Friday, July 31, 2009

Search for killer cupcakes continues...

Last night I decided to whip up a batch of Red Velvet cupcakes from the Culinary Institute's winning recipe in the American Cancer Society's "Better Birthday Challenge."
I substituted coconut flour for the all-purpose flour because it's loaded with protein & fiber AND it made some pretty good cupcakes in the past.

You can imagine my horror as this batch collapsed in front of my face!
I watched the coconut batter suck up all the liquid and turn into a thick blob! I baked them anyway (why not? see what happens)they tasted good...not too sweet, but the flour was waaaaay off!

The search for a nutritious killer cupcake recipe continues. You'll be the first to know when I find it!

Have a great weekend! I am going to try to see Food, Inc. this weekend at the Tampa Theatre. Clearly, it will have a's a documentary about the mass production of our food. Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) & Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma) are behind it. I'll tell you what I think next week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Finally--Exercise I Enjoy!

Exercise is not REALLY my favorite thing to do so I have to share when I've actually found something I actually enjoy doing several times a week--bikram yoga! Yes, it's the hot yoga, but the instructor in my class doesn't make you feel horrible if you can't twist into a pretzel. ;)

I had been occasionally doing 20 minute pilates tapes at home. I thought I was silly to just take this bikram class without working my way through easier classes, but Tom makes it welcoming to all levels.

It's an hour & a half--worth every minute. The only funny thing is the last time I went to the Thursday class...only a handful of people were there. It's usually packed!

3 guys and me! That's it! I had to laugh because talk about a reversal. Yoga classes are usually jam packed with all girls and maybe 2 guys. This is a class even guys would like--promise! I'm still working on convincing my husband of that!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Send a care package to our troops

I know sometimes our lives get complicated, but I always stop to think what life would be like serving our country overseas & not seeing my family for months on end.

Living close to MacDill Air Force Base gives us the chance to say thank you when we see someone in uniform. I also want to tell you about a special "Help a Hero" campaign that is happening until 9:00 p.m. tonight.

Stop by Whole Foods Market in Tampa on Dale Mabry near I-275 until 9:00 p.m. tonight to buy a "Help a Hero" care package (add a personal thank you note. It comes with personal care products).

For $32.00 you can surprise a military man or woman--a complete stranger--to let that person know you are thinking of them and thankful that they are protecting our country.

My brother spent months in Pakistan... I know it wasn't easy for him. You know they would all enjoy an unexpected thank you & gift that reminds them of home. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

American Cancer Society "better" birthday cake

So you already know I am on a quest to create a delicious "healthier" cupcake.

I make most of my meals from scratch but there always comes a time when you need to pull out a delicious dessert to WOW the crowd! I can't get myself to use white sugar, processed flour, trans fat, fake food coloring & flavorings that are found in most desserts.

The American Cancer Society challenged the Culinary Institute of American to create a better birthday cake! I sent a message to the chef student to see if she had any tips for me to modify the recipe into a cupcake. (I'm going to tweak anyway, but just thought I'd ask).

**Here is the winner's recipe. If you want to wait to make the cupcakes, I will modify this recipe to cut out all white sugar & all purpose flour. I think I can use coconut flour. Stay tuned! :)

If you can't wait... enjoy!

Here's the winner's recipe:

New Red Velvet Cake
By Alexandra Mudry
(Recipe will make 1-9x14” cake, two 8” round cakes or 24 cupcakes)

3 Large or 5 Small Beets (to make 2 c. puree)*
½ c. Applesauce, Unsweetened/Natural
1 c. Granulated sugar
½ c. Canola oil
2 Lg Eggs
2 Lg Egg Whites
3 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate, melted
1 tsp. Instant Espresso Powder or Instant Coffee
½ c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
¾ c. All-purpose Flour
¾ c. Whole Wheat Flour
¼ c. Quinoa Flour**
1 ½ tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Salt
1 c. Dried Cherries

*You may use canned beets, but make sure they are stored in their own juices and not seasoned. If using canned beets, add a tablespoon (or more) of water and puree until smooth.
**Quinoa flour is found in most health food stores. If you are unable to find it you may use 1c. All Purpose flour to ¾ c. Whole Wheat Flour.

For the roasted beets: Preheat oven to 375. Trim ends of beets and place on a parchment paper or foil lined baking pan. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. canola oil. Roast until fork tender (about 2 hours). Once cooled peel then place in blender or food processor with 1-2 tbsp. water. Puree beets until they reach a smooth and even consistency. Set aside. (Can be made several days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

Preheat oven to 375. Spray baking pan(s) with canola oil spray and dust with flour. Discard the excess flour (or if making cupcakes, line tins with paper wrappers).

