Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sugar-Free Lemon Custard (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

This recipe is ridiculously easy to make but it requires a few ingredients you'll have to pick up at your local health food store (or online). Agar agar flakes, NuNaturals lemon stevia, and kuzu root starch are not exactly ingredients you can pick up at your local supermarket, but they're ingredients I keep on hand that last forever! Now, don't run away! Find a health food store or follow the links below to purchase them online. It's worth it. I used to love eating lemon pies, but since cutting out eggs and sugar, I haven't really been able to come up with an appropriate substitute.

Until today.

I remembered making a vegan lemon custard in my Whole Foods class last year, so I looked up the recipe, and there it was. A simple vegan recipe. All I had to do was get rid of the sweeteners in it and use stevia instead. This recipe is an adaptation of an adaptation by Mary Martha Shaw. I'm not sure who that is, but that's who is credited on my recipe. So once upon a time, Ms. Shaw apparently came up with an awesome recipe that was adapted by a Bastyr student. And now I am adapting it again. Ms. Shaw, I thank you, wherever you are.

Sugar-Free, Vegan Lemon Custard (Print-Friendly Option) 

3/4 cup full fat canned coconut milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons agar agar flakes
Zest of one large lemon
50 drops NuNaturals Liquid Lemon Stevia
Dash of sea salt

1 tablespoon kuzu root starch
2 tablespoons water

Juice of one large lemon

  1. Place the coconut milk, applesauce, agar agar flakes, lemon zest, stevia, and sea salt in a medium sized pot. Allow to sit for ten minutes, then bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn down to medium-low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the kuzu root starch and water. After the 15 minutes, pour the water and kuzu into the pot, and stir constantly for 3 minutes while still simmering, allowing the mixture to thicken. 
  3. Take mixture off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. 
  4. Pour into a sieve and use a spoon to strain into 2 ramekins. The curd that's left is quite delicious, so go ahead and eat it! :) Put the ramekins in the fridge to set. Serve chilled and enjoy!
Note for the stevia haters: If you don't like stevia, go ahead and use your favorite liquid sweetener. The original recipe called for 1/2 cup liquid sweetener instead of applesauce, and no stevia.

Serves 2.

This recipe is linked to:
Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs. Stop by for more vegan treats!
The Coconut Challenge at And Love it too. Love coconut? Find more recipes there!

It's almost June, lovely friends o' mine! Do you know what that means? It's almost my birthday month, and since this is a big year for me (30!!), I have a birthday surprise for you all coming up! Stay tuned... 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Blessing for Memorial Day Weekend

I often find myself complaining about the difficulties in my life. School is so expensive, I'll never pay off my loans, I can't eat this or that, I feel fat, I don't know what I'm doing with my life! And on and on. Wah wah wah. On another day, I'll feel sorry for myself and enjoy me a pity party. But today, the sun is shining and I am fully aware of my blessings. So I offer a prayer and a blessing for the world today. May you echo this prayer in your heart, and may the energy of the blessing spread the world over.

For The World
On this day, I pray for love
Love for myself, love for the world
Love for everyone who is in pain and everyone who is in joy

On this day, I wish for peace
A peace of mind that comes from knowing we are all connected in spirit
That our sorrows are one, and our delights are one

On this day, I wish for equality
Equality for those who still don't have it
Equality for those who are fighting to be recognized

On this day, I wish for safety
Safety for those who are abused
Safety that allows you to let go without fear

On this day, I pray for our future
I pray that we will find our way
And that it will lead us into love

On this day, I pray for you
I pray for your happiness, for your health
I dream of your visions coming true
Of a peace that begins within your very core
And radiates out to encompass all you pass
I wish today for you to feel love
To know that I love you
As I love myself
And that we are all blessed

On this day, I pray for the world
And I send my love near and far
In the hopes that it might flit your way
That you might catch it
And send it back out
Building in strength with each person it touches

On this day, I pray for love.

Send out a prayer of love to the world, then turn off your computers or smart phones and go BE PRESENT. Present with yourself, present with your loved ones, present with today. Know that each moment is a chance to be ALIVE. And that is a blessing.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Post You've Been Waiting For: How To Cure Your Constipation

I planned on writing the third - and final - installment in my food journey posts today. But I got an e-mail from a reader asking me to "please blog some more on what you did to poop!!" I had to laugh. I've spent hours perfecting recipes or trying to get the perfect photo for a blog post. And yet what finally got you all commenting and e-mailing me was talking about bowel movements. Am I surprised? I guess not. After all, one of my favorite bloggers is the lovely FartyGirl, who candidly talks about her struggles with IBS. Why should you be any different? We all love recipes, and don't worry, I have a new one coming soon for Sugar-Free, Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. But we also want to feel our best. And frankly, when you're constipated, you feel like crap. Pun intended.

So here's the deal. I'm going to write honestly about how I've become regular for the first time since high school. But there's a warning. This is all way TMI. If you don't want to know so much about what I do in the bathroom, please do us both a favor and stop reading now. And if you're a close friend or family member who I probably don't want to know about this, you can also stop reading. I'll let you use your own judgment to determine if you think I would care. (Although chances are, I don't.)

