The Great Pumpkin

I would be hard-pressed to choose a favourite season. I live in the perfect climate for my tastes because I love the variety; the winter for its crisp, cold days and snow, spring for feeling of re-birth, warmth and my favourite flowers, and summer for the long days, the freedom and the fun. I am always a little sorry to see the summer come to an end and the days start to get shorter. However, the colourful leaves, the fresh air, and all the delights of fall are a rich reward.

pumpkin-patch-1Each year, when fall rolls around, I watch with delight as the beautiful orange orbs of the season grow in abundance in the farmers’ fields. And, I rub my hands in gleeful anticipation of the pumpkin feast to come; roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, raw pumpkin cheesecake and even roasted pumpkin soup.

After Halloween, when the novelty of these orange wonders wears off, I troll all the local pumpkin farmers to buy up their remaining stock at reduced prices. They look at me curiously and some shake their heads as I load pumpkin after pumpkin into the back of my van. I make no apologies for my quirky pumpkin obsession. I just smile warmly and thank them while images of roasted pumpkin seeds dance in my head all the way home.

Once the season is done and the last few sad pumpkins are rotting in the fields, I have to accept the fact that I will have to wait another year for my all-time favourite snack. But even though I can’t have the freshly roasted seeds, I can’t possibly give up pumpkin altogether, so the organic canned variety is a good substitute.

images (7)With the severely cold weather we have been having lately, I have been inspired to fill the house with the aroma of home baking. I have not done a whole lot of baking since I went GFCF almost four years ago because I do not like baking with rice flour. However, in the past few weeks, I have happily discovered that quinoa flour is a dream to bake with and I have become a bit of a quinoa queen!

My favourite quinoa cookbook ‘Quinoa 365’ has a delicious Pumpkin Bread recipe and I have adapted it so that it is not only GFCF but also free of refined sugar. It smells absolutely heavenly while it is baking and is moist and delicious. My kids love it and it has become a cold weather comfort food at tea time and in school lunches.

Now, if I could just figure out how to have fresh roasted pumpkin seeds all year long. Maybe I could ask the farmers…they already think I’m a bit nuts anyway! 🙂

Quinoa Pumpkin Bread

(Adapted from ‘Quinoa 365’ by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming)

1 ½ C Quinoa Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
¼ tsp. Salt
1/3 C Coconut Milk
½ tbsp. White Vinegar
1 ½ C Pumpkin
1/3 C Coconut Nectar
1/3 C Xylitol
¼ C Applesauce
¼ C Coconut Oil (melted)
2 Large Eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease one 2 L loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl.
In a food processor add the pumpkin, coconut nectar, Xylitol, applesauce, coconut oil and blend well.
Add half the flour mixture and half the milk and blend briefly. Scrape down the sides.
Add the other half of the flour mixture and milk and finish blending (not too long).
Bake for 55-60 minutes on the centre oven rack.

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The Great Cookie Rebellion

cakesI have a sweet tooth. I love cake and cookies and pies and tarts and squares. I absolutely love dessert. And I love sitting down in the afternoon with a cup of tea and something sweet. For me, it is a daily ritual that delights, comforts and relaxes.

In the ‘old days’ I was known for my banana bread, oatmeal squares, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies. When I gave up gluten and dairy almost four years ago, I wasn’t brave enough to attempt GFCF baking so I tried the store-bought options which, quite frankly, were lousy. They were bland, full of refined sugar and loaded with things like corn starch, potato starch and various other chemicals I couldn’t even pronounce.

Life changed dramatically when raw desserts entered into the picture. I fell in love with using avocados, coconut oil, cashews, almonds, raw cocao, lemons, limes and coconut nectar to delight and satisfy my sweet tooth. And, as an added bonus, the ingredients were natural and healthy and aligned with my desire to take exquisitely good care of my body. And, on days when I didn’t have a raw creation waiting in the fridge, there was always a square (or five) of dark chocolate.

Over the course of the past six months I have been working very hard with my Naturopath to get my health back on track. I figure if I want to be heli-skiing at ninety years of age I had better get my ducks in a row now. I have been so dedicated to this healing process that I have been game for absolutely anything my Naturopath has suggested. And so, over the past few months, I have given up some of my favourite foods; eggs, dark chocolate, maple syrup, honey, potatoes, corn, and all grains.

And all the while, my consolation was that I could always satisfy my sweet tooth with a delicious raw dessert creation.

Last Saturday, all that came crashing down around my ears during an appointment with my Naturopath. She had done a great deal of research on my case over the holidays and had diagnosed me with high Oxylates. She does not know why, but for some reason my body is not able to detoxify Oxylates and they are wreaking havoc in my body.

