Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Whipped Banana Ice Cream

Surprise!  I'm back.  I know I said yesterday was my last post before my "wedding furlough", but I made some whipped banana "ice cream" yesterday and have been chomping at the bit to share it with all of you.  I have read about this recipe on Pinterest (don't even get me started on the addictive properties of Pinterest...oh dear lord!), and have been pondering trying it for some time now.

This recipe involves a banana.  Yep, that's it.  Just a banana.  Or two, or three, or even four depending on how much "ice cream" you want to make.  I put ice cream in quotation marks because it's not really ice cream.  But the frozen bananas are supposed to taste like ice cream.

You simply slice a banana, stick the pieces in a tupperware container in the freezer for an hour or two, and then whip the pieces in a blender.  Easy as pie.  Or well, in the case, as easy as ice cream.  I will say that I tried freezing the whole banana, but it doesn't work so great when you try to peel that whole frozen banana.  Peel it and chop it first, then freeze it.

Pinterest says you can just whip a banana, but I think next time I'd add a bit of peanut butter or chocolate to give it some depth of flavor.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't like it.  But I think it would taste better with some sugar :)  Leave it to me to ruin a healthy treat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pink Lady Strawberry Cupcakes

Sadly this may be the last post before I check out for about a week and a half.  I only say this because I would rather surprise myself (and you) with another post tomorrow, rather than disappoint everyone by saying that I will be back and then don't show.  I'm getting married in just four short days (yay!!), and I know there will be several last minute things to take care of that unfortunately will trump blogging.

But let's focus on today's post, shall we?  And oh my goodness was I excited about this one!  I always love a good reason to whip up something sweet, and yesterday brought an incredibly exciting opportunity to do so.  I was having afternoon tea (how fabulous does that sound?) with the lovely little lady that will be my flower girl in my wedding this weekend.  She has got to be the MOST precious thing I have ever seen, and I truly hope that if I have a little girl one day she will turn out like Kaleigh.  Such a doll!!

I was going to bring a treat to tea anyhow, but then I found out that her birthday is just a few days away. And who doesn't love a good cupcake for their special day?  Since her favorite color is pink I decided on these Pink Lady Strawberry cupcakes.  While they are probably thought of more as a summer cupcake because they are so light, they still fit the occasion perfectly.  A cream cheese frosting sits atop these baby cakes and pairs wonderfully with the strawberry flavor.

Princess Crowns and K's

This is probably either my favorite cake of all time, or it's tied with first right along side italian cream cake.  You definitely get the strawberry flavor, but it isn't too overpowering and it tastes incredibly fresh.  A lot of times strawberry cake can taste very artificial to me.  The crumb is also incredibly tender, but not to the point that the cake won't hold it's shape.

Pink Lady Strawberry Cupcakes adapted from Eats Well with Others
4 1/2 C cake flour
3 C sugar
5 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/2 C pureed strawberries (I used fresh, but I'm sure frozen would work too)
8 egg whites
2/3 C milk
hint of pink food color

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

*This cake recipe makes 36-40 cupcakes or one layer cake.  The frosting would need to be doubled for this cake recipe. *

Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake tin with liners.

Place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl.  Put mixer on low speed and blend until combined, about 30 sec.  Add butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend.  Turn mixer on medium speed and beat until light and fluffy (this will take 2-3 min).  The mixture will resemble fluffy ice cream at this point.

Strawberry puree

The fluffy ice cream look that I was referring to....

In another bowl mix together eggs white, milk and food coloring.  Add this mixer to the batter in 2 or 3 additions, scraping bowl down after each addition.  Divide batter among cupcake tins.

Bake 15-20 min or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cupcakes rest in tins and then remove to cool for one hour.

To make frosting, combine all ingredients in mixer and beat until smooth. *It's so important that the butter and cream cheese are at room temp.  Otherwise you will get hard lumps of both ingredients in your frosting because they didn't completely blend together.

Because these were for a birthday girl who loves pink and all things princess, I decided to use some candy melts to make princess crown cupcake toppers and "K"s.  To do this just melt the candies and then place in a small plastic squeeze bottle.  Then pipe the desired shapes onto wax paper and let cool.  Decorate them as desired before they cool so that any decorations will stick.

Candy melts (they come in all colors) and squeeze bottles can be purchased at your local Michael's or craft store.  The edible glitter and pearls seen here can be purchased there as well.

I also made a trifle with the left over cake that I wanted to share.  Hopefully any cake or cupcakes that you set out to make will turn out lovely, but what if they don't?  Sometimes the crumb is too tender or the layers just won't hold.

Instead of crossing it off as a complete loss, a trifle is a great option.  Just crumble the cake and layer with frosting into a glass or bowl.  It's a gorgeous presentation and you still get to enjoy the yummy dessert you set out to make.  Plus, your guests will never know the difference :)

Strawberry and Cream cheese trifle

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Oatmeal Waffles

I was going over the blog this weekend and realized that I don't have a single breakfast/brunch food on here.  This surprised me because I absolutely love all of those foods.  In fact, sometimes I like them even better for dinner than I do first thing in the morning.

The timing could not have been more perfect because my fiance was giving me a hard time Saturday night about never getting up and cooking him a good breakfast.  "I guess I'll just subsist on cereal every morning.  Is this was married life is really going to be like?", he'd tease me.

It's not that I don't like to cook it, but rather that I don't like to get up early to cook it.  Some say the early bird gets the worm, but I in turn point out that it's the second mouse who gets the cheese :)  Plus, I'd also like to say that I'd be willing to bet that the late bird who hits the snooze button is in a much better mood and feels rested enough to tackle the day's events with a song in his step.  Just sayin'.

