I feel like I want to tell you a secret…

This secret will very likely change the way that you think about me.

The reason that I want to tell you this is two-fold. First, when I found out my news, I was completely devastated.  I couldn’t stop crying for almost a month.  I basically thought my life was over. I thought the world was ending and I felt like I was dying on the inside.  When I went to the internet for consoling, I found zero articles that were written from the first person.  They were all stories told by someone else to hide the actual person’s identity.  I get it because I don’t want you to know my secret either.  It’s fucking private.  And when you know it, you’re most certainly going to judge me.  The ironic thing is that now that I’ve been living with my secret for some time now, I feel like I judge others a lot less.  Because literally EVERYONE is going through some kind of shit storm at the exact same time you are, and the world would be a lot better off if we realized that.

Secondly, I hate being vulnerable and telling my secret will cut right to the core of all my insecurities. But I’ve grown tremendously from putting this kind of shit out into the universe, so a huge part of me WANTS to tell you.  What I’ve discovered is that when I tell others my secret they almost always just shrug it off like it’s no big deal.  At first I was super pissed at this reaction.  My internal response was something like, “How can this person NOT think this is as big of a deal as I do?! Don’t you realize that my life is OVER?!”  As time has passed, I’ve started to realize that all of those people were right, my life isn’t over.  But there are still very few people who know my secret… Because I’m embarrassed to share it.  And even as I type this post right now, I still can’t bring myself to tell you even though I want to.  I’d love to the be the first person on the internet to tell my secret to the world through my own voice and not through the words of someone else.  I’d love to be someone who is brave enough to share their story so that others can feel comfort in the fact that their life isn’t ending, just as my life hasn’t ended.  But your judgement scares me.  That first time that I see a friend or family member that doesn’t already know, god, that’s going to be awkward… And what if you judge me so hard that you don’t want to be around me ever again, ugh.  (Note that none of these things have happened with the people who DO know, so while I realize this is irrational, this is still 100% how I feel.)

And this is where my heart starts to break. The societal pressure to bury this deep inside is overwhelming. Society says that I have to keep this a secret, but it feels like if I just say the words out loud, it will feel as though an anvil has been lifted off my chest.  But I can’t. I just can’t say it out loud (or type it) because I don’t want you to know.  Because you’re not SUPPOSED to know. Because I don’t want to be LABELED. So I’m going to keep holding onto it, burying it deep inside my soul.

Instead of telling you what my secret is, I just want you to remember that we all have secrets.  You’re not the only one who might be suffering today or tomorrow or the next.  Be a little kinder to those you encounter, be a little more gentle with your loved ones, and show a little more compassion to strangers because you never know what they might be holding just beneath the surface.

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It’s Been Too Long – Here’s the Scoop

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It’s unbelievable that it’s been almost a year since I posted anything…

I started this blog because I love writing… but not in the same way of most people who love to write.  I like to write scientifically, I like to write about the work that I do, I like to pull together grant proposals, I like to write science-y reports, I like to do THAT kind of writing.  The kind of writing that is 100% impersonal, lacks flavor and personality, and will be steeped in facts.  It’s so easy for me to write when it’s not about ME.  This blog was meant to help me talk more about myself, to get more personal, to write more about life and less about science.  My dear friend recently pointed out that I’m an extremely private person (and she was totally right on), and the intention of this blog was indeed my solution to becoming less private. Literally letting the entire world into my life… (I’ve never been good at taking “babysteps.”)

In any case, I failed.  I went straight for the one thing in my life that is super important and personal to me (food) and I made it so much less personal by just posting recipes here and there.  The irony is that I don’t follow recipes. I’m notorious for looking at one then saying, “Eh, I can make it better,” tossing the recipe aside, and diving straight into the kitchen.  I gave you a lot of recipes, told you all about what I do in my kitchen, but I gave you zero content about myself.  Not that YOU necessarily care about ME or the things that I want to write about, but my purpose was to give you those things.  And I failed.

And so, I’m going to give this a real shot.

For most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with stomach issues.  At times, my stomach issues were so terrible that I was the butt of many jokes with my friends because I couldn’t keep my rump roaring under control (yeah, that’s a euphemism for farting).  At times I’d be incredibly gassy and bloated, others constipated, and there were moments of the worst diarrhea I can imagine (now finally there’s some openness).   To be honest, I actually didn’t realize that the way that I was feeling was NOT HEALTHY OR NORMAL.  I thought everyone felt like this, and everyone else was just better at keeping their barn burners in the barn (gotta love fart jokes).

