The taste buds are an interesting part of our anatomy: whatever we feed them on a regular basis, they crave. For example, if you feed them white flour, that’s what they want all the time: pretzels, muffins, pizza dough, etc. The same goes for white sugar or any other unhealthy ingredient. There is a very close connection between the taste buds, the other senses (i.e., smell, sight), and the brain. The eye sees the doughnut. The brain knows it is a doughnut and has memory of the taste. The taste buds want the doughnut. (An apple? Ick. Who wants that when I have this lovely doughnut?)
Over time, our taste buds begin to crave these things, which is why many Americans don’t eat fruits or vegetables very often – their taste buds aren’t the least bit interested in them because they have not been exposed to them very often. The eyes do not find them attractive. The brain has a shortage of delicious fruit & veggie memories.
The good news is, the reverse is also true. If you start to make healthy fruits and veggies a normal part of your daily diet, your whole body will begin to crave those flavors. Your eyes will be drawn to the bright colors of the produce section. Your brain will build memories of delectable fruit and veggie meals. Even more, you will start to recognize that you are more alert and your moods more stable when you eat well, which adds to the desire for fruits and veggies. Before you know it, your taste buds will be craving fruits and veggies – and – dare I say it – turned off by white flour- and sugar-filled snacks!
But even those of us who eat well on a regular basis may find it hard to get back in the swing after the holidays. Our taste buds may have taken a temporary Pinnocchio-style vacation to Pleasure Island. After weeks of being surrounded by sugar-filled holiday goodies, it is very hard to tell our taste buds to give them up for fruits and veggies again.
The key is to make it as easy as possible to do the right thing throughout the day. Plan ahead. Where most people get stuck is not during meals – it’s snack time that causes the trouble. Think about this – vending machines at school or work rarely, if ever, have any snacks that are good for you. The same is true for Drive-thru’s, or even pre-packaged snacks at the supermarket. We are busy, we need to make our lives easier…so we grab those bagged snacks to have around the house.
NO! STOP! Put down those junky foods and make these!
These bars are one of the easiest things I have ever posted on here. They take no time at all. And, although you may have to buy one new ingredient you’re unfamiliar with (coconut cream*), once you make a habit of keeping it in the house regularly (instead of your chips…ahem…), then you’re home free, because you can throw practically anything else in there and it will taste good. I made the bars below with golden raisins, peanuts, cashews, and cacao nibs. Why? Because that’s what I had around the house. What do you have in your house? The possibilities are endless.
(*Coconut cream is available online or in healthy grocery stores such as Whole Foods. The brand doesn’t matter – just be sure that you buy coconut cream, NOT coconut oil. You cannot substitute… although the recipe does call for a small bit of coconut oil, too.)
For another way to use coconut cream, check out Gingerbread Fudge.
WHATEVER Coconut Bark
1 generous cup of coconut cream (also called cream of coconut, ‘coconut manna’, or coconut cream concentrate, depending on the brand)
2 cups of ‘WHATEVER’: dried fruit, nuts, seeds, citrus zest, cacao nibs, a few mini chocolate chips, etc.
1 tbsp. coconut oil (but no more than that!)
1 packet Nu Stevia (note: try it the first time w/1 pack. If you need it sweeter, add more next time)
Tiny pinch of salt
With a hand mixer, blend together everything but the ‘whatever’ ingredients until smooth.
Stir in the ‘WHATEVER’ by hand.
Spread the whole mixture out on a sheet lined with parchment paper or wax paper, to 1/4″ thick. (It does not matter what shape it is, as long as it’s 1/4″ thick.)
Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
Carefully break apart. Store in fridge.