Chocolate Almond Butter

Almond butter is a wonderful indulgence.  A nice change from peanut butter, not an allergen for as many folks, some would argue it’s better for you, and it does not have the problems of some molds and toxins that may well be what sets off some people’s peanut allergies.  Alas, it is an economic indulgence.  It costs at least twice what peanut butter does in the store and much retail almond butter is produced in factories that also process peanuts and so still is inedible to those allergic to peanuts.

Enter this wonderful blog-o-spere linking so many creative (and cheap) people to me!  I found lots of people are making their own almond butter who claim that it is easy in a food processor.  They were right!  And inspired by my Little Sis who can never leave a recipe well enough alone… I decided I should put my own stamp on homemade almond butter to share with you.  But what to do to almond butter?  Clearly, chocolate should be involved.

This is not a great innovation mind you.  Chocolate and nuts have been meeting in back alleys and broom closets for centuries.

Lots of my co-workers rave about Nutella ( a hazelnut and chocolate spread) and I have eaten it before – but it packs a whopping 21g. of sugar per 2 Tbsp serving.  Sugar is the first ingredient and palm oil is the second, relegating the hazelNUT part of the nutella to 3rd place on the ingredient list.

This recipe of mine also foreshadows our next Baby Step which will address the notion of baby stepping away from the more dangerous food choices in your life (or your kids lives).  Lots of kids eat sugar-y crap for breakfast…. Pop-tarts, sugar-y cereals, doughnuts, etc.  One way to move away from those choices is to offer an alternative that still provides a nod to the devil in one ear whispering
“I want sugar with Ka-POW,
Give me sugar, give it to me NOW!”  (scene shifts to hyper child jumping around and evil laughter in the background.) Continue reading

Abstinence Makes the Taste Grow Stronger

ImageI have been unable to find scientific proof for this – but I know this to be true.  Perhaps I just need to go back to school and choose the degree that would allow me to do the research and write the dissertation with the above title……Nutritional psychology?  Physiological Psychology?  Phys Psy – I kind of like that.  So, that’s it! I will go back to school and do all of that work to prove something that really is innately sensible and I know from experience….. Naaaah.  I’ll just take a risk and tell you about it.

This is me before giving up chocolate for Lent (40 days, no chocolate… you heard me right): Gimme some chocolate, gotta have chocolate,
I’m sleepy – I need chocolate
I’m cranky – I need chocolate
I had a bad day – I need, I DESERVE chocolate
I’m happy – I need chocolate

This is me after giving up chocolate for Lent and presuming that I was going to eat every piece of chocolate in sight including all of my son’s Easter basket at the end of the period of deprivation:
Wow, that is incredibly sweet.
I mean really, that is much too sweet.
That’s enough, thank you.

So in my sample size of one, with no control group, I found that abstinence does indeed make the taste grow stronger.  Whew!  I just saved myself lots of time and money, didn’t I?  There will be arguments about the validity of the results of this study from some of you I’m sure, and I have to admit that after the first Lent that I gave up chocolate (yes, I did it more than once, and being an over-achiever you will see that it gets even worse) I did find my desire for milk chocolate and other excessively sweet candy snuck back into my life and grew.  And therein lies the
real basis for my dissertation.  It is the sneaking in that gets me.  It is not the getting out that holds psychological interest, but the getting in.  How does that desire for sweets eke back into my life?

One teaspoon at a time baby.

We like food to give us a big Ka-Pow!  That’s what all the ads promise… mouth-watering, delicious, knock your socks off taste.  The hottest, the sweetest, the saltiest, the creamiest, etc.  So we look for the ka-pow and if your cinnamon toast ain’t got enough ka-pow anymore you can just add some more cinnamon sugar… Ka-Pow!  Eliminating that particular ka-pow for awhile helps you savor the flavor again.  Notice the sweetness.  It’s enough.  Notice the other flavors.

