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On Life As A Picky Foodie

January 12th, 2012: A GF, Vegan Apple Spice Loaf Recipe

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

Happy 2012 everyone!

There's a book I love to read to Vida Lev.  In it, the world becomes a relatively small, very nature-oriented planet where the birth of a child is passed on from creature to creature until gradually everyone is ready to welcome a new being onto this earth.  Beautiful, no?  And about as far away from our technocratic, virtual world as it's possible to be.

We live far removed from one another and while physical distance is easier to bridge than ever -- my daughter knows the word Skype already, and knows that it means we will be seeing her grandmother on the computer screen -- local relationships sometimes feel trickier to manage.  

The other day, a woman I follow on twitter was commenting how distant she feels from her Facebook friends.  I have to admit that I completely understand her.  My Facebook page is personal and everyone on there are people I have met face to face and have felt some kinship to at one point or another -- from pre-school to high school, from El Salvador to Ojai, these are people I supposedly know.

And yet, I often find these "friends" and I have little in common.  Sometimes I am even offended by their postings -- apparently, in addition to lovely and kind people,  I am also "friends" with fascists, bigots, racists and chauvinists.  (I'm shuddering right now, by the way.)

When I was first introduced to twitter, I rejected it completely.  Enough, I said, no more social media.  But seeing as The Picky Foodie won't grow legs and walk the earth without some help, I decided to give it a shot.  And the results were astounding.  Though I haven't met most of my twitter peeps -- with some wonderful exceptions like the delightful Molly of The Particular Kitchen and Mona of Wise Words -- I find we have so much more in common than I do with so many of my "friends" on Facebook.

Today is my three-month veganiversary.  While many assume I have been vegan for yonks, I wasn't ready to take the official step until this year, October 12th, to be exact.  My 35th birthday.  Will I be vegan forever?  Who knows!  But for now, I'm enjoying the feeling of not eating animal products (with the exception of the occasional bit of honey), experimenting with plant-based proteins, and eating in a way that is more in line with my values.

While I took this step on my own, I have found inspiration in so many blog posts, recipes and experiences shared by the people I have found on twitter.  What can I say?  It does truly take a village.  Here are my  3 faves:

-  Gena Hamshaw at Choosing Raw -- hilariously, when I went to her website to double check the spelling of Gena's last name, I found a recent recipe for  a similar kind of bread and just like me, she found that while the loaf is good, it's probably closer to the taste of a health-food-foodie (in fact, I think I'll try hers next).  Nutritionist, future super-power MD, Gena is a wiz in the kitchen and knows truck-loads about health as well as recovering from Eating Disorders.  Love her!  

-  Seyward Rebhal's Bonzai Aphrodite -- totally fabulous, totally fun, totally unique, totally vegan.  I return to this site again and again, for inspiration and because Seyward is just totally awesome.  

-  Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy website-- This woman has makes living with incurable disease look glamorous.  She's the rock star of healing with food and healthy living.  Think attitude isn't important when it comes to kicking Cancer's ass?  Check out Kris, her amazing story and her wonderfully informative website.  

Through these and other sites I visit regularly, I will occasionally stumble on a one-off wild card recipes by people I haven't heard of before.  Blog posts passed and retweeted, about foods and recipes I'm delighted to play with as well.  And so too with the original recipe for this moist apple bread by Wendakai.  In my gluten-free, mostly grain-free life, I sometimes crave bread and sometimes long for cake.  This recipe falls somewhere between sweet and mildly savory, between bread and cake.  Does that make it a loaf?  

Anyway, the first mouthful took me back to the night I gave birth to Vida Lev. After we had cleaned up, my baby had fed for the first time and we were all happily cuddling in bed, Elke and Sandesh, the amazing midwives, asked me what I wanted to eat.  By then it was one in the morning and I hadn't had any food for close to twelve hours.  "Be careful what you ask for," Elke said, "because you will remember this for the rest of your life."  She was right: the slice of toasted bread DW had baked for me the day before with almond butter and fig spread is something I still dream of.

And when this lovely little loaf came out of the oven, as my beautiful daughter slept in the next room, I slathered a nice slice in almond butter and topped it with fig spread and a touch of nostalgia.

May this year bring health, happiness, joy and may you dance in the sunshine.

