Soft Molasses Spice Cookies

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One of the great things about cooking and baking is that there is a limitless combination of ingredients I can use to create something delicious. I particular enjoy trying out new ingredients and using them in simple applications. My most recently ventures haven’t been yet posted on this blog. I’m not sure yet if I’m ready to share chili made with beef heart and enchiladas made with chicken liver!

In time, perhaps, but for now, I will share with you these cookies, made with a lovely grain from Ethiopia that does not oft get attention, except in certain gluten free circles. The grain is called teff, and its most authentic use is in the Ethiopian fermented flatbread called injera. It’s a very small grain, and it seems to melt into the items it is baked in. The silky flour has a mysterious, dark flavor that pairs perfectly with molasses and spice, which inspired this lightly-sweetened, warm holiday cookie.

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Soft Molasses Spice Cookies, Gluten Free
Adapted from Primal Palate
Makes about 15 cookies

1 cup (105 g) blanched almond meal/flour
3/4 cup  (95g) teff flour
1/4 cup (25 g) arrowroot flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tbsp maple syrup 
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, except for powdered sugar.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Then add in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. The dough will seems a bit like a soft taffy.

Pour some powdered sugar into a small bowl. Roll some dough into a 1/2 oz ball and toss in powdered sugar, covering the entire ball. Dust off excess powdered sugar and place on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving at least an inch of space between each cookie.

Bake 15 minutes.

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This post is in contribution to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, hosted by Meal Planning Magic. Check out all these other great blogs!

Winter Squash & Chestnut Soup

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Today, on the very first day of October, I turned off my air conditioner and opened my windows. There’s a slight chill in the air and I’m breathing it all in deep.

It’s really starting to feel like fall here. I spotted several yellow spots on varying trees. I can probably wear long sleeves without (too much) problem. At night, I wear sweatshirts when I go outside, and we even had a fire in our fireplace a few nights ago. My Netflix movie came in today. Sleepy Hollow.

I’m so ready for this.

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I’ve been eating a lot of soup lately. It makes for a really fun fall lunch, and it makes sure that I consume more homemade bone broth. Some people can drink the stuff like water. I can’t. But in soup (or pot roast), flavorful stock is the secret to umami-filled meal.

The (other) secret to this soup is the presence of chestnuts. Chestnuts aren’t (quite) in season here yet. Plainview won’t see them until December, but my hometown of Fort Worth will probably have them by Thanksgiving. I just happened to stock up on some last Christmas, peel them, and freeze them for recipes this year. Today I decided to fish them out and use them is this delicious autumnal soup. You can use jarred chestnuts. I’ve seen those year-round in several higher-end grocery stores (Market Street, Sprouts, Central Market, etc.).

I also used acorn squash for this, but other winter squash varieties like pumpkin, butternut, or kabocha would work perfectly as well!

 

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Winter Squash & Chestnut Soup
Serves 2-4

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 tsp salt (if using storebought broth, stick with one teaspoon and go up from there)
1 cup peeled chestnuts
3/4-1 lb winter squash flesh, cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup filtered water
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp fresh thyme
Yogurt, sour cream, or heavy cream for topping (optional)
Salted, toasted squash seeds for topping (optional)

Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add onion and salt and allow onion to soften, stirring occasionally.

Add chestnuts, winter squash, and garlic to the saucepan. Continue to cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add broth, water, black pepper, coriander, and allspice together in the pot. Stir and cover with a lid. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn off heat and add in fresh thyme. Carefully transfer contents of the saucepan to a blender or food processor. On low-speed, blend until smooth, approximately 3 minutes.

Pour or ladle into bowls and serve as is or topped with yogurt/sour cream/heavy cream and squash seeds.

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12 Weeks of Christmas Treats 2012

 

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Here begins the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats for 2012! Remember when I participated last year? Well it’s time again! Hard to believe it’s really twelve weeks until Christmas!

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I decided to try something new this year. Last year most of my entries for the blog hop were gluten free (the red velvet cheesecake brownies being the lone exception). This year, I will continue to make all my entries gluten free, but I will also be experimenting with some grain-free options. They are certainly not low-carb in most cases, and keep in mind, treats are treats and I will treat them as such. I make no presumption that these are “healthy,” though I do choose to use real food ingredients and keep dietary limitations in mind. When it all comes down to it, these are for pure enjoyment and seasonal celebration. As they should be!

Now let’s get on to it!

