Day of the Eleventh Doctor

Now that Whole30 is over and out of the way, let’s have some fun!!


Yesterday, April 3rd, was Day of the Eleventh Doctor. I apologize for being late to the party, but 12 hours late is better than 12 years…

Hopefully no one needs four psychiatrists because of my late post.
Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to Day of the Eleventh Doctor on April 3rd ever since I read about it on some nerd blog. I’ve been thinking about what I could make to celebrate my favorite regeneration. Two of the ideas I tossed around were homemade TARDIS self-destruct buttons (A.K.A jammie dodgers) and blue velvet cupcakes with fez and bow tie decorations. But I wanted to do something big. Something I’ve never done before. True, I’ve never made any of the above, but that’s besides the point. I wanted to make a cake.

And not just any cake, of course. A TARDIS cake. 

I said ‘geronimo’ and hit the Internet in search of TARDIS cakes. I was bombarded by images and recipes about TARDIS themed cakes. Most of them were chocolate, one layer cakes decorated with blue buttercream. They looked great, but the over-achiever in me wanted to go above and beyond. I wanted to make a layer cake. I saw this super awesome looking cake from Artisan Cake Company. It’s beautiful and doesn’t even look like a cake! The decoration is made with blue modeling chocolate though, and like fondant, I don’t have much any experience with it yet. I decided I was overachieving enough, setting out to make a multi-layered TARDIS cake. I would stick to frosting, my specialty.

Now that I had the exterior of my cake in mind, what flavors would I choose? I immediately dismissed the chocolate idea; it just doesn’t scream ‘Doctor Who’ to me. What flavor would match Eleven’s personality? It’s kind of embarrassing that I couldn’t think of a flavor that reminded me of my favorite Doctor. So I texted my friend for a suggestion. And I could not believe I didn’t think of it before!

She suggested a custard frosting. 

It was a huge DUH moment. Custard! It’s often the very first thing that usually comes to Whovian’s minds when we think of Matt Smith’s Doctor. Instantly, the ideas started pouring in. I would do a fish fingers and custard flavored cake. 

Ok, well not really. Admittedly, that would be gross. So I thought of a cake flavor that would resemble fried fish fingers: cinnamon swirl vanilla cake with vanilla custard frosting. There’s a Doctor Who themed restaraunt in Beacon, NY, called the Pandorica and they have “fish fingers and custard” on their dessert menu. It’s fried french toast sticks with custard. It was delicious, and now is the inspiration for my cake.

I was so excited to be making this cake, I literally couldn’t wait. Of course, I was extremely worried that it wouldn’t work, and given that this is my first time making a cake like this, I expected it to totally flop. Well, I’m pleased to say that it didn’t. The frosting may just be my new go-to. It’s much simpler than I thought it would be. The hardest part was exercising enough patience for the custard and the butter/sugar mixture to whip together. 

I love Eleven. He’s funny, klutzy, and likes random things. His TARDIS is my favorite shade of blue. His companion, Clara, is my favorite. He’s the one who says my favorite Doctor Who quotes about life, and my favorite episode (Vincent and the Doctor) is one of his. Somehow, he seems so wise and so much like a grandfather, while simultaneously having the energy of a puppy and the maturity of a five-year-old. Eleven is the lovable uncoordinated housecat of the regenerations.

The reasons why I love him are endless.

Oh, and I have a Doctor Who playlist now. Doctor Who playlists are cool.

I used this recipe for the cinnamon swirl vanilla cake, and this one for the custard frosting. I’m definitely using both again!

To keep the cake from tipping over, I used a shish kebab skewer in each corner. Even with the kebab sticks, the cake does lean a little to the side, but it’s hardly noticeable. 

My family can’t wait to dig into it.

Whole30 2017 – Wrap-up

I realize that my posts about Whole30 are somewhat contradictory. I apologize for any confusion and hopefully this post will clear things up. I’ve got some explaining to do.

Here’s the thing. Whole30 outlines the way we as humans are designed to eat. We’re meant to eat a diet consisting mainly of vegetables, meat and fruit. Our food isn’t supposed to be messed with using chemicals and genetic engineering. Food isn’t meant to be processed. It’s not meant to come out of a factory.

