When we were kids, the CFO and I would rejoice if we woke up on a December morning to find that the street had been coated in a blanket of snow while we’d slept. We’d squeal with delight (after the high-fives) knowing that we’d most likely be snowed in for the day (and have a reprieve from school). Looking out at the the trees and bushes dredged in soft, white powder, our imaginations transformed the front yard into the setting for any number of outdoor games, from “Living-in-an-igloo” to “I’m-going-to-infiltrate-your-fort” to “My-snow-angel-is-prettier-than-your-snow-angel.” We couldn’t help but feel elated as we wriggled into our snowsuits, boots and mittens before our mother wrapped our heads, mummy-style, in multicolor striped scarves, smeared a swath of Vaseline across our cheeks and noses, then ushered us out the door into the cold.
While we perceived snow as a novel backdrop to hours of carefree games, my mother, I realize now, wasn’t so keen. To her, snow was another hurdle in an already-harried existence, one that added time and effort to her ten-block walk to the grocery store and back (she never did learn to drive a car): a cold, wet, unwelcome crystalline substance that, packed into balls at the hands of snotty little Peter Piacek next door, could be hurled in her direction as she attempted to maneuver her way home amid the snowdrifts that settled in the tops of her anke-high boots; the erratic ruts carved out along the sidewalks (threatening to topple her along with the grocery bags); or the slush that soaked through to her toes and left grey splotches on her pantyhose once she finally got back into the house.
This morning, I woke up to discover that our street had been entirely blanketed in snow while we slept. The white stuff floated gently from the heavens, settling like the dust after a skyscraper demolition on the sidewalks and driveway. No, I did not squeal with delight. No, there were no high-fives. I blinked a few times in disbelief before a little sob caught in my throat. I couldn’t deny it any longer: winter has arrived.
I need to move to a place that has no winter.
True, there was a cute little twitter exchange among a few of us in the GTA this morning about snow and how it is, indeed, very beautiful–for the first twenty minutes or so. After that, it’s simply a collosal pain.
When the weather turns frigid, white, and bone-chilling like this, I want to hunker down. I want to curl up and squeeze myself into a very small space. (“Actually, Mum, that’s rather relaxing–I think you’d like it! You should come join me under the bed once in a while.” ) I want to be anywhere but here.
And so, I seek out comfort. Sure, I could ask the HH for a hug (and sometimes, I do). And that would comfort me–for a few seconds, at least. Comfort food, on the other hand, will remain with you for hours after the fact (or, depending on where it eventually settles, years!). And rice pudding, my friends, is the ultimate comfort food.
My mother used to make a particular style of rice pudding in the winter. First, it was baked rather than cooked on the stovetop; and second, it contained eggs and milk, which, when baked, formed a custard layer on top of the rice. I suppose the custard was meant to be stirred into the grains to form a creamy coating that blended throughout the pudding; but in our house, my mom simply cut the dessert into big blocks and placed them on plates, like pieces of cake. I used to scrape off the custard and leave the densely packed rice behind (no, that didn’t go over too well with Mom. I think she was already in a foul mood because of those snowballs).
I decided to try my hand at a vegan version of Mom’s pudding. After all, I’d made custards with silken tofu before, right? I cooked up some rice, topped it with the blended custard mixture, and baked it. The result was almost identical to my mom’s pudding–well, the bottom, brick-hard layer, that is. Somehow, the tofu mixture dissolved into the rice, leaving no custard behind. Undaunted, I opted for custardless pudding instead. In fact, I went for a fairly non-creamy pudding entirely, switching from custard to fruit. Equally comforting, if not equally rich.
This pudding is similar to a baked oatmeal, using rice instead of oats. I grate the apple rather than cut it in chunks so that it becomes part of the pudding base, adding sweetness to the entire dish rather than offering small diced bits studded here and there. The result is a slightly less sweet, definitely less creamy version of a rice pudding, but one that is immensely comforting in its rustic wholesomeness. You’ll taste a hint of apple throughout, but I wouldn’t call this an apple-flavored pudding; rice is definitely the main attraction. I topped mine with some vegan whipped topping for richness and creaminess, which worked perfectly when stirred into the pudding base.
Earlier today, I stood before the window of my office and watched the snow continue to flutter from the sky as it filled our driveway with a thick, deep layer of silver that glimmered in the early afternoon light. It showed no sign of abating, and I knew I had perhaps an hour or more of heavy shovelling in my future if I wanted to get the car out of the driveway (or if the HH wanted to get his car back in after work).
But there was rice pudding in the refrigerator. I served up another bowlful and enjoyed it as the snow continued to accost the streets below. May as well build up my strength for the inevitable.
Because it’s not too sweet, this pudding also makes a great breakfast dish. If you wish to dress it up, add some creamy whipped topping and chopped macadamia nuts.
2 cups (480 ml) cooked brown rice (long grain or basmati are nice)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic cornstarch
2 cups plain or vanilla rice milk
1 large apple, peeled, cored and grated (I used golden delicious)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
20-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
2 tsp (10 ml) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray or grease with coconut oil. Spread the rice evenly in the dish.
In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch with about 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the milk until smooth and there are no lumps. Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.
Pour the wet mixture over the rice in the casserole dish; cover the dish and bake 1-1/4 hours, removing the dish from the oven and stirring the pudding every 30 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is very soft. Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so before serving. Makes 4-6 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (I actually preferred it cold the next day).
While the HH likes to spend his weekends in the same fashion each week (sleep in; brunch at our favorite place; toodle around a bookstore; come home and listen to classical music on his beyond-our-means stereo system), I’d rather do something entirely different each Saturday and Sunday–go to the museum, say, or the farmers market, or read my latest book of choice, or cook up something new in the DDD kitchen, or launch a campaign to get on The Ellen Show.
Similarly, on his watch, the HH takes The Girls along the exact same route each time they go for a walk. I, on the other hand, can’t help but mix it up a bit: one day to the baseball field, the next to the park, the third to the pond, and so on.
I can’t imagine how people consume the exact same meal every day, or wear the same uniform to school, or choose the same car every time they purchase, or set up a room and never rearrange the furniture. I mean, don’t they get bored of those foods/ vehicles/ outfits/ spouses (sorry, must have been the influence of the recent Tiger Woods/Jesse James scandals–meant to say, “houses”)?
As you may recall, I am a lover of pancakes. My favorite breakfast back in the day (that would be the “pre-ACD, looked-okay-on-the-outside-but-was-actually-deteriorating-on-the-inside” day) was pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs, and home fries. Never mind that those calories alone could power the entire Gulf Coast cleanup mission; the quality of what I ate was none too great, either.
One aspect of my standard “big breakfast” at restaurants that I didn’t enjoy, however, was the sameness of it. Wherever we went, it was invariably the same pancake mix each place used, resulting in identical puffy, seemingly inflated, fried-in-hydrogenated-grease cakes that resemble those colored kitchen sponges a little too much for my comfort. (I think they just all used Bisquick as their base, now that I look back on it). Even in my own kitchen, I’ve had to attempt various types and flavors of pancake to keep my flapjack love alive.
[Millet, rice, tapioca, chickpea flours with blueberries and cashew custard sauce]
Well, the more I’ve experimented with GF baking, the more I’ve come to love the fact that most recipes require a long ingredient list with at least two or three types of flour. At first, like everyone else, I found this necessity a real drag; I mean, who has all these items in the pantry? (Of course, there’s always all-purpose GF flour, but to me that sort of defeats the purpose.). Unlike baking with wheat, I realized, gluten free baking affords the opportunity to alter the recipe to your mood, to a particular meal, to a personal taste. Feel like something rustic and hearty? Try amaranth, or quinoa as the main flour. Something light and delicate? Your choice is millet or sorghum. A hint of chocolate? Teff adds depth and color. And so on. Baked goods made with gluten free flours are unique and distinctive; like snowflakes, no two are alike. And this is a good thing.
Still, there are ways to streamline the process. Something I noticed when baking from an established GF recipe was that most GF mixes include a grain, a starch, and a bean or legume flour. In a pinch, they even replaced the beany flour with another grain. If I didn’t particularly like the flavor of the specific grain or bean that was chosen, or if I was missing an ingredient, I decided to experiment, swapping out one for the other. And guess what? It almost always worked! Better yet, sometimes my result was even more flavorful or texturally appealing than the original.
