The Girls having a little wrestle-fest in the back yard.
For someone who’s been without her mother for quite a long time (my mum died in 1991), I tend to think about her rather a lot.
Maybe it’s the little photo of her perched on my bedside table that I see every morning and evening. Maybe it’s the increasing resemblance to her face I spy in the mirror every day. Maybe it’s the way I still automatically scream out, “Maaa!!” whenever a stray bee or spider surprises me with its presence. Whatever the reason, nary a day goes by when I don’t think about my mom.
As I’ve observed my friends-who-are-mothers raising their children, I’ve come to appreciate more and more what my mother offered in the time we were together.
For the first few years after she died, I refused to acknowledge Mother’s Day. I’d deliberately make other plans that would divert my attention, such as going to a movie, attending a workout class (ah, the days of attending workout classes. . . !), or cleaning out the kitchen cupboards (ah, the days of cleaning out. . . anything).
More recently, though, I’ve learned to embrace the day wholeheartedly. After all, I’ve realized, anyone can celebrate mothers today, whether it be their own biological moms or moms of the heart.
I may not have children, but I have certainly felt the yanking of the maternal heartstrings any time one of my beloved Girls has been sick or injured. I’ve lived through vicarious motherhood, experiencing the traumas and frustrations of raising toddlers to youngsters to teens to young adults alongside my best friends who have children. And I’ve felt something akin to the love of a daughter, directed at dear relatives and friends who’ve shown me the affection and care much like that my own mom did way back when.
“Mum, sorry about that yanking of the heartstrings stuff. I hope it didn’t hurt.”
And so, for any of you who are mothers today, who have or had mothers, or who are close to a mother–here’s wishing you a very happy, loving, and joyful day. And don’t forget to let that mom know just how much she means to you, while she’s still around to hear it.
“Mum, you know how much YOU mean to us, right? I mean, who else can I poke with my wet nose every morning? And who would throw the Frisbee for me? And who would give me endless handfuls of treats if you weren’t here. . . . GULP! Mum, you’re not planning on going anywhere any time soon, are you? ARE YOU?”
Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating today! I hope that Santa brought you something magical.
And to all DDD readers, I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for being such an integral part of Diet, Dessert and Dogs. Your wonderful comments and emails, your suggestions, opinions, questions–and, of course, your continued support of this blog–are why I keep coming back to this space with enthusiasm and curiosity. I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.
I wish you all a healthy, happy, love-filled holiday season spent with the people (and animals) who mean the most to you. In our house, that means these two get to chillax by the fireplace today and be spoiled by Mum and Dad.
“Mum, the chillaxing part sounds good, but having this blanket over our heads isn’t exactly relaxing. . .delicate dog ears, and all that. . . . though we do appreciate the fireplace.”
“Ah, yes, much better, Mum. This will allow us to focus more on the ‘be spoiled by Mum and Dad’ part. So where are our treats presents?”
It was my first visit to this holistic practitioner, and I knew from the outset it was the place for me. Shutting out the mid-day hubbub of Toronto’s Yonge Street behind me, I swung open the heavy oak door; inside, there was a comfortable hush in the air, like padding through a field of snow. The receptionist smiled and led me to the plush waiting room where I was offered a cup of freshly brewed ginger tea (Why yes, I’d love some, thanks.). With its deep, cushy sofas, fireplace and infusion of natural light, the room felt like the kind in which I’d be comfortable meditating, or napping, or sinking into a juicy novel.
When it was my turn, I followed the assistant upstairs to the examination room, where she offered me a parrafin wax treatment: one at a time, my hands were immersed into a basin of liquid, lavender-scented wax, caressing my fingers in soothing warmth before the assistant blanketed them in thick terrycloth mitts. Throughout the actual appointment, the doctor explained each procedure and the rationale behind it; at each step of the way, she asked if it was all right to proceed (it was). After about an hour in the chair, I was sad to learn I’d miss the usual final step in the procedure–a complimentary reflexology treatment–as the reflexologist was on vacation that week (Darn!Well, next time.).
I left the office feeling relaxed and pampered, yet impressed by the knowledge, compassion and professional care of the staff. You know, it almost makes me want to head back to the dentist again as soon as I—
What?! Did I just say, “THE DENTIST”?
That’s right, folks. That was a dental appointment. Yep, I’m pretty sure I can get behind this whole “holistic dentistry” thing.
After all of your advice, commiseration and feedback during my Ordeal Number One (the Ordeal of the Root Canal) over the past couple of weeks, I decided to pursue the holistic route. For that, I thank you. And thanks, too, for all the links and information you imparted that led me to this new dentist. At this point, since my pain has subsided substantially and the root is apparently still alive, her best advice is to wait and see, and re-visit in a month or so–so that’s what I’m going to do.
I’m sorry to say that our little Chaser did not have an equally positive experience during her recent appointment at the Vee Eee Tee last week (note to non-dog owners: certain words, like W-A-L-K, or T-R-E-A-T, or the aforementioned V-E-T, must always be spelled out to avoid evoking a canine reaction that can instantly escalate from “happy and alert” to “your sofa has just been ripped into forty-seven pieces.”).
Although our Vee Eee Tee is, herself, extremely warm, knowledgeable and accomplished in her field, none of that means anything to our wee one, who has suffered dread fear ever since her first N-A-I-L trim. At her annual appointment last week, I fairly had to drag her into the examining room, after which she cowered under the table until the Vee Eee Tee and her assistant coaxedencouragedbribed hauled her out for her shots. It pained me to cradle Chaser’s little head, pupils large as stormclouds, as the Vee Eee Tee administered the rabies vaccine (at which, ironically, Chaser didn’t even flinch; she didn’t feel a thing).