Now below is a pretty photo of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Enjoy the photo and decide if you want to scroll down. Because after that, everything's fair game.

"I struggle every day with what my purpose in life is. How am I meant to make a difference? If nothing else, when all is said and done, I hope that I shall be known as the woman who taught you how to poop."

Who said that? I did. This morning, after realizing that maybe my purpose in life is just to be honest. That perhaps all of these strange health issues I deal with have simply been given to me so that I can learn how to deal with them, and then share my story with you. Or at least I like to think there's some sort of divine reason. I try to find purpose in everything; it makes the difficult parts of life much easier to handle.

Okay, I know why you're here, so I'll get to it. Here's my little disclaimer. I just wrote a long ass post about how you need to listen to your own body and not just blindly follow someone else's rules. That applies here. I'm going to list everything that has made a difference for me, but know that my body is only my body. I can't tell you that this post will be the answer to all your bathroom woes. But I can hope that it helps.

Now first, let's talk about a term that will be very important here. PTPD. Post Traumatic Poop Disorder. It was coined by my sister to describe that awful feeling after you've had a bowel movement, but you feel like you're not really done and the rest is just stuck in there. To her, it was an occasional problem. To me, it was every single day. I've had PTPD every time I've gone to the bathroom for just about the don't know...13 years? So that's what my constipation was like. It's not that I couldn't go every day; It was just always unpleasant, always required straining like a woman giving birth and being told to PUSH, and always left me feeling unsatisfied.

This finally changed in the last month, and I can tell you that although a little PTPD still lingers here and there, I actually feel pretty normal these days. Well, at least in that area. I'm still dealing with other health issues, and I feel I have to tell you that having regular bowel movements has not stopped me from being bloated. I'm not as bloated all the time, and I feel much more comfortable, but clearly there are still many digestive issues that need to be dealt with. Yet it's all a process, and this is one more box I can check off. Daily awesome poops? Check!

Poop. Are you as tired of reading that word as I am right now? I hate saying bowel movements. It sounds so clinical. But any other word just sounds gross. We called it pooping in my house growing up, so that's what I say. One of my best friends calls it shmooing, and that's actually my favorite term, but then no one knows what you're talking about when you say you have to shmoo. And any other word either sounds silly or crass. Sigh. And so here I am, halfway through a post in which I have yet to tell you anything, and all I can think about is that I wish there was a better word for this...this "activity" that we do in the bathroom. But I suppose any word we give to it would eventually take on an icky connotation. But I digress...

Here, in no special order, is the list of factors that have finally cured me of PTPD. Most of the ideas on this list are nothing special and nothing that you haven't read before in relation to constipation. But they're here because despite being told to do most of these things over and over, I realized that it was the combination of doing EVERYTHING on this list EVERY DAY that made the difference for me. So like all else in life, there's no magical cure. You just have to do the work. Oh and by the way, doing the following activities daily might also make you happier, healthier, and probably lose weight while you're at it. No joke.
  • Eat vegetables at least twice a day, and make sure that one large helping consists of raw leafy greens. For years, I ate cereal or yogurt for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and then only had vegetables with my dinner. It never occurred to me (this was before I became a nutrition-loving food-blogging nut) that I wasn't eating enough vegetables. But there you have it. Simple, obvious, and the solution to so many problems in life. I've noticed that if at least one of my meals each day includes a large salad with leafy greens of some sort, I'm pretty much guaranteed a satisfying trip to the bathroom.
  • Eat a high fiber meal or snack every day. Eating leafy greens alone doesn't do it for me. I also need to include the following for breakfast or a snack:
    •  I eat about 4 tablespoons of ground flax or chia seeds every day. I mix them into some combination of: baked sweet potatoes or cooked brown rice with non-dairy milk, unsweetened applesauce, gluten-free oats (raw or cooked), and/or avocado. More often than not, I stir together unsweetened applesauce, raw oats, and ground flax seeds, adding a little stevia in if I'm in the mood. If you don't eat grains, I recommend applesauce, sweet potato, or winter squash plus ground flax or chia seeds. You can add a little water or milk and mush it all together.
  • Avoid any foods you're sensitive to. This seems like an obvious one to me, but I think we tend to forget that it really makes a difference. Sometimes we don't know what we're sensitive to, but other times we do, and we're just pretending we don't. Ask yourself honestly if there's something you know your body doesn't like but you're eating it anyway. Then ask yourself what you would rather have. The food you should avoid or regular bowel movements? It's your decision.
  • Avoid sugar. Again, just ask yourself what's more important to you. Sweets or regularity? You might find you'd rather suffer from constipation than give up your desserts. And that's okay. But just be honest with yourself if that's how you feel. 
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day; more if you're working out. You'll have to pee a lot. Deal with it.
  • Move your body! Getting your blood flowing works miracles. Yoga, running, and even just standing in one spot and bouncing up and down all work for me. 
  • Go to the bathroom immediately any time you feel the urge! I played soccer when I was in high school, and I always had to use the bathroom right after school. But I was too uncomfortable pooping in the public bathrooms where everyone would know what I was doing. So I always held it in during practice. Can you imagine what that did to my digestive system? It's no wonder I have problems! Now, I find a bathroom any time I need to. However, I'm still working on this because I find it almost impossible to go if I know someone is nearby. Freud would have a field day with me. 
  • Stop straining and start breathing. This is the most important thing on this list. I'll repeat it. This is the most important thing on this list. Think about it. When you're constipated, what do you do? You sit on the toilet and strain and hold your breath. This is absolutely the last thing you should be doing (not to mention that all that straining could literally lead to a brain aneurysm). The more tense you are, the less your body is able to function properly. So sit back, relax, and do some nice belly breaths. You know, those ones where you breathe in slowly through your nose and watch your stomach fill up, then breath out equally slowly and watch your stomach go down. It's multitasking really. You get 5 minutes of daily meditation and a satisfying bathroom break at the same time. I have no doubt that this one change has made the biggest difference for me. It might feel foreign to you at first because you're so used to forcing your bowel movements. But eventually, all it will take is a few relaxing breaths and everything will just flow naturally. No more PTPD. If you can't go after some time, your body's just not ready. Try again later and don't force it.
  • Set up a schedule. In order to be regular, it helps to have a "regular" bathroom schedule. Set aside 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a day, and plan on sitting down on the toilet whether you have the urge to go or not. Don't force anything. Just sit and relax and breathe. If you go, great. If not, you'll try again later. I find that first thing in the morning and after dinner are the best times for me. Eventually, you won't need a schedule (or 15 minutes), but it can be helpful in the beginning.
  • Keep some reading material in the bathroom. We all know people who keep magazines in the bathroom, and it always seemed funny to me because it's like they're announcing to everyone that they spend a long time on the toilet. How embarrassing! But now that you've read the last bullet point, you know I've clearly spent a lot of time in the bathroom. My secret is up! So I'll tell you another secret. I keep a romance novel and/or self-help book in the drawer next to the toilet. Pulling out a good Nora Roberts or Martha Beck book immediately puts my brain in vacation mode and makes me feel relaxed. This also keeps me from getting bored and impatient, which allows me to relax more. Which allows me to breathe, which allows me to...well, you know.
  • Squat. Okay, go with me on this one. If you can tell you sort of have to go, but it's just not going to happen, squat down like that guy on the right side below and hang out for a while. Again, use it as an opportunity to multitask. Grab a book or watch TV for about five minutes. Or use the time to stretch your inner thighs by placing your palms together and pressing your elbows against your inner thighs. Usually if you squat long enough, you'll suddenly have a strong urge to go to the bathroom. That's when you GO!

