[Have you entered the Cookbook giveaway yet? Choose any cookbook you like and you could win it as my Christmas present to you this year! Click here to enter--only one day left!]
I meant to post about this recipe yesterday, but somehow, I’m, er, running a tad behind schedule. How did I get so woefully tardy on my holiday preparations this year? Usually, I’m that student you always hated, the one who handed her essay in two days early. Or that friend who’s already seated, calmly sipping tea and reading The History of Love, when you arrive at the restaurant for lunch at the designated time. (Sorry, really. Seems I couldn’t help it. . .just anal that way).
But not this year; no sirree. I suppose I can attribute the shift in efficiency to a strange confluence of medical and dental appointments, late-in-the-term exams and massive marking duties, some broken plumbing and emergency repairs plus various and sundry other distractions scattered throughout the month. I could blame the influence of the HH (always a great fallback position) and his über laid-back approach to Christmas shoppingthe holidaysshovelling snow everything, leaving chores or errands until the last minute, which seems to work just fine for him but is in fact disastrous for me. Or I could blame this infernal candida (even better fallback position), which has been acting up as if sparked by the holiday spirit itself.
Years ago, I vowed I would never leave holiday shopping to the last minute. This pledge came after one particular Christmas in Montreal during my graduate school years. I’d flown “home” from Toronto to be with my family, but as a don in residence, I wasn’t allowed to leave the campus until December 23rd. The CFO suggested we wait until I arrived so we could shop together–on December 24th. “We’ll just start really early, before the crowds develop,” was her reasoning. It must have been the jet-lag, but it seemed logical to me, and I agreed.*
Entering the first shopping mall, I was overcome with a mounting sense of dread as we shuffled along amid the throngs, shoulder to shoulder with a mass of strangers moving in unison from displays of scarves and mitts to shelves of sweaters and lingerie to stacks of boots and books to walls lined with dresses and coats to counters replete with mixers, radios, food processors, mixing bowls, wine glasses, can openers, oven mitts. . . . within minutes, I was a little light-headed and approaching dizzy.
After about half an hour of such torture, the CFO and I looked around at the mob of seemingly lifeless bodies perambulating like automatons, no expression (or worse, grim determination) on their faces, moving as if compelled by some unseen, insidious force. . . wait a minute–did that guy have both his arms outstretched before him, palms toward the ground? Was that a little drop of blood I saw in the corner of that grandma’s leering mouth? Was that woman at the Henckels counter lifting that blade a little too high over the saleswoman’s head? Suddenly, we both decided we had to get out of there. Now.
With only a few meagre bags at our feet, sipping cappuccino (as I still did in those days) at a nearby café, we felt enormous relief at having escaped relatively unscathed from what seemed like the scene of the latest horror movie: Christmas Night of the Living Dead, perhaps, or Invasion of the Booty Snatchers, or The Lost Buys. Or, even more to the point, simply The Shopping Mall (Mmwhahahahaaaaaa!).
Nope, never again.
Okay, so maybe December 22nd is, in reality, not much better than December 24th, but at least I got the job done yesterday (with minimal dizziness or bloodshed). The HH, on the other hand, still hasn’t even started his Christmas shopping. Mwhahhaahahaaaa!
This salad will provide a refuge from the holiday insanity (or, perhaps, some rejuvenation after the Big Day). I came across the recipe on Shannon’s blog while catching up on blog reading (another area I’m woefully behind). The original hails from Molly, and, like all of her recipes, it’s a winner. It’s quick (start to finish in less than 30 minutes), satisfying and nutritious all at once. The combination of butternut squash (for just a hint of sweetness) and chickpeas (for protein) with a smattering of red onion (for bite) and aromatic cilantro (for–well, for deliciousness) is addicting.
I had it for lunch yesterday, then again today. The creamy cloak of tahini drizzled over the warmed squash base makes for a delightful contrast in flavors and temperatures, reminiscent of the all-in-one dinner bowls I wrote about a while back. In fact, I think this would be more than sufficient for dinner if served with a healthy grain or hunk of hearty bread.
*Of course it wasn’t jet-lag; there’s no time difference between Toronto and Montreal. It was just wishful thinking.
Warm Butternut Salad with Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
Oddly, even though the original recipe is called “Warm Butternut Salad,” Molly’s instructions tell us to cool the squash and not re-heat it. I simply used the squash almost straight from the oven to keep the base warm, and to save time.