So I agree with that aspect of Whole30, where you eliminate every source of processed junk from your diet. I agree with eating whole, natural foods. And I agree with everything else about Whole30. But now you’re probably thinking, ‘then why were you so miserable?’ I’ll get into that now.

For me, food is mental. It’s all mental. When a craving strikes, I can completely control it or completely submit to it, using only my mental powers. When it comes to dieting (which I don’t do to begin with, because of this reason), the way my body physically reacts to food is far less significant than the way my brain reacts. In other words, my body can physically handle not eating peanut butter. But my brain can’t. It’s too much stress. I have to think about it, reminding myself to not eat peanut butter. I know this sounds silly and maybe this is a poor example. Simply put, when I place restriction on myself, my brain reacts violently. However, on any given day, I don’t eat peanut butter all day along. Sometimes, weeks go by where I don’t have a single taste of peanut butter, or cheese, or whatever it may be. The difference is that, in one case (the one that works for me), I’m naturally not eating something and in the second case, I’m restricting myself.

The two most important things for me to know and understand about my personal relationship with food is restriction and how my I react mentally. Food is directly connected with stress. That doesn’t necessarily mean that food is what I turn to when I’m feeling stressed out. Yes, there are sometimes when I “stress eat”, but I keep track of it closely and it doesn’t happen often. Food is not my stress-relief. When I say that food is directly connected with stress I mean that I feel more stressed when I have to search every single label on something, for fear that it “isn’t compliant”. I don’t want to worry about that. I want to eat what I want, when I’m hungry. And most of the time, what I want is healthy and Whole30-ish to begin with. Restricting myself (specifically from cheese) makes me feel like a German Shepherd on a chain, being pulled back from something he wants to chase. The more the dog is held back, the more the dog wants whatever he’s barking at. I don’t want to feel restricted.

So this Whole30 has proven to me that, while I might not lose weight as quickly, I am definitely happier and nicer when I eat according to when my own tried-and-true guidelines. I know what works for my body. I know what doesn’t work for my body.

All in all, the basics of Whole30 works for me. The recipes, the guidelines, the reasons behind eliminating certain foods; I agree with all that. But when it comes to the restriction, I don’t do so well. For me, restriction is worse than eating an entire bag of Cheetos. Hopefully that makes sense. 

And I’m curious; how does Whole30 make you feel? Have you ever done one? What’s the hardest challenge for you when it comes to food? Is there a particular way of eating that makes you feel your best? Feel free to comment!

Whole30 2017 – Week 4

TGIO – thank goodness it’s over!

Today is the day. It’s Thursday. It’s March 30th. It’s over…and I’m still alive. Barely.

Okay, I’m being dramatic. And Whole30 isn’t over just yet. I’ve got the next eight hours ahead of me to push through. But what’s eight more hours after 30 days, right?….right?

So here’s the last week of Whole30.

Day 24: Friday

We were at a friend’s house for (homeschool) art and Zumba classes. I had started to recover from the near mental meltdown of Week 3, so I was fine.

Breakfast: I made a two-egg omelet with leftover carnitas, with sweet potato mash on the side.

Lunch: I skipped lunch because there wasn’t any time for it during the classes, but I had an Epic apple and bacon bar (still not quite sure if I like them or not) and dried mango to snack on.

Dinner: After the classes, we went with our friends to Chili’s for dinner. I actually didn’t have that rough of a time. I pretended like I wasn’t on Whole30 and it worked because I normally don’t eat the chips on the table. I normally don’t order dessert. I normally go with the skinny entree options or a salad with no dressing. So it wasn’t a big deal that I ordered the 6oz steak with grilled avocado and broccoli. At least, at Chili’s, it wasn’t a big deal.

Day 25: Saturday

Breakfast: Another carnita omelet, but no sweet potato mash this time.

Lunch: 1 chicken sausage link with zoodles and Rao’s marinara sauce.

Dinner: Didn’t track.

Day 26: Sunday

Breakfast: Two-egg omelet with spicy Italian sausage and broccoli.

Lunch: Wasn’t really hungry, so I had two tablespoons of almond butter.

