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Claire Houston celebrates the center’s birthday with a grain-free cake. Courtesy photo.




Healing Foods & Potluck Study Group

When: Wednesday, Dec. 9, from 6:15 to 8 p.m.
Where: Women Supporting Women Center, 111 Water St., Exeter
Cost: $20 for non-members, $15 for members. Bring a potluck item.
Visit: wswcenter.com for details about other programs at the Women Supporting Women Center 




Food for thought
Potluck discussion brings healing foods to the table

12/03/15
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com



 For anyone interested in joining the Women Supporting Women Center’s healing foods and potluck study group, there’s only one thing required — bring a healing food to share with the group. When it comes to what defines a “healing food,” Claire Houston, licensed psychotherapist and founder and owner of WSW Center, said that’s up to each person.

“We don’t care where they got that criteria from,” she said in a phone interview, as long as they share with the group the dish’s ingredients and benefits.
In the few years the center has hosted the healing foods and potluck study group (the next meeting is on Wednesday, Dec. 9) Houston said it’s evolved each meeting as the group continues toward its ultimate goal of achieving optimal health. Recently they’ve covered topics like combatting inflammation by finding foods that help reduce it while also staying nutrient-dense, and focusing on healing the gut with soothing foods like bone broth (similar to soup stock, except it takes about 24 hours to boil to really infuse the minerals into it).
“So we’re looking to eat foods that pack the most nutrition while not creating health challenges … and that taste good,” Houston said.
Lately, she and her husband have been fermenting hard cider, which she plans to bring to the next meeting since it coincides with the popular and seasonal trend toward fermented foods and probiotics.
Houston was inspired to start a food-focused discussion group that actually includes a time to eat based on her experience at similar meetings that missed the mark.
“I’ve been to a number of meetings where all we’re doing is talking, and it just kind of gets boring to keep talking about food,” she said. “Eventually you want to just try food and implement what you’re learning.” 
With a number of group attendees that have sensitivities to grains, dairy, eggs or other foods, Houston said she encourages everyone to try the foods.
“I think it’s really important to experiment with how you feel after you eat,” she said. “You can have all the best ingredients, but if you eat something and don’t feel well half an hour later, what good is it? We want hands-on [experience]. What is this, how does it taste, what are the ingredients, and how does it feel after we eat it?”
Dishes that have made an appearance in previous meetings include chicken coconut stew with plums, carrots and apples; dairy-free vanilla ice cream; bacon-wrapped scallops; hemp seed chocolate raisin cookies; Moroccan preserved lemons; simple marinated chicken hearts and bacon apple burgers with maple cranberry sauce.
While it’s not a requirement that the dishes follow any ingredient guidelines, Houston said what often happens is people try to bring recipes that cater to fellow attendees — like one person who made a tomato-free barbecue sauce because she knew another woman in the group has a son who can’t eat tomatoes. Finding a community that appreciates alternative cooking is another supportive aspect of the healing foods study group, Houston said.
“Even though my family at home are certainly willing to try anything I make, they don’t really appreciate how much effort went into it, what it’s like to use alternative ingredients in something,” she said, giving the example of the dairy- and grain-free pumpkin pie she just made. “Getting these ingredients and working with them, it takes an effort, so when I bring it to this group they are just like, ‘Oh wow, how did you do this?’ … They’re really interested and they really appreciate the effort.” 





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