SPICED CHAI SMOOTHIE WITH COCONUT CRUSHED ICE (pretending summer’s not over)

Firstly, I love chai! Secondly, despite my recent post mentioning some rather intense events that unfolded during a trip to India years ago, there were some truly wonderful moments too. Some of my fondest memories of India involve sipping chai with local people in the village where we ended up staying. The chai I drank there was always hot (despite the hot weather), but here is a cold and frosty version that also happens to be vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free and Paleo (if you substitute the rice malt syrup for maple/honey).

SPICED CHAI SMOOTHIE WITH COCONUT CRUSHED ICE

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp chia seeds + 6 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground clove
2 tsp rice malt syrup
1 tsp liquorice root powder (more if you like it)
1- 1.5 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 frozen chopped banana
250 ml coconut water
250 ml coconut milk (on the creamy side)

2 trays of ice cubes
+ extra 100 ml or so extra coconut milk/cream
Extra cinnamon for sprinkling over finished smoothies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small bowl. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Mixture should thicken.
  2. In a blender, blend chia mix with all other ingredients (except for the ice + extra 100 ml coconut milk & extra cinnamon) until it reaches a smooth consistency. Divide between 2-3 large glasses or standard mason jars.
  3. Rinse your blender quickly with water then throw in as many ice cubes as your blender can handle and some of the remaining coconut cream. Crush the ice, adding more cream as needed (you can also add extra coconut water too) to creat a kind of coconutty snow/granita.
  4. Heap large spoonfuls of the crushed ice onto your smoothies. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Enjoy!

 

*Recipe inspired by and modified from this one by paleo king and super chef, Pete Evans found at peteevans.com.au

 

QUICK PAN TOASTED SPICED TAMARI SEEDS

I love inventing simple additions to meals on the fly, and these super-easy toasted tamari seeds were the perfect accompaniment to my Roasted Aubergine and Tahini Bowl the other night (based on the recipe by Deliciously Ella, which you can find here).

 

Impatience led me to using a frying pan (I didn’t want to fuss with an oven) and, a few short minutes later, these tasty little lovelies were ready to add crunchy pops of flavour to our meal. Store-bought tamari seed mixes are so pricey and these homemade tamari seeds were so easy to make. I’ll never buy ready-made tamari seeds again!

QUICK PAN TOASTED SPICED TAMARI SEEDS

INGREDIENTS

100 ml pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
150 ml sunflower seeds
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp vegetable oil of choice (I used olive)
A dash of garlic powder
A dash of cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl and tip into a frying pan to toast (on medium heat, though you may want to crank it up a bit if you’re supervising closely).
  2. Toast seeds, stirring frequently until they are deliciously golden and starting to brown in places. Do not step away from the pan for too long during the toasting process (it should take around 5-6 minutes).
  3. Store seeds in an airtight container. They’ll last at least a week, if not longer. Sprinkle them over salads/cooked grains/roasted vegetables, use them as a lovely addition in toasted sandwiches or eat them as they are.

 

THE LONG ROAD TO MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (and why I started running in the first place), PART 1

Even as I begin to type this post, I can feel my palms getting sweaty and my heart starting to beat a little faster. Why? Because there’s less than a month left before I am due to run my first half marathon*. This might not be a big deal for many people, but for me it is huge. My official starter kit arrived today and I am hoping that it’s a good sign that two of my favourite/”lucky” digits are repeated twice in my bib number.

MissMarzipan_stockholm_marathon_starterkit

23 days to go…

 

Bear with me, if you will, as I explain in a seemingly incredibly long-winded way (this is just the first part!) exactly why I want to do this and what it symbolises. Hopefully, by the time we reach the end of this tale, I will have convinced you (and myself) that I am aiming to take this challenge on for a far better cause than masochism.

MY EARLY HEALTH STORY

"5 year-old Marzipan", with little bro... plus healthy body and happy little heart

“5 year-old Marzipan”, with healthy body and happy little heart (and sweet little bro)

I was anything but an unfit child. Although naturally blessed with great health and good coordination, for some reason I only tended to participate in sports when coerced/forced. There were a couple of exceptions to this during certain periods in my youth where I was keen on swimming and tennis. I liked dancing too, though I was never particularly dedicated or consistent with my efforts.

As a tween/young teen, track and field was my nightmare PE class. No where to hide for the not-so-fast, not-so-sporty! Luckily I had an accomplice who was not averse to strategically faking asthma attacks in order to be pronounced exempt from athletics. She required a carer and companion during these episodes, of course, and I was more than willing to fulfil that role, sitting by the side of the track with her as others went huffing and puffing by. When I did join a gym as a teenager, it was a number on the scale, not fitness, that was my motivation.

I became a vegetarian in my mid-teens after being traumatised by a biology class viewing of a documentary about factory farming. Despite thoroughly enjoying cooking the couple of times I actually did it, I knew nothing about balancing meals and lacked even the most rudimentary kitchen skills. In my mid-teens, I would go to fast-food restaurants and order a burger “without the meat”, which would usually constitute a sugary burger bun with a slice of processed cheese and some ketchup. I was fortunate that my first flatmate introduced me to our local Hare Krishna restaurant, where I would go occasionally and eat decent, inexpensive vegetarian meals! I became adept at adding spices to a tin of baked beans, but that’s as far as my culinary prowess extended itself at that point.

It was my nonchalant attitude towards nutrition/my general health that led to the eventual demise of my vegetarianism a few years later.

Interestingly, even as a small child, I always maintained a quiet interest in herbs, natural healing, nutrition and cooking. I just didn’t take steps to truly nurture those aspects of myself. During infrequent moments of calm and solitude, I read about and daydreamed about such things. But I never really explored them. Eventually I pushed those interests away from me completely, in favour of pursuits I deemed to be cooler and far more exciting (in the eyes of others).

THINGS TOOK A NOSEDIVE FROM THERE

For a while, during and just after high school, I became a fully fledged “party girl”. I had a short stint playing in a band, worked as a nightclub promoter, lived for late nights out, slept the days away, fancied myself as a girl about town, ate poorly (and not nearly enough), smoked like a chimney and essentially did my body no favours at all during this time. Sadly, I seemed to revel in my lack of self-love, wearing my dysfunction like some warped badge of honour-cum-fashion statement.

"Teenage Marzipan", on a collision course with unhealthiness

“Teenage Marzipan”, on a collision course with unhealthiness and unhappiness

I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog before that, on top of it all, I may have well been the world’s unhealthiest vegetarian, at times subsisting on half a bag of French fries, or one small packet of Lifesavers, or half a falafel roll per day when I first moved away from the family home. By the time I turned 18, I was living independently, couldn’t cook, did no deliberate/structured exercise and cared little for the consequences. A sad state of affairs**.

When I moved to Melbourne, I began to shop at a local boutique called Tragically Hip. Apt.

When I moved to Melbourne, I began to shop at a local boutique called Tragically Hip. Apt.

THANKFULLY, THAT UNHEALTHY, EXTREME PHASE DIDN’T LAST LONG

After hitting a series of rock bottoms, each slightly more spirit-crushing than the one preceding it, I came to my senses***, cut ties with the people I needed to let go of, packed in my lifestyle of self-loathing, put away my party girl mask and began a journey of recovery and self-(re)discovery. Amongst many other things wellbeing related, I attended free meditation classes at my local Sri Chinmoy Centre. I was introduced to yoga (Hatha) properly for the first time, though I can hardly claim I applied myself to it. I enrolled in belly dancing classes (which I adored), began doing pilates at home and developed an interest in essential oils and aromatherapy. I began to step into the kitchen and had some of my first tentative and somewhat shaky cooking experiences, over which I was incredibly proud. I became determined to know more, to eat better… and to eat more!