Dinner: Tuscan soup, two bowls. This is my favorite meal of all time, and now it is Whole30 compliant! It has kale, sausage, and potatoes (optional, but not optional). The broth is usually made with heavy cream and chicken stock, but leave out the cream and cuts down on calories, is compliant, but it’s still amazing! I don’t even need it with the heavy cream anymore when I’m back to my normal eating because I love it this way just the same.

Day 27: Monday

Breakfast: Two-egg omelet with spicy sausage and sauteed kale. I get into these omelet kicks where I eat one for breakfast everyday for a week, but then I don’t make it again for awhile.

Lunch: My long run was changed to Monday since I wasn’t feeling well on Sunday. So I had breakfast late in the morning, skipped lunch, but ate 1 and 1/2 coconut-rolled dates before running.

Dinner: London broil steak with cauliflower mash and mixed greens.

Day 28: Tuesday

We saw Beauty and the Beast on Tuesday! Oh it was amazing! We all loved it. I didn’t know Emma Watson could sing and she was literally the perfect actress for Belle. The only thing that I didn’t like was that I couldn’t have popcorn ☚ī¸

Breakfast: Tuscan soup. I broke the omelet for breakfast kick with soup. *shrug*

Lunch: Skipped. We were at the movies. I had a homemade trail mix of dried mango, dried pineapple and almonds.

Dinner: 2 salsa verde pork chops with brussel sprouts and mixed greens.

Day 29: Wednesday

We were running errunds on Wednesday. The formal dance is on Saturday and we made a last minute trip for jewelry and stuff.

Breakfast: 1 scoop chocolate Shakeology with 1 cup almond milk and a tablespoon of almond butter.

Snack: Epic bacon bar. I didn’t like this one too much.

Lunch: 1 leftover salsa verde pork chop.

Dinner: 1 chicken leg quarter with mixed greens salad (walnuts, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds).

Day 30: Thursday

At long last, it’s finally here.

Breakfast: 3oz London broil steak.

Lunch: 1 leftover salsa verde pork chop.

Snack: 1 chicken thigh with mixed greens.

Dinner: 4 homemade turkey meatballs with Rao’s marinara sauce and mixed greens salad.

I was thinking of writing my sum-up here on this post, but since I have a lot to say and clear up about Whole30, I decided to write a separate post for the summary.

Catch ya later!

Whole30 2017 – Week 3

Hi guys.

If you’ve done Whole30 (or know someone who has done Whole30), you know that the first week is a nightmare. Fighting all the temptation in the first week or two is extremely hard, right? But then after the horrid days 10 & 11, life gets better. You’re feeling better, you’re looking better, you’re eating better. Your jeans fit better.

By the end of the third week, you begin to think that maybe you could continue eating like this. That’s how most of the reviews on Whole30 go.

I’ve done two Whole30’s prior to this one. And both times, my experience with it is the opposite. The first two weeks are AMAZING for me. I feel great and have no temptations, even on Days 10 & 11. 
But then Week 3 rolls around and everytime, it is miserable. What was enjoyable and easy last week, is now making me feel like a wreck. And it stops there. From Week 3, Whole30 doesn’t get better for me. When I did the first Whole30, I thought I was doing something wrong. Maybe I wasn’t eating enough and was hangry. When I did it the second time, I again thought I wasn’t eating enough. But this time around, I know I was eating enough. And I still felt miserable.

So the third week again was rough for me. Maybe this time, it’s because on Thursday we went to Sahadis, a middle eastern market in NYC, and then to Carmine’s, an Italian resturaunt. 

I was with friends who are familiar with Whole30, but it’s still difficult when everyone is enjoying delicious pita bread, fresh hummus, and then a huge plate of spaghetti and meatballs, bread and chocolate covered cannolis. Literally everything not Whole30. Middle eastern and Italian, two of my favorite cuisines. I haven’t given in and cheated, but I did feel severely restricted. And after that, I just felt the Whole30 chains getting tighter.