For the Salad:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ (2.5 cm) pieces
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) allspice (I’d go with 3/4 tsp or 3.5 ml next time)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
fine sea salt, to taste
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked chickpeas, or one 15 oz (425 g) can, drained and rinsed very well
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
For the Tahini Dressing:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
3 Tbsp (45 ml) well-stirred tahini
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced
3-1/2 Tbsp (52.5 ml) fresh lemon juice (not bottled)
2-4 Tbsp (30-60 ml) water, as needed
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, 1 clove garlic, allspice, 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, and salt to taste. Use a large spoon or your hands to toss the squash until everything is evenly coated. Turn the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is just tender (take care not to overbake at this stage). Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil and tahini until smooth. Add remaining ingredients (start with just 2 Tbsp/30 ml water) and whisk until smooth; the sauce should be the texture of thick cream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I had to add a bit more lemon juice).
To assemble: combine the baked squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl and toss gently (so as not to break up the squash). For individual servings, spoon onto plates and drizzle each individually with dressing. Or toss the entire salad and serve in a large bowl, family-style. Makes 4-6 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
But honestly, this recent revision in my diet that now permits the occasional appearance of fruits like raspberries, black berries or blueberries is, indeed–well, the berries.
After my recent success with a stevia-sweetened upside down apple pancake, I decided to go one step further and aim for muffins. Unlike the pancake, these babies are portable as a snack, or even breakfast (not that a holistic nutritionist such as I, who always spends enough time preparing and eating proper meals , ever has to eat on the run–say, in my car, for instance, as I drive to a dentist appointment because I’m so totally overscheduled and behind on work that I was up until 12:47 that very morning marking student assignments and then slept through the alarm and hit “snooze” twice before rushing out of bed and waking the HH while shrieking, “I’m going to be late for the DENTIST!” as I dashed into the shower, dressed at record speed and headed out like Bugs Bunny’s tasmanian devil on the hunt for prey, pausing just long enough at the kitchen counter to grab a muffin–no, no, goodness me, I never have to resort anything like that!).
After I received my healthy baking kit this week, I got to thinking about baking muffins that I’d be allowed to eat. These lemon-blueberry lovelies are light yet dense, providing a moist, airy crumb that’s just right as a backdrop for organic blueberries that have been scattered hither and thither (I also say things like “hither and thither, apparently). I used dried blueberries (sweetened only with apple juice) and so felt they’d be acceptable as a treat on this phase of the ACD. If you prefer, use fresh or frozen berries (but don’t thaw the latter before stirring into the batter).
I may have mentioned before that I regularly bake muffins or quick breads so the HH has something healthy at work alongside his coffee each morning (hmmm. . . . I wonder if the organic, whole foods ingredients in my goodies cancel out the hydrogenated fats and chemicals in the coffee whitener at the office? Naw, didn’t think so). Now, he long ago became accustomed to whole spelt flour and natural sweeteners instead of wheat and sugar, but how would he react to GF flours and stevia? Only one way to find out. I went to work. By the time the HH returned home from his day at the office, the house was infused with the heady aroma of lemon zest.
“HH, honey, how about a taste of a delicious, yummy, moist lemon-blueberry muffin?” I asked innocuously. He stopped to look at me.
“It’s one of those weird candida things, isn’t it?”
[Freeze frame on Ricki's face. The Dilemma: does she lie and only later tell him what's in the muffin, after he eats it? Or does she tell him the truth, and risk his refusal to even try?]
“Candida things aren’t weird,” I said, and left it at that.
“Okay, I’ll take a taste. . . .” I stared intently. He nibbled on the muffin’s domed top. This was followed by another nibble, then a fuIl bite, which was followed by a second, and a third. . . before I knew it, the muffin was gone!
“Hmm. Lemony. And the blueberries taste pretty sweet. ” He began to rummage around for another. Sweet Success!
Even if you haven’t worked with stevia before, I bet you will enjoy these as a light, not-too-sweet breakfast treat or snack. Seriously, they’re far out. A gas. Just swell. And the berries.
And Happy Hannukah (or, if you prefer, Chanukah) to everyone who celebrates!
