Blueberry Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Here is the story of the almost best vegan baked good I’ve ever made.

I was putting the ingredients together for this cake (adapted by the Recipe Hall of Fame Dessert Cookbook) and saw that I had the vegan substitutes in my fridge. I pulled out my almond milk and vegan butter sticks and went to work. This was going to be amazing.

It wasn’t until right as I was flipping the cake over that I realized the cake was not at all vegan, it had two eggs! Oops. So here is the recipe for another almost-vegan baked good.

Blueberry Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1 8 oz. can chopped pineapple
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 cup butter (or Smart Balance sticks)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I only had unsalted peanuts, so that’s what I used)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Melt 1/3 cup butter in an iron skillet.
2. Sprinkle the brown sugar and the nuts over the butter.
3. Lay pineapple chunks and blueberries over the sugar mixture.
4. Cream 1/2 cup butter and sugar together.
5. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
6. Add the flour and milk, a little at a time.
7. Add vanilla and baking powder.
8. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
9. Let cake stand for 10 minutes and flip on to serving platter.

The cake was amazing. It doesn’t surprise me with the amount of butter and sugar in it, but we can all splurge sometimes. Maybe next time I’ll try with an egg replacement to make it 100% vegan.

Learning to Love New Foods

A few weeks ago one of my friends asked for me to write a post about liking new foods. I am not a very picky eater at all. Growing up I was always ready (ok, forced) to try new things. I can’t thank my parents enough for forcing us to try different foods when we went on vacation. It was a great idea and something I highly recommend to avoid picky eaters in the future.
For those of you who are not open to eating everything you may be looking for a few ways to get some new flavors into your meals. But first, why do you not like these certain foods?
If you don’t like something is it because…
…you haven’t tried it?
…you tried it and didn’t like it?
…it made you sick?
…you just think it looks gross and looks like it tastes gross to?
If you haven’t tried it, try it! Seriously, what do you have to lose? If it’s a little scary for you, try it with something that you like already, but not one of your favorites. Sometimes if I mix a food with something that I love and it doesn’t turn out so great, it taints my favorite forever. I don’t want you to be adding more foods to your “do not eat” list, I want it to grow! Some simple things to try foods with are sauces: ketchup, ranch dressing, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, sour cream, plain yogurt etc. They have enough flavor that your new food won’t shock your taste buds but are simple enough to let enough flavor come through.
If you tried it, and didn’t like it, give it another shot. Was it too mushy? Was the flavor completely off? I think every food deserves at least two chances. If the food was baked before, try grilling it or (god forbid) frying it. If it doesn’t work the second time around, it is what it is.
If it made you sick, make your peace. For the longest time I couldn’t eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because one made me sick while taking medicine while I had the flu. It was awful. After a little practice, I slowly made peace with peanut butter and jelly because honestly, who wants to live without that? At this point, it’s mostly a mental thing. Is it weird to say to eat that food in a “happy place”? It makes sense to me. It really sucks when food makes us sick, but it’s usually a one time thing (if it’s food poisoning, allergies/intolerances are a different story) and we can go back to those foods.
If you think it looks gross…it might be, but that’s ok. In the office on Friday we bad a bag of melted chocolate toffee to share. Once broken up you can imagine what it might looked like…but it was still amazing. Some foods are just not pretty. Some consistencies suck (and so do their adjectives: mushy, moist, etc.). Polenta isn’t the most beautiful food in the world, and is usually a big yellow slab of mush, but it’s delicious. Throw some veggies and a good sauce on top and you won’t even know it’s down there. Cover up what you think is gross. Make it a sandwich or a wrap or even toss in some pasta or lettuce. The options are endless.
I hope you find these tips a little helpful. I completely understand though that there are some foods out there that are just not for you. For me it was olives, until I literally forced myself to like them and lemon jelly beans.
Challenge me! Tell me a food that you absolutely hate and see if I can come up with a solution. I need the practice! I have a success story to share with you on Monday!

