Colleen Grayling Trees




You may be surprised to find recipes in my A Horse In My House Blog. But, I know from experience that most horse owners run double-time to blend their horse(s) with their families, outside careers, and other interests. We need healthy meals that are quick and easy. Riders who are still in the saddle well into their seventies and eighties made a conscious decision to eat well years earlier. The following will explain why good foods became so important to me. At the end, you will find a couple simple support pieces. And, you will find super simple, super quick, super healthy meal ideas in my Blogs.

In Hawaii in 1998. Gary was on his way to Papua New Guinea and I was on my way home to launch the American Association of Riding Schools.

In 1998, while my biologist husband was on a research trip to Papua New Guinea, I rolled over in bed, rearranged a breast to become more comfortable, and felt a lump. I am not suggesting you skip mammograms. I am just saying that is how I found stage three cancer in my right breast. Today, I am healthy, albeit flat-chested. This website is not about sickness - it is about benevolent horsemanship - but, you cannot be kind toward others, or toward your horse, until you are kind toward yourself. I will not describe my particular surgical and follow-up procedures because every person is different, and research has advanced over the past twenty years. Suffice to say, the experience served as an epiphany for me.

1998-2001 - Between my first and second mastectomies, Stormy and I spent much time riding out alone. You can see my teal chemo cover under my helmet.

It started with a cassette tape by oncologist Bernie Siegel who, at the time, was with Cancer Treatment Centers of America. A close friend gave me the tape while I was in chemotherapy after my first mastectomy. I remember listening to it, under advice from my own oncologist, while walking on a treadmill in my basement. Dr. Siegel described a woman who was living with a serious unresolved relational issue. At the conclusion of her chemo and radiation therapy, he told her that, if she did not fix her relationship with her significant other, her cancer would return. Upon meeting her again two years later, he asked whether she had resolved her problem. She told him that it would be easier to die than to deal with the potential consequences that she might face if she attempted the fix. And, so she died.

2001 - Gary and I were (and are) great travel buddies - but marriages happen at home.

Two years after my right mastectomy, I entered a period where I was so tired I could hardly get through the day. Blood tests showed nothing abnormal. But, during the follow-up appointment, the doctor who had performed the blood draw said something like, "I remember your saying you had left your twenty-year job at the university, and then retired your horse program, and now you are working on a business project in a basement office. I think you are suffering from isolation." (a.k.a. depression)

1999 - A photo of me typing the operating manual for the American Association of Riding Schools.

A year later, I gave up my left breast and, as you can imagine, it triggered the memory of the Siegel cassette tape and the conversation with his patient who died. She was not just a character in a story. She was a real woman somewhere in the United States. It would be worthy if she could know that she possibly saved my life - and maybe the lives of dozens or hundreds of other women, too.

I would like to say I came away from that second mastectomy with an immediate about-face - walking clearly into the future. But, you would know I was lying. Still, when I was totally chemo-bald, I separated from my husband.

2002 - This photo was taken when I received a national horse industry marketing award, after my second mastectomy and two days after separating from my husband. Oh, what a smile can hide.

Ten months and two marriage counselors later, he moved back home. Over the next fifteen-plus years, we have worked hard to make sure we do not fall back into old relationship patterns. We are still working on it today; but I would rate our relationship in the top twenty-percent of marriages. You might think that is a pretty cynical view of marriage as an institution but, well, I believe the dominance and/or friendship we share with our horses are shaped largely from our human relationships - and I see a lot of dominance/trust issues playing out in barns across the county.

With my first horse, King. Before dating, marriages, and male supervisors shaped me, I was already indoctrinated to submit to a male social hierarchy. I eventually learned to distrust those men who were supposedly my friends and mentors.

Misguided beliefs are horribly difficult to change. Patterns of behavior are not just between marital partners. They bleed into us from our parents when we are young. They drain by osmosis into our children and step-children. We sometimes see them playing out between our kids and their spouses, and their children. After all, people tend to be attracted to those with whom they are subliminally familiar - same patterns in different bodies. This is why we have to make an eyes-wide-open, about-face decision if we want life to be better.

For my husband and I, the first step in the right direction was the second of those two therapists, nearly two decades ago, who spent just five one-hour sessions with us. He was a really up-front kind of guy who offered surprisingly honest commentary. He challenged our opinions on particular topics and told us where our thinking was just plain wrong. Since then, we have read a fair number of books that have served the same purpose - aloud, together. So, no, it did not happen over night. But, it happened.


With regard to the patient who died, Dr. Siegel was alluding to psychosomatic illness. When we married thirty-five years ago, my academic biologist husband referred to psychology as the soft science. At the time, I happened to be the university's psychology departmental secretary, and I said that psychology was just biology that had not yet been discovered. I belong to that group of people who believe that the root of disease is dis-ease. When there is an emotional discomfort in our life that we, for whatever reason, are incapable of expressing and/or fixing, the stress settles somewhere in our body. Where it lands depends on the emotional source of the stress. It was forever believed that stress causes stomach ulcers - until researchers discovered that ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection. Silly, lay people, they said. But, a healthy body's immune system will ward off infections unless there is a reason for not doing so. The fact that the bacteria was discovered does not change the fact that unresolved issues stress the immune system.

2015 - A real trust test for me

There is an entire body of research related to mind-body associations to illness. Psychosomatic is defined as relating to a physical disorder that is caused by or notably influenced by emotional factors. These days, when I or someone I know is ill or in pain, I reach for my Louise Hay book, while my husband rolls his eyes and thinks Sunday newspaper astrology. But, I will tell you that little book, HEAL YOUR BODY A-Z: The Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Way to Overcome Them by Louise L. Hay is spot-on. When you look up a trigger such as  bunions or incontinence and read the one-sentence probable cause, you cannot help but think, how can she know this? How many hundreds of years of observations of millions of people (in the Far East?) were collected and compiled in order to formulate these mind-body associations?

