Friday, December 23, 2011

Tis the season

The holiday season is in full swing and I am in a constant state of bliss! I was feeling rather brave since my last post about the Swiss Pumpkin Roll, because making swiss buttercream was a huge deal to me. So I wanted to tackle something just as monumental and the first thing that I thought of was peppermint mocha cupcakes with a light and fluffily swiss meringue buttercream because it seemed too easy the last time. I searched and scoured cook books, baking notes, blogs, and endless recipes online but I just wasn't satisfied (or inspired) enough with what I was finding. The recipes all seemed very boring and too fussy so I gave up. Not more than an hour later I found myself elbow deep in my pantry just praying to the sugar fairies that I would find a muse somewhere tucked behind the shelves. 

Then it hit me! My need for that "Christmas" flavor came to me in the form of Homemade hot chocolate topped with Peppermint Marshmallows (which I've been dying to make for awhile). The simplicity of these marshmallows still blows my mind. I've already made three batches and each time I grow weaker and weaker and I give in because they are just 'that' good. Don't get me wrong, marshmallows are wonderful especially these marshmallows but they need a friend, a buddy to harmonize with, to highlight their awesomeness. And that my friends is why I decided to make my own homemade hot chocolate mix. There are two versions that I'll share with you because after three batches of marshmallows and tons of hot chocolate laying around Husband was bummed that he couldn't partake in the festivities (he doesn't do sugar remember?) so he politely asked if I could make him a sinless version and to be honest, I like the sinless version way more although I do end up destroying it's sinlessness by plopping three pieces of marshmallows right on top. I mean come on, they're HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS! I'm only human. 

Peppermint two toned marshmallows
3 packets of unflavored gelatin
1 cup of water, divided
2 cups of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp peppermint extract
4 drops red food coloring
2 egg whites

In a large bowl, empty gelatin and add 1/2 cup of water then set aside to bloom. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and remaining 1/2 cup of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil on medium high heat. When the mixture reaches 240 degrees F (about 12 minutes) pour gently over the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Whisk on high until light and fluffy and the bowl is no longer hot. This should take about 10 minutes with a handheld mixer and probably half the time with a stand mixer. In a separate bowl (and clean beaters) whisk the egg whites, vanilla and salt until stiff peaks form. Add to marshmallow fluff and mix to combine. Pour half the mixture into a13x9" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper and dusted with powdered sugar. With the fluff that is left in the bowl, add peppermint extract and food coloring then mix again to combine. Pour the remaining fluff into the pan and use a greased spatula to spread evenly. With 1 tbsp of cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp of powdered sugar generously dust the top of the marshmallow using a sifter or a mini sieve. Leave in a cool dry place uncovered for 4 hours or overnight if possible. Cut into desired size squares/shapes and enjoy!

 Hot Chocolate Version 1:
2 cups of Non fat milk powder
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup Hershey's Dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup powered non dairy creamer (I used french vanilla but don't be afraid to try other flavors, Coffemate has some awesome ones during the holidays!)
1/8 tsp salt

Sinless Hot Chocolate (For Husband):
1 cup non fat milk powder
3 tbsp Splenda Sugar blend (using only Splenda has such a powerful and unpleasant aftertaste so just keep that in mind)
1/4 cup Hershey's Dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup powered non dairy creamer
1/4 cup of Turbo charged Chocolate ON HydroWhey protein powder
pinch of salt

For both recipes you can add 3-4 tbsp of mix to 6 oz. of hot water or steamed milk for a delicious sweet treat and a great vessel to showcase those marshmallows! I packaged the mix in small treat bags for guests to take home at our Christmas party. The sinless mix is stored in an airtight container on our counter. The Sinless version is half the amount of the regular version because although it is sinless, it still doesn't contain anything that we can benefit from so it's still in our best interest to limit the availability of this treat to a minimum. 

I hope you give these recipes a try, they're both super easy and rather satisfying. Let me know what you think of these recipes by leaving a comment below.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rock and Roll

It's mid December 
and I'm in a full on obsession with constant baking...
from scratch. 
I was asked to make simple rice crispy treats 
(which was clearly a joke, right?)
and I just couldn't bare the thought of doing that 
without making my own marshmallows 
and popping my own rice... er however you get puffed rice cereal.
So needless to say I did NOT end up doing that. 

