“Brownies”

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“Brownies”

You know what I have been missing most, and consistently, throughout this “becoming a better me” process? (I mean, besides wine, of course.) Brownies. More specifically, my homemade-from-scratch brownies. They are fudgy and dense and not too sweet and covered with a thick layer of chocolate cream cheese frosting….. sigh. They are truly one of my favorite things.

Well, I have been searching online to see if I can make some “healthy” brownies to tide me over until I can someday have my own again. I found a few different recipes that seem promising, so last night I thought I’d try one of them.

This particular recipe for “brownies”, and I use that term loosely because the only ingredients that are in it that would be in “real” brownies are eggs and vanilla, calls for an unexpected item. Avocado.

Now, I do love avocados. Really, I do. But I prefer them as a condiment (guacamole), or a snack (with some salt), or even in a meal recipe with eggs or chicken. Heck, I’ve even had them in smoothies and it was pretty good. I know they help make things creamy….. but brownies? I had my doubts.

But, why not? So, off I went to puree the avocado with the wet ingredients. Did you ever feed your kids baby food strained peas? That’s about what this concoction looked like when I was done. Nasty baby food peas. You know one of the foods I most despise? Yep, peas. By now, my doubts are increasing about this recipe, but I continue on and add the eggs and dry ingredients. I must say, after it was all mixed together, it resembled a fluffy, whipped brownie-like batter. (My brownies are not this consistency. My bias continues.) It even smelled kind of like brownies. I tasted the batter and it was…. different. Chocolaty-ish. Kind of brownie-ish, but it was a stretch for me. Still I continued on.

After they were in the oven and all remnants of anything green were removed, the kids wandered in. They smelled the “brownies” and went in to a moment of ecstasy. They would be finally getting what they have also been wanting for weeks and weeks. (I’ve created dessert monsters.) It was awesome motivation for them to do whatever I asked – so I made sure to make a good list of things to clean up before they could partake in said “brownies”. (It worked!)

When the “brownies” were done, they looked…. okay. I mean, they didn’t have the pretty, shiny and slightly cracked top like brownies. But they were brown, so I guess that’s good. And they smelled brownie-like, sort of, so also a plus.

After they cooled, I hesitantly gave one to each kid, trying to keep my expression neutral. To my surprise, they loved them! They inhaled their “brownies” like I was going change my mind and take them away. “It tastes just like cake!” they both exclaimed. Really? Huh. Ok then, I will have to try one. I mean, I prefer fudgy brownies over cakey brownies, but at this point I’m pretty desperate. So I took a small sliver…..

Nope. Nope. Nope.

NOT a brownie. Not even close to a brownie. Not even close to cake, for that matter. In fact, after one bite, I threw the rest of my piece away. Did you catch that?!?! I. threw. it. away!! Those that know me know that even a bad brownie is still better than no brownie, and this didn’t even make the cut. I don’t know if my dessert palate is just too picky (and stubborn) at this point to tolerate any alternatives or what, but I couldn’t handle more than one bite. Even Hubby tried one when he came home and tossed it.

“You know I like just about everything you make right? Well….. these are disgusting.”

Yes, dear, I know. No bad feelings here. I concur 100%.

The good news is that the kids like them, so they can have them. (I should mention that they have no idea what is in them. If they did, I’m sure they would not feel the same way. In fact, that very well could be my problem with them – I know that they started as baby-food-pea-colored puree…..)

I do have a couple more recipes to try out – without the avocados. But I’m starting to wonder if you just shouldn’t mess with perfection. Now the dilemma is do I try out a couple other recipes with my fingers crossed, or just hold out until I can bake my own down the road? Decisions, decisions…..

 

Becoming a Better Me: Diet II

Some of the things I've been eating all month!
Some of the things I’ve been eating all month!

30 days of no grains.
30 days of no dairy.
30 days of no sweeteners or processed foods of any kind.
30 days of no caffeine.
30 days of no alcohol.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And that’s not even the full list of no-no’s during my initial 30 day diet!

So, what did I eat for 30 days? I wish I could tell you. If I had kept a food journal, this post would be much easier to write. But I didn’t because, well, it just didn’t cross my mind. And I was really, really grumpy in the beginning, so odds are I wouldn’t have kept up with it anyway…

We’ve been eating a lot of eggs. (I’m on a modified AIP diet, so I’m allowed eggs and nuts. Woohoo!) We have easily been going through 4 dozen eggs each week at my house, and only three of us eat them. Thank goodness for Costco! Also, avocados, which sounds awesome until you realize you can’t have them as guacamole with chips (because no corn) or salsa (because tomatoes are also on my “no-no” list). I mean, I love me some avocados, but still. Sweet potatoes. I’ve eaten more sweet potatoes in the last month than I had in all the years of my life prior to this past month. Luckily, those have kinda grown on me and I’ve been enjoying them, especially when sautéed with some onion in bacon fat. Yum. I’ve also been inhaling almonds. I grab a handful of raw almonds as a snack with berries and carry them with me everywhere I go. Another favorite snack – apples with almond butter. Delish. And just spoonfuls of almond butter. That has become my dessert of choice since I have no other options. Obviously we’re eating a lot more meat and veggies. A lot more. Especially since we can’t get eat the usual “fillers” like rice or pasta or even beans (also no-no’s). The good news is that by eating this way, we’re getting a ton more nutrients in our diets. The bad news is that it’s putting a serious dent in our budget.

I keep saying “we” because I wasn’t going to do this alone. Actually, scratch that. I wasn’t going to buy/cook foods that I couldn’t eat. So really, there was no choice for Hubby and the kiddos. I’ve kept very little dairy or gluten products in the house, so everyone has had to adjust a bit. No bread. No cheese. No baked goods. The kids have been getting long-grain rice cooked in bone broth or brown rice noodles with their dinner on occasion, as well as gluten free cereal some mornings. I decided that was tolerable and necessary for my sanity. The amazing thing is, the kids have actually been eating. Turns out they will eat more than just plain noodles, chicken nuggets, or cheese quesadillas! Who knew?