Try no cinnamon sugar/jelly on your toast, or no sugar in your coffee tomorrow morning with the intention of tasting the other flavors involved.  Imagine the positive effects of that toast… nourishment.  Taste the different flavors.  Imagine the positive effects of that coffee…. energy.  Taste the new flavor.  It’s a brand new taste sensation!  Ka-Pow!

Back to my research with my sample size of one.  After giving up chocolate and then all sweets (even jelly on toast) for five or 6 Lents in a row, I have lost my taste for milk chocolate and pure sugar candy like twizzlers, smarties, and other crap, I mean sweets, like that.  And here comes the piece de resistance that allows me to resist even doughnuts (which I used to LOVE).  Now that I eat better, I feel BAD quickly when I eat bad food.  I look for the effects and notice them.  I have made an indelible connection between what I eat and how I feel.  It’s much easier to ignore the doughnut when I prefer to feel good.

So how does this work with the Baby Steps Little Sis and I are always talking about?  Well, for me this was a 5 or 6 year process that got a little stronger each time I did it.  That was a larger and larger portion of each year when I ate less sugar.  That’s progress.

You don’t need Lent to make this work.  Just choose an amount of time that you will go without or with less sugar and do it with the knowledge that you can have your sugar back again.  You just might find that you don’t want the sugar as much as you used to.

For other tips on fighting sugar cravings check out this article from WebMD – it’s full of great ideas to bust a sugar addiction… I mean desire for sugar.

Chocoholics Rejoice!!

I’ve long suspected that those of us who love chocolate are simply better off than those who do not – are experiencing the fullness of what the world has to offer rather than merely a bland and narrow subset of the world of culinary delights, but I heard this morning (thank you radio for allowing me to HEAR the news without having to WATCH the news) that chocolate lovers are also, for the most part, leaner than those who do not eat chocolate….  WAHOOTIE!  I have a dream meal planned for just such a revelation.  I’ll have a…. and a…. and then we’ll have a….  Okay, it’s not that simple.  It is still good news, however, and after re-reading a few times, it seems to me that there are two very important takeaways from Beatrice Golomb’s (UCSD) chocolate study.

The first lesson: moderate and regular consumption of chocolate may actually prove healthful rather than harmful for the body.  Chocolate contains polyphenols and as Joshua Lambert (of Penn State – alumni high five here) explained on NPR, polyphenols may actually help to prevent the body from digesting fat.  I’m going to say that again.  Chocolate may actually help prevent fat.  That may well be one of the most awesome sentences I have ever written.  It is important to note that this research does not distinguish which KIND of chocolate is most highly correlated with leanness.  I would imagine that dark chocolate (which is MORE CHOCOLATE!!) and that has fewer other ingredients would be a healthier choice overall, particularly as it allows you take advantage of the other benefits that dark chocolate has to offer (lower blood pressure, antioxidants). So, go ahead break off a couple of squares of that gorgeous chocolate bar. Eat them and breathe deep. So good.

The second lesson – and while I love chocolate, this is the one that is really exciting to see more people talking about: all calories are NOT created equal. While a piece of chocolate may have the same calorie count as say a couple of chips, the chocolate seems to contain compounds that are HELPFUL to your body. They don’t just fill the space in your stomach or provide emotional euphoria (although chocolate may well do that); they help your body to function well. Did everyone hear that? I know you know this on a deep, semi-conscious level, but there are enormous and well-funded groups of calorie counting individuals who would have you believe otherwise. It really does matter which food item you choose. You can count calories until the cows come home, stay within your magic “number” and be completely and utterly malnourished. Or be just malnourished enough to feel like bleh. I acknowledge that I am stretching this conclusion out as far as it can go, but it helps to illustrate the point, right?  There are calories that help you and calories that do not.  Could it be that the calorie is not a useful measure for health?

There is SO much we don’t know about what our bodies do with food; we do seem to be getting the message, repeatedly, that all calories (even when analyzed for all the bits that you see on the nutrition label) are NOT created equal. Today’s news says we do seem to know that a little chocolate does the body good. I know what I’m having for desert.