Instead I decided to make something a little more "me" and
 something that I've never made before (at least not successfully or from scratch). 

Enter the pumpkin roll. =)

I love pumpkin, the taste, the smell, the endless culinary possibilities. 
This recipe was a definite go and I hope you enjoy it.

For the pumpkin cake:
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped 
  • PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with parchment paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

    COMBINE the next 6 ingredients (flour-salt)  in small bowl and set aside. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts.

    BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack, 3-4 hours.
For the swiss meringue buttercream:
  • 4 oz. room temp egg whites (3 large eggs)
  • 8 oz. (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 12 oz (1 1/2 cup) room temp, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Instead of explaining the whole process to making this awesome buttercream, I've embedded a video for you to watch- she explains it very well and I didn't encounter any problems when I did it myself. 
When your cake is completely cool, slowly and carefully unroll and fill with the buttercream and roll up again without the towel =) The recipe makes about 2 cups of buttercream and you can use all two cups if that's what you're into but I would suggest using no more than 1 to 1 1/4 cups to get a nice even layer and a perfect cake to filling ratio. You can then sprinkle with powdered sugar and/or a dusting of cocoa powder. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nothing cures the rainy day blues like soft and chewy cookies

Usually about day 3 of being trapped inside because of a rainstorm, I find myself itching to bake something. After hours of distractions (hanging pictures and wall art, playing piano, cutting my bangs, etc.) I finally caved and whipped up a double batch of sugar cookies for Husband to take to work tomorrow. The original recipe only made 24 cookies so I doubled it yet somehow I found myself with 68 jumbo cookies (the only way cookies should be according to Husband) so just be aware of that before you tackle this double batch recipe written below.  
Since it is only natural that I try to make these cookies as festive as possible while still keeping them classic- I added 1 tablespoon of colored sugar to the granulated sugar used to roll the dough in. It turned out exactly as I hoped and I like the added texture you get from the larger pieces of sugar in conjunction with the super fine sugar. 
This is such a simple recipe and I really hope that you give it a try. For the original recipe, please click here.
Yields: 68 cookies
Prep Time: 15 min. | Bake Time: 15 min.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
2 cups granulated sugar, plus ½ cup for rolling dough (*optional to add 1 tablespoon colored sugar)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.
2. Cream the butter, the 2 cups granulated sugar, and the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.

3. Place the ½ cup sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a 1½-inch ball between moistened palms, roll the ball in the sugar, and then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, moistening your hands as necessary and spacing the balls about 2 inches apart (you should be able to fit 9 cookies on each sheet). Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of a 1/3 round measuring cup until they are about ¾ inch thick.

4. Bake until the cookies are golden brown around the edges and their center are just set and very lightly colored. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 3 minutes; transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Home(made) is where the Heart is

The cool thing about being a blogger is that I get to talk about anything I want and I have no deadline to follow. But that being said, I often find myself with writer's block. I go through my days and I think "Hey, that'll be funny to blog about" or "Dang, I can't wait to blog this!" But then when the time comes for me to sit down and type it out, I can't remember why something could possibly be funny to anyone other than myself and my dog (she's got an awesome sense of humor) and other times what I think is cool to blog about just turns out to be not very interesting once it's been set up with a back story that usually ends up to be 50 paragraphs long. So I end up with a giant blank screen and a whole list of chores that hasn't been crossed of my daily to do list. 

I started this blog to have a place to share my adventures and have informative one way discussions about makeup and clothes primarily. It then morphed into a place where I tease and tempt you with recipes of scrumptious baked goods and then drop kick the fat kid in you with super intense workout routines. This blog is all over the place! A true representation of who I am indeed. 

These past few months have been quite awesome and all though I go through phases when I miss my family dearly I can usually stuff the sadness away by taking a little stroll around town. Today is a particularly dreary day and the feelings are slowly starting to surface so in a panic to regain my composure I figure I could write about this until I come up with something more effective at shooing away the 'miss my family' blues. 

