Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On Iron: Gingered Chickpeas and Kale

Well, this has been a pretty unproductive ICLW for me.  I apologize to everyone who was stuck commenting on my single frittata post ... I've been absolutely swamped at work and at home, and I've been lucky to get the laundry done and lunches packed, never mind writing, photographing, and commenting.  I'm still hoping to get to "Project IF" later this week.  (The ICLW folk will appreciate the irony of a post about iron, below.)

But I finally had my long-awaited appointment with a new (regular) endocrinologist on Monday, and while there's no news yet, per se, at least I feel like he listened to me, which is more than I can say for the last two I've seen.  He took a thorough history, and talked with me like I was a person, not a file.  And he drew blood right there in his office, without sending me to three other places first, promising that he'd call me soon; in fact, he asked how late he could call, and whether it was OK to call past 9.  I left feeling hopeful, at least.

He said that while it was unlikely that my thyroid was the problem, given my previous test results, he would still check to see if I was one of those rare people who need T3 in addition to T4, and that if that wasn't it, that there were a few other things to consider.  Among them, he mentioned anemia, which I didn't think could be linked to IF, but which he thought might be contributing to the symptoms I've been experiencing.  I found myself defending what I realized is now a nearly-vegetarian diet: while I still do eat meat, I've been eating a lot less of it, and hardly any red meat at all.  "But I eat lots of vegetables containing high amounts of iron," I protested.  "You'd have to eat a truckload," he responded.

Now, with all due respect, I know plenty of vegans and vegetarians who seem to get all the iron they need from greens, lentils, and other legumes; no need for a burger.  I've been eating great big bowls of spinach salad for lunch recently, and I know I've mentioned my love affair with kale previously here.  Kale is, simply put, a superfood, packed with nutrients and compounds like beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, manganese, calcium and potassium.  (On the down side, it so happens that kale contain goitrogen, a naturally-occurring substance which can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland, but let's leave that aside for a moment, since it's not like I'm subsisting solely on the stuff.)  It so happens that I cooked some this week, in a dish that even my three year old son gobbles down with gusto.  The original is here (I love Dana's blog for its fresh vegetarian ideas and beautiful photography), but I don't bother with the cilantro or basmati rice or yogurt sauce; we just use a dollop of plain Greek yogurt if we're feeling like we need contrast.  I do like to serve it with roasted cauliflower, but then again, I eat that all the time, too.

Here's hoping the plant-eaters I know aren't wrong.

The chickpeas:
1 large shallot, peeled and diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. tumeric
2 14-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 14-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 small bunch kale, tough stems removed and cut into bite size pieces

Heat a medium pot over medium heat.  Add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot and add the shallot, garlic, and ginger.  Season generously with salt.  Stir until softened but not brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle on the spices and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the chickpeas and toss to coat with the spices, then add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.  Mix together well and bring to a simmer.  Add the kale and give it a good stir.  If the pot seems to dry at this point, add a little water – about a tablespoon at a time – to keep things moist.  You don’t want it soupy but you want enough liquid to cook the kale.  Adjust the heat to keep it at a simmer and cover the pot.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is very soft, adding water as necessary.

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  1. Are you up to speed on iron availability? Make sure you get some fresh vitamin C (no cooking the sources) with those high iron meals. Those vegetarians you know aren't wrong, but some people are better at processing iron than others. Every body is different, and yours may simply need a little more care in that department.

  2. Thanks ... I'll look at this. I didn't know that the cooking of vitamin C mattered ...

  3. I'm sure you're taking a prenatal?
    Glad he listened! Thinking of you and your journey.


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