Monthly Archives: November, 2013

One Day Late

cranberry orange cinn roll white chocolate glaze

I’m one of those people who is simply never late. I think it’s hereditary, because my mom just happens to be extremely punctual as well. (At least I didn’t get the gene from my dad for being late to everything!) I’m that preppy girl who always hands in her project before the deadline, and is always in her seat and ready to learn before the bell, while oftentimes other people are racing into class after that deadly monotone and diving desperately into their backpacks for work that was due yesterday. My punctuality is what has earned me some good grades and a trifle of good-natured resentment from the other students. It’s also what drives me crazy on those occasions where my timing is – gasp – less than ideal.

I was going to make a Thanksgiving recipe to share last week, honestly I was! Somehow it just didn’t happen. I tried twice to make some cornbread, and both tries resulted in failure. I was fresh out of ideas, so I gave up for a few days, thinking I’d try something the day before…day of… what can I say? The hour of the family dinner arrived, and I was out of time.

Of course today I had time, and a really brilliant idea that just occurred to me this morning: cranberry orange cinnamon rolls. I know, I know, the deadline for cranberry orange stuff passed yesterday. But can you please accept this for half credit? Thanks, I knew you would. Especially when the “assignment” is so delectable!

Cranberry orange cinn rolls white choc glaze

I’ve never been a real fan of the traditional Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Gooey, sugary gel-like mush that wobbles on your plate and oozes into your other food? No, thanks. But I do adore dried cranberries. And who doesn’t love a delicious cinnamon roll? No matter what time of year you bake these, they will be a real hit. As long as your crowd doesn’t expect you to always be punctual with your holiday flavors!

I am indebted to Hungry Healthy Girl for the recipe I based my cinnamon rolls on this time. The texture was perfect: not too soft and fall-apart-y but not to hard like a cookie. It can be hard to find a cinnamon roll recipe with that happy medium texture, but I found one this time. And I am oh so thankful.

Tangy orange, spicy cinnamon, fruity orange and cranberry flavor all go great together. But to make these cinnamon rolls really delightful, I added a sinfully sweet white chocolate glaze. Thick and decadent, the glaze really makes this recipe, and I really don’t recommend leaving it out. (Unless you want a lower grade! 🙂 )

So what are you waiting for? Time’s a-wasting! Hurry up and make these fun and flavorful cinnamon rolls.

Click here for the full recipe.

cranberry orange cinnamon roll white chocolate glaze

Welcoming Hades!

Last Sunday my family warmly welcomed Hades into our home. No, not the ancient mythological god of the underworld, but an adorable baby bearded dragon by that name! Hades currently resides in my younger brother’s room. Also residing in that room, unfortunately, is a box full of obnoxious crickets. Every day, Hades feasts on crickets, ignoring the veggies in his food dish. The crickets are dusted with calcium powder to add nutritional value, but other than this they are the equivalent of beardie French fries. Hopefully when Hades is a little older he can branch out to some healthier foods – but don’t worry, you won’t be seeing any recipes for mealworm salad on this blog!

bearded dragon baby red translucent leatherback Hades

I mentioned in a previous post that we were getting a bearded dragon soon. The day finally arrived this past weekend, when my family went on a little excursion to ReptiCon. This is a convention my reptile-enthusiast brother has been looking forward to for months, at which reptile lovers and vendors are brought together. Though I have never been super interested in reptiles, I tagged along just because. My mom, aunt, brother and I piled into the car, leaving my dad behind to shiver in fear at the thought of scary snakes and slimy lizards.

The sun was shining and there was an aura of hope in the air as we cruised along highway, excitement building in the quiet morning air.

driving to Repticon

The moment we walked into ReptiCon, my brother made a beeline for the first vendor he saw. By the time I caught up with him and my mom, he was holding a tiny lizard in the palm of his hand. The next thing I knew, there my mom was handing over the money and the lizard was deposited into a plastic carrying container, which my brother clutched with trembling hands. I insisted on holding the container. You know, for safety’s sake. Wouldn’t want an over-excited child dropping the animal on the ground, now would we?

Hades baby bearded dragon

Even though we’d accomplished our main mission, we hung out at ReptiCon for another hour or so to check out all the other vendors there. For the first time, a fascination with reptiles was sparked in me. I loaded my camera with a ton of photos, but I’ll just show you the main highlights of out expedition.