You know how slot machines (those “one-armed bandits”) always display a new combination of pictures (cherries, oranges, and lemons, say) each time you pull the lever? That’s how I think of this recipe. Like Michael Ruhlman’s concept in Ratio, this basic recipe provides the proportions, and you can change up the contents any way you wish.
There are four main categories–grain, starch, legume and fruit or nut–and you can exchange any item from one category for another from the same category. So each time you make these pancakes, they’ll turn up a little differently, yet still delicious.
If you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and experiment, too. Luckily, this pancake recipe was created for substitutions, so any combination should come out palatable, at the least (and once in a while, you get that “coins pouring out the slot in waves” lucky combination that you write down and keep forever.).
There are four flour ingredients in these pancakes, in varied amounts: either 1/2 cup (120 ml) or 1/4 cup (60 ml)***. Feel free to replace the grains with any other grains from the same category and your pancakes should still be light and fluffy (see exception, below). Replace the starch with any other starch (see exception) and your pancakes will still be light and fluffy. And pull out that bean and replace it with another bean or legume and yes, Virginia, your pancakes will still be light and fluffly.
[Amaranth, teff, oat and sorghum with blueberries and warm almond sauce]
So far, I’ve made these with the following combinations: amaranth, teff, oat (a grain exception that functions as a starch in these recipes) and sorghum; millet, buckwheat, oat and whole bean; rice, arrowroot and carob; and rice, millet, arrowroot and garfava–and they’ve all come out great.
This is the perfect pancake recipe for me: I can switch it up every time I have pancakes for breakfast, yet know that whatever I’ve got, I’ll enjoy the results. No more breakfast boredom! The spice of life never tasted so good.
I’d love for you to try out your own unique combination of pancake ingredients and share them here! Feel free to play with the recipe and replace the flours with others from the same category, the tahini with nut butter or other seed butter, the fruits with one(s) of your choice or nuts/seeds, the flax with chia (just remember that you’ll need much less chia–about 1 tsp/5 ml finely ground–instead of each Tbsp/15 ml flax), or the soy milk with almond, hemp or rice milk. Instead of vanilla, how about almond extract, or lemon? Instead of cinnamon, how about ginger, cardamom, or another spice? It’s all good!
[Rice, millet, arrowroot and garfava flours with walnut-cacao nut butter]
With all the possibilities out there, I can’t wait to hear about what you create! Let me know if you try out your own combination, and I’ll add a link to your post.
Have fun with it, and enjoy your varied pancake breakfasts! And with Mother’s Day tomorrow, pancakes might just offer a perfect brunch for you and Mom.
“Mum, we’re not that great at cooking pancakes–lack of opposable thumbs, and all that–but we would be happy to share them with you tomorrow.”
** Corn flakes with 1/2 banana, 6 prunes, and a cup of tea, in case you were wondering.
Pick-Your-Own GF Pancakes
This recipe is a serendipitous invention that came about because I was out of brown rice flour for another pancake I wished to make. By the time I was done, I’d altered almost every ingredient on the list and had discovered a fabulous, all-purpose generic pancake recipe. This is the last pancake recipe you’ll ever need!
1/2 cup (120 ml)*** millet or other grain flour, or use 1/4 cup (60 ml) each of two different grain flours (see List A, below)
1/4 cup (60 ml) sorghum, oat, or other starchy flour (see List B, below)
1/4 cup (60 ml) chickpea or other bean-based flour (see List C, below)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) xanthan gum (optional, but pancakes will be less cohesive without it)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon, ginger, or other spice of choice (you may need to reduce the amount to 1/4 tsp/1 ml for other spices)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) GF baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1 Tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice PLUS
plain or vanilla soy, almond or rice milk to equal 1-1/4 cups (300 ml)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2. 5 ml) additional flavoring, such as almond, lemon, or coconut (optional)
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh or frozen berries or chopped fruit (such as apples, bananas or pears–do not thaw first if frozen), or nut pieces
In a large bowl, sift together the grain flour, starchy flour, beany flour, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Pour the 1 Tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice into a glass measuring cup and add milk of choice until liquid measures 1-1/4 cups (300 ml). To the cup, add the agave or stevia, oil, flax seeds, vanilla and other flavoring, if using.
Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir just to blend. Gently fold in the fruit or nuts.
Heat a nonstick frypan over medium heat. Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, place scoops of batter in the preheated pan and spread out a bit so that pancake isn’t so thick. Cook 4-5 minutes, until the tops are dry on top (they will lose their shine) and begin to brown on the edges (this may take time–be patient!). Flip pancakes and cook another 3-4 minutes, until both sides are deep golden brown (they need to be well done or the insides will remain too moist). As you finish the batter, keep pancakes warm in a low (300F/150C) oven. Makes 7-9 pancakes. May be frozen.
These are great when fresh; if you wish to store them a day or two, wrapped in plastic in the fridge, they may dry out a bit and become a bit more crumbly next time round. To avoid this outcome, you can always add 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) xanthan gum to the dry ingredients when you first prepare the pancakes.
***Note to Metric Cooks: I’ve used volume measurements even for the flours here, as weights will vary depending on which grains, beans, etc. you choose. I’ve found that scooping and leveling with a dry measuring cup (the graduated metal ones) works well.
Here’s a basic list of gluten-free flours and beans/legumes (notice that oats are now on the list!) to help you along. Easy!
And here are the lists of various flours I’ve found that work well (sorry, I haven’t mastered how to insert a chart yet!). The various combinations I’ve tried so far are listed at the bottom of the post.
Do you know of any others? Let me know! And have fun!
List A: Grains
brown rice flour
buckwheat flour (technically a seed, but functions as a grain)
List B: Starchy Flours
sorghum flour (technically a grain, but functions as a starch)
oat flour (technically a grain, but functions as a starch)
List C: Beany Flours
chickpea (besan) flour
whole bean flour (possibly only available in Canada, at Bulk Barn)
What? Another breakfast recipe–and so soon, you say? Well, you can never have too much breakfast is what I say. I mean, breakfast really is the best repast of the trio of meals, isn’t it?
To begin with, if it’s breakfast time, you’re probably rested. Your belly is primed and ready to accept food (after all, you have been fasting all night). You’re most likely clean (après morning shower), your face is still fresh and mascara-free, and you can feel good about giving your body “the most important meal of the day.” And besides all that–breakfast tastes better than just about any meal I can think of.
I’ve always favored breakfast, but I didn’t really develop my true allegiance to the morning meal until my late teens, when my friend Sterlin and I took our first vacation on our own–across the continent, to California. (Were our parents insane, letting two seventeen year-olds travel alone? Naw–no worries there–we were total nerds). Our first stop was LA, where we stayed with my dad’s aunt.
Let’s call her “Great Aunt Yetta.” (Actually, that was her real name, but let’s still call her that anyway). Even back then, more than 30 years ago, Ms. Yetta was already ancient, in her late 80s. Poor Yetta’s husband had died almost twenty years earlier, and she lived alone in their small bungalow near Beverly Boulevard in the city. The place looked as if nothing had been disturbed (or, by the looks of it, cleaned too often) since her husband’s death.
About four-foot-ten in heels, Yetta greeted us at the door with a heavily teased, upswept ‘do reminiscent of Endora in Bewitched (except Yetta’s hair was entirely white), its outer layer shellacked with Aqua Net. Despite her advanced years, she still took pride in her appearance, and in our honor had donned the full regalia: fuscia and lime green flowered cotton housedress belted at the waist in shiny white vinyl; gold and black sandals revealing painted crimson toenails, the toes themselves bent various unnatural directions. On her wrists and neck she wore four or five strings of multi-colored plastic beads, along with sparkly, dangly earrings; her face was slathered with full theater-worthy makeup, the purple eyeshadow thick enough to glaze pottery, a coat of carmine lipstick (which only partially followed the actual outline of her lips) on her mouth.
Yetta spoke in a sqeaky, slightly sing-song voice that brought to mind a Polish Edith Bunker. Had we been a little less starry-eyed from having just landed in California that day, Sterlin and I might have found Yetta somewhat creepy (that came later); instead, we assumed she was merely “eccentric.”
On our first morning in the city, we bounded out of bed at 5:30 AM (with the time change, this was already 9:30 our time) and emerged ravenous from our room.
