So…the CrossFit Open is over (which means that those of you who could care less about it have been spared another post about CrossFit) and, despite not being able to train consistently since last October, I actually managed to improve since last year. Woot woot!
Now, normally, such an event in my life would mean celebrations are in order. So…I checked out the new Harry Potter bar (Lockhart Bar) in MTL. It had opened the night before I did the last workout. I figured it was perfect (or almost prophetic) timing. I had a “Better Beer” and a bunch of tasty food I’m not supposed to eat. It was a lot of fun. They had a Moaning Myrtle in the women’s bathroom, and their version of a pitcher was a flaming cauldron served atop a fake stag’s head. There were drinks named, “Bella’s Trix” and “Flying Ford Anglia”, and they have a machine that makes little edible replicas of Harry’s glasses which they then put on top of drinks. It was pretty cool!
That being said, I would give them another couple of weeks to kinda settle into things before going back. The server we had was on the job for the second day; and, unfortunately, it showed. They also played weird music; one-hit wonders from the late 90s/early 2000s. I’m wondering if it was because they were trying to evoke patrons’ memories the years that the earliest books gained popularity in Canada. Other than that, I can’t think of a single reason they would play that music in that ambiance. Like I said, weird. Gloriously nostalgic, but weird.
Anywho, I finished the Open, got me some drinks at The Lockhart, and then got an email from my new coach saying that the whole team gets 2 weeks off from the gym before starting the programming for next year’s Open. You would think that after busting my a$$ for a year to see how much I could improve, I would be super excited to get two weeks off, but I actually panicked a little. I didn’t really know what I would do with myself. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t work out. Indeed, the last time I went on a desti-cation (as opposed to stay-cation) in Europe, I even found me a gym in Brussels (which is a feat in and of itself considering Europeans don’t really do box gyms) and came up with a WoD to do with my girlfriends beside a pool in the South of France!
So yea…the two week break was hard. At one point my exercise-starved brain even started thinking that when my coach said, “no gym”, that meant I could do other forms of exercise like going out for a run (which I did, and enjoyed). Turns out, I actually was supposed to spend those two weeks sitting on my butt. Oops…Oh well. I sat on my butt for the second week so I’m calling it a draw.
Now, normally, the two week gym break thing would have been the worst news ever, but my coach emailed me midway through this gym break with a new recommendation; that I do a 3-day protein de-load cleanse. I’ve never done a ‘cleanse’ in my life. In fact the word, ‘cleanse’ makes me cringe in about the same way as I do upon hearing the word, ‘moist’. *shudders*
‘Cleanses’ just seems so hokey. When I hear the word, I instantly get images of nearly translucent, waifish, hippies talking in ethereal voices. Having finished this cleanse, I can officially say that it didn’t disappoint on the hokey, waifish, hippie thing. The first two sentences of the ‘cleanse’s’ description still has me reeling with skepticism. Apparently the purpose of this 3-day diet is to cleanse the primary emunctories (which apparently means organs) by breathing deeply (trust me, there was no deep breathing going on while my caffeine, alcohol, sugar, chocolate, meat, and grains were taken away from me), drinking lots of water (which I did because they don’t give you anything else to eat!), brushing your skin (what in the holy he!l does ‘brushing your skin mean?!), relaxing your emotions (yup! Tots relaxed over here. Can’t you tell?!), and reducing amino acid load on your digestive system and liver (well…I guess it does do that).
I know cleanses are supposed to be good for you, but I just don’t buy it. People can tell me that they act as a reset button to the GI system, or that it causes the body to eliminate the toxins that have built up, etc. etc, but eating next to nothing for 3 days is not, in my mind, going to reset X number of years of eating the wrong foods; especially when the person is going to go right back to eating all the foods they weren’t supposed to be eating in the first place the second it’s over. I’m a much bigger fan of having people slowly make changes in their food habits to end up with a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle for the long haul.
But … since I had already banjaxed the first thing my coach told me to do (i.e. the gym break), I figured it wouldn’t be a good start to out-and-out reject the second thing he told me to do. And, as I was going out food shopping anyway, I decided to take a look at this ‘cleanse’ and get the supplies for it.