It’s been recently brought to my attention that feeling this way is really quite far from normal or healthy.  I said, “Huh? How can this be? Everyone doesn’t lie in bed awake with stomach pain?” Sounds silly to say out loud, I know…  So two weeks ago, I started on a journey to figure out what the triggers are for my digestive issues by starting a low FODMAP diet (WTH is that, you ask? Google it, I say).  UGH.  The word “diet” shatters my freaking heart into tiny pieces because to me it actually spells “restriction.”  (A little more irony for the pot: I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years – but that’s another story.)  I didn’t want to go on a DIET… I didn’t want to have to think about what I was eating and not in a “I will eat all the cookies and donuts” sort of way (maybe sometimes) but more in a “I want to cook what is calling to me when I walk into my beautiful kitchen” kind of way.  Food is my soul.  Feeding my family delicious food is my love language.

The thought of starting a diet was a lot for me to process, yet I desperately wanted to get to the bottom of what was causing all my troubles on my bottom half.  I looked up recipes to (kind of) follow, I did a bunch of research about the foods that I could and couldn’t eat, and then I went grocery shopping and only bought things that I was allowed to put into my body.  I also gave away whatever was already in my pantry that might be triggers so that I didn’t accidentally chef-up something that was going to put me back into mega digestive discomfort.

My mind was completely blown at how quickly everything turned around.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel ANY of the symptoms that I had before.  None.  It was working, and I was learning a ton about how non-restrictive the diet really was (like, I don’t actually HAVE to use garlic and onions in EVERYTHING that comes out of my kitchen).  And then last Saturday night happened…

We drove to Massachusetts for a super awesome show, and I hadn’t even considered the idea of eating at a restaurant as being the worst idea ever.  It struck me as we were looking over the menu that there was literally nothing that I could do to avoid the inevitable, so my strategy was to minimize the impact.  I went for ramen.  It was certainly the best choice for taste and also the most terrible choice for my stomach.  The fresh mushrooms, the garlick-y broth, the marinated onions, the noodles, oh my.  Throughout the entire show I was in pain, throughout the entire drive home, I was in pain, and all night, I was in pain.  When I woke up in the morning, 12 hours after eating, I was still in pain.  You can see in the photo below that even 12 hours after eating, I was still super bloated.  Even 36 hours after that meal (I stuck to low FODMAP after that), I was still not feeling my best.  It took 2 full days to get back on track.  It’s astonishing to me that THIS IS WHAT USED TO BE MY NORMAL!

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But it’s not my normal anymore!!!  The diet isn’t forever, and eventually I’ll start adding things back in one-by-one to find out what the real triggers are for me.  My NEW NORMAL is a path to digestive health, and I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve started to shape my eating into something that makes me FEEL good and not just around something that TASTES good.  I really can have both of those things at the same time (who knew?!).

All that is to say that I’m not going to give you a recipe.  Even if you ask nicely.  This week, I made sesame roasted vegetables with tahini glass noodles.  It was low FODMAP, it was delicious, and I felt really freaking fantastic after eating a bowl of this delightful meal (and scarfing it for lunch leftovers for 2 days).

If you’re still reading, thanks.  That’s a lot of support and I totally appreciate it.

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^Doesn’t that look so tasty!!! 🙂

Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic

Oh man I’ve been down for the count this week.  It all started out as the flu and morphed into something much uglier.  I’m not one for drinking ginger ale, and I mixed up this tonic as an alternative.  A little bit of ginger, a little bit of cayenne, a little bit of lime – all the good things for getting your gut back on track.

Ingredients
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup really good apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp grated ginger
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp honey
2-3 dashes cayenne pepper

Directions
Mix all ingredients in tall glass.  Try to enjoy!

Asking the Universe for Good Vibes (and also Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing

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Er-mer-gerd… I haven’t posted anything since November? Really? How on earth does time slip by so quickly?

I’ll tell you how.  It’s this fun trick that I’ve played on myself called, “Getting A Ph.D.” It makes time pretty much disappear.  For the past month, I have spent every waking  hour either 1) doing yoga or 2) studying for my candidacy exams (and by every waking hour I mean I also have hardly slept).  I have spent such little time in the kitchen doing the one thing that I really love, and I’ve eaten more take-out or snack meals than I probably have in my whole life.  Making this simple salad is one of the few times that I’ve been in the kitchen since December. And I’m dying to get back to making GOOD FOOD as soon as possible! However, the end is in sight!

