June 25, 2011 § 7 Comments
As it turns out, there are several things that a strict diet of no added sugar cannot guarantee. It won’t guarantee you won’t get poison ivy on your neck. It won’t guarantee you won’t suffer a wracking coal miner’s cough so alarming that all activity in public places ceases until it subsides. And it won’t guarantee you won’t have to put down your nineteen year old kitty cat.
That’s been my week, how about you? As far as I can tell, we’ve had a good week and a half of summer vacation, and already it’s kicking our butts. My eleven year old has a bruise the size of a pear and the color of an eggplant on her upper thigh and a nasty looking puffy ankle from some Lord-of-the-Flies-style shenanigans at a friend’s potluck the other night, and my six year old came home from that same event with an inexplicably puffy eye and, of course, more bug bites to add to our rather sophisticated collection. After a nice long hike another night we returned home to find a tick firmly attached to Greta’s ear, as well as a generous sprinkling of the aforementioned poison ivy- or is it poison parsnip?- across my entire neck. I look so festive that the fellow who mows our lawn actually took a step back when he noticed it.
Plus it’s been raining like the dickens, and this morning I made the incredibly difficult decision to put down our kitty who’s been with me since my last year of college. Yes- basically half my life has been spent in the company of this furry, orange little guy. Right now I’m waiting for the rain to stop so I can resume digging the hole in the backyard for him. Yeah, it’s been way too eventful around here.
With so many things going on- trips to the vet, running out of band-aids and topical Benadryl- it’s hard to focus on something like a Year of No Sugar. Suddenly, it all seems so… random. Pointless. In my sadness and anxiety about our cat, I’ve had virtually no appetite and absolutely no urge to cook. This week has been the week of using up all our convenience meals- that one frozen bagged pasta we can have, Annie’s mac and cheese, bagels.
At least I can report that I didn’t turn up at that potluck empty handed: I brought my dextrose Coconut Cake, courtesy Sweet Poison author David Gillespie’s recipe, which he developed with his wife Lizzie, who I fervently hope is writing a cookbook as we speak. This is the second time I’ve made this cake and I must say it can complete with any other coconut cake… It’s delicious. The kids, who had banded together and were roaming the drippy lawn and crowded living room like packs of wild dingos, discovered the cake about twenty minutes after I set it on the buffet and I’m delighted to say it disappeared forthwith. I actually had to jump in and hurriedly snag some to make sure my kids got dessert- since of course they wouldn’t be having any other sweet that might make an appearance at the table.
It’s hard at a potluck to know what items will truly be sucrose-free, heck, usually I can’t even tell what half the dishes are. So we just go with our instincts: avoiding all dressings, pita and sandwich breads, any deli meats, meat cooked with barbecue sauce, and so on. We ended up getting by just fine, getting our fill with fruit salad, olives, french bread and a lovely pasta salad made with garlic scapes by our hostess Eva that I had no choice but to go back for seconds of.
So, life is good. Life goes on. Someday, this wretched cough will truly subside. Someday, I won’t be so sad about losing my kitty. The bug bites will heal and maybe we’ll even stop picking at the scabs (no promises, though.) The chickens will keep laying eggs and the tomato plants will get bigger. If you’ll pardon me though, it has stopped raining now, so I better go finish digging that hole.
June 14, 2011 § 3 Comments
I’ve been experimenting with brownies, and no, not that kind. Sheesh. I’d really almost forgotten how much I LOVE to bake. Sure, once in a while I get to make our Monthly-Agreed-Upon-Sugar-Containing-Special-Treat… but that is like dispensing water to a goldfish with an eyedropper.
I miss everyday cookies. I miss after-school cakes. I miss just-because pies. I miss having something sweet for no particular special occasion at all. Is it really just the sugar? Or is it something more metaphorical than that?
I’m not sure. But now I have my elephantine-size jar of dextrose and the world of treats is opening up again. First, I made Strawberry Ricotta Cake– whose recipe is available at David Gillespie’s website howmuchsugar.com– and the angels sang. Then, last week I began playing around with brownies in the hopes of bringing something to my daughter’s fifth grade class that wouldn’t invoke any gag reflexes. I was shooting high- I didn’t want to fall back on banana-and-raisin cookies, which I imagined the kids- who haven’t yet learned how to be as aggressively polite as grown-ups- would be tentative and lukewarm about. I wanted something more dramatic than that… something that looked and tasted like something they’d choose for themselves… on purpose. Something they might actually be surprised to know contained no added sugar.
So of course I went a little overboard, baking three different batches in two days. Everyone in my house was delighted with the sudden flood of brownies and repeatedly being asked to (sigh!) taste them.
The first two batches came from David Gillespie’s website again, but this time from a paid subscription portion of the site, which is to say that if I gave you the recipe I’d have to kill you. That’s okay, because unlike the Ricotta Cake, I didn’t have lots of luck with the Chocolate Fudge Squares Recipe: they came out undercooked and pudding-y inside, and my attempts to bake them longer did result in a better brownie, but a tad cakey and dry.
For the third attempt I decided to be truly daring and improvise a dextrose version of my favorite King Arthur Flour brownie recipe- you can imagine my shock when it actually worked and they were quite good. As in: if-you-didn’t-know-it-was-a-dextrose-brownie-you’d-never-know-it-was-a-dextrose-brownie-good. I’ll post the recipe here. If you read the last post you know that the kids ate them up, no questions asked, nary a surreptitious napkin spitting in the bunch. I was so proud you’d have thought I invented a cure for Fruit Loops.
Most recently, I tried the other day another howmuchsugar subscription recipe: Coconut Cake. As you may recall, we have a coconut pudding cake recipe that is much beloved in our house, but has yet to make it onto our Desert Island Dessert list… so this seemed like a good next attempt.
And how. Seriously, the kids were so excited by the wonderful smell of baking coconut and warm cake they couldn’t wait for it to cool completely before attacking the top with spatulas full of dextrose-cream-cheese icing. It was a bit of a runny mess as a result, but boy was it good! And it was so nice to have this ordinary, everyday-feeling cake, without having to feel required to go crazy and make the Mona Lisa of desserts since it would be a-whole-nother thirty-some days to till we got to have another one.
So dextrose is starting to look a lot like our friend. I can’t lie to you and say the desserts which result from it are just as sweet as what our culture is used to: they’re decidedly not. At thirty percent sweetness of traditional table sugar, you basically can’t fit enough dextrose into most traditional recipes to achieve that level of sweet-iousity. To us, however, with our recalibrated taste buds, they taste plenty sweet, maybe even preferably so. We don’t have to feel quite so completely in denial of all things sweet-ish, which is lovely.
Now, we just have to work on the image problem: dextrose just sounds too clinical, too science-y. I don’t care how good they are, you won’t find “Dextrose Coconut Cake” on the menu of your favorite restaurant anytime soon, and “Glucose Coconut Cake” is even worse, like something astronauts might eat in space. So how about it people, suggestions?