Death by Chocolate

This past weekend we celebrated D’s and his mom’s birthday.  Celebrations started on Friday and ended on Sunday, visiting with all sides of the family.  I think he had a nice time.  I asked him what he wanted to do and we did it.  When I asked him what he wanted to do on his actual birthday, he told me he wanted me to make Italian Beef (simple) and maybe a dessert or something that Mini Me could also have.  After all, we don’t need a crazy 3 year old to be going on a jealous rage that she can’t eat cake when we are enjoying it.  So, Thursday night came, and Mini Me and I started making a cake.  She absolutely LOVES to help me in the kitchen.  Loves to help measure things, mix things, and just be with me.  I am flattered by it.  And because I was making a Vegan/Allergy Friendly cake, she got to taste every ingredient along the way.  I may have, too.

She's a great helper!

We first made the cake.  While it was baking, we moved onto the mousse, and then the ganache.  Once the cake was cooled completely, I spread the mousse between the two layers of cake, and added a thick layer to just the top of the cake. I let that set overnight in the fridge (in this awesome Wilton Cake Caddy) while the ganache also set.  Before the birthday boy got home from work, I spread the ganache evenly on the top of the cake and the sides with a large icing spatula (like this one), and put it back in the fridge until it was time to serve.  Please remember, if you do make this cake, that it needs to be refrigerated for the mousse and the ganache.  Don’t worry, it won’t dry the cake out, I PROMISE!

Let me tell you… This cake is ABSOLUTELY amazing, and you would have NO idea that it was vegan.  None.  I wanted to eat the whole thing.  I likely had too much of it over the weekend… Just sayin’.  I might as well own up to my indulgence.  It was totally worth it, though!

Kate’s Triple Chocolate Cake

100% Vegan!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 6 Tbsp. cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup Truvia Baking Blend (or 2 Cups Sugar)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Prepare cake pans (I used these 8″ round aluminum cake pans from Wilton, and the Wilton Bake Even Strips which help the cake be more consistently level as it bakes)
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl
  4. Make “wells” for vinegar, vanilla, and coconut oil and pour each into a “well” (one should be big enough to hold coconut oil)
  5. Pour water over the top
  6. Mix with hand mixer until smooth
  7. Divide batter evenly into prepare cake pans
  8. Bake on center rack for 32-38 minutes, testing with a toothpick to be sure cake is done
  9. Remove and let cool on cooling racks for 5 minutes before removing cakes from pans to cool completely

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe Haas avocados
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 6 Tbsp. cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 3 Tbsp. almond or cashew milk (I used chocolate cashew milk)

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients into a blender (I used my single serving Ninja cup) or food processor and blend until smooth.

(Seriously, its that easy!)

Vegan Salted Milk Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag dairy free chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life or Chocolate Dream)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. With a double boiler or a sauce pot with water topped with a glass mixing bowl, melt and combine all ingredients together until smooth.  I whisked along the way with a small whisk to be sure that it was completely smooth.
  2. Let set for at least 3 hours in the fridge before using as an icing.

(This also makes a great dip for fruit while warm!)

Enjoy this super fudgey cake!  It is my favorite cake I’ve actually ever had – saying a lot considering where I work!

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#SoberSeptember

I made the decision at the end of August that I would be taking part in a Sober September.  Actually, I didn’t know there was such as thing as Sober September until after I had already started.  Color me surprised.  Now I have a name for it.

Anyone that knows me knows I enjoy my adult beverages.  Turns out, I was drinking at home, “socially” next to my husband on the couch on weekends, as well.  Not saying that this is a particularly bad thing, but when push came to shove, I was overindulging in the beverages of the alcoholic sort more times than not.  I do/did have my “rules” about drinking, though.  I wouldn’t drink more than 2 drinks when Mini Me was either awake with me, or any drinks if I was home with her alone.  There was no way I could take the chance that she would need me and have to see me intoxicated.  As I thought more about it, I realized that I was self-medicating myself, trying to escape from problems I had.  While drinking provided that escape for me, it also wasn’t helping to make things better… Especially the day after.  And the health implications were huge – extra calories spent on “empty” beverages and reduced fat loss.  And the stupid decisions while drinking… We won’t go into detail there.Picture2

Embarking on this journey, even just 9 days into it, hasn’t been the easiest thing to do.  September has always been a busy month of celebrations – Labor Day, husband’s and mother-in-law’s birthdays (they share a birthday), best friend’s birthday, Mini Me’s birthday, and our Anniversary.  This will not be an easy feat for me, and has already required some major changes in how I think about my weekends now.  For instance, instead of going out Labor Day weekend (heat and working a wedding being a contributing factor), D and I got a 1000 piece puzzle.  Yep, totally was nerding it up this weekend.  And you know what??  Waking up not hung-over or sluggish was fantastic! Plus, Mini Me got to help a little bit… That is, until she started mixing the pieces together in the bowl like they were popcorn.