To start things off this year, we’ve got to head right into the pumpkin. And for the record, making these cupcakes required the last of my first stash of canned pumpkin for the season. One of the things I love about pumpkin is that it’s essentially pumpkin season four months out of the year. These translate well from fall right into Christmas time! The fact that I eat pumpkin year-round is entirely beside the point…

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Grain-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry
Makes 1 dozen

1.5 cups raw almonds
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
3 tbsp applesauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp molasses
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or combination of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor or high speed blender, combine the almonds, arrowroot, salt, and baking soda together until you get as fine of a meal as possible without turning it into weirdly seasoned almond butter. Then add all the rest of the ingredients and process for an additional 2-5 minutes. This will help smooth the mixture.

Fill a cupcake pan lined with papers with the batter, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-22 minutes. I bake these for a bit longer than I do flour-based cupcakes. This helps the protein structure set a bit better, I think.

Allow to cool completely before frosting. I’ve learned that almond flour-based baked goods tend to taste better the longer they are out of the oven.

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Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter
1/2 package of cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar (normal powdered sugar contained cornstarch, making this not grain-free. However, organic varieties sometimes use arrowroot in lieu of cornstarch. Or you can blend your own granulated/turbinado/coconut sugar for makeshift powdered sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

In a mixer, whip butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until soft and smooth. Then slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Smear or pipe onto cooled cupcakes!

 

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Here are my submissions to last year’s blog hop!

Oatmeal-Apple Cookies
Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
Nutella Cookies
Gingerbread truffles
Aztec Brownie
Orange-Cranberry Scones
Chai Cupcakes

 

 And check out all these other lovely blogs!



Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hard Cider

 

Growing up, I didn’t eat a variety of vegetables. Most of my green vegetable consumption consisted of iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch dressing or green beans out of a can sprinkled with salt. Oh, and steamed broccoli was my side dish of choice going out. I just wasn’t exposed to much.

 

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But then I went away for college and all that changed. I ate asparagus, zucchini, artichokes, spinach. So many new foods and so many new preparations! I’m pretty sure I grew up thinking that I disliked vegetables, but now I firmly believe that one much taste a food in a variety of different preparations before concluding you actually dislike the food itself. One vegetable I think many dislike is the Brussels sprout. I don’t blame people for disliking it. It’s bitter and smells a little like gym sock, especially when steamed. But I don’t steam my Brussels sprouts. No, the tiny cabbage has become one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables (steamed broccoli with melted butter and salt still wins), but I either roast or braise mine! And when you pair Brussels sprouts with the salty savoriness of bacon and sweet tang of hard cider, you’ve got a great fall side dish! And just in time for the weather to turn cold. Smile

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Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hard Cider

Serves 2-4

1 lb Brussels sprouts
3 large shallots, sliced
3 large rashers of bacon, chopped
1/2 bottle of hard cider
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and sliced shallots and allow the bacon fat to render out and the shallots to become soft and fragrant.

In the meantime, using a knife or a slicing blade on a food processor, slice the Brussels sprouts into shreds.

When the shallots are soft and bacon fat fairly well rendered out, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the shredded sprouts. Saute for several minutes at this higher heat. When the sprouts are bright green (after about 3-5 minutes), pour in the hard cider, stir, and allow to cook down until there isn’t any cider pooling in the pan (a few more minutes). Salt and pepper to taste.

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Is there any food you disliked growing up but learned to love?

Fall Bucket List

Have you ever made a fall bucket list? I feel like I make one every year, whether I write it down or not. Fall is, of course, my favorite season. I am so obsessed with fall that I have an organized section on my video shelf that I understand to be “fall mood movies.” I eat pumpkin year-round, and I daydream about what to do the coming fall once January hits every year.

Last year, my bucket list consisted of things like, visit a corn maze (check), drink pumpkin ale (check—but still don’t like beer), and read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Legend of Rip Van Winkle (started but didn’t finish. Is it just me or is Washington Irving painfully wordy?!). Some things, though, did not get finished and were moved to this year’s list. In this case, apple picking!

This past weekend, John and I visited our local apple orchard (Apple Country Orchards) for their annual Apple Butter Festival (sadly, Edgar had to work and could not join us). It was really just a small arts and crafts festival, but the real fun was walking through the orchards, bag or bucket in hand, picking your own apples (which can be done any day, really).

