Pumpkin Pie Pancakes {gluten-free & vegan}

Enter the season of the gourd.

Where once sat a girl who was inexplicably squeamish around squash is now a monster because as soon as September 1 hits she will literally eat squash for every meal.

The evidence:
Breakfast: pumpkin pie protein smoothie
Lunch: butternut squash soup
Dinner: spaghetti squash with marinara sauce

For real though, with my current gluten/dairy/sugar/caffeine/alcohol free diet, I get cravings. And usually these cravings are for things that I wouldn’t, in my pre-Lyme diagnosis life, have particularly cared for. I never had a strong sweet tooth and would always, always go for another cheese plate over the dessert table. I just could never get enough salt cheese. These days the brain just wants donuts and pancakes, and my OCD-riddled mind will replay images, smells, and sensations of consuming ooey gooey cakes all day long. If an emoji was made of me, it would be just like the “heart eye” emoji except with donuts for eyes. The donuts would have a gorgeous raspberry glaze and–

So my problem has been made evident. There exist three solutions:

a) Continue to ignore the cravings. This one isn’t so much fun, and is bound to at some point in the future culminate with me cheating by choking down a maple bar.

b) Give in to the cravings. This one isn’t so much fun either, after the initial orgasmic cake-meets-mouth phase. In addition to trashing my struggling body with sugar, gluten, dairy, and inflammatory oils while it’s trying to fight, detox, and heal from infections, I end up feeling terrible guilt. Guilt around food is a thing I am trying to avoid at all costs.

c) Find a way for my diet and the object of my cravings to peacefully co-mingle.

I introduce to you gluten, dairy, and refined sugar-free pumpkin pie pancakes

The only thing these pancakes are guilty of is being TOO DARN DELICIOUS. The recipe serves at least 2 but this is a girl who is still bitter over serving sizes on an Annie’s mac n’ cheese box so draw your own conclusions. I adapted Minimalist Baker’s recipe to fit all my dietary needs.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
Ingredients:
-3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond or coconut milk
-1 tbsp lemon juice
-1/3 cup-1/2 cup pumpkin purée
-1 tbsp melted coconut oil
-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (I never have this and omit it but I’m sure it would taste even better with extra vanilla!)
-1 tbsp maple syrup (can sub honey/agave)
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-a pinch of salt
-1 tsp pumpkin spice
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1 cup gluten-free flour of choice

Directions:
-combine the milk and lemon juice in a large bowl and let it rest for 5 minutes. the minor curdling action that ensues acts as a binder in place of eggs.
-add to this bowl the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, pumpkin purée, and vanilla. mix well.
-in a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices and slowly add in to the wet ingredients bowl.
-let the batter sit while you heat up (medium heat) an oiled pan (or two, if you want to speed up the process)
-pour about 1/4 cup of batter on each pan, cook, and flip when you start to see bubbles popping up in the center.
-top with sliced bananas, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and maple syrup!
-good luck pacing yourself

Note: These pancakes, by general standards, are not very sweet. Because my sweet treats are limited to fruit and the occasional maple syrup or honey-sweetened goodie, they’re plenty sweet for me. If you want a sweeter pancake, just add up to 3 tbsp of brown sugar to the batter.

Happy autumn, dears!

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Banana Protein Nice Cream

Summer in Seattle seems to be slowly winding down but you’ll have to pry the ice cream out of my frozen claws. I seem to be a bit late to the banana nice cream party, but there’s no dearth of bananas and I have no problem with donning multiple layers, a fuzzy bathrobe, and wool socks to enjoy this treat in the coming months.

Ice cream for breakfast sounds like the last thing I should be eating, and while this treat is a bit higher in sugar {and lower in green things} than my normal fare, it brings a massive grin to my face and tastebuds, and sometimes that’s all one needs.

It requires basically zero prep time, just as long as you’ve got some frozen bananas lying around. Any time I purchase any bananas, I’ll wait for a few to get pretty ripe, peel and slice them up into some pyrex and freeze them. That’s it. Then one morning you wake up and feel like eating ice cream and it’s as easy as reaching into the freezer, and tossing them naners into a blender with some liquid.

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The great thing about this little recipe is that it is so versatile. You can stay a purist and keep it simple, or dress it up and pile on the goods. My favorite toppings are unsweetened coconut flakes, fresh raspberries, almond butter, and a generous helping of cinnamon, though if you’re not on any restricted diet for healing purposes, you could go all-out froyo on that shit and add cookie crumbles, all sorts of fruit, nuts, sprinkles, and chocolate to top.