Blueberry Lemon Muffins
These are a substantial, moist and light muffin for breakfast or snacks. Don’t worry about what seems like a lot of lemon flavor from the extract and zest here; whole grain flours can be overpowering, and you’ll need to compensate with more flavoring if you want to detect lemon in the final product.
1/4 cup (60 ml) tahini (sesame paste), or use cashew butter if you’re not a sesame fan
1/4 cup (60 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp (10 ml) finely ground chia seeds
1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened soy or almond milk
25-35 drops stevia, to your taste (the muffins will taste a bit less sweet once baked), or 1/4 cup (60 ml) agave nectar*
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 tsp (5 ml) pure lemon extract or 2 tsp (10 ml) lemon flavoring (flavoring is less intense)
finely grated zest of 2 medium or large lemons
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120 ml) dried blueberries (or use fresh/frozen, unthawed)
1/2 cup (120 ml) amaranth flour**
1/2 cup (120 ml) brown rice flour
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) garbanzo-fava flour or chickpea flour
1 Tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, or grease with coconut oil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini and oil until smooth. Add the applesauce and stir well to combine, then whisk in the chia seeds. Add the milk, stevia, vanilla, lemon flavoring, lemon zest and vinegar, and stir until well combined. Gently stir in the blueberries to coat them.
In a medium bowl, sift together the amaranth flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, garbanzo-fava flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet and stir just until combined.
Using a large scoop or a 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, scoop generously and fill muffins tins very full. Bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes, rotating pan around halfway through, until very well browned on top and a center muffin tests done. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely. Makes 12-14 large muffins or 12 large muffins and about 6 minis. May be frozen.
* You can replace the stevia with 1/4-1/3 cup (60-80 ml) agave nectar if you like, but reduce the milk by 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) if you do.
** Amaranth has a distinctive, nutty flavor that some may find too assertive for these muffins. For a milder flavor, substitute millet or more rice flour for the amaranth.
For even more desserts, check out Desserts without Compromise, my new ebook with 19 original recipes (all sugar free, gluten free, egg free and dairy free)! To learn about the recipes or to purchase, click here. To see photos of all the desserts, see this post.
[Raw key lime tarts--NOT an ACD-inspired recipe (yippee!) See below.]
After the great response I got from my Anti-Candida Breakfasts post, I thought you all might be interested in some ACD desserts. Since this phase of the diet is very clear about NO SWEETENERS (except for stevia), NO FRUIT (except for limes, lemons and avocados), and NO FLOURS (except for bean flours, in teensy amounts), we ACD followers have to get pretty creative when it comes to satisfying the sweet tooth. And believe me, my sweet tooth has been mighty insistent of late.**
So today’s post is all about desserts–the non-sugar, non-sweetener, non-flour way! Doesn’t that just sound unbelievably appetizing? (I know, I have been deluding myself this way for over a month now). OOOOOH, YUM! Read on to share my painbe glad you’re not me find a few surprises you might actually like!
[Seriously, doesn't that look just like applesauce?]
For some reason, the ACD vetoes all squashes except zucchini, yellow squash (basically jaundiced zucchini) and spaghetti squash. While browsing through one of the forums about the diet, I came across this idea for mock applesauce–essentially, you bake a spaghetti squash, scoop out the (remakrably spaghetti-like) flesh, then purée it with cinnamon and stevia. I added a touch of ginger and cardamom as well. It was surprisingly good, and, I’m sure, would be fabulous if made with an actual sweetener like agave or pure maple syrup. I’ve been enjoying this after dinner on occasion when I need something I can pretend is fruit.
[Well, the texture is perfect, at least. . . . ]
I placed the title of this dessert in quotation marks, because there is no way anyone would mistake this for actual chocolate pudding. Oh, the texture was fabulous, but when you sweeten cocoa with stevia, the result is, shall we say, rather pucker-inducing. Well, except to me, when I’m desperate for chocolate and don’t care if it’s bitter or has a stevia “aftertaste,” that is. The HH wouldn’t even finish the first spoonful (though he did concede that the texture was great). I’m going to work on a non-candida version of this because I know it will be irresistible when made with some other type of sweetener!