With love,


Gluten Free, Vegan Apple Spice Bread

1 c whole garfava flour (a mixture of garbanzo and fava bean flour available from Bob's Red Mill)

1/2 c millet flour

1/4 c almond flour

2 t gluten free baking powder

1 1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t ginger powder

1/2 c date sugar

2 T mesquite (optional)

1/4 t sea salt (optional)

1 flax egg (if you need instructions on how to properly make one, Bonzai Aphrodite has great instructions here)

3/4 c apple sauce

juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 c)

1/2 c water

Instructions:  Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit (about 175 Centigrade)

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, spices, salt

Add the wet ingredients and mix well.

Bake for about 50 minutes.

This loaf if great toasted though, as I mentioned before, it might not be for everyone.  

There's a great story of my mother, who has always baked "different" (read: healthy) things, taking a zucchini bread to a picnic once.  The husband of a friend of hers couldn't get enough of it -- he just loved it.  Until my mother told him what it was made of and he found he suddenly didn't like it anymore. 

Afterwards he politely requested that my mother never reveal what she put in her lovely baked goods again. 

Móna Wise commented on 13-Jan-2012 07:10 AM
What a beautiful post. And OMG the little piece about the toast after the birth of Vida Lev is just so gorgeous. I can taste the bread with the almond and fig slathered on there. Congrats on the Veganniversary - you sound happy and although we are divided
by the ocean my friend you are in my thoughts and heart. Twitter rocks for sure!
Sayward commented on 14-Jan-2012 07:18 AM
Thank you so much for the sweet shout-out! Congratulations on the three-month marker. You reflect so beautifully on your experiences. =) Cheers to many more months!

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September 15th, 2011: Bread

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

“It’s so nice to see you enjoy.”  Dw’s words were painful to hear.

Have I really been taking such little pleasure in my food lately?

The answer is yes.  Honestly, truly.  I wish it was different, but the reality is such that recently I have been cooking because my child needs to be fed, or as a way of procrastinating the mountains of packing that await me in every room.  Food has, in the past few months, become a chore.

Over the years, I have removed and reinstated countless ingredients: tomatoes, oats, tamari, potatoes (sweet and regular), aubergines (eggplants to the Yanks), to name a few.  Some have remained, some have been jettisoned again, while others come and go depending on how I’m feeling.  

Last March, I found myself depleted of energy, drained at all times, my thyroid was acting up, and I hadn’t been able to lose even a gram of the weight I had put on during my pregnancy.  The very talented Naturopath I saw recommended I remove all nuts (except coconut and some cashews and macadamias if necessary), seeds, pulses and grains.  We compromised on oats, which I happily ate for breakfast every morning and stuffed in every dessert imaginable (something had to replace all those nut-filled recipes!).  She also requested that I eat more meat – something I have been trying to remove altogether (since becoming a mother, I have found it much more difficult to stomach).

I agreed to try and within a few weeks, I was feeling a hundred times better.  My weight started to normalize, my skin, which had been red and blotchy for a while, cleared up, my mood lightened.  All was well.

Until it wasn’t. 

For me, food should be about enjoyment.  I love textures, colours, flavours.  I mix, I match, I test, I taste.  Since Vida Lev was born cooking has become even more important to me as often it is my only creative outlet.

My list was pretty stark:

Dos: greens, potatoes (which I can’t stand unless they are French Fries drowned in mayonnaise – yes, really), sweet potatoes, mushrooms, fruit, coconut, all meat, especially wild caught (ugh, yuck – sooo not into it right now), chocolate (ok, so I didn’t ask about this one.  Technically, cacao is a seed, but I played shtum and decreed it was “different” i.e. the only way to get through this)

Don’ts: gluten, dairy, soy, sugar (refined), flour, beans, nuts, seeds, aubergines. Peppers, grains and other nightshades (unless well cooked).

Green, yes.  But dull.  Dull.  Dull. 

At first, I was so happy to be feeling great -- I started working out again and revelled in my newfound vigour.  It was a hot summer and we spent three weeks in the Middle East where it was easy to stick to salads and fruit.

Upon our return, however, things started to change. 

I got bored.  Then I got angry.  Then the cravings started. 

Some people stop eating when they’re emotional.  Not me.  And sugar is my port of call.  I kept telling myself that it could be worse, that I could be eating a pint of actual ice cream instead of Choosing Raw's soft serve made out of only bananas (seriously, it's amazing all on its own but if you want to be truly decadent, try it on top of my Unreasonable Brownies -- just be sure to omit the cayenne).  But the body doesn’t care if you’re overeating on Carvel or Chiquita. 

So what if I was eating too much healthy food – it was still too much and I wasn’t feeling good.  Again. 

This week, I decided to start incorporating things back into my diet.  I wanted to rediscover joy in my meals.

