Tag Archives: Dessert

Day 14: Clean Eating Challenge fulfilled

We did it. We did the Buzz Feed Clean Eating challenge and didn’t cheat. We stared down the bear and it walked away … for now. We lost a few pounds, feel a ton better, re-established needed discipline, revved up our metabolism with small meals and most importantly broke that compulsive hold over me for dessert.

I’d say it’s a success.

But now the real fun begins. We have to sustain it. So really it’s not over at all. In fact, it’s just beginning. We will not have a celebratory In-N-Out Burger or a massive piece of chocolate cake. It won’t work that way. We’ll stay the course as boring as that sounds.

We will make adjustments:

  • like no more salads for dinner. I hate salad for dinner. I want DINNER for dinner, not more lunch.
  • I will also add in some bread, because I love to make it. But not too much, and not too often. I’m resolved to only eat breads when I make them to make sure we don’t eat too much.
  • We will have dessert now again. But again we’ll try to limit it to those we make and limit the sugar we eat to those we intentionally choose, not pick up through processed foods or late-night snacks.

All of that was needed. In short, this challenge helped us feel back on track again. These things above, along with an intentional plan to eat smaller meals, eat clean, focus on vegetables and stay consistent will help us transition and make this sustainable. Besides, we were eating mostly well. It was the outer edges that were problems. The binges, the second-helpings, the weekends, the late-night snacks that were destroying all the point of the mostly well we did do.

No food challenge is perfect. This had its flaws. But would I recommend it? Heartily. It’s the best thing we’ve done in a year.

But like I said, now the hard part comes. We have to sustain it, which leads me to the single most important lesson I learned these past two weeks: I have to treat my eating like I do my alcoholism. 

I really do.

And it depresses the shit out of me.

I simply don’t ever want to be fat again. After five years of fighting back from the gradual creep into dangerous obesity, after three years of having lost 100 pounds and keeping at least 80 off, after five years of regular exercise that has me in good enough condition to run a mountainous half-marathon in two weeks, after five years of intentional, focused, healthy living, after five years of sobriety, it stuns me to know my body is still fighting me. The battle to stay fit and trim continues. In fact, in may be harder today than when I started 100 pounds ago.

My body just wants its fat back. It’s the only way I can explain it. Plus, my mind wants its addictions and compulsions back. It wants what it wants and since it can no longer have wine or scotch or vodka, it really, really wants chocolate and pizzas and burgers and fries.

Before we stared this challenge, I noticed some weight gain. But more than anything I noticed how badly I wanted dessert at night. How obsessed I had become about certain foods. How much I craved. That’s addictive thinking. In some ways, my addictions to eat the stuff that makes me gain weight is more insidious than my desire for alcohol.

So I have to pursue it the same way in order to be successful. The bear will return. I have to face that. But how I deal with it, how I approach it will make all the difference.

What did I learn these two weeks? That I am in recovery of food and booze, so the work continues…. one day at a time.



Day One: Juice cleanse detoxes dessert addiction

I’m an addict. Of course, that’s well documented here at a site that is basically dedicated to recovery. What’s different about that statement, what might not be as well known, is that as an addict I run a gamut of addictions every day.

I’m an alcoholic who drank every day for twenty years. I haven’t had a drink in more than five. That’s good. I’m doing well.

But I still end up flat footed often when the addict part of me surfaces. I may not be tempted much any more to drink, but the same thought processes in my brain still run amok like a lab let off a leash amid a flock of seagulls.

Lately it’s been sugar. Dessert to be precise. I love dessert. It’s clearly a swapped drug to some extent. I used to love happy hours and nighttime cocktails and everything that made my brain fuzzy and my anxiety quiet. Now, it’s those bites of decadence at the end of a long day. I may not get quite the same buzz experience, but the firing in my brain is pretty similar. Dessert soothes me, as weird as that sounds. And those times I don’t reward myself, I find my mind obsessing on cravings of chocolate late at night watching Netflix and thinking only about a batch of cookies or something like it.

I had to admit, I was powerless. So I looked at the bear within and got serious. I started a food detox, both to combat the growing creep of weight gain, but also to get my mental state aligned properly. I felt out of alignment. Chocolate had knocked me out of balance. This food refocusing is meant to center me up again  and break the addictive thinking about dessert.

(OK, the fact that much of this site is dedicated to food recipes, many that are desserts is not lost on me. I love desserts and will love them again. The challenge is to love within reason!)

Sound extreme? Maybe. Nobody I know of ran a car through a shopping center drunk on dessert, so maybe it’s not as bad. But seeing how obesity is rampant, and people are dying of obesity-related diseases at an epidemic rate, maybe this addiction is extreme.

I don’t know really. I just know I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling complusiveThat is how desserts had become. A compulsion.

So I started this food plan, the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge knowing I needed a higher power. Buzzfeed is it for the next couple of weeks.

