Feast or Famine

It’s been a few months since I wrote my last blog post. That’s kind of how things work around here. I’ll have two good days in a row, get a lot of things done, and then back to normal.   Normal means dragging myself out of bed in the morning, spending more time in the recliner than I’d like, and just not having energy to go for a walk even when I really feel like it. At the time I wrote last, I was eating really well. Veggie smoothies for breakfast, protein and salad for lunch and dinner. I lost 7 pounds. Since I can’t exercise, I have to do the best I can with just my diet. It was hard, but it was going pretty well.

Until that one day…

I was having leftover salad for lunch. I didn’t want to do any extra dishes, so I was eating it right out of the big yellow Tupperware bowl. Because, why not? My husband looked at it and said, “Why are you eating out of the serving dish?” My husband, who eats whatever he wants, because he bicycles several times a week. The guy who eats chocolate and nuts and crackers every single day. And all those weeks of deprivation came to the surface. I thumped the bowl down hard onto the table. “It’s just lettuce! It’s just fucking lettuce!” And then I cried. For a long time. Since I only cry once a year, I get it all out at once. It’s fun for other people to be around. My poor husband couldn’t figure out what he’d done. (Answer: nothing, it was all me.) All the frustration of doing exactly what I was supposed to and having so little to show for it, just got to be too much. And if you’re human, there’s always something to cry about, isn’t there?

That’s when I decided I was just going to eat what I wanted to for a while. It’s been grand. In the past few months I’ve enjoyed at least three chocolate croissants from Le Petit Outré. And good bread. And cheese, and yogurt. Things I hadn’t eaten much of for a long time. I enjoyed not being hungry all the time. I didn’t have to carry a snack in my purse to ward off low blood sugar and imminent starvation.

The list of things I don’t normally eat is a particularly long and delicious list.

Now, I do still have some standards. I never ever eat fast food. I don’t drink soda. There’s no reason to kill myself off all at once. I have gained back two pounds, but I figure they are pounds of fat composed of really good food. That must mean something.

We decided last week that it was time to do a Whole30 for a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I’m actually looking forward to it. Because when I eat whatever I want, I always forget that it’s not just about my weight. It’s about being tired all the time, acid reflux, muscle cramps from too much salt, blood sugar boomerangs, and the long term effects of all this food on my body. Like the possibility of cancer. Which I’d really prefer to never think about, but I’m in my 50’s, and my mom died of cancer. I’m not going to let it scare me, but if I can eat more veggies and fewer sweets, it’s probably a good thing.

For a few weeks anyway. And then comes Thanksgiving. With any luck, some of my kids will come home this year, and I’m looking forward to it. And I love baking. I really do. It’s nice to have someone to bake for.

I have to remind myself from time to time that our ancestors were definitely feast or famine. When there was food to be had, they ate a lot, in preparation for the inevitable lean times. We’re still wired to do that, and to seek out sweet foods and lots of calories. The problem is that now that food is always available, we have to write new rules for eating. This somehow reminds me of an old joke:

Three statisticians are out hunting when they see a deer. The first statistician takes aim and shoots, but the bullet goes past the deer’s nose by 9 inches. Then, the second statistician takes aim and fires, but the bullet goes past the deer’s rump by 9 inches.

The third statistician exclaims: “We got him!”

The point is, it averages out. I hope.

IMG_4346(1)I got the coolest warty pumpkin on the last day of my CSA. I wouldn’t let my husband carve it for Halloween; instead, I’ve been using it in several dishes. I made a great pumpkin soup with ginger, added some pumpkin puree to a tomato soup to make it the best ever, and made three batches of pumpkin muffins. I also roasted the seeds, of course.

It is pumpkin season. I went to Trader Joe’s in Spokane a few weeks ago and it seemed that about half of the regular things in the store had magically transmogrified to a pumpkin version.  Everything from coffee to pasta sauce, to cookies and chocolate.  Strange.  Anyway, I didn’t go too far “out there” with the pumpkin muffins.  I made a whole wheat version with Craisins and candied ginger, one using coconut and almond flours, with pecans, and a third with almond flour only, studded with Craisins and pecans.  The third was by far the best.  The second recipe had a strange texture and wasn’t that great overall so I’m not including the recipe here.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins
This recipe is borrowed from Cookie and Kate.  I made a few adaptations.

Maple-Sweetened Pumpkin Muffins with Oats
Makes 10 to 12 muffins

⅓ cup melted coconut oil
½ cup maple syrup
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin purée
¼ cup milk of choice (I used coconut milk)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice or cloves
1¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour or regular whole wheat flour
⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit . If necessary, grease ten cups of your muffin tin with butter or coconut oil.
In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup  together with a whisk. Add eggs, and beat well. Mix in the pumpkin purée and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice or cloves.
Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined. If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now.  I added about a cup of Craisins (to a double recipe) and chopped, candied ginger.  Next time I’d add nuts as well.
Divide the batter evenly between the ten muffin cups. For these muffins, it’s ok to fill the cups a little higher than you normally would. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats, followed by a sprinkle of cinnamon. Bake muffins for 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack. These muffins are delicate until they cool down  so it’s best to wait until they have cooled down to remove them from the tin. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan.

 

Grain-free Pumpkin Muffins
    makes about 2 dozen muffins

Adapted from Mutritious Nuffins
I didn’t have to change very much–just the oil used.  The recipe called for olive oil and I subbed coconut because I thought it would taste better.  The spices in this are just spot on.

2 cups  blanched almond flour (I used Honeyville from Costco)
1 tsp  baking soda
1/2 tsp  sea salt
1/2 tsp  each: nutmeg, allspice, cloves
1 cup  pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/4 cup  melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup  chopped nuts (for topping)
Optional add ins: raisins, coconut, chocolate chips for topping.  My additions were Craisins again, and pecans.

To make your muffins:
1.  Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins with muffin liners.
2.  Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, be sure to remove lumps.
3.  Mix wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
4.  Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
5.  Pour batter into muffin tin, about 3/4 cup full for each.
6.  Bake for 22-24 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I never put the entire amount of sweetener called for in a recipe.  I usually reduce it by at least a third.  I did that in this recipe and they were still plenty sweet.

I had a little bit of batter left over and cooked it in a custard cup for a few minutes in the microwave.  Served with cream, it was reminiscent of a plum pudding or gingerbread.  Very good.

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