Art school came along and gave me the gift of incredible focus for my creative passions. It also brought to my university the young Swedish exchange student who would one day become my husband.

He led an incredibly active, sporty kind of lifestyle and looked every bit the picture-perfect healthy, clean-living Scandinavian stereotype. He was “buff” and the girls in my class referred to him as “the guy with the shoulders”. And in true rom-com script fashion, I was initially rather rude and abrupt towards him, convinced that boys like him and girls like me simply did not like each other.

He may have looked the all-round healthy type, however the contents of his fridge on our first study “date” betrayed a chronic flaw. Frozen, generic brand hamburgers (the cheapest money could buy!) and plastic-y, processed cheese. Not even bread. Wowzers. And I had thought I’d been bad in the food department.

Luckily, I gave him a chance anyway. ;)

When we began to share an apartment, we began to cook together. We were still far from “foodie” at this point, but our mutual love of travel opened up other doors too, such as an interest in cuisines from other cultures. Every cent we earned during this period was saved and put towards traveling. We ate our way around Melbourne, Tasmania, New Zealand’s North Island and Fiji. I began to really fall in love with food.

"Mr Marzipan", before he was my Mr! Representing clean-living Scandinavia... with the exception of his appalling uni student diet!

“Mr Marzipan”, before he was my Mr! Representing clean-living Scandinavia… with the exception of his appalling uni student diet!

I STARTED TO CHALLENGE MYSELF

After graduating from university and backpacking around China, Mongolia and Russia, we arrived in Scandinavia. The winter was not kind to me. I developed surprisingly debilitating Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD (a suitably pathetic acronym) and a nasty, painful chest infection. Both of these things led me to believe that I could no longer get away with a half-hearted approach to my health. I started training in my parents-in-laws’ home gym and, slowly but surely, my fitness improved further. I started to take more of an interest in home cooking, providence of ingredients, organics and so on. My husband and I attended a couple of cooking workshops together, which where both fun and enlightening. We joined our local gym where we both trained regularly. I started to see a local Chinese doctor for acupuncture… which I hated, but I was open to trying anything that may have positive effects on my overall health.

I started to scour magazines for recipes and began to catalogue a kind of cooking bucket list. I was becoming more determined to teach myself how to cook.

I ran for the first time. Poorly. And Painfully. I had discovered a new form of torture and I questioned the sanity of anyone who had ever told me running made them feel great. Somehow I managed to build up my meagre 5 minutes of straining, hating, panting and feeling nauseous to 60 minutes (10 kilometres) of feeling not exactly great, but not totally crap. I ran Midnattsloppet (a famous annual 10km race held in Stockholm at night) once. And, challenge met, I hung up my running shoes.

"Backpacking Marzipan", somewhere in Outer Mongolia... SAD was just 6 months away!

“Backpacking Marzipan”, somewhere in Outer Mongolia. I look awfully serious in this picture, but was actually very happy at the time… little did I know that SAD was just 6 months away!

I PUT MY FOOT DOWN (EVENTUALLY)

Somehow, around this time, I found myself in a toxic job situation. Despite working in a field I loved (as a graphic designer), my particular situation was causing me damage, physically, mentally and emotionally. I would often be the first person to arrive at the office and the last to leave (sometimes at 6am). I worked weekends, nights and from home. I skipped lunch more times than I ate it that year, just so I could continue to work uninterrupted. I got paid a small fraction of what I was worth and was refused a proper contract, thus lived with all the responsibilities of my position and none of the rights.

I was witness to aggressive and occasionally violent outbursts from coworkers (not directed at me, thankfully… but still…), who were also weighed down by the pressure and tension I felt, but didn’t allow themselves to cry… as I did… often. I was becoming a wreck and was afraid that I would be robbed of the joy of creating altogether if I kept it up.

"Tourist Marzipan", in Berlin... where I decided enough was enough. I had worked until heaven-knows-what am, then had a flight to catch at 6am. After 1 hour of sleep, I stood in the check-in queue, shaky, exhausted and bawling my eyes out. Arrived in Berlin knowing that I needed to start sticking up for myself... "Tourist Marzipan", in Berlin... where I decided enough was enough. I had worked until heaven-knows-what am, then had a flight to catch at 6am. After 1 hour of sleep, I stood in the check-in queue, shaky, exhausted and bawling my eyes out. Arrived in Berlin knowing that I needed to start sticking up for myself...

“Tourist Marzipan”, in Berlin… where I decided enough was enough. I had worked until heaven-knows-what in the morning, despite having a flight to catch at 6am. After 1 hour of sleep, I stood in the check-in queue at the airport, shaky, exhausted and bawling my eyes out. I arrived in Berlin knowing that I needed to start sticking up for myself…

During a snow flurry on a freezing, dark December afternoon, I stepped outside the office with my boss, I cried and I resigned. Despite feeling beyond miserable about where I had ended up, I was simultaneously plagued with feelings of guilt for “letting the team down” and tormented by my crazy “good girl” sense of loyalty. But I told myself that it was one thing for me to compromise my own principles and quite another for someone else to do it on my behalf. I decided that if I had to eat baked beans on toast for a year, I was ok with that, as long as I didn’t have to deal with daily anxiety attacks on the way to work.

I decided that I was ok with whatever the future held, as long as I was ok with me.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

So, I walked out of that office, sold my computer (a traumatic reminder of my desktop slavery) and went to India, seeking a spiritual experience. And I knew I would have a spiritual experience in India because, well, doesn’t everyone?

My vision of that experience played out like a tourism campaign ad in my head. Me, on a beach, walking in slow motion, looking fit, tanned, healthy and serene. Me, on a roof top practising yoga during the sunrise. Me, eating the freshest, healthiest food in a relaxed, tranquil, enviably exotic location. Me, being pampered with massages and beautifying treatments at an Ayurvedic health spa. Me, returning to Stockholm with a flexible body, glowing skin and an even more glowing aura. Spiritual Me.

On my first day in India, I contracted a nasty bug after inadvertently (of course) swallowing contaminated water. I was given antibiotics by a local doctor. I had a swift and severe anaphylactic reaction to those antibiotics, first feeling as though my body was on fire, then losing my vision, followed by my ability to walk… followed by my ability to breathe.

I could have died in India.

There was me, in the back of a taxi having a conversation in my head with God (“So… this is it. I didn’t think it was going to end like this…”). Me, being carried from that taxi, semi-conscious, yet somehow knowing help was at hand. Me, in a windowless, one-toilet (broken and overflowing) shack of a hospital, being pumped so full of the medications that saved me that I began projectile vomiting. Me, on my hospital bed, drip in arm, sight recovered, staring at cracks in the wall and watching tiny spiders crawl around me. Me, being brought clean water by the hospital cleaning lady, who would kiss my hands and say kind (but not understood) things to me in Malayalam. Me, lying quietly as my husband read Eat, Pray, Love out loud by my bedside, tears rolling down my cheeks. Me, knowing that if this incident had occurred anywhere other than India, I would have been a whining, complaining, self-pitying little so-and-so.

Me, being truly grateful for the care I’d been given because of -not in spite of- its modesty… and humbled by the kindness I’d been shown by the hospital staff, my husband and local people alike.

And there was my spiritual experience.

Grateful Me.

One of just a handful of photos I captured during my time in India. Still not feeling well, fresh out of hospital, these friendly children kept me company in the shade. They told me I was "beauty". I certainly didn't feel it, but I appreciated the kindness.

