Chocolate Marshmallows

chocolate marshmallows | healthy green kitchen @winnieab

Chocolate Marshmallows | Healthy Green Kitchen

I competed in my second powerlifting meet this past Sunday. My goals for this one were to get more experience lifting in front of judges, and to qualify for USA Powerlifting (USAPL) Nationals in October. My lifts went pretty much as I planned and I accomplished my goals. I also got a pretty gold medal (full disclosure: I was the only one in my weight class) so I am very pleased!

One thing I am learning about meets is they are very draining for me, both mentally and physically. I tried really hard to stay super calm in the weeks before this one, trusting that my training, nutrition, and rest have all been very solid, but the day of the meet was still pretty nerve-wracking and exhausting. When it was over, all I wanted to do was get home and curl up on my couch with some hot chocolate embellished with these chocolate marshmallows. So I did just that, and I’ll be taking it easy the rest of the week, as well.

Chocolate Marshmallows | Healthy Green Kitchen

I’ve long wanted to try sweetening marshmallows with honey so when I saw this chocolate version in Brittany Angell’s new book Every Last Crumb, I knew I had to make them. I love how they turned out, and how they melt in hot drinks. I’ve enjoyed them in warm honey sweetened milk and coffee in addition to hot chocolate.

chocolate marshmallow fluff on whisk

marshmallows in pan

This chocolate marshmallow recipe is just one of more than 150 Paleo-inspired recipes found in Every Last Crumb. If you follow a Paleo-ish diet or have food sensitivities, I think you will love this book (though I don’t eat Paleo nor do I have food sensitivities and I am really enjoying it!). Every Last Crumb features grain-free recipes for numerous specialty breads such as bagels, croissants, and naan. But the book isn’t just about bread; Brittany shares lots of creative ideas for savory foods and treats, too.

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Celebrating 5 Years: A New Site Design + Chocolate Silk Pie

I started this blog back in May of 2009. Since then, I’ve written almost 700 posts. And a book.

Since I have learned so much and changed so much in the past 5 years, it’s only natural that the look and feel of my blog evolves, as well. So I hired my talented friend Sabrina to give HGK a little makeover as a “blogiversary” gift to myself. I wanted the design to be very simple, natural, and a little messy, even (kind of like me!). I hope you like it as much as I do :)

(Please if you notice any problems with the new design, let me know! That way, we can fix whatever is wrong.)

And what’s a celebration without a decadent treat? I made a Chocolate Silk Pie to mark this blogging milestone.

Chocolate Silk Pie | Healthy Green Kitchen

My parents used to serve a similar French Silk Pie in their restaurant when I was a kid…I have such fond memories of that pie and have been wanting to make one like it for a long time. This pie is so easy to prepare and it’s absolutely delicious: I think it perfectly symbolizes where my blog and I are at these days and what you can expect to see here in the future.

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Homemade Oreos + My Current Thoughts on Sugar

Did you hear the news? Oreos are just as addictive as cocaine!

I was kind of shocked to find that out, actually, because it’s not at all my experience with Oreos. I generally feel more of a heroin-like effect when I eat them. Oh, wait…that’s probably because sugar is the same as heroin to the body. Yeah, it all makes sense now.

Ok, friends, I hope you know I am totally joking here. I have zero experience with either cocaine or heroin (and I haven’t had more than a handful of store-bought Oreos in many years). I’m going to share a recipe for Homemade Oreos with you in this post, but first I have some other things to say.

Homemade Oreos | Healthy Green Kitchen

I’m getting really tired of all of these “this food is the equivalent of a street drug” references out there (I mean…seriously? Can we stop with this already? It’s just wrong on so many levels). I’m sick of all of the articles that scare people into thinking they are poisoning themselves if they consume cookies or anything else containing sugar, too, without any mention of context or dose.

I’ve never been anything but completely honest with you, my readers, so I have no problem telling you that I used to believe all that sugar is toxic/addictive/what have you stuff. That’s right, I did. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may recall that I’ve even written statements like that in the past. I am being very up front about this right now because I’ve changed my mind about it being helpful (or true) to refer to sugar that way. Well-designed scientific studies have not proven that sugar is either toxic or addictive when consumed in reasonable amounts by healthy individuals so I’m no longer going to use terminology that suggests it is.

Below are some quotes folks left on my Facebook page just the other day:

“Addictions are all the same! They control your life and often ruin it! Sugar is an addiction!”

“Proven fact sugar addiction is as tough as heroin”

“This whole country is addicted because our food manufactures add sugar to everything”

“People can become addicted to simple carbs just as they can to smoking or alcohol”

I did not make those up: they are real comments left by real people when I recently challenged the concept that sugar is as addictive as drugs. The people who left these comments were rude and argumentative when I asked them to back up their claims with scientific evidence. They claimed I was in “sugar denial” for not agreeing with them.