Photo Credit:
And that, my lovelies, is it. The most awkward post I've written. Yet. But then, I haven't told you about my natural yeast infection remedy, so who could get even worse. Even as I'm typing this, I'm contemplating just how much I should tell you because getting rid of my yeast infection resulted in an extremely awkward situation. It also still makes me laugh whenever I think about it. But do I want to tell you? Yeah, you know me. I'll end up spilling the details. It's just too good not to share.

    Photo Credit:
    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go shmoo.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    My Food Journey, Part 2: Paleo - The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Strange

    Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of listening to your body when considering dietary changes. I told you I had tried the paleo diet for a couple of months, but decided not to stick with it. I did not give you the details, so that's what I'm going to do today.

    Last year, I saw marked improvements in my health from following a gluten/dairy/egg/nut/sugar-free, low-amine diet. I was only eating low-glycemic fruits, no dried fruit, and no sweeteners other than stevia. It was boring as hell, but my weight stabilized, my bloating went down, and my chronic yeast infections went away. On the other hand, many symptoms, like my headaches, fatigue, and brain fog, lingered. I was eating a mostly vegetarian diet, with lots of salads, whole grains, and beans. Cottage cheese and yogurt were my only dairy sources. I was also doing kundalini yoga regularly. Looking back, I realize now that I was healing, and may have saved myself a lot of stress and doctor's bills if I had only stuck with that path and tweaked it a bit.

    But life has a way of throwing curves ainto your road. Which is not always a bad thing. The question is how you handle it. In my case, this particular curve was a chance conversation with Brittany Angell of Real Sustenance. This led to a decision to write a cookbook together. We serendipitously connected with Triumph Dining, our publisher, and a due date was set. What happened next was a feverish eight months of baking. I took time off from school, baked about ten hours a day, and rarely left my house except to go to the grocery store. On the one hand, I felt like I was living a dream. On the other hand, I completely lost my equilibrium. I stopped working out, started tasting my baked goods - which meant eating eggs, nuts, and sugar - lost touch with friends, and missed my brief chance at getting some vitamin D in the summer. I was ecstatic and miserable at the same time.

    Would I do it again? Heck yeah!

    Was it the best thing for my health? Not so much.

    My health problems came back with a vengeance: the headaches, fatigue, bloating, brain fog. I began to gain weight again, and my face felt itchy and puffy all the time. And the worst thing was that this time I couldn't hide behind the fact that I didn't know what was causing the problem. I knew exactly what it was. I knew what I was eating that I shouldn't be. I knew I was too stressed out and not exercising enough. But I didn't know what to do about it. I had no doubt that this opportunity would not come around again, and truthfully, I was willing to risk my health for it. I know that sounds awful, but it's the truth.

