Halloween marks the beginning of the truly scary season. Not because of ghosts, goblins, or creatures that annoyingly go bump in the night when I just want a few hours of uninterrupted sleep…I’m looking at you, cats. No, Halloween is terrifying because that’s the start of Eating Season. Truth be told, most people treat every day like it’s the opening day of the eating season.
But Halloween marks the time when even the most healthy eating among us will be pressured into potlucks, family feasts, work holiday parties, and shorter days inside where the cold weather induces a desire for a “going into hibernation” calorie surplus. Goodbye, hard fought fitness gains, it was nice knowing you. It’s a shame, because abs really love dark and spooky Halloween shadows. If I had my way, all my photos would be lit by candlelight. Feast your empty haunted eyes all you want, ghosts:
Raiding the kid’s candy haul was like the starter pistol on a race (ironic, I know) prompting me to eat as much heavy winter foods as possible. Then spring would arrive to hit me with its shameful light revealing what I had become in the darkness. If I had one bad day of eating junk food…say all the premo chocolate in the kid’s halloween bag…then I’d spiral into a terrible pattern of eating anything and everything because I’d already blown the diet.
Really, it was just an excuse, and any old one would do as long as I didn’t have to hold myself accountable. I had that one Snickers bar, so now I might as well eat this entire cake and ice cream. Logically, it makes no sense, but that’s the power of excuses. Any old one will do, as long as it keeps one from confronting hard truths. Facts need not bother, as they were not needed nor appreciated in any way.
Now that I’ve broken free of that vicious pattern, I can take matters into my own hands when it comes to Halloween candy. There’s no reason to feel left out. That’s what leads to most failing at their healthy lifestyle and being defeated by the old “just one won’t kill me” which everyone knows means “the whole bag” instead of one.
We can make our own delicious chocolate candy, and since it’s healthy and additive free, there’s no reason for it to derail any eating plans or lifestyles. Not to mention, there is some very scary stuff in chocolate candies nowadays, cheap fillers and preservatives meant to stretch real ingredients and extend shelf life so corporations can make more money.
Take peanut butter cups. They are delicious, no doubt about it. You’d justify eating a package or five by thinking it’s just chocolate and peanut butter, and sure, it’s probably full of sugar, but nothing crazy or dangerous. Well, think again:
You see the usual suspects, sugar listed four times under different names (Sugar, Lactose, Sugar again, Dextrose) but what about those ominous abbreviations just lurking about, trying not to be noticed? PGPR and TBHQ. Don’t mind us, pay no attention. Just whatever you do, never say our names three times in a row while staring into a mirror at midnight.
PGPR stands for Polyglycerol polyricinoleate. It’s a snotty yellow substance that looks like something Slimer from Ghostbusters might leave on the floor of a hotel room. It’s derived from castor beans and it’s used to thin out chocolate. Castor beans also make castor oil…you know…the stuff that makes you spew out of both ends if you eat a spoonful of it. If you aren’t familiar, just Youtube the pie eating contest in the movie Stand By Me.
Why do they use it in your peanut butter cups? Simple, PGPR is cheap to make, and cocoa butter is expensive. So they cut their real chocolate expense by thinning it out a batch with this vomit ghost snot to double or triple the volume, charge you the same amount or even raise prices, and pass the profits right into their greedy giant wallets. It also is more shelf stable than pure chocolate, so they can crank out bigger batches at a time to save money as well.
Studies have shown that rats and chickens suffer from liver enlargement when ingesting high quantities of the stuff, but it’s doubtful you’d ever eat enough to cause that issue. If you ever do go overboard and eat way too many in a day and get a case of the ol’ bubble guts, however, the castor bean concoction would be the reason.
They tell you that you are buying delicious chocolate, but you are really buying a cheap processed preservative with a bit of chocolate flavor and a crypt full of potential side effects. It’s a trick, not a treat.
