A Hopping-Good Easter Cake & 50-days Coffee-Free

Pardon the title, seems I’ve gotten really punny in English lately, I’m not sure what that’s all about.  Probably because since I’m not currently teaching*, the only English language use I seem to be getting is little blurbs on Twitter and of course chatting up my now 6 year-old (Gasp!).

Though I’m not Catholic, every year I give something up for Lent in memory of my dear, sweet Grams.  This year I decided to give up baking (as I have the past few years), but also, coffee.  Though my consumption habits have waned considerably in the past few years, I was still drinking a very strong “café italien” every morning, and often one after lunch.  I thought it was the time to give that up for a little while, since I was finding myself needing the coffee, rather than enjoying it.

Before my Lenten baking-fast, however, I did give this cake a trial-run :

The cake, my go-to carrot cake recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes, was gussied up with some almond paste and a little creativity.

the only radishes my family will eat…

give peas a chance!

Happy bunnies love cabbages…

I suppose you could do the same thing with fondant, but since my local grocery store has all natural almond paste in green, pink  and white, and they are natural colours, I opted for that.  I’d seen the idea for the sculpted veggies in Marie Clare Idées, I think the February issue, but I don’t remember.

This cute cake was supposed to be my last baked treat for 50 days, but I went and volunteered to bake treats for Guppy’s school bake sale.  They asked for cookies,  and of course because as the only person around who has actually eaten an authentic chocolate chip cookie I was urged to make chocolate chippers. Figures.

They turned out a little less-than-authentic because while not paying attention to what I was purchasing I bought a bag of chocolate chips mixed with shredded coconut – and I wasn’t about to go back to the store for plain chips.  They were extra delicious (made from Isa’s perfect recipe in VCIYCJ) and no one complained, and they were bought up in no time at all.  And yes, I did eat one. Or four.

Giving up coffee was awful, as most anyone who has ever detoxed from the stuff will tell you.  The first two days were actually ok, with me just feeling a little too smug about how easy it was.  Then, the headaches started, or rather, the headache started.  It lasted for about 8 days straight, and nothing really seemed to help ease the pain.  I was also a little bit (very) cranky on days 3 and 4, weepy-cranky actually, but then it was over.  I allowed myself all the tea I wanted, but psychologically it’s not the same deal at all.

The positives of this coffee-free existence were really surprising to me, mostly because I didn’t think that I was drinking enough for there to be a negative impact on my life.

1) More Energy : I found myself full of energy, more than usual.  There was no early-afternoon “I want a nap” feeling which really surprised me, and I actually found that I needed less sleep at night – about 30 minutes less.

2) Faster Recovery & Lower RHR : From a runner’s point of view, I’d always seen coffee as my friend, a silent partner in my training.  I’ve read a fair amount of literature on the matter and felt pretty good about my relationship with coffee, especially my pre-morning run cup.  Turns out, coffee wasn’t such a great friend after all (words I never though I’d type dear readers).  I didn’t make the connection initially, but my RHR (resting heart rate) seemed to be dropping though my training was increasing.  I initially and oh-so-modestly chalked that up to my being in rocking shape.  Then, I noticed that my training HRs were also slightly lower, and began paying even more attention.  It wasn’t until bringing coffee back into my life that I noticed my RHR sneaking up by about 8 bpm.

3) Better Concentration : After the detox stage, I found I was better able to concentrate on any/all things throughout the day.  The mental clarity that accompanied my coffee-free life was a real surprise, especially because I thought coffee actually helped improve concentration.

The negatives of giving up “Joe” were mostly social – everyone seems to get edgy call and even feel judged when faced with questioning their own habits.  The reactions of other people – friends and family members – reminded me of those I see when there are discussions of veganism in the air.  For most folks it’s not big deal, they just shrug their shoulders and move on to the next thing, but for others, there was a bit of defensiveness and disapproval and comments like “well, you can’t give everything up” start flying…

Yes, I did bring coffee back into my life, though I admit it was rather anti-climatic.  I had misty-eyed memories of cafination, the aroma, the “glow” if you will, of my morning cup, but in reality I found myself with an extremely elevated HR and feeling jittery.  I was also frustrated by the return of the afternoon sleepies and mental dullness that seem to accompany them in the early afternoon.  I’m drinking less, and though I do still love coffee, I think I’m much more careful about just how much I consume per day.

Have you ever given up coffee?