    It was around this time that I got a bit of a wake up call. My latest blood tests revealed I was developing an autoimmune disorder (Hashimoto's Hypothyroiditis), and I knew something had to change. I thought going paleo (and probably eventually, GAPS) was the answer. Everything I was hearing had me convinced it would solve my problems. I wasn't wrong. Nor was I completely right.

    On my version of the paleo diet, I was limited to fish, chicken, turkey, beef (yes, grass-fed), vegetables, fruits, sweet potatoes, and squash. No soy, grains or legumes, but for me, also no eggs or nuts. I was still trying to follow the low-amine diet, so I further limited myself to low-amine, low-glycemic fruits, like apples and pears, only certain vegetables, and no avocados. And no sugar in any form, again, other than stevia. I know to some of you this will sound extreme, and to others it will sound normal. The question is, did it work?

    Well, yes. And no. Being paleo was something of a miracle. My bloating and face puffiness went away. My skin began to glow, and I felt like I was looking like myself again. The fatigue and brain fog disappeared. My carb cravings, something I have dealt with for as long as I can remember, went away completely. I still had cravings sometimes, but I was able to recognize them as emotional. Before, my cravings had been both physical and emotional, and therefore almost impossible to resist. But once the physical need to overeat went away, bingeing stopped being an issue for me. I felt like my blood sugar stabilized, and I no longer needed to eat every three hours or risk being overcome with hunger.

    On the other hand, I was spending exorbitant amounts of money on quality meat. My already lame social life took even more of a nose dive. And my constipation wasn't improving, even though I was no longer feeling bloated. I was also stressed out about food, ALL THE TIME. I was quickly becoming afraid to even eat because I found my food sensitivities were getting worse. When I originally went on the gluten/dairy/egg/nut/sugar-free, low-amine diet, I thought my choices were limited, but this was worse. Then, if I ate something off my diet, I would only have a negative response if I continued to eat the food for a few days. Now, I was experiencing instant repercussions, and my choices were becoming narrower and narrower. I began having reactions to winter squash, cauliflower, turkey, stevia...  Eventually, I just began to feel like I was sensitive to all food.

    At around this time, I was taking a class in school on mind-body techniques for stress reduction. I had to do a presentation on self-hypnosis that involved making a recording for the class to take home. One day I had the thought that I could make my own self-hypnosis recording (which I'll post for you once I figure out how). So without thinking about what I was going to say, I just turned on the recorder on my iPhone, and began to talk. I made myself a little meditation tape for healing my gut, and here's when things got really cool.

    I began to think about food sensitivities. My body was overreacting to food and causing an inflammatory response. But what if I could teach my body that food wasn't so scary? That it didn't have to protect me? So when I reacted to something I ate one day and my face started to feel hot, I went in my room and listened to my meditation. About ten minutes into the fifteen minute tape, my face cooled down. From one second to the next, the flushing just went away. This was more of a miracle to me than the paleo diet.

    I began to listen to my tape every day, usually after eating, and I began to experiment with adding new foods back in. Whereas before I had had a major reaction any time I tried to bring foods back into my diet, I found that with the help of meditation, I could eat many more foods again. The next week, I went to California for my sister's wedding. While I was there, I soaked up the sun (vitamin D!) and began to jog with my sister every day. I hadn't seen the sun in months, and I hadn't exercised in an equally long time. I was also camping, so I went to bed early, and got about nine hours of sleep a night. With the combination of the sun, exercise, sleep, and the continued daily meditations, I began to feel amazing. I began eating rice, gluten-free oats, chickpeas, and avocados regularly. I even did okay with eating pecans, although I could tell my body wasn't super excited about that. At my sister's wedding, I helped myself to the bountiful gluten-free options, and had not one, but two gluten-free cupcakes. And I could tell they weren't dairy- or egg-free! And you know what? I felt great that night and even better the next morning. My world suddenly seemed so very, very bright.

    And guess what else? Within a few days of eating rice and oats again, I became regular FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE HIGH SCHOOL. You might not want to hear this, but I get excited sometimes when I'm going to the bathroom. I feel like Pinocchio proclaiming to the world that he was a real boy. "I can poop!"

    I'm sorry. I just had to take a break to laugh at myself. Okay, no more talk of bowel movements. You get the point. (There might be a follow-up post for those of you who want to know more about how I've gotten rid of my constipation, but I'll warn you so you can choose to skip that post if you want!) To continue with my story, I learned that there are some foods my body still can't handle. Dairy, eggs, most nuts, and sugar are still out, as are a few other items. I tried experimenting with all of these things, and found myself with a bladder and yeast infection (and I will also tell you later how I got rid of the yeast infection naturally). It didn't matter how much I exercised, slept, meditated, or anything else. My body did not want those foods. But plenty of other foods that I had considered off-limits are now perfectly fine.