So I decide I'm going to bake something. Go figure. I have a Christmas party to attend this weekend so I have to bake something for that but I just haven't decided what it should be exactly. I've been eyeballing a recipe for Honey and apple challah that seems appropriate at the moment but I have a hard time dedicating HOURS to bread making. I mean I do it- I just always seem to regret it mid-way through the second (or third) rise. *Sigh*

In the mean time I guess I could share with you my success story with Homemade Oreos recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. I don't really have a sweet back story for wanting to give this a try. It's not like my brothers and I have fond memories of sitting by a fire place at Christmas time sharing a package of Oreos with a huge glass of milk. I don't even remember eating Oreos as a kid… but something about the idea of making something that is so commercial at home in my own kitchen reminded me of being around my family. I think it partly has something to do with the fact that I come from a serious line of awesome cooks and bakers. That's probably why I love sweets so much, it's just in my blood. =)

I made a double batch (because come I'm making OREOS at HOME… two dozen just isn't enough to share) and also tweaked the recipe a bit to get a more authentic cookie. For the original recipe please click here.

Makes 80 sandwich cookies
For the chocolate wafers:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hersey's Dark Cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
2 large eggs
For the filling:
1/2 cup (1 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded half teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 10 minutes. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Obsessive Compulsive

Husband and I were having a discussion about addictions recently. As it turns out, I don't have any real "addictions" in its proper definition but rather I posses serious obsessions and compulsions. I'm obsessed with a good (and often times giant) cup of coffee, fast internet connection, and naturally wavy hair styles. I have a compulsion to sing Adele's Someone Like You at the top of my lungs (every time I hear it regardless of where I'm at), to fill up our Brita water filter pitcher each time someone pours a glass, and to buy toilet tissue EVERY SINGLE time I'm at the grocery store. Have you ever ran out of toilet tissue…while you're home alone??? If you have then you should completely sympathize with me on this one. As the days have gone by since our discussion on addictions/obsessions/compulsions, I've been taking mental notes of the things I'm obsessed with and I'd like to share that with you. 

My current obsessions:

Youtube videos on hair and makeup tutorials. Emilynoel83, Lilithedarkmoon, and bebexo just to name a few are my absolute go to gurus for branching out and trying new things when it comes to hair and makeup. Each one of these women are unique with their creations and are very easy to recreate at home. Here are some samples of the cool things I've learned on Youtube.

Food blogs. OMG. I swear it's a border line addiction- I can hardly make it through the morning without scoping out at least three food blogs for inspiration or validation. Here are my favorites at the moment.

My current compulsions:

Painting my nails…right before bedtime. Husband loathes this compulsion simply because I turn into a huge needy geek which isn't the problem entirely (he doesn't mind turning the bed down, getting me a glass of water, or taking off my glasses, it's the fact that bedtime for me can range from 10pm to 1am and his bedtime is pretty much dead on at 9pm. But here's my reasoning- I'm actually busy during the day and I have zero patience to sit around for a couple hours until my nails dry. I can stay really still while sleeping so I figure I can kill to birds with one stone- sleep while nails dry. Bada bing. 

Sweeping. I've lived in a wall to wall carpeted house for 6 years before moving to Italy. We have 4 pets (one dog and three cats) and I had to vacuum every other day otherwise the carpets would look terrible. Now living in this house we have stone floors on the bottom floor and the two top floors are wood. We still have 4 pets… I never realized how much these animals shed until moving here. I literally feel like the walls are caving in around me if I don't sweep everyday. I think the people at my local grocery store find me particularly odd not because I buy so much toilet tissue but because I've purchased three brooms in two months. 

Shutting off the air/heat and radio before I turn off my car. I don't know why I do it but it has to be done and if Husband forgets to do it when he drives my car I'm actually mad about it. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Barcis, Italy

While our friends from England were in town we took a short drive north no more than 30 minutes away to a quaint little town named Barcis. 

I know I use the term "fairytale" rather frequently but I just can't help it- it's literally how I feel when I get to experience places like this. 

