purple sweet potato coconut curry w/ beech mushrooms + bok choy
As someone who has a deep love and a strong curiosity for food, ALL the foods, the good and the lesser-good for you .... I’ve never been a fan of an all or nothing approach when it comes to nourishment and “diets”, especially since I do not have any allergies or a debilitating illness to justify it. I’ve always taken the balance-is-best approach, and I feel sometimes that a burger or that ice cream nourishes in the same (but different) way than a plate of veggies would.
But after a series of recent health challenges, including 4 years of trying to get pregnant, hormone-filled fertility treatments, the discovery of some autoimmune stuff, and multiple miscarriages..... as someone who also believes in the incredible power of food to heal, I’ve decided that my more lax approach to my food choices might need an overhaul. Not because I believe that any of the above mentioned issues I’ve been having has been caused by my lifestyle, but because a more focused approach to my well-being could make everything better, from my day-to-day mood, to my mental health, and could help improve my overall inflammation levels, and simply make me feel good. So about a month ago, I made a commitment to myself to go from a 60-70% paleo-ish type diet to a 95% .... because that’s what’s been recommend to me by a number of professionals that I trust to aid and heal my body, and I think that it was time for me to try that (almost) all or nothing approach. Side note, I don’t think I can do any diet 100%, and that 5% leaves wiggle room for when I want to try a really tasty pasta dish (my favorite of the glutens), or when I travel and want to try something special, or when I am invited to a friend’s house for dinner and I don’t want to bombard them with a list of my dietary constrains. Some might argue that the 5% ruins the other 95%, or that it is a gateway .... for me, personally (and I do believe this differs from person to person and situation to situation) that 5% is the only way I can keep it up to 95%.
A list of the things that I have cut out (or cut way back on) include: gluten, grains, beans, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, coffee (yikes, I know), and no more than 2-4 drinks (alcohol) per-week (clear spirits only). I have also committed myself to cooking many of my meals at home (not always easy when you live in nyc) … also, daily (non-strenuous) movement, and meditation (even if it’s for 5 mins), lots and lots and lots of water, and an emphasis on very green, very veggie-centric meals, oh and organic meats and vegetables, always, always.
*** I do want to say that I understand there are things on that list that are very good for you (example: beans, grains, and legumes are wonderful sources of protein and other vitamins and nutrients). This is just what has been recommened to me as a way to curb the inflammation in my body in the most efficient way possible. I never want to vilify ANY foods, especially foods that are inherently good for you. This is just what has been working for me personally, at this moment in my journey. It will likely not be good for everyone. And, I am also certain this is going to change and evolve quite a bit for me over time. I just wanted to make sure that was clear.
My ethos of: food is healing, and my rebellious self have been at odds for years. While I’ve always believed that food is a powerful tool to both heal and make you feel great, I struggle with a strong desire to feed myself what I want whenever I want it. Sometimes that means I eat really well, sometime that gives me permission to eat and drink with careless abandon.... knowing that I can clean up my act with no issues once I decided that my binge was over. The problem with that is.... I’m constantly on a roller coaster, feeling high and good one day and low and sluggish, and sometimes even in pain, the next.
I also struggle with the fact that many of the people that I am around and who I eat with don’t have the same issues that I do. Many don’t have autoimmune conditions, they haven't been told they have abnormal amount of inflammation in their bodies, they don’t wake up with pain after days of not eating well, and they haven’t had miscarriage after miscarriage with no explanation. Also, these things can be easy for me to ignore because I can get out bed every morning, I can workout, and do the things I need to do to get through my day just fine. So, for a while it was challenging for me justify to myself that I needed a more dramatic overhaul than most. It’s not an easy thing to face or convince yourself of, especially for me, who eats well most of the time. Why is it that I need so much more care and attention than others?!?! So, I started to think of human bodies as similar to plants. Some plants need more light, and water, some are very low-maintenance and can thrive on very little care and attention ...... I very much fall in the former category. I need to give my body a lot more care and attention than most in order to really thrive.