2015 - The older I get, the younger I want to grow.

So, what does this have to do with fast, easy, and healthy food preps that will keep me in the saddle until I am ninety-five? In 2002, my oncologist told me to stop eating simple sugars and animal products, especially red meat. But, I did not listen. I was the kid who grew up waiting tables in my mom's pizzeria. I was the teenager who boasted that I could down TWO Whoppers, double fries and a chocolate malt without a burp. I was the married woman that said every vacation picnic should be comprised of bananas, Chip Ahoy cookies, and Ruffles potato chips for breakfast; and hard sausage and Colby cheese for lunch. To this day, I cannot sit quietly for more than two minutes without thinking of food. If my brain is not engaged, my body is.

2016 - Sara has a food thing, too!

But, as you know, during the past decade we have been near-literally bombarded with research findings related to the adverse affects of meat and meat production on the welfare of our bodies, the environment and, of course, on the animals themselves. With each book, with each magazine, newspaper, and online article, with each television documentary, and with each undercover animal housing and slaughter video, my oncologist's advice settles deeper in my psyche.

1994 - I am the middle of six. We lost Diane to ALS when she was 57 and Theresa to Diabetes when she was 62. Way too young.

All those highly publicized findings were solidified by watching my sister's husband die a slow, gruesome diabetic death. His dialysis was way so much worse than my two six-month-long rounds of chemotherapy. For fifteen years, their house reeked of illness. And, as astonishing as it may sound, for all those years of watching her husband rot away - literally - my sister was not able to change her own habits. He had been a career Navy cook and could not imagine breakfast without two meats. She was a Taste of Homes hobbyist and graced the entire family with the best potluck dishes and Thanksgiving dinners. And, I was the one who drove her to dialysis when she could no longer drive herself. She would thank me for the effort by buying me lunch - where I would have to watch her eat deep-fried fish-and-chips!

Theresa and I making six copies of Mom and Dad's wedding album.

Two years ago, she had a heart attack at the dialysis center and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. None of us were with her. I can never stop thinking that she died alone; while her three grown kids were at work and I was running errands until it was time to pick her up. She was just seventeen-months older than me. My cheeks burn pink and my eyes water as I write this. I am still mad at her for not caring for herself - and for her always calling me a hypocrite because I would talk the healthy food talk while sometimes suffering a lapse in dietary judgment. Watching her diabetes up-close is what finally flipped my switch.

A stir-fried / saute'd base can lead to a variety of great meals.

I am not a vegetarian today - but I am very close. The recipes I offer here will reflect that. The less I cook with meat, the more I realize how truly dirty it is. It is nice to not feel like I have to use strong disinfectants on my kitchen counter; or deal with greasy pans and grimy dishwater.

There is a final - horse related - reason that steels my resolve. It is the huge current controversy over horse slaughter in the United States. Some industry players, including some leaders in many of our highly-popular breed and discipline associations, are advocating for the human consumption of horse meat in the United States as a way to counter their own greedy practice of over-breeding. It would be very hard for me to argue against eating horses while eating cows. They are, after all, the same.

Reagan has severe cerebral palsy; but I intend to be around when Taylor graduates college.

Below, you will find my basic grocery list for keeping healthy foods on hand; and a simple list of my rudimentary cookware.

Dairy Products

I love real butter and Hellman's mayonnaise, Bear Claw ice cream, and cottage cheese - any kind of cheese, actually - but I do not eat dairy products. So, this is where my sister called me a hypocrite because, on rare occasions, I will order cottage cheese as my salad option at a restaurant and, when it goes on sale, I might buy a half-gallon of Bear Claw ice cream. Considering we six kids grew up guzzling so much milk that dad tried to wean us onto powdered milk to save money, I think I am doing pretty well.

The average dairy cow lives only six years because her life is so difficult. Laws are s-l-o-w-l-y changing to make it illegal to chain, drag, and hoist a live, crippled dairy cow - a "downer" - across the dairy lot and up into a slaughter-bound truck - but who is around to monitor? It makes me dizzy to imagine the pain. Cows' babies are no different than our babies, except that they are taken from their mothers at birth to suffer their own short and desolate lives. Aside from crippling pain caused from carrying too many babies and too much milk on too much pavement, not all dairy cows are kept as sanitary as the state Dairy Councils advertise on television. I lived next to an eighty-cow dairy farm during my first marriage. What I thought was three feet of dirt between the two barns was actually manure that was back-hoed out twice annually. Those poor women were always up to their knees in manure - nipples dragging. All of the factory farm diseases we hear about - chicken and swine flu, mad cow, whatever, are caused because animals are forced to live in their own filth. They are filled with antibiotics because it is more efficient than keeping a clean operation. I suspect it is impossible to keep such facilities clean enough.

That said, I would like to commend one particular dairy. In 2013, Dean's Dairy hired Dr. Jennifer Walker as their Director of Dairy Stewardship; and she appears to be more than just window dressing. Dr. Walker is addressing pain and suffering in Dean's dairy cows; and the company is responding with reforms. I am glad it is Dean's Dairy that is taking the lead because they market Bear Claw ice cream. I just do not want to live without an occasional bowl of Bear Claw.

Basic Grocery List

This grocery list includes those items I keep stocked. Use the information to make your own list, adding your own favorites. then, magnet copies onto your frig, and take them to the store with you.

Pots and Plates

As you get to know me better, you will learn that I live life on the cheap. These are the few things I have on hand for preparing and enjoying meals.

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