Everything But

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Please understand that I am in
full rebellion
against my own mind; that when I live
I live by impulse, by emotion,
by white heat.”

—Anaïs Nin, Henry and June

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The French, in their effortless elegance, make a difference between kitchen and bathroom sinks.
Un évier et une lavabo.

They draw the line at owl’s ears: ones with visible ears are les hiboux, while ones without are les chouettes.
There are three words for frost, seven for ice.
Five for window, four for wall.
There’s even a phrase in French for the phenomenon of the urge to jump off of tall buildings/cliffs/balconies/heights:
l’appel du vide.
(Literally: call of the void.)

There are other nuances threaded into the language that make translation tricky; this is one of the most fascinating parts of non-native languages, I think.
Idioms and untranslatables that might confuse anyone hearing them for the first time.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is totally autumnal, so in the same vein, here are some fantastic fall links for you to peruse.

OMgomgomg. Michelle made brown butter pumpkin cinnamon rolls with crème fraîche glaze and they are so fluffy and beautiful I am seriously losing my mind.

These ultra healthy sugar free apple, almond, and buckwheat muffins from Green Kitchen Stories look so comforting (that applesauce center wooooow) and I want to eat 3 for breakfast like, right now, please.

On the savory side, stew is my favorite kind of meal.
Customizable, easy, makes leftovers.
I gravitate towards middle Eastern flavors (za’atar is my go-to spice blend) when I’m cooking, and this squash and bean stew over brown rice is my idea of a perfect fall meal.
Side note: I really want SK’s Bowl + Spoon because, like I said, that’s the kind of cuisine/meal that just gets me.

See also: this butternut squash chili. Oyyyyyy so warm and spicy and squash-y.

Last one: drooling over this dutch apple pie with muscovado toffee sauce.  Crumbly and salty-sweet and layers upon layers of apple drenched in toffee sauce…
I am quite partial to a good apple pie.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Where to start with this carrot cake…

First of all, it is remarkable how well the mélange of ingredients mesh in this cake.
The sheer number of mix-ins might make one wary, but you absolutely must trust me, because the resulting cake is nothing short of phenomenal.

It is exactly how I like my carrot cake: moist, dark, spicy, fruity, and chock full of little surprises in each bite.
And lots and lots of carrot!

The cake is healthier than most carrot cakes, which are always touted to be calorie bombs in disguise.
The amount of refined sugar is drastically reduced by using coconut sugar, which is dark and a little smoky tasting.  It lends the cake an extra deep, caramel flavor.
The cake itself is dairy free, with MCT-rich coconut oil standing in for butter.

The frosting has a cracked, shiny, swirly top.
It’s lusciously rich on the tongue, with butter and brown sugar creating an extremely rich caramel flavor.
It’s good while soft and melty and fantastic when cold, which firms it up into a fudgy consistency.
It’s a rich frosting to pair well with the dense, moist cake beneath.  A wimpy frosting would have no impact and no chance of competing with the cake.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake is filled with grated carrots and apples for earthiness and a firm bite; coconut sugar and flaked coconut add a whisper of the tropics and a hint of caramel and smoke; candied ginger and a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves add a spicy note; juicy golden raisins are sweet and unexpected; finally, toasted chopped walnuts give an ever-so-slight bitter nuttiness to each bite.

The frosting deserves a whole host of adjectives of its own.
This is seriously the best frosting of this sort (spread over warm sheet cake) I have ever in my life tasted or imagined.
Unlike the cake, it is in no way healthified.

