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Healing My Gut on the GAPS Intro Diet

This blog is going to be about yummy recipes and funny stories – I promise! But I’m christening this blog with it’s very first post about my current struggle with food. It’s day 16 of the strictest diet I’ve ever been on – the GAPS diet. After years and years of abdominal pain, bloating, [noxious] gas, occasional skin rashes, food intolerance that seem to be increasing by the day and eating disorders, and so on, I was fed up!
So I went to a naturopath (because physicians kept saying it was stressed-induced and tried to put me on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills – no thank you!) And they sort of help nudge me in a right-ish direction lol. They put me on a Low FODMAP diet, which helped reduce my symptoms a lot, but a life without onions, garlic, many fruits, BREAD, etc. was no life at all… So I scoured the internet for a more long-term healing solution, and I came across the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet. Long story short, I don’t agree with a lot of what the author, Natasha Campbell, says BUT I was desperate and willing to give anything a try.
On January 9th, 2020, I embarked on a health-seeking journey. I started the GAPS diet (a super-strict and labor intensive meal plan) as well as Henry’s Internal Cleanser (and boy, was I cleaned out, if you know what I mean…)

yup… that’s chicken feet

mush topped with sauerkraut

mush topped with kimchi and egg

yummmm… *gag*

the one where I put too much turmeric in the soup and it stained everything

“meatball water” lol

GAPS pancakes (squash + eggs + peanut butter)
I literally ate so many of these when I moved onto this stage bc I was like, “OMG SOMETHING FINALLY HAS FLAVOR!”

egg drop soup made with bone broth

look at this creation – yogurt made just from a can of coconut milk and a probiotic!

this is what rock bottom looks like… jk, this is what separating the broth for drinking and the meat from the bones for eating looks like

this was a later stage when baked nut rolls were allowed. ground nuts + squash + butter + eggs. they were gross, but that was probably my bad.

here we have a specimen of some chicken and veg topped with sauerkraut. this became the staple towards the last week and a half.

a typical breakfast in the last two weeks. looks like real food lol but they don’t taste like ihop pancakes, that’s for sure.

when I finally got to bake my chicken instead of boil it to the point just before jerky… that was a nice change.

breakfasts of the last week of the diet were when I treated myself 😉 scrambled eggs topped with dill and avocado. cucumber slaw (made in my experiment about how to cook with salt) washed down a glass of organic carrot juice.

the best for last? well, the best of the worst you could say. this “winter squash cake” from the GAPS book is made of eggs + squash + honey + butter + ground almonds + apples. It was so freaking good after a month of blech-food. would I ever make it again? lol no.

As I am writing this final part, it is now February 8th, 2020. I survived 30 days on the GAPS Intro Diet, with zero cheats or deviations from the strict protocol. Today was my first day off the GAPS Intro diet (and no, I am not switching to the Full GAPS Diet for like one to two years…) It was a mountainous test of discipline, but the hardest part for me was the time and effort to cook about every two to three days the labor-intensive dishes. The bone broth took about three hours in total since I made it in the Instant Pot. Sometimes the other food could be cooked in tandem, but especially in the beginning, I had to use the broth in the soups. So total cooking time in one night would be like six hours. SIX HOURS.
Would I recommend the diet for everyone? Heck no. It’s a ton of work and it’s probably best to do it under the supervision of a GAPS-trained specialist; I ended up losing 11 pounds over those four weeks, which is no bueno because I’m already pretty petite.
I would however recommend Henry’s Internal Cleanser from Greenline Organic Health for most people. This stuff is legit. It cleans out your digestive tract and helps with nutrient absorption & detoxification. Just be prepared to be in very close proximity to a restroom for like the first week…

Today was my day of celebration for completing the GAPS Intro Diet as well as the first day of cautionary testing of my [hopefully healed] gut! In the morning, we went to the farmers market downtown. We saw the coolest parsnips ever, tasted all sorts of things from cayenne popcorn to coconut oil blueberry chocolate. And I just couldn’t resist getting a jar of Ground Up‘s coconut cardamom w/ chia seed almond & cashew butter… sooooo yummy! I spread it on Pacific Rose apple slices we also got at the farmers market 🙂

