All things food: health and nutrition, books and blogs, recipes and results all set to the backdrop of my own journey feeding and loving this body I'm in!

Magic Cinnamon Rolls April 8, 2012

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So this morning (Easter Sunday) I set out to make these Cinnamon Rolls from Paleo Perfectly.  We don’t do the whole easter basket routine anymore, but I still wanted something special, so I woke the family with fresh, hot cinnamon rolls delivered to bed! Of course I had to tinker with the recipe some, so I’m including my version.  Not only were they fabulous, but I liked them better than any standard cinnamon roll I’ve had.  Also, they were simple enough to have them finished by the time everyone else woke up!

Preheat your oven to 350, then make the dough.  In a large bowl (I used my kitchen aid with regular mixer attachment), combine:

1 egg

1 flax egg (1/4 c warm water with 1/2 tsp flax meal)

1/4 melted ghee

1 Tbsp Maple Syrup

Then Add:

2 1/2 c almond flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of parchment, cover with a second sheet of parchment, partially flatten into a rectangle, and roll it out with your pin between the parchment until it’s a little bigger than 9×13, and between 1/4-1/2 inch thick.  Make the filling:

3 Tbsp melted ghee

2 Tbsp cinnamon

3 Tbsp granular coconut sugar

1 Tbsp coconut nectar (or maple or honey, but a liquid sweetener).

Spread this filling evenly over the dough. It’s a little dry to spread evenly.  I globbed it on in evenly spaced dollops, then smoothed it out, being sure to get it to the edges, especially the shorter edges.  Sprinkle with:

1/4 to 1/2 cup ground pecans

Beginning with a long edge, using the parchment to help you, roll it into a nice log.  Slice into about 1.5 inch pieces, mine made 8 pretty small cinnamon rolls.  Pop in the oven and bake 17-20 minutes, until beginning to turn golden.  While it’s baking, whip of the frosting.  The frosting was AMAZING!  I made it up, but I think it will be the beginning of whole new approach to dairy and sugar free frostings.  seriously.   You’ll need the following ingredients:

1/3 cup maple syrup, gently warmed

1 1/2 tsp arrowroot, whisked into the maple

about a 1/3 cup of melted coconut butter (not oil).

 I warmed the maple and whisked in the arrowroot by placing it in a small stainless bowl over the oven vent while they were baking.  Not sure if this mattered to the ultimately perfect icing or not, but at least use it a room temperature. I added the warm, melted coconut butter a little at a time until it suddenly all thickened a bit and became more opaque.  Besides being a different color, it was the actual consistency of a traditional, creamy icing.  Spoon the thickish icing over the hot rolls and serve.  I will be amazed if they make it till lunch time.  I didn’t photograph these, but the family is lobbying for a batch next weekend, so who knows, I may be adding a photo VERY soon!


My Paleo Experiment–Day 7

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Today is day 7 of my 30 day experiment of eating “Paleo“.  I generally distance myself from any diet prescriptions, because as an Intuitive Eater (IE) I prefer to take my queues about what best nourishes me from my body than from books or experts.  I also am in the business of helping others learn to listen to their own bodies’ internal messages and to do away with the diet paradigm altogether in favor of a more organic approach to nourishing themselves.  So what’s a lady like me doing going Paleo??