It’s made of copious amounts of butter and brown sugar, and is literally liquid fudge that is spread over the warm cake and then allowed to set into luscious, creamy goodness.
It’s sweet and salty and a little caramel-esque, with a crunchy, shiny top layer and a buttery center below.
I want to spread it on every single sheet cake I ever make.
This would be incredible with applesauce cake, or chocolate cake, or caramel cake, or coconut cake… or a spoon, or cardboard.  You get the point.  It’s good.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting
makes 1 9×9 inch cake
frosting adapted from KAF

ingredients:
for the cake:
2 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
170 grams (3/4 cup) coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
120 grams (1 cup) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
200 grams (1 1/2 cups grated) carrots
2 small granny smith apples, grated
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins

for the brown sugar fudge frosting:
100 grams (7 tablespoons) butter
130 grams (2/3 cup) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon plus big pinch kosher salt
60 grams (1/4 cup) milk
275 grams (2 1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9×9 inch pan; line with parchment and grease the parchment as well.
Whisk eggs, sugars, oil, and salt together until homogeneous and light in color.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices on top.
Fold in until halfway incorporated, then add the grated carrots and apple on top and fold until completely uniform.
Stir in walnuts, coconut, raisins, and candied ginger.
Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool while you prepare the frosting.
Make the frosting: melt butter, brown sugar, and salt together until completely incorporated.
Whisk in the milk and powdered sugar until a thick frosting comes together.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then spread over the partially cooled cake, swirling with a palette knife as desired.
Serve cake room temperature or slightly chilled for denser cake.

Take the Cake

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by carrot cake.

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Carrot cakes are (generally) overly sweet and fatty.
Cloying sugar covers up the rich earthy undertones of the carrots.
Oil is added until the batter is slick and shiny, and when baked, greasy.

On top of this, a thick, sugared crust of cream cheese frosting, which is literally just fat and pounds of icing sugar.

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Too much sugar and too much fat—not that anyone is really under the impression that traditional carrot cake is intended to be healthy, but there is such a thing as too much of a yummy thing.

Carrot cakes have all the potential in the world, and too often they fall painfully short of delicious.

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Carrots, after sugar beets, have the most natural sugar of any vegetable.  As root vegetables, this sweetness is accompanied by a rich, round earthiness and, when cooked, a pleasant chewiness.

A whole pound of them form the base of this cake, shredded into tiny threads that all but disappear, leaving a moist, coarse crumb.

Carrots are accompanied by nutty rye flour, sweet, buttery pecans, round coconut oil and peppery olive oil, and shredded coconut that melts into the finished cake.

I reduced the sugar and oil in this recipe, replacing the standard canola oil with olive and coconut and taking the sugar down by 1/4.
Both are supplanted by a mashed up banana, which gives body and sweetness in a more wholesome way.

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This adds up to a carrot cake full of textures and flavors, without the slick of oil and heaps of sugar.
It’s carrot cake, but better.
It’s a touch more healthy, but that’s not the point—the point is to make this cake more respectable, more complex.

Take back carrot cake, people.

IMG_1375_01After reducing the amount of sugar and fat in the cake itself, I made a batch of cream cheese frosting that was on the smaller side, and much less sweet than the standard.
In order to be able to not add 1 1/4 POUNDS of powdered sugar to the frosting, I add in powdered milk, which adds body and extra flavor without the cloying sweetness.

This gets spread in a thin layer all over the cake, making it look a little naked but still pretty, IMHO.  Most of the frosting is saved for the top, and it doesn’t crust over with sugar, but remains creamy.

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Words have escaped me when I sit down to write, lately.
I don’t have much to complain about say.
I suppose I don’t feel much inspired by my life of late—not that it’s boring, but it is rather relaxed and quiet—and it leads me to be quite quiet on the blog.
I realize that many of you don’t come for the words, so I am deciding that whether they flow or not, I shall share the recipes and photos that I have in my (long) backlog.

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Maybe my next post will have more words.  Maybe not.
xx

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Rye Carrot Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
makes 1 4×8 or 3×9 inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 scant pound carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup desiccated coconut (sub shredded coconut)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 medium banana, mashed
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup

for the cream cheese frosting:
12 ounces (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks, 12 tablespoons) butter, softened
pinch kosher salt
1 cup dry milk powder
1 1/2-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 8-inch round baking pans.
Stir flours, baking powder and baking soda together.
In a food processor with the finest shredder attachment disk or with a cheese grater, shred the carrots as finely as you can; set aside.
Whisk sugar, salt, oils, and banana together very briskly, until completely combined and smooth.
Beat in each of the eggs and the maple syrup; whisk until completely smooth.
Add in the dry ingredients and carrots and stir to combine; when almost combined, add in the pecans, coconut, and raisins.
Scoop even amounts of the batter into the pans and smooth out with a spatula or butter knife.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the tops of the cakes are springy to the touch.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn out of pans and allow to cool completely.
Make the frosting: beat butter on high speed until softened and almost white, about 5 minutes.
Add in the cream cheese and salt and beat for 3 more minutes, until completely homogeneous.
Sift the powdered milk and powdered sugar over the mixture in 4 parts, beating on high speed for 1 minute between each addition.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat for another minute; taste for sweetness.
To assemble the cake, spread 1/3 cup frosting between each layer and thinly frost the sides; use the remaining frosting to coat the top in a thick layer.
Serve at room temperature.

FOTA

Chiaroscuro LARGE

CHIAROSCURO

blackberry caviar, coconut mousse, coconut crumb, coconut yolk, blackberry puree

Chiaroscuro SMALL II

Hi!  To any newcomers, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my project for UChicago’s spring Festival of the Arts!

(I’ll post more explaining this post-presentation, for all you laypeople.)

////// Okay!  SO Hi!  Yes!  Presentation went off without a hitch. \\\\\\

I gave a 7-ish minute spiel about molecular gastronomy, this here blog, my weird love of reverse frozen spherification, and the three desserts you see here, which were funded by FOTA.

Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly (I definitely did).Chiaroscuro SMALL I

Contrast, made edible.  Fruity, creamy, crunchy, chewy.

Why are there so many seeds in blackberries?  Getting ultra-smooth puree is a pain in the ass.

Fragola LARGE

FRAGOLA

black pepper cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, ginger black pepper sand, walnuts, candied lemons, creme fraiche, honey

Fragola SMALL I

Early summer on a plate.  Spicy, sour, rich, fresh.

PSA: candied lemons are so incredibly addictive.  So is lemon curd.  OMg.

Fragola SMALL II

For my live presentation, I made a deconstructed strawberry pie: strawberry yolk, yogurt cream, 5-spice milk sand.
Simple, delicious.

Tuolo LARGE

TUORLO

mango yolk, watermelon tartar, avocado mousse,  lime curd, creme fraiche, grapefruit

Tuolo SMALL I

A play on tuna tartare with raw egg yolk.  Tropical, crunchy, herb-y, tangy.
(There is nothing quite like cold watermelon on a hot day, amirite?!)

Tuolo SMALL II

Happy to provide any of the recipes pictured for my fellow molecular nuts!

Gadzooks!

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Hello! Welcome to my first post on my “new” blog!

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I’ve spent a bunch of time designing this new website- what do y’all think?

I think it’s pretty shmancy, and I’m glad to have my own domain!

You can still access any/all of my posts (yes, even the really old embarrassing ones, though the formatting of those is a bit wonky- it didn’t transfer smoothly) and you can search for any items/ click through the tag cloud down at the bottom of the page.

Things should be quicker and less difficult, and hopefully prettier around here!

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Not much else will change- I’m still going to be posting about yummy treats like these cupcakes.

These little guys make use of something that most people are drowning in this time of year- zucchini!

Instead of baking it into a bread, I made tender little cupcakes.   Zucchini bread tends to be dense, which doesn’t translate well into cakes.

Luckily, these are soft and light, with a tight crumb and slightly crispy exterior.

I topped them with a fluffy lime cream frosting, made with mascarpone cheese.

The recipe is quite easy- it’s a two bowl, no mixer, 10 minute prep kind of cake.

In addition, it only makes 6 perfect little cakes!  Lovely when you don’t want an army of cupcakes to decorate, or you need a quick, sweet fix.

Enjoy, and, again, welcome to the new site!

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Zucchini Cupcakes with Lime Cream frosting

makes 6

for the cupcakes:

adapted from Chow

ingredients:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons AP flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3.5 ounces zucchini (about 1 small/medium squash), grated on a box grater (scant 1 cup grated)

directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 6 muffin tins with papers, or grease and flour them.

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together.