Having looked at, bought the ingredients for, and survived this cleanse, I can safely tell you that this particular “3-Day Protein De-load” is just about the most useless name for it. I guess that since one isn’t eating a lick of protein or grain-based carbs for three days, one could agree that theoretically, that’s what this diet is.
But considering they have you consume something around 800 calories per day (I usually eat at least 3 times that!), my first thought upon looking at each specified meal was that it should really be called, “The Titmouse Diet”! Seriously. The GI only gets cleansed in this freakin’ diet because you’re not putting much more than variously viscous liquids and overcooked vegetables through it for 3 days.
That initial impression, however, was just the tip of the iceberg.
Having completed this cleanse, I have henceforth dubbed it, “The soul-wilting soup cleanse”, because that’s what it ACTUALLY is. I never thought it possible for one’s soul to wilt, but when you sit down to eat the breakfast or dinner of this cleanse, that is pretty much what you feel. Your soul (which I figure sits in about the same region as your heart) shrivelling and wafting away like the last vestiges of a paper ball tossed in a bonfire. And all because of the ‘soup’ that this cleanse is based upon.
I say ‘soup’ in quotations because I’m certain it is named as such only because it doesn’t, in any way, resemble any other food genre. The recipe asks that you finely slice veggies such as beans, broccoli, zucchini and carrots and bring them to a boil in water before boiling them for a further 10-12 mins!!! Then they tell you that to increase the digestive benefit of the ‘soup’ one should chew it thoroughly to expose it to as much saliva as possible. Now…I dunno how many of you have ever boiled a zucchini (he!l, last week was a first for me), but I can tell you that zucchini that has been brought to a boil AND THEN boiled for a further 12 mins no longer resembles a zucchini. What it DOES resemble is a wasted pile of cellulose floating in a bath of its former nutrients. Yum!
Now, hold on to the idea of this ‘soup’ while I show you how it is worked into the rest of the ‘soul-wilting soup cleanse’
This is the breakfast that any poor sucker on this cleanse has to consume on each of the 3 days:
- 8 oz. warm water with 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in it
- 1 tbsp flax seed oil
- 1 apple or avocado with lemon juice and EVOO
- 1/4 cup steel cut oats cooked with 1 date (read: 1!)
- 1/2 grapefruit
- 1 cup of the above ‘soup’s’ ‘broth’ (aka second-hand veggie water)
Now…I’m sure y’all would agree that this looks depressing enough as is. Then you have to consider the fact that part of the instructions is that you are to eat this stuff in a relaxed state (not bloody likely since sitting down to this kind of meal has me, my stomach, and, as I found out, my soul hating life) and, as mentioned above, chew everything thoroughly.
I initially set out to do exactly this. Specifically, I poured myself the warm water and dissolved the baking soda in it, took one sip, swished it around in my mouth, swallowed, and was hit with a sudden wave of gagging revulsion. I thought I was going to throw up. Then it occurred to me. Baking soda is used to clean things around the house like bathtubs and tile grout. (In fact, today, I used it to remove the toxic plastic taste and smell from my brand new electric tea kettle.) Awesome. Really hating myself for being the type of person who doesn’t quit (…like, ever), I did the only thing I could to get that stuff down my throat; ye olde ‘plug ‘n’ chug’. Yup. Like a 6 year old who doesn’t want to take her cough medicine, I plugged my nose and chugged that sh*t down.
Next up, the flaxseed oil. Getting a pretty good idea of what this entire diet was going to be like after the liquid tub scrub, I decided I would take the flaxseed oil in one gulp. Like an idiot, however, I did not plug my nose for this one. Rude. Just rude. See here’s the thing about flax seed oil. While it may be high in Omega 3s and all that bollocks, it is also used to season cast iron pans and is an emulsifier for oil paint. Not kidding.
Really hating life at this point, I moved on to consuming this ‘broth’/second-hand veggie water. While I didn’t need to plug my nose to chug it, every sip made my soul wilt. Not kidding.