One of just a very small handful of photos captured by me on my rubbish phone during my time in India. Still not feeling well, fresh out of hospital, these friendly children kept me company in the shade. They told me I was “beauty”. I certainly didn’t feel it, but I appreciated the kindness.

PART 2 COMING SOON…

(assuming I don’t regret posting Part 1!) 

 

*At the time of the writing of this post, the longest distance I have run is 16 kilometres, which I managed last Saturday. I told myself before the run that if I could make it to 16, I would be able to make it to 21+ at the time of the half marathon. Here’s hoping I can keep that promise to myself!

**In spookily timely fashion, in the middle of writing this post, I had a rather spontaneous catch-up chat with my former flatmate from this very period in my life, who to this day is one of my closest friends despite living on the opposite side of the planet. She reminded me of my pathetic attempts to make a packet of the cheapest brand of spaghetti and the cheapest brand of pasta sauce last an entire week. I also recalled borrowing “Buns of Steel” from her, which I watched and followed a couple of times… and which probably constituted the only deliberate exerise I did that year.

*** I think this is what is known as a spiritual awakening in the form of a rude awakening.

A SIMPLE RICE & GREEN LENTIL DISH (with caramelised red onions and toasted pine nuts)

Hi all! I wasn’t going to post this recipe, but received a lovely response when I posted it on Instagram today.

My newly-vegetarian husband felt like lentils and rice for dinner last night, and together we made this version of a dish loosely based on the traditional Lebanese meal, mujadarra.

So, whether you are looking for a light veggie dish to serve with a green salad or a versatile accompaniment to something fresh from the grill, you might like to try this out.

MissMarzipan_lentils_rice_caramelised_onions

 

RICE & GREEN LENTILS WITH CARAMELISED RED ONIONS & TOASTED PINE NUTS

INGREDIENTS

300 ml long grain/basmati rice
150 ml dried green lentils, rinsed
4 red onions, sliced
3 tsp ground cumin
A large pinch of ground cinnamon (this was all I had left!)
2 tbsp olive oil
50 ml fresh parsley, chopped
100 ml pine nuts*, toasted
Salt and black pepper to season

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook rice according to directions or as per your usual method**. For this quantity of rice it should take around 25 minutes.
  2. In a separate saucepan, cook lentils according to directions OR, using the ratio 1 part lentils to 2 parts water, bring 300 ml water to the boil and add lentils before reducing to a low heat and simmering until they are tender but not overly soft. This should take around 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the cooked lentils under cold water in a sieve.
  3. While cooking rice and lentils, bring 125 ml water to a simmer in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and allow them to soften for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add another 125 ml water, cumin, cinnamon and good pinch of salt to the onions and continue to cook until they are soft, stirring frequently.
  4. When water has evaporated, add olive oil and allow onions to finish caramelising.
  5. Add rice and lentils to saucepan with caramelised onions and stir through gently to combine ingredients. Season to taste and garnish with parsley and toasted pine nuts.

 

*Other nuts/seeds could be added or substituted here. Toasted almonds or cashews would be a yummy addition to the pine nuts which, in my opinion, perfect this dish and make it a cut above variations that don’t include them.

**It seems that almost everyone has a preferred method for cooking rice, so by all means, stick with yours if you know it works best for you.

***Recipe inspired by this one found at www.wholefoodsmarket.com

MY BIG NEWS & THE CONTINUATION OF THE SUGAR-FREE JOURNEY (and the gratitude)

What a week it’s been! My Cupcake became an 18 month-old today. This combined with seeing her through her first week ever at nursery school and my little L having some medical (and other) issues, makes for one super-emotional Miss Marzipan. And the start of a new cycle has of course amplified every feeling tenfold :P .

But rather than turning to sugar or some other form of escapism, as the “old me” was wont to do during emotionally charged times, the new, improved, IQS-inspired version of me has moved through a rather intense week with something that resembles calmness. Actually, I feel like I have been carried through some fairly heavy emotional stuff on a wave of grace. It has been utterly surprising.

I have sat with myself, meditated, felt my feelings, nourished my body, listened to my intuition, been open with loved ones, and cuddled my children… lots.

Here’s my big news…

Something beyond wonderful came my way too and, interestingly, it all unfolded at the same time that this blog, MissMarzipan.com, turned 3. I was approached by the team at I Quit Sugar HQ and they said they wanted to feature me in a blog post about their “favourite Instagrammer”.

Um. Blown. Away.

It turns out I’d won Sarah Wilson’s Picks for the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program and thus a signed copy of her amazing book, I Quit Sugar For Life (HUGE dream-come-true-kinda *squee* moment, right there!). Flattered, humbled and incredibly grateful, I happily answered the questions they asked me. And then came the thing I literally sweated over… “revealing” my identity.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that I don’t post selfies, I don’t use my children’s real names and I haven’t featured my real name anywhere… or my face (although I have made one or two sneaky cameo appearances ;) ). I have even gone so far as to keep my blog a secret from 99.9% of my friends and family members. I haven’t “promoted” myself via Facebook and I am quite new to Instagram. I have been offered money for advertising on my blog and not accepted it. I have been offered the opportunity to have my blog linked to some successful European sites and not accepted that either. The list goes on.

I know. That sounds a little cray cray (for lack of a slightly more mature expression) in this day and age of self-promotion and over-disclosure, right? The truth of the matter is that I have loved the anonymity and, for possibly the first time since childhood, I’ve had an ongoing project that has given me joy, but for which I haven’t felt pressured to sprint on a “performance treadmill” over.

To “out”, or not to out. That was the question.

My darling brother, whom I admire beyond perhaps any other living soul, essentially said “get over yourself”. So I did. And not only did I show myself to the 430, 000 + followers of I Quit Sugar, more challenging for me, I shared the blog post via Facebook with some friends, family and peers (many of whom are employed as professional creatives… just like me) who had no idea about Miss Marzipan. And no one threw proverbial rotten tomatoes. On the contrary, people were warm, kind and extremely generous with their support. I truly felt blessed. And relieved!

In a spookily timely fashion, at some point during the week I listened to a presentation Gabby Berstein gave in which she said, “All other people want is your truth”. However we are, whatever we are feeling, right here and now, is all others need or want to see from us. She said that it is our authenticity that shines and resonates with people, not a falsified, contrived outward projection of what we think we should be. The more authentic we allow ourselves to be (even in the most raw, imperfect and vulnerable of states), the more we will draw people to us… the right people, at the right time. This makes total sense to me, as I can see that exact principle at work in my life right now. I realise how fearful of judgement I have been in the past. I am done with holding myself back or trying to dim my own light. The more I grow and the more I share of my authentic self, the more I can encourage others to do the same. I am a work in progress. And the journey that I am on creatively, emotionally, spiritually, as a mother, as a human being, is just that; a journey. I haven’t “arrived”. I am learning as I go… and that’s just fine.

 

So, that all being said, hello!

My name is Marisa. Nice to finally introduce myself to you properly after 3 years of hanging out here. Thank you for sharing with me!

<3

 

And how is the sugar-free bizzo going?

Essentially, I have been loving it, relishing both the food and the benefits.

This morning, half asleep, I told my husband to cancel my yoga class. But with less than an hour before it was due to begin, it was too late.

I thought “Crap. I can’t do it. It’s that time of the month and I always feel like rubbish…”

But when I actually checked in with myself, I didn’t feel like rubbish at all.

What the?!

NO burning, painful, cramps, NO back pain and NO bloating. And, what’s more, contrary to the doubts I had last week about my skin not healing before my next cycle began, it did!

Absence of sugar in my diet is the only thing I can attribute to this. I have tried almost everything else past to cope with hormonal imbalance and the resulting symptoms, including taking special painkillers that were available when I was a teenager.

