This week's theme is: things to enjoy on their own terms!

Being on this diet has brought Matt and I to try to replicate some of the things we love but aren't allowed to eat right now. We have been very pleasantly surprised by the results of our experiments, but we also agree that these are not substitutions you could slip by an unsuspecting guest. However, on their own terms, we love them! And we will continue to consume them, diet or no diet :)

1) Hot chocolate. We have a can of carnation hot chocolate mix sitting in our cupboard. It is sometimes tempting, telling us how rich and creamy it is, but we kept it out in case we have hot-chocolate-craving company, which in youth ministry is not rare at all (I don't think I mentioned this - we put our shelf-stable forbidden foods in bags in our storage closet. Out of sight, out of mind.) However, the first three ingredients are: sugar, corn syrup solids, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Cocoa is nestled in the list right between modified milk ingredients and cellulose gum. To be honest, I don't see myself going back.

Our substitute has only four ingredients, and here is the recipe!
1 can coconut milk
1/2 can water
2-3 tbsp cocoa (can adjust to taste)
1-2 tbsp honey (again, adjust to taste)

This is a rich drink that is not meant to be as sweet as our carnation mix - thank goodness! It is full of good fats and has a slight nutty taste from the coconut milk, and the cocoa is relatively high in iron. Healthy, filling, and delicious on its own terms!

2) Spaghetti and meat sauce. Matt says this might be his favourite meal of life, but there is no pasta in the Maker's Diet (because God chose the Israelites, not the Italians!), so I tried to think of some alternative. I had heard of gluten-free families substituting spaghetti squash for real spaghetti, so I bought me a squash and baked it in the oven while I browned some beef to add to our Ragu.

[Here is an aside about Ragu - I was able to price match it for 99 cents a jar, and it only has one objectionable ingredient (soybean oil, listed third). I would consider making my own pasta sauce as many people on the internet love to do, but I tried it before and it was a disaster. I couldn't eat it because it tasted SO bad. I am not saying I will never make my own pasta sauce, but I certainly don't have the time to gamble on it right now. There are limits even to my DIY ambitions.]

When it came time to scoop the squash out of its rind (rind? husk? shell? I looked it up, it's rind), I second guessed myself for wanting to put meat sauce on a vegetable. Totally weird. So I put it on the side. Matt and I both ended up mixing them on our forks, taking a scoop of squash and dipping it in the sauce, AND it was so tasty! The squash was so light and sweet under the rich taste of the sauce, and it was delightful. There was plenty of meat in the sauce, so it filled us up, and I plan to buy another squash for next week. This diet has reminded me how much I LOVE squash.

3. Corn chips. Okay, really what we love is all kinds of chips! But we have found a very easy and frugal alternative to buying illegal bags of Tostitos! We buy a pack of corn tortillas, cut some up with a pizza cutter, and lay them out on a baking sheet in the oven at 350-400F. They magically turn into chips in a few minutes (I stay close because of the fine line between crispy and burnt). I love this alternative because we can make only as many chips as we want to eat, and the tortillas keep forever in the fridge. A big difference between this and commercial chips is saltiness, but you could salt your tortillas before baking if that mattered a lot to you. We find that dipping these plain corn chips in salsa and/or homemade bean dip more than makes up for the flavour that's missing, and they are just as crunchy and satisfying!

We actually tried this substitution before starting the diet, and since corn was listed as a food to avoid for phase 1, our tortillas have been abandoned at the back of the fridge. However, now that corn, beans, and cheese are allowed, I think it won't be long before we finish this pack right off!

Whew! That was a long post for just three things! Would you consider trying any of them? Do you have any suggestions for saving a little time, money, or nutrition on your own terms? I would love to hear it :)

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