Celebrating 57 and Getting Personal

If you’ve followed Color My Food for a while, you’ve heard that my dad’s experience with Parkinson’s changed my career and my life.

My Motivation

I’ve shared before what I wish I’d known about brain health when he diagnosed.

I became a functional nutritional therapist practitioner (FNPT) to help slow down the progression of Parkinson’s. Right away we applied what I was learning. And the mental decline began to reverse. Then suddenly he was gone.

To a great extent what moved me through my grief was the conviction that I had to complete my FNTP training to help others be proactive about brain health and overall wellness.

My Journey

As crazy as it sounds, here I am 3 years in, but I’ve only now realized functional nutrition has also become MY wellness journey.

I gave a nutrition presentation last week at the River Oaks Women’s Breakfast Club, and mentioned it was my 57th birthday which met with astonishment. A woman came to talk to me afterwards and wanted to know how? What I was I doing to look so vibrant? Was I not afraid of aging?

I explained I embrace every birthday. My beloved mother was 43 when she died instantly in a car accident. I miss her still, yet I am grateful to know that love is ever strong.

My 44th birthday was hard; I’d outlived my mother’s lifespan. But I’ve always seen every year as a joyful celebration of life. Never a fear of getting older.

50 was a genuine celebration with Georgette, one of my lifelong friends, an hermana del alma (soul sister). Together we celebrated 100 which made 50 a piece of cake. 😂 More than 50 girlfriends dressed in red – a grand celebration.
My dad in his tux, as the only man at the party, kept saying he felt like it was his party. 😎 ❤️

50 + 50 = 100! A joyful 50th birthday celebration !

55 no big deal, 56 either. But I confess, 57 briefly stalled my breath. It’s closer to 60 than 50. 😅
So, I made time to sit outside and feel on it – rather than just think about it. One of the gifts of midlife was to get out my head and connect with my heart.
That’s when I realized how much functional nutrition has become part of my daily lifestyle. Part of me.

That birthday morning of introspection also made me realize that I that pound the drum of food/nutrient density constantly, but I don’t share the foundations that make function nutritional powerful

✅ Hydration

✅ Digestion

✅ Blood sugar regulation

✅ Fatty acids

✅ Minerals

✅ Lifestyle: stress resilience, sleep, and movement

Nor have I made it personal. Fear of vulnerability? Maybe. Privacy concerns? Probably.

I will step out of my comfort zone and make this personal, because I know it’s the personal that makes it real.

I can’t pack into one blog post my personal journey over the last three years, so today I will share daily actions that I know make a difference in my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

✨Drink filtered water with about 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar after waking up to help my brain and body detox from the night’s internal repairing and cleansing work

✨Stay hydrated daily drinking half my body weight in ounces of filtered water (adding a pinch of sea salt a couple times of day)

✨Prioritize daily nutrient density

  • Get quality protein, fats from nature, and carbs from plants at every meal
  • Eat leafy greens and/or cruciferous every day – in a hefty salad with protein for lunch, a protein smoothie, salad with dinner, greens in soups/stews…
  • A minimum of 3 plant colors every meal
  • 9 – 10 plant foods per day: rainbow vegetables, beans, ancestral grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices — it all counts

✨Meditation (2021 daily habit starting with 5 minutes – took me 2 years but proud to say I am consistent now with 20 minutes daily. Working on making it 2x daily)

✨Consistent sleep routine (2023  daily habit). It took a year, but I am SO proud to say I can now wake up consistently feeling rested without an alarm clock – and I NEVER before considered myself a morning person.

✨Daily movement –  Rather than circling for the the nearest parking spot at the grocery store or wherever I’m going, I park further away so I walk on a regular basis. 10 sun salutations when I get up to move body and energy – took me 2 years to make this a daily practice 😅

What daily habit have you set for 2024?  

I invite you to share! I know from experience writing it out makes it more do-able and sustainable. And I can cheer you on!

Pistachio Salmon Holiday Dinner

The wild mushroom soup, the contrast and color of pistachio on salmon, the jewel rubies of pomegranate with wild rice make this a beautifully elegant dinner.
With its filling made of bourbon-soaked tart cherries and apricots, coconut and bittersweet chocolate, the cake makes a spectacularly scrumptious dessert.

November Birthday Dinner

The mushroom leek stuffed pork tenderloin makes an elegant dinner. It delights me that there are more than twelve plant foods in this meal, but it is so delicious no one enjoying it thought of it as a “healthy” dinner.

