TWO Delicious Chocolate Cakes?! Yes, You Heard Correctly.

Seven layers of dark, dense chocolate cake that turn into a near brownie-like fudge when chilled, separated by a smear of rich, chocolate buttercream and encased in a thick ganache of a frosting that has been adorned with mini chocolate chips. Each slice is big enough for two sittings and even then a glass of cold, cold milk is needed to balance out the pure indulgence sitting on your plate. It’s heaven, in food form.

Heaven, apparently, costs close to $50 at a local diner (for the full cake, not a slice!) and likely contains ingredients up the wazoo that I wouldn’t touch if I were at all the wiser. So, what do I do? Aside from stare longingly into the glass dessert case of said diner whenever I walk by, there’s only one thing I can do: learn the secret to making this behemoth of a chocolate cake myself.

The last chocolate cake that I made was good – really, really good – but it wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t dense enough, intense enough. It was the demure little sister of the big, bad rebel cake of my dreams, and so as much as I enjoyed eating it, I laid the recipe to rest on my shelf and went in search of a new one.

My second attempt came when I decided to bake a cake for a friend’s birthday. I chose a recipe from the endless list of chocolate cake recipes I have bookmarked, and dove in; it was originally a mocha cake, but I went for the plain chocolate route and eliminated the coffee/espresso elements. Coffee and chocolate may just be one of my favorite combinations, don’t get me wrong, but this had to be all chocolate, all the way. Fortuitously enough, I found out at the birthday party that the Birthday Boy himself actually hates coffee-flavored things, so maybe it was a little bit of fate stepping in that I went with the simpler ingredients. The cake was…good. Actually, scratch that, it was delicious. There’s a pinch of cinnamon thrown in that really heightens the flavors, adding a je ne sais quoi that everyone commented on in a very excellent way. It did taste pretty good cold, which is a test I have to subject all chocolate cakes to because it’s my favorite way to eat all things dense, fudgy and chocolate (and although this cake is not as dense and fudgy as I hoped it would be, it still tasted fantastic with a chill and some milk). However, it still wasn’t quite right.

 Then, for my birthday, I took it a step further. I thought the frosting on the above cake was the filling I had been in search of all along, so I kept that recipe the same and just used it for between the cake layers instead of to frost the entire cake as I had done before. Then, I found a chocolate frosting recipe that looked from the pictures on the original post to be a dark, thick ganache. For the cake itself, I turned to a less conventional gluten-free chocolate cake that uses quinoa instead of any flour, and the pictures made it look like the dense, dark fudge cake I have been dreaming up all these years. I got to work, hopeful that this would really be The One. I loved that it used quinoa, so I wanted this one to work. Granted, it also has 4 eggs, a near ton of sugar and copious amounts of butter, but you just feel good about it when there’s quinoa involved! Anyway, I was rewarded with a delicious cake, one that also tasted unbelievable after a few hours in the fridge. It was dark and intensely chocolate, not too sweet at all which was a welcome surprise. The sweetness and richness came from the buttercream, the frosting that was intended to be a ganache but wound up being just a conventional chocolate frosting. The filling was good, but I had an epiphany when eating the cake: the frosting, the buttercream that I had thought would be a ganache but wasn’t at all, was the true filling I had been searching for, not the one from the previous cake. My disappointment in choosing a wholly wrong frosting was ameliorated by the realization that it was merely placed in the wrong part of the cake. The only true negative about the cake was really that the quinoa didn’t puree completely, so it had a chew that would be really nice in a nut brownie or something like that, but wasn’t really ideal for a chocolate layer cake. So, what came out of this was the first official component of My Dream Chocolate Cake (the filling), and a very solid, intriguing (and gluten-free!) base for a chocolate bar or brownie that I’d love to experiment with in the future.

Now I just need another excuse to bake a chocolate cake so I can try again! Maybe the next time I’ll conquer the frosting and then, perhaps, the cake itself. One day, I will have the most decadent chocolate layer cake to share with you, but in the meantime, these two very-solid-though-not-flawless cakes will have to suffice.