Not to be discouraging to those who are successfully doing Whole30 and are feeling great by the end, but this third time around, I know for sure what works for my body. Two weeks are the most I can do without wanting to rip my family’s heads off. Two weeks before I completely plateau. Two weeks of feeling great before I feel like a wreck. My focus is shot and I can’t push myself as hard as I normally can during my workouts.
On the other hand, my skin is clear and my jeans do fit better. But I’ll get into that in my Whole30 wrap-up post.

Day 16 Thursday:

Breakfast: 2 meatballs

Snack: Bison epic bar

Lunch: Carmine’s mixed salad with sausage and marinara sauce (no dressing)

Dinner: Cabbage with Sahadis baba ghanoush

Snack: Little bit of meatloaf and sweet potato mash

Day 17 Friday:

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs

Lunch: Meatloaf and sweet potato mash

Early Dinner: 2 chicken sausage links, broccoli and baba ghanoush

Dinner: salmon with sweet potato mash

Day 18 Saturday:

Breakfast: 1 tbsp sahadis almond butter

Lunch: 2 scrambled eggs with 2 tbsp salsa, 2 sausage patties and roasted potatoes

Dinner: Cajun chicken breast with sweet potato mash

I forgot to track Days 19 & 20, but it was pretty much the same as the previous days.
Day 21 Tuesday:

Breakfast: 2 eggs with 3 slices bacon

Lunch: Kale salad with beets and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic

Dinner: Whole30 cookbook carnitas with guacamole, kale salad (as above) and sweet potato mash

Day 22 Wednesday:

Breakfast: Leftover carnitas

Lunch: Carnitas and sweet potato mash

Dinner: Zoodles with 3 meatballs and Rao’s marinara sauce, and a kale salad with beets

Day 23 Thursday: 

Breakfast: Carnitas and sweet potato mash

Lunch: Zoodles, meatballs and Raos marinara (I love saying ‘zoodles’ 😂)

Dinner: London broil steak, kale salad, beets, 1/2 avocado

Me at Day 25

Whole30 2017 – Week 2

Hey guys! Sorry this post is a little late, but here it is – Week 2 of Whole30 complete! Week 2 was surprisingly easy, and I didn’t feel a lot of temptation. Even while scouring the internet for dessert recipes to use in my upcoming graduation party, I didn’t have any cravings. The only craving I had was for the baking process itself. I really, really miss baking. So here’s Week 2’s recipe round-up!

Day 8: Wednesday

On Wednesday, I went to my first Rachel Ray show! It was a lot of fun, and I got a cookbook from the guest chef. I was very, very happy when I went through the recipes in the book; there were a few Whole30-compliant recipes, and even more that could easily be adapted to meet the Whole30 restrictions. I was in NYC pretty much all day on Wednesday, but I stayed on track with my food.

Breakfast: 3 hardboiled eggs early in the morning, then a Larabar halfway to the city.

Lunch: After the Rachel Ray show, my mom and I were hungry and we wanted to get something to eat in the city. Unfortunately, Whole30 prevented us from going to a Middle Eastern place and a Japanese restaraunt, but we found a bar and grill to get compliant burgers. I had a satisfying burger with carmelized onions, bacon and grilled asparagus, without the bun.

Dinner: I kind of skipped dinner because we ate late, but had a kale and onion scramble later in the evening.

Day 9: Thursday

Thursday was my long run with mom. We ran 7 miles at a bike path.
Breakfast: Kale and onion scramble and two slices Applegate brand bacon. Because how else would I start the day?

Snack: 1 banana

Lunch: Leftover Whole30 cookbook recipe stuffed peppers, minus the pepper. Just the butternut squash, sausage, kale and onions

Dinner: Donal Skehan, the guest chef on the Rachel Ray show, has a delicious Whole30 compliant recipe in his cookbook, Fresh. It was chicken breast with cajun seasonings, which had a nice kick. It paired delightfully with sweet potato mash, which had a slight coconut flavor due to the coconut oil. The recipe was so simple: chicken breast (or thighs), cajun seasoning, sweet potatoes, coconut oil, salt and pepper. It instantly became one of my favorite quick-dinner recipes.

