Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Velvet Cake and Other Things

Yum, right? We'll come back to this beauty a little later ;)

First things first... I owe one lucky Cookies 'n Cardio reader a fabulous prize of TWO kinds of Better'n Peanut Butter. And I won't make you wait any longer! Which, FYI I did NOT intend to wait this long in announcing the winner. But life happens and things get crazy busy! So the randomly selected winner is.......... said...
oh, Mr. Teddy... so cute as a Hot Dog !! :D peanut butter cookies, peanut butter in smoothies, peanut butter on a SPOON... :D I like peanut butter !! 
Well get excited! Because you'll be looking for all sorts of new ways to enjoy PB with this stuff! Send me your name (or I could just address it to Spa Bettie, hehe) and mailing address and I'll ship it to ya ASAP! :)
Now that I've gotten that out of the way.... my oh my! To say that these last few weeks have been pretty hectic would be an intense understatement. I'm less than a month away from graduating... I can almost hear the hallelujah chorus pomp and circumstance. Let me bring you up to speed with a few things that have been going on since we last spoke:
  • I ran the Life Choices 5K (and somehow got 3rd place?) in honor of my sister and my soon-to-be-born-any-second-now nephew, Gabe!
Like my shirt? It's supposed to say "running FOR my nephew Gabe..." but I lost the "r" along the way. Ergo... running fo' my nephew Gabe! :)

My sister liked playing photographer... not sure why I look like an amazon though

And I ran into an old friend, Rusty, who was running his first 5K and dominated!
He liked my shirt, but how could you not, really? :)

  •  My roomie and I hosted a pumpkin carving just before Halloween... 
So fun! Pumpkin beer is a must!

I attempted a Pug-O-Lantern

Mr. Teddy didn't know what to make of his pumpkin counterpart.

  • Then at the beginning of November, my sister-in-law, Jordan, and I threw a baby shower to end all baby showers for my sweet sister Liza. A lot of planning went into this shindig...
My fabulous sis-in law Jordan, the future mama/sister/bff Liza, and me! :) I got reeeeal crafty one afternoon and made the banner hanging up behind us. It's now hanging over Little Gabe's crib. I love Hobby Lobby.
Lots of yummy food! Jordan & I created the diaper cake to go along with the elephant theme. Aside from nutrition, event/party planning is my other favorite thing! Maybe someday...
What baby shower brunch is complete without mimosas? ;) Our very talented mom made this beautiful cake (she's been a decorator for nearly 30 years!) We also had matching elephant cookies! Oh my!

 Plus, there have been a whole host of things keeping me busy during this last month that I didn't photograph:
  • Studying, studying, and studying! I'm only THREE WEEKS away from graduation! I'm so ready! A&P II, my senior project/paper, and Health/Fitness Instruction (the class name does not do justice to what the class actually entails and the countless hours of studying that goes into it) are the only thing I've got to conquer to get there!
  • I painted my bedroom a lovely shade of green.... green chai latte to be exact! And I love it! So serene and peaceful, it was time for a fresh look in my bedroom. It's amazing what a new coat of paint will do for your mood!
  • I've been helping my sister "nest," and get ready for her little boy's arrival! Only 9 days away from his arrival! I can't believe it!
  • Teaching nutrition! I told yall in my last post that I started teaching nutrition, well I am LOVING it! I'm currently teaching the 6th grade girls at a wonderful charter school in Memphis. Next semester I'll be teaching the 6th grade boys. I really wish I had had this kind of class back when I was in middle school.
  • I've interviewed with a fabulous company (that will go unnamed, just in case I don't land the job) THREE times in the last 10 days! So exciting! I would be the Health Outreach Coordinator for the Memphis area. I reeeeeally want this job! So if everyone could cross their fingers, wish upon a falling star, say a prayer... seriously whatever you gotta do, I would seriously appreciate it! All I want for Christmas is to get this job! :)
  • And yall I've cooked/baked so much fabulous food it's ridiculous! So without further ado, I'm gonna jump right into a delicious recipe for a vegan (that's right, VEGAN!) chocolate cake!
Ya know my roomie Gabby… the one that is intolerant of all things lactose-related? Because she is. A couple of months ago, while searching for a dairy free cake (don't judge just yet) I found THE best chocolate cake recipe… which just so happens to be dairy free.

Me and my roomie Gabby! I guess you could say she's my muse for dairy-free baking! Ha! A girl's gotta have someone to help her eat all the baked goods, right?
You see, I grew up with a cake decorator/baker for a mother (see the lovely baby shower cake above.) So this meant that we always had plates of "cake scraps" decorating the kitchen counter. Because of this, I wasn't the biggest fan of cake. All that ended a few years ago when my mum's cake wasn't so accessible, I actually craaaaave cake now… usually in the little sister version that is the always adorable and chic cupcake form. 

