Friday, May 25, 2012

fantasy friday: chocolate coconut cupcakes from seattle

"Mom? It's me...Cricket."

If you watch Grey's Anatomy you'll know that Isobel Stevens has been through a lot. She's my favorite character, because despite all of the (somewhat unrealistic) hardships in her life, she always returns to love, happiness, and chocolate cupcakes.


In season 1, Izzy struggles to get her mother's chocolate cupcake recipe just right and finally ends up picking up the phone and reconnecting with her mom.

She also gets the missing ingredient...a tablespoon of coconut extract.


A tablespoon sounded a bit heavy-handed to me, so instead of using coconut extract at all, I used my creative license and made a treat full of coconut flour and coconut oil to reproduce the flavor. The difference between Izzy's cupcakes and mine? Mine are glutenfree and sugarfree (but substituting in sugar is easy). And I'm no expert in the paleo diet, but I think they'd even pass muster there.

I iced half of mine with the icing recipe below (which would be sufficient for the entire batch), and half with coconut butter rolled in unsweetened flaked coconut.


These are so rich and delicious. They taste light, but be warned, they are mostly fat. I'm a big believer in getting plenty of fat in your diet, but know that you probably shouldn't be eating six of these in a row. Store them in the fridge, but you can leave them out to soften before serving.

P.S. In case you didn't notice, these are just a transformation of the cake I tempted you with earlier.


Chocolate Coconut Mini Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp NuNaturals stevia baking blend (OR substitute regular sugar)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp coconut oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the coconut oil in the microwave until just melted (10-15 seconds if it's at room temp to start). Set aside to cool. Mix the first six wet ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs, oil, vanilla, and water. The batter will be very thick.

Spoon into 12 cups of a mini muffin pan, or into an 8-inch cake pan. Spread out evenly. Bake until tops are dry and a toothpick comes out clean (~20 minutes for mini muffins, 35-40 minutes for a cake pan).

Allow cupcakes to come to room temperature, then frost as desired.

~~~

Sugarfree Chocolate Icing

Ingredients:
2 tbsp coconut oil, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
20-25 drops liquid vanilla stevia

Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

artisana nut butters: review and giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner, Jordan!


It's time to talk about butter, ya'll!

Unlike Paula Deen's obsession with the yellow stuff, my butter obsession has taken a healthier turn...towards nut butters.


Artisana Organic Foods recently sent me a sampler pack of their various nut butters. And ohmygoodness were they delicious. And they should be. The ingredients in most of the products they sent are just raw nuts. So if you can pretty much predict if you'll like them or not. Artisana has taken what nature made delicious to begin with, and made it into tasty, creamy treats.

All of these products are made from organic food, unheated to preserve the wealth of nutrients in them. Except for the cacao bliss and coconut oil, the only ingredient in these are raw nuts...no sugar, no salt, no preservatives. Here's what I thought of each sample...

Cacao Bliss: This butter is actually a blend of coconut, cacao, and agave nectar. It tastes delicious, but is nothing like its highly processed counterparts like Nutella. It's good, but probably not something I'd spend my money on.
Macadamia Butter: This butter is actually a blend of macadamias and cashews. It has a very rich, but mild taste, with pieces of macadamia in it. It's not sweet and since it's so mild, I imagine you could get really creative with it in recipes.
Coconut Butter: This is my personal favorite. Coconut butter tastes sweet without any added sugar, and a ridiculously small amount of naturally occurring sugar. It is just luscious, perfect for when you're craving something sweet but avoiding sugar.



Cashew Butter: Artisana's raw cashew butter has a different taste than its roasted counterparts. It's almost a bit reminiscent of cream cheese, which explains why cashews are often used to make vegan cheese substitutes. This cashew butter is very smooth and versatile.
Pecan Butter: The pecan butter came in a close second to the coconut butter. Actually a blend of pecans and cashews, this one tastes like Christmas cookies to me...warm and sweet.
Walnut Butter: As you might expect, this one tastes just like walnuts. It wasn't my favorite, because I'm not a huge fan of walnuts, but it's super healthy and tastes good on toast.
Almond Butter: I wasn't expecting to be impressed by the almond butter, because I've tried so many other brands. But I was. It was surprisingly good, smooth and flavorful.
Coconut Oil: In my experience, bad coconut oil tastes like what I would expect Vaseline to taste like. Artisana makes good coconut oil, super smooth and tasting of nothing but coconut.

