A Mango, Some Chickpeas and a Red Pepper Walk Into a Bowl…

IMG_3563It was one of those days. Too much to do, too tired from weekend work and no motivation to walk the half block from my doorstep to the local Molly Stone’s to pick up something for Ben and I to enjoy for dinner. It was a “make do” kind of evening.

When I opened the fridge I saw one mango, one half of a red bell pepper, a snippet of jalapeño and a half box of tired arugula and greens. There was a lemon, too. Just enough for a salad I suppose, but not much of one. This ragtag collection of produce needed something to kick things up a notch and I found it in my pantry – a can of organic chickpeas.

I could have just drained the can of chickpeas and been happy with that, but the combination of cool, sweet mango and hot jalapeño demanded that they rise above what is usually a nutritious but – lets face it – a boring presentation of beige. (Note to the aquafaba curious – no, I didn’t save it. I’ll do that on a day when I have more time to play in the kitchen.)

IMG_3564Normally I would roast the chickpeas but expediency called for something a less healthy but definitely faster. I pulled out a pan, added enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. While that was heating I used a separate bowl to toss the chickpeas in cumin, a pinch of cayenne, a bit of turmeric, salt and pepper. Honestly, I may have thrown in a bit of curry powder, too. I suppose any combination of spice will do but I wanted a flavor profile with a bit of complex heat to balance the bitter arugula and chilled mango.

I stirred the chickpeas occasionally – I wanted them crunchy on the outside, not burnt. In between stirs I cut the mango into bite sized chunks, turned the jalapeño into a fine dice and chopped the red pepper. All of this was added to the arugula.

When the chickpeas were perfect I spooned them on to paper toweling to drain. I’ve never deglazed a pan in my life and since I was letting myself down on the aquafaba challenge I figured there’s not time like the present.

IMG_3565Can you even deglaze a pan with lemon juice? Apparently, yes. My efforts produced a concentrated and brightly flavored sauce that I decided to use as a warm dressing. I mixed it with a bit of olive oil and a smudge of mustard.

The end result? A surprisingly refreshing salad that took care of the ragtag ends of leftovers in the produce drawer of the fridge.

The Angry Chef has a Right to be Mad

imagesAs someone who reflexively rolls her eyes when she hears the word “detox” I can appreciate where The Angry Chef is coming from.  I’m one of those yogis who has, at times, felt guilty for eating pizza, virtuous for making her own kale chips, and silly for believing the health claims of dubious supplements.  I’ve watched my weight balloon to nearly 200 pounds on a diet of spaghetti, beans and Guinness and subsequently plummet to 118 when I chose a dangerously restrictive food path. Fifteen years ago, while too fat and again while too thin, I was vulnerable and open to the promise of any trendy, celebrity-promoted magic elixir. Even today, it doesn’t take much for me to fall under the spell of so-called “health gurus” like the pseudo-doctor Gillian McKeith mentioned in Anthony Warner’s (The Angry Chef) Guardian editorial.

Over the past few years, while dealing with the mental health issue I wrote about here, I gained serious poundage. I’m currently on the high end of a healthy weight and committed to maintaining my health while bringing my weight down and increasing my fitness. It’s a slow process – and it should be.

That’s why I appreciated Warner’s hard-edged message. And why I appreciate the reasoned sincerity of authors like Michael Pollan, Dan Barber and Ruth Reichl.

My foodie path leans far closer to vegan, but it’s their relationship to food and consequently to their bodies that I appreciate.

What Warner writes about coffee can be applied to every morsel we eat. Food is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  It just is. And our beautiful bodies need the calories that food provides in order to thrive. We can choose to be vegan and we can choose to be omnivores but aside from an individual’s ethical considerations of eating meat our choices are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They just are. If we choose too much or too little it will show.

We are not toxic. Our beautiful bodies have amazing systems for eliminating substances that don’t support our health and wellness. Gwyneth, take note. If we do our best to keep our skin, liver, kidneys, lungs and intestines functioning we’ll save $425 because we’ll have no need for this.

Keeping our bodies beautiful – and what I mean is keeping our bodies healthy, glowing, and physically fit – requires that we eat enough calories to sustain life and that we move enough to burn the excess.

Our lives are complicated enough. Let’s make living simple.

 

Goji Berry Sun Tea

IMG_2465Stacy and I were best friends and co-workers at Watercourse Way over twenty years ago. We were the kind of friends who could cry together and then laugh ourselves silly. On Thursday nights one of us would phone the other and we’d watch Seinfeld together. To this day the thought of Jerry at the beach staring at a naked woman and mumbling “boutros boutros golly” makes me think of Stacy and giggle.  When I left for Ireland Stacy was the one who sat with me at the gate until it was time to board the plane.  It was 1994 – long before we had to say goodbye at security.

I’ve not seen Stacy in almost ten years, not since I first returned from Ireland. She flew in from the mid-west yesterday and tonight she and her daughter are coming to visit.

It’s going to be a simple salad night but I want to have something cold and refreshing to drink. So today I’m making my version of Julie Morris’s goji tea from her book Superfood Kitchen. Goji berries are high in antioxidants and good sources of vitamins A and C, iron and fiber. It’s believed these pretty red berries boost the immune system and reduce our risk of heart disease and cancer. Whether they do or not is moot. I think they’re yummy.

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To make Goji Berry Sun Tea I’ve put slightly less than a quarter cup of berries into a clean glass container with eight cups of filtered water. I’ve also added a small handful of coarsely chopped mint from my container garden. That’s it. My work is done. Now it’s up to the sun. By the time Stacy and her daughter arrive I’ll have a slow brewed berry tea that is light and fruity. I’ll serve it over ice with a squeeze of lemon and a mint garnish.