This handsome guy is an adult beardie, so I got an idea of what Hades will look like in a year or so:

adult bearded dragon at Repticon

My aunt and I stood in rapture for several minutes watching the baby pacman frogs hopping around, giving each other piggyback rides and trying to escape their enclosure. If it were up to me, we would have brought home a few of these little comedians as well:

pacman frogs at Repticon

These snakes meditated serenely in their enclosures, probably planning their deadly strike at the next juicy mouse that came their way:

snakes at Repticon

reticulated python

Of the snakes we saw, my favorite were the brightly colored green tree pythons, partly because they reminded me of Verdi, a book I read as a young child:

green tree python

There must have been a billion different types of geckos, including the African Fat Tail (I was mostly charmed by the name):

African Fat Tail Geckos

There was this one vendor selling millipedes, and they seemed pretty intent on getting out and wreaking havoc:

millipedes at ReptiCon

Yeah…bugs really aren’t my thing. But to each his own, I guess. There seemed to be a market at ReptiCon for all kinds of creepy-crawlies. I saw scorpions, too, and several vendors with a wide array of tarantulas.

At one point, my aunt and I – both of whom are at least a little arachnophobic – came upon a free-roaming tarantula that was not safely ensconced in a plastic container. Fear and fascination battled amongst themselves as we both came closer, hypnotized by the creature.

tarantula at Repticon

We met a couple nice little boys who knew a lot about tarantulas – one of them owned several himself. The boys and the vendor at that booth assured us that this was a very tame, very socialized tarantula, and that she’d been held by thousands of people. Eventually, my aunt and then myself were each coaxed into holding this tarantula with our bare hands. Though it was a little scary, I found the experience awesome, and boast-worthy later. Moral of the story: do whatever an arachnid-obsessed child tells you to do, you’ll be thankful later that you did.

My dad thought I was crazy when he found out I’d held the spider, until I told him how one of the little boys had allowed the thing to climb onto his head. And I didn’t even tell him how close the creature came to running right into my aunt’s mouth before she ordered the boys to extract it from her shoulder. The moral of that story is quite clear: boys, take note that the ladies do not appreciate the taste of spider hair.

tarantula on my aunt

Apparently, however, they will wear jewelry inspired by all sorts of creepy-crawlies:

jewelry display at Repticon

At long last, we proceeded home. We installed Hades in his new enclosure, where he set to work basking under his heat lamp and snagging the crickets we fed him. At first he was a little nervous to move freely about the enclosure, and would only attack a cricket if it practically walked right in front of his mouth. But after a couple days, he was much more lively, actively pursuing his cricket prey.

Hades baby red translucent leatherback bearded dragon

After he has acclimlated to his environment for one week, we will be able to handle him more often. I can’t wait to hold the cute little guy in my hands! Our cat Artemis would like some sisterly bonding time with him as well, preferably without a human in the room. However, that will have to wait until Hades is older. It is nice to see her taking an interest in her new sibling. But for now, Artemis will have to be content to stare into the enclosure under close supervision.

As for ReptiCon, it was truly a great experience, and I totally recommend it to anyone who is thinking about bringing a reptile into their home. Most of the vendors were friendly and they all answered our questions. It was inspiring to see a couple of reptile rescue places that adopt out abandoned animals. This whole event got me thinking about the cold-blooded inhabitants of our earth, and how they like a nice warm home just like us humans. I never thought a reptile could find a space in my heart, but Hades seems to have changed that for good. And if he ever needs a cold-blooded friend to keep him company, I know where to go for a wide selection of companions.

Pacman frogs, I didn’t forget you. We’ll reunite…someday…

more pacman frogs at ReptiCon

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My Trip To Las Vegas

my brother with monitor lizard in Las Vegas

On Getting a New Sibling and a Maple Pear Cookie Dough Smoothie

Cookie dough sure is irresistible! Can you wait for your cookie dough smoothie? Neither can I. Click here for the full recipe. Otherwise, stick around with the more patient gang and learn about the trials and triumphs of being an older sibling.

cookie dough for maple pear cookie dough smoothie

Soon, a new member will be introduced to our family. This member is expected to be cold-blooded, scaly-skinned and a cricket connoisseur. You guessed it: s/he is a bearded dragon! This new addition will be our third non-human family member. Francisco the fish is pretty cool with getting a new sibling, as long as brother/sister doesn’t catch a fancy for some homestyle beta and cricket stew. How Artemis the cat feels about it…I’m not so sure. One can only hope that her predatory instincts will be overcome by sisterly love.

