These days, I try to be a little nutty every day.
Of course I don’t mean “nutty” as in “I missed my plane so I’m going to become a minor celebrity on YouTube” nutty. Or “I think I’ll switch careers at the pinnacle of my success and adopt the mien of a skid row bum from another planet” type of nutty. And certainly not “just drop me in the middle of the Sahara without any food, water or shelter, and see how I hold up for a week” sort of nutty. While it may be true I do, on occasion, exhibit behavior one might characterize as “nutty” (at least that’s what the HH keeps telling me), I was referring to the toothsome, bite-sized, healthy-fat-and-protein-rich kind of nutty. An “Uncle S.” kind of nutty.
You see, I’ve had a fairly rocky history with nuts–and I blame it all on my Uncle S.
One of my favorite relatives, Uncle S (along with Aunty M) lived upstairs in our family’s duplex during my childhood. We kids would scoot out the door, up the stairs and into their home without a thought or an invitation, assuming it was simply the top floor of our own place. Aunty M would greet us, hand over some homemade cookies, and then we’d go seek out our uncle.
I have to admit, I didn’t fully appreciate Uncle S’s unique charms until I was an adult. An unrivalled prankster, Uncle S was a puckish, Punk’d prototype whose myriad tricks were relentless. Case in point: every Sunday, our family would pile into Uncle S’s taxi (this was before my dad acquired a car) for an outing in the countryside. We’d drive for a while, after which, like clockwork, Uncle S would begin to hem and haw: “Gee, I don’t remember passing that tree over there. Maybe I took a wrong turn. You know, I’m not exactly sure where we are–maybe we’re lost. Ricki, which way should I go?” Given that I was only four or five at the time, I had no idea; but, also like clockwork, Uncle S’s musings sent me into paroxysms of anxiety, certain I’d be wandering forever in the woods, never to see my own home, bed or Barbie dolls again.
Once I grew older, I could appreciate Uncle S’s humor, his always jovial and somewhat michievious expression, reminiscent of the Pillsbury Dough Boy (although not in any way chubby). In fact, I’d say Uncle S resembled a cartoon character more than anything else: having lost his hair as a young man, his shiny dome was encircled with a fluffy white fringe that snaked round the back of his neck and behind his ears. His nose, slightly bulbous at the tip, was, like his cheeks, often flushed pink, and he wore a perpetual half-smile on his face.
Uncle S had a favorite expression, “No Fun!” which he used the way one would utter, “No Way!” or “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me!”. The CFO and I found this endlessly amusing. To wit:
Ricki: Uncle S, my goldfish had babies and now we have four fishies.
Uncle S: No Fun!
[Ricki and The CFO erupt in peals of uncontrollable giggles, hands clamped over their mouths].
The summer my mother died, it seemed only Uncle S could lighten the moribund shroud of silence in the hospital waiting room where our family sat in stunned silence. Uncle S would ramble on, his words always infused with optimism and hope. One evening, as we all sat lost in resigned torpor, Uncle S was positioned across from me and the CFO, an absent, bemused expression on his face. The CFO leaned over to me and whispered, “Hey, doesn’t Uncle S sort of look like Bozo the Clown?” That smile! That fringe! That nose! Why yes, yes he did–and with that, Uncle S unwittingly bestowed on us a truly priceless gift: the only moment of unrestrained hilarity in an otherwise unbearable summer.
Ah, yes, you’re wondering about the nuts.
Uncle S loved to eat nuts. In particular, he was never without his glass jar of Planter’s Dry Roasted peanuts, which he carried with him wherever he went. Another open jar was stationed on a TV tray beside his armchair so he could munch as he enjoyed the Ed Sullivan Show. He’d pour a small mound into his open palm, then tip it into his mouth with a quick flick of the wrist as if tossing a ball for a prize at the midway. Then he’d plow ahead with whatever it was he’d been saying, mouth open and chewing, oblivious as the ground up bits of nut began to escape his mouth in little bursts of beige spray as he spoke. (In fact, those Planter’s nuts and an opened can of peas and carrots–spooned straight from the can, cold–are pretty much all I ever remember him eating).
For some inexplicable reason, I decided nuts were not my thing back then.
I’m happy to report that my nut aversion was finally overcome when I came across Elaine Gottschall’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet (geared toward people with Crohn’s, Colitis, or other bowel diseases) while studying nutrition. Her recipes employ nut flours (basically just ground nuts), and I began to experiment with them back then. Almonds tend to be the most versatile (and mildest in flavor), but almost any nut will do–pop it in a food processor and blend to a mealy consistency.
To some extent, I’m following the ACD for the next month or so to heal my gut and encourage a little digestive rejuvenation. This means eating less gluten, fewer grains, and more fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These pancakes were an auspicious first attempt.
Made mostly with almond meal and a smidge of chickpea (besan) flour, they nevertheless retain a light, airy texture and a refreshing lemon tang. Neither the almond nor the chickpea asserts itself too prominently, so the flavor remains mild. I served these last week (before eschewing all sweeteners) with a splash of organic maple syrup from Coombs Family Farms that I received as sample (more on that in an upcoming post) and they were, quite simply, delicious.
I may not be nutty enough to consume a jar of Planter’s peanuts just yet. Still, these little treats are a healthy step in the right direction.
Grain-Free Lemony Almond Pancakes (and ACD variation)
Light and moist, these pancakes offer both high protein content and a good source of calcium. Made without the lemon zest, they’d work as a servicable sandwich bread as well. You could probably use prepared almond meal instead of the whole almonds for a quicker preparation.
1/2 cup (85 g) natural almonds, with skin (raw or lightly toasted)
1/4 cup (25 g) finely ground flax meal
2/3 cup (160 ml) plain or vanilla soymilk
1 Tbsp (30 ml) agave nectar, light or dark (see ACD variation below)
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup (80 ml) chickpea (besan) or whole bean flour
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/8 tsp (0.5 ml) fine sea salt
In the bowl of a food processor, whir the almonds and flax until you have a very fine meal the texture of coarse cornmeal. There should be no large pieces of almond visible.
Add the milk, agave, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and whir again. Allow to sit while you prepare the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
Heat a nonstick frypan over medium heat (I use cast iron). Add the remaining ingredients to the processor and whir just until blended.
Using a small ice cream scoop or 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml), pour batter onto hot pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until bubbles appear and then pop on the surface of the pancakes and the edges look dry. Gently flip and then cook another 2-3 minutes on other side. Keep cooked pancakes warm while you continue with the rest of the batter. Makes 8-10 small pancakes (if you prefer regular-sized pancakes, you’ll get 4-5). May be frozen.
Candida-friendly variation: use unsweetened milk and substitute about 6 drops of stevia liquid or equivalent powder for the agave nectar. For more ACD-friendly breakfast ideas, see this post.
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