This time around, quite unbelievably, I haven’t felt anything other than teary. And I have allowed myself be teary. I cried on Cupcake’s first day of nursery school, I cried when I told a friend about seeing L get bitten and pushed by two other boys, I cried watching the intro to MasterChef Australia The Professionals (ok, that cry was a bit random, but it was the hormones “talking”) and I bawled my eyes out during Deepak Chopra’s Global Meditation for Peace with Gabby Berstein and India Arie. At first I thought “You’re supposed to be  meditating, not crying, dammit! Fight it… and calm yourself”. Then I realised I needed to allow myself to just be… and feel… and I knew that serenity would follow if I cried, breathed deeply and let go. What a wonderful experience. What a huge realisation and gift.

And so, instead of posting recipes today (which was my initial intention), I want to end this post by thanking the game-changers out there who are positively impacting my life and the lives of others.

To the I Quit Sugar team, Sarah Wilson, Gabby Bernstein, bloggers, collaborators, Instagrammers, colleagues, encouragers (bless you, Poh**!) friends and family (love you, little bro) who have inspired and supported me, thank you.

I send you all so much love right now.

Marisa (AKA Miss Marzipan) x

 

*On August 11, the all-new Oprah & Deepak 21-Day Meditation Experience, Expanding Your Happiness will begin. It’s FREE to register and participate. Previous Chopra Meditation Experiences I have taken part in have profoundly impacted my wellbeing and emotional state (including helping me move through the trials of my high risk pregnancy with Cupcake). Would love you to take part in this new Meditation Experience with me!

**My parents recently returned to Stockholm with a copy of Poh Ling Yeow‘s gorgeous new recipe book, Same Same But Different, for me, signed and dedicated. In Poh’s note to me, she made the generous prediction that my “food dreams” would be reached sooner than I think. Time will tell, but for now I am so grateful for the ride!

I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PROGRAM (weeks 7 to 8 in review)

And so, the IQS 8-week program has officially come to an end. :'( *blub blub*

It hasn’t stopped me from whipping up Easy Gado Gado for dinner tonight, nor treating myself to a Zucchini Brownie for afternoon tea. Yes, it seems that 48 hours post-program, I have stuck with sugar-free, despite being technically “off the hook” now.

And why is that? Well, I can promise you that it’s not out of a sense of guilt or emotionally driven obligation to continue.

It’s simply because the food tastes good, is good for me and makes me feel good.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

Week 7 was amazing! Feeling overjoyed to be settled back at home with access to my kitchen and fresh produce, I got off to an enthusiastic start, going so far as to do my Sunday Cook-Up on Saturday. I began with Breakfast Beans. Well, let’s just say it’ll be hard to go back to the tinned variety should it come to that, some sad day! I had to substitute sweet potato for out-of-season pumpkin, but the results were still lovely.

I had some IQS Sugar-Free ANZAC Biscuits leftover from a fun run picnic we attended, so came up with Mini IQS-style Parfaits, using layers of crushed biscuits, Greek yogurt, berries, raw cacao nibs and the teensiest shaving of 85% dark chocolate.

I was curious about Almond Butter Bark, which is said to be so good that “… even hardened critics will be surprised”. I made some. It was super-easy. It was, indeed, as good as they say. The downside? It is supposed to last a week. No freakin’ way that’s happening in my world. I may have recalibrated, but I haven’t recalibrated that much ;) !

The Vegetarian Laksa wasn’t really laksa in my case, as I could only come across sugar-free red curry paste in our supermarket’s limited Asian section. Surprisingly, the resulting dish was still yummy. In fact, it was one of my husband’s favourite meals of the week.

Somewhere midweek, I invented a sugar-free drink to accompany the yummy IQS dishes; Sparkling Green Iced Tea infused with Mint, Lime and Blueberries and I revisited an old favourite, using leftovers to make Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas. Rather naughtily, I experimented with the Almond Butter Bark recipe, had a few measurement and ingredient mishaps and, by happy accident, came up with a batch of fructose-free Snickers Bites.

Who doesn’t love a pizza to kick off the weekend? The IQS8WP Roasted Vegetable Cauliflower Pizza is clever, surprising and delicious. Roasted vegetable anything is likely to get my vote, but the IQS cauliflower pizza base is a gluten-free, grain-free, Paleo-inspired, nutrition-packed winner.

Week 8 was just as good! Zucchini Brownie baking kick-started the week, and what a way to begin the final chapter of the program! Try these brownies and you’ll be hard pressed to taste the zucchini or note the absence of flour. A remarkable recipe.

Easy Gado Gado lived up to its name and was a quick and simple meal to make. Hard to believe that veggies can pack such a punch flavour wise (though I added some sautéed spring onions, fresh red chilli and extra dressing to mine).

And around this point is where I lost the plot a bit and made a batch of IQS Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I don’t know what I was thinking (well, I was thinking about chocolate, if I am honest!), but this was a weird baking-frenzy induced tangent and NOT an official part of the program.

I finally had the opportunity to make the Kale, Sweet Potato and Feta Frittata that my fellow program participants have been raving about and, yes, this recipe is rave worthy. Seriously a stellar dish and truly one of my favourites of the entire program.

As the weekend approached, the Coconut Fluff Pancake recipe was speaking to me. So I made them a day early, in mini form (so that I could justify making a stack), and topped them with a super-easy version of IQS-style berry jam, fresh raspberries and shaved organic coconut. That sounds pretty delish, no? Well, it certainly was!

Starting to feel genuinely sad about the program ending, I threw myself into making a massive double batch of Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille, which I introduced to L and Cupcake by presenting it on their saturday night “tasting plates”. They were introduced simultaneously to Ratatouille the movie, which was as fascinating to 3 year-old aspiring chef, L, as I predicted it would be :) .

Leftover Coconut Fluff Pancakes called for a new and exciting topping. I spied a frying pan, some nuts and a jar of rice malt syrup within centimetres of each other and 5 minutes later, my Toffee-Nut Clusters were born. Coconut Greek Yogurt was the perfect accompaniment. And on Sunday night, leftover Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille became Ratatouille Toasties with feta. O. M. G. Hashtag getinmybelly.

… And thus, the fabulous program ended on a fittingly high note, food wise.

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

Week 7 came and I continued to ride the wave of enthusiasm I caught in Week 6. I felt energised, not only by the food I was eating and my renewed commitment, but also the physical exercise I did each day (except for Sunday, which I “took off”). My skin was still crazy from the wagon fall of Week 6, but water, exercise and clean eating were “fixing me”… I could feel it. The food I was eating was keeping me full, energised and satisfied, despite me upping the amount/intensity of physical exercise in my day. I was sleeping better and not relying on coffee the way I was while traveling.

I tried both levels 1 and 2 of the 30 Day Shred and continued to Gabby Berstein‘s 40-day, 9 minute Liberation Kriya challenge. Still wasn’t sure what the Liberation Kriya experience was supposed to feel like or even supposed to achieve, but continued to be “called” to keep going. Felt like I was well and truly back on track in terms of the IQS8WP, and in general.

Week 8 began with my husband taking a day off work so that we could enjoy a “date day” at a day spa together (this hasn’t happened since I-don’t-know-when). I have to give Sturebadet Haga a little plug here. Could there be a more idyllic yet convenient setting for a day spa than the green oasis on the edge of Stockholm that is Haga Parken? We signed up for the “run in the park” with a personal trainer and, wow, it kicked my butt (in a good way). The PT seemed to think that I’d manage the Stockholm Half-Marathon (that’s the one I am signed up for in September that I have been NOT training for :P ). We ate a picnic lunch by the lake of Easy Gado Gado and Zuchini Brownies, swam in the lovely indoor pool, used the sauna and showered off with the gorgeous Maria Åkerberg*** organic spa products that are available to use there at no charge.