Confessions to my Readers

I haven’t exactly posted much about what is going on in my head as far as the blog’s future goes, but I thought of a creative way to reveal these ideas to you. My life is changing and I want the blog to reflect the amount of excitement that’s going on in my life. I don’t have too much going on in my regular life right now (until things get crazy) so that’s why you’re seeing these kind of posts. There are some things I share with you and some things I don’t on the blog. I hope this posts helps us get to know each other a little better and keep your attention until school starts.
I’m just going to jump right in and reveal my little confessions to you:
  • My day to day life is not all that exciting. I don’t really think that blogging about my breakfast, lunch and dinner is all that entertaining. Now there are some blogs out there that I read every day that do just that. It’s not wrong, but I think my life is kind of regular most of the time. I eat a lot of Larabars and eggs. If I have a massive waffle with strawberries, bananas, whipped cream and nutella, I promise…I’ll show you.
  • I spend way too much money on froyo. I preach to you guys a lot about spending and saving money, and although I only go once a week, it still adds up. I should stop. Although I do make a rule for myself, if I spend over a certain amount, I’m not allowed to go back for a week.
  • I eat Pringles. MJW loves them and I always steel some when I put them on his plate.
  • I also eat Nutella right out of the jar. Don’t tell me you don’t. I know that you do.
  • Blogging about who to invite and picking our bridal party is therapeutic, unnecessary and completely stressful. I’m still on the fence.
  • I don’t like oats in a jar. I tried, but it’s not working for me. Sorryyy.
  • I want to blog about most details of the wedding but I will not talk about our budget. I will tell you how we are going to do everything we can to save money though.
  • I love sugar. I crave something sweet after every meal and usually it’s ice cream. I probably have a bowl every night. I don’t blog about it, but it’s 100% ok.
    • I’m slightly nervous as to what culinary school is going to do to my weight. We eat a four course meal every day. I have some ideas on how I’m going to deal with this (like not eat the whole thing) but I’m still a little nervous.
    • A few bloggers wrote whole posts on this topic, but I’ll just say it – MJW and I are far from perfect. He rocks and our marriage is going rock, but he makes me slightly bonkers sometimes. We have our issues and just because I don’t blog about them, doesn’t mean they aren’t shaping our relationship and making us stronger.
    • I love to lay in the sun. I use sunscreen, but let’s get real, this girl looks way better with a little color and sun-kissed locks. Although I’m going to work my butt off this summer, there will be some pool time.
    • And the biggest one at all…I’m going to start eating meat again. More on that tomorrow.
    Phew, that feels better.

Tips for Vegetarian-Friendly Dining

Is it just me or are most restaurants lacking vegetarian-friendly options?
I know that I am pretty late and probably not even “qualified” to make such a plea, but this is for the lifetime vegetarians, experimenting vegans and debating flexitarians…please restaurants, have some more vegetarian options.
Since making the decision to not eat meat in January, I’ve been out to eat plenty of times. Some restaurants were very catering to vegans/vegetarians (Ohana Cafe) and some weren’t. While eating out last month, I was given a menu that was enormous in size and had over one hundred things to choose from. How many dishes were deemed “vegetarian”? Just one.
Now, the menu did have mozzarella sticks, nachos and french bread, but that doesn’t really constitute a meal to me. The vegetarian dish was a sub and it looked pretty similar to Subway’s Veggie Delight sub. I was looking for a real meal, something with a little substance. I browsed through the sandwich list and found an Italian style sub with meats, cheese and homemade tomato sauce. When I ordered, I asked if I could substitute the meat for mushrooms and got a response with a “are you sure?” kind of attitude. “No meat at all?” Nope, I replied, just the mushrooms please.
I got the sub and it was very tasty and the waitress checked in a few times to make sure they got it right. It was obvious that they didn’t get vegetarian requests often.
In my eyes, it doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but then again, I haven’t worked in the food industry…yet. So if anyone out there ever gets their hands on creating a menu for a restaurant before I do, keep these things in mind:
  • Offering vegetarian options brings a healthy element to your menu. Marketing gold right there. Healthy living is huge right now.
  • Some people want to experiment with vegetarian dishes and aren’t really able to in their own kitchens. They might look to you to offer them something new that they might not buy for their own kitchen.
  • Substitutions are just as important. List veg-friendly substitutions for sandwiches, pasta dishes, etc.
  • People might be to cook tofu or other meat substitutes at home, but will give it a shot in a restaurant. It’s fairly inexpensive and super easy to offer as another protein source in your menu.
  • It’s all about the sides. Often times at restaurants if there aren’t a lot of vegetarian meals, I’ll just order a handful of sides. When I do this I’m looking for more than just mashed potatoes, french fries and macaroni and cheese. Keep fresh, seasonal veggies on hand or other healthy sides like sweet potatoes, brown rice or whole wheat pasta. I think vegetarians can get really creative and make an awesome meal out of side dishes.
What do you wish restaurants would do to be more vegetarian-friendly?