“Come, dahlink, eat some breakfast,” Yetta said, grabbing me by the forearm. She led us to the dilapitaded dining room, where the table was laid with a few dishes, cups and a teapot. There was nothing recognizable as food, but as we drew closer, we could make out what was on the table. Without a word, Sterlin and I exchanged meaningful glances and began silently to plot our exit.
“No, you must eat some breakfast!” Yetta insisted. “Here, have some cheese.” She presented me with an amorphous blob of something half covered in soft, green fuzz. “Oh, don’t worry, it is still good,you just do like this–” She grabbed a butter knife and began hacking at the outside of the blob.
“Oh, no, really, thank you so much, but we aren’t hungry,” we piped up in unison.
“Okay, so some juice then,” she declared, handing over a jar of Tang that had clearly first entered her cupboard in the Sixties. I unscrewed the rusty lid and cautiously peered inside. The contents was so old that it had fossilized, one solid mass of crystalline orange rock.
Before I could say anything, Yetta grabbed the jar. “Oh, is okay,” she insisted, brandishing the same trusty butter knife, “You just make like this and you pour it out!” With that, she began to chip away at the ossified Tang.
“No, really, we never eat breakfast in the morning–OR drink anything before lunchtime!” we cried, backing out the door, “But thank you so much, anyway! See you later!” Luckily, we found a Farmer’s Market down the street, rife with fresh fruit, pancakes, waffles, and–a thrilling discovery at the time–frozen yogurt! (It didn’t exist yet in Canada in those days).
For the entire two weeks in LA, each morning we went through the ritual of thanking Yetta for her generosity, insisting that we never ate breakfast, and then running over to the market to gorge on every breakfast food (and several non-breakfast foods) we could find.
And so, my fascination with breakfast was established.
On our last evening in LA, we were asked to dinner at Great Uncle Norman’s house (Yetta’s brother), though Yetta was not invited. After the meal as we sat chatting about our visit, we actually began to feel a little sympathy for Yetta.
“Gee, it’s too bad about her husband,” Sterlin mused.
“What do you mean?” asked Great Uncle Norman.
“Well, you know. . . that he died,” Sterlin said.
Great Uncle Norman’s mouth dropped open. I think he may have even lost a few crumbs of his coffee cake. “Died?” he repeated. “Are you kidding me?! He didn’t die! He left her–he couldn’t stand to be in the same house as her for one more minute! He’s remarried and lives in Burbank.”
Maybe she’d fed him the green-cheese-and-Tang breakfast, too; who knows? In any case, my own interactions with breakfast have remained consistently pleasant since that time.
The HH and I enjoyed these sausage patties and biscuits with gravy for brunch last weekend. After celebrating my birthday in a very low-key fashion (stupid flu! stupid virus! stupid germs!), the HH and I decided to aim for a special brunch instead. (I did receive a truly beautiful, totally indulgent and indescribably warm and cozy cashmere scarf as a gift from the HH, however).
With leftover cooked rice in the fridge, as well as some nearly-dried sage left over from the roasted plum and spinach salad I’d made the week before, I developed a vague idea of wanting ”sausages” and so devised this recipe for super-simple and quick savory patties. I baked mine, but they can be pan-fried just as easily. The patties crisp up on the outside (even baked), retaining a moist yet firm interior. The coupling of walnuts and sage here mimics a meaty flavor exceedingly well, I think.
After reading Lindsay’s post a while back about Southern biscuits smothered in gravy, I knew I had to try this pairing out myself! Of course, my choices for both biscuits and gravy are currently limited, but I revised my coconut flour biscuit recipe as a savory round*, and topped it with a slightly altered version of Isa’s brilliant Smoked Almond Gravy (since I can’t eat smoked almonds–the ACD forbids pre-roasted nuts, as they tend to harbor molds–I simply roasted my own natural almonds, then added smoked paprika and some caramelized onions to the mix for an irresistible alternative).
This delicious, thick and chunky gravy, once ladled atop the savory biscuits, transported the dish from merely a ”Jennifer Aniston good” to a stellar, “Meryl Streep good.” They’re that good!
If you’re looking for a fairly quick and easy brunch that will encourage seconds, here it is. Add a green salad, and you’ve got a perfect meal.
The inclusion of Tang is optional.
Since this is a perfect brunch meal, I thought I’d submit this to Meeta’sMonthly Mingle event–this month highlighting brunch!
Easy “Sausage” Patties
These are great to use up leftover cooked rice. I used walnuts, but you could substitute other nuts if you prefer.
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, preferably organic
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1-1/4 cups ( g) lightly toasted walnuts
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked brown rice (I used basmati)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable broth or water
2 Tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh sage (about 10-12 leaves), or use 1 tsp (5 ml) dried sage
1/2 tsp (5 ml) smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Heat the oil in a frypan over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until well mixed and almost smooth. Add the cooked onion/garlic mixture and process until combined. The mixture should be moist and sticky, but firm enough to hold a shape.
Using a large ice cream scoop or your hands (be sure to remove the processor blade first!), scoop about 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the mixture at a time and place on the cookie sheet. Flatten the patties to about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick. If desired, spray or brush with a little olive oil (this will help the patties to brown up on the outside). Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until crisp and dry on the outside. Patties may also be pan-fried for 5-7 minutes per side. Makes 8 patties. May be frozen.
Thick, smoky, chunky, and creamy–this is everything gravy should be!
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 cup natural raw almonds, baked at 350F (180C) until toasted, 10-15 minutes, and then cooled
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) water
2 Tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce, Tamari, or Bragg’s
3/4-1 tsp (3.5–5 ml) smoked paprika, as you like
2-4 Tbsp (30-60 ml) brown rice flour (depending on how thick you want it)
fine sea salt, to taste
In a large frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, process the almonds in a food processor until they are the texture of a fine meal (like a coarse cornmeal). Add the cooked onion and garlic and process to blend well. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the gravy bubbles and thickens. Serve immediately. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes 4-6 servings.
* For savoryCoconut Flour Biscuits: omit stevia and vanilla; use bean flour instead of buckwheat flour; and add 1 Tbsp (15 ml) each of dried tarragon, oregano, and basil.
[Before I delve into today's snack post, I want to send out a heartfelt "thank you" to each and every one of you who responded to my last post. I was bowled over by the outpouring of kindness and support that you folks displayed. And thanks to all of you who shared your own story or struggles with food issues, whether dietary restrictions or your own food addictions. I've said this many times before on the blog, but really, I can't say it enough: you people are remarkable! Thank you, all, for visiting, for reading, for commenting, and for your thoughtful responses and ideas, which all add their own kind of sweetness to my life. Without you all, this would be a very lonely (not to mention unrewarding) endeavor, indeed!]
And now, on to the food! A while back, I promised a post on anti-candida snack foods along with the breakfasts and desserts. (And even though I’m assuming the anti-candida diet will be temporary for me, as it is for almost everyone, it’s amazing how my blog has suddenly morphed into a “candida” blog. Most of the searches that lead people here involve the words, “anti-candida” or “candida diet.” Except, of course, for those that involve the words, “dogs girls sexy” or “dogs girls dessert.” Don’t worry, though–I don’t let the realGirls see any of these–it would be too traumatic for them.).
Over the past few months, I realized that most of my snacks don’t actually require a recipe: baby carrots (in moderation–they are pretty high in natural sugars, after all); grape tomatoes; celery sticks; hummus and any of the previous veggies; roasted chick peas; cucumber rounds; kale chips (and have you seen this recent iteration? They sound great!); or, most recently, fresh berries (yay! fruit–though limited to berries and a few others–has made its triumphant return to my diet!). Although I was never a “potato chips” kind of gal (I think you can be one or the other: salty-snack person or sweet-snack person. I always leaned toward the chocolate bars, cookies, cupcakes, etc. rather than the salty snacks), I have been craving something snacky recently. Something crunchy. Something salty. Something portable that isn’t nuts or seeds.
And so, on a whim a couple of weeks ago, I visited our local health food store in search of snacks. My encounter with the cashier went something like this:
Scene: small, family-owned health food store tucked in a local plaza not far from where Ricki lives. Reminiscent of old-time general stores that you see on reruns like The Andy Griffith Show* or Green Acres.
Ricki [browsing around. She approaches the affable, somewhat retro-looking cashier.] “Say, do you have any snack foods for someone who can’t eat gluten, sweeteners, refined anything, eggs, or dairy?”
