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Want a non-vegan recipe made vegan? Need help with creating a delicious vegan meal plan? There’s a person for that!

August 1, 2011
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Kreeli's Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Kreeli's Lentil Shepherd's Pie

My lovely and very talented friend, Kreeli, who also happens to have several years of being a professional vegan baker under her belt, has come up with what I think is a bit of a novel idea.

For those of you who are newly vegan or are longtime vegans and just need a deft hand and keen eye in perfecting a recipe, Kreeli is your mistress of all things cookery.

For just $5, you can ask her to convert a non-vegan recipe into a stellar vegan version. And I’m more than willing to bet she’ll make the vegan recipe even better than the original. (How do I know this? I’ve eaten her cooking and baking, and have witnessed her genius in the kitchen.) Check out some of her creations here and here and here, as well as some of her photos here in this blog post.

Kreeli also offers customised meal planning at 7 meals of your choice for just $5! Seriously, that’s an incredible deal, especially if you have neither the time or the patience to do meal planning yourself.  And, if you’ve ever found yourself stuck in a cooking rut or at a loss about where to even start with meal planning, Kreeli has some pretty admirable skills in that department. She can even accommodate any allergy or food sensitivity needs you might  have. (Again, I know this because she’s baked gluten-free for me too.)

As a mother who has raised her brood as vegans since 1998, Kreeli can answer just about any question you have about veganism. Whether it’s about raising healthy vegan children or the ins and outs of navigating the supermarket as a vegan, she’s one person I’d completely trust to have on my side.

So at just $5 a shot, how can you not afford to take Kreeli up on her offers?

Kreeli's Pad Thai for Vegan Dummies

Kreeli's Pad Thai for Vegan Dummies

Kreeli's Nutty Oat and Veggie Patties

Kreeli's Nutty Oat and Veggie Patties

Kreeli's Lithuanian Potato Roll with Mushrooms

Kreeli's Lithuanian Potato Roll with Mushrooms

Kreeli's Coconut Korma with Split Pea Fritters

Kreeli's Coconut Korma with Split Pea Fritters

Weeks Four and Five, in which I rethink the anti-candida diet

August 1, 2011

Week four of the ACD started out kinda shaky. That is, I neither had time to create a full menu for the week, nor did I have the time to actually go shopping for everything. (Without a car and only my own two hands to carry everything, food shopping can be a challenge sometimes.) And, to be honest, getting up at 5:30 a.m. most mornings to make breakfast from scratch, as well as spending at least an hour and a half in the kitchen in the evenings, was becoming pretty exhausting. So, the eating during week four consisted of a lot of creations made by solely by what I happened to have on hand. It worked out pretty well, actually, though I can’t say I recommend this as a strategy when following a plan like the ACD. However, despite the challenges, I stuck to the plan – no sugar, no yeast, no gluten – and wasn’t actually tempted to stray from it.

I did introduce a plant-based digestive enzyme into the supplements I take, as I had begun to get the feeling that perhaps many of the issues I attribute to candida could be the result of really poor digestion due to weak stomach acid. I don’t really want to get into details much, except to say that I noticed some compelling clues that lead me to believe weak digestion could be the root cause of several of my health issues.

And I’m sure that my long-held habits of overeating and not chewing my food properly are likely not helping my cause either.

Then week five came along.

For weeks I’d been excitedly anticipating a camping trip with several friends. This trip, planned long before I ever embarked on the ACD, called for food that was easy to store and make and didn’t require a lot of prep time. Since I work full time, making a bunch of ACD-friendly food in advance wasn’t an option for me. (This is especially since I do all the cooking in my home.) In my mind there’s not a lot of options outside of fresh produce for food that’s warming, nourishing, and satisfying to eat on a camping trip that is also ACD-friendly and that I could easily make or purchase.

I did make a menu, but I decided there were a few concessions that needed to be made, such as eating gluten-free English muffins, more fruit than the ACD calls for, and some veggie dogs and veggie bacon that are definitely not gluten- or yeast-free. (Really though, who can go camping a turn down a freshly browned veggie dog straight from the campfire? Not me!) Ultimately, though, my resolve to stick to the ACD as much as I could crumbled when I started to see how difficult it was for me to go camping and still maintain the eating plan. So, I decided to allow myself to eat what I liked, in moderation, and that once I got back home I would jump right back into the ACD plan.