Although I had every intention of doing the 30 Day Shred, my intuition kept telling me to do yoga. So I listened and did different yoga programs (all between 20-40 minutes only per day) throughout the week. Then on Sunday I had the crazy notion to attempt a 16 kilometre run, something I have never done before. It turns out that the voice of intuition whispering “yoga” to me, was doing so for a reason. Pulled. Thigh. Muscle. Ouch. Sensibly walked home after 5km. It was a gorgeous walk, and worth the run if only for the experience of rediscovering a couple of outdoor gyms along the trail and seeing the South best side of Stockholm in the gorgeous morning light… the lake perfectly calm and still, a hare sitting on the path in front of me, a family of ducks sleeping on a tiny beach…

I arrived home. And did yoga :P .

My skin will probably not completely recover fully during this cycle from the rush of sugar and crazy post-nursing hormones experienced back when it began in Week 6. Knowing how my hormones operate, it’s downhill again from here until next cycle. At least I know to avoid sugar at all costs this time around. And I am thinking of cutting out dairy too to see if it helps (which shouldn’t be too challenging as coconut and almond milk are my staples). Other than that minor issue, I feel pretty darn great right now!

WHAT I LOVED

All the things mentioned in my previous posts still stand, but my feelings have amplified.

In short, I have adored…

  • the routine
  • the interaction with other IQS-ers
  • the cooking and experimenting
  • feeling connected to my body and what it needs more intensely than at any other time in my life (except when I have been pregnant)
  • being clear enough to be able to hear/recognise/act upon the wisdom of my inner voice
  • dreaming (literally) about creating food… I am a kitchen dork, so this is fun for me ;)
  • the intense inspiration to create (both inside and outside of the kitchen)
  • feeling better and generally unbloated
  • treating myself with kindness and giving my body what it deserves
  • being naturally drawn to the things and people who I know I am meant to encounter right now… and recognising it!
  • the knock-on effects of all the positive change that comes about through committing to an act of self-love, such as this
  • having the energy to get back into regular exercise
  • feeling creative and having the motivation to act on the impulses of inspiration
  • meeting some pretty awesome and inspiring people on this journey
  • the food, the food, the food

 

As I entered the home stretch of the IQS 8-week program, I became rather reflective. I thought about this blog and how it has evolved into some kid of haphazardly organic chronicle of reviews and results of various challenges** and projects*** I have taken up since its inception, all of which have enriched and bettered my life in some way.

I am continually spurred on by generous support/inspiration from others and by the surprisingly lovely results, insights, memories and occasions that have resulted from 3 years of just saying “yes” to new things, trusting my intuition and following through with commitments to myself (big and small). I feel inspired to continue exploring, keep connecting with like-minded individuals and to go on enjoying the journey, no matter where it takes me.

Anyhoo, at the tail end of the program, I felt a little lost without a Sunday Cook-Up agenda to refer to. Then realised I had all the ingredients necessary to knock-up a quick Gado Gado for dinner the following day… plus leftover Coconut Fluff Pancakes, Ratatouille and Zucchini Brownies in the fridge… and a large stash of cooked quinoa, black beans and sweet potato in the freezer. Yes, eating real food requires lots of preparation, but doing it IQS-style in an organised, orderly manner, means you’ll always have good food ready to go at home.

The next IQS 8-Week Program starts in September and I am already thinking of signing up (registrations opened today!).

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this latest health and wellbeing journey; bloggers, fellow program participants, Sarah Wilson and the fab IQS team, and anyone who has stopped by here or my Instagram account and left lovely comments.

I am sorry I have been so slack staying in touch recently. The kiddies have started at nursery school this week (wah! My little Cupcake is growing up so fast!) and I can now attempt to be around here more often.

<3 MM xx

** UPDATE! I have some pretty exciting news to share in my next post and, yes, it is IQS-related :D **

*The same brand I used when I was pregnant with L <3 . The smell of lavender oil can still make me teary to this day!

**SOME OF THE CHALLENGES I HAVE COMPLETED:

 

AND, OF COURSE:

 

***SOME OF THE PROJECTS I HAVE UNDERTAKEN:

 

 

SPARKLING ICED GREEN TEA INFUSED WITH MINT, LIME & BLUEBERRIES (sugar-free refreshment!)

On this – the hottest* day I have experienced in Stockholm during 2014 – I spontaneously threw together a refreshing iced tea drink that manages to combine some of my favourite things; sparkling water (I could drink litres!), green tea, ice, blueberries, mint and lime.

An easy-to-make, beautiful drink that promotes beauty from the inside out!

MissMarzipan_IQS_sparkling_iced_tea_IQS8WP

SPARKLING ICED GREEN TEA INFUSED WITH MINT, LIME & BLUEBERRIES

Makes 1 litre

INGREDIENTS

500 ml water
1 organic green teabag (or caffeine-free herbal teabag)
1 lime
1 bunch of fresh mint leaves
A handful of blueberries (I used a mix of fresh and frozen**)
500 ml plain sparkling mineral/soda water
Ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil water and let cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the teabag and half of the mint leaves and let tea steep for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how strong you’d like your tea infusion to be.
  3. Remove teabag and mint leaves from the infusion.
  4. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the tea. Cut the remaining half into slices and set aside.
  5. When the tea has cooled completely, add the reserved lime slices and blueberries.
  6. Just prior to serving, mix the tea infusion with the sparkling water. Add the rest of the mint leaves and ice cubes.

 

*By “hottest”, I mean 32 degrees Celsius… which is not a patch on the crazy 46 degrees I experienced in Adelaide earlier this year. A heat warning was issued a couple of weeks ago as the temperature was going to “climb” to 26 degrees and potentially stay there for more than a couple of days. These temps are very unusual and about as good as it gets, weather-wise in Sweden. A mildly depressing thought!

*Frozen berries will add a little colour to the tea as they defrost. If this is desirable, go ahead and use frozen ones. If not, stick with fresh blueberries. 

I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PROGRAM (weeks 3 to 6 in review)

It’s hard to believe I am in Week 7 already. The fears I used to harbour around quitting sugar have now completely dissipated. I am by no means saying I plan to eat 100% sugar-free for the rest of my life, but I am convinced that quitting sugar is far easier than many would have had me believe (including myself!). With some planning and effort it is achievable… and it can be done without any sense of loss or deprivation being involved.

Some of the fabulous spin-offs of doing this program are no doubt a direct result of living consciously and “clearly”. The more aware I am of what I am consuming, the more in touch I am with what my body needs. It’s very simple. And so, quite naturally and effortlessly, I find myself sleeping enough, drinking enough water, motivated to exercise in a balanced, practical and consistent manner and keen to incorporate yoga and meditation into my daily life.

In the past, I had a habit of doing “healthy” things out of a desire to compensate for some kind of lack in my lifestyle. If I ate poorly, I would “make up for it” at the gym. At times when I didn’t exercise, I’d do a juice “detox” or meditate everyday for a short period of time. As a university student, I smoked cigarettes everyday (bleugh!) and did up to 70 minutes of pilates a day.

Although I can’t consider myself to have ever been a yo-yo dieter, I can certainly see that during periods of imbalance in my life, my relationship with food and exercise has similarly been unbalanced.

