Those who’ve read “Clean Comfort” know that smoothies are often my evening dessert, which serve the dual purpose of chasing the nocturnal hunger pangs away while giving me a jolt of much-needed protein as my body prepares to rest for the night. Chocolate smoothies are a staple in my repertoire. As are any that are berry-based. Even vanilla and cinnamon have their place in the craving chain. But I must admit, I’m not a fan of pumpkin. I’ve always found it to be a very polarizing flavor, which most people either adore or detest. So for those whose hearts beat a little faster for America’s favorite orange-colored fall-harvest fruit, this one’s for you. Thanks to the addition of canned pumpkin (unsweetened, of course) this is smoothie is loaded with Vitamin A!
When pumpkin pies and healthy milkshakes collide…
Thanks to being 50-something and being gifted by Mother Nature with a brand new metabolism, I decided a few months ago to give the desserts a rest. Even the clean ones. Yikes! It wasn’t easy, nor was it was not intended to be a permanent break (the never-again rule always backfires, remember?). Last week, after bringing home a delightful bounty of local plums from the farmers market, I found myself wondering how they might taste baked. The pondering coincided with yet another clean-out of the old magazine stack. I had more than a year’s worth of a particular food magazine from the year 2013. I had to admit, I’d never made good on my promise to eventually read them all. But before shipping them off to my library for resale, I quickly leafed through them all. And hence my discovery of the intriguing and delicious Plum Cake.
I wasn’t surprised when I learned Szilvas Pite traces its roots to Hungary. Eastern Europeans have long appropriated fruit (especially cling-fruit) for their baking recipes and the results are invariably delicious. Back in my eating days, I’ve loved my share of peach dumplings and prune danishes, and ditto for berry danishes and tarts of every stripe and dimension. But I’d never before heard of a plum cake and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make it over into a paleo version and end the self-imposed dessert exile in my kitchen.
Bubbly fruit is FRAGRANT fruit!
If you live in the Hudson Valley region of New York state, make a beeline to Don Baker Farm in Hudson where the most arrestingly good plums, apples, pears, and peaches are grown. Plums tend to have two ripening states: rock hard and about-to-be mush. Once they pass the latter stage it’s all over so don’t hesitate to a) have a raw plum feast or b) get a few ingredients together and start baking!
Below is the Hungarian recipe which I made Paleo and low-sugar. It’s simple, delicious, and gloriously nutritious. Yes, Virginia, this one does good things for you body, and I promise the family will love it too. If they think it’s too dull on its own, a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is a lovely finishing touch. In my case, I made it coconut whipped cream. Two pieces were my brunch yesterday. It was a just-sweet-enough dessert reunion…and when it was over, I was ready to take on the day.
Ladies & Gentleman, I have an announcement to make: menopause is LOSING! It took 3 months of unmitigated grit, and now the tunic I purchased as incentive and could barely get over my head in April FITS! 🏆🎉💃 This unavoidable passage has been a humbling Life Lesson in so many ways, not the least of which has been hand-delivering the need for me to check my pride and ego at the door.
Just when I thought I’d be coasting at my goal range, menopause and all its attendant symptoms barged into my life like a noisy, unwelcome freight train…carrying an extra-wide caboose in tow. I laughed at the first few pounds: “Ha-ha-ha, I can just metabolize it away with more cardio!” Thousands of steps later and not an iota of change, I became alarmed. So I swung into action. My friends who had already completed the fire-walk warned me about the girdle of fat around the middle that is impervious to exercise and calorie-cutting. I thought they were being drama queens – it made no biological sense. But let me tell you. Menopause is one tough opponent.
And after a series of doubling down, getting discouraged and giving up, then doubling down and getting discouraged again, I realized it’s best to not treat this unavoidable process like an enemy. There’s some anthropological reason that it occurs, I can’t stop it, but I can manage it as best I can. And I had to reach into my tool box and really work at practicing what I’m preaching. I began to focus more on loving my body and listening to it than making it work overtime. I increased the positive self-talk and Gratitude aimed at my beautiful body for all it does for me. And I consulted with a professional. It has taken well over a year to get a handle on this situation and I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of functional medicine specialist & nutritionist Nancy Guberti.
Releasing the menopause weight also required me saying Hasta La Vista to white carbs, reassessing portions, eliminating food at least 2 hours before bedtime, regular DDPYOGA workouts, 3-5 mile walks and a bit of weight-lifting for the calorie-burning muscle to remain intact. For the first time since the train roared in, I feel encouraged & hopeful. It is work to be sure. And menopause is also a mild challenge compared to the burdens others are dealing with. I completely understand that. I also effuse gratitude that my weight loss transformation occurred well before my 50’s. Can you imagine what I’d look and feel like with my former habits going at full speed? I shudder to think.
So after I write this, I’ll finish my lemon water, lace up my walking shoes and get to work. The rest of the day will be spent getting work done, listening to my body, learning to live with less food, staying hydrated, and yes…having some fun. An essential element to transformation and recovery. I’m staying strong, hanging in, and going the distance!
From discouragement to triumph!
Sweet and sour. Sweet and sour. Or sweet and salty. It’s one of my favorite flavor symphonies, evoking two polarities that complement one another in spite of opposite qualities.
And because of this, it’s one of those wild occasions where I suspend my ‘fruit in the morning on its own” rule and dive into this beautiful composition of a summer salad!
With the profusion of mint in our yard, a recent visit to Costco where a motherlode of sheep’s milk feta was acquired, and a perfectly ripe watermelon, I’d be foolish not to let these three beautiful ingredients intermingle.
If you don’t have a yard full of mint, it’s easily acquired at farmers markets and even supermarkets this time of year. And if you haven’t already, invest in a mezzaluna knife, the wood-handled curved knife that is THE best and easiest way to chop herbs by hand. Mezzalunas slice herbs into neat little strips, cutting each leaf open to allow flavor to exude without crushing it. Learned it on Nigella Lawson’s cooking show years ago and it changed the way I use herbs. My mezzaluna was bought in Little Italy years ago, but they can be found at specialty shops and online.
Is your freezer a source of comfort or temptation? One of the biggest set ups for me is having things in the house, on the property which tempt and trigger me. Even as I got my emotional demons under control, I had to admit that keeping ice cream and potato chips on premises is NOT a good idea. So I plan. And bake. And concoct things that taste good and are good for me; not merely taste good. I make a batch of this, cut it in squares, and keep it in the freezer for when a craving strikes.
This ice cream cake is absolutely delicious and full of healthy ingredients and free of refined sugar! It’s a bit of a labor-intensive undertaking but I promise it’s worth the effort. You will be dazzled! And you’ll feel nourished after eating this…You can’t get that feeling from the supermarket freezer case. And just in time for the Fourth of July! Happy Independence Day everyone.
Step away from the ice cream aisle!