I remember the first weeks after my little brother arrived home from the hospital. I had anxiously been awaiting my opportunity to hold the cherished baby, and rock him, and play with him, and put nail polish on him, and dress him up in Disney princess costumes… ah, sweet memories! But little did I know how taxing it would be, at times, to bear the burden of older-sibling-hood. I soon discovered that being an older sister meant certain sacrifices (namely, Mommy’s lap and attention) and also certain responsibilities (namely, telling on the younger child for any minor transgression that could possibly warrant chiding from Mommy.)

Being a good older sibling takes time and care. It is a labor of love. I expect Artemis has already figured that out: she’s been preparing well for her new little brother/sister. Lately I’ve seen her practicing for her new role in the family. She’s found this toy lizard which she diligently cares for to demonstrate her expertise on the raising of a young bearded dragon:

Look, Mommy, this is how I’ll take care of the baby for you. First, I’ll brush through his scales:

Artemis the cat with toy lizard

Now I’ll give him some exercise: a brisk run.

Artemis cat with toy lizard

And teach him how to roll over:

Artemis with plastic toy lizard

I’m sure she will be the best big sister ever! (And possibly the only one who viewed her sibling as potential prey.) Like I was saying, a role model for big sisters everywhere.

Artemis is quite the skilled supervisor. For instance, she watched me like a hawk as I made this Maple Pear Cookie Dough Smoothie:

Artemis supervising maple pear cookie dough smoothie

See her there in the back? I think she had her eye on that extra little splash in the tin. But I was a selfish older sister and kept it all to myself!

Frankly, this smoothie was just too good to share. (Unlike Artemis’s favorite pink cat brush.) The cookie dough tasted too delicious to be whole wheat, and the chocolate chips were marvelous little surprises amidst the serene flavors of pear and pure maple syrup. This smoothie is delicious enough for dessert, and healthy enough for breakfast or anytime. Treat yourself and your siblings (if you don’t mind sharing) with a special delight!

Find the full recipe here.

Apple Honey Granola

Isn’t it funny that so many food words have a weird connotation in the real world? For example, you can’t mention peas to a three-year-old without getting laughed out of the room. And if someone is crazy, they can also be described as out to lunch or fruity.

All the words that describe this apple honey nut granola have a connection to something that may or may not be relevant. For instance, the apple of my eye is the one that pleases me the most. Which, at this moment, just might be this crunchy, flavorful cereal. We often call our loved ones “honey,” and if you want to address this delicious granola by that name I won’t tell anyone.

The angelic sweetness of apples, cinnamon and honey are anchored to earth by a sprinkling of hearty nuts. If someone is a “nut,” they are either crazy or they have different political views that the one who is calling that person a nut. Informally, we might say “I go nuts when my team wins!” to indicate that when our baseball team finally has a victory, the unexpected pleasure drives us to exhibit erratic jumping and emit strange whooping noises. When my mom saw me making this granola, she went nuts and started dancing in the kitchen.

Finally we arrive at the word “granola” itself. A person who is considered to be “granola” is connected with nature (and often smells like nature!),  loves the great outdoors, and above all is health-concious. If you consider yourself to be “granola,” or just want a healthy breakfast to fuel your busy day, then try chowing down on some granola. (The edible kind, that is!) This granola is made with whole grains and nutritious walnuts. (I wanted to use pecans, but didn’t have any around. Either-or both- will suffice.) Furthermore, it’s sweetened only by organic honey. To really bring out the flavor of the honey, an extra drizzle is added partway through baking. To complement the honey flavor is a flourish of yummy golden raisins and crisp apple chips, covered in sugary cinnamon bliss! Definitely a must try.

Apple Honey Granola

based on this guide from ambertheblack.com

makes about 2 cups

apple honey walnut granola

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand 5 grain rolled hot cereal)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (or pecans if you prefer. Or go nuts and use a combination!:) )
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • generous splash of cinnamon
  • 3 tbls honey (+ another tsp for the extra drizzle)
  • 3 tbls unsweetened applesauce (I used Tree Top brand no sugar added applesauce)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • about 12 pieces Seneca brand Crispy Cinnamon Apple Chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spray with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, salt and cinnamon. Stir.

In a pan, combine 3 tbls of applesauce and 3 tbls honey. Mix well. Heat to medium, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to bubble. Reduce heat to low for another minute or so.

Remove from heat. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture. Add vanilla. Stir to coat all the dry ingredients with the wet.

Pour this mixture over prepared cookie sheet. Spread it thinly for even baking.

Bake granola in preheated oven for about 13 minutes, stirring at the halfway point. After 13 minutes, drizzle in that extra teaspoon of honey and mix it around. Return to oven for another 8 minutes or so, until granola is golden brown and crunchy.