Because this is a monster of a post in terms of recipes and some of the recipes even overlap, I’ve divided them by section of the cake rather than by the two cakes themselves. So, first you’ll see the recipe for the first chocolate cake, followed by the second (gluten free) cake, and at the very end you’ll see the recipes for all of the fillings and frostings used between the two cakes. Hopefully that makes it a little less confusing, since I was so stubborn about lumping them both into the same post in the first place.

One Year Ago: Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan

 Traditional Chocolate Layer Cake, adapted from My Recipes1
Yield: 1 9-inch, 1 8-inch and 24 mini cupcakes2

The Ingredients – The Cake
cooking spray and butter, for greasing the pans
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup buttermilk3
1 cup boiling water
1 batch ganache icing (recipe below)
1 batch chocolate cream filling (recipe below)

The Method
Lightly grease the baking pans with cooking spray, line the bottoms of the cake pans with wax paper, and grease the wax paper with butter. For the cupcakes, simply stick with the cooking spray or use cupcake liners (though these will be discarded before serving so it’s kind of a waste). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, prepare your cake batter: melt both types of chocolate over low heat in a small sauce pan, stirring to smooth; then, set aside. Beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and gradually pour in the sugar, continuing to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing the yellow to just disappear before adding in the next one. Finally, stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt (if using) and cinnamon and add it to the butter mixture in about 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk; be sure to do so at a low speed, beginning and ending with the flour and not overmixing. Stir in the boiling water.

Divide the mixture amongst the baking pans and place in the oven. Bake the full cakes for 28-30 minutes, but remove the cupcakes earlier – 10 minutes should be sufficient, but keep an eye on them. A toothpick or cake tester into the center should come out clean. Cool all cakes for 10 minutes in their respective pans, then remove from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

To assemble the cake, slice the tops off of the cupcakes; set the tops aside for garnishing and reserve the bottoms for a later use.4 Place the 9-inch cake layer on a work surface or serving plate. Top with roughly ¼ of the ganache icing followed by half of the chocolate cream filling. Top with the 8-inch cake layer and repeat with another ¼ of the ganache icing and remaining half of the chocolate cream filling. Spread the rest of the ganache icing on top, smoothing it over the top and sides of the cake completely. Garnish with the cupcake tops and any other designs you prefer.

1 For the mocha flavored recipe, follow the directions in the original post.
2 For a more traditional layer cake, use 3 8-inch round cake pans.
3 I never buy buttermilk. Instead, make it by mixing 1 tablespoon lemon juice for every cup of milk – so this recipe would call for ½ cup of milk combined with ½ tablespoon lemon juice. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before adding to the recipe; it shouldn’t curdle but it should react chemically just a little bit.
4 See how I used my leftover chocolate cupcakes, which fell apart due to a poorly greased muffin pan, in this chocolate-berry trifle.

 Gluten Free Chocolate Quinoa Cake, adapted from Babble
Yield: 2 8-inch cakes

The Ingredients
2/3 cup white or golden quinoa
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup low-fat milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
½ batch chocolate cream filling5 (recipe below)
½ batch chocolate buttercream frosting (recipe below)

The Method
Cook the quinoa by combining it with the water and bringing to a boil in a saucepan over high or medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to just above medium, allowing it to simmer and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the saucepan, still covered, on the burner for an additional 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and allowing to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease 2 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Add the milk, eggs and vanilla to a blender or food processor and pulse a little bit to combine. Add in 2 cups of the cooked quinoa along with the butter, blending until as smooth as possible (be persistent).

Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt (if using), and then add that mixture into the blender until well mixed. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans6 and bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, removing when a knife/tooth pick/cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans completely before removing to assemble.

To assemble, place one cake on a work surface or serving plate. Place roughly ½-2/3 of the chocolate cream filling on top and smooth out, leaving roughly ½ - 1 inch of cake around the perimeter. Top with the second cake and spread a thin layer of the remaining cream filling around the entire cake, forming a crumb layer. Place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes (though not long enough to really freeze the cake – you just want the crumb coating to firm up a bit). Top with the chocolate buttercream, smoothing out over the sides to make a smooth, even frosted outer layer. Decorate with chocolate chips and extra frosting as desired.