Oddly enough, as I remarked to the Vee Eee Tee, her office is the only place where our Girls literally swap personalities for a time: Elsie, normally as laid back as a hung over surfer snoozing on the beach, transforms into a prancing, whining, leaping spitfire even as we approach the building; while Chaser, normally the epitome of “In Your Face,” trembles uncontrollably, her ears plastered against her head, tail curled so far under her belly that it almost peeks out from her collar, in an effort to evade the N-A-I-L trimmer.
["Mum, you exaggerate. I wasn't cowering under that examining table. . . I was, er, um. . .trying to hide this geeky pink bandage. Yeah, that's right. . . I mean, you should have known that all the cool kids at the doggie daycare wear yellow, Mum. ]
Once we finally returned home from the ordeal, I found myself craving comfort food (preferably something easy to cook and not too hard on the teeth). For the HH, pizza is the quintessential convenience food; but for me, pizza means a homemade crust that is almost never quick to make. Then I remembered a recipe I’d seen almost a year ago on Oh She Glows, for these Quinoa Pizza Balls (unfortunately, I could no longer find the recipe on Angela’s site). Not only quick and easy, they’re also bite-sized so you don’t have to worry about eating half a pizza at one sitting (totally hypothetical example, you understand).
I was enjoying a plate of pizza balls and salad within about half an hour, and let me tell you, they were good. Crispy exterior with a soft, moist center, and a definite flavor of a traditional Margherita pizza (minus the mozzarella, of course), they were just what I needed that afternoon, as The Girls and I recovered from Ordeal Number Two (the Ordeal of the Vee Eee Tee).
“Mum, the pizza balls were okay and everything, but I think I would have preferred that reflexology treament.”
The simplicity of these balls belies their complex flavors. The pairing of fresh basil and tomato paste here is truly evocative of pizza. These make a great party appetizer or main course alongside a crisp salad.
2/3 cup (160 ml) quinoa, dry
2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth or stock
2 cups (480 ml–one 19-ounce/400 ml can) cooked white or red kidney beans
10-15 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) dried oregano
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
2/3 cup (160 ml) tomato paste
3-5 drops plain stevia liquid, to your taste
garlic salt, to your taste
If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed, rinse well and drain. Bring the broth to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. Add quinoa, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Check the quinoa; if the liquid is not yet absorbed, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes longer, until the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is softened. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash the beans with a potato masher or large fork until almost smooth (but leave a little texture). Add remaining ingredients, including quinoa, and, with clean hands, knead the “dough” to combine well.
Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, scoop the mixture and roll into balls. Place on cookie sheets and bake in preheated oven 25-35 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through, until the balls are dry and well browned on the outside. Serve immediately, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Makes about two dozen. May be frozen.
[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
You see, while I wasn’t exactly one of the cool kids who wore flowers in my hair back then (I was still a preteen when Joplin OD’d), The Nurse, four years my senior, was a quintessential daydream believer– which meant my concept of “flower child” was based entirely on her and her friends. The Nurse was perennially wearing Lee overalls, loose-flowing (naturally) blonde locks falling to her waist, eyelids dusted with baby blue, lips glossed with shimmery pale pink. During the last summer in the city after high school, she hung out incessantly with one particular chum, a hippie-dippy guy who was born to be wild and who, when I think about it now, eerily resembled Howard Stern. “Howard” was lanky, with a deep guttural laugh, a cigarette forever clasped between thumb and index finger, all of it topped with a mop of curly raven hair. He and The Nurse would zip through the neighborhood on his motorcycle (long hair blowin’ in the wind), return to our house and plunk themselves down in front of the TV, munch on corn chips or popcorn, then fall into wild paroxysms of laughter (I never did understand how the news could be that funny).
I had occasion to recall those long-ago good vibrations the other day, courtesy of Facebook. (It’s amazing where Facebook conversations take us, isn’t it?) It started innocently enough, after I’d whipped up some hemp milk for the first time.
Since hemp seeds are my favorite seed, I could never figure out why I hated the product of hemp seeds–i.e., packaged hemp milks. It was sort of like, hey, if Martin Sheen is my favorite actor, then why don’t I like Charlie Sheen? I kept thinking that if I’d just try a little bit harder, I’d learn to appreciate it; but no matter which brand I tasted, my reaction was, “Bleh! I can’t get no satisfaction when it comes to hemp milk.” So, I decided to make my own. I casually mentioned that I’d (finally) tried some of the homemade stuff:
Well, how could I resist? Of course, all associations with Woodly Harrelson aside, y’all know that hemp milk is incredibly healthful and good for you, right?
[Mexican Chocolate Hemp Frostie]
And it’s ridiculously easy to make. Unlike alternative milks from other nuts or seeds, there’s no pre-soaking; you just blend, strain (not necessary, but I prefer a smoother milk) and sip. If you want a sweeter milk, add some (unrefined) sugar, sugar, or other sweetener of choice. I may have been skeptical before I tried the homemade kind, but now I’m a believer.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? So creamy white (an even whiter shade of pale) and with such tiny bubbles (and note that far-out new tea towel sitting under it, sent to me by the far too sweet and generous Hannah!) I do hope you’ll try it. It’s rich, it’s creamy, it’s full of healthy Omega 3s, 6s and 9s, and it will no doubt leave you feeling groovy.