But I went a step further as well. I decided I needed to detox a bit before I started. I need to purge the drug of dessert.

So I did a cleanse.

I actually wanted to do a full-scale colonic, but that had to wait. This food challenge couldn’t wait. So I bought a cleanse product from Trader Joe’s that really is a whole bunch of fiber pills. I used it once several years ago and found it helpful, but not invasive. I did one of these cleanses before that and it was well… explosive. Invasive doesn’t do it justice. I felt wrung out from the inside and just didn’t want to experience that much purging this time around.

But to make sure I completely cleanses, I also started my Trader Joe cleanse with a 24 hour fast and juice cleanse.


The Bride and I trotted over to the farmer’s market and about $40 bucks worth of fruits and vegetables. I didn’t have my juicer, so we just mashed them all to bity bits in the blender and made juices the texture of smoothies.



The Bride and I talked about doing a three-day juice cleanse, but about two juices into it, and the cost of the fruits and veggies to sustain it, quickly changed our minds. We settled on one day.

The juices were (not) good. Not. Really, just ugh. I tried to like them. But I was quickly hungry. And the Trader Joes Fiber was twisting my gut a bit. And I was feeling tired and grumpy and and…

Day one sucked, to put it plainly. It was not in the least bit sustainable, which, as I often say, is critical to any food plan. But this wasn’t a food plan, it was detox. It was meant to be hell, I think. Maybe I wanted to punish myself.

What surprised me was not the hunger or the cravings. What did surprise me was my body’s reaction. It rebelled. I felt back pains. My head ached. I felt sluggish. Later in the day I could actually feel the toxins coming off me (ok, not actually actually, but sort of mystically actually… let’s just call it figuratively). I felt like I was… well, hung over, if you can believe that.

I couldn’t. It wasn’t like I was stuffing my face with Ding Dongs for the past three years. I ate pretty well over all. But clearly I was more out of balance than I thought. My dessert cravings had impacted my internal well being.

Turns out, The Bride was right there with me. By the end of the day we were a mess. We slugged off to bed early. As we lay there in the darkness my head swirled. Then I heard the Bride say,

“My head is swimming like I’m drunk. This is nuts.”

Yes. Very. So maybe this food addiction is pretty extreme. Maybe more people should try to detox for a day and see just what their body is trying to tell them. Maybe we’are all little more addicted than we think.

Eat gold, fret for the poor–You can’t do both

My daughter and her significant other were out for a fancy night on the town in our beloved City by the Bay recently. They went to a Michelin Star-rated restaurant to take in the best of culinary offerings in a city loaded with them. Toward the end of the many exotic and extravagantly prepared courses, she texted me a photo. It was dessert, sprinkled with gold.

“I’m not sure how I feel about eating gold,” she wrote.

Thank God, I thought. Because when it gets right down to it, if you say you care about the poor and want to make a difference, you really can’t eat gold. The idea has to bring you up short, just as it did my daughter.

Not that I want to make a bunch of rules here, but the absurdity reaches a point that once you become immune, you lose empathy. Soon, all those good deeds and humanitarian efforts become more about you and less about those in need.

Gold can’t taste good. So this restaurant that built its hefty reputation on taste, goes further into the presentation (the artistry, which obviously I respect and admire) and adds something of real value that drives up the costs but actually diminishes the taste. (my daughter says its not very noticeable). That’s counter to art in my mind.

People of wealth who use it for good should be commended. Philanthropy has long been essential to alleviating the suffering of those on society’s margins. But so much of modern altruism keeps the issues at bay. To be blunt, we like to help the homeless if we don’t have to smell them. We love to text $10 to the Red Cross far more than spend $10 on a couple cups of coffee to listen to the problems of someone who is scared shitless because they are on society’s margins.

I love San Francisco. I love the people and the liberal ethos that truly believes society as a whole can do a better job. Incredible movements of social change have been cultivated in San Francisco, from gay marriage to local food to religious tolerance to homeless activism. But too often my fellow San Franciscans want to cultivate a lifestyle of consumption, wealth and status with a healthy dose of altruism sprinkled into the stew.

For example, they’ll preach a good game about how we vote with our dollars when it comes to food, suggesting that anyone who doesn’t pay top dollar for local, organic, healthy food is contributing to the industrialized food economy that makes us sick and kills us. But then they think nothing of paying hundreds of dollars for a single meal with dessert dusted in gold.

The hypocrisy never hits home; their message of change is lost on those who need it most. The industrialized food system is killing the poor most of all. But they are also the least able to afford to vote with their dollars. Perhaps one less gold-dusted dessert instead spent on three bags of groceries for a family in need would send a bit more of a message for change.

Gold on dessert is a waste, simple as that. Until the wealthy recognize their own wasteful consumption and extravagance, they mute their own voice that advocates for those on society’s margins.

