Three Day Free Day

In an effort to not be too perfectionist about my nutrition, I will usually allow myself a “free” meal or treat once a week.  Usually it’s not too crazy, just something that usually doesn’t really fit into my nutrition plan because it’s really carb-heavy or higher in fat.  That something can be a piece or two of pizza (depending on the size of the piece), a cupcake or two, or a serving of a mayo-based salad.

I’ve learned from doing Body-for-Life in the past that a free day to me is ultimately my downfall.  I could easily undo an entire week’s worth of work in one 24 hour period.

My biggest hurdle in losing weight and keeping a healthy diet is self-control.  It was not unheard of for me to finish off a bag or chips, or eat half a pizza, or plow through a bag of cookies.  Because of this (and sadly my kids have the same tendency) I rarely keep junk food in the house and keep even tortilla chips to a minimum.

Well last weekend I made a sheetcake for my brother-in-law’s party and I had a decent amount of icing left over and I promised the kids I would make cupcakes.

I totally didn’t think that through.  One recipe is 24 cupcakes.  My husband doesn’t eat them so that works out to 8 cupcakes a person.  Now I have to give myself some credit for not just eating all eight in one sitting.  I did manage to spread it out over three days.  But those three days I didn’t track my food and I actually rebelled a bit against even paying attention to what I ate.

You know what?  I didn’t die, gain 20 pounds in three days, or go on a complete food bender.  I had cupcakes for breakfast for three days and then had some salty snacks.  But I’m back.  Sure I can make excuses and blame monthly hormones or something, but you know what?  I actually showed some restraint and I’m going to celebrate that.

Perfectionism has it’s place.  It is not in living a healthy lifestyle.  If all I feel is deprived and suffer intense and intensifying cravings without giving in a little, all I am doing is setting myself up for an epic fail.  The trick to it all is balance, and not throwing in the towel and going on a massive binge all because I ate three cupcakes in one sitting.

And you know what?  I feel focused and motivated again.  These little free meals or days have their purpose.  Part of it is to allow myself to enjoy some treats, but another part is to remind myself what that food does to me and how I feel after eating it.  Honestly, I felt a little bloated and mentally I was foggier, but it’s a fantastic reminder to eat clean and healthy for the majority of the time, and that is what I call success.

 

(EDIT:  I realize this probably seems a little incongruent – or not – following a post about baking a cake!)

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Henna Inspired Cake

So my brother-in-law calls me on Thursday to ask if I can make a cake to feed 40 people for Saturday afternoon.  I immediately say yes, hang up the phone, and realize I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

Thankfully, the Wilton Tent Sale is going in full swing, so I grab my mom and head out at 9 am Friday morning to buy a few cake pans, some icing coloring and a few other odds and ends.  I get  home and get cracking.  I decided I would bake and torte two 12″ square cakes, one yellow and one chocolate, then put them together to make one enormous sheet cake.

After rigging together a few cake boards with a plastic cutting board for support, I get to work on assembly.  Torting was, uh, interesting.  no matter what kind of tools or tricks that are supposed to make it easier, it is always a challenge to make the layers level and even.  Still, it was better than I expected.  I filled the layers, crumb coated the cake and went to my daughter’s skating lesson.  Upon our return I finished icing the cake and using the Viva paper towel method, did my best to make a smooth, even surface for my line decorations.

I had spent most of Thursday evening researching and sketching out different henna patterns.  After figuring out which ones I wanted to use I sketched out a basic plan in my notebook.  I went over it with marker to get an idea of what it would look like in color.

Cake Sketch

Now I was ready to decorate, but I hadn’t yet settled on a color.  I wanted to stay away from colors that were too dark considering it’s nearly summertime, so burgundy and dark green were out.  It was a cake for two guys and a girl, so colors like pink and purple were out.  I wanted it appetizing so I voted out brown (even though real henna is more brown than anything).  I settled on some sort of orange.  I started coloring the piping icing and at first it was too pink so I added some yellow.  Ugh, now it was too….fleshy.  So I slowly added some orange and copper until I settled on the color shown.  I started with the pattern on top.

Turns out I’m nearly as shaky as a Parkinson’s patient while trying to do intricate linework, so I tried to modulate my breathing and just look at it as sketching.  Without being able to erase.

Gulp!

After about 1.5 hours I was done with the line work and completed the lettering.

Henna-look Cake

It was starting to get late (about 8 pm) when I started the border.  I didn’t think it would take too long but it turns out that to do intricate work on 72 linear inches takes quite a bit of time.

Border Detail

Everyone was thrilled with the cake and I was happy I had an opportunity to play creatively.

Emily’s Tea Party

My daughter Emily turned 12 last week and she’s having a tea party and sleepover today.

Emily's Tea Party

Getting ready for the pre-teen invasion that is currently happening required a little bit of preparation.

First I baked a red velvet cake to make Bakerella’s Red Velvet Cake Balls.  While that was in the oven I made two batches of Rice Krispie candy and pressed it into 10 – 4″ mini cake pans.  Those went in the fridge (along with an 8″x8″ pan of candy for my husband and I).

While the cake was cooling I rolled out the leftover white marshmallow fondant from last week’s cake.  I just put a light skim coat of decorator frosting on the top and flipped them over onto the fondant, where I cut around the cake so there is only a circle of fondant on the top of the rice crispy treats.   They aren’t quite up to my standards but it allowed for the girls to do some custom decorating on their own.

Krispy Treat

I rolled out the blue and purple fondant and my daughters used a flower cookie cutter to cut out shapes.  The rolled some of the white fondant into balls as well.  I showed my oldest how to affix the fondant to itself and let her get to decorating while I cleaned up.