Anyhow, yesterday morning I set the alarm a bit early (I normally sleep in and go to the 11:00 Sunday service) and set out to make a nice wholesome breakfast.  We were gifted this fabulous waffle maker at a shower and I have been dying to try it out! So waffles it was.  I initially intended to make a "fancy" waffle.  You know, one with cranberries or walnuts or bananas.  But to my dismay none of these ingredients were in my fiance's pantry.  Sigh.  What now?

I then stumbled across this cinnamon and brown sugar oatmeal waffle recipe.  While oatmeal sounded like a rather different ingredient to include, I figured it couldn't be that bad.  And bad it certainly was not.  It was delicious!  The oatmeal gives it a nice difference in texture and, while not incredibly apparent or overpowering, the cinnamon and brown sugar give it a hint of depth to the flavor.  I'm sure you could add more of both if you wanted that flavor to pack a more powerful punch.


Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Oatmeal Waffles adapted from Allrecipes
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C quick cooking rolled oats
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 1/2 C milk
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp brown sugar

In large bowl stir together flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

In separate small bowl stir together eggs, milk, butter and brown sugar.  Add to flour mixture and stir until blended.

*You have to make sure your butter isn't too hot, or it will cook the eggs when you add them to the mixture.

Cook waffle according to waffle iron instructions.

Yum!  Just a hint of that lovely brown toasted color.

Ellie wanted some too :)  Trey was nice enough to share a bite.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

AllRecipes Coverage

Okay, so this isn't really a recipe post, but I still had to share.   And I realize that I normally don't post on weekend, but this was a special occasion, so I'm making an exception.

I submitted a photo to the AllRecipes website yesterday and it got voted to appear on the site's main page!  Each day members can submit photos and then site visitors vote for their four favorites.  And mine was one :)  Can you tell I'm excited?!

Below is a screen shot of their homepage right now.  My photo is the red velvet cupcake to the far right.  You can go to the live website by clicking here, however after today you won't see my photo.

If you haven't ever checked out AllRecipes I would highly encourage you to do so.  It's one of the first sites I frequented when I began venturing into the cooking/baking world, and it's incredibly user friendly.  I'm not sure exactly how many recipes are listed on the site, but it's A LOT.

My favorite feature is that for each recipe you can see each and every member photo that has been uploaded.  So instead of just seeing a nice, glossy photo of perfection brought to you by the editor/chef, you can see photos from real at-home cooks who tried their hand at the recipe.  Much more realistic if you ask me.

There are also user reviews so that you can garner feedback from other visitors.  The frosting didn't thicken up enough or the pork was really dry?  That will be noted here.

Anyhow, check it out!  Go take a tour.  Whip something up.

See you Monday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Links

Morning!  I decided to switch it up today and bring you an array of links to some recipes that I am dying to try.  I haven't ventured out with new recipes a lot lately, mostly because it doesn't make much sense to cook a huge fancy meal for just me, myself and I.  At this point it's easier to just whip up a sandwich or throw some salmon in the oven and call it a night.  I could be wrong, but I'm guessing you don't really care for me to share my peanut butter sandwich recipe from last night.

But this will all change here very shortly.  When I get married I fully plan on cooking a decent dinner most week nights.  Yes I'm sure life will get in the way more often than I would like for it to (and you married ladies are probably getting a nice snicker out of this goal of mine because you know how hectic life will indeed get), but that is my plan as of now.  Some people may see it as old fashioned and stereotypical, but I would be thrilled to be the wife that cooks up a nice dinner every night all while wearing a cute apron.  I don't cook because I feel like I have to, but rather because I find it incredibly therapeutic.  It's one of my greatest loves.

Still, there will only be two of us so I will be doing scaled down versions of these recipes to ensure that we don't have gobs of leftovers.  Below are some of the recipes I'd like to try....

*Please note that all of these pictures are courtesy of the website to which I have linked.  I do not own the rights to them, and the respective bloggers/chefs certainly deserve the credit for these scrumptious confections.

Foil Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn
I plan on cooking these babies the first night back from the Honeymoon.  I'm
going to go out on a limb and predict I'll probably eat my
weight in sweets on the 'moon, and this will be a nice and light (but still tasty)
meal to get us back on track once we come home.

Spaghetti Squash
I had spaghetti squash for the first time ever (yes, ever) when I went out to
eat for my birthday this year.  Ever since I've been hooked!  It's a wonderful healthy
option that is packed full of flavor.  Yes, please!

Chicken Enchiladas
Can you tell I love Pink Parsley?  Yeah, it's one of my favorite food blogs of all time.  No
joke.  You should check it out.  These chicken enchiladas look absolutely divine.  The local
Mexican restaurant is just wonderful, so I'm a little nervous to try to compete 
with their grub, but it's worth a shot :)

Zucchini Cakes
Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies, and I love the idea of putting
it in patti form.  I could be wrong, but I would be willing to bet those who
aren't as big on veggies would be more likely to try this as opposed to
plain 'ole zucchini.  Delish!

Chicken and Cheese Lasagna Roll-ups
I'm pretty sure everyone loves lasagna, but it can often seem a bit redundant.  Yes,
it's fabulous and you love every bite, but sometimes a different variation
can keep things interesting.  These chicken and cheese lasagna roll-ups do the trick 
for me!  Simple enough so that everyone is still going to love it, yet
different enough to keep them guessing.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie
You know I couldn't feature links without including a dessert, right?  So many desserts, while
unbelievably delicious, require a bevy of steps and utensils and leave
your kitchen in a mess.  The name of this dessert says it's a giant cookie
made right in one lone skillet.  Plus, since you make it right then and there everyone
gets to dig in while it's warm :)  Sigh.

