My take on Chicken Tikka Masala

I recently visited Nepal, where they feature a lot of Indian foods. I fell in love with authentic Masala Chicken. When I got home, I just had to concoct my own recipe. This is pretty darn close to the real thing, both in terms of flavor and authenticity.

First, make some garam masala spice. Combine the following spices:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • .5 teaspoon ground cloves
  • .5 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • .5 teaspoon yellow curry powder

Mix well, then toss in a dry skillet and roast them over medium-high heat for about 60 seconds. Keep the pan moving so the spices don’t burn. You’ll want the mixture to get fragrant, start to darken, and just barely start to smoke. Once it’s there, remove from the heat and grind up the spices with a mortar and pestle.

Next, marinate 6 chicken thighs in plain greek yogurt with a dash of peanut oil, lime juice, and a couple cloves of minced garlic. Use a fork to poke holes in the chicken and let this sit in the fridge for a couple hours.

Now, make your spice mixture:

  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoons of the garam masala from above (save the rest for next time)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Whisk these together in a small bowl and set aside.

When your chicken is marinated and you’re ready to start cooking, start making your sauce. Caramelize one small onion in some butter in a medium sauce pan. Throw in a bit of grated ginger, minced garlic, and one (or more) minced red chili pepper. Leave the seeds in for some added heat ūüôā Add six small ripe Roma tomatoes to a food processor and make a smooth sauce. Add the spices and tomatoes to your sauce pan, then add a couple tablespoons of plain yogurt, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Go ahead and throw the thighs on a hot, oiled skillet or grill grate and brown them for 2-3 minutes each side. When they’re nice and browned but not cooked fully through, pull them off the skillet or grill and chop them into 3/4-inch strips. Toss them into the masala sauce and simmer for 10-15 more minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thickened.

You’re done! Enjoy with some warm naan or over Basmati rice.

My IBD Saga Continues

Warning: This blog post may be graphic.

I found myself lying in an emergency room bed, again, on a Friday evening. I’m only 33 years old, but this was my third trip to the hospital. This time, however, I literally thought I was having a heart attack. I didn’t think it was related to my digestive problems. It turns out that your belly can play tricks on you. Evil, evil tricks.

It all started about a week before. I had a cold. A simple, common cold virus. I drank¬†some kryptonite flavored cough syrup and continued my life. Digested blood can come in two flavors –¬†bright red and obviously blood, or dark black and presenting uncertainty. On Monday, I had a large dose of the latter. I thought nothing of it for two reasons. First, this wasn’t that abnormal for me. Second, I thought it was probably the dye from the aforementioned kryptonite. Tuesday was a repeat performance that again I didn’t think much about.

Wednesday is where the real trouble began. I was working in my¬†yard with my wife, and I found myself struggling to swing a pickaxe. I’m no body builder, but I’ve got solid muscles where they’re needed and this is normally¬†an easy task for me. I was so winded I was physically forced to sit down. My heart was racing. My head was spinning. A tingling sensation¬†on the left side of my body worked its way from my fingers to my chest. I sat down and relaxed for a few minutes, then I¬†tried again. The symptoms returned. I decided that¬†the cold was still keeping me out of the game and I gave up for the day.

On Thursday, I found it difficult to walk up the stairs to my office. I pushed through extreme dizziness and a headache and did the best I could into Friday afternoon.

Friday afternoon came, and I decided to see a doctor. I though to myself “maybe it’s the flu, I should get checked out.” Shortly after making the decision to head to an urgent care center, my symptoms came back in full force, leaving me crumpled in a chair with my head pounding, heart racing, and shooting pain down my left arm. I felt like I couldn’t breath. I lost and regained consciousness rapidly a couple times. There was a deafening ringing in my ears. I stumbled to the truck and¬†my wife rushed me to the emergency room.

Pro tip: To skip the wait in the ER, just tell them you’re having a heart attack.

Within a matter of minutes of arriving at the hospital, I had an IV in, an EKG, and attention from multiple doctors. They drew and tested my blood. They took my personal and family history. I was struggling to formulate coherent sentences but got through it. After some time, they told me my heart was fine. They still seemed concerned, so they did a few more less-comfortable tests and found the aforementioned digestive blood. A few more blood tests were ordered. At this time, I estimate they had removed at least a pint of blood from my body. When the lab results came back, I was shocked to find out that my hemoglobin and hematocrit were in the toilet (no pun intended).

Hemoglobin is the measure of iron carrying capacity of red blood cells. Hematocrit is the ratio of red blood cells to whole blood.¬†In a nut shell, my blood had lost the ability to carry oxygen to my cells. This was causing all the symptoms which are collectively known as “syncope”. The diagnosis was severe Anemia.

The first order of business was getting those numbers closer to normal. Both were dangerously low and I felt like I was on the verge of actually dying. After 24 hours of constant blood testing with the results only worsening, I signed my name on a consent form for a blood transfusion. They pumped a single unit of blood into my arm and within a few hours I felt better, albeit only slightly.

They make a big deal out of blood transfusions for obvious reasons. The clinical¬†risks are minimal and it’s easy to gloss over the details in lieu of statistics – but I will share that it’s a bit strange having someone else’s blood put into your body. It feels¬†a little bit like an organ transplant. They don’t mention the psychological effects in the consent. That said, I feel very fortunate that someone donated blood to help me <3

Receiving a blood transfusion. Just look at how white my skin is. I’m normally a pretty dark tanned guy. I really was that pale.

