Sunday, December 9, 2012

No-Pasta Spaghetti and Meatballs

Many people are aware of the gluten free movement we see in the nutrition and health fields lately, and with any popular diet comes marketing and new products to meet your dietary needs. Most grocery stores have at least one or two gluten-free pasta options on the shelves made with flour rendered from other grains. These products went through a lot of machines and processes to get to your table though. This can make them hard to digest and often full of extra ingredients that your body doesn't need.

Here is a true gluten free, whole food, seasonal option to meet your spaghetti and meatball comfort food craving this winter.

No-Pasta Spaghetti and Meatballs

Yum! Leftovers for lunch at work the next day. Cook once, eat twice... or even thrice! 

Simple Meatballs 
1lb of ground beef or your choice of ground meat, grass fed and local if possible
2 eggs
frozen chopped spinach, thawed with excess water squeezed out
basil, oregano
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands. Add more eggs or more dry cheese to make the right consistency. Roll into 1.5 in balls and place in a glass baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes. 
I made a ton of meatballs a few days ahead and froze them. I took out what I needed for this meal and have plenty more to thaw for other dishes in the future.

No-Pasta Pasta
1 Spaghetti Squash
1 large crown of broccoli
4 shallots
basil, oregano, thyme, red chili seeds
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350, cut the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Pierce the skin all over with a fork. Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with a 1/4 inch of water. Place the squash, cut side down, on the cookie sheet and roast for about 45 min (until sides are kind of squishy and easy to pierce with a fork). Let cool for a few minutes, then use a fork to scrape out the flesh of the squash, like magic it comes out in long spaghetti fibers.

While the squash is cooking, chop up the broccoli florettes and shallots. Saute in a wok or large pan with olive oil and your favorite Italian-style herbs like basil, oregano, and/or thyme and some salt and pepper. When squash is done, toss in with the veggies.

Serve with a few meatballs and top with parmesan cheese and red chili seeds.

Automatic Language

Have you ever had a conversation like this?
"Good morning. how are you?"
"Fine thanks, how are you?"
"Pretty good. Have a great day."
"Thanks you too!"

Or like this?
"Here's your popcorn, enjoy the movie"
"Thanks. You too... Oh wait, your not seeing a movie, you're at work."
Yeah, I did that.

I also had this conversation: I was on the a crowded train headed to Boston Logan Airport during the morning commuter rush. I was carrying a duffel bag, my handbag (which is the size of another duffel), my phone, my poster for my ASHA presentation... And a to-go cup of tea. as the train lurched, one of my bags slipped off my shoulder down to my elbow, jostled my arm just so, and I watched in slow motion as a fat droplet of tea erupted from my cup and landed on the knee of a passenger seated nearby. I felt awful and apologized profusely. "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry! Total accident. Oops, I'm sorry." I expected the usual "It's ok" (whether or not it actually is okay) but she looked up and me and replied "just be more careful." I was shocked! She didn't follow the script. Her response didn't 'take care of my feelings.' And anyway it wasn't that big of a deal (I thought), and it IS "ok"..... Isn't it?

I've had lots of time to think about this exchange. And as I did, I started to notice how much of what we say is automatic, scripted turn taking. And there is certainly a role for these highly practiced exchanges. When working with people with aphasia (loss of language due to brain injury such as a stroke), we often start with automatics like counting to 10, days of the week, and simple greetings like the one I described above. This language is so hardwired into our brains by the time we are adults that it can often be accessed more easily than more complex, novel language.

But what are we really communicating in those scripted automatic conversations? Not much. Especially when it is not aligned with our real truth.

It can be hard to do the unexpected and really 'say what your mean' and some situations are easier than others. There are a few factors that seem to help me. First of all I need to slow down. So many times I think of a thousand things I could have said after my communication partner has already walked away. Silence and conversation pauses can feel a lot longer in our minds than they are in reality. In our instant gratification world it can feel very challenging to take the time, even if it's just a few seconds, to process and formulate an authentic response. But it's a powerful experience to take a breath and trust that I have all the time I need. I also need to be present in this moment, to actually allow my truth to come up so I can see what it looks like. That depends on a letting go of beliefs around how I should feel, how I should react, and how I learned to be in this world. It can also take courage. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to say something unexpected. I really respect my fellow traveller for not subscribing to the "it's ok" social script. But in other more vulnerable situations, it can feel hard to stand in my truth despite the reaction I might see. But no matter the reaction, my truth is my truth, and it deserves the space to be actualized.

What would happen if we really said what we mean all the time? No more "it's ok, don't worry about it" when it's not ok. No more mindless verbal-volley. No more "I'm-fine-thanks-for-asking" when we are crumbling inside. Language is for connecting, learning, supporting each other, and sharing our truths!