While I did want to get this recipe into cyberspace, the main reason for posting today is a little bit selfish.  Next week, I will be taking the written part of my Ph.D. candidacy exams so I’m asking for all of you wonderful people in the cyber-universe to send as many thoughts and good-vibes my direction over the course of the next week.  I’m trying to stay positive – recognizing that this is supposed to be a stressful time, knowing that it’s supposed to be the hardest exam that I ever take, but that isn’t exactly comforting!

Thanks to everyone (especially my family) for supporting me through this whole crazy process, because I wouldn’t be here without so much love surrounding me!! I appreciate you all SO MUCH! Wish me luck!

Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Ingredients
1 can chickpeas (or 1 cup cooked chickpeas!)
1 cucumber (chopped)
1 large heirloom tomato (chopped)
1 red onion (diced)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 bunch parsley (finely chopped)
8 oz crumbled feta

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions
1)  Combine chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and quinoa in large bowl. Top with feta.
2)  Combine lemon juice, yogurt, dill, garlic, and cumin in small bowl.  Whisk to combine.

I like to stir the dressing into the salad and let it sit in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving, but some folks like to have their dressing on the side.  Serve it in whatever way makes you happy!

Samosa Pie

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It feels as though this snowstorm was a harbinger of things to come…

And if all the storms this winter are anything like this one, bring it on because the first snow storm was super productive!  I made some new curtains, knitted up some pot holders to be felted, baked cookies (again!), and made a delicious samosa pie.  This is totally one of my favorite recipes.  I love samosas, but the idea of making individual ones sounds silly when you can just make a giant one!  So that’s what we did… We made one giant, delicious, mouth-watering samosa and had post-storm leftovers!  Here’s the recipe:

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Ingredients
2 pie crusts
4 medium potatoes, quartered
3 tbsp butter or ghee
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Cook potatoes in boiling water for about 15 minutes or until you can cut them with a butter knife. Drain and mash, leaving small chunks.
  2. Heat butter or ghee (or any oil!) in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, and ginger, and sauté 5 minutes. Move onion mixture to side of pan, and add spices to the oil. Toast 30 seconds. Stir in peas and vegetable broth. Stir together vegetable mixture into potatoes.
  3. Line bottom of deep-dish pie plate with rolled out pie dough.  Fill pie crust with vegetable samosa filling.  Cover with top crust, trim excess dough, and seal edges with fork.  Bake 45 minutes, or until top crust is golden brown.
  4. Stir together yogurt, cucumber and cilantro.  Serve on top of pie.  I also like to serve this with Indian pickles on the side (limes are the best!).

Also, you could TOTALLY make this vegan by just using olive oil!!!

Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup

Food always makes people feel better.  It also brings people together, which is the primary reason why I love eating so much.  I’ve spent the past week making a lot of food, doing a lot of thinking, and talking to people that I care deeply for, trying to understand how our nation ended up where it has.  I’ve heard a great number of people give me their dramatically different opinions about the situation, many of them giving deeply emotional accounts of why they voted for one person over the other.  This has been incredibly eye-opening, and I’m thankful for everyone who was willing to open up to me, even though it wasn’t always easy.

Only a small selection of the foods that I’ve made in the past week…

What I have come to realize is that it’s not as simple as left or right, yes or no, black or white.  What the results of the election do not mean are a lot of things: 1) they do not mean that the world is full of hate, 2) they do not mean that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a _______ (insert uninformed insult here), and 3) they do not mean that we should give up fighting for what we believe in.

One of the biggest messages that I’ve received is that people wholeheartedly do not like to feel stupid, and a lot of people were made to feel like idiots during this election season.  It’s been made very clear to me that many people do not realize that their words or actions may, in fact, be construed as misogynistic, racist, homophobic, or bigoted.  Their experiences have taught them to behave in a certain way, and they are generally not exposed to cultures or religions outside of where they are from.  This is something that I can see in myself, growing up in a rural town.  This does not make someone a bad person, nor does it mean that they are stupid for what they don’t understand about the world.  And saying that someone “doesn’t know any better” isn’t my excuse for them to behave in a certain way, but it is true that when it comes to something, for example, like religious intolerance, many people have only been exposed to one religion: Christianity.  What is being captured in the news regarding other religions is what shapes their opinions and without being exposed to anything different either through formal education or through their experiences, what are they left to feel about religions other than their own?  Of course, everyone can educate themselves on anything they choose (we all have the internet), but realistically, no one says, “Hmmm, I think I’m going to pick up world religions as a study in my free time.”  The world is full of these completely murky gray areas; we will never live in a black and white world.  And the gray areas are super scary places to be.

