Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

Candy update

Easter was pretty much a non-event around here– we went out to dinner the night before and spent Sunday mostly packing and doing other practical things. However, it was a special day because I was able to eat candy again. And these things?

Sooo good. I wouldn’t say they taste like cake so much as they taste like the ganache you’d put on a cake. They’re rich with well-balanced sweetness, and even though they taste like chocolate ganache they’re more firm– like a chocolate truffle without the slick, melty texture. I picked up another bag today to share with my family in the States :).

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No-junk Lent

So, how has Lent been going? Thanks for asking :). This year for Lent I was inspired by one of Michael Pollan’s food rules to give up all junk food, except for the stuff I make with my own two hands. I must admit that I haven’t been perfect. I’ve eaten fries once or twice and candy on two or three occasions (each time just one piece, not the whole bag). I’ve also eaten a few slices of cakes that were homemade by other people (people always bring cake to work on their birthdays!). In general I don’t consider homemade baked goods “junk food” (even if they are unhealthy) since they’re not processed like store-bought sweets, but since my rules for myself stipulated that I have to make the things I eat, it was still technically a violation. All these things happened when I was out and with other people– situations where maybe I didn’t feel like explaining why I was turning down something I’d usually eat. Oh, and in my original post I wasn’t sure whether I’d be cutting out gum– I didn’t. No, it’s not “real food”, but I think it helps me more than harms me, so I let it stay.

Homemade muffins? OK for Lent.

One area in which I’ve been very successful, though, is grocery shopping. It’s actually so nice to go to the store and breeze past the shelves of cookies, crackers, chips and candy because I know I can’t buy any right now. Even though I always try to eat healthy, I think everyone understands how tempting those shelves can be at times, especially if you make the mistake of going to the store hungry. With my “rule” to back me up, it’s so much easier to resist their siren song.

I actually haven’t been cooking or baking as much as I thought I would, because I realized I don’t really need to create “substitutes” for tasty junk food. We’ve made homemade pizza once (I still love that crust recipe, by the way) and one time when J got a burger and fries, I roasted some potatoes for myself so I could also have something yummy to dip in ketchup. If I crave something sweet after a meal, I usually seek out something quick and easy like a date or a handful of raisins rather than baking up some cookies.

So I haven’t been perfect, but I’d say that overall my eating has definitely been cleaner. I hope that after Lent I can sustain these habits, eating french fries just once or twice a month rather than every week, and not buying processed snack foods. As I’ve said before, I fully believe in “everything in moderation”, and as long as my diet’s healthy overall allowing the less-healthy stuff now and again is totally OK. One food I’ll be welcoming back with open arms is chocolate, but I’ll do my best to enjoy it in moderation rather than making it one of my major food groups ;).

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I’ve never read Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules, but I have heard some of his rules and love how simple and straightforward they are. His first rule regarding food and eating, which some of you may have heard before, is as follows: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pretty simple, right? I saw an interview with Pollan on TV during which he spoke about another rule that got me thinking: Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself. I believe the example he used was French fries. Americans (and people all over the world) eat tons of French fries because they’re so accessible and cheap. But what if you had to make them yourself? What if you had to scrub the potatoes, peel them, cut them into thick matchsticks, heat a large pot of oil, and make a big splattery mess in your own kitchen, rather than just rolling up to the McDonald’s drive-thru and shelling out a dollar? Clearly we’d all be eating a hell of a lot fewer French fries.

Semi-homemade poutine (with frozen fries, not homemade)

I got to thinking about Pollan’s rule recently when I made these delicious sesame wasabi crackers and realized I rarely feel compelled to buy manufactured cookies or crackers anymore because the ones I make at home are so much better. I hope it doesn’t sounds like bragging when I say that– my point is that foods made with real ingredients according to simple recipes are usually superior to their processed counterparts in terms of flavor and nutritional value, no matter who makes them.

Stovetop popcorn with Old Bay spice

I decided to challenge myself to cut out even more store-bought junk/fast food and have fun creating real-food substitutes at home. So, this year for Lent I am giving up all junk food… except for that which I make myself. What counts as junk food? Burgers, pizza, fries, pelmeni, chips, candy, ice cream, microwave popcorn, any mass-produced sweets and anything fried. I think this will be a great way to clean up my diet a bit without deprivation and will inspire me to try some new recipes. Just to be clear, this doesn’t necessarily mean no eating out– restaurant meals are still ok, just no fast food or ordering anything fried. I’ll stick to things like salad, soup, chicken or fish when eating out. Oh, and this challenge is only for food– I’m not planning to cut out alcohol (or attempt making my own at home!). The beverages that I think of as “junky” (soda, energy drinks, sugary juices) I don’t drink anyway, so that’s a non-issue.