I ate my first meal out at a restaurant in a month! Woo hoo! We went to Shalom Y’all and actually I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t get the lamb shakshuka since it was between the brunch and dinner times, but I got the delicious Shalom Y’all Plate (falafels with lemony green sauce. hummus. labneh. coleslaw. a hella tangy pickle. the softest pita bread ever. what’s not to love?) I have been wanting to try labneh, and I finally got the chance – it is so good! I think I like it more than yogurt! And about eight hours after eating it, I still don’t have a tummy ache, so I am so excited and hopeful that I really did do some healing action on my gut! 😀

I was so hungry & excited, I forgot to take a photo until halfway through lol
Aww the love of my life!!!

After the biggest meal I’ve eaten in a month, we needed to walk around a bit. We wandered into this cool vintage and antique home store and played with all the random stuff. It was such a great day to spend with Abdulla & my new gut! hehe 🙂

I Let Buzzfeed Decide What I Eat For A Day…

I first found Buzzfeed in about 2012 and I quickly became enthralled by their quizzes. They are so random and unnecessary, and they are unnervingly entertaining. Most of the quizzes only take a few minutes, so you can quickly find out all sorts of things you never needed to know about yourself. For a fun little quest, I let Buzzfeed decide what I eat for a day based on my food-related quiz results. It was surprisingly fun and I ate things I may have never eaten, like pancakes with a million toppings! And things I haven’t eaten since childhood, like a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you are at a complete loss for what to eat, maybe try out a Buzfeed quiz and see where the whims of the internet take you.

Breakfast – Ravenclaw Pancakes

To decide what I was going to eat for breakfast, I took the quiz “Can We Guess Your Hogwarts House Based On The Pancakes You Make?
Obviously, I got Ravenclaw, because I am a ride-or-die Ravenclaw at heart. Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure, baby.
The quiz was comprised of a series of choices for a wide variety of pancake toppings. I picked banana pancakes with maple syrup, raspberries and blueberries, chocolate chips and Nutella with a side of fried eggs. It turned out to be one of the best breakfasts ever!
I’m not sure if they served these in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but I’ll be making them again because they are decadent and delicious!

Lunch – Peanut Butter and Jelly

My Ravenclaw pancake breakfast was scrumptious, but by midday, my tummy was hungry for more! I took the quiz “Which Iconic Food Duo Are You?” After picking a bunch of completely random things such as a weekend activity (shopping) and a birthday cake (rainbow layers, duh), I found out that I am the classic, iconic and comfortable PB&J!
I toasted a bun (I may have burnt it a little… charcoal is good for you, right??) and slathered on creamy peanut butter and blueberry jam. I forgot how much I love peanut butter and jelly! Salty and sweet on a pillow of bread.
I’m just wondering, if I AM peanut butter jelly, is it weird that I’m eating… me? Eh, it’s a delicious lunch either way.

Dinner – Spaghetti

For the last and final meal of my day entirely dictated by Buzzfeed quizzes, I took the quiz “We Know What You Should Eat For Dinner Tonight Based On The Vacation You Plan.” This was not a hard quiz by any means. If only math and history quizzes from school could have been as fun as planning your ideal vacation…
This particular quiz had me making vacation plans like a setting (the beach), an activity (swimming), and a drink (water). My amazing choices ultimately led Buzzfeed to recommend I eat spaghetti for dinner. So spaghetti, it is! I made Pasta with Broccoli and Bread Crumbs, a recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat.

Now… Your Turn!

Ok, I let Buzzfeed decide what I eat for a day. Now it’s your turn! Maybe not Buzzfeed, but test your culinary adventure level by letting someone else decide what you eat for an entire day. You may discover some new favorites or reignite a love for a tried-and-true classic.

vegan miso banana bread

The perfect bananas for making banana bread are so brown that they are toeing the border of going bad. Like, not moldy yet. But the ratio of brown to yellow should be about 9:1. So yes, it will take some time and patience to prepare this amazing vegan miso banana bread. But the wait for your bananas to turn brown is worth it for a sweeter flavor AND more antioxidants than yellow bananas!

