This wasn’t a blog post I planned to write.

That wasn’t a dinner I planned to make.

Sharing a story I didn’t intend to share, and a dish I didn’t contemplate making feels strange for me. Out of character. What I do here – it’s planned, calculated. From carefully sorted grocery lists to the weighing of ingredients to gram scale accuracy. Detailed nutritional information. I hardly think of posting a recipe without it. And it’s not even because I still count my calories every day (haven’t in quite a while, actually) but moreso because I’ve set a precedent and my gut tells me that some of you really like it. Plus, I like to keep myself in check, even if I’m not tallying every bite. While this is going on, and sometimes weeks later, I plan out a story to tell you. The stories I share are not made up by any means, but perhaps a little exaggerated at times. Just to keep you interested. I often play it through my head, deciding what feels right, before I get around to writing it.

Rarely do I sit and let my fingers flow and do the talking, but that’s what I’m up to now.

Because something else has happened, something totally unplanned. I’m not sure what to say and what not to say, because I’ve used my blog as a place to be candid and dig deeper.

It’s silly to think we can plan the lives we want. According to my plan, I’d be somewhere different right now. But now I’m in a place I never planned to be. I’ll just say it: I’m having some health issues, and I’ve decided to take a natural approach, involving acupuncture, herbs, and dietary changes in accordance with Chinese medicine. My practitioner has asked me to eliminate from my diet: DAIRY, WHEAT, SUGAR, and CAFFEINE.

DAIRY. That yogurt I rely on every day at 11am? Forget it.
WHEAT. Low-carb wraps I use for sandwiches? Gone.
DAIRY and WHEAT. Daily ZoneBar on the way to the gym? Think again.
SUGAR and DAIRY. A very-once-in-a-while ice cream or latte? Uh uh.
CAFFEINE. Shoot me.

I cried with the weight of this heavy news. Didn’t know what to do, despite knowing exactly what I needed to do. I stopped at the grocery store because I knew there was nothing at home to eat, and without a plan, stuffed my basked with vegetables. Then I cried some more.

I can tell myself, and I imagine that you would tell me the same, that I’m fortunate, in a way. If anyone had to receive this kind of news, I’m a good candidate. Why? Because I already cook many meals that would qualify under these restrictions. I understand food, I know the value of eating clean and I’m sensitive to others’ dietary needs. I know that plenty of people eat this way all the time, and it’s really no big deal. In fact it shouldn’t feel restrictive at all once you take into account all the things which are safe (and delicious) to eat. This should be manageable for me. Easy, even.

But, at the end of the day, even though I sometimes choose to cook without, I can eat bread, cheese, chocolate cake with cream cheese buttercream. Could. Well, I still can, very rarely if I choose. I am lucky in that I don’t have a true medical intolerance to these foods and they won’t make me sick. But in a way I am already sick. Somewhere, something inside feels broken, and I have a strong, innate desire to fix it. To give this holistic approach the best chance of working out for me, I know I need to give it a full, fair shot and clean up my diet as much as I possibly can.

The tears are coming again, and I know I’ll feel them brimming up through the back of my throat, pressuring on the backside of my eyes, at various points during the day. What if my coworkers catch me crying?

I don’t know why I’m taking this so hard. I know where all the resources are. I have a support system at my fingertips (you know who you are) should I choose to engage. Close friends, and family – I’m sure they’ll be willing to listen, but fully understanding and supportive? I don’t know. I hope so. I need that.

Without a plan of what I was going to eat for dinner (never mind breakfast, lunch, dinner the next day and the next) I began chopping. And here’s what came out of the skillet half an hour later. It wasn’t planned, and it’s not calculated. But for now, that is me. It felt good and nourishing, delicious. I’d like to think that is me too.

 

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Skillet-braised Salmon with Kale and Cauliflower

Ingredients:

A dab of coconut oil
~ 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 of a red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a small pile of grated fresh ginger
1/2 of a small head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
a few big handfuls of chopped kale
small handful of raisins
1/2 cup light coconut milk
3/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
6-8 oz raw salmon, diced into bite-size pieces
a pinch of crushed red pepper
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Saute the onion and pepper, for about 5 minutes, until softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir to combine.

Increase heat to medium high and add the cauliflower and kale. Cook, stirring, for a few more minutes, until cauliflower begins to brown in spots. Add the raisins, coconut milk, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for about about 7 minutes.

Uncover, stir, and add the salmon. Replace cover and cook for another 5 minutes, until salmon is cooked through. Stir in the crushed red pepper, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com

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