We were talking and laughing about what we would do if we got trapped in the semi- scary tunnel that we had to take in order to get to this town. I don't recall the the actual distance but it was quite possibly the longest tunnel I've been in. So we talked about zombies and screaming children and before I could even begin to freak out over the creepiness of screaming zombie children we were out of the tunnel, the temperature dropped 25 degrees and there were frosted trees and the ground was sprinkled with sparkling snow. Then the wave of complete and total calm took me over completely as the unbelievably still and mirror like lake showed itself. The color alone is magical. I've never seen such a gorgeous shade of sea foam green in my entire life- let alone a place like this. I guess this shouldn't really surprise me, most of the prettiest things I've seen have been away from the grips of humans. Nature just knows how to do it right.

Because I feel like it's my duty (when it comes to this blog) to provide you with useful information about whatever it is I'm ranting about (including gelato and it's fat content) I tried to gather as much information about this town as possible. It's not really much- almost close to nothing actually. I figured out that Barcis is derived from the term used to describe boats, which is kind of neat I guess. But then I came across something that totally caught me by surprise but I haven't been able to actually verify yet. I think Lake Barcis is man made. Gasp! I'm going to have to do a bit more research, talk to a few locals and get the dirty on this place. In the mean time take a moment to relish in the pictures below. Feel free to comment!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little cake, HUGE flavor

I really enjoy baking
especially if it is for someone
who enjoys eating.

The first cake I ever sold was a 
Dark Chocolate cake iced with
White Chocolate Ganache 
and topped with crushed
Oreo cookies.

I decided to remake that cake 
for a dear friend of mine
as kind of a 'baby shower' cake 
while she and her husband
were in town for a quick visit.

This cake is not for the faint of heart
(or the diabetic).
It is rich, sweet, and completely decadent.
The six inch cake took four adults four days to eat
and at the end of their stay, one piece
still remained and we all had to admit defeat.

 If you're interested in the recipe
just leave a comment below.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Results from Week 4: Listen to YOUR body

I'm hard headed. I'll be the first to admit it. So when I'm told to take it easy during a workout I get a bit upset and push even harder just to prove to myself that I'm not weak and I can push through the pain. Well, that kind of idiotic mentality will get you nowhere. Literally. I injured my knee awhile back and I just kept pushing on it and finally during my third day this week I hurt it to the point where I had to crawl downstairs because my knee was so swollen and stiff. Instead of listening and slowing down or decreasing the intensity, I pushed so hard that I was unable to workout for three days (just two days ago I was able to walk without the shooting pain). I guess there really is a fine line between going hard and going too far. I want to be stronger, faster, more fit and in order to do that I have to be able to workout everyday. That being said, hurting myself during a workout is counterproductive and I will not be doing that again. If anything, I've learned this week to truly listen to my body. Sometimes that 'one rep' can be the difference between going hard and going too far. 

Here are my results:

21- 50 weighted mini squats + 50 skips with rope x2; 50 weighted sit ups + 50 skips x2; 50 rows with sandbag + 50 skips x2
Completed in: 21m 23s
22- 50 side v-crunches (L)+ 50 knee highs; 50 side v-crunches (R ) + 50 knee highs; 50 bicep curls + 50 knee highs x2; 50 sumo squat & leg lift + 50 knee highs x2
Completed in: 19m 58s
23- 50 triceps dips + 50 jump jacks x2; 50 walking lunges + 50 jump jacks x2; 50 hanging knee raises + 50 jump jacks x2
Completed in: 15 m 45 s; Then it finally happened, I blew out my knee during the first set of jump jacks in the last round… FML
No workout for the next three days. Monday will be a tough day...
24- HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 50 calve raises + 50 side to side pike jumps x2; 50 ball chopper + 50 skips with rope x2; 50 flies + 50 mountain climbers; 50 super girl plank + 50 knee highs
Completed in:
25- 50 weighted crunches + 50 skips x 3; 50 ball bridges + 50 jump jacks; 50 push ups + 50 knee highs; 50 diagonal touch down + 50 side to side pike jumps
Completed in:
26- 50 weighted step ups + 50 pendulums x2; 50 leg assisted dips + 50 pendulums x2; 50 dead lifts + 50 pendulums x2
Completed in:

For the last three days in November I think I'll revisit a few full body routines on Bodyrock.Tv. My goal is that next November I'll be able to do this 4 week challenge again and have even better scores. I'm rather excited!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week 4: Combining Everything for Maximum Results

So are you ready to start working out now??? =)

I've decided to go ahead and combine the previous weeks' workout routines for the final stretch. I don't know if it's too aggressive seeing as how I wasn't able to complete a few of the previous routines but I figure why not, let's just give it a go! 

