Friday, March 09, 2012

What can I make with coconut oil?

When you're looking for recipes that are not part of a more mainstream diet, such as the BBC Food, Delia or Jamie Oliver type of fare, you quickly begin to feel like you're exploring a strange and foreign land. Websites that look they've been built before Web 2.0 and forums whose entries date from 2005.

I feel like I've entered some weird food cult, a society for people with odd and unusual cooking habits: vegans, fruitarians, raw diet, Atkins, Weight Watchers, detoxers, healthy eaters and fussy people. Have I become a freak like them, I wonder?

Curried coconut chicken fingers. Photo from Free Coconut Recipes - Tabitha

One of my finds is curried coconut chicken fingers. I've been dying to find recipes that are similar to the ones that I used to make when I 'ate normally' and this is a near replica (in appearance although probably not taste) of my favourite Southern foods, breaded chicken tenders, which I used to make along with corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and buttered garlicky sauteed greens of some variety. I love breadcrumbs and deep frying and batters. I know I could just pick up some gluten free flour, but the detox level 3 says not to have rice or legumes, which is a bit of a constraint when it comes to substitution. So this is perfect.

Chocolate coconut kale chips. No, not just pieces of lettuce. Photo from Averie Cooks

Another variation of kale chips: chocolate coconut kale chips. Haven't had kale in my last two veg boxes so must remember to phone and ask to get it included.

My best online find so far is Youtube celebrity, raw food guru Dan aka Life Regenerator, whose raw food smoothie demonstration includes hilarious asides, commentary and anecdotes including the one about his mate, Dave the raw food trucker and how they like to hang out, drink wheatgrass, drive around to all the raw food restaurants and talk to girls who recognise them from Youtube, followed by a quasi sales pitch for raw food living.

In the 2009 video, Dan says he'll never stop making videos, which makes me want to check out his profile and see if he's still making videos, whether he's stayed true to his promise (he has, he's posted a video one day ago). He advises that we should 'become addicted to growth', which I think is good advice for anyone.

Last but not least, I found a treasure trove of recipes from a rather dated online forum, Low Carb Friends. Coconut mayonaise, coconut treats, virgin coconut oil coleslaw and creamy vinaigrette (made with coconut) all caught my eye. I'll be attempting those when I've gotten over this cold, which sees me spending the day in bed and wondering when the pain in my head will subside. A question: can too much detox see you catching colds?

The one thing I've noticed a lot when visiting these healthy eating blogs was how much product placement was slipped into the pages. Spotting instances of product references, which I always associate as being an American habit, is as exciting (?) as playing product placement bingo when watching American Hollywood films from the 80s. Do they really think no one will notice?

To be continued.

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Break from detox for birthday drinks at Sticky Mike's Frog Bar and other excuses

Bar staff serving up shots, Sticky Mike's Frog Bar, Brighton, 2012. Photo by Eliot Gill
My weekend off was largely understandable. From Thursday night to Monday evening, I was officially off the detox. My birthday drinks, farewell to Nadege and that handbag auction were all good reasons to drink and be merry. See that photo above; it accounts for a lot.

This week: I spent Tuesday this week back on the detox, followed by a Wednesday where I wasn't because it was writers group and the rule of writers group is that you drink unsensible amounts, talk serious writer's shop, then stay up late going from bar to bar, drinking even more.  We had our inaugural meeting at The Eagle upstairs function room - only to discover it was closing down in a few days. "They told me they didn't have any more red wine," said Tara. "I asked, how can you not have any red wine?"she replied. "The bar staff said they're shutting down so they're serving literally whatever they have left."

I stared at the red walls in the upstairs, and noticed how mirrors and decoration had already been removed. It felt like a ghostly room. I felt sad. So many memories from when I first moved to Brighton, going to parties up here full of people I didn't know at the time, but would get to know.  More recent memories too: Mark Walkers leaving do from SCIP only a few weeks before. I know closures aren't a permanent thing, but it felt like a sign of the times, that the downturn in the world around us might actually make it a final farewell for The Eagle. Shame. Food was topnotch these days. 

To my credit, I stopped drinking long before everyone else last night, when we left the Great Eastern; at The Green Door Store, I sat without a drink while everyone else easily sunk two more down. We ran into a North African musician I had on two years ago at my night, and his mate. One of my friends knew the mate. I taught everyone how to snap and do the California handshake. Jazz was playing next door, and suddenly a man I once went out on a blind date with early last year was standing in front of me, talking in my face. Not in an unpleasant way. He was there and then he was gone, and I'm not sure what I said.