    I have to thank the paleo diet because I am convinced it stabilized my blood sugar levels. It also helped me to realize that when I think I'm craving carbs, it's actually usually protein my body wants. I eat a lot more protein now than I ever did. I also eat more vegetables, and actually crave them if I've missed them for a few meals. But I also eat rice and gluten-free oats, buckwheat, tofu, and chickpeas, and so much more. And I feel grateful, every day, for the fact that I can now eat these foods. I feel like a great gift has been returned to me. I can feel that my body is healing. And food has been a huge part of that, and will continue to be my main medicine. But I overlooked the rest of the prescription for way too long.

    This post could go on forever, because when it comes down to it, health is not ONE thing. There are so many factors that have contributed to my healing, and I've only pointed out a few of the major ones. I want to share them all with you, but I've written too much already, so I'll have to close this post for now and save the rest for later!

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    My Food Journey, Part 1: My Food Manifesto, or Why Paleo Isn't THE Answer

    This post could also be called, "Why The Vegan Diet Isn't THE Answer." Or "Why The Raw Food Diet Isn't THE Answer." I could also just call it, "Why You Should Stop Listening to Everyone Else and Start Listening to Yourself." 

    A (brief) background for those of you who haven't been reading my blog for a while. Months ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease, an autoimmune form of hypothyroid disorder. I self-diagnosed myself with Irritable Bowel Syndrome when I was in high school, due to a constantly painful, bloated stomach and constipation. For years, I struggled with binge eating disorder. Three years ago, I switched to a gluten-free diet, a decision that has forever changed my life in the most amazing ways. Yet despite the positive effects of eating gluten-free, over the last three years, I've struggled with headaches, fatigue, and brain fog, and would have tried ANY diet if only it would help. I went raw, I went vegan, I did an elimination diet, I went sugar-free, low-amine, and more recently, I went paleo. I've considered GAPS, FODMAPs, and more.

    Like many of you, I have scoured the web for answers when my doctors couldn't help. I have been so grateful to find blogs like Diet, Dessert and Dogs, Choosing Raw, Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free, and The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. Within those pages written by brilliant women, I have found snippets of the answers. But they were only bits and pieces, and I should have taken them as such, rather than thinking I needed to follow someone else's eating plan simply because it worked for that person.

    Our bodies are all so unique, and it's taken months of working with a client of mine on weight loss for it to click in my own head. Whenever she is frustrated by seeing thin women eating junk food, I tell her, "Who cares what she's eating? This isn't about her and what she can or can't eat. This is about you. And no one else has your body, with your unique needs. So let's focus on you."

    At the same time that I was telling my client this, I was doing the opposite. Three years ago, I tried eating vegan because it worked for someone else, but it didn't feel right to me. Neither did eating raw - I now realize this is partly due to the fact that I can't tolerate most nuts, and so all the nuts I was eating on that diet were contributing to my never ending headache. For five months, I avoided a number of my favorite healthy foods (like avocados and sardines) because they were high in amines. I eventually realized that while many high-amine foods - like tomatoes and bananas - bother me, there are plenty of other healthy high-amine foods I feel great eating. It took me five months to realize this because I'm an all or nothing person. If I'm on a specific eating plan, I follow it perfectly, and don't deviate. I become quite militant about it. If so-and-so says this is the answer, then this is what I'll do.

    Which leads me to paleo. I have a love-hate relationship with the paleo diet. Something in it speaks to me and seems so right. Something else seems so wrong. I'm a graduate student in nutrition at Bastyr University, one of the few fully accredited nutrition programs that is considered holistic. We talk GAPS, paleo, and Sally Fallon. But we also talk whole grains, veganism, and staying on top of the most current research. I have written papers and given presentations on the paleo diet, and I can tell you that most of my professors are not fans. However, my own research into the diet has turned up many positive studies. I have seen enough preliminary research to believe that a paleo diet, when done correctly, can be extremely healthy and a good option for many health problems. One point that researchers have mentioned, however, is that these studies are all short-term. We don't yet know what happens when someone follows the paleo diet for years. And I'm not talking about personal case studies. We all know someone who's been on the diet for years and is healthier than ever. I'm talking validated, peer-reviewed research. To that end, the jury is still out. I should also mention that for every study touting the benefits of a paleo diet, there are ten more showing how a vegan diet is good for people. I'm going to say it because I feel it needs to be said. The paleo diet is not THE answer. It's AN answer, for some people. Just like a vegan diet is an answer to others. Just like the gluten-free diet was the answer for me, but isn't for everyone I meet.

    Why am I saying this? Because the paleo community can be a bit...well...militant. I used that word to refer to myself earlier, and I'm using it again now even though I know I'm going to bother some people by saying that. But it's not just paleo. The gluten-free community can be that way. So can the vegan community. So can raw foodists. I think there's a tendency to get that way any time you feel that a lifestyle change has helped you. You want everyone around you to feel as good as you do, and so you shout it to the rooftops: Do what I did, and you will be as happy as I am! (When has doing what everyone else does ever made anyone happy?)

