So. Are we sick of giveaways yet? Okay, I guess that the chance to win something you like–especially if it involves food you like–never becomes stale (even if the aforementioned foodstuff does). Still, with 2010 barely upon us, I’ve decided it’s time to give the giveaways a break. I love being able to supply freebies to my readers, especially when it involves foods I already like–but I don’t want the whole “leaveacommentclickheretweetmeFBmeRTmewhydoyouwantthisprizenowpickacommentatrandom” thing to become stale. So, for now I think, it’s time to get back to the core of this (or any food-related) blog: the food! I must admit that 2009 was a strange year for me, food-wise. Like the wallflower at the prom or Brad’s ghost in his old living room, all I could do was watch from afar (or, actually, aclose) while others indulged in some of my favorite comestibles, from chocolate to wine (ah, Shiraz, how I miss thee!), to portobellos, to peanut butter, to champagne on New Year’s (ah, Segura Viudas, how I really miss thee!). Much of this blog before last March focused on just those ingredients. And with there being no clear end-point to the whole ACD saga, I’ve decided to proceed as if I will be on the diet indefinitely. (Audible gasps! Sounds of tsk-tsks and sympathetic clucking! Tears of pity from compassionate readers!). In the end, I think it’s better this way. When I began this anti-candida quest, I assumed it would be for only a few weeks. The universe, clearly, had other ideas. In a way, I am grateful: as long as I’m on this diet, I’m no longer overeating, I no longer binge on chocolate, and I no longer worry about my weight. (Seriously. The current tally is 43 pounds and holding steady; two more pounds lost, and I’ll be at my initial goal weight.) I know from my response to the recent chocolate truffles I concocted–in and of themselves, perfectly acceptable, totally innocuous and stevia-sweetened–that I still have not gained control over my sweets addiction, so I’m embracing any excuse to stay away from sweeteners that spike blood sugar (even if they’re all-natural, like maple syrup or Sucanat). And in keeping with my lighter diet, I’ve decided that 2010 will be the year to lighten up. To wit:
1) Lighten Up My Weight. Although I’ve now almost reached my goal weight, a quick calculation of my BMI places my goal weight barely within the “normal” range for such things (at 23.7). Since I’m fairly small-boned, I’d prefer to settle smack-dab in the middle range, at around 22. This would necessitate another 10 pound loss. And while I’m still not willing to count points, count calories, count carbs or follow any other type of “diet” (after all, I want to be able to follow an eating plan that I can maintain for the rest of my life), I do plan to focus a bit more on raw foods, fruit and vegetables, and a bit less on fat in my diet for a while to see what happens.
2) Lighten Up This Blog. Not to imply that I’ve been moribund or anything in this space, but I do feel as if the initially carefree, slightly irreverent posts of yore have been lacking lately. Maybe it’s my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or remnants of the SAD (Standard American Diet) in general. Or maybe I’ve just been sad about the lingering candida. Whatever the case, it seems that humor wandered off a while ago, and must be enticed to return. And so, like Norman Cousins in his hospital bed, I’m vowoing to bring more laughter into my life. As my old high school chum John used to tell me, Don’t take take life seriously–after all, you’ll never get out alive. Of course, illness is serious business, and I’m not suggesting that anyone be irresponsible (not a grain of sugar shall pass through my lips!)–but I’d like to learn to relax more and perhaps deal with stress and worry a bit more effectively. It makes sense that more laughter and less stress can only be a good thing, especially when study after study has demonstrated that stress itself contributes to disease. And if I haven’t earned a little whimsy at my age, when will I?