We'll end up doing a 600 rep routine for the next 6 days. It's going to be a combination time challenge with cardio included. Each region will be worked during a workout because I like being able to do a full body workout everyday and since cardio never hurt anybody I'm throwing that in for kicks. 

21- 50 weighted mini squats + 50 skips with rope x2; 50 weighted sit ups + 50 skips x2; 50 rows with sandbag + 50 skips x2
22- 50 side v-crunches (L)+ 50 knee highs; 50 side v-crunches (R ) + 50 knee highs; 50 bicep curls + 50 knee highs x2; 50 sumo squat & leg lift + 50 knee highs x2
23- 50 triceps dips + 50 jump jacks x2; 50 walking lunges + 50 jump jacks x2; 50 hanging knee raises + 50 jump jacks x2
24- HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 50 calve raises + 50 side to side pike jumps x2; 50 ball chopper + 50 skips with rope x2; 50 flies + 50 mountain climbers; 50 super girl plank + 50 knee highs
25- 50 weighted crunches + 50 skips x 3; 50 ball bridges + 50 jump jacks; 50 push ups + 50 knee highs; 50 diagonal touch down + 50 side to side pike jumps
26- 50 weighted step ups + 50 pendulums x2; 50 leg assisted dips + 50 pendulums x2; 50 dead lifts + 50 pendulums x2

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Results from week 3: "Time to nut up or shut up!"

My goal for these weekly challenges is to push myself and to increase the intensity to promote more meaningful workouts on a regular basis. I felt like I got stuck in a workout rut and even though I felt like I was pushing as hard as I could at the moment I wanted to force myself to get uncomfortable. I wanted outside of the mindset that I was pushing as hard as I could and go beyond my breaking point. The outcome three quarters of the way through is eye opening and exactly what I not necessarily 'wanted' to see but NEEDED to see. I'm not as strong as I think I am. I haven't been pushing as hard as I thought I was. I needed this challenge to be able to reevaluate my fitness level and I'm shocked at the reality of where I truly stand. 

This past week's focus was on cardio. I'm not afraid of cardio I'm just no good at it. Then I'm faced with a double edged sword and to some people that might sound like excuses but I encourage you to not see it that way.

The difficulties I was faced with during cardio week was very depressing to say the least. For starters I'm still sick with a cold that I just cannot get rid of. (This is the first time in a long time that I'm using nothing but food and vitamins to battle an illness- it's part of my all natural life movement which we'll talk about later). Secondly, I injured my knee some time ago and I've been able to get away with doing certain exercises that don't exacerbate the pain, all of which include the exercises most effective for cardio. Third, we have friends coming into town real soon and since we just moved into this house we have so much to do and clean in order to allow a comfortable stay for them, in short that means I'm ridiculously busy and nearly running on fumes by the time I get to workout. Again, these might all sound like excuses but I just want to be able to explain myself before I post my results for this week.

I want you to know that I tried and I literally pushed as hard as I could until I felt for sure that I'd end up hurting myself if I didn't take it down a notch. I was able to complete majority of the workouts but I'm just disappointed in the scores. 

*3 sets of 8 rounds = 12 minutes.

Day 14: Interval Cardio part 1:  Knee highs with jump rope. 40, 44, 35, 27, 38, 30, 14, 18 Seated pull ups. 8, 7, 6, 7, 9, 7, 6, 3 Repeat first exercise for last set. 45, 48, 42, 40, 52, 54, 49, 40

Day 15: Interval Cardio part 2:  Mountain Climbers. 40, 40, 35, 27, 38, 30, 14, 18 Star crunches. 20, 20, 19, 19, 25, 23, 17, 14 Repeat first exercise for last set. 41, 28, 15, 22, 41, 38, 20, 29

