Not-So-Sweet Jesus

If you take a stroll down your supermarket’s greeting card aisle today, you’ll find Valentine’s Day cards long gone and Easter cards in full force. It’s only the start of Lent, yet the aisle is bursting bright with pink bunnies, yellow chicks, and painted eggs. I won’t be sending Easter cards this year (haven’t done so since my kids were little) but I will give up something for Lent. I’m thinking “foods with added sugar”.

I know what you’re thinking.  We live in an age where giving up tempting foods isn’t as difficult as it used to be.  Whole foods are so available we have an entire chain of stores called “Whole Foods”.  Sugar has so many alternatives I should revise my sacrifice to “foods with added sweeteners“.  Even processed foods have matured to where “healthy snacks” are pleasing to the palate.  I have options.

Doesn’t matter.  Dropping added sugar will still be a challenge.  My desk drawer (second one down on the left if you’d like to help yourself) is replete with black and red licorice, and some form of chocolate, be it a bar, a cookie, or those little baking morsels straight out of the bag.  Giving up licorice for forty-six days and nights won’t be a stretch, but NO chocolate for all of March and half of April sounds like an eternity.  What can I say?  Everyone has a weakness and mine is chocolate.  It speaks to me from my closed drawer with “come hither” seductiveness.

Straight out of the bag…YUM!

I’ll bet you’ll find thousands of blog posts about chocolate with a quick search.  I’ll bet you’ll find entire blogs about the sweet stuff.  I just checked my blog’s history and unearthed a dozen takes on chocolate (including this one from a year ago talking about the things people give up for Lent.  Chocolate tops the list).  So let’s make it a baker’s dozen because I invented a chocolate challenge.  I call it the “85 Percent Ascent”.

Let me explain.  There was a time when I liked my coffee sweeter than a Starbucks Sugar Cookie Frappuccino.  Together with artificial creamer I’d dump in sugar cubes or pour the white stuff straight from whatever you call those pourable glass containers.  That was a long, long time ago.  At some point (probably, er definitely my college year abroad in Italy) I realized coffee tasted pretty good all by itself.  I started to wonder why you’d “taint” coffee by adding the other stuff.  But let’s be real: it’s not like you go from Frappuccino to Americano cold turkey.  You’ve got to ease into the one extreme from the other.  Slowly I backed down the sugar (like years-slowly).  Slowly I backed down the creamer.  One day I eliminated the sugar altogether.  Today, I still go with a tablespoon of (almond-coconut non-dairy no-sugar) “creamer” but otherwise it’s straight dark-roasted coffee for me. I even fancy an espresso shot every now and then.

It’s a good analogy for my Percent Ascent challenge.  85% cocoa content is seriously dark chocolate (meaning not sweet at all).  If your go-to is a Hershey’s Bar or a Milky Way you’re down below 50%.  And moving from 50% to 85% is a serious ascent with chocolate.  It’s like standing on top of Kilimanjaro and seeing how much further you have to go to summit Everest.

A recent article on chocolate lists nine criteria for the healthiest and best-tasting bars in the world, including:

  1. The first ingredient must be cocoa, cocoa mass, or chocolate liquor (not sugar or milk chocolate).  In other words, put down the Nestle’s Crunch; it’s not even close.
  2. Ingredients must include real cocoa butter instead of (cheaper) vegetable oils.  95% of America’s chocolate manufacturers just dropped out of the race.
  3. The cocoa must come from an “Equator country” like Ivory Coast, Ghana, or Peru.
  4. The bar should be labeled “Organic” and/or “Non-GMO”.
  5. Bonus points: should be fairly traded and ethically harvested.

As if the search isn’t already difficult, NOW you have to go with >85% cocoa content.  Not so hard to find actually, especially if you go online.  I purchased a bar from five different manufacturers meeting every one of the above criteria, including Green & Black’s from the UK, and Theo from Seattle.   All five bars fall between 85% and 90% cocoa content (and yes, 100% is an option).  All five use scary words like “strong”, “super black”, and “extreme” to describe their product.  Not gonna lie; I’m a little nervous to take a bite.

As bitter as these chocolates are sure to be, I still have to give them up for Lent.  Every one of them has “added sugar” (albeit way down on the ingredients list).  So let’s just agree – I’m not going to break my Lenten covenant on a food that doesn’t even taste sweet.  Think I’ll opt for a piece of fruit instead.  I just hope it doesn’t come from the Garden of Eden.

Some content sourced from the “Experience Life” / Life Time article, “How to Find the Healthiest Dark Chocolate”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #7

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Last week

I worked outside of the box again this week. Bag #7 – of 21 bags of pieces – assembled a second layer on top of the section I can’t yet attach to the bigger section behind it.  From “Last week” to “This week”, you can see I worked almost entirely in black, which suggests I’m creating more of the outside of the piano.

