I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PROGRAM, ROUND 3 (the first 3 weeks in review)

This is my third time around, doing sugar-free the IQS way. As always, it’s a fascinating (and delicious) process. And already significant health-related revelations have come to light, which I will delve into later.

But I’ll start with the food. No doubt the best place to start…

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

Week 1 arrived and the program kicked off with one of the most talked about and documented recipes of the 8WP thus far, the game-changing Gluten-Free Buckwheat Loaf. It was closely followed by one of the prettiest 8WP dishes, perhaps, the Quinoa and Chia Breakfast Pot; proof that you can do IQS and eat fruit! Chilli + Lime Kebabs with Herb Quinoa, another classic IQS favourite, are so easy to prepare; a perfect combination of a few simple ingredients. And lest we forget the epic Pumpkin Pizza (I made mine sans cheese and with basil in place of sage); delicious star of every IQSer’s Instagram gallery!

Week 2 introduced me to some of my new favourite recipes. I can’t sing the praises of the Spiced Coco-Nutty Breakfast Muffins enough. They are simply delicious. And have not even a pinch of sweetener of any kind added (although you wouldn’t know it). My little boy loved them too. Just after Week 2 began, we headed off on a road trip to the ski fields of Åre, and these gorgeous IQS muffins saved me during the 8-hour drive. As it was -15°C, I was able to keep remaining muffins in the car, frozen, until we moved on again! I prepped the Curried Lentil Patties with Minted Yogurt and the Curried Vegetable Empanadas (mine morphed into spring rolls, but they were still delicious) as part of my Sunday cook-up for Week 2. When we returned home, exhausted after 8 hours of car travel, this was the meal that welcomed me. I could have cried! Literally. I loved it so much and it was exactly what I needed both physically and emotionally! The following day was my Cupcake’s 2nd birthday party, so amidst unpacking, laundry, setting up, cooking, hosting the party and celebrating my little miracle, there was no time for my weekly cook-up.

Week 3 began and my life looked chaotic, but thanks to the generous portion sizes of 8WP meals, I had enough leftovers in the freezer to largely carry me through the rest of the week! A particularly good thing, as my health took a nose dive on the Tuesday of Week 3, and I came down with a nasty cold, from which I am still recovering. One of my favourite meals was the revisited Quick Moroccan Chick-Pea Stew. And the Coco-Nutty Granola and Kale, Sweet Potato & Feta Frittata are what I would consider IQS classics. You simply can’t go wrong with them (I think most IQSers would agree)!

Our Valentine’s Day was spent at home, without plans. And I can’t tell you what an absolute gift and luxury that was for me!
Don’t buy me presents, just let me sleep in and I’ll love you forever! ;)

I made Lingonberry Chocolate Truffles for my husband, modifying the amazing (and easy) Espresso Truffle recipe from I Quit Sugar’s The Chocolate Cookbook Volume II and using Finnberry wild lingonberry powder (in place of coffee).
If anyone would like it, I am happy to share the modifications I made, but for the fabulous original recipe (these truffles take minutes to make!), head here to receive it as a free gift. I want to add quickly that I am truly honoured to have one of my own recipes featured amongst the bunch in The Chocolate Cookbook Volume II; my first recipe featured in book form! If you love to make desserts (as I do) and you are afraid that going sugar-free means depriving yourself, fear not! Check this book out! Oh, and I did try the truffles, even though anything with any form of sweetener (including berries or rms) is technically out at this recalibration stage of the program*.

I started my cook-up on Saturday evening, beginning with the Basil and Spinach Pesto. I chose to make the Paleo Veggie Bread from the previous round as I am determined to have a nutritious gluten-free loaf on hand at all times. It’s just too easy for me otherwise to reach for sour dough (albeit one of the better, IQS-approved breads) and peanut butter… truckloads of peanut butter!

MissMarzipan_IQS8WP3_basil_spinach_pesto

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

I approached Week 1 with the same enthusiasm I have had in previous rounds. Others new to the IQS community (and those returning to do another 8WP), seemed particularly enthusiastic this round. I am not big on New Year’s resolutions myself, but I am sure quite a few people would have signed up for this round in order to kick-start a healthy 2015… which is not a bad idea at all! Of course it is wonderfully motivating to be part of a community of enthusiastic, empathic and super-supportive people, which undoubtedly one of the major advantages IQS has over other lifestyle programs.

Week 2 revolved largely around our trip to the north of Sweden. The trip started, after a day at work, with an incredible amount of stress due to a) two separate car accidents taking place in front of us on the way out of the city and resulting traffic insanity b) our car breaking down north of Stockholm resulting in the emergency hiring of another car c) snow storms + poor visibility + trucks everywhere d) being delayed by all this malarkey by around 3 hours, despite leaving the city in good time.

Food-wise, there were the usual challenges, namely a lack of cooking facilities. I managed to find a café/bistro in Åre (Café Torget), that offers organic, vegetarian and locally produced options, as well as some of the usual Swedish suspects. I had a variation on an abundance bowl, with quinoa and loads of veg. They were also playing The Smiths when we arrived, and thus made a favourable impression off the bat. ;)

Our lovely hotel (Holiday Club Åre) featured a generous buffet breakfast spread (Sweden rocks for such stuff) and I was able to load up for the day on all the IQS-friendly choices (oats, yogurt, eggs, vegetables, sourdough bread, herbal tea, etc.). The hotel was well-equipped with a gym, lovely swimming pool complex and even a “Sauna World” where every sauna known to man was showcased, including an “ice sauna” which, after coming from -15°C outside the hotel, I found it rather unnecessary to try! I would have loved to go to the beauty salon for something or other of a pampering nature, but I am not a multimillionaire (the prices were STEEP!). The children took turns skiing and sledding with their father and grandparents, and in fine winter sports-challenged Aussie style, I spent most of my time bathing with whichever child was not up on the ski slope. The drive back was not as long and not quite as stressful, but panic set in when we arrived home in the evening and realised how much there was to do before my daughter’s birthday party and the working week!

