Stir-fried Indian Brussels Sprouts with Black Mustard, Curry Leaf & Coconut

 

This Thanksgiving twist on a typical Gujarati dish is fast, easy, nutritious, and delicious—and instantly reminds me of home. It’s traditionally made using cabbage, but I here I adapt it for the Thanksgiving table with Brussels sprouts. Great for keto and LCHF (low carb, high fat) eating styles. Watch me make it here.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (about 4 cups) small to medium Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds (available at Indian groceries)
  • 1-2 green chilies, e.g. serrano or jalapeño (optional; slit lengthwise and de-seed if you want it less spicy)
  • 4-5 fresh curry leaves (kadi patta, optional; available at most Indian groceries)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 cup grated coconut, unsweetened, defrosted (available frozen at Indian groceries)
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Fresh cilantro, cleaned & chopped, to garnish

Method

  1. Add the oil to a wok or deep skillet on medium-high. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the mustard seeds. The mustard seeds should start sputtering and popping almost instantly.
  2. When the seeds stop sputtering (about 12-15 seconds), add in the green chilies and curry leaves; the curry leaves will crackle loudly.
  3. Immediately add the turmeric, the Brussels sprouts, and the salt. Toss the mixture once to combine, then allow it to cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes until the cut surfaces of the sprouts begin developing a deep caramel color.
  4. Stir once more and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes until the sprouts are crisp-tender; cooking time will vary based on the size of the sprouts. Don’t overmix or they’ll come apart.
  5. Add the shredded coconut and lime juice, give it a final stir, and remove from the heat.

Serve at your Thanksgiving table (or anytime you’re feeling grateful!) accompanied by Keto Roti or Cauliflower-Cumin Rice.

How to make time

In The Big Leap—a book that’s been fundamental to my own recent breakthroughs—the author, psychologist Gay Hendricks recognizes that most of us live as slaves of time. We never have enough; we’re always in a hurry; we’re rushing and stressed and running late everywhere. Time is our oppressor and we are its victims.

After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, and there’s nothing we can do about it, and we have ALL this stuff to GET DONE. Right?

Wrong.

Hendricks proposes that most of us have accepted a manufactured idea of time, and have bought into the idea that we are obliged to follow it. He calls this finite-concept model of time “Newtonian time”—one in which time is absolute and in limited supply; one in which we spend our lives starving for it and grabbing crazily for our share.

But through this modern-world frenzy, Hendricks has found a way to never feel rushed or hurried, to break the chains of oppression from Time the Master, to take control of his own experience of time—and yet manage to get EVERYTHING he needs to get done to the highest degree of quality, including time for family, health, and nature.

The concept he proposes is pretty wild and metaphysical; I don’t blame you if you pause, feel puzzled, and roll your eyes a bit. It takes a while to sink in. Maybe years.

Because the concept he proposes is that YOU. ARE. TIME. That time is whatever YOU make it to be; that YOU are its ultimate source, and so you have complete control over your experience of it.

He calls this concept “Einstein Time”—a concept in which time is relative, continuous, an illusion. Once this idea hit me in the right place, it completely blew my mind.

In the Einstein Time model, we have complete power to master time. We make time. Once we start making this shift, Hendricks notes, we can quickly expect to see a massive surge in our creativity, productivity, and contentment.

I hear you thinking, “What a hokey pile of bullshit.” I’d agree completely, except that I’ve since managed to experience Einstein Time in brief spurts and felt the exact effects that Hendricks promises. I’ve seen myself speak powerful, unscripted, heart-hitting words to crowds; play improvised music I didn’t know I had in me; write unstoppably without thinking; feel deeply and intimately connected to people in a way where time and space become completely irrelevant. I say “I’ve seen myself” because in these few instances, it seems as though I’m outside myself, watching from afar as this person who is vaguely familiar conducts herself in ways I couldn’t even dream of. It’s both awesome and unnerving.

I’m a long way from being in a perma-Einstein-Time state—I still often default to frenzied-mom mode—but I’ve had enough of a taste to be hankering for more. How to systematize it is still elusive; I suspect this is one of those leap-of-consciousness things that you can’t put into a bottle and sell quite so easily. It may need to come from a place other than my conscious mind.

 

Quick Keto Cauliflower-Cumin Rice

This is the recipe that began it all for me. The parameters? It had to be fast, easy, flavorful, and filling. I now eat Cauliflower-Cumin Rice in place of regular rice pretty much all the time, and feel so much lighter and more energetic when I do. It’s close enough to eating “the real thing” — without the accompanying bloatiness and subsequent energy crash.

