Monday, February 28, 2011

Healthy Chocoholic?

 I love chocolate. Rich, creamy, smooth chocolate... it's delicious plain, it's yummy in or on ice cream, and almost anything can be improved by adding chocolate.

The only problem? Even the best organic chocolates have undesirable things added to it, like soy lecithin (soy in some form is in nearly everything, and it's not good for you!) or cane sugar (while a better choice than plain sugar, or toxic sweeteners, still a compromise in my quest for truly healthy food).

That's when I found this recipe. How would you like to eat fudge, and have it be so good for you that you don't feel any guilt at all? Actually, it's so good for you that I think of it as yummy medicine. You know, like those flavored gummy vitamins for kids or something? Those always had a weird aftertaste to me, but this is great, I love it! 

Coconut Oil Fudge
1 cup coconut oil (for different consistencies, try gently melting part of the coconut oil in a Pyrex measuring cup placed in a lightly simmering pot of water.)
1 cup honey
1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix in blender and pour into a parchment-paper-lined 9x9 dish (or loaf pan, but I prefer the way the 9x9 works out). Chill until solid (but not too long, as I discovered if you freeze it too long it's hard to cut), cut into small pieces and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Coconut oil is liquid at 76 degrees, so it's important to keep your fudge cold if you don't want fudge syrup.  

That's the basic recipe, I've tried adding vanilla extract and raw almond butter... I want to try peanut butter soon. I also tried using peppermint hot chocolate from Trader Joe's (which is sweetened, and dampened the guilt-free aspect a little) and that was interesting. Have fun, be creative! Another possibility (especially helpful if you don't like coconut oil) is substituting 1/2 cup of butter for half of the coconut oil. I tried this for my siblings, who currently have an aversion to coconut oil, but then they started eating the plain coconut oil fudge when it ran out, so I figured the appeal of the chocolate won over the slight coconut flavor.

Coconut oil (linked to VitaCost.com, our source for many wonderful, healthy things) is a great source of dietary fat because it goes straight to your liver and is quickly transferred into energy. It is easy to digest, increases metabolism and helps with numerous ailments. It's good for cooking because it is stable at high temperatures. I've been reading The Coconut Oil Miracle and it's just amazing. It's also great for your skin and hair, and so many other things! I highly recommend adding coconut oil (and other forms of coconut!) to your diet.

We use raw honey, and it's so delicious, we eat spoonfuls plain, or eat it with plain raw pecans. Raw honey is very good for you too, being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It helps digestion and eases allergies and respiratory problems. 

I'm very excited to have some organic, raw cacao powder. Real chocolate is actually really good for you, a rich source of magnesium and antioxidants. Plus it's just delicious.

With those simple, wonderfully healthy ingredients, I knew this fudge would be good for me. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it this much! I love it so much, I just can't believe it's so healthy! It's not completely guilt-free though... I feel just the tiniest bit guilty when I eat the last 2 pieces and don't leave one for someone else... but then I go make more, and all guilt is assuaged! (Plus I get to have another piece... or two...)

Next up on my list of "Things to Try" is making Fudge-Swirl ice cream in our new ice cream maker...

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Good Day Almost Gone Bad... But Not Quite

You never think it will happen to you. Okay, well, maybe you do. But I didn't. I honestly never thought it would happen to me. Not in the near future, anyway. Maybe in 20 years, which would seem like a different lifetime anyway.

It was a lovely sunny day, and I was cruising down I-40. Then I saw two cop cars on the overpass. They had a speed gun laser, or whatever they call those things. I had already set the cruise control, and I wasn't in a hurry! I confess, sometimes, when I'm in a hurry, I want to push the speed limit, but there was no need this time. I was just having a pleasant, leisurely drive, on track to arrive early at my destination. 

So I checked my speed, just to make sure I wasn't going too fast somehow, and then passed under the overpass, confident in my law-abiding speed. The cops on the bridge radioed motorcycle cops on the entrance ramp, and one of them pulled into traffic behind me and turned on his lights. At first, I wasn't worried. I figured he wanted to get by me to catch someone else. But I changed lanes and he followed. I pulled off the road, and spent what felt like 10 minutes with a sudden case of panicky shakiness. What did I do? Had I actually been going too fast? I thought 70 in a 65 zone was acceptable. People had been passing me for the past couple of miles, it's not like I was leading the speed pack!

The cop walked up, and I rolled down my window. "How are you today, ma'am?" he asked politely. "I'm fine, thank you, how are you?" I replied automatically as my mind screamed, "I WAS much better!" He gently broke the news, "I got you going 77 in a 65 zone." I felt my face drain of blood, my jaw went slack and I think my eyes might have popped out of my head. "What?" I choked out, thinking I must have misunderstood. "I got you going 77 in a 65 zone," he repeated. Cue incoherent babbling from the quivering ghost in the front seat of my car. I think I remember blurting out something about going 70, and that my speedometer didn't say 77. He asked for my license and registration, and I fumbled to pull my license out of my wallet and find the registration in the glove box. "Thank you, ma'am. I'll probably just give you a warning ticket. I'll be right back."