I’ve long been of the opinion that if something is nasty, it’s not worth the calories, and I move on to other tastier things. I HATE eating disgusting food. I also hate wasting food. But I hate eating nasty food more. The way I satisfy both hates is to make sure that I only make and eat tasty food (hence my blog).
Unfortunately, nothing about the word ‘cleanse’ evokes an image of decadence, so I guess I was screwed on that one from the jump…And I guess there weren’t all that many calories wasted in the ‘soup’ given that it was composed solely of vegetables and water (and salt! Because even though the cleanse rules said no salt, I broke that rule. You can take away my liquor, caffeine, chocolate, sugar, meat, and starchy carbs, but if you’re going to make me consume unbelievably over-cooked veggies in their grey-green cooking liquid, you da*n well better believe a solid tablespoon of salt is going in the pot!)
Amazingly, however, the rest of the breakfast wasn’t that bad. I realize it’s hard to screw up an apple and a grapefruit but the oatmeal cooked with a date actually wasn’t bad. It could have also been that I had just consumed some of the worst-tasting food of my life, so I’ll reserve all final comments on the oatmeal-cooked-with-dates-thing until I can taste the it alongside real food later.
Then came the mid-morning ‘snack’…1 carrot. One. (Side note: I hate carrots. Unless they’re used to carry hummus to my mouth, cooked and purréed with ginger and lemon, or turned into gnocchi and enrobed in cheese, butter and crispy sage, I will not eat carrots. At least that was the case until I did this cleanse.) It was so unbelievably sad to look at that single carrot sitting on a plate; sadder still eating it. At this point, my soul was getting pissed; and I was only 4 hours into the cleanse!
But I ate it and just focused on my work for the day.
By the time I got to the lunch, my expectations were pretty much sitting at rock bottom. This time, however, I was actually surprised! It wasn’t that bad! It was essentially a pile of cooked veggies with olive oil (and more salt) with a side-salad. Sure, I would have liked a bit more meat, sugar, chocolate and starchy carbs, but at least it wasn’t more liquid tub scrub. Things were starting to look up!
The afternoon snack was eating an avocado (with more salt); something which my Dad used to give my brother and I as an afternoon snack when we were kids, so I was fine with it.
Then came ‘dinner’…’Dinner’ was a 1/2 cup of carrot juice (have I mentioned yet how much I hate carrots?!), herbal tea, steamed (?!) potatoes and broccoli with EVOO (and salt), and then 1 cup of the soul-wilting soup, veggies and all, which had been marinating on the stove since the morning… *shudders* Needless to say, I went to bed that night super depressed.
Now…amazingly…I didn’t wake up the next morning gnawing on my pillow for the carbs! In fact, owing in large part to the serious quantities of olive oil and avocado that I consumed over the three days, I actually felt full-ish. Floaty and kinda disconnected from my body (now I understand why people who do cleanses regularly are waifish and ethereal), but full. I also slept better than I had in weeks and did not feel stressed despite the insane amount of work I was trying to plough through; though, in retrospect, I feel that that is largely because my body didn’t have sufficient energy to stay awake any longer or get worked up over things, so I just coasted emotionally for three days.
The remaining two days of the cleanse went very much like the first and with very few differences in the diet. Sure there were times where the diet switched the steamed potatoes and broccoli for steamed sweet potatoes, spinach, or beets, but those were the good parts of the diet anyway. I still had to plug ‘n’ chug my breakfast liquid tub scrub and painting supplies each morning and, by the third dinner, just couldn’t bring myself to have more of that ‘soup’.
