The World’s Best

I have devised a recipe for the world’s best salad.  I know it is the best because I have personally taste-tested it against all other salads I have personally made, and I have personally decided that it is the best.  You can see that my system is fool-proof.

I’m not greedy, though, so I’m wiling to let you have the world’s best salad, too.  You can even pretend it’s your own if you want.  I’m not going to tell on you.

See, I’ve never loved salads.  I have always thought they were boring and bland.  They never filled me up.  I didn’t understand why there was always grated carrot and red cabbage at the bottom of the salad bowl, and why is a massive ring of red onion okay to just drop on top?  Add that confusion to the fact that I don’t like tomatoes, I can’t have croutons, and most salad dressings are either awful for you or just awful for me in particular, and I usually had a bowl of lettuce with a couple of sad cucumber slices.

After seeing a dietician recently and finding out that I don’t eat enough food — shocking news! — I realised I was going to have to make more of an effort to eat lunch.  I whined, ‘but lunchtime is the exact time of day when I least want to eat!’  Why?

Well, I used to eat sandwiches for lunch.  I thought I was doing all right by it, never eating plain white bread, typically passing up the crisps, and adding lettuce to give me a vegetable.  After I’d eat, though, I would get very tired.  I didn’t want to do anything; I wasn’t sure I could do anything. What I didn’t realise was that I wasn’t really feeding myself; I was just putting stuff in my body.  There wasn’t anything nourishing to what I was eating, and, while I don’t knock a good sandwich now and again, I just know it doesn’t function as a daily standard.

Knowing that someone else was looking over my food journal with me made me a bit more self-conscious.  Of course I wanted to look like I had it all together, but I also came to realise that I simply knew better. More fruit, Sydney, and more vegetables.  Just get over yourself and do it.

Thus, THE salad was born.  There’s crunch, there’s heft, there’s sweetness, there’s protein, and there’s also a little bit of heat.

World’s Best Lunch Salad

Ingredients:
Romaine lettuce (or favourite leaf)
Spinach
Sunflower seeds
Pomegranate seeds
Sprouted mung beans
Sprouted lentil beans
Cucumber
Broccoli
World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Your favourite hot sauce (I use Frank’s Hot Sauce for this salad!)

Hardware:
Big bowl
Hands

Directions:
Assemble as big or as small a salad as you’d like with the ingredients.  I start with the lettuce and spinach, tearing them into bite-sized pieces by hand, add broccoli and cucumber around the edges, and add the smaller ingredients in the middle.  Then, I dress it with a couple of shakes of the hot sauce and a quick drizzle of the vinaigrette.

salad

This is the little version. I may or may not have used a mixing bowl for just myself before. (I definitely have.)

World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar (may not be needed if you shell out for expensive oil and vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use pink Himalayan salt for a couple of extra minerals)
1/8 teaspoon chilli powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin

Hardware:
Jar that will fit at least 1 cup of liquid (with lid)
measuring cups and spoons
heavy-duty shakin’ arms

Directions:
Dump everything except the sugar into the jar.  Shake, shake, shake until it is completely combined.  Taste and see if it needs the sugar for your tastebuds.  Some vinegars can be more tart than others, and some people like a more tart vinaigrette.  Add the sugar if you want and shake again.

Store in the fridge.  Remove a while before you need it, and shake it again to reintegrate the oil and vinegar, which will separate when cold.  If you forget, pop it in the microwave without the lid for 15-20 seconds — just enough to soften the oil but not “cook” it — and shake.  Oh, yes, more shaking.

The Weirdest Bread

My mother finds all these things on Facebook and tags me in them. I am always tempted to keep them open in tabs until I realise just how slowly they make my computer run. I’ve only recently started using bookmarks; my thinking has been that I’ll never actually go back and click on them. So far, I’m kind of right.

One post was intriguing enough that I didn’t have to keep it open for long. Here is the original post, though I should warn you that it’s confusing. I’ll fill you in on the details.

So, basically, “oopsie breads” start as meringues and ends as airy breads. I don’t know how it works. I put my scientist-analyst head on my shoulders (In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a scientist-analyst head anywhere in my bag of tricks.), and I still didn’t really get it. When I tried it, I think I might have overwhipped the eggs whites, if that’s possible. The recipe suggests that you could make 6 large breads or 8 medium ones. I had 8 really big breads that, as I later learned, were probably a bit too tall.  You might want to smooth them down with the back of a spoon to make them shorter.  I probably could have made 10 of the right size had I known.  They are really light and airy and kind of felt like foam.  I did NOT have high hopes.

I’m happy and surprised to say that they were really nice. CB liked them, though I only let him have one and half. They work really well as hamburger buns. I even sprinkled sesame seeds on a few of them to harken back to childhood barbeques.