When granola has cooled slightly, add in the golden raisins and the apple chips. (I broke the apple chips into smaller pieces for better munching.) Toss it all together, and you’ve got yourself a sweet granola worth smiling about!

honey apple walnut granola

Destination…Greek yogurt!

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Apple Honey Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon apple honey roll

Fancy French Baked Potato

I intended to invest some time oven-baking some potatoes for the family to share, delicately blending the insides with choice ingredients, and baking some more until they were golden. But by the time I’d checked a few tasks off my to-do list, it was too late and I too lazy to go through all that loving care and attention for a bunch of potatoes. So I ended up just microwaving a half a potato for myself, tossing in some uncommon add-ins I came up with on the spur of the moment. And as it turned out, the potato tasted almost gourmet!

fancy "French" baked potato with apricot, cranberry and bleu cheese

I’d got it into my head to make a “fancy” baked sweet potato, with a French flavor theme. Hence the bleu, not blue, cheese. 🙂 I had planned to use marmalade, but I couldn’t find any organic marmalade at the store so I settled for apricot jam, which contributed just the right amount of sweetness to complement the powerful cheese. It’s hard for me to leave dried cranberries out of anything, so on they went. Et voila! A fancy “French” baked potato, made in under 15 minutes in my microwave.

Though this recipe serves one, the concept could and should be applied to a number of potatoes, for an easy side dish for the family. If one isn’t too lazy and pressed for time, one could even oven bake an army of these and use them as a holiday side dish. In my version, I used the yellow type of sweet potato, but the orange type would probably also be delightful.

Fancy French Baked Potato for One

made using guide from allrecipes.com

apricot, bleu cheese and cranberry baked potato

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato (you will end up using only half)
  • 1 tsp Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbls crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1 tbl apricot jam (I used Crofter’s organic apricot spread)
  • 1 tbl dried cranberries

Directions:

Scrub potato, and place on a microwave-safe plate. Poke several holes in potato with a fork. Microwave for about 2 minutes.

Cut potato in half, and save the other half for next time. (You will be making this recipe again!) Microwave your chosen half for another minute or two.

Remove from microwave. Use fork to mash the insides a little. Add the Earth Balance and salt, and try to spread it into the potato a bit. Top with the cheese crumbles, jam and dried cranberries. Microwave a few extra seconds to slightly melt the cheese, if desired.

Let cool and bon appetit!

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Happy Veterans Day! Chocolate “Fudge” Oatmeal Muffins

Is it wrong to be blogging on Veterans Day? I guess not; after all, people are shopping today, and answering business calls, and pretty much every store is open. I haven’t really treated today as a holiday at all: I worked on a project and did some shopping. It’s a little sad to me that American holidays like Veterans Day, which was supposedly established to appreciate our war heroes, are now greedily viewed as days to make money/buy stuff/sleep in and play video games all day. But I do feel I have something to be proud of this Veterans Day (besides the wonderful muffins which we’ll get to in a second!)

See, I was at the grocery store yesterday. At checkout, I was asked if I wanted to donate one dollar along with my total to support wounded veterans. I said yes before realizing I didn’t have enough money,, This donation would put me in debt 20 cents, and I don’t want to ruin my credit score. So I had to ask the checker to cancel the donation that had been keyed into the computer. I HATE asking grocery store checkers to cancel anything because they always have to consult the manual and wave down the manager because the manual is too confusing and everyone’s staring at me as I wait…and wait…and wait in suspense. Will the purchase be canceled? All the stores should install a special alarm the checker can pull in the dreaded event a customer asks for a purchase to be canceled, so everyone knows the dire situation and there can be no doubt who the perpetrator is.

Finally, my donation was canceled. I left the store feeling stupid and selfish. I wished I had canceled one of my food purchases to support our vets…but I kind of needed everything I was buying. If only I’d had an extra dollar in my pocket.

Today I was at the store again, this time to buy ingredients for a fancy baked potato recipe I was making. I was sure to reserve an extra dollar. When I went through the line I donated my dollar to the veteran organization. No embarrassing cancelation necessary, no need for an alarm. I walked out of the store feeling very grown-up for being able to keep track of my expenses, and happy that I’d contributed money to a good cause. Okay, it was just a dollar, but every cent counts! That donation is what truly made my Veterans Day meaningful.