Banana Protein Nice Cream
Ingredients:
-1 frozen banana, sliced
-1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk {can replace with any milk}
-1 scoop preferred protein powder {can leave this out; I prefer a little sustenance to my breakfasts}

Directions:
-place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and combine until smooth
-you may need to scrape the sides of the blender with a spatula to incorporate all ingredients from time to time
-depending on consistency, you may need to add a bit more coconut milk. go slow! otherwise you’ll be left with a banana milkshake. i guess things could be worse.
-using a spatula, scrape the goodness into a bowl, sprinkle with toppings, and good luck not getting brain freeze*

Have fun and play around with other flavors! I will next attempt a Neapolitan style nice cream, fueled deeply by childhood nostalgia.

You can find me in the sandbox, brow furrowed, picking grains out of my bellybutton.

*I have never, to this day, experienced a brain freeze and am tempted to say it does not exist. Don’t kill me.

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Plum Crumble {paleo & vegan}

Once upon a time I’d never heard the words “paleo” or “gluten,” and the only type of oil I was familiar with was the thin, yellow vegetable kind sold in clear plastic jugs. I also baked a lot. Baking was an activity that I would turn to whether happy, heartbroken, nostalgic, or a little sick. My senior year of college one of my housemates made us all signs for our doors and mine proclaimed: “House Russian, sweets supplier, & harlot.” I’m not sure where the last bit came from {really!} but I can’t beg off the first two.

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My all-time favorite creation were earl grey cupcakes with lemon-honey buttercream but I also adored churning out pb&j cupcakes, challah bread, focaccia pizza crusts, lemon bars, chocolate-chip banana breads, and carrot cake muffins with cream cheese frosting. If I had a day off from working on my thesis, sometimes I would spend its entirety baking, moving from one recipe to another. It’s not that I ever had a massive sweet tooth or anything; it was seeing the look on people’s faces when I offered them up a piping hot muffin when they wandered into the kitchen and being able to fill up a space with delicious scents, whether nutty, spiced, or yeasty. I also loved the alchemy of it; the simple process of transforming a sticky, peaked batter into something puffed, solid, and shareable gave me a sense of deep accomplishment and peace that I didn’t often find in other places.

I never questioned what I ate until I was about 19 years old and transitioned to a vegetarian diet, briefly exploring veganism along the way. I was experiencing ongoing health issues, an amalgamation of seemingly unrelated symptoms, and thought that maybe I could support my body with what I was putting into it {a most novel idea!}. I spent some time avoiding fats–a very misguided but well-intentioned effort–in hopes of lowering my cholesterol numbers. Later when I was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease and co-infections, I steadily phased gluten, {most} dairy, and refined sugar out of my diet. My diet changes slightly depending on my protocol, but one thing is for sure: what I’m eating now is extremely different from what I was eating even two years ago. That’s one of the main reasons why I stopped baking. Without flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, my love of baking faded into a thing of the past. What was the point, I thought, if it wasn’t even going to taste good?

Baking is slowly making a comeback into my life, and I’m learning to navigate the world of alternative flours, sweeteners, and binders. It’s definitely pricier and sometimes things don’t look–or taste–quite how I envision them but it’s all part of the process. As summer slowly begins to wind down and the promise of autumn lingers, I can’t deny the itch to get back into creating simple baked goods that are kind to the body.

So today, while laying low{er} with a viral something-or-other but still wanting to *do*, I cobbled together a recipe for a grain-free crumble. {I am not completely grain-free but I have been trying to limit my intake so I thought this would be a fun time to experiment.} We’ve had a plethora of plums laying about for the past two weeks and I’m one who hates to see things go to waste.

beauties!

Recipe for Plum Crumble
Filling:
-about 4 cups of plums, halved and pitted {you could substitute with another stone fruit, or even apples}
-2 tbs raw honey
-a bit of lemon zest
-2 tsp lemon juice
-a pinch of salt
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-2 tsp corn starch {could substitute w/ arrowroot flour though I didn’t have any}

Topping:
-1 1/3 cups almond flour/meal
-1 cup chopped walnuts
-1/4 chopped almonds
-1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
-2 tbs raw honey
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-a pinch of salt
-3 tbs coconut oil

Instructions:
1. preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. combine filling ingredients in a bowl and let sit.
3. combine topping ingredients in a separate bowl, mix generously.
4. pour filling into a coconut oiled baking dish and top evenly with remaining “dry” ingredients.
5. bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

crisp

If you are feeling fancy {I wasn’t}, you could whip up some coconut cream to serve atop the crumble or get some vanilla coconut-milk ice cream. My favorite store-bought brand is Coconut Bliss but it’d probably be pretty easy to make your own.

Happy crumbling!

