This recipe today is featured from The Blissful Basil Cookbook by Ashley Melillo, and has been reprinted with permission from BenBella Books.
We’re also hosting a GIVEAWAY of one copy of the BB Cookbook – read on for details!
It’s time you and I had a conversation about mental health.
Let’s just all agree to agree that talking about it is scary. It just is. There’s so much stigma surrounding mental illness that any conversation about it is susceptible to misunderstanding and miscommunication. But let’s just establish some ground rules, some scientific facts, before we start:
1 // Mental illnesses come in many shapes and forms.
2 // Mental illnesses are REAL, PHYSIOLOGICAL ailments.
3 // Mental illnesses are as real as diseases like IBS or Diabetes – they just manifest through the nervous system, as opposed to, say, the digestive system or endocrine system.
4 // Depression, one of the most common mental illnesses, is not “being in a bad mood” or “feeling down”. It is an actual, physical phenomenon that involves various neurochemicals and hormones.
5 // Anxiety, another common mental illness, is not “overthinking something” or “worrying too much”. It is known that anxiety involves imbalances of neurotransmitters including serotonin and norepinephrine.
6 // MENTAL ILLNESSES ARE VALID MEDICAL CONDITIONS.
Now that we’ve gotten this out of the way, I’d like to admit something – I’m ashamed that I haven’t really talked about mental health until now. I’ve kind of touched upon the topic here and there, but have never really been explicit. But it’s high time I told you that I have depression.
A lot of times, when I tell people I have depression, they’re surprised – “But you’re so positive and upbeat!”, they’d say. It’s true, I am. It’s kind of like how you can still drive a car even when you have a cold – your body is ill, it’s not functioning properly; but you can still operate and live your life. I can be a positive person AND have depression – they are not mutually exclusive.
But the problem is, I was scared to tell people about my depression. I was afraid they would think I was “moody” or just being “mopey”. And honestly, a lot of my friends did think that at first. “Just cheer up!”, they’d say. “But you have nothing to be unhappy about!” was another common one. But there’s a problem with reactions like that, and it’s Science. Science has shown that depression is a physiological ailment, like any other disease. That’s the whole point of taking medication for it – it fills the chemical deficiencies in your brain. But you’d never be ashamed to tell someone you have diabetes, would you? Or that you have a bad virus? Or that you broke your arm? NO, you wouldn’t. But for some reason, telling people you have a mental illness is taboo.
When people struggle to understand my depression, I tell them to think the same thoughts, have the same doubts, just replace depression with having asthma.
“Sarah would cheer up if she just went out more.” >> “Sarah would stop coughing if she just went out more.” (LOL)
“Why do you take meds to feel happy?” >> “Why do you take meds to treat your asthma?”
“Just smile!” >> “Just don’t cough!”
Does this put it in perspective for you?
In case it doesn’t, let me drive it home one more time: Depression is just as real of a biological ailment as asthma. It’s science. It’s true, it’s been established empirically, it’s a fact, whether you agree with it or not.
But still, the stigma is there.
Enter in Ashley Melillo. She’s the author of The Blissful Basil Cookbook, a wonderful human being, and a ray of sunshine. She also suffers from anxiety. And she’s also the one who inspired me to speak out.
Her cookbook isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a memoir of her struggle with anxiety, and how she treated her illness holistically through diet and exercise (a highly underutilized treatment for so many medical conditions). If you read her book, I guarantee that Ashley will make you feel EMPOWERED to change your life, one meal at a time. But more importantly, the fact that such a well-known blogger and cookbook author is talking so openly about her anxiety is a REASSURANCE THAT IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS. With her book, Ashley is proving that you still contribute to the world no matter the state of your mental health. With her book, Ashley is telling you that YOU ARE WORTHY.
(And then there’s also the fact that her recipes are delicious. Just thought I’d throw that out there.)
I’d like to talk more about mental illness in upcoming posts, even though it’s still a little scary for me, because I want to show others – especially young women and girls – that you SHOULD NEVER BE ASHAMED OF WHAT YOU’RE GOING THROUGH. It’s okay to speak out. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to have a mental illness.
I’d also like to send a message to every young person out there who feels alone, or feels like no one understands what they’re going through – because I was once you. My message to you is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
And to my readers, each and every one of you – if you’re ever having a really bad day, or need someone to talk to, or just want to feel like someone gets it – PLEASE feel free to email me. Seriously, I love hearing from you.
I’m sending all of you SO MANY HUGS and SO MUCH LOVE right now. Thank you so much for reading.
Cauliflower Tacos from The Blissful Basil Cookbook
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric optional
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 3/4 cup brown rice flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 small or 1/2 large head cauliflower cut into bite-size florets
- 2 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
- 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1 ripe avocado halved, pitted, and peeled
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro stemmed
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 12 small soft corn tortillas
- Fresh cilantro stemmed
- 2 small limes cut into wedges
For the Crispy Cauliflower
Preheat the oven to 400 ̊F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Add the rolled oats to a food processor. Pulse 75–80 times, or until a coarse meal forms. The texture should be similar to panko bread crumbs. Transfer to a large, shallow bowl, and whisk in the cilantro, chili powder, sea salt, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, turmeric (if using), and cayenne pepper.
In another large, shallow bowl, whisk together the almond milk, brown rice flour, and lime juice until smooth.
From left to right, line up the cauliflower florets, almond milk batter, oat crumbs, and baking tray. Place a handful of cauliflower florets into the almond milk batter, toss to coat, shake off excess batter, and transfer to the oat and spice mixture. Toss to coat and transfer to the lined baking tray. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until crisp and light golden, tossing halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
For the Tangy Slaw
While the cauliflower is baking, add the purple cabbage, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and sea salt to a medium nonreactive (i.e., nonmetallic) mixing bowl. Toss to coat and set aside, stirring occasionally.
For the Avocado Crema
Add the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and sea salt to a food processor. Process for 3–4 minutes, or until smooth. The texture should resemble mayonnaise.
Heat the tortillas, one at a time, in a small skillet over medium heat for 20–30 seconds per side. Fill each with 3–4 pieces of the cauliflower, a small handful of cabbage slaw, and a dollop of crema.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges to spritz the tacos.
Refrigerate leftovers in separate airtight containers for up to 3 days. The Avocado Crema is best when fresh.
I served my tacos with fresh limes and jalapeños for extra spice!
One winner will receive a copy of The Blissful Basil Cookbook! To enter, leave a comment below about your thoughts on mental illness – whether you’ve struggled with one, what you think about fighting stigma, how you’ve supported someone with a mental illness, etc. Alternatively, describe how you #HonorYourBliss – that is to say, how you incorporate bliss and happiness into your life! I’ll pick a winner this Sunday, January 15th.