Thursday, March 27, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake and More

Wow, three weeks down and only one to go! I am feeling very impressed with myself for withstanding this challenge. Last week, I wondered why I picked a whole month in the first place, but now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm excited. I'm also hungry. Not for just any old crappy candy though, I deserve only the finest treats to delight my palate when this is done. I've been daydreaming about dessert, and it's taking me back to the vision quest I went on as a senior in high school. 

I should preface this story by saying that I went to a very progressive, small, private liberal arts high school in the Bay Area. We called our teachers by their first names, went on annual week long trips to restore California wildlife, snowboard, or attend numerous Shakespeare plays, and a third of the student body rarely wore shoes. This was not your typical high school experience, but my classmates and I adored it. One opportunity that we were given as seniors was to go on a vision quest - we would spent three days and three nights fasting alone in the dessert desert. Sound like an insane thing to sign your kid up for? Well hundreds of parents were game to see what happened, and many of my classmates and I went willingly on these soul searching missions. The fasting was well rehearsed - we started a month before our trip and removed things from our diet little by little. First went caffeine, then red meat, then grains, until all we were eating on the drive to Death Valley was a handful of dried fruit. 

I could tell a much longer story about how my vision quest shaped me as a young adult (read: scared me senseless - what 17 year old has ever been alone in a desert without food or entertainment before?), how I found myself, etc. It was an incredible experience and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have the time and space to reflect and look forward. But really, aside from missing my friends, boyfriend, and parents, and being a little afraid of coyotes, I was hungry. In the journal that I filled, I wrote lists of all the foods that I would eat when we got home. I wanted my dad's steak and mashed potatoes, a sandwich from Whole Foods, a burrito from Los Hermanos, my mom's spaghetti. I had a very detailed and specific menu of demands, and I spent the better part of my adventure salivating at the thought of them. As you might imagine, after 30 days if eating very little and then three days of experiencing starvation, my stomach had strunk. They took us to a sandwich place after we all reunited at the main camp and we each ate about two bites before we felt ill. Over the next few weeks, I regained my appetite and made good on my list of favorite meals. Thank goodness, right?

Today, I'm feeling a little like I did on my vision quest - hungry for a few special things and very close to making a list to help with my cravings. To truly torture myself, I'll share with you my last dessert - this amazing flourless chocolate cake that is easy enough for the most novice bakers among us. Try it out and I'll live vicariously through you!

Flourless Chocolate Cake, adapted from What2Cook:

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
5 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for pan

*I didn't make the glaze that the recipe includes, but I topped the cake with whipped cream and strawberries. It was delicious!

Heat the oven to 300 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly butter the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with a round of parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment and the sides of the pan and dust with cocoa powder. Tap out any excess.
Put chocolate and butter in a medium microwaveable bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand whisk, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water. Beat until the mixture is very foamy, pale in color, and doubled in volume. Reduce mixing speed to low and gradually pour in the chocolate and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until well blended, about 30 seconds. Add the cocoa powder and mix until blended, about 30 seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a pick inserted in the center comes out looking wet with small gooey clumps, 40 to 45 minutes.
Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Cover the cake pan with a wire rack and invert. Remove the pan and parchment and let the cake cool completely. Transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours or overnight.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Spread the Love

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. I used to think that if you were in love with someone, you didn’t have as much love to spread around to the rest of your world. How could your heart have the capacity for everyone? Well, maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the fact that my brain isn’t clouded by a sugar haze, or maybe I’m just learning and growing, but I had the distinct realization this week that I love so many people and I’m darn lucky for it. My incredible husband, my amazing family, the best friends, and all of the people around me who I care deeply about. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you can love so many people at once, but if I have the capacity for a little extra kindness, I should share it. I think about the times when I’ve been in a funk and the barista’s smile or the driver who ushered me to cross the street have made a profound impact on me. This spring, I’m inspired to spread the love and focus on the wonderful life that’s happening around me.

Have a great weekend! 



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Hump Day!

I give you one of the happiest, and most hump day appropriate, pictures on the web. 
Hope you're having a great week!



Friday, March 14, 2014


And just like that, it's Friday again! I don't know what happened to the last week of my life, but between work, evening meetings, house hunting (enter newest, most time consuming life development yet), and coming to terms with the realization that spring is the craziest time of the year, I've been a busy girl. It's all very exciting, I just don't have any room left in the ol' brain! 

Jeff and I decided to start going through the process of buying a house. We have been renting for close to a decade, and that's a lot of money leaving our pockets without much to show for it. I never thought I wanted a starter home, but as we began looking at the inventory, I realized that a place that we can enjoy and make our own is very attractive. The five months since the wedding have been interesting and wonderful, and my biggest takeaway is how comfortable I am with settling down in Boise. It's been a journey, but I see us here and I am really happy to want to make the commitment of laying down roots. Like tens of thousands of dollars worth of roots ;) Stay tuned, we might just be homeowners someday soon!

I have survived one week of a dessert free life. Some days it's been terrible, other days, totally doable. I am just going to take it one step at a time, be grateful for wine, and take note of how I feel when I'm not eating all the sugar I was before. I realized the other day that this was the worst possible time to stop eating dessert, but also a great opportunity. Stress usually puts my hand right in the candy bowl, so I'm going to learn some new tactics for chilling out.

Happy weekend! 



Friday, March 7, 2014

Happy Weekend!


As far as I'm concerned, spring is here! It's going to be in the 60's tomorrow, and I'm reminiscing about the first few sunny days after long winters in college. We would strip off our sweaters and sunbathe in the quads, not a care in the world and a Slurpee in hand. This weekend, I'm looking forward to gaining some new freckles, re-reading this, and enjoying a few computer-free days. 



Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Sugar Free Challenge

I actually wrote this post yesterday and realized that I needed 24 hours under my belt to know if I had any chance of pulling this off. I'm feeling a little more confident this morning, so here I go! This is one of those posts where I make a crazy declaration of something I'm going to commit myself to and because it's public, I can't be a total chicken and quit any time I want to.

It's no secret that I have a passionate sweet tooth. I love love love dessert. I used to say as a little girl when I didn't want to finish the broccoli that I was served every.single.night (love you, Mom!) that my breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner stomachs were full but my dessert stomach was totally empty. I love baked goods, ice cream, candy - you name it. While I'm comfortably shameless about my affection for sugar, I have realized over the years that I might need to reign myself in. Everyone should have an indulgence, and I'm so proud of myself for being in a place where I don't feel consumed with guilt when I eat dessert. However, I'm currently having something sweet twice a day and I want to make strides to be in better control of what I put into my body and be less dependent on sugar. 

Starting yesterday, I'll be taking a 30 day break from eating any processed treats or homemade dessert. No candy after lunch, no brownies after dinner, no milkshakes on Sunday nights. Pretty much no fun. Honestly, this is going to be really hard. I'm so used to the eating patterns that I've created, I'll have to adjust to new routines, and I'll just miss my treats! But hopefully but the end of this tortuous period, I will have a greater appreciation for my favorite meal of the day and be more prone to choose it when it's truly delicious and not just because it's there. I went 30 days without gluten two years ago and I'm still gluten-free. Make no mistake that I will be enjoying an enormous ice cream sundae at Goody's on April 4, but I'm glad to remember that I'm capable of such discipline ;)

Lots of people are getting underway with Lent, and to you, good luck. Wish me the same as I embark on my hardest challenge yet! I'll be back with weekly updates, so if you have any great tips for living sugar free, please leave them in the comments.

First Day: 
Wednesday, March 5

Last Day: 
Thursday, April 3