I Heart My Sweet Tooth

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Candy Canes or Whitman’s Sampler?

I have always asked whatever significant other I was with, be it husband, boyfriend, flash-in-the-pan, crush, etc., NOT to give me appliances as gifts. I can’t think of anything more unromantic than a wrapped package that, when torn open, reveals a waffle iron. Unless, of course it turns out to be a pair of slacks with one leg shorter than the other (Hubby #2) or a sweater with a hole in it (again, Hubby #2) or a pair of gloves in a plastic bag wrapped up in – wrapping paper? No. An old sweatshirt.

“You never left the house!” he explained. “I didn’t have a chance to wrap it normally.”

Let’s face it: Men can be lame. That’s why Valentine’s Day is not a day women should bank on as the floodgates to romance.

It didn’t start out that way, anyway. The Romans had a feast they called Lupercalia, in which they got drunk, ran around naked, flogged women, and sacrificed a dog and a goat. Then it transformed into Valentine’s Day because Emperor Claudius executed two guys named Valentine in the third century AD. The Catholic church martyred them. Somehow the dates melded together, and became a celebration of fertility and love. Shakespeare romanticized it.

Then, in 1913, Hallmark started making cards. So there is a little bit of truth behind those who complain that it’s a commercial holiday… Although they’re probably just sandbagging.

Valentine’s Day came early this year. Actually it wasn’t even this year. I was walking through Wal-mart near end December, and the candy hearts were on the shelf right next to a big sign that said, “Christmas Sale!”

To say “no” to chocolate requires a special type of ability. This is a talent I do not have.

However, at this stage in my life I am becoming more and more aware of the evils of sugar. Dad had a bum ticker. He was diabetic, too. I just don’t have the DNA to slough off sugar that easily. I gave it up last summer. As with most habits, the best way to break the sugar addiction is to replace it. I decided to trick my body into thinking it was having a strawberry/banana shake every day.

Enter the smoothie. Here’s how it works: I take several green, leafy veggies. (Have you ever wondered how you can eat the recommended number of veggies in one day? Here’s the easy way.) As it turns out, it doesn’t take a large volume of specific foods to give you the vitamins you need. So I use a tablespoon of peas, a scoop of frozen broccoli, some leaf spinach and/or kale. Green beans are always good to include; fresh if possible. I throw them into the blender. I cut up a raw carrot. (Carrots add a good sweetening element, and Mom had macular degeneration, so I need all the help I can get.) Into the mix it goes. I add a tablespoon of blueberries (perhaps the greatest warrior against cholesterol and heart disease). Then, I put in three or four big fat strawberries, and the essential banana. To blend it, I add almond milk and press the button.

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The result is sometimes not very pretty. All those colors mix up to make a smoothie that is grey or beige – not the succulent shade of pink you would want. You might have to add a few more berries to taste, in the beginning. Besides, there are all kinds of recipes available, chock full of a variety of ingredients. Smoothies galore.

The benefits are many and varied: Daily allowance of veggies. Ease of preparation. Energy boost. Weight loss. Improved digestion. Reduce sugar cravings. The list goes on and on.

When I started replacing sugar and starch breakfast (toast and jelly or cereal and cow’s milk) with the smoothies, I noticed right away a change in my gut. My stomach felt happy. The smoothie went down so easily, was so light and digestible, but didn’t leave me hungry or needing solid food. I thought my stomach was thanking me. I thought my heart would thank me too.

It sounds weird, but a Valentine’s Day smoothie sounds a lot better to me than a box of chocolates, or a sweater with a hole in it.

Come to think of it, I could use a new blender. It might not be a bad idea to break the appliance rule, just this once.

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About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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