5 This filling does call for flour, which makes it no longer gluten free; to maintain the gluten-free aspect, simply sub in a gluten free flour (might I suggest, perhaps, quinoa flour?).
6 I’m a tad bit anal and I actually measured my cake pans out. Now, I didn’t zero the scale to take the weight of the pan into account, but each one topped out at just over 600 grams, if that helps at all. I wound up doing a lot of back and forth juggling getting them even, but I’d imagine eye-balling it isn’t such a bad option, either.

The Ganache Icing, adapted from My Recipes
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pace the chocolate in a glass bowl and heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until it smoothes out, then stir in the butter and vanilla. Allow it to rest approximately 45 minutes, or until it reaches a more spreadable consistency.

The Chocolate Cream Filling, adapted from My Recipes
5 tablespoons whole wheat flour                             
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup half-n-half
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and half-n-half over medium heat until it thickens, whisking continuously, approximately 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap to cool, approximately 30 minutes. Once it has cooled, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the cocoa mixture one tablespoon at a time, allowing each tablespoon to become fully incorporated before the next addition. Add in the vanilla and beat until the filling resembles a whipped cream.

The Chocolate Buttercream, courtesy of Babble
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup low-fat milk
8 ounces confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Next, pour in the milk and vanilla while gradually adding in the sugar and cocoa.7 Cover and refrigerate to store, allowing it to come to room temperature before using to decorate.

7 Now, I’m not sure about you, but I have 2 hands. And my feet aren’t very adept in the kitchen, unless you count them supporting my weight for the hours on end that I spend in there on some occasions. I don’t know how to run a mixture, pour in two liquids, and add in two solids at the same time, while being sure not to let the whole mixture pouf up in my face. Maybe I just wasn’t going about it in the most efficient way, but I saw it leading nowhere but disaster so I simply had my sugar and cocoa at the ready, quickly added the milk and vanilla, and then got right to business adding in the sugar and cocoa. I like to think that this little change didn’t completely alter the end result, but who knows. Just thought I’d write it as it was originally written so that you could do it nice and proper if you could figure out how. Or were superwoman. Or man.

 Bon Appetit!

(I can't believe you haven't given up reading this post yet!) I also recently revamped my recipe archives page to be (hopefully) a little cleaner looking, and added an "About Me" section to jive with the personal face I'm trying to add to this blog. This is still the internet and I don't want to divulge too much personal information, but I don't want to be more than some mystery person. So, I'm going to put myself out there a little more - it's the least I can do for you after you've supported me and my little blog that could. Thanks for reading!


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How to Make Healthy Sushi - it's easier than you think!

I used to look at pictures of homemade sushi rolls in awe. It all seemed so unattainable to me; sushi is something you order at a restaurant, something a professional makes for you and presents in a way that surely you could never replicate yourself. The ingredients, too, felt unreachable. I had a hunch that Whole Foods and even some larger Giants might carry nori and wasabi and pickled ginger, and yet they still felt so much less real than the Pepperidge Farm oatmeal bread or Chobani greek yogurt that have become staples on my shopping list.

Then, I found this post about “super healthy” homemade sushi, and suddenly I changed the way I looked at the endeavor. It wasn’t that it automatically sounded like a cinch: I wondered how I would ever be able to make and eat enough to use a full pack of nori without it spoiling; I imagined the rolls completely falling apart, leaving me with a sushi salad of sorts; and I lamented that unless I made it for me, myself, and I, I wouldn’t be able to find people to share it with. Still, I bookmarked the post – I mean, it did give a recipe for sticky quinoa, which just about set my heart aflutter – and moved on, thinking one day I would get around to it.

It didn’t take me too long to realize that my birthday was the perfect excuse to try this recipe out. It’s the one day out of the year that I can really push the boundaries on what I can convince my family to try. I like to encourage them to try new things, and my parents have for the most part been awesome about that, but at the same time I don’t want to overwhelm them with foods and recipes that they feel uncomfortable with or are unlikely to really, really enjoy. So, we agreed that I would make sushi for dinner and we would have the pizza delivery guy on speed dial, just in case it was a total flop.