My intention here is not to call people out for being ignorant…it’s to draw attention to how damaging it can be to not have correct information…to be trapped in dogma that’s not evidence based.

In the sugar = heroin article I linked to at the top of this post, a certain doctor asserts that “when you eat sugar, it stimulates the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, which makes you feel pleasure. The brain recognizes and likes this feeling and begins to crave more. It may startle you to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all stimulate the same receptors in your brain.”

This is a quite a provocative statement, yes? It’s worded in such a way that you are very likely to come away from the article feeling:
a. guilty for enjoying sugar because enjoying sugar is just like enjoying drugs
b. convinced that you need a detox to heal yourself from sugar’s addictive grasp.

Guess what? Playing with kittens stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain, too, but I don’t see anyone recommending a detox for that. Just because you enjoy something does not mean it’s terrible for you, you have to feel guilty about it, and stop doing it altogether (not talking about doing drugs here, folks).

I have taken some flack as of late for not being willing to demonize sugar. For questioning the existence of sugar addiction. I really don’t care: I’ve hopped off the “sugar is ruining your health” bandwagon because there’s just no credible science to show that sugar abstinence is healthier than a diet that stresses balance and eating sugar in moderation. (For the record, I’ve always been a cheerleader for moderation…this is nothing new.) In fact, I think obsessing over this one thing, and running around screaming “SUGAR IS THE WHITE DEVIL”, is not really helping people figure out out how to live full, happy, healthy lives.

Do I believe eating lots of sugar fosters optimal health? No, of course not. I know full well that when sugar is consumed in large amounts, one is likely to run into health problems. I personally ran into health problems in the past when I ate too much sugar. There are certainly reasons to watch the amount of sugar you eat (I do). But am I concerned that a small amount of sugar will harm me? Poison me? No, I am not concerned. Not even a little bit. I enjoy treats made with sugar (like ice cream, cake, and cookies…mostly homemade, but sometimes not) and I don’t think they’re “bad” for me. Not in the least. They are a small part of my health-promoting, real-food diet and I enjoy the heck out of them.

Listen up: it’s more than fine to be concerned about food quality and nutrient density. I am obviously concerned about these: those concerns are at the heart of this blog and my book. But being concerned about those things does not mean one can simply ignore the realities of biology. The fact is that your body thinks sugar is sugar. I don’t really use much white sugar (and I do recommend against its use in my book); I choose organic sugar most of the time because it’s produced sustainably, it’s free of GMOs and pesticides, and because I believe buying fair trade is important, and I use many other unrefined sweeteners. Organic sugar, however, is not metabolized by my body in a measurably different way than white sugar. Raw honey? It’s lovely and I adore it. But again, it’s the same as sugar once it gets into my body. Maple syrup? It’s delightful and I couldn’t live without it, but my body doesn’t give a hoot how much I paid for it…my body still thinks it sugar. Coconut sugar? Sugar. Fruit? Sugar. I could go on and on.

There are absolutely valid reasons to choose unrefined sweeteners and fruit over white sugar, such as concern for source, processing, nutrient value, and the environment. But it’s not necessarily correct to say your body metabolizes one type of sugar in a vastly different way than another. (I’m not talking about high fructose corn syrup here, folks, because it does appear to be metabolized differently.)

All sugars, and all starches, are carbohydrates. All carbohydrates break down in the body into sugar. This does not make all carbohydrates bad for you…far from it. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, you can damage your metabolism.

It’s really hard to know what to believe these days, isn’t it? Maybe you saw a documentary or read a book or news story in a major magazine and the message you took away was that sugar is addictive and toxic and it scared the heck out of you…gave you the impression that sugar is to blame for every health problem that exists in the world…made you think you should never eat sugar again.

It’s a real problem, though, when your body seems to want sugar while your mind is telling you not to have it. This can do a real number on you…it can makes you think there’s something wrong with you…it may “confirm” your fears that you do indeed are addicted to sugar.

Guess what? There is nothing wrong with you if you like sugar. Want sugar. Crave sugar. This is normal. It does not mean you have an addiction and that you need a detox. We evolved to want and need sugar. You heard me right: your body needs sugar. Once you have a clear understanding of this fact, you can move beyond the hyperbolic nonsense (because that is what much of the anti-sugar propaganda is) and give your body what it wants when it wants it. You can eat sugar without fear, even refined sugar, if you want to eat it sometimes.

