Day 21 – Lent: 40 days 40 nights, right?

Depends how you calculate it apparently! I assumed lent finished on Easter Sunday, so just in time to scoff your easter eggs:) It was only when a colleague asked when Lent finished, i wasn’t convinced i was right. We ended up counting 40 days on from Ash Wednesday (13th Feb this year), and came up with 24th March…. but Easter Sunday is on the 31st?? That’s 1 week later!!

Having only done Lent once (when i was 15, i gave up chocolate and sweets) and not really being religious, I turned to google, which naturally presented me with a Wikipedia page. Turns out different Christian denominations determine Lent differently.

In the general Latin-rite and most Western denominations Lent is taken to run from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday,  which is supposed to represent Jesus’ last supper with his 12 disciples) or to Easter Eve. In the Catholic Church, Lent lasts until Holy Thursday, while other denominations run until Easter Eve.

…and…

In most Western traditions the Sundays are not counted as part of Lent; thus the period from Ash Wednesday until Easter consists of 40 days when the Sundays are excluded. However in the Roman Catholic Church Lent is now taken to end on Holy Thursday rather than Easter Eve, and hence lasts 38 days excluding Sundays, or 44 days in total.

I’ve decided to go to Maudy Thursday, and haven’t been taking Sundays ‘off’, so that works out a 44-day straight. Not quite half-way yet then!

No real recipes to report, though I know Paulina’s got a stack to share, so plenty more to come! I managed to forget the main part of my lunch today, so had to survive on almonds, celery sticks and a coconut-flour brownie until i could get down to the weekly fruit and veg market that comes to uni (i actually managed fine, but who can resist a good, crunchy carrot or two!). Coupled with a veggie stir-fry for dinner, i should be bursting with vits and mins!

Day 19 – Braving the big wide world…

The one thing I’ve avoided since starting the Lyme diet is going out for dinner (for obvious reasons!). Some things you just can’t cancel though – one of those is dinner at a newly-discovered restaurant which was so good last time you went, you book ages in advance for when the in-laws come to stay. Last night was one such event, but I wasn’t too worried, knowing that most of the dishes were pretty meat-inspired. For Oxford-based residents, I’m talking of The Magdalen Arms on the Iffley Road (ABSOLUTELY worth a visit if you haven’t already discovered it!). The menu is pretty unique in the sense that more than half of the main dishes are designed for 2-4 people to share.

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As a table of four, we went with the Hereford rib of beef (2 persons) and cassoulet (2 persons) – the beef came with salad and chips (so I didn’t have any chips) and I’ll describe the cassoulet in a bit more detail as I’d never heard of it before! (and just found a recipe from the Hairy Bikers that I can’t WAIT to try out!). In short, it’s a slow-cooked casserole made from white haricot beans and meats (ours contained pork belly, toulouse sausage, duck and bacon lardons) – WOW. I can report that all of us were totally stuffed after this! Plenty of food – nor even any room for pudding! (thank god… not sure I could have stomached everyone but me having a pud!)

Day 17 – It’s all about Graze-ing.

I was SUPER excited to get my Graze box through the post yesterday as i’d forgotten to amend an order for the previous week to be Lyme-friendly – it turned up and i couldn’t eat any of the scrummy things inside:( For those of you who have no idea what i’m jabbering on about, get yourself down to http://www.graze.com to find out more in addition to a free box! Who said there was no such thing as a free lunch…?

I was SOOO excited, i even forgot to take a photo, so have swiped one from off their website (thanks Edd) – i can vouch that mine looked JUST like this!

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But had these in it…

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Apart from the raisins (top right) and inca berries (bottom right, look like shrivelled strawbs), i could eat the rest – olives, nuts, seeds… and who knew dried apple had a lower GI (~28) than fresh apple??!! I’ve talked about dried apricots already…

Such a treat!

In all seriousness, the four little containers of delight that come in the graze box (delivered by royal mail, so designed to fit through your letterbox with the rest of your post by the way) are perfect for grazing throughout the day, and i’ve so far found that it more than keeps me from being hungry until dinner time, despite (to some) looking a little meagre in terms of portion size… it’s all to do with the nutritional content people! I ran the 7 1/2 miles back to the station fuelled quite happily by that little lot i tell you! (and had a rather gruelling netball match the night before to boot!)