(Actually, I never begin sentences with the word, “Say,” but it does make the dialogue sound much more as if I really live in a small, close-knit neighborhood like Mayberry, doesn’t it?).
Young Cashier: “Why, yes, Ma’am, yes, indeed, we do.” (Okay, she didn’t really start with, “Why, yes,” either, and didn’t say “indeed.” Another attempt at 1950s-era verisimilitude. She did, however, actually call me “Ma’am,” which made me feel very authentically 1950s).
Young Cashier: [Leading Ricki to a shelf containing Mary's products.] These are all gluten-free and sugar free, made with whole foods ingredients. You might like to try some of these. The Curry flavor is my favorite.
Ricki: [Speechless. Her mind is reeling]: Wow! You mean there are actually snacks I can eat on this &*%$#! regimen that I don’t have to make myself??Okay! I’ll take ten bags!
(All right. I admit that I didn’t really say THAT, either. But I wanted to. Perhaps realistic dramatic representation is not my forte.)
Well, if you live in California–or anywhere in the US, really–and are either (a) on a gluten-free diet; (b) into healthy foods; (c) the owner of a health food store; or (d) named Mary, you have most likely already heard of or tasted the Mary’s Gone Crackers product called “Sticks and Twigs.” On the other hand, if you live in the Distant Far Northern Canadian Outpost that is Toronto–as I do–the discovery was a revelation. (Do you think perhaps I should stop making tongue-in-cheek comments about how far north, how cold, and how polite it is here in Canada? After all, there are some people out there who might actually think I’m being serious!). These snacks resemble pretzels but are crunchier. They’re a whole foods, no-added-fat snack with little pellets of baked amaranth and quinoa scattered throughout. They come in flavorful choices such as Curry or Chipotle Tomato.
And they are mighty addictive.
Only one problem: at $5.99 per 8-ounce (about 250 g) bag, they really did leave me speechless.
In recent months, I’ve noticed a few bloggers playing a game that involves listing the ingredients in a processed “food” and having readers guess what it is (such as this one on Meghan’s blog). For instance, did you know that “Wheat Flour, Sugar, Dextrose, Vegetable Oil, Glucose Syrup, Milk Whey Powder, Invert Sugar Syrup, Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder, Wheat Starch, Salt, Raising Agent (Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, Diphosphates), Dried Egg White, Beef Gelatin, Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum), Vanilla Extract, Modified Wheat Starch, Colour (Caramel E150d, Titanium Oxide) and Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin)” is actually a Pop Tart? (Yep. Titanium Oxide–often used in paint, or as a sunscreen--is a bonus ingredient in your breakfast “pastry.” Eat up, everyone!).
Well, I decided to turn that game on its head. I took a food I like, namely the Sticks and Twigs, studied the ingredients, and then attempted to reproduce it at home. The result was better than I could have expected. I daresay, I like my version better than the original!
Mine are surprisingly like Mary’s, but a bit thicker, and–most important–at a fraction of the cost. They are, however, still exceedingly crunchy, so if you’re in need of some elective dental work, don’t eat these until after the filling has been replaced. (Just kidding. But they really do snap, crackle and pop in your mouth).
And, if it turns out they’re not to your taste after all, they make excellent dog biscuits.
With all the healthy whole-grain ingredients in these, I thought they’d make a perfect contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays, showcasing real food. Take a peek, or submit your own healthy recipe!
["Mmmm, nice and crunchy, Mum, just like real sticks and twigs. But what was that you mentioned before about not letting us see something--? You're not hiding other snacks from us, are you?"]
*For those of you young enough that you can’t remember a time before computers: yep, “Ronny Howard”–ie, Opie–is the same person as director Ron Howard. Wasn’t he a cutie when he still had hair?
Crunchy Stalks and Branches Snacks
A perfect take-along snack that’s crunchy and filled with real nutrient value: with amaranth, millet, quinoa and rice, these savory treats contain a fair portion of vitamins, minerals, and protein in each serving.
3 Tbsp (45 ml) amaranth, dry
1/4 cup (60 ml) quinoa, dry
1/4 cup (60 ml) millet, dry
2 cups (480 ml) cooked brown rice (I used brown basmati)
1/4 cup (60 ml) finely ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely ground chia seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) mild curry powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt, or more, to taste
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sesame seeds
1/2-1 cup (120-240 ml) water, as needed
In a small bowl, soak the amaranth, quinoa and millet for about 2 hours (up to 6 hours). Drain in a very fine sieve. Remove about 3 Tbsp (45 ml) of the mixture and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Place the remaining amaranth, quinoa and millet mixture into the bowl of a strong blender along with the rice, flax, chia, curry powder and salt. Add 1/2 cup (120 ml) water and blend to a paste; stir in the sesame seeds. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more water until you have a mixture the consistency of a soft cookie dough. It should be soft enough to pipe but firm enough to hold its shape if you scoop some out and place it on the cookie sheet.
Scrape the mixture into a bowl and then stir in the 3 Tbsp (45 ml) whole seeds that have been set aside. Using an icing gun or cookie press, press out the mixture in long, thin logs across the cookie sheet (or make into any shapes you like). I used my icing gun without a tip to create logs for this, but you could use any shape you like. If you have neither an icing gun nor cookie press, you can shape the “dough” into disks or logs by hand, or simply spread the mixture into a large rectangle and then bake as crackers.
Bake the snacks in preheated oven for about 30 minutes before checking. Turn them over and continue to bake, another 30-45 minutes, until they are very browned, dry and crisp. (If baking as crackers, remove from oven after 30 minutes and cut into desired cracker shapes; then turn each cracker over individually and continue to bake as above).
Allow to cool before storing. Makes 4-8 snack-size servings, depending on how hungry you are. If sufficiently baked, these will keep for at least 2 weeks at room temperature in a covered container (ours only lasted a few days, but they were clearly sturdy enough for the long term).
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fifth edition, I'm focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the fifth entry on cilantro.]
The HH and I just returned from an annual sojourn to what used to be our favorite summer retreat, a country resort up in ski country. I say, “used to be” because, like so many other businesses these days, our erstwhile “favorite” has cut services to the bone and, as a result, is no longer the hotel we remember and loved. Those of you on twitter may have seen my lament that the breakfast “buffet” included precisely one food I could eat: roasted potatoes. The rest of the menu (ham, bacon, eggs, french toast, plate of baked goods and bowl of yogurts) was all verboten to me. As I chewed on my (suddenly very bitter) spuds, I wondered, what about celiacs? What about diabetics? There wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of choices for them, either. In addition, the dinner “service” was so deplorable (over 40 minutes to get our appetizers! In a dining room with six patrons!), we decided that next year, we’ll look for a new place to patronize during our annual summer weekend away.
Well, no matter. The weather, at least, was glorious, and hey–the paucity of food actually resulted in two more pounds of weight loss (for those of you who’ve been following such things, the grand total is 32 lost so far. That means I can now get into my “chubby” clothes, leaving behind my “fat” and “edifice-like” wardrobes, while I’m still not quite slim enough for my “I’m-saving-these-even-though-they’re-out-of-style-and-I’m-really-too-old-for-them-because-I-love-them-so-much” clothes). I also realized that the best way to lose weight is when you’re not really trying. (Hmm. Maybe that resort wasn’t so bad after all. All I have to do is suffer there for another week , and I’m pretty sure I’d be at goal.).
The weekend was an explicit reminder (I guess I’d sort of forgotten) that I am, indeed, following a rather restricted diet these days. Funny, even though I altered my diet to eliminate wheat, eggs and dairy about ten years ago (meat was pretty much already gone by then), I hadn’t really thought of my food intake as ”restricted” (after all, I’d still managed to gain 45 pounds eating that way!) until these past few months on the anti-candida diet. In fact, changing my diet initially prompted me to try out many foods I’d shunned until that point.
One prime example is Indian cuisine. I’d never tasted any of my current favorites–an authentic, long-simmering curry, a crispy papadum, a nubby, melting dal, or peppery masala okra–until I was forced to change my diet. Once I tried the first few dishes, I quickly grew enamored of the fragrant spices like sweet cardamom and warming turmeric, and was easily besotted with basmati rice, vibrant vindaloos and creamy kormas. In fact, it was Indian cuisine that catalyzed my conversion from cilantro foe to cilantro lover.
