refined sugar free chocolate: take one!


in my quest to find ways to eat brownies without succumbing to the sugar trap, i’ve decided to try making my own chocolate. here’s why:

1. a LOT of brownie recipes call for chocolate bars. most good chocolate bars contain refined sugar. i think it’s possible to make really good chocolate without refined sugar.

2. it’s really really hard to chocolate bars that are gluten, dairy and soy free. soy lecithin is a sneaky little ingredient that acts as an emulsifier in chocolate–essentially holding everything together to make it a solid. (i’ve mentioned this in other posts.) since soy is cheap in the U.S., it’s an easy to access cheap ingredient for companies to use. although soy lecithin is a derivative of soy bean oil, people with soy allergies often have sensitivity to it. technically, i do not have a soy protein allergy, but i’ve found that i’m extremely sensitive to soy and eating too much soy lecithin makes my body very grumpy.

3. making my own chocolate means i get to eat more chocolate more often and this makes me happy.

i started with this recipe. very fast, super easy. tastes amazing: like a dark chocolate peanut butter cup. just blend everything in the food processor and it’s a perfect fudgey chocolate dough.


make small little cups in a muffin tin and refrigerate for 30-40 minutes.


now the only issue will be trying not to eat all of them before i try to use them in brownies…


sugar. honey honey.

i’m not really a candy girl. any more. mainly because: i rarely eat sugar unless i bake (which is almost never); a lot of candy has gluten and/or dairy in it; and candy that is gluten/dairy free is usually packed with soy and other ingredients i’d only eat if i google all of them first because i have no idea what they are. (this last fact scares me away from most processed foods.)


i’ve given up sugar more than once in my digestive journey (scope out the restore diet category and you’ll get all the gross details) and i’ll admit that giving up refined sugar isn’t all that hard once you get used to it. however, giving up natural sugars is another thing entirely. it’s hard. it’s particularly hard if you like the following things: wine, fruit, honey, wine, and more wine.

my gym is doing a new year 30 day challenge and although this might sound snobby, when i first heard it was only for 30 days i thought: amateur. i’ve given up all cheese, ice cream, milk, sugar, grains, soy, chips, beer/booze, french fries, eating out, and basically anything with a label that contains more than 2-3 ingredients. and i’ve done it for years. (heading into year 4 of no dairy and no beer. seriously people. i haven’t had a beer or a piece of cheddar in 4 years.) i realize saying this on my blog makes me sound like a total snob.

but i’m going to admit that the last 10 days have been really really hard for me. hard because we had to list publicly what we were giving up during the challenge and we were encouraged to make those things hard to give up. given my dietary limitations, i had to think hard about this. i decided on the following three things: no refined sugar, no more than 2 cups of coffee a day, and no more than 4 alcoholic beverages a week.

needless to say, i had a total meltdown yesterday and almost cried because i was stressed out and  wanted to eat a brownie. i really felt like i needed to eat a brownie. the kind they sell at my local coffee shop that’s gluten and dairy free and full of fudgy-awesomeness.


i managed to leave the coffee shop with only a coffee.
i didn’t mangage to not drink wine in the evening. or the evening before. or the evening before that. or the evening before that.
this 30 day challenge is making me realize a few things:
1. when i’m having a meltdown, i want to eat baked foods because it’s comfort food to me. it reminds me of my mother, who baked for me my entire life. and it feels good to eat it.
2. i drink wine at least 5 nights a week. it’s only a glass of wine. but i drink it. and i enjoy it. i don’t think there’s anything wrong with this fact. however, i do think it throws off my sleep, which i’d like to avoid.
3. turns out i rarely drink more than 2 cups of coffee a day anyway, so no biggie. maybe i should limit it to 1? eh.
4. i want to learn to cook and bake and eat entirely refined sugar-free. my sister already does this. very successfully. i want to be like her.

last night, i made paleo brownies. i was pretty skeptical about them tasting all that grand, but i was pleasantly surprised with this recipe. they were moist, solid, fudgy, not very sweet, and tasted great with a little bit of peanut butter on top of them.

i’ve decided this year that one of my goals will be to figure out the perfect gluten, dairy, soy, refined-sugar free brownie.
this is take one.
send me any recipes you find and i promise to make and share.





eating oranges

one of my favorite parts of january is that my all-time favorite fruit, blood oranges, are in season! i’m eating at least 2 a day. i love that every one is a little surprise–peeling it back and finding deep purples and maroons and reds. some times they are bright orange with flecks of bright purply-pink. last night i peeled one open and the entire orange was a deep burgundy, like the color of wine.


i love eating blood orange pieces in salads. the combination of greens, especially arugula, with herbs and olive oil and a wee bit of goat cheese makes me feel like it’s not january and not 30 degrees out.


here are a few blood orange recipes i’m going to try this week:
*smitten kitchen’s mixed citrus salad with feta and mint. (i got the smitten kitchen cookbook for christmas–more on that soon.)

