Non-Chlorophyllic Cacti (I Haz Them)

Cactus and Ramen KatamariThis post exists simply to help me remember that the two ornamental cacti I just bought are actually FOUR cacti: two hosts and two parasites.

The brightly-colored tops of these cacti are called Gymnocalycium hibotan, aka “chin cactus”, and contain no chlorophyll due to genetic mutation, and so cannot sustain themselves. The chins have to be grafted onto host cacti.

I’m not sure what kind of cactus I have under the chins though. Anybody know?

Behold, a weird art flick about how to graft cacti.

Technorati Tags: ,

High Protein Nut Flour Bread (Gluten Free)

I love Elana’s “Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread” (v 2.0), which I’ve been baking about every 2 weeks for about 6 months now. I loved the original recipe, and after making it, immediately set about making versions of it to suit various culinary purposes. Olive loaf, roasted red pepper, sweet zucchini bread, you name it. It pretty much all works.

Until tonight, however, I had been struggling to concoct a version of this bread that fulfilled the high protein / high fat goal as fully as I desired while still tasting delicious. A flax-dominant bread I cooked about a week ago ended up just tasting like flax, so even though it was super low carb, it had that weird “flaxiness” nobody but the intensely dietarily self-deluded can fully enjoy.

Tonight, however… tonight! I was feeling more than a little supermom-like and decided to take a risk with some hemp protein and some hazelnut flour.

The Result:

  • Strong bready bread that doesn’t flop or wimp out. Takes its pats of butter and likes it.
  • Net Carbs (g) in the whole loaf: 50. FIFTY!

So that’s roughly 5g of carbs per slice if you slice thickly like I do. I suppose you could achieve net carbs of 1g if you are insane gifted with bread knife skills.

Here’s the recipe. It uses volumetrically equal portions of hazelnut flour and almond flour and ends up tasting tremendously of neither. I’m very very happy with it.

Watch for “optional” ingredients like kelp and rice vinegar. If you don’t like kelp, don’t use it. I like it. Very optional.

High Protein Nut Flour Bread

    Dry Ingredients:
  • 90g almond flour (~ 2/3 C)
  • 110g hazelnut flour (~ 2/3 C)
  • 60g hemp protein (~ 1/3 C)
  • 10g kelp powder (~ 2 Tbsp) [optional, adds minerals]
  • 1/4 C tapioca flour
  • 27g ground flax seeds (~6 Tb)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum [optional, improves texture]
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    Wet Ingredients
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar (or other acid)
  • 1/2 C coconut milk (or other liquid)
  • 1 Tbsp tamari (or Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce)
  • butter or coconut oil to grease the baking tin
It’s Fun to Bake a Bread. And This is How You Do It.
  1. Preheat your oven, or any desired oven, to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan really well with some butter or coconut oil; set it aside somewhere cool so the fat sticks to the sides instead of sliding down. (This tip filed under Learned-the-Hard-Way.)
  3. In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients, homogenizing as well as possible. Your ground flax, by the way, doesn’t need to be ground powder; a “medium” courseness works just as well and lends an attractive texture to the finished bread.
  4. In a different large bowl of equal or greater size to the other one, whisk the eggs and all the rest of that wet stuff too, come to think of it. Just mix it all up good.
  5. [Optional] Did you add that little bit of kelp powder? Your batter really smells of kelp, right? Don’t worry, it dies down after baking, and the tamari takes the edge off.
  6. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan, smoothing it into all the creases and smoothing the top.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees in desired oven for about 30 minutes (check it at 27). Mine was absolutely perfect at 31 minutes:

Have you tried this out? Are you thinking about it, but don’t know where to find the bizzarro ingredients? Please comment and let me know!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Kickass Carrot Cake (High-Protein, Gluten-Free, Low Sugar)

…by which I mean carrot cake that helps you kick ass. carrot cake recipe board

This recipe was formulated within the constraints of wanting to have a snack in bar form that had enough protein, fat, and fiber to keep me feeling satisfied for a good long while. It took three iterations (one of which tasted strangely like cream cheese icing, despite not containing anything of the sort) to reach a version that had the moist chewy texture that I like, the moderate sweetness I like, and the and spice-cake-y-ness I crave.

And so, behold! In your mind’s eye, because I never took a picture — I kept deciding to eat it instead of take its picture. It’s not a very photogenic cake anyway. But it does look good enough to eat. You’ll just have to make it and see.