To get back to the point, right now, I am of the firm belief that the single most important thing that any one person can do is listen to someone who thinks differently than you do.  Listen to each other with an open heart, and do not respond with negativity or contrary statements, maybe choose not to respond at all.  Just listen to each other and hear the words that are being spoken.  Look for understanding, reach for wisdom, and search for love.

So if you know someone who might be in this situation, someone who might not fully understand the consequences of the election, please don’t criticize them or call them stupid or treat them as though they have done something wrong because it’s not as simple as that.  Not to mention, that we are all humans and deserve to be treated with respect. Talk to them, listen to them, and hear them.  Then consider how we might start to create a world where everyone is more knowledgeable, understanding, and kind to each other, because ultimately, that’s what we’re all striving for.  And keep on with your peaceful protests and petition signing because I believe that stuff is totally good for our world too (please stop burning the American flag, though… that’s not helpful to anyone).*

I swear to goodness I also made a soup.  And it happened to be vegan and delicious and inspired by a Moosewood recipe that I love.  Also, everyone should keep eating good food and gathering with good people.  It makes us all feel better, especially given the uncertainty of the future.

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Ingredients

2 1/2 lbs carrots
2 medium onions
2 large cloves garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp grated ginger
5 cups vegetable stock
juice of one lemon

roasted peanuts (optional)
yogurt or labneh (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven 425F.  Cut carrots into 3-4 inch long slivers, quarter onions, and peel garlic cloves.  Toss in 2 tbsp olive oil and salt.  Place in baking dish and roast for 45 min to an hour, stirring every 20 minutes.  When onions and garlic are roasted and carrots are soft, remove from oven.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in soup pot, add spices until aromatic (about 1 minute), then add the roasted vegetables and ginger. Saute for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to combine.  Stir in lemon juice.
  3. Place all ingredients in blender, add enough stock to cover the vegetables, then blend until smooth.  Return pureed soup to stock pot, add remaining vegetable stock, and re-heat.
  4. Serve soup hot with a dollop of yogurt, some crushed, roasted peanuts, and a giant helping of love.
*I am fully aware that there are a lot of crappy people out there saying and doing a lot of crappy things right now that are unacceptable. Those are not the people that I’m talking about. I implore you to talk to your friends and relatives who you might not think that you can relate to right now because of their decision to vote one way or another.  I think that we all have the capacity to understand, we just need to listen.*

Yogurt Cheese – Labneh

If you can buy a quart of yogurt from the grocery store and you have a smidge of patience, you can also be a labneh master. This delightful treat is truly worth the short 24 hours of waiting!  If you want to do it the long way with homemade yogurt, well, rock on because it’s also an incredible treat!

Labneh is a yogurt cheese made simply by straining the whey out of regular ol’ yogurt, leaving behind an ultra-creamy, deliciously spreadable “cheese” in it’s wake.  The possibilities for this cheese are endless, and we have only hit the tip of the iceberg.  Spread it on homemade bread with a generous dollop of honey – yes please.  Drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin and salt – yes, that too.  Substitute labneh for sour cream in any soup or chili recipe – yep, sounds amazing. Add a spoonful to grilled or roasted veggies – so good.

Labneh

The process is so incredibly simple that you’ll be making it all the time.  All you need is a strainer, a bowl, and some cheesecloth.

Ingredients
1 quart of your favorite yogurt (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 tsp salt

Directions
1) Line strainer with two layers of cheesecloth.  Pour yogurt into cheesecloth and stir in salt.  Loosely gather edges of cheesecloth to form a ball.
2) Place strainer into a deep bowl.  Place bowl in refrigerator for 24 hours.
3) Remove bowl and strainer from fridge, remove cheese from cheesecloth, and enjoy!

That’s it!  Every once in awhile when I open the refrigerator, I like to check on the status of the whey that has been released. Every few hours, you can pour out the whey and see if the yogurt has reached the consistency that you’d like.  I typically save the whey as it drains from the cheese in a separate bowl for the animals to also enjoy!