Day 10: Friday

I don’t remember what I did Friday, but I do remember being so hungry. I usually am the day after a long run.
Breakfast: Shakeology + 1 cup almond milk and 1/2 banana

Lunch: Leftover cajun chicken breast and sweet potato mash

Snack: 2 Italian meatballs + 1 medjool date

Dinner: 2 cracklin’ chicken thighs (from Nom Nom Paleo) with more sweet potato mash


Day 11: Saturday

Saturday was another running day, and again had the bottomless stomach feeling.

Breakfast: 1 cup coffee (it had 1 tbsp cocoa powder and 1 tbsp coconut cream) with 3 slices bacon

Lunch: Shakeology with 1 cup almond milk + 1/2 banana; about an hour later, I had a cajun chicken breast.

Snack: 1 pear with homemade almond butter

Dinner: kale and onion scramble with 3 homemade sausage patties (ground sausage, fennel seed, cinnamon, sage, ginger, salt and pepper)


Day 12: Sunday

Breakfast: 1 hardboiled egg; 2 scrambled eggs with 2 tbsp Whole30 compliant salsa, 3 slices bacon, and chipotle panfried potatoes

Snack: 2 tbsp homemade almond butter

Dinner: 2 salsa verde pork chops with cabbage 

Day 13: Monday

Monday was our dress shopping day. We stopped at Red Robin for lunch. I hate going out to eat while doing Whole30, but it’s very good practice for self-control.

Breakfast: Shakeology with 1 cup almond milk

Snack: Apple pie larabar

Lunch: Red Robin lettuce-wrapped chicken breast burger with bacon, guacamole

Dinner: I forgot to track it so I don’t remember 😑

Day 14: Tuesday

Pre-workout: 1 tbsp almond butter

Breakfast: Shakeology + 1 cup almond butter

Lunch: 2 eggs with broccoli and carmelized onions

Early dinner: Cauliflower rice with Jamacian Jerk seasoned pulled pork

Snack: cabbage with salsa verde and roasted potatoes

Day 15: Wednesday

Breakfast: Leftover Jerk pulled pork and cauliflower rice

Lunch: 3 Italian meatballs with cauliflower rice, broccoli and roasted potatoes

Dinner: 6 italian meatballs with cauliflower rice, broccoli, sweet potato mash and 2 slices of bacon (I was trying to get rid of leftovers)

Well, that was Whole30 Week 2!

Whole30 2017 – Week 1

Well, I’ve survived, and successfully too. The first week flew by pretty fast, and I’m not totally miserable. Yeah, salads are boring now and I miss peanut butter, but it’s not a bad start. I’m actually proud of myself. So, seven days down, 23 days to go.

Now for the first weekly round-up of recipes. The first days were kind of kitchen sink; I made this egg scramble that turned out to be one of my favorite breakfasts, and it’s been my go-to breakfast for the past week, and some of my dinners too. (Recipe below)

Day 1: Wednesday

Breakfast: Kale & onion scramble. Ok, not the most appetizing thing in the world, according to what it looks like, but man is it delicious. I mean, I really like it, but I wasn’t so sure at first. I also used roasted broccoli a few times instead of the kale, and it’s pretty good as well. I had three slices of bacon to go with it.

Lunch: Don’t hate me for this one. It’s the only non-Whole30 thing that I’m eating, and I’m eating it only because I need the extra nutrition while half-marathon training. For lunch, I had 1 scoop chocolate Shakeology with 1 cup almond milk and 1 tbsp mixed nut butter (from Trader Joe’s; it has hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, brazilnuts, but no peanuts!). I was also running out the door and grabbed an apple pie Larabar.

Dinner: Breakfast was so good that I decided to repeat it. On the side, I had some more broccoli.

Day 2: Thursday

Breakfast: Guess who. Kale & onion scramble, two slices of Whole30 approved bacon. 

Lunch: Shakeology (as above)

Dinner: iBreathei’mHungry’s paprika chicken, without the sour cream gravy. It is one of my favorite dinners, even without the gravy. Also with broccoli, and some cauliflower mash.

Day 3: Friday

Breakfast: I don’t remember đŸ˜Ŗ but it was either Shakeology or the egg scramble.