This journey is exactly that, a journey.  And when I find myself getting too preachy either when I speak to people or when I’m writing this blog, my body finds a way to remind me that I too struggle on a daily basis with what is right for me, what is healthy in my life, what I need in order to feel my best.

By now, my palate has changed.  For example, I have no desire for, almonds, that powerhouse of plant-based protein I didn’t think I could live without.  On the other hand I find myself craving, chia and hemp seeds, which I didn’t care for in the past.

But really, what I’ve been missing most is bread.  It’s a texture thing: is there a more satisfying experience than biting into a good piece of bread?  Bread is such a basic part of my food memory, a constant in an ever-changing childhood.   I know I’m not the first to say this, but when I first went gluten free, the thought of living without bread was terrifying.  Thankfully, and again, I know I’m not the first to have this experience, we do have a myriad of wonderful options available to us these days.

In order to celebrate my return to joyful eating, I started back at square one, a return to basics if you will: I baked bread.  I made not one but two different kinds of bread – one raw and one more mainstream.  Usually, I reserve these posts for recipes of my own creation.  But I cannot claim ownership of either of these.  It’s been a while, and it was nice to be able to find inspiration out there in other people’s adventures.  Both breads came out wonderfully and there are no words to describe the pleasure I’ve been taking in every single bite.  

Two Bread Recipes

Raw Butternut Squash Flatbread (raw/vegan)

A friend of mine uses her oven pilot light instead of a dyhydrator.  I cranked up the dehydrator one last time before our big move. Note: when eating dehydrated foods - whether your own or store bought -- don’t forget to up your liquid intake.

(Adapted from Shazzie’s book, “Evie’s Kitchen, Raising an ecstatic Child.”)


- 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, roughly chopped

- 10 cherry tomatoes – I used a mixture of yellow and red.  They’re so sweet right now

-  ½ cup fresh parsley, roughly

- 1 t coconut aminos (or soy sauce)

- 3 T ground flax seeds

- pinch of sea salt (optional, to taste)

- ¼ t sweet paprika

- ¼ cup water


Start by processing the butternut squash and tomatoes well.  Then add the water, parsley, flax, coconut aminos , paprika and salt and process again until a paste forms.  This could take a few minutes and you might need to add more water, depending on the veggies.

Then spread on teflex sheets and dehydrate at 105 Fahrenheit (40 Centigrade) for 5 hours.  Flip over and remove the teflex sheets and dehydrate for an additional 8 hours until they are hard but still flexible. 

Enjoy with avocado and sprouts or according to your personal preferences.

Pecan, Almond and Buckwheat Bread

They say when you’re adapting a recipe, the first thing to do is make it exactly as the original instructs.  Then you can play and change things from a clear starting point.  Until I baked this bread, I didn’t think I was physically capable of following a recipe.  Usually, I start to pour and mix and suddenly I’ll feel an overwhelming urge to change things, add an ingredient that I know will improve whatever it is I’m working on.  But this bread was so easy and simple that I just followed it without even thinking about it.  The only difference was that I used a rectangular baking tin because that is what I have.   

I will, however, be working on an egg-free/vegan version.

The original post is so beautiful and evocative (much like the rest of her site – definitely worth losing yourself in for as long as you can spare) that I’d rather you check it out
La Tartine Gourmande's blog rather than copying and pasting it here.  This bread blew my socks off.  It's hearty and rich without being heavy.  Though I didn't know whether this strange new taste would stand the baby-palate test, Vida Lev gobbled up a couple of pieces with relish.  

Amanda @ EasyPeasyOrganic commented on 21-Sep-2011 12:25 AM
Wowza. I've been trying to cut down on my wheat - diversify and all ... but seriously you've been doing something *amazing*!

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September 9th, 2011: Being Unreasonable

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

The other day someone said it to me.  The subject was my daughter. 

My answer? 

Unreasonable?  Moi?  You bet!

Though it wasn’t meant as a compliment, I have come to the conclusion that being unreasonable is not a bad thing.  It’s simply a lack of reason.  And reason can be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to matters of the heart – family, love.

The brain’s job is to solve problems, discover patterns, make rules.  Emotions and feelings exist in a completely separate realm where one plus one might equal a hula hoop instead of the famous t-w-o. 

The thing about using words like “unreasonable” isn’t just that it’s judgmental and condescending.  In my experience, people who talk about being reasonable are usually the same people who view emotions as a four-letter-word.  Eek, gloopy, uncontrollable, messy, unrestrained emotions – call the police!  Or the brain.    