    When I decided to try the paleo diet, I didn't mention it on the blog. Those of you who are Facebook friends probably knew, but if you were just reading the blog, you would never have known. After all, I was still posting recipes for baked goods, like my Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies. SO not paleo! The reason I didn't mention it here was because I didn't know if it would last. After my forays into the raw food diet and veganism, I felt it might be better to just keep quiet about this until I was sure. I also didn't feel like explaining how I was still able to post recipes using grains when I wasn't eating them myself (self-restraint, tasting and spitting, roommates who taste test for me, crying, and occasionally giving in).

    Despite those occasional late-night Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookie eating fests, I was able to maintain a strictly paleo diet for a few months, and when I decided to go back to eating grains and (some) legumes, I kept equally mum about it. I didn't tell some of my paleo friends for weeks because I was afraid of hearing their judgment. I didn't want to hear how paleo was the only way I was going to get better and that I was hurting myself by eating grains. I also didn't want to explain what had finally started making me feel better, something which was not at all food related. I was so entrenched in the paleo mindset that I felt like eating rice was a guilty sin. It took me some time to come to terms with my own stupidity in blindly following a diet simply because someone said it was the way to go. I wasn't even asking myself what felt right, only doing what I was told. If you want research on why the paleo diet is right, I can find it. If you want research on why the vegan diet is right, I can find that too. But there's no research on what is right for MY body. There's no book I can read to give me the answers. And so I had to listen to someone new for a change: myself.

    Here's what I found out:

    My body does not like gluten, dairy, eggs, or nuts. It doesn't like tomatoes or bananas. It doesn't like sugar. And frankly, it doesn't really like baked goods, even sugar-free ones. It doesn't like quinoa either. Or most beans. Or cauliflower. Or products containing corn, although local, fresh corn seems to be fine.

    You know what my body likes? Gluten-free oats. Rice. Apples. Pears. Grapefruit. Chicken. Fish. Vegetables. Olives. Sardines. Grass-fed beef. Sweet potatoes. Avocados. Garbanzo beans. Peas. And so much more.

    Do I follow any particular diet plan now? Aside from gluten-free, not really. I avoid dairy, eggs, nuts and sugar, but I'm not strict about it the way I am about gluten. Do I expect that how I'm eating today will be how I always eat? Nope. I used to eat dairy on a regular basis, and felt great. There was a time when I would never consider eating beef, something that I now eat at least a couple times a month. My diet changes with my life and my needs, and I'm hoping that there will come a time when I can eat many more foods than I do now. Who knows what the future holds. I could end up eating paleo again someday or vegan, or something else completely. I've learned not to be so absolutist with myself.

    So here's my food manifesto, and there's only one guideline: Listen to my body, and eat what feels right, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 

    If you want to know the specifics about why I'm no longer eating paleo, what worked for me, what didn't, and what finally turned my health around (it wasn't food), tune in tomorrow for My Food Journey, Part 2: Paleo - The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Strange.

    Saturday, May 19, 2012

    Are You A People Pleaser?

    I'm a people pleaser. Most of us are to some extent, right? That's just normal. But some of us are worse than others. Why am I looking at this as a bad thing? Because when you spend your life always trying to please everyone else, you give away so much of your own power. There are too many people walking around in this world without power, and way too many of us are women. So I'm taking my power back and giving up the people pleasing.

    I'm taking The Daily Dietribe back.

    Huh? Say what?

    During a little recent Facebook drama, one very astute friend referenced "taking her Facebook back." She simply meant she had finally unfriended mean "friends." I don't have any mean Facebook friends, but I started taking my Facebook back by unsubscribing to all the random chatter I didn't need to be a part of. I love that I can connect to anyone I've ever met on Facebook (and many people I haven't met), but I don't need to know what's going on with my ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's sister.

    Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe.

    In a similar fashion, I'm unsubscribing to all the chatter of blogging. No more checking my stats. No more analyzing which types of posts get the most hits. (We all know it's the desserts...) No more late night gallon of ice cream sob fests over mean comments. Okay, I don't actually do that, but my heart does start to race a little faster.

    And no more reigning myself in. The Daily Dietribe did not start as solely a recipe blog. It was a creative outlet. It was for me. And then I started getting readers...and more readers...and a book deal...and then I started feeling pretty damn important. I started to listen to voices outside of myself, to think about The Daily Dietribe as a brand, to think about advertisers and how to attract more readers. And the more readers I got, the more I tried to please. I write posts in my head all the time, ones that I never type out because it doesn't fit with my gluten-free food theme. I censor myself because the word in my head is damn but I don't want to offend anyone, so I write darn, or I change the sentence. I have the urge to call bullshit on a lot of political nonsense, but I don't say a word because I'm a liberal and I don't want to upset any conservative readers. In short, I was trying so hard to be what everyone wants (or what I thought you wanted) that I stopped being me.

    I hold back a lot, and you know what? I'm bored. There, I've said it. The Daily Dietribe is boring me. I love food, and I love cooking more than most people I know. And some days, I want to wax philosophical about the beauty of a perfectly baked brownie. Other days, I want to scream, "It's just food, people! Think about something else for a change!" The Daily Dietribe, for me, has always been about being healthy. And that encompasses so much more than just food. Some days, I want to share a photo or a quote that I like. Some days I want to tell you about how I've been using self-hypnosis to reduce stress, or about how I'm getting certified as a hypnotherapist. It's all part of what makes me healthy. And some days, I want to share cake recipes.