The cake was finally cool enough for me to make cake balls.  I used a heart shaped silicone mold to shape them.

Cake Balls
Of course I sampled one…er, maybe two…..ok, ok it was three!

This morning was spent with putting together finger sandwiches.

My daughter and I decided on four fillings:  Cucumber with dill mayonnaise, prosciutto with mozzarella and basil, bacon and onion cream cheese, and tomato with provolone and basil.  Some I cut into triangles and others into squares.  I was fortunate enough to harvest the dill, basil, and cucumber out of the garden.   All in all I made 96 tiny little finger sandwiches.  They look cute and are tasty too!

Tea Sandwiches

Now it’s time to put my feet up, have a drink, and keep one ear on what is going on in the other room.

Adventures in Fondant

Every year for the past 12 years I have baked and decorated a cake for my eldest daughter (my youngest has had this honor for 9 years).  I have always wanted to try working with fondant but there were a few obstacles to this.  First, the pre-made fondant was pricey, and not always safe for my nut-allergic daughter to eat.  Second, the fondant recipes seemed too fiddly and difficult.  Thirdly, the taste of fondant detracted from the beauty of the finished product.

Some time ago, I was searching for cake ideas and somebody had used what is called marshmallow fondant.  Apparently marshmallow fondant has all the properties of standard fondant, but with a better, sweeter taste and it was easier to make (many people have the ingredients in their cupboard).

Imagine my delight when I not only found a recipe for marshmallow fondant, but an instructional video for making it using the microwave and Kitchen Aid mixer, thus reducing the mess factor.

A few days before the party I mixed up a few batches of fondant then got to work.

For a first-timer entering the realm of fondant cakes, I couldn’t have been more pleased with how easy it was to work with (it’s about the consistency of fresh play-doh) and the finished result.

Fondant Cake

For those of you who haven’t tried fondant for fear that it is too hard, or too messy, try marshmallow fondant.  It was easier than I anticipated and the cleanup was actually easier than working with butter cream.  The finished result looks very professional.  The cake sat out for a few days (you don’t want to refrigerate after covering with fondant, it will sweat, then melt) and it still looked great!

(recipe and video: Marshmallow Fondant).

Baby Steps

Since discontinuing my training, I have put on some weight.  It was inevitable since I went from 3+ days a week training to none.  My pants are a wee bit tight and I need to try to get myself moving again.  Gardening helps, but it’s not always a workout, nor would I want it to be.  As long as we can get ourselves together in time, my youngest daughter and I will walk to and from school.  That’s at least 15-20 minutes of light movement.  My husband and I are going to the gym and I’m going to stick with cardio for now until my stamina gets back to where I need it.  I’m also attempting (and failing more often than not) to drink more liquids.

Notice I didn’t say water.  Water will factor in, but right now I’ll be happy with anything in liquid form.

I’m also trying to gently and subtly change the state of the food in our house.  My vegetable garden will help with that for sure, but one of the things I’m working to reduce in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  A lot of what I’ve read and heard about it is not good, and it is alarming how much corn is in everything we eat.  So as we run out of some things (like the fake maple syrup I love), I’m going to attempt to replace it with more natural stuff.  There are a few things that I’m having a hard time giving up, but there are others that have been a painless switch.  I found a bread without HFCS that I love, and my attempt to eat more natural has caused me to be even more of a label reader.  I already read labels on everything due to food allergies in my family, so it’s no more work to check for other non-desirables in the ingredient list.

I also suspect that one of the reasons I put on weight so easily is the sugar that seems to be in everything.

So give me some feedback.  Have you reduced your consumption of HFCS, and if so, have you noticed any changes in weight, mood, energy, appetite?

Kitchen Creativity

My youngest daughter turned 9 years old today and had the best day.  They had a pizza party in class that happened to coincide with her special day.  Daddy is taking her out for a birthday treat shortly and I baked her a cake.

Becca is my ice skater.  She’s been skating for a year now and it’s amazing what she’s learned in that time.  Just today she learned the toe loop.  Don’t ask me what that is, I know it’s a jump but other than that, I can’t really say.

Tomorrow we are having family over and I need to be at the dojang in the morning, so that meant that today I had to make her cake.  Usually I make the icing from scratch but I just cleaned the kitchen and I really didn’t feel like cleaning up powdered sugar for the next two days.  So I bought a couple tubs of icing from Wilton.  Each tub says it can ice 10 single layer cakes, but I call bullshit.  That stuff could cover 10 cakes if they are maybe 6 inches in diameter each.  This cake is made from 2-8″ squares and 2-8″ circles and I used a tub and a half.  Surprisingly it’s very level.  However it is listing ever so slightly to the left.  Still, to date it’s probably the most evenly leveled and iced cake I’ve ever made.  I’d love to say that I made something in it from scratch, but no, I do not have that kind of time, so cake mix it is.    The skater is made from buttercream and sparkle gel.  I made a quickie buttercream transfer (and it shows), and was dismayed to find that the gel never really froze.  Luckily it didn’t make a huge mess and I was able to go back and fix it once I had the transfer on the cake.

For the sides I thought it would be fun to have a “snowball” border with trees and snowflakes on the side.  I decided the trees would look sort of snowflakey.

I am super pleased with how it came out and Becca absolutely loves it.  I even managed to quell the shakes when piping the lettering.

Holiday Baking Complete

The past two days have been a flurry of getting ready for Christmas.  A lot of the time was spent in the kitchen.  I made a few different types of cookies, peppermint bark and cheesecake.  I can’t share more than a picture with you, although I wish I could.  Hope your holidays are wonderful!

2008 Cookies

Peppermint Bark