Monthly Archives: October, 2012

Rich Pumpkin White Chocolate Cake…in the Microwave!

I’ve had this recipe on instructables.com bookmarked for a while. It was to make a single-serve brownie in the microwave. I’d sort of forgotten about it, but I realized I wanted to try it, so I did. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any cocoa powder in our house, besides Hershey’s cocoa. And there were a lot of comments on the website where I got the recipe that said they used Hershey’s cocoa to make the brownie and it turned out terrible. So I was turned off using Hershey’s, and we had a lot of Peet’s cocoa jars sitting on the counter so I thought I could use that – but they were all empty!!!

I decided to just not make a chocolate brownie. I’m not a person who needs every dessert to be chocolate all the time. I’m actually a fan of the less popular, “weird” flavors like strawberry cheesecake ice cream or pretty much anything caramel. I’m also into combining flavors that aren’t on the usual list of cliche pairings of ingredients everyone puts together (i.e.: apple and cinnamon, vanilla ice cream and Oreo cookies, etcetera.) So I made a pumpkin cake with white chocolate chips instead of the cocoa. It’s not really a brownie because it’s not brown, but I wouldn’t call it a blondie either. (Maybe it’s a redhead!)

I expected the white chocolate chips to melt in the microwave and spread throughout the brownie, but they only got a little softened and mostly stayed in one piece. The main body of the cake turned out to mostly be pumpkin flavored, which was fine with me. It was very rich, and I will definitely be experimenting with more microwave desserts in the future. Here is the recipe for this one:

Rich Pumpkin White Chocolate Microwave Cake

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp Grandma Hoerner’s pumpkin butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  • a tiny bit of salt
  • a couple shakes of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 16 or so white chocolate chips

Directions:

Add the dry ingredients to a medium-large mug and mix. Then add the pumpkin butter and water. Fold in white chocolate chips, and mix until there are no dry clumps.

Microwave on high for a minute or so. (At first I did a little less than a minute, and it was a consistency closer to thick pudding than a brownie or cake. So I put it in for another 20 or so seconds, and I think that was just a smidge too long because it was a little less moist than I would have preffered. So I should go for somewhere in the middle of those two times the next time I do this. Everyone’s microwave is different, so I suggest just using your judgement and cooking for a little shorter than you think at first just in case you don’t need as much time in the microwave as you predicted.)

Once you are done microwaving, let cool for a minute or two. The next step is self-explanatory… dig in!

After I had my own cake/brownie/redhead thingamabob, Sam started saying he was hungry. My dad was supposed to be bringing him pizza, but hadn’t arrived yet. So I made him a mug brownie using the same recipe, except instead of the pumpkin butter I used peanut butter, and I replaced the white chocolate chips with a couple generous handfuls of semisweet chocolate chips. The chocolate did somewhat melt this time, and looked pretty yummy. However, dad came home with the pizza almost exactly as I finished making the brownie, so it sat ignored in the microwave until my mom tried it. She said she liked it, but couldn’t finish it because it was very rich.

My brother declined all offers to dip his own spoon in the peanut butter brownie…until we’d all left the kitchen to move on with our lives. Then he asked my mom, almost in a whisper, “can I try some of the brownie Sabine made?” Mom said sure, and he was off to the kitchen in a flash. Puzzled, I remarked to my mom, “he never tries anything I make,” and she said, “there’s a first time for everything.” Hopefully that wasn’t the last time either. I’d like for my brother to be a fan of the stuff I make. He’s usually very uninterested in it, but that may turn around…

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The Wonderful Smoothie of Oz

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Dorothy who lived in Kansas with her little dog, Toto. One day, she went to a self-serve ice cream parlor. She got a caramel sundae, topped with chocolate chips and caramel sauce. Toto, who was into adding the healthy stuff, threw a pawful of almonds and pecans on top.