If we were on the show Chopped from Food Network, the mysterious secret ingredients in the basket would be… *gasps from the audience in anticipation*
SWEET WHITE MISO
*ooooh aaaahhhh*
DATES
*whaaaaaaaa?*
and OVERRIPE BANANAS
*crowd faints simultaneously in sheer awe*

Banana bread was a staple growing up. We’d buy bananas, eat a few, and save some to get reeeal ripe. Then mash them up (this relieves some stress, trust me), mix everything together and bake until the top is crunchy and the inside is soft and moist. I love baking banana bread because the smell brings back memories of home.
The cool thing about banana bread is that it is super versatile. You can make it extra sweet by adding chocolate chips and sprinkles! Or make it more wholesome by mixing in chopped nuts, flax seed meal and wheat bran. If you’re feeling frisky, make your banana bread as an homage to Elvis Presley, with bananas, peanut butter, bacon and honey (one of his favorite sandwiches).
For this loaf, I wanted it to be addictively salty-sweet, so I added sweet white miso paste. And boy oh boy does it crank this bad boy up a notch! Enjoy!

If you’re hungry for more delicious banana recipes after baking your own vegan miso banana bread, check out these banana walnut muffins!

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Vegan Miso Banana Bread

This banana bread will knock your socks off! It's addictively salty-sweet, packed full of bananas and walnuts with miso and peanut butter to liven things up for your delicious vegan breakfast!
Course Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword banana nut bread, easy banana bread recipe, healthy banana bread, miso banana bread, miso paste, moist banana bread, peanut butter banana bread, plant based protein, vegan, vegan banana bread, vegan breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 10 servings
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dates, chopped
  • 3 large overripe bananas, mashed with a fork in a bowl
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • tsp salt
  • cup vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 Tbsp sweet white miso paste
  • 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan.
    Chop the dates and put them in a small bowl. Cover the dates with hot water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Then drain the dates and set aside.
  • Mash three overripe bananas in a bowl. Set aside for later.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla, soaked and drained dates, sweet white miso paste, peanut butter and mashed bananas.
  • Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until there is no more dry flour visible.
    Fold in the chopped walnuts
  • Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out mostly clean (it won't be perfectly clean, since you want it to still be a little moist with all that banana goodness).

Thai-Style Quesadillas & Tacos with Fresh Tortillas

Trying an Internet Trend During Snow

First, this was the weather while I was making these delicious quesadillas. SNOW! It rarely snows where I live, so this was a treat!
But now, on to more important things… FOOD!
I’ve seen this cool way to make quesadillas all over the internet and it looked quite simple and yummy. So I decided to try it, but with a twist. Thus, the Thai-style quesadillas and tacos with fresh homemade tortillas were born!
Basically, to make this trendy snack or meal, you cut a small slice into a large flour quesadilla from the center to the edge. Then put fillings into each of the four corners, fold it up into a triangle and put it on the stove to get hot and crispy.

Corn versus Flour Tortillas

Initially, I made homemade corn flour tortillas to level up this viral quesadilla trend. However, due to the amount of filling and folding required, corn flour tortillas don’t really hold up well. Corn flour has zero gluten so the tortillas aren’t stretchy and they crack instead of bending when you try to fold them. Plus, corn tortillas are too small to fold into quarters. So, my first attempt at the trendy quesadilla turned into delicious and unique Thai tacos!
If you are gluten-free, I also suggest trying rice flour tortillas. They are more flexible than corn flour tortillas so you can stuff your taco super-duper full!

Homemade Corn Flour Tortillas

To make your own corn flour tortillas at home is a labor of love. The time and effort to make the dough, let it rest, shape the tortilla rounds and fry each one pays off with the incredible taste of hot, fresh corn tortillas. Which makes sense, since they have been popular for thousands of years! And they are surprisingly simple to make. All you need is three ingredients and a little more patience than sitting in the taco bell drive through line.