~~~

The winner of the giveaway will receive a sampler of the above nut butter squeeze packs. There are three ways to enter. Please leave a separate comment for each, as those will count as your entries! The giveaway will remain open until next Thursday, 5/31.

1. Leave a comment below telling me which butter you'd most like to try and how. (right from the pack? on a sammie?)
2. Tweet about this giveaway. Be sure to include a link and my twitter handle. (@findingclairity)
3. Like my facebook page. (if you've already liked it, you can leave another comment as an entry)

Also, I must be able to access your email address! If your email is not linked to your blogger profile, be sure to enter it with your comment, or link to your blog with an email address on it.

~~~

You can find Artisana products online, but they're also available in health food stores like Whole Foods, and even in some regular grocery stores. They can be a bit pricey, but are definitely worth the occasional treat, as they are healthy and delicious. You can make your own nut butters too to save money, but it's tough to get the same consistency as Artisana (and it takes some work!).

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

on fat shame by laci green

Laci Green is a young feminist vlogger I discovered yesterday. She keeps it real on her youtube channel, where she mostly talks about sex and gender identity, but also produces incredible commentaries on body image.

I guess some of her stuff is kind of controversial (I haven't explored even a quarter of it.) But her videos are quirky and fun, and yesterday I got totally caught up in those ones dealing with body image. Laci did a particularly impressive job addressing the social epidemic of fat shame...that is, the way we project our own fears and insecurities onto others who have visible fat. And she's not just talking about the morbidly obese (though shame is unproductive for any body weight). She's also talking about even the very subtle ways in which we demonize every inch of visible fat on the human body (like a soft tummy or jiggly upper arms).

Two of Laci's major points really stood out to me. The first was the idea that we have come to fear the word 'fat'. It has become so shameful to be fat, that we can't even use the word anymore. We all have fat. It is essential for survival. And yet, acknowledging our own fat is like some sort of faux pas...like we've uttered a dirty word. We can't talk about our own fat without people assuming we're ashamed of it.

Laci also addresses the fact that we often disguise our fat shame as concern for the health of others. Being overweight or obese does lead to major health issues. But shaming someone for their weight leads to other issues that are just as serious, like depression. We can only really deal with these issues of health if we are dealing with them in an emotionally sensitive way. Our bodies deserve our love no matter what part of the journey we're in.

The only point I disagree with is when Laci (albeit a bit jokingly) says no one cares about a stranger's health. I definitely do. But I think her real point is that the amount of fat we see on someone is not the real indicator of health (physical or otherwise) of a whole person. It's difficult to care about a stranger's health, because there's only so much you can know about them.

But take a look for yourself...



What ultimately resonates with me, as a health blogger, is how very personal health and weight are. Judging and shaming other people's health is unproductive. In fact, even telling people that they need to be healthy and how to do it doesn't really work. Health is a decision you make for yourself. It's personal. And it looks different for everyone. We all have our own personal hurdles.

I like to think that health professionals should provide resources and inspiration...but the decisions and the work belong to the individual. We shouldn't shame people who are struggling more than we are, nor should we feel guilty for struggling more than others.

The video has gotten some really negative and really positive feedback. What do you think? Please feel free to disagree, but keep it polite!

Monday, May 21, 2012

school's out for the summer

On Thursday I handed in my last two papers of the semester...thank goodness.

After I finished for the day, I went for a 3-mile walk around campus and towards home. It's not every day that you have time for such a long walk, and I wanted to feel the freedom of the summer. But I had to keep fighting back the sensation that there was something I needed to work on, something I needed to be accomplishing. You know that feeling?