You see, I didn’t have room to store it in my fridge, and given that it was just veggies and second-hand water, I figured it wouldn’t go bad just sitting on my counter for 3 days; and it didn’t…ish. Unlike wine, this soup should not be aged. With each passing day, the vegetables dissolved more and more until there were very few recognizable chunks of vegetable in the ‘soup’. Instead, the broth took on a thicker, cloudy appearance, and a stale green bean smell. I almost quit the cleanse before the last dinner because I knew that there wasn’t enough of my soul left to consume another dose of that ‘soup’. But…since I’m not a quitter, I skipped the ‘soup’ went to bed slightly less full that night, and dreamt about my breakfast the next day…
And do you wanna know what I ate for my first meal back on a normal diet (well…normal for culinary lepers)?! These Paleo-ish Hot Cross Buns!!!! (Now we’ve come to the real reason you’re here today. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey thus far.). I have spent over a month testing batch after batch of these Hot Cross Buns guys! It took some doing, but I just had to adapt and share my Mum’s recipe for you guys this year. I guarantee you that once you get a taste of these buns, you’ll never find better ones, and you may not be able to stop eating them. At least, that has been my experience.
When I was a kid, Mum would make a double batch (a.k.a. almost 50 buns!) every weekend for the 3 or 4 weeks leading up to Easter. I’m not sure how many Dad ate (and eats) every year, but Mum, the bro and I almost entirely subsisted on these buns for a month. You see, I would bring 3 for lunch (one with cream cheese, and 2 with butter), and then get home to eat another one (or two) for a snack. On Easter weekend itself, Mum would make even more, wrap them up in sets of 4, and then send the bro and I to the neighbours to deliver them. Then we would bring them to my Gramma’s for Ham ‘n’ Applesauce Easter dinner, and she would serve them with the dessert.
I haven’t made these buns in years (even when I could eat flour, butter, and eggs), but I felt like I was channeling my Mum this year with the many many bun batches. When I started running out of freezer space, I began giving them to everyone; my guys at my former stage clinic, my friends, and the folks at the gym, and I STILL have two bags of buns in my freezer!
The best thing about this recipe is that, like my Paleo-ish Sandwich Bread, these Paleo-ish Hot Cross Buns are actually easier and faster to make than the original gluten-, dairy-, and egg-laden version because they don’t require a second rise and punch down! Win! (They just require a few more ingredients…Oh well. They’re worth it).
Now…I’m not going to pretend that these buns are as pillowy soft as the ones Mum makes with white flour, but they’re pretty da*n close, and I can eat them (i.e. they’re gluten-, egg-, nut-, and dairy-free), so that’s a win in my books! My friends and colleagues who aren’t fellow culinary lepers love them too! Their faces light up every time I show up with second breakfast. Take home message here is that everyone can enjoy these buns; not just the lepers!
One thing you can do to eat them when they’re at their tenderest (besides eating them shortly after coming out of the oven (duh!)), is re-heat them for about 5-8 mins at 300°F in the (toaster) oven.
These buns are scone-like in that they’re also best when served with cream cheese and/or butter and/or jam on them, so make sure you have plenty of any of those spreads on hand when you eat them.
Ok…now that you have the rules…how ’bout we get to the deets of this glorious Easter tradition that are these Paleo-ish Hot Cross Buns?!
Paleo-ish Hot Cross Buns (and I survived a cleanse!)
The best Hot Cross Bun recipe ever! Actually. And they’re gluten-, egg-, dairy-free to boot! All the flavour of this Easter classic but allergen-free for the whole family!
- Prep Time: 25-30 mins
- Cook Time: 19-20 mins
- Total Time: 49 minute
- Yield: 24 buns
- 3 tbsp dry yeast
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup canola/melted coconut oil
- 3 tbsp lard
- 3 tbsp Nutiva Buttery Coconut Oil
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp mace
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 4 1/2 cups arrowroot starch
- 2 2/3 cups oat flour
- 3/4 cup quinoa flour
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 cup chick pea flour
- 1/4 cup potato flour
- 4 tsp xantham gum
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup dried currants
- 1 cup candied citron/orange peel
- ‘Egg’ wash made with ~ 1/2 tsp agave syrup and ~ 1 tsp water
- Icing made from 3/4 cup icing sugar and 4-6 tsp full fat coconut milk
- Proof the yeast (in your stand mixer bowl or a large mix bowl) by first dissolving the 2 tbsp of the brown sugar in 1 cup of warm water. Set aside until yeast is puffy.