Another Pupdate

I hope that everyone is staying safe and sound while it seems like this entire side of the country is under a tornado warning.

I’m pretty much banking on the fact that our power is going to go out. It goes out on beautiful sunny days. We don’t stand a chance during a tornado watch.
Before I get to another beloved puppy-post, I’ll share with you my post-workout dinner. Tonight I did 20 minutes on the eliptical and a leg workout for 40 minutes. It was great! Until the thunder came and I jetted back upstairs…
Dinner was an egg and avocado pita with left over Barilla Summer Tortellini Salad. It’s all gone, so I hope I make it to the next round so I can make some more! Sorry for the blurry pic…
Reddick has been ridiculously good lately, so I thought he deserved another update on the blog, another Pupdate, as I like to call them. (I will call him a puppy until he’s an old man, just a heads up.)
Speaking of age, it’s safe to say that Reddick is one year old! I can’t believe it.
He’s been coming to work with me a lot lately, and sometimes we are blessed with moments like these.
Reddick and Chaka aren’t exactly best pals, but we’re making progress. I don’t blame Chaka for not wanting his crazy, hyper puppy self running all over the office. She’s a good mentor, whether she knows it or not. If only she would teach him how to not storm the UPS man every time he walks into the door. I swear him and Reddick have this crazy bond going on (or it could just be the biscuits he stores in his pockets).
In order to keep things sane, Reddick and I gate ourselves in my office. He tries his best to sneak out. Today he learned he can literally run through the gate. I hope he forgets by tomorrow.
Eventually, he does wear out. He is still the best cuddler around.
He’s loving the dog park and making new friends. He could play fetch for hours.
He also loves making a mess of my car.
What I am loving lately is his perma-grin. He’s always smiling! Well, he’s really just hot and adapting to this heat, but I like to think that he’s smiling.
I still can’t get enough of him doing this…
The chair is absolutely destroyed (from him jumping on and off) and full of dog hair – but who cares? He looks so darn cute up there.
Have a good night everyone!

Tips on staying healthy during vacation

I don’t know about you, but the weeks (and maybe even months) leading up to a warm vacation are packed full with planning. I plan what I am going to pack, how I am going to travel and I also plan on getting into tip top shape. I try to watch what I eat more carefully and sneak a workout in whenever I can. Who doesn’t want to look fantastic while they’re sitting by the pool? And let’s be real, not all of us jump to the opportunity to workout while we are on vacation, right?
We also don’t want to come back unmotivated and, let’s just say, slightly unhealthier than when we left. It’s pretty normal for us to splurge on vacation and gain a very extra pounds, pack on the water weight, loss a little bit of the muscle mass we worked so hard for and, of course, come home with a sunburn. There are a few little things that you can do, if you’re willing to, to stay healthy while on vacation without going crazy. I’m all about a relaxing, carefree trip, so these tips are pretty minimal, but effective.

But by all means, drink that margarita! You deserve it!

When you’re at the beach…

Where at least a 30SPF on your first day. I know you want to get a golden tan, and it’s totally allowed, but don’t start off with the tanning oil. Let your skin adjust to the sunshine slowly. Don’t forget to re-apply.

Play in the sand. Sand is an amazing natural exfoliator. Go ahead and build a sand castle, get you’re hands dirty and rub a little on your legs and arms.

Go for a walk. Better yet, join the volleyball game that’s going on. Not only is it a fun physical activity, but it gets your body up and moving so you don’t end up with a splotchy tan. Nobody wants that.

Bring snacks and water. It’s really important to stay fueled and hydrated while you are outside for prolonged periods of time. My favorite beach snacks are bars, cut up fruit and crackers.

Go to the bar. Get out of the sun for a little bit and treat yourself to an early happy hour beverage. It’s allowed. (At least according to Megan and I it is.)

When you’re out to dinner…

If you’re so inclined, ask the waiter/bartender if they have a “skinny” version of your favorite tropical drink. Most bars can make a skinny margarita and they don’t taste awful.

