With only one week to go in the latest 9-week Challenge
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I look at everyone and can't help but think wow(!)
A week from now there will be a party, and a winner announced. I remember the night nearly three years ago when it was me(!) who'd won. After the party, I sat alone in my favorite booth at the coffee shop with a good book, savoring the piece of chocolate cake I'd been craving (for weeks!)
Certainly, there was a huge sense of accomplishment, although it was coupled with something completely unexpected
All of the lifestyle changes. All of the really, really hard work. This newfound healthy eating and exercise regimen, was I going to able to
keep it up?
Until I'd found my groove, clear boundaries were the only way I'd trusted myself to stay on track. Nobody thought twice if I said, “I can't have that incredible looking burger, because I'm in week 6 of the Challenge.”
Now that it was over, and my easy-out answer didn't apply. Would honoring my new lifestyle somehow appear high maintenance, or even ungrateful?
Would social events be relegated to picking at my plate, with the hope that my will-power would be strong enough to decline the bread basket or more than a partial glass of wine? Would I simply indulge for the evening, many promises to myself that I'd be back on track first thing in the morning?
Admittedly, it took far longer than it ever should have to make the mental shift, and stop being so darn paranoid. To turn away from a diet mentality, to that of eating for life. A place from which I could adapt as I learned more, or woke up one day and realized all of my familiar rules didn't seem to be working anymore(!)
A place of gentle acceptance and perspective. The focus not on the size of my hips, but instead on living with intention, purpose, and meaning
A life where I could smile more than frown, move more than sit, talk to someone with words instead of text, build muscles that can move a sofa and bear-hug my husband. A life in which my wins were celebrated, where I choose to see something beautiful every time I look in the mirror, and not completely panic when my salad dressing didn't come on the side
As time has passed, I've learned that I'm not a dinner party away from seeing my top number all over again(!) Not two parties, or even two weeks plus a few extra glasses of wine. That somehow it doesn't feel right to be scared. Honoring my self-worth and happiness over silly drills on the bathroom scale.
We've all been there, right? Perched tiptoed with one foot covering the numbers. I'm sure they've settled by now ..
Whatever you do, stay calm, don't move, it'll all be over soon
A healthy bit of perspective comes with age. What's the worst thing that will happen if I over-indulged a bit? Maybe I'll find I've gained a few pounds over this particularly cozy winter that involved a lot of roaring fires, sparkling wine, and dinners with my husband.
I've learned to simply check myself all over again, and think a little harder about how much I'm sweating and sweeting, an increase one and decrease the other. I've done it before. I can do it again. But let's be clear, I'm not where I was physically or mentally.
I'm a strong, dedicated woman who's shed excess pounds and shaped a healthy, strong body through a series of really great choice, and a whole lot of sweat.
I've learned it's ok to be proud of myself. I've built an incredibly good life, am a pretty great person, give or take those x number of pounds.
The authors say their spice cookies, stuffed with brandy-soaked currants, grated chocolate, winter spices, and iced with a sharp, lemony glaze, are meant to be kissing cousins of the German classic, Pfeffernüsse. It's an Italian spice cookie they ran across in Nancy Baggett's International Cookie Cookbook.
I say they're one of my favorite things I've baked all year. This weekend they were one of our contributions to a dinner invitation at our neighbors
To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to think of the recipe. Not only does it call for only half of an egg, but cocoa powder, and currants soaked in brandy for all of ten minutes; which didn't seem to plump a thing.
Don't think. Simply follow the instructions, and you'll be fine.
We found them to be unusual, as well as delicious. I wasn't sure what to expect, the end-result similar to a rich gingerbread — their texture, velvety.
~ Adapted from Epicurious
- ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp currants
- 3 Tbsp brandy
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp each ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg
- ¼ tsp fine-grain salt
- 5 oz dark chocolate, coarsely grated
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅔ cup superfine sugar (I used Turbinado and ground it further in my food processor)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp grated lemon zest
- ½ tsp grated orange zest
- ½ egg (large or XL)
- 1 Tbsp candied citrus peel, diced
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- In a small bowl, soak the currants in the brandy for 10 minutes.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and dark chocolate.
- Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon and orange zest to combine, but don't aerate much (~ 1 minute)
- While the mixer or beater running, slowly add the egg and mix for about 1 minute.
- Add the dry ingredients, followed by the currants and brandy. Mix until everything comes together.
- Gently knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it's uniform.
- Divide the dough into 1 ¾ oz chunks and roll each chunk into a perfectly round ball.
- Place the balls on 1 or 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about ¾" apart, and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, until the top firms up but the center is still soft.
- Remove from the oven.
- Once the cookies are out of the oven, allow to cool for only 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack.
- While the cookies are still warm, whisk together the glaze ingredients until a thin and smooth icing forms.
- Pour a tablespoon of the glaze over each cookie, leaving it to drip and coat the cookie with a very thin, almost transparent film. (You may want to repeat this step for a thicker glaze)
- Top each cookie with 3 pieces of candied peel placed at the center.
- Leave to set and then serve, or store in an airtight container for a day or two