- Meanwhile mix the coconut milk, remaining water, canola/melted coconut oil in a bowl (or a measuring cup)
- Melt the lard and Nutiva Buttery Coconut oil in a pot. Set aside to cool.
- Mix the remaining brown sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Mix the flours, xantham gum, baking powder in a larger bowl. Set aside.
- Finally, mix the dried currants and candied citron/orange peel in a bowl with 1 tbsp of the flour mix in another small bowl. Set aside.
- When the yeast has proofed, slowly whisk in the coconut oil/water mixture followed by the lard/buttery coconut oil mixture.
- Slowly whisk in the sugar and spice mix.
- Whisk in ~ 4 cups of the flour mix one at a time until you have a thick pancake-batter-like dough. At this point, you can either put the bowl in your stand mixer or switch to mixing the dough with your hands.
- Continue adding flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a relatively soft but stand-alone dough ball.
- Add your dried currants and candied citron/orange peel mix. If you need a bit more flour to hold the dough together at this point, add it ~ 1-2 tbsp at a time.
- Scoop your dough ball out onto a floured work surface and roll the dough ball through enough flour to make sure it doesn’t stick (i.e. a light layer of flour). Divide the dough into quarters, and form into longish rolls (taking care not to squish too much air out of them).
- Cut each roll into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a small roll, making sure to dip each cut end in a bit of flour first to make sure they don’t stick to your hands. I form the dough into rolls by taking the edges of the dough and pulling them to the centre. Continue pulling the corners into the middle until you have an upside dome/roll in your palm.
- Place the rolls on greased cookie sheets, leaving ~ 1 cm around each bun.
- Let buns rise ~ 20 mins in a warm place, covered with saran wrap.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a cross in the top of the buns. Again, take care not to squish the buns too much in this process. Let the buns rise for another 10-15 mins, until you see the crosses spread a bit.
- Just before putting the buns in the oven, make your ‘egg’ wash and brush it lightly on the tops of your buns.
- Bake buns for 15-17 mins, until the bottoms are a nice golden brown, and they make a hollow ‘thunk’ when you tap the bottoms.
- Crank the heat up to 425°F and put the buns back in for another 1-2 mins to brown the tops.
- Let the buns cool for about 15 mins.
- Using a chopstick, mix your icing sugar and coconut milk 1 tsp at a time until you have icing that is thick enough that it would stay on the bun, but thin enough that it drips slowly off the chopstick when you hover it over the icing.
- Use the chopstick to drizzle the icing in the crosses of your buns.
- Enjoy! (Preferably with cream cheese, and/or butter, and/or jam)
If you can’t find the Nutiva Buttery Coconut Oil, you can either use another 3 tbsp of lard, or 3 tbsp of regular coconut oil.
- I described this bread as being gluten-free. Oat flour is technically gluten-free but, as I’ve mentioned before, oats are often grown in fields beside wheat and can become cross-contaminated. SO…people with severe gluten intolerances/allergies may have trouble with regular oat flour if they don’t get certified gluten-free oat flour like Only Oats Pure Whole Grain Oat Flour or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Oat Flour
- I should also mention that baking powder contains corn starch. It’s not enough to irritate my system, but for those who are severely allergic/intolerant to corn should consider adding 1/4 tsp of baking soda to the dry ingredients instead of the baking powder AND add 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar to the wet ingredients before mixing.
- A (potentially) little-known fact is that icing sugar is made with corn starch as well. So…those who are severely intolerant/allergic to corn can refer to my Icing Sugar recipe.
- Finally, candied citron/orange peel are made with corn syrup (corn is everywhere folks!). So, again, those who are severely intollerant/allergic can simply omit the candied citron/orange peel.
All right folks. That’s that for this week! I’m slowly making it to the end of my current (and last) semester from hell which means I’ll soon be able to go back to posting on a regular basis. In the mean time, I wish y’all a lovely and restful Easter long weekend with your loved ones (even if you don’t celebrate Easter); possibly with some of these buns!!! Yum!
Per usual, if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to give me a shout!
Ciao for now!