Day 16: IC Part 3: 20 on/10 off X 8 rds: Burpees. 4, 4, 4, 3, 4, 3, 3, 2 Prisoner get up. 4, 4, 4, 3, 5, 4, 3, 5 Knee highs w/rope* 53, 50, 47, 47, 45, 40, 43, 47

Day 17: IC Part 4: 20 on/10 off X 8 rds: Big jump forward, two jumps back. One leg lift and toe touch. Repeat first exercise for last set. 
*This day I relapsed and felt super terrible. I only managed to do 2 rounds before I felt like I was going to vomit… Husband was not happy about this. 
1 jump forward, 2 jumps back 5, 4
1 leg lift and toe touch 11, 11, 9, 10, 8, 11, 9, 8
Commando push up and sit up combo 11, 8, 7, 6
Alternating Side v-crunches 16, 14, 10, 9

Day 18: IC Part 5: One leg hop forward (left) one leg hop back (right)/ one leg hop forward (right), one leg hop forward (left). Confused? Click here. Full body rows and kick up. Repeat first exercise for last set. 
*As I mentioned above I injured my knee and after trying the one leg hop a couple times my right knee just couldn't handle it so I modified the exercise.
Side to side pike jumps: 27, 16, 14, 22, 26, 22, 23, 21
Full body rows: 8, 8, 3, 6, 8, 6, 5, 3
Repeat first exercise for last set: 25, 22, 17, 17, 26, 22, 15, 20

Day 19: IC Part 6: Surfer. From standing position drop down on your belly, power up making sure to land with your toes pointing to the left, jump up. Drop down on your belly, power up to the right and jump up. Round kick and knee raises. Repeat first exercise for last set. 
*No workout on this day. Absolutely zero energy by the time Husband and I got home from running errands… I was really upset that I didn't get to workout but that's just the breaks. 

Day 20: Active Rest day! 

Week three has been a serious disaster in my opinion. I just think it's funny that all kinds of issues arise in regards to my workouts the one time I decide to post it. =) 
Anyway, be on the look out for next week's schedule. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

A sweet little treat

I got inspired to bake a cake today. 

It's a rum soaked whole wheat almond cake filled with left over caramel buttercream (from my apple cupcakes) then iced with traditional vanilla buttercream.

The idea behind the whole wheat cake is not necessarily the health benefits because come on… it's a cake after all. But, personally, I like the taste and the texture of a cake made with whole wheat flour. 

I also needed an excuse to use the new 6 inch cake pan I just bought so I present to you my "Falling Leaves" cake! Enjoy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The first rule of Zombieland: Cardio.

"When the zombie outbreak first hit, the first to go, for obvious reasons... were the fatties."

Week 3: Creative Cardio

I used to run a lot back in high school but since moving out of Mom's house and becoming an adult with responsibilities and bills (and the ability to party as loud as I want all night if I want) running was put on the back burner so often that I just stopped doing it all together. 

I wish that [for me] getting back into running was as easy as riding a bicycle, something that we'll just always remember how to do well. But unfortunately that's not the case here. My lung capacity has always felt a little underdeveloped even while at my most active. Tack on years of complete disregard for my health (eating habits, lack of exercise, a short stint with smoking cigarettes) and you'll end up completely terrified of a zombie outbreak because CARDIO is the KEY to SURVIVAL! 

This week will focus on creative ways to get in good worthwhile cardio that isn't running on a treadmill for hours in a gym. It's so boring to me… which is probably why I don't do it. 

The definition of Cardio[vascular exercise] is: An activity that raises your heart rate to a level where you're working but are still able to talk. 

"Izumi Tabata found out that 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated for 8 cycles, gives you the same benefits as 40 minutes or more of moderate, steady pace cardio. So you can spend 4 minutes of complete brutality or 40+ minutes drooling with boredom on the elliptical machine – your choice." -Zuzana,

So for this week my workouts will look like this:

*3 sets of 8 rounds = 12 minutes.

Day 14: Interval Cardio part 1: 20 seconds on/10 seconds off X 8 rounds: Knee highs with jump rope. Followed by same HIIT of Seated pull ups. Repeat first exercise for last set.

Day 15: Interval Cardio part 2: same sequence 20 on/10 off X 8 rds: Mountain Climbers. Star crunches. Repeat first exercise for last set. 

