grain-free dark chocolate granola bars and a note on hope

granola-bar-and-coffee2

You know that feeling when you finally get home after a long day and you’re shaking with hunger? You’re light-headed, don’t think you can make it another second, and want to scarf down everything in the fridge but know there’s nothing you actually want in there? Confession: that was happening to me a lot six weeks ago when I first changed what I was eating and gave up all grains and sugar.

Long story, quasi-short: I finally had enough with the nagging pain I’d been feeling in my ankle for at least the last year from my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — so fed up with limping and terrified of it permanently affecting how I walk — that I went to see a new doctor. I had been reading about Dr. Lipman for the last six months, in various publications, and was intrigued by how he connected the entire body and treated it as one big machine, as opposed to honing in on just what hurt. (He’s famous in certain circles for helping Chef Seamus Mullen get off all of his arthritis medications — a big dream/goal of mine.) His theory was that a parasite gave me leaky gut syndrome which either caused my arthritis or made it a whole lot worse. He referred me to an infectious disease doctor who, sure enough, found a parasite and treated it (killed it?) with two rounds of antibiotics. (No, we don’t know where the parasite came from and no, we don’t know yet whether it’s completely out of me.)

In the meantime, Dr. L switched me to a strict Paleo diet (no grains, sugar, dairy, beans or alcohol) and gave me a slew of probiotics and herbal supplements to treat my leaky gut. He says that a healthy gut is a healthy body and mind. I know there is some controversy surrounding leaky gut. (Google it and you’ll see.) As I’ve always said here, I am not a doctor and can only speak to what I feel and what has worked for me; good to keep in mind that part of the pain of RA lies within its infinite mysteries, so I will continue to educate myself on new treatments and experiment until I feel healthy and strong. I’ll tell ya this much: after just 6 weeks of eating Paleo my belly feels great. I never would have even considered my stomach to be an issue, but Dr. L is on his way to solving at least part of the problem.

So how’s my ankle? Better for sure, but still nowhere near where I want it to be. I thought I had a breakthrough last Tuesday afternoon when I was walking without pain or limping for the first time in over a year. I was ecstatic. It felt like a dream. I was hopping on my right foot like a kid discovering that ability for the first time. Of course I ran myself into the ground with work the following three days — “one step forward, two steps back” as both Brian (and Paula Abdul) say — and I was right back in Pain Country. But here’s how I see it: if my ankle was able to feel that way for that afternoon, then it has that ability to feel that way again. And again and again and again. It’s just sleep-deprived, needing more love and clean food… or something. Remember I said I’m not a doctor; I’m just a girl with hope.

And let’s not forget that this is all a giant experiment! There is no cure for RA; no one knows exactly what causes it or where it comes from. But since I had a lot of luck about six years ago when going vegan got rid of all my pain, I decided this was well worth a shot. I’ll be honest that even for me, someone who eats very healthy 99% of the time, cutting out grains was pretty hard in the beginning. I love me some rice, quinoa, and my goodness, tortilla chips. But knowing that all of that could be hurting me is well worth forgoing it. And after the first week or so, I adjusted pretty quickly.

That’s also around the time I discovered Against All Grain. Danielle’s blog is beautiful, both inside and out. Her story is inspiring and her recipes are out of this world. You won’t even realize there are no grains or sugar in what you’re eating. It gave me hope and made me excited about the possibility of feeling better, once and for all. These grain-free granola bars have been a bit of a savior — I keep them in the freezer, so they’re nice and cold and don’t go bad, either. (They crumble a bit and get a little melty once you take them out.) But the best part is they’re sweet and satisfying — exactly what every snack food should be and exactly what you’re looking for when you come home starving and need instant gratification.

I hope for a lot of things, but most of all right now, that you enjoy these bars as much as I do.

nuts and almond butter mixture pre-mix

bars in le creuset pre-freeze

yummy seedy sticky granola

granola ingredients

…or not so seedy, not so sticky — but definitely yummy — whatever consistency you please.

That’s the beauty of granola.

While my recipe is below, the best part about this homemade treat — and it is a treat — is that it is totally customizable. If you love coconut, knock yourself out and double my dosage. I know some people who add vanilla extract — that sounds delicious too. I’ve also read recipes that call for egg whites (to thicken and hold), cinnamon, nutmeg or even chocolate. So play with different spices, seeds and extras — see what you like — then let me know what you use, I always love trying new concoctions.

I know what you’re thinking now — this sounds like a lot of work, can’t I just buy granola in a store? Sure. But it’s not a lot of work, I promise — in fact, it’s the easiest thing you’ll ever make. PLUS, making your own is less expensive, so much healthier (the store-bought kinds are often loaded with sugar) and infinitely more delicious.

And you can make a huge batch that will last a month in an air-tight container. I always do — half for work, half for home — so I can eat it for breakfast or a snack. [I prefer mine with vanilla coconut milk yogurt and fresh berries.]

This time, I even made enough to bring a jar to my fabulous friend, Brew PR Queen @brooke, who had us over for a Super Bowl party yesterday. [jar + twine from the container store, a piece of a postcard — and voila — perfect hostess gift!]

(more…)