Quiet Triumphs

ImageThis is Oakley at three months old.It’s the photo that I saw on line and fell in love with.

ImageThis is the adolescent Oakley, about 5 and a half months old, when he came home. If you can imagine what it would be like to adopt a ten year old boy who was profoundly gifted but had ADHD and had to deal with the baggage of living in an orphanage for nearly his whole life after getting placed there in infancy, that should give you a rough idea of what training him was like.

ImageAnd this is the guy he’s grown up to be.  It took six exhausting months, but he turned into the dog that his teachers, the owner of the shop where I buy his supplies, and my heart all knew that he would be.

This week, he started walking at a large state park that had given him the heebie-jeebies in the past. Spending one’s first six months exposed to not much more than concrete and tile surfaces will do that to a guy. More than a handful of steps lead to a meltdown. Instead of throwing himself on the ground and shrieking as would a human child, he would jump and mouth my forearms until I stepped on the leash, forcing him into a down until he composed himself and we could continue. 

It took time. A lot of that six months, in fact. Finally, at a forest preserve with a paved trail, he did a lap without incident, and a couple of days later two laps, and then he wanted to explore the paths branching off of it. And then the part of his brains that knew that walks in the woods were part of the essence of dog-ness woke up. 

This particular park has a right-of-way near power lines for the local electric company. The  constant buzz and hum likely made his ears uncomfortable, leading to meltdowns the first times I tried to walk him there.

This week, however, we walked there twice. Once on a hot muggy morning; today beneath grey skies. We stayed away from the power lines, though. Oakley found new things to sniff and explore along the river while getting us both some badly needed exercise after this near-tropical week. 

A splendid time was had by both. A long enough time coming, but sweeter than sweet.


ISO Grain Free Pizza Crust and Wraps, or Learn to Make Socca

My first try involved flaxseeds, an egg, and a little water. It came out an odd shade of purple with a sponge-like taste and texture. No. I am too fond of people who read this blog to tell them where I found it.

Some of the other recipes involved making what amounts to an omelet. No. 

And then came The Revelation: socca. It’s a flatbread from southern France traditionally served as an appetizer or a snack. It’s made with chickpea flour, a little salt, water, and olive oil in its purest form. Some recipes call for a little rosemary, too. Try this one: http://newgrainrecipes.com/the-incredible-socca

If you were to close your eyes, click your heels, and wish to find yourself in Nice, and it worked, then this might be offered to you when you landed. It would have been baked in a wood oven and drizzled with really, really good olive oil.  Depending on your manifestation skills, you might even have Alain Delon serving you. However, for the rest of us, a frying pan will do the trick, especially in a week of near tropical humidity.

I made pizza topped with goat cheese (which my tummy approves of), sauteed leeks, and kalamata olives. I liked and Hubby liked.

I started thinking that one of these lovely wraps might be good with tuna or mahi mahi, some lettuce, tomato, and onions, and drizzled with vinegrette, or perhaps with salsa and avocado and a sprinkle of goat cheese.

I don’t think I can go wrong.  




Suffering and Blueberry Muffins Do Not Exist in the Same Space

Been spending a lot of time perusing the gluten/grain-free sites. So far, I’ve made some incredibly luscious blueberry muffins with coconut flour and an almond/coconut flour chai-spiced sweet potato bread. No complaints. Both were as good as their wheat counterparts.

The biggest problem I’ve had is remembering that while my body does prefer grain and dairy free, I still have to mind calories. Since last fall, I’ve gone down two pants sizes and hope to lose two more. If I’m eating lemon bars with an almond crust followed by cookies topped with coconut milk ice cream, it ain’t gonna happen.

The non-grain flours do behave differently. Coconut flour absorbs moisture at an unbelievable rate, so you only need about 1/4-1/3 of a cup to a cup of wheat flour. Almond flour can be substituted at a 1:just under 1 ratio for wheat flour. 

Many of these flours are lower on the glycemic scale as well–the odds of them contributing to blood sugar spikes is a lot lower. 

Next up: finding a tortilla substitute. I think I’ll try socca, a flatbread from southern France made with chickpea flour. I found a recipe for a pizza that uses it as the base….


Because Suffering and Blueberry Muffins Cannot Exist in the Same Place

The experiments continue. 

Coconut flour blueberry muffins are pretty darn good. I made a batch last weekend. Very moist. Very yummy.

Chocolate-avocado pudding is very yummy. 

The only fail was a flaxseed-based tortilla substitute. It had a weird spongy texture and a really strange purple-brown color. Even when amped up with a liberal shot of salsa to go over my eggs, it had no flavor. Probably a sponge would have had more taste and been less effort.

Still, the benefits of cutting down on dairy and grain outweigh the hassles. I’m not having any cravings for anything, including chocolate. I’m not plagued by brain fog and my energy level is holding its own.

We’ve all heard the saying “when one door closes, another one opens.” The gift is that I get to learn how to work with these new culinary colleagues and craft dishes that are just as tasty as ones made with dairy and grain.

The biggest issue so far is having to remind myself that the cakes, lemon bars, and cookies are intended as treats, dear, not for steady consumption.