As for those plump, rehydrated goji’s? I’ll be using them in my next smoothie.

The Vegan Ploughman

IMG_2458There’s nothing I love more than a simple summer supper. My favorite is a vegan version of a Ploughman’s Lunch that I make from whatever I can find in the fridge. Sunday’s included heirloom tomatoes picked fresh from the vines on our deck sprinkled with the basil I dried last week, a bit of sea salt, ground black pepper and drizzled with balsamic reduction. I added the last few yellow cherry tomatoes we’ll have this year, sliced raw pepperoncini and the refrigerator pickles I made with pepperoncini from the same plant a few weeks ago. But it wouldn’t be a Ploughman’s Lunch without cheese. If I don’t have the time to make my own cheesy vegan spread with cashews, nutritional yeast and garlic I’ll settle for Chao Pepper Jack. Instead of crusty bread I topped off the plate with a baby garnet yam (a baked a half dozen of them yesterday morning to have them on hand) and a spoonful of sauerkraut. This supper is, of course, served best with a frothy IPA poured into a chilled mug. Perfect.

The Wind that Shakes the Quinoa (or how I learned to clear a room fast)

IMG_1346I wanted to like quinoa. I really did.

It was the early 1989 – before the earthquake – and Whole Foods was the new kid on the block. It was a great place to grab a Martian Martini (orange juice with spirolina) between jobs. I was an artist’s model then, and an artist. Struggling but happy. And I wanted to be healthy.

So – in the same way that I believe a new haircut can be a life altering experience, I believed that if I purchased my food from Whole Foods my body would thank me by becoming healthy. Of course in 1989 my version of health had more to do with what I looked like on the outside and less to do with how I felt on the inside.

Still, I was on my way to a perfect life. If only I could handle quinoa.

It’s not that I didn’t like the taste. At the time Whole Foods sold a quinoa salad that was amazing.   When I tried to make the same salad at home, however, it had a disturbing influence on my bowels. To put it delicately, the salad made me windy. Gaseous. Flatulent. And I mean “Danger, danger clear the room Will Fartinson” bad.

But then I learned about saponins. Quinoa seeds have an outer coating of saponin. This gives the seed a bitter taste, making it unpalatable to birds. They also do my digestion no favors. In 1989 I did not know I was supposed to rinse my quinoa before cooking. Quarter of a century later and I am the Queen of the Quinoa Salad.

Of course, most commercial quinoa is pre-rinsed in the factory. But that doesn’t stop me. Twenty-five years ago I lost too many friends to a cloud of noxious fumes. I won’t let that happen again.

Here’s how I make my quinoa salad:

  • RINSE THE QUINOA (for the love of everything that is pure and merciful rinse those seeds!)
  • Cook one cup of quinoa in two cups water (this will make about 3 cups of cooked quinoa). Stir occasionally. You can add a splash of olive oil, a bit of bullion or a knob of butter to youIMG_1343r water, but to be honest I prefer just plain water. You’ll know your quinoa is cooked when you have a pot full of grains that look like tiny, tiny condoms.
  • Dice a red onion and sweat over low heat. Raw onion overpowers the delicate flavor of quinoa.
  • IMG_1344While the onion is cooking prep the remaining vegetables. I like a combination of carrot, celery, red radish, bell pepper and cucumber.

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  • Add herbs of your choice. I recommend basil or cilantro.
  • Dress with a light vinaigrette – olive oil, tons of fresh lemon, a splash of balsamic.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chill for a few hours and then enjoy!

Progress Report #1: Re-Grouping After My Get Up and Go Got Up and Went

IMG_3464I knew a fresh chapter was about to begin when I set my sights on the local stationery store. When life is about to take a turn, I buy notebooks. It’s a compulsion. And last Tuesday it was a compulsion I couldn’t resist. Twenty minutes after walking through the doors of Village Stationers I walked out with an empty wallet but a full heart.

I wish I could explain my obsession with new notebooks. Perhaps opening the cover to a fresh and unmarked white page reminds me that stories can change and that while life is unpredictable we can choose how we move through it’s bumps and detours.

That’s supposed to make us feel better, right? Knowing that we can choose how we navigate the course of life. Except sometimes life is heavy and the weight of it pulls us under the surface. Our spirits are stuck in the muck and trying to move forward is as difficult as swimming though quicksand.

July was a bit like that for me. I was stuck. I lacked gumption. I ate more than I should and exercised less than I could. And even though I made a commitment with friends to revisit the ‘detox’ that my NCLP and I easily completed a few months ago – the detox that was the springboard for this blog – I didn’t make it past the fourth day.

I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say that I wasn’t disappointed. But we all become stuck from time to time. A little backslide on the road to health doesn’t mean it’s the end of the journey. What it does mean is that it’s time to regroup.

Hence the notebooks.

I remember when I joined Weight Watchers. It was 2004 and I had about eighty pounds to lose. I didn’t tell my friends. I went to the meetings on my own. I did the work. I was accountable only to myself. I don’t know if it was a fear of failure or the fear that sharing my news would somehow dilute my intention but I kept my secret until it was obvious my body was changing.

But now we share everything with everyone. And I’m contemplating how it would feel to reveal exactly what my intentions are and how big I’m dreaming. Am I at the point where I want to tell the truth of who I am? My hopes? My disappointments? If you knew the dreams I dream would it help them come true?

Maybe.

But for now I’m going to open my brand new notebook and take some time to figure out what those dreams are and then I’m going to hold them close to my heart for a bit.