I am open to the fact that you may have experimented with some form of sugar abstinence and that you have found you feel better without it (whatever “it” may be…all white sugar? all types of sugar besides fruit? all types of sugar designated bad by a diet guru?). Fine! Then don’t eat it. No skin off my back. But please don’t go out and tell everyone else, including me, that we’re sugar addicts and we’d all be better off giving it up, as well.

If you haven’t given up sugar, but you’ve been struggling with your perceived terrible relationship to sugar, if you are convinced you you are addicted to sugar, I want you to know something. I too once thought I had a real problem with sugar. I craved it constantly. I overate sweet things every time I took one bite. I thought I was addicted to sugar.

But then I radically overhauled my diet. I learned I wasn’t eating enough food overall. I dealt with my food sensitivities. I “discovered” real food and completely changed everything about how I ate. I figured out that I do best when I have protein at every meal. I incorporated high quality fats into my eating strategy and figured out how many carbs I do best with, and what kind. It’s been twenty years that I’ve been at this, and I am still making changes now and then. My diet now includes some sugar (generally unrefined sugar, but occasionally white sugar). When I want something sweet, I eat it. End of story.

Before you banish sugar from your life, please take the following into consideration:

1. Are you eating enough food? As in: enough calories to support your activity level? When you consistently under eat, it’s very common to crave sugar.
2. Do you eat breakfast and other meals at regular-timed intervals throughout the day? If you don’t, your blood sugar is prone to swings and this may make you crave sugar.
3. Are you eating enough protein? As in: protein at every meal and snack? When you don’t eat enough protein, it’s very common to crave sugar.
4. Are you eating enough healthy fats? Diets too low in high quality fats can lead to sugar cravings, too.
5. Might you have food sensitivities? When I had them, I had crazy cravings for sugar. Once I sorted them out: no more sugar cravings.
6. Is it possible your body is out of balance in some way? Is something hormonal or metabolic going on? Vague, I know, but entirely plausible. Sorry for not being more specific but this is a blog and I am not a practicing physician.
7. Do you get enough sleep? This one is so common…many people don’t…often leads to an increase in sugar cravings.
8. Do you have a lot of stress in your life? Again, so common. More sugar cravings.
9. Have you considered that your dependence on sugar is psychological? It’s very possible…this is different than an addiction. Have you tried removing the “bad” label you’ve given to sugar? Sometimes when we make things off limits we want them more than when we allow ourselves to eat them when we want them without any “judgement”.
10. Is it possible you over eat sugar because you have a binge eating disorder? Please, please, please talk to a professional about this.

Again, I want to be really clear that the point of this post is not to make a case for eating lots of sugar. It’s about making a case for consuming sugar in moderation. I repeat: I am not giving you the go ahead to eat a whole bag of store-bought Oreos nor am I telling you to eat the whole batch of my homemade version. That’s not moderation. Moderation isn’t about living your life in a constant state of swinging from one extreme to the other. Moderation is the opposite of extremes. It’s not eating a whole bag of something and then spending a week on a “cleanse”. It’s about finding balance…a place in the middle that works for you on a consistent basis.

Every single time I mention moderation in the context of eating sugar (both online and in my real life), someone tells me “that doesn’t work”. I vehemently beg to differ. Moderation may not be sexy enough to get someone on the bestseller’s list, but there’s plenty of scientific evidence that it does indeed work. Can you “do” moderation overnight if you’re more accustomed to swinging from one extreme to another? No, probably not. It may take some time, and you’ll have to put in some work. but I believe the payoff for doing that work is big.

Before I get to the cookie recipe, I am quite sure some of you are currently thinking something along the lines of:

“But Winnie! Sugar causes type 2 diabetes! Why are you telling people it’s ok to eat sugar?

or

“But Winnie! Sugar causes obesity! Why are you telling people it’s ok to eat sugar?

To the first point: Sugar does not cause diabetes. Saying so is a vast oversimplification of the situation. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder. Over consumption of sugar may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, but it is not the cause. Want to prevent and/or treat insulin resistance? Exercise. It’s pretty much the best thing you can do to improve insulin sensitivity.

To the second point: Sugar does not cause obesity. No one thing causes obesity. Not sugar (nor high fructose corn syrup)…not carbs…not GMOs…not food from fast food restaurants. Over consumption of sugar may contribute to obesity but sugar is not the cause. I hope to address weight in a future post or posts…this one’s already way too long to dive into that issue.

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am both a big fan and a friend of Shauna Ahern (aka Gluten Free Girl), so I was very happy to accept a copy of her newest book, written with her husband Danny–Gluten-Free Girl Every Day–for review.

