Food as Therapy
My philosophy in the kitchen
My simple philosophy of eating real food
is the culmination of years of yo-yo dieting and seeing my weight fluctuate like crazy. It has been an uphill battle for the past twenty-nine years, but I am finally in a place with both food and my body that makes me happy—and boy, does it feel good. I kicked calorie counting to the curb and ditched fat-free diet foods and fads. Now, I focus on what my body wants and what foods make it feel its best. To me, that means taking all the comfort foods I crave—pancakes, cookies, pierogis, pad Thai, burgers—and reinventing them with healthy, flavorful ingredients that make me feel great. I love sneaking in nutritious and wholesome ingredients like collagen peptides for an extra boost, and there is no doubt I get giddy over a good grass-fed burger with sliced avocado, plus some coconut milk–based ice cream for dessert—just don’t forget the nut butter drizzle and a sprinkle of crushed dark chocolate! Eating whole foods has proved to be anything but boring.
I wasn’t born craving whole and real foods—most people I have met weren’t either. For me, it’s been an ever-evolving transformation. There was a period when I was devouring fast-food double bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate milkshakes and eating large bags of peanut butter M&M’s as a snack. I was sneaking Pop-Tarts when no one was looking and feasting on greasy pepperoni pizza at two a.m. after a late night out. Then, swinging in the opposite direction, there was a time in my life when I counted my almonds as I ate them and was even afraid to eat a slice of focaccia while studying in Italy (who goes to Italy and is afraid of bread?!). I was petrified of cooking with any oil because of the fat content and didn’t want to touch anything with a carb in it. I wouldn’t even eat a cookie because I was so nervous I would gain weight.
We all have our ups and downs around food—a realization that felt so comforting once I understood it. We’re not alone and we all struggle from time to time. It was during my struggles of putting weight back on and making peace with my body that I found a connection to the kitchen. My love for cooking and baking was born out of my rocky history with food and body image. I wanted to figure out how to fuel my body with food that was both nourishing and delicious. I knew that if I ate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups every day, I wouldn’t feel good. But I wasn’t about to give up dessert to feel healthy. Instead, I started making my own alternative recipes based on of whatever I was craving. Sure, my recipes are “healthy,” but they are also easy and the results are delicious. My food looks and sounds a hundred times more indulgent than it really is, which is the best part! It’s “food porn” that won’t leave you in a coma or with a headache or a sugar high. Those Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars on page 237? They look like a super-gluttonous sugar bomb, but they’re made of almond and coconut flour that’s full of healthy fats and more nutrients than your typical white flour, and are sweetened with unrefined coconut sugar.
I want to inspire you and help you make a positive difference in your relationship with food. Being healthy doesn’t mean saying no to the things you love or only drinking green juice or eating kale with every meal—that would be horribly boring. When you begin to fuel your body with nutrient-packed ingredients like avocado oil and sprouted spelt flour, you will notice a shift in how you feel—without missing out on all the good stuff. A nutritious meal can be delicious crispy quesadillas made with almond flour tortillas, pasture-raised eggs and nitrate-free bacon, and freshly made guacamole on the side. And you can for sure have a Homemade Dark Chocolate Caramel Candy Bar (page 246) for dessert afterward.
It has been a journey there and back, but I’m finally eating with no regrets and restrictions, and now I’m excited to share my stories and recipes with you to feed your body, your mind, and most important, your soul
with quality food that tastes good and makes you feel good, too.Let’s chat about how to use this book
As we continue to grow and learn more about ourselves, our tastes and cravings evolve. I ended up on the healthier end of the spectrum, and now I search out recipes that use real food and real ingredients. To me, eating “real food” means using ingredients you can pronounce (even the ones we struggle with, like quinoa), loading up on organic veggies, fruits, and raw nuts, and shying away from heavily processed ingredients, like hydrogenated oils and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Yes, that includes healthy but comforting treats made without grain or dairy, like Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake (page 254) and Spicy Cauliflower Wings (page 154). But that also includes occasionally eating cookies made with regular flour and sugar and enjoying a real bagel and lox when I’m craving it. (I hate to break it to you, but the birthday cake at parties isn’t going anywhere. And your significant other will want to go out for pizza once in a while. Just because a couple of slices of pizza aren’t going to give you a six-pack—which is overrated in my opinion, anyway—that doesn’t mean they aren’t good for your soul
every so often!)
I favor unrefined sugars and alternative flours and oils, but I am definitely not down for sacrificing flavor. Food is meant to taste delicious. It should make you feel good. Food connects and brings us all together: whether it’s dinner with friends, baking treats for your boyfriend or girlfriend, or getting that ice cream cone after a long-ass workweek, meals should excite us and warm our souls. But it shouldn’t consume our minds 24/7 with thoughts of what will make us skinny and fit into those jeans we wore in college. These recipes will help free you from concerns that are unhealthy for both your mind and your body.
In this book, you’ll find recipes for all your cravings—dishes that you want to eat, enjoy, and savor every bite of, including droolworthy desserts (see page 224), family-style recipes to bring to a potluck (see page 176), ideas for what to make when you’re flying solo for dinner (see page 200), snacks to make for your besties and boo (see page 78), and more—recipes for pretty much all the parts of your life. You’ll love these dishes whatever your cooking abilities. I am by no means a professional chef. I didn’t go to culinary school. I’m not a registered dietitian or a health coach. I am just a twenty-some-thing-year-old who loves to experiment in the kitchen and is like a kid in a candy store when I’m perusing the organic section at the grocery store. If I can make these dishes, I promise you can, too. My recipes won’t take hours and hours of labor and don’t require twenty-plus ingredients that you will never use again. There won’t be a million confusing steps to get to the end (besides those Homemade Grain-Free Frosted Blueberry Pastry Tarts on page 93—but they’re worth it
). I focus on whole foods—no crazy potions and fancy ingredients over here. To make it even easier, I show you what is in my pantry (on page 15) and how I food prep (on page 35) to help make the weekdays much less stressful.
I also want to give you more than just my go-to gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe (see page 242). I am sharing stories of my personal journey at the start of each chapter, dishing out all the details—from how I found peace with my body to that time when I didn’t eat meat for five years. These include some of my most vulnerable stories, thoughts, and struggles because without these experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Sounds cheesy, right? But through cooking and finding the freedom to eat foods that make me feel good, I have been able to grow as a person. I want to put myself out there and share those moments because I want each of you to know you are not alone in this. No matter what the situation is, we all struggle and need some delicious fuel and support to get us through it.
Copyright © 2020 by Rachel Mansfield. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.