Ingredients

– 2 cups corn flour (I found a big 2 kg bag of corn flour for $1.80 at the grocery store)
– 1 tsp fine sea salt
– 1½ to 2 cups hot water

Directions

1. Whisk together the corn flour and salt. Gradually add 1½ cups of hot water while stirring the mixture until it forms a dough. Add a little more water if it’s too dry and doesn’t stick together.
2. Knead the dough in the bowl for about 3 minutes, until it’s firm and squishy like Play-Doh.
3. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Portion the dough into smooth round balls that are about 4 cm in diameter.
5. If you are cool and have a tortilla press, use that to press all the dough balls into flat rounds.
If you don’t have a tortilla press, place one dough ball in between two sheets of plastic cling wrap or into a big ziplock bag. Leave some space under the top plastic sheet & don’t pull it taut. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough ball into a flat round. Repeat with all the dough balls.
6. Heat a non stick skillet on medium-high heat. Cook each tortilla one a time in the skillet, for about a minute on each side. The tortillas will get golden and puff up while cooking.
7. As each tortilla is cooked, place them wrapped in a towel in a plate or large bowl until all the tortillas are cooked and you’re ready to eat them!

Thai-Style Tacos & Quesadillas

These tacos and quesadillas are extra special because they are not filled with your average beans and rice and cheese. Channeling flavors from Thailand, each taco and quesadilla is packed with curry chicken, roasted spiced bell peppers, red cabbage, coconut lime rice and a creamy peanut sauce. Yummmy!

These Thai-style quesadillas & tacos with fresh tortillas also great as meal prep. Just make all the fillings and put them in separate air-tight containers in the fridge. When it’s time to eat and you want a fresh quesadilla or taco, just heat the chicken, roasted peppers and peanut sauce in the microwave for about 60 seconds. Prepare the quesadilla by putting a filling in each of the four sections of the tortilla, fold it three times into a triangle, cook it in a pan and voila! A delicious warm meal in a few short minutes with a crispy outside and an inside packed with flavor!

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Thai-Style Quesadillas & Tacos with Fresh Tortillas

Level up the viral quesadilla hack with Thai flavors! Curry chicken and bell peppers, coconut lime rice, red cabbage and creamy peanut sauce!
Course Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Mexican, Thai
Keyword chicken quesadilla, chicken tacos, corn flour, corn tortilla, dairy free, flour tortilla, gluten free flour, homemade tortilla, internet food trend, quesadilla hack, taco bar, tiktok quesadilla
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 8 people
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Coconut Lime Rice

  • cups brown rice (rinsed and soaked in water for 30 min)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 lime

Curry Chicken & Bell Peppers

  • 1 lb chicken breast, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes
  • ½ tsp powdered garlic (or 1 tsp minced fresh garlic)
  • ½ tsp powdered ginger (or ½ tsp minced fresh ginger)
  • 2 tsp red Thai curry paste
  • ½ tsp salt

Peanut Sauce

  • cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg's liquid aminos
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp water

Red Cabbage

  • ½ head red cabbage, sliced

For Cooking the Quesadilla

  • ½ Tbsp butter

Instructions

Coconut Lime Rice

  • In a small pot, pour in the rice, coconut milk, water and salt. Stir to mix it. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 35 to 45 minutes, until the rice is to your desired texture.
  • Sprinkle the juice of half a lime over the rice. Cut the other half of the lime into slices to squeeze on the tacos or quesadillas.

Curry Chicken & Bell Peppers

  • Preheat the oven to 420°F.
  • Lay out the diced chicken and sliced bell peppers on a baking sheet. Cover the chicken and veggies with the olive oil. Sprinkle on the seasonings and curry paste. Rub everything into the chicken and peppers with your hands.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 min, until the bell peppers are soft and the chicken cooked through.

Peanut Sauce

  • Whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Quesadilla Hack Assembly

  • Make one cut from the center of a flour tortilla out to the edge. Visually divide the tortilla round in four corners. In the first corner next to the cut, spread out some of the peanut sauce. Working clockwise, in the next corner, place the chicken and bell peppers. In the next corner place sliced red cabbage. In the final corner, pile on some coconut lime rice. Fold the corner with the peanut sauce over towards the chicken and bell peppers. Keep folding the corners over until it's a triangle.
  • In a skillet on medium heat, melt ½ tablespoon of butter. Cook the quesadilla on each side for about one minute, until it is golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle with some fresh lime juice and enjoy!