Day 16 – Peanut butter beauties!

After a 4-hour commute (normally 2 hours) on Tuesday, I VERY nearly reached for the wine…. But a jar of peanut butter (metaphorically) got in the way – phew! Peanut butter is surprisingly low in carbs, but is kinda high in calories – peanuts aren’t exactly low fat! The ‘butter’ part of its name is actually a little misleading, as it’s dairy free: Ingredients from Tesco’s Wholenut Peanut Butter – Peanut (91%),Vegetable Oil ,Peanut Oil (4%) ,Sea Salt.

Peanut butter cookies were totally on my radar after that commute (and a pretty good replacement for wine as it happens!). I merged a couple of different recipes and came up with a winner:

120g peanut butter

1 egg

50g almond flour

30g vegetable spread

6 tbsp of stevia

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

Mix all the ingredients and shape into 8 smallish balls – place onto greaseproof paper and flatten with a fork (aiming for ½ inch thickness). Bake at 175° C for 10 – 12 minutes. BAM!

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Day 14 – Meat or veg?

One third of the way through (and probably the longest I’ve ever gone without alcohol since my 18th birthday!) and I’m feeling pretty good – no blood sugar swinging and surprisingly cravings-free! This coming from a self-professed lover of all things pudding! (sweet over savoury every time!)

I thought I might encounter some energy problems with exercise, since most of the exercise I do is cardio-intensive and typically 1 – 2 hour in duration, but so far so good. I admit I’ve changed my pre-netball match nutrition strategy a little (I used to eat properly afterwards as I find that the stop-start, sprint, jump, dodge aspects of netball throw my stomach about too much to eat anything more substantial than a banana beforehand), as there’s nothing worse than that hit-the-wall feeling. Last night’s dinner was actually inspired by two of my fellow netballers – one who lent me an alkaline-diet recipe book after finding out my lent endeavours, and one who told me her pre-match nutrition strategy was to eat half her dinner before the match and half after (I didn’t get to the second half, but was delighted with with the first half offered!)

First up was spicy bean, quinoa and veggie burgers. I actually made a batch of these on the weekend and suck them in the freezer for when I can’t be bothered to cook.

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1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, washed

50g Quinoa

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp Mexican/Cajun/Fajita seasoning

½ tsp salt

½ tsp chilli powder

Add chilli to taste;)

  1. Fry veggies and garlic in a pan (medium heat) with a splash of olive oil until soft (12-15 minutes).
  2. Boil quinoa in a separate pan using a 1:2 ratio with water until all water has been absorbed.
  3. In a bowl, mash kidney beans with a potato masher – the idea is not to have a smooth kidney paste, but more of a semi-mashed consistency, where some of the beans still have a bit of structure.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa, fried veggies, and spices to the bean mash and combine. Form into 5-6 little balls and flatten into patties on an almond-floured surface (the mix is quite sticky!)
  5. I cooked mine in a pan to crisp them up a bit before putting them in the freezer, but they could have been eaten then and there…

As for the accompaniment, I partnered my bean burger with half an oven-baked aubergine slathered in pesto and topped with feta cheese. 20 mins in the oven drizzled in olive oil, not difficult even for kitchenaphobes!

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You know what? It made for a mighty meaty veggie dish! Oh, and we won the match;)

Day 12 – Eggs, eggs and eggs…

I’ve come to realised that – without things like yeast to make things rise, and syrup to bind things together – eggs have been a pretty major player in the Lyme diet to date. Yesterday, without realising, i ate 5 eggs! Ok, maybe a 3-egg omlette for lunch raised those stats a little (!), but it’s a damn good job we own these beauties!

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I have tried to steer a little more clear of eggs today, although i was so impressed with the one-minute flax muffin from yesterday, i made it for breakfast again this morning, just in a more bread slice-shaped dish so it would fit nicely in the toaster! Total egg consumption today = 1.