I’d like to do more to help the veterans. For example, if I could I’d bake an enormous batch of these muffins and send some to everyone who has served our country. (But only if I could find a way to pay for all those ingredients!) My point is, these muffins are great and you should make some to share for the holidays.

chocolate fudge banana oatmeal muffin

When my mom first tried one of these muffins, she raved that it tasted “almost like fudge.” I hadn’t been aiming to make oatmeal fudge, but when I thought about it I realized that that’s quite an accurate description of these muffins. The chocolate is intense and rich, but not too sweet, interspersed with hearty oatmeal and dried fruit to make it more breakfast-appropriate. I topped the muffins with banana slices before baking, which is probably why the banana got so brown. Maybe the banana could be added a few minutes before baking is over. But the muffins still tasted great.

I originally intended this recipe to be gluten free, but I couldn’t resist adding the oats. Since I used almond flour in place of all purpose, the recipe is practically gluten free. Just replace the oats with your favorite gluten free oatmeal and serve these muffins to the gluten free crowd!

Whether you eat gluten free or not, I encourage you to try these muffins. A wonderful way to eat fudge for breakfast!

Chocolate “Fudge” Oatmeal Muffins

based on recipe from bigoven.com

makes 12 regular sized muffins

chocolate oatmeal fudge muffin with banana slices

Ingredients:

muffin batter

  • 2 eggs (I used egg substitute)
  • 2/3 cup organic light agave syrup
  • 2 tbls Justin’s brand chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbls sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

optional topping

  • 1 small banana

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine agave and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on a low setting for a couple minutes or until well blended. Add chocolate hazelnut butter and beat on a medium setting until thoroughly incorporated.

Add vanilla extract, as well as almond flour, oats, cocoa, and baking powder. Mix just until blended. Gently stir in coconut flakes, dried cherries, and chocolate chips.

Fill each muffin liner about 2/3 full with batter. If desired, slice a small banana and top each muffin with a couple of banana slices.

Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Enjoy your muffins, and have a great Veterans Day!

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Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake Cheesecake

Technology doesn’t like me! I’ve noticed lately that whenever I touch anyone’s phone or computer, it starts to work more slowly, the rainbow ball of death rears its ugly head, things break… I even have one friend who’s wary to let me touch her computer because of incidents like this! It’s not that I’m careless or aim to break things, but somehow technology seems to become more “delicate” when I’m around. In my opinion, all the electronics in the world have conspired to play broken whenever I get my hands on them. And of course, no one ever thinks to blame the contraption! No, those electronics appear so innocent…they’re only concealing the evil within.

A couple weeks ago, I couldn’t get the charger for my camera’s battery to fit into the wall outlet. I tried coaxing it gently, then pushing a little harder. Eventually I got quite a workout jamming it (gently) into the wall, but it just refused to fit. As a result, I couldn’t charge the battery, and the camera kept shutting off. On the screen was the all-too-familiar nag of “charge the battery.” Yeah, right. I just charged it!!! But of course the charger wasn’t working, for some unknown reason…

So we had to order a new charger. Thankfully, it was free, as stipulated under the kind Canon Elph warranty. While I await its arrival, I’ve been limping along by borrowing my brother’s camera. It doesn’t seem to be part of the conspiracy, as it’s been working diligently for me with no issues. In fact, I used it to get the most winning shot of Artemis sneaking some of my water the other night:

Artemis dipping her paw in water

Busted!

I’m always trying to think of creative twists on classic recipes. Last week I got it into my head to combine two of my favorite desserts: coffee cake and cheesecake. I envisioned a soft layer of coffee cake with a smooth, tangy cream cheese layer over that. Needless to say, a cinnamon crumb topping would be involved!

As it turned out, the coffee cake layer I made turned out firmer than traditional coffee cake, sort of like a cake-y crust. It still tasted great, though, with the decadent cheesecake, flavorful blueberries, and a hint of lemon. The cinnamon topping adds delightful sweetness to the tart lemon flavor.  And of course it was healthier than a traditional dessert. I replaced all the white flour called for whole wheat pastry flour, and subbed in Earth Balance for a trans fat free alternative to butter. The blueberries are a great source of antioxidants, and the lemon zest is high in vitamin C and Potassium. A fun dessert alternative to try!

Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake Cheesecake

Makes one 9″ round cheesecake

cheesecake coffee cake blueberry

Ingredients:

for coffee cake “crust”

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbl Earth Balance original buttery spread
  • 2 tbls lemon curd
  • 1 container Chobani Greek nonfat lemon yogurt
  • zest of one lemon

for cheesecake

  • 1 cup plain cream cheese (I used 365 brand cream cheese spread from Whole Foods Market)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup organic light agave syrup
  • 1 tbl lemon curd
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries

for cinnamon streusel topping

  • 2 tbls Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbls whole wheat pastry flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Spray a 9″ round pan with nonstick spray.

For cinnamon topping: In a medium bowl, combine 2 tbls Earth Balance, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 2 tbls whole wheat pastry flour. Mix until a crumbly mixture forms. Set aside.

For coffee cake “crust:” In a large bowl, combine dry coffee cake ingredients and mix. Add wet ingredients and mix, but be careful not to over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 3-4 minutes. When done, remove from oven, but leave the oven preheated.

For cheesecake: In another large bowl, combine cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/3 cup agave, and one tbl lemon curd. Blend using an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Add the lemon zest and 3/4 cup blueberries. Stir gently.

When coffee cake has baked a few minutes, pour the cheesecake mixture on top. Over this, sprinkle the cinnamon topping. Return to the oven for another 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let the cheesecake cool a bit, then place in refrigerator to chill. Serve cold.

blueberry coffee cake cheesecake with lemon

Update: My new camera charger came a few days ago. I have yet to try it out, but I hope it never reads this blog post and gets in on the technology conspiracy!

I had lots of help for this recipe! Thank you to The Realistic Nutritionist for the basis for my coffee cake base, to King Arthur Flour for the easy cheesecake recipe, and to Southernfood.about.com for the crumb topping recipe.

Source: Lemon zest nutrition info from: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/lemon-zest-lemon-8311647

Skinny Strawman

We are currently learning about logical fallacies in my English class: arguments a writer or  speaker makes to obscure the truth, to create a somewhat inaccurate understanding of an issue in the eyes of the audience. This can lead to audience action that may not be warranted.  Influential people, such as politicians, will sometimes use these fallacies to their advantage. This is why experienced readers must be aware of all different types of logical fallacies, so they can be recognized and the writer will not be able to manipulate the reader.

Eating disorders are like fraudulent politicians. They enter the brain and attempt to gain control by rallying emotions that are stronger than rational thinking. This is why a person taken over by an eating disorder loses some of their ability to think rationally, and becomes a sort of slave to the eating disorder, robotically performing commanded tasks that don’t really make sense. Why would a reasonable person push themselves past the limit of health or comfort, exercising rather than hanging out with friends, eating meals meant for rabbits rather than enjoying a balanced meal diverse in food groups? Why would that person insist upon being the skinniest person in the room, even when this goal is certain to lead to hospitalization? Why would anyone with the ability to think rationally let a dictatorial power invade the brain, imposing a cage that closes in around the victim on all sides, growing tighter and tighter and shutting out all light?

I have never studied psychology, but I do know that in order for such things to happen, very persuasive thoughts must enter the brain. They must build in strength and numbers, until their voice is louder than the voice of common reason. The perverse thoughts do this through riveting emotional appeals that, when examined closely, can be characterized as logical fallacies. While the brain is under the control of these thoughts, they seem very real and forceful. They make us feel as if our only choice is to follow them and do unhealthy things to our bodies in pursuit of their goals. I want to recognize and acknowledge that it is extremely difficult to rise above these thoughts. When they are very real and imminent, it can be very helpful if one seeks the aid of a psychiatrist. I am no psychiatrist myself, but I do know these thoughts are tough to conquer. In order to rise above illogical thoughts, we must first recognize that they are illogical.

Here are some common types of logical fallacies I have been learning about in school. I feel each of these has a parallel in the brain when it comes to eating-disordered thoughts. They should be treated in the same way: recognized as unreasonable and then disregarded. In this blog post, I will discuss three particular logical fallacies that closely parallel eating-disordered thinking.

The Bandwagon Appeal

bandwagon

One logical fallacy we see every day is the “Bandwagon” Appeal. “Everybody’s doing it!” As an adolescent in the midst of today’s media jungle, pressures are constantly being applied from various sources to look and act a certain way. Teens of both genders feel the need to look cool like the airbrushed, plastic-surgery-ed celebrities in every magazine, on every billboard. And if looking like an anorexic model means eating like one, many teens will make that decision, thinking they aren’t cool if they do not. Many teens think being popular depends on being thin.

The error in this reasoning is that one won’t be popular if one is a brainless (skinny) jellyfish, floating aimlessly through life, lacking the energy to entertain others, let alone ask that cute boy for his number. The truth is that starving oneself is not normal, and in fact those who do starve themselves are whispered about and ostracized, often by that very same popular crew who created the bandwagon in the first place.

