The holiday season is fast approaching and I’m starting to plan this year’s celebrations with my family. I love this time of year! It can be so hectic, yet it’s filled with excitement. Like many of you, I look forward to spending special times with family and friends. Although I do like to incorporate new things — customs from my husband’s side of the family, fresh table decorations, a new ornament or two — our family celebrations are rooted in my days growing up with my mom, Betty.
Of course, food is such a key part of any celebration, and it was a big part of my life growing up. Both of my parents are from New Orleans, a city known for its food culture. My parents brought this with them when they moved to South Carolina, where I was born. They understood the value of nourishing themselves and their family with whole foods. “Food is medicine” was their motto!
Growing Up with Healthy Food
Even in those early days, my mom knew the impact of food on the microbiome (although we didn’t call it that back then!) and she would talk to me about this as we made our weekly batch of yogurt on Sundays. Although I avoid dairy now (and recommend that you do, too!) I still remember that tart flavor so well. We always made plain yogurt without additional flavors or sweeteners. Sometimes my mom let me put raw honey on it for a special treat. For a really special treat, I would top it with my mom’s homemade granola.
I loved baking whole wheat bread with my mom each week, too. Setting the yeast aside to let it bubble up in a warm place. Then putting the wheat flour together, needing the dough, putting it in the pan, and watching it in the oven. Finally pulling it out piping hot and spreading butter all over it. And, of course, we made sometimes made treats like gingerbread or cookies (always molasses or oatmeal, never chocolate chip). We didn’t bake them often but they were delicious. I loved her molasses cookies.
Life in New Orleans
After my parents divorced when I was about 10, my mother and I moved to New Orleans. Yet cooking was still a part of our culture. We lived in an apartment above my great-grandmother. Because my mother worked two jobs to send me to private school while studying for her architecture degree, I spent a lot of time downstairs with my great-grandmother. She cooked wonderful meals and lived to be nearly 103!
On Sundays, we would all go to my grandmother’s house after church for the midday meal we called dinner. My aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandmother, and great-aunt would all gather there for a big meal. My grandfather made BBQ chicken on the grill; my grandmother made fried chicken, or sometimes a roast or baked chicken with vegetables and rice. And since it was New Orleans, of course, we had French bread and butter.
Whether it was our Sunday dinner or a special occasion, my mom made the salad. It was always a delicious combination of flavors. She became famous for her salads! When I was very young, it was the classic 1970s “California” with lettuce, shredded carrots, tomato, avocado sprouts, and sunflower seeds. Over time it evolved into a Mediterranean style with onions, olives, and feta cheese. Whatever was in it, it was always amazing.
Her Italian-style dressing was so delicious! I’ve made this a part of my family’s daily life. We usually have a salad every night at our house, and I always have a bottle of Betty’s Italian Dressing. I make it up in batches and keep it in a mason jar. And like my mom, if I go somewhere, I always bring the salad. If I have people over — especially during the holidays — I make an extra big, delicious salad. I’ve even become a bit famous in Xavier’s family for my salads. I’m proud to be carrying on this tradition from my mom.
I’m glad that I can share the recipes for Betty’s Italian Dressing and Mom’s Molasses Cookies with all of you. I’ve made sure they are approved for Autoimmune Solution and Thyroid Connection meal plans, and I even included the dressing in The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook. Both recipes are in my AIP & Paleo Holiday Ebook that’s available now. You can purchase it here or get it as a free gift when you purchase $100 or more in my store this weekend. Get it now so you’ll have plenty of time to incorporate these healthy recipes into your own holiday plans. Let’s make some new, healthy traditions!