Oh, I’ve started using a digital scale to make most of my food nowadays. I’ve included volume measurements somewhat randomly (not helpful). Cooking by weight is awesome and I’m sorry I wasted so much of my life not doing it.

Kickass Carrot Cake

Ingredients:
    Dry:

  • 90g almond flour (1 cup)
  • 150g quick-cooking oats (2 cups)
  • 110g sunflower seeds, ground fine
  • 50g pumpkin seeds, ground fine
  • 100g vanilla protein powder (I use Life’s Basics vanilla)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4g allspice, ground
  • 15g cinnamon, ground
  • 2g cloves, ground
  • 5g green cardamom, ground
    Wet:

  • .5 C butter at room temperature
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 200g yogurt (the best is high-fat goat’s milk)
  • 230g applesauce
  • 100g honey
  • 32g NuNaturals Stevia baking blend (4 Tbsp)
    Filling:

  • 100g shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 500g grated carrots (food processor!!!)
  • 25g grated ginger (food processor!!!) — reduce if you’re not ginger-crazy like I am.
  • a handful of chopped raisins
  • some walnuts, if you like ‘em
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9″x13″ rectangular cooking vessel. I recommend coconut oil.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine and homogenize the dry ingredients. There, that was easy.
  4. Unfortunately, the wet ingredients will require a bit more tact to avoid having the butter and the honey seize up and get all lumpy.
  5. Start by mashing the butter in a huge bowl, either the biggest bowl you’ve got or possibly actually a large cooking pot, which is what I had to use. This is going to get big. Trust me.
  6. Whisk in the eggs using an immersion blender or some elbow grease or what-have-you, followed by the yogurt. Blend well into a nice cream.
  7. Then slowly add the applesauce, stirring as you go. Finally add in the honey with the same cautious deliberation. If you end up with lumps because you did these things out of order, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  8. Sprinkle in the Stevia baking blend stuff, one tablespoon at a time. Taste it after each tablespoon to make sure you haven’t added any weird Stevia back-notes you can’t handle. (I’ve trained my taste buds to ignore a lot of that herby licorice taste.)
  9. OK! You are ready to COMBINE. Pour the dry stuff into the wet stuff about a cup at a time, blending well after each cup.
  10. Now dump in the shredded carrot and shredded ginger. It looks like too much, doesn’t it! But it will work if you followed my weight prescriptions for each ingredient.
  11. Finally, cram that coconut and those raisins and those optional nuts into the mix as hard as you can. URGH!
  12. Spatula the mixture into the greased baking vessel, checking for good evenness.
  13. Bake for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Check it at 30 minutes and again at 35 to make sure it’s not burning. I THINK it was 40 minutes. Yeah.
  14. Huzzah! You now have a high-protein, sorta-low-carb carrot cake sort of thing which is full of great things and contains only tiny bits of gluten from oats. It could also be dairy free if you got coconut yogurt. And I suppose you could swap out the eggs and swap in some kind of flax seed / tapioca flour combination if you needed this to be egg free. And coconut oil would make a great replacement for butter if you wanted to go totally vegan.

    OK! Great! Now I can wipe off this whiteboard and make something else!

    Technorati Tags: , ,

Accidentally Awesome Oat Date Cookies (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

gluten-free and vegan and amazing (really) These chewy, slightly nutty, perfectly moist little oat-date cookies were a complete accident.

[The following is a complete account of how I arrived at devising this recipe, which is quite possibly very boring. If you want to skip ahead to the actual recipe, it's at the bottom.]

On Sunday night I caught a serious baking bug and decided I wanted to use shredded carrots in something. On the back of my package of Bob’s Red Mill Amaranth Flour is a recipe for amaranth carrot cookies. That sounded pretty good, but I didn’t want to make cookies; I wanted bars. Gluten-free (because I feel better that way), carrot-cake-tasting, chewy bars.

Oh, but oops: I ate the last 2 eggs this morning. Ok, so it’ll have to be vegan too.

So I looked online for vegan blondie recipes, finding this wholly approachable gluten-free gem (“Blondies”) on TheSensitivePantry.com. That might have worked, but I lacked the egg replacer and the applesauce.

Besides that, the next recipe reference I found was for carrot cake bars which included raisins and pineapple. Oh yeah, pineapple! Can’t have carrot cake without pineapple.