In another bowl, whisk the oil, egg, sugars, and vanilla together.

Whisk the two mixtures together, then whisk or fold in the zucchini.

Portion the batter out into your muffin tins and bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool before frosting.

for the lime cream frosting:

ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter, softened

6 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (you can substitute cream cheese here)

zest of one lime

juice of 1/2 a lime

1/3 cup nonfat milk powder

1 2/3 cup powdered sugar

directions:

Beat the mascarpone and butter together until fluffy.

Add in the lime zest and juice and mix until combined.

Add in the milk powder and powdered sugar slowly, while beating.

Continue to beat until frosting is fluffy.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Corny

This is an end-of-summer hurrah.
Here’s the sad part: I don’t really feel like writing this post right now.
And I didn’t feel like writing it yesterday
 
or the day before.
Today was Labor Day; I should be gushing about how wonderful summer was and how much I’m looking forward to the fall (my favorite season, duh. Fall baby.)
but
but but
I’m not ready.  I’m so completely and utterly not ready for fall to come sweeping through on a breeze as sharp and cold as the edge of a knife.
Two weeks ago, I was beyond ready.  I could barely wait.
I was on the edge of my seat, excited for cool weather and college (?!) and even the infinite and damned pumpkin recipes.
So, as I write this post, this technically last summer post, why am I so apprehensive and even anxious?
Lord only knows.  
Something inside me has switched and is now tugging me backwards through time, rewinding through the heat and the rain and the thick humidity, rather than pulling me forwards into the chill.
As the time of my departure looms large, I find myself clinging to my friends who live here in town, clinging to my town itself.
Who knew it would be so hard to say goodbye to your safe haven, your happy place, your home?
(Other than everyone…)
See, and here is exactly why I didn’t want to write this post.
Now, I am in tears.
And I don’t want to tell you about this awesome ice cream.
I just want to sit and cry and listen to my sad music playlist and whine and reminisce.
I want a hot cup of tea and a pair of comforting arms to snuggle into.
I. Am. Not. Ready.
Hell, I don’t even want to be ready.
*sigh*
But, I have a job to do here on this sweet-filled blog. So:
This ice cream is awesome.  
This is the second time I’ve made it, which is very rare.
It’s a caramel corn ice cream, loaded with goodies.
 
A creamy custard base is steeped with sweet corn cobs and kernels, fortified with a million egg yolks, and churned until thick and soft.
It’s layered with a soft, smooth caramel laced with whiskey, and crumbled corn cookies, which are summer and sun in a single buttery bite, and which come from the great Christina Tosi.
If you wanna get real naughty, you take a big scoop of this ice cream and sandwich it between two leftover corn cookies.
And then you eat it and think about summer.
Because, I’m telling you, there’s no way you can eat this ice cream
 
and not think
about summer.
Caramel Corn Ice Cream
 
for the corn custard:
ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels taken off, cobs reserved
9 egg yolks
7 tablespoons sugar
directions:
Place heavy cream and milk in a deep pot with the kernels and cobs of the corn.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  
Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let cool for at least 45 minutes.
Strain the milk mixture, discard the steeped corn. (Scrape the sides of the cobs to make sure you get all the milk out.)
Whisking vigorously, or blending with an immersion blender, add in the egg yolks and sugar.
Return to the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and blend, in a regular blender canister or with an immersion blender.
Allow to cool completely (overnight in a fridge is ideal).
 
for the whiskey caramel:
ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
big pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon whiskey
directions:
Place the sugar, salt, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed and deep pan.
Heat over medium heat until sugar caramelizes and turns deep amber, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the heavy cream and whiskey together.
Once the caramel reaches a suitable color, remove from heat and immediately pour in cream/whiskey mixture, whisking constantly.
Mixture will steam, foam, and erupt; be careful and wear an oven mitt.
If the mixture seizes, simply return it to a low heat and continue to whisk until the caramel dissolves and becomes smooth and grit-free.
Allow to cool completely.
 
to assemble:
1 batch corn custard, recipe above
1 batch whiskey caramel, recipe above, warmed for 20 seconds in a microwave or until pourable but not very hot

corn cookies, chopped roughly
directions:
Churn custard according to your ice cream maker’s directions.
Once churned, layer 1/3 of the ice cream into a loaf pan or other freezer-safe container.
Sprinkle 1/2 of the chopped corn cookies onto the ice cream, then drizzle the caramel over.
Layer in the same manner once more.
Finally, top everything off with the final third of the ice cream, then place in a freezer to set for at least 2 hours before using.
You may need to let the ice cream thaw slightly before scooping to serve.

