I certainly found the last few lessons of A Course in Weight Loss much smoother sailing. The letters to and from “Thin Me” really opened my eyes to why I carry the excess weight, and I’m not entirely sure a part of me isn’t still invested in the protection it provides. Shallow as it may sound, I love fashion more, so while it may take some time to release completely, I know I’ll get there in the end. I have learned to be a lot kinder to myself, and accept that it will be in God’s time, not necessarily in time for the next photo shoot or TV show.

Invoking the real me

My love affair with food truly began last summer when my friend Cynthia Occelli talked me into doing a vegan, caffeine-free, gluten-free, sweetener-free, anti-inflammatory, hypo-allergenic cleanse with her. My first reaction was no way, too restrictive. Then a little voice inside me said yes, I can do this. The results blew me away!

My introduction to vegan food through Tal Ronnen’s fabulous recipes the previous year had proved that not only do I have the skills to cook outside my usual comfort zone, cleanse food doesn’t have to be a nose-holding, gulp it down like medicine without breathing experience. Nor does simply eating healthy (not on a vegan cleanse). Preparing real food is scrumptious.
Cooking outside my usual repertoire thanks to Chef Tal
I decided to write new recipes that fit within the cleanse guidelines and had a feast every day on food that made me feel my very best! I fell in love with cooking all over again, and made food that actually loved me back. My mood was stable and consistently elevated, the swelling from my broken ankle gone, and any obsessive cravings along with it. I no longer doubted the power of food to heal (ergo it’s ability to harm when making the wrong choices).
Some of you might say, “but I can’t cook.” If you can read, you can cook, so click on the recipe links and get started. You may even find it relaxing like I do – I block out the irritating road blocks of my day, and focus on creating a recipe, and before I know it those obstacles are back in perspective, and aren’t so big after all.
Filming the personal chef approach
Others may complain it requires so much more time than grabbing that convenient, processed, poor excuse for real food! Yes it does require a little forethought and effort, but in learning the “personal chef approach” to cooking it is manageable. Like you, cooking is the last thing I feel like doing after a long day at work, so Sunday’s became my own personal chef day not long after I started my business.
I’ll make a big pot of soup, marinate some lightly steamed vegetables, and make a big container of curried lentils and brown basmati rice, or spaghetti squash with mushrooms and white bean sauce on Sunday, then heat to eat as I need it during the week. If I fancy fish, chicken, or meat – it only takes a few minutes to toss it on the grill. I also keep some hummus, carrots, celery, and brown rice cakes for snacks, and fresh fruit for dessert. Dinner goes from refrigerator to table faster than I can make a trip to MacDonalds!
When you do indulge – share and just savor a couple bites
Now do I ALWAYS make the right choices? No, but I’m infinitely more aware, and certainly not as attracted to them as I used to be. Since starting A Course in Weight Loss I also seem to be able to enjoy a little taste without craving the lot.
Christen, Jewels, Candace, Kathy, and Marianne
The point is food is not the enemy. As I start making healthier choices, over time I find myself grabbing for them more often than the less healthy choices; and when I do indulge, I’m less likely to overeat. I had Marianne and a few of the girls over to celebrate last Tuesday evening, and many of you wanted this recipe when you saw the menu. Your wish is my command, but first, please do fill me in on your progress with the lessons so far?
PS. CONGRATULATIONS to Juliette Rees-Evans! You won the copy of A Course in Weight Loss signed by Marianne Williamson. Please email me the address you would like it sent to at trsmember@gmail.com.
“Cream” of Mushroom Soup
This earthy, rich, filling soup hits the comfort food spot while still being healthy, and both animal and planet friendly. The creamy cashew cream and touch of white truffle oil add more than enough decadence to make you want to forget the dairy completely.
Servings: 4
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 ounces of white mushrooms, chopped
  • 8 ounces of shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
  • 8 ounces of Portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup cashew cream (see note below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, optional
  • white truffle oil for garnish, optional

1). If you have not already, make your cashew cream beginning by soaking the nuts the night before. Follow directions in the note below. I make up huge batches at once, and freeze in 1 cup increments for use when I need it. Just defrost in the refrigerator 1-2 days before using.

2). In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots, and celery, and sauté until softened but not coloring (lower heat to medium-low if shallots begin to brown), about 8 minutes.

3). Add garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add mushrooms, and stir occasionally until they have released their liquid and begin to brown on all sides.

4). Add vegetable broth, bring back up to a boil, cover and lower heat to medium low to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5). Add cashew cream, bring back to boil, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Stir in freshly grated nutmeg. Remove from heat.

6). Remove sprigs of thyme and bay leaves. Working in small batches, filling only 1/4 full each time, carefully puree the soup in a blender or vitamix, covering with a towel so any hot liquid that may escape does not burn you. Pour pureed mushroom soup into a large bowl, and repeat until all of the soup is pureed. Add back to pan to heat through, add more broth or water to adjust consistency if need be, and taste to adjust seasonings.

Serving Suggestions: Serve soup hot with a swirl of white truffle oil, and a few chopped leaves of thyme to garnish.

Note: This is a method of replacing the dairy that I learned from Chef Tal Ronnen’s cookbook, The Conscious Cook. Cover 2 cups of raw cashews with water, and refrigerate over night. Drain and add fresh water to same level as cashews for thick cashew cream. Puree in a blender until smooth, creamy, and the consistency of heavy cream. Refrigerate for up to three days, or freeze for up to three months.

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  • December 14, 2010
    2:08 pm

    Very inspiring yet realistic Julie Anne! We all have it in us (baby steps).Cupcakexo

  • December 14, 2010
    2:45 pm

    I'm in Chapter four now. I think if I had read this book 20 years ago it may have affected me more. I have already come to terms with all of my demons and already accept my body and me for who I am. I stopped letting other people take control of me and started to take control of myself. I was in one bad relationship after another. A failed marriage. And finally the wonderful man that I'm married to now. I was heavy when we met so my weight has never been an issue to him or us. We are still very active and go hiking and do other activities together. I learned the lesson to love myself first and let God take control a long time ago. So the unanswered question still remains, why am I still heavy? I will continue reading until the end. I may then try to go back through and try to pick up any things I may have missed.

  • December 14, 2010
    4:55 pm

    I have moments where I think the same, but I've decided to put my faith in this and see it through to the end. Judging by my clothes I have not lost any weight yet, but I know my attitude towards how I feel about myself, and my relationship to food is changing. I'm hoping the weight will follow. If your on lesson 4 – you have not started the part about your relationship with food, so try to forge on – sounds to me like you have all the foundations working in your favor – I think this is a very slow process, and I agree, I will probably go back over it all once I've done all the lessons once.

  • December 14, 2010
    6:10 pm

    Attempting to make your delicious mushroom soup tonight. Wish me luck!!!

  • December 14, 2010
    11:30 pm

    Good luck! It's not hard – just leave plenty of time to soak the cashews to make the cashew cream.

  • December 14, 2010
    11:34 pm

    I think I'm making some progress, slow but steady. I don't obsess as much about food,so that's good. I've stopped worrying about what others think or say when I eat only vegetarian or vegan food. I think the biggest step forward is that I'm ready to hand over my fat clothes to a charity shop. After the holidays when the shops have calmed down, I'll go to a second hand shop and find some clothes that fit me. I'd like to have new ones, but these will be new for me even though they have been worn by someone else. I'm okay with that and will save to buy a special outfit or two when there's some extra money in my account. I'm finding out that maybe I'm not the loser I always thought that I was. Thank you for making me realize that!

  • December 14, 2010
    11:49 pm

    Ruthee – your a winner who just hasn't fully realized that yet! I think you rock, and the second hand shop is a great idea – vintage without the price tag dahlink.

  • December 15, 2010
    4:50 pm

    Woo hoo! I've still given up my scales, so not 100% sure, but clothes feel looser today – I think the weight is slowly starting to come off!

  • December 15, 2010
    4:51 pm

    OMG — I actually HAVE this picture in my scrap book somewhere . . . LOLJustine Owls

  • December 15, 2010
    8:17 pm

    Me too.Misti Parresol Stolp

  • December 15, 2010
    8:17 pm

    The Mushroom Soup sounds delcious (if only I knew how to spell)Karen Ann LeRoy

  • December 15, 2010
    11:54 pm

    Though I haven't been able to pick up the book in a while, I have become very aware every time I put something in my mouth. I start to think about what food I am about to eat and why I am about to eat it. To me that is real progress! I'm not saying that I am always stopping myself from eating the "wrong" thing but I have become very conscious about what I am eating. Now that the school semester is over and Christmas will be done in about a week and half, I will be able to start working through the lessons in the book. Cheers,Dawn

  • December 16, 2010
    12:10 am

    Dear Jewels, I was just thinking you look beautiful and healthy the way you are right now. You are a great cook, and getting greater by the day. You are warm, nurturing and giving and forever stylish. You remind me so much of our lovely Nigella. Just don't like to see you worry one minute. You are exactly right, right now. Best Always, CW

  • December 16, 2010
    2:33 am

    are you cooking tortellini here ? ^_^ i live close to Bologna, Italy and Bologna is famous for them !! always nice recipes JA thank youRoberta Guiducci

  • December 16, 2010
    2:33 am

    Yes – my very first time! I'll bet you're an expert.

  • December 17, 2010
    2:12 am

    I reread you blog tonight and liked the idea of the Sunday Cook Day. On Sundays, I usually prepare my menus for the week and then do groceries and cook each recipe each night. I have been thinking about trying the Sunday Cook day off and on for awhile. I plan to try it out when I return from the holidays. I think too that it would be easier to prepare all on one day and then add or reheat as needed.

  • December 17, 2010
    2:15 am

    Ugh(this will be the third time I have been trying to post – so I apologize it this post appears again). I reread your blog tonight. I have been thinking about the Sunday Cook Day for awhile and plan to try it out when I return from the holidays. I think it would be easier for me to do it all one day instead of cooking my meals every night.