TBHQ, on the other evil hand, is a different demon. The name it’s mamma gave it is Tertiary butylhydroquinone. It’s a preservative used to once again extend shelf life well into the zombie apocalypse, preventing rancidity and discoloration. It’s a grainy crystalline substance that smells a bit funky when produced. It’s used all over the processed foods world, but fun fact, it’s also used for beauty products, paints, and varnishes.
Call me crazy, but something that can weatherproof my outdoor wood deck is not something I’d want my kids to be eating in their candy. The FDA, of course, says it’s perfectly fine…as long as it’s not more than .02 percent of any food you eat. Tip the scale any more than that, all bets are off. Waterproof insides, maybe, no one knows for sure.
It comes with all the usual additive fun stuff, tumors in test rats, liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects, convulsions, and even paralysis in lab animals. You know how sometimes you feel like you can’t move after binging on some boxed processed junk food? Turns out there may actually be a reason for that after all. There are studies that show it alters human behavior as well.
The Feingold Diet, which is an approach to combating ADHD through diet, strongly recommends avoiding any foods that use it. That sugar rush you blame for the kids having the zoomies may actually be a lab induced cost cutting measure. What do they care? The corporations selling this stuff are rich enough that only their nannies have to deal with it. Children are strictly forbidden on their private luxury yachts, I’m sure.
Again, the FDA says it’s fine in tiny amounts, but estimates have the typical American consuming way more TBHQ than they should. That might explain why everyone seems to have lost their minds recently.
I’ve said it over and over, and it bears repeating again. Read the ingredients list. You don’t have to know what every word means, or even how to pronounce it. It’s a damn good indicator that some corporate jerk is getting rich while sacrificing your health and well being if there are words with more than two syllables in it, or an abbreviation that looks like the name of a piece of military equipment. So let those corporate fat cats pay for their yachts, mistresses, and alimony from some other dummy.
We can make our own peanut butter cups, full of antioxidant flavonoids, minerals and healthy fats. Instead of getting mind altering chemicals that change our behavior and make our liver swell up like roadkill on a hot day, we instead will get improved blood flow, reduced insulin resistance, increased microbiome diversity, and even improve the brain’s ability to make new connections between neurons.
If there’s one thing I’m sure of, everyone in this country can definitely stand to get a few more neurons firing on a regular basis. These treats are super easy to make, require no baking, and as far as preservatives go…they will disappear so fast, there is no need.
These cups taste better than the original. Might be the lack of paint varnish and Slimer sludge, but that’s just a guess on my part. Keep your abs, throw out your old big winter jeans, and get ready to emerge in the springtime beach ready. Your brain, liver, and wallet will all be happy. You might not even need candlelight to get the definition to pop.
Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
Two 3 ounce dark chocolate candy bars (At least 70%, 85% ifan ya ain’t scairt)
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup all natural peanut butter (only ingredients should be peanuts and salt)
2 tablespoons grass fed butter
2 -3 tablespoons grass fed half and half
1/4 cup powdered monkfruit sweetener
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Set up a double boiler rig using a bowl and a pot with some hot water over medium heat. Break up the chocolate bars and add the coconut oil, stir with a wooden spoon until melted:
Once the chocolate has melted, turn off the heat but leave the bowl over the water to keep the chocolate warm. Use a disher to fill the bottom of cupcake liners with a layer of chocolate. I was able to get 10 regular sized liners out of this amount. Place the pan in the freezer to firm up while you make the filling:
In another saucepan, melt the peanut butter, powdered monkfruit, vanilla, and butter over low heat, stirring constantly:
Once the mix is heated through, add the half and half one tablespoon at a time until it becomes creamy and spreadable:
Use a spoon and scoop up a load of the peanut butter spread. Mash it flat into a disk on the spoon and then drop it onto the hardened chocolate from the freezer:
Use the disher to top the peanut butter disks with another layer of chocolate and then freeze again for 10 minutes:
Remove the cups from the tray and store in the fridge in a lidded container. Serve and enjoy:
See the list of all Jason Murphy’s recipes at www.mysaline.com/jason-murphy.