Squash Panna Cottas and A Confession
I’ve never confessed, in all of this endless chatting about food, how much I experiment on myself. Or how much I am obsessed with nutrition. On a cold night you’ll find me curled up with herbal tea, a snuggly blanket, and a good nutrition book, turning pages as fast as I can.
As you know, I’ve found that for me, eating a whole food “paleo” style of eating makes me feel and look my best. And as you also know, the autoimmune protocol in particular has really helped me heal my gut and nail down food sensitivities I’d developed over the years for the reasons anyone can develop food sensitivities – a leaky gut due to stress, poor sleep, antibiotic and ibuprofen use, too many grains, too much wine, too many bad fats. It happened slowly, over time, and when I hit my mid-thirties, a couple of miscarriages, unexplained weight gain (and an utter inability to lose it), fatigue, joint pain, and depression all visited their misery on me. It SUCKED.
I tried a lot of things – eliminating meat, working out twice/day, maniacally counting calories. Some things worked better than others – the Zone diet, while a massive pain in the butt to figure out, made me feel a bit better. Ditto South Beach. Those were clues that lower carbohydrate eating was my sweet spot. But it wasn’t until I ditched gluten (and then all grains) and focused on vegetables and high-quality meat that I really felt better. I’m not saying grain-free, dairy-free eating is for everyone. Lots of people feel great eating both, or being vegetarian or vegan, and I think that’s awesome, if they’re eating real food.But if you don’t feel or look awesome, and moderation has been your path, it’s worth considering that moderation doesn’t work for everyone. It certainly doesn’t work with autoimmune disease. I’ve learned a lot over the last 5 years, but the most significant for my health has been this: It is not normal to be fat, frumpy, tired, and achy just because you’re getting older. That is a lie. It is not normal for women to have horrible periods, depression, and insomnia. It is not normal for men to lose their sex drive, pack on big guts, and have aching backs. We can all do better, and I don’t mean just by taking pills to mask symptoms. There are helpful practitioners to be found (it takes a little digging and patience, but there are more of them all the time), MDs and nutritionists and chiropractors and naturopaths who understand functional medicine, gut health, and the importance of deep nutrition, balanced hormones, exercise, and managing stress.
I’m going to spend more time sharing with you the resources that I think are helpful. I’m not a medical professional and I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m just going to share my own journey and introduce you to interesting thought leaders with riveting ideas. And I’m going to keep sharing whole, real-food recipes with you, because no matter what style of eating makes you feel your best, I KNOW it boils down to real food. Always. Our bodies want and need it, all the time, not just some of the time, and I’m constantly working on tricks and tips to make exactly that doable. And fun.I taught a sold-out, hands-on paleo/whole food cooking class at Kitchen in the Market this past Sunday night. All the food was autoimmune protocol/AIP compliant but no one knew the difference. The menu was a blast, the class did an amazing job making beautiful food, we geeked out on my InstantPot pressure cooker, talking about where to buy the best ingredients in town, how to cook in bulk batches for easy weeknight meals, all the good stuff. We’ll be doing it again and I hope you can come.
I’m lucky and unbelievably grateful that I’ve been able to change my life and health through real food. I’ve made a million mistakes, I’m still constantly experimenting (which I think everyone should do, because we all feel/look good eating different things), and I definitely think of this as a journey.Amazing things have been happening lately – I mentioned below that I went to San Diego over winter break with my son Nathan, who is a freshman in college (it was SO GOOD to have him home for a whole month!). On the trip, I realized I’ve passed a milestone, and if you know me, this is pretty huge: Travel isn’t about indulgence for me anymore. We rented a lovely little AirbNb cottage so we could cook our own healthy food and we were out the door to spend as much time as we could walking and biking outside and in the sun. The highlight of the trip was strolling on Torrey Pines National Reserve beach, barefoot, with my son, on my 48th birthday.I feel and look so much better at 48 than I did at 38 that I’m not really even the same person. Now THAT’S a birthday present. We made these squash panna cottas for dessert in the paleo cooking class. Everyone loved them, even the guys, maybe even particularly the guys. They have a pumpkin pie thing going on for sure, but in a much lighter way. I only add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup to the whole batch; taste for sweetness before heating to get a more accurate read. These are AIP compliant as written – if you’re at a point where you can eat nutmeg and vanilla, add some of both. A splash of bourbon isn’t a bad thing either.
Here’s to good health in 2015 for ALL of us.
Squash Panna Cottas (Paleo, AIP)
5 teaspoons powdered grassfeed beef gelatin (Great Lakes brand can be ordered online)
3/4 cup cold water
2 cups roasted butternut squash
3 cups coconut milk
1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup (to taste)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Toasted coconut flakes
Put the cold water in a wide, shallow bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for the gelatin to soften (it will absorb all the water).
In the bowl of a blender, combine squash, coconut milk, syrup, cinnamon, and ginger. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness.
Pour squash mixture into a large sauce pan. Stir in softened gelatin and heat over medium heat until hot and steaming, but not boiling. Remove from heat and divide mixture among eight 6-ounce ramekins. Cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic and chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours. Serve cold, garnished with toasted coconut flakes.