I generally advance-prep anywhere from 4-8 cups at a time. A weekend afternoon works best for me to meal prep, when my kiddo is napping. I’d recommend finding a weekly slot or two that is realistic for you and sticking to it.

Here’s a somewhat awkward video of me making it on Day 3 of my original health challenge.

Ingredients

Makes about 4 cups / 32 oz. of “rice”

  • 1 large, cleaned cauliflower OR 6 cups cleaned cauliflower florets OR 4 cups / 32 oz. ready-made, store-bought “riced” cauliflower
  • 2-3 tbsps ghee (you can use butter or coconut oil instead, but ghee tastes the best)
  • Whole, toasted cumin seeds to taste (I use about a tablespoon)
  • Sea salt or Himalayan pink salt to taste (I use about 2 teaspoons, I think?)
  • Chopped green chilies (optional; to taste)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems, to taste (a generous handful)

Equipment

If you’re using a whole cauliflower:

  • Food processor OR box grater
  • Knife
  • Chopping board

And then,

  • Microwave-safe bowl + a microwave OR large frying pan / wok + a stove
  • Mixing spoon

Method

To make the riced cauliflower (if using a fresh whole cauliflower or florets)

  1. If using a food processor: Chop the whole cauliflower roughly — including the stem, and even the leaves if you want — into pieces big enough to fit into the food processor easily. Add it in batches into the food processor and pulse the “chop” button until the cauliflower reaches a rice-sized consistency. Careful not to process it too much or you’ll just end up with a mush.
  2. If using a box grater: This method is much better if using a whole cauliflower than pre-cut florets. Using the large holes of the grater, grate the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces. Chop any remaining large bits into approximately the same size.
  3. If you don’t have a food processor or a box grater: A knife, chopping board, and some good old elbow grease will do it. Get to work.

Once you have riced raw cauliflower:

  1. If using the microwave method: Add the riced cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high power for 3 minutes. Take it out (careful, the bowl might be hot), give it a quick stir, check its consistency, and put it back in for about 2 more minutes if needed. The time is variable on this step — you’re looking for a crisp-tender texture, and not to steam the cauliflower completely into mush.
  2. If using the stovetop: Heat one tablespoon of the ghee on medium-high. Once melted, add in the riced cauliflower and stir well every 10 seconds for about 2-3 minutes. Again, you’re going for a crisp-tender texture and not mush.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients into the cauliflower rice, and stir through. Done!

Serve with your favorite keto curries and stews in place of traditional rice.  Store the leftovers in a tightly-closed container in a fridge and reheat briefly when using it next. Let me know how you like it!

Did you think eating saturated fats causes fatty liver?

A common misconception is that eating saturated fat causes fatty liver. Alcohol and fructose are the primary culprits of fatty liver. The French delicacy foie gras (literally, “fatty liver”) is made by force-feeding geese with sugar, corn, and starch. Not saturated fats. In fact, saturated fats have a PROTECTIVE effect on the liver. Fatty liver is certainly something to be concerned about, but also needs to be understood correctly. Again, it requires a lot of mindset-undoing, so I get how hard it can be for some to swallow (haha) this info.
 
Here’s bigshot doc Marc Hyman’s explanation of it. And a video.

 From the blog of one evolutionary-minded physician:
A 2004 paper by Ronis et al confirmed that increased SAFA (saturated fatty acid) content in the diet DECREASED the pathology of fatty liver disease in rats, including decreased steatosis (fat accumulation), decreased inflammation, and decreased necrosis. Increasing dietary SAFA also PROTECTED against increased serum ALT (alanine transaminase), an enzymatic marker of liver damage that is seen with alcohol consumption [3]. These findings were confirmed in a 2012 paper studying alcohol-fed mice. Furthermore, these researchers showed that SAFA consumption protected against an alcohol-induced increase in liver triglycerides [4]. Impressively, dietary SAFA (this time as MCT or palm-oil) can even reverse inflammatory and fibrotic changes in rat livers in the face of continued alcohol consumption [5]. 

Cholesterol is NOT the enemy

“But isn’t all that butter and ghee and coconut oil bad for you? Doesn’t it have so much cholesterol? Won’t you get a heart attack from eating it?

I get asked this sort of question a lot. A LOT.