“Eww, what are you doing, Toto?” Dorothy cried. “Get your own ice cream if you’re gonna want nuts on it.” She sighed as her dog ignored her and spooned some banana onto the ice cream. “You ruined the whole thing! Now you’re buying.” Suddenly, a tornado appeared outside the window of the little shop. All the customers ran into the cellar – except Dorothy. She was too mad at Toto to notice the impending storm. She didn’t stop ridiculing him until the entire ice cream parlor was lifted up into the air. Everything was spinning. All the toppings started flying out of their containers and orbiting around the room, and Dorothy put her hand over her ice cream to shield it from the horrid pineapple and kiwi slices that seemed to be aiming for her precious ice cream sundae. A couple peanut butter cups came her way, and she said, “yum,” and held out her sundae to let them fall in.

Finally, the building was plopped down in a colorful world like nothing Dorothy had ever seen. When she stepped outside, a burst of sunshine warmed her face, and she saw giant flowers and a spiraling road made of yellow bricks. Toto began barking as some strangers came up to greet them. Dorothy said, “hush,” and regarded the offending people – they were three midgets of only three feet tall, dressed in sparkly suits. “We are the munchkins of the land of Oz,” they announced in unison, and presented Dorothy with an enormous lollypop. “No thanks,” she said. “I was just about to eat this sundae.” She looked down at her bowl and was dismayed to find the ice cream had turned to liquid as a result of being sloshed around so much during the twister. Furthermore, the peanut butter cups had been crushed into pieces. “Oh, no! Look what’s happened to my sundae!” she moaned. Toto took a lick and began wagging his tail. He allowed the munchkins to take a sip each, one by one. “It’s a smoothie!” they declared. They all loved it, and soon everyone in the land of Oz formed a line running down the yellow brick road, each peculiar creature wanted to try the smoothie. When the Wicked Witch of the West caught wind of this smoothie that was putting a smile on everyone’s face, she decided to steal it, and take it all for herself. She swooped down on munchkin town and grabbed the smoothie. Since it was so good, taking one sip converted her from wicked to good. Everyone in Oz rejoiced, and told Dorothy that from that day forward, every time there was a chance of a twister she should go to the ice cream shop and make a sundae, so the smoothie could be recreated. But that would be too much trouble, so Dorothy just wrote a recipe for the smoothie and gave it to the people of Oz, so they could make the smoothie whenever they wanted. Here is a rare transcript of the original recipe from so long ago…

Caramel Banana Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 jello pudding caramel sundae flavored pudding cup (it has toppings included, pour those in at the beginning of the blending)
  • 1 tbsp chocolate fudge topping
  • 1 package Justin’s milk chocolate peanut butter cups (found in Whole Foods somewhere near the nutrition bars)
  • 4-6 ice cubes

Directions:

Put all ingredients except for the peanut butter cups into blender. Blend until smooth. Stop blending and break both of the peanut butter cups into 4 or so pieces each. Add them into blender, pushing them down with a knife to get them closer to the blades. Blend for like 2 or 3 seconds, then pour in a glass. (I’ve tried making smoothies with organic candy twice now, and I still haven’t mastered the technique. It’s hard to get it to blend larger chunks of candy into good-sized pieces. But I’ll keep trying until I get a perfect candy smoothie!)

P.S.: Did you like watching the movie the Wizard of Oz as a kid? I loved it, mostly for the songs. However, it’s always disturbed me a little how the whole story seems to promote murdering people just because some floating head told you to.

P.P.S.: What’s your favorite candy? I’ve never really been that into candy, but when I’d trick-or-treat for Halloween as a kid I think my favorites were Reece’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups. I’m so glad there’s now an organic version of those!

Weight Gain Misconceptions

I’ve noticed that a lot of people with health and diet related blogs have a couple disclaimers throughout the blog, saying they’re not a registered dietician and whatnot. I feel like I should have a couple of those guys here and there, so here’s one: I am not a health professional or registered dietician (I’m only 15!!!) and my advice is not a replacement for that of a doctor, blah blah blah, you get the picture.