 

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The weather was perfect! We had a small cool front move through the panhandle that day, which provided a lovely, breezy snap in the air that truly invites feelings of early fall.

 

One of the things I learned on this trip was to not be so hard on myself that we have apple tree in our back yard, and even though many apples grew from them, bugs and/or birds got to them the MOMENT they were ripe, so a good percentage of them aren’t any good. Walking through the orchard made me realize that this is completely normal!

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We tried to make sure we got a good variety of apples. Apple Country Orchards raises a variety of trees so that at any given time of the year, SOMETHING is in season.

 

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In the end, we came home with ten pounds of apples between us, plus some raw apple cider (which I may or may not attempt to ferment into hard cider. It’s on my fall bucket list for this year!), and apple butter. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of apples we obtained, John and I spend yesterday evening baking up apple chips, baked stuffed apples, and Martha Stewart’s Apple-Butternut Squash soup.

This soup is pretty fantastic. It has a little spiciness that warms the back of your throat in the most comforting way possible. I won’t type out the recipe here since I followed the original pretty much to the letter, so I’ll just refer you to this link. I highly recommend you try it this fall.

 

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All these recipes and we still have 45 apples left! Do you have any suggestions for apple recipes? Also, what is on your fall bucket list?

Food Photography at Home

It’s a shame I don’t do more photography. My bachelor’s degree is in art, and photography was one of my main forms of expression. I’d have to same time has passed and made it too easy for me to forget my camera. As a result, I’m underpracticed. So I’ve decided that’s going to change!

I spent some of my birthday money on this book I’ve been lusting for a while now. Plate to Pixel. It’s a book on very basic food photography—a concept that was barely even mentioned in my advanced photography class.

I’ve also decided to transform our guest room into my personal photography studio. I fell in love with the window in there the moment we toured the house, and Ed mentioned that he was disappointed that we hardly used the room at all. I still have all the guest room furniture in there, but I’ve moved stuff around so I have room for my photography equipment by the window. Before now, any time I wanted to take food photos, I had to drag furniture around my dining room, pull out a mess of stuff, and have to clean up afterwards (or leave unsightly clutter in my most minimalist-designed room in the house). Now that I have a separate space, I can just leave my stuff and close the door!

(Forgive blurry iPhone photos. As you can see, my SLR was otherwise occupied in what is now my new favorite thing—shooting tethered!)

 

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Finally my AWANA trophies come out of the closet and serve some purpose!

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I normally think that any bed larger than a twin looks tacky when shoved into a corner, but considering function was priority over fashion in this case, I made the move. I’m glad I did though! Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s a full-sized bed, so not huge, but I think it looks better this way! When the bed is made, of course…

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One of the first things I experimented my new skills on was a flourless mocha cake I took to a church function the other day. Check out the results of that shoot!

 

And my favorite…!

 

I think it would be cruel to leave you without the recipe to this beauty, so enjoy!

 

Flourless Mocha Layer Cake
Adapted from the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

Cake:
1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark)
1/4 cup strong coffee
5 large eggs, divided
3/4 cup sugar (I used sucanat, but coconut sugar, turbinado, or regular granulated will work just fine)

Cream filling:
1 cup whipping cream
~1/2 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee granules (1/2 packet of Starbucks Via brew works too)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly oil the bottoms of two or three (I only have two) round cake pans. Then, cut parchment paper to fit into the bottom of the pans. You do NOT want to skip this step. This is a fragile cake and trying to pull the cake out of the pan without the parchment paper on the bottom will make the cake fall apart. I know from personal experience. Don’t skip.

Microwave the chocolate chips and the coffee together in 30 second intervals, stirring EACH TIME, until the mixture is smooth and chocolate is melted. Set aside and allow to cool.

Whip the egg whites together until strong peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks and the 3/4 cup of sugar together until smooth and the yolks have lightened in color. Stir the melted chocolate in with the egg yolk mixture. Then, gently fold in 1/3 of the stiff egg whites into the chocolate batter. ONCE INCORPORATED (don’t obsess over getting it all mixed in, lest you break down all the air bubbles and the cake will be nasty and flat), add in half of what’s left of the stiff egg whites, gently folding. Then, add the last. The batter should be light and airy. Don’t worry about visible eggy air bubbles. It’s better to err on the side of not-combined-enough.

Pour the batter evenly among the three cake pans. Or you can do two layers. Or you can do what I do and put 1/3 of the batter into each of my TWO round pans, bake them, empty them, and then bake the last layer separately. Remember that parchment lining? Don’t skip it!