What do I expect from this experience?

  1. There are things other than drinking that I can be doing on weekends. Come on now, I am a “grown-up” and need to start acting like one.
  2. Waist line reductions. Granted, I have been working out and focusing my eating, but now without drinking to get in the way, I anticipate that I will have better successes with losing inches than I did over the past few months.
  3. I will improve my relationship with alcohol. I need to start thinking about alcohol as something that is nice to have every once in a while, in limited amounts.  It is an addicting beverage, and should not be used to binge on, but enjoyed with a nice dinner, desert, or celebration.
  4. Prove to myself that I can have just as much fun sans my favorite drinks as I can with. Alcohol has always improved my confidence and made me feel like I fit in better.  I am sure that many of you can relate.  What I need to do is occasionally just let go without the alcohol and have fun.  Prove to myself that I am the same person, just with a bit more control over my actions.

If I feel I didn’t accomplish my expectations, I will launch into a second month of no drinking, also known as Ocsober.  Getting my mind on the right path is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle, one I know I have struggled with for quite some time now. Some people may not agree with this, and I will challenged many times over the course of the month, possibly months, but I need to do this for me.

Would you consider a Sober September?  What about an Ocsober?

A big personality

A while back I took a Myers-Briggs personality test.  You feel like you are put in a box when given results, but it also gives you insight into why you work better with some people, whether those people are friends or coworkers.

I tested as an ESFJ personality.

ESFJwordle

Here are some characteristics of that personality (pulled from www.16personalities.com):

  • At their hearts, ESFJ personalities are social creatures, and thrive on staying up to date with what their friends are doing.
  • ESFJs are altruists, and they take seriously their responsibility to help and to do the right thing.
  • ESFJs love to be of service, enjoying any role that allows them to participate in a meaningful way, so long as they know that they are valued and appreciated.
  • ESFJs truly enjoy hearing about their friends’ relationships and activities, remembering little details and always standing ready to talk things out with warmth and sensitivity. If things aren’t going right, or there’s tension in the room, ESFJs pick up on it and to try to restore harmony and stability to the group.
  • ESFJs spend a lot of their energy establishing social order, and prefer plans and organized events to open-ended activities or spontaneous get-togethers. People with this personality type put a lot of effort into the activities they’ve arranged, and it’s easy for ESFJs’ feelings to be hurt if their ideas are rejected, or if people just aren’t interested.
  • ESFJ personalities seek harmony and care deeply about other people’s feelings, being careful not to offend or hurt anybody.
  • A few of ESFJ’s weaknesses include “a strong need to ‘belong’”, “defensive and hurt if someone, especially a person close to them, criticizes them”, and are often “too needy” and “too selfless.”
  • ESFJs are so centered on the physical world and are quite emotional; they tend to be very affectionate and sensual.
  • There’s nothing quite as hurtful to people with the ESFJ personality type as finding out that a trusted friend is critical of their beliefs or habits, except maybe being told so in a direct confrontation.
  • ESFJs have a tendency to believe that their friends can do no wrong, always stepping up to defend them regardless of circumstances, and they expect the same benefit of the doubt in return.
  • ESFJs’ children will always appreciate the sensitivity and warmth that they were raised with, and as time goes on and they have their own children, they will cherish the fact that those children have the benefit of grandparents who love and care for them unconditionally.
  • ESFJs’ best careers all have the additional benefit of providing them with perhaps their most important requirement: to feel appreciated and know they’ve helped someone.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about my personality and who I am over the past few days.  This is who I am.  I do always want to “belong” and do “care deeply about others”, which makes me emotional when things go off the path of “happy-go-lucky” for myself or my friends.  And you know what, I am needy.  Am I ok with it?  No.  Can I change it?  I’m trying, but no guarantees.  I push for friendship and openness because that is how I know how to care, how to love.  The one thing I do know is that I am proud to be ESFJ – I can talk to anyone, I care for everyone, and want to be sure others are as happy as I can be.

What is your personality type?

Here Fishy Fishy…

I remember when I was younger I had a huge aversion to fish, like many children do.  The texture, flavor, and smell are unlike anything else.  I used to fight my parents to not have to eat it, used to get chicken or something of the sort at Red Lobster if we went there (and yumm, yes, the biscuits).  As I got older, I started to LOVE fish.  All kinds of fish.  And SUSHI.  Oh, what would I do if I didn’t have sushi?!

When my mini me got diagnosed with food allergies to Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Fish, and Shellfish, my thoughts immediately went to  what she couldn’t have, and how we were going to be able to find foods for her to have.  I worked thru it.  I found substitutions for some of our favorite foods and got creative in the kitchen.  We ate less processed foods than ever!  We found that Oreos are actually Vegan, so she could have small indulgences like the rest of the kids she knew as she grew up.

Earlier this summer, we had our annual allergy appointment where the doctor did a skin test for some of her allergies.  We were ESTATIC to find that she could eat fish and shell fish.  She was so excited to be able to eat fish and shellfish, even though she had never tasted them before.  Just given the opportunity to eat something she has never been allowed to had her all reved up.  We bought some fish sticks the very next day (I figured that was a safe bet for a 3 year old to try fish for the first time) and cooked them up.  She sat down and tried them.

She LOVED fish.  I was so scared that she was going to not like it, and we would have gone thru all of the testing for no reason.  Since then, we’ve had shrimp, salmon burgers, and pollock burgers, all of which she loved.

Last night was the true test… I had plans to make fish tacos.  Not too extreme, but still something I would picture a 3 year old eating.  So I went ahead and started making them.  I didn’t write down a recipe, but it was simple enough that I’ll give details below.  I even had some slaw and avocado to put on top.  I tell you, this small child of mine will try anything once!  I put a taco together for her, and was expecting her to try it and hate it… But she didn’t!  She loved it!  Devoured the whole thing in a matter of minutes, and asked for more.  She makes my heart smile – her courage and adventurous nature makes me so proud to be her mom, and makes me want to continue to strive to be better in every way.

Oven Roasted "Blackened" Tilapia Slaw Slaw & Avocado Smart & Delicious Mini Multi-Bran Wraps Tilapia with Seasoning

Oven Roasted “Blackened” Tilapia Tacos with Slaw

  • Tilapia seasoned with chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder
  • Baked for about 15-20 at 400 if frozen (which mine was because I didn’t think far enough ahead to take out of the freezer), less if fresh or thawed
  • Cole Slaw Mix combined with Walden Farms Thousand Island dressing and put in the fridge while baking

I topped small multi bran tortillas with some crumbled tilapia, a bit of slaw, and some chopped avocado.

I hope you enjoy if you give it a try!

You are on a diet?

One of my most despised words is “diet” or “dieting”.  Why?  Because it means you are depriving yourself of something.  You are making it about not being able to get what you want.

There are times when I meet people, or am talking to friends, that I just want to blurt out pieces of knowledge, but I know not everyone will believe, accept, or understand things that I am saying.  I have been on a journey for a healthy lifestyle for a few years now.  Along the way, I have learned a few things…