On my IE journey, I am continuously learning more and more about what foods make my body feel its best and thrive.  Approaching this work form an IE perspective, grounded in self-love rather than the body hatred that tends to drive the diet industry, changes I make really stick.  The first thing that happened was that I stopped eating dairy for real (disclaimer, I’m a 90:10 girl, so when I say stop, I mean 90% of the time) after years and years of going on and off of the stuff.  Once I really understood that it made me feel like crap, that was it.  Sugar and it’s buddy alcohol came next, followed by gluten.  Through these changes, I fell back in love with cooking and with food.  I never let myself feel deprived.  My sleep improved, my energy and libido improved, my ears stopped itching, my poops became regular, and I had fewer stomach aches.  Any revisits into these foods, and I quickly was reminded of the connection between what I ate and how I felt.  A few things were stubbornly not changing, I was still experiencing hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue, and weight-loss resistance, and very high fasting blood sugar (95 at last check).  In other words, I still wasn’t maintaining stable blood sugar.  Frequent, evenly spaced, sugar-free meals high in fat/fiber/protein would work for most to reverse this circumstance, but in my case, it wasn’t enough.
When searching the web for great new gluten, dairy, and sugar-free recipes I have often been led to Paleo sites, because Paleo fits the bill.  In my perusing, I learned more and more about the Paleo lifestyle.  I still sort of hated it.  I kept equating it with Atkins in my mind, and with the diet industry in general, and with bloggers obsessed with getting tight asses and six packs.  At a major nutrition conference I had the pleasure of listening to sessions fromMark Sisson, author of the Primal Blueprint, and Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat.  Both of these really got me making some more connections between what I was learning and the condition in my own body.  As a pescatarian, I was getting a tad of my protein from fish, but the majority from high quality grains and legumes (again, these are great for many of you).  This was leaving many of my meals still apparently too high in carbohydrates for MY BODY to minimize insulin production.  So I decided to ride the paleo train and take them up on the notion of a 30 day experiment and see how I’d feel.
There are no before pictures, or before measurements.  For me it is critical to maintain my focus on wellness, and to keep my measures of a food’s impact on me INTERNAL.  Anyone who has dabbled in disordered eating or IE knows that scales and tape measures can send us spiralling into the depths of unconscious eating and external measures of what is good enough. 
So, if there is to be any real assessment, it will come in the form of the qualitative narrative.  Now that I am on day 5, I see that this is quite the potent experiment and worth sharing, so I’ll be updating regularly.
PALEO Day 5:  This week I bought and prepared clean chicken, grass-fed beef and bison, all for the first time, after 20 years of being mostly veg.  Each time I prepared meat I was HILARIOUS!  plastic gloves, permanent disgusted scowl, discarding more chicken parts than I was willing to eat to end up with NO WEIRD COLORS OR TEXTURES!  Every time I was cooking I was thinking “this was a horrible idea.  this is disgusting, I am handling chopped up muscles, I can’t do this!”  Then I tried my first meatball in 20+years and I was sold.  I devoured six of them.  On theNight of the Red Meat I had a level of energy I had only previously experienced either in my 20’s or immediately after leaving a Micheal Franti and Spearhead show.  I was PUMPED!  My husband and I both experienced some cloudy-headedness the first couple of days.  Mine cleared up fast, his continued…so he’s getting more fruit and startchy veggies, while I’m keeping pretty low there.  One of the most notable differences:  I am so much less hungry. I am experiencing no cravings, no yearnings (granted I baked Paleo Bread, and Coconut Bars to be proactive).  I used to always always always get starving at 10 am.  I am not anymore (and my breakfast hasn’t changed!).  I used to snack in the evenings, I don’t anymore.  Last night, I only had a snack instead of dinner because I just wasn’t very hungry.  And the interesting thing is, I have already been eating a diet rich in nuts and oils, with plenty of protein.  The only difference is the switch to more animal proteins (although eggs never made me feel so, so…satiated.  All I can say is, so far so good.  Stay Tuned for regular updates!

The myth of the perfect health coach January 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — bridgesfoodventures @ 2:59 pm

Those of you who’ve been following my blog are aware that I have been enjoying a radically transformed relationship with healthy eating and self-care for several months. Compulsive and emotional eating have given way, in large part, to a renewed passion for cooking and a near obsession with wellness. This led to my enrollment in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Holistic Health Coaching Program and the birth of Dandelion Health and Wellness. ( Through this new food-venture, I offer my services to support others as they make lasting sustainable changes in their relationships with eating and their bodies. This all sounds great, right? Well, what happens when said aspiring health coach goes on vacation to Mexico with her family, and said vacation turns out super stressful, and said aspiring health coach spends the two weeks day-drinking coronas and margaritas, and goes for the cheesiest item on the menu at every turn despite a constitutional inability to digest cheese?? for 12 straight days?? Well, she begins to question everything. She begins to question her right to pursue this new career.  She feels like a fraud.

Once home, I was in for a big surprise! It was EASY to slip back into my healthy behaviors! It felt FANTASTIC to reestablish my habits of self-care. This was a critical turning point for me and I know that it will increase my ability to support my clients through the natural ups and downs of life. Sometimes when establishing new habits, it is valuable to be rigid. It might be true in the beginning (and the beginning can be as long as several months) that we need to be very consistent with ourselves in order to make the new habits permanent and lasting.  We’ve all made the dreaded resolution that disappears within days, or even hours–as soon as it becomes challenged (I’ll only eat this or that on special occasions, so now Tuesday is a special occasion).  We know what it’s like to throw in the towel on our whole vision after eating a plate of whatever we’ve decided is off-limits this time around.  When we make sustainable and lasting change, we build in resilience.  This resilience makes it possible for us to ebb and flow.  This is the kind of flexibility and realism that I have built into my own life, and therefore will build into my clients’ lives.  This flexibility and resilience is what defines healthy lifestyle change and differentiates it from dieting.

