Carrot and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

They say it’s a good idea to eat the rainbow, right? Well, this is your Yellow and Orange, ladies and gentlemen. And it’s so warm, comforting, and cozy I actually danced around the kitchen singing “I’m awesome!” once I tasted the finished product.

Still working on my food photography.  I promise I'll get better.

Still working on my food photography. I promise I’ll get better.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

2 cups sliced carrots (about three large)

1 cup diced sweet potatoes (about one small-medium)

3 cups broth or water

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 knob ginger, minced

1/2 T curry powder (my favorite is Abdul the Strong, from Auntie Arwen’s)

1/2 can of light coconut milk (freeze the remainder)

1/2 cup dried yellow split peas

Cooked rice as desired (I love leftover takeout rice for this)

Cilantro for garnish (optional)

First, put split peas in a pot and cover with water.  Simmer until tender, around 30 minutes.  Keep an eye on them now and then, and add water if needed.  Drain when ready, and set aside.

While the peas are cooking, sautee the onion in olive or other healthy oil until soft and begining to brown.  Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder, and continue to cook until quite fragrant (around 2 minutes).  Add the carrots and sweet potatoes, and stir to mix well.  Add stock or water (I use jarred vegetarian mushroom stock — someday I’ll be cool enough to make my own stock homemade again), and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until vegetables are very soft (around 20 minutes).  Add coconut milk.  At this point, I like to pulse the soup in a food processor or blender for just a bit to combine, but this is optional.

Add the split peas and a scoop of rice as large as desired, garnish, and serve hot!

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Non-Food Rewards, Part 1 of many.

Food used to be the ultimate reward, comfort, soother, relaxer, all-purpose panacea.  As Homer Simpson once said about alcohol, it was the cause of, and solution to, all my problems.  And… pretty much the only one that consistently worked.  That is, it would work until I ate the last bite, and then the stress and feelings would return, with a side of guilt and shame.

But food is still an important comfort in my life, and will always be!  Apples in the fall, pumpkin pie at Halloween, Matzoh ball soup when I have a cold, Ellios toaster pizza when straits are dire, a little chocolate at the right time… food has an emotional power that can’t be argued with.    Comforting food is a powerful tool, and can totally be on the light side of the Force… when it’s not the only tool in your toolbelt, but just one of a whole bunch.

One of my Epic Battles on this journey has been to quest across the land (i.e. think real hard) about what non-food things I can add to my life to serve a similar purpose: to calm, relax, settle, ground, and soothe me when life is a whirlwind of pressure and responsibility.

I’ve come up with quite a few along the way (which may be the subject of future posts), mainly along the broad themes of foofy girly products, moving my body, media, and writing (hi there, everybody!).

One silly little comfort habit I’ve acquired in the past month is the Weekly Self-Manicure and Official Changing of the Polish (WSMOCP).  I have a drawer cluttered with old polishes, and discovered that there’s something satisfyingly indulgent in cleaning and caring for my nails, and then choosing the color of the week, and carefully painting them.  If I want to get truly absurd, sometimes I do a sugar scrub wash first, or even wear a mud facial mask while I do it.

This week, I was inspired by spring to pick a light greeney blue color I would ordinarily have deemed too wild for my relatively staid and conservative workplace. And every time I look down at my nails during the day, I catch myself grinning just a little.

 

Blue Parfait, by NailSlicks.  Keepin' it classy.Blue Parfait, by NailSlicks. Keepin’ it classy.

 

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Healthy Superpowers

One of the many (many. Many. MANY.) problems I have with much of the discourse about health and diet these days is the rampant negativity at the center of it. Everything often seems to be about shame and moralizing and jealousy and finding out all of the things that are supposedly wrong with you and how to fix them.

I hope to someday have a whole series of posts on how wrongheaded this is, and how to try to turn that upside-down and inside-out into positivity. But for now, I just want to talk about one aspect of this: finding your superpower(s).

Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov, mamchenkov at flickr.com

Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov, mamchenkov at flickr.com

Instead of spending all your time thinking about your weaknesses, try working on finding your Superpowers: the strengths and talents and even just handy preferences that will help you on your journey! Then, you’ll want to feed, water, and cultivate those Superpowers to help you feel strong and confident. Your Superpowers will be the best foundation to build healthy changes on. So try some introspection to get past the negativity and find some things that are awesomely healthy (or have lots of health potential!) about you. This’ll be different for everybody, but I can tell you some of my starting set (I’ve discovered more as I learn and grow):

Nutrition Superpowers
I love eating piles of raw fruit and vegetables. Love.
I love cooking, and find it satisfying, calming, and artistically expressive (plus, it brings out my inner Hobbit).

Fitness Superpowers
I love to take leisurely long walks, especially when I can walk to podcasts I like.

Think creatively! Some of my friends’ superpowers include not minding leftovers, loving lifting weights, creating new routines easily, having a great social network of fitness geeks, and being really fast cooks.  What are your superpowers, and how will they help you on your journey?