  1.  Start off front-loading your calories. This will keep your energy levels up throughout the day, and eliminate making your night time meal (your most inactive time of day) your largest.
  2. Don’t deprive yourself of something. If you want to have something, have a little bit of it.  If you have more than a little bit, ok.  Just remind yourself that next time you will do better and have just a few bites.
  3. You won’t always be losing. Sometimes you might gain, sometimes you might maintain.  It all happens with a typical weight loss journey and healthy lifestyle change.
  4. Exercise. Find something you like and do it.  Don’t force yourself to do something that you don’t like or you will find yourself making excuses not to do it. Instead, pick up an old hobby, find a sport to play, or experiment with different types of exercises to find what works for you.  If you want to workout at home, great!  Beachbody programs are awesome for a variety (especially if you do the On Demand that was recently launched).  If you like to play baseball, find a league.  If you hate running, don’t do it.  Just do what works for you.
  5. Try not to compare yourself to others. Sure you might have a goal physique, but try not to look around you and compare yourself to other people you see who seem to be perfect.  Remember, they most likely work just as hard for how they look as you are working.
  6. Keep that light at the end of the tunnel. There are days that I just want to quit because I feel I will never get to where I want to be.  The truth is, that you will never be able to stop what you are doing if you want to maintain the healthy life.  You will need to continue to work and eat right, which is why it is important to remember #4.
  7. Surround yourself with like-minded people. These people can come in many forms – meeting new friends on a sports league, finding that a colleague has the same goals, meeting people from a gym, chatting up a neighbor, and even finding true friendship with people on fitness websites like myfitnesspal.com or bodybuilding.com.  You will have moments that you want to quit or need advice.  These individuals will help you.
  8. Never be afraid to try something new and challenge yourself.  Try that new recipe.  Take a run thru the mud and climb walls.  You might find something new that you really enjoy.
  9. Eat protein and fats. Changing your lifestyle isn’t about eating just vegetables and fruit, rice cakes, and low fat foods.  Eat that beef.  Have that egg.  Eat that cheese.  Get these healthy fats and proteins into your diet – you will feel like you are more satisfied and full than if you just ate “diet” foods.
  10. Changing your lifestyle isn’t expensive. So many times I hear people around me complain that buying healthy foods is so expensive.  Think about it… How much do you spend on take out?  How much do you spend on bags of chips?  I usually spend about $30 per person for a week of home cooked meals (all meals).  If I had more time and was able to make some of the things my family enjoys from scratch – like protein bars, healthy muffins, and fruit salads – it would be even less.
  11. Water. This is one that I consistently struggle with.  Its not that I am drinking other liquids, but merely get so wrapped up in what I am doing that I forget to drink it.  The USDA standard is 8 cups of water a day.  Honestly, this isn’t really enough for most adults, especially if you are exercising.  The rule of thumb that I have consistently heard is 0.5-1 ounce of water for every pound that you weigh.  It seems like a lot, but you will find that your body starts to crave it if you aren’t drinking enough.
  12. Ladies – don’t be afraid to lift weights! I’ve heard numerous girl friends who are cardio bunnies (or don’t even workout) say that they don’t want to get bigger by lifting weights.  I could slam my head against a wall.  I wish I could show them the picture of 1lb of fat vs 1lb of muscle and have them see how that isn’t true.  You will not get larger, you will get thinner and have a better shape.  Not all women are bikini models and fitness competitors, but if you want to get rid of your love handles and your thunder thighs… Weights are the way to go, especially when combined with some cardio.
  13. Eat often. Make sure you don’t let yourself get too hungry.  Learn to recognize the signs of your hunger.  I usually eat about 5-6 times a day.  It is almost a running joke around the office that people always see me with food.  So what… let them laugh.  I know that my body functions best like this.
  14. Weigh, measure, and log. Get a cheap scale from the store or from Amazon.com. I’m sure you already have measuring cups.  You do this, and you are forced to be honest with how much you eat.
  15. Eat the right amount of calories. Whether you are just starting out and going with what a fitness site like myfitnesspal.com tells you to do, or you are more involved and eat to your macros (check out this calculator at Scooby’s Workshop), be sure that you are eating enough.  I’ve followed numerous programs that have had me on an extremely restrictive calorie count and I can tell you that it never lasts long.  I give up, and end up eating way more than I should or “sneak” things into my day just so I can feel satisfied.
  16. Sleep!  Getting the right amount of sleep is imperative for your body to be able to function properly.  Most adults need between 6-8 hours of sleep a night.  If you feel like you are always waking up tired, go to bed around 30 minutes earlier or get up 30 minutes earlier.  You are most likely waking up in the middle of a REM/deep sleep cycle and your body will feel more tired than usual.  Adjusting your sleep will help you wake up when your body is in a light sleep cycle and you will feel well rested.
  17. Set Goals. I’m not just talking about the end goal, because…DUH… We all have them.  Set mini goals.  Whether it is to be able to fit into that dress that is a size smaller, or to stick to your workout program for a week (sometimes that’s a huge win).  Set them.  Reward yourself or pat yourself on the back when you do.  Brag about it.  If other people around you are truly supportive they will be happy and proud of you.
  18. Be proud of yourself. Seriously!  Be proud of yourself – you’ve made the decision to get healthy, not just diet.  That is a huge step.  You are in this for the long haul.  Smile, and be proud of yourself.

Being healthy isn’t just about dieting, it’s about changing your life.  If you are interested in learning more about some of the programs I have done or some of the nutrition that has worked for me, please let me know! I would love to help you on your journey.