I told my daughter next time ask for the gold on the side and then give that to the panhandler on the walk home. Now that would be a vote for change.

Caramels and creativity go sweetly together

Do not re-invent the wheel is not a very useful cliche’ most of the time. In this day and age where everyone is writing and experimenting and inventing and creating and starting businesses and copying others and trying to find their little niche’, most everything has already been invented to some degree. If you don’t re-invent, you become a clone, not a creator and certainly not an Effin Artist.

By re-inventing the wheel we find our own explorations. Sure John Muir hiked it first, but it feels new and adventurous to us the first time we tread in his footsteps. The same goes for our creative expressions, whether they be on canvas or paper or baking sheets. Explore. Go off the trail. Re-invent. Discover. The journey beats the arrival. So, yes, re-invent the wheel… except for those times its just stupid to do so. Like the wheel. Let’s face it, that’s a good one. Don’t EFF with it.

Caramel, I discovered is the wheel of sweet creations. Folks have spent a lot of time getting this thing down and unless you have a masochistic love of frustration and failure, follow their lead.

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Before embarking on caramels of my own, I read a lot of different blogs about how to do it. Disclaimer: When I google something I typically skip the first page of Website powerhouses like the Food Network and the blogs that are so widely read you have to shift through ads like chopping through a jungle with a machete.

Once again, as usual, my bride disagrees. She goes to the ones with hundreds of reviews, reads those hundreds of reviews, and picks the one most celebrated. Then she follows the recipe like the Essenes. If I try to suggest a modification she threatens to banish me from the commune. It isn’t pretty.  She obviously agrees you don’t re-invent the wheel.

I like the blogs from un-celebrated artists like me, who do this for the love of the game. It may not be the most professional or glitzy, but it has heart. It has sweat and soul, still unmolested by corporate ads, (ASIDE: to any corporate advertisers out there wanting to populate this blog… just kidding?! see below… Apparently I’m a sellout.). just like my blogs, which are supposed to be short, I go against the grain and write long and longer. Screw them. I’m not People Magazine here, OK. Relax. Get some coffee, enjoy the read… or not. Really, it’s OK. Maybe next time.


In my search for caramel help, I landed on a blog more akin to my wife’s thinking than my own.  The simple video sucked me in. Soon I was following their footsteps and remarkably for me, staying on the path.

The folks at inspiredtaste.com know how to make the wheel. Their caramel recipe was spot -on and in the dozen batches I made I never varied. Ok, that’s not true. I Nearly Never Varied. I added a 1/4 tsp of vanilla by the second batch and then swirled in chocolate ganache by the seventh. But that’s it. For me that’s as coloring inside the lines as I get. I’m proud of myself for simply having lines to color in at all.

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So really, if you want to learn to make caramel, go watch their video. Whallaaaa! You’re an expert.  Don’t waste your time looking here for secrets. I didn’t invent the wheel.

I’ll say only this: Don’t stress it. It’s fun. Everyone makes caramel akin to splitting atoms. I’ve not split atoms, but it sounds stressful. Caramel is not… I repeat… not stressful. If it gets too hot too fast and turns too brown or hard, well as my daughter says, “that’s a first-world problem.”  You are only out some butter, sugar and cream, so try again. Besides, even hard, brown caramel is pretty tasty. Eating my less than brilliant projects is not what I call stressful.

I give a full recommendation to two key tips from the folks at inspiredtaste. 1) Put the lid on the pot as they say and screw that whole wet-the-sides-of-the-pan-with-a-pastry-brush thing most often advised. This is easier and more effective by far. and 2) Put the pan right back on the stove to boil water in it. This cleans it up in a snap, which is the one stressful part of caramels– cleaning– if you don’t do this step.

I made a scad of caramels and built up plenty of excitement on the ole email chain vying for the package winner this week. I laid out a big hint saying I wanted a bribe. I have several days free after New Year’s and wanted company to go snowboarding. Absolutely nobody took the bait. But my brother did take the bribe route and ordered caramels for 50 at his Christmas party. WINNER WINNER chicken DINNER! Soon the Test Kitchen as a football- watching, candy-wrapping sweatshop:

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The reaction from my loved ones was… well, let’s just say enthusiastic:


“EFF off…. you sold out. If all it meant was cold hard cash, I’ll just go right over to Trader Joe’s…”

ME: “Effin Artist gotta eat!”

“I’m thoroughly disgusted.”

ME: “Wait, I’m confused. Effin Artist doesn’t gotta eat?! You callin’ me fat?”

“sellouts always have excuses…”

“Sorry I haven’t been getting your emails today, I sent them all to spam.”

Tough crowd, my family. We play rough. And on that note, we’ll move on from the Caramel and move into something less hostile (we hope ;-)). Next week’s test kitchen ingredient: Peanut Butter!

Effin Artist out!