You’ve probably asked yourself over the months or years that you’ve frequented my big purple tent in Union Square, who the heck is this lady? She’s nuts! -- but in a good way. Well shucks, I often look back and think it’s kinda funny how I got here in the first place.
As a kid I used to do a lot of horseback riding in upstate New York after my parents moved us from California. It was a passion of mine for a long time. But after working on Wall Street and then running the finances at my husband’s restaurant, I had to say goodbye to that pastime. But my love of getting outdoors in nature never disappeared. These days I like to go on hikes near Stormking State park and hunt for the delicious mushrooms I put into the cheesy cheese bombs that keep selling out. Somewhere along the line, I started to notice my joints were getting sore, really sore. And not the type of sore you get after running in marathons for years. This was just going about my business doing my normal routine. I even went to the doctor and was diagnosed with arthritis. Can you believe that? At my age! Not that you need to know my age but I happen to think that just about any age is too young for this type of thing to happen. And I’ll tell you why.
If you follow health news like I do you may have stumbled across articles about inflammation and its many causes and complications. Inflammation is the body’s way of fighting everything from infections and diseases to allergens and other foriegn invaders. Inflammation was causing my joints to ache and my hands to seize up with arthritis. Many, many things cause inflammation and it’s pretty much unavoidable. However, we don’t have to put up with it if we make changes to our lifestyle. And one of the most important things we can do is watch what we eat. The food we put into our bodies has a major impact on the levels of inflammation we experience and our choice of what’s for dinner or dessert can either increase or decrease inflammation throughout our bodies.
You may have also read about the gut microbiome and all the research that’s been done lately as to how connected our mental, emotional, and physical health is with what goes on in your gut. The myriad bacteria that lives in our gut and digests our food provides the building blocks for some of the most important chemicals that keep our mind and mood stable. Alternatively, the bad bacteria that lives in our gut could allow for growth of some unfriendly flora or, you guessed, cause inflammation. (I promise you, I’m not getting paid for every mention of inflammation. It just really is that important).
So what are some of the leading food causes of inflammation you ask? It’s all in my stand’s name: wheat and sweets! Really sugar and highly processed, wheat based flours. Although any wheat flour will cause some level of inflammation. When I learned that all the scrumptious cakes and cookies that I ate occasionally could be preventing me from getting out in nature and enjoying life I knew I had to try something new. But what’s life without cake? Not much of one in my opinion. I’m not one to just give up (as evidenced by being out in the cold selling my products all through the New York Winter). I started looking for a diet that would allow me to have my cake and eat it too.
I started searching the internet and surprise, surprise there were loads of recipes and guides to sugar and grain free desserts, breads, and other sweet and savory treats. But as I started to make these recipes using the alternative flours described, I really found them lacking. Not put off even slightly, I developed my own blends of almond and coconut flour and perfected the texture over iterations of these baked goods. The other benefits to using coconut and almond flour is that they’re fattier and more fibrous than wheat based flours meaning they actually fill you up so you’re not left with strong cravings (although, even with my bakery creations I’m always tempted to have just another bite). I tweaked and tinkered until they met my own high standards. The other wonderful thing about being sugar free today is there are so many options. It used to be that only a few questionable sweeteners and stevia leaf extract were available. Stevia leaf has a very particular aftertaste and isn’t a one-to-one sweeter. But now with golden monk fruit sweetener, a combination of inert erythritol and monk fruit extract, we have a one-to-one sweetener that tastes just like sugar. This is a huge boon to diabetics as well. This totally safe ingredient can be added to cakes and cookies to fill the gaps in the diabetic diet left by avoiding processed sugars. I tell anyone I know with diabetes, they can eat my products and never have to worry.
To be clear, I know these alternatives aren’t for everyone. Not because they’re not healthy, but plenty of my customers still prefer the taste of real sugar. And that’s okay! I’m happy to cater to both; in my sugary products I use organic unprocessed sugars like coconut sugar. But if you’re looking to try something healthy, or you have diabetes, or you’re on a keto diet, or you’re just plain curious -- try and see. I’m also not a doctor here to prescribe you my muffins. Always do you own homework. But listen, it doesn’t hurt to try.