Discipline is remembering what you want. David Campbell said that. He is the founder of Saks Fifth Avenue. Those 6 words, and that man’s philosophy, has been a beacon for me through the years. I probably say those words to myself at least once a day. Life is deliciously FULL of opportunities to make the not-so-great choice.
We are the luckiest ducklings to live in a time where just about anything we could imagine is available to us. And living in New York, I am extremely fortunate to have access to some of the best eats, music, art, theatre, drinks, you name it… New York’s got it. It is very hard to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ or ‘just a little.’
If you know me or have been reading this blog regularly, you know that I am a YES person. What kind of person are you? Maybe you are sensible, in control, mindful, thoughtful, well planned. Do you practice moderation? Do you have strict rules that you obey? I believe there is absolutely no wrong or right, whether we are yes people, no people, or maybe people. We all have goals and however we get there is how we get there.
My holiday season of cooking for clients, attending celebrations, and planning menus is sure to provide many chances for me to over indulge and sample one too many of my own wares. So I decided that I wanted to conduct a little experiment. How many days could I go without treats? Yes, treats. For me, that is cookies, cupcakes, chocolate, candy, cake - the GOOD stuff. Basically, I wanted to remove refined and processed sugar from my diet. As I type this, I am on day 15! I am hoping to make it to Thanksgiving at the very least, New Years and beyond at the very most!
Why such extremism, Lisa? Why can’t you just take a bite, a taste, and use good judgment, you might be saying to yourself? When it comes to sugar, I don’t seem to have any good judgment. I am a yes person to all things sugar. I am paid to make delicious desserts for clients and I get great joy from making sweets for my loved ones. I was getting a little over exposed to treats and they were not special anymore. With the end of the year coming and the big cooking and eating holidays looming on the calendar, I wanted to clean my slate a bit. Create a little space for better habits now, so I can start 2014 feeling really good.
And THAT is what it is really all about, right? We want to feel good. Yes, we want to look good, be loved, fit into fantastic clothes, be noticed, all of those things. But how we FEEL will magnetize all of those other things. The really sweet stuff. So when you are faced with a hard choice, a difficult task ahead of you, or a temptation - just face it. Ask yourself - is this getting me closer to what I want or farther away? The answer will reveal itself immediately I imagine. And you may actually take the road leading you farther away from where you are trying to go. Face that too. We will all eventually find our way.
One of my all time favorite sweet tastes is honey. Honey is the magical gold elixir that has a shelf life of forever, if properly stored. I use this as an ingredient in treats as well as savory dishes. Sugars, molasses, and packet sweeteners all have their place, but there is something undeniably pure and natural about honey.
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today," said Pooh.
"There there," said Piglet.
"I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-The-Pooh
Here is a recipe for your Thanksgiving table featuring honey and the holiday star, the sweet potato. For the record, I am NOT counting this as a sweet treat. And, OH! If you are in the New York area and need help with your Turkey Day menu, please send me an email and I will be happy to contribute to your feast!
Sweet Potato and Honey Dinner Rolls
Makes 24 rolls, [adapted from How Sweet Eats]
1 large sweet potato
2 packages of active dry yeast
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3 teaspoons sea salt
6 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for workspace
1 egg, lightly beaten
1.Peel sweet potato, chop into chunks and place in a pot covering them in water. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, place in a bowl, and mash.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine water, yeast, 2 tablespoons honey and olive oil. Mix with a spoon and let sit until foamy, about 15 minutes.
3. Once foamy, add potatoes, remaining honey, melted butter, buttermilk and salt. Gradually add flour with the mixer on low until a sticky dough forms, then knead with the dough hook attachment for about 2-3 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1½ hours.
4. Using a bit of flour on your hands, punch down dough lightly, kneading until smooth. Pinch or squeeze off 2 inch balls of dough between your thumb and pointer finger and roll into ball. Place them into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Cover the baking dish and let sit in a warm place to rise for about 25 more minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush rolls with beaten egg, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve warm with butter and honey.