Graduation Party: A Sweet Ending, and Nostalgia Meme
I can hardly believe that my Grain Drain detox week is already at an end (that, and the fact I’ve posted a measly TWO food-related blog entries about it!).
The dearth of recipes this past week was due, in part, to an incredibly hectic schedule–there was a multitude of student assignments to mark (strange how the mountain of marking on my desk seemed to keep growing of its own accord, like a bizarre form of paper parthenogenesis or something); an unexpected, last-minute baking order to fill (birthday cakes are fun, but they do take time); and my regular monthly book club a couple of nights ago (lovely, as always–such a pleasure to chat with the gals–but turns out we were all a bit disappointed with Trillin’s tribute to his wife, tender as it was.)
Another reason for the paltry recipe output has been my own shift in appetite during the past week. Even though I consumed three squares and several snacks a day, I was drawn to old, familiar dishes for the most part, and felt no impetus to experiment in the kitchen. Whether this change in attitude is connected to the cleanse or not, I have no idea. I did, however, cook up one or two worthwhile grain-free dishes, so I will definitely share those in drops and dollops over the next while.
Some of you have asked how I felt during the cleanse. Overall, it was a success. There were some expected–and some highly unexpected–results.
As with any cleanse, I went through a bit of a detox reaction for the first couple of days, though nothing as dramatic as my first healing crisis a decade ago. I felt fatigued, a bit lethargic, and experienced a few mild cravings for the first day. Then, somehow, the toggle switch governing consumption was flicked and I was able to spend the rest of the week happily ingesting only those healthy foods I’d selected for the cleanse: fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans/legumes (or pulses, depending on your geographical location).
In general, my diet consisted of the following types of foods: for breakfast, I might have fresh fruit and nut butter (or nuts and seeds), alternating with freshly squeezed vegetable juice or a smoothie (and the occasional Earth Bowl). Lunches consisted of salad with more nuts/seeds if I felt hungry; snacks were fruits and vegetables or some kind of raw bar or nibble; and dinner was typically a cooked dish with vegetables and/or nuts or legumes. I kept the meals relatively simple–perhaps my body was telling me I needed simplicity in at least one area of my life this week!
By day three, I was feeling lighter and more energetic. Congested sinuses–a constant companion for as long as I can remember–cleared considerably, and I was able to breathe clearly for the first time in months. (That outcome alone has got me wondering whether I’m harboring undiagnosed allergies to grains.)
Now, for the unexpected. I must admit I was entirely amazed at how easy the process felt (and if you’ve read my blog before, you know that avoiding chocolate and sweets is generally anything but easy for me). After the first few cravings, I was able to virtually forget about chocolate and simply eat good, hearty, nourishing foods. At the same time, my portion size seemed to shrink all on its own volition, almost without help from me. I feel certain I’ve lost some weight, if only a milligram (will report on the Progress Tracker at the end of the course).
I did experience a couple of odd detox reactions, however. According to Paul Pritchard (as well as many other holistic practitioners) in Healing with Whole Foods, the liver is the seat of anger in the body. In other words, mess with the liver and you might just stir up some pretty unattractive emotions. Well, I’m here to report that yes, the theory happens to be true! As my liver was flushed of toxins, my emotional fuse shrank along with the portion sizes and I’m afraid I snapped at the poor HH on more than one occasion (The Girls, of course, were left unscathed). Now I understand why people run off to spas to detox–at least they won’t take out their burbling anger on their families that way!
It appears that another odd effect of eating healthfully–and I’m loathe to admit this–is that my sense of humor has temporarily gone MIA. (I know, I know; that sounds too much like the stereotypcal ”grunchy granola,” dour and pasty-faced, terribly gaunt and proselytizing vegetarian that carnivores envision when they hear the word, “vegan.” Well, lucky for me, I’ll never be accused of that transgression–no one in their right mind would ever call me “gaunt”!). I’m not quite sure where it’s hiding, but the rapier wit seems to have departed with the chocolate this past week (oh, please, please do NOT tell me there’s a correlation between the two, that one relies on the other to exist. A choice between humor, or chocolate? That would be a choice as agonizing as Sophie’s.)