What recipes are you looking to try?  Any that you'd like to see featured here?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Old Fashioned Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling

Today I bring you yet another recipe from the forgotten vault.  This one had slipped my mind as well until I stumbled across the photos this morning.  I adapted these little babies from one of Paula Deen's recipes.  And any confection Paula Deen whips up is always good in my book :)

These cupcakes are composed of a classic butter cake and a traditional buttercream frosting.  Some might call it boring, but I absolutely love the simplicity of it.  Due to this simplicity, it's also a recipe that you know pretty much everyone will love.

The only thing I did switch up was that I added a lemon curd filling.  This gave the cupcakes a surprise pop of flavor when you bit into them.  Nothing too overpowering, just a little something extra.  If lemon curd seems too "spring" or "summer" to you, you can certainly add a different filling or omit it all together.

Most of the time a filling is added *after* cupcakes are baked.  But since I wanted more of a subtle flavor that melded into the cake I added it prior to baking.  The typical method would be to pipe the curd down into the cupcakes once they cool.

Old Fashioned Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling adapted from Paula Deen's original recipe
1 3/4 C cake flour (not self rising)
1 1/4 C unbleached all purpose flour
2 C sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 large eggs
1 C whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 small jar prepared lemon curd (found in the jelly section of your grocery store)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with liners and set aside.

In large bowl combine both flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Mix on low speed for about 3 minutes or until combined.  Add cubed butter, mixing on low speed until butter is just coated.

Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Slowly add milk and vanilla until completely combined.  Scrape bowl as you mix.

Scoop batter into prepared cups, filling cup approximate 2/3 full.  Then add one small scoop (depending on the desired strength of flavor) of lemon curd to each cup.  Don't worry, the curd will slip down into the batter as it settles.  Bake 17-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*The below photo shows my first filling method of placing the curd in between two scoops of batter.  Unfortunately this resulted in the curd falling down to the very bottom of the cupcake.  If you put the curd on top, it gradually finds it's perfect spot right in the center.

Old Fashioned Frosting
2 sticks butter, room temperature
8 C confectioners sugar
1/2 C milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cream softened butter and add 4 cups sugar, milk and vanilla.  Beat with paddle attachment until smooth.  Gradually add remaining sugar until desired frosting consistency is reached.

You can add the frosting any way you'd like, but I piped these cupcakes with a simple open frosting tip.  This frosting isn't quite as stiff as others, and so I'm not sure how it would fare with other, more intricate frosting tips.

Dig in!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Banana Sour Cream Bread

Hi there!  Can you believe I've logged 7 posts in 14 days?  Yeah, me neither.  This was my intention all along....regular, frequent posts.  However, life kind of got in the way and things didn't turn out as planned. I'm getting married in just 11 short days, so there will definitely be about a week and a half there with no posts.  However, when I get back from the honeymoon I plan on sharing all of the yummy meals I'll be whipping up for my hubby on a (hopefully) nightly basis.

Today I bring you my favorite banana sour cream bread.  I actually made this bread over a year ago, but just this morning stumbled across the photos and realized I had never blogged the recipe.  This bread is absolutely divine, with a great deal of yummy banana flavor, plenty of moistness (is that a word?) from the sour cream, and a nice crunch on top compliments of the walnuts.

The funny thing is that I absolute hate bananas.  I couldn't eat one if you tried to force me.  I think it's a texture thing though, and doesn't have as much to do with the actual taste.  Oddly enough, I love banana bread.  And hopefully you do too!

The only thing I will say is that the consistency is more like that of a cake than that of a quick bread.  Most banana bread is very dense, with so much moisture it's almost as if it's a bit wet.  But this bread is very light and fluffy.  Heavy on flavor, but still light.  If you're good with that, then this recipe will be right on the money.

Banana Sour Cream Bread
1/4 C white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 C butter
3 C white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 oz) container sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C chipped walnuts

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grease four 7x3 inch loaf pans.  Mix first two ingredients and dust pans lightly with sugar and cinnamon mixture.

In large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar.  Mix in eggs, bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon.  Mix in salt, baking soda and flour.  Stir in nuts and divide into prepared pans.

Mashing the 'naners....

At this point I also added some extra walnuts and cinnamon/sugar mixture on top.  Just for good measure :)
See the extra walnuts on top?

*Tip: To keep the nuts from sinking strait to the bottom of the bread pans, coat them lightly in flour.  Any time I add anything like chocolate chips or nuts to a recipe I always place them in a cup with a little bit of flour and toss to coat.  It solves the "sinking" problem like no other!

Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Stovetop Mac-n-Cheese

Anyone who knows me well knows that macaroni and cheese is hands down my all time favorite food.  It always has been.  Laura Lynn's boxed version was the first meal I ever made on my own growing up, and if I could have I would have eaten it every single day for lunch and dinner.  Actually, I would still do that if I didn't think it would send my cholesterol through the roof.  It's simply the best comfort food imaginable and thoughts of it still conjure of sweet memories of my childhood.

I've tried several versions of macaroni and cheese over the years, with most of them being baked.  So for Thanksgiving this year I wanted to mix things up a bit with a recipe that prepared the dish on the stovetop.  This resulted in an incredibly creamy, rich dish.

This recipe calls for all cheddar cheese, but next time I think I'd experiment with a few different flavors.  Maybe white American?  It's up to you!

PS Excuse the horrible quality of the photo.  This was one of about 10 dishes I fixed for Thanksgiving, so it was all I could do to take a quick sec and get this one snapped :(

Stovetop Mac-n-Cheese adapted from Food Network's Alton Brown
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tbsp butter
2 eggs
6 oz evaporated milk
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
3/4 tsp dry mustard
10 oz sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook macaroni til al dente and drain.  Return to pot and melt in butter.  Toss to coat.

Whisk together eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mustard.  Stir into pasta and add cheese.  Continue to stir over low heat for approximately 3 minutes or until creamy.