Week 3 was mostly about stress in my personal life… and illness… leading to more stress. Fortuitously I was able to spend some time catching up on missed presentations for The Female Hormone Solution, which helped shed light on possible solutions to the very issues I was going through.

We are now approaching Week 4, and for the first time in 3 rounds of doing the IQS8WP, my excitement about embracing “Clean Week” is greater than any nervousness I feel about it. Let me explain why.

A few weeks ago I underwent a rather painful and unpleasant aspiration of a lump discovered in my neck. Thankfully the results proved it was benign, but the hospital doctors suggested it was caused by a lymphatic issue. I am awaiting further testing. The problem is that, in conjunction with the appearance of this lump, my immunity seems to have been seriously compromised, to the point whereby every small sniffle, every cold, every fever that my children come down with (a normal result of early childhood/playdates/nursery school), I am also getting. And each one is knocking me down. This winter has not been particularly kind to me health-wise, and I don’t know if I can or will ever completely acclimatise to months of darkness and below freezing temperatures.

Since becoming a “responsible adult”, I have always attempted to forge ahead despite illness. This has been the first time since I became a career woman (other than during my pregnancies) that I have allowed myself to take the sick days I actually need when I am sick, even if the illnesses have come inconveniently back-to-back.

A little voice tells me I could somehow sully my own reputation as a hardworking and capable woman/employee, but I try to ignore it and allow myself the rest anyway. I know things will get worse if I don’t. Sometimes I feel like I am close to experiencing anxiety over the stress and expectation I burden myself with. I don’t know how to completely let it go. I never have. I have a mental to-do list that never get shortened, merely added to as soon as one thing is checked off. I have 2 careers, 2 small children and a husband. I work, I train, I cook from scratch, I socialise IRL (though less these days) and online, I attempt to keep myself available via many channels, I plan… and plan. I stop when I am asleep (and I don’t sleep enough). And so it seems that I am really picking up this program where the last one left off.

I strive to do it all, and to be the best version of me that I can be whilst I am doing it all. I no doubt suffer from what Dr Libby refers to as “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome”**… and the combination of that and my ongoing hormonal imbalance and thyroid issues are a bad combination. Sarah Wilson talks often and openly about her struggles with autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue, the challenges which led her to create the I Quit Sugar movement in the first place. Her posts on the subject have been eye-opening and I have been able to see myself in many of the things she has mentioned.

For the past few weeks, at regular yet random intervals, the words “You can have it all, but not at the same time” have popped into my head. My body is not only trying to tell me something, clearly I am trying to tell me something!

In order to better keep track of things, I am starting to diarise my symptoms and things of note in my daily routines (such as whether I slept well, trained or ate foods containing gluten). Clean Week affords me the opportunity to be gluten-free, caffeine-free and sugar-free all at oncewith support from I Quit Sugar experts (including Body Be Well‘s Diana Tencic) and a community of people attempting to do the same thing I am.

After doing the IQS8WP two times already, I know from experience the difference between consuming sugar and being sugar-free. I have been caffeine-free before for long periods (leading up to and during both my pregnancies) so, as much as I love the taste of coffee, I can live without it. Gluten-free is something that I have experimented with, but never wholeheartedly embraced as, with no known gluten sensitivity issue, I haven’t deemed it necessary to cut it out completely. I am, however, curious to see how doing so may or many not affect my ongoing health issues. So this coming week will be an exciting health experiment.

WHAT I AM LOVING

  • The continued journey of self-discovery on the health and wellness front
  • The incredible motivation I feel to “live well”
  • That my husband’s tastes have also recalibrated somehow (things taste sweeter to him than they used to)
  • That my children are continuing to learn more about food and nutrition and, when they are not helping me in the kitchen (or eating!), they love making up dishes using felt toy ingredients and their wooden play kitchen
  • The suspicion that things I will come to learn this round of the program will make a huge impact on my life moving forward (that’s based on a gut feeling)
  • As always, the camaraderie and support
  • As always, the amazing recipes (it truly is incredible how many new ones there are this round… and how much I love them!)

 

If you want to know more about my IQS journey, you can connect with me here:

Facebook
Instagram
Pinterest
Twitter (yes, I caved)

 

*Naughty Miss Marzipan!
**After drafting this post I took Dr. Libby’s quiz and, unsurprisingly, I scored off the charts. I am officially a Rushing Woman :P

THE FEMALE HORMONE SOLUTION

A few weeks ago I signed up for the The Female Hormone Solution, hosted by Dave and Cam of The RAW Health Movement. We have now officially reached the completion of this free 10-day event that has featured hormonal health advice from 30 experts across different fields (6 videos posted every 48 hours). The good news is that an “Encore Day” has been announced… so read on if you’re interested in finding out more!

Hormonal health in general is of great interest to me, and has been ever since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism* in 2009 after a miscarriage and series of fertility-related tests conducted at a clinic here in Stockholm.

I have been consciously riding the hormonal roller-coaster since 2008 and unconsciously doing so long before then. I realise more each day how amazing my body is, how “kind” it has been to me and how I can improve every single area of my life by taking care of my health above all else. Forums such as this provide extra motivation for me to do so… and an absolute wealth of information too!

I missed a few days of The Female Hormone Solution due to a family trip to the ski fields of Åre (which I heartily recommend, even if you’re winter sports-challenged as I am!), but have tried to catch up on my viewing, and today I had the pleasure of listening to amazing Therese Kerr, whose talk about chemical toxicity in non-organic cosmetic products was a real eye-opener.