Lunch: Leftover vegetable soup and a paprika chicken thigh.

Dinner: Kale & onion scramble, the broccoli version. We have a lot of broccoli in this house.

Day 4: Saturday

Breakfast: Now that I’m writing it, I realize how many times I’ve eaten this Kale & onion scramble. But I don’t really care and it’s still going to be my breakfast today. So I had this for breakfast on Saturday once again.

Lunch: Shakeology, minus the nut butter.

Dinner: Leftover paprika chicken and broccoli.

Day 5: Sunday

Breakfast: 1 hardboiled egg before my run; half a baked chicken breast and Shakeology afterwards.

Lunch: I don’t think I ate lunch because I had the chicken and Shakeology late in the morning. I snacked on broccoli.

Dinner: Kale & onion scramble, broccoli and a few ribs without the barbecue sauce.

Snack: Apple pie Larabar

Day 6: Monday

Breakfast: Kale & onion scramble, with two slices Whole30 approved bacon.

Lunch: Shakeology

Dinner: I kinda skipped dinner because I was at an orientation for the college program I’m interested in. It was during dinnertime, but I wasn’t too hungry anyway so I just had an Epic sriracha chicken bar, which is thankfully Whole30 compliant.

Snack: 2 coconut medjool dates

Day 7: Tuesday

Breakfast: Kale & onion scramble, two slices bacon.

Lunch: I was cooking dinner, and there was some leftover, so that was lunch. See below.

Dinner: Whole30 cookbook recipe, stuffed peppers. It’s kale, sausage, butternut squash, onion, and garlic all stuffed into roasted bell pepper.

Kale & Onion Egg Scramble

Ingredients:

  • Three eggs, beaten
  • 1 large handful kale (or a handful roasted broccoli, torn into little florets)
  • 1/2 medium  yellow onion, already carmelized
  • 2 tbsp bacon grease or other cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper (garlic salt and pepper is amazing!)

In a small pan, heat the cooking oil over medium heat. Sautee the kale (or broccoli) until dark green and wilted, about 3-5 minutes. (For the broccoli, since it’s already roasted, just heat through, not cook.) Add onions to kale and turn heat to low.

Pour eggs into the pan over the kale and onions, stirring like scramble eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bacon or sausage and you’re good to go. It’s pretty simple.

So that was Whole30 week 1. Next week, we will be doing more recipes from the Whole30 book, so I look forward to that!

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.

Carrot Cake Day đŸĨ•

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!

S’mores Cupcakes


If you know me, you know I don’t like summer. I don’t like the heat, and the beach isn’t my first choice of a hang-out place. However, my dislike for summer does not include food that is usually associated with the season. Of course it wouldn’t. I love food all year round, whether it’s summer or winter related. 

I think it’s safe to say that most people associate S’mores with summer. Being with friends around a campfire, roasting marshmallows is what most people enjoy during summer.

I love S’mores. I can only eat one or two (three at most, and only if I want to be sick that night), but I savor each bite. Have you ever tried putting a Reeces peanut butter cup in place of the chocolate? Mmmmm, so good!

Anyway, we can all agree that S’mores are definitely a favorite summertime treat. But what happens when it gets too cold to sit out there, roasting marshmallows? Well, you certainly could withstand the winter and make traditional campfire S’mores. And who am I to stop you? If I get the craving strong enough, you bet I’d be out there. The cold never bothered me anyway, as a Disney queen likes to put it.

But what if I told you that you could get the S’mores flavor without freezing, trying to make a fire? I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you, but there is a way.

And what better way than…. cupcakes?!

No campfire necessary.