One of my favorite junky sweet treats when I was in my teens and 20s was Nielsen “Macaroons.” They were essentially milk chocolate (or should I say, “milk chocolate flavored“) rosettes–sort of like Hershey kisses with toasted coconut in them–and I adored them. I’d stop at the Bulk Barn on my way home from class and purchase a small bag, then munch away during the bus ride home. In my 20s, of course, I was able to do so without any ill effects or physical consequences (well, except for the time that guy in the seat beside me put his hand on my knee–not connected to macaroons, I reckon). My, how times have changed since then! Not only can I no longer eat that way, but these days, I’d be whacking that guy’s hand with my umbrella and disturbing fellow passengers by shrieking at the top of my lungs.
Although I haven’t eaten the Nielsen variety in about a decade, these little confections reminded me of them–only much, much healthier. To me, these sweets taste like actual milk chocolate (not chocolate “candy”), mixed with coconut.
Now, I know there are about 17,428 versions of a “nut butter, carob and coconut” treat on the Internet, but this one is my own (original!) creation, and dear to my heart. And besides, I’d love to know whether any of you out there agree about the taste (or is it simply my ACD-addled tasted buds playing tricks on me?).
I’ve deliberately made a small batch here, so that (if the highly unlikely situation should ever arise, you understand) it’s not a tragedy if you happen to eat the entire batch. However, if you’re sharing with more than one person, or serving several, you may wish to double the recipe.
In a food processor (I use my Mini-Prep; any small processor is recommended for this recipe), blend the almond butter, tahini, carob powder, salt and chia until you have a smooth paste. Add the stevia and vanilla, if using, and whir again to blend. Add the coconut and hemp seeds and pulse until evenly distributed. Scoop the mixture by teaspoonfuls and roll into balls. Refrigerate (or freeze) 20 minutes or more to allow the mixture to firm up a bit. (If you can’t wait to dig in, they’re still delicious right away, but they will be fairly soft). Makes 4-5 balls.
ACD variation: use stevia instead of other sweetener and be sure the vanilla is alcohol-free.
[This is carob, but for a chocolate variation of the pudding, use chocolate almond, soy, hemp or other milk]
As I mentioned in a previous post, this is one of my favorite treats, even when I’m not following the ACD. This version boasts carob, cinnamon, and a touch of stevia. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a teaspoon or two of ground flax seeds to the mix as well. (You wacky dessert-lover, you!)
I was amazed to discover that this recipe, which I’ve been eyeing for almost a year now, is actually more or less acceptable for the ACD! A few minor adjustments, and the HH and I were both able to enjoy these lovely tarts (pictured above is the date-sweetened crust). You could also make the filling on its own and spoon it up as a pudding. As a bonus, this is a raw dessert. You don’t want to overindulge, however, as it does contain quite a hit of fat in each serving.
3/4 cup (80-90 g) dry, raw macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, or a combination
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt, optional
1/2 cup (120 ml) pitted dry medjool dates, chopped (see note)
3/4 cup (180 ml) chopped just-ripe avocado flesh (1-2 avocados)
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) agave nectar, light or dark
2 tsp (10 ml) finely ground chia seeds, optional (but the filling is more runny without it)
lime zest or kiwi slices for garnish
Lightly grease 5 individual tart pans, or line with parchment rounds (I use 3″ or 7.5 cm pans with removable bottoms). If your pans don’t have removable bottoms, it’s worth it to line them with parchment paper rounds, as the crust will stick otherwise. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the coconut, nuts, and sea salt until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the dates and process until it comes together in a “dough” (it’s ready when the mixture sticks together if pinched between your fingers and thumb). Press the “dough” evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tart pans.
If you’ve scraped the processor bowl fairly clean, there’s no need to wash it for this step. In the same processor, blend the avocado, lime juice, agave and chia and blend until very smooth. Spoon the mixture evenly into the crusts and smooth the top.
Freeze the tarts until firm, at least 2 hours. Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving, garnish with zest or fresh fruit, and enjoy. Makes 5 tarts.
ACD Variation: Instead of the dates, use 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) smooth almond, cashew or macadamia butter to help the dough adhere. Or omit the crust and just eat the filling! For the filling, use stevia to taste in place of the agave.
**Every source you read about the ACD says that, as long as you stick to the plan, your sugar cravings will disappear in 3-4 days. Excuse me while I guffaw. I’m well in to Week Five, and sugar is calling to me just as loudly and insistently as ever.
PS. To read about a non-ACD dessert recipe by yours truly, flip open the May/June issue of Clean EatingMagazine for my second Happy Endings recipe!
UPDATE: SOME OTHER ACD-FRIENDLY DESSERTS on Diet, Dessert and Dogs, below. This is just a partial list. For a full list, see the Desserts Category in the Recipe Index (note that Wellness Weekend posts may contain non-ACD recipes):
Desserts without Compromise, my ebook with 19 ACD friendly dessert recipes, from grain-free fudgy brownies to cookies to mousse to vanilla custard–all sugar free, egg free, dairy free and gluten free (desserts for all phases of the diet)
Cupcakes, frosting, puddings and other non-sweet dishes in my Anti Candida Feast Ebook(for those just beginning, and 2nd phase of the diet)
[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.
[Yep, another raw bar. . . and so soon! But there's a good reason. . . ]
Well, it’s finally happened: after years of needless anxiety before every annual medical check-up (only to be told each time that nothing’s wrong). . . this time, something was wrong. And I must admit, I’m shocked.
When I saw my doctor a few weeks ago, she sent me off for all the standard tests appropriate for “someone my age.” Then yesterday at the call-back appointment, I was informed that I have osteopenia. Sounds scary initially: osteopenia is the (potential) precursor to osteoporosis, as the word means “thinning of the bones.” Osteoporosis means “porous bones” and is a greater danger.
Even as she was speaking, questions caromed around in my mind: What, exactly, does this mean? Doesn’t everyone experience thinning of the bones as they age? How serious is my situation?–etc. Apparently, the test, called DEXA (“Dual Energy X-Ray Absorption”) works by measuring the density of my bones and comparing it against the bones of an imaginary 25 year-old woman (the “gold standard,” as my doctor says. But hey, shouldn’t that be the “greyish-white” standard?). Statistically, my bones were a 1.3 per cent standard deviation from that (no idea what that means). A 2.5 per cent deviation equals “osteoporosis.” When I asked how I compare to other women my age, she noted that I was still a bit below average.
Now, I simply cannot express how much this news ticks me off! I mean, isn’t being fat good for anything these days?? One of the health issues I never (I mean, never) considered as a possibility was osteoporosis; you see, being overweight is actually a preventative in that area (bones rebuild and strengthen in accordance with ”weight-bearing exercise,” and I have definitely been bearing excess weight the past few years.). I do, however, have some of the other risk factors (such as being female).
Well, I’m trying not to get overly stressed about this (stress, as it turns out, is one of the factors that contributes to bone loss. Bien sûr). Even my doctor noted that, should nothing change over the next few years, she wouldn’t give it another thought; it would only be considered a problem if I keep losing bone density.
This shocking diagnosis got me moving (in the sense of ”getting hyped up,” though of course also in the sense of “walking more”–gotta increase that exercise now!). I pulled out a bunch of my old texts from nutrition school and started reading. Seems that the absolute amount of calcium and other essential bone-building nutrients is irrelevant, if you’re not digesting them properly. Bad digestion=malabsorption=too few minerals in the bloodstream (at which point your opportunistic bloodstream leaches them out of your bones, teeth, and whatever else it can find–the nerve!). In other words, you can consume calcium out the yin-yang, but if your body isn’t absorbing it properly, you may as well be eating matchsticks (actually, no, don’t do that–too much sulfur isn’t good, either).
A highly acidic diet (as in, “those heinous, calcium-siphoning, bone-sucking junk foods and chocolate bars that have wooed me too many times in the past”) will also cause you to lose minerals from the bone (chocolate is a particular culprit, apparently, as it contains both caffeine AND refined sugar–both mineral-leachers). And believe it or not, meats and most dairy products are equally bad, as they are also highly acidic (too bad I grew up in a household where we ate meat every day, usually more than once). Oh, and let’s not forget that surreptitious bone-stealer: stress. So, in a contest to see who possesses the most negative traits contributing to malabsorption–well, all I can say is, “Yay! I finally won a contest!”
So now I have a real reason to eat better and exercise more: unlike my Stone-Age ancestors, I am partial to walking upright, and would prefer to retain that ability.