Oopsie Bread

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already.  How else was I to know it was done?!

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already. How else was I to know it was done?!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cream cheese
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon psyllium husk powder

Hardware:
Stand mixer
Spatula
Spoon
Small bowl
Baking pan
Oven

Directions:
Separate eggs.  Place the whites in the bowl of the stand mixer with the salt and whip together until you achieve stiff peaks.

While the egg whites mix, place the egg yolks, cream cheese, baking powder, and psyllium husk powder in the small bowl and mix until combined.  When your whites are whipped, slowly spoon the yolk mixture into it and stir together with the spatula.  Try to do it with as few motions as possible to keep in all the air you have created.

Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet in dollops depending on your desired size.  Like I said, the recipe says that it will make 6 large or 8 small breads, but I had 8 large ones.  It’s possible that my eggs expanded in the mixer more than expected.  I imagine you could top them with any spice or herb you want; I only tried the sesame seeds on a few.

You can see they didn't expand much in the oven.

You can see they didn’t expand much in the oven.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.  I thought they looked like they would be done much faster, as they had a real shape after about 10 minutes, but they needed the entire time.  If they stick to the pan, use a metal spatula to pry away.

It doesn't feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!

It doesn’t feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!

Apple Affair

After time apart, I have been reunited with an old flame. The last time I saw him, I knew something wasn’t right, but I just didn’t know how to fix it. I spent a long time staring at him from across the room, too nervous to approach. I finally got up my courage this week, walked right up to him, and said “I need you.”

And I did.

With three pounds of apples to peel, core, and slice, I really did need him.

My poor apple peeler. When we moved out of our old house, I had to break it apart in order to fit into the original box. (Yes, I keep original boxes because I am convinced I will never stop moving.) Somewhere along the way, the springs came undone, and, when I went to reassemble it, I couldn’t get them back on. I tried to force them into place, but I was afraid of breaking it. I left him, looking lonely, in his cubby on my gadget shelf.

I got it into my head this week that I needed to make apple butter. I hadn’t had apple butter in years, and the idea of it made me a little nostalgic for autumn in Georgia. If you haven’t been to the Georgia Apple Festival and you like apples, maybe, you know, you should. It’s gorgeous at that time of year, and, if it’s possible to make something out of apples, you’ll find it there.

I looked up a bunch of pictures of similar apple peelers online and reconstructed it.  It wasn’t hard, but it took a few deep breaths (and maybe a bit of muttering under them).  Eventually, he was good as new.

Apple butter in a slow cooker is super easy. Your house will smell delicious for the entire day, too. My father-in-law came over and immediately asked what I was cooking because it smelled “like Christmas”. That’s never a bad thing.

Spread this on anything.

Spread this on anything.

Apple Butter

Ingredients:
3 pounds of apples (I used Gala; it was about 9 medium apples)
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (use plain white sugar if you don’t have vanilla sugar ready)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Hardware:
Apple peeler – or patience and a knife and vegetable peeler
Various measuring cups and spoons
Immersion blender
Slow cooker
Bit kitchen spoon

Directions:
Dump all your ingredients into the slow cooker. Stir well, cover, and cook on low for 10 hours, stirring occasionally.

Use the immersion blender to puree the mixture. Make as lumpy or smooth as you like. I like mine very smooth and glossy. Be very careful — I rarely say this, but consider eye protection for this step — if it splashes up, it is thick enough already that it will retain heat and sit and burn you. You might be guessing that I’m speaking from experience here. Ow.

Turn heat up to high and cook uncovered for 1 hour to thicken. Remove immediately to a heat-proof jar or container. Store in the fridge once cooled.

I think you could wrap a ribbon around it, give it away, and have a friend forever.

I think you could wrap a ribbon around it, give it away, and have a friend forever.

30 Days Complete!

30 days complete!  You may have noticed that I didn’t post a check-in for week four.  What can I say?  As the end of the challenge was so near the end of week four, I figured it was better to wait and report in at the end.

I’m happy to say that we finished all thirty days of the green smoothie challenge.  I reminded CB today that the challenge is over and asked if he wanted to continue incorporating them into our diet.  He shrugged and said, “Yeah. Well, why wouldn’t we?”  I think his response shows how much a part of our daily life they have become.  A special thanks is due to Desi (and her helpers) at Unconventional Kitchen and all the folks that I’ve met along the way in the Facebook community.  Having a support group is an amazing help!