So, from now on, I resolve to enjoy more of what makes me smile: time with the HH and The Girls, my friends and family. Watching dopey movies. Going to places I haven’t been before (I think I hear the antipodes calling). Reading books that make me think, and books that make me envy the writer’s craft. Writing more. Moving my body more. Dancing to old records (Culture Club, anyone?). Experimenting in the kitchen more (no, no, with food, silly!). Blogging more. No more fretting over insignificant events for me! I mean, will the world end if the HH doesn’t mow the lawn when he says he will (or even within a week of when he says he will)? So what if our lawn resembles the “before” picture in Field of Dreams? The Girls surely won’t mind, as they enjoy gamboling and frolicking in tall grasses. Will my students evaporate if they don’t get their papers back within 3 days? (And at least I’ve never been as tardy as my former prof, Dr. E, who sometimes took six weeks to return essays to us–and when he did, they sported a single comment, sometimes only one word, at the top of the page: “Splendid!” or “Well done!” beside a letter grade. That averages out to approximately one word a day.) Similarly, will the universe implode if I’m stuck in traffic and can’t meet my friend Gemini I for lunch at precisely 12:15 PM, as agreed? Of course not (although traffic does sometimes feel like a black hole). Wow. I feel lighter already.
3) Lighten Up Your Sweets. A more immediate way to lighten up is with this dessert. Does anyone out there remember Jello 1-2-3? Well, this mousse-like concoction reminds me of the top layer of that treat: exceptionally light and airy, yet sweet, rich, and fruity (even though it doesn’t contain any fruit to speak of, as you’ll see below). The color is vibrant and happy–light-hearted, even–and the flavor is a tantalizing combination of coconut, almond and vanilla, with an enigmatic source of sweetness blended in. Like so many recipes on food blogs this time of year, this one possesses detoxifying properties as well, since one of its main ingredients is cooked beets (there–I’ve said it. But it doesn’t taste like beets, I promise!). Besides adding that brilliant fuchsia color and a mysterious sweetness to the dessert, beets are also great blood detoxifiers and liver toners. In addition, they’re a good source of fiber, contain cancer-fighting antioxidants, and help reduce inflammation in the body. What other dessert can boast such benefits? So when you serve this mousse to your friends and family, don’t tell them the secret ingredient. Instead, just present them with a beautiful, fluffy, pillowy dessert. Then you can smile knowingly as you watch them gobble it up. And if they do balk at beets in a confection, well, just tell them to lighten up a little.
Boiling the beets helps to remove any trace of earthy flavor here; what remains is a vague sweetness and stunning hue. I’ve tried baking the beets instead, and while the color becomes even more intense in that case, so does the “beety” flavor; I wouldn’t advise it.
1 medium beet, peeled, diced and boiled until very soft (at least 30 minutes)
1/3 cup (55 g) raw cashews
1 cup (240 ml) full fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp (30 ml) whole chia seeds, measured first and then ground in a coffee grinder to a fine powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) pure almond extract
1/4 tsp (1 ml) coconut extract (optional)
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
15-25 drops stevia liquid, to taste (will depend on the brand)** 1 Tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch fine sea salt
Once the beets are soft, drain them well (you can reserve the liquid for soup or other uses). Place the drained beets and remaining ingredients in a high speed blender* and blend until perfectly smooth, pushing the mousse down into the blades occasionally as necessary. Turn the mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight (refrigerating allows the cashews to absorb some of the liquid and the mousse to thicken). Spoon or pipe into serving dishes and top with coconut whipped cream, if desired. Makes 4 small or 3 large servings.
* I used a VitaMix, but I’m sure this would work in a regular blender, too, if you have patience. In a conventional blender, I’d do it this way: pour coconut milk and all other ingredients except beets and chia into the blender and blend until the mixture is smooth. Add beets and blend again until perfectly smooth; then add the chia and blend to combine. You may need to blend in smaller batches this way, and then stir the contents together in a bowl before refrigerating.
** You can use agave or maple syrup if you prefer, but make these changes: use 1/4 cup agave or maple syrup, remove about 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the coconut milk and increase cashews to 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp (70 g) before blending.
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Last Year at this Time: Sweet Potato Smoothie
Two Years Ago: Fig Bread and Restorative Soup
© 2010 Ricki Heller