On her website page Educated, Empowered and Chemical-Free, Therese prefaces her program summary by posing this question:
“Did you know that on average, most women put a minimum of 250 chemicals on their skin every day and that 60 to 70% of everything WE put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream and our organs?”

Eek!

Eek x 250, in fact!

Her talk was essentially an elaboration on this point. She shared her own health story and talked briefly about her background, business ventures and family (her daughter is gorgeous Miranda Kerr). She discussed her motivations for going organic and various research papers/studies that have proved links between chemical bombardment (particularly in the form of cosmetic products) and hormonal issues and diseases. When she stated that “… the very thing that women think is making them more feminine, is the very thing that is costing them their femininity”, it really hit home.

We currently buy organic, paraben-free shampoo, conditioner and body wash. My foundation is organic, fair-trade and vegan. Our household cleaning products are either homemade (by me) or certified eco and CO2-neutral. However, we have a long way to go to becoming chemical-free, and Therese’s talk was truly motivational.

In fact, despite working in the cosmetics industry myself (albeit for a company with an organic line of products and good ethical policies) and despite years of coveting and amassing all manner of cosmetic and fragrance products (from novel to high-end), I felt compelled to turn out my make-up bag and strip my bathroom cupboards bare in order to weed out “the nasties”.

My thriftiness holds me back, somewhat. I hate wasting things. I don’t like to throw things away that are still usable and/or useful. But I think a serious detox is in order. It might cost me money, but my health has no price tag. I will be sure to document this process in some way once it gets underway.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, get in super quick and register immediately at thefemalehormonesolution.com to gain access to the “Encore Day” round of videos (actually up for the next 48 hours) featuring the forum’s top voted presenters, plus free gifts, including a downloadable hormonal health recipe book.

Experts featured in this amazing series of talks include fabulous Sarah Wilson (the reason I signed up in the first place), Dr Libby and celebrity chef, Pete Evans.

I hope to share my experiences with my latest round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program very soon too, but had to put this tip “out there” before the videos are no longer available.

I hope this is of use to someone.

<3 MM xx

*It was never suggested that hypothyroidism was the cause of the miscarriage at that time, but the testing that determined I had thyroid issues was done as a direct result of the miscarriage.
**Of no relevance to this post, really, but it is my daughter’s second birthday today. A special thank you to all of you who followed this blog and my high risk pregnancy journey with “Cupcake” in 2013. You really helped me and I am grateful; grateful to you and grateful to have my little sweetie here with me… and thriving.

GREEN TEA CHIA PUDDING WITH LEMON & BLUEBERRIES (gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan… & delicious!)

This is a light and fresh chia pudding combining the mellow freshness of a fragrant green tea with the gentle creaminess of almond milk, a hint of vibrant lemon and sweet bursts of fresh blueberries. The recipe is gluten-free, sugar-free, IQS-friendly, organic (if you use organic ingredients), vegan/plant-based and has a Paleo option too.

MissMarzipan_green_tea_chia_blueberries_lemon2

GREEN TEA CHIA PUDDING WITH LEMON & BLUEBERRIES

Makes: 2 portions | Prep Time: 5 minutes (minus time for the tea to steep) 

CHIA PUDDING INGREDIENTS

150 ml fragrant, mellow green tea* (I used Teavivre organic green tea)
175 ml unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp organic vanilla powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 – 1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest (add zest according to taste)
1 tbsp rice malt syrup** (I used PureHarvest organic, gluten-free rms)
1 tsp green protein powder
60 ml chia seeds
50 ml desiccated coconut

FOR SERVING
100 ml fresh, organic blueberries (more if you like)
A ribbon of lemon zest as garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all chia pudding ingredients in a bowl and combine well.
  2. Cover and keep in the fridge overnight.
  3. Give mix a good stir before diving it between 2 glasses/jars/bowls. Serve topped with blueberries and extra lemon zest as a garnish.

 

*The equivalent of 2 teabags steeped in 150ml of boiling water and left to cool to room temperature.

**Rms could be replaced with maple syrup for a vegan, Paleo option.

***This recipe was originally featured on the fabulous site wellsome.com, where gorgeous professional wellness coach Jema Lee shares her good life, good health knowledge and gluten-free inspiration.

ON AUTHENTICITY (eat – and post – what makes you happy!)

A while ago I posted about authenticity and that, according to Gabby Bernstein (and many others, no doubt), our truth – right here and now – is all we need to offer other people; our “authentic self” is what attracts others to us, and allowing ourselves to be who we are is the only thing that brings us lasting contentment.

I have made a decision to live with this in mind.

missmarzipan_be_true1

The way I eat/exercise/live will not resonate with everyone, but I have always tried to post what I love (whether here on my blog, or elsewhere)…

Borrowing from my “about” page:

“As you will notice if you trawl the archives of this blog right back to its inception, all the recipes here are vegetarian. Many have a health-focused leaning, be it on organic/seasonal produce, or gluten-free, or sugar-free… or a combination. I am vegetarian (of the ovo-lacto variety), although when I started this blog I was not. I simply preferred to cook and eat vegetarian food.

My husband is vegan and, increasingly, I am eating plant-based, partly out of sheer convenience and partly because I enjoy it*. I have also embraced many aspects of the I Quit Sugar program, because the “real food” principles upon which it is based make perfect sense, and because it has been health affirming for me.

You’ll hopefully find some different recipes here. What you wont find is judgement about the way you personally choose to eat. I’m here to share what I have been cooking myself, and what I love… and in doing so, hopefully provide a little inspiration to others.”

So that is it, in a nutshell.