Peace, love, and hemp hearts, all!
“Mum, we must be hippies at heart, too, ’cause we just think this grass is great, man!”
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until the liquid becomes white and creamy, and hemp seeds are completely blended in. Strain through a fine sieve, if desired. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Shake before using. Makes 3 cups (720 ml).
For the Mexican Chocolate Hemp Frostie above, blend 2 cups (480 ml) hemp milk with 1 Tbsp (15 ml) raw cacao powder, 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon, 1 tsp (5 ml) coconut sugar, 10-20 drops stevia (to taste) and a cup of ice until frothy. Serve immediately.
When I was in grade school, there was exactly one boy (let’s call him Jerome) in our school who had a food allergy (to peanuts). Jerome was already a bit too large (he towered over the rest of us; even in grade three, he was already level with our teacher, Mrs. B’s shoulders); a bit too goofy (he had one of those snorty-hiccuping laughs, sounding slightly porcine and aquatic at the same time); and a bit too fleshy, with excess skin seeming to hang from his waistband and cheeks, his complexion as white and matte as newly painted classrooms after summer break.
I always felt sorry for him. Even though he sometimes played the class clown out in the school yard, I never saw him smiling around food. He carried his dietary restrictions around like a backpack full of rocks–at once too heavy, yet requiring great attention to avoid causing injury–while the rest of us flaunted our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.
When I first began the Anti-Candida Diet (ACD) in earnest in March, 2009, I felt a long-lost connection to poor Jerome. After all, not only did I have to eschew peanuts, but also gluten, most sweeteners, yeasts, alcohol and all moldy foods as well. No, I won’t be eating any PB&J sandwiches in the foreseeable future. And yet, after three years on the diet, I no longer feel like I’m missing out on very much (the one exception is social occasions–when we’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, or to a major event like a wedding or bar mitzvah; the industrial kitchens seem to have a tough time producing something I can eat that also tastes good). I’ve more or less accepted that this will be my diet for the rest of my life, and I don’t mind cooking my own foods. I’ve discovered that, if you keep an open mind, there’s an infinite number of new food combinations and flavors to try, even on a restricted diet.
(“It’s true, Mum–we don’t think of our diet as restricted, either, even without chocolate! We happen to love the combination of apple, cauliflower and salmon blended together in the food processor.”)
In fact, for me it’s become a kind of game, a little personal challenge whenever I spy something that looks delicious but which I’m not supposed to eat: how can I recreate that dish in a way that’s ACD-friendly? When I saw Cara’s Caramelized Onion, Shaved Butternut and Goat Cheese Pizza over on the Clean Eating webiste, I knew immediately that I’d have to reproduce it–or, at least, an allergy-friendly, low glycemic, ACD-approved version of it. I saved the recipe on Pinterest (so much more fun than bookmarking!) and thought about what I’d change.
I ended up tweaking my own Grain-Free Pizza Crust to make it not only grain-free but also starch-free; used this goat “cheese” instead of the dairy-based one; and concocted an ACD-friendly version of the condensed balsamic that worked beautifully. The HH (who, by the way, has no food allergies and can eat whatever he wants in whatever quantities he wants–don’t you just hate him?) went bonkers over this pizza. I think he wants Cara to come live with us now.
The pizza features thinly sliced, deeply browned onions, slow-cooked until sweet and languorous. They’re topped with shaved squash that’s wilted and beginning to curl at the edges, accented with crisp, toasty pumpkinseeds and bitter greens, all accented with dollops of tart, creamy goat “cheese.”
Savoring a big slice of this pizza, I felt completely happy, sated and even somewhat spoiled by the perfect symphony of flavors, colors and textures on my plate. In other words, it was the very antithesis of a “restricted” meal. Now, if only I could invite Jerome to join us. I’m sure this pizza would make him smile aound his food, after all.
Cara’s Caramelized Onion, Shaved Butternut and “Goat Cheese” Pizza, Anti-Candida Friendly (grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegan); Suitable for ACD Stage 2 and beyond.
1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil, optional (omit if you’ll be topping with sweet ingredients)
For the Toppings:
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 cup (60-120 ml) vegetable broth or stock
225 g (4 oz) peeled and shaved (with a vegetable peeler) butternut squash (about 1/4 of a sqash–I just did the thin neck part)
1/2 recipe this goat “cheese” (omit peppercorns; the remainder is great on muffins, toast, etc.)
2 cups (480 ml) thinly sliced chard or kale
2 Tbsp (30 ml) raw or lightly toasted pumpkin seeds
For the Balsamic Drizzle (ACD Stage 3 or beyond; for ACD Stage 2, see variation below):
1/4 cup (60 ml) balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar
5 drops plain stevia liquid
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a large pizza pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the beans and 1/4 cup (60 ml) oil until relatively smooth. Add the soymilk, stevia, vinegar, coconut flour, psyllium, garfava flour, buckwheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and basil and process again until the mixture comes together in a ball. Do not overprocess!
Take the ball of dough and, using your hands, pull of chunks the size of baseballs and distribute them evenly over the pizza pan. Use the final 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of oil to grease your palms and fingertips; then press the dough evenly in the pan until all the chunks come together in a single crust. Keep greasing your hands as necessary to avoid sticking. If desired, make a slight rim all around the edge of the dough. (Instead of using the extra oil, you can also wet your palms to prevent sticking while you press out the dough, but if you apply a tomato-based sauce to the pizza, it’s more likely to remain moist in that case).
Bake in preheated oven 35-45 minutes, until the crust is dry and lightly browned on the edges and bottom (if you underbake at this stage, the inside of the dough will remain moist after the toppings have been added). Top with desired toppings, then return to the oven for another 25-35 minutes, until heated throughout and toppings are cooked. Slice and serve. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen. To freeze, wrap slices individually in plastic and freeze until solid, then store in a ziploc bag.
While the crust bakes, make the toppings: heat oil over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) broth and cover the pan. Allow to cook another 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are soft and golden. If the onion sticks to the pan, add more broth as needed. Set aside.
Once the dough is ready, remove it from the oven and increase the heat to 450F ( C). Spread the onions evenly over the crust. Top with the greens, then the shaved squash. Scatter dollops of cheese over the top and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the greens and squash are wilted and the cheese has begun to brown a bit.
While the pizza bakes, make the drizzle: Combine the balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar and stevia in a small pot and bring to the boil. Lower heat to medium-low and cook until reduced to about 1/4 cup (60 ml), about 5 minutes. Remove pizza from the oven and drizzle with the vinegar. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen. To freeze, wrap slices individually in plastic and freeze until solid, then store in a ziploc bag.
For ACD Stage 2, use this vinegar drizzle instead: Replace the balsamic with unsweetened cranberry juice and increase the stevia to 10 drops instead of 5. Prepare as described above.
*Or, How About a Dickens Reference Other Than A Christmas Carol for a Change?
["Happy New Year, Mum! A saner approach to 2012 sounds good to me, too. Oh, and kudos on that atypical Dickens reference!"]
Happy 2012, everyone! Hope you all had a great time ringing in the new year. I’m incredibly excited to see what 2012 will bring! But before we get to that. . . . [Warning: long post ahead. Hopefully, it will still be 2012 by the time we're finished. To skip to the giveaway info, just go to the last section of this entry.]
I had actually intended this post to be part of Cheryl’s December Sanity Challenge, her blog event that exhorted us to “post on what you plan to do to make your holidays sane, happy and healthy.” (First pledge for 2012: get things done on time.). Clearly, I’m a little behind the curve on this one (sorry, Cheryl!). Well, since the holiday festivities have already passed and I haven’t quite achieved that elusive sanity as yet, I thought this would be as good a time as any to take stock of the past year, reflect on what worked or what didn’t, and formulate a plan to help increase the sanity quotient throughout the upcoming 365 days.
One of my proudest health victories in 2011 was reversing the previous year’s diagnosis of near-osteoporosis (with a T-score of -2.2, I landed at the top of the “osteopenia” spectrum). Although my (allopathic) family doctor assured me that there was no way to reverse osteopenia and warned that I would need to start taking prescription drugs to avert disaster, I convinced her to let me try a holistic approach for a year. My recent bone density test indicated that my numbers improved dramatically–up to -1.3–which means less than a 10% chance of fracture after a fall! Yippee!
Many of you asked how I did it. While I’m loath to provide specific details about supplements because (a) each of us is an individual, and should, therefore, acquire an individualized program from a certified health care provider; and (b) I am not qualified to provide this type of information to anyone else–this is my personal story only–I am happy to share what I did because it worked for me. However, I can’t stress enough that this is the plan I followed, but it may not work for you. Please contact your own health care provider before embarking on any kind of bone-building regimen, or any health-promoting regimen, period.
My year-long plan (which I’m still following, for the time being) involved increasing bone-building minerals and foods in my diet, and boosting the amount of weight-bearing exercise. Here’s what I did:
Based on my naturopath’s plan for me, I took all these daily supplements in addition to my other regular supplements (such as probiotics, Omega 3s, CoQ10, B12 and whatever else I’m on for candida and general health):
Apart from my “regular” diet (lots of veggies and fruits, nuts and seeds, soy about once every 2 weeks, whole gluten-free grains, and a daily slurry of one teaspoon/5 ml spirulina (or other green food) combined with some almond, rice or soy milk and a tablespoon of ground flax seeds and chia seeds every single morning), I added a few more foods. Although I had been consuming a good amount of leafy greens (I adore kale and pretty much love all green leafys), I decided to amp up the green quotient nonetheless. I ate 2 servings of leafy greens at least 4 times a week, with a minimum of one serving on the other days.
I also increased my intake of beans and legumes, which offer a great array of minerals necessary for a healthy bone matrix. Seaweed contains a similarly broad range of nutrients, so I attempted to increase my intake of those as well. I ended up eating beans and legumes 5-6 times a week, with seaweeds (such as nori sheets, arame, wakame, etc.) just under once a week. My goal this year is to augment that amount as well.
Again, this past year was about building on established routines. (And please note, I am by NO MEANS what I’d call a “fitness buff”; exercise to me is mostly necessity, never something I love doing. I’m definitely moderate in my approach and don’t really care whether or not I build muscle as long as I’m within a healthy range.)
My pattern before 2011 had been to walk every day (30-40 minutes with The Girls, with an additional short walk on the treadmill most days) and to use weights 3-4 times a week. I determined to increase my walking time by at least 30 minutes a day and amp up my weight-based workouts to every second day (ie, 4 times a week), adding in a few muscle groups I hadn’t been targeting specifically with weights before that (such as the abductors and adductors). Overall, I ended up walking about 70 minutes total each day, and used the weight machines at my local gym daily, alternating between upper and lower body, six days a week.
I certainly understand that an hour’s walk each day may seem a tad much for some folks. . . at least, those who don’t own dogs. As for the alimentary changes, it’s not as difficult as you’d imagine to incorporate more greens and legumes: smoothies and salads are two obvious ways; I also tend to add chopped greens to soups and stews without thinking these days. As for beans, there are endless recipes to incorporate more of them in one’s diet. All it takes is a little determination, and remembering to include them in your menus!
Candida Update: Symptoms Holding Steady in 2011.
March of this year will mark 3 years since I began the ACD (holy jeepers! That’s 36 months. 156 weeks. Three seasons of American Idol. . . all without sugar or mold!). After some great progress in 2010, my symptoms continued to hold steady in 2011, spurring a shift from Stage 2 to Stage 3 (and even some maintenance) foods in 2011.
At this point, I’ve grown fairly accustomed to eating this way, and have managed to welcome back a few previously eschewed ingredients into my diet, such as the occasional drizzle of vinegar (if I’m in a restaurant and the dressing contains regular vinegar, I no longer ask them to serve the salad without) or apple cider vinegar (either permitted or not, depending on which version of the diet you follow); the occasional sweeter or dried fruit, particularly if I’m eating at a raw food restaurant; and low glycemic sweeteners other than stevia (coconut sugar, coconut nectar, agave). If I’m moderate in my intake of these newer foods, they pose no problems and there are no symptom flare-ups. I can live with that.
II. The Worst of Times: What Didn’t Work, and Where I’m Going this Year
Weight Loss: Not Holding Steady in 2011.
If you’ve been a DDD reader since I first embarked on the ACD in March, 2009, you’ll recall that I lost a considerable amount of weight on the regimen, without a single day of “dieting.” Still, as someone who strives to be an “intuitive” eater, I’ve come to believe that intuition, shall we say, is not my forte.
["Mum, it's easy to be an intuitive eater! Just do what I do: eat anything that isn't moving--and that includes Elsie's ear!"]
Let me be clear: I haven’t veered at all from what is permitted on the diet. Nevertheless, I’ve seen my weight creep slowly back up as the past year unfolded.
Sure, the foods I consume are über-healthy and my diet would be considered draconian by the standards of many; but for me, one extra (sugar-free, gluten-free, ACD-friendly) cookie can easily morph into four cookies; in true Libra fashion, I tend to vacillate between feast and famine (figuratively speaking, of course, having never approached true famine in my life).
Recently I came across a fascinating article about why those of us who’ve lost (and gained, and lost, and gained, and lost) considerable amounts of weight find it so excruciatingly difficult to permanently inhabit the realm of “slim.”
According to a study undertaken at Columbia University in New York, the cellular makeup and chemistry of formerly zaftig bodies have been permanently changed, so that former dieters ”showed a bigger response in the parts of the brain associated with reward and a lower response in the areas associated with control. This suggests that the body, in order to get back to its pre-diet weight, induces cravings by making the person feel more excited about food and giving him or her less willpower to resist a high-calorie treat.” At the same time, “After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” [the study's author] says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.”
As someone who experiences this biochemical Catch-22 fairly frequently, it makes total sense to me that, once a dieter has achieved a desired weight, s/he will thereafter crave food more than a naturally slim person–while simultaneously possessing less willpower to limit the food eaten. The upshot, then, as David Kessler instructs us in The End of Overeating, is to be vigilant about planning and organizing what one will eat in order to steer clear of ”trigger” foods. Which leads me to. . . .
III. The Outlook for 2012: A Cleanse, Multiple Giveaways, and Other Events:
I’m kicking off the year with a whole-foods cleanse that will serve not only to further stymie the remaining dregs of candida in my system, but also reset my sweets cravings to a level somewhat below an elephant’s trumpet, which is where they’ve been residing lately. As those of you who’ve ditched sugar in the past undoubtedly know, once you eliminate the sweet stuff for long enough, the constant desire to seek it out abates as well. For me, that shift took a little longer than the norm (sugar cravings usually disappear within 10 days or so of cutting out sugar; in my case, they held their grip until somewhere around the six-month point on the ACD). [NOTE: while this is NOT specifically a sugar detox (that one, which I'll be offering with Andrea Nakayama, is coming up in March!), as a general, all-purpose healthy-eating plan, it will of course help to detox sugar--as well as other toxins in the body.]
There’s be nothing extreme about this detox, which is being offered online by my nutritionista friend Meghan Telpner: there are no special pills or potions–just real, whole, healthy foods that will help to chase away the ghosts of Christmas (and the rest of the year) past (okay, so I couldn’t resist that Christmas Carol reference, after all).
And guess what? For those who’d like to play along, Meghan is offering a free spot in the 16-day detox, which begins on January 6th. You’ll get an ebook filled with information and recipes, online coaching, a group tweetchat, live videos and more (check out all the details here). I’m going to be following along as well, so keep an eye out for more raw recipes on the blog!
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post telling me why you’d like to participate. The contest is open until NOON my time this Thursday, January 5th. I’ll announce a winner in my Wellness Weekend post on Thursday evening (January 5th), leaving plenty of time for you to receive your materials and join in the pre-cleanse conference call Friday at 4:00 PM.
[Full disclosure: I received a free spot in the detox in exchange for holding this giveaway. I was not required to say anything positive about the cleanse in this post--or anything at all, actually. I'm endorsing it based on the materials in the cleanse and my knowledge of Meghan's approach to healthy eating.]
The Balanced Platter Launches!
Yesterday marked the launch of The Balanced Platter, the new website founded by Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake. TBP promises to be your “one-stop site for balanced, healthy gluten-free living. . . . .we’ll help you navigate the gluten-free, whole foods lifestyle. You’ll also learn easy and effective ways to give yourself and your family wholesome, allergy friendly food and tips for bringing balance to your life through food and lifestyle.” Well, how great does that sound?! They’re kicking off the site with a month-long event called “Balanced, Healthy and Gluten-Free,” with daily posts and a giveaway. Check their site for more info.
I’m thrilled to share that I’ll be one of the regular contributors to The Balanced Platter. Visit again tomorrow to see my first post!
I’ll share events in the days to come, but I think this post is already quite long enough, thank you! (In fact, it may just have taken first place as ”Longest Post of 2012″–yes, I know that already). ;) I’ll be taking one more glance backward with my next recipe (from our 2011 Christmas dinner) before springing full force into the new year.
Yep, I’d say there are definitely some Great Expectations ahead! (oops, there I go again. . . groan).
Hope you all had a fantastic holiday! Over here in the DDD household, we’ve had a wonderful time the past few days, what with the HH on holidays between Christmas and New Year’s.
(“Yes, Mum, we’ve loved it, too! It’s great to have those extra trail-walks. . . and play time. . . and. . . ooh, whatever that yummy food is called! Um. . . do you think I could have some more of that stuff?”)
After scrambling at a cougar’s pace (that would be the feline kind, not the Courtney-Cox kind) the last few weeks to complete my work at the college (ie, marking last-minute assignments and over 170 exams within the space of 4 days); keep up with writing commitments; and buy gifts for my loved ones (then wrap and give said gifts to their intended recipients)–on Christmas Eve, finally, I began to unwind, think about some serious chillaxing, and prepare for a fabulous festive feast (including triple alliteration, no less).
“Yeah, Mum, chillaxing is great this time of year! I’m feeling toasty warm over here by the fireplace. Oh, and by the way, I’m happy to help with leftovers. . . you know what I’m talking about.”
This year, the HH announced once again that he would like a tradtional turkey dinner. As regular readers of this blog likely know, my honey is a devoted carnivore. Most days, this state of affairs presents no problem at all: we coexist peacefully; he eats his meat at lunch time, or orders off restaurant menus when we dine out; or he cooks his own steaks or hamburgers and consumes my dinner as his side dish. (For a good description of how another vegan-omni couple works it out in a similar way, see JL’s recent post). A huge turkey, however, is another matter entirely.
“Yeah–turkey–that’s what it’s called! So, did I hear you say, ‘turkey,’ Mum?”
One thing I love about the HH is his full acceptance of me–quirks, blemishes, and all, including aspects of myself that even I find difficult to tolerate. Neurotic tirades about germs, disease, airplanes, strange noises in the house at night, having to wash the dishes just so–et cetera–are all met with (mostly) patient, even responses or calm rebuttals. In the nearly-15 years we’ve been together, my sweetie has witnessed my physical proportions vacillate wildly a half dozen times, bouncing between an initially svelte, mini skirted physique to that of an engorged beach ball (nearly 200 pounds at the height of my candida woes in 2009). And not once–not even in a whisper–has he ever uttered a negative word about my weight, acted less affectionate, or suggested that I might like to go on a diet.
And so, on Christmas Day, after sleeping in and chasing the lethargy with a shot of coffee (the HH) and matcha tea (moi), we opened our presents in front of the fireplace. And then the HH got to work cooking his turkey.
After he popped it in the oven, he played sous-chef for me, chopping veggies, sautéing onions, slicing potatoes and trimming brussels sprouts.
[Perfect gluten-free stuffing waiting to go into the oven.]
["That's pretty nice music, Mum! Perfect for listening while waiting for more turkey. . . "]
Throughout the day as we reclined and prepped, we snacked intermittently on this cranberry-crusted cashew goat-cheese log I’d made (simply whir about half of them in a blender to create a paste, then mix with the remaining whole berries and press the mess into your cheese; bake at 250F/120 C for 20 minutes to set). Heavenly!
[Cranberry-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese on oat crackers. . . almost made me forget about the meal!]
My final menu included Fava Bean Balls (I loved the flavor but not the texture–I’ll keep working on it and post the recipe once I perfect it) with Apple-Cranberry Sauce; Creamy Whipped Kabocha (processed with soaked raw cashews and a splash of lemon juice for a sour-cream effect); Scalloped Potatoes adapted from Alta’s recipe; our favorite brussels sprouts; gluten-free stuffing (loosely based on this recipe); and onion gravy. It was an incredible, indulgent, celebratory meal, and we relished every bite. In fact, I even enjoyed it again the next day for lunch:
The HH savored his turkey, too, alongside all the same sides as me. And because it was far too much for the HH alone, he shared amply with The Girls, who, it seemed to me, reacted much the way Marilyn Monroe did to a moving camera, or William S Burroughs did to a bag of cocaine on the table, or a gas stovetop element does to a lit match. In fact, I’d say that Chaser still gets that “crazy eye” look any time someone utters the word, “turkey.”
