The Whole30

Hi! Today we’re talking about the Whole30. You may have heard of it, or even may have done one already. My mother and I are gearing up for one in March, which starts tomorrow.

In a nutshell, the Whole30 is a “diet” that eliminates certain food groups for 30 days. I put diet in quotation marks because I don’t really think of the Whole30 as a diet. A diet, by the most commonly used defintion, is a special way of eating specifically for losing weight and is usually short-term. The Whole30 is technically only 30 days, but after you experience the benefits, you’ll realize that the Whole30 (or at least, Whole3o-ish) way of eating is sustainable and it becomes more of a lifestyle than a tempory diet. It did for me.

The goal of the Whole30 is not to lose weight. That’s certainly a benefit, but the main reason for doing a Whole30 is to reset your body. It’s like a cleanse. You clean out your body by eating only wholesome, nutritious food and cutting out all the processed junk. The intention is to look healthier, feel healthier, be healthier.

So now onto the rules of the program.

For a whole month, you focus on eating lots of vegetables, meat, and fruit. You avoid processed foods that include any dairy, grains, sugar (including natural sugar like honey or maple syrup), soy, and legumes. Also, you shouldn’t try to recreate desserts, sweets and treates using compliant ingredients. No paleo pancakes, sorry. Keto brownies? Nope. The Whole30 is designed to squash sugar cravings, and the effective way to do that is to cut it out, including imitations. 

I know you’re already thinking, “WHAT? How is it possible to eat anything?” Honestly, that was my first reaction too. But it’s doable. I promise.

But back to what you CAN eat, and it’s a lot. There are lots of great Whole30-compliant snacks, meals and recipes. Most of what you eat during the month will have to be homemade, as that’s the only way to be absolutely sure that what you’re eating is compliant. Eating out is not recommended, unless you plan on only drinking water. One tip that I really liked from the Whole30 cookbook was an alternative to going out to eat at restaurants with friends. Being on the Whole30 doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life! Instead of going out, invite them over. Cook your favorite compliant meal and enjoy with your friends! It’s that simple. No more excuses!

I’m not pretending that it’s the easiest thing in the world, and I’m not totally excited to start tomorrow. So yes, it will be difficult. Yes, you will be tempted to quit. Yes, there will be some slip. And yes, it is 100% worth it. I promise.

Once a week for the next month, I’ll be posting a round-up of the meals my mom and I cooked. If you’re not quite sold on Whole30 yet, check out the recipes and try them. More often than not, it’s unbelieveable that the meal is completely Whole30 compliant because of how delicious it is!

For more information, since this was a brief summary, check out the Whole30 website and read the book It Starts With Food. It will change your life.

Learner’s Permit

Well, yesterday was a big day. I took the written driver’s test and passed, so now I have a learner’s permit! This is huge. I am now able to legally sit behind the wheel of a car  and drive around a bunch of other cars and people. Very nerve-wracking, to say the least. And while I’m ecstatic to be able to drive (it’s a new sense of freedom), I really think that the testing is a bit ridiculous.

Reading this, you may think I’m saying that taking a permit test is ridiculous because I just want to be able to get my permit at 16 and go. But that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m not saying that there should be no written test. True, when I was younger, I would have definitely wanted to just get my permit without worrying about any written test. But now…

When I say the testing is ridiculous, I mean it’s pathetic. I don’t know how the other States are, but the NY state laws regarding tests are so stupid. When I went to the DMV, I had to bring my birth certificate, my Social Security card and the learner’s permit application. The lady took the paperwork, handed me the paper for the test and said ‘good luck.’

I took the test, and let me tell you, it was so easy. But that’s the problem. After I finished, I gave it to another lady who graded it in front of me, told me which I got wrong and told me I passed. Then she took the picture for my permit and that was it. Even though I studied the driver’s manual, I was expecting more instruction, more rules, more seriousness. I was expecting someone to look me in the eye and tell me seriously how dangerous cars and reckless driving can be, even though I already knew that. I wanted those ladies to explain in a firm voice the consequences and responsiblity. I thought, because they have so many laws against drunk driving, texting and driving, and driving without a license/permit, that when I went to get my permit I was going to have to sit through a lecture, and I was totally okay with that. I saw the need for a lecture, should there have been one. But there wasn’t anything like that, so I went to the DMV, handed them my paperwork, answered a few multiple choice questions and got my permit.

Easy peasy lemon squeezey. Too easy for something so life-threatening.

