On Mental Illness and Weather

At the moment I write this, buckets of rain are pounding the hot cement in Manhattan. Thunder that sounds like an amplified bowling alley is roaring the background – a rarity and special treat for a Texan who misses the drama and majesty of true thunderstorms. Like most people, I don’t want to go outside and get soaked. Unlike most people, I am delighted to be shut indoors, limited to the offerings of the apartment in which I reside. I am at peace.

Depression makes me a bit of a homebody, somebody who needs to refresh and be alone at home after limited engagements, like an old iPhone battery desperate for a charge after only a few hours of use. When the weather is terrible, my natural inclination is affirmed by circumstance and the pressure to perform is absolved. Unsavory weather limits options for activities, and my self-imposed pressure melts away. It’s okay to be indoors, to be in my feelings. There is no need to explain why I stayed in all day, because most people probably did, too. For an average person it may have been the weather, but for me it is the depression I live with like weights tied to my ankles.

On sunny days I am often gripped with guilt and dread. If I’ve slept too long, I feel guilty. If I don’t have a hyper-productive day that includes an outdoor galivant, I feel like a fraud just waiting to be found out by a daily itinerary inspector who doesn’t exist. I do take pleasure in being outdoors at times. My ideal getaway is a peaceful beach vacation, after all. But, it’s the getting home I look forward to: stripping off sticky or dirty clothes to put on something clean and comfortable, hugging the peaceful golden retrievers I live with, unpacking what I brought home, eating something waste-free and healthful I make with my own hands, cracking a book, settling in to watch a TV show I’ve been eager to see, being near Rick.

If rain is special to me, you may have correctly concluded that winter in New York City is sacred. The dirty snow banks pile up and street corners become mysterious lakes of melted snow, depths unknown. I outwardly commiserate with other New Yorkers about never-ending winter and join the chorus of deep desire for spring and summer. Secretly, this time is when I feel safest, un-judged, and mentally at peace. There is no pressure, only justification in holing up in the warmth and safety of my shoebox that sits under and on top of other shoeboxes filled with other humans doing the same. For them, it may be because of the weather. For me, I can just be, and I don’t have to explain anything.

Advertisements

Recipe: Crack Italian Dressing

 

Fresh salad dressing is so simple that once you find a recipe you love, you’ll wonder how you ever bought bottled dressing. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, and everyone loves it. Seriously, it’s been nicknamed my crack dressing. Enjoy!

IMG_2844 copy

IMG_2881 copy

Ingredients

1 T garlic salt
1 T onion powder
2 T dried oregano
1 t black pepper
1/4 t dried thyme
1 t dried basil
1 T dried parsley
1/4 t celery salt
2 T sea salt
1/4 c vinegar*
2/3 c oil*
2 T water
1 garlic clove, minced

*For this rendition I used apple cider vinegar and hazelnut oil because it’s what I had on hand. Vinegar ideas: champagne / red wine / white wine vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar. Oil ideas: olive, canola,  pumpkin. Feel free to be creative with the vinegars and oils you use.

IMG_2847 copy

IMG_2845 copy

IMG_2848 copy

IMG_2853 copy

IMG_2851 copy

  1. Mix together garlic salt, onion powder, oregano, black pepper, thyme, basil, parsley, celery salt, and sea salt. Set aside.
  2. Pour vinegar, oil, and water into a jar or dressing shaker.
  3. Add 2 T of dry mix and the minced garlic to liquid mix. Store remainder of dry mix in an airtight container.
  4. Seal and shake dressing until well combined.
  5. Toss desired amount of dressing into salad and keep the remainder in the fridge for up to a week.
  6. Next time you need salad dressing, simply repeat steps 2-5 until dry mix runs out.

ACS_0002

IMG_2884 copy

 

This dressing is fabulous over greens, but it’s also awesome over veggies (raw or cooked) and grains.

Serves 4-6.

Adapted from Italian Dressing Mix.

Recipe: Falafel

This falafel is baked and hits the spot. Serve it with cilantro hummus for added flavor.

IMG_2641

IMG_2607

IMG_2639

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, chopped
2 T bread crumbs
2 T chickpea flour*
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t coriander
1/4 t black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
3/4 t sea salt, divided
2 T coconut oil
1 lemon
6 T tahini
1/4 c water
3 T olive oil
1/4 t paprika
pita bread
1 romaine heart, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
dill pickles, chopped

*Whole wheat flour can be substituted.

IMG_2624

IMG_2616

IMG_2623

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine chickpeas, onion, bread crumbs, flour, parsley, cumin, coriander, pepper, two garlic cloves, and sea salt in food processor. Pulse until the mixture becomes paste-like.
  3. Using a spoon, cookie dough scoop, or melon baller, scoop mixture into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Flatten balls with the back of the spatula until they’re about 3/4″ thick.
  4. Brush both sides of each falafel disc with coconut oil. Bake for 45 minutes, turning them over halfway through. Set aside when done.
  5. Whisk together juice from the lemon, tahini, water, olive oil, paprika, remaining 1/4 t sea salt, and remaining two minced garlic cloves and set aside.
  6. Add rice, stirring often until some grains start to brown. In quick succession, add the cooked lentils, water, and remaining sea salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook 30 minutes.
  7. To assemble, cut about 1″ off the top of the pita to open the pocket. Add falafel, romaine, tomato, cucumber, and pickles and then top with tahini sauce.

IMG_2635

IMG_2631

IMG_2638

Serves four.

Adapted from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch.

Recipe: Cilantro Hummus

Hummus is a great source of protein and good fat, and the benefits of cilantro include aiding in digestion, preventing UTIs, and, perhaps most compelling, the ability to purify water.* The point is, it’s an incredible herb, and this recipe is like butta.

IMG_2606

IMG_2592

Ingredients

15 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 t sea salt
3 T tahini
1/4 c liquid reserved from chickpeas or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 c water

IMG_2597

IMG_2594

IMG_2593

  1. Combine all ingredients into the small bowl of a food processor, pulsing until smooth.
  2. Taste and add more lemon juice or sea salt, if you like.

Enjoy straight away or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to three days.

IMG_2602

Serves many snackers.

Adapted from It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook.

*Roizman,, Tracey. “Health Benefits of Cilantro, Basil, Rosemary, Dill and Mint.” Healthy Eating | SF Gate, http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-cilantro-basil-rosemary-dill-mint-4675.html. Accessed 01 July 2018.

Recipe: Mujaddara

Mujaddara is a Lebanese dish, but I’ve also seen it associated with Jordan and Iran. I believe the origins are regional and predate today’s borders, but if you have more info please let me know in the comments below.

This recipe is simple,  savory, and an unsuspecting crowd pleaser. The caramelized onions are heaven and the vibrant spices bring the dish to life. Rick houses it.

IMG_2745 copy

IMG_2762 copy

Ingredients

1 c lentils
1/2 c olive oil
1 t cumin seeds
1/2 t black peppercorns, cracked or whole
3-5 red onions
2 t sea salt
3/4 c brown basmati rice
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t cayenne
1″ cinnamon stick
3 c water
1-2 lemons
2 T pine nuts, toasted (optional)

IMG_2753 copy

IMG_2749 copy

IMG_2758 copy

  1. Put lentils into a medium saucepan and cover them with about an inch of cold water. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils cook, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for a minute. Add cumin seeds and peppercorns, occasionally shaking the pan until the cumin seeds darken, about one minute.
  3. Sauté onions and 1/2 t sea salt, stirring often. The onions are done when they’re dark brown in color with slightly crispy edges. This will take about ten minutes.
  4. With a slotted spoon, move about half of the onions to a tea towel or paper towel-lined plate. These are for garnish.
  5. Add ground cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon stick and sauté about one minute.
  6. Add rice, stirring often until some grains start to brown. In quick succession, add the cooked lentils, water, and remaining sea salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook 30 minutes.
  7. Keeping the lid on, turn off the heat and allow the rice mixture to steam for about five minutes.
  8. If using, toast pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat about five minutes.
  9. Serve rice mixture with the reserved onions, a squeeze of lemon juice, and pine nuts, if using.

IMG_2769 copy

IMG_2771 copy

IMG_2776 copy

Unlike the photo above, make a polished table presentation by filling a mold or small bowl with the dish and flipping it onto a plate.

Enjoy this mujaddara for lunch or dinner, as a side, or as a main course.

Serves four.

Adapted from Lebanese Lentils, Rice and Caramelized Onions.