As someone who follows an anti-candida, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan diet, I’ve encountered my share of skepticism. Every time I tell someone about my dietary restrictions, I’m hit with either incredulity (“But what’s left to eat?“), pity (“Oh, you poor thing! You must miss real food!”) or derision (“hmm, yeah, bet you just love eating that cardboard, eh?”). But skepticism is probably the worst of the lot (“Well, there is actually no such thing as candida syndrome, so it’s probably just in your head. What you need is to go out and eat a big piece of real chocolate cake with eggs and gluten and sugar, and drink a big glass of wine.”).
Luckily, the HH never responded like so many others and has always been very tolerant of my erratic swings in diet (and mood, but that’s a totally different reason why I love him). In fact, whenever he encounters someone who voices skepticism about the value of a whole-foods, refined sugar-free diet, he tells the story of his brush with high blood pressure, back during my year at nutrition school.
You see, the HH is the kind of person who has never had a weight problem; he could eat whatever he wanted without any apparent consequences. (Once, in his twenties, he consumed three full dinners in the space of one evening: first, he ate a regular dinner at home with his parents; then he visited his best friend, whose mother offered him dinner. Being the well-raised boy he was, of course he couldn’t refuse. After enjoying roast beef, green beans, and potatoes with gravy, the guys met up with a third pal, a chef who invited them back to his apartment for a late dinner. Well, you don’t very well say “no” to dinner from a chef, do you? So yet another repast of pasta with smoked salmon and vodka, peas and crème brulée was had as well.). The HH is also fearless about trying any food of animal origin, no matter how weird (seriously–body parts, internal organs, what-have-you); but ask him to sample sea veggies, or daikon, or fiddleheads, and he cowers in the corner.
Anyway, about halfway through my stint at nutrition school, I arranged for us to undergo full physical exams with our family doctor. (I was curious to see whether my über-healthy NAG diet had affected my myriad physical problems). In typically male fashion, the HH hadn’t been to the doctor since before he’d met me.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, after weighing and prodding for a few minutes, with typical beside manner, the doctor pronounced, “HH,* you are definitely overweight, and you also have high blood pressure.” At 6’1″ or 185.4 cm, he weighed just over 200 lbs/90.72 kg, with a BP of 151/90. (My blood tests, on the other hand, all came back great, with blood pressure an ideal 110/70. And my irritable bowel (IBS) symptoms had entirely disappeared; in fact, that appointment marked the first step in weaning off my medication, which I’d taken for 16 years by then. Wa-hoo!).
Needless to say, Ms. Doctor wanted to prescribe high blood pressure medication–stat. She told the HH that he was lucky to catch it so quickly, and since he was at the lower end of the “high blood pressure” spectrum, he wouldn’t need a really strong dosage. She pulled out her little prescription pad and began to scribble when the HH interjected.
“Well, you know,” he offered, “Ric is doing this holistic nutrition program right now. . . how would it be if I get her to design a special diet for me that could lower my blood pressure?”
At this, the doctor chortled and let out a little snort. Let me just say: I really like our family doctor. She’s young, she’s empathic, she listens to all my hypochondriacal tales of woe, and she knows her stuff. But her response at that moment was nothing short of cliché:
“Well, your diet won’t really have any effect on it, though I guess you could cut out red meat and alcohol. But if you are determined to go ahead, we can give it a month or so, since your levels aren’t all that serious yet. Why don’t you come back in six weeks, and we can start you on the meds then.”
I’m sure you can guess what happened. For the first (and only) time, I had full control over what the HH ate! FULL CONTROL!! Muahahahaha! I immediately vetoed all animal products, alcohol, and coffee. (This was back in the early days of our relationship, when the HH was still starry-eyed and infatuated enough with me to actually listen to what I suggested). No more wine with dinner. No more cheeseburgers with heaps of mayonnaise. No more triple lattes with full cream. No more shortening-heavy Tim Horton’s Carrot-Walnut muffins first thing in the morning at the office every day.
Ah, yes, it was an idyllic time for me: we nibbled on tofu scramble, vegan quiche, or sweet potato pancakes with homefries for brunch on the weekends, gazing lovingly at each other as we sipped our green tea. For lunch, the HH took packaged beet and quinoa salad, leftover Bangkok noodles, or sandwiches made with whole grain flour and tempeh bacon. We discussed our workdays over our favorite almond-curry stir-fry for dinner. The HH brought home-baked muffins to the office each morning, and the rest of the day, he consumed more green than Dorothy ever saw in Emerald City. He drank herbal tea with me in the evenings, scooped up berry sorbet for dessert, and even quaffed the occasional green smoothie. (Okay, I made up that last one. He’s always hated green smoothies).