I remember when I first realized that eating gluten was contributing significantly to my brain fog and memory problems.  I said to my nutritionist, “does this mean that I won’t be able to eat pizza when I go to Italy??!!”  Mind you, I had no plans to visit Italy in the foreseeable future, but that was still my first thought.  I was projecting way into the future and causing myself  undue suffering. She told me to just worry about the present moment.  One day at a time.  This got me where I needed to be, and this is what I tell my clients!



My First REAL Pumpkin Pie! October 2, 2011

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Fall is in full swing here in Portland and I am inspired to read, write, bake, and be at home with a fire going. Yesterday I made my very first pumpkin pie form an actual pumpkin…no can needed. As canned goods (except Native Forest and Eden brands) all contain BPA leached from the can linings, I have been avoiding other brands of canned goods. I also made this pie gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. As a first attempt I was prepared for it to all be chalked up as an experiment, but it was actually incredibly delicious, and so healthy, we finished it for breakfast.

Bridge’s Pumpkin Pie

One GF 9-inch single crust pie shell (I used a store bought brand, but homemade is great, too)

For the filling:

2 small pie pumpkins
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup coconut milk (I used light b/c that’s what I had)
4 medjool dates
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

Preheat the oven to 350
slice pumpkins in half, scoop out seeds (save for toasting), place open side down on a baking tray with 1/2″ of water.
bake 30-40 minutes until soft.
Allow pumpkin halves to cool until they can be handled.
While Pumpkin is cooling, line one pie crust with parchment and a pile of dry beans to weigh down the crust.
Bake 15 minutes, remove beans and paper and bake another fifteen minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.
Scoop out 2 cups of pumpkin and place in bowl of food processor.
Add four dates, and process until smooth.
Add remaining ingredients and process until thoroughly combined.
Pour into prebaked, cooled pie shell.
Bake in center rack for 40-45 minutes until set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
If there is extra filling, it can be baked separately in a ramekin.


Back to School with Homemade nutbutters… September 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bridgesfoodventures @ 5:37 pm

Here in Portland, OR (and back home in Buffalo as well), back to school comes promptly after labor day weekend.  This year our schedule served us well, keeping us on summer vacation almost the whole first week of September!  Summer comes late here in the the Pacific NW, and it breaks our hearts a bit to say goodbye.  This last weekend was perfect weather, and for me, the perfect weekend.  In my house (and in my own head, for that matter), we tend to have a tug-of-war on the weekends with ‘staying at home catching up on projects and being cozy’ opposing ‘getting out for lots of adventure, exercise, and sunshine’.  The three day weekend really affords us the opportunity to get everyone’s needs met. Saturday, we got in a full day of mountain biking and swimming on Mt Hood, and even with Sunday morning spent renting kayaks on the Tualatin River (my favorite!), there was still plenty of time to catch up (ish) and cozy up.

While thinking about how to prepare for the first week of lunchbox packing, I remembered a post on homemade nutbutters I’d seen on The Kitchn linking to several other bloggers who’ve tried their hand at stepping out of the box with homemade, gourmet nutbutters.  There are a lot of things I often feel like I should be making myself that I don’t because of time and energy constraints.  From almond milk to canned beans, I frequently take the shortcut.  But truth be told, I don’t love the straight up ground almonds and peanuts available at my locals grocer’s, and the specialty blends (as in locally made hemp hazelnut deliciousness) run somewhere in the neighborhood of a zillion dollars an ounce.  So, I thought I’d give it a try.

Check this out!  pour nuts in your food processor, turn it on, wait longer than you think you should have to, perhaps upwards of ten minutes, and voila!  nut butter.  This, I might argue is even easier than buying the natural varieties, because it hasn’t separated into oil and concrete yet.

I played around with a couple of the recipes I found at The Kitchn, made a few minor changes, and let me tell you, there is a mountain of ideas about to grow out of this one!!

For starters, I tried Cake Batter Cashew Butter  (how could I not??)

I am not a patient person, so I skipped the slow roast, and simply stuck the 2 cups into the toaster oven for one cycle.

I replaced the almond extract with extra vanilla, simply b/c I didn’t have any almond.