I hardly dared let myself hope for the warning ticket. I spent the surprisingly short few minutes thinking about what sort of penalty I could get if I had to go to court with a speeding ticket of 12mph over the speed limit. Wasn't that a $200 fine? My insurance would definitely go up. Could my license even be suspended? My knees were shaking so hard I vaguely wondered if I would be able to drive away once he was finished with me.

He returned with my warning ticket, explained that they were cracking down on the speeding on I-40, and warned to watch my speed. I thanked him, and asked one more time how fast he'd had me going, just to make sure that I'd heard right the other two times. He clearly said 77mph. I stared at my speedometer, feeling betrayed and mumbled something about fixing it. He informed me that the laser guns they use are generally very accurate, cautioned me to watch my speed one more time, and told me to have a nice day. I thanked him again, wished him a nice day too, and composed myself with several deep, shaky breaths. 

Then I thanked God, watched the motorcycle cop pull around me and take the next exit, and pulled into a clearing in the traffic. And wouldn't you know, it made me about 5 minutes late.

Later, we checked the speed of my Volvo with the speed of our Suburban, and then Daddy got a GPS for Christmas and we checked the speed with that too. Apparently my speedometer is about 2-3 mph slow, so I was going about 72 or 73, when I thought I was going 70, but I highly doubt I was actually going 77. Maybe the guys on the bridge had locked onto the wrong car or conveyed the wrong information, but whatever it was, I'm extremely grateful for a mere warning ticket. I guess he could see that my shock and horror were real, and decided to be merciful since there were a few possibilities for error. And now, only 3 months later, I find amusement in it. And I go about 2 mph slower than I think I could.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

To read romance novels, or not to read romance novels...

"You read too many romance novels. And unlike the heroines in all those romance novels who tell themselves the very same thing, and then go on anyway, in typical fashion, to fall for whomever the hero is clearly going to be, you should believe yourself." 

I told myself the same thing several times in the many lengthy discussions I had with myself over the year that it took for me to get out of what I now consider an addiction. I always tried to placate my conscience's occasional twinges by reminding myself that I read "inspirational" romance novels, not those cheap, trashy things that somehow pass for books. Funny how infrequently God was mentioned in those supposedly Christian books.

In that year, I learned and realized many important things that made reading those sorts of romance novels no longer seem tempting to me. One of the most important ones was my personal idea of romance. Romance, to me, is NOT "falling in love."

Falling in love is highly overrated in our society; people fall in love all the time, and they fall out of love just as easily and rapidly. It was discouraging for me in my hopes for a life-long love and lasting marriage to read romance novels about "Christians" who seemed to love exactly the same way as the world, with roller-coaster emotions just as out-of-control. As God gently showed me the sin in my voracious appetite for those shallow books, He also taught me that true romantic love is not in the fluttery butterfly feelings of "falling" in love, but in the choice and decision to love that one person "til death do you part."

You see, love is always a choice. If it was just a random feeling, then how could God command us to love one another? Romantic love, brotherly love, Christian love, they are all choices, displayed in our actions. When you choose to help someone, to speak kindness, or forgive, you are choosing to love them. If or when I agree to marry someone, I will be choosing to love him as my husband for the rest of our lives. This should save me the trouble of falling in love over and over again, and hopefully will also let us avoid the divorce that frequently follows the "falling out of love" symptoms.

The other very important lesson I learned was how important it is to seek God FIRST. It seems so simple when you hear it, but how many times have you gone to God in prayer because you wanted something? I prayed a lot during my addiction to romance, but I was praying for the wrong things, and the wrong reasons! The most important thing in every Christian's life should be their relationship with God.

I was obsessed with romance, and intent on meeting that "someone" as soon as possible, so I prayed very diligently for God to bring him into my life. I was even worried that if I relaxed, and didn't pray for it consistently that God might decide to "bless" me with the gift of celibacy, and I certainly didn't want that! How silly I was!

I'm still learning to focus on my relationship with God as the most important part of my life, but I have escaped my romance addiction (I still have a completely healthy admiration for Jane Austen's books and the related movies!) and for the past year have felt the most content with my "single" status as I can remember since I was about 14.

Valentine's Day is coming up soon, and my lack of a special someone usually makes me feel like SAD (Singles Awareness Day) is a much better name for the day. This year I plan to use this opportunity to focus on my First Love, any time I might feel tempted to sighing or wishing. No matter what the rest of my life holds for me, I want my most earnest desire to be God's will, and to bring Him glory with my life.