happy experiments

The new year has actually mostly been treating me well, though I am super busy with work (as always, it seems) and I’ve had weird tummy issues over the last few weeks.  (Thankfully, feeling much better now).

So, a few new things…

1) I won a trip to Memphis from my work for being a top performer.  I’m not sure when I’m going, but I’ll actually get to meet our CEO and key leadership along with lots of others from different accounts.  Working alone, remotely, is some lonely stuff–so it’s very cool and nice to be given this reward for my hard work.  It’ll be interesting figuring out the cat situation, though, so that’s going to require creativity.  I’m also working on a big proposal to make our company more community minded and bring more service to our workplace.  I’m super excited because I’ll actually use my Master’s degree to do it.  It is kind of terrifying, though.  I have other smaller projects in the works too, so I’m pretty busy.

2) I’ve decided to apply to my alma mater’s MFA program (as mentioned before) and focus on writing as performance–which is basically the playwriting/screenwriting option.  I’m not sure when, though, because I’d like to do a major rewrite on some old pieces to submit with my app.  I am overjoyed about this decision because it just feels right to write and the chance to go back home for a little while is thrilling.  I also have a big idea for my project for the program–which will likely make me lose my mind–but also may be the very best thing I ever do…who knows??

3) I’ve decided I’ve got to do something about my current living situation and my whole self-care strategy.  So, I’m working on that with my therapist.  Luckily, part of this is intimately linked to that big idea.  And it’s absolutely terrifying, so it must be the right thing, yea?

4) Oh, and I’m seeing my therapist again–who is now a life coach of sorts since she has given up her license for a life less ordinary.  We still mesh so well, and she is super excited about my idea and is going to help me get it all together and also help me with the self-care thing and making life feel less miserable. I would say more about the big idea–but it’s been in my brain for years and years and years as this not really possible pipedream that I just realized is absolutely possible–and was fueled by frustrating things pushing me toward more change.  It’s a lot and will require a LOT to make happen–but if I somehow am able to do it–holy cow…I don’t even know what the heck I’ll do with myself.  Except…um…cartwheels.  So, I’ll share more about what it is at some point when it feels more tangible–if I don’t talk myself out of it.

5) Oh, and btw, I’ve been living a PTSD response since moving out to CA…which explains basically everything.  Which I knew–of course–but was nice to hear from someone not me.  PTSD is something you manage.  It’s not something you conquer.  And life change that is traumatic (like that goddamn move) triggers that hard core.  So, it’s really good that my big goal for the first part of the year is really focusing on feeling good in my body and then chasing all those other goals.  The good news is I was aware that I was reliving those old scripts and burying myself in duty rather than living.  (Yay, therapy).  Awareness is always the first step toward healing.  And I was smart enough to seek help and didn’t try to just fix myself as I usually do (yay, evolution).  So, it can only get better…and honestly–even in full PTSD reaction mode–life has been pretty good–with some major pain points.

(I will likely talk more about the PTSD thing later and also the rest of life and what I’m doing to transcend the scripts I tend to fall back on when I’m in a meltdown).

###

One of the key things I’m doing to feel physically and mentally better is cleaning up my act when it comes to food and nutrition.  I’ve come to realize how much my diet can be a canary in a coal mine for helping me recognize that I’m off the rails.

Growing up in poverty, I tend to bank up a pantry of items to feel stable and crave a lot of processed foods when I’m in an emotional crisis.  It’s often my go-to comfort food, but it’s not so great usually because they tend to be things that my body doesn’t thrive with.  I have to be careful because my body is missing an organ, so my digestion isn’t great and getting high nutrients in–even when I’m eating well–is hard because of the way my body digests things now.

So, it’s super important that I eat well–most of the time.  The jury is still out on if I should avoid gluten or dairy or etc–but I do notice I feel worse when I eat food that’s heavy on those things.  I don’t limit myself at all anymore for mental health reasons–but I am aware when maybe I should add a bunch of kale to that pasta dish.

I also recently started taking a prenatal multivitamin (no–not preggers)–which is a godsend because YAY–my hair stopped falling out due to poor nutrient absorption.  I’ve also gone back to Plated–even though I had a negative experience over the holidays.  Their stuff is decently delicious, high quality, seasonal, and pretty affordable.  I just feel better when I eat that way–so it’s worth an occasional hassle.

Anyway, this week has been interesting because I still have a lot of stuff left over from when I wasn’t doing Plated.  I don’t want the food to go to waste, so I’m cooking my recipes and then doing a Plated meal here and there.

This dish was adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.  I didn’t like a lot of the ingredients he had, and I wanted to slow cook this sucker, so I really changed it around.  I don’t have the original recipe, but it involved prunes and chickpeas.  So, it’s the same thing and the recipe was pretty forgiving.  This was something I was going to do earlier in the month, but then I was sick and ended up waiting too long–so the meat was of questionable freshness.  I had originally planned it with beef stew meat–and you could totally do that–but I made it last night with some good old lean ground beef.  I’ve never really made Morrocan food, so it was super fun to get out of my comfort zone and just play with flavors the way I did growing up.  The spice profiles are different for me, but the technique is pretty much my go-to.  It’s a little involved, but  swear it’s worth it and makes a ton–so your belly will be happy.

Moroccan-Style Beef & Lentils

lentils-2

Potatoes (you could also crisp up some cooked jasmine rice if you weren’t feeling like potatoes)

  • Cut up some Yukon Gold potatoes in big chunks.  Drizzle with good quality olive oil, kosher salt, and generous amount of pepper.  Arrange in a single layer and bake at 400 degrees until soft, golden, and crispy on the outside.
  • Reserve.  This will be the bed for your stew.

Garnishes

  • Slice up a bunch of green onions.
  • Wash and de-stem some cilantro. (Or parsley if you hate cilantro).
  • Cut up a handful of dried apricots.
  • Toast up some slivered almonds till golden and fragrant — in a dry pan — keep a close eye on them – low-medium heat.
  • Put your garnishes in your cute little tupperwares and hold till serving time.

Stew

  • Put a bag of chopped up, thawed frozen cauliflower.  Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Bake in oven at 400 degree until medium brown and well-roasted.  Dump in crock pot.
  • Brown up some high quality beef (1 1/2 lbs).  I used ground beef, but stew meat will work.  Do what’s cheap and cheerful for you. You want a decent sear on this.  Add to crockpot.
  • Add 1 quart of beef stock in a box.
  • Add 1 small container (about 2 cups of red lentils).
  • Saute 1 large white or yellow onion with 2 cloves of minced garlic and the stems from your bunch of cilantro.  Use olive oil.  Add salt and pepper.  Let it cook till fragrant and golden.  Add to the crockpot.
  • Add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes.
  • Add 3 1/2 oz of chopped up dried apricots.
  • Add the following spices:
    • 1 tbsp each of ras el hanout, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and sweet paprika
  • Cook on low in your crockpot, overnight, adding water if needed.  It should look pretty chili like and should be pretty thick.  It’s okay if it looks a little like refried beans.
  • Serve on top of your potatoes with garnishes on top.
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