*Make sure not to get the temp too high or the mac and cheese will begin to burn on the bottom.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pecan Pie Disaster

So after the last three heavy posts I decided to lighten things up a bit.  Today I bring you my pecan pie that I took to my future in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner.  As you can guess from the title, this confection turned out to be a slight disappointment.  No, on second thought the words "slight disappointment" would be a huge understatement.  From the very beginning I told you I'd share my kitchen triumphs and fails, and boy was this a fail.  A humorous fail that definitely made for great stories, but still a fail.

I've made pecan pie before and have been very pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out if I do say so myself.  I love it's gooey, rich texture from all of the corn syrup, and the crunch of the pecans just makes the whole thing irresistible.  It's a classic and I hate that I never seem to cook it any other time besides Thanksgiving.

Now for some of the backstory.... I was with my future in-laws at a UGA game one day this fall and we were all talking about what kind of food we wanted for their Thanksgiving dinner that year.  Turkey?  Obviously.  Sweet potato casserole?  Yes please!  Rolls?  Of course.

But what about dessert?  Suddenly everyone turned and looked at me.  "You have a blog dedicated to (basically) to sweets.  You should fix something!"  I was delighted.  We finally settled on a pecan pie because that was Trey's grandad's favorite.  I did a slight jump for joy inside because I had just made a pecan pie earlier that week and it was quite possibly one of the best things I've ever eaten.

The day of the dinner I was also baking a test turkey as practice for another Thanksgiving get together, so I had to bake the pie on the very top rack.  At the time I wasn't sure if that was going to cause the pie to cook differently, but because the tubby turkey was a 16-pounder and took up 2/3 of the oven I didn't really have another choice.  So in the pie went right up in the tip top of the oven.

It seemed to cook a little slower, but I figured it was just because of the turkey.  I pulled it out when I thought that it was done and then Trey and I headed over for dinner.  After the meal we went into the kitchen to cut the pie and enjoy.  Except there was no cutting or enjoying.

The pie was as hard as a rock.  WHAT?!  How?  I had cooked it exactly the same as before.  Except this time you literally couldn't get a knife through the thing.

See?  Told you.  We had to use a knife like an ice pick to chip the pie out of the pan so that we could clean it.  It was the craziest thing I've ever seen.

I wracked my brain trying to figure out what happened....was it the new pan?  Was it that it was up in the top of the oven?  Ugh.

About a week later (yes, I was still thinking about it) I did happen to recall that I had bumped the top wrack when I was removing the turkey.  The only thing I can think of is that some of the filling spilled around the edges and got under the pie crust.  This would explain the insanely hard, thick caramelization that had formed along the entire bottom of the pie.

Needless to say I won't be volunteering to bring a pecan pie to any family get togethers any time soon.

So you want the recipe for this fail proof pie, right?? Just kidding.  I'll share that next time I have a *nice* photo to accompany it :)

What is your favorite Thanksgiving recipe?  Did yours turn out as excepted?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Story of This Blog, Part Three

You all still hanging in there?  I realize that the previous two posts were very heavy and emotional reads.  But I promised that my story has a good ending, and it does.  Part Three was hands down the hardest part for me to put into words.  The first two parts were more straight forward.  I know a lot about obsessing over food, but I wish I knew more about getting out of such a cycle.

The recovery process was definitely that, a process.  I'm not exactly sure when the healing finally began or was complete.  I had so many relapses that everything kind of blurs together to be honest.  This may be part of the reason why this post may seem very long and choppy.  It was a combination of things that slowly mended me back into "me" and I want to share each of these things, so bear with me.  Did I mention this post was long?  Yeah, it's long.  Just a forewarning.

I wish so badly that I had some sort of great, one-size-fits-all advice as to how to overcome such situations but I don't.  I believe that different things work for different individuals.  For some it may be a health scare that wakes them up, for others it may be throwing out the scale, and yet for someone else it might be going to counseling.  I tried everything under the sun to overcome my eating issues.  I read memoirs on overcoming such hurdles, I signed up for e-newsletters on the subject, I stopped weighing myself in hopes that I would stop obsessing....the list could go on and on.

The first thing I did was take a picture of myself every day for 2 weeks on my phone and record my weight that day along with the photo.  I know that sounds like something a crazy person would do, but it worked for me.  At the end of 2 weeks I looked at the photos and realized that, even though my weight fluctuated by almost 5 pounds throughout those 14 days (I'm 5'9, so 5 pounds isn't so much at that height), I didn't really look that different each day.  This was so odd to me because I had been so unbelievably sure that those extra 2 pounds made me look like a whale.  At least that's why I was feeling at the time.  Nope, that was just something my brain had created when I looked at myself in the mirror.

I also began journaling.  While I had done that before, this time I began writing down my weight and how it made me feel each day.  Even if it wasn't positive I wrote it down.  I also wrote down other thoughts that were on my mind.  I combined this with my already present prayer life.  Slowly, I began to sort through all of the issues that caused me to spiral into this dark hole in the first place.  I began to realize that on those days when I binged I had been stressing over those emotional issues.  Once I made peace with my past, things began to slowly turn.

Another thing that assisted me in the healing process is the relationship that developed with my now fiance.  Trey met me when I was at my heaviest.  He met me when I had absolutely no self love to be found, and he made me feel absolutely beautiful.  I was truly and utterly dumbfounded that someone could find me attractive.  You mean a guy would find me beautiful and would actually want to tie himself down to me in a relationship?  For good?  I figured that surely if someone could love me at what I thought was my worst, then heck, he would hopefully be pleasantly surprised once I made it back down to my "best".  At this point I slowly began recognizing the good qualities (and I'm not just talking about outward qualities) that he saw in me.  Don't get me wrong, I fought it for a long time.  I had put up these walls and it took me a long time to let someone else in.  It was a long, slow, tedious progression.