I replaced the sucanat with 15 drops of vanilla stevia.  A slow drizzle of grapeseed oil softened it to perfection.  I skipped the sprinkles, and still this household has a new favorite.  This is a protein-rich lunchbox dip delicious with celery, rice cakes, or crackers.

My second was also from the Edible Perspective, a variation on Smoked Paprika Almond Butter.  If you haven’t already fallen for Smoked Paprika, please do so immediately.  I have developed a habit of adding it to all sorts of things 9like vegan chhez recipes, for example!) Due to my desire to NOT make a trip to the store my version uses local Oregon hazelnuts.

I used organic  hazelnuts that had been dry roasted, and the blended into a lovely, liquidy butter after about 8 minutes.  I then added the other ingredients and all seemed to be going well.  Then I replaced the honey with coconut nectar, and the entire texture changed.  I’ve had this problem with coconut sugar in other recipes, any other coconut sugar alchemists out there, please let me know how you’ve dealt with this.  It turned dry and crumbly.  The flavor was AMAZING, but the texture needs a little work.  Next time I’ll try stevia or Yacon Syrup.  Any other kitchen adventurers, give these variations a try and let me know.

This savory hazelnut butter is not as appealing to my 5th grader as the cake batter is, but for my partner and I this and some celery sticks will provide some yummy work snacks this week (we even tried it on a picnic smeared onto some nori)!

I am thinking Nut butter sampler packs are in the cards for holiday gifts this year!



Transformations… August 31, 2011

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It’s been a loooong time since my last post.  So long that I almost decided to quit altogether.  But then tonight, for the first time in months, I feel ready to share.  On May 1, 2011 My nephew Matthew died unexpectedly at 25.  It felt like a bomb went off in the middle of my life.  And that’s nothing compared to what it has done to my sister, his sisters, my parents.  What could this have to do with my foodventures, you ask?? Well, from about the second I heard this news, I began to put things in my mouth (shame be damned!). I felt that I couldn’t possibly have something useful to share about health, wellness, and food, when I myself was completely out of control!  I have begun to realize just how untrue that is.  There is much to learn in our struggles.

From the day that Matthew died, the house began to fill up with delivered treats, some homemade, some storebought, cold cuts and white fluffy rolls, pizzas streamed in, cookies and brownies galore.  Not to mention all those bottles of wine.  While several of my family members could barely force down enough to sustain them,  I couldn’t be stopped.  Every pass through the kitchen found me popping something else into my mouth.  It seemed, well, petty to try to resist, to try to pay attention, to care at all.  It seemed pointless.  As the weeks passed, and a few more pounds crept in, junk food became routine, wine became a daily habit, I even picked up a martini habit.  I let myself be okay with this.  It’s important to let ourselves just be, without judgement, sometimes. What I have come to understand is that our bodies don’t really make mistakes.  When our bodies send us cravings, they are clamoring to help us.  My body wanted only to bring me into balance.  My body knew that what I was going through was intolerable.  It knew I needed the efficient delivery of some beta-endorphins, some serotonin, and some dopamine, STAT!  So that’s what I gave it.

In the throes of this, beginning to worry about how I was ever going to get to the other end of this, I scheduled an appointment with the amazing nutritionist, Andrea Nakayama of Replenishpdx.  Andrea is very popular, and I had to wait for my appointment.  I decided I ought to just stay on the crazy train the several weeks until my appoinment and sort it out then.  During this time, Andrea advertised her newest group detox experience:  Sweet Victory!  This was an online course with a two-week guided and supported detox geared specifically toward breaking sugar addiction.  Something clicked into place, and I joined.  This was the best decision I’d ever made.  I learned how to pay meet my body’s needs in less destructive ways.  I was validated in my knowing that jumping off the sugar train is not about will-power.  I began to listen to my body as the wise friend that she is rather than the enemy I have so often treated her as during these times.  I learned how to go get my endorphins at the gym, and from the sweet flavors of high protein stevia sweetened treats, for example.