On the flip side of NY laws regarding tests, I can’t graduate unless I’ve passed four Regents exams. Originally, I didn’t have to take the exams, until we found out that NY State won’t accept my homeschool high school diploma, so now I’m forced to take the Regents. And while I’m halfway done with the tests, it’s still a pain in the butt because it’s so retarded. Why are the exams for graduation harder than the exam for driving? Does that even make sense? To graduate high school, I am required to study for months about relatively trivial subjects, like mitochondria or the functions of x, and then take four excruitiating exams, but to get a permit AND OPPERATE A CAR I only had to read a manual, take some practice tests and then answer 20 way-too-easy questions.

The Regents exams are way too difficult for something that only affects me and my life.

If I failed the Regents, my life “ends” because all those months seem wasted, and you have to pay to retake the test. If I failed the written test, no biggie. Just retake the test at no cost.

To pass a Regents, you need a score of 65 or higher. There are between 30 and 50 multiple choice questions (depending on the subject) and a few essays, for a total of around 85 questions. To pass the written test, you need to answer 10 out of 20 multiple choice correctly. That means on the Regents you don’t want to get ANY of the multiple choice wrong, but on the driving test you can get 10 wrong and still pass to get a permit. Hmm, seems a bit ridiculous to me.

When you’re behind the wheel of a car, you become a threat to every single person in the immediate area around you, not only to the passengers in the cars or the other drivers. Even the most cautious driver could be distracted for two seconds and in that short time, he/she can endanger the lives of so many people. Driving is a risk that people take for granted. Cars can be a weapon and NY state is more worried about me failing a test for school.

But hey, on the brightside, I can drive! 

Right Now – February 2017

*Warning: this post may contain SPOILERS for the Sherlockians who have not yet seen season 4*

Hey guys!

It’s Feburary…can you believe it? No, it’s not just February. It’s half way through February. We’re half way through the second month.

And that means it’s time for an update. It’s funny how so much can happen in just a few short weeks. That’s all a month is, really. Short weeks.

So, what’s happening? Well, like I mentioned in the January post, I have four Regents exams to take to graduate high school. I was swamped with studying for the first two exams, History and English. I am a firm believer that the word “studying” is a contraction of “students dying”.

It did pay off though. I passed and that’s all I wanted. But now I have two left, Biology and Algebra. Fun, right?

But let’s not talk about school. How does that sound? Lovely? I thought so too.

Let’s see.

In the Star Wars universe, we learned the title for the next movie: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. I personally think that is a great title. It’s interesting, makes you wonder if there truly is a last Jedi. Maybe Rey will start the Training Academy again. I just can’t wait until December to finally find out the answers to all the questions the Force Awakens left us with. 

In the Doctor Who fandom, I heard that Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who next season. Which means that the Doctor is regenerating soon. That makes me really upset because I love Twelve. I really, really love him. Eleven is my Doctor, but Twelve is amazing. But this is life a Whovian leads. 

We signed up for this. 
I just hope he doesn’t regenerate alone like Ten did. And I’m curious to see what they do with the next regeneration – the Thirteenth Doctor. I wonder what his iconic items will be. Nine has the leather jacket and bananas; Ten has the Converse, 3D glasses and catchphrase ‘Allons-y!’; Eleven, of course, is known for bow ties, fish fingers & custard, fezzes and ‘Geronimo!’. Twelve has his sonic sunglasses. What will Thirteen have??

While we’re on the subject of TV, I also started watching another BBC favorite, Sherlock. I was hooked by the first case, and I knew I was going to love Sherlock and John’s friendship. I noticed that I am typically most attracted to INTJ character – hence, my love for the Twelfth Doctor, and now Sherlock. They both have the best non-chalant, blunt and hysterical one-liners. 

There’s something about the INTJ that intrigues me. Maybe it’s because I share the same dominate cognitive function (Ni) and the same inferior function (Se), and reversed middle funtions with the INTJ (Te, Fi for INTJ; Fe, Ti for INFJ). 

Or maybe it’s because I live with an INTJ (my mother) and I get to see the way they work in real life. Either way, if there’s an INTJ character in any book, show or movie, that character will most likely be one of my favorite characters. Strangely however, I don’t have my own INTJ character.

But back to Sherlock. I started watching it about a little over three weeks ago and I’m already finished with it. The cases and solutions are so mind-blowing. I love/hate Moriarty with a burning passion. I hate him like I hate the Daleks, but I love him (almost) like I love the Weeping Angels. Is he coming back, or is he really gone? Despite what’s alluded to, I have a difficult time believing that Moriarty is dead. If Sherlock faked his death, who says Moriarty couldn’t have?

