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Food for Change

Our bodies always let us know when a tune-up is needed. When I began listening to mine, everything got better.

Enough was enough! I knew I needed a change. Stuck in a rut of sorts, I consistently felt frumpy, low-energy, and just… kind of gross. Blah! I wasn’t overweight, but I felt the strain of my extra baggage and its impact on my self-image. Time to go!

I knew where to start- H20. At the time, my body was a desert. I was in a long-term relationship with coffee and would sometimes drink just 1 glass of water every two days! I immediately upped my water consumption and found that I loved drinking it with lemon - a huge energy booster. Slowly, I also began cutting out unnecessary junk from my diet. And just as I’d hoped, the weight started to come off. WOOOOO HOOO!!!

I was really excited, but knew that I needed more structure if I was going to continue to succeed long-term. One thing I knew for absolute certain: no diet pills! Despite what some people may say, they are the antithesis to wellness. I wanted to feel really, truly healthy from the inside out. One afternoon, I came across something called the Paleo diet on a friend’s Facebook page, and was instantly curious. In a nutshell, here’s the deal: the plan consists only of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and coconut/olive oils. All stuff I eat anyway. I thought, “frig, I can do that!” and I began my first 21 day challenge.

Was I tempted to indulge in sweets along the way? Yes. Was it challenging to stay on track with 2 kids in the house? For sure. But I was committed to the cause and stuck to it as best I could. After the 21 days were up, I had lost a total of 12 pounds and went from a size 10 to a 6. Yeah baby! I was seriously proud of myself and felt like a million bucks. I wanted to keep going, and I did (with a few cheat days here and there, of course)…

I’ve now gotten into the groove of making mostly Paleo (and always yummy) meals, and sometimes my kids join in! For me, the key is balance and incorporating occasional exercise. I do the best I can with what I’ve got, knowing that the rare plate of spaghetti never hurt anyone *wink*.

Being Mohawk, I’ve always known the tradition of having Cornbread and Steak on Sundays. Corn soup is another favorite, and was a staple for many iron worker dads who would come home on the weekends to enjoy a family sit down. Cornbread is made with white cornmeal, oatmeal, water and red kidney beans and a pinch of salt, cooked in water. This recipe incorporates some Paleo no-no’s, but too bad; I’m not going to break a tradition just for the sake of diet! Corn soup is also off the Paleo list, but I continue to make it often. It’s made with White Indian Corn or Hominy, along with red kidney beans, turnips, cabbage and carrots. Delicious! Corn, Beans and Squash are known as our “Three Sisters”, and they are essential to who we are as Mohawk People.

3 Sisters
3 Sisters, with me in the middle!

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Paleo isn’t for everyone. It’s up to each of us to find a rhythm and way of being that nourishes our soul. If you want to live a healthier life, you need to want and be ready for change. As they say, if nothing changes nothing changes. Revamping your eating habits can seem scary, but trust me - it’s worth it. Everything takes on new life: your mood, your skin, your energy, your hair… and most importantly your mind. But it doesn’t end there. Once you’ve gained all that new strength and knowledge, you can share it far and wide with others! Inspire them. Support them. And that, my friends, is the secret to healthy community building.

Recipe 1: Stuffed Peppers

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound or 4 hot Italian sausages
  • 1 box of mushrooms of your liking
  • 3 peppers (green/red/orange/yellow) cut in half (discard seeds and flesh)
  • 1 onion Garlic powder to taste
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • *You can add any other kind of cut up vegetables if desired
Stuffed Red Peppers
Stuffed Peppers

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 °F.
  2. cook peppers for 30 minutes and remove from oven. Leave the heat on.
  3. Heat a pan on the stove to medium, remove sausage casings, and cook the sausages- breaking them up to resemble ground beef. Place sausage in a bowl, set aside.
  4. Add the coconut oil to the pan and cook mushrooms, garlic, and onions until tender. Add desired amount of garlic powder.
  5. Add in the cooked sausages and mix well. Now you’ve got a delicious stuffing!
  6. Fill each pepper with stuffing and add cheese if desired.
  7. Cook stuffed peppers in the oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  8. Serve with a garden spinach salad and homemade dressing (without any sugar).
  9. I usually make mine with olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano and fresh crushed garlic.
  10. Enjoy your Paleo feast!

Recipe 2: Mohawk Traditional Cornbread

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of white corn meal or Masa (if you have real Indian corn, even better)
  • 1 cup of Oatmeal
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 1 can of red kidney beans (rinsed well)
  • Boiling water in kettle
Mohawk Corn Bread
Traditional Mohawk Cornbread

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put a pot of water on stove and simmer.
  2. Put all ingredients in a bowl and add the hot water a little at a time and mix with a spoon until the consistency has a sticky form to mold into shape. If you add too much water, the bread won’t hold its shape.
  3. Cook in water until the cornbread floats to the top (30 minutes to 40 minutes). Serve with Gravy.
  4. You can also use the left over cornbread in the morning. Cut in slices and fry in butter or bacon grease till it becomes crispy brown. Mmmmmm!
Mohawk Meal
Behold... a real-deal Mohawk Meal!

Harlean Coco Sky is a Mohawk from the Kahnawake Reserve. She is a single mother of two and works for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake in the position of Coordinator for the Kahnawake/Canada Relations. Her interests in cooking healthy not only benefits her family but inspires others as well. One day she hopes to open up her own little quaint business in the area of food/restaurant. Not only is she busy in the kitchen, she’s busy making crafts and collecting antiques in her spare time.

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