© 2014 jen

Reflections On Sickness & Health + Cooking With My Sister

It’s been a year and a half since I was diagnosed with celiac disease.

I’ve been reflecting on the changes I’ve gone through throughout this healing journey.

It’s taken me a year and a half to get as close to healthy as I think I’m going to get. It’s required more than just eating gluten-free. It’s taken a real and concerted effort on my part to uncover what doesn’t work in my life and what does. 

One area I return to over and over again as a major source of my health and healing is the food I eat today.

I eat gluten-free, mostly grain-free and mostly sugar-free (although if I’m going to cheat on anything it’s the sugar).

I’ve made so many discoveries along the way.

So many insights.

One of the best things that has come out of this healing and learning process, in addition to being healthier, is that my sister and I have started cooking together regularly.

My sister has two small kids and I have one big teen. We both have a husband, and we were both equally sick and tired of everything we were eating. Both of us were going out to eat too much, spending too much money that could be better spent in other ways. I was regularly compromising my health because so many kitchen environments can have gluten cross-contamination issues, or maybe the servers are misinformed, or a mistake happens.

We thought it would be fun for us to start menu planning and cooking together.

I do all the shopping with my son (because he helps me shop, while my sister’s kids are too young to be helpful) and then my sister and I divide the grocery bill in half. We cook up as many meals together as we can. Sometimes we spend 2 or 3 hours cooking together and make enough food to feed our families for about half of a week. Other times we cook for 5 hours together on a Saturday, while we catch up on each other’s lives, cracking jokes and being silly like sisters do.

PicMonkey CollageHere is a collection of photos of my sister. She’s so cute and silly sometimes.

We make different menus for different weeks. We often make delicious grain-free baked goods, such as banana bread. We regularly make soups, we make enchiladas, we cook whole chickens, we make our broth, we dehydrate meat and make our own turkey jerky, and we prepare some dishes so we can throw them together later, like pad Thai and salads. We prep what we can, so that we can spend 5 or 10 minutes rather than hours in the kitchen on a weeknight.

It’s really amazing what you can get accomplished with the help of a friend, or in my case a sister/friend – and then you have a whole week’s worth of meals at the ready! Boom!

IMG_8671This is the menu planning and shopping list that my sister and I use weekly to do our food making sessions. It’s one that I made for The Maven Circle E-course students a few years ago and it’s a great little organization tool. There are other versions of similar menu planning and shopping lists out there online for free if you want to find your own or you can make your own like I did.

Why Planning and Pre-making Food With A Friend Works:

It’s fast – I like to work in longer stretches and I forget all about food. I need food that can be ready right now or else I’m likely to skip a meal. When I skip a meal, I crave sugar and make less wise food choices. Then I want more crappy food, and so on. It’s a pattern I’m trying to avoid.

Cooking when it’s convenient – I used to think that I hated to cook, but what I’ve found is that I hate to cook when I’m hungry. With this method I cook all at one time, chop all the onions I need for 3 different meals at one time, make bigger batches of soups and such to freeze in small batches. I use glass jars to store soups in my freezer, and they taste so much better than canned soups.

Cooking with my chosen ingredients – I can cook with almond butter or sunflower butter instead of peanut butter, which my digestive system prefers. I can make lower sugar meals. I can control exactly what enters my body and know if it’s the right food for me.

Health and Productivity – When I feel good, I can think better, work harder, stay more focused and generally accomplish more in a day. When I feel good I’m a better mother, friend, wife and person to spend time with.

Variety is the spice of life – When two people are cooking and building menus together, they generate more ideas. You have twice as many tested great recipes and you each have your own techniques and tricks for making your fave recipes, which you can share with each other.

Psychologically calming – It is so calming to know you have tons of food options ready for you at a moment’s notice. It’s a great bonus even if it’s not something you think you really need. I feel very well loved, and like I’m loving my family, my sister, and her family by preparing foods for us.

Cooking with my sister and preparing weekly foods for our homes is one of the most nurturing acts I’ve been a part of and I love it. 

It’s what ‘I love you’ looks like in action.

I would have never guessed being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease would lead to cooking so much with one of my favorite people on the planet and pre-making our food together. Sickness has taken me on a long winding journey, which, at times has been quite hard, but right now it’s pretty good. <3

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