*the jewels of new york’s blood orange salad (perfect combination of my favorite foods: fennel, arugula, nuts and mustard).

*martha’s take with kale, hazelnut and balsamic or her blood orange marinated pork chops.

also, my mom stuck this little orange peeler in my stocking and it’s so perfect for peeling oranges. no more picking random bits of rind out from under my fingernails for hours after. best stocking stuffer this year. my mom is a clever lady.


ureteral stent: it’s as upsetting as it sounds

One of my commitments on this blog is to write about my digestive journey, specifically 2010, officially known as my year in digestive hell. I started writing about 2010 a while back: you can read the first two entries of the story here and here so you’re all caught up on my first holiday of laying on the couch in chronic pain and what it’s like to have kidney stone surgery. It’s important to me that anyone reading this blog understands that my rationale for sharing these stories has everything to do with the constant emails I receive from people here and on facebook inquiring into the specifics of my own digestive journey, as they themselves are going through digestive hell. In part, sharing on this blog keeps me from having to constantly write individual emails. But I also feel that as an educator (in my professional life), it’s my “job” to educate people about their bodies, having lived through a lot of tests and dead ends and wrong turns. I realize some people will never struggle with what to eat, but my general experience is that given our American diet, most of the people I know have some sort of “problem” with some kind of food at some point in their lives. So, whether you’re reading for fun or to learn, I’m glad you’re here. I hope you can accept that parts of these stories are kinda sad, parts are funny, and more often than not,  down-right disgusting. I’m going to do you all a favor and not shy away from any of those parts, because living with chronic digestive drama is hard, often confusing, and some times scary.

So, back to 2010. When we left off, I had just had kidney stone surgery and was hanging around the house for 2 weeks with a ureteral stent (it’s as upsetting as it sounds) wedged into me and the only evidence I had that it was truly there was the long black thread hanging down between my thighs and the images that came up every time I googled “ureteral stent.” I’m gonna go ahead and say that there are few things that make me more queasy than knowing there’s a foreign object in my body, literally holding me open so my ureter doesn’t swell shut and trap all those lovely little kidney stones from floating down and out when I peed. If you’ve had kidney stone surgery, you’ve been lucky enough to have to take little pills that make you pee the color of blood oranges (oddly one of my favorite fruits) and know that regardless of what the nurses tell you, you will still be totally surprised by how painful it is to pee after surgery and how shocking it is to look down and see the brightest blood orange stream coming out of your body, full of tiny blood clots and microscopic pieces of what was once kidney stones that were blasted to bits, now coming to rest on top the little strainer you have to pee through in order to send these bits off to lab for analysis. The best part is that you get to do this for days. And days. And days.

Because it was early in 2010 (mid January) and I had yet to learn that being a full-time Ph.D student, living in a half gutted house, volunteering at neighborhood organizations, running a creative business, being a partner to C (who runs his own business and was doing all the house renovating) and having a very full social life might be too much to handle, I did what I always did: I went to a holiday party the day after my surgery and drank wine. It didn’t occur to me not to go, despite the 5 inch long thread I saw every time I peed blood orange or the powerful pain meds I was on, or that I was pale and grossly thin and all together not meant to be in public. It took me a year to finally realize that after a hospital visit, it’s best to just stay home, but I was early on in my year of health hell and clearly ridiculous. I managed to get home from the party intact, but spent the next few weeks laying around the house, feeling awful. I was CONVINCED that having kidney stones was obviously the root of all of my digestive pain and now that the stones had been removed, life would resume and I would no longer be clutching my stomach and drinking ginger tea all day.

Turns out I was just one of those people who gets kidney stones regardless of my digestive drama. After two weeks of stone collection, I went in to have my ureteral stent pulled out because I refused to pull it out myself. The nurse insisted on the phone that anyone can pull out their own ureteral stent. I remember saying to her, “I can’t pull this thing out of my body. I’ll pass out when it’s half out of me.” She suggested I have C do it. I told her C was less likely to pull it out of me than I was and we both might pass out if he was involved. So, she finally gave me an appointment to  have a post-surgery follow-up chat with my urologist and have a nurse yank a 12 inch piece of plastic coated wire out of my crotch.

