Vegan Almond Butter Hummus, or painting with a restricted palate

IMG_5227This afternoon, 10 (mostly) Americans gathered at our friend’s 300-year-old farmhouse in Lorraine to celebrate Easter the traditional way: consuming copious quantities of home-cooked food together. We had a couple vegetarians in our midst and based our feast on vegan delicacies, if you don’t count the marvellous braised lamb prepared by our host.

I’ve been on a restricted diet for the past nine weeks. The purpose is to restore the skewed balance in my intestinal flora, as well as to cure recurring, painful oral infections (a horn player’s nightmare!) My inspiration for taking this on was the well-researched, humorous, first-hand account penned by a favourite author of mine, Cash Peters. His book on tackling Candida albicans overgrowth was a revelation to me and explained many other health issues I’d dealt with over the years. His blog is at least as fun as mine and is worth perusing, while you’re at it! Several doctor’s and nutritionist’s appointments, tests, and treatments of various sorts later (note to self: don’t mention colonic irrigation in a blog with a recipe,) I’ve settled into a rhythm of different foods, supplements, and the inevitable emotional/spiritual changes and vulnerability that come from willingness to heal.

You’d think we all want to be healthy and whole all the time, and in theory, we do. The problem is, we get so used to our imbalances and pain that the work involved in transformation feels like an uncrossable chasm. Insane, no? I tend to treasure my convictions anyway (such as, I’m already a healthy eater – what could diet have to do with any of my problems?) so it takes some doing to change course. As it turned out, I’m missing an antibody that protects the mucous membranes along with having a yeast intolerance, combining to muck up the works. Stress definitely plays a role. Did I mention that I play horn for a living?

It has been a hard regimen, I won’t lie. Maddeningly frustrating, sometimes, since food is one of the main ways we commune with others in social situations. Nine weeks in, though, my symptoms have disappeared, I’ve lost 6 kilos without trying, and my energy is good and steady. I’m slowly re-introducing foods banned on the Candida diet (hello, Rioja and potatoes! Berries and bananas, you’re next, my old friends!) Cooking has proven a challenge. We often make parallel meals, or mine serves as a side dish for my husband. Despite the restrictions, I’ve come up with some gorgeous new additions to the repertoire. You’d be surprised how a narrowed list of allowed foods can spark your creativity. Here’s my vegan almond hummus that proved a massive hit at Easter lunch today.

Since recipes don’t usually read as “a glob of this and some bits of that,” I’ve done my best to provide proportions for you. Feel free to play around with them according to taste.

Ingredients:

-250 g (about 8 oz.) cooked chickpeas, drained

-1/2 cup almond butter, either blanched or natural. I used blanched today.

-1/4 cup yoghurt (soy for vegan hummus, also excellent with Greek-style or goat’s milk yoghurt)

-2-3 cloves raw garlic

-a few healthy glugs of extra virgin olive oil

-juice of 1-1 1/2 lemons, to taste

-1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin

-Himalaya salt to taste

-sweet or smoked paprika for garnish

Add all ingredients except paprika to your food processor (mine is a sturdy Magimix that would break your foot if you dropped it!) and blend until smooth, adding additional olive oil if needed for consistency. Add salt to taste.

Pour into decorative dish and garnish with drizzled olive oil and paprika. Plop in a sprig of parsley if you’re feeling frisky. Enjoy with raw veggies, rice cakes, or whatever takes your fancy.

The secret to a healing or detoxifying diet is to focus on and be grateful for what you CAN eat, rather than bemoaning what you give up. Come to think of it, that’s true in pretty much any area of life, isn’t it?

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Messing around with cherries

>> June is cherry time! Thanks to friends who brought loads of them to brunch on Sunday, I found myself wondering what to do with the ones I didn’t gobble up right away (an alarming amount, to be honest!) So this afternoon after pitting a kilo of Royal Annes, I invented a recipe using what I had at hand. They’re tasty, easy to make, and as most of the ingredients are organic, quite healthy. At least until you ice them!

Chocolate Cherry Spelt Muffins/Cupcakes

Makes about 12 muffins in larger tins

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup honey
3 eggs, beaten
1/3-1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups spelt flour (you can use wheat if you prefer, but spelt makes them nice and chewy)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, and a dash or two black pepper
100 g (4 oz.) finely grated baking chocolate
1 1/3 cups cherries, pitted & halved

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit.) In a medium to large-sized mixing bowl, whip butter and honey together with a whisk until creamy. Mix in eggs, one at a time, then the milk and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together all the rest of the ingredients except cherries. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, just until blended (add a little more milk if it seems too dry.) Fold in the cherries. Put paper muffin cases in muffin tins and spoon in mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing, if you want to ice them. I used royal icing, but feel free to make your own and even decorate them if you are so inclined…

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