Next on the agenda were the fishing rods. And by that I mean for the second time in my 30s, I had a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. To everyone’s amazement, they both came back crystal clear. After a couple more days in the hospital, feeling a little better, I went home and started a daily regimen of iron, vitamin b12, and protonix.

But the blood came from somewhere. They didn’t find the source in my upper digestive system, and they didn’t find it in the large intestine. That leaves only one place – the small intestine. So I was instructed to schedule a capsule endoscopy with my gastroenterologist.

I went into his office at 9AM a week later. I donned a sash-shaped antenna that connected to a fanny-pack-like belt with an electronic receiver. Then, I swallowed a large capsule with a camera on one end. I left the office and went about my day, while the camera sent two pictures per second to the receiver on my hip. At 4PM, I returned to the doctor and they downloaded the images. It was an easy, painless procedure that was over in less than a day, and it hopefully provided great HD images of the inside of my small intestine.

Capsule endoscopy

The jury is still out – I meet with my doctor next week for the results. It has been a slow recovery from the extreme anemia, but I’m slowly feeling normal again. Some days are harder than others, but I’m now able to¬†handle light exercise again. The anemia “fog” has returned twice since leaving the hospital, but¬†has not been¬†bad enough to worry about.

I have changed my diet¬†again and am eating only alkaline foods and drinking only water. I’ve given up all coffee, alcohol, and fatty foods. I’ve quit taking my allergy meds and all other pills. I’ve lost over ten pounds since my stay at the hospital, and continue to shed a few ounces each day. Sadly, I still don’t feel cured,¬†but I am optimistic that the doctor will finally find the source of all this pain and anxiety that I’ve experienced for nearly a decade.

I can’t thank my lovely wife and sister-in-law for helping care for me and for the children while I’ve been down. I hope to never have to repay this particular favor, but you know I’ll always be there for you when needed.

To be continued.

An Update To My Veganism Experiment

In January, I vowed to go vegan to try to combat my persistent IBD. With the exception of my trip to Hawaii where I ate some fish and a bit of beef, I made good on the promise to eat only vegan foods.

The results are not positive, however.

I immediately gained 8 pounds and fluctuated within a net gain of 4-8 pounds for the entire month. This is surprising, since my diet was 75% fresh fruits and vegetables,¬†with nearly all junk food removed. I expected to lose weight but the opposite happened. In February I turned off the vegan diet and immediately lost those phantom pounds. I truly don’t understand how or why this happened, but it did.

My IBD symptoms were neither positively or negatively affected. The vegan diet had absolutely no bearing on my periods of remission and flare ups. I was hoping for some change, either way, to tell me that diet plays some part in this disease. That didn’t happen.

One positive thing did happen. My health otherwise seemed to have improved, slightly. I had slightly more energy and slightly higher focus. I felt just a tiny¬†bit “more alive”. I would definitely attribute this to eating more vegetables and a few other whole foods that I normally stay away from.

With all of that said, I’ve switched back to my normal diet for February, but am trying to maintain a greater intake of vegetables and fruits – at least a 3/1 ratio to meat and animal products. Hopefully this will help sustain the positive benefits of the diet without the weight gain.

More to come next month. Cheers!


Going Vegan-ish

Those that know me personally know that I have been fighting IBD for the better part of a decade. Inflammatory Bowel Disease, not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is defined as chronic inflammation of part (or all) of the digestive tract. It is primarily diagnosed as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. It’s a nasty disease where the body’s immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract, possibly targeting microbial antigens. It runs in families and seems to be triggered by something environmental.

Along with chronic abdominal pain that is, at times, completely debilitating, I’ve experienced a wide range of symptoms: anemia, extreme fatigue, rashes, arthritis, gall stones, lactose intolerance, and a few others that will remain unmentioned due to their graphic nature.

After multiple trips to the emergency room, primary care doctors, and gastroenterologists that have yielded an alarming lack of information, I have decided to treat myself to a dietary makeover.

In 2017, I’m going Vegan(-ish).

I know, I know – eating animals and animal products really are some of the finer things about living, I agree. I truly, truly hate to give them up. But after years of fighting a losing battle, and having tried most every other thing, I’m crossing my fingers that this helps provide a natural holistic solution to my medical problems.

So what do I mean by “Vegan-ish”? Well, I travel a lot. Sometimes to places without choices. And I’m okay with that – I will bite the bullet at times and eat what is served to me. I don’t have any political or conscience-related issues with eating animals. But when I’m at home, or when I do have a choice, I’m going to forego the meat, butter, and processed stuff as much as possible.

Today is day one.¬†The only immediate difference I noticed is, well, I’m hungry.¬†Fruits, vegetables, and grains don’t go very far in the calorie department, so feeling hungry is just something I’ll have to get used to. That’s probably a positive aspect anyways –¬†I could afford to lose a few more pounds.

I’ll let you know how¬†it goes as my journey progresses. Cheers!

Whistler BC Food Photos

Here is a collection of food photos that I took in Whistler, BC, Canada during the A8C Grand Meetup 2016. All of the food, wine, and beer was pretty awesome, and I can’t wait until next year!