Too, though, let me interrupt and state that I believe it's so crucial to make sure you don't base your self worth on what someone else thinks of you.  That's especially true when you're a girl and you're concerned about what guys think of you.  That's not what I'm trying to encourage in the previous paragraph.  This is true even when the other person's thoughts are incredibly positive.  Yes, it did help that Trey loved me at my heaviest, but I had to learn to love myself independently.  God forbid things hadn't worked out, then where would I be?  I would be back at square one.  Shoot, I'd probably be back behind where square one was in the first place.  

Along those same lines, I'd like to add that no matter how wonderful a person's friends or family are, those people alone cannot prevent or help someone overcome these types of issues.  I was raised in the most loving, Godly home you can possibly imagine where my parents consistently instilled in us our self worth.  Yes, I was told that I was beautiful by my family growing up.  But more importantly I was made to recognize that it was my inward qualities that made me beautiful and why I should value myself, and in turn expect others to value me as well.

Despite the best efforts of my loved ones and the Godly foundation my parents gave me, I still went through this awful period and had to learn to overcome it on my own.  The reason is that you're so detached from reality during such a period.  I'm not lying when I say it's a true body dysmorphic experience where you literally cannot comprehend someone else's compliments or concerns.  You also pull away from them because you're completely ashamed of how you look and feel.  You'll talk to them about a lot of stuff, but not about the issues that are eating you (no pun intended).

Ok, now that I've addressed the emotional part I'll touch back on my relationship with food.  Still, even when the emotional part was beginning to heal, my issues with food were still present.  An addiction to (or fear of) food is a very funny thing to try to overcome.  It's not like an addiction to drugs or alcohol. You can't complete a ten step program and banish this substance from your life.  You need it to survive.  You have to deal with the awful relationship you have with this substance multiple times every day for the rest of your life.  And thus, you have to learn how to find a balance.  You have to look at it in the face and make friends with it.  Unfortunately that is much easier said than done.

So I began to focus on being healthy instead of only the final calorie count.  I focused on the foods I should be eating, and not on what I shouldn't or couldn't eat.  Cooking was one way that I reintroduced food back into my life in a healthy way.  Taking the time to select a recipe that looks absolutely divine and then spending time in the kitchen mulling over each ingredient helped me view food as something that shouldn't be feared, but rather as something that should be appreciated and enjoyed.  This blog is a way for me to share those amazing recipes and the utter deliciousness that can come from them.

If you ever deal with any sort of disordered eating pattern at any point in your life, I believe that you will always struggle with it on some level (albeit hopefully a much, much smaller one) forever.  Once in a blue moon I will drive by Dairy Queen and wonder what it would be like to go grab a super sized blizzard and drive slowly home so that I can eat every bite before someone finds out.  Or on the flip side I might step on the scale after a week of sugary sweets and experience a flash of quick weight loss fixes that filter their way through my thoughts.

But at this point those moments have been just that: faint and fuzzy urges rather than actions that I have taken.  At this point I can know that yes, I would love to be 6 pounds lighter.  That's my perfect "happy" weight where every single item in my closet fits just right.  But I'm not there right now.  The holiday season just wrapped up after all :)

I'll wolf down an embarrassing amount of frosting while making a cake, or I'll decide to cut out sugar for a week because my pants are getting tight and I don't like the feeling.  But now, my mental state is completely different from what it was several years ago.  If I overeat it's just because I happen to like the way something tastes, or if I drop 8 pounds it's because I, myself don't feel great and not because I want to be thinner than someone else or thinner for someone else.

Also, I'm not sure if you noticed, but I never listed my "high" and "low" weights.  One reason I never did so is because I don't believe that my weight was necessarily the unhealthy part.  True, my BMI was "underweight" and "overweight" during those respective periods, but it was my emotional state that was the unhealthy part.  I believe that there can be individuals at both of those weights who are healthy for their body type, provided that they eat well and exercise.  It was my absolute fear of food and the fact that I used either the restriction or over-consumption of it to self medicate very deep rooted issues that I was dealing with that was unhealthy.

I know very well that reading this isn't going to up and fix someone else's issues that they might be dealing with.  That was never my purpose or goal in sharing.  Rather it was to let someone in the same boat know that they are not alone and that it is okay to talk about it.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It might take you a long time to make it there like it did me, but it's possible.  You'll probably experience several relapses, but just be persistent and find the healing method that works for you.  You may feel that no one else could possibly understand, but I promise there's someone out there who can and who has been there.  There's probably a lot of those someone's.  If we were all more open with our struggles I believe we would find we have so much more in common with others than we ever imagined.

The other day I was cleaning out my closet and found the journal I mentioned earlier in this post.  The first post listed my highest weight and beside it I had written one lone word for the day: "worthless".  It's amazing to see how far I've come from that deep, dark place.  While I absolutely would never want to do it over, I am so grateful for what has come out of it.  God took a horrible situation that certainly didn't come from Him and used it to mold me into what I am today.

I'm not perfect.  I still have plenty of "fat" days when nothing in my closet fits right and I get frustrated.  I still have days when I complain about how large my thighs are and that I would love for all of my cellulite to disappear and I swear I won't eat any carbs for a week.  I'll still sometimes count calories when I'm wanting to lose a few pounds because I know that works for me.  I still get a dessert intending to have just two bites and end up downing the whole thing.  And I still have a very hard time accepting compliments because a lot of the time I truthfully don't see what the compliment giver does.  Trey might tell me I look great on a date night, but my response is to jokingly reply, "Did you get into the scotch before we went out?".