A good way to avoid jumping on this fatal bandwagon is to have a role model. One who stands out from the homogenous mass of skeletal celebrities, as a unique and powerful person who isn’t afraid of his or her own body. My role model, at least in this respect, is Kate Upton: she has a great feminine body and embraces it. By thinking of Kate Upton, I can feel like there is at least one like-minded celebrity out there. I belong to a group, just not the group on that bandwagon that’s driving to no good place.

Slippery Slope

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

A cute example of the “Slippery Slope” is Laura Joeffe Numeroff’s beloved If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, in which, as we probably all know, one action leads to another and another until ultimately the consequences of one cookie are quite enormous. (Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read it!) The reason a “slippery slope” is a fallacy is because it is usually designed to frighten the audience into desperate avoidance of an action that, in truth, may not produce such dire consequences as the writer or speaker would like the audience to believe.

Eating-disordered thoughts can work this way as well. For example: “don’t touch that cookie! If you eat one cookie you’ll eat another, and another, and soon you’ll eat the whole bag! Then you’ll be fat, you’ll never get a boyfriend and everyone will make fun of you.” The slippery slope lubricates itself with help from its sister the bandwagon appeal, combining to show you the treacherous path ahead if you eat one cookie.

When thoughts start to get out of control, it’s essential to first recognize this. Realize that there are many paths ahead, not just the one that leads down a steep cliff into the dreaded abyss. It is completely possible for a health-conscious person to determine to take the path of eating just one or two cookies, then stopping right there. Moderate eating includes the occasional indulgence, and it is perfectly safe and acceptable to eat a cookie every once in a while. So let yourself feel safe, and take the right path to earn your own trust.

The Strawman

strawman

When politicians can’t address a daunting issue, they will often set up a fake issue to tackle so the public believes the politician is taking action. The “strawman” is the imaginary, wicked opposition to the good of the people. The politician creates a strawman in his/her speeches just to knock it down.

Teenagers live in a world of angst. Our lives are fraught with insurmountable expectations, social pressures, and stressful situations over which we have little or no control. But I think sometimes we tell ourselves, “I do have total control over my life! I can make everything rosy if I just get skinny.” Losing weight can be hard, but it’s not as hard as ensuring one’s success at being accepted into Harvard, or getting the most popular guy in school to ask one out. Losing weight is a mathematical function based on scientific principles: you put in one number, and another comes out. No mind-reading or charisma necessary. It’s a relatively easy strawman to knock down. I think this is why we often tell ourselves all our problems will disappear if we lose weight: we are putting off dealing with an ambiguous reality.

But losing weight isn’t really the solution to all the problems of a stressed teen. In fact, if eating-disordered thoughts take over, it is difficult to accomplish much else. While the teen is slaving for hours at the gym, her crush will take out some other girl for ice cream. While the teen is in the hospital being force-fed, the other kids will be busy building up their resumés and applying to college. So none of the original problems have been solved. In addition, more problems are created, what with everyone gossiping about the mysterious absence, and the huge hospital bill that just might have to come out of the Harvard fund.

No, it isn’t possible to control every aspect of life. But if one sets up the weight-loss strawman, one’s life may just spin even more out of control. Personally, I try to put stressors such as college or social issues in perspective, so they don’t seem so big and scary. I accept that I will not be able to control everything. But at least I can control everything in my power. I apply myself at school and do my personal best at every endeavor I choose to take on, realizing that all I can do is all that can be done. When something is out of my hands I often have to remind myself that there is no point in agonizing over it; life goes on and the flow of things will take me where I am headed, with the compass of my best work pointing the way.

I could go on forever. Every logical fallacy in the book is employed by the irrationality of eating-disordered thoughts. Frankly, eating-disordered thoughts are consummate liars. The logic behind them is thinner than spider silk, and they take over the mind through manipulation like the most rotten politicians in history. As thinkers, we need to be savvy about which thoughts deserve any of our precious time, and which need to be disregarded at once. If your mind is being overrun by forceful, irrational thoughts, do yourself a favor and think twice. Stay strong, be unique and be you! You don’t need to be the skinniest person on the planet to be a good, successful and happy individual.

Happy National Sandwich Day!

No, I’m not making this up. Just ask Wikipedia! November 3rd is the glorious occasion of American National Sandwich Day, the one day a year dedicated to celebrating sandwiches. So what are you waiting for? Bust out the fireworks, strike up the band with the sandwich anthem, heat up the barbie (to grill some sandwiches of course!)