Dat New New

Oh, hey.
Didn’t see you there.
Today is mostly photos (and is short and sweet), because I want to share my latest photographic development (get it?) with you, and I have some longer, more involved posts coming up (nothing too crazy).
 
I recently bought a 100mm macro lens to go along with my new camera.
I love it!
My cats, not so much.
They wish I had never bought it.
I’m still trying to get the hang of it; it’s not as easy as I thought.
Like most things, there’s a learning curve.
I’ve found that it’s the only one of my lenses that I prefer to shoot with on manual focus.
I shove the huge thing right up in my cats’ faces, because I love their eyes.  
My dog will have absolutely none of it.
So yes, these are some photos I’ve taken recently.
This is kind of a boring post; I don’t have anything to say.
I made these miniature crinkle cookies as part of small gifts I gave to my best friends.
They’re teeny tiny little things, only 2 teaspoons of batter per cookie.
The recipe is also teeny tiny, making exactly 10 cookies.
Perfect if you need a batch of cookies, but don’t want the burden of 3 dozen.
Meow.

Small Batch Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
adapted from Joy of Baking
ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 an egg (either weigh it and divide by two, or whisk it well and take approximately 2 tablespoons)
splash vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
pinch kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
directions:
Microwave chocolate and butter together on medium power until they are melted, set aside to cool slightly.
Whip the egg with the sugar until pale yellow and doubled in size.
Add the vanilla and chocolate and beat to combine.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt over the top of the mixture.
Beat until batter comes together.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the confectioner’s sugar on a plate or shallow bowl.
Using a 2 teaspoon cookie scoop or two small spoons, form 10 small balls.
Roll well in the confectioner’s sugar so that no brown is showing.
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Bake for 7-8 minutes, until the crackle pattern has formed.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Food For Thought

The other day, someone politely informed me that I was a terrible writer, with a sneer and a laugh.
Um… Thanks?

I had no response.

I spluttered and mumbled.   
“Oh.”

I was saddened by the fact that I felt so bothered and upset by such breezy criticism.
I was sad that I was sad.

A cheery circle of life, no?

Anyways, this prompted me to sit down at my computer, poised and ready to write a beautiful post, one that would surely impress this person, should they ever bother to read my blog again.

I’ve been sitting here ever since.
Sort of. 
I have been dwelling on this, more than I really should be.
This post has lain blank, while my mind churns with all the things I want to shout say.

What better place to rant than here on my very own blog, on the ever-so-private internet?
Actually, I don’t want this to be private.  
I want it to be shared and sent around, all around, despite its intimate and private contents- I want it to make its rounds through people’s inboxes and readers.
This is because I want it to have some impact.
I want people to remember how others feel when they make them feel bad about themselves, because sometimes we just don’t think before we speak.
We all forget too soon how we have felt when we are sad and broken.

We’ve all been on both ends of a less-than-kind comment, and I won’t hear otherwise.

I mean, honestly, as if I needed yet another thing to pick at inside me.
Another sore place where I feel I’m not good enough- another place which I scratch until it bleeds, until I drown in all of that bloody sorrow and regret and self-loathing.
 
I struggle to grasp at confidence; I do my best to act it, even when I don’t feel at all confident within.
There are a few things that I am (was?) confident about, and one is my baking and my blog.
I toil here, probably more than you think, to create a product of which I can be proud.
 
I love my blog.  And I love my readers.
And frankly, I put enough work in here that I don’t really care if someone thinks I’m a terrible writer.  
 
