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On Life As A Picky Foodie

May 27th, 2011: Sweet Treats

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

This has been the year of the baby.   Everyone I know, it seems – including me – has had one.  Or maybe it’s because I was attending crazy things like preggo yoga, that suddenly my life was filled with bulging bellies and talk about sleep positions and cravings.

Anyhoo, that isn’t my point.  My point is cake. 

All of these babies are marking milestones, having birthdays, and generally celebrating; as are their parents.  I have attended many a little party this year with sproglets who are barely walking wearing funny hats, doing funny dances, looking surprised as everyone around them bursts into song.  And eating cake.  Store bought cake, home made cake, improvised cake, pre-ordered cake.  Cake. 

This past weekend was my own baby’s birthday.  It was a weekend I’ll never forget.  We went to the zoo so she could see all the animals we read about.  We had a picnic with friends of all ages – and little Vida Lev made out like a bandit from all their generous gifts.

But again, I digress.  The subject is cake. 

We mark milestones with cake.   We eat cake on birthdays.  We celebrate with cake.

And although these little people still have developing taste buds, we feed them cake and start them down the path of cake.  Cake for “well done.”  Cake for “congratulations.” Cake for “s/he’s a jolly good fellow.”  Why?  Why are foods that aren’t healthy, don’t fortify or nutrify us considered “treats”?  It would be one thing if we felt great after indulging but, more often than not, we feel guilty, or worse. 

Why do we do it to ourselves and why do we do it to our children? 

Vida Lev is one year old.  She would celebrate with avocado if that was on offer.  Or a great afternoon at the zoo.   In Vida’s world, food doesn’t yet come into the equation as a way of celebrating.

For her party, I felt stuck in a little bit of a catch 22: do I make a cake and start her down that path – a path she has no idea exists – or do I resist the urge and feel like I’m depriving her?

One thing I’ve noticed about motherhood is that there is rarely a blatantly “right” answer.  I’m constantly wondering whether I am scarring her for life J.

But we were talking about cake…

In the end, I did make cake.  Raw, vegan, carrot cake sweetened with dates and a touch of coconut nectar.  And raw vegan chocolate chip cookies.  So yes, it could have been worse.  But still, when I think of how Vida’s first taste of a sugary food took place on the day we celebrated her arrival into the world, I cringe a little.

(by the way, if you’re still wondering whether sugar really is THAT bad, take a look at this New York Times article)

In my better moments, I savour the knowledge that she loved her day, and loved that people kept singing to her, and her cookies and cake.  In moments of doubt, I remember that she was a little more hyper that day (could have been as a result of all the presents and attention, could also have been the sugar, could have been both) and a little grumpier the next. 

Mostly, I wonder over and over why we enjoy making ourselves feel bad, or worse, causing actual harm to our health when we’re supposed to be celebrating?

That cake question, by the way, easily translates to alcohol.  Adults often mark occasions and celebrations by getting extremely drunk.  The next day, they complain bitterly, but there seems, to me, to be an underlying sense of pride.  I got shitfaced, how great am I?  How, I ask myself, does that say hip hip hooray to the greatness of life?     

Why doesn’t a green smoothie serve the same purpose?  It’s sweet, it’s intoxicating (in the broader sense of the term), and it does a body good.  I know … it doesn’t do it for me either… (I blame the media – or maybe the Pope)

But this isn’t a post about alcohol.  Or even green smoothies.  It’s a post about cake.  I made cake.  So here are the recipes for the cake and cookies I made on Vida Lev’s birthday.

Please note that these are not my original but rather great recipes ones that I found and adapted.  The internet is a new mother’s best friend after all!

Vida Lev’s first birthday treats

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cookies
(makes about 50 silver dollar-sized cookies)
(adapted from

For the cookie dough:
1 ¾ cups raw cashews
1 ½ cups raw oats
¼ cup coconut nectar
2 t vanilla powder
¼ cup melted coconut oil

For the chocolate chips:
1/8 cup melted coconut oil
¼ cup melted cacao butter
½ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
1 ½ T carob liquid (unsweetened)
2 t vanilla powder
3/4t lucuma (optional)
2 T coconut nectar

To make the chocolate chips:  Melt the coconut oil and cacao butter in a bain de marie.  Once it’s completely liquid, stir in the cacao powder followed by the carob, vanilla, lucuma and coconut nectar.  Spread onto a teflex sheet or some greaseproof paper, making sure the thick, sticky mixture is relatively uniform and no thicker than about half an inch.  Put in the fridge (if you have more time) or freezer to set.

To make the dough:  Grind the nuts and oats in the food processor until you get a powder.  Then add the other ingredients and process until a sticky ball forms.  Refrigerate until you can make the cookies (when the chocolate is ready).

