Halloween is over, and the house is full of sweets. There is no explaining what possessed me to bake 100 peanut butter cookies on Halloween…very likely the ghost of my mom goading me on to put batch after batch in the oven: “It’s for the trick-or-treaters!”

“But mom, we never get trick-or-treaters at the house. We’re too rural.”

“…just in case…you should bake a few more…” as she guides my mitten to the cookie sheet…

Samhain is the perfect time of year to engage in witless banter with your dead mother. As long as the veil was thin, I’m sure she took full advantage to arrange for the devilishly delectable double-death-by-chocolate cake masquerading as “brownies” that magically appeared on the dining room table from a surrogate neighborhood grandmother. “Yikes! There’s no escape!”

But perhaps there’s something our grandmother’s are trying to teach us, here. (okay, mom…I’m listening…) 

Winter approaches swiftly and silently, and without warning at this altitude. While most folks can wait until Thanksgiving to put on a few extra pounds, a hearty all-Hallows-eve indulgence will serve you well in the long run. Think of all the things you set yourself up to do before the snow?

 

Picking rose hips, piling slash, stacking wood…SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

You will need some insulation to soften the edges, to nurture you and keep you warm. It will be a long, cold, winter this year. 

The health benefits of indulging – every once in a while…

Reduce stress

Healthline.com reports that stress can lead to heartburn, high blood pressure, and compromised liver and heart function. While indulging too much creates stressors on their own, moderate indulgence like sleeping in, not going to the gym, and enjoying a glass of wine really are better for our overall physical and emotional well-being.

Chocolate is sooo good for you

You’ve heard this, right? You’ve justified a candy bar or two thinking, hey – this is actually good for me! But what is it, really that makes chocolate good for your health? Women’s Health Magazine tells us that cacao:

  • a good source of flavanoids – antioxidants that increase vascular tone and reduce risk of heart disease
  • packed with theobromine – this is the chemical responsible for chocolate’s “feel good” effect, by quieting the vagus nerve. This leads researches to believe chocolate may be equally as effective as codine for reducing pain, and quieting spasmodic coughing – without the nasty side effects.
  • is more satisfying than white or milk chocolate. Countless studies confirm that indulging in dark chocolate can help us lose weight
  • is a natural and healthful way to reduce stress instead of smoking or drinking
  • can prevent diabetes: “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.” (“Healthy Chocolate” womanshealthmag.com)
  • can increase brain functioning, again, thanks to flavonols: “Other researchers from Oxford University and Norway looked at chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by studying the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.”

Of course, all these benefits are only to be found in truly dark chocolate – 70% cacao or better! And while we’re at it, make sure it’s organic so you’re not dealing with the subtle side-effects of pesticides and chemical additives. (So, grandma, was that brownie organic?)

the magical disappearing brownie for breakfast
the magical disappearing brownie for breakfast

Listening to your body

As a fertile woman, I crave chocolate, raisins and peanut butter with a deadly vengeance at those certain tell-tale times of the month. Why? All those foods are great sources of iron, a vital mineral lost in the monthly flow. I also find myself reaching for those rich, heavy foods when I’ve indulged too much in coffee, alcohol or exercise – things that deplete the delicate balance of vitamins and minerals in the body. And then my body tells me to take a nap.

But this morning, I decided to go for a run. I love running on the indoor track at my local community center – there’s no structure, there’s no teachers yelling at me or bright blaring lights and loud techno music first thing in the morning. I just started running a couple month’s ago – after a hiatus of several years. Finally I have worked my way up to a 10 minute mile with ten minutes of stretching before and after. Sometimes I give myself a victory lap…and I was tempted to do it this morning. But there was something holding me back, slowing me down, stealing my breath and sapping my strength – “oh yeah! Brownies for breakfast…do I kill myself out of guilt or do I listen to my body telling me to stop?”

Today I stopped one lap short of a mile, with gratitude for my mother, and my grandmothers, and especially for chocolate brownies. Amen.

 

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