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when they tell me that.
To be honest, I’m not confident enough that it doesn’t make me doubt myself and my intentions.
I still came back to this blog with the thought that perhaps it’s not worth it, or not good enough, that people don’t like to read it.
I worried about this blog, and I worried about myself.  
For days.
 
So couldn’t that snide comment have been left to the wayside?

Because where exactly did it leave me?
Extra critical and picky over this blog.
Worried and worrying about what others think of me, not only myself, now, but also my blog.
Worried not only about how other bloggers receive me, but also my readers.
Self-doubting.
 
If we spent half as much time loving and appreciating as doubting and critiquing ourselves, don’t you think we- and this world as a whole- would be that much more satisfied and happy?

Wouldn’t we be that much more willing to love others?  To overlook their faults and embrace them?  
Don’t the majority of our criticisms and anger stem from our own sadness?

I lay in bed last night, feeling the cool air from my open window wash over me, wrapping around my ankles and resting in the crook of my elbows, flooding my nose and cooling the back of my throat, thinking about self-appreciation and love.

My thoughts- harboring hate self propagates; sow seeds of love and harvest happiness. 

The happier we are with ourselves- the more comfortable in our own skins- the brighter and happier our futures will be.

I want my future to glow- to shine- bright enough to blind.
That starts with loving myself.
That starts (anew) here.

Phew.  
To conclude this, I’m giving you the recipe for a cake that loves you back.
It’s raw, vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, and much lower in fat than most other raw desserts.
I’ve swapped in low-fat coconut milk and coconut, reduced the amount of nuts used in the crust and filling, and added a vegetable.
Zucchini!  That magical veggie which we are all guaranteed to have too much of in the coming weeks, as the plants churn out hundreds of little green squashes.
 
This cake boasts healthy fats from coconut, avocado, and walnuts.
It gets all of its sweetness from bananas, mangoes, dates, and a touch of stevia.
It’s pretty, and it’s yummy.
It’s a hug for your stomach, which is pretty much as close as I can get to giving any of you a hug.

A Cake That Loves You Back
ingredients:
for the crust:
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup coconut (I used reduced fat)
6 fat and juicy dried medjool dates, pitted
2 tablespoons coconut oil
for the banana layer:
2 bananas, peeled and chopped, then frozen
1 avocado
1 medium zucchini, peeled
1 scant cup of cashews, picked over and soaked in cold water for at least 2 hours
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 teaspoon stevia extract
for the mango layer:
2 cups chopped, frozen mango
1 cup light coconut milk
directions:
Make the crust: pulse all of the crust ingredients together in a food processor until they form a uniformly coarse meal. 
Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Make the banana layer: in a blender or food pro, puree the cashews until very smooth.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and puree until very, very smooth, at least a couple minutes.
Spread over the crust and chill in the freezer until set.
Meanwhile, make the mango layer: in a blender or food pro, puree the mango and coconut milk until a thick, sorbet-like mixture is formed.
Spread over the frozen banana layer, then chill again until the whole thing is set.
Before serving, allow it to sit at room temperature to temper, then cut and serve.

Copacabana

I peer out at the sun,
slowly relenting to the day’s end,
approaching the horizon and dragging its feet, dropping inch by inch,
white in its brightness from behind an evening haze.
Sand gives way to my burrowing toes,
digging for hidden treasures deep
beneath the soft carpet.
Shadows form, stretch and elongate their necks,
casting blue light, then purple, over their minute footprint kingdoms.
A lizard tongue darts out from between my lips,
savoring the sharp tang of salt.
I am reeling in the wake of a good book,
drunk on sunshine and delirious from the soft breeze,
which caresses my hair and gently dries the last drops on my skin,
leaves me as briny as the unending cerulean sea at which I squint.
These cupcakes remind me of sunny summer days.
It’s because they’re redolent with coconut and banana, with a pinch of cinnamon to round it all out.
The carrots provide a lovely texture, with just enough chew, punctuated by crunchy nuts.
 
Or maybe it’s just because as I was trying to name them, I saw this video.  
Immediately, they became cocobanana cupcakes- like copacabana.
I don’t know.  It made sense at some point or another.
These cupcakes are pretty darn healthy for cake.
They’re ideal pre-test food.
 