But fight I did. I fought to relax, and in the end, the walk was sort of purging. I wore the wrong shoes, so by the time I made it home, my feet were killing me, I had a slight sunburn on my neck, and I was starving. So I relaxed. Because I had to.

Here are a few of the highlights from my trek.

City line

I love the feeling of a courtyard...

And clean, classic architecture

Mushrooms

Bottom of the reservoir

My friend...see him there on the bottom left?

I'm so excited to finally have time for sunshine and children's books. Now get off your computer and go capture some sunshine of your own!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

fantasy friday: bubble-and-squeak from toad's cell

"Now cheer up, Toad," she said coaxingly, on entering, "and sit up
and dry your eyes and be a sensible animal. And do try and eat a
bit of dinner. See, I've brought you some of mine, hot from the oven!"

It was bubble-and-squeak, between two plates, and its fragrance
filled the narrow cell. The penetrating smell of cabbage reached
the nose of Toad as he lay prostrate in his misery on the floor, and
gave him the idea for a moment that perhaps life was not such a
blank and desperate thing as he had imagined.

from The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame


Oh please tell me you've read it.

I realize I say pretty much the same thing every Friday, but The Wind in the Willows is one of my all-time favorites. It's thoroughly British country, so the pages are full of lazy afternoons, tea and brunch, tweed and wicker baskets. And really...how could you not love a story so full of precious personalities, embodied in tiny woodland creatures?

Yes, I even love vain Mr. Toad.


The gaelor's daughter brings Toad bubble-and-squeak to tempt him out of his misery while he's locked up in a dungeon for stealing an automobile. (P.S. gaoler = jailer...who knew?!)

Bubble-and-squeak is traditionally made from the leftover vegetables made with a roast, mixed with mashed potatoes and fried to crispy perfection. The name comes from the sounds emitted by the vegetables as they fry up. We gobble up our leftovers before we have time to do much else with them, so I made mine from scratch. But if you have some hearty leftover veggies around, feel free to substitute. That's the point!


Bubble-and-Squeak

Ingredients:
4 medium russet potatoes (~2 lbs)
1/2 large head of cabbage (~1 lb)
4 medium carrots (~1/2 lb)
14-16 brussels sprouts (~1/2 lb)
1 large sweet onion
1 extra large vegetable bouillon cube
1 whole bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp celery salt
cooking oil

Slice the potatoes into ~1" slices. Combine four cups of water and the bouillon in a large, covered pot. Bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and bay leaf, cover, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender (15-20 minutes). In the meantime, finely chop the cabbage and carrots, and quarter the sprouts.

Remove the potatoes from the broth with a fork or slotted spoon, discarding the bay leaf. Add cabbage, carrots, and sprouts to the broth, cover, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until vegetables are fork tender (3-8 minutes). In the meantime, chop the onion, and mash the potatoes with about 1 tbsp of oil, using a masher or whisk.

Strain the broth from the pot and add the now mashed potatoes back in. Add the paprika, allspice, and celery salt, and mix well. Add some oil and the onion to a large frying pan, and saute on medium high until onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Add them to the large pot and stir them into the vegetable mixture.

Heat the frying pan again, adding more oil if necessary. Spread the vegetable mixture in the bottom of a pan in a layer about 3/4" thick. Fry on medium-high for 4-5 minutes, until the bottom is browning. You should be able to separate the layer into pieces; flip these using a spatula, and fry the second side for another 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and repeat with the remaining vegetables. This will probably take 3-4 cycles.

It's totally worth it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

my one-year sickniversary

I remember catching a cold last May, right before finals. I remember it very clearly for two reasons. 1. I was pretty annoyed that I was getting slammed so hard right before I had to bring my a-game for finals. And 2. I considered myself a Very Healthy Person, and I couldn't understand how I was getting sick just months after my previous cold!

So you can imagine how happy I was when I realized that this month marks a full year since I was last sick.