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pans and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before de-panning. The sides of the cake will separate from the pan.

While the cake is baking, in a mixing bowl, combine the cream, espresso powder, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Whip at a high speed with your mixer until stiff peaks form. You may want to taste it to see if the strength of the coffee flavor is to your liking.

Once the cakes are cool, de-pan them one-by-one, peeling off the parchment paper, and layer them with the cream filling in between them. Sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, if desired.

Real Food Perspective

Over the last few years I’ve heard it all. Eat less fat! Eat fewer carbs! Eat organic! Don’t eat meat! Don’t eat grains! Don’t eat dairy! Eat more kale! You must combine this micronutrient with this other nutrient or else the world will end and all your fat will go to your thighs! Eat real food!

Eat real food…?

This is a concept I’ve had to weigh on my heart lately. Is the choice to eat “real food” such a luxury? Is it really just for those who have the means to spend well on their food? If I find myself in a place where food is a real struggle to keep on the table, must I resign to eat manufactured franken-foodstuffs or else fall under the scrutiny of those who believe I am naïve and don’t know what poverty truly feels like?

To me, real food is that which sustains us. That which has always sustained us. What has been given to use to eat. To me, eating real food has a certain sense of responsibility with it. Of accountability. Sustainability. Stewardship. Eating real food goes beyond the label we choose at the grocery store, brand name or dietary dogma. A certain sense of respect for what we have been given. A gratitude.

I pondered this the other day while I was making chips and salsa. Edgar wanted chips and salsa from Chili’s and I told him we had all the stuff to make it at home. I already had some fermented salsa in the fridge. The only matter was to cook up some corn tortillas and fry them into chips.

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As I stood there, patiently, transferring five or six triangles of corn tortilla at a time in the smoking pan of pig fat (I always feel like I’m going to burn the house down when I fry), I thought about one of Michael Pollan’s rules: “eat all the junk food you want, as long as you make it yourself.” Yes, I was sitting here in a sweaty kitchen, making everything smell like lard, and I realized that eating real, local food doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

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The tomatoes, jalepenos, and onions that made up 98% of that salsa came from the local farmers market. They aren’t organic, but nothing here really is. I figure that what a home gardener sprays on his plants pales in comparison to what mass-produced vegetation receives. Plus, they’re cheaper and they’re fresh, and I personally know the man who grew them for me. You can’t put a price on that.

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Now, I could arguably order some sprouted flour online and pay an extra $10 to have it shipped half-way across the country to my house, or I could respect the fact that I live in the Southwest, and little grows better in this region of the world than corn. The native peoples of this area figured out a long time ago how to make corn digestible and more nutritious. Nixtamalization is the term used to treat maize with lime (calcium hydroxide. not the fruit), and it is a practice still used today. I can go to the store down the street, pick up a two-dollar bag of masa harina (nixtamalized maize that has been dehydrated then ground into a flour) and make countless traditional (and not so traditional–tortilla chips are not at all traditional!), naturally gluten free foods without ever visiting a health food store.

Next, the lard. Ever wonder what people used to fry food in before the invention of industrial peanut oil and Crisco? Animal fat. I’m totally over the concept of fat from responsibly-raised or wild animals being bad for you. Plus, at $1.50/lb from my local rancher, lard is far, far cheaper than coconut oil, olive oil, and pastured butter. Who said eating locally, traditionally, and, in my opinion, healthfully, needed be expensive?

Perspective, I think. Is a dish best served with jalapenos and salt.

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Metamorphosis

It’s August!

This month is always pretty meaningful to me. Not only is it my birthday month (!!!), but it means the worst part of the year is over and every month from here on out gets better and better!

But this year, in particular, is even more special.

Today marks one year since I began my journey in gluten-free eating. I can’t say that I’ve been entirely gluten free for a year, because that’s obviously not true. But one year ago this week I began my elimination diet which ultimately led me on a journey that has shaped me in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined before.

On top of reducing (and eliminating over long batches of time) gluten, thus making my chronic and severe seasonal allergies virtually disappear, I’ve changed my thinking regarding proper nutrition, particularly in the treatment of my PCOS (which was diagnosed two months after the beginning of my elimination diet).

