This Year: Life, the Universe and Everything.

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Even though I’ve been wiped out for this entire week afterwards, my birthday outing was worth it. The day before, I had found a third-hand mobility scooter (at a third of the price) on Craigslist. I have been looking for one that could handle rough dog park terrain (big wheels, decent suspension, strong motor), but could still be dismantled and put in a car (ie: not the fun Harley-esque one I had my eye on, similar to my friend Jak’s). My husband drove two hours round trip to buy it and I was able to take it to my favourite off-leash dog park: 40 acres of trails, fields and river access.

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The weather was sublime. Actually, that was the only blip in our day: as soon as I arrived, I had to park in the shade, strip off two layers of shirts and have my husband reach up my yoga pants to peel off my compression stockings. Plus, I was drinking hot chicken soup. I was kicking myself for not bringing sunscreen. But, after that, all was well, if a little harsh and bumpy on my bones. This 4-day payback headache I have is probably from jostling my spine on the gravel and mulch (and I won’t mention the horrible nausea that hit me at 10pm and the relentless barrage of nightmares that followed that night because this is meant to be a happy post).

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Big smiles. 🙂

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I couldn’t get a photo, but there were huge blue herons flying into the nests and babies up in the trees.

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My boys playing with a new friend.

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That evening, my sister and her boyfriend came over and she suggested getting take away food from a nearby restaurant, which I hadn’t even considered. So, we ate dinner at the table (as opposed to my usual on the couch with my feet up, reclined) and I had a delicious beef tenderloin and coconut rice. They accidentally put some Gorgonzola on my steak and, oops, I forgot to scrape it off. That was a celebratory taste explosion that I haven’t encountered in 2.5 years.

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“The hills are alive….” Pretend I’m spinning…

Then, to top everything off, two days later, I got a visit from my dear friend, Z. She came bearing flowers and a bag of gifts for me to open and, the best part, her little girl, whom I consider a niece. Baby A chatted away, which is all new! The last time I saw her she hadn’t quite found her words around me. What a treat.

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42, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.
It’s going to be a good year. I have faith.

Kinda.

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I Scream, You Scream

What has the power to make me expend energy writing a blog post? You guessed it: ice cream!

I’m having a very hard time quitting my sweet habit. I don’t eat a lot of desserts and I can live without processed sugar, but I seem to need that little bite of sweetness after meals to seal the deal. Small bites of ice cream and chocolate have always been my go-to desserts.

All store-bought, non-dairy ice creams have carageenan, guar gum, erythritol, and “natural flavors” or soy lecithin or a lot of sugar. Although I don’t eat these a lot, I’ve felt frustrated at my inability to eliminate this habit when I have so easily and strictly stopped eating all the other food groups my doctor has specified. Bring in this $34 (when I bought it) ice cream maker on Amazon Prime. It was too daunting for me to tackle, but my husband made it look easy and I’ve had fresh, creamy, healthier ice cream for the last few weeks.

Here’s the basic info: coconut milk + sweetener + flavour = YUM

The coconut milk should be the full-fat canned kind. This is the only brand I found with no guar gum in it. The sweetener can be dates (make amazing “caramel”) or bananas or honey or coconut sugar (resembles brown sugar and my doctor has okayed it!). The flavour can be anything you can dream up ~ nuts, fruit, extracts etc.

So far I have made Caramel Pecan, using this recipe from My Whole Food Life (it was far too sweet for me with 2 tbs of honey in addition to the dates, so be careful) and Pistachio-Almond, using Food Babe’s recipe, but, beware: I used 1/2 cup of pistachios and there were too many nuts and not enough creaminess. Also, don’t use salted pistachios ~ duh! I have the ingredients for the mint chocolate chip (even though the Enjoy Life chips are made from cane juice and I’m not allowed to have it on my current diet) and I have some huckleberries with which I want to experiment. The Spunky Coconut has a lot of recipes, too. She uses hemp and chia seeds which help take the place of the “gums”. There are some other creative flavour ideas here.

Before you get started, make sure you have all the ingredients needed, plus ice and salt for the ice cream making process (there is a product called “ice cream salt“, but I think you can use regular salt, too). Don’t believe the recipe if it says you need to freeze the ice cream maker bowl first or refrigerate the tin of coconut milk overnight- you don’t.

Ok, my half hour is up and I have to go to an ENT doctor appointment for my sinus issues, which are stopping me from wearing my cpap, and what might be an ear infection from trying to be “healthy” and use nasal irrigation. Another purchase wasted. Down with neti pots!

I was going to go back and spend more time making this a fancy two-scoop photo, but I couldn't be arsed. You get the gist. ;)

I was going to go back and spend more time making this a fancy two-scoop photo, but I couldn’t be arsed. You get the gist. 😉

My Very Easy and Healthy Smoothie and Granola Recipes!

I find it amusing and perplexing that bloggers love recipes and anything written about food. I could have 99 posts about ME/CFS that never get read, but the 100th post about my oat bar recipe will have 10 bloggers “liking” it. So, with that in mind, listen up foodie bloggers! (foggers? bloodies?) I -somebody with too little energy to shower most days- make a smoothie every day and granola every week. They’re easy and they cost such an exorbitant amount of money at the shops, that you should start making your own immediately!

