Food and Me. We've had a complicated relationship over the years. I've joined Weight Watchers five times. I've eaten Lean Cuisines exclusively for a month straight (it worked for my skinny friends!). I've tried the intuitive-eating thing, but my intuition kept telling me to eat another bag of Sour Patch Kids. I've been gluten-free and then sugar-free and then a gluten-free, sugar-free vegan. And I was chill-free during them all. I'd always end up giving up on everything I tried. It wasn't until I was faced with getting a hysterectomy at 33 (I have stage four endometriosis) that my relationship with food changed forever. As a last-ditch effort to save my uterus, I decided to try a whole-foods plant-based diet. This wasn't exactly my idea. After a friend found out that I wanted to move forward with the hysterectomy, she did research and found information about the relationship between endo and whole foods. She sent me a link to a website outlining a plant-based-diet plan that could help with my pain and symptoms. The first thing I saw in this plan was all the foods I couldn't eat, AKA all my favorite foods. Panic set in at the very thought of attempting this. There was no part of me that wanted to try this stupid thing.
Aside from the fact that candy, cheese, and fun were not on the approved list of foods, I think a lot of my resistance came from just being plain tired of trying. Over the years, I had tried everything to feel better. I went through multiple surgeries, tried yoga, experimented with legal drugs and not-so-legal ones, and even went to therapy because of my depression caused by my pain. Nothing worked. And if this diet was so great, why hadn't any of my doctors told me about it? I had zero faith that the diet would work, and whatever-is-less-than-zero-faith that I could actually stick to it. But I had nothing to lose, and if my friend had gone to the trouble to find this diet for me, the least I could do was try. To my surprise (I'm still surprised), it actually worked. After weeks, my symptoms and pain started to fade. And after a couple of months, I felt better than I ever had. I never got the surgery. You would think, after all that, I'd be celebrating the fact that I didn't have to get a hysterectomy. Nope. I was still worried about never getting to eat fondue again. I was angry that I had to change my diet, and I hated my body for everything it was putting me through. But I also couldn't deny that my new way of eating was working. I finally had to decide what was more important: me or the food. It was hard, but I finally chose me. But with this choice, I still needed to like the food I was eating. So I got to work and taught myself to cook. I practiced a lot. I failed a lot. But I was determined. I wasn't just cooking for me, I was also cooking for every woman who had to make this kind of change too. And now here we are, six years later. I have a plant-based cookbook (?!), am still choosing me, and can't imagine eating any other way. Good food changed my life. I'm hoping it can help change yours, too. P.S.: this granola really makes the transition way easier.
Crunchy Chunky Granola
Makes 4-6 Servings
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they are broken up, but not to a fine meal — you still want chunks. Add the oats and salt and pulse 10 to 15 times to break up the oats a bit; again, you want to make sure a lot of the oats are still intact.
Transfer the oat mixture into a medium bowl, and stir in the coconut, maple syrup, and vanilla until combined. Add the coconut oil and give it another couple of stirs. Press the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.
You want to make sure to spread it as evenly as you can, keeping the mixture together and not creating big holes where you see the parchment showing through (this will create the chunkiness).
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for at least 15 minutes. Don't touch it! After the 15 minutes are up, break up the granola with your hands into whatever size chunks you love. Store it in an airtight container for two to three weeks.