Well, my camping trip ended up in me eating a lot more cookies, chips, and other foods that I hadn’t ever intended to eat. (This was begun by having to test one of these cookies from a batch I’d promised to make for my friends.) And I’ve come to a few realizations that have helped me decide that perhaps the ACD plan is not the direction I need to be headed in.

Here’s the thing – when I tested that cookie, I didn’t enjoy it at all. After four weeks without any sugar, I found the sweetness of the cookies to be overwhelming. But I gobbled down many other cookies and sweet things during the weekend. And I know I wasn’t eating them because I truly wanted them. I understand now, more than ever, that my control issues with sugar don’t necessarily stem from yeasties somewhere down in my gut, demanding to be fed sugar. My issues with sugar stem from other more addiction-related mental health issues that I’d rather not get into here.

During the first four weeks of the plan I included a few things in my diet that I decided were okay for me to have, such as unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, tofu, soy milk, rice, quinoa, and amaranth. I also continued to take a B12 supplement that contained a sugar derivative, as well as an alcohol-based homeopathic thyroid treatment. And none of the symptoms I’ve been attributing to ACD returned. In fact, all of my symptoms disappeared within the first 4 to 5 days and my withdrawal symptoms were so minimal they were almost unnoticeable. My acid reflux/GERD improved vastly, although I still wasn’t digesting my food properly. All but one of my symptoms disappeared and have not come back. That one symptom, which has always remained, is directly attributed to weak stomach acid.

Weak stomach acid = acid reflux = poorly digested food = a potential for multiple health issues. And this is especially true if, like I tend to do, too much of the wrong foods are eaten too much of the time, and they’re not chewed properly.

If I do have a problem with candida, it may  not be the root cause of my health concerns. Instead, perhaps weak digestion could be the root cause of many things, including any possible candida issues I could have.

For many other people, I do believe that they could have genuine health concerns with candida that do lead to some very real, very debilitating symptoms. For me, however, I’m not so sure anymore that candida is a main health issue or even an issue at all. Perhaps my issues stem from poor nutrition by way of unhealthy foods and food in general not being digested properly. While this doesn’t mean I’ll be jumping back into drinking coffee and tea, loads of yeasted things, or anything else I desire, it does mean that I won’t be nearly as restrictive with what I include in my diet. I now know what foods help me to feel more healthy and what foods should be kept to a minimum.

Being more responsible and eating a more healthful diet instead of falling back on prepackaged foods and lots of wheat and sugar really seems to be the answer for me. Eating much smaller portions and chewing my food well also seem to be good starting point for the next road ahead of me.

Black Bean Pancakes with Smoky Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce

July 16, 2011
Black Bean Pancakes with a Smoky Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce, Habinero Hot Sauce, and a Chunky Guacamole

Black Bean Pancakes with a Smoky Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce, Habinero Hot Sauce, and a Chunky Guacamole

It seems a bit serendipitous that around the time I had seriously begun thinking about tacking an ACD plan I also discovered a new gluten-free grocery store in my neighbourhood. While there is a decent selection of vegan items, I was disappointed to discover that many of them included sugar and yeast. I was really pleased, though, when I spied a bag of black bean flour from Bob’s Red Mill. Without any idea of what I would do with it, I took it anyway thinking that I could use it in much the same way that chickpea (besan) flour is used for crepes, socca, eggless omelettes, and a variety of other baked or fried tasties.

The first time I used the black bean flour, I’d had guacamole-stuffed omelettes in mind. The omelettes turned out fantastically (I’d have posted a photo, but my camera chose that very moment to run out of power). What I noticed about the bean batter was that it was much thicker than either of the batters made from the chickpea and mung bean flours I’d been using. I thought, “What a great pancake batter this would make!” And indeed it did. Although it’s a bit hard to see in this photo, the pancakes turn out a vibrant shade of indigo-purple due to the black bean skins ground up into the flour.