Shauna’s food blog was one of the very first I discovered, and I’ve always loved her work, but this book has really exceeded my expectations. The photography (by the exceptionally talented Penny De Los Santos) is wonderful, and I really adore the short and sweet headnotes: they make the book a true pleasure to read. Perhaps my favorite thing about the book, though, is the “Feel Like Playing?” blurb that accompanies many of the recipes. This is where Shauna notes different ways you can change up the dish, and it’s genius.

I’ve cooked from Gluten-Free Girl Every Day over the past few months (I don’t review books here unless I’ve made and enjoyed at least three recipes). Today I’d like to share these delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, ever so slightly adapted from the book.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Shauna is her dedication to the development of flour combinations that make gluten-free baked goods not taste gluten free. You see, when I eat gluten free, it is by choice…not necessity. I have neither celiac disease nor a gluten sensitivity, so if I am going to eat gluten-free cookies, they damn well better taste good (so many gluten-free baked goods simply don’t). My family and some friends we had staying with us really loved these chocolate chip cookies!

The flour in these cookies is Shauna’s Whole-Grain Gluten-Free Flour Mix, a combination of nutrient-dense teff flour, millet flour, and buckwheat flour. That’s all: nothing weirdly starchy or devoid of wholesomeness. You make up a batch of it by combining 300 grams of each of the flours. (A scale is really a must for successful gluten-free baking: this is the one I have.) In the book, Shauna mentions that you may swap out the buckwheat flour for oat flour or sorghum flour. (Be aware that not everyone with celiac disease will tolerate oat flour.)

The recipe calls for hazelnuts and I didn’t have any on hand, but I recently heard from someone “in the know” (Shauna’s editor Justin!) that not adding the hazelnuts was a BIG mistake. Because there’s that whole nutella-like aspect if you use the hazelnuts, you know? So next time I make these, I won’t leave the hazelnuts out.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies | Healthy Green Kitchen

Shauna’s recipe is below, and I’ve put the slight changes I made in parantheses. Also note that I sprinkled a bit of coarse sea salt (I like Celtic Sea Salt) on top of the cookies as soon as they came out of the oven. I almost always do this when I make chocolate chip cookies: the salt really intensifies the flavor of the chocolate ;)

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Flourless Chocolate Cake to Celebrate 4 Years

Flourless chocolate cake from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

For the past three years, I have celebrated Healthy Green Kitchen’s birthday by dedicating a post to the occasion each May. I am not sure how it happened, but somehow I let last month go by without any sort of fanfare :(

I hope you’re ok with me making up for that now by sharing a flourless chocolate cake recipe. I’d also like to share some thoughts on what this particular blog birthday means to me. So here goes.

Flourless chocolate cake from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

In previous blog birthday posts, I have written about how much I treasure my readers. This absolutely still holds true: I would have given up on blogging long ago were it not for all of you!

I have also reflected upon the friends I’ve made through blogging, and these continue to enhance my life in countless ways. I often spend time on the phone and/or hanging out in person with many amazing people I would never have met were it not for this blog (and I hope to meet many more of you in the future); I am beyond grateful for having you all in my life.

This year in blogging hasn’t been exactly like the others, though. It’s been even better! Here’s why:

This was the year I finally stopped comparing myself to other bloggers and accepted embraced the way I write, take photos, “do” social media, etc. I stopped worrying about whether or not I am as good at this stuff as someone else. All in all, this was the year I really got comfortable with my blog. It was the year I feel like I actually settled in.

I believe it’s worth noting, because it’s definitely related, that this was also the year I finally got comfortable with myself. I am almost 43 and it feels good to say that. Also? I wrote a book this year! It feels good to say that, too.

This cake comes from a new cookbook I absolutely adore called The Surf Cafe Cookbook: Cooking and Surfing on the West Coast of Ireland.

the surf cafe cookbook from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

I received a review copy of the book and have found it to be tremendously pleasing to the eye. Also: the writing is relaxed and fun, and the recipes within are delicious. I think you will love it, too.

I have made a few recipes from the book thus far but the one I want to share today is, of course, this flourless chocolate cake. I’ll give you fair warning: if you love chocolate, this cake may spoil you for all other chocolate desserts. Yes, it is that good: my husband said it’s one of the best things I ever made. And I make a lot of things!

Please know that these photos don’t come close to doing the cake justice. I was hell bent on slicing the cake right when it came out of the oven so I could eat some, but I don’t actually recommend doing that. The recipe suggests waiting as long as a day to slice the cake, and I am going to do that next time I bake it. If you slice it too soon, it’s still crazy good, but it’s really, really soft…almost like a chocolate lava cake. It really firms up if you allow it to cool completely before stuffing it in your mouth.

Flourless chocolate cake from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

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