Day 16: IC Part 3: 20 on/10 off X 8 rds: Burpees. Prisoner get up. Repeat first exercise for last set. 

Day 17: IC Part 4: 20 on/10 off X 8 rds: Big jump forward, two jumps back. One leg lift and toe touch. Repeat first exercise for last set. 

Day 18: IC Part 5: One leg hop forward (left) one leg hop back (right)/ one leg hop forward (right), one leg hop forward (left). Confused? Click here. Full body rows and kick up. Repeat first exercise for last set. 

Day 19: IC Part 6: Surfer. From standing position drop down on your belly, power up making sure to land with your toes pointing to the left, jump up. Drop down on your belly, power up to the right and jump up. Round kick and knee raises. Repeat first exercise for last set. 

Day 20: Active Rest day! 

Good luck with your training and I'll post my scores on Sunday!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Results from week 2: "Sh!t or get off the pot!"

Week Two Overview: Results for "Beating my Personal Bests"

Many times I think people do monotonous mediocre workouts just to be able to say that they 'did' it. But if you're not going to push yourself to the max each and every time then I just don't see the point. Revisiting workouts that I've done in the past definitely gave me the motivational boost I was hoping to find this week. I was able to push harder, up the intensity and sweat more which resulted in way better scores. After one workout I thought to myself "Was I even trying last time???" because my scores were exponentially better this time around. Everything in green indicates that I beat my personal best.

But then I came down with a terrible cold on Thursday and because of that I wasn't able to do my workout for Friday or Saturday. Today is Sunday and I'm not all recovered but I did my workout for Friday and it shows how weak I am because not only did I not beat my previous score for several exercises, I didn't even match it. I attempted to push for Saturday's workout on top of Friday's but after a four minute rest period I felt my body disliking what I was doing to it. So I called it quits for the day. Gave myself a pat on the back for trying. But promised that I'll do better tomorrow. 

Here are my results:
Day 8: "Give me everything"; max reps during 50 second interval with 10 second rest in between X 12 rounds
1 leg dead lift (L)- 14,16
1 leg dead lift (R)- 15,18
Jumping jacks with jump rope- 49, 52
Knee raises- 17,21
Break dancer push ups- 6, 10
Skips with jump rope- 86, 92

Day 9: "Booty Shaping"; max reps during 30 sec interval with 10 sec rest in between X 18 rounds
Commando push up (1 knee tuck is one rep) - 16, 11, 16, 11, 15, 12
Weighted squat and kick forward (alternating legs is one rep) - 11, 13, 15, 14, 15, 12
Single knee tuck- 28, 30, 32, 21, 24, 23

Day 10: "Death to fat"; 50 sec on/ 10 sec off X 12 rounds
Bent over rows with sandbag- 27, 25, 23
Ball squat and jump up- 35, 34, 34
Ball squeeze bridge- 33, 28, 35
Ball leg lift- 18, 17, 22

*No workouts these two days*
Day 11: "Light cardio and Core" 20 sec on/ 10 sec off X 16 rounds
Knee highs
Ball chopper
Knee highs
Weighted crunches
Knee highs
Side crunches (L)
Knee highs
Side crunches (R)

Day 12: "Guns and Roses" Exercise time challenge. Complete 3 sets as fast as possible. My previous time was 16 minutes 09 seconds.
50 knee highs with jump rope
10 push ups
50 jumping jacks with jump rope
50 skips with jump rope
10 break dancer push up

Day 13: Friday Makeup day
Knee highs- 53, 50
Ball chopper- 12, 12
Knee highs- 47,48
Weighted crunches-18, 19
Knee highs-43, 47
Side crunches (L)-16, 14
Knee highs-49, 52
Side crunches (R)- 16,14

*As a disclosure, the previous post is about cupcakes and just to clarify I love baking but I don't actually eat my creations (Husband and I sample tiny portions to ensure the product has good flavor and texture). I enjoy the process of baking and decorating but mostly I make desserts for others to enjoy.*

Falling for Fall

It feels almost a bit insane to talk about cupcakes after the past few posts but I have to do it. I'm a baker at heart and it's what makes me happy. 