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[Edit: I have since started doing green juices and not eating so much fruit, but this is still delicious for a yummy treat.]

E.M.’s Basic Smoothie (dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free etc.)

Blend:

  • 1 banana
  • a few handfuls of frozen mixed berries
  • almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened, vanilla or original)

Now, here are the variations that make it interesting:

  • 1 banana (or pear, if bananas are too much sugar or too many carbs. Often I’ll put half the banana in my granola for breakfast and then use the other half in a smoothie for “elevensies”)
  • a few handfuls of frozen mixed berries (or fresh berries or mango or…)
  • almond milk (or coconut milk or soy milk or hemp milk or cow’s milk or yogurt or ice cream or frozen yogurt or…)
  • splash of orange juice (really kicks it up a notch)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of cinnamon and/or nutmeg
  • agave nectar or stevia to taste (but you don’t need it!)
  • 1 tbs flax seed meal (I always do this)
  • a few walnuts (I always do this, too. You wouldn’t believe how good walnuts are blended up in a smoothie)

Also, you can add water or ice to thicken or thin the smoothie without adding calories, but not affecting the taste too much.

Granola after roasting

Granola consists of oats, a far and something sweet. So, it can be as simple as oats, oil/fat and honey… and then you get to add any seeds, nuts or different flavours you like. I made up all these measurements, you less or more to your liking.

E.M.’s Healthy Granola (dairy-free, refined sugar-free, gluten-free)

  • 4 cups gluten-free rolled oats 
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (can be salted. If not, add 1/4-1/2 tsp salt to recipe)
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (any kind: I like pecans, cashews and almonds. If I didn’t put walnuts in my smoothies, I’d put them in my granola)
  • 1/2 cup coconut (can be sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1/2-1 tbs cinnamon
  • 5 tbs fat of choice (butter, high-oliec sunflower or canola oil, heated up coconut oil… lately I’ve been using olive oil and the taste has not overwhelmed the finished product)
  • 5 tbs honey (or brown rice syrup or maple syrup or whatever liquid sweetener you like)
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract (I add much more because I love vanilla)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apples, cherries etc.)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Heat oil, honey and vanilla over low heat until it is runny but not boiling. Pour over dry ingredients, mix thoroughly and spread over 2 baking trays lined with foil or parchment. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden. When cooled, add dried fruit (otherwise they have a tendency to get a bit crispy and charred in the oven). I love mine in clumps, but I think you’d need more honey to get that effect. The NY Times recently said that if you leave a “donut hole” in the middle of the baking trays and don’t stir the granola while it’s baking, it’ll come out clumpier, however, it didn’t work for me.

Which brings me to the variations: obviously, you can have no seeds or no nuts or no coconut. You can have no vanilla or cinnamon or dried fruit. Tinker with the oil and honey. I only put 2 tbs honey and 2 tbs agave nectar in my last batch, knowing I could always add more to my bowl of granola when I’m eating it … but, I didn’t think it was quite sweet enough. This is not grocery store granola! This way you can make it healthier or not ~ whatever you like. You’re in charge. 🙂

Enjoy!

The Next Installment in Bad Food Experiences

Some of you might recall my experience with earwigs inside a peach and mold inside an apple and the bloody, black soul I found inside a banana… My saga continues with the manky, moldy, mildewed, malodorous COCONUT. Yes, those are colonies of mold growing in the shell and on the flesh, which is meant to be white. And, yes, it smells bad ~ my husband wouldn’t let it stay in the house.

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I also want to mention that there is something wrong with some organic foods. Three times I have bought organic avocados which look great on the outside, but are weirdly stringy and discoloured on the inside. And, worse, they are tasteless! I’ve never experienced a “watery”-tasting avocado until I started buying them in the organic store. Also, bananas. I won’t buy organic ones anymore because they are strange inside. Their molecules are different; they don’t hold together the same way  ~ they separate length-wise when you are just trying to peel them. And they brown strangely. We have bought green organic bananas and, a few days later, they are still mostly green but practically liquid inside. Ew. I don’t get it. Is it because our food is so processed and chemicalized that I don’t even recognize the real thing anymore? And why are Red Delicious apples mealy, Granny Smiths give me a stomach ache, Mackintoshes are gorgeous to look at, but have no flavour, and Fujis are consistently crisp, sweat and tart? And where did all the gnarly crab apples go? And cooking apples? Did you know, when I was a kid in Ireland, we got apples, tangerines and nuts in our trick-or-treat bags?

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Maybe the business of “organic” and the labeling laws are a bit of a scam… Maybe the bigger issue is loss of diversification in our crops (remember the famine?) and consumers’ changing ideals of what our foods should look like and… Monsanto. I kind of want to launch into a huge diatribe about losing our fruit and vegetable varieties and the importance of seed preservation and how necessary it is for us to spend our money on the unknown, under-appreciated, ugly foods and not be sucked in by the pretty, homogeneous GMO products… But, I’ll spare you.

I’m grateful for vegetable gardens. Assuming we can have access to heirloom seeds. And climate change doesn’t destroy everything. 🙂