Whenever we stop in at our favorite Indian restaurant nearby, the HH will often order lamb. I have to tell you, if I’m sitting downwind, it can ruin my dinner. Even before I stopped eating meat, I just wasn’t able to tolerate lamb. Something about the smell–that elusive combination of unctuous yet slightly sweet–always managed to make my stomach flutter and my bile rise, even as a child and long before I understood the true source of those glistening cubes on my plate.
Well, lucky for me, most Indian dishes are naturally vegetarian. On the other hand, it only occurred to me recently that I’ve been inadvertently ruling out a whole category of recipes in my collection simply because they feature lamb, glossing right over those when I scan my cookbooks for dinner ideas.
Well, silly me! I mean, where is it written that those dishes must they be made with lamb? Why couldn’t a favorite soy product (or other legume) stand in for the meat, as they’ve often done before with chicken or beef? I must have been blinded by my visions of guileless black eyes, kinky white curls and baby hooves to even consider it. (I know, I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes).
One of my favorite sources of protein is tempeh, and it’s one I use far too infrequently. I thought it would offer a great substitute for ground lamb in a curry. After browsing through various cookbooks, I combined some of my favorite flavors to create a warm, mildly spiced, and slightly unconventional main dish. The smooth, creamy sauce is punctuated by occasional bursts of sweet peas, bits of savory tempeh, and juicy tomato. It’s perfect served over some steamed basmati rice.
And the aroma, redolent with Indian spices, is guaranteed to entice you–no matter which side of the table you’re on.
“Mum, we know you don’t want to eat sheep, but if you ever need them rounded up or led into a pen, we’d be happy to help out. (We’re both part Border Collie, you know.)”
Taking inspiration from recipes in several cookbooks as well as what I had on hand, I came up with this satisfying curry. Use crumbled tempeh, or, for more discernible pieces of tempeh, cut into small cubes.
1 pkg tempeh (I used soy tempeh with seaweed)
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable broth
2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 ml) minced fresh ginger
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 cardamon pods (or 1/4 tsp/ 1 ml ground cardamom)
1 tsp (5 ml) garam masala
1 tsp (5 ml) ground turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1/3 cup (80 ml) smooth natural almond butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh mint, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste (depending on how salty your veg broth is)
cooked brown basmati rice, to serve
Prepare the tempeh: crumble the tempeh and place in a skillet with the vegetable broth. Heat over medium heat until broth bubbles; lower to a simmer, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
Remove tempeh from skillet and set aside. Melt the coconut oil in the skillet (no need to wash it first) over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté until the garlic and ginger begin to brown and the onion is translucent, 5-10 minutes.
Add the tomato, cumin, bay leaves, cardamom, garam masala, turmeric and coriander and cook an additional minute. Lower heat and add the almond milk, almond butter and peas, stirring to melt the almond butter. Gently stir in the tempeh. Cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until flavors have melded and the curry is heated throughout. Add the cilantro and mint and heat for another 2 minutes. Serve over hot rice. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
[Totally tangential rant: When I woke up this morning, I was sure my eyes were playing tricks on me--it is snowing outside! Snowing. BIG snow. As in, "little white flakes that fly across your field of vision." As in, "icy and slushy and boots weather." As in, "everything is coated with rime and appears opaque and goes crunch when you walk on it." As in, "turn the heat back on and pull those sweaters out of storage again." As in, IF I SEE ONE MORE DAY OF WINTER I AM GOING TO LEAP UP AND DOWN AND FLAIL MY ARMS LIKE A CRAZED FLAMINGO AND SCREAM BLOODY MURDER AND WEEP LIKE A CONTESTANT ON THE BIGGEST LOSER AND THEN DISSOLVE IN A PUDDLE LIKE THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST. Okay, maybe not really. But I will not be very happy, let me tell you.]
I’m sure we’ve all heard it before, but I’m here to reiterate: diets don’t work. In fact, I’m living proof of that axiom.
I embarked on my first bona fide “diet” at age thirteen (thirteen! there oughta be a law) because, at the cusp of adolescence, I entered a new school and was, for the first time, startled to discover that there were boys–and they had somehow become appealing overnight!–out there. And that my friends whose mammaries had developed the previous summer seemed to attract the boys more than I did. And that maybe, if I lost twenty pounds, I might be the object of male hormonal affections, too.
And so, the beginning of a lifetime of serial dieting was born.
That initial diet was called the Stillman Quick Weight Loss Diet (a precursor to the later Atkins fiasco) and it allowed NO fruits or vegetables, NO grains and, basically, nothing but protein. For three months or so, I dutifully ate hardboiled egg for breakfast, tuna fish (no mayo) for lunch, and some kind of cooked meat (likely chicken) for dinner. And yes, the pounds did drop. Unfortunately, so did my IQ, my heart rate, and several of my friendships.
Before long, it wasn’t just boys who paid attention to me, but my parents and teachers, too, as my skin became pallid and wan; my clothes bagged in decidedly unattractive ripples across my chest, waist and hips; my hair lost its luster, hanging scraggly and thin; and my basic demeanor shifted from formerly sweet, pleasant, and interested in academics to introverted and skittish, eyes flitting from one point to another without ever focusing, like a kleptomaniac hiding a pair of shoes in her purse as she crosses the electronic detectors at the Bloomingdale’s exit. Needless to say, my parents convinced me to abandon the Stillman diet.
Subsequently, in my 30s during a “heavy” cycle, my world changed for a time when I met Dean. He didn’t mind that I was chubby; in fact, he welcomed it.
Dean, you see, was Dean Ornish, author of the diet plan called Eat More, Weigh Less. I loved the book immediately and bought it based on the title alone (you know that myth about how every twenty-something guy dreams of being locked in a room with two sexy, randy lesbians? Well, every dieter dreams of being able to pig out uncontrollably without limits, yet still lose weight).** I didn’t care about the actual diet, no sir; all I cared about was that title–I could eat more, and weigh less! Yessss!
Little did I know that Ornish was a medical doctor–a cardiologist, no less–and his book was based on years of extensive study. In fact, Ornish was the first (and only, if my sources are correct) medical professional to prove in scientific, double blind studies that you can actually reverse heart disease with diet alone. That’s right; reverse, not just diminish; and diet alone–no pills, no medications! His original idea has now blossomed into a full-fledged industry, including an institute that practises what he preached. It’s called the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and people go there to recover from (and reverse) their heart disease. How cool is that?
The first edition of the diet, however, was incredibly stringent, allowing no more than 10% of calories from fat (from all food sources combined). Clearly, well-marbled steaks, chicken with skin, or whipping cream are not on the menu. It was a radical notion back then: a vegan diet, and one with a very low fat content (Happy Herbivore, rejoice!). Best of all, the book included recipes.
Following the Ornish plan, I never felt better. I see now that the menus were fairly grain-heavy, but at the time, I was happy to cook up the recipes, pile my plate as high as I could, and methodically shove one forkful after another into my mouth, chewing away. At times it took me the better part of half an hour to polish off a plate, but I never worried that I was eating too much–I was eating MORE so I could weigh LESS!
Ornish’s Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans was my first encounter with this spicy Cajun favorite and also my first foray into the world of cooking dried beans from scratch. The dish is a variation on the classic combination, with corn for chewiness, and a spirited spice mix. The result is a satisfying, multi-textured meal. The beans and rice pair up to offer a complete protein. As a single woman living on my own, it was also a godsend to be able to create meals from basic, inexpensive ingredients that would last a few days (theoretically, I’m sure, the recipes were intended for 6 or more servings, which would have lasted much longer than a few days, but I really was piling my plates pretty high).
I achieved the desired weight loss on the Ornish plan and even managed to maintain it for several years, until I moved to Toronto and began teaching at the college where I still work today. And then, I met my starter husband, we got married, and I ballooned once again, the cycle repeating itself. Did my weight gain play a role in our split? No. But our split played a role in my weight. . . after I dumped the guy, the weight began to recede as well, which led to my current relationship with the HH, after which I gained back all the weight and more. . . which is why I now need this ACD to clear out the toxins and, ideally, lose more weight. . . .
Do we detect a pattern here? Diets don’t work!
Nevertheless, I still love this dish. And I’ll always have a soft spot (well, right now, several soft spots, most of which are located between waist and hip areas) for Dr. Dean.
**Oh, dear me. I can just imagine the blog searches that will lead people here now. Especially since this dish has the word “dirty” in its title. Groan.
I have no idea why this is called “SEVEN” Grain Dirty Rice (unless I’m missing something, aren’t the rice and corn the only grains in this?). Whatever the reason, it’s a slightly spicy, very flavorful and hearty dish, one that’s easy to prepare–and it won’t break the bank.
2 cups (480 ml) dry brown rice (I used basmati)
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (240 ml) finely diced carrots
1/2 cup (120 ml) finely diced celery
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground cumin
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground coriander
2 tsp (10 ml) chili powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
3-3/4 cups (900 ml) vegetable stock or broth
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) chopped tomatoes (I used a large can of diced tomatoes)
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked red beans (I used kidney; any firm bean will do)
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh or frozen corn kernels
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml.) fresh chopped parsley
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml) fresh chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Spray a large casserole dish (one with a cover) and set aside.
In a fairly large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the rice, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and chili powder over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned.
Add the salt, stock, bay leaf and tomatoes, and stir to combine. Cover, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the beans, corn, parsley and cilantro. Turn the mixture into the casserole dish, cover and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. If necessary, add a bit more stock and continue cooking until the rice is sufficiently soft. Garnish with more chopped herbs, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
NOTE: The original recipe suggests cooking the entire dish in your pot on the stovetop. I found, however, that the rice never really absorbed the liquid that way, and it remained hard even after an hour of simmering. If the stovetop method works for you, however, go ahead and use it–you’ll save yourself some dishes to wash that way.
[Thanks to everyone who left such sweet comments and encouragement for the hellish week of marking! (And I know I still owe some of you emails. . . coming soon!) Some of you who are students noted that you'd be doing as much work on the other side of the red pen. Whether students, parents, teachers or the lucky few whose only connection to academia is reading about it in the newspapers--hope you all survived the past crunch week or so of midterms, study week, or finals. Now get ready, 'cause there's a lengthy return post ahead--on to the food!]
[Base of rice and buckwheat; sautéed rapini and chard with onions and garlic; tahini-miso sauce; sprinkled with hemp seeds.]
I’m sure we’ve all met her (or perhaps we are her?): that woman who’s incredibly competent at dispensing affection, comfort, nurturing or support–yet seems to ignore her own emotional needs and physical well-being.
Well, I admit it, I’m as guilty as the next gal. Ten days away from the DDD home base had me reflecting often on this whole notion of self-love. Actually, that was only one among a plethora of topics on which I mused during the hiatus, which included (but was not limited to) the following:
how much I miss blogging when I’m away. I was struck by a true sense of void during this time, and it astounded me. Honestly, who are “they” who post studies about the Internet and prophecies of doom regarding how it diminishes social skills or limits interactions with other people? Seriously. In some cases, I’m in contact with blog buddies more often than my “in-person” friends (some of whom live only five minutes away). Don’t let anyone tell you that the society of bloggers isn’t a bona fide community of lively, vibrant, and very much interactive people–all of you!
how to create a tasty, grain-free breakfast pancake. I wanted something that didn’t require refined, or even whole-grain, flour–and I found it! (more on that anon).
how this &%$!!?* winter refuses to retreat, even though it’s March already and why are you still hanging around, Mr. Jack Frost, can’t you tell you’re not welcome anymore and nobody wants you here, so just go away and don’t come back, ya big bully!
how, with the economy as bad as it is, I’m hoping the HH and I might still save for our dream home (okay, I’d be willing to cut some of the frills and just be happy with a daydream home). And while we’re both incredibly lucky to still be gainfully employed, on the topic of saving money and stretching a dollar, I’ve been mightily inspired by the frugal and fantastic Melody over at MeloMeals.
why, once again, I have been willing to risk my health, well-being and future for the evil (and truly, ephemeral) charms of that sepia seductress, chocolate.
[Oat groats and amaranth base; grilled eggplant and grilled marinated tofu; broccoli, avocado and green onion; orange-fig sauce.]
Yes, folks, it’s time to focus on the “diet” portion of this blog yet again.
When I first began to ponder how I’d spend my break from the college, I considered traveling to a new locale, attending a retreat, picking up old hobbies like sewing or knitting–but it never occurred to me I’d get sick instead. Then, at my annual checkup last week, I discovered that my old candida afflction has reared its yeasty head yet again, and this time, with a potency that could rival the combined superpowers of the X-Men.
I’ve decided that in order to rid myself of this recurring problem once and for all, I’ll need to return to the anti-candida diet (ACD). I’ll be facing a highly restrictive diet and a few detoxes or cleanses along the way (no wonder I’ve been avoiding it). But I’ve had it with the persistent cycle of diet, dessert and destruction (you thought I was going to say “dogs,” didn’t you? heh heh!). To paraphrase that seminal queen of weight loss, Susan Powter, “the insanity must stop!” (And what the heck ever happened to her, anyway?).
I’m going on an anti-candida diet so I can be healthy. So I can move more easily, and feel comfortable in my own body. So I can express a little more self-love and self-care through my diet and lifestyle. (Anyone familiar with Sally’s fabulous blog already knows what I mean by this: treating my body, mind and spirit with the kindness, reverence, and care it deserves.) So I can enjoy a social life without being fixated on food. Oh, and so I can lose 40 pounds by my highschool reunion this May. **
My last “true” candida cleanse occurred nine years ago, and in the interim, my eating habits have slowly reverted to those that got me in trouble in the first place (chocolate too often; sweets too often; wine too often). After reading the diet on this site (which is slightly less ascetic than the regimen I followed before), I think it’s doable (the only recommendation with which I disagree is to use aspartame or aseulfame, so I’ll just omit those).
To those of you who’ve been reading for a while, I understand if you’re skeptical, and I apologize. After all, I’ve tried more than a few times to cut chocolate and sugar from my life. Well, I’ve learned it’s never a great idea to publicly declare such a complete lifestyle overhaul on the blog, because later on, if you don’t meet your lofty goal, your initial vow is indelibly there for all the internet to see. With that in mind, I’ll restrict my candida commentary to the Progress Tracker page (may as well give it a new use, as I long ago stopped recording my weight over there).
And since I’ve already done a bit of baking over the past couple of weeks, I can intersperse the spartan dishes with more interesting fare. If I play my screens right, you folks will barely notice a difference.
[Rice and brown lentil base; spinach leaves and steamed sweet potato wedges with chopped green onions; topped with almond-curry sauce.]
The first step is to prepare the system with a week or two of clean, whole-foods eating that doesn’t worry about yeast or fermentation (yeast and fermented foods will be cleared out next). Rice or noodle bowls are a great place to start.
[Barley and amaranth base; grilled red pepper strips and onions; steamed broccoli; sprinkling of cashews and sunflower seeds; topped with tahini-miso sauce.]
Meals-in-a-bowl like these have become very popular at health-food restaurants and stores around North America. There’s a local haunt that serves an amazing bowl called, appropriately, “The Mish-Mash Bowl.” Every meal contains either brown rice or quinoa, topped with your choice of four toppings from three categories (protein, veggies, or good fats), then drizzled with your choice of one or two dressings.
My own variation on the Mish Mash is a quartet of at least one healthy grain plus a protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrate (ie, veggies). I was amazed at how satisfying–and how filling–a clean, healthy bowl can be. The marriage of fresh, colorful veggies with chewy grains and the crunch of nuts or seeds is entirely enchanting (almost as enchanting as that vixen, chocolate–though in a different way, of course).
In putting these together, what I discovered rather quickly is that “the sauce makes the bowl.” A grain bowl sans effective topping is sort of like a perfect outfit without the right shoes or accessories–it may be good quality, it may be tailored , it may even sport a designer label, but without the proper accoutrements, it’s just a length of beige, beige, beige.
With a winning sauce, however, these bowls are stellar; they’re delectable; they evoke impatient yearning; they’re Zagat-worthy. And, much like those lines of toddlers’ clothing that allow the kids to dress themselves by choosing one top and one pre-coordinated bottom, they’re fun to mix and match, just to see what comes up.
The combinations here are simply starting points to get you going; play around with different grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies, and sauces. Use these sauces with any combination you please, or go with my mixes–either way, you’ll be treating yourself with love.