Splurge on the lobster but ask for a side of veggies. Remember to keep your meals balanced. If you go from eating really healthy to eating crap, you’re body is not going to like you very much. I wish I could tell you to avoid the butter, but it’s just so delicious. I don’t blame you if you dunk every piece of lobster into that little tub of joy.

Order big salads. I love going south and getting fresh vegetables and fruit. I think a big colorful salad is one of the most refreshing meals out there. Ask for your dressing on the side and dip your fork into it before each bite. You’ll be amazed at how little dressing you need for that extra flavor. Plus eating a salad for dinner justifies the next tip.

Order dessert. It’s ok. I ordered dessert every night so I can’t really preach about not ordering dessert. I do know that I stayed away from sweets during the day so that I could splurge on desserts. I also followed every meal with a big glass of water before bed to start the digestion process. If you are nervous about the desserts, there are always alternatives. For example, try a new frozen yogurt place or snack on some local fruits.

Alternate drinks with water. If you are planning on having more than one daiquiri, glass of wine, tequila shot or whatever your favorite drink is order a glass of water to have on the side. Nobody wants to be hungover at the beach the next morning.

You should also…

Eat breakfast. Don’t break this routine just because you’re on vacation. I was lucky enough to have a kitchen and a large fridge to keep some things handy. Even if it’s just something small, like a bowl of cereal, it’s still going to jump start your day and prevent you from getting hungry while you’re at the beach and ordering that hot dog and fries.

Try a new gym. I didn’t work out a ton, but I did enjoy going to a different workout atmosphere. I like running in new neighborhoods (not without my phone though in case I get lost) and trying different machines in new gyms.

Bring food to the airport. Do you really want to spend three dollars on a Luna Bar? Do they even have Luna Bars at airports? You can always do what Caitlin did this morning, too.

Motivate others. I’m the health freak in my family. Everyone knows that I can be a little crazy with my ideas on food and working out. If you’re vacation company is willing to listen, spill to beans on how awesome it feels to work out and eat right. Take them with you to the gym. Have them try tofu at a restaurant. When I was little I was required to try at least three different foods while on vacation. Challenge your friends and family to do the same. I also took the opportunity to have Reid help me cook in the kitchen. I think learning how to work with food at an early age is very important.

Walk wherever you can. Walk to the beach, walk to dinner, walk to the pool, walk the outlets. It’s great for your butt, wallet and is the safest mode of transportation after having a few cocktails. Just don’t get lost.

Freeze water bottles. Best idea ever. Thanks Mom and Bambi! Every night, refill them and freeze them. If you were to use tap water or even water from the Britta, I promise you it will be warm in about 10 minutes outside. Not refreshing at all.

What do you do on vacation to stay healthy?

Now please bring me if you’re planning on a vacation soon. I’m ready…already.

Hello Sunshine

I am loving Florida.
The past few days have been spent by the pool and soaking up some rays that we’ve missed over the winter. Yesterday, Reid and I went solo while our moms golfed. We made dinner, too, but trying to teach a five year old how to cook and take pictures is pretty hard, so there are no pictures of the food, sorry! Today was another day by the pool and then we went to a little steakhouse down the street.
I plan on writing a few more “in depth” posts about my trip later on. But right now, while I’m actually on my vacation, I’m going to keep them pretty short and full of fun pictures.
 It’s a little bright out there! But nothing a good cap and sunscreen can’t fix.
Adorable shot of Bambi and Reid.
Reid being entertained.
At Cafe Tu Tu Tango! (a review post coming soon…)
Cutie. Pie.
 Check out those swimmies!
Reid made some friends.
She forgot her sunglasses, so these should work, too right?
and a veggie Quesadilla to balance it all off…
I think it’s suppose to rain on Tuesday so maybe I’ll squeeze in a few substantial posts. For now, I’m off to relax (some more) with the girls. We’ve got a busy day ahead of us tomorrow at the beach!

