necessity is the mother of invention {& that's why we're here, friends} we dance to the music, we play in the kitchen & sometimes that means one of us breaks the wine glasses {we're not saying who} the cook is a cubicle-warmer/learning & development specialist by day, & a writer/photographer/kitchen goddess by night who has fun inventing healthy things she can actually eat we seriously both need capes & a kick-ass theme song & the baker is a catering delivery superhero; no job too big or too early or too floral not to come home & make magic with a mixer & an oven we are always gluten-free, dairy-free, & magically delicious now, somebody turn up the music! we're about to get our dance on!

27 May 2008

I Heart Cupcakes

You may have noticed that cupcakes are kind of my thing, niche, passion, hobby, whatever you want to call it...I heart cupcakes, completely.

I've never been much of a cake person, but cupcakes have always fascinated me. The individual flare and creativity is least in my eyes there is. You can mix frosting, decorations, flavors, and cute cupcake liners too. excited already. So this weekend I tried another recipe...and I went vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free. Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Raspberry Buttercream frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (taken from Crazy About Cupcakes )

6 tbsp applesauce
2 1/4 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose-flour (instead I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour)
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups unbleached cane sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put liners into cupcake pan (s).
2. In large mixing bowl, mix together the applesauce, water, vanilla, and vinegar.
3. In another bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.
4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture. Beat well.
5. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full (I would recommend filling completely full because the batter is a thinner batter). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting (you can find this on the back of any bag of powdered sugar and then I just added the raspberries as I mixed the other ingredients)

1/2 cup soy margarine
1/4 soy milk
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raspberries

1. Mix soy margarine and soy milk together. Blend well.
2. Gradually add the powdered sugar to the blended mixture.
3. Add the vanilla and raspberries gradually.* Blend well.
4. I added the berries whole, instead of mashing them, either way should be fine.

*I found that after adding the raspberries the buttercream frosting became thinner because of their water content. So I would try lessening the vanilla or soy milk ingredients to see if that makes a difference in the thickness of the buttercream.

To add a little playfulness and creativity, I found these raspberry looking candies in the bulk food section at the grocery store.

I hope you came to "heart" cupcakes as much as me.


24 May 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Goodness

I made these cupcakes a while ago, but I just keep forgetting to write about it. But suddenly today I remember. So I mish-moshed a cupcake recipe with a buttercream frosting recipe from different cooking sites to create pure deliciousness. This is also gluten-free, dairy free recipe.

Peanut Butter Cupcake Recipe

1/3 cup butter (soy margarine)
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour (rice flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk (soy milk)

1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Put cupcake liner papers into cupcake pan (s).
2. Beat butter and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in sugars until well mixed. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Spoon in batter into cupcake papers 2/3 full. Bake 23-25 minutes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting,1730,150186-234192,00.html

6 tbsp soy margarine
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup soy milk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Cream soy margarine
2. Add cocoa and powdered sugar alternating with soy milk
3. Beat to spreading consistency
4. Blend in vanilla

Peanut butter and chocolate...can you really go wrong?

18 May 2008

hiking food

Today, the playful cook is going to take you a bit off the beaten path. Sis & I are going to take advantage of the glorious (in the 80s!!) weekend weather and go for a hike today. So the question is: what kind of food does the playful cook and her babe-a-licious baker sister take when they go for a hike?

homemade energy

Incidentally, this post is being written on my back porch with a steaming cup of the Pike's Place blend coffee. I'm overlooking a yard that, covered in snow 6 weeks ago, has now exploded in green. Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and there's a gentle breeze stirring those lush green leaves to motion. It's supposed to be in the low 80s again today. Mary Poppins is going to show up at any moment, I just know it!!

This isn't a meal so much as it is a homemade energy/breakfast/whenever bar, something good for when you need to pack a lot of energy punch into a small amount of food. Nuts and seeds are good calorie-dense foods that help sustain for the long term. And dried fruits provide a quick burst of energy to burn and get you going.

As with any recipe posted here, I fully encourage you to make it your own. You can use any combination of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits that you like. It's all about playing and loving the results!

Here are the ingredients I used:
Dried cranberries
Dried apples
Slivered almonds
Raw (unroasted) cashews
Sunflower seeds
Brown rice syrup

And there's so much good stuff packed in these ingredients!!
{i'll summarize, click on the links to read more}

Cranberries: Vitamin C, fiber, reduces the risk of urinary tract & kidney infections, has antibiotic properties.

Apples: Fiber, Vitamin C, flavonoids. The insoluble fiber in apples latches on to the "bad" LDL cholesterol in your digestive tract and escorts that bad stuff out of your system. Pectin does the same for toxins like lead and mercury.

Almonds: Manganese, Vitamin E, magnesium, potassium (Vitamin K), riboflavin (Vitamin B2). Monounsaturated fats help reduce risk of heart disease, lowers LDL cholesterol. Magnesium protects blood vessels, potassium is essential for healthy nerve function.

Sunflower Seeds: Off-the-charts with Vitamin E and thiamin (Vitamin B1). Loaded with magnesium, manganese, Vitamin B5, folate, and tons of other good stuff.

Flaxseeds: Check out those Omega 3s!! 2 tablespoons contain nearly 150% of the daily recommended value. Also chock full of manganese, fiber, magnesium, and folate. Rich in ALA (alpha linolenic acid), which is a precursor to the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) found in fish oil. The magnificnent human body can convert ALA to EPA. Also provides anti-inflammatory benefits, protects them bones, and helps defend the body against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Brown rice syrup is is an all-natural sweetner the consistency of honey. Brown rice is boiled down until those complex carbs are simplified. What's great is that this sweetener is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly than sugar, meaning that you don't get that sugar spike like you do with traditional sweeteners.

Other ingredients you might want to try:
Dried fruits: apricots, dates, raisins, blueberries, cherries, papaya, mango
Seeds: pumpkin seeds (pepitas), sesame seeds
Nuts: peanuts, pecans, walnuts
Other wild ideas: Sweeten a bit with orange juice or lemonade concentrate, add a little shredded coconut

True to form, I really didn't measure anything here. It's hard to mess up something like this, so trust yourself and just eyeball the proportions.

All you really need to do before mixing all the ingredients in a bowl is to chop the dried fruits as small as you can (which is a difficulty, because they are super-sticky). A food processor comes in handy for jobs like this one!

In a bowl, combine:
Nuts, seeds, dried fruits

Pour brown rice syrup over the fruit/seed/nut party-in-a-bowl and stir until the whole mixture is coated with syrup and sticks together. I'm guessing that I used about 1 c. of the syrup, maybe a little more. You want the entire mixture to be well-coated and pretty sticky, but not dripping with the syrup.

Pour mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and press out flat (I used the back of a spoon, but a rubber spatula would also work). Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes.

It will still be fairly crumbly when first out of the oven, but feel free to press and spread out the mixture some more until it's nice and flat. Allow to cool for a for a few hours (ideally, overnight). Once cooled, it'll be nice and hard and sticking together like good hiking bars should be.

Cut into whatever size you like. Grab and go!!

Now if you'll excuse me, sis and I have to go trail test these babies. Because that, my readers, is exactly how much we care about you: that we would spend this cloudless and sunny and warm weekend out on one of our favorite Pacific Northwest trails stretching our legs and taking in the views.

See ya!!

09 May 2008

supplement junkie

Staying healthy takes a lot of work, especially when you're dealing with various imbalances and deficiencies (like me). When I first saw the naturopath a little over a year ago, the first thing he did was order an extensive blood panel. The results revealed that I was deficient in calcium and iron, had hypothyroidism as well as lowered adrenal gland function. Once my diet was on track, it was much easier to come back from those deficiences with the appropriate supplemental support.

Another more recent blood test revealed I was severely deficient in Vitamin D. Sigh. But since I started taking extra, I'm feeling better than ever. Not only that, Vitamin D deficiency is pretty dangerous, as this article attests, so thank God for a thorough naturopath!

I've learned a lot about supplementation in the past year and here's a run down of what I'm taking now and what is keeping me running ...

Multi-vitamin - No supplement regimen is complete without a good multi-vitamin! Seriously, start here. I'm taking One-a-Day Women's Multi. It's pretty easy to find a good multi to meet your needs.

Calcium-Magnesium-Zinc with Vitamin D - Calcium and magnesium are essential to maintaining good health; calcium and magnesium are essential for healthy bones and zinc supports cell division and growth as well as supports the body's immune system. Many Cal-Mag-Zinc supplements contain vitamin D, as calcium cannot be absorbed without the presence of vitamin D.

Iron - Iron is a substance that performs many functions, not the least of which is delivering oxygen through the entire human body. It is essential for good muscle function, as well as helping to break down substances that might be harmful to your health. Iron deficiency (or iron deficient anemia) results in weakness and tiredness. Iron is best absorbed by the body in the presence of Vitamin C and can cause constipation, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids if you're taking an iron supplement.

L-Glutamine - Glutamine is an amino acid, the building block of which protein is made. Glutamine is essential for the production and repair of cells. This was one of the main components of the Intestinal Repair supplement I took a little over a year ago when I first consulted the naturopath regarding my stomach and digestive issues. It is the most plentiful amino acid and muscle tissue and as such, plays a crucial role in all areas of the body. For me, it helps continue the healing work of my digestive and intestinal tracts (which are most definitely still in healing mode), alleviates the symptoms of leaky gut (you definitely and most decidedly do not want that) and as a bonus, it aids in mental acuity, too. Go go, glutamine!!

Acidophilus (or, Lactobacillus Acidophilus) - Acidophilus is a friendly bacteria ("probiotic") that inhabits the intestines (and the vagina, in women. Never thought you'd see that word on a cooking blog, did you?). Acidophilus supports digestion, helps suppress disease-causing bacteria, and prevents yeast overgrowth in the body. Because antibiotics kill acidophilus, it is generally a good idea to take an acidophilus supplement when on a course of antibiotic treatment to replace the healthy bacteria (preventing urinary tract infections and yeast infections in women).

Vitamin D - Vitamin D is one of four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) that supports overall health. I'm taking extra vitamin D these days (4,000 IU per day) in order to rebound from a deficiency. As mentioned earlier, vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb calcium. Vitamin D helps stabilize and maintain cellular integrity, helping to prevent cancer.

Co-enzyme Q10 - CoQ10 (also known as ubiquinone) is essential for energy production and is an antioxidant, a type of molecule that counteracts processes resulting in disease. CoQ10 lives in every plant and animal cell and luckily, most people get plenty of the enzyme in their daily diet. Because I'm contending with several deficiencies, this supplement helps maintain my energy level throughout the day and ensures I have plenty of energy for a good and productive workout. CoQ10 is fat-soluble and so is best taken with fatty foods (I take it after my morning hot cereal, which I load up with slivered almonds and flax seeds).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil) - You've probably heard a lot about Omega 3's. They help protect your heart and help lower cholesterol. Omega 3's have anti-inflammatory properties and help protect your myelin, which shields your nerves from damage. There is still a lot of research being conducted about all the benefits of Omega 3's, but it appears that it may protect against symptoms of depression, anxiety, and a variety of mental disorders.

Vitamin C (taken in liquid form as Emergen-C) - Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and as such, your body does not store it, so it needs to be replenished. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron and is essential to for the growth and repair of tissues throughout your body. It is essential to the production of collagen, an important protein for making skin. Vitamin C is another vitamin that helps protect against cancer and is essential for a healthy immune system.

To learn more about any of these or other supplements, check out this list.

So every morning after my hot cereal (rice cereal or gluten-free oatmeal), I gather no less than 12 of these little supplement pills in my hand and down them with a tart and fizzy glass of tropical flavored Emergen-C. While taking this many supplements comes at a price, I feel healthier and more energetic than ever, so yeah ... it's totally worth it to me.

NOTE: Especially with this post, keep in mind that I'm supplementing my diet with these under the supervison of a naturopathic physician. It's always a good idea to consult your own physician if you're wondering what kind of supplementation might be beneficial for you.

supplement photos by kirsten.michelle