With that said, I do know quite a bit about health, and some of the information I have recently learned about weight and gaining weight is quite interesting. So I am about to share some false ideas about this topic that I used to believe, and true information dissolving these anxieties about weight gain.

I actually don’t weigh myself; this would not be healthy for me and would be a source of stress. I find it hard to imagine a girl or woman who wouldn’t actually be happier and healthier if they didn’t weigh themselves. It’s so much better to just leave that task to one’s doctor, and let the doctor decide if you need to lose weight or not. Especially since household scales are often inaccurate anyway. And weighing oneself daily is actually considered obsessive, so this behavior should be avoided. Honestly, I don’t think it’s necessary to weigh yourself at all! However, I know most people aren’t about to just throw out their scale and stop weighing themselves. So, if you are quite attached to that contraption, and do weigh yourself from time to time, read this. These facts may help explain why your weight may be fluctuating up and down as much as 5 pounds a day, maybe even permanently sliding up a bit, and why this is not the end of the world. (You’re looking at me like I just sprouted antlers. I can see through the computer screen that you think I must be crazy. But by the end of this post, I promise you will understand why I say this. It’s not a big deal to creep up a couple pounds on the scale! Really!)

Possible Explanations for Unexplained Weight Gain

1.  Water

It’s extremely healthy to stay hydrated. Drinking at least 32 ounces of water per day is good for your whole body. However, it can also have the side effect of causing your weight to seem to increase. If you have consumed more water on a day when you weigh yourself than you consumed the last time you weighed yourself, your weight could be two or three pounds up, maybe even more. And it doesn’t mean you’ve gained weight or that you look any fatter. Nor is this a reason to stop drinking water! In fact, you can also become bloated and weigh more due to dehydration. How crazy is that?

2. Food

If you weigh yourself after eating you could be as much as five pounds higher than you are on an empty stomach. Does this mean you’ve gained five pounds off of eating your last meal? Not at all, it simply means the food is in your stomach being broken down to be absorbed by the bloodstream as nutrients. If you weigh yourself the morning after having a heavier dinner, your weight could still appear to be up. This happens because the sodium in food causes your body to hold onto water. It’s not permanent weight or any fat on your body at all, and nothing to be concerned about because it will go away as soon as your body processes all the nutrients from the food.

3. Muscle Gain

If you do a lot of working out, such as running, yoga, or any kind of regular exercise, you are building muscle. How this works is fat cells convert to muscle cells. When fat converts to muscle, it becomes more dense and compact. So, it takes up less space, but weighs more. Muscle takes up less space than fat, so you get smaller and more fit as you build muscle. Muscle gain takes time, but once you start to achieve results you will be firmer and stronger. People who are building muscle may see a slight increase in their weight.

4. Growing

If you’re a teenager like me, or even in your early twenties, you may still be growing taller. This is natural and healthy, I mean, who doesn’t want to be tall? Speaking as a 5 foot, 1.5 inch midget, tall is good. When you’re short, people tend to think of you as younger and sort of talk down to you, both literally and figuratively. Not that it’s the worst thing in the world to be short, but I imagine it’d be fun to be tall. More height is the last missing piece of the puzzle that I need to make me look like a gorgeous supermodel! 🙂

My point is, if you’re getting taller, you also need to weigh more. Not because you get fatter as you get taller, but because you contain more tissue. For every inch you grow, it is expected by doctors that you would gain 3-5 pounds. These are pounds merely composed of bone, blood and tissue.

5. Just for Girls: The Cycle

You know, the cycle? That embarrassing topic we all had to learn about all through middle and high school in about five or ten different sex-ed seminars? Yeah, well another annoying thing about the cycle (as if we needed another annoying thing associated with it!) is the following: on the days before and during your special time, your weight will often fluctuate up. This is a result of bloating and your body retaining more water than usual. It will go back to normal at the end of your special time.

So as you can see, there are many simple explanations for temporary weight fluctuations. And there are also some good reasons to gain real weight, permanently. All these things are totally natural and healthy. Still, it can be stressful to constantly have to worry about your weight, whether it will be up or down or why exactly it is different from one day to the next. Feeling you have to weigh yourself regularly can be an unnecessary burden, like an extra backpack full of stones that you have to carry around all the time. So why not just let it go? This may sound crazy, but I suggest not weighing yourself for a little while. Maybe you’ll never want to do it again. And that’s totally good and okay. It is possible to survive without knowing exactly how much you weigh at any given second. My reasoning is: if you can’t see the couple pounds different on your body, what does it matter if you have fluctuated up a couple pounds on the scale? The next day you might be down a few pounds. It’s not fat, just water or food or whatever: the human body isn’t perfect, and doesn’t weigh the exact same thing every day. And no one has to know…not even you!

If you do choose to continue weighing yourself, I highly suggest keeping in mind the natural fluctuations I have mentioned above, and the reasons for them. Furthermore, if you are concerned about your weight, it is a good idea to see a registered dietician and/or talk to your regular doctor about it.

I would like to thank my dietician, Kerri Schwartz, MS, RD for helping me get all the information right on this post. I would also like to acknowledge the following sites for a couple extra tidbits of information: MayoClinic.com, Fitday.com, eHow.com, and Ask.com

Chocolate Cookie Dough Berry Smoothie

I sipped this smoothie while watching our brand-new fish, Francisco, swim leisurely through his bowl and in and out of his castle. It was Sunday morning after a run, and I was so happy to just chill and relax… with a cool, yummy smoothie! The smoothie would actually work great as a dessert, I just had it for breakfast because I felt like it. It’s a free country, and no one ever passed a bill stating we can’t have something chocolatey for breakfast, with chunks of peanut butter cookie dough and elegant fruity flavor. If someone ever does pass that bill, I will start the French revolution or something to get that person out of office, because this smoothie was AMAZING! (And included calcium and fiber, making it sort of acceptable that I had it for breakfast.)

The only reason I’m writing this as a post, not a page is because it’s very similar to a couple smoothies I’ve already put up: it’s basically a combination of the Strawberry Cookie Dough Sensation Smoothie and the Pumpkin Chocolate Cake Concoction Smoothie. It would almost be redundant to have a whole page just for this smoothie – but I still want to put it up, in case someone wants this recipe someday. So here goes:

Chocolate Cookie Dough Berry Smoothie

When I make up these smoothies, I sort of just throw things that seem like they’ll taste good together in the blender, mix it up, and hope it tastes okay. It’s rarely horrible – it’s hard to go wrong entirely with a smoothie – but there are some times that it’s just okay or cliche, and other times where I take the first sip and my taste buds start giving a standing ovation, and I think, I’m in for a special treat with this smoothie. Well, this was one of those. It’s perfectly balanced and tastes indulgent, with no absence of valuable nutrients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Jello pudding “Original” chocolate vanilla swirls flavor snack cup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries

1/4 cup Eat Pastry brand peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough (in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods market)

Directions:

Blend all the ingredients except for the cookie dough in the blender until smooth. Then, add the cookie dough in several smallish globs and blend for just one second. (Try not to overblend at this part, or you won’t have distinctive cookie dough chunks in the smoothie.)

Pour into a glass and chill.

Meet Francisco!

On Friday, my family went to see my grandma, who gave us an old fishbowl and some antique fish supplies. She was desperate to get the stuff out of her house, and suggested we get a pet fish to put in the fishbowl. We do have a cat, so at first my mom just rolled her eyes at the notion of getting a fish. She figured the cat would treat the fish like a take-out box full of salmon teriyaki, and kept saying our condo doesn’t allow residents to have more than one pet anyway. But to be honest, Artemis isn’t too into hunting, or killing things. Sam and I kept mentioning to Mom how fun it would be to have a fish. Mom was convinced after about a day of us innocent children getting our hopes up. On Saturday we went to PetCo to select a fish, having decided that if the cat tried to attack the fish, we’d take it back to the store or give it away.

We ended up buying a new fishbowl altogether, so there was almost no point in Grandma giving us the fishbowl. I guess it was the inspiration for us to get a fish; currently we plan to turn it into a terrarium. Anyway, we also bought some disgusting-looking fish treats (dried worms) and food and water conditioner. The piece do resistance – the fish – was a betta, or Siamese/Thai fighting fish. Supposedly this type of fish makes a great first pet. Its natural habitat is the rice paddies of Thailand. (When Mom first read that off the pamphlet about bettas, I thought she said they lived in rice patties. I said indignantly, “people eat fish in rice patties? That’s just gross! How can that be their natural habitat?” Mom and Sam had to combine forces to get me to understand what a paddy is: it’s like a marsh, right? Yep, I’m a total genius.)

Sam selected the betta, which was a male double-tail betta. He was one of a precious few in the store that was actually alive and not floating at the top of his container. I think it’s disturbing how many of the fish for sale were dead already. As I held him in the car on the bumpy ride home, I kept being afraid he’d be knocked lifeless as we hit a red light or went over a bump or something. Sam kept asking, “is he still alive?” Thankfully, he lasted the arduous journey.

Since Sam got to choose the fish, it was my privilege to come up with a name. (A first name, anyway, Sam had already decided the middle name would be Poseidon.) I searched the web for a while, but nothing seemed right. I wanted an ethnic name of some kind, but nothing I came up with seemed to fit him. Luigi popped into my brain, and I seriously considered that name, but it was too reminiscent of that hyperactive yellow car in the movie Cars. Finally, I named him Francisco. (I was into the Italian-sounding names at that moment.) Everyone in the family liked that name, so it was set in stone (until someone comes up with a better name, that is.)

Artemis likes to watch the fish, but hasn’t made any attempts so far to actually kill him. Despite her name, she’d really rather be playing with a toy than hunting live prey any day. We’re all relieved she doesn’t want to kill Francisco. My mom still doesn’t really trust her around the fish though, and keeps an eye out for any stalking behavior…

My Dream Last Night

I had a really weird dream last night. Have you ever had a dream that made you feel off all day? Maybe posting something about the dream will make me feel better.

I feel kind of weird disclosing my dream on the internet. It feels kind of personal, like giving international readers the key to my soul or whatever. But I’m going to take the plunge and do it! You’ll tell me about your dreams in return, right?

Anyway, this dream was pretty weird. Some girl was bragging to me about her “diet”- she planned to eat absolutely nothing for a full three days, in order to lose weight. I told her that was not healthy, and she kept saying, “yes it is,” in that infuriating tone of voice people use when they think they’re right but they are so not right. Anyway, I was hanging out with the girl all day in the dream, and she was avoiding food and bragging about how good she was at it.

Eventually, we were sitting on top of a restaurant awning (don’t ask me how we got there) and we saw a blond guy walking into the restaurant, pushing one of those wheeled contraptions waiters use to carry dishes. On the tray was a banana caramel pie. The guy said, “I have this whole banana caramel pie, and no one to eat it with.” And the girl I was sitting with jumped down from the awning and said, “I haven’t eaten all day. Can I please eat that pie with you?” The guy said, “sure,” and they went into the restaurant to eat it together. I was so frustrated and even jealous… yet at the same time I remember thinking smugly, “this is why diets don’t work.” And then I woke up.

I guess I’m really sharing this with you to see if you know what I mean. Don’t you ever have a dream that’s so disgusting or frustrating, you just have to share it with the world to help get it off your chest? I mean, it always helps me to share my disturbing dreams. I guess that’s why I’m actually posting this on my website. This dream made me feel two things in particular: one, like I should go on a “diet,” which we all have to fight, girls, because even when your dream says so, it’s not always right, right? Also, the dream gave me a strange urge to make banana caramel pie. And all day, I kept feeling like I smelled bananas. Interesting…

Have you had a dream recently that was disturbing, funny or weird? If so, it would be totally awesome to post it in the comments.

It’s not that that weird to post my dream on the internet… right?

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Ici tout est bizarre !

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