Starting my vacation early

Sunday morning I decided to continue my weekend down in DC and met up with Megan for some sightseeing. She was flying back down to Florida later in the day, so we had the whole morning to keep the DC-craziness going. I, again, hopped on the metro and planned on meeting her at the Smithsonian stop to go visit the Holocaust Museum. After finding out that the line was a little long, and I went the wrong way on the Blue Line, we decided to go and get brunch instead. Food solves everything.
We went up to Dupont Circle to meet her friend Keri. Keri suggested that we go to The Front Page and check out their brunch buffet. This was an amazing idea. The brunch was $21, which is more than what I would normally spend on a breakfast or lunch, but this was well worth it.
The brunch was stacked with a waffle bar, hot foods, fruit, amazing breads, salads and even penne pasta.
This was by far the best buffet decision – waffle with fresh fruit, syrup, homemade whipped cream and nutella.
The rest of the buffet was pretty amazing, too.
After we ate we decided to check out the Dupont Farmers Market. This is one of my favorite markets, but it wasn’t quite full yet. I can’t wait to get back down here in the summer when it’s full of people, music and good food!
Megan and I headed back down to the Holocaust Museum to sneak a visit in before she had to catch her flight. I have been a few times to this museum and I feel like I learn something new every time. I like going to museums over a span of visits so you don’t feel that you have to squeeze it all in at once.
Megan and I parted ways and she headed back to Florida. Thank goodness I’m right behind her! I need to get out of this cold weather. This weekend seemed like a little bit of a vacation because I was barely home,  out a ton and was all over DC. I’m ready for my real vacation though…come Thursday I’ll be in Florida and out of this cold.
This is my last post about this past weekend. There was so much that I wanted to share with you all, so thank you for being patient through all of the posts. Now it’s time for a mini work week and then I’ll be packing my bags for my own legit vacation. See you in Florida!

Baked Caprese Pie

Over the holidays I adapted Emily’s tomato pie and everyone fell in love. I loved her idea of using rice for a crust and filling the pie with cheese and tomatoes. Honestly, what is better than cheese and tomatoes? The first pie was such a hit, that my dad requested I make it again before I headed back to D.C. It was a great excuse to use the new rice cooker I bought him for Christmas! Since then, I’ve adapted my own version of the tomato pie and I tried it out this past weekend during our girls night. Be sure to check out  Emily’s recipe and try mine, better yet, make your own alternations to create your own tomato pie. The possibilities are endless!
Baked Caprese Pie 
2 cups prepared quinoa, cooled
2-3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
chopped basil and/or pesto
1/2 Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 large tomatoes, sliced and dried out
2 balls of mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup spinach leaves
olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, parsley, cheese and eggs. Spread like a pie crust in a pie pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
3. Once the crust is done, start layering the tomatoes, cheese, spinach and then sprinkle with the basil/pesto. Repeat layers until you’ve used all the slices and spinach. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and pepper (if you desire) and baked for another 20-25 minutes.
It’s SO easy, and so delicious. There are a ton of different things you could do with this recipe like adding eggs to the pie, onions, black beans, etc.
Let me know if you try it! I’d love to know how it turns out.

Beauty and the Meat (Eater)

Here is a really easy recipe that I made Sunday night for dinner. When Megan and I went to dinner at Coal Fire last week I ordered the roasted veggies with penne and a balsamic sauce. It was delicious! Not only was it delicious to eat that night, but the leftovers were amazing (and I am usually not a huge fan of leftovers). I wanted to recreate this dish and make it as MJW-friendly as possible. I want to start a series of recipes that please both meat-eaters and vegetarians. It hasn’t been too difficult to please both of our pallets, but I definitely think the recipes could get a little more creative. Plus, we hit a huge milestone – MJW cleaned his plate and ate all of the vegetables. I cannot even remember a meal in the past where this has happened. I felt so accomplished!
Roasted Veggie Pasta with Balsamic Sauce
1 box penne pasta
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
10-15 roma cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
olive oil
Italian seasoning
1 carton of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons margarine (I used Smart Balance)
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2-4 Italian sausages
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Scatter the carrots, celery and tomatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle desired amount of seasoning. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
3. With about ten minutes left of roasting, add the sausages to the side of the pan to cook.
4. Boil water in a sauce pan and cook the pasta.
5. Preheat a large frying pan on medium heat.
6. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them sit and cool on the cookie sheet.
7. Put the walnuts in the frying pan and toast them gently for about 2 minutes.
8. Add the vegetables, mushrooms, white wine, garlic and butter. Mix everything around so all the veggies are coated. Cover and let cook while you drain the pasta.
9. Add the pasta first and then the parsley and balsamic vinegar. Toss the pasta until it’s coated with the balsamic and then serve. Don’t forget to add the sausages to the meat eater’s plate!