In addition to the smoothie challenge, I did my 250 squats today to complete THAT 30 day challenge. I’m gaining stamina in running, too, which is none too soon considering my 5k is on Sunday. (If you find yourself wanting to donate to Cancer Research UK, you can still do so at my sponsor site.  I have met and exceeded my goal, but every single penny goes toward a great cause.)  I can’t wait to get out there and prove that I really can do it . . . mostly to myself, if I’m honest.

Here is the last round-up of smoothies.  Two days are missing.  The first was a day where I ate something that truly disagreed with me; I spent the evening sprawled on the sofa, and CB made his only smoothie of the challenge, serving it up to me in the dark.  The second missing picture is when we knew we were going to have a completely mad day — there have been a lot of them lately as May has been a particularly stressful but, hopefully, fruitful month — I made a double batch on the day before.  I tucked our smoothies away into small coconut water packages.  This tactic kept them fairly fresh but rendered them unphotographable. (I mean, I could have photographed them, but you wouldn’t have known what was in them.

Week Two Check-in — Green Smoothie Challenge

We had one beautiful, sunny day last week where we got the whole family out in the garden and had our green smoothies.  I’m reminding myself of this event partly because there were snow flurries yesterday and we got rained on in the wind today.

I think I assumed that, at some point, the benefits of the Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge would taper off. I have worked tirelessly over the past two years to reinvigorate and revitalize my body. I have been reading and researching treatments and natural remedies. I have been removing and replacing in my diet. I have been recognizing and responding to what my body says. I have been reintroducing foods and recording the results. I am now running out of R-words to use for the process.

I still believe that one of the biggest changes in my life came about when I found the right probiotic for my body. I started healing in leaps and bounds. With the exception of the ever-present need to look at labels and menus very carefully, I often feel good enough that I “forget” about being Celiac. I put “forget” in quotation marks because it is clearly still on the forefront of my mind as food is one of the defining characteristics of my life — Hey! That’s the tagline of the blog! Folks without dietary restrictions in their life, whether for themselves or for someone they love, whether self-imposed or required, rarely think twice about what all is in the food they eat. They don’t have to carefully plan outings based on where they can eat or when they can get home to make food. They don’t have to turn down food offered by a friend because they’re not 100% sure of every ingredient. They don’t have to have the same level of trust in companies, shops, and restaurants because of the consequences of cross-contamination. My point is that, at some point, these actions become second nature. We read every label of every food without thinking I am reading this label because it might have X ingredient that I cannot have. We just do it.

One of the big changes I have touched on before is medication. I carefully weaned myself off all my IBS medicines. I have now also taken myself off of all of my medications. Since my surgery in October, I haven’t taken anything to help me breathe or control airborne allergies. A few months ago, I realized that my body had actually healed enough that I didn’t need daily acid reflux medication, either. Not even two years ago, I was taking 21 pills a day just to do what little I did.

Here’s where the greens come into the story. I have had heartburn since making that decision — not everyday and not badly enough to think that I needed to start the medicine again. Since starting the green smoothie challenge two weeks ago, I haven’t had ANY heartburn. None. It’s gone. I have gone from feeling like my throat would catch fire if I even took my medication late to no medicine and no pain.  In addition, my energy levels have stayed up, I feel like I have lost more weight (I try not to weight myself often), I feel comfortable wearing jeans without fearing I might swell too large for them, and I have started sleeping more — this last point is a huge deal for a life-long insomniac.

It goes to show that, when you do right by your body, give it effective and personalized fuel, and listen to what it says, you never stop healing. I made my mother-in-law her first green smoothie this week to help kickstart her own positive changes, and I’m learning how to make my own green smoothie recipes to add variety to the program. This recipe is one I made for CB when he had to leave before the crack of dawn to travel for a conference. If possible, it’s best to make it the night before you want it and let it get really cold; you might want to blend in some ice if you don’t have the time to spare. It is thick and filling with enough fibre and protein for a great start for your day.

Sweet Green Porridge Smoothie

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almond milk (substitute with water or coconut water if you don’t have or can’t have almond milk)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon chia seed
1/4 cup gluten-free oats, blitzed beyond recognition in a food processor
1 handful spinach
1 handful collards
1/2 banana
1/4 cup frozen mango
2 teaspoons natural peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
handful of ice (optional)

Hardware:
Blender
Food processor
Measuring cups and spoons
Freezer

Directions:
Put almond milk, water, chia seed, and greens to the blender and blend until there are no big chunks visible. Add the oats and give a good spin. Dump in all the remaining ingredients (banana, mango, peanut butter, cocoa powder) and blend to combine.

If you want to drink it immediately, blend in the ice and serve. If you will store it for later — my recommendation — pour into a freezer safe container and park in the freezer overnight. The ice will thin the smoothie, which you may like, but it is needed to make it cold enough to drink right away.

Our week in smoothies: