Cooking With Purpose

Two weeks into 2015…yet somehow it doesn’t feel different from 2014. Not yet at least. But something is changing inside and I feel a new me about to emerge. And she will as long as I help coax her along. For the first time in a very long time, I felt a spark of creativity and passion when I decided that 2015 was the year to reclaim myself. How? Through food, of course. The empty plate is my canvas and food is the medium.

Let’s step back for a minute into 2014. I had just returned back to my full time job from maternity leave. There was a point I adored what I did for a living, but I felt a shift starting to happen inside me and I began to wonder how much of an impact I had on people’s lives through what I did. For some reason I thought I would feel differently returning from maternity leave but then nothing had really changed. I had that constant sinking feeling that what I was doing with my life was not meaningful enough for me. And with a little one, my life had greater meaning – something much more important to me than stirring the corporate kool-aid day in and day out. But I am not built to be a stay-at-home mother. I just wanted to feel proud of my work, feel appreciated, have work life balance, come home in a decent mood and enjoy going to work. My drive and passion were being squandered. I did not have much time for me between caring for an infant and working a full time job with travel. However, there were two things I never let go of and made sure to make time for – CrossFit and cooking.

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But my cooking became repetitive. Making the same meals again and again. Perhaps due to lack of time but mostly a lack of lack of inspiration. I was able to breathe new life into it by cooking with my little one (18 months old and all she wants to do is “cakooo” – translation: cook). She was always on me, in my arms or in a carrier, when I cooked, but at 9 months old, I began involving her in the process. She touched the food, eventually began cracking eggs, adding flour, stirring and identifying fruits and vegetables. While we made lots of tasty and delicious dishes, we mostly made a lot of carby and/or sweet treats (black pepper and Gruyere  popovers, pancakes, fritters). It was easier to have her cook with flour and eggs and baking sheets than over a stove. I found myself slowly becoming addicted to carbs.

Hello. My name is Vanita. I am addicted to carbs

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Research is underway to determine if carbs are truly addictive, but like sweets, the more we eat, the more we crave. Oh, and that glass of wine…oh that glass of wine after a long difficult day of work. I was (ummm, am) addicted to that.

Sugar and carbs (and alcohol). My downfalls. There was a time, pre-baby that my willpower was as strong as a Clydesdale, pulling me away from all the temptations around me. My tongue was trained to appreciate the purity and richness of flavor in California vegetables as well as good clean food. I didn’t need sweets. But I had lost my way.

Ok. Back to 2015. Work is work – that will not change, for now at least (I know some of it is on me – I need to change my attitude and perspective and not care so much about it). But the little one is growing up and becoming more independent – and when she is with me, she is able to help me out in the kitchen more. I felt like it was time to seek out my old friend, Will Power, to help me take control of my diet again. And lucky me, my CrossFit gym is offering a program with personalized nutrition and guidance based on whole foods…something like the Whole30 program.

Easy. I can do this.

Except I have never done these challenges in the past for one specific reason. Vanita is a Vegetarian. Sure I eat eggs, but I also get my protein and nutrition from quinoa, legumes, grains, dairy (I am married to a Frenchman, cheese is everywhere). These make up a core part of my diet. What would I eat?

The program begins tomorrow. Last night, sat night I was working until 10 pm when it hit me that Monday I was no longer going to be able to eat the food I love. I then realized how I used food as comfort and had a mini panic attack. What was I going to eat? The scientist that I am, I immediately started to do some research – there are a bunch of people on the interwebs that are vegetarian and stick to a paleo/whole30 type diet, I was sure I would be able to create a meal plan without a problem.

How wrong I was. There are a lot of people out there talking about it, making a few suggestions here and there, but not real meals. The few meals I did see made me want to cry – sauteed broccoli, a handful of cashews, and a kefir water smoothie. I am a human vegetarian. I am not a rabbit. Feed me spiced, diced, flavored good food.

So here we finally are. The purpose of the blog. Purposeful cooking. Piecing together bits and pieces of different recipes, improvising and a trip to Erewhon have given me a way to reclaim myself and find that spice in life again. I will chronicle my way through this program of whole foods and post my recipes and how I feel. I will provide substitutions I made, and brands I use when using different items. I hope this blog will help other veggies and non-veggies find inspiration and excitement in the food they eat.

I have the support of people from my gym who will do the program with me, but as far as I know, I am the only vegetarian, so at times it will be difficult to find my way because I won’t be able to cook what they do. And my husband is extremely supportive, but he is not doing the program. So my house is full of the tasty, delicious, good-for-you-not-so-good-for-you foods I can’t partake in. Expect mistakes, slip-ups, set backs along my journey for I am human (not a rabbit, though I am sure they make many mistakes).

My journey begins tomorrow. Although really, it began today. Sunday is my day to prep and plan. My Monday’s begin with a 5:30 AM with a workout, rushing home to feed and drop the little one at day care, then to work where I eat at my desk on the phone, then rushing home to spend time with my little one before she falls asleep. If I don’t plan, there is no chance I will eat well.

So I spent all day today cooking for the week. Luckily I had the help of a little chef.kale

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