I took a tofu stir fry recipe from Martha Stewart and adapted it to make a filling for the sushi, adding in shitake mushrooms and adjusting the size of the ingredients to be more suitable for a bite-size roll. I didn’t buy or make any pickled ginger, so I grated some fresh to add to the roll, too. I stuck with the recipe for sticky quinoa from the original post I had found and served the rolls alongside extra soy sauce, wasabi paste, and some steamed edamame pods with salt. My rolling skills could certainly use more practice and I should have divided each roll into 6, not 8, slices for a more traditionally-sized serving, but every single roll stayed intact and the taste was out of this world! I also cooked all of the vegetables which led to a lack of textural differentiation, so below I’ve suggested that you should leave the broccoli raw for a little crunch. You could also add in some radish, carrot, or other crunchy ingredient to help with varying the textures.

Because I was originally so intimidated by homemade sushi, I thought I would try to make this post a little more instructional than usual. I don’t have step by step pictures, but I do have a few taken throughout the process, and I will try to be as helpful as possible in the methods section. If you like sushi or you’re in the mood to try something new in the kitchen, this is the perfect meal to try. It’s easier than you might think, pretty darn healthy, and it’ll be sure to impress your guests!

Tofu & Veggie Sushi
Yield: 4 rolls, 24 pieces

The Ingredients – The Quinoa
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
2 cups water
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

The Ingredients – The Filling
½ package (roughly 7 ounces) firm tofu
3 ounces shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar1
½ tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon corn starch

The Ingredients – The Rolls & Sides
4 nori sheets
1 sushi mat or flexible, wooden placemat2
1 tablespoon grated ginger
¾ cup finely chopped broccoli
wasabi paste, for serving
soy sauce, for serving
1 package frozen edamame pods, steamed and salted

The Method
Start by preparing the sticky quinoa, as it will need time to cool before assembly. Combine the water and soy sauce in a pot and add in the cleaned quinoa. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, roughly 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar and honey in a glass bowl. When the quinoa is done cooking, transfer to the bowl with the honey and vinegar and mix well. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes, keeping it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.

Next, prepare the filling. Drain the tofu by sandwiching it between two paper towels and weighing it down with a heavy object (I used a pie plate and liqueur bottle) for roughly twenty minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade by whisking together the soy sauce, vinegar, red pepper flakes, garlic, and cornstarch; set aside. Julienne the tofu as best you can, keeping the strips relatively thin; the exact size isn’t crucial, but these are going into a sushi roll so you don’t want them t be huge. Add the oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the tofu slices. Cook, turning once, for about 5 minutes, then add in the mushrooms and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Pour the sauce into the pan and toss to coat. When the filling starts to stick to the pan, deglaze with about ¾ cup water. Simmer for another five minutes or so, then set aside to cool completely.

Get ready to make the actual rolls, which should be prepared no more than 3 hours in advance and left at room temperature for best results.3 You can wrap your mat with plastic wrap to make cleanup much easier, though I found that doing so severely limited my ability to roll the sushi, so you may want to consider skipping this step. Fill a bowl with water, which you will use to keep your hands moistened to prevent too much sticking and unruliness. Arrange containers of your fillings and ingredients around your mat so that you have easy access to everything in an assembly line manner.

Place one nori sheet shiny-side down, flush with one edge of the mat. Scoop approximately ¼ of the sticky quinoa onto the sheet, and use wet hands to press it over the sheet. You need much less quinoa than you might imagine, and you want the layer to be very thin, just barely concealing the sheet beneath it. Be sure to leave roughly 1-inch or 1/3 of the sheet opposite the end that is flush with the mat empty. Once the quinoa is on, re-wet your hands and add a thin strip of ginger approximately ½ inch from the end of the nori sheet flush with the mat. Top with roughly 2 tablespoons of the tofu and mushroom mixture, and add in a separate strip of the raw broccoli up against it (leaving the ½-inch strip on the one side free). 

 Prepare to roll your sushi.4 Bring both the mat and the flush edge of the nori sheet up and over the filling, tightly nestling the edge of the nori sheet under where the filling is to seal it. Carefully unravel the mat, leaving the edge of the nori sheet in place. Use your dominant hand to roll the nori sheet tightly as you go on, and use your non-dominant hand to guide the mat up and over the roll as you rotate it. What you are essentially looking to do is create a spiral with the nori sheet, but simply rotate the mat so that in the end the mat is upside down from where it was. When you reach the end that has no quinoa on it, move the mat out of the way and moisten the empty nori sheet with water. Press the moistened end up against the rolled portion to seal it.