And the solution? To go on a low Oxylate diet.

Well sure’, I agreed readily. ‘And what does that mean?’  What it means is that most of the staples of my diet are gone; spinach, almonds, cashews, walnuts, cocoa, beets, celery, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, berries, lemon zest, lime zest, macadamia nuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, lentils, chick peas, carrots, and squash.

Bummer!

dipaolo-dan-i-need-cupcakesI was so disheartened by the time I left that appointment it was all I could do not to cry. All this time I thought I had been treating my body so well and really I was just making my condition worse and worse. The discouragement was so acute I thought; ‘well, f*** this, if eating healthy isn’t even good for me then why bother! I need cupcakes!’ And so, I stopped at Kelly’s Bake Shoppe in Burlington on the way home and came away with half a dozen gourmet GFCF cupcakes and a massive Snickerdoodle cookie to eat on the way home in the car.

And that was the beginning of the Great Cookie Rebellion. After polishing off all the cupcakes within two days, I went out and stocked up on crappy store-bought GFCF cookies. And all week I have been indulging whenever I feel like it. And not just at tea time in the afternoon either. I have been eating cookies after breakfast.

I didn’t just fall off the healthy eating wagon, I leaped off at full-speed and indulged in a good old pity-party.

When I awakened this morning I decided that the Great Cookie Rebellion needed to come to an end. I had had my pity-party and it was time to get a grip. And so, by tea time this afternoon I had the house full of the delicious smell of a home-baked GFCF Pumpkin Loaf made with the healthy ingredients that are more in keeping with the way I customarily choose to care for my body.

The Pumpkin Loaf was met with resounding enthusiasm by my family and tastes decadently good with a cup of Vanilla Rooibos tea. The Great Cookie Rebellion is now officially over and I am back on track. I guess, even when we’re 45-years-old, the inner 2-year-old sometimes needs to let loose and stomp her feet for a while!fit-temper-tantrum-cartoon

A Radical Act of Health

Three and a half years ago I made the choice to stop eating gluten and dairy. At the time it felt like the ultimate sacrifice. Each and every one of my comfort foods and favourites fell into those two categories. Fortunately, I saw a dramatic improvement in many of my chronic health issues so it got easier to stick to my resolve. And now, even if I were to ‘cheat’ I would end up feeling so sick it wouldn’t be worth it.

I have spent the past three and a half years congratulating myself on my supreme commitment to my health. I have spent all this time feeling as if I had undertaken the ultimate Radical Act of health. And I admit that I have indulged in a great deal of self-congratulation. I thought that my impressive sacrifice meant that I would enjoy impeccable health and would coast on my good choices as I moved into middle age.

For months, however, my body has been telling me otherwise. Even without indulging in gluten and dairy I have slipped into a health pattern that does not feel optimal. I am chronically tired, my heart races for no reason and my eczema is at an all-time high. I have chosen to ignore the gradual increase of these symptoms because, quite frankly, I had already made the Radical Act of health. Surely I didn’t need to do more.

I was mistaken.

A whole battery of tests with my naturopath, Dr. Carissa Doherty, has revealed significant gaps in my health; insulin resistance, high yeast, flattened adrenals, low serotonin, inflammation in my gut and chronic fatigue.

How can this be? I go to bed early, I don’t drink more than couple of glasses of wine a week, I don’t drink caffeine, I exercise, I eat well and don’t consume refined sugar. I love my work, my kids are all at stages of relatively easy independence and my emotional outlook is optimistic and sunny.

What am I doing wrong?

For those of you who know me well and/or followed my last blog, Open Secret, you will know that I went through years of relentless family stress. I pushed through my daily life on sheer willpower and was eventually instrumental in helping to shift the wellness of my middle son, Michael. We had our happy ‘ending’ and while Michael continues to live his new story my family system is blissfully stable.

I thought the old story was behind us. My body, however, is still catching up. My body is still carrying years of sleep deprivation, high cortisol, maximum adrenalin and intense struggle.

When I got my test results from Dr. Doherty two weeks ago it struck me that I was at a crossroads. I had two very distinct choices; I could choose to settle back into the reality of a battle-weary body or I could choose to claim the audacious health that will have me heli-skiing at 90 years of age.

Needless to say, I choose the latter.

It turns out that my Radical Act of health all those years ago was just the first step of my health journey. I am excited to track and share the next steps through this blog over the coming year. My goal by the end of this Radical year is to be a 46-year-old woman with a kick-ass heli-skiing body.

Stay tuned…I know I am!