Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cumin-Laced Penne & Thoughts

I have been feeling a bit lethargic and sinusy over the past two days. This is hardly surprising as everyone I know on this island has either just gone through a nasty flu-like illness or is currently in the throes of it. I think the only reason I've avoided it so long is that I haven't spent much time out of doors because I've been consumed with homework from my statistics class and hiding from the sudden chilly change to the weather.

So, as dinner time approached tonight, I just didn't feel like cooking. This being the case, I decided to throw together something warm, easy, and comforting. It just had to be pasta. This meal ended up being SO spectacular, even though it was really just one of those "throw some things together" type of dishes, that I decided to share. It was amazing. I made an absolute ton of it, but all three of us had seconds, and even the juices left at the bottom of the bowl were consumed. Yep. It was that good. So...without further ado; the recipe:

1:29 Project Cumin-Laced Penne

1/2lb. uncooked Penne Pasta
1/2 can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
1 container small Cherry Tomatoes (about 10), quartered
1/2 of a Yellow Onion, chopped
1tsp finely-minced Garlic (I cheated and used the jar stuff this time)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
juice from 1/2 Lemon, about 2T freshly-squeezed
1/2C chopped fresh Cilantro (you could use flat-leaf parsley if you don't like cilantro)
3 generous shakes of Cumin (about 1/4tsp, but I didn't measure)
1/2tsp Chili Powder

Put a generous amount of salted water on to boil and get your penne started (use package directions for cooking time). While the pasta is boiling, chop your onion, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro. In a large or high-sided skillet, heat 1T of olive oil on medium and add your onion and garlic. You don't want caramelization here, just get the onion soft and the garlic fusing with the oil. Add the cumin and chili powder. Toss it around until the aroma of the spices starts to really pop. Rinse and drain your penne. Put it straight into the skillet with your onions and garlic. Add the rest of your olive oil, using just enough to get all the pasta nicely-coated. Add in the beans and tomatoes, and turn off the heat. Just before you're ready to plate, stir in the cilantro and lemon juice. Salt to taste. It may sound like a long process, but this only took me 20 minutes from the time I started pulling ingredients out to the plate, and it was ridiculously good. You could serve this with a green salad if you wanted to, or you could add some bread if you felt a need, but we ate this as-is, and it was filling and very comforting all on its own.

In the past month or so of tremendous dietary change, some things have been happening to my body. Some are lovely and welcome. Others...not so much. I'll start with the bad so I can end on a lovely note. :) For starters, my face - especially the jaw line - has been breaking out in painful and really unattractive acne. I've even had some appear on my shoulders, which is just "ew." I've had some serious dry mouth in the mornings, which may be just a side symptom of the sinusy thing I've got going, but it started when I began eating vegan. In addition to these discomforts, I've been extremely gassy and had a vicious reappearance of my acid reflux-related chest pain. Fun, fun, and more fun...just let me tell you. have to know that these are all the exact same symptoms I dealt with when I quit smoking for an extended time a few years back (I have since relapsed), and I am recognizing all of this as a detox sort of thing. Whenever you shock your body chemically - whether it's adding something or removing something you've been using habitually for a long time (like nicotine and the chemicals of tobacco smoke or meat and dairy products), the body is bound to freak out. So, I'm taking all this in stride, but it's annoying as all hell; I won't lie.

But, lest we forget, there are a lot of great things happening with my body, too. My scalp, for one, is less oily. I used to have to wash my hair every single day because it would be oily and dirty-looking within 12-18 hours of being shampooed (and, no, it wasn't cheap shampoo or the wrong kind for my hair. I'm 35...I've been dealing with this a long time. It's not a product issue). Apparently, it was a diet-related issue! My hair stays really nice-looking all the way to the root for at least two days, now, and the resultant rest from scouring my scalp is receiving has left my hair looking way shinier and less stressed in only 6 weeks. Good stuff, right? The second great thing is that my appetite has diminished...seriously diminished. I don't get snacky. I don't feel hungry except at the times you expect yourself to be needing a meal, and even then, it's not overpowering. It's that nice sort of nudge you get that says, "Hey...why don't you go and make lunch now?" I haven't had an "Oh my God, Woman, give me food...EAT NOW" moment in weeks. That blood sugar swinging thing just doesn't happen to me anymore, and I get to satiety with less bulk of food than before. I honestly think it's the quality of the food I'm eating. I haven't eaten much crap, lately, and the crap I've indulged in was vegan crap, so it's not been loaded with animal fats. My high fructose corn syrup consumption has almost disappeared because the foods I regularly ate that contained it are all non-vegan. They hide that mess in everything, so I'm sure I've had some, but the amount is just negligible compared to what I was consuming before I made these changes.

Finally, and most exciting of all, I am losing weight for the first time in the 5 years since my back went out. Regular exercise and calorie control never worked...even when employed with consistency over a period of more than a year. My body would not release any excess weight. It was demoralizing and upsetting...and like most overweight people, I knew that no one believed me. People see a chubby woman or a fat woman and just assume she must be lying about all that exercise, and she must be chowing on Twinkies in her room at night because if she were actually doing all these things she claimed to do, she wouldn't be overweight.

I know that's what people think...and that's so hurtful, I can't even begin.

I've digressed...sorry. Anyway, the weight has dropped a bit. It's too early to throw a party and buy new clothes, but Lizzie's piano teacher noticed and gave me a really warm compliment at her lesson on Monday. I'm pretty ecstatic; I have to say.

So...have a great week, Everyone. Know that I am doing well. The family is doing great. Kioko is snoring and it's late, so I'm going to head off to bed. Make the cumin-laced pasta, and if you're considering a switch to living veggie...I can whole-heartedly and honestly tell you that this has been the most emotionally liberating experience I can recall having. Ever. Go for it.


  1. This looks wonderful! I will be trying this...and soon. :) Thanks for posting it, and grats on the weight loss! /hug

  2. Love you and all your people! It really was good.

  3. We had this for supper last night with some tandoori naan bread. It was quite good!

  4. woo hoo! Pictures, :)

  5. I need some sort of different light or camera to take food pics... they come out looking horrible!

  6. You gotta use natural light whenever possible. Cook before the sun goes down and use the sunlight rather than flash. My pictures taken after dark always look like crap, too. I try to start dinner before dark so I can get good ones. It's also why you see so many photos of the ingredients but not necessarily the finished product. I start cooking before dark, but by the time I have finished the recipe, the lighting blows and the food pictures look awful. :)