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Instead i’ve gone from summer (warm bacon, chorizo and mange tout on a bed of spinach, avocado and goats cheese salad)…

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…to winter (slow-cooked beef, red lentil and veg stew) with today’s lunch and dinner (i’m now convinced anything slow-cooked looks like baby food…). I’ve definitely covered the 5-a-day with these two!

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Day 11 – Time to talk bread.

It’s about time i documented my bread failures, so anyone tempted to try a recipe or two doesn’t make the same errors i did. I should point out now that i had a pretty big win this morning – Loaf 3 for those interested…

Loaf 1: Coconut bread

There are an armful of recipes for bread made with coconut flour out there, and what hit me first is the amount of eggs used in them! I’ve since found out that pretty much all the recipes involving coconut flour use a ridiculous amount of eggs because the coconut flour is a) very absorptive, and b) can produce dense/dry goods. When i mean a silly number of eggs, i mean half a dozen eggs for every 100-120 grams coconut four – talk about a protein rich combination! For more tips and facts on coconut flour, i found this website useful:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/baking-with-coconut-flour/

The recipe i went for in the end was from the following website, but being a bit wary, halved all the ingredients for a smaller loaf, skipped the honey and used the ghee option as a substitute butter…

http://www.mariarickerthong.com/coconut-flour-bread/

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Looks pretty good huh?! Shame it tasted disgusting and VERY oily (in my opinion!) – one bite and it got put straight in the bin… onto the next one:s

Loaf 2: Zero-carb flax bread.

Zero-carb?! That’s right! Let me expalin…

What i didn’t know before embarking on this Lyme diet adventure (adventure is DEFINITELY the right word here!!) is that fibre is technically a carbohydrate. What i did know is that fibre cannot be digested by the body, so comes out ‘the other end’ unchanged. What this means is that the amount of carbohydrate in a food that can be attributed to fibre can essentially be taken away from the total carbohydrate content. Think nutritional info on food packaging – this is for 100 g of strong white bread flour:

Protein                  12.1 g

Carbohydrate        68.6 g

Fat                          1.4 g

Fibre                       3.1 g

We take the total carb content of 68.6 g, minus the fibre content of 3.1 g, which gives us a net carb content of 63.3 g. Easy! It just so happens that because of the ingredients of this next bread, it has equal carb and fibre gram-age, giving a net 0 g in carbohydrates. The bread recipe can be found here:

http://www.blogilates.com/recipe-index/no-carb-bread

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A little on the dumpy side, but i was excited nonetheless! It tasted soooo damn eggy that the smell actually put me off, was no better when i tried to toast it either – one slice and it got put straight in the bin… onto the next one:s

Loaf 3: One minute muffin.

There’s that common saying ‘3rd time lucky’. In this case, it was true… i found this recipe quite by accident and was intrigued – 50 g flax meal, 1 egg, 1 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp baking powder (salt, stevia, cinnamon etc to taste…) – combine in a coffee mug and zap for 1 minute (on high) in the microwave:

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ImageNow this one toasted really well! I see this as easily being savory or sweet depending on your mood – you could add some chopped nuts, coconut flakes, seeds or stevia and dried apricots (which i’ve just discovered despite being fruit, has a surprising low GI of around 31). I had it as a breakfast muffin this morning (savory with olive oil spread), but reckon it would make a good replacement for sandwiches in the lunchbox!

Day 9 – A slow process…

My mum bought me a slow cooker for christmas a few years ago, and hand on heart, i’ve used it twice! Partly because of leaving the house at silly-o-clock for the last 5 or 6 years and simply not being organised enough to prepare everything the night before, and partly for fear of whatever i put in coming out as the type of stew i hated as a child. Truth be told, it’s really not a bad bit of kit – who doesn’t love super tender meat?! The last time i used it was in an effort to meet a New Year’s resolution of being more experimental with my cooking, and tried out a hungarian beef goulash recipe i found on the internet. Luckily i had the nouse to write the recipe down, as i’m not sure of it’s origins anymore… plus it’s pretty good!