After a month or so of this new approach to my well-being, I am happy to report that it has made a huge difference, and that I feel amazing. What they say is true. My sleep has improved, my moods are more stable, and the nagging pains that I sometimes experience have have disappeared. Those changes are enough to have convinced me that this is really working for me. This lifestyle is one that I can really thrive on. I contribute a lot of my personal success over this past month to the fact that instead of looking at this as I am restricting myself and taking away my ability to eat what I want when I want it (which is usually how I look at these things), to thinking about this as I am making good choices for myself to be the healthiest, best version of me, and in return I feel so much more balanced, which is a huge a reward in itself. I’m also trying to stay focused on all the wonderful, delicious things I DO get to eat (like this gorgeous purple sweet potato coconut curry!) instead of things I do not.
It feels really good to write about all of this here. For the past year or so, this bumpy road I’ve been on has taken such a toll on me and my bandwidth to write and to create, or even on some days, deal with much else outside the ups and downs of my health and fertility. Between so many drs appts, and the mental roller coaster of one day celebrating, and the next day dealing with disappointment, and running over and over in my head what could be wrong with me.... its a full-time job on your emotions. When going through something like this, it also becomes increasingly hard to share content that might otherwise seem frivolous .... I was struggling to find a way to create and share again, and I felt like I needed to give greater meaning and purpose to my work. Recently, by taking control of my health, for myself, and for no one or nothing else, it has given me back some power and taken away that uninspired fog of helplessness that’s been hanging over me for so long. I feel better, I think more clearly, and if being a little healthier has helped me, then maybe I can now pass some of what I have learned on and help someone else.... at the very least to share a more human side to both food and life. We all have struggles and battles we are facing, and food is both a great connector, and a great healer.
I haven’t decided yet if there is a need or if I want to share more details of my fertility journey here. Sharing this much was not easy for me, and not something I ever saw myself doing, but recently it felt like something I couldn’t not do in order to move forward. For better or worse, I do now have SO much information on the subject to share, so if you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will respond to all. And, based on conversations from here on, maybe I’ll start a separate blog or continue with some occasional updates here.
What I will be sharing is the same, health-forward recipes that are (as always) both nourishing AND delicious. I will also be sharing some more of my beauty and household products that are natural and/or homemade, since I believe that has contributed to a huge shift in the long-term improvement of my well-being. If there is anything else you would like me to share, I would love to hear it, so please send me an email at: email@example.com.
I also want to send a thank you to my friend Sherry, over at www.withfoodandlove.com for her recent post that inspired the push I needed to come back, to create again and be more open here. Thank you, Sherry.
Now let’s go make and eat some delicious purple sweet potato curry!!
purple sweet potato coconut curry with beech mushroom + bok choy
Recently I’ve been all about the Thai / Southeast Asian flavors, mainly bright curries with aromatic spices that are as flavorful as they are easy to throw together. Since the spring vegetables have yet to arrive, I am making the best of the last of the winter veggies and using things like purple sweet potatoes to add a bit of color to my meals. This curry is very easy to throw together, and requires little time and just one large pot. The veggies here can easily be interchanged, for example, if you can’t find purple potato, any kind of sweet potato will work. Also, any kind of green such as spinach or swiss chard could sub for bok choy, and the more readily found shiitake or button mushrooms would work to replace the more rare beech mushroom.
3 tablespoons of ghee, or a neutral high-heat oil such as avocado oil
1 red onion, sliced
3-4 scallions, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1” piece of ginger, peeled and mined
3 medium-sized purple or regular sweet potatoes, diced
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of coriander
a pinch of cayenne (optional)
13.5oz can of coconut milk (full-fat)
8oz of beech (or shiitake or button) mushroom, sliced lengthwise
2 large handfuls of greens such as bok choy, spinach, or chard
1/2 a lime, juiced
optional toppings: the reserved green parts of the scallion, and some chopped herbs such as cilantro, mint, and/or basil, sesame seeds
Heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion, white white and light green parts of the scallion (reserving the green parts), garlic, and ginger and sauté while stirring for 2 minutes until fragrant and the onion is softened. Add the potatoes, salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and lower the heat just slightly (you don’t want the garlic or onions to burn), and then cook the potatoes while stirring often, for about 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Add the coconut milk and mushrooms and simmer on low heat for about 30-45 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. When you’re getting close to serving, add the greens and the lime juice and simmer until the green are wilted, and serve soon after. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with the green part of the scallions and any other toppings you like. This will keep for 5 or so days in an air-tight container in the fridge, and it also freezes well (for up to 3 months). Enjoy!