I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions, probably because they are almost impossible to keep. Sure, I can manage to watch my expenses, read more New Yorker and less In Style, and throw away the take-out menus for awhile. But ultimately, I slip into old, comfortable habits and I’m back where I started. Of course we’re all capable of change but the desire has to be so, so strong in order to override the hardwiring that has kept you doing the same things forever.
But still, the concept of turning over a new leaf is an appealing one as is “out with the old and in with the new.” Which got me to thinking about cleanses. A few weeks ago the New York Times published a piece about the rise in popularity of juice cleanses with lots of doctor’s pooh-poohing (I know, I know) their necessity. The body is self cleaning, they insist. And although I subscribe to that thinking I am curious about submitting one’s system to a realignment of sorts. I would imagine a cleanse might shake-up my food thoughts, help me pay attention to the food I’m taking in and lead me towards taking control of my snacking issues. I also know there’s no way I could survive one. Drinking only juices, or following a strict diet of any kind, would only make me obsess about what I was missing and I don’t want to fetishize any food stuffs.
On the other hand, one of my goals in life overall is to be more mindful. I am so routinized that I rarely stop to take in, well, anything. I tread the same streets, see the same people, and of course, eat the same things. Day after day.
In many ways I like keeping my house stocked with a consistent group of staples; it just makes for fewer choices to have to deal with. I also know I am not pushing myself to try to cook new things in new ways. But this dilemma is nothing compared to my snacking. My in-between meal nibbling is really a problem and not because of anything to do with weight. It's a problem because I’m not even enjoying the nibbling. It’s completely mindless. If there’s an open bag of Pretzel Crisps on the counter I’ll grab a few on my way to unloading the dishwasher or I’m unwrapping a dark Hershey’s kiss while I’m talking on the phone or I’ll help myself to a handful of almonds before I take out the garbage.
The other day I popped a double dark chocolate raspberry truffle (from the Godiva extravaganza I got as a Christmas thank you) into my mouth without thinking. And I wasn’t even hankering for a chocolate fix. This was bad. When I reached the point of not noticing or remembering what I’d eaten the self loathing started to take hold. Something had to give.
So I decided to deny myself. Just for one day I would abstain from eating any gratuitous sweets. I opened my garbage can and in went a box of stale Mallomars, the truffles, two containers of freezer burnt Haagen-dazs, one Ferraro Rocher hazelnut chocolate, three dusty Rolos and half a bag of Pepperidge Farm Ginger Men. As I was twirling the twist tie around the bag I had second thoughts about the truffles and pulled out the box from the refuse. Something about chucking an almost full box of Godiva chocolates seemed, I don’t know, disrespectful. Instead I shoved them in the back of a drawer and took the trash out to the chute.
The next morning everything went fine. I went to the gym, had my cereal, fruit, almond milk medley and was feeling on track. Then at about 11am my mind started in on me. My taste buds were screaming for just a tiny taste of dark chocolate. So I went outside and ran some errands I didn’t need to run and came home in time to make lunch—the same thing I have every day: arugula, sliced turkey, tomatoes, fennel, pear and a bit of avocado tossed with oil and vinegar, a half a piece of toasted whole wheat pita bread with a thin slice of cheddar cheese and a clementine. But no accompanying sweet. I was so unhappy. So I made a cup of chai tea thinking I could trick myself into believing I was having dessert. What a fool I was. And now I was even more miserable and could not stop thinking about chocolate. This was not the realignment I was hoping for. And I wasn’t surprised. It’s like the yearly Yom Kippur fast. I don’t have moments of clarity or atoning, I’m just hungry and cranky.
As my shaking hand started to open the drawer where I’d “hidden” the truffles I knew I was in trouble. So I decided to compromise. I had recently spotted a magazine called Clean Eating and went on their website to see what was deemed to be clean. To my happy surprise there was a recipe for a cookie that I thought might snap me out of my miserable funk and keep me from feeling like I’d given up completely. I mean if the magazine considered the cookies to be ‘clean’ couldn’t they be part of my sweets ‘cleanse?’ Worked for me.
These Almond Butter Chocolate Chip cookies totally hit the spot and helped me down from the ledge. They're butter-free and wheat-free and call for Sucanet, which is whole cane sugar that retains a molasses-y undertone. If you don’t want to welcome a new kind of sweetener into your life you could go with light brown sugar, just don’t be mad if the clean police try to arrest you. They're soft and chewy, not too sweet with an abundant, overall nutty flavor. Meanwhile, I’m feeling virtuous and very clean. And tomorrow I’m buying a new box of Mallomars.
Clean Start Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Clean Eating, November 2010
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1 cup unsalted almond butter, stirred well
¾ cup Sucanet
1 large egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ounces very dark chocolate (70% or higher would be great) chopped into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the first 5 ingredients until blended.
Stir in chocolate.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: 24 cookies