The flour isn’t cheap or easy to find (I paid about $9 for my bag), though a little goes a long way because the flour makes very dense and filling pancakes. If you happen to have a really great coffee/spice grinder or grain mill (maybe even a VitaMix would work), you could be thrifty by trying to make your own black bean flour.

Black Bean Pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill black bean flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3-4 cloves freshly crushed garlic
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups water (1/4 to 1/2 cup of more water may be needed; see below for notes)
1 tbsp olive or coconut oil

Directions

1. Preheat a well-seasoned cast iron pan or non-stick pan over medium heat.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the black bean flour, sea salt, and garlic. Mix the mixture with a fork to evenly combine.

3. Add the lemon juice and water and thoroughly whisk the batter with a hand whisk to get rid of any lumps and combine all the ingredients. The batter should be thick enough to thickly coat the back of a spoon. (Note: if the batter is let sit for even just a few minutes, it can thicken quite a bit. You may need to add anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup more water to keep the batter from getting too thick and unpourable.)

4. Add the olive or coconut oil to the preheated pan. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure as your batter ladle, pour 1/4 of pancake batter into the pan for each pancake.

5. Cook the pancakes on one side for 5-7 minutes, or until the edges are a dark golden brown and the tops are just dry. Flip the pancakes over and cook another 5-7 minutes. Remove from the frying pan and serve topped with salsa, sour cream, hot sauce, guacamole, or a smoky roasted bell pepper sauce (recipe below).

6. If not eating right away, these pancakes keep fairly well in a covered casserole in the stove on a very low warming heat.

Makes 8 4-inch pancakes.

 

Smoky Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce

Ingredients

1 large red sweet bell pepper

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

1/4 cup silken tofu

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2 tbsp water (optional, depending on the thickness of the sauce)

Directions

1. Using an oven-proof dish or cookie sheet, roast the bell pepper under your oven broiler until the pepper’s skin is blackened on all sides, about 20 minutes. (Remember to keep an eye on the pepper and turn it when one side is black enough.) When it’s finished, pop it into a paper bag and close the top, leaving it to sit for 10 minutes. This will allow for easier peeling of the charred skin off the pepper.

2. When it’s just cool enough to handle, stem and seed the pepper and slice it into quarters.

3. In a blender, combine the pepper, paprika, tofu, and sea salt. Blend the mixture on high until well combined and smooth and creamy. Depending on how thick the sauce is, add up to 2 tbsp of water (or more, if necessary) until you get the thickness you like.

4. Serve as a sauce over pancakes, crepes, tofu or bean flour omelettes, steamed veggies, in burritos or wraps, or use it as a dipping sauce.

Makes about 1 cup.

Photo Gallery: What the heck does a vegan eat on an anti-candida diet?

July 16, 2011

When I first thought about what I was going to eat on the ACD, I was more than a bit worried, especially about what I was going to eat for breakfast.

Now, as I start my third week on the plan, I’m happy to say that I’ve eaten a lot better than I thought I would thanks to some serious menu planning and creativity in the kitchen. Although I have been spending quite a bit more time in the kitchen than I thought that I would, I’ve discovered some new ingredients, such as whole bean flours, that have made creating crepes, omelettes, pancakes, pizzas, and other creations much easier than I would have thought possible.

Here are some pictures of just a few of the colourful and filling meals I’ve created during my first two weeks on the anti-candida diet.

 

Scrambled Tofu with Sauteed Swiss CHard

Scrambled Tofu with Sauteed Swiss Chard

Socca Pizza with Olives, Onions, Roasted Garlic, and Roasted Bell Pepper

Socca Pizza with Olives, Onions, Roasted Garlic, and Roasted Bell Pepper

Rutabaga Hash with Rice Biscuits and Smoky Caramelized Onion Gravy

Rutabaga Hash with Rice Biscuits and Smoky Caramelized Onion Gravy

Besan Crepe with Shiitake Mushrooms and Smoked Tofu

Besan Crepe with Shiitake Mushrooms and Smoked Tofu

Marinated Baked Tofu with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Greens Salad

Marinated Baked Tofu with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Greens Salad

Sweet Potato Patties with Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Sweet Potato Patties with Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Tofu Fritatta with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Onions