Strawberry Ombre Heart Cake

Hellooo How are you? Are you in need of a super cute pink cake? Yes?! Me too!!
My parents and my grandparents all came to town for a family get-together. And I wanted to make something super special and delicious and impressive for everyone to enjoy. Hence, say hello to this gorgeous strawberry Ombre heart cake!
Now, I do have to apologize for the lack of quality photos on this post. I didn’t finish it in time to be able to take pretty photos with natural daylight. So the photos look sort of funky, but I promise, if you make this cake, it will fill your mouth with deliciousness and your soul with happiness!!

Creating an Ombre

At first, I was going to use beets to create a natural food dye for the different pinks. However, that turned out to be a total fail. I started by boiling three beets in water and then tried to use that dark brown/red water to color the cake batter. Unfortunately, it didn’t add any color, and just watered my cake batter into a gross yucky mess. I ended up just whipping out my red gel food coloring from the grocery store. But eventually I did learn how to dye food with beets, because I some super cute and delicious pink donuts dyed with beets!

It’s helpful to divide the batter into four separate bowls, so you can adjust the food coloring in each batter to achieve the right gradient of colors that you want. They will change slightly in the oven, so the more different each color of the batter is, the more it will show as different after baking.

Decorating the Cake with Love

I wanted to make this strawberry Ombre heart cake extra special for my family. So I made chocolate ganache to drizzle on top and drip down the sides of the cake. The rich chocolate complimented the sweet strawberry cake really well.
I also melted about 6 ounces of white chocolate chips in the microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring each time. Then I put the melted chocolate in a piping bag and on a flat surface of aluminum foil, I piped cute words and tiny hearts. After about an hour, the chocolate to hardened, and they popped right off the foil. After the cake had been fully frosted and refrigerated for about an hour, I gently pressed the hardened chocolate shapes and words onto the cake. It gave it an extra special touch, since my own doodles and handwriting were on the cake!

The Recipes to Bake this Strawberry Ombre Cake

For the cake itself, I wanted to go off Half Baked Harvest’s Bursting Blueberry Cake. I baked her cake over the summer and it turned out so delicious! I made it during the time I was trying to figure out the science and physics and magic that is layer cakes. It had the texture similar to a berry muffin and it wasn’t tooth-ache sweet, but rather a delicious balance of all the flavors.
If you’ve never made buttercream before or find it finicky, check out Cupcake Jemma’s tutorial video. She explains all the do’s and don’ts of buttercream really well (and in a brilliant British accent)!

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Strawberry Ombre Heart Cake

Feast your eyes and your taste buds on this beauty! Full of strawberry flavor and topped off with a rich chocolate ganache and white chocolate hearts, this cake will endear anyone to your heart.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword 4 layer cake, chocolate strawberry cake, fresh strawberry cake, homemade buttercream, layer cake, round cake, strawberry cake, strawberry cake design, strawberry jam
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Assembly and Decoration 30 minutes
Servings 12 people
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Strawberry Cake

  • scant 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 2 to 3 lemons
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup plain (not flavored) Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (pack it tightly into the ¼ cup as you measure it)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • cups plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, with the greens trim off and cut into halves or quarters.
  • 1 cup strawberry jam
  • red food coloring (optional)

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

  • cups unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted into a bowl
  • 6 Tbsp milk or dairy-free milk
  • 5 Tbsp strawberry jam