*That being said, I am looking for some part-time work kids, so if you need any translation, editorial writing or French/English lessons, do let me know, please?

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Carrot, Sweet Potato & Coconut Casserole (with Almost Fat-Free option)

This casserole was one of my post-long run inventions a few years ago when I found myself with no plan and random vegetables in my pantry.  Lucky me it turned out to be a hit with both Guppy and Monsieur F,  and, it’s great recovery food to boot.   Protein from the garbanzos, carbs from the starchy veggies and al small bit of fat from the low-fat coconut milk makes this a wonderful post-run meal.  Sometimes I serve as is, others accompanied with some quinoa or rice.

There is about an hour of cooking time, but the initial preparation is minimal and there is so much you can do during that hour (besides shower and stretch).  Catch up on some blogs, email your mother or even do the dishes!  You’ll need to give it a stir once or twice, so don’t take a nap, or if you do, be sure to assign someone to stirring duty.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get an aesthetic photo of this today.  Yesterday’s photo is much, much better.  Just believe me.  It’s delish.

Carrot, Sweet Potato & Coconut Casserole

530 grams/18.5 ounces cooked garbanzo beans (rinsed if from a can)

1 red onion, diced

2 to 4 cloves garlic, diced

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 medium parsnip, chopped

1 medium yukon gold-type potato, chopped

1 medium sweet potato, chopped

a large handful of frozen peas, rinsed

400 ml/1 1/2 cups light coconut milk*

200 ml/3/4 cups soy milk*

curry paste to taste

1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)

salt & pepper

Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

First a note one the coconut milk : if you want to make this casserole virtually fat-free, go with a non-fat or low-fat coconut milk if you have that in your area.  Another possibility is to use only low-fat soy milk.  The results are still delicious, though we would technically have to change the name. If you do opt to skip the coconut milk entirely, just a few bouillon granules or half a bouillon cube to give your casserole a little zip.

Combine all the ingredients except the peas in a deep casserole dish.  Cover and bake at 190°c/375°f for about 30 minutes, then take it out and give it a stir.  Bake for another 15 minutes, then add the peas and stir again.  Bake for another 10 minutes or so, then serve garnished with fresh chopped cilantro or parsley.

Now that your belly is full of yummy food, go visit sweet Kelly and check out her amazing give-away! I’m crossing my fingers and toes for this one, but really, I can’t keep the hoping to myself – go leave a comment!  You might win!

Sweet Freedom Saturday : Carrot Snack Cake & A Big Weekend!

Before I get into the Sweet Freedom Goodness, I would like to say thank you to more groovy 60-Day Project participants! Mille Mercis to Bianca of Vegan Crunk, Krys of Two Vegan Boys, Bex of How To Feed A Vegan and Basht of And So She Fell To Earth for the thoughtful gifts you sent to Mamafish! We’ve about reached the end of the project, and I can’t thank you participants enough. There may be one or two gifts still floating around out there, and if I forgot someone, please email me so that I may properly flog myself. I am frantically working on goodies for everyone, so please be patient – I haven’t forgotten you, just trying to get everything made.

Now for the real reason you’re here : Carrot Snack Cake! I like to try to make Guppy’s quatre heures (afternoon snack) on Friday a little special. In part to highlight the weekend, and also because Friday is the day I actually have time to make her an after-school treat!

Carrot Snack Cake (Vegan)

Knowing that there will be birthday cake (or fruit tart, not sure yet) for Monsieur Fish this evening (Joyeux Anniversaire Mon Amour), and goodies for La Fête des Mères (Mother’s Day) on Sunday, I wanted to keep it reasonable, yet delicious. Reasonably delicious? How about Deliciously reasonable.

I wish I could say I was reasonable, but I wasn’t, and I think I ate an unreasonable amount of this delicious snack cake. I’m also thrilled to report that Guppy loved it. Sadly, my daughter seems to shun any dessert or snack-food that is remotely healthy. This child will not eat raw desserts or cookies because she says they taste blek, which is confusing because she lives on raw fruit…anyway, she gobbled down two slices almost as fast as I did.

Carrot Snack Cake (Vegan)

Have you made anything yummy from Sweet Freedom this week ? Celine’s got a great review of Sweet Freedom up on her blog if you’d like to check it out. and Diann has some Maple Walnut Cookies to make your mouth water. Stay tuned next Saturday for another installment of “Sweet Freedom Saturdays”.