Tofu Fritatta with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Onions

Brown Rice Bowl with Avocados, Tomatoes, Hemp Seeds and an Onion-Ginger Sauce

Brown Rice Bowl with Avocados, Tomatoes, Hemp Seeds and an Onion-Ginger Sauce

Mung Bean Crepes with Roasted Asparagus and Fresh Pesto

Mung Bean Crepes with Roasted Asparagus and Fresh Pesto

Chickpea Fries with Homemade Ketchup

Chickpea Fries with Homemade Ketchup

Kale Gomae with Zesty Adzuki Bean Salad

Kale Gomae with Zesty Adzuki Bean Salad

Black Bean Pancakes with a Smoky Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce, Habinero Hot Sauce, and a Chunky Guacamole

Black Bean Pancakes with a Smoky Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce, Habinero Hot Sauce, and a Chunky Guacamole

 

How I survived week one of the anti-candida diet, and other tales

July 11, 2011

Although I’m well into week two on the anti-candida diet (ACD), I’ve not taken the time to regale all of you with harrowing tales about my first week because it wasn’t really all that bad. Yes, I have to admit that my worst fears didn’t come true.

Now, for all of you who have been on an ACD plan before or are contemplating starting one, let me share one little story with you that might put my current experience with the ACD in perspective.

Nearly 10 years ago, after a few lengthy visits with a naturopath, I was diagnosed with mild candidiasis. I was ordered onto a four-week long candida diet of nothing but baby greens, brown rice, lemon juice, and flaxseed oil. And as much water and peppermint herb tea as I liked.

Yes, that was all I was permitted to eat every single day for four weeks straight. Every meal of every day consisted of the plainest salad imaginable with a pile of plain brown rice. Breakfast? Brown rice and salad. Snack? More brown rice. Dessert? How about some brown rice?

Lemme tell you, brown rice wasn’t something I’d eaten much of before this point, and this introduction did nothing to get me to actually like the stuff. (Eventually, I did come to prefer brown rice, but it did take a while to get over the bad associations.)

Three and a half weeks into the candida diet, I completely broke down. And by breaking down, I mean getting to the point where I was serious about not eating at all if I had to put another forkful of brown rice into my mouth. My mum came home to discover me sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by a pile of vegan cookbooks, crying my eyes out.

So, you can see how embarking on the current ACD plan I’m following is far easier than eating brown rice and baby salad greens for weeks on end.

How did my first week go, then?

The first three days, being over a long weekend, were a breeze. I’d already made a menu for the first week and done some of the shopping, so I was prepared. One blog I found invaluable in helping me plan my menu is Ricki Heller’s Diet, Dessert, and Dogs – she’s vegan and also following an ACD plan, and she’s got a lot of great recipes that have helped inspire my menus. I felt great and noticed a relative lack of candida die-off symptoms, while only occasionally dealing with vague sugar cravings. The food I made was way more tasty and exciting than I expected. (Soon I’ll post pictures of some of the meals we at last week.)

Day four, a Monday, started off fabulously. Although I was up at 5:30 a.m. to make breakfast (something I’ll have to do most of the time, I’ve realised), I felt better than I had in years. I had energy, a clear mind, and great focus. And my memory was back. Other than a very slight headache that came and went and my muscles feeling  more easily fatigued than usual, felt really good. So far, obsessing over sugar wasn’t too bad, and the cravings had been mild and mostly ignored by occupying my mind with other thoughts.

Then, day five came along. Although I know the hours between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. can be the worst for my sugar cravings, I wasn’t prepared for the tantrum that took place in my mind. I looked calm and collected on the outside, and inside I felt like Donald Duck having a tantrum for the ages.

Day six was pretty much the same as day five, with a side of PMS that made me want to whine endlessly and hide in bed all day. This was a pretty nasty, tiring day, let me tell ya.

On day seven, I was back to feeling energized. When the afternoon sugar dragon started to bellow and breathe fire, I made sure to busy myself with something else and avoid focusing on the obsessive sugar thoughts.

My candida symptoms? They’re not completely gone, but they’re vastly improved. Here’s some of what’s happened so far:

  • I have a lot more energy.
  • The mental fog is gone entirely.
  • My GERD has nearly disappeared.
  • The daily headaches of late have disappeared aside from the very slight withdrawal headache of the first few days of the ACD.
  • The debilitating exhaustion is gone.
  • I feel more normal, more aware, and more present in any given moment than I have in a very long time.
  • My stomach is less bloated to the point that some of my clothes are suddenly fitting better.