Instructions

Strawberry Cake

  • If you have buttermilk already, use that. Otherwise, combine one scant cup of milk with one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Let that sit for 5 to 10 minutes until it thickens and curdles a little bit.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease your 8-inch round cake pans. This recipe can make either a 3 layer or 4 layer cake. Grease as many cake pans as you have/need. I made a four layer cake and I have two pans, so I baked the first two layers, popped them out and let the pans cool for about 10 minutes, then I re-greased the pans and baked the second two layers.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat the melted coconut oil, yogurt, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, buttermilk (either store-bought or homemade), 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Add in 3¾ cups of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the it all together until the batter is just combined.
  • In a small bowl, toss the strawberries chunks with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour. This helps coat the strawberries so they don't all sink to the bottom of the cake while it's baking. Fold the flour-coated strawberries and the strawberry jam into the cake batter.
  • Pour the batter into four separate bowls. To the first bowl, don't add any food coloring. To the second bowl, add a small squeeze of red gel food color. To the third bowl, add about three squeezes of the red coloring. And to the fourth bowl, add five squeezes to the batter. Stir them all and add more coloring as needed to achieve your desired levels of ombre.
  • Pour each bowl of batter into separate greased 8-inch round cake pans. Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (aside from the jam) and the center of the cake isn't jiggly. Let the cakes cool for five minutes in the pans, then remove them and set them on a wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

  • Whip the room temperature butter in a stand mixer or with a hand whisk for about 5 minutes, until it is soft and fluffy and pale yellow.
  • Add about one third of the sifted powdered sugar and beat it (on a low speed) into the butter until the sugar is fully incorporated. Repeat for two more times with remaining powdered sugar. Make sure your mixer is on a low speed, otherwise you'll have a snowstorm of powdered sugar in your kitchen. After you add the last bit of powdered sugar, beat it for another five minutes to become really smooth and fluffy.
  • Add the strawberry jam and whisk it in to help flavor, color and loosen the buttercream. If you feel like your buttercream is still too stiff, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk at a time and whisk that in to help loosen your buttercream more. It should be stiff enough to stick on the sides of your cake without sliding down.

Assemble the Layer Cake

  • Trim the caramelized edges of the four cake rounds. Trim the tops off the cakes so they are level.
  • Place the darkest pink layer of cake on a plate or cake stand. Spread out a few dollops of the buttercream on the top of the first layer. Place the second-darkest pink cake layer on top of the buttercream, making sure this cake layer lines up with the first one. Spread out a few more dollops of the buttercream on the top of the second layer. Repeat for the third and fourth layers of the cake.
  • Spread the remaining buttercream on the sides of the cake. Use a butter knife or a pallet knife to get the buttercream nice and even and smooth on the top and the sides. Refrigerate the cake for about an hour, so the buttercream has time to set.
  • Decorate the cake however you like! I made chocolate ganache to cover the top and drip down the sides.
    I also melted white chocolate and piped it into words and hearts on aluminum foil. Once it hardened after about an hour, I gently pressed them into the finished cake.
    Enjoy!!

Vegan Pink Donuts (Dyed with Beets!)

A Magical Dream Came True

I LOVEEE donuts. My boyfriend used to work at a donut shop way back in the day. I loved to go there and just be immersed in the heavenly scent of fried dough and frosting. Ahh good times… But there’s only so many donuts I can eat every day until I sort of, well, you know… start looking like a donut myself! Therefore, welcome to the stage in a dramatic and mystical entrance, VEGAN HEALTHY DONUTS! *and the crowd goes wild! with donut craze!* I made these vegan pink donuts (dyed with beets!) to be able to enjoy the yumminess of donuts all day long.

Vegan & Healthy

You read that right, these donuts are vegan! If you’re not vegan, you can substitute the dairy-free milk and the dairy-free yogurt with normal dairy versions. I used plain oat milk and plain cashew yogurt in my pretty pink donuts.
These donuts are healthy for a variety of reasons. First, they are baked instead of fried, which not only makes them healthier, but it also means they’ll last longer. They have a more dense cake donut texture, and they are great in the fridge if you have leftovers (which I doubt, but we’ll just go along with saying that’s a possibility, right?) And these perfect little morsels have vegetables in them! AND YOU’D NEVER KNOW!

Dyed with Beets for a Brilliant Pink

I love utilizing the betanin compound in beets to turn things a gorgeous pink. It’s a natural way to add color and fun to your food! A few months ago, I made mujadara (super yummy Middle Eastern rice and lentils and caramelized onions) and I used beets to turn the whole dish pink!

