Brave Cooking

Gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free chocolate chips cookies

I typically have confidence in the things I do.  Cooking, though, not so much.  When Lil O in early November said she was feeling "gaggy' after she ate, I knew it was time again to pull back the reins on her nutrition.  Five years ago (before I started blogging), Lil O was gluten-, egg-, dairy-, soy-, and citrus-free.  She was also free of 23 other offenders (pineapple, coconut, rice, etc) for almost three years.  Another day, I can blog about how we identified the original 28 offending foods in the first place.  That's a blog post in itself.

After a phone appointment with her nutritionist six weeks ago and a discussion about Lil O feeling gaggy coupled with some redness under her eyes (kind of like when you are tired and have bags under your eyes. Her bags weren't dark though, but pink instead), we realized it was time to give Lil O's system a break again.  I didn't know this, but pinkish skin is a sign of inflammation in the body.

When Lil O's system goes on a break, so does my system and Mr. UpCyclist.  I don't like having food in our house that is off-limits to Lil O.  I want her to have the freedom to eat what she needs and wants.  Thus, our home is 95% gluten-, dairy-, egg-, and citrus-free at the moment.  In case you wondering, her nutritionist advised us to take out the biggie offenders only, not all 28 again.

The good news is since taking out the major offenders, Lil O isn't gaggy feeling anymore.  The pinkness has not subsided, but I am confident it will over time as her digestive and immune system heal.  Our entire family is eating more diverse foods - not carbohydrates at every single meal.

My friend, Laura, pointed out most everything I do in life, I do and I am unafraid to fail. Cooking though was the exception.  I kept running away from the kitchen because I was afraid the meal I was making wouldn't turn out or I would waste precious ingredients.   What a revelation that was!  What? I'm scared of cooking?  Sure, there are scarier things to be afraid of, but cooking?  Come on, Jen, you got this.  What's your word this year?  Brave.

So, now I am in the kitchen cooking.   This time,  I'm cooking with bravery.  I'm falling in love with failure (remember that line from my new book?).  I've asked my test subjects - Lil O and Mr. U - to be patient with me.  Some meals might be an instant hit.  Others will need tweaking.  I'm experimenting more and more.  For example, those chocolate chip cookies in the photo above are an experiment.  The cookie on the left is made with a potato-based egg replacer, since we can't have eggs right now.  The cookie on the right is made with a chia seed egg replacer.  You can see the potato-based cookie (on the left) is more smooth.  The chia seed cookie is more bumpy.  They both taste great, though I prefer the taste of the potato-based replacer.  Lil O prefers the chia seeds (which does add another level of good nutrition).   I used a flour base like this one to make the cookies.  The cookies are chocolate chip, gluten-, dairy-, and egg-free (which also makes them vegan, in case a vegan lifestyle speaks to you).  The cookies have been a big hit with everyone who has tasted them.

Years ago, I wouldn't have experimented.  I would have been concerned about the cookies being a flop and wasting ingredients.  From writing my book this fall and having so many days of what-the-bleep! writing, I've realized failure is just part of the journey.  You've got to stumble a little to get your legs under you.  But, once your legs begin to get under you, you get great stuff like this:

Last night, my mom came to town from Memphis and I cooked dinner for all of us.   I made this amazing dish with thin-sliced, roasted potatoes and lightly steamed green beans tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper.  The meal was delicious.  My mom innocently said, "You are a good cook, Jen."  What?  Is she talking to me?  The girl who struggles in the kitchen?  She most certainly was talking to me. That compliment landed in the best way.  She had no idea how I felt about being in the kitchen.  All she saw (and ate) was a totally yummy meal made by an unstressed me.

A more confident me.  A Braver me.

This time around, I'm not running away from the kitchen.  I'm inviting Lil O to cook with me more - after all, she has a lifetime of cooking ahead of her as she will need to embrace moderation for the rest of her life most likely.  I am making cooking enjoyable.  I listen to podcasts (like Serial and Elise Gets Crafty).  I catch up on shows that I enjoy (The Voice, House of DVF, and Shark Tank).  I'm keeping a list of what turns out great, what needs tweaking, and what my family and I do not enjoy (like mushy vegetables).  I'm leaning into culinary skills learned from an amazing colleague, Ken, years ago.  You should see me with a knife!  Besides totally burning some sausages the other night, my grilling skills are fairly rock solid.  I'm having faith in the kitchen, but most of all, confidence in me.


I just let out a gigantic breath.  It feels so good to admit how scared I've felt before and how much I want to improve.

Brave has found me again.  This time, Brave cooking.

What about you?