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Life teaches me lessons I have no choice but to learn

Posted May 22 2010 10:18am

Lentils de puy, or French green lentils, make a killer muhjadarrah

I suppose it’s been longer than a few weeks. I can give you a million excuses why I’ve stayed away…but I’ll start with 3:

  1. My new job is intellectually challenging and requires long hours
  2. I’m a little wrapped up in just living in my new city
  3. And not least of all, I’ve been sick with some chronic stomach problems

That last item, truthfully, prevents me from writing up what I’m doing in the kitchen. For the past three weeks I’ve had to cut out all processed sugar and wheat from my diet. This past week I also nixed meat and dairy, and I have another week to go as a vegan while I finish up a two week cleanse. I honestly I haven’t felt much like sharing with you the kale salads I’m throwing together every day for lunch, though I can’t complain about the food. I can eat nuts, avocado and coconut to my stomach’s content, which I would never allow myself to do before because of all the fat. But when you aren’t eating cheese and butter every day, screw it, there is plenty of room in the diet and the wallet for plant fats. I’ve given myself carte blanche on almond butter, and I don’t care how expensive it is.

For those of you that know me well, you know that I live to cook. I read cookbooks like novels and spend several hours a week just planning and shopping for my food. My boyfriend calls the kitchen my “laboratory”. I could let myself get mopey and depressed about the food I can’t make right now, which does happen for a few minutes here and there. I’d rather view this as a chance to explore culinary corners long darkened by my lack of interest, time or money.

For example, I know there is a wonderful world of online specialty food shops which I’ve ignored because it’s so easy to get the variety of food I’m comfortable with in Chicago, and because they tend to be pricey. But faced with a limited diet I feared boredom. So I’m exploring these shops for new-to-me varieties of legumes and grains. I’ve developed a bean fetish. Two of my favorite sites are Purcell Mountain Farms and Rancho Gordo . My first order from Purcell Mountain Farms included Black Beluga lentils , Kala Jeera rice and Corona beans . I got the Coronas specifically for 101 Cookbooks’ Pan Fried Corona Beans and Kale recipe , and let me say that this dish is heavenly. It’s worth finding the Corona beans to make this, I really can’t recommend it enough. The Kala Jeera rice went into one of my new favorite comfort foods, Muhjadarrah (hat tip to Hala for the recipe). Rice, lentils, olive oil, onions, salt. That’s it, and it’s magic.

Sweet brown rice with cinnamon and coconut milk. Hello, breakfast.

Sweet brown rice with cinnamon and coconut milk. Hello, breakfast.

Closer to home, I’m snooping around the bulk bins for grains to replace the oats and wheat I’m accustomed to. Sweet brown rice is a new love. It’s firm and waxy and makes a satisfying breakfast when steamed with coconut milk and a cinnamon stick. I made a batch to last me a week, which I serve with some mashed up banana, a drizzle of honey, and a little splash of coconut milk. Yum! Spices are taking a new importance in my cooking, too. A few weekends ago I headed to The Spice House for some chiles de arbol, Hungarian paprika and allspice. I think I found my new favorite shop in Chicago (sorry, Marc Jacobs). I walked out of there with more than what I came for, including a pungent white truffle salt and a lovely Himalayan Pink salt . That truffle salt is going to give me high blood pressure for sure. It’s all I can do to stop myself from pouring it onto my hand and licking it off.

It's not coffee, but it IS delicious

The worst was cutting back to one cup of coffee a day. I love coffee, especially on weekend mornings when I can sip it slowly while I catch up on some reading or writing. And there was the withdrawal headaches, which have long since subsided but were at times unbearable. These days I’m sipping ginger tea in the mornings. I love the flavor, and it has the added benefit of soothing the stomach. In the afternoons when I hit that energy low point in the day, I’ll make a cup of this lovely green coconut tea from Teagschwendner . If my tummy is being pissy with me, water steeped with cucumber slices and mint seems to settle things.

I don’t know how much longer I will have to stick to this diet, but I think I’m going to continue it for a while longer even if my doctor says I can go back to my regular diet. Just writing this post made me a little excited about all of the new things I’m learning. Maybe I will start putting up recipes for kale salad, because it’s actually quite delicious :-)

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