I’m nestled in the corner of my couch with a large pillow under my back, laying on a towel-wrapped icepack, with my computer perched on a cushion beside me. It has been thirteen days since my last run. I haven’t taken thirteen days off from running since before I began, fifteen years ago. On the morning of my last run I left feeling normal, healthy and energized. Yet somehow between the time I left and the time I returned home I pinched a nerve in my lower back. I hobbled to the door, barely able to put pressure on my right leg without being in curse-word-worthy pain, and have been (slowly) healing ever since. These thirteen days have been revealing on a very personal level, and in a strange way, been a gift. I’ve always known my trigger for depression to be poor health, whether than be inactivity or illness, and the struggle has been real at times lately. I kept this from you all last week, in attempts to bury my pain. But I’m hoping to open up a bit more with you today.
The major emotional hurdle I’ve experienced so far has been my inability to go for a morning run, something that has been a huge part of my life for so long. The endorphins and mental clarity I receive from running jumpstarts my day and keeps me sane. It also helps me release energy, something I have an unbelievably large amount of, as well as get out of the house and see a bit of the world before diving into work. I also have an additional mental struggle from my past that likes to resurface in times like these, that being my eight year stint with anorexia. Although I have been “recovered” for the past seven years, all who have suffered know it never fully leaves you, and that it is a daily battle you have overcome through practice. Thankfully my husband is my greatest cheerleader in this department, I wouldn’t be as strong and healthy as I am now without his help. I’m tearing up just thinking of what his constant support has meant to me over the past seven years (getting real honest with you folks today), and he has been a total rockstar these past two weeks with endless encouragement. I have to choose my health over my body image daily, and so far the latter hasn’t been harmed – which to me is pure, undeserved grace.
Yet through all of the struggle this injury has brought, wonderful things have happened too. After a handful of days with major running withdrawals, I was able to join a pilates reformer studio and begin strengthening my body to heal itself and protect it from future injury. This is something I’ve always dreamt of doing, but didn’t know how to while running as much as I had been (I had quit weight lifting after attempting for three months this summer, unable to keep up). The instructors know my injury, and modify my workouts to relieve my lower back, and strengthen my core and abductors for future injury prevention. I not only feel myself getting stronger, but I also feel myself being challenged. This means I can now lay on the couch, icing my lower spine every hour, without getting antsy. I can let my husband do the dishes, lift the groceries, and help me do other little tasks throughout the day (although I keep my tasks to very few) without feeling weak.
Hence my remission from the social media world. I haven’t been sharing because there hasn’t been any creating. There has been a ton of nurturing and rest, however that doesn’t make for an interesting photograph *wink wink*. I’ve been taking concentrated curcumin (turmeric) and vitamin C to help with inflammation and tissue repair. And in my large amounts of down time I’ve been happily researching recipes, flavors and food preparing techniques. I have learned so much by doing so little (physically) and feel a great deal more present in my husband and I’s lives. We’ve spent more quality time together, seeing as I have to depend on him more, and because my mind has been cleared of work stress. I’ve simply had to tell myself to shrug off what I can’t do and let it go. Not add it to a to-do list for the moment I get back into working shape. But sincerely skip over it, letting it fly by me unacknowledged.
Through my cookbook reading and Great British Baking Show watching, I found a very specific set of flavors my taste buds were begging to experience. Moroccan. I had never eaten Moroccan food before, but somehow when I read through the ingredients of various recipes and watched the talented bakers incorporate them into their challenges, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the flavors and think we would be best friends. Turns out we were, and this salad creation happened. After a day of icing and very, very little activity – I stood for two hours in the kitchen while meticulously taking out each of the ingredients and measuring how much I would use to balance this new-to-me kind of flavor/texture combination. I’m not going to fib here, I was in pain after doing so and had to take a little time between the test and the shoot. And even the time I took wasn’t enough, this shoot was a bit painful. But I like to think it was worth it to finally sink my teeth into the warming spices and subtle sweet balance that is Moroccan cuisine. Not an authentic dish in the least, but I like to think I’d fare pretty well eating my way through this country if it tastes even a smidge similar.
If you are like me and feel a bit intimidated by the idea of making something Moroccan, trust that it is easier than you would think! And the flavor combination (for those of us new to this unique mix) is something that cannot be imagined, only experienced. Trust in every ingredient here, and (hopefully) enjoy this dish as much as Scott and I have all week – it is crazy delicious. And lastly, thank you (every one of you) for stopping by my space here each week. It baffles me that you do, and your warm comments (and lovely notes when you make one of my recipes) sincerely make my day. Cheers to another week of living, and to my sweet momma for visiting and picking me up these gorgeous bowls, I love you. – xx
MOROCCAN HARVEST SALAD
Makes 4 servings.
for the sorghum
1 cup sorghum
3 cups filtered water
2 large garlic cloves
for the spiced carrots
4 large carrots
light drizzle quality olive oil
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
few cracks of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
light drizzle quality olive oil
zest of 1 large orange (1 heaping teaspoon)
juice from half a large orange (2 to 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons organic raisins
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
6 to 7 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup toasted & salted almonds, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Begin by cooking the sorghum. Combine the dry sorghum, garlic cloves, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and let cook until soft (40 to 50 minutes). Drain excess water and transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover with a towel while you prepare the other ingredients, or transfer to an airtight container and place in the fridge to assemble the salad with later.
Fore the spiced carrots, preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Wash the carrots and pat dry. Slice on an angle using a mandolin or a sharp knife into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Place in a bowl. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, toss, sprinkle on the seasonings, and toss again until every piece of carrot is coated in spices. Transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. (I do not flip mine.)
Uncover the bowl of cooked sorghum, find the cloves of garlic, and mash with the back of a spoon. Stir to incorporate into the grain. Add the tossing ingredients: light drizzle of olive oil, juice and zest from the orange, the organic raisins, and chopped herbs. (Reserve the chopped almonds for serving.) Toss well and sprinkle with sea salt. Toss again and give it a taste, adding more salt if needed.
Add the spice roasted carrots to the sorghum salad and lightly toss one last time. Either stir in the chopped almonds if serving right away, or divide between serving bowls and top with the almonds when ready. Serve with olive oil on the table for drizzling if needed, and a cold glass of mint ice tea.
NOTE: Never tried sorghum? It resemble couscous in look and texture, however is completely gluten free and packed with more protein and fiber. It is a new-to-me grain I have been loving lately and highly recommend picking up a bag for this dish – as well as many other recipes it is destined to be delicious in.