The turning point

Before last August, I followed something of a “flexitarian” diet. I eschewed most animal proteins in favor of legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Part of this was an economic choice, one I still have to balance, but I felt somehow more virtuous that way in my flawed logic. But what I was really doing was making myself sick, and after several months of this I realized that my body’s ache for more animal products was increasing dramatically. I would wake up every morning feeling like death. I seemed to have headaches all day, every day. My cycles were getting more and more irregular. I was cranky and irritable, and even more so during the weeks I ate no meat at all. After a very unhelpful discussion with my (now former) physician, I sought the advice of holistic practitioner, Kristien Boyle (husband of blogger, Caitlyn Boyle). Through email consultations he led me through a lot of discussion about my symptoms and ordered me a hormonal test panel which revealed several imbalances, most noteworthy being my high estrogen, high DHEA, low cortisol, and low 17-OH progesterone. He also is the one who ordered me to being the elimination diet and urged me to continue being gluten free when I had doubts that it was working. He was also the first to be convinced I had PCOS—even when I doubted him. I went back to my gynecologist and demanded to be tested for PCOS, despite his reservations. Suspicions were confirmed and I was officially diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Dr. Boyle then prescribed a number of lifestyle and dietary changes in order to treat my endocrine imbalances. He wanted to me drastically reduce my carbohydrate intake, and always start the day with a protein-rich breakfast, and to never eat a carb without a protein or fat source, in addition to remaining gluten free. My views on nutrition had to undertake a grand metamorphosis. No longer could I focus on calories and following some trend. No longer was it about keeping the same jean size. Everything revolved around bringing my body into a state of healthy normalcy. And these efforts have led to me to a “new” idea of nutrition. Instead of a semi-vegetarian diet, I’d say my diet pulls mostly from the idea of Weston A. Price and the Primal Blueprint.

A typical day, a year ago might have looked like this:

Breakfast: Overnight oats with banana, soy milk, and peanut butter OR a peanut butter sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread

Lunch: Canned black beans, sweet potato, and sauteed spinach

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Dinner: Some dish with beans substituted for meat OR potatoes roasted in oil, steamed green vegetable, and a small portion of animal protein

Snack: a Clif bar, a bag of trail mix, and fruit. Yes, all of them.

 

 

And a typical day now (is there really such thing as a typical day??):

 

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with salsa and Monterey jack cheese, and a corn tortilla or two OR Omelet with spinach and mozzarella, side of sweet potato (3-4 oz). Eggs are cooked in either butter or rendered lard (local). Fruit optional, but not typical (I find most fruit too sugary that early in the morning). I also usually drink water for breakfast, or a water with a splash of apple cider vinegar and local raw honey. Other days, I drink tea, like this pictured chai, or mint green tea. I’ll also mention that I’ve gotten the corn tortilla-making down to a fast and furious art. I don’t use a recipe anymore and I practically don’t measure. They take as long to whip up as it takes to boil an egg.

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Lunch: Salad with nuts, seeds, fruit, cheese, with either turkey or sardines+GF toast/crackers+butter OR beans cooked with a local ham hock and homemade beef stock, with a side of green vegetable

Dinner: Some kind of moderately-portioned (4-6 oz) animal protein (or more eggs if budget is tight), green vegetable with melted butter and salt, and if we are especially hungry, a bit of potato (sweet or regular) on the side, served with more butter.


(Photo taken by John during dinner. Admittedly a light dinner, but we weren’t famished)

Snack: I’m not usually hungry, but I might roll a bit of turkey and cheese together if hunger strikes at work. If I have cherries or some other super-seasonal fruit, I’d eat it. Occasionally I blend nuts and unsweetened dried fruit together into a sort of nut-heavy larabar-type confection. Or I just down a spoonful of almond butter.

 

New balance

No longer do I fear saturated and animal fats (side note: yes, there is a distinction. Most animal fats are not more than 50% saturated. Pork and poultry fat are typically more than 60% monounsaturated—the same type of heart healthy fat found in massive proportion in olive oil and avocadoes). I have limited my starchy carbs to the normal context of a meal, in serving sizes that do not exceed the amount of protein on my plate. I feel like I’ve found a sort of balance of macronutrients that works best for me. Not too much carb (my cycles go crazy and my blood sugar roller-coasters), not too little carb (it stresses out my body and causes me to bleed erratically and highly abnormally). With exception of the month where my body was dealing with the results of too little carb, and the couple months of “recovery” since, I have found my body inching closer and closer to a real sense of health. My cycles are the closest to normal and regular than they have ever been in my entire life. My headaches are more of a rarity than a rule. I don’t wake up bright-eyed and busy-tailed, but within minutes I feel ready to face the day—rarely feeling like I need to take a sick day. My journey is still in a state of flux. I am constantly learning more and more about how to help myself without the aid of pharmaceuticals. I will continue to experiment, and I may take a few steps back sometimes, but it’s a learning process. The endocrine system is a strange animal. But so am I. So I’m up for the challenge.