After 6 weeks, he dutifully returned to the doctor’s office. The verdict? He had (effortlessly) lost 25 pounds (11.4 kg) and his blood pressure had returned to normal! (The doctor’s response: “Well, it’s great that things are better, but I’m sure it had nothing to do with your diet.”)**
These days, the HH isn’t quite so devoted to a vegan diet any more (it took a couple of years, but he slowly re-introduced meat, cream, coffee, wine–well, basically, everything I’d cut out). Still, he has managed to maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. The one food he didn’t reject, however, was a homemade muffin each morning. In fact, when I first began the ACD a couple of years ago, I didn’t bake at all for the first few months, and the HH sorely missed his morning muffin.
When I read that Johanna was hosting this month’s Breakfast Club event with Savory Breakfasts as the theme, I decided to bake up something a little different for the HH’s morning coffee break. These muffins are moist and dense, with pockets of oven-dried tomato, dotted with green onion slices and flecks of fresh herbs scattered throughout. The flavor is robust without being too grain-heavy in flavor. They’re perfect warmed up with a bit of coconut butter or even a dollop of tahini. In fact, you don’t have to save these for breakfast–they’d be great alongside a savory stew or chili as well.
The HH reported that he really enjoyed the muffins for breakfast. In fact, when he first sampled them straight out of the oven, I turned my back for just a moment to find that two had already been eaten before I could snap a couple of photos for the blog. “Ah, just bake more,” was his reply. “These are good.” Of course I was happy to oblige, knowing that my homemade muffins are far superior to anything he might purchase on the way to work. Maybe one day, I’ll get him to start taking lunches of tofu scramble and quinoa salad back to the office again, too.
“Mum, those muffins look great! You know that we need to eat healthy whole grains too, right? But why did you have to add those darned onions, when we’re not allowed to eat them?”
*She didn’t actually call him, “HH,” of course. But you probably guessed as much.
**There is a coda to the story as well: a few months after the HH’s second appointment, I was wrapping up paperwork for a cooking class in my home and noticed a familiar name on the list. It was my doctor’s! She ended up taking two classes from me, and these days, is happy to suggest dietary changes for her patients, alongside classic medications.
Savory Muffins with Herbs, Oven-Dried Tomatoes and Green Onions
These are great with tofu scramble, quiche, or as a quick breakfast on their own slathered with almond butter. If you’re not on the anti-candida diet or don’t have the time, simply substitute regular sundried tomatoes that have been soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drained and chopped, for the oven dried tomatoes.
1/2 cup (120 ml) pumpkin or squash purée (I used butternut squash)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tahini (sesame seed paste)
1-1/4 to 1-1/3 cups (300-320 ml) unsweetened almond, soy, or hemp milk (use larger amount if batter is dry)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
3 Tbsp (45 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1/2 cup (120 ml) oven-dried tomatoes (recipe under “ACD Friendly Version” of this post), cut in half, or 1/3 cup (80 ml) sundried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained and chopped
2-3 green onions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of parsely and dill)
1/2 cup (70 g) sorghum flour
3/4 cup (90 g) millet flour
1/2 cup (55 g) garfava flour
1 Tbsp (15 ml) arrowroot or potato starch
3/4 tsp (3.5 ml) xanthan gum
2-1/4 tsp (12 ml) baking powder
3/4 tsp (7.5 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F (190C). Line a muffin pan with 9 paper liners, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and tahini until smooth. Slowly add the milk and mix well, then stir in the vinegar, oil and flaxseeds. Gently stir in the tomatoes, onions and herbs to distribute. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or at least 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift together the millet flour, sorghum flour, garfava flour, arrowroot, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to mix well. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir gently just to mix (do not overmix or the muffins may not rise properly). The batter will be too thick to pour, but still moist (like a thick muffin batter). If it’s too dry, add a tablespoon or 2 more milk.
Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan once about halfway through, until a center muffin tests done. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Makes 9 muffins. May be frozen.
And don’t forget: You have until the end of the month to submit a carob-based recipe for this month’s SOS Kitchen Challenge! We’ll be giving out two prizes in honor of our one-year anniversary of the event–submit a recipe and you’re automatically entered!
Last Year at this Time: SOS Kitchen Challenge: Spinach Roundup!
Two Years Ago: Old Habits Die Hard: Mocha Cereal Cinnamon Muffins (not ACD friendly; not GF)
Three Years Ago: When Cheesecake is Love (not ACD friendly; not GF)