When my friends ask what I’ve been up to lately, my answer is “chopping vegetables”. Seriously.
A couple of weeks ago, I hinted about a major lifestyle change that I was about to make. Well, you guys, I have completely changed the way eat. No, not just the way I eat. I have completely changed the way I think about food.
Last year, I gave up all gluten and refined sugar after suffering from three major allergic reactions between February and June. I mean the kind that get you a quick trip to the emergency room. Diagnosed with systemic candidiasis — that basically means that my body had grown a whole lot more candida albicans than the average person — I started taking medication and gave up the breads, pastas, and sweet treats that I loved. Turns out candida loves them more.
What I have learned over the last year is that I had been suffering symptoms from candidiasis well before February, but I always attributed my feeling bad to something else. Within a month of not eating gluten and refined sugar, my weekly migraines stopped. How do I know it wasn’t something else that changed? Because I’m a cheater. I would eat just one little brownie or a teensy slice of bread thinking “what could it hurt?”, and whammo, migraine headache. No cheats; no headaches.
Yay! Right? Well, I never got completely well. I was better, but I still had a ton of gastrointestinal issues. And a battle with completely unexplained, stubborn weight gain around my belly. And a bunch of other symptoms too boring to discuss in this forum. Have you ever heard people say that they were sick and tired of being sick and tired? Sounds like a corny bumper sticker, right? Except that’s me. I finally reached my breaking point three weeks ago, and I decided that it was time to make a change.
If you are familiar with addiction treatment terminology, then some of the words I’m using may resonate. That’s because I am addicted to flour, sugar, and salt. Why else did I repeatedly eat things that I knew would make me sick later? In an effort to explain my behavior to friends, I actually caught myself likening it to drinking too much while knowing that there would be a hangover to follow. Truth is most of us are addicted to flour, sugar, and salt. Um, the food manufacturers are more than well aware of this.
I am not at a point where I am well enough to be the teacher about how we are hooked on food that hurts us. If you want to know more, watch a documentary like Hungry for Change. There are also tons of books, especially anything by Michael Pollan or Dr. Mark Hyman. Or just look around at how — please excuse my frankness — fat we all are. Even many thin people are fat when it comes to body composition.
Have I peaked your interest in my new journey? Well, how about this: I lost 8 pounds in the last 10 days. And I ate really awesome food 5-6 times a day. Grass-fed meats, free-range eggs, avocados, every tree nut and just about every seed you can imagine, fresh herbs, and lovely, beautiful, in-season vegetables.
Okay, now why in the heck am I showing you a recipe for cake after all of that? Two reasons. First, like any addict, I need to be able to manage my environment. Having this cake, which has no flour, very little sugar, and tons of good-for-me ingredients helps ease my fears about NEVER BEING ABLE TO EAT SWEETS AGAIN. My approach to wellness is more harm reduction than cold-turkey, for a lot of reasons that I hope to speak more eloquently about when I’m on the other side. The second reason? I baked this cake on Sunday. Since then, I have only eaten a single 2-inch square of it. Before I made the cake, I promised myself that if I started to obsess about the cake sitting on my kitchen counter, or if I felt out-of-control around it, then I would either throw it away or take it into work for my hungry friends. But that hasn’t been an issue. So the biggest reason to share about this cake is that I’m so proud of myself for conquering not only my cravings, but also my fear of them.
I got the idea for this recipe while searching for a way to use up the rest of my locally-grown fresh chocolate mint. Delighted Momma’s Flourless Zucchini Brownies got me straight up off the couch and into the kitchen to try my own version. I had to find out how a vegetable, almond butter, and a single egg could result in a baked good worth eating.
Were they? You betcha! Zucchini is my new favorite secret ingredient. I think the texture is more cake than brownies, though, so I switched up the name. Next time, I will experiment with adding either almond or coconut flour for a more brownie-like texture. If it works, I will definitely share.
I had the chocolate liquid stevia on hand, but you could use regular or vanilla liquid stevia if you prefer. Or powdered stevia. When my system is more calibrated, I may use raw honey. The point is to make this work for you and your health. I also used the small amount of gluten-free dark chocolate chips that I still had on hand after my pantry purge. Next time, I will probably use cacao nibs as a sugar-free alternative. Also, allow this cake to cool completely, because it makes a huge improvement in the texture and flavor to let this baby come to room temperature.
Chocolate Mint Snack Cake
2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped into large pieces
1 c. almond butter
1 t. liquid chocolate stevia, or sweetener of choice
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
approximately 20 fresh chocolate mint leaves
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with coconut oil spray and set aside.
In a food processor, chop the zucchini until finely minced. Add the next eight ingredients and pulse until well combined. Remove the bowl from the food processor and stir in dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs.
Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Slice, serve, and enjoy.