And it’s late on a Friday night and I’ve got a big event to cook for and I’m hoping my sleeping toddler doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night again, but I will NOT be able to sleep in peace or move forward with the work at hand until I throw a first version of what I know on a page. So here goes.

What I’m about to tell you will blow your mind. You may or may not be able to handle it.

1. Cholesterol is NOT the enemy. It’s essential for body repair and VITAL for brain function. We’ve had it backwards for over half a century based on some questionable science and politics (most paleo and low-carb circles flame the Ancel Keys “Seven Countries” study for this, but the smart-and-funny Denise Minger does a much better job of understanding what Ancel did or didn’t do right.)

2. Your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to function. Whatever it doesn’t get via ingested food, the liver will make. So whether or not you eat cholesterol-containing foods, your body will make sure it gets the amount it needs. Basically, the amount of cholesterol in your body will STAY CONSTANT, whether you eat it or not.

3. When you eat cholesterol-containing foods (e.g. saturated fats like butter, ghee, lard, tallow), it’s a common visual to imagine these very fats traveling as-is into your arteries and spreading themselves inside them like a butter sandwich, creating a greasy buildup leading to a heart attack. Gross, but TOTALLY NOT HOW IT WORKS. Fats are metabolized into the body first, broken down into its components which are then shuttled off to wherever they need to go.

4. Cholesterol in the bloodstream DOES create buildup in the arteries — but do you know WHY? Imagine this: you scrape your hand on a thorn. You get a nasty cut. The body’s defense mechanisms stop the bleeding and create a protective, tough layer of scar tissue to cover the scratch while it heals underneath. If you repeatedly scratch the scab before it’s healed, it will get thicker and thicker as the inflammation underneath continues and the wound isn’t allowed to heal. Eventually you may end up with a permanent scar because of the repeated damage.

5. NOW, take that analogy into the arteries. SOMETHING “scratches” their surface, causing inflammation and irritation; essentially a “wound” of sorts. GUESS WHO COMES TO HEAL IT: Yup, cholesterol. Now when that wound continues to be irritated and inflamed, the cholesterol has to keep building protective layers. And yes, these layers eventually become thick and block bloodflow, leading to cardiac disease (and other health problems). So in a sense, yes, the cholesterol buildup is the immediate factor in heart disease, BUT NOT THE ROOT CAUSE. The culprit is the thing that is causing the repeated inflammation — the continuous scratching — in the first place. SO WHAT IS THE REAL THORN? THE ACTUAL PROBLEM?

6. By now you might have guessed it: SUGARS. Excessive amounts of sugars in the body — which can come from not just “white sugar” and “white carbs” like rice/potatoes/bread, but ANY starchy or sweet thing — will cause this sort of inflammation in the body. This is NOT to demonize “sugar” and “carbs” as unilaterally evil — not at all — but to recognize that in our modern lifestyle we consume WAAAAAY more of these than our body can handle, and our sedentary lifestyles make it so that this primary energy source (all carbs, no matter from where, get turned into glucose for energy) is floating around the body in such an excess that it (a) gets stored as fat which is rarely accessed, since we’re taking in far more glucose than we’re using up, and (b) causes insane amounts of inflammation in the body, which the cholesterol has to run around creating protective layers for — meaning that (i) there’s more buildup, (ii) there is less cholesterol available for vital body functions (hello, lethargy and mental fog), and (iii) the body is using precious resources to keep repairing itself because it keeps getting beaten up and not allowed to heal. Cholesterol gets the bad rap while the silent killer lurks free.

Saturated fats are the BEST to cook with — they have a high smoke point so don’t get oxidized quickly the way mono- and poly-unsaturated fats do (so it’s best to leave the olive oil, sesame oil, and avocado oil for cold use e.g. finishing dishes & dressing salads). Oils like vegetable & seed oils are best avoided entirely (sunflower, safflower, soybean, grapeseed & corn oils) from this point of view. They cause inflammation and are prone to oxidation (which produces free radicals –> cancer).

Consuming healthy saturated fats can dramatically increase your “good” cholesterol levels, while keeping you feeling sated and full, and providing a steadier source of energy than the spikes and crashes from refined carbs. Drastically limiting your carbohydrate (sugar) intake helps normalize insulin response (Google “insulin resistance and (low carbohydrate diets” for more).

