Seventh grade was a year of firsts for me. That year marked the first time I had to take a bus to get to school. It was the first time I had teachers who actually spoke French as their first language. With the explosion of hormones suddenly making its appearance that year, it was the first time I found myself interested in more than just playing Champ with the guys at recess, or working out our math problems together. Most memorably, it was the first time I went on a “real” diet.
As a chubby, nerdy kid, I was often the odd gal out while most of my girlfriends got scads of attention from the boys: guys flirted at recess as they took surreptitious glances at newly-sprung cleavage; they towered over girls on the bus ride home, leaning down to whisper jokes into their hair, giggling at some private joke; they chose my friends (some them, again and again), to play “spin the bottle” at socials (the name we used for parties in friends’ basements on Saturday nights).
I immediately attributed my lack of social life to my excessive girth and decided I had to lose weight. Consulting with my personal expert in weight loss (and, well, everything else), I asked The Nurse what she would do.
“Stillman Diet,” she pronounced. Then she explained what it was.
The Stillman Diet was basically the prototype of today’s paleo or high-protein diets. You were allowed to eat as much protein-rich foods as you liked, but had to skip all grains, fruits, desserts–even vegetables. I vaguely recall eating a couple eggs for breakfast, cheese and more eggs for lunch, then chicken and cheese or a hamburger and cheese for dinner. Within days, the pounds started to fall away.
I lost weight, all right–and, within a few weeks, also lost my period, a good deal of my hair, the whiteness of my teeth, and my previously clear, glowing skin. After about three months of that nonsense, I realized it wasn’t worth being sick just to be thinner (and besides, the boys didn’t suddenly come knocking down my door–it took me several decades to figure out that their lack of interest had nothing to do with my weight, and everything to do with my own lack of self-esteem. If only I could go back and let that poor girl know that roundness was okay, that nature would take its course, that the boobs would show up eventually–and that, hey girl, there are plenty of guys who are just fine with zaftig).
Although I don’t “do” diets any more in the sense of “eat this specifically to lose weight,” I do follow a whole-foods, low glycemic, vegan diet. That means I eat whatever I feel like eating, within those boundaries. In fact, I suppose the anti-candida diet, in its most common form, is a variation on the high-protein or paleo diet, since most versions of the diet advocate “clean” meats and eggs, along with lots of veggies, few (or no) fruits, and few grains. (In the strictest sense, though, my diet isn’t paleo because I do eat legumes).
And while I don’t believe in denying oneself foods that one loves, I think there’s always a way to create something delectable within one’s own dietary boundaries. It’s not that I “forbid” myself sugar; it’s just that I know I’d feel like crap, lose all kinds of energy, and immediately develop a raging red, painful, itchy rash all over my torso if I started eating it again. Worth it? I think not. Especially when I can have desserts that don’t trigger such a reaction.
That’s one of the benefits of being on the CFL (Candida For Life) diet in my mind: it has taught me to be more aware of, and sensitive to, what is and isn’t good for my particular body. And one of the things I’ve discovered lately is that I do much better when I limit the amount of grains I eat. Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe that grains are a healthful food, and I DO eat them; I’m not one of those people who advocates removing an entire food group from your daily food intake. I just can’t eat grains every day (or even several days in a row). When I forget and overdo the chocolate chip cookies or the scones, I end up feeling a little less sprightly and my mood does suffer. That’s when I know it’s time to follow a grain-free regimen for a few days or a week.
In recent weeks, I’ve been following a mostly grain-free plan (with the exception of the occasional sprouted grain tortilla, as I mentioned on instagram), and must admit that my tummy has been very grateful. On the other hand, the HH, who can eat whatever the heck he wants to, has been requesting pasta for dinner lately. Often, he’ll cook up his own linguine or fusilli and top it with some organic jarred pasta sauce (Gasp! Yes, I’m okay with that), but he did get me thinking about pasta and how I wish I could have it more often.
And then I had this idea.
Why not grain-free pasta? And why not my very favorite form of pasta–something I haven’t had in years because I’ve never found a gluten-free version I can eat? Why not–gnocchi?
You may recall my thwarted attempt at gnocchi from several years ago. I didn’t want to repeat that failure (or those awful jokes) again. Instead, I thought I’d use one of my favorite grain-free flours along with my new favorite gluten-free binder, combined with the vegetable darling of the season, pumpkin–and see what I could whip up.
The result is a classic: pumpkin gnocchi with sage and browned “butter,” a totally irresistible combination.
These grain-free gnocchi couldn’t be easier, and yet they really work. The gnocchi are toothsome, with a springy bite and subtle pumpkin flavor. The fresh sage is the perfect foil for the squash, and the coconut oil works perfectly to bring it all together. And as a bonus, you get a serving of protein along with your pasta! In fact, I guess you could say this gnocchi is the love child of both the vegan and the paleo diets. Vegan and paleo–together? Now, that really would be a first.
Looking for Thanksgiving recipes? Here’s my mega roundup of 75+ Healthy, Whole Foods, Vegan & Gluten-Free recipes.
Grain-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Sage “Butter”
These gnocchi can be eaten straight as soon as they’re cooked, but they are more flavorful and richer tasting once they’ve been browned in the sage “butter.” If you prefer not to pan-fry your gnocchi, toss them in your favorite pasta sauce after they’re boiled.
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp ( g) chickpea flour, sifted, plus more for rolling
1/4 cup (60 ml) psyllium husks
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt, or more, to your taste
1/2 cup (120 ml) pumpkin purée (homemade or canned–be sure the only ingredient is pumpkin)
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable broth or stock
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp (30 ml) virgin coconut oil, preferably organic
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, psyllium and salt. Add the pumpkin and broth and stir well to combine. Allow to sit for 2-5 minutes until a soft dough is formed. It should be softer than a regular cookie dough, but firm enough to hold its shape.
Sprinkle a cutting board with about 1/4 cup (60 ml) more flour. Divide the dough into 3 roughly equal parts, and roll them out, one at a time, to a long rope about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths with a sharp knife, then press with the tines of a fork (it may help to flour the fork). Keep the gnocchi on a plate until you are ready to cook them.
To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then lower to medium-low heat. Using a large spoon, gently lower 10-12 gnocchi at a time into the pot, and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, until they float to the top. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and place them on a plate while you cook the remaining gnocchi in this way.
At this point, you can serve the gnocchi with pasta sauce if you wish, or continue with the sage butter instead.
In a large frypan, melt one Tbsp (15 ml) of the coconut oil. Add half the gnocchi and toss them to coat. Cook over medium heat until they begin to brown in places. Sprinkle with half the chopped sage, stir for another 30 seconds or so, and remove to a serving platter. Keep warm while you cook the second half of the gnocchi in the same way. Serve immediately. Makes 3-4 servings. May be frozen (defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in a 350 F/180 C oven for 15-20 minutes, until heated through).
Suitable for: ACD All Stages, sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, nut free, vegan, low glycemic.
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