When I first became a vegetarian in my mid-teens, I found a cause that I was genuinely passionate about, but also one through which I found justification to vent my angst. On one occasion, I sneakily stuck “meat is murder” posters around the school tuck shop**. Yes, I was angry about factory farming (and I still am), but if I am honest, I was also angry in general… and I wanted an outlet. As far as I am aware I was the only vegetarian in my senior school (“vegan” wasn’t even “a thing” back then where I lived ;) ) and so, to anyone who knew me, it would have been obvious who the “tuck shop vandal” was (I wasn’t exactly a criminal mastermind). In any case, I’ll tell you how many people I converted to vegetarianism as a result of that stunt:

Zero.

I remained a vegetarian for seven years. It simply became habitual over time. During that period of my life, three guys I dated and many of my close friends became vegetarian. And they said that one of the reasons was because they’d seen how “easy” it was for me. Without even meaning to influence others, at least a dozen people in my life became vegetarian, not because I preached at them, but partly because I simply lived the way I did. Even when I gave up vegetarianism (due to extremely poor health***), they remained vegetarian. And now that I have found a way to eat a vegetarian diet again that works for me (health-wise), I am rejoining them! ;)

If I post a Paleo recipe, it certainly doesn’t mean I am “anti-vegan”, or vice versa (in fact every single Paleo recipe I have posted has also been vegan). Liking the I Quit Sugar program does not mean I don’t appreciate a beautifully presented cake (in fact I studied a pastry diploma course last year!). Some of my favourite accounts on Instagram are very fruit-centric, even though my diet is not. Liking running does not mean I don’t like yoga (in fact, I love both and think they compliment each other well). Practicing yoga does not make me Hindu (and if I was, I wouldn’t mean I’d automatically practice yoga). Posting a selfie from a race day once in a blue moon does not make me a narcissist. And, yes, I eat berries, bread and chocolate. :)

Things are not necessarily back or white. And maybe that makes my personal lifestyle impossible to define by one term, but that’s ok with me.

If you have found a path in life that brings you health and happiness – whatever it may be – , I applaud your courage to stick to it and wish you well on your unique journey. If you are generous, honest and share your inspiration with others, I think that is wonderful too. If you are dissatisfied and suspect that certain lifestyle changes will aid your wellbeing and give you peace of mind, then I can only encourage you to keep searching until you find what resonates with/works for you. I have, very organically, found a combination of lifestyle-related things that, when applied, seem to give me increased self-awareness, better health and greater balance than I have had before. But I don’t think my way is necessarily for everyone. And I don’t think I have “arrived”. I will keep exploring and, I hope, keep growing.

I started my Instagram account around 10 months ago and always intended it to be a reflection of what was happening in my life, just as this blog is. If someone’s lifestyle differs in some aspects from mine, but they are clearly on a journey to be happy and healthy, I try to be encouraging and supportive. I try not to judge. I try to treat others as I would like to be treated myself; with kindness and respect.

I feel blessed and incredibly grateful to have been the recipient of generous support and nothing but positivity here and on other social media platforms. And regardless of whether that continues, I’ll continue to post what makes me happy, as the best I can offer others is my truth and love.

At the end of the day, you may not be able to please all people all the time, but you can still be kind… and bring happiness to your own life by doing what you love!

<3 MM xx

*In fact, I love vegan food! My diet is 95% plant-based, if not more. And if a dish manages to be vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free and delicious, it ticks all my “ideal” boxes!
**canteen
***My poor health was not linked to vegetarianism per se, but was rather due to not eating enough, an inability to cook and depression-induced apathy regarding nutrition/my general wellbeing.

HERE’S TO A HAPPY NEW YEAR! (my annual visualisation mood board)

My New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be complete without the creation of my annual visualisation mood board! It is the perfect way for a “visual person”, such as myself, to set a positive intention for the coming year! And it works.

MissMarzipan_2015_moodboard_lg

 

 

You can easily create your own using images sourced online** and a page layout program such as InDesign, make one using magazine images and ye olde cut-and-paste method or, if really pressed for time, why not create a Pinterest board called “2015” and cram it with pins of the things you’d like to fill your life with this coming year?

Here’s to the New Year! May your 2015 be happy and love-filled!

<3 MM xx

*Borrowing yet again from my post back in 2012! Lazy ;)
** Picture credits: I have included images by Poh Ling YeowI Quit Sugar, La Tartine Gourmande, Matlida Lindeblad, Jasmine Dowling, Minimalist Baker, Ditte Ingemann and loads of others (without credits attached, sourced from Tumblr). Please let me know if one of these images is yours so I can credit you! x

Previous mood boards:
2013
2014

 

SWEDISH (NO)MEATBALLS (a vegan version of the Swedish favourite)

Famously, Sweden has a long tradition of meat, seafood and dairy-rich cuisine. Its inhabitants, however, seem to be increasingly more interested in plant-based eating. My newly-vegan husband- who was raised on köttbullar (Swedish meatballs), sill (pickled herring) & kilos of cheese- is a testament to this trend.

On our first study “date” during our university days in Australia, my future husband attempted to woo me by offering me a midnight feast in the kitchen of his student share house. The only problem was the fact that all he had on hand was slices of plastic-y processed cheese, a packet of Black & Gold generic supermarket brand frozen hamburgers (the cheapest money could buy) and, I recall, a handful of Jatz crackers. Not even bread. Basically, it was my absolute nightmare “meal”! I forgave him this major flaw and, 12 years and 2 kids later, we remain happily together… and eating a far better diet!

This Christmas I was determined to make a vegan, IQS-inspired version of the classic Swedish combo of meatballs, mashed potato and lingonberry jam.

