I started another phase of No Sugar a few weeks ago. I’m on day 14 and so far, have only had one pretty bad day of sugar cravings, but I think it was largely hormonal. Throughout this experiment, I’ve had to accept the fact that I use sugar to cope with my emotions, which at any given moment, can contain a high level of anxiety. I used to think that depression was my demon, but I think anxiety is my bigger struggle. Besides eating sugar, I’ve always found baking to be very comforting and therapeutic. It’s almost as if just being around sugar/sweets calms me. I’m almost positive it goes back to the numerous positive reinforcements surrounding sweets throughout my childhood. Bygones, mom, grandma, and numerous aunts!
So, in an effort to scramble my dopamine release system, I am focusing on other activities that can help manage my stress levels. Numero uno on this list is returning to yoga. I forgot how much I enjoy yoga! I mean, I really enjoy it. It’s physically challenging, and additionally, because a big part of it is about learning to breathe through your movements and stay in an uncomfortable position, yoga has a very calming effect. I’m actually considering going on a yoga retreat later this summer. With the news becoming seemingly worse every week, anxiety/stress management is my personal project this summer.
I’ve been experimenting with new ways to prepare vegetables. One of my favorite veggies – eggplant – is one of the most underrated veggies out there. I LOVE eggplant; I could eat it every day! I found this super easy recipe and had to try it immediately. It’s incredible. I’ve been making kale chips for a while now, so I thought eggplant chips would be even more delicious. I am not ashamed to say that I ate the equivalent of one whole eggplant over the course of a day via these eggplant chips. Smoky Eggplant Chips Adapted from Healthful Pursuit
Yield: 100 Chips
2 eggplants, sliced thin
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Seasoning ½ tablespoon smoked paprika
½ tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper ½ teaspoon onion powder ¼ teaspoon dried ground sage
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 250F and set aside 2 large baking sheets.
Slice the eggplant using a mandolin slicer or a sharp knife. The slices should be as thin as a potato chip.
Place eggplant slices into a medium-to-large sized bowl, and add olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly, then sprinkle with seasoning and toss again. Mix until seasoning is evenly distributed.
Pour eggplant slices onto baking sheets, making sure that slices are not overlapping.
Place in the oven to bake for 60-70 minutes, depending on how thin you sliced them. If you make them too thick, they can take upwards of 2 hours to complete.
I have been leveled by PMS this past week, and wanted to write about it since I can’t seem to muster up the desire to write (or think) about anything worthwhile that isn’t maudlin. In lieu of a typical blog post, I thought I would share a poem with you that I wrote tonight on my commute home:
Hopelessness, negating everything
I was looking forward to yesterday.
It’s a cliché to say every woman
turns into a monster during her time
of the month. But I feel the change,
right down to my cells. Nothing
can alleviate this sensation of dread.
I have to ride it out, like a nasty storm
that causes you to lose your bearings.
And know that when this passes, I will
once again look forward to my favorite things.
And one of my new favorite things is this dish. I’ve never made an Ethiopian dish before, although I really like Ethiopian food. It’s a Marcus Samuelsson recipe, so I knew it would be delicious. A word of caution when making this: wear gloves when handling the chiles! I failed to do that and spent several hours with my hands writhing in pain. After several attempts at trying to wash the oils off, I finally succeeded by slathering my hands in vegetable oil, then washing it off with a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and a splash of dish detergent. Thanks, Google! That being said, I could eat this every day.
Black-Eyed Peas with Coconut Milk and Ethiopian Spices Adapted from Food & Wine
2 cups dried black-eyed peas (12 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large red onion, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 habanero chile, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons berbere seasoning (see Note)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced
In a large saucepan, cover the peas with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.
Add a generous pinch of salt and let stand for 5 minutes, then drain well.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and chile and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the berbere and turmeric and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.
Add the peas to the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the peas are lightly coated, about 10 minutes. Fold in the cilantro and scallions and serve.
Berbere is an Ethiopian ground red chile spice mix. It’s available at specialty food shops and from kalustyans.com.