Something that I failed to think about before this moment — I generally chew 1-2 pieces of gum a day. Is gum junk food? I would argue that it’s not because you don’t actually eat it, but it is still a processed product. What do you think? Should gum go out the window during Lent too?

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Happy Easter!

This stuff is SO GOOD.

I have a feeling Green & Black’s would taste good any day, not just after a chocolate fast. But this 85% dark chocolate bar, which is surprisingly mellow and smooth with a perfect snap, was a really excellent way to end Lent and celebrate Easter.

Have a lovely Sunday!

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One week until Easter. One week until I can once again eat candy and all things chocolate. I’m not gonna lie, the cravings are severe. I thought after a few weeks of not eating something you sort of “get it out of your system”, but no, the further I get into Lent, the more intense my cravings for chocolate are. Maybe it’s because I’m still eating things that contain sugar so I’m still getting sugar cravings that are all focused on the kind of sweets I’m not allowed to have. It’s driving me crazy because the cravings are so specific that trying to substitute some other sweet treat — a few dates or a plain vanilla-flavored biscuit — does nothing for them. Often the sweet things I have available to me don’t seem appealing at all. This frustration just reinforces my belief that the best way to eat is “everything in moderation”. Giving up candy and chocolate for Lent was an exercise in discipline, not an experiment to better my health, so I’m going to hang in there for this last week, then go back to my normal, moderate way of eating. Which will, at least next Sunday, probably include milk chocolate butterscotch Easter eggs…

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A new variation on hummus

Lent has been going well, but man, I am starting to crave chocolate SO badly. The richest, most gooey chocolate possible, like a molten chocolate cake or something. The other night I had a dream that I was eating those individually wrapped Kalev candies with my sister, and I had already eaten one and a half of them when I remembered Lent. Does it count as breaking Lent if my dream-self did it?

Dear chocolate, I miss you. Love, Marika.

Even though I didn’t give up all sweet things, cutting out candy and chocolate has definitely reduced the amount of processed sugar I eat and also made me get more creative with my desserts. I thought now would be the perfect time to try an unusual recipe that I was incredibly curious about — dessert “hummus“. It has the same base as traditional hummus (cooked chickpeas), but instead of adding garlic, tahini and lemon juice you add sugar, vanilla extract and peanut butter. Would that be awesome… or disgusting? Some commenters said it was just like cookie dough (and I love cookie dough), while some said it tasted too strongly of chickpeas. I had to find out for myself.

Looks like cookie dough… but how does it taste?

I waited until J was out of town to try this recipe because I was afraid he’d be appalled by how I was messing with hummus (he likes the regular kind!). To rinsed and drained chickpeas I added brown sugar (not maple syrup like the original recipe), vanilla extract, and a large spoonful of peanut butter. I also added a splash of milk so it wouldn’t be too stiff. Then I whirred away to get it as smooth and creamy as possible, and at the end I stirred in raisins (the original calls for chocolate chips, but since I can’t have chocolate right now, I improvised!).

Then came the moment of truth. I apprehensively scooped up a spoonful and brought it to my mouth… and I thought it was really good!! Of course it’s not exactly like cookie dough, but I have to say that the texture combined with the flavor of brown sugar and vanilla totally met my cookie dough craving with only a fraction of the fat of regular butter-filled cookie dough. The raisins added extra bursts of sweetness and richness — who needs chocolate chips? I spread my “hummus” on plain biscuits and it made an amazing dessert. I am officially a dessert hummus convert… if blending sugar and vanilla into my chickpeas is wrong, then I don’t care to be right.

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This year I decided that for Lent — which began a week ago — I would give up candy. I’d been eating just a little too much of it since the holidays and decided to use this time to remind myself that candy is not food (not in the nourishment sense, anyway).

A week into Lent I can see that avoiding candy isn’t that hard. Once it’s out of our apartment and my desk drawers I can’t reach for it anyway. Out of sight, out of mind. So I’ve decided to increase the challenge a bit for this year and give up chocolate as well (chocolate in all its forms, not just candy). While I may be able to forget about other candy when it’s not staring me in the face, I never forget about chocolate. It’s always in my mind :-).

I observed Lent for the first time when I was a teenager. My family wasn’t religious and we aren’t Catholic, so I didn’t have a religious reason for doing it — I just thought it seemed like a cool idea (is it weird that as a teen I thought the idea of depriving myself of a favorite thing for a month seemed like a fun thing to do?). Anyway, for the first few years I observed Lent I always gave up chocolate, and for a few of those years I actually managed to go the entire period with no slip-ups. Forty solid days (46, actually) with no chocolate at all. Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!

So from now until Easter, no chocolate. At all. Lately I’ve been stirring unsweetened cocoa powder into my oatmeal — no more. No dipping into that jar of Nutella for a sweet fix. No chocolate chip cookies either :-(. I will now commence dreaming about an Easter basket full of candy…

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