In any case, to acknowledge my “graduation” from the cleanse, I prepared one very special raw dessert: Raw Milky Way Bars. I first spied these on Terilyn’s The Daily Raw Café about a month ago and immediately knew I’d have to try them. They seemed the perfect finale to a great week of healthy eating–a little decadent, but still rife with wholesome raw nuts, dates, and natural sweeteners.
And they were, indeed, thoroughly enjoyable, though I’d add a little caveat if you plan to try them. While the flavors were astonishingly good (and very close to what I recall as the original mix of flavors in the candy bar), the chocolate coating firms up only when fully frozen–and begins to thaw immediately upon removal from the freezer (or, perhaps, this was simply a function of our humid, 31C–about 88F–temperature here today). No problem there, as long as you eat the bars straight from the freezer.
However, if you (as I do) prefer the nougat and caramel at room temperature, you’re out of luck; you’ll end up with a cube of yummy nougat dripping with slick, sticky chocolately coating. In fact, I found the nougat filling, a mix of powdered nuts and agave nectar, to be so enticing on its own that I plan to use it as a filling in regular chocolates, made with a bittersweet chocolate coating. But that’s for another day.
In the meantime, I thought I’d close with a play on the “graduation” theme and join in the fun prom meme introduced by Alicia at Grumpy Chair Dieter. She suggests that we all pull out our prom photos and post them.
Well, unfortunately, I couldn’t find my prom photo (aww, gee, and I so wanted to share it!). Instead, I managed to suss out this ancient photo (taken before the advent of digital cameras–gasp!) from my “Sweet 16″ party (hmm, now I wish I had found the prom photo. . . ).
Yes, that is I, braces and all. Dig that dress! Dig that hair! Perhaps most shocking of all–I considered myself “obese” at the time. These days, I’d be thrilled if my thighs were as small as my waist was then. Thanks, Grumpy Chair, for prompting me to browse through those old photos and get some perspective!
Have a good weekend, all. And now, I’m off to go eat some grains!
Raw Milky Way Bars (from The Daily Raw Café)
Reminiscent of the chocolate candy bar of the same name, these are actually pretty good for you. I made 1/3 recipe (I was afraid I’d eat them all otherwise), and it worked out just fine.
1 cup (250 ml.) raw almonds, unsoaked (dry)
1 cup (250 ml.) raw cashews, unsoaked (dry)
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) agave nectar
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) water, or more if needed
1 cup (250 ml.) dry unsweetened dates
1/4 cup (60 ml.) pure maple syrup
juice of half a lemon
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) coconut oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 cup (250 ml.) water (I used much less–it would have been watery otherwise)
“Milk” Chocolate Coating
1 cup (250 ml.) pure cocoa powder
1 cup (250 ml.) pure maple syrup
1/2 cup (125 ml.) coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup (60 ml.) water
Soak the dates in the water and lemon juice for an hour. Drain and reserve soaking liquid. Meanwhile, make the nougat.
Nougat: In a coffee grinder, grind the cashews in small batches into a fine powder. Remove. Process the almonds the same way.
Place the nut powders in a large bowl. Add the agave and water, and mix with your (clean) hands until the mixture is thick and paste-like. (Fun to lick it off your fingers, too!)
Place a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board. Form the nougat into a long rectangular bar on top of the plastic wrap. Place the board in the freezer for an hour.
Caramel: To make the caramel, process the soaked dates, coconut oil and sea salt in a blender. Use the soaking liquid, one tablespoon at a time, to soften the mixture as you blend. Blend until you achieve a thick creamy mixture.
Spread the caramel in a long strip on top of the nougat (use a knife or offset spatula to spread it evenly across the top of the rectangle). Return to the freezer while you prepare the chocolate.
Chocolate: In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, maple syrup, and coconut oil together until smooth and creamy.
Pour the chocolate over the candy pieces and freeze an additional hour or until the chocolate sets. Use any extra chocolate to drizzle patterns over the tops of the bars. Yields 15-20 small bars.