The first week we had planned on a ton of new recipes. I spent hours in the kitchen. I ruined things, burned things, didn’t like most of the things (cilantro was in many recipes, and it turns out that I really don’t love cilantro), and basically was just miserable. The timing on “experimenting” was horrible because I was already a cranky beast. I was getting zero coffee, zero sugar, and zero wine. In hindsight, my planning was definitely not well thought out. By day three I was ready to quit. Fortunately, day three was also a doctor’s appointment, and she talked me off my ledge.

Week two was better in the food department because I just decided we’d be boring. I don’t do fancy in the kitchen (unless it involves baked goods, and this most certainly does not). That’s how we started on eggs most mornings, salads or leftovers for lunch, and basic dinners consisting of meat and veggies. Nothing fancy. Pork chops with roasted brussel sprouts. Chicken breasts with broccoli. Pot roast with sweet potatoes. You know, “normal” foods that I could actually make without bursting into tears. The second week was much better than the first.

But something was missing… Pancakes. I attempted to find some recipes so I could feel like we were eating “real” pancakes, even though I couldn’t have butter or syrup. *sigh* I did manage to find a recipe that I tweaked and all of us enjoyed. Well, the kids loved them, but I think it was really just because it’s been so long since they had “real” pancakes that they imagined they were better than they actually were. Hubby and I just tolerated them. I also attempted a “cookie” recipe that the kids won’t touch (and I don’t really blame them), but I eat because it “feels” like a cookie, even if it doesn’t taste like one. The lack of baking has definitely taken a toll on me because that’s the one thing I enjoy doing in the kitchen.

We did, however, find recipes that we really and truly do love. We have a turkey sausage recipe that we all enjoy, and we’ve been making at least 2 pounds each weekend to have during the week. Hubby and I love sweet potato hash, whether it’s at breakfast topped with fried eggs or dinner with some leftover chicken mixed into it. And the best one? Bacon burgers. We chop the bacon and mix it into the seasoned burger meat and grill it to perfection. Topped with grilled onions, it’s to die for. (No bun of course.)

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it was an awesome 30 days. It wasn’t. I was cranky a lot the first half and had my bad days throughout the month. I still want donuts and wine and cheese and wine and coffee and did I mention wine? I had hoped that the 30 days would “break” me of wanting those things, but no such luck. There were many days that I felt crabby and wondered if it was even going to be worth it. I distinctly remember one day telling myself, “there’s not really anything that wrong with me, so I don’t really need to be doing this…” But I stuck with it. I have no idea how, to be honest, because I am not known for willpower, but I made it all the way through my 30 days with no cheating. Actually, that’s a lie. I cheated on accident when I tasted a smoothie I made for the kids and it had yogurt in it. But it wasn’t a purposeful cheat, so I don’t think that counts as a real cheat. Right?

Now that my 30 days are over, how do I feel?

First of all, I’m starving all the time. I am eating three meals a day plus at least two snacks – more than I ever used to eat! With the amount of food I’m eating, you would think that I would feel full often. But no, I am always hungry. Amazing what happens when you take out all the empty calories and fillers. I just ate a pretty big meal about an hour ago, in fact, and I’m realizing that I’m hungry again as I’m sitting here. Pumpkin and Hubby are the same way. The three of us are constantly famished. Peanut, not so much, but she’s also the one not really eating like I am because she’s the pickiest. I’m not sure why I’m always hungry, but I am. So I just keep on eating.

Now, I was kind of expecting a moment somewhere during the diet when the heavens open and the angels sing and the sun shines down on me and I suddenly feel awesome. Because I really, really want to feel awesome…. but that hasn’t happened. Instead, my body is working better. (Please don’t ask me to explain. Just trust me.) I think I’m sleeping a little better, and I’m getting up early without too much struggle. And energy? I don’t necessarily feel it, but I must have more energy. I mean, I’m not bouncing off the walls and cleaning every corner of my house (wouldn’t that be a nice side-effect?), but I’m not lethargic during the day. I’m not having to spend time on the couch because I just.can’t.move. I’m actually busy and productive during the day and into the night. I’ve been out and about frequently during the last couple weeks, and that’s unheard of for a self-proclaimed hermit like me. I’m even still dressed by the time Hubby gets home from work in the evening instead of in my robe on the couch in mombie-mode.

As cheesy as it sounds, things also seem brighter to me. I remember driving back from a doctor’s appointment one morning and noticing how blue the sky looked and how bright and cheerful everything seemed. I even rolled my eyes at myself for thinking it, but it’s true. Life just seems better. Am I happy all the time? Of course not. But I think I’ve been happier and less stressed lately. And that’s a win for me!

Ok, so, now what?

I’m only one month into a five month program. I’ve just entered the re-introduction phase. On Wednesday I got some foods back like nightshades (tomatoes and peppers!) and all fruit (bananas!). I also can have beans again (hummus!) and sweeteners like honey and maple syrup within reason. (We have to keep my blood sugar levels consistent.) Those are my “go for it” foods that I can have as long as I have no ill effects. We’re also slowly adding other things back in, one at a time every 4 days. I asked for wine, but that was a no-go. (Sad but not surprising.) Instead, I settled for oats. That gives me something else for breakfast besides eggs. After four days, if I have no reactions to the oats, I can add rice (and rice pasta). I figure that’s a good second step because, again, it opens up so much more for meals. Next week we get to decide on two more items to add back.

I think I’ll try the wine again.

I’ll keep you posted as I move along!