Finally, a nice looking (but not gluten-free) vegan carrot cake recipe revealed the solution to my particular no-egg problem: flax seeds. Ah, yes! 2 tablespoons of ground flax, hydrated with a bit of water, will replace 1 egg, though not without a bit of nuttiness and perceptible addition of fiber.

I stared at these recipes for a good 10 minutes, then threw a bunch of stuff in a 9×13″ glass casserole and baked it. It took a long time to bake (35 minutes), and I am not good at waiting.

So I stared at all the ingredients I had out in front of me and said, “what can I throw together with all of this stuff that would bake in about 10 minutes?”

Yes, this is how my mind — nay, my whole life — works.

Using roughly the same stuff as the carrot-pineapple bars in the oven, but resolving to reduce the amount of wetness after I saw how mushy were the bars-which-were-not-much-like-bars-at-all, a cookie batter emerged that I could tell would be perfect for oats. But I was fresh out of raisins… ah hah! These dates would do. I’d never cooked with black sphinx dates before, but since these cookies were a total experiment, I figured it was a good time to try.

The resultant cookies from this “method” were so amazing, I could hardly believe my luck at finding all the ingredients scribbled down afterwards. Thanks, younger me!

Well, here are the accidentally awesome oat date cookies.

Ingredients:

[dry]
1 C coconut flour
1 C Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free biscuit and baking flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon

[wet]
5 Tb flax seed, freshly ground + 1/3 C water
1/2 C + 1 Tbsp oil
1/2 C honey
1/2 C light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

[fillings]

2 cups quick-cooking oats (you could try regular oats; let me know how they turn out)
1/2 cup chopped dates (I used fresh black sphinx dates, which were delicious)

What to Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whip up the ground flax seed and water in a large bowl as if they were eggs. Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes. Do the next 3 steps while you’re waiting.
  3. Mix up all the dry ingredients in another large bowl.
  4. Pull out 2 baking sheets and grease them with a little coconut oil (or cooking spray, if you must).
  5. Make tea.
  6. Stir the rest of the wet ingredients into the flax seed mush, starting with the oil, then adding the brown sugar, and finishing with the honey.
  7. Gradually pour and stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones.
  8. You should now have a relatively wet batter that is ready to accept the “filling” ingredients. Start by stirring in the dates, trying as best you can to get them evenly distributed. Then stir in the oats a half-cup at a time. This will probably become physically difficult by the second cup. Your batter will be really sticky, as demonstrated by the picture.
  9. Shape batter into 2- or 3-inch cookies about 1/2-inch tall on the baking sheets. These cookies will not change shape one iota when they bake. So I guess you could make fun shapes or something, if you wanted.
  10. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees F. For me, 12 minutes was PERFECT, but do check them after 10 minutes. They should look just slightly brown on top and on the edges.

Straight out of the oven, these cookies are a little odd. Go ahead and try them, but I guarantee you’ll like them better after they’ve rested and cooled. I liked them the best when I had to feed Calvin at 4am that morning.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Chewy Pumpkin Cocoa Cookies (Gluten Free)

These cookies are omg good. I accidentally came up with
these last night as a combo of two cookie batters that had less
than a full batch left of them: pumpkin cookies and Mexican chocolate cookies. The result was a rich-tasting (but not chocolatey), perfectly chewy cookie that’s like eating pie. I’ve now eaten way too many of them.

3 C almond meal
3 eggs
1 C oat flour
1.25 C turbinado sugar
2/3 C cocoa powder
3 C pumpkin purée
1 Tbsp nutmeg
3 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Technorati Tags: , ,

Almost But Not Quite Delicious Hypoallergenic Oat Cookies

I had an oatmeal cookie craving, but I didn’t have any eggs, so I just made a batch of gluten-free oat cookies without using eggs… or a recipe. I had tapioca flour on hand, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Verdict: not delicious. But it’s worth working on. It can be improved.

Pros:

  • perfect sweetness (for me, which means on the lower end of sweet)
  • perfect shape and appearance
  • delicious batter (much more tasty than the resultant cookies)
  • kinda healthy?

Cons:

  • pretty grainy (I blame an incomplete expression of the tapioca flour, i.e. next time I need to let the batter rest a while to let the tapioca take in moisture)
  • not enough moisture (probably not enough fat, actually. you can’t just substitute a starch — tapioca — for a protein/fat — eggs — without consequences)

Anyway, here’s the dangblasted recipe. Quantities are all estimations since I pretty much “threw” these cookies together. Which is fitting, because as soon as I’d eaten one, I imagined myself “throwing” these cookies in the trash. But I won’t, because I love eating my mistakes.