["What? What's that you say? Oh, no, Mum, you're totally wrong about that. No way, Mum. Oh, I can stop any time I want. Really. No problem. No worries. It's just that I like turkey. I choose to eat turkey. I mean. . . hey, by the way, is there any more? I mean, I wouldn't mind some turkey. . . I'd actually love a little turkey. . . just a little. . . just one piece. . . . "]
For dessert, I attempted my very first Sticky Toffee Pudding, combining recipes from both Angela and Lexie. The result was a thick, dense, spiced cake rendered gooey and sticky from soaking in toffee sauce, with a hefty scoop of Caramel Ice Cream alongside, also doused in more sauce (sorry, no photo–we lapped it up pretty quickly). While The HH loved the dessert, I would have been happier with just the ice cream and sauce.
By this morning, I was ready to revert to lighter fare and more of my regular routine. Ever since you all weighed in on what you’d like to see here, I’ve also been thinking about quicker, easier dishes for the Flash in the Pan series of recipes.
This breakfast is a hybrid of a classic chia pudding and a breakfast smoothie. It can be prepared the night before and left in the fridge to soften and plump up overnight. The pudding combines some of my favorite smoothie ingredients (rice protein powder, avocado, rice milk, cacao) with the texture of a pudding, resulting in a high-protein, high Omega-3 meal-in-a-bowl that provides a whole host of other health benefits as well. Pillowy soft, luxuriously creamy and rich tasting, this breakfast is a quick way to acquire a full serving of protein in what tastes like a dessert. It’s a great way to use up those ripe avocados on your countertop, too.
I can’t think of a better way to cap off the holiday feasting. Can you?
“Well, Mum, if you really want to know, I’s say that another slice of that turkey would do just fine. . . but chances aren’t looking too good at the moment. I may as well just give up on it for now. . . *Sigh*.”
And finally. . . your opinion, please!
I loved learning what you’d like to see on the blog in 2012 (and please feel free to keep those ideas coming in the comments!). For now, I’ve got a more immediate question for y’all (I already asked this one on Facebook, so if you answered there, thanks!): The HH and I have been invited to the home of a friend of a friend for a New Year’s Eve bash. All I know about this gent is that he’s a true gourmet who loves to cook and eat. I’ve been asked to bring a sweet treat and am considering the following three (note that they’re not ACD friendly or gluten free–but then again, these are for a crowd of conventional eaters).
A great no-cook, prepare-ahead breakfast that you can pack up and bring to the office for those mornings you have no time for a nourishing meal as you rush out the door. It makes a great light lunch, too, alongside a crisp, fresh salad.
Place everything but the chia seeds in a strong blender and blend until perfectly smooth. Pour into a container and stir in the chia seeds. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then stir again to ensure that all the seeds are submerged. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Stir again before serving. Makes 2 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Have you been keeping up with Vegan MoFo? Now that I've backed out of the festivities because I knew I couldn't keep up--well, here I am, posting virtually every day in October thus far! With our Ontario elections today (go out and vote, people!) and our Thanksgiving coming up (stay home and eat, people!), I'm pretty sure this bombarding-you-with-a-blog-post-a-day foolishness will come to an end asap (though don't forget to come back tonight for this week's Wellness Weekend, of course!)
In any case, I couldn't let the weekend arrive without offering my picks for Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes for the big weekend. My own feast menu is almost crystallized, but sadly, I won't get the recipes posted until after the holiday--but hey, you can always use those for the next celebration (and believe me, you will want to save that dessert recipe for just that purpose. Swoon.).
And to all my Canadian brethren, hope you have a fantastic long weekend. And if you've got a favorite Thanksgiving recipe to share, please leave a link in the comments section!
Happy Thanksgiving, all!
[NOTE: Not all recipes below are anti-candida friendly and/or gluten free. Where I've added "A," it indicates ACD-friendly; "GF" indicates gluten free. Other recipes contain spelt or barley flour, or other natural sweeteners (maple syrup, Sucanat, etc.). You can replace Sucanat with coconut sugar to render many of these ACD-friendly. ]
In other news. . . my Meaty Vegan Lasagna recipe is one of eleven featured today on The Huffington Post Canada–yahoo! Hope you’ll check it out (and click on the “Rate It!” button to the right of the recipe to vote for me!)
“Happy Thanksgiving! To us that just means more time to play with our humans! (And more treat, of course!).”
Have you seen those magazine and website series called “Separated at Birth”? They usually feature two celebs (sometimes, a celeb and an animal or even a celeb and inanimate object) that–in that one particular photo, at least–eerily resemble each other.
Having grown up with identical twins in my family (my Uncle S was an identical twin) and with my two best friends being twins (I’ve known Gemini I and Gemini II since we were all 4 years old), I’ve always been fascinated by twins and how similar they are–or not. Everyone knows (or has heard of) at least one set of twins who, at some point, fooled a teacher/ babysitter/ cousin/ neighbor by switching roles and pretending to be the other. (And remember that creepy novel--which Canadian director David Cronenberg made into an equally creepy movie–about those two twin doctors? Or how about Bette Davis’s Oscar vehicle, Dead Ringer , in which envy prompts her character to appropriate her (richer, happier) sister’s life (and to eradicate her fingerprints, in a scene that still haunts me on occasion)? On a less deadly note, there’s always Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap or Danny DeVito and Ex-Mr.-Governator-cum-Philandering-Maid-Paramour in Twins.).
I’m glad to report that the Geminis were not like those other identical counterparts. Thankfully, their parents treated them like two distinct individuals with their own (different) sets of clothing, hairstyles, interests and friends (well, except for me, I guess). And that’s how they grew up: even though their teachers had trouble differentiating them as kids, there’s no mistaking their unique personalities and looks today. (In fact, when the HH first met Gemini I and Gemini II, he noted that “they kinda looked like sisters” but that he would never have guessed they were twins (even though they share identical DNA!). That’s a true testament to the power of nurture, I’d say.