 

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How has your diet changed in the past year or two?

Seed Crackers

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Sometimes, eating gluten free can be so dang expensive.

Take crackers for example, a box of Mary’s Gone Crackers costs about $5, and they disappear like nothing else. I’ve been looking for something to eat with my weekly sardine lunch (yes, I eat sardines. I can hear the collective ewww!) For the last few months I’ve been eating them with gluten free bread (Udi’s brand is my favorite), but unfortunately that stuff is hardly whole food. But recently I’ve taken up making my own crackers based on those seed variety snacks. And they are so much cheaper!

 

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And as a plus, Edgar really loves these crackers as well! He eats them more than I do!

 

Seed Crackers

1/2 c brown rice flour
2 T sesame seeds
3 T raw quinoa (I don’t bother soaking or cooking it)
4 T cracked flax seed (pulse in the coffee grinder a few times. Not looking for a powder. Just broken flax pieces)
1/2 t sea salt (increase to a full teaspoon if omitting soy sauce)
6-10 T water
1 T low-sodium gluten free soy sauce (or replace with water)
1 T olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Then, in a separate bowl combine all the wet ingredients, using only 6 tablespoons of water. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine well. If the dough seems dry and crumbly, add a little bit of water, one tablespoon at a time. The dough will be a bit batter-like. That’s okay. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to soak for a couple of hours. I imagine if you wanted to reduce phytic acid you could allow to soak for 24 hours or so, but since I don’t eat these every day, I figure it doesn’t really make a difference.

After a few hours the “batter” will turn into a workable dough. Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature possible. Roll out the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out as thin as possible, then use a pizza cutter or knife to pre-cut the dough into crackers. Put the pan into the oven with the door ajar and allow to dehydrate for several hours (upwards of 4-5, but it really depends on your own oven), until full dry and crisp.

Serve with hummus, sardines, or on their own!

 

 

 

And if you’re curious, my “sardine salad” is really just Wild Planet sardines in evoo, drained, broiled in a dish with a pat of butter, a splash of wine, garlic, and dill or parsley, then mixed up when warm and butter is melted.

Healing with Traditional Diets

Last August I began a change in diet that was meant to heal me of various problems. I cut dairy, gluten, soy, and corn for several weeks, not knowing how I would feel by the end. Many people with a gluten intolerance feel instant relief. I did not. In fact, after my elimination diet was over, I continued eating it, though not as frequently. It was not until a few months into my “re-introduction” that I started feeling the effects of my gluten response, and hindsight became much more clear. Like never before, I was experiencing stomach cramps akin to eating two Thanksgiving dinners when I ate a significant serving of gluten. But more noteworthy was the fact that when I reduced my gluten intake, the severity of my seasonal allergies declined accordingly (a problem that affected my ability to work and function in society. A problem I’d dealt with my entire life). Likewise, when I ate a little bit of gluten repeatedly over a short period of time, or a binged in one setting, my allergies would flare within days and I would be stuck with a severe respiratory infection to nurse for about a week.

So this is how I’ve lived since last fall—avoiding gluten where I can, but not stressing over cross-contamination. Cheating a little, but knowing I will pay for it if I don’t keep it under control. I’ve been eating dairy, living with the occasional, but not severe, physical distress I sometimes experience with it, and avoiding soy more and more. I had no other problems with any other food.

Until a few weeks ago.

Within 30 minutes of eating this breakfast, I became sick to my stomach. I wanted to curl up on my couch and not move, but I was at work. It was the constant feeling of definite nausea that remained for a good two hours. I never felt so sick as to need to vomit, but the wrench in my stomach was undeniable.

A few days later, I discovered what about this meal ailed me when I ate it again in another meal, and then another as a “test” a few days after.

Avocados.

I have become allergic to avocados!

I have had a great love for avocados since I first started eating them in 2008. I put them on sandwiches, burgers, tacos, almost anything. It’s my favorite condiment. I can find substitutes for wheat, but AVOCADO?!