For those of you who are interested, you can prevent (and some even say reverse) osteopenia with the proper diet. This includes ingesting sufficient calcium, of course (think green leafys, almonds, legumes, figs, blackstrap molasses and, if you’re so inclined, sardines, salmon and yogurt); sufficient Vitamin D (at least 10 minutes of sunshine per day, or 1000 IU in supplement form); lots of magnesium (green leafys and beans/legumes again), and a complement of other vitamins and minerals, such as B’s, K, and boron, in smaller quantities. Basically, a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. Because it’s been a while since I practised nutrition directly, I’ll be heading for a trip to my naturopath next week to see what she has to say. And this will mean a bunch of new, ultra-healthy recipes on the blog!
All this got me thinking about Susan at Food Blogga’s “Beautiful Bones” event in honor of National Osteoporosis Month. I’d actually been planning to submit this very entry to Susan. Now, however, I’m also motivated to go make another batch, just for me. (Oh, and Susan also offers a list of calcium-rich foods on her event page.)
I came up with this recipe when I first started teaching cooking classes a few years ago. Each of the classes was assigned a theme, such as ”Glorious Greens,” “Tricks with Tofu” (foods, not making it disappear), or “Great and Gluten-Free.” One class, called “Bone Builders” (which now sounds to me more like an architectural firm on The Flintstones), was the impetus for these bars. They were a great hit with the cooking classes, and later, a popular seller at the organic market where I sold baked goods for a few years. And since they were designed specifically to improve bone health, these treats seem the perfect contribution to Susan’s event.
In the past few years, I’ve discovered that these are terrific as a mid-day energy booster, a great portable lunch on the go, or a substitute for trail mix. You can keep a wrapped bar in your drawer at work for an emergency nibble, or bring it along during a walk through the woods. Once made and wrapped, the bars will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge (they have honestly never lasted that long over here). With a texture like that of a protein bar you’d buy at the store, these are much more flavorful, with tart lemon peel, dried cherries accented by sweet dried fig, and the crackly, popping crunch of fig seeds alongside ground almonds. They’re very filling and a fabulous bar to have on hand.
When I first created these, I ran a quick nutritional analysis to ensure that they’d provide a meaningful boost of calcium. Courtesy of almonds (the nut with highest calcium levels), dried figs (the fruit with highest calcium levels), tahini (made from sesame seeds–yep, the seed with highest calcium levels) and sour cherries (no slouch in the calcium department), these bars are a powerhouse of bone-building minerals. The stats confirmed my expectation: each bar offers 140 mg. of calcium per bar (about 1/10 of the daily requriement) along with 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber (bonus!). I’m not sure how much deviation that represents from the statistical norm, but no matter–they’re delicious all the same.
[EDIT, January 2012: I finally took my own advice in 2010 and embarked on a year-long quest to improve my bone density, with the help of my naturopath, a changed diet, and more exercise. Read about how I reversed the bone deteroriation here.]
Raw Fig and Cherry Bars
These are deliciously chewy and not too sweet. If you can find organic UNsweetened dried cherries (the kind that are very tart), they are really the best choice. If you can’t find them, you may wish to reduce, or even omit, the agave nectar.
2 cups ( 290 g.) raw natural almonds
1/4 cup (30 g.) finely ground flax seeds
finely grated peel of 2 organic lemons
1-1/4 cups (190-200 g.) quartered dried figs, stems removed (measure after removing stems)
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) to 1/4 cup (60 ml.) agave nectar, to taste (and depending on how dry the mixture is)
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) raw tahini (or regular, if you’re not concerned about the bars being raw)
1 cup (120-130 g.) organic dried tart cherries, unsweetened
Lightly grease a 9″ x 9″ (about 20cm x 20 cm.) pan, or line with plastic wrap (I prefer the plastic wrap option).
In the bowl of a food processor (this recipe won’t work in a blender), combine the nuts and flaxseeds, and process until you have a fine meal that begins to adhere to the sides of the processor bowl (it will appear as if the mixture has stopped spinning round the bowl).Do not overprocess, however, or you’ll end up with nut butter!
Add the lemon peel and figs, and process again until well blended and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add remaining ingredients and process briefly to chop the cherries and create a moist “dough” (it will form a ball).Pinch a bit of the mixture between your fingers to test the consistency.If it sticks together and feels slightly moist, it’s ready.
Turn the mixture into the pan and press down very firmly with your fist or the back of a metal spatula.The mixture should be very compact and solid.
Refrigerate until firm, about an hour, or at least 20 minutes.Cut into 12 bars and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap. The bars will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Per bar: 140 mg. calcium, 5 g. protein, 5 g. fiber
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]