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Surrendering {and making room for healing}

Being in between things is rough. I’ve spent so, so long scrambling uphill, fighting to hook my toes into any hold and pull my weight forward, only to be knocked back down farther than ever before. Every fall bruises my hope just a bit more but vague memories of how full and juicy life can once was keep me going. {My ache to love hard. To walk again on cobblestone streets in Paris and drink cafe creme under heat lamps. To feel my muscles grow strong from a regular yoga practice. To feel connected and close to people I adore instead of vacant and numb. To say “yes” instead of feeling the sting of “I can’t.” To live freely, unencumbered by a brain on fire and all-encompassing malaise.}

I’ve spent so much energy fighting and resisting. It’s a knee-jerk response to feeling things we deem “unbearable”. But challenges keep piling and piling until I literally lose the ability to resist; it takes up more energy than I have and I can feel the dissonance of it all threatening to cause a major disaster within me. I know better now; it’s time I step back. This is where I surrender.

I’ve chosen a practice of surrendering {to the fear, the symptoms, the doubt, the unknown}. Tomorrow marks one month post treatment in Idaho and I am still feeling very poorly, which, all things considered, is to be expected. I am still very much in the middle of it but I trust that I am on the way up. The less I resist and fume and worry and obsess, the more energy my body has toward ridding itself of the heavy load of infection so that it can begin to heal from years of damage.

I’ve never been good at having faith, or patience, or believing that things can turn out beautifully. Whether it’s genetically wired, the effect of years of Borrelia playing hide-and-go-seek in my brain, or a touch of learned helplessness from past events, I know I’ve got within me the ability to slowly unwind old patterns and build up new ones. I’ve been doing it for years and I’ll be doing it for years to come. With my hands drawn together at my heart, I acknowledge where my control begins and ends. I know it’s time to let go, if only for a little bit, to see where things land. As I embrace a practice of surrendering, I hope to send my body the message that I trust in its innate drive and ability to heal.

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Blanket

The most difficult part about the last 17 months has been the feeling of losing myself. It’s something inherent, I think, in dealing with long-term health issues, but compounded exponentially in my experience through my primary symptoms of Lyme Disease etc. which are heavily psychological and neurological (I’m not sure exactly where the line is drawn or which umbrella better describes what but that is beside the point).

I recall first feeling what is termed as “derealization” and “depersonalization” immediately following my first (and only, to this date) full-blown panic attack. The day before I had run for my life down a mountain ablaze in northern California, a summer trip gone terribly wrong, and three months prior I had experienced the death of my mother after a short and traumatic illness. Needless to say my body and brain were terribly overworked…my adrenals having eked out their last drops of hormones to get me through the last months and having survived, my body went into a state of shock and shut down, in a way. (I later learned that Lyme symptoms frequently come out of hibernation during periods of immense stress, which helped me to connect the dots in the cyclical nature of periods of feeling well and really, really bad times.)

It’s more difficult to explain why these constant feelings of feeling numb and unreal, disconnect from those closest to my heart, from my desires and creativity, from my normal responses and perception have been so unrelenting this time around. For periods of time I will almost convince myself that it’s all due to trauma I haven’t completely worked through, that I just need to try harder, find the right therapist, do more crosswords, grow more neurons. But in my heart I know that this is organic in nature, that these feelings are a reflection of the temporary damage that Lyme etc. has inflicted on my brain.

It’s a funny back-and-forth thing I do, convincing myself it’s all in my head, that there’s no Lyme… only to be reminded by my body the following day that aching knees, dizziness, and buzzing feet are not things I can explain away (not that I haven’t tried: knees–too much time spent in half-lotus, dizziness–maybe I just need to eat again, feet–maybe my shoes aren’t supportive enough–only to prove myself wrong at a later date). It feels like everything is a back-and-forth dance these days: the fear that it’s all in my head and there’s nothing actually wrong with me and the knowledge that there is, the doubt over the efficacy of a treatment I am awaiting and the hope in my heart that tells me it could be everything, the pain over losing so much of myself and the quiet acceptance that it’s a temporary situation, the feeling that I can’t take it one day longer and the deep calm within that knows that I can and will. That I always underestimate my ability to succeed.

The other day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw somebody had tagged me in a post, mentioning that she thought I was funny. Reading those two words: “you’re funny” attached to my name gave me a kind of a jolt. Me. I’m funny. Huh. And then I remembered: I am funny! Sometimes I write and I create and I make people laugh and I fucking love doing it. It felt so strange to be reminded of who I am by a passing remark like that. Strange but powerful, because sometimes when you’ve felt unlike yourself for so long, you begin to really forget who you were before the fog took up residence in your mind, before the three-inch pane of bulletproof glass wedged itself between you and the world.

Hearing those words reminded me of how much I used to love to blog. I originally started because I was embarking on a semester abroad and wanted to record my experiences, but once I returned to the motherland I just kept going. I looked forward to writing more, no matter how much I doubted my skill or worried my humor would come off wrong or that I only had three regular readers, one of whom was my dad. It didn’t matter; it just felt damn good doing it and so I kept going. All that changes when you no longer feel like yourself, when you feel like the cord between your conscious experience and your soul has been snipped… a strange sort of apathy takes over and though you know that you used to love doing something or feel a certain way about someone, you just aren’t capable of summoning that feeling any longer, and so you stop.