I was eating gluten free (especially over the last several months), but clearly that didn’t prevent me from developing some sort of allergy to avocados. I have read that it is possibly related to something called, “latex-fruit syndrome” which is a type of latex allergy that responds negatively to certain fruit like avocado, mango, and pineapple. I also had the same problems with pineapple lately and had to stop eating it. At the time I assumed it was the sugar.

Something needed to change. What I was doing was not enough. So I did some research into traditional diets and the GI-healing diets, GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) and SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). I can’t say that I’m committing totally to any of these just yet, but I am choosing to incorporate major aspects of them more and see how (if) it helps:

  • Bone Broths
    The vitamins and minerals that are found in bone broths are important anyway, but the collagen in these broths helps heal the lining of the intestines. Bones are cheap and I happened to have to meaty lamb bones in my deep freezer. After stewing away for a day in a combination of vegetables, herbs, and kombu, I have lamb stock in my freezer, ready for soups. Edgar loves eating soup for lunch, so I’m making it a point to consume my broth in the form of easy-to-prepare crockpot soups for lunch. (Mark Sisson has compiled a great amount of information on the subject HERE. And the Weston A. Price Foundation writes about it HERE)
  • Kombucha
    I have experienced in the past when I drank kombucha on an upset stomach, it would relieve my distress very quickly. It’s a great non-dairy source of probiotics, which should help balance my internal flora. Plus, I just flat out love the stuff. It’s a healthy bubbly beverage! Right now I only have one quart mason jar in my pantry fermenting away, but I know that I’ll need to have a lot more going at once to keep up with my habit!

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         Interesting story here. See that small bit of “mother” (ie. Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) floating on the top? Well, soon after I took these photos, it fell to the bottom of the jar, but in the few days since I took this picture, a new mother has started to form at the top of the jar again! Fermentation is a neat trick.

  • Yogurt
    I made my own! The process was very simple, and per SCD instructions I let it ferment for 24 hours to help reduce as much lactose as possible. I then strained the yogurt, making a thick, Greek-style yogurt and an ample amount of whey for other fermented foods along the line.

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  • Soaking/Sprouting/Souring Legumes and Grains
    I’ve gone back to soaking my grains and beans thoroughly in an acid medium to help reduce phytase. Phytase is an anti-nutrient. It blocks the proper absorption of nutrients in the body. Plus, it makes food more difficult to digest. I don’t make beans or grains a significant part of my diet, so I’m not that concerned about malnutrition by phytase, but I know I don’t want to aggravate a sensitive stomach with things I know are hard to digest when I can do something about it. So soak them well in vinegar or whey before cooking, I do. I also toss some kombu in with my beans to further help make them more digestible. Along the line I do plan to try to limit my legumes to SCD-legal varieties, like lentils and navy beans. (Read more about it HERE.)

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          In addition to the beans, I’ve started sprouting my own grains and seeds so I can make a variation on this Sprouted Grain Gluten Free Bread recipe. I’m completely intimidated! But the fact that I just started the sprouting process at 9pm last night and already my quinoa was sprouting when I woke up this morning makes me feel a little more capable!

  • Lacto-Fermented Condiments
    I don’t like pickles. I don’t like saurkraut. I don’t like vinegary things. But certain things I eat often contain a little vinegar, and it’s those things I am planning to lacto-ferment: salsa, mainly (I eat salsa with my eggs almost every day), and possibly barbecue sauce (which I generally don’t care for. I’m a Texas barbecue gal. We don’t need no barbecue sauce!) and ketchup (which I only eat with fried potatoes). I might experiment with lacto-fermented pickles, but for Ed’s sake, not mine. Also, in skimming through the Nourishing Traditions cookbook at Barnes & Noble a few days ago, I found that there are apparently plenty of different things I can ferment at home that seems tasty enough to me. Going to have to add that book to my wish list!Smile

 

So with all these changes, I’m hoping to feel some improvements. Only time will tell!

 

Here are some valuable blogs I have been reading that relate to traditional+GI-healing diets. Check ‘em out!:

Nourished Kitchen
Neo-Homesteading
Roost
Katie Did
Passionate Homemaking
Mark’s Daily Apple
Frugal Granola
GNOWFGLINS
Food Rengade

 

Have you had any experience with traditional foods/preparations? Do you recommend any other blogs that relate to this topic?

 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, a dietician, or any official health expert. I am just a free woman making up her own mind, willing to risk being wrong.

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