A few months ago, after a period of some significant health struggles, I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet. The transition wasn’t terribly awful, but it has been a constant source of lessons in self-control, self-care, and humility. I hate asking other people to accommodate me so much so that I spent a lot of money on a lot of tests to tell me what I already knew. I needed to cut the gluten and dairy. But hey, now I have a doctor to blame my extra fussiness on right?
In all seriousness, it had been a rough season of mothering, working, volunteering, and struggling every day with the heavy weight of anxiety, fatigue, and a stomach which often refused to cooperate with me. I knew something was wrong. I knew something had to change. I also knew I wanted to try to attack the problem holistically. So while yes I did adjust my diet, I also starting making time for quiet, studying, reading, and slimming down my schedule. Perhaps the last one was the toughest in our society of more. But back to the diet.
A friend of mine asked me yesterday as she was salivating over some donuts (she is on day 21 or something of Whole30) if it ever gets easier. I said yes with the caveat I feel so much better so it’s not worth it. Which is mostly true. It does get easier and I am feeling better. But I think it’s getting easier because I am learning self-control, not because I am any less in love with pizza and donuts. Case-in-point, several weeks ago I convinced a group of girlfriends to take a detour on our way home from Nashville so I could get a gluten-free, dairy-free donut. It was glorious. Some days, as I watch co-workers or friends eat foods I used to love, it’s tough. It makes me want to abandon ship and say “ah what’s the point.” I am learning, though, anything great in life takes work. Hard work. And sacrifice. And lots of moments salivating over donuts and then walking away. Not because a donut is bad. But because there is something better.
Isn’t that what Jesus offered us? An abundant life (John 10:10). Not an easy life. Not a life full of sunshine and roses. But an abundant life. A life of less burdens, less anxiety, less striving (Phil 4:6, John 14:27). Note: I did not say an easy life or a life without struggles or heartache or loss. Jesus said if you follow me, you will have trouble. He said if they persecuted me they will persecuted you. He didn’t offer us an easy life. But he did offer us an abundant life and he promised to never leave us. He promised us something better.
Slowly, I am learning to live in light of the something better. To say no to the current shiny object in light of what is better. To say no to the food I know will land me in a heap of pain, frustration, and anxiety. To say no to the activity that doesn’t build community or fit on my short list of things important to me. To give up the pursuit of the good for the pursuit of the best. Good isn’t bad. And perfection is not the goal. But leaning into self-control and sacrifice and discomfort can be good gifts in certain seasons. They certainly have been for me. And in case you are bemoaning my diet or convinced everything I eat must taste like cardboard, I present to you one of the best chocolate cakes I have had in my life. Even my husband liked it. Enjoy:)
CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE
(grain-free, refined-sugar-free and dairy-free)
For the cake:
2 cups blanched almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla
For the vegan chocolate ganache:
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
4 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup almond milk or coconut milk
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 6-inch round cake pans with coconut oil. Mix almond flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, water and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
For the vegan chocolate ganache:
Melt chocolate and coconut oil in thick saucepan or double broiler. Stir and remove from heat when melted. Slowly add maple syrup and stir to incorporate. Allow to cool. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl and beat in almond butter until a thick, whippy frosting is formed. Add almond or coconut milk as needed for consistency.
To assemble the cake:
Allow cakes to cool. Place one cake layer on a plate. Place a dollop of chocolate ganache on top of cake and smooth over the cake. Layer the second cake over the ganache layer and repeat with a layer of ganache. Store the cake in refrigerator until serving time.