When I started this blog it was all about exploring; little adventures of an everyday variety… projects undertaken from the heart, in the home. As I scroll through older posts, I see a clear desire to experiment with gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan and raw foods. This hasn’t left me. In fact, IQS has opened up a whole world of inspiration for me. I even dream about recipe creation! What has happened during the course of this program is that I *think* I may have found a way to incorporate many of the things I love/that make me feel good into my daily routine in a holistic and sustainable way.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

Week 3 was off to a flying start with fabulous Quinoa Porridge. Deliciously spiced with cinnamon and given wonderful texture thanks to pepitas, almonds and coconut, this breakfast, prepared the night before, was a joy to wake up to! Quick Moroccan Chickpea Stew was truly lovely; comfort food with an exotic twist. Poached Eggs with Frozen Peas, Spinach & Feta. Wow. What can I say? A delicious way to pack a truckload of greens into one meal. Loved it! Quinoa, Zucchini & Corn Fritters were loved by all, including Cupcake. A fabulous, generous, make-ahead meal that’s perfect for freezing in. The Toasties with Avocado & Cheese have become a go-to quick meal staple in our home now. They are beyond delicious, whether using a little Vegemite (trust me, it works!) or spicing things up with finely chopped fresh red chilli. Zucchini Noodles with Spinach and Basil Pesto proved to be as yummy as it is nutritious and clever. What a week!

I was travelling for 6 days of Week 4 and thus unable to follow the meal plan for almost the entire week (boo!), but made it back just in time to prepare White Bean Soup (I made a vegan version, omitting the Parmesan) and fabulous Middle Eastern Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants. I was so excited to catch this wonderful tail-end of the Week 4 meal plan… and rather chuffed with my efforts to make up for lost time. I was also able to try to apply IQS-style eating principles when choosing pre-packaged meals from Marks & Spencer Simply Food during an overnight stay at a transit hotel at Gatwick Airport!

Week 5 saw us traveling again, but with access to a few basic ingredients and a small kitchenette on a boat, I was able to throw together some very modest IQS-style meals, including Veggie Scramble, Coco-Nutty Granola topped oats and Toasties with Avocado & Cheese. Upon returning home, I was stoked to the point of becoming seriously emotional, when my attempt at Roast Vegetable and Quinoa salad with Turmeric Tahini Dressing proved itself delectable. The hits kept coming with Halloumi, Lentil & Beet Salad, which my husband really loved.

Not wanting to miss out on some of the fun from the previous week, I backtracked a little in Week 6 and made Savoury Lentils, which I ate as they were with a fried egg and also incorporated into a most delish Lentil and Sweet Potato Pie. I had Coco-Nutty Granola religiously for breakfast and I also dipped into my stock of frozen IQS meals and thawed out some Savoury Muffins. Unfortunately travel, once again, made it impossible for me to follow the Week 6 meal plan (boo!). I couldn’t wait to get cooking again when I returned home!

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

Week 3 was easy peasy and I was inspired (in the kitchen and in general). Had a fabulous week of experimenting in the kitchen and discovering like-minded people online. The occasional tummy pains I experienced in Weeks 1 & 2 were gone, I felt “clear” and motivated. Out of curiosity, I did weigh myself at the gym and, as I suspected, 60 kilograms was the result.

Week 4… ruh-roh! Major spanner in the works as a result of traveling. Prior to signing up for the IQS 8-week program, I had booked an all-inclusive trip to England. I must say that staying on an organic farm, having all meals prepared lovingly and expertly by a fabulous chef (with a background in gastronomy and a love of the ideology behind permaculture) is nothing to complain about. The food was beautiful, vibrant and abundant and all the meals happened to be gluten-free. However, I ate what was served and thus I cannot claim that I was able to stick by IQS. And “Clean Week” (Week 4 of the program) was well and truly out the window. I felt rough after only a couple of days of non-IQS eating. My digestion was sluggish, I had tummy pains regularly, I was relying on coffee to get me through the afternoon, I was bloated and less motivated to exercise… I suppose that during Weeks 1 and 2 my body had begun the recalibration process that Sarah Wilson refers to, and that abandoning IQS so abruptly was a rude shock to my system.

Week 5 went semi-well. I was on track with IQS-style eating as long as I had access to fresh produce and cooking facilities. But we were still traveling (this time in the Stockholm archipelago… by boat!). I wasn’t able to follow the Week 5 meal plan for at least half of the week, so even though I did my best with IQS-style eating, it was a little disappointing to not be able to follow the entire Week 5 meal plan. Some great successes with some new 8WP recipes when I was back at home helped to compensate somewhat.

Week 6 came along… so did my cycle… and a whole new boost of motivation to get back on track. Although we had another fun-filled trip (this time to the north of Sweden), I was happy to arrive home mid-week and get stuck into reestablishing healthy routines for both myself and my children. As with last month, this start of this cycle was painful, uncomfortable and my skin was out of control. Very noticeably, however, this month it took far longer to get past the “yucky” phase.

And the difference this month? Sugar.
Without question.

Whilst visiting Östersund, we were guests of family friends and, despite pre-preparing some IQS meals (Savoury Lentils included) to bring along for the journey, it was impossible to avoid certain group meals or eating a slice of birthday cake bought in celebration of my husband’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. I would have felt deeply uncomfortable to refuse to be part of the festivities. However, my hormonal health paid the price for my participation. I am glad for the experience in terms of the self-knowledge it has afforded me, as I now have a clear and direct comparison of what it’s like to have a sugar-free cycle and a sugar-fueled one.

The beginning of my last cycle was horrid. The beginning of this one was horrid too… but the nastiness was more intense and lasted far longer.

Back at home again, I found myself super-motivated and keen to jump back into the program with renewed vigour. Not only did I jump back into IQS-ing, but I started Jillian Michaels‘ infamous 30 Day Shred and Gabby Berstein‘s 40-day, 9 minute Liberation Kriya (as taught by Yogi Bhajan and Gurmukh) challenge.

WHAT I AM LOVING

Inspiration!

I am beyond inspired right now, not just in terms of health and wellbeing and not just in terms of food. Creatively things are just… flowing. I am listening to my intuitive voice and opportunities are manifesting so fast I can hardly keep up!

Routines!

It has been a joy to throw myself back into cooking IQS meals. So much so that I ended up doing my “Sunday Cook-Up” on Saturday. And, honestly, within 24 hours of being back at home after our last trip, eating IQS-style, drinking loads of water and doing a little exercise, I was noticing marked improvements in my mood, quality of sleep and digestion (all despite my cycle giving me a hard time).

Challenges!

Aside from eating/cooking IQS-style (which I genuinely love and enjoy!), I have done three 30 Day Shred sessions and on the weekend I completed a 10 km fun-run hosted by a lovely friend on her gorgeous farm property out in the archipelago. I have completed 5 days of the Liberation Kriya challenge and, believe it or not, running 10 km on a dirt/gravel trail on a hot and muggy day was easier than my first days of 9 minutes’ worth of sitting still in that pose!

I don’t have a “path” when it comes to yoga. My efforts yoga-wise have been earnest yet inconsistent and I can’t claim any in-depth knowledge of any particular yoga practice (least of all Kundalini!). But my interest in yoga has always been there. And my desire to incorporate yoga into my life in some form of daily practice has never been stronger. So when I saw Gabby Bernstein’s post about her 40-day Liberation Kriya challenge, I saw it as a call to action. Being part of the IQS 8-week program has motivated me to establish firmer, healthier routines in more areas of my life than what I consume.

Self-love!

I am seeing more each week that, with a little vigilance, eating “clean” is not only sustainable, health-affirming and immensely satisfying, it feels like a huge act of self-love.

This has been the most wonderful revelation that has come about for me during weeks 3 to 6.