MissMarzipan_vegan_meatballs

I will post my Sugar-Free Lingonberry Jam and Creamed Kale Mashed Potato recipes soon, but in the meantime, here is the recipe for…

SWEDISH (NO)MEATBALLS

Makes: approximately 20

INGREDIENTS

2 organic eggplants
3-4 slices of sourdough bread*
60- 75 ml of non-dairy cream (I used Oatly‘s iMat**)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small organic carrot, grated
2 tbsp organic plain flour (a touch more, if needed)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds***, ground using a mortar and pestle
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and black pepper for seasoning to taste
Chickpea flour for coating (approximately 150 ml)
Olive oil for frying (at least 3 tbsp)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 210 degrees C.
  2. Wash the eggplants and cut them in half lengthways. Place on a foil lined baking tray, skin side down.
  3. Make a few cuts into the flesh of each eggplant half (lengthways), then drizzle over a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake in oven for around 30 minutes.
  5. Remove eggplant from over and scoop out the flesh with a spoon before chopping up.
  6. Slice (or pulse in a food processor) sourdough bread slices into small pieces.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggplant, bread, crushed garlic, grated carrot, spices and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  8. Add vegan cream of choice and mix.
  9. Add flour and combine well, then let the mix stand for a few minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, tip the chickpea flour onto a large plate.
  11. Using a tablespoon, take heaped tablespoons full of mixture and form them into balls****, popping each onto the chickpea flour-covered plate and rolling them around until each ball is coated evenly.
  12. In a frying pan over medium heat, fry the no meatballs in olive oil for around 5 minutes, turning occasionally to make sure they colour and cook evenly.

 

Leftover (no)meatball toasted sandwich with avocado, sautéed field mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil, seasoning and fresh herbs

Leftover (no)meatball toasted sandwich with avocado, sautéed field mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil, seasoning and fresh herbs

 

*For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free bread and gluten-free flour.

**For an IQS touch, try using coconut cream.

***For a more traditional Swedish flavour profile, try replacing the cumin, parsley and fennel with 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of organic powdered vegetable stock, and add half a grated white onion to the mix.

****This mix can also be used to make flatter, patty-style forms, which would be a great veggie burger option.

Recipe inspired by one from Djurens Rätts bästa recept

A VEGAN, SUGAR-FREE TAKE ON SWEDISH CARAMEL COOKIES

A while back I wrote a very short, sharp update about my adventures in pastry school. Unfortunately, time ran away from me and I have yet to go into further detail about my classes and what I learned during my diploma course.

One thing that was covered quickly was the traditional Swedish kolasnitt (or caramel cookie), made from a very simple cookie dough that is baked whole, then sliced into individual cookies whilst still warm.

The special texture of the original cookies was not quite replicated, but I was quite happy with the taste. And I think they make a nice alternative for those who don’t eat sugar or dairy.

Try dipping the cooled cookies (to halfway) in your favourite super-dark, vegan chocolate for an extra special treat!

MissMarzipan_sugarfree_caramel_cookies

 

VEGAN, SUGAR-FREE SWEDISH CARAMEL COOKIES

Makes approximately 40

100 ml birch sugar*
100 g vegan butter** (such as Earth Balance)
1 tsp organic vanilla powder
4 tsp rice malt syrup (I used PureHarvest)
200 ml plain organic flour
1 tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius (fan).
  2. Whisk vegan butter and birch sugar until it fluffy and slightly porous. Add vanilla powder and syrup. Fold through flour and baking powder and combine quickly with your hands to form a dough.
  3. Divide dough into quarters.
  4. Using your hands, form 1/4 of the dough into a rough rectangular shape on a baking paper-lined tray. Place another sheet of baking paper over the dough and, using a rolling pin, flatten the rectangular shape out to be approximately 15cm long by 10 cm wide.
  5. Pop the tray in the oven and bake dough for approximately 10 minutes.
    Remove from oven and, with a long, sharp knife, immediately slice cookies on an angle (on average, mine worked out to be around 1.5 cm wide by 9-10 cm long).
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining portions of dough.

 

MissMarzipan_cookies_Christmas

Christmas baking: Sugar-free Swedish Caramel Cookies, Poh Ling Yeow’s Chewy Choc-chip Cookies and Snowflake Stamped Cut-out Cookies… something for everyone!

 

If you celebrated Christmas, I hope you had a fabulous one, filled with love and good food!

<3 MM xx

*I should mention that I rarely bake with butter substitutes or birch sugar these days, but I have a packet of birch sugar left from older baking experiments, and in cases such as this, I feel it can be a useful alternative to refined, white sugar.
**Regarding vegan butter substitutes, I tend to prefer coconut or nut based alternatives to anything heavily processed/refined, but if they are to be used (for the sake of effective baking chemistry), I always try to stick with the non-GMO, zero trans fat and organic alternatives.

 

SIMPLE LAVENDER SALT SCRUB (a quick, thrifty and beautiful homemade spa-in-a-jar gift)

Allow me to jump right in and begin this post by stating that this scrub works. It really works. Not only will it leave your skin cleansed and moisturised, but you will smell gorgeous too (if lavender is your thing, as it is mine).

Moreover, it is inexpensive to make, simple to prepare (my toddlers helped me make it!) and is a lovely homemade gift*.

As someone who has worked rather extensively within the beauty industry**, I am familiar with the old technological innovation = high-performance pitch. So I forgive myself initially questioning the efficacy of such a simple homemade skin care preparation. Thankfully, I had the good sense to try this scrub out myself before packaging it up for gifting purposes. Now I’ll be sure to make this scrub for myself too!

If you’re looking for a last-minute, DIY-style Christmas stocking filler or hostess gift, this is just the ticket.

MissMarzipan_lavender_salt_scrub_lg

SIMPLE LAVENDER SALT SCRUB

INGREDIENTS

350 ml epsom salts
150 ml gently melted organic coconut oil
15 drops organic lavender essential oil
2,5 tbsp organic lavender flower buds

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well. Spoon into containers/jars of choice. Place descriptive label or tag on them if giving as a gift.

USAGE

Use this scrub on feet, elbows, legs, arms… anywhere that can do with a bit of exfoliation and a moisture boost.