But now I know that even though I still have positive and negative thoughts about food and how I look, I'll never be back where I was.  I eat a ton of salads, but now it's because I genuinely just love eating them and not because I'm only focusing on the fact that lettuce has next to no calories.  I still love to go to the gym and pound on the treadmill for an hour, but now it's because I love how I feel afterward and I love the fact that doing so means that I can indulge a little extra that day :)

Again, thank you so much for taking this journey with me.  Maybe I have been a little too detailed and personal, but it's given me such an incredible peace to be able to share my past, good and bad.  To say it's been therapeutic would be the understatement of the year.  Everyone has their own demons that they battle and mine just happened to be food and weight at that point.  This is going to sound so cliche, but you never know what someone else is going through, so always be compassionate and pass along a kind word of encouragement.  You never know how what you say or do will impact someone else's life.

As for me, I'll still be here on this blog sharing my confections.  I'm not sure if I'll ever touch on this subject again, but at least now I've shared what's on my heart.  And at least now you know the history behind this blog, and maybe the posts might carry a different meaning.

I'll be posting plenty of yummy recipes in the future, so stay tuned!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Story of This Blog, Part "Dough"

So by now you have hopefully read Part One of my story.  If you haven't, please do.  You need to read that part first for this post to make any sense. 

Let me first begin by saying thank you.  I was so nervous to post this, because you never know how people will react.  Will they think of me differently?  Will there be virtual crickets?  The response has been so incredibly overwhelming and truly humbling.  Your messages and your comments make it so worth sharing this journey.

Part Two of my story is the flip side of Part One unfortunately, and for me this phase was much harder on me than Part One.  This is the part that no one ever talks about or wants to admit to.  To be honest I was almost thinking about skipping this part.  But then you wouldn't get the whole story.  And what about those girls who have experienced this part?   Not including this part of my journey would only reinforce the idea that it's okay for no one to discuss this subject.  It would be like me saying that it's something that you should still be ashamed of even after you overcome it.  I labeled it Part Dough because that play on words so accurately describes my addiction with food that began.  After about 6 months of struggling with not eating, I went to the other end of the spectrum.

When the switch hit, it hit hard.  One day I brought home a batch of chocolate chip cookies that my mom had sent back to Athens with me (most likely in hopes that I would finally put some food in my mouth and gain a few much needed pounds back).  I hadn't eaten anything but Diet Coke, popcorn, salad and hot chocolate for so long that the thought of putting anything with a significant calorie count in my mouth absolutely terrified me.  So I started with just a bite, and managed to finish that cookie.  But then something happened.  A frenzy began.  Before I knew it I had eaten the ENTIRE batch.  Yes, that would be about 20 cookies.  And it felt wonderful.

It had been so long since I had really tasted any food or filled my stomach that I just couldn't stop.  The feeling of fullness in my stomach did indeed make me feel sick, but it was so comforting in the most twisted way.  I had felt empty for so long that those 20 cookies temporarily numbed this empty feeling.  I've never tried any sort of drug, but I'm pretty sure that the high I got from that protective feeling that food gave me is sort of what it might feel like.

I wish I could say that this was a one time thing and I swiftly began the road to recovering and healthy eating, but this wasn't the case.  Now instead of not eating, I started this awful cycle of bingeing. Eating became an addiction.  I would go to Zaxby's and order 3 full dinner plates and eat every.single.bite.  I worried that the cashier might get suspicious so I would write down the order on a piece of paper before I came in and read it off so that they would think I was ordering for a group.

My mom would ask where all of her baking chocolate had gone.  She had purchased several of those large value packs of bars for cooking and they were all gone.  I would tell her I had used them for a new recipe because I couldn't bare to tell her that I had snuck down to the pantry after everyone went to bed and had taken Lord knows how many pounds worth of chocolate back to my room and devoured every piece.  I would eat until I thought my stomach would literally pop.  I would eat until every inch of my body was swollen from the sudden onslaught of calories and sodium.  Looking back I don't know how in the world it was humanly possible to consume the amount of food that I did.  Every type of yummy food you can think of I have a story about.  Blizzards?  Yep.  Peanut Butter M&M's? Yes again.  McDonalds burgers?  You betcha.

There is a very distinct difference though between overeating and bingeing.  The thing that makes bingeing so awful isn't just the amount of food that you eat, but the state of mind that you are in when you do so.  Of course everyone has days where all they want to do is eat everything in sight.  By bingeing I don't mean that you sit down on the couch and then realize that you have eaten the whole bag of chips.  Oops.  I don't mean that you've eaten ice cream every day in a row for a week because you just love it that much.  I mean that you are completely consumed with thoughts of food and that you're ashamed of it.  You don't think of how badly you want that piece of cake.  That's perfectly normal to do.  You think of how badly you want to sneak off into privacy with the entire cake and eat every bite without anyone finding out.  And that when you go to the grocery store to buy that cake you plan on devouring you're going to pick up some cookies and a jumbo-sized value pack of Skittles.  When you get to the checkout you've decided that you'll act like you're hosting a party, because why on earth would someone buy all that food just for themselves?  You want food not because of hunger or because of a sugar craving you're having.  You want food because it fills some other void and makes you feel safe.  Food fills that void and doesn't talk back or ask questions.  It fills that void and doesn't ask for anything in return.

This is the part of eating disorders that no one talks about.  People can talk about and admit to anorexia because that involves skinny people who can fit into small sizes and have great looking legs and flat stomachs.  Even though anorexics are not healthy, they are in control.  Bingeing isn't sexy.  Who would want to admit to stuffing their face uncontrollably and gaining tons of weight?  Ew.  That's disgusting.  Instead of solving the real issue, I now used food in the exact opposite way to fill the void that was still there.  It's like putting a butterfly band-aid on a war wound and thinking that you won't bleed out.

The bingeing wasn't necessarily the worst part of it though.  The worst part was when I freaked out after realizing what I ate.  A few times I felt so sick I tried to throw up, but apparently my body just won't.  I'm ashamed to admit that no matter how far I stuck my finger down my throat nothing came up.  I would google how to make yourself throw up and try every tip imaginable because my stomach hurt so badly.  Nope.  No luck.  So the only option I could come up with was to not eat anything for the next few days.  And thus the cycle went.  Binge, then eat nothing but broth or coffee for 3 days.  And of course go work out like a mad woman to burn off everything.  Then I would be so hungry the cycle would start over again.

After several months of this I had put on 50 pounds.  Yes, you read that right.  Fifty.  As in half of one hundred.  You can't imagine what this does to your self esteem or body image to go from one extreme to another.  I only had one pair of jeans from high school that would fit.  They were supposed to be oversized, baggy wide leg jeans, but they fit me like regular, tight boot cuts.  So I would wear those and a coat wherever I went to disguise the gain.  It would be 78 degrees outside and I still had that darn pea coat on.  I would be pouring sweat, but I would rather bear that than risk someone possibly seeing that I had packed on so much weight in such a short about of time.

Some friends and family in my life say they never noticed this rather large weight gain.  Some may truthfully not have noticed just how much weight I gained.  But I know some people did.  I remember when I would walk in a room that people would first glance down at my thighs instead of my face.  This would only lead to me feeling even worse about myself, which would in turn lead to eating more.

This period of my life lasted longer than the first part of my struggle.  It took me about a year and a half to actually address the issues that  caused everything in the first place.  I'll talk about the sweet, amazing process of recovery in my post tomorrow night.....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Story of This Blog, Part One

So I've been contemplating writing this post about my relationship with food and why exactly I feel the way I do about it for quite some time now.  I've wanted to share the story of how this blog came about.  As you can tell, I absolutely adore food (particularly sweets).  I believe it's good to indulge a little every now and then.  But my relationship with food has been a journey over many years with many highs and lows.  I know I can't be the only person with such experiences, so it's been on my heart to share my story.  Also, this is something that I dealt with so many years ago that, by this point, I feel comfortable talking about it.  And it's not all bad.  I definitely came out much stronger on the other side, and I will certainly go into that as well.  Some of you may think of this as over sharing, but even if just one person who reads this can relate to some aspect of it, then my sharing will be worth it to me.

*Disclaimer:  I was originally going to do one short snippet on this topic, but after writing a novel that just covered a portion of my story, I decided to break this up into segments.  Keep reading for Part One.....

Through high school I never really thought much about what I ate, or didn't eat for that matter.  My typical day might consist of a biscuit from Stoney's, a Zaxby's chicken finger basket with fries for lunch, a blizzard right before cheerleading practice, and then whatever mom cooked for dinner.  And maybe if I was still hungry I would eat another bowl of ice cream topped with caramel syrup and sprinkles for a bedtime snack.  Healthy?  Certainly not.  But for some reason my diet or weight never bothered me.  It wasn't something I stressed over, and I certainly never felt guilty about the insanely large amount of fat and calories I shoveled into my mouth every day.

When I got to college my freshman year I wasn't happy with my weight per se, but it still wasn't anything I put too much effort or thought into.  I won't go into the details, but during undergrad I went through an incredibly difficult period that left me feeling unbelievably rejected and unworthy.  I suddenly questioned everything about me with regards to my physical appearance.  I felt that I wasn't enough of anything.....not pretty enough, not thin enough, not outgoing enough....I could go on and on, but I'll spare you.  For the first time in my life I began picking every aspect of myself apart and conjuring up ways that I could "fix" each and every thing.

I decided that the only way to fix things was to make myself as thin as the person I felt I was being compared to.  Thinner than the person I felt I had lost to.  Even though deep down I know I hadn't "lost" to anyone, that's how I felt.  Because I was in such a dark place already, I didn't have much of an appetite in the first place, which made the whole endeavor fairly easy.  In fact, the huge majority of the time I truly didn't feel like eating anything at all.

First it was losing just 5 pounds.  I began getting compliments from everyone about how great I looked, which only reinforced my thought process that the thinner I got the better things would be.  But then it became an obsession.  I would step on the scale each morning to see how much lighter I had become within the past 24 hours.  If the needle hadn't moved, it was going to be a bad day.  Most days I wouldn't eat more than 600-700 calories to ensure that the needle would indeed move.  And because not eating makes you hungry I would sleep an insane amount of hours each day.  After all, it's easier to deal with hunger when you're not awake.  I also slept so much because I had absolutely zero energy.

I always hear people say that eating disorders are about control.  Also, let me interject here and say that it took me YEARS to be able to say "eating disorder" out loud.  I felt like saying that out loud officially meant that I had issues.  And I certainly didn't think of myself as the type of person to have such issues.   Okay, now back to my point.....People say that it's not really about wanting to be thinner, but about wanting to control something in your life because everything else seems so out of control.  For me, it was a combination of both.  I loved the fact that I could stubbornly decide to ignore any grumbling of my stomach.  I had the willpower to bypass the sandwich for dinner and opt for a small cup of hot cocoa instead.

But at the same time I did want to get smaller.  I wanted to disappear, both physically and emotionally.  And not eating felt like the best way to accomplish both, because it both physically and psychologically gave me this feeling of fading away.  And I loved that.

But then all of the sudden the compliments stopped, and the comments of concern started coming.  At the time though I honestly never saw myself as thin, so the comments never registered with me.  Even when my dress size hit a 00 I still would fret while getting dressed that everything made me look chunky.  It's an incredibly warped frame of mind; a true body dysmorphic experience where you look in the mirror and instead of seeing all of the bones jutting out, you see a myriad of imperfections that you, yourself create.

It's also a very exhausting place to be.  Making sure that any time you are around friends or family that you're eating enough so that they don't get concerned.  Which means that the rest of the day you can't eat anything.  It was exhausting trying to keep up such a restrictive eating pattern, and it was exhausting trying to keep up this image of "yes, I'm healthy.  See, I even ate a salad when we went out."

