Inhale: Do I have time to rush to the kitchen to do away with this mouse before my next vinyasa? Exhale: I may be paranoid, but based on the fact that we have found mold and mildew in the garage and every single room of our house, I think I smell it in the living room, too. Inhale: Yep, this is one persistent mouse. Exhale: I might faint on this next inhale of dank air. Inhale: Gag! OK, let me transition out of this headstand to pull the furniture away from the walls and check for what could possibly be making the air quality in here less than ideal. Exhale: Ick! There's mildew covering the entirety of our large arm chair! (I then move the heavy piece of furniture outside, fueled by adrenaline and a giant dose of irritation.) Inhale: Whew, I'm back on my mat - maybe that blissed-out yogi calm will wash over me right about now. Exhale: Perhaps the mouse will encounter some black mold and make a peaceful exit toward the white light.
As one can see, not all the changes associated with our new lives are enjoyable. But I appreciate the hiccups, for they exist to keep us on our toes, ever ready for the next challenge, and, most importantly, they keep our senses of humor intact and our gratitude for the small things growing.
In the midst of the mice, the mold, the garden, Avie, and attempting to keep some nourishing me-time with yoga, running, mountain biking and kayaking, I made a big decision. I committed to it gradually. It was a subtle shift that ultimately found a glove-like fit in my life, yet I felt apprehensive about announcing the choice to my nearest and dearest, especially Eric, who was raised in Wisconsin, the land of cheese.
The choice was to become vegan. The moment I decided to share this choice with Eric, my heart nervously fluttered with a feeling of sensitivity and vulnerability. I took a deep breath and proclaimed: "I'd like to go vegan. I like how it makes me feel." His response, paired with an enthusiastic smile, was something like, "Cool, I'll totally support you!" I released my breath and wondered why I felt anxious in the first place. He always supports my wild ideas, experiments and projects, as off-the-beaten-path as they sometimes are.
Now, if this vegan thing is going to work, it is imperative that I up the ante on the flavor factor of our food. With Eric's support, I have taken it upon myself to cook meals so satisfying and delicious that he and Avie forget about the absent eggs, butter, cheese, and meat. Thankfully, just the other day, Eric told me how much he's been enjoying our dinners lately. Score! Still, I reassured him that if he wants a cheesy bacon omelet cooked in butter, I'll be more than happy to make it for him!
Why vegan? Tapping into his cynical side, Eric asked me this question at dinner one night. "Because it makes me feel good," I replied. He raised his eyebrows and gave me a sarcastic smile. Such a response may not stand up to a cross-examination of my choice, which may likely occur in the future. We agreed I should be able to eloquently articulate why I chose the vegan path. So, I came up with this: "It makes me feel good, it's fun, it commands creativity, and it's challenging." This is my go-to response for just about any of my favorite activities, from yoga to writing to running, so I figure it'll work in this case, too. It may not be as deep of a reason as some that I read on various vegan blogs, but it works for me!
In all seriousness, though, why vegan? I'll spare details here in telling you that Avie has suffered from infrequent bowels and constipation from the age of five months. After fixing the high-iron issue in the water at our house that caused his issue to worsen, his suffering waned slightly but not completely. He still had bleeding and writhed in pain with tears and screams at any attempt to poo. I tried many things to help him, from dietary changes, teas, massages, coconut oil suppositories, probiotics, essential oils, baths, reflexology, and Rolfing, but it wasn't until I cut out all animal products from my diet, which matters because I'm breastfeeding, and his that his condition saw vast improvements. So, in answer to the question, "why vegan?" I'll add, "because my son is now a happy, comfortable and regular pooper!"
Clearly, 2014 has been a year of entering the realm of new experiences, not just for me, but for my identical twin sister, Tara, too. She married Chuck Morris in July, and I was honored to be her maid-of-honor. Needless to say, Tara and I busied ourselves with brainstorming, planning, and making things happen for her big day, which was perfect and beautiful in every way. Finally, now that all the wedding hoopla has simmered down, Mr. and Mrs. Morris have had a moment to breathe, and last weekend they invited a few close friends over for their first dinner party as a married couple.
In addition to putting my heart and soul into keeping my man and baby happy with good eats, I wanted to do the same when it came to potluck dinner parties, a common source of camaraderie among our group of friends. Thus, the Morris get-together served as the perfect opportunity to enter my foray as a vegan at a potluck. I searched my refrigerator and pantry and came up with a Yam Chili. The dinner attendees gave it warm compliments and accolades, and Eric said it's the best chili I've ever made. Score, again!
Below, I share with you the recipe, which is lacking in structure and exact measurements, but you get the idea. I used a slow cooker with a stovetop setting - this allowed me to saute the vegetables in the crock before adding the beans and broth. Using a frying pan and stock pot or any other combination of cookery will work, too, as long as the vegetables are cooked beforehand and the chili cooks for a long time. It pairs well with black rice, fresh cilantro and homemade guacamole.
2 pounds of red kidney beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained after soaking in sea salt water for 12 to 24 hours
Two large spoonfuls of coconut oil
Half of a large red onion, diced
One fresh jalapeno pepper, diced
One fresh banana pepper, diced
One-inch chunk of diced fresh ginger
About a cup of chopped leek greens (the top portion of leeks)
Ten cloves of chopped fresh garlic
Two large yams, diced
About eight or 10 cups of homemade veggie stock
2 tbsp chili powder (the chili powder I used consisted of chili peppers, cumin, garlic, oregano, and salt)
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp Himalayan pink sea salt
a few big dashes of paprika
a few turns of fresh black pepper
several dashes of oregano and chili peppers
1. Saute the onion and peppers in the coconut oil until translucent.
2. Add the ginger, leek greens and garlic and saute for several minutes.
3. Add the yams and cook for about five minutes. Don't worry about cooking the yams through at this step - they'll have plenty of time to soften during the slow cooking stage.
4. Add the veggie stock, beans, and spices. Usually I like to add spices during the saute stage, but I forgot, so I added them at the end instead.
5. Set the slow cooker to cook on low for eight hours. In the final hour or two, remove the lid and stir frequently to ensure that any extra liquid cooks off and the chili thickens.