  1. Apply warm water to the area of the body you will be applying the scrub to (doing this in the bath or shower is ideal)
  2. Massage the scrub over the skin lightly. Approximately 1 tablespoon of  the scrub mix per area of the body should be sufficient. Rinse off with warm water.
  3. Towel dry skin gently.

 

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • If you have a known issue with sensitivity to essential oils, please stick with using the lavender flower buds only.
  • If you have experienced skin sensitivity to epsom salts, please try making a sugar-based scrub instead of this one.
  • Of course, you should never use anything of an abrasive/exfoliating nature on chapped, raw, sensitive, broken (cut/scratched) skin.
  • If you have found your skin irritated after the use of any exfoliating product, consider using this scrub as a relaxing bath soak/foot soak instead, adding 200 ml or so to a warm bath/foot bath as it is being filled.

 

LABEL DIRECTIONS

Simply download, print, cut out and adhere to jar or swing tag!

MissMarzipan_lavender_salt_scrub_gift_label-01

** Well, I’d be happy if someone gave me a jar of it!
* As an art director.

 

For other easy, inexpensive DIY festive gift ideas, see these previous posts:

ROSEMARY-INFUSED SEA SALT (a perfect pantry staple or homemade gift)

CHRISTMAS HOT CHOCOLATE MIX IN A JAR (instructions for easy, pretty homemade gifts + FREE printable labels)

FROZEN BERRY JAM (no doubt the easiest, yummiest way to use up frozen berries!)

VEGAN CHOCOLATE SNICKERDOODLES (yummy spice-laced, sugar-coated, crackly-topped cookies)

FROSTY SNOWFLAKE-STAMPED SUGAR COOKIES (possibly the easiest way to “cheat” your way to a decorated festive cookie without candy, chocolate or icing!)

 

 

 

I QUIT SUGAR… AGAIN! (IQS 8-Week Program, weeks 3 – 8 in review)

Hello friends! I have been meaning to post a review of my last round of the IQS 8-Week Program for a couple of weeks now, so before this truly becomes “old news”, let’s get right down to the nuts and bolts of it, shall we?

WHAT I ATE

 

Week 3 kicked off and, despite being at the tail end of recovery from a strange virus, I was excited to present Chilli Lime Kebabs with Herb Quinoa to hubby for his birthday dinner (his plate featured sunflower seeds and avocado to replace the feta). The Root Vegetable Rosti with Pea Salsa were a hit (not just with me; reports from other 8WP participants were positively glowing!). I experimented with making my own Salt & Vinegar Sweet Potato Chips (which I should get around to posting here, in case anyone is interested). Nutty Broccoli Pasta became an instant family favourite. The children helped prepare this easy dish, taking turns to measure out the pasta, pour the olive oil and juice the lemon. I don’t know who was more proud, them or me! The IQS take on Shakshuka was a perfect post-yoga, weekend brunch dish. Vegetarian Pad Thai was a true surprise, though I should know by now that IQS dishes are delicious. My husband loved this dish. The kids, who I encourage to at least try a little of everything I cook, did too (although they weren’t completely sold on the tofu). Once again the week wrapped up with one of my new favourite activities; Sunday Cook-up time.

Week 4 began with a touch of trepidation putting a slight dampener on my enthusiasm for “Clean Week”; a complete detox off of sweet things of all kinds (berries included), gluten AND caffeine. Breakfast #1, the Make-Me-Over Mojito Smoothie was my very first IQS-style green smoothie experience! I must admit, I have always been a green-smoothie-sans-fruit sceptic. No longer. I genuinely loved this and could easily have one every day! Of all the meals I have tried during 2 rounds of the 8WP so far, I was possibly most surprised by this one, having been so sceptical about the flavour profile before trying it. I spent the week still revelling in the fact that kale is now stocked in the supermarket across the road, and I added loads of it to my Super Green Paleo Fried Rice. I finished the week in gluten-free style. I was bound to love the Grilled Vegetable Wrap (because I am not a complete basket case) and, indeed, I did!

Week 5 arrived and I became acquainted with the Grilled Vegetable and Ricotta Stack with Pesto. Just. Yum. I made the mistake of saving a portion of the Stuffed Field Mushroom with Cauliflower Mash for 2 days instead of 1. *Sad face*. It really should be eaten within 24 hours (the texture became unpalatable after too much time in the fridge + reheating… but, made fresh, this dish was yummy). On the upside, the leftover cauliflower mash was a hit with my son, who demanded cauliflower mash for the rest of the week! I’ll freely admit that I went a little astray around this time and started including non-program IQS treats in my cook-up (IQS-style Caramel Slice and Vegan Chocolate Mousse). I blame Halloween.

Week 6 highlights definitely included the Mushroom, Chilli + Spinach Pasta. What can I say? Simple, easy, family friendly yumminess! Cooked up a double batch of the delicious Quick Moroccan Chickpea Stew, which is a perfect freeze and reheat kind of meal. The Apple Cookies were amazing. I can’t say enough good things about them; crunch factor, sweetness (not too much), kid friendly, peanut butter… you can’t go wrong!

Week 7 and Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpeas with Dukkah Kale came into my life. Hello, one of my new favourite dishes! Making my own Dukkah was a delicious revelation, and an activity I plan to repeat. My husband has been converted to cauliflower now, thank you IQS. Green Mac + Cheese was the inevitable success it was destined to be. The gorgeous Blueberry Paleo Pancakes, likewise!

Week 8 saw the return of some tried and true 8WP favourites, including the  Sesame Carrot + Pecan Salad and Breakfast Bruschetta (which was a hit during the last round). I was very surprised to find that I actually preferred the berry-free Make-Me-Over Mojito Smoothie (of Clean Week) to the stunning Strawberry Daiquiri that was raved about by IQSers at the start of this week. I never thought I’d prefer fruit-free over berry anything! The Coconut + Lemon Powerballs were a success; easy to make and moreish. I got around to making the amazing Zucchini Cheesecake + Summery Quinoa Tabbouleh. The tabbouleh alone is fabulous (fresh, light and vibrant), but combined, these dishes are a formidable duo. The Vegetable Free-Form Pie was a suitably festive and yummy way to celebrate the program’s completion! The Chocolate Brownie Biscuits with Ganache, created from a recipe sent via email to participants as an extra gift, were every bit the delectable treat you would expect them to be!

HOW I FELT

Overall, during weeks 3-8 I felt pretty good! I didn’t have traveling to contend with during this round of the program. I did, however, have adjustments to make to my routine upon returning to work after maternity leave. My energy levels were fairly evenly maintained throughout the course of the program (barring the very end of Week 8) which, in itself, is pretty amazing.

Week 4 *drum roll*… Clean Week! If you read my post detailing my experiences during this stage of the program last time around, you will have noted that it was basically a total write-off! In fact, my last “clean week” was rather quite the opposite. So this was my chance to give it a real go. I am amazed that I managed the caffeine detox during a working week. Despite normally drinking less than the equivalent of a standard cup of coffee per day, during Clean Week I had a particularly busy work schedule, plus very early starts at the office coupled with stupidly late nights working on personal projects. I survived being completely caffeine-free, nevertheless.

And the most amazing thing? Clean Week threw some challenges my way in the ol’ detox symptoms department, but I trusted the process and it was totally manageable when I did the things that were suggested. Detox headaches started on the first afternoon of Clean Week (I very rarely get headaches at all) and became progressively worse as the day went on. Walking helped. Drinking water helped. Green smoothies helped (I made a small one as an after work snack). Then I did hot yoga, sweated it out and killed that headache completely! Amazing! The detox headaches never returned after that hot yoga session. It must have been THE shortest caffeine detox I have ever been through (from start to finish, it lasted a matter of hours!). I still experienced a touch of “brain fog” at work for a couple of days, but I stuck with herbal infusions and water. I was still snacking… healthily, but snacking nonetheless.

By Week 8 I was taking on too much and “compensating” by seemingly putting sleep/rest/myself last on the list of my priorities. This wasn’t how I had hoped to end the IQS 8-week program; more sleep-deprived than I’d been since I-don’t-know-when after literally zero hours (or even minutes) of sleep on the last Saturday night of the program! After 6 hours of repeated attempts at meditation, breathing exercises and good old-fashioned sleep, I found myself in tears, my body physically shaking. I surrendered eventually and, taking myself out of bed, feeling like absolute rubbish, I started to organise my bedroom.

It was then, whilst sitting on my bed amidst a pile of personal papers and newly folded clothes, that I had one of many a-ha moments that have come to me recently. The realisation was that, despite the many issues I encountered during both of my pregnancies, when I was pregnant I approached matters concerning my wellbeing in the most loving, gentle and nurturing of ways. Recently I have been doing rather well in the food department and with training too. But some basic needs (such as sleep!) and gentle self-nurture have been demoted on my list of priorities. It is fitting, then, that on the last day of the 8WP I had a spiritual (read rude) awakening regarding the sustainability of any kind of healthy lifestyle.

I need to switch off. I need to simplify. I need to say “no” more often to the things that cause me undue stress. And “yes” more often to the things that bring me joy and contentment.

How does this fit in with my IQS-related journey/experiences?

I have always felt that one of the major benefits of IQS is the increased level of self-awareness it brings. This process is not always “comfortable”, but it certainly helps to shed light on aspects my life (not necessarily food-related at all) that need a bit of a shape-up!

On the upside, during Week 8 I ran my last race for the year; the greatly anticipated Stockholm Tunnel Run. I was joined by over 42,500 other participants, all crazy enough to brave the cold for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race through the newly constructed Stockholm Northern Link Tunnel before its official opening. Miraculously, despite the cold, the often crowded conditions inside the tunnel, my layers of winter clothes creating the effect of a personal sauna, and not keeping track of the pace I was running at, I managed to beat my personal best time for a 10 km race by 44 seconds.

This was a fitting way to end the program and a suitable metaphor for my IQS8WP experience; not trying or striving for a particular result, just giving it a go… and coming out on the other side feeling good, surprised that reward was gained with relative ease!

WHAT I LOVED

  • The inspiration I have gained from working with new cooking techniques and ingredients
  • Connecting with inspiring, kind and motivated people via the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels <3
  • The heightened level of taste/body/self-awareness
  • Being organised. I can’t stress enough how amazing getting into the practice of a doing a weekly/ Sunday Cook-Up has been. It has changed our lives.
  • The increasing consciousness around our consumer behaviour that is being nurtured in both myself and my husband (and as result, our children)… not just when it comes to food, but across the board.
  • That somehow moving outside of my comfort zones with food seems to have inspired me to do the same with training, so I am trying new gym classes with new instructors, keen to change things up a bit (though CrossFit still terrifies me!)

 

WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE SO MUCH

  • That I remained (and still remain) an after work/pre-dinner “snacker” despite being snack-free and satisfied from my IQS-style breakfasts and lunches everyday.
  • That chocolate (even in its healthiest forms) never left me during this process, or rather, I never left it! :P

 

 SUMMARY

As much as I loved IQS from the moment I was introduced to it, I never pledged it would be something I’d embrace “forever”. In recent years, I have been one of those yo-yo detox types; generally fairly health-conscious, but doing the occasional “hardcore health” lifestyle experiment here and there when seized by moments of incredible motivation (usually after a binge of some kind; work, food, etc.). When I read that Sarah Wilson suggests approaching quitting sugar as an experiment, I thought “Yep, that resonates. I can deal with that…”, but I was quick to place conditions on my decision!