Coconut oil is full of MCFA (medium chain fatty acids) which are quickly metabolized by the body, unlike many other fats.
Walnuts are a brain food.  They’ve got a ton of omega-3 fatty acids (1/4 cup of walnuts provides 94% of your daily recommended value), which are crucial for proper brain function, and which almost no one gets enough of.  You find them in other nuts and seeds like flax and hemp, and they help with cognition, memory, and problem-solving.
Bananas have potassium, as does the molasses left in the raw sugar, key to maintaining proper balance in your body.
The carotenoids (namely, beta-Carotene) in the carrots and carrot juice used in the marzipan 
Cinnamon can help with regulating blood sugar, so you don’t get any nasty sugar spikes and resulting crashes.
The tumeric that I used to dye the marzipan is full of anti-oxidants.
Practically health food.
Practically.
I’ll be back on Saturday with a new post.
Or maybe not.
I have two AP math finals (Calc BC and Stats) tomorrow and Friday.
If i’m not back, check in the exam rooms.
There is a great and terrifying possibility that I will have expired right in my chair.
Chain rule, chain rule, chain rule.

Cocobanana Carrot Cupcakes
makes 24 mini cupcakes + 8 regular, or 18 regular cupcakes

for the cakes:
ingredients:
2/3 cup raw sugar (sub brown sugar)
1 banana, mashed
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted then measured (you can sub canola)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch each cinnamon and salt
1/2 pound carrots, shredded (on a cheese grater or using a food processor)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line your cupcake tins with liners.
Stir the sugar, banana, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in a large bowl.
Dump all of the flour over top and sprinkle the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt over the flour.
Stir until just coming together, then add the carrots and walnuts and stir until thoroughly combined.
Evenly portion into cupcake liners, and bake for 11-12 minutes for minis, 15-16 for regular size.

for the frosting:
ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch salt
Splash vanilla extract
directions:
Beat everything together, with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
Pipe or spread onto cupcakes as desired.


I topped my cupcakes with some homemade marzipan that I made out of carrot juice, almond meal, and sugar.  I tinted it with some tumeric (I actually love the spicy, mustardy flavor of tumeric in sweets, I know, it’s weird.) and a little food coloring.

Kvetch

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, even a brief glance, you were not surprised, I’m sure, at the title of this post.
 
I kvetch quite a lot, especially on this soapbox in my little corner of the internet.
 
Fun, if not somewhat depressing, fact: 1 out of every 3 posts on this blog has been labeled with “whining.”
1 out of every 10, “Stupid.”
3 of every 20, “WISE.”
 
At least I have that ratio going for me… WISE>Stupid.
Phew.
 
I won’t lie and say that my project has been going especially super duper well, simply because it has been somewhat stagnant in the last two weeks, primarily due to the fact that I have 4 finals within the next two weeks and 4 APs the two weeks following.
 
Needless to say, that has been consuming a lot of my time, energy, and, frankly, willpower.
 
I wanted to make something yesterday with basil, as we have two basil plants which have outgrown their welcome flourished, Lord knows how or why, in our kitchen.
It’s difficult for me to push WISE to the forefront of my mind and my worries these days.
I itch to get in the kitchen, but I have to force myself to work on other homework, else I fall behind (speaking of which, I already am behind…).  
 
I am relieved that my timeline for WISE is so much longer than my other classes; it may be only a few week difference between my APs and my WISE presentation, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t feel wonderful not to have added pressure in yet another class.
I know there are still things I haven’t gotten to.
I know there are topics that are in dire need of attention.
I know because I read my project proposal once through, yet again (I found a typo! Send help!!!), and realized that while I have gone above and beyond certain expectations that I had had, I am also lacking in more than a couple.
About the dessert, ’cause that’s what we really care about around here:
 
I found this dessert by Michael Laiskonis (the plating makes me want to cry, it is so beautiful. And no, I am not joking.  I love that stinking cylindrical panna cotta so much.  How could you not?  It’s a little tube of beauty.) and ran with the inspiration.
 
