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Yesterday, I spent 5 hours on the same 23 electrochemistry problems for my online homework. One of the problems took me more than an hour and a half, and by the time I gave up on it—having entered no less than 24 incorrect answers—I was literally weeping in sheer frustration.

Ah, student life.

As it turns out, the problem that felled me was in fact faulty in the online homework system, which is why no combination amount of fiddling with signs, sig figs, orders of operation, or logic could possibly help me get it right. But it was traumatizing nonetheless, and not very different from many of my afternoons as a post-bacc student.

To make myself feel better, I committed to putting my books down, taking a head-clearing walk, and then making a good meal. Because, even though I can’t always fix or understand the mistakes I make when I’m doing chem, calc, or stats, I can always roll with the punches as I cook. If I add too much salt or fat, I cut the recipe with more volume. If I under-season, I adjust. If my texture’s too loose, I can add starch or flax to thicken; if it’s pasty, I can add some creamy coconut milk or some broth or water. If flatbread falls apart, I call it crackers. There are few kitchen emergencies I can’t deal with creatively: I wish it worked that way when it comes to redox reactions.

This dish may be suffering from a case of cultural schizophrenia: it’s inspiration is the Indian dish aloo gobi, which is one of my favorites: a mix of cauliflower, potato, green peas, curry, and (usually) some tomato. Since I had quite a few wax potatoes handy, as well as some chana dal and green beans, I decided to make a spin on aloo gobi by using chopped green beans in place of peas, adding the dal, and topping it all off with a rich spice mix. Since I also had exactly two whole wheat wraps in the fridge, I decided to wrap the gobi up, burrito style. So this is sort of an Indian/Mexican marriage. I suppose much international cuisine is really fusion food at heart!

These wraps sound like they take a while, but they’re actually quite easy to make, and absolutely delicious. Topped off with some mango chutney, they’re a perfectly satisfying, sweet savory combo.

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Aloo Gobi Wraps (vegan, soy free)

Serves 2-4


3 large red potatoes, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsps curry powder
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups water
1/2 cup chana dal (baby split chickpeas)
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
1 cup chopped green beans
1 1/2 tsps cumin
1/8 tsp ground clove
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp spicy curry paste (optional, but great if you have it)
Red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup light coconut milk

2-4 large whole wheat wraps
Vegan mango chutney

1) Heat oil in a medium sized pot till hot. Add potatoes and onions, and sautee till onions are transluscent (about 10 min).

2) Add the salt, curry, garlic, and water, and bring to a boil. When the water boils, add the dal. Lower water to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until most liquid has absorbed and the dal are cooked tender.

3) Add the chopped cauliflower and beans, along with the cumin, clove, tomato paste, and curry paste. Cover pot and cook down until the cauliflower is very tender (you may need to add a bit of water periodically to keep things tender: I added about 1/3 cup). It should take about 10 minutes.

4) When cauliflower is cooked and the mixture is nice and thick, add 1/4 cup coconut milk. Cook, lid off, till it thickens up again (about 5-10 min).

5) Scoop mixture into whole wheat wraps, and top with a nice dollop of chutney (if desired). Wrap, slice, and serve with a big green salad!

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This dish was everything I needed it to be: it was fragrant. It was hearty and filling. It was fun to make, fun to eat, and it brought me back to the kitchen, which is the place I feel most confident, even when I’m not so confident about other things, like my agility with oxidation states. And after that meal, I felt ready to attack the unknown again. If you like fragrant and filling food, give these wraps a try: they’re delicious, and nutrient dense to boot.

Where do you feel most confident? Does cooking help you to reconnect with a sense of self? What dishes bring you back to earth when you’re melting down?

Great conversation, by the way, yesterday, with regard to ED histories and having trouble eating food that isn’t to your liking. Check out the comments if you haven’t already!


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