For the cookies:  When the chocolate has set, chop into small pieces (or chips, if you will).  With you hands, fold into the dough – this is when the refrigeration is helpful as the chips won’t melt as quickly though you do have to be relatively fast.

You can use a small ice cream scoop to create relatively uniformly sized cookies.  Press down with a fork.  Keep refrigerated until they’re ready to serve.

Note: If you don’t have ingredients like coconut nectar, I’m sure you can replace this with maple syrup, date syrup or honey.  The lucuma is optional, as if the carob though I love the extra depth it lends to the chocolate.  And if you don’t have cacao butter handy, I would play around with the quantities of coconut oil and cacao powder.

Raw Carrot Cake with Vanilla Macadamia frosting
(adapted from

For the cake:
 4 cups shredded carrots (about 1.5 lbs)
1 cup pitted dates (about 16)
¾ cup dried, unsulphered apricots
1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup raisins
1 t vanilla (the original recipe calls for cinnamon, but Vida has had a bad reaction to it)
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t allspice

For the frosting:
¾ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
¾ cup raw macadamias, soaked overnight
1.5 T coconut nectar
1 T melted coconut oil
3 T water

To Make the cake:
Grate the carrots using the grater attachment in the food processor.  Then transfer to a large mixing bowl. 
In the food processor, using the blade attachment, combine the dates, apricots until combined.  Mix in with the shredded carrots (best done by hand)
Once again, using the food processor, combine ½ cup coconut with the raisins and pulse until they are broken into little bits. Add the spices and pulse until well mixed then combine in the mixing bowl with the carrot, etc.
Kneed well with your hands until it’s all mixed and sticks together well.  Then spread onto an 8 ½ x 12 inch (21.5 x 30 cm) baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and refrigerate.

To Make the frosting:
Soak the cashews and macadamias overnight. Drain and rinse.  Process with 3 T water until a thick paste forms (this could take a while – keep scraping down the sides).   Meanwhile melt the coconut oil in a Bain de Marie.  Once the nuts are fully smooth, add the other ingredients and process briefly.

Spread the frosting over the cake and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lisa commented on 09-Aug-2011 11:34 PM
You know, there's plenty of sugar in carrots and dried fruit - diabetics limit their intake of both. If you're trying to be pure, or make your kid be pure, stick with the avocado.

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April 8th, 2011: Here We Go Again

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

This might sound a bit bananas.  Because by the time you’ve removed gluten, dairy, refined sugars and most nightshades from your diet, the last thing you want to hear is that there are more foods to take out of the rotation.  A couple of weeks ago, however, that is exactly what happened to me. 

Let me explain.  For the past few years, I have been successfully managing a hypo-thyroid condition with food and herbs.  During pregnancy and breastfeeding, however, many of the herbs I had been using were contraindicated and so off-limits.  Few people are aware that pregnancy often exacerbates pre-existing thyroid conditions, which is what recently happened to me.

After running the requisite blood tests, the doctor prescribed thyroid medication.  And why wouldn’t he?  For a moment, I got scared enough to consider taking it.  After all, what has worked for me in the past is not viable at the moment.  To be honest, I was also frustrated: I thought with all I do for my health, why is this happening to me? 

But I got over my self-pity and I gave my fear a good talking to.  Then I made an appointment with a Naturopath.  The way I see it, if the alternative method doesn’t work, I still have the option of medication.   But once I’m taking the pills, it’s much harder to wean myself off them.

The naturopath really seemed to know her stuff.  There was just one problem: she was asking me to radically change my diet. 

What qualifies me to do what I do are my studies in holistic health but also – or so I thought – the fact that I myself have been through a serious food makeover.  And it was hard.  But oh, how quickly we forget. 

When the Naturopath told me what I needed to remove from my diet, I asked her the same question I get asked by so many of my clients: What am I going to eat?

But I’ve lived to tell the tale and am feeling great.  So in addition to eating gluten-, diary-, refined carbohydrate- and sugar-free, I am not having beans, pulses, grains, nuts or seeds (except coconut and the occasional macadamia or cashew), or vegetable oils (though a little olive oil is OK).

What I am eating are a lot of vegetables, fruit and some animal protein.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it is.  And it’s forced me to go back to the drawing board and start getting creative in the kitchen again.  We’ve enjoyed curried veggie burgers and energizing smoothies, colourful salads and satisfying soups.

The Internet and its many food bloggers have been a wonderful resource, for which I am insanely grateful.  Some days you simply need a helping hand and a dollop of inspiration from others on similar journeys. 

Still, I waited to post this until I had a proper dessert.

People somehow assume that my desserts are healthy.  And while they are made entirely of whole, nutritious foods, they are still dessert – so to be enjoyed in moderation. 

But life’s too short to give up pudding.

Coconut Royals -- no oven necessary
(adapted from

*  For the bottom layer:
-  1 ½ cup macadamia nuts
-  1 ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats (I use gluten-free)
-  1.5 t salt
-  8 large medjool dates
-   ¼ cup coconut oil

*  For the filling:
-  17 large medjool dates
-  ½ cup water

* For the crumble:
-  ¾ cup crust mix
-  ½ cup shredded coconut
-  ¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

*  For the bonus layer:
-  a bar of 100% cacao chocolate (90 grams)

Line your baking tray with parchment paper (I used a 13.5 x 9.5 inch baking tray).

To make the bottom layer, process the macadamia nuts, 1 ½ cups oats and salt in the food processor until fine.  Then add the 8 medjool dates and process again.  Melt the coconut oil on a low flame and then add to the mixture and process until it becomes a more or less cohesive mass. 

Put ¾ cup aside and press the rest down with your hand on the lined baking tray until uniform and flat. 

Then process the 17 dates and the water until a paste forms.  Scoop and spread it over the crust layer using a flat spatula.

Finally, pulse the ¾ cup leftover crust mixture, the coconut and the ¼ cup of oats.  This needs to remain relatively crumbly.  Sprinkle over the top. 

And then we go over the top!  Melt the chocolate bar in a bain de Marie.  Drizzle over the mixture. 

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.  Cut into small (or large) squares) and serve straight from the refrigerator. 



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On Life As A Picky Foodie - Nov 5, 2010: An Oat-Sceptic Converted

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

Dear Friends; 

Oats are an interesting part of the gluten-free journey.  Wheat isn’t the only grain that contains gluten: there are spelt, barley and rye to name a few.  Oats, on the other hand, do not in and of themselves contain gluten, and yet they are deemed unsafe. 

Why is that?

The culprit is cross-contamination. 

Cross contamination happens when foods are present in facilities that manufacture other foods.  And oats, for example, are often milled or processed in the same place as wheat; they are often grown in fields adjacent to wheat fields.  This makes them prone to having particles of wheat mixed in with them.

Enter certified gluten-free oats. 

Gluten-free oats have all the same qualities as regular, non-certified oats, except they are “safe” and available at most health food stores, both in the UK as well as the US.  Yay!

As I mentioned before, I don’t have much experience with oats.  When I was a child, the only time I had oatmeal was when we would choose the “healthier” options at the mall in  Florida, where we would visit my grandparents every summer; or Quaker instant oatmeal – the apple cinnamon kind (though I’m dubious as to whether they really contained apples or cinnamon). 

And the plain, watery-oatmeal with a teaspoon of sugar that many Brits seem to love doesn’t float my boat. 

But being married to a Brit means oats are here to stay.  I found myself a little dubious but excited to find a way to love these little low GI, exceptionally power-packed little buggers.

I checked out DW’s store-bought granola that advertised itself as “healthy” – a statement that immediately makes me suspicious.  The amount of sugar and other sweeteners was incredible: sugar, honey, molasses, cane sugar, palm sugar, you name it, it seemed to be in there!

When compared to a deep-fried Mars bar (another thing I was not aware of until I met my husband), granola is probably “healthy” – and who can forget the reputation it earned itself in the seventies and eighties??? … 

But check the labels and you might be surprised… 

Anyway, for obvious reasons, I decided to try my hand at making my own version.  While there are already many many other granola recipes out there, here is my version.

With love,


P.S.  DW deemed it “delicious” 

The Picky Foodie’s Old Fashioned Granola

-  2c gluten-free oats

-  1c almonds, roughly chopped

-  1c apple-juice sweetened, non-sulphured* cranberries (these are much darker than the sugared, sulphured* kind)

-  1c chopped dried apricots (again, the non-sulphured* kind are brownish instead of eighties orange)

-  1/2T vanilla powder

-  1/2c brown rice flakes

-  1c shredded coconut flakes

-  1/2c date syrup

-  1/8c melted coconut oil

-  1/8c whole tahini

Toast the oat flakes in a pan at 160 degrees Centigrade / 320 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes (give them a good shake every few minutes)

While the oats are toasting, mix the almonds, cranberries, apricots, vanilla, brown rice flakes and coconut flakes in a big bowl. 

Once the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the date syrup, coconut oil and tahini and, once again, mix well.

Add the oats once properly toasted.

Line an oven pan with parchment paper and pour the mixture in.

Bake for 12 minutes.

After 12 minutes, turn the pan around so the side closest to the door is now furthest away, and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes.

Please allow to cool fully before attempting a taste.

*  NOTE: used as a preservative in dried fruit and wine, sulphur dioxide (also known as E220) helps dried fruit retain its colour and prevents rotting.  However, it can cause headaches, bloating, gas and other uncomfortable symptoms in sensitive individuals and is thought to possibly be carcinogenic in large quantities.  Organic dried fruit will not contain sulphur dioxide.  


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