My mum made this for the wedding of one of my good friends a few years ago. It's simple, yet elegant. 
So while I do looove cake, I'm pretty partial to all non-chocolate flavors. There's just something kinda boring about straight up chocolate cake... just doesn't do it for me. But, ohmahgoodness all that changed when I found this recipe. Don't be scared off by the introduction of a very unique and unusal ingredient… it can easily be omitted all together. All I'm saying friends… is that you should TRY THIS RECIPE…. RIGHT NOW! It's awesome-town! Seriously, I would say this recipe is easily THE best chocolate cake I've ever tried! 

So back to my sweet little roomie. A few weeks ago, she was having the student teacher's week from hell. This girl was student teaching all day Monday - Friday (under the supervision of the most unpleasant teacher "mentor" ever,) finishing up her own pre-graduation classes this semester, and then waiting tables like 4 nights a week till midnight. I don't know how she was functioning. She was always exhausted and stressed. And you know what they say... stressed spelled backwards is DESSERTS! :)
I decided to bake up a sweet treat using this super fun cake pan that she got a few months ago from William Sonoma! Cute right? It turned out pretty adorbs!

Black Velvet Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2  cup white sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup + 2 Tb. unsweetened apple sauce
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tb. apple cider vinegar (you can use regular white vinegar, but the apple cider is sweeter, and ideal for cakes)
2 cup cold water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, and cocoa powder, sift and set aside. (ALWAYS sift when making a cake from scratch!)

Those little balls of cocoa... not cute when baking a cake... ALWAYS SIFT!

3. Place the baking soda into a small dish, add the vinegar and stir, set aside.

Get ready for science class...
Bubbles! This is what happens when you mix the two, and THIS is what gives your cake that VELVET texture.

4.  Add the powdered egg substitute to the water, and whisk until dissolved. 

Ok if you're scared if this (and you shouldn't be, it make the cake SO moist and fudgey) then just omit the powder, and add the plain water.

The egg replacement powder resembles baking powder. Here's what it looks like after being whisked into the water.

5. Add the applesauce, water mixture, and vanilla. Mix on medium until thoroughly incorporated.

6. Add the vinegar/baking soda mixture. Stir until batter is smooth.

7. Divide evenly between cake pans.

Too cute or what?

 8. Bake for 25-28 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Into the oven they go!

7. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before inverting onto a plate, and allow to cool completely before frosting. ENJOY! 

Yields approximately 2 (9 in) round cakes or 24 cupcakes

Two "cookies!"

I used Breyer's Lactose-free ice cream (yes, it exists and it's pretty good) for the ultimate cream filling!

Too cute!

My only complaint with the lactose-free ice cream is that melts faster than you can say Oreo! Yikes! Into the freezer it goes!
**EnerG Powdered egg replacement sounds like some crazy ingredient that doesn't belong in a cake... especially when you notice the Asian symbols on the box. Do not be scared! My roomie introduced this to me, apparently it's all the rage with the vegans. After trying it out, I understand why... it gives you a moist, fudgey texture (some vegan cupcakes/cakes that I've tried from local bakeries are not only sub-par, but also dry and crumbly. Ick) I was able to find this stuff in the natural food section at Kroger, it's less than $4.00 a box, and I'm pretty sure it'll last forever, since I only use a few tablespoons at a time. Try it, and let me know what ya think!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Me, StrongME, and Better'n PB Giveaway!

Hello readers! I have not abandoned you, but somehow I managed to go 5 whole days without blogging. It's not because I've been without fabulous recipes and nutrition info to share... I've just been so busy sharing  with some other fabulous people. Those people would be my 6th grade students at a local charter school in Memphis, TN!
Recently, I was given the opportunity to fill in as a nutrition counselor at a wonderful 12-week family weight management program based here in Memphis. I met with children and their families to go over their food logs and share some healthy cooking and baking techniques. I was also able to discuss and answer questions they had about how to plan healthy meals when you're on the go so often. This amazing program was started by Dr. Janice Pride-Boone, a fabulous Harvard trained pediatrician, who saw the need for an intervention program for childhood obesity... one that involved the whole family. She decided to do something about it and started StrongME! Please check out their website, especially if you're a local Memphian and know someone who could benefit from participating in such a program.

Parents & children participate in a group fitness class (such as Zumba) at the begining of each session - this photo is courtesy of StrongME!