This is the late-on-Friday-night dummies’ edition of the science, but it’s enough to get you starting to think about a fundamental change in mindset around health. Consider Time Magazine’s cover story last year about butter. Even though the info in there is far more conservative/reserved than what I’ve shared above, it’s on the same track. http://time.com/4386248/fat-butter-nutrition-health/

(There’s also a link in there to a 2014 Time article called “Ending the War on Fat” which is only available to subscribers.)

Are you still here or did I lose you around Point #2?

A Day In The Life

The photography and editorial crew of Edible Boston magazine came over to shoot food & portraits of me for a feature piece we’re doing in the next issue of the magazine. Chief Photographer / Creative Director Michael Piazza is a pro dude, the real deal, and I had a blast working with him. (Also, his take on me was “a traditionalist with a punk rock sensibility,” so of course I like him even more.)

The piece will be out early December in the Winter issue of Edible Boston.

Edible Shoot 3

Edible Shoot 4

 

Boob Job

I had my first breast MRI yesterday. For those that don’t know, it basically involves lying face down and motionless in a narrow metal tube for 45 minutes while surrounded by what sounds like non-stop, high-volume, rapid-fire, close-range gunshots. With my eyes closed and a contrast-dye needle in my arm. Brutal.

(No specific reason to worry — because of my family genetics, I fall into a slightly higher risk category for breast cancer so this was the first of what will become a routine annual test.)

I requested headphones and could pick an FM station to listen to during the procedure, but was psyched out enough that I blanked on the name of the station I wanted and instead kept repeating the call letters of the college radio station I listened to twenty years ago in Ithaca. When we finally figured out what station I wanted, I had them crank the volume way up but could still barely hear the music above the blasts. I found myself getting freaked out easily at first, disturbed by the noise and feelings of claustrophobia. Like a frightened child, the old, reactive part of my mind immediately wanted to have a meltdown and go to all the worst places.

But then the part of my mind I’ve been working hard on lately to strengthen kicked in. It spoke to me calm and strong. “Let’s slow down our breathing, shall we? Ease up on the pounding heart? We can go on a fun fantasy adventure instead! Where do you wanna go? Who do you want with you? What do you want to do together?”

I won’t lie: it wasn’t instant, and it wasn’t constant. But quickly, steadily, I found myself increasingly able to stay fully present and conscious in my happy place, and even experience some pleasurable and relaxing sensations in my body — which is NOT something I imagine people generally report halfway through a breast MRI. As a bonus, I enjoyed the mental exercise enough to lose track of time, and before I knew it, the damn thing was done.

While I was changing out of the hospital gown, I heard the ladies in the admitting office ogling over a travel brochure and fantasizing about a tropical vacation in a faraway foreign land. The beach bum in me couldn’t help but jump into the conversation, and I ended up reworking their fantasy into a far more practical, specific plan that would give them a virtually identical experience at a fraction of the hassle, expense, and travel time. And the act of speaking honestly with these people helped remove any remaining dregs of frazzle from my own intense experience a few minutes earlier. I walked out of the building chuckling at how, not long ago, I’d have probably allowed a difficult hour in my day color the rest of it dark.

Apparently the lightness of being can actually be quite bearable.

Keto Roti, 1

Sometimes this Gujju girl just wants homestyle comfort. So, my first experiment with keto methi roti: almond flour, flax seed meal, psyllium husk powder (isabgul, yup) in roughly 4:2:1 proportion, plus salt, turmeric, dhania-jeera powder, and kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) made into a dough by adding *hot* water, gently kneading, and letting it rest for a good 15-20 mins.

Shaping was fussy, but got better with practice and to me was worth the effort. I ended up having the best results rolling the rotis corn-tortilla-style in between two sheets of plastic wrap. (Optional but recommended: cut into a clean circle using a knife or upturned small bowl with a thin edge.) Pan-roast in ghee, butter, or cooking spray over medium-high on both sides until browned in spots (about 2 mins per side); use coconut or other oil to make it 100% vegan.

Shown here on a messy lovely plate (because I couldn’t wait) with valod nu shaak (Indian broad beans), methi masala (more methi!), and cucumber raita made from full-fat yogurt. The rotis are NOT a “free food” for a keto/LCHF (low carb, high fat) eating style, but two little ones were all I needed to feel like I was a little girl in Bombay again.

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoon Delight

Baby spinach salad with fresh pear, sour Persian barberries, crumbled goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and an aged balsamic-black peppercorn vinaigrette.

Why does food sound so much fancier when described in excruciating detail?