In the realm of apricot-swirl cheesecakes, think of these lovely, luxuriously creamy bars as the long-lost twin of that earlier raw version I posted a couple of weeks ago. It started with our organic produce delivery, which I love receiving every week (and which has introduced me to a plethora of new fruits and veggies over the years, at times in a David Letterman-at-the-Oscars sort of way: “Ricki, meet Rapini. Rapini–Ricki”). But there are also times when we receive far more than can be consumed by two childless adults in a single week. (“What do you mean, “childless,” Mum? Did you forget about us??”). These bars hail from the same (very large) bag of apricots that arrived on our doorstep that week.
In this case, though, this latter half of the summer stone fruits were nurtured a little differently from those in the Raw Mini Pies. With these, I baked up a bar much more similar to the original one I spied on the Everyday Food site. These Apricot Swirl Cheesecake Bars offer a more classic vegan cheesecake base, one made with silken tofu. With a shortcake crust and a tangy, cooked swirl of apricot preserves, these are bars you can serve with pride to your bridge club, your PTA meeting, your family on Sunday evening, or your kids after school–and they’ll be equally welcomed by all.
While I really enjoyed the bars, the HH was truly besotted (he liked them better than the raw version; I was the opposite. The HH and I had differing opinions? Quel surprise!). The similarities between the two desserts are obvious, and the differences subtle. Which makes sense, of course, since they were, after all, born from the same crop.
Rather than choose one cheesecake twin over the other, why not just make them both?
Apricot Swirl Cheesecake Bars
Suitable for ACD Stage 3 and Beyond
These are a lovely, fruity treat that tastes rich without being cloying. You could easily try other fruit swirl flavors in place of the apricot, such as peach, plum, or even berries.
For the Apricot Compote:
4 medium apricots, washed, pitted and chopped into chunks
2 Tbsp (30 ml) water
pinch fine sea salt
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
25-40 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste (I use NuNaturals)
For the Cookie Crust Layer:
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut sugar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla soy or almond milk
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
25-40 drops plain or vanilla liquid stevia, to your taste
1 pkg (12 ounces or 375 g) aseptically packaged firm or extra-firm silken tofu (I use Mori-Nu)
1/2 cup (120 ml) smooth natural cashew butter
grated zest of one lemon
1/3 cup (80 ml) light agave nectar
25-40 drops plain or vanilla liquid stevia, to your taste
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure lemon extract
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
Make the Apricot Compote: Place the apricots, water and salt in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Continue to cook and stir until the apricots begin to soften and darken, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and add the lemon juice and stevia. Process until smooth and no lumps remain. (Alternately, blend with a hand blender until smooth). Set aside while you prepare the crust and filling.
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a 9-inch (22.5 cm) pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut sugar, soymilk, vanilla and stevia until the coconut sugar dissolves. Add the oil and mix well. Sift the remaining ingredients into the bowl and then stir with a wooden spoon until you have a soft and slightly sticky dough.
Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake in preheated oven 12-15 minutes, until dry on top and beginning to puff at the edges. Remove from oven.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Blend the tofu and cashew butter in a (cleaned) food processor until you have a smooth paste. Add remaining filling ingredients and continue to process until completely smooth and no traces of tofu are visible.
Pour the cheesecake filling evenly over the crust in the pan. Dollop with apricot preserves, leaving some cheesecake visible here and there. Using a sharp knife, draw lines through the preserves to create a swirled or marbled effect.
Return the pan to the oven and continue to bake for 25-35 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until the edges are browned and the filling appears firm when you jiggle the pan. Cool completely, then refrigerate at least 4 hours before cutting into bars and serving. Makes 12 bars. May be frozen (defrost, covered, overnight in the refrigerator).
Hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was filled with about 200 exams to mark. . . luckily, there were also some wonderful eats (see below), including more salad dressing made with my Nutra-Vege entirely animal-free Omega 3 oil. I’m so glad that you all seem as excited about it as I am (even those of you in the US who couldn’t enter the contest–so sorry! But the next one will be worldwide.).
I’ve chosen three winners at random, who will each receive a bottle of the oil. If your name is on this list, please contact me at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom with your full name and mailing address so I can get your oil out to you asap! (If I don’t hear from you within a week, I’ll choose another winner).
And the winners are. . . .
TERRI! Terri said, “Trying to get in lots of omega 3s before we start trying to get preggo!” (Best of luck with it!)
LAUREL ALANNA McBRINE! Laurel wrote, “Went to Ascenta – learned that the conversion ratio is way better than flax and less calories/cost since one bottle of NutraVege equals FOUR bottles of flax oil!” I was really impressed with that fact, too!
JACQUI! Here’s Jacqui’s comment: “I would love to try the Nutra-vege! I am just starting to transition to a vegan diet (slowly) and am needing a vegan option for Omega 3 after my current is gone!” I think you’ll love this option, Jacqui, and it’s 100% vegan.
Congrats to all three of you!
“That’s great for the winners, Mum! And you know that we also like NutraVege, –dogs can eat vegan food, too!”
“Gulp! But we’ll still get our peanut butter treats, right, Elsie?”
(No worries, Chaser. You will still get your favorite PB treats. )
And for everyone else, here’s a little consolation prize I’ll serve up in my next post:
Quite possibly the lightest, fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever made!