Alternatively, you can simply roll the sushi up by hand. Like I said, the plastic wrap made it difficult for my mat to move much against my counter, and I found this method to be easier for me this time around. Start in the same way, using the mat to guide the sheet up and around the filling to get a nice tight start to your roll. Then, instead of trying to fuss with the mat to get it to roll with the sushi, let the mat fall back against the counter and carefully roll the sushi up with your hand, tightening as you go. It’s more likely that the rolls will be of uneven thicknesses when done this way and it’s more challenging to get them as tight as needed, but you can experiment this way and find what works best for you.

Once all of the rolls have been assembled, use a sharp, serrated knife moistened with water to slice each roll in half. Divide each half into thirds in the same manner, re-wetting the knife between each cut. Serve alongside extra soy sauce, wasabi paste5, and salted edamame pods.

And that’s it; you’ve done it! You’ve made your first sushi roll! That wasn’t so hard now, was it? Now that you’ve gotten the hang of it, experiment with different flavors for the fillings, different ingredients, and even different ethnic cuisines. I’ve seen recipes for buffalo tempeh rolls, Mexican-themed rolls, everything! 

1 For a more traditional flavor, use rice wine vinegar; I didn’t have any, so I used a mild white wine vinegar instead. If you’re using a different flavor profile in the filling, consider pairing it with the vinegar you choose – traditional is nice, but not necessary. Have fun with it!
2 I got mine for 10 cents at a yard sale (get this – just 3 days before I was set to make the sushi: how fortuitous! I also snagged a $1 cookbook all about sushi at the same place), so don’t feel like you need to go out and spend tons of money on equipment for this, especially if you don’t plan to make sushi often.
3 I did a lot of research on this, because I really like making things in advance and just having them ready to go. Sushi purists were adamant that sushi had to be made moments before serving, and while this is definitely accurate for producing high-quality sushi, I don’t think it’s as necessary as they’d like you to believe. I had a few extra slices and not only did I keep them, but I refrigerated them which is supposed to do all kinds of detrimental things to sushi, and they tasted fine. They were not as good as the day before, but they were certainly edible. So try to make them as close to serving time as possible, but don’t drive yourself crazy rearranging your schedule if you can’t manage it. Make this process as stress-free as possible.
4 Written descriptions of this process are shoddy at best. It really is the kind of thing you need to see to grasp, so if you’re at all confused by my attempts at describing it, check out youtube for clarifications. I found a lot of really helpful videos simply by typing in “how to roll sushi” to the search bar.
5 I borrowed wasabi powder from L’s mom, which you reconsistute with a little bit of water to make a paste. I would imagine that you can find this in the international section of most larger supermarkets, or at Asian specialty markets if those are more common in your area. If all else fails, I’ve heard that a mixture of horseradish and mustard is an acceptable substitute, though don’t expect to get the same green color as the real thing (unless you add food dye, but I try to avoid food additives and dyes when possible).


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Birthdays, Doughnuts & Sushi, Oh My! (Or, how I ate my way through my birthday, with pictures)

 Earlier this week, I turned the big 2-2. Okay, maybe 22 isn’t one of those “big” milestone birthdays that you make a huge deal about, but it does feel a little strange to be over the 21 hump. I feel like there’s no escaping adulthood now, even moreso than how last year’s big day felt. Because 22 isn’t a very big age to turn and I’m not a huge fan of the egocentricity of birthdays (though the petty child within me is kind of lamenting the departure of that huge pile of gifts all for me, I admit), I chose to celebrate quietly. I didn’t make many plans, and instead just spent the afternoon bumming around the house, watching episodes of Ramsay’s Best Restaurant on Netflix Instant and relaxing. I just did whatever it was I felt like doing in that moment, and it was wonderful.

My Food Diary post last month went over really well, so I thought I would take pictures of everything I ate on my birthday, which tends to be much less nutritionally admirable than my more day to day fare. It’s proof that I’m human, I guess; even I treat myself on occasion, if you can believe it.
 (photo courtesy of Chobani)

I woke up early and had a quick cup of Chobani yogurt to fuel up for an invigorating work out. It was supposed to be non-fat peach, but someone stole it before I could eat it and so I had to settle for low-fat strawberry banana, which was only slightly higher in calories than I’m used to for my morning pre-workout “snack.” (I like to wake up and drink a glass of milk or have a cup of yogurt, then eat a more substantial breakfast later on in the morning. I started the habit when I had to start taking my Vitamin D supplements alongside a source of calcium, and I found it to be such a refreshing way to start the day that it’s become more or less a staple.)