It is now, after using I Quit Sugar for Life, recipes and tips from Sarah’s blog and iquitsugar.com, doing two rounds of the IQS8WP and experimenting in my own kitchen that I can see how sustainable this really is. Not a fad. Not a diet. IQS is a common sense lifestyle approach .

It’s all about living consciously and fully.
It’s certainly not about denial or deprivation.

Many years ago, someone told me that the Latin root of the word “addiction” comes from a word meaning “to enslave”*. The things that are familiar crutches (hi sugar!)- things that we may falsely perceive as treats/freedoms/friends/momentary comforts- can actually be the very things can are keeping us chained to unhealthy patterns and preventing us from finding true and lasting happiness. IQS is about “true” food freedom.

In this way, I find it easy to pay no mind to the naysayers. I would feel confronted too if I was in their shoes. In fact, I did when this whole quitting sugar thing was first raised with me by a friend! If we are hooked on something, if we are desperately clinging to denial (because we know that once it’s gone, it’s gone) in order to avoid accountability, we will fight for our right to be right, right?

I still find myself hesitant to shout “I quit sugar for life!” from the rooftops (and, having studied pastry, I am sure to bake the odd cake or two in the future!), however it is evident to me and everyone who knows me, that I am a BIG fan of this program. And, to be honest, I can see myself continuing to largely embrace the IQS philosophy moving forward, despite the fact that my husband and I are both heading in a plant-based direction**.

I am so happy to have given IQS a go… not perfectly at all times, perhaps, but I have tried it. Moreover, I have seen the benefits. I have become part of a community of like-minded people, I have become more confident in the kitchen, cooked/eaten new things, I have run my first half marathon (a year and a bit before doing so, I honestly couldn’t run 3 minutes without feeling like I would die), I have seen my hormones start to balance out (after many, many struggles in this area), I have seen my kids get excited about food in a whole new way, I have seen my vegan husband adore the meals I have shared with him from the veg 8WP meal plan, and I have been hugely inspired in all areas of my life.

I have become more “me” than I have ever been.
And that, for me, is the greatest success.

I’d like to extend my best wishes and warm regards to the IQS team, my fellow 8WP participants and all those IQS-curious folks who have been sweet enough to follow along. Many thanks for the support, inspiration and encouragement!

I promise to play catch-up with everyone soon and see what exciting things you’ve been up to! I am so happy to be counting down to Christmas, celebrating each day of advent in simple, delightful and cosy ways with my children. Living in pitch blackness and freezing cold is kind of ok right now. ;)

<3 MM xx

 

*In case you’re interested:
Addict, v. < Addict, adj. < classical Latin addīctus assigned by decree, made over, bound, devoted, past participle of addīcere to assign, to make over by sale or auction, to award, to appoint, to ascribe, to hand over, surrender, to enslave, to devote, to sentence, condemn < ad ad- prefix + dīcere to speak, say”

**IQS is a program ideally suited to omnivores, but very accommodating to those adopting a standard ovo-lacto vegetarian approach to eating, with many IQS vegetarian recipes offering vegan alternatives. I seem to find myself in a strange little boat of my own, embracing many of the IQS principles (which have much in common with those of the Paleo and LCHF movements) and, simultaneously, an increasingly plant-based approach to eating (which, popularly, has a high-carb, high-fructose, low-fat leaning). It is an interesting place to be, with lots of room (and need) for experimentation. 

***The next round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program starts on January 22, 2015.

 

A LITTLE CHRISTMAS COMPETITION (+ many thanks and lots of love)

*This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for your interest!*
The winner, as determined by “hat draw”, was Gallivanta of silkannthreades and her post featuring her Mio Mojo bags can be found here: https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/5859/

‘Tis the season to give back*. That’s what I think, anyway! And I am so incredibly grateful for the support I have had here and via Instagram, I thought it would be nice to host a little competition giveaway as a token expression of thanks.

If you like cosmetics/fashion and if you care about kindness, this one is truly a win-win. Italian eco fashion label Miomojo produced this gorgeous, exclusively designed set of two Moon Bear Love make-up bags for Animals Asia. Perfect for travel and everyday use, they are durable and have been constructed in an ethically sound manner, free from toxic, carcinogenic chemicals and substances. And of course Miomojo products are cruelty free; fashion-forward in every way! I fell in love with these make-up bags as soon as I saw them, but as we are not buying things we don’t immediately need à la Sarah Wilson (I have two bags in good condition and in use right now), I wanted to gift them to someone else.

If you haven’t heard of Animals Asia, do check out their website and you will be moved (perhaps to tears, as I was) when you read about the amazing work they are doing to end the cruel, frankly horrendous practice of bear bile farming and give rescued moon bears a chance to experience kindness from humans after years of torture.

HOW TO ENTER THE COMPETITION

  1. Leave a comment to express your interest in entering, ideally with an email address so I can contact you promptly**.
  2. Simply agree that when you receive your moon bear bags, you will post something online -visible publicly – (via your blog/Instagram/facebook or what-have-you) giving a little shout-out to Animals Asia.

I will pick the winner by using the ol’ name-in-hat trick to make it fair.

The competition will be open for one week from today (Sunday, December 7 to Sunday December 14).

At this point, the competition is open internationally. I am awaiting confirmation that shipping to any location is possible, so my apologies if there is an issue with this.

I will be posting some Christmas freebie downloadables soon too, so everybody will be able to get a little something! *Giving back makes one jolly! :D ** As the winner, you will need to provide me with a shipping address too.   This competition is NOT being sponsored by Animals Asia or Miomojo. I am purchasing these bags as any other Animals Asia contributor/online shopper would, and personally paying to have them shipped to the winner at the address provided to me.