 Wishing you well! <3 MM xx

PS I was fortunate enough to be chosen again for Sarah Wilson’s Picks of the week with my version of the IQS Middle Eastern Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants. Woohoo! :)

MissMarzipan_IQS_Sarah_Wilson_picks_IQS8WP

STRAWBERRIES & CREAM SUGAR-FREE TARTLETS (IQS-style, gluten-free, egg-free, summery scrumptiousness)

Midsummer in Sweden is a big deal. When you spend half the year (or more) coping with trying to survive decidedly wintry conditions, you know why. This year, in the midst of the IQS 8-Week Program, I questioned whether I should bother baking or not. The rationalisation that I needed to create something celebratory for Midsummer- if only “for the children”- overturned my reservations, and this IQS-inspired recipe was born.

In this recipe you’ll find a touch of Sweden, a little bit of Australia and a whole lot of sugar-free deliciousness. The tartlet “pastry” is based on the recipe for IQS Sugar-free ANZAC biscuits, the cream is coconut cream (my favourite!) and the strawberries I used are, of course, beautifully in-season Swedish strawberries (a quintessential part of the Swedish summer experience).

Go on… Spoil yourself and your family. And don’t feel guilty one little bit (because you truly don’t have to with treats like these!).

<3 MM xx

MissMarzipan_IQS_strawberries_and_cream_tartlets_large2

 

STRAWBERRIES & CREAM TARTLETS (IQS-style, sugar-free, gluten-free, egg-free!)

Pastry makes approx. 40 tartlet cases

INGREDIENTS FOR PASTRY

125 g salted, organic butter
125 ml organic rice malt syrup
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
125 g gluten-free organic white flour
100 g gluten-free organic oats
90 g raw organic almonds, roughly chopped
65 g desiccated organic coconut

INGREDIENTS FOR TARTLET FILLING

1 can (or more) of organic coconut cream, unwhipped or whipped depending which you prefer
A large handful of organic strawberries, fairly finely sliced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 150ºC (fan).
  2. Cut small squares of baking paper (mine were approximately 5 cm x 5 cm). Cut slits from each corner of each square almost to the middle of the square, but not quite. Place in a mini tart/pie tray (of the kind you might make Christmas mince pies in).
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and rice malt syrup, stirring until the mixture starts to bubble. Add a pinch of salt.
  4. Combine the bicarbonate of soda with boiling water and add to butter mixture. With childlike wonderment, watch the chemistry show commence (I love this bit!).
  5. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour melted butter mixture into dry ingredients and combine well.
  6. Let the dough “rest” for a while and come to room temperature*. This is an important stage as everything binds together, helping it to the right stage of pliability.
    *WARNING: don’t try the cookie dough at this point… you won’t be able to stop eating it ;)
  7. Scoop 1 heaped teaspoon of dough into a rough ball shape and pop into a paper-lined tartlet tray hole. Smoosh the dough down on top of the baking paper square to form a tartlet shell. You may want to try baking a test tartlet shell at this point or, if feeling brave, repeat the filling process until the whole tray is full. Be careful not to over-fill the holes. This dough will spread a little.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. If baking a cookie version of these, I would say that 20 minutes is slightly too long at this temperature (I prefer a chewier cookie), but to create a crisp tartlet shell, 20 minutes (depending on your oven) produces great results.
  9. Allow to cool on trays before lifting out using the paper corners and transferring to a wire rack. Store in airtight container*.
    *You can leave them sitting in the paper squares if stacking for storage, but it shouldn’t be necessary.
  10. Just prior to serving*, fill cooled tartlet shells with a dollop of coconut cream (whipped if you like) and top with 1/4 of a sliced strawberry.
    *The tartlet cases can be made days in advance, but the tartlets should be constructed close to the time of serving. Don’t worry, though. It only takes seconds to do if your strawberries are cut in advance.
  11. Enjoy! They are absolutely delicious, aren’t they?

 

*Recipe for tartlet pastry based on this one for ANZAC biscuits found at iquitsugar.com 

MissMarzipan_IQS_strawberries_and_cream_tartlet_cases

MissMarzipan_babycupcake_midsummer_2014MissMarzipan_IQS_strawberries_and_cream_tartlets_large

 

 

 

 

 

I QUIT SUGAR 8-WEEK PROGRAM (weeks 1 & 2 in review)

Hi all! Firstly, I apologise for neglecting to respond in good time to the lovely comments on my previous IQS post. Traveling, working and general “mama life” have prevented me from being here as much as I’d like at all.

As those of you who have read my previous IQS-related posts will know, I own a copy of Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life and it has become a go-to guide/inspiration resource for me when it comes to healthy home cooking, sans sugar. A few weeks ago, I decided to delve further into a fructose-free lifestyle experiment and, along with all the others who signed up for the latest IQS 8-week program, I have just entered Week 3.

In general I am finding the vegetarian version of the program not only easy to follow, but hugely inspirational. Slight concerns I had about the appropriateness of Aussie-developed seasonal meal plans/recipes and their relevance to me way over here in Winterfell Scandinavia, were completely unfounded. As (bad) luck would have it, the weather here has been even more rubbishy than usual, with frostier temperatures during midsummer than those Australia has been experiencing midwinter. Soups, curries and warming Mexican-inspired dishes have been just the ticket! And really, eating comforting, fresh, veggie-style food is always appropriate, no matter the weather, right? Plus when it comes to seasonal produce, well, it is the time of year here for certain goodies, such as berries.

Before signing up for the IQS 8-week program, I wondered whether it might merely encompass repetition of information already available online (via Sarah Wilson’s blog, iquitsugar.com, etc.) or in book form. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover the vast majority of recipes are exclusive to the program. That fact in itself makes the program good value, but add to that meal plans, complete shopping lists, hints, tips, webinars, forums, online support and the encouragement of a community of sugar-free fellow participants, and $150 AUD starts to seem a very fair price indeed.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

Week 1 was a breeze. I am sure this has something to do with the fact that I already had a foot in the IQS camp and had been recently navigating my way through going fructose-free, sans support, prior to the program’s commencement. On day 1, newly returned from a trip abroad, I found myself famished and almost teary at the prospect of not having any IQS-approved food ready to go. And then I remembered my veggie version of Sarah’s Paleo Inside-Out Bread… pre-sliced and frozen, ready for just such a mealtime emergency! Perfect. The Eggplant Parmigiana made with roasted red pepper sauce was a culinary revelation and I think I found a new favourite soup in the Thai Sweet Potato and Pumpkin IQS-style rendition I had on Tuesday (and Wednesday… and Thursday). The Berry Omelette seems to be hit with IQSers. And with good cause! It’s really quite delicious. And even the Berry Omelette cooking technique, which involves finishing under the grill, is one I will use in future for other culinary creations.

Week 2 kicked off with a to-die-for breakfast treat. Hello Carrot Cake Whip! Where have you been all my life? On the savoury side of things, there was a decidedly Mexican theme running through the meal plan for Week 2. I’m not complaining! The Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas were fabulous. My yummy Veggie Scramble breakfast leftovers on Day 3 became lunch for Baby Cupcake who, I was surprised to note, really enjoyed the zucchini. Paleo Beetroot and Rocket Risotto ticks almost every box imaginable (especially if you omit the dairy, as I did). Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, Paleo, sugar-free and with a raw component (the fresh rocket), this meal is not only clever and tasty, but surprising, nutrient-dense and pretty too. You can’t go wrong! Breakfast Bruschetta? Well, they had me at toasted sourdough. Yes, that’s right. You can eat bread whilst doing IQS (thank goodness!).

If you’re curious to see what I am eating during the program, you are welcome to visit my Instagram account, or search for the hashtag #IQS8WPveg on Instagram where you will see only my images of the vegetarian IQS meals I am eating.