Okay, maybe you didn’t do anything much in the way of sandwich-related festivities today. Me neither. I only remembered at the last minute. And I’d already let National French Fried Clam Day and National Cook for your Pets day fall by the wayside on Friday. (I am a vegetarian, so I wouldn’t be eating any clams anyway. My cat might’ve wanted some though.) I missed Deviled Egg Day yesterday. In fact, I had scrambled eggs for breakfast – such blasphemy! As you can see, I’m not really in the habit of observing food-related holidays. But as a blogger, I feel I should let my holiday spirit shine every once in a while.

maple, fake bacon, and peanut sandwich National Sandwich Day 2013

Speaking of the holidays: is it just me, or are the holiday ads starting up early this year? I could’ve sworn last year there were none until after Thanksgiving. This year, they were creeping up on us before Halloween. I like Christmas music, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to hear a billion ads for Christmas presents and see creepy little elves in every store window. There’s something so enchanting about the holiday season…that will be utterly wrecked if the season gets any longer. So if anyone reading this works for an advertising company, please try to put off the Christmas ads as long as you can! Do it for the children…please???

Regardless of how you feel about the (not-so) upcoming winter holidays, I wish you a delightful National Sandwich Day. I am being a good blogger this time and actually celebrating this food holiday, unlike those earlier ones I neglected. My celebration consisted of a fun sandwich combination: veggie bacon, maple syrup, and salted peanuts. Slap it on some whole wheat bread and enjoy a yummy, nourishing meal!

Maple, Veggie Bacon, and Peanut Sandwich

serves one

National Sandwich Day 2013: maple, fake bacon, peanut sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread (I used Rudi’s Organic Bakery brand)
  • 2 Morning Star brand vegetarian bacon strips (found in freezer section of grocery store)
  • 2 tbls organic pure maple syrup (adjust amt. to taste)
  • 1 tbl roasted, salted peanuts (adjust amt. to taste)

Directions:

Cook fake bacon strips according to package directions (about a minute and a half in the microwave.)

Pour maple syrup on both slices of bread. Arrange peanuts and fake bacon strips on top of the maple on one slice of bread. Cover with the other slice of bread, maple side down.

If desired, cut sandwich in half.

Happy National Sandwich Day!

Perfect Pumpkin Pancake for One

On Halloween, I observed as fellow teenagers gorged themselves on candy the way a zombie devours the finest flesh. The following day, I felt like the only human being walking through the halls amidst a mob of zombies, drifting slowly from class to class, sporting gray bags under the eyes and lifelessly opening leftover candy bars. Needless to say, I was totally awake and ready to learn on Friday. My secret? Well, there’s really two parts to it: 1) go to bed long before the witching hour and 2) don’t eat junk food. For several years now I have avoided the typical Halloween candy that’s packed with sugar and made with ingredients I can’t pronounce. Frankly, some of those candies are the scariest thing about Halloween.

Avoiding candy doesn’t have to mean avoiding sweet foods, however. I felt like a little not-so-naughty treat for breakfast on Friday, as a healthier alternative to the candy most other kids would be snacking on. Chocolate yogurt raisins would do the trick! In honor of fall, I chose to add pumpkin to my concoction. The real magic happened when I topped it all off with pure maple syrup. Melty chocolate, nutritious dried fruit, hearty pumpkin and sweet maple syrup all combined to form the perfect guilt-free day-after-Halloween pancake! With whole grain fiber, this pancake kept me awake and satisfied throughout the day, unlike certain candy-guzzling zombies who kept returning to the kitchen for more and more candy that afternoon.

Do you want a delicious and nutritious breakfast? Do you love the flavors of fall? Go ahead and make this pancake. Guaranteed to fuel you for a day of vigorous zombie-fighting!

Perfect Pumpkin Pancake for One

pumpkin pancake for one with chocolate yogurt raisins and cranberries

Ingredients:

pancake batter

  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp egg (I used egg substitute)
  • 1 tsp pure organic maple syrup
  • 3 tbls nonfat milk
  • 3 tbls Libby’s Pure Pumpkin puree
  • dash cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • 2 tbls Sunmaid brand dark chocolate yogurt raisins
  • 1 tbl dried cranberries

topping

  • additional maple syrup to taste

Directions:

Spray a small pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir. Add egg, 1 tsp maple syrup, pumpkin puree and milk. Mix well. Stir in the yogurt raisins and cranberries.

Pour batter into pan over medium heat. Cook pancake for a few minutes. Flip and cook the other side.

Remove from heat. Top with maple syrup.

chocolate yogurt raisin cranberry pumpkin pancake for one

Eating like a human never tasted so delicious!

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