Tonight’s experiment: a pizza with a socca base. Socca is a chickpea flatbread with origins in southern France. I have a little goat cheese and cherry tomatoes for topping it.

Let the experiments begin. 

The “Mythbusters” Culinary Academy: A Father’s Day Tribute

The nightly ritual chez moi involves watching at least part of an episode of “Mythbusters” on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, the hosts of the show, Jamie and Adam along with their colleagues explore myths and legends to see if they have any scientific validity. They’ve made a lead balloon that flew; they’ve launched a plane from a conveyer belt of sorts. 

Even when the myth they’re testing gets “busted,” or found to be invalid, they keep experimenting to find out what would have to happen to achieve the intended effect. Such as building a human analog with the necessary plumbing to see if it were true that relieving one’s self on an electrified rail would result in electrocution. 

When I learned to cook at my father’s elbow, it wasn’t that different. 

When Dad was a year younger than me, he had the first in a series of heart attacks that landed him on disability eighteen months later. The legacy of a high stress job as a biochemist combined with years smoking, being sedentary, and letting his weight get out of hand lead to all of it. He wound up on a raft load of medications that didn’t seem to work that well, except for the nitro tabs that relieved his angina. 

And then there was the question of salt-free cooking. Salt works its magic not just by enhancing flavors, but by facilitating chemical reactions such as those in baking. 

Somewhere in that year and a half, my mother passed on. We–Dad, my brother, and I–had to learn how to cook, and do so quickly to save ourselves from my well meaning but culinary challenged paternal grandmother who moved in with us to help out. My sister had already been launched and was a good cook in her own right, so she was spared the horror of American chop suey (a melange of hamburger, cooked elbow macaroni, and tomato sauce. Nothing else. Yes, it was that bad, and the lack of salt made it worse). (However, to Gram’s credit, she had been a highly respected elementary school teacher. She just never quite got the cooking thing down very well. Except for Jell-o. She made the best cherry walnut Jell-o.)

Forgive the digression. So Dad ran out to our local friendly bookstore and bought every cookbook covering beginning cooking and living salt-free. With the same determination and curiosity that Jamie and Adam use in debunking urban legends, he went about debunking the notion that salt-free food was inherently nasty.  

Successes were many. The soup I still weep for; the tomato sauce recipe I still use; his homemade bread; grilling all worked pretty well thanks to the judicious addition of extra herbs, garlic, and lemon juice or a splash of wine.

The flops: anything involving reduced sodium baking powder until he realized that the conversion table was all wrong and it took a tablespoon of it to give the cornbread the needed loft; the first loaves of bread that could have made doorstops. Like Jamie and Adam, he used his scientific knowledge to recalculate and reach the intended effect.

And the totally unintended: a batch of yeast dough that went completely berserk and kept growing, even in the refrigerator.

So we grew into good cooks. And it was a lot more fun learning science that way than in the classroom. “Put the baking powder in. Now put in the vinegar. See, that’s what happens when you mix acid with alkaline. Don’t ever do it with anything stronger.” 

I kept my curiosity contained to the kitchen, thankfully. If Google had been around then, and I’d had some of the friends I have now, there would likely be a crater someplace that we might know something about. Or pleading the Fifth over.

So I keep channeling my curiosity into cuisine. Especially now that I have the restrictions on grains and dairy. It’s fun to approach the new lessons as I did as a ten year old in Dad’s kitchen. 

And sometimes, if I can really still my mind, I can sense his presence.



Change as the Constant

So I go for my third acupuncture treatment this afternoon. If anyone had ever told me that sitting for up to 45 minutes with needles inserted in my wrists, ankles, knees, ears, and the top of my head was one of the most relaxing things I’d ever do, I would have wondered about them. 

So far, I’m feeling a lot more pulled together. The brain fog has dissipated, finally. The only disappointment was that the needle at the crown of my head didn’t pull in any signals from Mars. 

The other recommendation: relegate grain and dairy to occasional treat status. When the acupuncturist recommended that, I had the urge to roll into a ball. The needles in my feet and ankles precluded that. 

So I quietly dealt with it. 

Me: OMGOMGOMG I have to give up grains and dairy!! 

Inner wisdom: You can still have them as treats.

Me: I can’t have cheese! What about milk in my tea?

Inner wisdom: You can still have nuts, avocado, and olives in your salads. There are a lot of milk alternatives that will be pretty tasty. You can find treats that fit your needs on the web.

Me: BUT–

Inner wisdom: Think about your friends who have a lot of restrictions. They’ve found yummy stuff. So will you.

Me: BUT–


Sometimes, you just need to grab your own shoulders and get back to reality.

In this case, I found some teas that pair well with almond and coconut milk. I fudged on the grain-free recommendations with some gluten-free crackers. And I found some macaroons without flour in them. Yum. 

I also fudged with a small amount of feta in a salad. Not to be done every day, but there were no adverse consequences. 

In addition to the brain fog finally dissipating, I haven’t had the bloating that was sometimes so bad that I was relegated to my yoga pants for comfort. 

Sometimes, change isn’t such a bad thing after all.