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I realise the picture probably doesn’t do it justice, but this really is goulash and not just brown mush! Also, Paulina told me previously that she’s not allowed paprika, but i’m not sure why, and google wont help – so i’ve ignored that fact for this recipe, but would appreciate the answer if known by anyone!

Hungarian Beef Goulash

400g Stewing beef

1 large onion

4 large mushrooms

1/4 aubergine

1/2 bell pepper

1 garlic glove

75 ml tomato puree

125 ml water

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

Dice the veggies, bung everything in the slow cooker on low, leave for 8 – 10 hours. Enjoy with brown rice or quinoa.

Day 8 – Diet-savers!

I came across two of the easiest and potentially diet-saving recipes in the history of Lymes disease yesterday! I was so excited! Even better… they both worked!

I’ve mentioned using flaxseed meal before (day 4 – unsuccessful fajitas!) and just wanted to explain a bit more about what it is. Flaxseeds and linseeds (maybe you’ve heard of linseed oil?) are the same thing – no idea why they have two names, but there you go. They are super-full of omega 3 (essential fatty acids that are thought to have a number of health benefits, such as reducing inflammation) and apparently are the substance that gives fish its ‘fishy’ smell! Funnily enough this flaxseed cracker recipe I tried had received comments on the recipe’s website that they tasted of fish, or that the kitchen smelt of fish whilst the crackers were in the oven! Good job I don’t mind fish (actually, I love fish!) because sure enough, the waft of fish came drifting around the house yesterday after about 20 minutes in the oven! It actually reminded me of painting with oil paints during art at school and college, and now I’ve read that linseed oil is used in them too! How very versatile!

Anyways – literately two ingredients in this cracker recipe – 100g flaxseed meal and 125 ml water (add salt, black pepper and/or herbs to season). Mix together and there you have it! I spread the mix on some greaseproof paper (a couple of mm thick) scored the mix so that the crackers would be easier to separate once cooked, sprinkles some sesame seeds on the top and popped into the over at 200° celsius (400° fahrenheit) for 20 minutes, then turned the oven down to 100° celsius (200° fahrenheit) for another 40 minutes. I’m pretty excited about having these for lunch today topped with goats cheese and spinach! Just look at these little beauts!!

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Next up, dinner. I love a good pizza and owning a bread machine and a couple of pizza stones, we make some pretty awesome pizzas with bread flour. I challenged myself to make a bread-flour free pizza worthy of a pizza fiend and I I’m happy to report that I think I managed it!! Three ingredients in this one (steady on!) – 100g almond flour, 1 egg (beaten) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil (pinch of salt to season).  Combine to make a fairly solid, but workable mix , and roll out to desired thickness (I made one medium-sized pizza with this quantity of ingredients) between two sheets of greaseproof paper (the dough is super-sticky, so this is a must!). Remove one sheet of the greaseproof paper and place the pizza (paper side down) on a pizza stone that has been heated in the oven to ~200° celsius – if you haven’t got one, I reckon a baking tray would suffice). Load up with Lyme-busting goodies, pop back in the oven for ~8-10 mins and you are on your way! Superb!

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Day 6 – Maybe a little dairy… and fruit…

Having finished my stash of muesli, I was wracking my brain for another breakfast option – one that could be used of a workday morning (i.e. no real prep, no cooking, can be made in advance) – as most of the cereals I’d usually eat I’m now having to avoid! Now, I realise that I’d said in my prelude that dairy was out, but the one thing that can be had is natural yogurt because of its high probiotic content. So I started there! I also said fruit was out (because of the fructose content), but avocado is fine (and not exactly sweet!), and the occasional apple too I think because of their relatively low glycaemic index (somewhere about 35-40 – anything under 55 is considered a low GI food) and high fibre content. I topped the fruit with a hefty dollop of the yogurt and a tablespoon of cinnamon-toasted sunflower seeds…

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A little trickier was trying to get my other half to start getting something on for dinner tonight whilst I was still on the arduous commute… I think he is a little scared that I am going to subject him to the same low carb diet! We agreed on pasta for him, buckwheat for me, but the same chicken/chorizo/veg/pesto  extras!! Easy peasy – and man, do I love chorizo:D

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