Today marks one full month for me living cleaner than I ever have before.  Even in my grief.  I have been gluten free, dairy free, mostly processed food free, low grains, alcohol-free, free of all sweeteners except coconut sugar, a few dates,  and stevia.  The only time I have ever gone this long between drinks was when I was pregnant with my now nineteen year old daughter!  And I have literally NEVER gone this long without eating sugar (not even in infancy, the docs were having bottle feeding moms feed us a corn syrup concoction every day!).  I can not  express emphatically enough how fantastic I feel.  All the worry about what I might miss out on by not drinking or having cake is easily trumped by what I have gained.  I have energy right through the day (as in, I can actually DO things after work)!  I wake up refreshed, and fall asleep easily.  and I’m ‘regular’!  My thoughts are clearer, my memory is improving.  it’s kind of amazing. All of this is a big part of the transformation.  But there’s something more core than this.  The biggest piece is that this doesn’t feel like a constant giving something up.  I’m not yearning for my day off, or wishing for flex points, or negotiating loopholes with myself.  I feel just really changed.  reprioritized.

I have decided to run this experiment at least through November 3.  Nov. 3 is Matthew’s birthday, and some part of this I owe to him.  Sometimes we have to find our lowest lows in order to begin to find our way back out again.  I guess Matt and I are transforming together….


Light Flourless Chocolate Cake… April 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bridgesfoodventures @ 11:28 am
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So, I haven’t posted in a while–which could lead to a whole post all about how disruptions to routine, no matter how welcome can really throw off our self care.  My two brothers-in-law just arrived in town about two weeks ago and have been staying with us.  This has led to an abundance of eating out, a lot more social time, and a lot less taking care of business.  This same visit, however, led to the discovery of today’s recipe–because I made it for Anthony’s birthday.

When I embark on a new dessert recipe, the trickiest part is in the sweetener.  I have long avoided (tried to avoid?) straight up cane sugar which always leads to lots of recipes including agave.  You may have encountered some of the controversy around whether agave is perhaps as bad for us as High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I have long been aware of the importance of the glycemic load of various sweeteners as an important component in health impact, including the very real differences in how they make me feel.  So, if agave is so low glycemic, shouldn’t it be the dream?

Well, I think i’ve finally found the overlap between the problems with agave and the association with glycemic load.  Gary Taubes, author of the unfortunately titled “Why We Get Fat”, wrote a great summary of the whole thing here in his long, but worthwhile Times article.  What he doesn’t do, is talk much about alternative sweeteners and where they fit in the whole thing.  So, if we accept his assertions about the dangers of high concentrations of fructose, then according to my research: honey and agave are out.  Their high concentrations of fructose hit the liver faster than the liver can process them, leading to deleterious health effects.

Now for the good news: My often favorite sweetener, stevia, is still a great choice, but it have limitations in baking applications.  Too much of it gets a little bitter, and it doesn’t function the same in recipes because it really has no bulk or moisture.  Guess what’s low glycemic AND ow fructose?  Coconut Palm sugar!  This sugar comes in the form of both crystals and syrup, so it can be easily substituted.  (caveat:  i have not yet researched any of the eco and social impacts of the sudden surge in sales of all things coconut on the communities that produce them, so there’s more inquiry to be done there).

So, here is a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that I adapted to include coconut sugar crystals.  It contains some cane sugar because of the chocolate chips that I had on hand.  I haven’t yet found a chocolate chip that is both dairy free and sweetened well, so until I start making my own (stay tuned), I use Dagoba 73% b/c they are so bittersweet that they amount to only a little sweetener.

I started with an unattributed recipe that I found on a chowhound discussion forum, and made a few changes.  THe original was in weights, so mine is as well.  The final product was gorgeous and delicious.  Here’s the final recipe:  This cake is very moist, bittersweet, and definitely lighter than the standard ganache-like flourless cake.  I LOVED it!
300g Dagoba 73% chips

225g granular coconut palm sugar

2/3 cup boiling water

225g 1/2 coconut oil, 1/2 grapeseed oil

6 eggs, separated

a big pinch of salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coconut flour for dusting

(optional:  I did not do this b/c of my audience, but I think some cayenne, or mexican chocolate spices would be an amazing addition)

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. In a food processor, pulse the chocolate and sugar till fine. Add boiling water, butter, egg yolks, salt, spices if using, and vanilla.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites till stiff (I did this by hand just to be bad-ass and get a little exercise, an electric mixer is fine).

5.  fold the amazingly glossy, thick, ganache-like contents of the food processor into the stiff whites.

6. Pour into 10-in springform pan. (if you don’t have one, cut a parchment circle and line the bottom of a cake pan with it to help keep it form sticking).

7. bake 45-55 minutes (longer for smaller pan). The top will crack. When you take it out it will collapse as it cools.

8. Right before serving, place some coconut flour in a sifter or a mesh tea strainer, and gently tap to release a pretty dusting of the flour over the top of the cake.

Serve with your favorite ice cream type product.