And of course at some point or another it becomes so exhausting you can no longer sustain the pattern.  And then the recovery process begins.  Or, rather for me, a swift flip in the other direction began.

I'll share more of that, as well as the rest of my story (and there is certainly more) in my next post.....stay tuned for a post tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Cake with (Non-Vegan) Strawberry Frosting

For my sister's 22 birthday (which was in October....I told you I was behind), she requested a vegan chocolate cake.  Yikes!  I must admit this request made me quite nervous from the get-go.  I have never made anything vegan and the few vegan dessert recipes I have tried left something to be desired.  But, since it was her birthday, I obliged.

The one thing that made me feel slightly better about this endeavor was that the recipe was for The Grit's Chocolate Vegan Death cake.  I've been to The Grit once before with my sister and must admit that their lemon poppyseed cake was phenomenal.  And not just phenomenal for a vegan cake, but just plain amazing.

We couldn't decide what flavor frosting to use and toyed around with the idea of chocolate, cream cheese, and raspberry.  Chocolate seemed to rich to pile onto a cake by the name of "Chocolate Death", so we opted for a strawberry frosting from the ever so wonderful Paula Deen.

I really enjoyed trying something different, because I feel like I often stick to my tried and true favorites (red velvet and italian cream), but I will have to admit that this cake was quite frustrating.  While the flavor of the cake exceeded my expectations, the crumb was so tender and the cake was so moist that the layers didn't want to stay intact.  Any time I transfered them they began to crumble.  And to top it off, the frosting, while also incredibly tasty, wouldn't ever thicken enough and therefore kept wanting to slide off the cake.  Thus, the whole thing had to be refrigerated to keep it together :(

Still, despite all of this I would recommend this cake recipe to be used for cupcakes.  That way you wouldn't have to worry about the cake being so tender.

To top off the cake I decided to try my hand at making some gum paste flowers.  While they weren't Food Network worthy, I was fairly pleased with my first try.  The moral of the story: don't be intimidated by trying new things!

Chocolate Vegan Death Cake
From the Grit
4 1/2 C all purpose flour
3 C sugar
1 C cocoa powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
2 Tsp salt
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3 C strong brewed coffee
1/4 C cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.

Sift together dry ingredients in large bowl.  Add oil and vanilla.  Blend together at a low speed until fully combined.  Switch mixer to medium speed and gradually add coffee.  When mixture is smooth, add cider vinegar and blend on low speed until just combined.

Divide batter evenly into prepared pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the layers comes out clean.

Remove to wire rack and let cool.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
From Paula Deen
1/4 C butter, softened
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 10-oz package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
1/2 tsp strawberry extract
7 C confectioners sugar

In medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in 1/4 C strawberry puree (*please note that you do NOT use the whole package) and the strawberry extract.  Gradually add confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.

Gumpast Flowers

For the flowers I used Wilton's Gumpaste mix.  Love, love, LOVE this stuff.  It makes the whole process so easy.  Just follow the directions on the can and add your own coloring if desired.

To form the flowers I used two different size heart shape cookie cutters.  Roll out the gumpaste onto a surface floured with confectioners sugar and then use the cookie cutters to form the hearts.

Layer the hearts in an overlapping pattern to form the petals of the flowers.  Use a dab of water to adhere the hearts to each other.  Then gently place the flower into a muffin tin after cupping into a flower shape.  The muffin tin will hold the flower in place so that it will dry in such a shape.

**Please note that ideally you would use a Wilton flower forming mold.  I did not have any on hand and thus improvised with a muffin tin :)  I would certainly have achieved better results had I had the mold.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Well Owl Be....It's 2012!

Okay, a confession about my confections: if you haven't noticed I've taken a break from blogging that has lasted over a month and a half.  I got in this rut where, while I did indeed cook, I never got around to uploading the photos or posting on here about them.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I've been planning a wedding and have a lot of other stuff on my mind.  So sorry!

I figured for my first post back I should do something fun, and thus I'm bringing these adorable owl cupcakes to you.  My sister, Sarah Beth, is slightly obsessed with owls and I made these for her birthday.  I just love these little guys!  This is such an easy and fun project that is perfect for anyone ages 5-95.

All you need are some double stuffed Oreos, Reese's Pieces, Junior Mints and then your favorite cupcakes and chocolate frosting.  I cheated and used boxed Devils Food mix and canned icing.  It made the whole process slightly easier :)

After making the cupcakes and letting them cool, spread frosting over the cupcakes.  Make sure that the frosting on top is even, which will ensure that the "owl" part of this project is much easier.

Make the eyes first by twisting apart the Oreos.  *If you don't get double stuff the icing will be too thin and you won't be able to get a clean break.*  Then use a dab of frosting to adhere the Junior Mints to the frosted side of the Oreo halves.  Carefully press the Oreos onto the cupcakes.

To make the ears, cut in half the other portion of the oreo (the half without the vanilla frosting).  Press these two pieces above the eyes of the owl.  Then pipe chocolate frosting over them to make the feathers.

The last part is the beak.  Press a Reese's Piece in the middle of the cupcake below the eyes.

Tada!!  How cute are these guys?!  Definitely play around with the positioning of the Junior Mints to change up their expressions.

PS: I did *not* use double stuffed Oreos, and as you can see I had a hard time getting the frosting to stay completely on one side of the Oreos for the eyes......let's just say it was a point of frustration.

On another's 2012!!  I can't hardly believe how fast this year has flown by.  For 2012 I have a few things on my bucket list to cook....

-Pound cake (can you believe I've never made one?  Ever?)
-Chicken and Dumplings
-Homemade Girl Scout cookies
-Creme Brulee
-Hi Hat Cupcakes
-Cake pops
-Chicken Enchiladas
-Tres Leche Cake
-Sweet Potato Biscuits
-14 Layer Cake

What's on your list for 2012?