I’m mindful of the fact that this is just my experience and that not everyone is as lucky to experience relief from candida symptoms as quickly as I have. And I’m very lucky that my die-off symptoms haven’t been as bad as I’d been anticipating. I’m sure that eating a lot more fresh, whole foods than I did before certainly goes a very long way in feeling better. And lots of water, which my former tea habit had me drinking less of than I should have been.

For those of you now on or considering an ACD plan, I do have some suggestions on how to survive the first week of the diet, as well as recipes, and I’ll be writing more blog posts about these thing soon.

For the time being, if you’re in the midst of adjusting to the new anti-candida eating plan and battling your own sugar dragons, remember that it does get better.

And one quick tip: Get some stevia. I use this kind, though mine comes in a little shaker bottle with a tiny little measuring spoon (it’s not available on the NOW website for some reason). The stevia helps with the sugar cravings so much, especially when it comes to indulging in faux lemonades on sunny summer afternoons.

Don’t panic! Breakfast will be served.

June 29, 2011

The first thought I had after the moment I accepted that this diet change was necessary was, “What the hell are we going to eat for breakfast?”

Goodbye steel-cut oats and savory oatmeal! Toast with Earth Balance and nooch? Not a chance. In fact, even peanut butter is off-limits. And banana-based smoothies are something I’ll never have again.

I’m not going to deny that no matter how upbeat I want to be about all of this, I do feel some panic over what to eat at breakfast time. Sure, salad might be an option, but I neither have the desire nor the time for a salad at 7 a.m.

Rather than leave breakfast up to a “grab whatever you can and go” moment, I thought I’d be proactive and plan a menu. Not just for breakfast, but for the entire first week. And you know what? It’s actually looking pretty darn tasty.

Here’s what we’re going to be eating for breakfast:

Friday: Lentil crepes with grilled asparagus and pesto

Saturday: Biscuits with caramelized onion gravy and rutabaga hash

Sunday: Tofu Benny with hollandaise sauce and sautéed greens with shiitake mushrooms

Monday: Tofu scramble with garlic cecina toast and sautéed Swiss chard

Tuesday: Grilled sweet potato cakes with roasted Brussels sprouts

Wednesday: Savoury herbed millet muffins with a marinated tomato-cumber salad

Thursday: Refried beans on socca with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo

Friday: Kale sauté with zucchini, onions, red bell pepper and black bean cakes

Avoiding temptation on an anti-candida diet

June 26, 2011

So, if you’re thinking of starting an anti-candida diet, where do you start?

For me, I understand my own vices well enough to know that embarking on an anti-candida diet means getting rid of every temptation hiding in my kitchen. Once that first sugar craving takes hold, I know I’ll be searching for any little sweet morsel I can find. I’ll pace the kitchen floor, opening and reopening the cabinets and fridge in the hope that something’s been overlooked by my obsessive gaze.

Since I’ve given myself a week to prepare for this huge change, I decided this weekend would be the best time to clear my kitchen of everything I won’t be able to eat for the next three months, or ever again. What did or didn’t make the cut was based on these food lists, which means a lot of jam jars, vinegars, flours, sauces, dried fruits, and other prepackaged items were shown the door to another home where they’ll be enjoyed just as much as I would have enjoyed them.

Sometime this week I’ll march over to one of my favourite independent grocery stores armed with a much different kind of grocery list than I’m used to. I’ll restock my kitchen with a new items like roasted carob powder, buckwheat flour, and besan flour that, over the next three months, will go a long way in keeping the bellies around my house pleasantly filled, healthy, and happy. You see, I’m not the only one in the house going on this new diet, and I have some pretty hefty expectations to please.

Having a well-stocked kitchen, and plenty of good recipes in my cooking arsenal, will mean I’ll be far less likely to be found weeping over a pile of cookbooks. (Yes, this has happened before.) My hope is that being well-prepared and having lots of creative food options available will help keep me upbeat about what seems like a very long road ahead.