Combine oil, eggs, egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed with a paddle attachment until smooth and light colored.

Add the tsp. of espresso powder to the melted chocolate and stir until combined.

Turning the speed down to low, slowly drizzle the melted chocolate into the mixture. Once the chocolate has been added, turn off the machine and scrape the sides of the bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, applesauce and beet puree. Add this mixture to the egg mixture. Place the machine on medium speed to incorporate, scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the cherries and mix again. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Sift the remaining dry ingredients together and then gently fold into the mixture (do not over mix or the cake will become tough and dense).

Pour batter into pan(s) and bake for 40-45 minutes (or 20-25 for cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool and remove from pan(s). If not using immediately, wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate. Cake can be made a day in advance. (The cake is rather delicate and crumbly so it is significantly easier to work with once chilled. )

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
2 oz. heavy cream
1.5 oz. Raspberry Puree
4 oz. Good Quality Bittersweet Chocolate, broken into small pieces

(If you cannot find raspberry puree, you may make your own by pureeing fresh or frozen raspberries and then pressing through a sieve to remove seeds. Also, other berry mixtures can be used – but especially look for dark berry mixtures such as raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, which are high in antioxidants).

Boil cream in a small pot.

At the same time, warm raspberry puree in microwave (the puree should not be hot –just warm).

Once cream has boiled, add raspberry puree and stir to combine.

Pour over chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is homogenous. If the chocolate does not melt all the way, place over a double boiler and finish melting.

Set ganache aside and allow to cool so it becomes slightly thick. This will allow for easier spreading.

Cream Cheese Frosting
24 oz. (3 pkgs) Reduced Fat Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 ¼ c. Confectioners’ Sugar, sifted
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Lightly beat cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth, about 1 -2 minutes.

Stop machine, scrape down sides of bowl then add confectioners’ sugar. Cream together until smooth. Do not overmix or the frosting will become too soft and difficult to spread.

If using 9” x 14” pan, pour ganache over top of cake and spread evenly. (It does not have to be perfect). Cut the cake lengthwise down the middle, and then invert so both layers of ganache are sandwiched together. (If using an 8” pan, pour ganache on one layer and top with other cake.)

Once cake is stacked, smooth sides and fill in any gaps between the layers with ganache. Place cake in refrigerator and chill until ganache is firm.

Once the cake and ganache are firm, remove from refrigerator. Frost with cream cheese frosting or any other desired frosting.

Finished cake serves 10-12 generously.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Help me make a "healthy" cupcake

I've been trying to make a "healthier" cupcake. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, right?I want to believe it exists! :)

There's always a special occasion where you need to have an excellent dessert in your arsenal. Cupcakes are the right serving size and everyone loves them!

I've been eating fresh, simple foods for the past 10 years. Luckily, I've been able to make a healthier pizza, cookies, burgers, sweet potato french fries, but I've been having a tough time creating a delicious cupcake! I made my first batch a month ago for my dad's birthday. I used coconut flour, maply syrup, grapeseed oil, vanilla and I had to cheat on the frosting. I used reduced fat, organic cream cheese, mixed with maple syrup and real lemon extract. The frosting was pretty good, but I'd like to use a good fat instead of cream cheese. Frosting is the toughest part! My entire family pigged out and ate all of them, but that still doesn't mean they were a 10. I don't want to share a recipe with you until it's REALLY GOOD.

So far, my favorite dessert is the raspberry almond cookie. I won't post a cupcake recipe until we can meet or beat that cookie.

I decided to turn to the professional bakers--Babycakes in NYC. Erin McKenna just published a mouth-watering cookbook. I made her vanilla cupcakes last night. Ingredients include: garbanzo bean flour, arrowroot, xanthan gum, coconut oil applesauce, vanilla, lemon zest. I have to admit, it was labor intensive! More than a dozen specialty ingredients. The frosting needs 6 to 8 hours to set in your fridge. The frosting includes a lot of soy ingredients (I'm not a fan of soy. It's too processed for me and my aunt had estrogen receptive breast cancer so I try to watch my intake of foods that mimic estrogen. She says you can switch out soy for rice milk. I used dry goat milk).

The frosting smells delicious but I hate to say it, it's just not right. I have a tough crowd I have to please. My cupcakes have to be close to the real deal. I'll keep baking and as soon as I have a good, I'll let you know.
Please let me know if you have a good recipe or suggestion for a "healthier" cupcake. No white sugar, white flour or fake fats allowed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Favorite healthy restaurants

Eating healthy on the run means you need to know where you can find fresh, good food fast.