 Nutrition discussion during a StrongME session -  this photo is courtesy of StrongME!
All that to say, after my one night "gig" as a nutrition counselor, I was offered the opportunity to help StrongME crossover into the school setting. Last week I began going to one of the Memphis middle schools to talk to the 6th graders about nutrition and healthy living. I'll be doing this about twice a week for the duration of the fall semester and spring semester as well. I couldn't be more thrilled! During the first week, I introduced the idea of nutrition and healthy living. Dr. Pride-Boone was also on hand to tell them about pediatric obesity and the consequences of it. What I found to be shocking was that she actually had a patient who ended up having their gallbladder removed due to complications with obesity! That's the type of surgery that obese adults are having!) 12% of adults that is, and after having a solid a 50 years WITH their gallbladder! If you're interested in reading more about obesity and gallbladder disease, check out this article over at Obesity Action Coalition.

Now you may think, "Woah! My kid doesn't even know what a gallbladder is! Heck, I don't even know what it does! Why on earth would it be necessary to talk to kids about this kind of thing." The honest answer in my opinion is this... ignorance is bliss. The very fact that we don't talk about the extreme and paniful consequences of such a disease is what leads us to think nothing of super sizing that #4 with extra cheese and bacon!!! In fact... my question is, why not talk to kids about this!?!? They're smart, and they should be more informed about the effects of their decisions, especially when it's related to their health and their body! The fact is, we don't give kids enough credit.
Most recent report of childhood obesity, "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010."
This photo is courtesy of Trust for America's Health

If you know me, then you know that I have a passion for nutrition, especially in nutrition education for children. You would think that nutrition and health would be a mandatory class given the skyrocketing obesity rates that continue to grow at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, health and nutrition aren't on the report card that little Suzie takes home... therefore why would Suzie's teacher take time away from teaching science, math, social studies, etc to teach something that isn't covered on those very important tests which school's funding is based upon? I'm not blaming Suzie's teacher for this... but until legislation gets passed requiring a graded wellness course, that aspect of education gets set aside. If you agree with me... that health and nutrition education should be required, then make your voice heard in your state! Find out how over at the Health Education Advocate.

Ok! I'm off my nutrition education soapbox! I thought I'd share some of my favorite techniques for healthier cooking and baking. These are the exact same tips I shared with the parents at StrongME a few weeks ago!

'Cause I actually believe that you can have your cupcake and eat it too...
Just use applesauce instead of vegetable oil ;)
Enjoy and happy baking!

Healthier Cooking...
Make healthier mashed potatoes by adding Greek yogurt instead of fattening sour cream. You'll still get the creamy texture without all of the fat.                    
Holy Guacamole! Add ½ cup of plain 0% Greek yogurt for every whole mashed avocado that you use in your favorite guacamole recipe for some an added protein punch at your next fiesta.
*** Check out my Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes recipe made with Chobani 2% Plain Greek yogurt! ***
Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise into wedges, toss with cracked pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes (tossing occasionally) until tender and golden brown for a delicious side item of sweet potato "fries."
For the taste of fried foods without the calories, trying using Panko Japanese bread crumbs as a crispy, crunchy coating.
Healthier Baking...
Substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in any baking recipe. This will dramatically cut the fat and calories, and will leave you with a moister brownie or cupcake than any amount of fat could try to accomplish.  
Don't feel that you should follow every recipe exactly! Feel free to decrease the amount of sugar in a recipe. Try substituting some of the amount with agave nectar, which is much lower on the glycemic index and twice as sweet as sugar… which means you can use less!
Bake without breaking… an egg! Use liquid egg whites (available in small cartons in the egg section at the grocery store) in place of whole eggs for zero fat and zero cholesterol. Added bonus… no worrying about egg shells getting in the batter!
***Check out my AWESOME recipe for Pumpkin & Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies where I used the above three healthy baking techniques!***
By toasting nuts, you can bring out a stronger flavor…  therefore you only have to use half the amount and still get the nutty flavor that you desire.
Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now!
That Red Hot Chili Peppers song just popped in my head. Not sure why. ACTUALLY... it could be because I'm hosting my first blog giveaway! Wanna know what it is? Well, you know that peanut butter that I'm OBSESSED with? Ya know, the one I wrote about here and here... The kind folks over at Better'n Peanut Butter were so happy that I had been spreading the peanut butter (no pun intended) love around, that they wanted me to able to share it with my fabulous readers!
So when this box arrived the other day, I was so excited to see what was inside...
They put PB on a diet... and it's oh-so-good! 
There was 1 jar of Original Better'n Peanut Butter AND 1 jar of Chocolate Better'n Peanut Butter! Now I haven't been able to find the chocolate variety in my home town, so I was so tempted to keep this one for myself. But I love my readers too much :) So... the winner of this giveaway will receive BOTH jars of Better'n Peanut Butter!

This giveaway is Vegan and Anti-Gluten friendly... both products are dairy free and gluten free! Cheers!
To enter just leave a comment on this post and tell me... what is your favorite way to enjoy peanut butter? If you win, you'll be able to REALLY enjoy it, because Better'n Peanut Butter contains 85% LESS fat and almost HALF the calories of your normal jar of PB! Hello... I'm hungry. I'll pick a winner using a random number generator on Wednesday. Last chance to enter will be Wednesday, October 27th at 6pm (central time.) Good luck!

Also - since I don't leave you with an actual recipe today... I will leave you with this photo of Mr. Teddy:
1 Pug + 1 Hot Dog Halloween Costume = Recipe for Cuteness

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream frozen yogurt!

Fall is my favorite season, and that means a few of my favorite things... 
sweater season
crunchy leaves outside
cooler temps...
which means Mr. Teddy gets longer walks, pugs don't fare well in the heat,
and finally, pumpkin flavored goodness!

...which leads me to this fall indulgence year after year
TCBY pumpkin yogurt + whipped cream + cinnamon = HEAVEN!
Portion Distortion People!
This is a kid's size cup and it was PLENTY of froyo to hit the spot. 
Remember, kid's sizes aren't just for kids ;) 

I realize this isn't exactly a wordless Wednesday post, but it's a minimal words Wednesday... for me at least!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bananarama! Muffins and MORE!

My favorite thing ever... the Kroger Bag o' Bananas!
**Photo Disclaimer: I seem to have misplaced my camera... so these cell phone pics will have to do**

The recent trend on my kitchen counter is the overflowing amount of bananas that I seem to be accumulating. I'm sorry, but I just can't resist Kroger's cute little "Ready for Baking" discounted bag o' bananas, ya know... the ones that have lost all traces of green and perhaps are a bit brown in areas. I'm just saying... I like a nice mashed banana stirred into my morning bowl of oatmeal (topped with a blob of Better'n PB of course) or tossed into a blender for a tasty smoothie on a ridiculously hot Memphis afternoon.

My Top 5 Uses for a "Ready for Baking" Bag O' Bananas:
1. Place in ziploc bag for 24 hours, throw it in your freezer. Then... toss them in a food processor. Pulse, scrape down the sides, pulse some more, scrape down the sides again... keep doing this until your frozen bananas look like frozen yogurt, or faux-gurt... I'm so clever. :) Delicious. Easy. Healthy. Give it a try.

2. Add a mashed banana to my stovetop oats. Check out my post with my go-to recipe for "Banana Oats." Topped with my fave Better'n PB... this is probably my favorite breakfast of all times.

3. Muffins! Banana muffins! Add dark chocolate chips, coconut, pecans, walnuts, dried fruit, chopped strawberries, or whateva other add ins that float your banana boat.

4. Be a smoothie king (or queen!) My personal fave is a "Green Monster Smoothie." Give that recipe a try and I promise you'll be hooked on these FABULOUSLY delicious and green monsterrific smoothies... and you'll never taste the hefty dose of iron and calcium that you'll be getting from the spinach! Oh and double that dose of calcium with the milk... sianara feeble bones!

5. Finally... training treats for Mr. Teddy! His intake of "people food" is very limited. I've gotta watch that puggy waistline! He is allowed to eat fresh fruits and veggies, with the exception of grapes or onions - they're poison for dogs y'all!
That's a slice of banana on the floor... Mr. Teddy doesn't even look at me as he sits patiently while I instruct him, "Wait... wait... wait... Ok!" As soon as I say "Ok" that pug moves faster than you would believe!

All that to say, banana muffins have been popping out of my oven faster than you can say Curious George.  However, this girl can only eat so many banana muffins myself before I have to start worrying about the formation of my own "muffin top" above my jeans. Not cute.

Luckily I have a fabulous roommate, who also has a love of cooking, baking, nutrition, and food in general, like moi! Side note - we met in our Principles of Food Preparation class at U of M. However... she is lactose intolerant. Which means if I wanna whip up a batch of cupcakes on whim, I have to be a bit more creative if I don't wanna wind up being the only one eligible to consume those little baked treats. In addition, I get to sample her old standby dairy-free recipes. Pretty sweet deal, right? Here's a recipe that I whipped up earlier this evening to make use of some of those bananas on my counter.

Gabby-Friendly Banana Muffins 
1/4 C liquid egg whites (or 2 whole eggs)
1/3 cup *buttermilk (I used the "mock" buttermilk technique that I first wrote about in my pumpkin pancake recipe, I also used you light vanilla soy milk so that Gabby could enjoy the muffins as well)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup agave nectar 
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tb vanilla extract
2 Tb. chia seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup walnut pieces

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line your muffin tin with some cute paper liners.
- Blend together the eggs, milk, applesauce and bananas.
- Sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir in pecans. Mix well.
- Fill each liner about 2/3 full, place about four small pieces of walnuts on top of each unbaked muffin. 
- Bake for 18 - 22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Yields:18 muffins*"Mock buttermilk" Take your liquid measuring cup and pour in 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar. Then add enough milk to fill to the 1/3 C. line (essentially you'll be using just under 1/3 C. of milk.) Let stand for 5 minutes... use as recipe directs.

Into the oven they go..

... and out of the oven they come!

Gabby was working late so I left her this note letting her know they were "Gabby-friendly" ;)
I'm currently partaking in my fave Tuesday night tradition, Biggest Loser and painting my nails.  This is how Mr. Teddy usually "places" himself on my lap. Thought yall might get a kick out of this. Apparently, just because you weight nearly 30 pounds doesn't mean you can't be a lap dog.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes... I. Love. You. Look at the beautiful orange color!
I'm gonna keep this post short and sweet... like the delicious stack of pumpkin pancakes that I had for breakfast yesterday... recipe to follow ;) I know, yet another pumpkin recipe, and I'll make no apologies. Autumn does this to me, and honestly, doesn't everything taste so much better with a little pumpkin spice.

This weekend... my oldest brother, his sweet wife, and my absolutely adorable nine month old niece came to visit all the way from Birmingham, AL. My mom decided to whip up a special Saturday morning breakfast... pumpkin pancakes, oh my! I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to test out some of the Greek yogurt that Chobani sent me. I had seen pancake recipes before using yogurt... so why not pumpkin pancakes? And why not Greek yogurt? If you wanna know why I've gone Cho-razy over Chobani, then check out my previous post, Ode to a Grecian Yogurt.

I chose the 2% Plain Chobani Greek yogurt for this recipe
 The result? Awesome-town USA! These pancakes were so moist, fluffy, delightful... and perfectly pumpkin! I highly recommend! I'll definitely add yogurt to pancake mix from now on!

Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes
1 C. All-purpose flour
1/4 C. white sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C. buttermilk**
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 whole egg
3/4 C. canned pumpkin puree
1 (6 oz.) contain of Chobani 2% Plain Greek Yogurt

- Mix all dry ingredients together thoroughly.
- Add the buttermilk, oil, and egg. Whisk all ingredients until thoroughly blended,
- In a separate bowl, add the yogurt to the pumpkin puree. Stir until blended.
- Add the pumpkin and yogurt mixture to the pancake batter and mix well.

Pumpkin mixed with yogurt...
Finished pumpkin pancake batter, ready for the griddle!
- Head griddle or skillet on medium heat. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
- Using a laddle or small measuring cup, pour a small portion of batter on the griddle/skillet to form your pancakes.
- Once bubbles begin to appear, gently flip the pancaked. Finish cooking until nice and golden brown on both sides.
- Enjoy with a drizzle of REAL maple syrup or some agave nectar (sorry, but the Aunt Jemima and Eggo brand contains HFC... high fructose corn syrup, which is not cool!) Mmm! ENJOY!

My mom was the short order cook for the day, so I took the time to relax and hang out with the fam...
Jordan (my lovely sister-in-law) and Alex (my brother) enjoyed the pancakes... with a side of fresh fruit.

My preggers sister was a fan of the pancakes, and apparently the coffee creamer.
**Did you know that you don't need to run out for buttermilk when a recipe calls for it? I have a solution that will save you the extra trip to the grocery store... and unnecessary calories and fat. You ready for this? MAKE IT YOURSELF! Yea, seriously... all you need is whatever milk you have on hand and some lemon juice or white distilled vinegar. Essentially buttermilk is just fermented milk caused by the presence of acid... which gives buttermilk the tart flavor. Here's a simple way to make your own... this is what we did for the pancakes we made yesterday.

Take your 1 C. liquid measuring cup and pour in 1 Tb. of lemon juice or white vinegar. Then add enough milk to fill to the 1 C. line (essentially you'll be using just under 1 C. of milk.) Let stand for 5 minutes... use as recipe directs. 

I thought my little niece, Ruthie, might want to try the leftover remnants of yogurt inside the container...

I think she was more impressed with the fun container...

Doesn't this look like an ad?

Well, that's all for now friends! Hope yall had a wonderful weekend! I know I did! :)

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