Despite the majestic wash of Debussy’s “La Mer”, Bag #7 was completed in less than thirty minutes, with only one heart-pounding moment where I thought I’d left out pieces in the Bag #6 build.  Thank goodness I was wrong. Still on track.

This week

Running Build Time: 6.0 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Debussy’s La Mer and Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un Faune (try and say that ten times fast). Leftover pieces: One (clearly an extra, whew!)

Conductor’s Note: Today’s build wasn’t very exciting, so it helped to have Debussy booming in the background.  However, as I turned the page of Mr. Instruction Manual in anticipation of Bag #8, I saw pictures of… long, thin, reed-like pieces.  Holy buckets, Maestro, it’s time to make this piano a stringed instrument!

23 thoughts on “Not-So-Sweet Jesus

  1. This year I’ve decided to give up broccoli. Since I absolutely hate the taste of broccoli, this should be easy. All I have to do is to be on the lookout for people trying to slip broccoli into my dinner.

    You’re making progress on that piano.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Give up something for Lent you didn’t care for in the first place – now why didn’t I think of that? The next forty days would’ve been so much easier…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have given up chocolate for Lent too Dave, even though I mainly eat it for its healthy heart benefits. I figure I’m “good” because one serving of the dark-chocolate Ghiradelli squares featured in my recent blog post is actually three squares and I only eat one square. I’ve also given up playing Klondike Solitaire and Word Wipe, two games I enjoy doing for my brain health. Hmm – maybe since all these items benefit my health and well being, they were poor choices and I acted hastily? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m hoping my Lenten sacrifice is a segue to your healthy habit, Linda. I won’t give up chocolate but I need to move towards a) the darker, healthier options I talk about here and b) your “one square” portion. Hopefully it’ll still feel like I’m having a “sweet”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d liken that lower percentage dark chocolate to a plain Hershey’s bar which I never found to be sweet at all. Check out Ghiradelli’s site to see their various dark chocolate “squares” options Dave and you will be surprised at the variety. I saw them all in my Meijer grocery store, but their prices were comparable to the Ghiradelli’s site.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Some people are way more inventive than me, Linda. I’ll stick to the Lego sets, but I certainly see myself taking on another one after the Grand Piano.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t claim I’ll ever give up milk chocolate (nor the brands we grew up with), no matter my intentions here. Halloween is always my downfall 🙂

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  3. Have you tried the Wiley Wallaby licorice? I had to stop buying it because it was so addicting. In college I gave up added sugar for lent to see if I could do it, and I immediately had dreams about sweets. But I did it, and I had the most energy I’ve had in my life. I followed the Paleo diet and felt amazing, but as you can tell I eat everything in moderation these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Uh-oh, another product recommendation from Lyssy 🙂 I tried out Native when you suggested the brand a few months ago and now I’m hooked (no matter the price). Love Aussie licorice so I’ll keep an eye out for this one. My licorice addiction is no less potent than my love of chocolate.

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      1. I think you’ll like the licorice even better than native! I am glad you like native, it seems like a great brand although I noticed they collaborated with a cupcake company… don’t think I want red velvet deodorant 😂 I find the licorice at target, another blogger raved about it and got me hooked

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  4. I was a chocoholic up until a few years ago. I cut way back on it, and other things, when I wanted to lose a few pounds. That was when I realized that the caffeine in chocolate wasn’t all that good for me either!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I gave up coffee one year and in hindsight I don’t know how I made it through Lent. My morning cup is synonymous with a good start to the day. Happy to give up sweets instead of coffee!

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  5. I’m not a chocoholic so giving up chocolate is not much of a challenge for me. I tried a Theo brand chocolate bar because of its health benefits. I didn’t like the taste of it, but referring back to my first sentence, that may mean nothing. Why I told you this… I cannot say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be trying Theo as well, Ally (it’s one of those five bars I purchased recently) – just not until after Lent. Hoping the taste has even the slightest resemblance to chocolate. May inspire a future post.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Here I thought I was “informed” on chocolate, Paula; I wasn’t even close! Time to step up my choices to healthier and darker… er, after Lent.

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  6. Impressive, J.P., (especially if you didn’t graduate from lighter options on all three). Took me a while to appreciate a Guinness; now it’s my go-to when on tap. I’m on the fence with your question, since Hershey’s belongs on an American list alongside McDonald’s, baseball, and apple pie. But with so many better chocolate options out there now, Hershey’s certainly doesn’t draw my attention like it used to.

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  7. Hi Dave,
    Good luck to you on giving up processed sugar for Lent!
    I once gave up chocolate for an entire year. I was proud of doing it and only regret start eating again after a whole year… but chocolate and I have a much better relationship now.
    Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My hope is to establish a better relationship with sweets after Lent. Not give them up entirely mind you, but move towards smaller portions and healthier options. We shall see!

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