With summer slipping through our fingers, and the crazy days of school schedules lurking right around the corner, I’m simultaneously trying to ignore reality and brainstorm ways to keep from feeling completely overwhelmed by getting back to the Monday-Friday crush. Of course for me, the balm for the latter usually involves baked goods (you might have guessed as much).
At the risk of sounding like I’m a Dalai Lama impersonator or something, can we all agree that a balanced life is the best life? I’m always happiest when I’m living in a state of mind and stomach where there’s room for everything. Tall, icy glasses of fresh water living happily alongside venti Pinot Grigios. A lunch that involves a green salad the size of my head, and a dessert of frosted cake (preferably with a side of latte and gossip, if we’re being specific). That sort of living.
The thing is, I don’t want to trap myself into a dark corner where things are off-limits. That attitude was for my 20s, you hear? I am trying my best to live free and easy and balanced these (read: most) days. For much of the week, I aim for meals that are full of fresh, health-giving foods, so that when the time comes for a big honking brownie (or, uh, two), I’m not having to break emergency glass to get at it. And Lord knows there are certain times of a lady’s life when you will most definitely break glass to get at a big honking brownie. It’s SCIENCE.
The way I see it, there are few “bleh” situations in life that can’t be remedied, or at least vastly improved, with a solid supply of snacks. Long wait at the doctor’s office? Snack. Jury duty? Snack. The kind of horrifying, red-faced toddler tantrum that has said child doing some sort of exotic backbend in the shopping cart that would impress even the most accomplished cast member of Cirque de Soleil? Snack, preferably in cookie form. Especially in cases like that, snacks are the currency of my life. (Holler if you hear me.)
And let’s not forget the most snack-necessary situation of all: the summer road trip. Yes, even the most desolate stretch of highway (or long-haul flight) can seem a little less daunting when there’s some good munchies in your chariot. I’m not even that big fan of road trips, but my enthusiasm can be bought with a box of Cheez-Its, some Twizzlers, and a diet Coke. After a few hours of that menu, though, I’m bound to want something a little more virtuous. And is it just me, or do the crazy-making effects of junk food on an airplane seem to multiply even faster?
At any rate, lately I’ve been trying to plan ahead a little better and have some healthier options in my bag for traveling, to balance out some of the inevitable treat foods (when hour three of a cross-country flight hits, you will pry these Pringles from my cold, dead hands). This could be as simple as a protein bar, some nuts or string cheese and a piece of fruit, or it could be as crafty and Pinterest Mom as making my own travel snacks. I swear, this actually does happen! In fact, it happened just the other day. I’m SERIOUS.
When it comes to putting a healthier spin on baking and sweet treat making, I think we know by now that I’m not really an all-or-nothing type of person. As is evident by the recipes and philosophy in the pages of Real Sweet, I’d sooner jump off the roof than try to pretend that a brownie made with black beans makes life worth living. Of course, there is something lovely and virtuous about wanting to live a healthier lifestyle, and still find a way to treat ourselves, but I think there’s a way we can get there without resorting to trickery or deprivation masquerading as comfort food.
We’re pretty much all in the thick of summer fun right now, so I’ll get right to the point. Sometimes I have a recipe making and eating experience so transcendant, it haunts me for weeks. These Dream Bars from Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love fall into the category of Insanely Haunting Recipe. Like, say, even after two solid weeks where I ran off to my hometown of Chicago and chewed-and-sighed through the world’s best hot dogs and Italian beef, new-to-me bakery visits, beer and pizza and a burger so smack-the-table good that it probably ruined every burger experience for the rest of my life, I was still thinking about these cookie bars.
I used to be the queen of multitasking. Before children, I had the awesome ability to keep all kinds of balls in the air–thoughts, plans, chores, jobs, appointments, workouts, clicking off items on my to-do list with relative ease. (Never mind that I always thought OMG I’M SOOOO BUSY AND EXHAUSTED. Heh, heh, little Shauna. Weren’t you so sweet and naive in your perceived level of craziness? You had no idea what was coming, love. Why don’t you and your tiny jeans go and spend three hours getting a haircut and highlights without having to find a babysitter and try and wrap your brain around it. You can’t even.)
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