    So here's the deal. I've decided to turn The Daily Dietribe back into what it started as. And in the beginning, no one was reading. So I'm going to pretend that's still the case, although of course I hope it's not. I hope you stay, and that you'll be entertained. Perhaps you were getting a bit bored too?

    Here's what you'll see from here on out: 1) More posts. It's called The Daily Dietribe, not the Bi-Weekly Dietribe. I can't promise to write daily, but I can promise myself that I'll begin putting more of my heart back into this. 2) More of me. Whatever that happens to mean on any given day. 3) Don't worry, the recipes aren't going away! If anything, you may find you get more recipes once my creative juices are no longer squashed by my own people pleasing tendencies. 4) My real thoughts on anything and everything, be it gay marriage, natural remedies for yeast infections, God, or even grammar.

    If you're still reading this, there's a good chance I haven't scared you off. If you're just here for the recipes, simply read on the days I post recipes. And if you're here for more, hopefully you'll find what you're looking for, whatever that may be. And maybe you'll start to ask yourself what there is in your life that you need to take back. Maybe we'll all start taking back our power. Wouldn't that make for a beautiful world?

    Until tomorrow, my pretty little chickadees. 

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Gluten-Free Lemon Mint Cookies (Vegan)

    My favorite kind of recipes are those that you can't mess up. The ones where you can just sub in whatever ingredients you have at home, and still come up with a winner. This is one of them. And it's not a new recipe. I had fresh mint and Meyer lemons from my sister's garden, and really wanted to use them in a baked good. Although I've never had lemon mint cookies, I suspected that the flavors would fit well in a simple cookie, like chocolate chip without the chocolate. So I simply took out my recipe for Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies and followed my substitution tips. It was really that easy for me. And it's really that easy for you.

    I replaced the arrowroot starch with tapioca because I've discovered I don't really like the flavor of arrowroot. I replaced the mashed bananas with applesauce for a more neutral flavor. And I replaced the chocolate chunks with the zest of one large Meyer lemon, and one tablespoon of minced fresh mint. And if you're wondering why there are two different color cookies, it's because the cookie above was made with organic cane sugar. The cookie below was made with coconut palm sugar. I personally feel that the delicate flavors of lemon and mint in this cookie work better with cane than palm sugar. But if you choose to use palm sugar, you might try using extra zest and mint to turn the up the volume on those flavors. 

    Want to make substitutions? Just follow the substitution list on my Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe. And then let your imagination run wild. What other flavors of cookies could come out of this recipe?

    Gluten-Free Lemon Mint Cookies (Vegan) 
    Print-Friendly Option

    1 cup sorghum flour (136 grams)
    1/3 cup tapioca starch (43 grams)
    2/3 cup organic cane sugar (143 grams)
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce (101 grams)
    6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (75 grams)
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    zest of 1 large Meyer lemon
    1 tablespoon minced fresh mint


    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Whisk together the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
    3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the applesauce, oil, vanilla, lemon zest and mint. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until completely mixed. 
    4. Separate into twelve balls and flatten each slightly on an ungreased cookie sheet.
    5. Bake for 13 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
    Yield: 12 cookies

    Check here for substitution ideas.

    This post is linked to Mangia Mondays. 

    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    Thank you, Mom

    Thank you.

    For being able to make me laugh, because so few people can. 

    For letting me know I could tell you anything.

    For not keeping tabs on me in school. I know most parents think it's best to be on top of their child's schoolwork, but you just trusted me to take care of it. And so I did. 

    For reading to me at night, and getting me started on The Prydain Chronicles.

    For giving me the best family ever.

    For sitting down and drawing with us. For putting out big sheets of plastic, shaving cream, and food coloring. So much fun can be had with those three tools.

    For packing a healthy lunch for me all the way through 12th grade. 

    For teaching me how to drive. It was not the most fun experience of my life, but I can drive, and that's what's important!

    For understanding my ability to get lost anywhere, no matter how many times I've driven to the same place.

    For the, "We'll pick you up anywhere, anytime, no questions asked" rule. I never needed it. But I would have called you if I did.

    For dealing with pinworms. 'Nuff said. 

    For supporting me in so many ways, big and small, that probably only you and I will ever know.

    For french braids and high ponytails. If I ever have a little girl, I'll need you to live close by so you can do her hair.

    For being a liberal. Is that something you thank people for? No matter...I just did. 

    For making me apologize when I did something wrong. I still have a hard time saying, "I'm sorry," but at least I know when I should be saying it!

    For Christmas mornings.

    For making me clothes, pillows, blankets, hats, gloves... I'll set up your Etsy store whenever you're ready. :) 

    For telling me all about birds. I am 29 years old and can't tell a wren from a sparrow. And I have no idea what this bird is. But that wasn't for lack of trying on your part.

    For cinnamon rolls, apple pies, and birthday cakes.

    For letting us feed peanuts to the squirrels. Well, you know...until they started jumping on the kids and we had to stop feeding them.

