I am sitting here, at my dining room table, at a quarter past midnight wondering where in the world did this day go. It is winter break (one benefit of working in the U.S. public education system) and I am not relaxed. I have a clear ache in my neck, my jaw is clenched, and I feel wired – unable to sleep.
I’ve referenced minimalism in a previous post and find myself constantly going back to this concept. There is a great deal of noise in this world which can be stifling. Half the time I feel as though I am walking around scattered, with a heavy chest, or panic-stricken, as a result of a busy and stressful schedule. While some of this “weight” is legitimate (i.e., legal deadlines at work, ongoing social commitments, etc.), I often impose a great deal of unnecessary burden on myself. I tend to concoct these ridiculous deadlines, lists, and obligations for no clear rhyme or reason. Moreover, I feel suffocated by the number of “things” in my life, sometimes getting the impulse to throw it all away. I overcompensate by running around my house like a chicken with it’s head cut off, grabbing miscellaneous items and tossing them into a paper sack to donate.
I think it is safe to say that many of you likely follow in these same footsteps and can understand where I am coming from. Seeing as it is nearly 2017 and this is the time of year we start to become optimistic about the upcoming 365 days, making resolutions and hoping for a new beginning, I feel it is appropriate to reflect on this past year and it’s many challenges (because 2016 was clearly a terrible year on a personal, national and global level).
So come January 1st, I know I need to make a change. I hate to make New Year’s resolutions because we all know the research – they don’t last, they are temporary. And this can’t be temporary. I am desperately clinging to the hope that I can change, finally. Permanently. I am done imposing arbitrary deadlines on myself, stressing over realities I truly cannot change, and contributing to a world of over-consumption. I want balance, I need balance. And less. Or as Shauna Niequist, author of Present Over Perfect, eloquently writes:
What I ache for these days is space, silence, stillness. Sabbath. I want to clear away space and noise and things to do and things to manage. I want less of everything. Less stuff. Less rushing. Less proving and pushing. Less hustle. Less snapping at my kids so that they’ll get themselves into the car faster so we can go buy more stuff that we’re going to throw away. Less consumption. Less feeling like my mind is fragmented and my stomach is bloated and my life is out of control.
Preach, Shauna. I know how you feel.
Thus, in light of this conversation, I knew I had the perfect recipe to share. It’s been on my list (yes, another list and a long one at that) for months. I came across this recipe for chocolate bark in one of my most adored cookbooks, The Food Lover’s Cleanse, by Sara Dickerman. It is one of my go-to desserts because of its short list of ingredients, healthful qualities, and satisfying nature. It feels grown-up or sophisticated, unlike the milk or white chocolate bark of my early days. And it’s the perfect addition to your New Year’s spread, without taking up a lot of time or ingredients.
I am hoping to incorporate more things like this (simple, healthy, imperfect) into my life as I venture into 2017 and eventually into my 30’s come August. I figure I’d better start now and hopefully get some traction before the new year rings in.
Dark Chocolate Bark with Honey-Toasted Quinoa and Amaranth
Modified from Sara Dickerman’s, The Food Lover’s Cleanse
2 Theo’s 70% chocolate bars (3 oz each)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 heaping tbsp quinoa
2 heaping tbsp amaranth seeds
1 1/2 tsp honey
flaky sea salt
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large frying pan, heat the quinoa and amaranth seeds over medium, stirring them every few seconds to avoid burning. After they begin to pop, continue heating for approximately 10-15 more seconds. Remove from heat and stir in the honey until all of the quinoa and amaranth is incorporated into small clumps. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1-minute. Stir the chocolate and continue heating until melted, stirring with a spatula every 30 seconds. One the chocolate is smooth, stir in the cinnamon. Pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper. Spread the chocolate into a thin, even layer using a knife or icing spatula. Then, sprinkle the clumps of toasted quinoa and amaranth across the chocolate. Finish with a couple pinches of flaky sea salt. Chill in the fridge until hard, approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Once firm, break into pieces and serve. Store in the fridge or freezer to avoid the chocolate from melting.