I must not stop.

The same Something that tells me all this pain is temporary also tells me that I need to keep writing. Even if it feels forced. Even if the cognitive issues makes it difficult for me to choose the right word, or cause my sentence structure to feel awkward or bulky, or my thoughts to appear jumbled (they are). I have to keep writing in the midst of this incommunicably strange and shitty time because to keep writing is to reaffirm to myself that it’s still me underneath it all. My spirit hasn’t dulled, my mind hasn’t been broken, and my heart hasn’t been rendered impenetrable for good. The blanket will be cast off in due time and look–that’s me under there. So good, so new.

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Habits and such I had at 21 I wouldn’t be caught dead with at 24

Photo on 2011-11-13 at 02.15 #4

going to bed without washing my face and removing my makeup

going to bed without brushing (and flossing!) my teeth

smoking cigarettes socially

acting out of spite (usually beginning with consumption of alcohol and ending in alligator tears)

getting stoned and eating an entire block of cheese belonging entirely not to myself (THANKS lyme disease for making my life so unfair*)

reading wikipedia articles describing grisly serial murders, celebrity suicides, and other savory topics into the wee hours of the A.M. instead of catching z’s and NOT reading such things, ever.

getting so drunk i chip my front tooth on the pavement trying to give my friend a hug (see photographic evidence)

assuming i’m always overreacting (and allowing others to convince me my concerns aren’t worth voicing)

dating people who treat me poorly or with any less than 110% respect (thanks to my present-day d00d for setting the expectations where they should have been all along)

believing that certain things are promised to me just because i exist, or that the world owes me anything

blindly trusting mainstream medecine with anything that isn’t a broken bone

overusing parenthetical statements (i would never, ugh, how unbecoming, etc etc)

conclusion: I’M BECOMING MORE AND MORE FUN EVERY DAY #adulthood

*i have come across, both through research and in social media many people who claim they are grateful for their experiences with lyme disease and would not change the course of their health for anything. i admire these people greatly but i am not among them. maybe one day i will become that zen. may-be.

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My Symptoms

I wanted to do a post on my symptoms for several reasons: firstly, it’s one of the questions I’ve been getting asked most frequently since receiving my diagnosis–especially by people unfamiliar with Chronic Lyme–and secondly, because I think it’s important for me to chronicle my experiences and with this post, specifically, to see how years of seemingly unrelated and often dismissed symptoms were, after all, caused by something I’ve finally been able to put my finger on. As Lyme is an opportunistic infection that tends to flare up when the host’s immune system is weakened, I don’t want to completely dismiss other potential issues (ie genetic mutations, possible mold illness, chronic viruses) and their role in causing some of the below. However, after much research, it appears that every single symptom I’ve experienced, ranging from annoying to debilitating, can be attributed to infection by the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia Burgdorferi.

This is a list of symptoms that I am currently, or have in the past, experienced:

Head, Face, Neck:
Headache
Sore throat, swollen glands
Unexplained hair loss
Clearing throat a lot, phlegmy
Increased floating spots in vision (so so bad on white walls or looking up at the sky)
Oversensitivity to light
Flashing lights (I get these at night with my eyes closed)
Ringing in one or both ears

Digestive System:
Nausea
Diarrhea/constipation
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Loss of appetite

Respiratory/Circulatory Systems:
Diminished exercise tolerance
Air hunger (or the feeling of not being able to take a satisfying breath)

Musculoskeletal System:
Joint pain (luckily, mine is mild–so far–and only in my knees)

Psychiatric/Cognitive/Neurological Symptoms:
Mood swings, irritability, agitation
Depression and anxiety (among my most crippling symptoms)
Malaise
Suicidal thoughts
Overemotional reactions, crying easily
Disturbed sleep: too much, too little, difficulty falling or staying asleep
Feeling as though you are losing your mind
Obsessive-compulsive behavior
Derealization/Depersonalization/a constant state of apathy (this is by far the worst, most excruciating symptom)
Forgetfulness
Confusion, difficulty thinking
Difficulty with concentration/reading
Fatigue
Light-headedness, wooziness
Increased effect from alcohol and possible worse hangover

Reproduction and Sexuality:
Unexplained menstrual irregularity
Loss of sex drive
Unexplained breast discharge (iknorite?!)

So yeah! It’s a fun time! And I don’t even have it that bad according to many other people’s accounts. And the craziest thing is that nobody would know any of this by just looking at me, or even by interacting with me (unless I’m pretty tired and then they might question why I am so spaced out). I look fine on the outside! Inside: I am not.

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