Thursday, 11 April 2013

Salad rolls and Star Trek


I have another new weapon in my deluded experimental artillery of infertility busting lifestyle habits. Recently my acupuncturist did some food sensitivity testing on me and suggested that I give a gluten-free diet a try. (He's not the first to suggest a link between gluten intolerance and infertility/loss, but I don't want to overthink that one, mostly because we all know we lead healthy lives, do everything we can for those babies-to-be, and shouldn't beat ourselves or our bodies up over not controlling managing carefully enough. I for one am down to only grass-fed grass and decaf, dairy free morning coffee; while the cigarettes and daily McDonald's intake of many a passing parent I encounter in the street has clearly not made a difference, so go figure.)

OK, so on the one hand this gluten-free stuff sounds like one of those obnoxious trends of the kind which could actually be the cause of nausea and fatigue for those not affluent enough to enjoy $1000 a day yoga retreats and all organic, all the time, locally produced, bicycle delivered kale chips picked by specially trained, ethically kept, artisan, free range guinea fowl exposed to it.*

 But I love to experiment with cooking; my kitchen is my laboratory, and so I found the prospect of rethinking my cooking and eating habits rather exciting. And we are fortunate enough to have a virtual Aladdin's Cave of a supermarket around the corner from our place, run by a lovely Indian-Ghanaian couple and their children, and where I can find everything from tamarind paste to pickled green mango to fresh taro root. When we moved here I made a promise to myself to cook with a new ingredient every month, so we've had banana blossom salad and jackfruit seed curry, and now I have the perfect opportunity to experiment with stuff like sweet potato noodles and teff flour. So with the beginning of April and an end to the over-indulgence of my extended birthday celebrating (parts one and two), I decided to go cold turkey for a while.

Yesterday we made Vietnamese salad rolls. I initially thought I'd share the whole recipe here since I altered some of the ingredients from that link, but then I realised as someone who doesn't really follow recipes I'm actually too lazy to write the whole thing. (I don't own measuring cups and usually just throw stuff in a bowl, adjusting the quantities until I like the taste; for me it's always like 'a handful' of this, or 'until it feels like' that, so it's kinda tedious to write exact measurements).  I can say that this recipe is a pretty decent one and we were really happy with the results and the authenticity of the taste. I recommend you use not only both the mint and cilantro, but also a healthy quantity of basil (the Thai variety, if you can get it), because the fresh herbs really make this dish. Also, we added both daikon radish and red bell pepper to the vegetable fillings. Finally, in my opinion there's no replacement for good sriracha sauce to provide the heat in the peanut dipping sauce.

Although working with the rice paper takes some getting used to, they were incredibly fun to make because it's very hands on. See? 


H making a mess in the kitchen, just the way we like it.

The rolling technique takes a little practice, (the trick being to top your veg and herb combination with another thin layer of rice vermicelli before folding), but after the first four or five you get the hang of it. The rice wrappers are so thin that the colours and textures of the filling create a beautiful lacy effect on the completed rolls. I was lucky I managed to get any pictures, because they smelled amazing and it was hard not to nibble compulsively.

Finished product.

We ate our salad rolls while sitting on the sofa watching old episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and maybe it was the magic of those aromatherapeutic herbs, but all suddenly seemed right with the world. 

You see?, I tell myself. All it takes to make you step back into joy is a few Vietnamese salad rolls, an old episode of Star Trek, and the arms of your beloved around you. So whatever is in store for us in the near or distant future, life rightthisveryminute is not so bad, after all.


*Seriously Gwyneth, I understand why you're having panick attacks, I really do. I can relate to the stress of trying to manage day in and out.... Oh, wait.

12 comments:

  1. You've nailed it here girl. I have figured focusing on *life right this very minute* is the trick. Experimenting in the kitchen for sure is fun, I have been wanting to play with rice wrappers for a while. Tamarind paste is delicious and great to cook with (I just learnt from an Indonesian friend).

    I also read about the gluten... went as far as to home-screen myself with a blood testI, but I am apparently not allergic. It does seem to be one of those pro-inflammatory foods, and it is hard to digest. Experimenting and varying the diet is never a bad idea. I am trying to minimize (not ban, because I go crazy) sugar, caffeine (I mostly get it in the form of black tea every now and then), and dairy products (mostly butter and a cloud of milk when I do have black tea). I am also all for 100& grass-fed meat and biological eggs. And I am having fun experimenting with linseed, quinoa, chia, sunflowers, coconut oil. But, but, we do get cravings, and though we do not buy meat, chicken or fish with our weekly groceries anymore, we do sometimes eat meat when we go out or when we are at friends' or family.