**I asked this question entirely tongue in cheek–so please, no need to send me emails detailing how unhealthy a 40-pound weight loss in 8 weeks would be! I have no intention of actually losing that much. Besides, at the rate I’ve been going this past year, a FOUR pound loss by May would be nothing short of miraculous.
Light and tangy, this sauce would also be perfect with raw veggies or in a sandwich.
2 tsp (10 ml) freshly grated ginger root
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
1 Tbsp 915 ml) light miso
2 Tbsp (30 ml) water
Combine all ingredients in a blender and whir until smooth. Makes enough for 3-4 bowls.
Almond and Curry Sauce
Slightly sweet, slightly spicy, this substantial sauce goes well with cooked root vegetables and adds a protein punch to your bowl. I used a food processor for this batch, which was chunky; I think I’d use a blender next time (or even use almond butter instead of fresh almonds).
6-10 dried dates, roughly chopped, to taste
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (90 ml) boiling water
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (90 ml) natural almonds, with skin
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly grated ginger root
1/2 tsp (5 ml) mild curry powder
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari or soy sauce
1 small clove garlic, minced
pinch chili flakes
Place dates in a blender and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and blend until you have a smooth sauce. Makes enough for 3-4 bowls.
Orange Fig Sauce
Delicious over bowls when a higher protein content is provided by the ingredients in the bowl. This also works beautifully on a tofu omelet.
1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
one 2″ (5 cm) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp (5 ml) light miso
2 tsp (10 ml) tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) agave nectar
2 large dried figs, stems removed, chopped
Whir all ingredients in a blender until perfectly smooth. Drizzle over your bowl as desired. Makes enough for 3-4 bowls.
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fourth edition, I'm focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the third entry on coconut.]
Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I had fried rice before I made this dish. My mother used to cook a toned-down version of it when we were kids (basically white rice and a splash of soy sauce), and I most likely ordered some of the stuff at a Chinese restaurant back in the 1980s, but other than that, I hadn’t even thought about the concept in years–I mean, it’s called fried rice, right?
Perhaps it was serendipity, or perhaps synchronicity–or both. A few of weeks ago, I had bought some kale with the intention of making raw kale salad. But the avocados, despite having ripened on the counter for a few days, were still hard as baseballs. In the meantime, the kale had exhausted itself in the refrigerator and reclined at the back of the shelf, sprawled limply over the cauliflower. That kale needed to be given a purpose, and fast.
I’d been catching up on my blog reading when this recipe , from Maureen and Aly’s blog, Mad About Udon, leapt out at me. True, the original called for collards rather than kale, but I’ve learned that most greens are amenable to standing in for their fellow leafys in most instances.
The simplicity of this dish belies its deliciousness. It’s quick, easy, and totally alluring. I realize it’s called fried rice, but, given the number of veggies in the mix (I enlisted some of that cauliflower in addition to the beans and greens), it might as well be called “Veggies with Coconut and Rice.” Whatever the appellation, it’s fantastic. I made this three times in quick succession, and it’s now become the number one recipe of choice when we have kale in the house (having overtaken the previous frontrunner–raw kale salad).
Thanks to Maureen for creating this masterpiece, in which coconut features prominently. And I think it’s totally fitting that today’s recipe comes courtesy of another Canadian, since this weekend marks our Canadian Thanksgiving! if you’re celebrating this weekend, why not consider this dish as an alternative to those tired ole brussels sprouts?
To those of you giving thanks (or if you’ve simply got a day off), have a great long weekend!
With just the perfect melding of salty, spicy, and crunchy, this hearty and flavorful side dish is almost a meal on its own. As Maureen suggests, use Bragg’s instead of regular soy sauce to make this entirely gluten-free. Since I’ve altered the preparation slightly, I’m including my own version here.
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small fresh red chilli, seeded and chopped (or, if you like to live dangerously, leave the seeds in)
1/2 tsp. brown sugar (I used Sucanat)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce (or use Braggs)
1 cup green beans, sliced (or use 1/2 cup beans and about 1 cup cauliflower florets)
4 oz. collards or kale (or other fresh greens, such as spinach or chard)
3.5 oz. jasmine rice, cooked (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup dry unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1/2 cup lightly toasted cashews
Heat oil in large frying pan. Add onion and garlic, cooking over medium heat until the onion begins to brown. Add the chili, and cook another minute. Stir in Sucanat, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Toss over heat for 1-2 minutes . Add the green beans, greens, and cauliflower and continue to cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes, until the beans are bright green and the greens are wilted. Stir in the rice, coconut and cashews and allow the mixture to heat through (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.
[UPDATE, JUNE 2010: In March, 2009, I began a much more serious (and much more restrictive) candida diet after suffering from myriad candida symptoms for more than 6 months. Finally, with a raging rash taking over my torso, I had to succumb and begin the diet afresh. After 15 months (so far) I'm 90% better, lost 45 pounds, and feel terrific. To read from the beginning of my "new" candida journey, see this post.]
These days, I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t stressed. I mean, with all our modern amenities, our time-saving devices, our plugged-in technology, most of us are still plagued with a constant sense ”never enough” or “not up to snuff.” And I’m not too proud to admit that I myself am probably preternaturally sensitive to stressors in my life. In fact, it’s possible that I react just a wee bit more forcefully to stress than the average person. Truth be told, I find it downright impossible to cope some days. Oh, all right, fine; I admit it: I’m basically a slobbering mass of quivering kanten who’s totally incapable of coping with excess pressure. (I mean, do you know anyone else who had to quit meditation because it was too stressful?)
It’s not as if most of us can just take off for a few weeks to our spectacular retreat in New Zealand when we feel overwhelmed by life’s little curve balls (how lovely for you that you could, though, Shania). Some, like the HH, play records (as opposed to CDs) to de-stress; others play with their home décor, wardrobe or hairstyle. Some play the clarinet. And then there are those who simply play around.
Me, I like to play in the kitchen.
Throughout my recent hiatus from the blog, I kept encountering interesting recipes or ideas for baked goods and my hands would itch to get back to cooking. There’s something immensely soothing about swishing a wooden spoon over and over through a clear, fragrant broth, or chopping mindlessly as carrots are transformed into mounds of tiny, uniform cubes on the cutting board.
But what to cook? As I mentioned last time, I’ve embarked once again on an anti-candida diet for a few weeks, which means my diversions in the kitchen will have to comply with the guidelines of that eating plan. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the anti-candida diet is basically a nutritional means to reduce the candida albicansyeast that’s present in and around us all the time, but which occasionally multiplies out of control in certain people (those with compromised immune systems, those with blood sugar issues, those with hormonal imbalances, etc.) My personal weakness is an addiction to sweets; sugar is the number one preferred vittle for those microscopic opportunists.
In order to reduce the number of candida organisms down to a “normal” level, the anti-candida program (I’ll just call it ACD from now on) commonly recommends cutting out any foods that could potentially feed the yeast or encourage it to grow. In its most stringent form, the diet would eliminate:
anything containing any kind of sugar (cane, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.–plus fruits, fresh and dried);
simple carbohydrates, which convert to glucose very quickly (flours, pasta, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, biscuits, crackers, cornstarch and similar starches, and any other baked goods of any kind; candies, chocolate, ice cream, pudding, anything candy-like; white potatoes, white rice and any other white grains)
foods that contain mold or fungus or encourage it to grow (yeast is a fungus, after all): mushrooms, peanuts, cashews, melons, cheeses;
the most common allergens or foods that could cause allergic responses (which trigger the yeast): dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy foods;
foods that are fermented or might encourage fermentation (on which yeast feeds): alcohol, vinegars, all condiments (no ketchup, sorry); soy sauce, etc.
anything artificial, processed, containing chemicals or additives, imitation or artificial seasonings and flavorings and colorings;
pop, fruit juice, presweetened drinks, coffee, tea.
Right about now, you may be wondering, “what the heck CAN you eat??” Good question. The basic list of “permitted” foods is actually shorter than those that are prohibited. Still, there’s quite a bit left that’s both tasty and nourishing:
all vegetables except very high-glycemic ones (such as white potatoes, corn, etc.)
stevia (a natural herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels)
I was leafing through the book that became my ACD Bible when I was first on the diet about 10 years ago (called The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook), and I have to admit I began to despair a little. Life without pancakes on Sunday mornings? Life devoid of fresh, juicy fruits? Life sans a little tipple on occasion? How would I cope? What could I eat when the HH and I went out to dinner? What would I do when my friends invited me to Starbucks to catch up? It was starting to feel mighty stressful around here. So I exhibited my usual reaction when I’m feeling stessed: I got into the kitchen when I couldn’t stand the yeast.