Ever heard (or used) the expression “keeping busy”?  People constantly need to keep busy.  It’s a way of making sure our brains don’t nitpick our lives to death.  Because the problem with having to solve problems is that when there is a dearth of trouble, you bet the brain will do its utmost to create some. 

“Unreasonable” used to feel like an insult to me and yet somehow when I heard it the other day, I almost laughed.  For the first time, I owned up to the fact that I am, at times, very unreasonable.  And that’s just fine with me.

Six and three quarter ways to make sure you’re being unreasonable:

1.  Go for a walk in the rain.  When the skies open up and it’s pouring, head out.  Wander around those familiar streets and take a good look at a totally new part of the world without leaving your neighbourhood.

2.  Use Raspberries As Finger Hats.  They’re so much more delicious that way. Or better yet, use them as hats on the fingers of your beloved.

3.  Do what you love.  This is a new one for me.  I did the whole “choose a reasonable career that will pay the bills” thing.  It left me sick and depressed.  Then I procrastinated because I feared and I reasoned.  Now I’m ready. 

4.  Have Dessert For Breakfast. Raw chocolate smoothies have successfully converted many a night owl into morning people. (tweet twoo)

5.  Love The One You’re With.  Be it a friend, a partner, a pet, or your own wonderful company.

6.  Find Inspiration.  I love Julia Cameron’s concept of the Artist Date.  It’s awesome.  Best done during the day when you “should” be doing something else. 

And the three quarters?  Read Between the Lines.   

Unreasonable Drenched Brownies in Melted Icing

(Adapted from Meghan Telpner’s hot hot hot and spicy brownies)

Sweet potato, cayenne and apple sauce in brownies?  Sounds pretty unreasonable, doesn’t it?  Need more convincing about how wonderfully delectably delicious unreasonable can be?  Give these babies a try.


For the brownies:

-  100 gr. 100% cacao chocolate bar

-  1 T coconut oil

-  ½ cup sweet potato puree (steamed and then mashed/pureed)

-  1/8 cup honey

-  ½ cup coconut sugar

-  ½ cup Valrhona cacao powder

-  2 t vanilla extract (gluten free)

-  ¾ cup apple sauce

-  ½ cup coconut flour

-   ½ t baking powder

-   sprinkle salt

-  ½ T cinnamon

-  ¼ t cayenne

-  1/16 t green stevia powder

-  1 banana, mashed

-  ¼ c cashew milk (blend 1/8 c cashews and 1 cup water – use the rest for the melted icing)

-  ¼ cup water (or more)

For the Melted Icing:

-  1 cup cashew milk

-  1 T coconut oil

-  1 T coconut butter

-  1/8 cup Valrhona cacao powder

- 1 T honey


For the Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit (176 Centigrade)

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler / bain de Marie.

In the mean time, combine the wet ingredients and process with the S blade in the food processor.  Transfer to a large bowl and fold in the melted chocolate and coconut oil. 

Pour into oiled baking pan and bake for 60 minutes (check after 30 and then every 10 minutes with a toothpick)

Allow to cool fully before attempting anything.

For the Melted Icing:

Blend 1 cup or the leftover cashew milk with the coconut oil (can be room temperature, shouldn’t be too firm), coconut butter, cacao powder and honey.  Should be like pancake batter – not too creamy, this is unreasonable icing after all!  Store in the refrigerator until the brownies are fully cooled. 

Then drench and allow to set in the fridge for at least five hours.

Note: coconut flour does not a crumbly brownie make.  These are too gooey to be cake, and too cakey to be mousse.  But if you allow them to set (see below*), they’ll reward you with fudge.

Móna Wise commented on 10-Sep-2011 08:58 AM
These brownies look divine. I am sure that the sweet potato adds to the moist rich gooeyness. I am rather unreasonable too. I am happy to be unreasonable. It does make a girl stick to her guns on the right things......and keep a girl headed in the right
direction. I want to read your 'moving' book for Vida. Will you share?
Amanda @ EasyPeasyOrganic commented on 21-Sep-2011 12:28 AM
I love your list. It's perfect, in all it's 6 and three-quartersness. I'll be writing it down in my planner just so I don't forget :) PS> these brownies look YUM!

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August 19th, 2011: Another Draft

Posted by: Gabriela Garay

Somewhere along the way, I lost my sense of direction.  The map I had drawn got washed along with my favourite flea market jeans.  I was sixteen and couldn’t remember where I was supposed to turn to get where I wanted to go.