Just a heads-up on this process: Getting a ureteral stent pulled out looks similar to having a obgyn appointment. You lay on a table, legs spread, feet in stirrups, unable to see anything below the gown your wearing, hoping that nothing bad is about to happen while a nurse puts on gloves and tells you it will all be over in less than 3 seconds. You want very much to trust her and believe that she is a trained professional and is therefore more qualified to pull a long piece of metal out of your body than you are. However, when the nurse says she’s going to count out loud and pull at 3, she really means she’ll count to 2 and suddenly yank the black string from between your legs with one fast swoop and you’ll feel as though something oddly just went rushing through the lower half of your body, but you won’t have time to panic about it because you’ll be sitting there, legs wide open, staring at the 12 inch stent she’s holding up in front of you while saying, “See? That wasn’t so bad. This is what was inside of you for 2 weeks” in a voice that makes you feel completely ridiculous for asking her to pull the stent out when you could have saved yourself the trip and done it all along.

A few minutes later, when I met with my urologist, he told me 3 things:
1. We analyzed your kidney stones and they are probably forming for various dietary and genetic reasons.

2. There’s more in there, so don’t be surprised that if you decide to stop eating and drinking for awhile, or eat a lot of leafy greens, or drink tea and coffee, and eat red meat, or basically just live life normally, you’ll probably pass more. And they will probably hurt.

3. It’s extremely unlikely that your digestive pain/stomach aches had anything to do with your kidney stones. (In fact, in all his 40+ years of experience working as a urologist and being at the top of his field at a research university, he has never once heard of a link between stomach pain and the onset of kidney stones.)

My response was: Welllll maybe I’m a weird case.
He said, “Not likely.”

He sent me home with a list of things to avoid and said he hoped he never saw me again. It was the one time I actually appreciated being told that.

The problem was, I was still feeling horrible. I had constant stomach aches. Everything I ate just ripped through me and came out the other end. I resented the purple walls of the bathroom and the fact that we were in the middle of house renovations and I had to spend so much time in the most hideous bathroom in the city. No matter what I ate, nothing changed.

By March, I had dropped more weight and had a deep burning sensation in my stomach. A constant throb that made me sleep with a heating pad turned on high and pressed against my stomach and rib cage. I was hardly working and spent most days laying around my house, feeling gross and attempting to “work” by spreading things out on my bed and staring at them, as if articles would get read and papers written if I sat there and stared long enough. My doctor put me on pills: pain killers, muscle relaxants, relaxants that are supposed to help stomach spasms, antidepressants, antianxiety meds, heartburn meds…we tried random things for weeks and weeks. For awhile, the burning stopped, but the stomach aches didn’t, nor did my constant trips to the bathroom. Blood work came back negative for allergies and intolerances, despite the fact that I had cut out all dairy the year before due to my inability to keep it down.

I decided to start getting opinions from other people about elimination diets. I was in the thick of it, making dietary changes and trying acupuncture and herbs and whatever else I could find when I had a bike accident in early June and broke both my elbows.  The next part of the story involves how I got my first endoscopy and colonoscopy while rockin’ two arm casts, broken teeth and a concussion. I know you can’t wait.


goals & shrimp & avocado

i made a list of 2013 goals over on madebyrachel yesterday and at the top of the list: blogging here more. i had hoped to do more blogging here during the fall, but the semester got crazy and i was focused on course work and teaching and putting out a winter collection and so on and so on…

i’m pretty good at keeping resolutions, so i don’t shy away from making them, even if i don’t share them publicly. given my limited diet, i rarely make goals related to eating because i’m already a relatively healthy eater. i work out at least 4-5 times a week, and i love my gym and the people who go there. i feel like i’ve finally found a fitness home that works for me. but i know my vices, so in the spirit of trying to live healthy and support others in the process, i’m gonna list my health-related goals for 2013, in order of how hard they will be to accomplish (easy to hardest):

eliminate refined sugar

drink fewer than 4-5 alcoholic drinks a week

drink fewer than 2 cups of coffee a day

do one pull-up (you can see my first pushup ever here!)

it’s january 3rd and so far, i’ve managed to make it through the first three days of 2013 with no refined sugar, no booze, and only 1 cup of coffee. i did 45 pushups (the one my knees kind) yesterday  morning at the gym. i did half of them well and the other half i barely got myself off the floor.


i also made this superfood recipe from Iowa Girl Eats, a sweet blog i found through pinterest. it was amazing. i took out the black beans, as 2012 finally taught me that my body hates beans and lentils. while they haven’t been added to the enemy list yet, they have graduated to the eat-in-tiny-amount-and-rarely-if-you-want-to-enjoy-life list. sad to loose that source of protein but i was sick of suffering through the digestive misery. oddly enough, i was out of quinoa, so i used a long grain brown rice that has a nutty flavor and is super high in protein. i’m excited to see what else is on the Iowa Girl Eats blog for recipes. scope out her long list of yummy eats here!

happy new year!