When I think of "Fall" I see golden yellows, oranges, deep reds… I smell cinnamon, caramel, chocolate, coffee… I think of pumpkins, cold gray days, my family and close friends. 

I could possibly go on for days about how much I enjoy Fall but instead I think I'll get talking about cupcakes. 

Husband and I have been in Italy for two months now and just this past Monday we finally got all our household goods which included all my baking equipment. So for my own personal agenda I've decided that everything I make from here on out will be exclusively made from scratch as much as possible. I thought about making my own butter for a second but then I decided against it- it's the 21st century after all. =)

I've made cupcakes, cakes, pies, brownies and cookies from scratch in the past but the challenge here is for me to ALWAYS make it form scratch no matter how lazy I might feel at that moment. 

For my first cupcake of this season I've decided to make (drum roll please…) 

"Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream!"

If you Google this cupcake you'll see many variations for it and to be honest I thought for a second that I was a total genus because I came up with it myself… lol but seeing as how that's not the case I scoured the internet looking for the most unique recipe or a combination of recipes that I like. In the end I actually went with my basic yellow cake recipe that I've used in the past and spiced it up with pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon (because you just can't have too much cinnamon in my opinion). Then for the buttercream I feel it was kind of like a Frankenstein attempt to make it work but in the end it came out just perfect.

I made the caramel first because I've attempted to make it in the past and failed miserably. The key here is that I had an extra set of eyes and another nose to watch and smell it before it had a chance to burn.  The first time I made it this morning I pulled the sugar off literally 10 seconds too late which was enough to burn it. It looked great, smelled great, but the second we tasted it we knew I failed… again. On my second try Husband stood right there next to me and as soon as he thought it was the perfect blonde color we pulled it off the heat and it turned out AMAZING! The problem here is that other people use the words "amber" or "golden brown" to describe when you should pull the sugar off the heat. That isn't so! I say as soon as you see it change from all clear to that slight hint of color then finally a true blonde PULL it OFF the heat!!! 

For the caramel (yields 3/4 cup)
1/2 c. sugar
4 tbsp. water
1/2 heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla

Pour sugar into saucepan, add water, stir gently then turn on your heat to medium high. The first 5 minutes aren't too critical since the sugar is still dissolving in the water so take this time to get your cream and vanilla ready. Once you see your sugar is all dissolved and the bubbles are becoming more pronounced watch it like hawk. The next two and a half minutes are super important because like I said earlier the minute it changes from clear bubbles to a hint of color it will take a blink of an eye to change to blonde and once that happens PULL it off the HEAT and add your cream (a tablespoon at a time at first) and stir with a wooden spoon. It will bubble up violently so be careful not to burn yourself. Add your vanilla and continue stirring. At this point you should have a gorgeous, smooth, perfectly colored caramel sauce. Set off to the side to cool completely. 
For the cupcakes (yields 22, using 1/4 cup batter per serving)
2 c. whole wheat cake flour*
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3 lg. eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. milk
2 Granny Smith apples, 1/2 an apple grated (for applesauce) the rest finely chopped
2 tsp. Pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tbsp. additional flour for dusting apples
*To make cake flour, measure 2 tbsp. cornstarch and put it on the bottom of your 1 cup measure then top of the rest of the cup with flour, level with the back of a knife. 

The cake is simple: Combine your dry ingredients (be sure to sift). Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Alternate your flour mixture and your milk (always ending in dry) until well incorporated. My sequence went like this: 1/4 cup applesauce, beat, 1/3 of the flour mixture, beat, milk, beat, flour, beat, milk, beat, flour, beat. Dust apples with remaining flour plus the spices then fold into batter.
Fill 12 cupcake tins using 1/4 cup of batter in each then bake for 18-20 minutes. If you're doing all 22 cupcakes at once you'll have to adjust your time, keep an eye and nose on it and check around 28 minutes. 

For the buttercream
1/2 c. shortening or butter
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. meringue powder
3/4 c. caramel
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Sea salt for sprinkling 

Finally, the buttercream.
Cream together shortening, vanilla, caramel and milk until smooth. Add sifted powdered sugar and meringue powder until all incorporated. If the icing is too stiff for your liking, add 1 tsp of milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency.