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Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

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Carrot Cake SliceObviously, I have not kept up with my blog since Hadley has come along.  I really enjoy it, but with Craig doing his med school rotations and trying to get everything together for his residency applications, he is staying quite busy.  Of course Craig is amazing and spends just about every moment he can with us, but med school is still med school.  I am still trying to work from home while I take care of Hadley, so that obviously does not leave a lot of spare time for blogging, hence my hiatus.

However, with the deliciousness of this cake, I have decided to force the time it takes to post this recipe.  It was that good.  Who knows, maybe I will get inspired from this post and start keeping up with this again. 🙂

Craig and I love having family and friends visit, and we have been truly blessed by many visits between living in Charleston and having the sweetest baby in the world.  Still, we decided we wanted Easter this year to be just us.  I was so excited for the family fun we would be having, until Hadley came down with a terrible cold that Friday, and the poor girl felt pretty cruddy all weekend.  Our weekend ended up being a Castle dvd marathon while we cleaned the condo and traded off holding our sweet, sick girl.  A bit of a bummer.

Despite this all, that Sunday was going to be Resurrection Sunday and Hadley’s first Easter; we were going to celebrate.  So, with my lowered revamped expectations of how our weekend would be, I was still determined of two things: 1. We would get a family picture. 2. I would make an Easter dinner and dessert.

With Hadley having a cold Plus the annoyance of such a windy day, there was no way were going to get a picture without a paci in Hadley's mouth.  That girl was such a trooper!

With Hadley having a cold plus the annoyance of such a windy day, there was no way were going to get a picture without a paci in Hadley’s mouth. That girl was such a trooper!

I really don’t remember what all was included in dinner (besides the ham that I made for the very first time), because the whole weekend was such a chaotic blur.  BUT, I do remember the dessert very well. Yum, yum!  I have always loved carrot cake, especially the cream cheese frosting, but I had put off making one since Craig and I got married, because I wasn’t sure how a dairy free cake would compare to the real thing, plus Craig didn’t remember what he thought of carrot cake when he is a kid.  There are few thing more frustrating in the realm of dairy free cooking/baking that taking the time to make something dairy free from scratch only to find out at the end that Craig would have really preferred a from-the-box pan of brownies.  But this was our first Easter Sunday with Hadley, and even though she obviously wouldn’t be having the carrot cake, something about it being her first Easter made me feel extra domestic and Southern Living-esque (same reason I made a ham that weekend for the very first time).

I am so glad I took the risk on this.  Craig loved the cake and the variety it added to his dairy free dessert options.  I was surprised at how easy it was to make dairy free.  And most of all, I was totally surprised at how non-dairy free it tasted, which is always the true sign of success in my world of dairy free cooking and baking.

This recipe is somewhat based off a recipe I found on allrecipes.com, but I made a good number of changes based on reviews and personal preference.

Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 8oz can crushed pineapple (juice mostly drained from it)
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • I chopped these up itty bitty, because I wanted the flavor and just a tab of texture, but Craig isn’t a big fan of the intense texture that large nut pieces add to my baking.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • I used Earth Balance Vegan Butter Sticks, but Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine is another great dairy free option for baking.
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
    • I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese Imitation Cream Cheese.
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’/powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • Again, I chopped these up tiny.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9in round pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, pineapple, brown and white sugar, and vanilla extract. Separately, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredient mixture.  Stir in carrots.  Fold in chopped pecans.
  3. Pour into prepared pans.  Bake in preheated oven 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for ten minutes, and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract.  Stir in chopped pecans.  Stack the two cake layers with a coat of frosting in between, and then finish frosting the cake completely.

Carrot Cake

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Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

Craig and I both love chocolate, but every now and then, I really like a dessert with fruit in it.  Craig isn’t exactly opposed to this.  He will eat and enjoy fruit desserts, but that is only if there isn’t chocolate something to be had elsewhere in our kitchen.  His sweet tooth just prefers chocolate, and if I make a peach pie when we have chocolate cake out on the counter, Craig will eat the cake and leave the pie to me.  It wouldn’t be as big of a problem if I had Craig’s metabolism, but I don’t, so it is.  I try to either time my fruit dessert recipes for when we have company in town to help me eat it or for when we are fresh out of anything chocolate.

Thankfully, this wasn’t as big of a problem with this fruit dessert, because it’s that good.  I mean, what could possible be better than just a regular apple crisp (which I LOVE)?  Adding a cookie-type component to it!  And then you have Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler!  Yum!

It took some time for Craig and me to come off of our holiday sugar high this year, but when we finally did, I knew I was ready to try something new.  I thought a fruit dessert would be good since it *feels* healthier than other desserts, and I was trying to block out any memory of the chocolate fest that was our Christmas vacation.  I came across this recipe, and I had to try it.  It looked so good, and the end result certainly did not disappoint.  The original recipe is from baked by rachel, and the cobbler ends up being kind of like apple crisp, but with the crisp topping replaced by snickerdoodle cookies.

Ingredients

Cookie Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (despite the name, this does not have dairy in it)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Apple Ingredients

  • 8 cups apples (roughly 6-8 apples, depending on size), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine cream of tartar, salt, baking powder, and flour. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the egg to the butter mixture, and then add the dry ingredient mixture.  Mix until the dry ingredients are blended into the dough well.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Add the apple slices to this mixture and toss to coat.  Transfer the apples to an 8×8 baking dish.

Form the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place the coated balls on top on the apples, pressing down lightly to slightly flatten.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until apples are tender and cookie topping is lightly golden.

Serve with whipped topping, ice cream, or plain.  Enjoy!

Baking Apple Snickerdoodle CobblerApple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

A Broken Computer and Our Holiday Fun

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I’m coming back to the blogging scene with the new year!

In November, my computer broke.  I wouldn’t say it completely crashed because I could (usually) turn it on, but it had a million different things wrong with it.  Whatever you would call it, my computer was definitely not usable.  In fact, I wanted it to crash, because then I could just get over it and head to the store to get a new one.  But no, my computer’s death was long and agonizing, and the Apple people were determined to see if they could make it usable for me instead of just letting me get a new one (I had a stellar warranty on the computer).  So I had to play a game of waiting around without a computer.  That’s a big problem for someone who’s entire job revolves around a computer.

Craig and I spent a few weeks trading off with his computer.  I would use it for work during the day while he was at class, and he would use it at night for whatever med-school-related activities he needed to use it for.  So for me, that took updating this blog I have come to enjoy out of the picture.  By the time the folks over at Apple decided that fixing my computer was going to cost them more than giving me a new computer (yes, there were that many different things wrong with my computer), we were in full swing holiday season mode, and there was no turning back.

So, now, here I am, back in Charleston after a whirlwind of holiday travels.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Craig and I headed to Greenville to visit his cousins and for Craig to give a talk at Furman.  Apparently they wanted him to talk about medical school to the Health Sciences Department as a part of their monthly career nights to show students different options within that major.  I know, you ALL are wondering why they didn’t ask me to talk about the coffee cup printing industry as a career option for Health Science majors.  To this day, I still do not know. 😉

We then headed on up to Rock Hill where we spent a couple days with Craig’s dad, stepmom, and their kennel’s worth of animals (three dogs and two cats) before heading over to spend a couple days with Craig’s mom and her new dog.  It was a wonderful trip (besides the frustration on not having a computer) that got to end with watching South Carolina beat Clemson during their rivalry weekend game.  So awesome!

Then began the Christmas chaos of holiday shopping while Craig studied for his last exam of the term.  To be honest, I was definitely feeling overwhelmed at this point.  Besides feeling like I was in charge of all the shopping and needing to come up with a presentation for the McKinney family Christmas, I was also dealing with some health issues in my family and trying to hold it all together.  Thank goodness we serve our wonderful God who can actually hold it all together when we can’t, because I could not handle it myself.

FINALLY, Craig finished his exam and we were free to enjoy our break!  We traveled a ton over the break: to Rock Hill, to Greenville, back to Rock Hill, to Georgia, to North Carolina, back to Georgia, and back to Charleston.  I think that even more than the driving, the constant packing and unpacking is the most exhausting part.  Of course, I shouldn’t complain, because Craig did most of the packing and unpacking.  In fact, I was feeling super appreciative after the first time he loaded our car, but then he called his dad to say they needed to clear out a closet for all my stuff.  After that comment, I just called it even.  🙂

Here are “a few” snapshots from our crazy holiday season.  Craig and I got a new “grown-up” camera for Christmas, so I’m a little picture happy right now…

Despite spending most of this holiday season traveling, I was determined to still put up my Christmas decorations.  These are just a few.

Despite spending most of this holiday season traveling, I was determined to still put up my Christmas decorations. These are just a few.

We built gingerbread houses with our friends from church, Claire and Jordan.  They built a super legit barn house with an outhouse and everything.  We built a barely-stable house that we had to piece broken graham crackers together in order to make.  It was still a lot of fun, though!  :-)

We built gingerbread houses with our friends from church, Claire and Jordan. They built a super legit barn house with an outhouse and everything. We built a barely-stable house that we had to piece broken graham crackers together in order to make. However, our house turned out better than we expected (meaning it didn’t end up falling), and we had a lot of fun!

I finished wrapping our presents with eight or so hours of enjoyment time to spare before we had to pack them all up to head out of town.

I finished wrapping our presents with eight or so hours of enjoyment time to spare before we had to pack them all up to head out of town.

We always love spending time with Craig's immediate and extended family in Rock Hill and Greenville.  His cousins, aunts, and uncles crack me up, plus we got to spend a day and a half with Craig's brother, Will, which is the first time we had seen him since our wedding.  Will and his wife, Elizabeth, are both residents at UVA, so they are quite busy.  We only saw Elizabeth for about twenty minutes before she had to catch a slight back to Charlottesville for her 30hr Christmas Eve shift, so we unfortunately didn't get a picture.

We always love spending time with Craig’s immediate and extended family in Rock Hill and Greenville. His cousins, aunts, and uncles crack me up, plus we got to spend a day and a half with Craig’s brother, Will, which is the first time we had seen him since our wedding. Will and his wife, Elizabeth, are both residents at UVA, so they are quite busy becoming awesome doctors. We only saw Elizabeth for about twenty minutes before she had to catch a flight back to Charlottesville for her 30hr Christmas Eve shift, so we unfortunately didn’t get a picture.

After going to the Christmas Eve service in Rock Hill with Craig's mom and brother, we packed our stuff up to head out early in the morning for Georgia.  My brothers were still sleeping when we got there, so we ran upstairs to wake them up and all see what Santa brought us.  As you can probably tell, they are still waking up in these pictures...

After going to the Christmas Eve service in Rock Hill with Craig’s mom and brother, we packed our stuff up to head out early in the morning for Georgia. My brothers were still sleeping when we got there, so we ran upstairs to wake them up and all see what Santa brought us. As you can probably tell, they are still waking up in these pictures…

While Christmas morning was wonderful, Christmas did not feel complete until my brother's girlfriend and her daughter came over that evening.  We also got to see my dad's parents that evening.  What a wonderful end to a wonderful day!

While Christmas morning was wonderful, Christmas did not feel complete until my brother’s girlfriend and her daughter came over that evening. We also got to see my dad’s parents that evening. What a wonderful end to a wonderful day!

Then my family packed all of our stuff up to head to the North Carolina mountains for a few days.  It was so cold, but so fun!

Then my family packed all of our stuff up to head to the North Carolina mountains for a few days. It was so cold, but so fun!

These are just a few of the "nature" picture Craig and I took while we were up there.

These are just a few of the “nature” pictures Craig and I took while we were up there.

What fun is a family vacation without an adorably corny family picture?!  I actually love this picture.  :-)

What fun is a family vacation without an adorably corny family picture?! I actually love this picture. 🙂

A Taste of Fall and Early Thanksgiving

I absolutely love living in Charleston.  It doesn’t get too crazy cold in the winter, we live right near the beach, we love our church, and there are always a ton of fun and exciting things to do here.  Aside from missing my family like crazy, Charleston is really an almost perfect place to live.

Almost.

The one thing Charleston is really missing…well, I guess the two things it is missing, but they go together…are fall weather and mountains.  Craig and I are outdoorsy people.  We love hiking together, we love the beauty of the mountains, and we especially love the fall.  During the fall, cooler temperatures are accompanied by autumn rainbows of leaves.  Red, orange, yellow, and every possible combination of those colors make a fall such an incredibly wonderful time of the year.  The cool weather means snuggling by the fire, and it also reminds you of the fast approaching holidays.  The colorful leaves offer a gentle reminder that time is passing and things are changing, but change can be a wonderful, exciting, and incredibly beautiful thing.

We don’t get that in Charleston.  Down here, leaves stay green well into the (relatively) “cooler” weather, and then they just turn brown, die, and fall of the trees in January.  No raking leaves to jump in a fun pile.  No beautiful leaves to add the perfect touch to a November hike.  Fall is Craig’s and my favorite season, and we really miss it!

Thankfully, we got a taste of fall this past weekend, and it was just what we needed!  Because Craig and I will be spending Thanksgiving with his family this year, we spent a long weekend in the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains with my family, celebrating an early Thanksgiving.  I hadn’t seen any of my family since they came to visit over Labor Day, so the fall weather, plus being up at a mountain cabin, plus having my family together was just fabulous!  We were right by a trout creek, too, so there was also a lot of fly fishing going on.  We had our traditional Thanksgiving meal together, filled with turkey, stuffing, cherry pie, cinnamon cake, jello salad, the best homemade cranberry sauce EVER, and more!

Don’t worry, some recipes from this weekend will soon follow!  For now, you can enjoy these snap shots of our early Thanksgiving celebration and the wonderful fall weather!

I hope you all enjoy your real Thanksgiving as much as my family enjoyed our pretend Thanksgiving!  Happy almost holiday season, everyone! 🙂

Happy National Eating Healthy Day!

As a Bachelor of Science Health Sciences major from Furman University, I am a HUGE believer and supporter of not just eating healthy, but also helping and encouraging other people to eat healthy.  You might not know it based on the recipes I post, but Craig and I are both incredibly health-conscious people.  Yeah, some of my recipes aren’t great for you, but that’s okay if you are eating them in moderation.  Moderation is a key word here that is often ignored or abused, so let me explain what I mean.

  • Moderation does not just mean “Well, I would really like to have four or five apple pie muffins, so I’ll just have three right now.  Wow, I’m making such a health-conscious choice!  Plus, there are pieces of apple in the recipe, so it’s actually a healthy food.”  Eating in moderation starts with being honest with myself about what I am eating and refusing to justify all bad eating decisions.  I am not going to pretend that I don’t make bad eating decisions, because I definitely do, but certainly will not justify them so that I can feel better about myself.
  • Eating in moderation also means that all metabolisms are not created equal.  Craig has a faster metabolism than I have.  That’s just the way it is.  I’m not going to sit around, complaining about his faster metabolism and decide that I should get to eat just as much as him because it’s not really fair that he gets to eat more than me.  I’m also not going to expect him to consume fewer calories because I have to consume less.  No!  To me, that just sounds like I am wishing for metabolism welfare, and this concept is absolutely ridiculous.  I am going to do the best I can with what I have been given, and I refuse to be bitter toward people who can and have to eat more calories than me in order to maintain a healthy body weight.  I always serve Craig more food than I serve myself because he needs more calories.  It is what it is.
  • I’m not saying that people can’t enjoy something that doesn’t have a ton of nutritional value every now and then.  I am certainly not saying we all need to eliminate desserts.  I support desserts.  I love desserts.  But I cannot sit down and eat half a bundt cake of any sort.  I need to teach myself that a taste or two is really all I need.  (And when – not if, definitely when – I do make the mistake of over-eating some dessert, I will revert to my first point by not justifying it.  I will accept my decision for what it is, and try to work out and consume my remaining available calories accordingly.)
  • Also, I NEED to be physically active.  There is no way around it.  Eating healthy AND exercising regularly are both part of having a healthy lifestyle.  You should not just have one or the other.  Eating well without pushing your body is unfair to your cardiovascular system (among other things).  Exercising while fueling your body with few nutrients is going to lead to deficiencies, like iron deficiency (among other things).

It is no coincidence that National Healthy Eating Day falls just before the holiday season.  We all know that the holiday season is not the easiest time to eat lower-calorie foods abundant in vital nutrients, and it’s not the easiest time to squeeze that exercise in every day.  The holiday season is a period of time where people tend to over-consume calories, under-consume nutrients, and put legitimate workouts on hold.  But we can fight back!

In honor of National Eating Healthy Day, here is a link to the American Heart Association’s Holiday Health Eating Guide.  It has some great ideas and may be very helpful to you this holiday season!

Also, here are some tips about healthy holiday eating from the Medical University of South Carolina’s MUSChealth Community Blog:

Guide to Healthy Holiday Eating

  • Look for healthy substitutes for ingredients in your holiday dishes. Use low-fat or skim milk products instead of whole milk products, or try swapping applesauce for oil in your baked goods.
  • Avoid grazing while cooking. The small bites we sometimes take while working in the kitchen can add up and stack on extra calories.
  • Do not skip meals. Missing meals, especially breakfast, can lead to overeating for the remainder of the day.
  • Snack before you arrive at a party. You are more likely to overeat if you are hungry when you arrive at a holiday gathering.
  • Prepare a healthy dish. Bringing a tossed salad, vegetable plate or fruit dish to a holiday party will ensure that there is a healthy option for you and your friends.
  • Use a smaller plate. This allows you to put less food on the plate and to keep portion sizes within healthy limits.
  • Eat slowly. Savor each bite as you eat and wait several minutes before considering a second helping.
  • Alternate drinking alcoholic beverages with water. Not only will you reduce the number of calories that you consume, you’ll also have a safer night.
  • Mingle. Don’t stand near the food table all night where you may be tempted to go back for seconds.
  • Get physical. After eating, consider taking a walk with friends or family members or join young people in a game or other activity.
  • Practice saying “no” gracefully.  Be prepared with practiced answers if you have “food pushers” in your circle of family and friends.  Be honest and say “No thanks, I’m trying to cut back.”  Or sometimes a little white lie will do the trick when you say “I’m so full, I couldn’t eat another bite.”

Please don’t view this post as a big Debbie-Downer on delicious foods or the holiday season, because that is not how it is meant.  I understand the constant battle with the scale. I struggle with eating healthy foods and moderating the deliciously unhealthy foods.  I have a slow metabolism, and I actually have had to watch what I ate since I was twelve.  I have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight.  However, through all that, I have learned that eating healthy is not a bad thing at all.  It’s a wonderful thing!

By practicing wise food decisions throughout the day, making a point to stay or become physically active, and eating in moderation, you can enjoy those scrumptious holiday foods as much as anyone else! Plus, how much more could you enjoy your holiday season if you were feeling great and full of energy throughout it, plus you didn’t have the post-season-bathroom-scale regret that so many people have to face afterward?!

So kick your holiday season off right with making a plan to be [as] healthy [as possible] throughout!

Happy National Play Doh Day!

Happy National Play Doh Day!

Did you know that today is National Play Doh Day?

I am so relieved that this anxiously awaited holiday fell on a third Sunday this year, because that is the day that Craig and I volunteer with the 2-year-olds at our church.  You better believed that we were definitely playing with play doh this morning!

Lets see, some of the things we made included:

  • Puppies
    • mommy puppies
    • baby puppies
    • Sunday school teacher puppies
  • Lots and lots of snakes
    • That’s what the kids are best at making without our assistance.  😉  They all made “snakes” and then chased the volunteers around the room with them.  So adorable!
  • Ducks
  • Cookies
  • Gingerbread men
  • Hearts with “xoxo” in them
  • “I ♥ U”

We also played with trains, played tag, and danced today during the playtime.  Then we sang songs and learned about how God made everything.  The lesson of course ended with a craft and some rainbow Goldfish.  It was a fabulous morning.

This is Craig’s study week, so I was kind of worried that the amount of time away from studying might be stressful to him since his first test of the year is this Friday.  On the contrary, when we left church this morning, Craig looked at me and said, “Wow, that was the exact break I needed.  I really love volunteering with those kids.”

Well, I hope everyone is having a fabulous Sunday!

Happy National Play Doh Day!

Merry Christmas 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

With Love,

The McKinneys

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