These days, I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t stressed. I mean, with all our modern amenities, our time-saving devices, our plugged-in technology, most of us are still plagued with a constant sense ”never enough” or “not up to snuff.” And I’m not too proud to admit that I myself am probably preternaturally sensitive to stressors in my life. In fact, it’s possible that I react just a wee bit more forcefully to stress than the average person. Truth be told, I find it downright impossible to cope some days. Oh, all right, fine; I admit it: I’m basically a slobbering mass of quivering kanten who’s totally incapable of coping with excess pressure. (I mean, do you know anyone else who had to quit meditation because it was too stressful?)
It’s not as if most of us can just take off for a few weeks to our spectacular retreat in New Zealand when we feel overwhelmed by life’s little curve balls (how lovely for you that you could, though, Shania). Some, like the HH , play records (as opposed to CDs) to de-stress; others play with their home décor, wardrobe or hairstyle. Some play the clarinet. And then there are those who simply play around .
Me, I like to play in the kitchen.
Throughout my recent hiatus from the blog, I kept encountering interesting recipes or ideas for baked goods and my hands would itch to get back to cooking. There’s something immensely soothing about swishing a wooden spoon over and over through a clear, fragrant broth, or chopping mindlessly as carrots are transformed into mounds of tiny, uniform cubes on the cutting board.
But what to cook? As I mentioned last time, I’ve embarked once again on an anti-candida diet for a few weeks, which means my diversions in the kitchen will have to comply with the guidelines of that eating plan. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the anti-candida diet is basically a nutritional means to reduce the candida albicans yeast that’s present in and around us all the time, but which occasionally multiplies out of control in certain people (those with compromised immune systems, those with blood sugar issues, those with hormonal imbalances, etc.) My personal weakness is an addiction to sweets; sugar is the number one preferred vittle for those microscopic opportunists.
In order to reduce the number of candida organisms down to a “normal” level, the anti-candida program (I’ll just call it ACD from now on) commonly recommends cutting out any foods that could potentially feed the yeast or encourage it to grow. In its most stringent form, the diet would eliminate:
anything containing any kind of sugar (cane, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.â€“plus fruits, fresh and dried);
simple carbohydrates, which convert to glucose very quickly (flours, pasta, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, biscuits, crackers, cornstarch and similar starches, and any other baked goods of any kind; candies, chocolate, ice cream, pudding, anything candy-like; white potatoes, white rice and any other white grains)
foods that contain mold or fungus or encourage it to grow (yeast is a fungus, after all): mushrooms, peanuts, cashews, melons, cheeses;
the most common allergens or foods that could cause allergic responses (which trigger the yeast): dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy foods;
foods that are fermented or might encourage fermentation (on which yeast feeds): alcohol, vinegars, all condiments (no ketchup, sorry); soy sauce, etc.
anything artificial, processed, containing chemicals or additives, imitation or artificial seasonings and flavorings and colorings;
pop, fruit juice, presweetened drinks, coffee, tea.
Right about now, you may be wondering, “what the heck CAN you eat??” Good question. The basic list of “permitted” foods is actually shorter than those that are prohibited. Still, there’s quite a bit left that’s both tasty and nourishing:
all vegetables except very high-glycemic ones (such as white potatoes, corn, etc.)
stevia (a natural herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels)
I was leafing through the book that became my ACD Bible when I was first on the diet about 10 years ago (called The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook ), and I have to admit I began to despair a little. Life without pancakes on Sunday mornings? Life devoid of fresh, juicy fruits? Life sans a little tipple on occasion? How would I cope? What could I eat when the HH and I went out to dinner? What would I do when my friends invited me to Starbucks to catch up? It was starting to feel mighty stressful around here. So I exhibited my usual reaction when I’m feeling stessed: I got into the kitchen when I couldn’t stand the yeast.
After consulting with a few classmates currently practising as holistic nutritionists, I was reassured that the ACD diet had been revised in recent years. Considered unduly restrictive (you think ??) it’s since been amended to better reflect current trends in the fields of nutrition and scientific research. Apparently, some sweet foods can now be included as long as they’re low on the glycemic index or GI (which means they don’t raise blood sugar levels very quickly). A low GI denies the yeast its main source of nutritionâ€“glucose. In other words, this time round, I can include most nontropical fruits (such as apples, some pears, berries, or peaches) in my menus, as well as minute amounts of agave nectar, a natural sweetener that’s also low-glycemic.
Scanning the ingredients of my refrigerator for inspiration, the first thought that occurred to me was to cook up some kitchari. This Ayurvedic cleansing stew is a flexible recipe that always features rice, mung beans, and certain spices; beyond that, anything goes. It seemed perfect for that little flock of cauliflower florets waiting patiently to make themselves useful. There was also a lone sweet potato perched on the counter (the only survivor of the Sweet Potato and Ginger salad I made the other day), so those were my veggie choices, but you can use whatever you like or have on hand. The HH thinks this dish bears an unfortunate resemblance to Klingon gach , but I love its mushy, nubby base and nourishing, comforting broth.
The stew simmers gently for almost an hour, infusing your entire home with the fragrant, soothing aromas of Indian spices as it bubbles. It may have been intended as a cleansing stew, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of flavor. One serving of this, and your stress will evaporate, right into the swirling plumes of steam emanating from your bowl.
Kitchen Sink Kitchari (loosely adapted from this recipe )
I soaked the rice and beans overnight before cooking, but that step is optional. If you don’t soak your beans overnight, use the quick-soak method: cover with boiling water, bring to the boil, and let sit, covered, for an hour. Then drain and cook as you would pre-soaked beans.
1 cup (240 ml.) brown basmati rice
3/4 cup (180 ml.) mung beans
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) coconut oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece ginger, peeled and grated fine
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground cloves
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground fennel
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) turmeric
1 tsp. (5 ml.) cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml.) fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) finely grated coconut
7-8 mint leaves, chopped
3 cups (720 ml.) water
1 tsp. (5 ml.) sea salt
2 cups (480 ml.) chopped cauliflower florets
1 medium sweet potatoe, peeled and diced
Soak the mung beans and rice in a pot of room temperature water, covered, overnight. Drain.
In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in the coconut butter. Add the ginger and spices and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the rice and beans with the water and cook for 30 minutes, until rice is soft. Add the vegetables and continue to cook until the sweet potato is soft, about 20 more minutes. Season with salt to taste. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.