 For breakfast, L took me to Dunkin Donuts for my annual doughnut indulgence. Although Dunkin Donuts changed the oil it fries its products in, there are still hydrogenated oils in many of their offerings (though I recently rechecked their nutrition information and found a surprising number of “safe” options there), which means that I’ve had to give up my love for a good, fried doughnut. So, once a year on my birthday, L takes me and splurges on a doughnut of my choice (though it’s always so difficult to choose and I’m tempted to just go crazy and get several flavors; this year, I stuck to 1 and am very proud that I did). This year I chose a vanilla kreme, which I had never had before. I grew up on classic vanilla frosted with sprinkles, occasionally branching out into jelly-filled or old fashioned, but now that I go so infrequently I like to experiment with something new and different each time. The vanilla kreme in the center was basically birthday frosting, making my breakfast a pseudo mini birthday cake – definitely more of a dessert, so I made sure to savor every bite! The powdered sugar was what really sold the flavor for me; I think the cream in a Boston cream doughnut is far superior to the reminiscent-of-sweetened-shortening cream in the doughnut I got, but I’m very happy with the choice I made.

I thought I might finish off the doughnut with a small fruit salad when I got home, but not all too surprisingly, the doughnut did a fantastic job of filling me up until lunch. I opted for a lighter lunch, but still indulgent in its own way. With all of the carbs I had been eating and was planning to continue eating, the RD2Be in me was tempted to go for a nice, lean and crisp salad. The problem was, I just wasn’t feeling it. So, I took one of my favorite wraps, Cedar’s whole wheat, (only 5g net carbs and totally recognizable ingredients!), spread it with about ½-1T almond butter, and topped with sliced strawberries and a dusting of cinnamon. It was one of the most indulgent flavor combinations I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something, especially for how simple and healthy it was. I had never had the berry-almond butter combo, but I really encourage you to try it. It did a good job of keeping me full until dinner, too, which is a very good thing.

You see, dinner was going to be a gamble. I wanted to make sushi. My family has never eaten sushi before. Ever. It’s just so not their kind of thing, which is ok. I’m glad they tried it but in the end, I don’t fault anyone for deciding that sushi just isn’t for them. So I figured, why not take advantage of it being my birthday, and cook something that they wouldn’t ordinarily eat? I wasn’t going for a raw fish roll, which helped, and we had the pizza delivery number at the ready since I’ve heard such horror stories about people’s first attempts at sushi, but I was still nervous and excited all at once. I read articles, studied youtube videos, and then just went for it…and wow! I don’t want to say too much because I’ll have an entire post about this meal, recipe included, over the next few weeks, but it was so fantastic. I think I smiled throughout the entire meal.

 And then there was dessert.  Still in search of a homemade version of a dense, fudgy seven layer chocolate cake I enjoyed growing up, I made a chocolate cake that happened to be gluten-free, made with cooked quinoa as the sole grain. Like the sushi, I’ll have another post devoted to this recipe so I won’t say too much, aside from that it was surprising in a number of ways, and I believe I am officially one step closer to clinching that perfect chocolate cake recipe. One small step, but a step nonetheless. I also made a white chocolate & blueberry sorbet, which was divine, and would have stolen the show if only the blueberry swirl hadn’t been quite so abundant, creating a texture that was a little too icy in the end.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable culinary day, and a very enjoyable day in general. It really reminded me how important it is to take a day here or there where you don’t have any real plans or obligations, and you just follow your desires and whims, at least to an extent. I book myself silly with responsibilities and tasks, and to take a day where I just did whatever I felt like doing in that moment, even if it was as small and silly as playing a computer game I don’t play very often or watching the beautiful weather out my open, breezy window, was rejuvenating. So whether your birthday is coming up or not, make a day for yourself like this one. Take a step back and just savor the day. I think we could all benefit from doing that a little more often.


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