    For instilling in me a love of vegetables. 

    For sectioning my grapefruits. 

    For babies. Lots and lots of babies. And cats.

    For working so hard to give us the life we had. Because of you, I've been able to follow the meandering, confusing path that is my bliss. Now I want you to follow yours. 

    You hear that sound? That's the motherboard changing. 

    Saturday, May 12, 2012

    Mother's Day Gluten-Free Frittata

    My older sister, Shani, and my new niece, Malia

    You haven't heard from me in a while, and part of the reason for that is I've been visiting the new mama in my life. My sister just had her first baby, a healthy little love that she and the proud new papa named Malia. Our family couldn't be more ecstatic, and my attention has been one hundred percent focused on my baby niece for the past week. But I'm back in Seattle now, and have a lot to talk about in the upcoming weeks. But first, I have a recipe to share from another mama in my life, my classmate Jeanine. Jeanine has my utmost respect for being able to excel in our program while raising a new baby, and I thought she would be the perfect person to share a Mother's Day post this year. Jeanine Mills is a Master's student in Nutrition, interested in the place where nutrition science and cultural meaning intersect, and what that means for individuals. Today, she's explaining where Mother's Day came from, and what her family likes to eat on this holiday.

    Jeanine Mills and her beautiful baby girl, Jadea
    I have heard people say that Mother’s Day is a holiday fabricated by the greeting card companies, and is perpetuated for profit by florists, phone companies, and restaurants. So when I began researching “mother’s day traditions,” I was surprised by the holiday’s long history. Apparently, the Greeks and Romans had deities who were specific to mothering and who each had their special celebrations in the springtime. Mothering Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Lent in England and Ireland. It dates back to the preindustrial world when rural children were often sent to town to work as servants or apprentices. They were let out of their obligations on Mothering Sunday so that they could return to their “mother church” in their home town for worship and celebrations. Returning home also gave children the opportunity to visit with their families. It is said that along the way children would pick blooming wild flowers and present them to their mothers upon arrival at their homes. Mothering Sunday (also called Refreshment Sunday, Sunday of the Five Loaves, and Simnel Sunday) is associated with a particular cake called either “mothering cake” or “simnel cake”. It is traditionally a light fruit cake with marzipan in the middle and on the top. I found a gluten free recipe here but I haven’t tried it yet. Girls might make these to bring home to their mothers to enjoy, perhaps with afternoon tea, as the 40 day fast of Lent was relaxing. Each town had a signature recipe and shape for the cake; Shrewsbury’s recipe is the one that has stood the test of time and their name is now associated with the cake most often.

    And so we have historical segue to our own traditions of flowers, food, and sometimes tea on Mother’s day. In some places around the world Mother’s day is still a religious holiday. And my guess is that this contributes to the tradition of Mother’s Day brunch as families would go to church first on Sunday morning and then celebrate with food afterwards. Our secular version of this holiday is more about appreciating individual mothers and as such is really a holiday that every family celebrates in their own way. The idea of breakfast in bed is, in my opinion, a better fantasy than reality. Brunch at a restaurant is lovely as Mom can order what she likes and she won’t ever get left cleaning up. Though because of the popularity of this plan, reservations are often necessary and crowded restaurants are the norm. Growing up, my Mother always said that Mother’s Day was the most important holiday of the year (no pressure, kid). And I never knew how best to celebrate it. This year will be my second Mother’s Day as a mother. My kid is still too small to contribute anything more than her sparkling personality and hugs and kisses to the day. And to be honest I don’t really expect her to fully appreciate what I do as a parent until she’s an adult. Since eating out with a toddler is more stimulating than relaxing, I have purchased all the ingredients to make a frittata for breakfast at home. This is one that I have made and enjoyed before. It is adapted from my “Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates” cookbook. After breakfast we will hopefully be packing up some picnic supplies and heading to a park where the kiddo can run around and the parents (mostly the mom) can relax, eat, and enjoy the day.

    Bell Pepper, Asparagus and Green Bean Frittata (Print-Friendly Option)

    Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates by Mollie Katzen

    6 large eggs
    1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
    2 tablespoons water
    1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 cup asparagus pieces ( ½ inch pieces)*
    1 cup green bean pieces ( ½ inch pieces)*
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 large red or yellow bell pepper , cut into ¼ inch pieces (or ½ of each for even more color)
    ½ cup sliced scallions
    1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

    *About ½ pound of asparagus trimmed and chopped will yield 1 cup, same for green beans

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta, water, parsley, marjoram, salt and black pepper. Set aside.
    3. Blanch the asparagus and green beans by placing them in boiling water. Cover with a top for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
    4. Heat oil in a 10-inch cast iron pan on medium high, and sauté the bell peppers until just tender, about 7 minutes. Add the scallions and cook another minute. Stir in the asparagus and green beans. Take off the heat.
    5. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, and sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until set. You can tell it's set by shaking the pan. It should hold together and no longer "jiggle." Let cool for a few minutes before serving. 
    Note: If you don't have a cast iron skillet, do step 4 in a skillet, then transfer to an oiled 9-inch baking dish. 


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