I usually end up eating Greek or Lebanese food because they use olive oil, garlic and vegetables in many of their meals.

Here are some of my favorite places to grab and go.

***Share some of your top restaurants and what you order when you want something nutritious for lunch or dinner.

Read more of my Natural Health stories by clicking here.

You can click on the names to see their menus:

Here are my favorite restaurants in Tampa & St. Petersburg:

-Restaurant BT

1633 W Snow Ave
Tampa, FL 33606-2836
(813) 258-1916
Get directions


2702 N Florida Ave
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 221-7668
Get directions

-Byblos Cafe

2832 S Macdill Ave
Tampa, FL 33629
(813) 805-7977
Get directions

-Genghiz Khan

6102 S Macdill Ave # C
Tampa, FL 33611
(813) 805-6400
Get directions

-Whole Foods Market

1548 N Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33607
(813) 874-9435
Get directions

-Evos ( when I HAVE to eat fries)

609 S Howard Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 258-3867
Get directions

-Fresh Go Wild Market + Grill (they deliver too!)

600 34th St N
St Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 328-9453

Or maybe you want to share an upcoming cooking class or another class that may help my friends who are looking for motivation to get healthy from the inside out.

Please shoot me an email

I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Safer Bug Repellents

You're sitting outside, watching the sunset, grilling dinner and then it happens... an invasion of mosquitos crashes your party!

You can dip your family in a DEET insecticide or try a less toxic repellent.

WebMD recommends:

Bite Blocker for Kids

A 2002 study found it was the most effective natural alternative to DEET. This natural bug repellent offered more than 90 minutes of protection, better than some low-concentration DEET products.

Oil of lemon Eucalyptus

The Centers for Disease Control recommend it as a DEET alternative, however, do not use it on kids under three years old. These products tested much better than citronella, peppermint oil and other plant based oils.

I talked to Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior analyst at the non-profit, research based, consumer advocacy group, Environmental Working Group.

She offers these tips:

-DEET is effective if the disease risk is high. When it comes to kids, read the labels and select the lowest concentration.

-Use pump products with less than 10 percent DEET and if possible, apply to your kids clothing instead of skin.

-NEVER use DEET on babies under 6 months and use sparingly on kids. Don't apply to kids' faces or hands. Never apply more than 3 times a day.

-Make sure you (adults) don't use products with more than 30 percent DEET. Canada banned products with more than 30 percent DEET in 2002.

WebMD offers additional natural ways to beat the bugs:

Long sleeves and pants. Yes, it's probably obvious. But, one good form of natural insect control is to cover your arms and legs. While a mosquito might be able to get through very thin clothing, moderately thick fabric will stop them. No mosquito is going to bite you through a canvass shirt, says Lunder.

Fans. Here's a natural insect control tip. Mosquitoes have trouble maneuvering in wind. So, when you're sitting out on our porch, think about using a window fan or overhead fan. The mosquitoes will have trouble getting near you.

Environmental control. Eliminate standing water in your yard, which will prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Empty bird baths weekly and fill puddles with dirt.

Citronella candles. Despite the lore, citronella candles - or other natural bug repellent candles - don't seem to work very well. They could even have risks. I'd caution people about burning bug-repellent products, like citronella candles, says Lunder. Inhalation is a very direct form of exposure, so you're breathing in whatever chemicals are in the product.

Bug zappers. Don't bother. Sure, they may electrocute loads of bugs, but they usually kill beneficial insects that eat pests or serve as food for birds. One study showed that of all the insects slaughtered by bug zappers, a mere 0.13 percent were biting mosquitoes.

Ultrasonic devices. Again, don't bother. They don't work.

Traps. Relatively new on the scene, these devices use various methods to attract and then trap mosquitoes. Many give off carbon dioxide, mimicking a breathing animal or person. While they certainly do trap mosquitoes, experts aren't sure how well they control mosquito populations in a given area. You'll also have to decide whether the device itself - which might run on a gas-powered engine - is preferable to the bugs.

Permethrin-treated products. Permethrin is a kind of chemical repellent that's added to some clothing, shoes, and camping gear. While the idea of wearing a shirt treated with an insecticide might make you uneasy, Lunder points out that it has an advantage.

It's not being applied directly on your skin, so it could be a really good option, she tells WebMD. However, Lunder cautions that you should probably wash permethrin-treated clothing separately from other laundry. Like DEET, permethrin is a neurotoxin that can affect the nervous system. You may want to weigh using either chemical against the risk of disease-carrying insects.