Archive for March 2012

Chocolate Macaroon Heaven

March 27, 2012

Standing in line at The Common Crow, our local health food store, I spy a tiny package of chocolate coconut macaroons.  There are 3 in the package.  The total net weight is two ounces.  But they are chocolate orange macaroons.  I can already feel my mouth watering when one of the cashiers sidles up to me.

“Those are so delicious.  I eat the whole package every time.”

With that confession, I think, it’s only two ounces.  Who wouldn’t?  The price is $2.99 and I cringe as I plunk the treat beside the rest of my order.  I open the package as I am driving home and try one.  It’s pretty good—the flavor is what I crave in a good macaroon, but they are a little too sweet and the texture is decidedly fudge-y.  I remember macaroons with a crunchiness to them, the coconut tender and crisp all at once.  I don’t bother eating the other two.  When I return home, I rush into my kitchen and start lunch.  While the quinoa and tempeh steam, I riffle through the baking cupboard and begin to assemble ingredients to make a better version of my favorite cookie.

I have been searching for a raw chocolate vegan macaroon for a couple of years.  I have scoured the internet, reading one recipe after another.  Most have either too many ingredients, or ingredients that are challenging to find.  I don’t own a dehydrator, which leaves out a lot of the recipes I found.  I like the ones sold at Rawbert’s Organic Garden Cafe in Beverly, but they cost $2.75 each, too much to buy a dozen without feeling guilty.  And theirs still lack something in their texture that makes me think I can do better.  So I do.

I pull down my Nana’s little striped mixing bowl and grab a couple of measuring tools, in case I really do nail it.  I gather unsweetened coconut, almond meal, agave nectar, cocoa powder, coconut oil and an orange.  I place the jar of coconut oil in the microwave to melt.  I measure the ingredients into the bowl and try to stir. I give up on mixing with a spoon and instead, sink my fingers into the raw cookie dough to mix it thoroughly.  I use a mini ice cream scoop to make balls, and press the dough firmly into the half-round before releasing it onto waxed paper.  In a few minutes, there are a baker’s dozen chocolate orange macaroons on my cutting board.  I call my husband in to be taste-tester while I quickly write down exactly what I did.

He tries the one from the store first, chewing thoughtfully.

“That’s pretty good.  Yeah.”

He swallows and then tastes mine.

“Oh, yeah!  Yours are great.  I love the texture.  The flavor is great, too.”

He proceeds to scour every drawer and cupboard for something to press my cookies into a denser ball.  I am not interested.  I like the light, crisp coconut, the rich, dark chocolate, the hint of orange just the way it is in my cookie.  He turns to go back into his office.  He leaves the half bite of store cookie on the counter and grabs another one of mine to take with him.

Raw Chocolate Orange Macaroons

Ingredients:

1 c organic shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 c organic almond meal

1/4 c organic raw cocoa powder

3 T organic agave nectar

2 T melted organic coconut oil

zest of 1 orange

1/2 t orange extract

Method:

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine shredded coconut, almond meal, cocoa powder and orange zest.  Add agave nectar, coconut oil and orange extract.  Mix with fingers until completely combined.  Using a mini ice cream scoop or a measuring tablespoon, press the dough into balls.  Place on a plate or a piece of waxed paper.  Store in a container in refrigerator (if they get that far).  Makes 13 macaroons.

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High Tech Magic

March 22, 2012

My physical therapist brought out the big guns on Tuesday.  She had frowned when I limped across the waiting room to join her for my session.  I confessed to nearly perfect behavior, at least for me, for two whole weeks.  I had been wearing my old orthodics regularly as I promised I would.  I only ran seven miles the previous week; a mere three this one.  Even in cross-training, I had eased up on plyometrics considerably, modifying my boxing warm-ups and cardio classes.  And, I had spent almost a week in bed, flatten by the flu.  I felt betrayed by my own body, unable to bear my own weight without experiencing pain. I could see by the look in her eyes that she sympathized with me.

“I spoke with my supervisor, and we think we should have the head of the department assess your foot.  The usual therapies are not working like they should.  This is unusual.  But there’s one more thing I want to try.  I’ll be right back.”

I lay on my belly on the table, my foot in the air and flexed, trying to stretch the tender tissue even more as I waited for her.  I could feel the crunchy tissue in the arch as I flexed and winced, resting my chin on my folded arms, trying to hold tight to my patience.

“This is the laser.  It’s not usually covered by insurance for this purpose, but we just came back from an informational session where this therapist did a study on using laser for soft tissue inflammation relief.  He said he has had huge success with it, especially for plantar fasciitis.  Let’s give it a try.”

My first question:  “How much is it going to hurt?”

My posture while asking this question:  Leg extended, offering the offending extremity up for sacrifice.

“Oh, it doesn’t hurt at all.  I have to wear these” and here, she held up a huge pair of black-framed sunglasses, the lenses tinted bright green, “and you have to wear them, too, unless you promise not to look back while the machine is on.”

As she made her fashion statement, slipping on the horrid eye protectors, I turned right back around and put my head between my arms, face down on the table.

“I’m good.  Don’t need to watch.”

I felt her hand on my foot and the slightest pressure as she pressed the tip of the laser on my foot.  It was over in less than two minutes.

“That’s it!  All done.”

“That’s it?”  I flipped over onto my back and sat up.

“Should it feel better right away?  Does it take time to notice a difference?”

“Well, you should notice today for sure.  See you in two weeks.”

I bent down and shoved my foot back into my sock and sneaker, wincing as the orthodic pressed up against my arch.  I grabbed my purse and book and left.

I pulled into my driveway, got out of my car and found myself walking, not limping, up the back stairs.  I spent the rest of the afternoon marveling at the lack of pain.  After a while, I forgot I had plantar fasciitis.  I went to kickboxing.  I did the whole warm up.  I stayed for the R.I.P.P.E.D. class afterward.  I jumped around in the back row of the class beside my friend Krissie, grinning like an idiot.

The pain is not completely gone.  But I ran a little over four miles this morning without much pain.  I am walking heel-to-toe on that foot now, instead of landing on the ball of my foot to avoid touching the ground with my heel.  The pain seems to be along the perimeter of my heel, the places where the laser was not applied.

I sit here on my couch writing this.  My cat is snoring loudly beside me.  The sun is blazing full-strength outside my living room window; the thermometer on this March day reads 81 degrees.  I am obsessed with wondering if I will be able to have laser therapy at my next and final physical therapy session in two weeks.  I wonder why it would not be covered by insurance.  I take no prescription drugs, I eat well, I exercise regularly.  I see my doctor for one check-up each year, at which time he shakes my hand, gives me a warm smile, and suggests I write a book on how to stay fit and eat right.  I think he has a crush on my cholesterol numbers.  Why would my insurance not cover this, when in the long run (my long, long run), they would be saving money?

It’s time to get back outside and live in this remarkable day—but the high tech magic of Tuesday will sit in the back of my mind, along with the hope for one more zap.

Giving in to Pain

March 1, 2012

Yesterday’s eight mile run.  Yeah.  Well.  The first three miles were easy—the feel of the cold sea air on my cheeks, the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement, my breath soft and easy at my 8:30 m/m pace—and even on a day with much weighing on my mind, the pleasure of the run incomparable to anything else. That pleasure reached deep into me,  filling the empty space carved by the heavy sorrows of this world, my world on this day. My heel was not too bad; a little twinge here and there., but doable.

As I ran the loop of Phillip’s Ave., fat snowflakes swirled in the air around me and the desire to run to Halibut Point took me not left at the end of the road, but right.  As I entered the park, enjoying the feel of soft earth beneath my sneakers, I felt a stabbing pain in the bottom of my right foot.  I slowed a bit, trying to adjust my pace and gait to run more on my toes.  I continued through the park, taking time to look out on the quarry on this cold morning, then farther out to the sea.  The water chopped up and down; little white caps crested.  The pale sky against the rich blue ocean, the swirling snow, the solitude of the place made me forget everything as I ran along the path.

I returned to the street, noticing how, now that I was about five miles in, my heel was hurting more and more.  I headed home, trying not to think about the pain.  My Achilles tendon grew tighter and tighter as I favored the right foot.  My left hip began to ache.  I kept going.  I sensed this was going to be the worst so far, but I pushed, taking a brief walk break, then, as I turned onto Broadway, I began to sprint.  The heat of the pain shot up my leg.  I pumped my arms to try and carry some of my weight forward and kept my pace to the end of the road.  As I turned right toward home, I slowed to an easy trot, fighting back tears.  I forced myself to face the truth:  I need to take a break from running to let my foot heal.

I spent the rest of the day limping, barely able to put weight on my foot.  Sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of my heel took my breath away.  My heel hurt even when I sat down.  I mourned running, in between the business of the day, dividing my thoughts between my family, my job, and this exquisite  pain.

I limped in to physical therapy this morning.  My physical therapist, Jodi, took one look at me and her happy smile shifted to a look of concern.

“What happened?  What did you do?”

“I decided to try a longer run yesterday.  It’s pretty bad today.”

She shook her head and asked about my weekend running.  I told her about the just-okay run on Saturday, six and a half miles, then the wonderful run of the same length with Sue on Sunday.  How could it be so different from one day to the next?

“I’ll see what I can do.  You look terrible!”

And so I sat in misery as she dug her thumbs and fingers into the soft flesh of my arch, into the crunchy tissue of my heel.  I held back on any wincing, stoically tolerating the deep tissue massage.

“So, what do you think you should do?”

I knew what she was up to.  I knew what answer she sought.

“I think I’ll not run for a week.  A whole week.  And no plyometrics, either.  Just boxing, kickboxing, extra strength and core work.  That’s it.”

“Do you think you can go a whole week?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think.  Obviously, I need to give my foot a rest.  So yeah.  I can take a week off.”

“Good!  Good!  That’s great.  It should help a lot.”

She flexed my toes way, way back, then turned my ankle left, right, then up, flexed it so far that my toes almost touched my shin.  Then it was time for electrical stimulation therapy.  She taped the electrodes to my calf and heel, hooked up the battery, turned it on, and walked away.  A thousand bees buzzed against my calf; a cold hand gripped the bottom of my heel.  I grimaced and read my book as I waited for the timer to signal the end.  I thought about buying a boxing bag for my living room.  I thought about the elliptical machine at the gym, and the stationary bike at home.  I poked my tongue out at no one in particular.

Jodi came back when the timer beeped and unhooked me.  She taped my foot, wrapping the arch tightly with flexible tape, then used firm white tape along the sides of my foot.

“That should help you today, at least.  Can you walk and bear weight on the heel?”

I could indeed.  I had to restrain myself from hugging her.  The wrap felt so tight and good!  It barely felt like my heel was touching the ground at all.  I stuffed the foot into my sock and then into my sneaker.   I swore to keep my promise and walked out.

One week.  Doable.