I’ve admitted it before. I have a weakness for sweets. For the past two weeks, however, I’ve given up refined sugars, among other things, in the Whole Living 28 Day Challenge. I honestly feel, though I know it will be challenging to permanently slash refined sugars from my diet, that I feel better without them. For the past week I have been gradually adding ingredients back in, watching carefully, noticing the changes I feel as I add. Now I am ready to add in baked goods, even if they are slightly more virtuous than usual.
Enter Oatie-Date Tea Cookies. I was wary of this recipe from the get-go. It’s refined-sugar-free and has no oil, butter, margarine, etc. In a nutshell, it’s wholesome. While this is exactly what I was looking for, I’ve not great experience with virtuous cookies. They just don’t turn out. These however, were a prize in the making. They received my resident cookie critique’s seal of approval. And while they’re not as sweet or fluffy as your usual cookie, they go perfectly with a great cup of steaming tea.
Oatie-Date Tea Cookies, adapted from the Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book
2 1/2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dried dates
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, salt, and baking powder.
- In another bowl, beat together the eggs and syrup, along with the vanilla. Stir in the dates. Add to the dry ingredients and blend well.
- Drop the batter by teaspoons onto the prepared sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Smash cookies down with a spatula approximately two minutes before they are done.
Lately, I’ve been living without. Without wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, sugar, processed foods, coffee, and chocolate, all in the name of the Whole Living Action Plan 28-Day Challenge. I must say I’ve had some surprises. Sure I’ve missed my daily-mid-afternoon pick-me-up (coffee). And it’s been a large adjustment to forgo my daily lunch sandwich, or a nice chunk of bread with soup at dinner.
What I’ve missed most, however, has been sugar. I am a sweet-eater at heart. I generally enjoy some sort of dessert nearly every day. My day just isn’t truly complete without it. Blame it on my dad–who in the absence of sweets in the house, will begin to nip spoonfuls of plain-white-granulated from the sugar bowl. I kid you not. And while I will likely never resort to that level of sugar-deprivation-induced-behavior, I do most definitely love my sweets.
One thing this challenge has given me is some perspective and sense of accomplishment. I know I don’t need these things I’ve been giving up. I feel my metabolism has kicked up without them. I realize the things I’ve given up are mere luxuries I’ve been indulging in every single day. And while my meals this past week have been rather wholesome, they are challenging as well. They require some thought and advance planning, and much recipe manipulating. They equire me to forgo most restaurant meal items (or perhaps even all).
They’ve also given me an opportunity to simplify. Because at the end of the day, when you remove most allergen-inducing ingredients from your diet, you are only left with the most simple, basic, nourishing meals. Like minestrone. This minestrone was pure simplicity. I started with dry white beans and cooked them until they were really soft. A long simmer really helps the beans soak into all the other flavors. The soup was delicious and was consumed with much approval.
Minestrone (adapted from Good Mood Food)
1 medium-sized zucchini, chopped into small chunks
2 cups diced tomatoes, canned
5 cups cooked great northern beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
3 oz. rice noodles
2 Tbs. olive oil
A pinch paprika
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, as needed
Begin with 1 1/2 cups dry white beans and cook until soft. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion until they become soft.
- Stir in the celery, carrots, zucchini, and cook for about five minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
- Add the rice noodles, paprika and beans. Stir in and cover the pot. Cook gently for 10 minutes or until rice noodles are cooked.
- Season with salt and pepper.
I am a sandwich person. I willingly strive to eat a sandwich every day for lunch. Every single day. Mind you, I never make the same sandwich twice. I enjoy making my own bread, experimenting with different toppings, mixing unusual ingredients. But I’ve decided to try something new. Just for a few weeks, mind.
I’ve decided to take the 28-day Whole Living Challenge. I like the idea of detoxing the body after the holidays, forgoing the things we’ve had until we’re sick of them (sweets) but not sick enough to actively stop eating on our own. And to try new recipes that we otherwise wouldn’t. I’m even planning to try things I formally didn’t like. Such as avocado. We’ll see how it goes.
For now (at least for a week) I’m giving up sandwiches. I’m removing wheat, dairy, eggs, coffee, and processed ingredients from my diet. I feel like I’m in a culinary heaven of vegetables that not only taste delicious, but are good for me.
Which brings me to today’s recipe. It’s an amazing concoction of grains, beans, vegetables, spices, and flavors. I was surprised that I gobbled up every bit of it, and was craving more. It seemed like a simple enough meal. But let me tell you, it was better than anything I can remember having in grain and bean form. Try it. You’ll like it.
This recipe features millet, which I’ve never used outside of baking. Millet has a mild taste, and reminded me of quinoa in texture, and couscous in flavor. Feel free to substitute either or any form of rice, if you have no millet on hand.
Black Bean & Vegetable Grain Bowl (adapted from Whole Living)
1/4 cup millet
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
pinch of salt
1 cup water
2 oz. mushrooms, sliced thickly
1/4 large onion
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 small bunch broccoli
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. toasted sunflower seeds
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
Place millet, black beans, and ginger in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to water. Bring to a boil, stir once, then reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, and then fluff with a fork.
Steam mushrooms, covered for 3 minutes. Add carrots, onions, and broccoli, and steam for 4 minutes more. Remove steamer from heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer millet and beans to bowl, spoon vegetables over grain, and garnish with remaining vegetables and seeds. Toss with dressing.