Two of my friends decided to make an impulsive decision to stay on, while I called it a night. Scraped coins to get a taxi take me up the hill. When I got home, I sawed off two slices of my mate's loaf and stuck them in the toaster. The ungodly wheat.

My detox/nondetox this week has also been accompanied by a killer cold. It's literally gone for my throat. Symptom of the detox working - or susceptible victim to the nasty bug that's been doing the rounds at work? Who can say.

Today, I was doing all the right things again - vitamins, milk thistle, no caffein, etc, apart from not having lunch packed and buying a paella from Tesco. Yeah, the detox says no rice, but I can live with that.  Actually nothing about this pre-made food is part of the detox, but I didn't feel like I was going to do myself any favours eating another weird mixture of a palm sized bag of sugar peas zapped in the microwave tossed with lukewarm prawns for a second lunch this week. I picked the bits of potato and red pepper as a small nod to the detox and the 'things I'm not supposed to eat'. Two days of sucking on cough drops probably isn't hitting that detox YES button, but having a cold that makes you feel like you're wandering around in a fog isn't worry suffering over detox perfection for. 

Tonight, I sat in the Grand Central pub to kill some time before my massage. I felt heartened by a story the bartender told me. He once detoxed for a month and a half. "It was the worst timing when I did mine. Everyone was having events."

"And what did you do? Did you have little breaks to drink?"

He shrugged. "I just drank lots of soda water - and juice. It's not easy, even at the best of times, unless you're completely by yourself all of the time, then it's easy."

Then he took a half step backwards, nearly knocking over a row of red wine bottles behind him, and laughed.

The moral of the story is that I should probably stop making excuses for my detox detour and just get on with it. Maybe I should skip the beer and cider festival this Saturday? I'll let the cold decide. 

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

End of Detox trial

Right, so in the past week I managed to last for four whole days of what is, from what I'm learning, one of the toughest detoxes to undertake. It was a single glass of premeditated prosecco that tipped the regime. I knew that my trial was just a 'trial', what with Thursday's handbag auction at a local cafe and my birthday drinks on Friday so no serious guilt about my boozy diversion.

What have I learned from my trial?

1. Detoxing is not easy.

I've spent the week largely feeling dizzy, a bit spaced out and sometimes really tired. I passed out whenever I was on trains, watching films on my laptop, any spare time when I wasn't at work. A detox is not easy to carry out when you've got a mountain of work during the week: my work isn't buy, buy, sell, sell but I have to be on top of my game.

2. There are certain foods I miss and there are some I don't give a shit about.

I didn't mind cutting out so many foods and substances from my life, but due to the restrictive nature of this programme's Level 3, I also couldn't have legumes, rice, oats and members of the nightshade family, my favourite of course being corn. Come on, I'm a native Texan with three-quarters Mexican blood running through my veins. Corn is essential. Not eating potatoes and tomatoes didn't bother me that much, nor did giving up wheat or dairy.

3. I can live without coffee, tea and Coke.

Formerly, they propped me up. I honestly believed they did my work for me. What I've learned this week is that, without them, my life doesn't fall apart, I'm still as productive and focused.

4. Booze is a bit overrated.

It feels good to come to this point, this take it or leave it attitude. Especially living in such a boozy country, you forget what it's like to take a break. I can look at a glass of wine and no longer think that it's the road to nirvana (unless I've had a media nightmare, that is!). And after last night's birthday blowout, with untold numbers of shots and drinks, I woke up reaching for the milk thistle, teas and water (and ibuprofen), wanting to cleanse the toxins out.

5. There are some fascinating recipes out there.

A friend just alerted me to this raw diet website The Raw Chef, which has some pretty awesome looking recipes, all made without cooking. A lot of interesting creative substitution which I can definitely take tips from. I'm seriously all over these recipes. Pomegranate Cheesecake with Clementine Gelato - largely fashioned from cashew nuts, agave, coconut oil and almond milk. Pink Nori Sprout Rolls - the pink sauce is made of cashews, beetroot, lemon, and a bit of water. And Falafel Hummus wrap with Mediterranean 'Roasted' Vegetables - the wrap is made with courgettes, falafel is made with pumpkin seeds, olives, sundried tomatoes and loads of spices, and the hummus is made of mac nuts, lemon and tahini.

We'll see what next week holds. More to come on this detox front, I'm sure. 

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