S’mores Cupcakes

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs plus 1/4 cup for topping
  • 1 cup marshmallow fluff (or as much as you need to frost the cupcakes)
  • 4 Hershey chocolate bars

Equipment:

  • Muffin pan
  • 1 piping bag (you could use a disposable one, but because the marshmallow fluff is so sticky, I think a resusable bag is better. I used a vinyl bag from Wilton)
  • Piping tip 2A (the frosting doesn’t need to be fancy)
  • a kitchen torch

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. 
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients. Add half the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, and mix. Then add the milk and the second half of the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners or spray with non-stick. Using a small cookie scoop (a regular spoon works fine though), scoop and drop the batter in each cavity. They should be filled almost completely, about 3/4 full. 
  4. Break a few chocolate squares in half and place one on top of  each cupcake. Smooth the batter over the chocolate.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until browned ontop and then let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Prepare the piping bag with the marshmallow fluff and pour the remaining 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs into a small bowl.
  6. When cupcakes are completely cooled, pipe about a tablespoon onto the top of each cupcake. Using a butter knife, swirl the fluff around, making sure to cover the entire top of the cupcakes.
  7. Dip each cupcakes in the graham crumbs, rotating so that only the outer edges of the tops are covered. 
  8. Using a kitchen torch, brown the top of the marshmallow fluff.
  9. Top with a Hershey square and enjoy!

Note: These are not the best cupcakes to have leftover. They’re not pretty and the fluff kind of melts and runs down the side. But on the bright side, they look more like traditional S’mores – sticky and messy but still so good. Also, I made mini cupcakes. If you are using a mini muffin tin, reduce the bake time to 10-15 minutes instead.

A Innovative Way to Cupcakes

I’m sure this idea has been around for awhile, but I think it’s really smart. Instead of just regular cupcakes, why not try mini layer cakes?

I forget where I saw this, but when I did, I knew immediately that this would be my next kitchen project.

Aren’t they cute?

Ok, so maybe they’re not the prettiest dessert I’ve made. In fact, they’re very messy. The chocolate cake recipe I used was not the right one for this. But the idea is just genius. 

I made vanilla ones that turned out much better. 

It seems complicated. And honestly, it’s not the easiest recipe. 
For this, you use a regular cake recipe. You want one that isn’t super wet. The vanilla recipe I used from the Food Network was perfect. The batter is thick and smooth. The chocolate recipe was absolutely delicious, but for this purpose, it wasn’t right. The reason why I say this is because you don’t bake this in a cake pan like a normal cake. It’s more like a sheet cake, baked in a 9×13 dish. The consistency of the batter affects the way the cakes bake. For this, you want cakes that are sturdy and don’t crumble easily. The chocolate cake, because of the too-wet batter, fell apart after baking. 

So make sure the recipe you’re using results in thick batter.

What you’re going to need is 9×13″ pans (I used two and made the cake in two batches). Also, a circle cookie cutter or biscuit cutter. I used the biscuit cutter. Once you have that, the cake recipe and the decorating supplies, you’re good to go!

Step one is to make the cake as instructed in the recipe. Instead of using the normal cake pans, pour batter into the parchment paper lined pans. You need the parchment for easy removal, so don’t skip that. 

Next, bake the cake. The recipe I used called for 30-35 minutes in the oven, but I reduced it to 20 because the pans make the cake thinner. 20 minutes was just enough time. They’re were perfect. Take the cake out of the pan and let cool.

The third step is when you know for sure whether you used the right recipe. At this step, the chocolate cake I made crumbled when I tried to cut them. As you can see from the pictures, I was able to salvage some but they are definitely more crumbly than the vanilla ones. 

3) After cooled, take the cookie/biscuit cutter and gently cut circles out of the cake. Make sure the circles are close together so not too much cake is wasted. Set the little circles aside. 

Depending on how thick your cake comes out to be, you may need to cut each circle a little to make the layers thinner or more even. I did, and it’s not that much of a problem.

Fourth, make the buttercream frosting (or whatever type your using). I used this recipe from Add A Pinch, and added about 2 teaspoons of blue gel food coloring. Fill a piping bag with frosting. I used the Wilton tip 1M.

Start with the bottom cake layer. Swirl a circle around the edges, just enough to see it when you top it with the other cake. Completely cover the top of the cake, but don’t make the classic cupcake peak with the frosting. Top with the top cake layer. This is the pretty layer. Frost like you would a cupcake.

Repeat and garnish with sprinkles!

Mini layer cakes should be stored in a airtight container and can be left on the counter unfrosted. If frosted, refrigerate up to no more than four days. I freezed the cake scraps in a gallon ziplock bag to use later. 

Enjoy!