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Review: Hail Merry Almonds

Hail Merry

I received a pack of Hail Merry Vanilla Maple Almonds in my very first Healthy Surprise box and finally got round to trying them today.

Simply fantastic! You must try these. I usually don’t like sweet nuts, but Hail Merry balances the sweetness of maple sugar and vanilla with the savoriness of sea salt, and it’s a total “Wonder Twins Power Activate! Form of: Awesome Snack!” situation.

The ingredients are simple, the package is perfectly portioned for an afternoon pick-me-up snack, and the art is adorable. Yum!

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Baby Sprints.

Photo by Procsilas Moscas, procsilas on flickr.com

Photo by Procsilas Moscas, procsilas on flickr.com

Today, a couple of colleagues and I decided to hustle to try to make it in time to see another colleague in the nearby courthouse.  “Let’s run!” said one, and I cringed.  “I’m fitter than I used to be, but I’m not that fit!” I said sheepishly.  And then I jogged across one street and then another, realizing as I got to the opposite corner that I wasn’t out of breath.  We then jog/walked up the big hill to the courthouse and I was completely out of breath, and bringing up the rear.  I flashed my ID at the door, and as I walked into the courthouse after my friends, still puffing, I grinned to myself.  Progress!

Sprinting across a couple of streets without being short of breath is new!

As I’ve said before, I love fitness I can see in the world much more than I love fitness I only display at Exercise O’Clock.  There’s something spectacular about realizing your body can do something it couldn’t before – something that’s a new tool you can use every day to enhance your life.

I can’t wait to be able to sprint all the way up that hill to the courthouse without huffing and puffing.

What real-world fitness achievement are you looking forward to?

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Kayaking

Springtime in Boston is a truly magical (and very small) window of beautiful weather and stunning natural scenery.  Brilliant tulips, crocuses, and hyacinths dot the front yards of the houses on my street, and everything seems to cheer up and start anew.  I’ve been thinking about how best to use this time to get active and keep moving.  Walking in the local parks and gardens has been a favorite, but this week, a different idea occurred to me, and I seized on it: kayaking!

Photo by dbking at flickr.com

Photo by dbking at flickr.com

I have kayaked two or three times in my life, and contrary to my usual expectations, completely loved it.  Though I hated when my arms felt tired after seemingly five minutes of paddling, the fun of being on the water and the beautiful scenery (and ducks!) more than make up for it. It had been at least a few years since I tried it, and I was excited to see how the experience would hold up.

So this weekend B and I went to the Kendall  Square location of Charles River Canoe and Kayak with a couple of friends and kayaked for about an hour.  We were each in a two-seater, and I won’t lie, it definitely helped to have B in back for when I needed a break (or extra horsepower).  But all in all, it was just a fantastic experience.  Lovely views, fresh air, and great exercise, including use of more muscles than I’d anticipated, especially in my back and shoulders.

As a friend remarked, one of the big plusses of this kind of exercise is that you tend to continue past the point you’d give up at if you were in the gym, both because of necessity (that boat ain’t paddling itself back to the rental place!) and the entertainment/distraction factor.  I love exercise that actually gets me places in the real world.  Exercise that feels practical – like I’m accomplishing something!

I was so enthralled with the experience that after I came home, I promptly threw down for a groupon for a season pass!  By my count, I’ll have gone enough times to make it cost-effective if I go something like seven times.  Sounds like a goal to me!

I know where I’m spending next Saturday morning, anyways…

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Why I started down this road.

I started this blog because up until a couple of months ago, I never believed it was truly possible that I could change my life. 

I was stuck in a lifestyle of unhealthy eating patterns and little physical activity, and nothing about it seemed to change for the better, year in and year out.  I viewed myself as fundamentally and irrevocably different from all those people who went to the gym regularly or did yoga or knew what the calories of anything at all were.  And I never felt in my heart like I had the power to change anything serious about my health, my fitness, or my lifestyle.

And all this finally ended one long night at the beginning of March.  But I have to back up a little bit.  My mother has had adult-onset diabetes since I was in early high school.  She let it get out of hand for many years, remaining in denial about the consequences of not getting exercise, not testing blood sugars, and not controlling her diet.  She got sicker and sicker over the years, and now, still in her mid-60’s, is in very rough shape. 

In March, my mother was hospitalized for congestive heart failure, and I traveled to see her for the weekend.  The trip took a serious emotional toll, and in the midst of our family’s crisis, a little voice nagged at me, in the back of my head, saying something I very much did not want to hear. 

Finally, one evening as the monitors beeped, my mother, from her hospital bed, said five words I didn’t want to hear: “Don’t end up like me.”  “I’m worried about you,” she said.  “Lose some weight and get some exercise.”  I was too choked up to respond.

The night I returned home to Boston I tossed and turned in my bed until three in the morning, crying and turning over and over all the experiences of the weekend, and my thoughts, hopes, and fears for the future.

And suddenly, with the utmost clarity and calm, I knew I had to change my life.  Starting that instant, and in ways that would last the rest of my life.

I have, I am, and I will.

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