The first time I revealed to someone I loved and trusted that I wanted to be a writer, I took what was, for me, a huge leap of faith.  It was a deep and scary revelation that took all of my courage.  Their response broke my heart:

“Why would you want to do that?” they said with a chuckle that felt like a smack across my cheek, “you can’t make a living at it, and besides, who would be interested in anything YOU have to say?”

Though I am no longer in contact with this person, their words shut me down for years.  Unable to get past the question about who my audience would be, I froze – I didn’t have the answer and couldn’t muster the guts to find out.  Because what if they were right and nobody read my words?  I couldn’t bear the thought of pouring my soul onto the page and having it be rejected.  

Though I was able to get that person out of my life, their words continued to haunt me.  To this day, when I’m struggling with my writing, I can hear that familiar voice telling me I’m not good enough.  With time, I have learned to recognize it for what it is.  And now, after years of hiding and procrastinating, I have finally decided to take that leap once more. 

The kitchen is my sanctuary.  It’s where I go when I’m sad or angry or frustrated.  It’s my safe place.  Somehow, I seem to have more courage in the kitchen.  Because here’s the thing: I am a terrible baker.  My cakes, gluten-free and vegan, come out crumbly or hard, too gummy or not sweet enough.  Sometimes – believe it or not – my cakes come out all of the above, and it takes a certain talent to make a cake that is both crumbly and gummy!

I guess with cake as with fiction, it’s about accepting that your first draft will probably be terrible.  In fact, it’s supposed to be terrible.  Not that that’s easy to admit to yourself or pleasant to hear or acknowledge.  But only by doing something over and over, by ripping it to shreds and really analysing what needs to be improved can you get good.  Like writing.  Or baking.

Recently I have been spending a lot of time on Jennifer Perillo’s blog.  When I saw this cake, although, as I say, my baking leaves a lot to be desired, I decided I had to attempt it -- Picky Foodie style of course.

The result? 

I’m pretty sure I will bake better cakes in the future.  But I’ve definitely done worse.  It wasn’t too gummy or too crumbly and it wasn’t too hard.  Amazingly, it stayed together quite well in that you can pick up a piece and comfortably take a bite without losing half of it along the way.  It could possibly have been a little sweeter -- the kind of cake you could have for breakfast or for dessert -- and I suspect it will complement DW’s afternoon tea really well.

Best of all?  I love the feeling of having another draft under my belt and my baking seems to have really improved in that my raspberry cake was at least edible.  I’m going to make this one again, try for better, keep working towards that elusive perfect Picky Foodie cake.

Calorie-wise, at least, I think writing will be easier than baking.  So there’s another reason to give this fiction thing another shot.  In the mean time, however, I think I’ll go brew some rosehip and hibiscus tea and cut myself another little piece.  

Raspberry Cake
(adapted from Jennifer Perillo’s Raspberry Olive Oil Cake)

Makes one 10-inch cake

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten free All Purpose flour
¼ cup coconut sugar
1 T maple syrup
2 t baking powder
¼ t coarse salt
2 T ground flax seeds briefly soaked in 2 T water
1 T melted coconut oil (and a little more to grease the pan)
2 t vanilla extract
½ cup coconut milk
2 c frozen raspberries
1 mashed banana

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit / 175 Centigrade

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Whisk together the wet ingredients, leaving out the raspberries.

Combine the two and then fold in the raspberries.

Grease a 10 inch round cake pan with a little coconut oil and then pour in the batter.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and then remove the cake from within the cake pan but keep the bottom. 

Once the cake has cooled down completely, indulge in a piece and wait for the muse to find you.

Dkb commented on 19-Aug-2011 11:56 AM
I think writers write for themselves alone. Because they can't NOT write. It's what makes you, you. It's how you make sense of yourself. If another person does happen to want to read it, great. Awesome. But I think, at the end of the day, the real reason
we write is to get our words out there on that paper. To liberate the story that has been flapping it's wings inside our gut, scratching us raw from within...because they're wings, they HAVE to fly. And you're a writer, you HAVE to write. Not for anyone else
to read it, but for you to breathe. For you to see your work on your desk, typed, printed and then to submerge yourself in the pride you feel for yourself. Let that be the ONLY reason you write. Anything else is a welcome bonus. and believe me, once you've
done this, the reader will come.
Pig in the Kitchen commented on 22-Aug-2011 11:40 AM
How mean! But totally relate to the writer's insecurity problem...sometimes even I get bored of my own voice (but not often ;-) Cake looks fab, keep trying, cake is ALWAYS the answer! Pig x

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