    Marcela (The celebration girl) has great recipes and is also learning to cook dairy free and gluten free.

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    1. I used to be a very 'live in the moment' person; we were moving all over the place, and I not only never worried about where we'd be or what we'd be doing from one year to the next, but I really enjoyed it! Sure, part of it is age that natyrally changes that (I think), but all this baby-making effort has forced me into a kind of forward thinking, month counting mess at times, so I have to really fight against that by being in the moment, and being happy.

      And for a healthy lifestyle, you're so right that one has to find a balance which also means (I believe), not depriving ourselves *too* much. This past weekend I watched the documentary 'Forks Over Knives' and became obsessed for about 24 hrs with throwing out all the dairy in the kitchen...Ha. The fact is, we already are careful only to buy from farms we know and where the animals are well treated, and only eat animal fats about once a week...I don't want to go crazy while making my body healthier!

      Thanks for the link, I'm always looking for new gluten-free resources! Also, remind me to post my tamarind fish curry recipe if you like cooking with the stuff. It's amazing :)

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  2. Those look and sound delicious! I think it's so important to notice the moments where we think "I am happy right here, right now." It's easy to forget we can still have those moments while consumed with IF/TTC/WTF every day of our lives.
    I've been gluten free since the beginning of December. I did have the blood test, which was negative, but the blood test is not very accurate. And I'm not interested in getting a biopsy of my small intestine-- the preferred method of diagnosing. I tried gluten a couple of months ago, as an experiment, and had stomach cramps after. So I'm using that as proof of intolerance.
    It's really not been that hard to eliminate gluten from my diet. I've never been a fan of cookies, muffins, etc., so I'm ok with not eating those. Some of the substitutions I use the most are quinoa pasta, amaranth & gram flours, and rice-based pizza crusts. Here in the US, we have to be careful not to overload on the corn products because of arsenic levels. Eating out is hard. I usually have to "settle" while I drool over my friends' dinners. Pinterest is a great resource-- I have a board with a great collection of gluten free vegetarian recipes. Oh Pinterest, how I love you.

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    1. That elimination/challenge approach is exactly how my acupuncturist suggests you determine if you have a sensitivity, so you're probably on to a good thing, I'd say. He tested me with a hair sample, and skin reactions. I'd also already read quite some stuff on the link with recurrent loss, and since I was having some mild stomach problems anyway, I thought it was worth a try. I'm very conscious of overly-processed corn and soy products and want to keep avoiding those, which makes it a challenge, but like you I've never been especially keen on breads/cakes/cookies. I don't much care for the replacement pasta, so I'd rather just change my diet entirely. I am just finding I cook more Asian foods, which is ok with me as I was already very addicted!

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  3. I'm so glad you had a moment of peace, in whatever fashion it arrived to you.

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    1. Thank you Brianna! You really have to grasp those moments, don't you? I suppose that ttc/loss notwithstanding, that is really what life is about anyway.

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  4. Yum yum!

    Sadie, your blog has quickly become of of my faves - you are so funny and insightful. And so very sweet - thank you for always stopping by my blog and pumping my tires. :)

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    1. Aaawww, you're too sweet Alicia! I have to return the compliment and say that not only am I a huge fan of your blog, but such an admirer of your approach to life and am awestruck by your story. Your updates on J always put a smile on my face, and are a firm reminder that dreams do come true! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  5. i'm glad that i live close to Chinatown! i've gotten on this insane cooking kick lately myself, and this is inspiration for some more experimentation (Froggy will be so excited.) thank you so much for posting this!

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    1. Yay, I'm glad it inspired! Thank you so much for stopping by le petit; I am thinking of you, Froggy and your little sun every day. I truly hope we'll both soon be moving forward to healthy pregnancies. Sending hugs.

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  6. These look amazing! (But not as good as bicycle delivered free range kale chips. Just sayin'.)
    Also, totally intrigued by the gluten free thing. Another friend who struggled with infertility for 4 years before conceiving - she's now at 30 some weeks - attributes her ultimate success, after a couple miscarriages, to finally going gluten free. I have long pondered whether to dip my toe in that proverbial water but in evaluating my diet, have realized I am utterly dependent on gluten. Let us know how this goes and keep sharing recipes...

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    1. They were amazing!

      I'm also intrigued by the possible links, and I've heard too many stories like that of your friend's to totally dismiss it. Of course that also provides me some semblance of hope! So for now anyway, I'm gonna go with it...I think it's also relatively easy for me because although I eat a lot of whole grains, going gluten-free is not a big adjustment. I eat lots of Indian and Thai and Chinese anyway, where wheat is practically non-existent. I'll keep posting successful recipes!

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