First, I kept things small- the plate that you see is a tiny little tea saucer, though it looks rather large in the photos.  
Secondly, I loved the way he cut the strawberries- it’s unconventional and transforms them into a new, unfamiliar element which attracts the eye.   So yeah, I copied him there.  
Third, I had no idea that basil seeds, like flax and chia seeds, were mucilaginous.  Steeping them in basil syrup is so logical but so unexpected.  
It heightens the herbaceous and spicy notes of the seeds, while activating their mucilage-producing quality.
Yucky name, lovely texture- sort of “squeaky,” as Laiskonis describes it.
 
Stick with me for a few more weeks, guys.  
We’re in it for the long haul.
 
P.S. humblebrag… sorry not sorry… Look at that quenelle!!  Best one yet!  I’m figuring out more and more tricks:
boiling water
small spoon
NO drying off the spoon
a tall, plastic container with a rim for the ice cream.
Hallelujah, I might have quenelling down by the time I have to present.
Capri
strawberry curd
tomato spheres
balsamic reduction
steeped basil seeds
basil ice cream

Capri

for the strawberry curd:
ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
directions:
Bring the strawberries, sugar, salt, and lemon juice to a boil.  

Allow to simmer until the strawberries have broken down into a smooth mush consistency. 
Whisking vigorously, add the egg.
Cook over medium-low heat until the curd thickens.
Whisk in the butter.
Chill until use; press plastic wrap right onto the surface of the curd to store.

for the tomato spheres:
1/2 cup of tomato juice, freshly pressed out of a few tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon agar
2 cups canola oil, chilled in the freezer for at least an hour
directions:
Stir the salt, sugar, juice, and agar together in a microwaveable, large container.  
Microwave on HIGH for 30 second bursts, until the mixture boils.
After the first burst that it boils, microwave it twice more, for a total of 1 minute 30 ish seconds of boiling in the microwave.
Remove the oil from the freezer (put it in a wide, large bowl).
Using a syringe, drop the liquid tomato gel into the oil.  It will congeal into little spheres.
Remove from the cold oil by straining the spheres out (the oil is reusable), then rinse in cool water and use.

for the basil seeds:
ingredients:
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
10 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 tablespoon basil seeds
directions:
Bring the water, sugar, and basil leaves to a simmer just to dissolve the sugar.
Strain out the leaves.
The syrup should be a loose consistency.  
If it is not, simply add more water 1/2 a teaspoon at a time.
Sprinkle the basil seeds over the syrup and mix gently.
Allow to sit and become mucilaginous.  
To use, strain the syrup with a sieve.

for the basil ice cream:
adapted from Jeni’s
ingredients:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons half and half
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon mascarpone
10-15 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 vanilla bean, scraped
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch kosher salt
pinch gelatin (scant 1/8 teaspoon)
directions:
Bring the vanilla bean, the vanilla seeds, the half and half, the sugar, the salt, the corn syrup, and the basil leaves to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and whisk cornstarch in very well.

Place mascarpone in a bowl; strain the hot ice cream base over the mascarpone; discard basil leaves and vanilla pod; whisk well to dissolve mascarpone.
Sprinkle gelatin over the top of the mixture and whisk to combine.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then spin in your ice cream maker until smooth and creamy.
Store in a plastic container in the freezer.

for the balsamic reduction:
ingredients:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
directions:
Bring to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan.  
Allow to boil for 15-20 seconds, then remove from heat.
The reduction should be only slightly looser than a syrup.

to assemble:
strawberries
micro basil leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
directions:
Smear a tablespoon or so of strawberry curd in a curve around your plate.
Place a large mound of whipped cream on the base of your plate; create a small well in the center with the back of a spoon.
Slice the very tips of the strawberries very thinly; place a few around the plate.
Spoon 1/4 teaspoon piles of basil seeds around the plate.
Garnish with micro basil leaves.
Splatter balsamic reduction across the side of the plate.
Place 1-2 tablespoons of tomato spheres in the well of your whipped cream.
Quenelle a scoop of basil ice cream and balance it on top of the spheres.
Serve immediately.