That's right. That terrible cold of last May was the last time I was sick. In September I had a stuffy nose after I swam in the ocean in 70-degree weather. It lasted a day or two. It doesn't count. And that's all. Otherwise, I have felt amazing for 12 whole months. This is a little annoying when you are really in the mood to take an honest sick day. But let's face it: being sick is just the worst, and in those moments, we would always rather have health.

I understand that you are probably on the edge of your seat by now, wondering how I do it, how I have become invincible.

Fear not...I will share my secrets to immortality.

via
1. Exercise, but not too much. When J got sick twice in a row recently, we started to wonder what was going on. Ultimately, we figured out that he had been pushing himself really hard at the gym, and the stress on his body had weakened his immune system. But a regular, moderate amount of exercise will increase your immunity. The exact mechanism isn't clear, but the theory is generally that increased circulation keeps your body flushed out, temperature increases fight harmful bacteria, and exercise reduces stress that weakens immunity...










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2. Relax. This one was really key for me. It's so easy to get caught up in the next wave of obligations, pushing just to make it through to the other side. We push ourselves harder and harder and harder, until our poor bodies snap and insist that we take a break. Sometimes it's ultimately less efficient to push ourselves this way, because we end up losing so much time to sickness. Woodson Merrell, MD, director of integrative medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, cites stress as one of the most well-studied factors affecting the strength of our immune systems...and the studies overwhelmingly tell us that stress weakens our immunity.











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3. Get enough sleep. Like relaxation, sleep is something that it is far too easy to deprive ourselves of. There will never be as much time in the day as we'd like, so find your extra time in places other than your sleeping hours. Sleep needs differ by person, so get what you need to feel good. And if it feels like sickness is on its way, rest early!
















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4. Eat right. Fresh fruits and veggies are pretty much the best thing you can do for yourself, and blueberries and broccoli are apparently particularly helpful. High doses of antioxidants in these live foods battle free radicals in the body, which promote disease. Green tea is another great source of antioxidants. And of course, nutritional deficiencies of any type will have negative health effects, so it's important to get all your vitamins and minerals. We absorb these things better when they come from real food, rather than supplements, so a healthy diet is key.









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5. Avoid allergens. I once read that the body's immune system is like a cup. As harmful microorganisms attack the body, the cup begins to fill, and when it spills over, you're sick. Since your body treats allergens as harmful, they help fill up the cup. The more you are fighting off allergies, the weaker your immune system is. It can be hard to control environmental allergies, but to the extent that you can, do. And realize also, that we sometimes have very subtle allergies to foods as well; eggs, peanuts, and gluten are common offenders. But it's just another reason why eating whole, healthy foods is one of the best things you can do to support your immune system.











What it basically comes down to is keeping up a generally healthy lifestyle. Yes, there are definitely differences in our natural abilities to fight illness. If you're already struggling with chronic disease, allergies, or general susceptibility, it's even more important that you give your body the support that it needs.

Mark the calendar, make these changes, and start counting...

Monday, May 14, 2012

sparkling grapefruitade

Did you see what I saw yesterday?? Mr. Sun finally peeked his head out from behind all those rain clouds that have been hovering for far too long, and we had a glorious, blissful, 80-degree day.

J and I originally wanted to head to the Arnold Arboretum for Lilac Sunday. But then we woke up and realized that it was actually quite a hike, and we are both still fighting through the last bits of beastly work left in this semester. So instead we caught a matinee and spent the afternoon drinking iced coffee and typing, typing, typing.

But let's face it...it's high time we celebrate this warm weather...


...with something bubbly and sweet...


Sparkling Grapefruitade

Ingredients:
juice of 1 grapefruit, pulp strained out
2 cups seltzer water
lemon NuStevia, to taste -OR- sugar + lemon juice, to taste

Gently combine all ingredients in an airtight beverage container. Serve immediately to avoid loss of carbonation.


Friday, May 11, 2012

fantasy friday: chilled raspberry soup from the capitol

"I weaken again at a clear green broth that I can only describe
as tasting like spring time, and again when I try a frothy pink soup
dotted with raspberries."

from Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


No, I haven't seen the movie yet!

I did finally get around to reading the books though, and they were as wonderful as I expected. I have to tell you, when I read the final page of Mockingjay, I burst into major tears. I had to go finish the epilogue after I'd composed myself.

This wasn't my only overly emotional experience while reading. You should have seen me the night J noticed I was reading the third book...before reading the second book. It's rare to see me so devastated.

But no worries, mmkay? Because we've got some fine Capitol fare on our hands.


I'm sure the chefs in the Capitol put a lot of sneaky special ingredients into their chilled raspberry soup. But this very simple, and very easy recipe passed my Capitol-quality taste testing. It needs just four ingredients and minutes to make it.


Even the amazing food wouldn't be enough to get me to play in the Hunger Games though. J has already told me that Prim reminds him of me...yep, I'd be the one to shed tears if anyone tried to teach me to hunt. Katniss is an amazing character, but I have to admit, I'm just nothing like her. You?


Chilled Raspberry Soup

Ingredients:
12 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
1 can full fat coconut milk
1/4 tsp lemon NuStevia OR 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend on high until very smooth. Serve chilled.


And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

mindful moments


Thank goodness for this graffiti.

I walk by this place many times a week, and it's always a good reminder to relax, and declutter my mind. Anyone else feel in need of some mind decluttering lately?

The end of my semester is in sight, and I can't wait to get back to my blogging...so sorry for the absence!

Good thing I've got a special treat coming this Friday...

xoxo

Sunday, May 6, 2012

easy sunday breakfast

Last weekend I made this amazing breakfast for myself. It was one of those recipes that accidentally comes out delicious...the kind that makes people take pictures of their food to post on facebook in the hopes that someone will recognize the talents that could take them from a boring office job to the final rounds of Top Chef. Luckily, I didn't go down that path.

Instead I remembered that's exactly why I have a blog. You're not ready for me, Padma Lakshmi.


When I went to make it a second time for photographic reasons, I found that someone (not mentioning names) had eaten the last of the tomatoes (I suspect Maus). So you can't see them here, but they are an essential part of the process.

Southwestern Sunday Breakfast

Ingredients:
cooking oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
salt, to taste
handful of fresh or frozen spinach
ground cumin, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
5 grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 eggs
1-2 tbsp tomato salsa

Add a bit of cooking oil to a non-stick pan and heat on medium. Add the onions and salt, and saute until onions are translucent. Throw in the spinach, cumin, and cayenne pepper and continue to cook until spinach is wilted and heated through. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are warm. Transfer this mixture to a plate.

Allow the pan to cool briefly, then turn the heat back to low. Cook your eggs over easy, then slide on top of the spinach mix. Finally, briefly heat the salsa in the pan, just to warm it. Pour it over the rest of the breakfast.

I recommend eating this with a piece of toast. All that yolk and salsa makes for deliciously sloppy remains.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

comic relief

I know you're waiting on pins and needles for tomorrow's Fantasy Friday post. I just know it.

But lately, my days have looked like this: wake up, drink coffee, work on papers, go to sleep.

So...you're probably going to be disappointed. Instead, Maus has decided to stop by and bring some comic relief for the final stretch. These are old, old vidoes from my icky old apartment (and the quality's not too great). But they never fail to make me laugh. What a crazy kitty. Hope you enjoy as much as I do.

video

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And for good measure, a couple of Maus' relations playing together...

video

P.S. No kittehs or cameras were harmed in the making of these films.