ANYWAY, here we go… Read the rest of this entry »

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Ow, My Iliopsoas

Since about 2 or 3 weeks after the birth, I’ve had a persistent soreness in my hip flexors. Do I have “Iliopsoas Syndrome”? Sheesh.

How about this: I’ve started sitting a lot, much more than I’d prefer, especially given all the relaxin still in my system. Let’s call it “Breastfeeding a Newborn Syndrome”, also characterized by enlarged shoulder muscles, upper back pain, and chronic sleep deprivation.

Anyway. This is eminently fixable. I rounded up a bunch of exercise-based remedies from sources around the web and collected them here.

Lunging

The key to dynamic stretching of the hip flexors is to do lunges while holding the arms overhead, says this guy. Overhead lunges help pull on the fascia (the sausage-casing sort of stuff around your muscles) of the iliopsoas enough to help the muscle release and achieve a deeper, more meaningful stretch.

Bonus: overhead lunges can be filed under “Exercises To Traumatize Your Baby With”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Calorie Restriction Promotes Lactation

So says the Journal of Nutrition, February 1, 1998:

Maternal plasma prolactin concentration generally increases under conditions of negative energy balance, which may serve to protect lactation.

Interesting.

It’s often said that breastfeeding helps one lose the “baby fat” after birth. So I haven’t been controlling what I eat at all, because the word on the street is “ya gotta eat!”

“Keep your strength up! Breastfeeding is hungry work!”

Well, for the first 2 weeks I was definitely ravenous. So I ate. And my stomach adjusted to larger meals — I was astonished when I found myself actually FINISHING MY PLATE when we started eating out again.

So now, after 9 months of having a tiny stomach (the organ, certainly not the abdomen), I’m back up to eating full plates of food, and my appetite has increased accordingly.

Part of the problem is feeling frantic all the time, because I have a kid who refuses to be put down when he’s awake, and has a very hard time falling asleep under most circumstances. So I go all day eating nothing but finger food (which is great, because I’m eating more fruit and nuts), but feeling pretty underfed. And when he’s finally asleep, I tend to seize the opportunity to prepare food and eat with both hands with a bit too much gusto.

Well, so much for breastfeeding’s magical effect on dropping the baby fat. I’ve actually gained 5 pounds. Granted, most of it would have to be muscle, because my measurements haven’t changed much since the birth.

Here’s the thing. I want to drop off a bunch of this fat. I don’t want to hear anybody giving me a hard time about it, because it comes down to basic economics: Most of my clothes don’t fit very well, and I don’t want to buy new ones.

Conclusion: weight loss via calorie restriction seems like the way to go. And I will do so with peace of mind knowing it won’t endanger my ability to breastfeed — it may even have a promotional effect.

Technorati Tags: ,

The Post-Postpartum Post

At just over six weeks since I gave birth to the new love of my life, Calvin, I am exiting the conservatively-metered post-partum period. I had my 6-week checkup at my midwife’s office yesterday and everything checks out. So now I am cut loose, released to wander the labyrinthine wastes of parenthood with nary a hand to hold save that of my spawn.

Let’s write some junk in this blog, shall we?

Bean Counting

Weight at conception: 135 pounds
Weight directly after birthing: 135 pounds (yeah.)
Weight today: 140 pounds (more muscle, same amount of fat)
Human beans birthed: 1.

Stretch marks: None! Well, maybe a few tiny ones around my belly button. But seriously, I lucked out.

I have a much more obvious “mommy mark” on my chest, though: a quarter-sized burst of varicose veins that looks like a light bruise. Maybe it’ll make a good background for a tattoo someday.

Horrific Itching: GONE. There were a few random nights in the first 14 days after the birth where I was getting those wild spastic itch feelings again, and I worried my little head over what it meant — was I cursed with The Unexplainable Itch forever? But it went away.

So. It wasn’t stress, it wasn’t cholestasis, it wasn’t dry skin (I’m moisturizing LESS now), and it wasn’t dermatitis. It was probably progesterone. But who knows. Can’t re-run that experiment.

New fun: Night Sweats. I have never sweat so much in my entire life. I’m guessing the sudden drops in progesterone are to blame, since this is also a symptom of menopause. However, I haven’t totally soaked the sheets in over 2 weeks now, so I think the worst is over.

