Sunday, January 25, 2009

Comfort food

When I was younger I was not very discriminating in my food choices and I had a good appetite, as a result, by the time I graduated from high school, I was quite a bit overweight. It didn't bother me too much. I liked to study and to hang out by myself. I spent a lot of time reading, and thinking; the world outside my head didn't interest me much. When I started graduate school, however, my perspective started to change. A major reason for this was discovering yoga. I started to realize that even though I have a good imagination, the real world is a lot more fun. I started to care more about the health of my body. I became more physically active and changed my diet.

At first the change was very drastic. I stopped eating meat, fish and dairy and stopped eating food that had been processed to a great extent and which contained very artificial or unnecessary ingredients. I started reading labels on foods and discovered that even the simplest foods, like canned peas, often had unnecessary ingredients, like corn syrup. I even stopped drinking coffee. I spent the next couple of years refining, my diet, at various times cutting out certain foods. I started to pay attention to how my body feels after eating different foods. I found that some foods make me feel sleepy and sluggish. While others make me feel energized and satisfied.

Nowadays I try to only eat food that makes me feel good. It isn't always possible, especially when going to peoples' houses or eating out. But I try to cook and eat my own food whenever I can, and I always read the ingredients on packages. A couple of years ago I started eating dairy, chicken and fish again and drinking coffee. One of the best things about being a vegetatian is that I learned about many new foods. When you eat meat, it is often the focus of a meal and its easy to overlook the vegetables and strarch that accompany it. When vegetables and grains are the focus of your diet, you start looking for more variety.

One of my favorite new foods is quinua. Quinua (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an edible crop from South America. It can be cooked like rice (2:1 water to grain ratio) and had a delicious hearty flavor and chewy texture. My favorite way to cook quinua is to mix it 1:1 with red lentils (which don't need to be soaked) and boil it with salt and curry powder. The final result reminds me of mashed potatos but with more texture and is my ultimate comfort food, expecially in cold weather.

Quinua and red lentils:
Measure out 1/2 cup each of quinua and red lentils, wash several times under running water. Quinua tends to float, so you have to be careful that it doesn't get washed away. Bring two cups of water to a boil, add the quinua and red lentils and stir. When the water boils again, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 min. At this point I add the salt (to taste) and about 1 tsp of mild curry powder, stir and simmer for another 8-10 min. If I'm feeling ambitious, within the last couple of minutes I add frozen peas and baby spinach without stirring and leave the pot for 10 min after turning off the heat to let the peas thaw and the spincah wilt. I then stir and enjoy. Goes especially well with roasted chicken. Mmmm...

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