After consulting with a few classmates currently practising as holistic nutritionists, I was reassured that the ACD diet had been revised in recent years. Considered unduly restrictive (you think??) it’s since been amended to better reflect current trends in the fields of nutrition and scientific research. Apparently, some sweet foods can now be included as long as they’re low on the glycemic index or GI (which means they don’t raise blood sugar levels very quickly). A low GI denies the yeast its main source of nutrition–glucose. In other words, this time round, I can include most nontropical fruits (such as apples, some pears, berries, or peaches) in my menus, as well as minute amounts of agave nectar, a natural sweetener that’s also low-glycemic.
Scanning the ingredients of my refrigerator for inspiration, the first thought that occurred to me was to cook up some kitchari. This Ayurvedic cleansing stew is a flexible recipe that always features rice, mung beans, and certain spices; beyond that, anything goes. It seemed perfect for that little flock of cauliflower florets waiting patiently to make themselves useful. There was also a lone sweet potato perched on the counter (the only survivor of the Sweet Potato and Ginger salad I made the other day), so those were my veggie choices, but you can use whatever you like or have on hand. The HH thinks this dish bears an unfortunate resemblance to Klingon gach, but I love its mushy, nubby base and nourishing, comforting broth.
The stew simmers gently for almost an hour, infusing your entire home with the fragrant, soothing aromas of Indian spices as it bubbles. It may have been intended as a cleansing stew, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of flavor. One serving of this, and your stress will evaporate, right into the swirling plumes of steam emanating from your bowl.
[UPDATE, JUNE 2010: In March, 2009, I began a much more serious (and much more restrictive) candida diet after suffering from myriad candida symptoms for more than 6 months. Finally, with a raging rash taking over my torso, I had to succumb and begin the diet afresh. After 15 months (so far) I'm 90% better, lost 45 pounds, and feel terrific. To read from the beginning of my "new" candida journey, see this post.]
Kitchen Sink Kitchari (loosely adapted from this recipe)
I soaked the rice and beans overnight before cooking, but that step is optional. If you don’t soak your beans overnight, use the quick-soak method: cover with boiling water, bring to the boil, and let sit, covered, for an hour. Then drain and cook as you would pre-soaked beans.
1 cup (240 ml.) brown basmati rice
3/4 cup (180 ml.) mung beans
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) coconut oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece ginger, peeled and grated fine
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground cloves
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) ground fennel
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) turmeric
1 tsp. (5 ml.) cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml.) fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) finely grated coconut
7-8 mint leaves, chopped
3 cups (720 ml.) water
1 tsp. (5 ml.) sea salt
2 cups (480 ml.) chopped cauliflower florets
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
Soak the mung beans and rice in a pot of room temperature water, covered, overnight. Drain.
In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in the coconut butter. Add the ginger and spices and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the rice and beans with the water and cook for 30 minutes, until rice is soft. Add the vegetables and continue to cook until the sweet potato is soft, about 20 more minutes. Season with salt to taste. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
Back when I was an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, my first boyfriend and I (hiya, Mark! How’s tricks?) would regularly venture across the Ambassador bridge to the Greektown in Detroit (quite literally, a stone’s throw away). That’s where I first tasted saganaki–kefalotyri cheese (like an aristocratic feta) doused in brandy and set aflame in the pan, right by your table, to raucous chants of “OPA!” and clapping from anyone in the vicinity. The semi-melted cheese, crispy on the outsideand soft on the inside, was chewy, melty, oily, salty (basically any adjective ending in “-y”) and I absolutely adored it plonked on big, cushy pieces of Greek bread.
When the HH and I got together, we lived near the Greek area of Toronto and regularly indulged in our fair share of saganaki as well. Then I was diagnosed with IBS and changed my diet dramatically. Basically, I abandoned saganaki along with the rest of the restaurant’s menu–it was all Greek to me (or, at least, to my digestive system).
But there was one item in which I could still indulge, and still eat with gusto and impunity: dolmades.
Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’re probably familiar with these bite-sized stuffed grape leaves. Like my mother’s cabbage rolls of yore, the dolmades use smaller, softer grape leaves and roll them around a log of rice filling. And while they are most often served with ground meat, they can be found in vegetarian versions as well, which I enjoy immensely.
I’ve always dreamt of making my own, home-made, dolmades. It’s a shame, then, that I’m just basically too lazy to do so. Who wants to spend 3 hours of prepping and rolling just so the HH and I can devour them in 10 minutes? And that’s where Deconstruction came in.
In university, I “studied” a literary theory called Deconstruction, which supposedly demonstrated how language has no inherent meaning, and words are just representations of our preconceived, culturally determined notions (the approach was characterized, primarily, by the generous use of parentheses, dashes and slashes in their writing.)
Well, I hated Deconstruction. In fact, if someone had (de)constructed Deconstruction and left it to fade into oblivion in its little de/con(structed) sentence frag(me)nts, I would not have minded one bit. I recall sitting round seminar tables during my M.A. degree and squirming as I listened to the other students pontificate about Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, and a non-linear group of other the(or)ists. I kept thinking, “What the heck are these people talking about?! This makes no sense to me.” (Later, after years of psychological trauma believing I was a numbskulled cretin, I discovered that none of them actually knew what they were talking about, either; they were just better at tossing around all that postmodern, poststructuralist, etymological, phenomenological mumbo-jumbo).
My favorite use of this approach was the (now famous) re-structuring of the word “therapist” as “(the)rapist,” supposedly exposing our culturally-specific, misogynistic, subtext of the word. But I think the theory reached its all-time apex of absurdity in the form of a book we were asked to study as PhD students, in which the author filled individual (separate, unbound) pages with random words, piled the pages into a box like a set of stationery, then asked the students to dump the contents of the box onto a large table, shuffle the pages, and critique the results. I don’t remember any of the “re-visioning” of the text we came up with, but I am fairly certain that many a PhD student who’d “read” that book had a good, long supply of birdcage liners for many years to follow.
And so, in an ironic return to the reviled principles of Deconstruction, I decided to focus my attention not on the hidden meanings in the structure of words, but in the hidden flavors in the structure of grape leaves. The resultant Mediterranean Rice Casserole is an unconventional, unstructured mixture of brown rice, chopped collards (which stand in for grape leaves here) and spices reminiscent of the original dish. It both is/and is not an accurate rendition of dolmades, and your interpretation of its flavor shifts constantly, depending on the particular arrangement–never the same twice–of individual elements in each specific bite.
The flavors will remind you of a long-ago meal in a Greek restaurant. At the same time, the structure of the dish will remind you of a child’s kaleidoscope, ever shifting as you peer into the tube. Is there any way to interpret a consistent meaning for this dish? Is there any signficance to the particular arrangement of fragmented colors in the casserole? Can we extract some symbolic, gender-specific and pre-existing cultural stereotype from this dish?
Naw. So let’s just forget about all that theory, get ready to eat, and heartily par(take) of this de/lec(table) meal.
“Mum, you’re really not making any sense here. . . but can we deconstruct the leftovers?”
Mediterranean Rice Casserole
A great way to use up extra rice and any kind of green leafy vegetables, this dish comes together quickly and works well as both a main course or a side.
2 cups (500 ml.) cooked brown rice
1/4 cup (60 ml.) organic extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml.) lightly roasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
1/2 cup (125 ml.) raisins
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
1/2 cup (125 ml.) chopped parsley
juice of one medium lemon (about 3 Tbsp. or 45 ml.)
2 Tbsp.(30 ml.) balsamic vinegar
large bunch spinach, collards, or chard, washed and chopped
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) dried dill weed
2 tsp. (10 ml.) dried thyme
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. (3.5 ml.) ground allspice
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) paprika
sea salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.Add onions and garlic and sauté until onion is golden brown, around 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except for rice and stir well.Turn heat to minimum, cover, and let simmer for about 5 minutes to combine flavours and allow greens to wilt.
Add rice and mix well.Turn the mixture into a greased casserole and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.Makes 8 side dish servings or 4 entree servings. May be frozen.