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

A couple of things have happened during this process that are interesting… not necessarily IQS-related, but they certainly suggest that my body is receiving the fuel it needs.

Firstly, I recently ran my fastest time yet over a 5 kilometre distance. Secondly, I ran my first 15 kilometres ever last weekend. Both of these things have occurred during a period where I have only been running once a week on average (mostly very short distances) and not following any kind of training program.

As Week 2 of the program commenced, so did my cycle! Sorry if that’s TMI, but I share it only because I had terrible cramping (as you might well do if you haven’t had a proper cycle since 2010!), my skin was out of control, my moods were similarly out of whack… and yet, NO bloating! Now that is down to IQS-style eating, I am convinced of it. After 2 babies from back-to-back pregnancies, visible tummy bloating comes rather naturally to me these days. And, when I realised my cycle was returning, I was expecting at least a couple of days of dealing with one of those bellies that could potentially prompt someone to awkwardly comment “Congratulations! Baby number three!”. But no. Nothing. No bloating whatsoever. In fact, my clothes were starting to feel a little loose.

suspect that I might now just weigh on or slightly under 60 kilograms (132 pounds) for the first time since somewhere pre-kids, circa 2009. I say “suspect” because I don’t tend to weigh myself at all and don’t even have scales at home. I will confirm this matter, out of sheer curiosity, the next time I pay a visit to the gym.

For the record, I suffer from hypothyroidism (diagnosed in 2009). Furthermore, I experienced pretty massive weight gain during both of my pregnancies; 40 kg with L and 30 kg with Baby Cupcake*.

“Woaaah!…”, I hear you think, “How is that possible?”. Believe me, it is! And that’s with a fairly health-focused approach to eating and, in the case of my pregnancy with L, almost daily prenatal yoga from 13 weeks right through to 9 months.

In the case of my second pregnancy, those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I suffered major complications as a result of SCH and my pregnancy was considered “high risk” right from the start when I was first hospitalised until about 4 days before my due date. It’s crazy what NO exercise (even gentle short walks were out) and 10 weeks of bed rest- while pregnant- can do :P !

In any case, by being fortunate enough to successfully nurse my babies and finding it easy to maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle (including lots of yummy veggie food and moderate yet consistent exercise) simply because I enjoy it, within a few months of giving birth, I lost all of the weight gained during pregnancy… twice over! Even so, it has been at least 5 years since I weighed under 60 kilos (except for when I had a stomach bug around last Christmas!), so if indeed I do right now, it can only be as a result of following the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program**.

As interesting as that may be, far more importantly to me is how I am feeling and whether or not IQS is the energy-boosting lifestyle solution many claim it to be. To be fair, I haven’t noticed a huge shift in my energy levels yet, but I am sleeping better. And I am not craving sugar/an afternoon nap around 3pm!

Not craving sugar or having “sugar slumps” is quite an unusual state of being for me. I have joked before that I can eat dessert after every meal… including breakfast! And, indeed, I have at times. A bowl of cereal, followed by a smaller bowl of a different kind of cereal was a commonplace breakfast occurrence in my world. No more. I eat. I feel satisfied. I stay that way for hours. THAT is probably the biggest change I note at the moment.

Here’s a brief rundown of what I consider to be the pros and cons of the IQS 8-Week Program at this point:

WHAT I AM LOVING

  • Many (if not most) of the recipes in the program are not featured elsewhere and are exclusive to the 8-Week Program
  • Support from other participants, Sarah Wilson and IQS team members via the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels
  • For those of us who prefer to eat veggie-style, following the Vegetarian IQS 8-Week Program means not having to scan through the pages of recipe books that are not specifically veg-focused or spend time customising “meaty” recipes
  • Vegans can omit the egg/dairy component of many of the ovo-lacto vegetarian meals… and there are some vegan stunners thrown into the program too (see Carrot Cake Whip!)
  • No bloating at that time of the month (or at all, for that matter)
  • Eating homemade, delicious, fresh and tasty whole foods- no processed junk
  • No 3pm sugar slumps
  • The meal plans are super-easy to follow, the Sunday cook-ups are a brilliant way to get organised and geared up for the week
  • Baby Cupcake likes the IQS food that she’s tried (and she’s a fruit-loving sweet tooth)
  • Trying new recipes
  • Increased mindfulness and awareness around food and how it really makes me feel

… AND that EVERY, SINGLE recipe I have tried so far is a winner! Truthfully, it is all so good!

WHAT I AM NOT LOVING SO MUCH

To be honest, there isn’t much!

I have been experiencing occasional slight, yet uncomfortable, tummy pains.
I am not sure if this is due to my mild avocado intolerance and that fact that I am eating avocado more than I normally would. It could possibly be as a result of eating more dairy, however I am “veganising” quite a few of the meals with dairy content. Maybe it’s the result of having recently reintroduced one cup of coffee per day into my diet after a long period of being caffeine-free. There is a simple solution to this issue, however. Drinking water. That’s it! I have a glass of water if my tummy doesn’t feel right and in no time, I feel better. So no serious worries on that front, really.

The biggest downside thus far is that I feel quite overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of food I am producing.
The portion sizes are extremely generous. And I am finding it hard to follow the program to the letter, due to the fact that I tend to have leftover portions from every meal. Because I can’t abide wasting good food, I will skip cooking a meal in the program in favour of eating leftovers for my next meal. This means I am yet to cook a grand total of 9 of the dishes in the program! In this respect I feel that I can’t keep up/may be missing out :( … but I try to remind myself that I am eating IQS-style/IQS-approved meals and that I still have the recipes… and a lifetime of cooking meals ahead of me :P !

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Other happy spin-offs of the IQS8WP experience have included being featured via I Quit Sugar’s Instagram account with my Carrot Cake Whip, being included in “Sarah’s picks” of the week”*** with my Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas, and (inadvertently) winning a discount card from Gateau Stockholm with my photo of my IQS Breakfast Bruschetta! As I regularly buy their am hooked on their sourdough bread (Grand Blanc), I decided to mention Gateau when posting my bruschetta image. They saw it. They liked it. I have apparently won a discount card that will give me 25% off the purchase price of their products FOR A YEAR! Thank you Gateau! I’ll be positively drowning in your gorgeous sourdough ;) !

The IQS team have also made contact with me via Instagram, asking me to write to them (regarding my photographs) and I have done so. Curious to see whether they’ll respond… or what they’ll say if they do!

I am off traveling next week but truly hope that I’ll be able to share some IQS-inspired recipes before I go, so please check in here soon.

In the meantime, my very best to you! <3 MM xx

*These numbers are based on my weight just prior to giving birth to my babies, as determined by my hospital weigh-ins. I have no idea what I weighed immediately postpartum. So the total number of kilos (40 and 30, respectively) noted includes baby, placenta, that extra blood one produces during pregnancy and ALL that crazy water-retention-based H2O. I include these numbers here as, no matter what comprised that weight, my frame had to carry it- twice… and it was certainly carrying a great deal more than it is accustomed to. My bad knees and dodgy hip are a legacy of both of my pregnancies and an unhappy testament to what such weight gain can do.

**I am not trying to lose weight. If I have done so during this program, it amounts to around 1 kilogram. I mention it only because it is one of the changes I have noted since starting the program. I feel it is important to state, once again, that my focus is on “happy, healthy and wholesome”. Despite hypothyroidism, I am well within my normal healthy weight range and, other than when pregnant (!), I always am.

***Every week during the 8-Week Program Sarah picks 4 of her favourite images and they are featured on Instagram and Pinterest.