffee, but dessert makes it all the more enticing), so Emily’s new vanilla+coffee cream tart is definitely calling to me.
If you haven’t yet entered my giveaway to win a free copy of Emily’s new cookbook, check out the details here!
The New York Times has compiled two great, end-of-year lists highlighting their top stories in science, health, and medicine for 2015. You can find the science list here and the health/medicine list here.
Highlights include stories about finding intact DNA in 4,500-year old fossils, the end of chimpanzee testing at NIH (and the sad news that chimps are now an endangered species), Pluto’s change in designation from planet to nonplanet, new information on epidemic treatment and prevention, from ebola to HIV, a piece about Type I Diabetes discrimination in schools, and an important article about the treatment of schizophrenia in West Africa.
Elizabeth Kolbert reports on how climate change is hitting Miami, a city that is particularly susceptible to rising sea levels.
Writer Emma Carmichael describes her experience and feeling in the wake of a terrible car accident that left her alive, yet injured and undeniably, permanently changed. Her essay captures something really powerful about the vulnerability we feel after any kind of significant bodily trauma, and perhaps after any kind of major health crisis.
The New York Review of Books reviews two recent works on the lives and societies of non-human animals, namely Carl Safina’s Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. I haven’t yet read the book, but now that I’ve read the review I’ll definitely be adding it to my wish list. It sounds as though Safina’s research makes an undeniable case for our learning to treat animals with greater respect, acknowledging their complex emotional lives and agency. The reviewer, Tim Flannery, writes,
“Can dolphins empathize with human bereavement? Is dolphin society organized enough to permit the formation of a funeral cavalcade? If the answer to these questions is yes, then Beyond Words has profound implications for humans and our worldview.”
He goes on to cite passages from Safina’s book. They are passages are beautifully written and demonstrate truly remarkable layers of social structure, empathy, and highly developed consciousness in non-human animal communities. Flannery concludes with words that have special meaning for anyone who is interested in animal rights:
“Beyond Words will have a deep impact on many readers, for it elevates our relationships with animals to a higher plane. When your dog looks at you adoringly, even though he or she cannot say it, you can be as sure that love is being expressed as you can when hearing any human declaration of eternal devotion. Most of us already knew that, but have withheld ourselves from a full surrender to its implications.”
Finally, Ellie Krieger writes about pleasure as an important part of healthful eating. The article presents research on how, when we allow ourselves to focus on the sensory experience of enjoying a particular food, portion control and mindful eating become easier to implement.
I spend a lot of time emphasizing the role of both pleasure/taste and mindfulness in the work I do with clients, so it’s nice to explore some of the research on how these practices actually impact satiety and eating patterns. Many of us fear the enjoyment that can be derived from food, but my overall experience has been that taste and pleasure are a vital part of cultivating mindfulness at mealtimes.
It’s a complex topic, of course, with plenty of important qualifications. Today’s industrialized food culture gives us a lot of food products that are intended to overcapitalize on our cravings for certain tastes (sweetness, fat, salt), which can interfere with our natural perceptions of pleasure from real food. But I believe that there’s a lot to be gained from learning to identify foods that give us pleasure, and then allowing the experience of pleasure to encourage us to eat more slowly, more mindfully, and more appreciatively.
Speaking of pleasure and food, it’s worth mentioning that this is a time of year when a lot of emphasis is placed on a somewhat punitive approach to food. For the next two weeks, most of us will hear a lot about “cleansing” and “detox” and “clean eating” in the wake of holiday indulgence. For those of us with ED histories, this can all be loaded with triggers, and for just about anyone the early January resolution season can elicit an urge to self-compare. If you’re struggling with this, I encourage you to take a deep breath, to tune out food noise, and to connect with your inner voice of wisdom and intuition–the part of you that knows what’s truly healthful for your body. Stay honest with yourself, stay strong, and stay nourished.
See you all tomorrow for Menu Plan Monday!