And although I don’t like S4 as much as the rest, I will admit that it had the most awesome plot twist and a somewhat happy ending. It seems that the Baker Street duo is back to normal, and everyone is safe for the time being. I’m about to start fangirling about it, so for the sake of the length of this post, I will restrain myself.

Now onto books. I finished the Book Thief last week, and I’m preparing a book review post about it. So stay tuned for that. It was amazing. Really, really well-written. But I’ll tell you all about it later. Now that I finished it, I don’t really know what to read next. I have an ever-growing list of books to read, but I can never decided which one to read next.

Suggestions? What do you think I should read next?

Well, that’s about it.

Carrot Cake Day 🥕

Okay, so technically Carrot Cake Day was Friday, February 3rd. But we can still enjoy this amazing carrot cake today! 

To be honest, carrot cake was never a favorite of mine. If I was presented with the options of red velvet, vanilla, or carrot cake, red velvet and vanilla would be the ones I had to choose between.

However, if I was presented with the choices of red velvet, vanilla and this carrot cake, I would definitely declare carrot cake my favorite. When I was little, my great-grandmother would come over and bake with my sisters and I. Those times in the kitchen, baking all sorts of sweets and treats with (usually) four generations of my family are some of my favorite memories. Now that I think about it, spending those hours with my grandmother is probably what sparked that first flicker of the love I have for baking. Now, that love is a full-blown wildfire, but one I have no intention of putting out.

Among the desserts we would bake are Italian tri-color cookies (my all-time favorite dessert from grandma), German spice cookies, almond cresent cookies, and of course, this recipe for carrot cake.

I remember being somewhat shocked when I learned all the ingredients in this cake, and it made me wonder why I never chose it as a favorite. Pineapple is my favorite fruit. I love nuts in desserts. Carrots are my go-to veggie to snack on (in actuality my favorite veggie is broccoli, but I don’t think broccoli would be very good in a dessert). And cream cheese frosting? The combination is made in Dessert Heaven.

I knew that when carrot cake day rolled around, I HAD to have the recipe my great-grandmother uses. And now I share it with you. Enjoy!

My Grandma’s Carrot Cake

Ingredients
Cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 1 whole 8 oz can crushed pineapple (including juice. You could also use a little less than half a 20 oz can; if you don’t have canned crushed pineapple, you can crush the pineapple yourself by blending it for a few seconds in a food processor. Note: do not puree the pineapple, leave some chunks)
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts and bumped it up to 1 cup)

Frosting:

  • 24 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream carrots:

  • 2 sticks of butter, room temp
  • powdered sugar to taste
  • red, yellow and green gel food coloring

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachement, beat together oil and sugar. The sugar will not completely dissolve or incorporate in the oil; this is okay.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly until each egg is incorporated.
  5. Slowly add the flour in two batches and mix until combined. Add carrots, pineapple and nuts.
  6. Divide batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes. It may need more or less time, depending on your oven or the pans. The tops of the cakes will rise and look round and golden brown. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the top is firm but still soft when touched.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool for fifteen minutes. Patience here is crucial. I was impatient and flipped the cakes onto the cooling racks too soon and one of the cakes broke. Not fun. Don’t be impatient like me.
  9. When the pans are cool, flip the cakes onto the cooling racks and let cool completely. 
  10. At this point, you can either put the cakes on plates, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge if serving later. I made my cakes three days in advance and they still tasted amazing.

Frosting

  1. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powered sugar and vanilla, mixing until completely incorporated.
  2. Place one of the cakes on a stand. To frost, use a flat spatula to spread the cream cheese frosting all over the top of the first cake. 
  3. Top with the second cake and repeat with the frosting, making sure to cover the sides. Smooth the frosting with a butter knife to make it look prettier.
  4. Return to the fridge to set.

Buttercream carrots

I love these little carrots. What’s a better way to decorate a carrot cake??

  1. In the stand mixer, beat one stick of butter with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar. This is the base for both colors.
  2. When light and fluffy, add the gel food coloring. For the orange part of the carrot, I used 2:1 ratio of yellow and red. I didn’t really measure how many drops, but for every red, I added two drops of yellow gel coloring. It was probably 2 drops red and 4 drops yellow. For the green leaves, I used two drops green gel coloring.
  3. Mix until the coloring is fully incorporated.
  4. To decorate, line a baking pan with wax paper.
  5. Fill piping bags, one for each color. For the leaves, I used Wilton #67 piping tip, and for the triangle part of the carrots I used tip #5 .
  6. Put the pan in the fridge to let the carrots harden and set. It takes about 10 minutes.
  7. Depending on how many decorative carrots you want, you may have leftover buttercream. 
  8. Remove cake from the fridge and decorate as desired! Enjoy!