The Sugar Abyss, Culture & Taste – Moroccan Tagine

This past week, I was looking back over previous posts.  I started asking myself whether I was still “on target” with blogging about REAL food or had I really digressed and started rambling about how much I love to cook and eat.  I did a little self refresher on what I was even calling REAL food.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • foods that are a product of nature rather than industry (no foodlike substances, if you will)
  • mainly fruits and veggies
  • whole grains
  • dairy ( in its pure, unprocessed, unsweetened form – read, no fru-fru yogurts or whacky cheese deals)
  • fish or shellfish (not that poultry and meat can’t be real, but it’s just that I’ve chosen to tend more in the vegetarian direction)

real iconAs a way of checking myself, I browsed through past recipes and decided that I would tag each REAL food recipe with this little icon, if in fact, it fit my REAL parameters.

What I found was that we do a pretty good job keeping things real around the dinner table.  At dessert time, not so much.  And boy, does this girl like her desserts.  If I’m not making a dessert pretty regularly, I’m sure to be keeping my freezer stocked with ice cream.  As I contemplated the overall food scheme in our house, it seemed really obvious that we had met the enemy and the enemy was sugar!  Breakfasts are overall good for us, lunches are usually modified versions of our dinners, and dinners – well, you’ve got a blog’s-eye view into those right here.  But the desserts, the “treats”, and the yum-yums are waaaaaaayyyyyyy out of line with our “real”ity.  So what to do?

I started perusing some other real food blogs (a great link right here, if you’re interested) and checking out their take on sugar.  I admit my inclination was to declare war on the sweet stuff, announce it to the troops here in the house, and then drill out our rules and strategy around the dinner table (for those that don’t know me personally, I’m just that kind of Mom, fortunately or unfortunately – you can make the call). I checked out the Sugar Control Detox Program.  I started looking into healthy alternatives to sugar.  I was on a hunt to make sense of things.  But the more I explored, the more confusing things got.  One site recommended agave as a sugar substitute.  Then another outed the agave and claimed that it was worse than high fructose corn syrup.

Finally, in the midst of all this reeling over the question of sugar, I returned to the center of my overarching food philosophy.  I am as much about the experience of food and the pleasure of eating as the nutritional value of what we consume.  I believe eating is a beautiful pillar of culture.  When I gather my family around our table, I am reminding them of who we are and what our traditions are.  When I set the table with a table cloth (even though the last thing I need is another thing to wash amidst my mountains of laundry) and a proper place setting, and we take our time to eat, I am reminding them of the place food fills in our heritage and home.  Remember – thanks to the Hubs, we are half French around here.  We are half wine sippin’, cheese eatin’, paté spreadin’, chocolate lovin’ beret wearers.  And historically, our French half, with all of their indulgences, don’t struggle with obesity like our American counterpart, don’t have comparable heart disease statistics, don’t sweat their cholesterol levels like us, and on and on goes the list.

So I have decided to not wage my war on sugar – not yet anyway.  Of course I’ll remain vigilant about not <purchasing> products high in sugar content. But I’ll embrace our “Frenchness” and continue allegiance to taste, smell, and texture over calories, fat, and carbs. I’ll keep baking my own desserts, in moderation, and we’ll keep sipping our wine and eating our fruit.  We will change the ice cream habit.  It was getting out of hand anyway. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.  And as we keep trying to keep things real, I’ll share more recipes with you, like this one for Moroccan Tagine.

Here’s the entire starting line up:


As with so many of our real recipes, it’s about chopping, chopping, and more chopping.  So off we went with the red pepper and zucchini.  Followed by the onion, potatoes, carrots, eggplant, garlic, mushrooms, and parsley.


I sauteed up the onion and garlic a bit and then added in a cinnamon stick.   I added in all the other veggies except for the mushrooms which I sauteed in a separate pan.  I added some cumin and coriander to the mixture of vegetables and then sauteed a little longer.

In the food processor I made my own tomato puree.  I added that along with the garbanzo beans and a little sugar (no, it wasn’t maple syrup, it wasn’t honey, it wasn’t agave, it was straight up, good old, white sugar) to the mixture.


I added the mushrooms in as well, and then covered it all and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

I made some Israeli couscous to accompany the tagine and served it up.  Pretty simple, relatively quick, and quite flavorful.


Interested in the recipe for Moroccan Tagine?  You can get it here.

You may also want to check out the site Veggie Zest where I first found this wonderful recipe.

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