Summer Eve Birthday Dinner

This Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Avocado Salsa has long been one of my favorite summertime recipes for dinner parties. The very best dinner party was in celebration of Alma’s 7th birthday, one of M’s dearest friends.  Imagine! This menu incorporates 16+ glorious plant foods, loaded with flavors, colors and nutrition. And our seven year-olds loved it. It’s a hit with dinner guests of all ages.

Classic Yellow Cake with Yogurt Cream and Berries

I was looking for a simplified recipe for a classic birthday cake that didn’t require three different bowls and beating egg whites. This recipe fit my criteria and was delicious. I cannot bring myself to put 1 1/2 cup of sugar in a single recipe so I reduced to 1 cup and no one missed that extra sugar.

Té de Cumpleaños

As our plane descended into the valley of Cochabamba, my heart took flight. The gentle mountains encircling the valley opened in welcoming embrace. As we landed, I saluted Tunari, the valley’s highest peak standing proud and seemingly eternal.

My father waited outside the baggage terminal, emotion making his embrace fierce. He had counted down the days for our arrival for almost two months.

Arriving at my childhood home, my feet automatically took me around our little bit of heaven, greeting the avocado tree — every limb bent with heavy fruit –, the valiant little lemon tree also loaded with large, generous fruit, the bougainvillea and roses, every tree a friend, every flower a celebration of Mother Nature.

The afternoon was spent in a frenzy of baking preparing for tea the next day to celebrate dad’s 74th birthday. Teatime was a daily event in his and in my growing up years. As Bolivia has joined the fast pace of other nations, daily teatime seems to be fading into the past. But Té de Cumpleaños, tea parties for birthday celebrations, are still tradition.

My guiding parameter for tea parties is: two savory items, two or three cookies and a cake.

Knowing I had only about 24 hours to make this tea party happen, I chose tried and true recipes I knew I could easily pull off. With one exception. The mighty little lemon tree in the garden tempted me with its bounty. I knew I had to make something with those enormous, marvelous lemons. I found this recipe for Lemon Meltaways and wow-wee-wow! I have a new favorite cookie recipe. The first cookie I taste-tested was so spectacular, the entire first cookie sheet risked disappearing.

The Sandwich Cake was an easy choice. My mother was famous for her Sandwich Cakes. She always made the bread from scratch. On occasion I do too, particularly as a labor of love. But because of my time crunch, I used store-bought loaves. The garden’s bountiful avocado tree provided creamy avocados that I mashed with garden-fresh lemon juice and chopped onion. The other fillings for the sandwich cake were romesco, (a roasted red bell pepper pureed with toasted almonds). The third filling was an egg salad with black olives making the fillings colorful and tasty. The “frosting” is cream cheese beaten with plain Greek yogurt.

The Parmesan scones were also an easy choice. My dad is mad about cheese. These scones are impossible to resist. They don’t look particularly attractive, but one bite and oh my oh my yum.

The Chocolate Coconut Macaroons are quick and easy to make and outrageously delicious to eat. But in my haste trying to make everything in one afternoon, I poured the melted chocolate onto the beaten egg whites before it had cooled off, rending my egg whites runny. Appalled at the thought of having to throw them out, I kept adding coconut to rescue the consistency. Having almost doubled the amount of coconut from the original recipe did restore the batter but changed the texture and flavor of the macaroons. No one but I knew the difference and they were eaten at the same rate as the cookies I make from the original recipe. Phew. Disaster averted.

I take pride in making homemade birthday cake but this time, I bought a traditional Torta de Penco, from one of Cochabamba’s long-established pastry cafes. This is my dad’s absolute favorite cake. Crispy layers are stacked with dulce de leche filling.

As everyone sat down around the table that once was in my great-grandparents’ house, my heart again took flight with happiness at this gathering of beloved extended family, and with thankfulness for the food on the table.

Additional cookies for celebratory tea time

Orange Marmalade Cookies

Joy of Baking: Thumbprint Cookies

Epicurious: Italian Almond Cookies

Epicurious: Pignoli

Savory alternatives

Epicurious: Tuna Empanadas

Tea sandwiches (open-face) with chicken salad, egg salad, and/or Olive Tapenade

Té de Cumpleaños

Birthdays and special occasions are often celebrated at tea time in my hometown of Cochabamba. The table is beautifully set with linens and porcelain tea cups. My favorite part is to find we are all still at the table, long after the food is gone, chatting and sharing, enjoying each others company in a leisurely way.


Classic Yellow Cake with Yogurt Cream and Berries

I was looking for a simplified recipe for a classic birthday cake that didn’t require three different bowls and beating egg whites. This recipe fit my criteria and was delicious. I cannot bring myself to put 1 1/2 cup of sugar in a single recipe so I reduced to 1 cup and no one missed that extra sugar.