Sunday, November 23, 2008

Redefining myself...again. And, gluten free pizza!

“I can't believe I'm saying this, but I trust Hormel as a brand!”

Ben stated something I had been sort of unconsciously mulling around my mind for a while. That company that makes Spam in a small town called Austin, in southern Minnesota, a few hours drive from where I grew up, labels all of its gluten free products with the most beautiful words in the world: Gluten Free.

And, don't let the fact they make Spam turn you off of their other food products; they make several products that are minimally processed and as “natural” as possible. The product we were purchasing on that particular occasion was likely not that “natural” since it was turkey pepperoni, but we did know for sure that it was gluten free.

Ben and I decided to go back to our pizza roots and make (turkey) pepperoni pizza this weekend. I created the crust and he dealt with the toppings. If it gives you any idea of how easy this crust is, he finished preparing the toppings of sliced olives, sliced mushrooms, (turkey) pepperoni, diced onion, and shredded mozzarella at the same time I had the crust topping-ready.

We tried a couple of crust variations and we even did calzones one of the nights. It worked and was amazingly delicious.

Something else that has been sort of mulling around in my head lately, not so unconsciously, is the fact that I haven't been craving exercise like I used to. Really, I used to put in an hour on the treadmill like it was no big deal and come away feeling empowered and alive. I weight-trained for an hour 3 times a week. I powered through multiple training sets on the indoor rower during the winter months and hours of rowing on the water Spring to Fall. I loved it, I loved all of it.

But, since those dark months this spring, when I became too weak to even walk a few blocks, I haven't worked out that intensely since. I haven't really had the desire.

In wondering why I haven't been excited to go back to what used to define such a large part of my identity (“I am an athletic person”) with the energy I used to have for it, I have come up with a few possibilities.

Maybe working out to that degree was filling some void I felt in my life that is no longer present, maybe I simply don't have as much frustration in my life as I used to, or maybe I care less about my body appearance than I used to.

I think, to some degree, all of the above is correct. Working out has been a great coping mechanism for me for years, and lately my life has been relatively angst-free (outside of the obvious diagnosis!). I also, as a result of my diagnosis, not only naturally weigh less (before eating gluten free, my body didn't metabolize food properly, so I weighed at least 10 pounds more than I do now, though I was working out twice as much and eating half as much!), but I also view my body in a different manner – I much more concerned about how healthy it is than what it looks like. But, also, I think that when I physically couldn't row and run and weight train like I used to, I had to redefine my sense of self to not include “athletic” so that I wouldn't go crazy.

One of the things I struggled with most was feeling incapable of doing my normal activities, so I likely redefined my self to not include those activities, in order to feel more true to my 'self.' It helped me deal with my illness. To feel mentally healthy, especially in a western culture, we like to view our activities as congruent with our self-identities. We also like to view our "self" as consistent (not-changing); observed inconsistency lowers our sense of well-being.

But now, I have gotten better to the point where I CAN workout like I used to and I have little desire. So, this week, I began trying to get myself back into my usual groove – and it's working. It feels great to push myself and to feel muscles again I forgot I had. We'll see, maybe I will redefine my 'self' again enough to feel “athletic” like I used to :)

Gluten free, yeast free, dairy free, (vegan even!) pizza crust :

We have two versions of this recipe – the first one is a thinner crust (the almond flour version) and the second one has a more bread-like texture, more like homemade pizza crust, but with less flavor (the garfava flour version). Neither one is going to be like pizza-house pizza (there's no yeast in this recipe!), but they are both delicious, relatively healthy, hold up to a lot of toppings, and are crispy on the bottom and edges.

1 cup tapioca flour

½ cup millet flour

½ cup sorghum flour

½ cup almond flour or (for more bread-like) garfava flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

¾ cup water

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400F.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together and then add olive oil and water. Mix well. Knead the dough with your hands for a bit until even texture.

For regular pizza, form a ball and flatten on parchment paper. Pour some water into a small cup and wet the back of a large spoon to spread the dough out into a round disc, about ¼ inch thick, with slightly thicker edges. Re-wet the spoon as necessary. Top with your favorite toppings and bake for about 20-25 minutes.

For calzones, form two balls and place each on a piece of parchment paper. Spread out the dough as directed above. Place fillings in the center of the dough and, using the parchment paper, pull the sides of the dough together and pinch together with your fingers. The resulting calzone will be a half-circle shape. Slice a couple of air vents in the top of each calzone (to prevent bursting) and bake for about 20-25 minutes.


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