Hi there. : )
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. The first recipe post after my Daddy’s passing is bound to feel awkward, but I know he would want me to keep doing what I’m doing, so… yeah. Here I am.
It’s been a very rough seven weeks filled with tears, anguish, sorrow, pain, sadness, fear, guilt, anxiety, nostalgia, more tears, and a lot of Kleenex. I have felt more emotions in a single hour than I ever thought I would feel in a lifetime, and the roller coaster just continues. Knowing my mom and I are so broke we can’t even have Thanksgiving together this year is just making everything worse. We’ve NEVER had to give up Thanksgiving, no matter how bad things would get. Unfortunately, this year really beat us to a pulp.
But I’m trying. I’m trying everyday to get through the hours, the days, the weeks that have become all at once slower than molasses yet fast as a blur. I’m swallowing a lot of my emotions just to be functional at work and in daily life, though… a practice that I know isn’t the best one for me in the long run, but one that’s helping me focus on my perpetual task at hand: survival.
In my last post, however, I mentioned a promise I’d made to my dad before he passed. Nothing mind-blowing, just a simple promise to take care of myself, just as he’d always tell me at the end of every phone conversation. “Take care of yourself, hijita.”
Okay, Daddy. Whatever you say.
Now, I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure how I would take care of myself when I told him this. I just knew that I would. For the most part, I feel like I do try to take good care of myself – I eat as well as I can, stay out of the sun as much as possible, look both ways before I cross the street…. That’s all fine and dandy, but that wasn’t really enough. Once my beloved was actually gone and I sat alone with the emptiness of that realization, all I could do was think about how much more I could do to take care of myself. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
The first step: learning to be kinder to myself.
We’re all our own worst critics, but for some reason I tend to take that to the extreme. I’ve done so all my life and it’s a tough habit to break. But the shock of a loss as great as this one sometimes jolts you into reflection, and that can lead to a great deal of insight. It’s not something I’ll be able to fix easily or quickly, but I’m taking baby steps.
I’m not sure why or how my convoluted, sorrow-ridden brain processed this to mean that I should start exercising more, but exercise more I have done and it’s been an AMAZING way to get through my grief. On a scientific level, I know it’s helping to balance out my neurotransmitter levels and all that jazz; but it’s also helping me just deal. With everything. Even though I’ve already lost about 90+ lbs over the past 20 months or so, my illnesses zap so much out of me that I’ve just felt useless and un-me. And I wasn’t finished yet anyway, so I am eager to finish transforming my body to make it even better than it was when I thought I was at my fittest (I was just super thin back then; my goal is to be fit. Big difference!).
While I can’t do the same kinds of exercises or get to the same intensity levels as before, it’s been a relief to start feeling stronger in at least one aspect of my life. Sure, there are times when I’ll collapse in the middle of a particularly grueling squat session and burst into tears; partly because of the pain (not my PHN, my arse, lol) and partly because I’ll have some random Dad thought and am overcome with emotion. But then I remember my promise to him, and I’m reminded that this is as much for me as it for him, and I get up and keep going.
I suppose there could be worse ways to manage my grief. I know from firsthand experience after my best friend passed away in a car accident 7 years ago. I’ll take a sore posterior over the other options any day.
I’ve been eating decently, too, of course. I’ve made sure to pay extra attention to that since my dad’s passing because I know I can’t afford to let myself get too sick. My biggest worry was having such a traumatic loss trigger some serious shingles/PHN flare ups, so I’ve been UBER careful about food and exercise. Not that I’m the biggest junk food person (actually, most of it grosses me out), but I’ve made sure to stick with as many healthy things as possible so I stay well.
More taking care of myself, I suppose. Daddies drive a tough bargain once you’ve made them a promise.
Now, this is one healthy meal that I think he would have really liked if I’d made it for him. Naturally, he loved all sorts of Dad foods: burgers, pizzas, etc. But he was a chef by trade and at heart, so there was nothing that pleased him more than fresh, gorgeous ingredients. He was as delighted with an enormous salad of farmers’ market treasures as he was with a Double-Double from In-N-Out, so this would have been right up his alley.
Clearly it’s right up my alley as well, since there sautéed kale and a friggin’ egg on top (I swear the next recipe will not be topped with an egg. Especially since it’s a dessert!). I’m absolutely obsessed with cauliflower these days, and this is my current favorite way to enjoy it. My original intent was to roast it in the oven, but that day I was also roasting a chicken and was too impatient to wait for the oven. This was much quicker and gave me an equally delicious result, that amazing caramelization adding a lovely dimension to the finished dish. It’s a simple, elegant dish that is still filling and healthy.
Breakfast, brunch, brinner – you name it, this meal will cover it. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! : )
Pan-roasted Cauliflower with Sauteed Kale & Poached Egg (makes 2 servings; total cost per serving: $2)
If egg-poaching isn’t your thing, you’re certainly welcome to just sub a regular fried egg. I’ve done it and it is equally fabulous. But if you’re feeling adventurous, I’ve detailed the instructions in the recipe below. And if you really need more help, you can also check out my video for easy egg-poaching instructions.
¼ medium cauliflower
3 c raw kale
2 T olive oil, divided
1-2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 large eggs
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Cut the cauliflower into small “steaks”. To do this, follow the natural “flowers” and cut each chunk at the base. From there, slice each flower into 1” thick “steaks”. Season both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. When oil is hot, add the cauliflower steaks in a single layer (you may need to work in batches depending on how much cauliflower you have). Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown on the outside and fork tender on the inside.
3. Next, poach the eggs! Fill a skillet or saucepan with about 3″ of water and bring to a low boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and adjust the heat so you’re left with gently simmering water (look for a constant parade of tiny bubbles at the bottom of the pan; if the bubbles are too big, lower the heat).
4. Crack one egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Gently slide the egg into the simmering water and let it cook on its own for about 30-45 seconds, until the whites start to curl up and firm up on their own, and the yolk is no longer visible. Cover, turn OFF the heat, and allow the egg to poach for 3-5 minutes, depending on how firm you like your yolks.
5. After the time is up, remove the lid and, using a slotted spoon, gently remove the egg from the water. Let it drain as much as possible so you don’t end up with watery eggs & toast when serving. Place on a plate and set aside.
6. In a separate skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, then add the kale. Season with salt and pepper, saute until just wilted, then remove from heat.
7. Place a generous amount of kale on a plate, followed by 2-3 cauliflower steaks. Slide a poached egg on top, season with extra salt & pepper if you like, and enjoy!