Breastfeeding… deserves a post all its own. In fact, several. I was thinking of naming the first one, “Breastfeeding: the World’s Most Perfect Torture”. (Before you worry: yes I am still breastfeeding exclusively, and yes it has gotten better.)

Body: not too shabby. I felt pretty well “put back together” after about 2 weeks.

On the 4th day I went out for a modest walk, just a coffee run to Philz, and I remember tweeting that I was “luxuriating in the need to take it slow”. My pelvic floor was not particularly happy with all of that movement (I felt a swelling ache about 3/4s of the way through the walk), but the rest of my body was lapping it up. I just had to keep my glutes and abs engaged to hold everything together.

I had NO vaginal tears from birth (I will hereby swear by perineal stretching); just a bruise and a couple of scratches that healed up in about 7 days. Made bathroom visits an eye-opening experience, but I was high on adrenaline and didn’t feel like sleeping anyway.

Since late 5th week, I’ve been doing a sequence of strict, regimented floor exercises based on Pilates and yoga to train my torso to some semblance of pre-pregnancy condition. My goal is to fit into my pre-pregnancy gi.

It’s all straight from this book by Helene Byrne (Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best). I haven’t been able to string together the 45 minutes it takes to get through this routine all at once, so I keep the book open to the last exercise I get through, and when the baby’s having one of those rare not-hungry-not-wet-not-cranky moments (he so rarely naps), I lie down next to the book and see how far I can get.

Alright, that’s enough rambling.

I’m still working on my Birth Story, so look for that soon. Yes, even more gory, gooey details to stuff in your eyeholes!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Coconut Lamb Stew

Last Monday, Calvin’s granddad Greg came by to meet the grandson and drop off a care package loaded with red meat (yay!) and hard cider (yay!). The cider has come in handy after particularly stressful fuss-feedings (Calvin’s a comfort eater already! I’m a failure!), and the red meat keeps my energy up while I’m healing from childbirth and producing milk.

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, actually using the raw materials in our fridge to make food has become The Impossible Dream. This past week buzzed by, loaded with Calvin’s fussy spells and funny smells, and four out of six of our dinners at home turned into “where should we order from?”

So on Saturday night, we found ourselves with 2 pounds of lamb steaks in the fridge that absolutely had to be used that night, along with numerous vegetables with no plan. Greg, though, had planted a good idea in our heads: a lamb stew made with coconut milk and plenty of turmeric, chili powder, and cumin.

I had no idea how to actually assemble this stew. So I took some inspiration from this Lamb and Coconut Milk Stew on examiner.com, an Anglo-Indian concoction that seemed to have the right idea. I doubled some quantities, mixed in the spices I wanted, and it all turned out pretty great.

Really great, actually. A+++ Would Cook Again… Calvin-allowing, of course.

So here’s my own version — a warming, mildly spicy, very creamy lamb stew. The cinnamon gives it a mildly Moroccan flavor; you could push it further in that direction by adding raisins.

Ingredients

2 in square fresh ginger, chopped
1/3 C fresh garlic, chopped
2 Tb turmeric
1 Tb cumin
1/2 Tb red pepper flakes
1 Tb whole peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves

2 pounds lamb
2 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
2 cans coconut milk (14oz each)
1 Tb fresh lime or lemon juice
Oil for frying

Getting On With It

  1. Peel and finely chop garlic and ginger.
  2. Cut the potatoes into quarters.
  3. Peel the carrot and cut into medallions.
  4. Wash, drain and pat dry the lamb and cut into 1 inch cubes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use about twice as much salt than you normally would to coat the typical steak.
  5. Heat oil in a pan. Crackle the whole spices: Whole peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves.
  6. Add the chopped ginger and garlic. Saute well.
  7. Add the lamb cubes and saute till the meat is seared.
  8. Add two or three cups of water, enough to cover the lamb.
  9. Add cumin, turmeric, and red pepper flakes.
  10. Bring to a boil, close the lid and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.
  11. When the lamb is approximately half done, add in the potatoes and carrots. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  12. Pour in both cans of coconut milk. Mix well and cover with lid and keep simmering for another 10 – 15 minutes.
  13. Add lime juice.
  14. Test for adequate saltiness and whatnot. Needs something? A dash of tabasco sauce? Try it.
  15. Continue to cook until the lamb and vegetables are “done”.
  16. EAT. Avoid burning mouth. This stuff has a hella high specific heat.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

←Older