How to Use Beets to Dye Food

There are a couple ways to dye your food pink with the power of this humble root vegetable. First, you can purchase beet powder. This would allow you to add the color with a more even consistency. Second, you can blend up boiled beets, which is what I did for these donuts. And I like the look of the small beet pieces in these vegan pink donuts that are dyed with beets, because it sort of looks like little candies or fruit. And I promise, I gave these to some of my family to try in a blind taste test, and they couldn’t taste the beets at all! The deliciousness of all the other flavors sings loud and clear over any beet flavor. Also, if you use whole beets, you get more of the nutrients, including fiber, folate and manganese. Yay, look at us getting healthy while eating donuts!

Bloopers

I was trying a little too hard to take a cute photo of myself holding the Vegan Pink Donuts that I let one get eaten by the floor. Yuck!

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Vegan Pink Donuts (Dyed with Beets!)

These donuts are not only addictively delicious, but they are super healthy! They are baked (not deep fried) and they are dyed pink with beets!
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword baked donuts, beet dye, beetroot, healthy donut, homemade donuts, vegan desserts, vegan diet, vegan donuts, vegan food, vegan snacks, vegan sweets
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings 15 donuts
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

  • 2 medium beets or one large beet, boiled
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ tsp almond extract or vanilla extract
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • zest of ½ lemon

Instructions

Make the Pink Donuts

  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Peel the beets and add them to the boiling water. (Add in a few extra beets to toss in a salad or stir-fry!). Boil the beets until they are easily pierced with a fort (around 30 to 40 minutes). Drain the water and set the beets aside to cool.
    Once the beets are cool, put two in a food processor or blender and pulse until they are tiny chunks. Scrape down the sides a few times in between pulses.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    Grease a donut pan with a bit of coconut oil or vegetable oil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the non-dairy yogurt, non-dairy milk, almond or vanilla extract and 4 tablespoons of the pureed beets.
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until it's all combined.
  • Carefully pour the batter into the donut pan, until each donut hole is about ⅔ full.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the donuts.
    Carefully remove the donuts out of the pan and set them to cool on a wire cooling rack. Continue greasing your donut pan and baking donuts until all the donut batter is used up.

Make the Pink Glaze & Decorate

  • While the donuts are cooling, prepare the icing.
    Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, zest of half a lemon and 2 tablespoons of the pureed beets.
  • Dunk the top of each donut into the bowl of icing for a couple seconds, then return the decorated donut back to the wire rack to allow any excess glaze to drip off.

Harry Potter Sugar Cookies!

Harry Potter for Christmas

For Christmas, I received this super awesome Harry Potter-themed cookie baking kit from Williams and Sonoma! IT IS SO COOL! It provides the recipe, a bunch of neat cookie cutters and piping bags to make incredible Harry Potter sugar cookies! So in December and into the beginning of January, we just had to do a Harry Potter movie marathon. That’s right, all eight movies! I mean, it would just feel wrong to get this incredible baking kit and not re-watch all the movies, right?? Also, I had re-read the whole series of books at the beginning of 2020, so it felt right to welcome 2021 with all the movies. And I can’t wait for the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to come out, but it’s not until 2022! Whyyy?!
As a side note, is it totally wrong that Hedwig was my favorite cookie to eat? They all taste the same, but just the shape of that owl was so perfect for each bite… (Asking for a friend.)

Decorating Cookies with Royal Icing

I created a kitchen bucket list for this year, comprised of things I aspire to bake and cook. Decorating sugar cookies with royal icing is high on that list! I can check that off, because this was so much fun! And I have mad respect for anyone who decorates cookies by piping with royal icing, because it literally took an entire Harry Potter movie to decorate these cuties. Decorating cookies with royal icing can be a bit tricky, so I recommend watching this helpful video by Cupcake Jemma if you’ve never tried it before.
If you end up with extra royal icing when you decorate your treats, you can make your own sprinkles! Just pipe it out on parchment paper in long strips, then after it dried and hardens, slice the strips into your desired sprinkle sizes. Let nothing go to waste!

Harry Potter Nerd

I’ll just come out and admit it – I’m a Potterhead. I LOVE Harry Potter SO MUCH! Too much? There’s no such thing. Hence why I spend my free time decorating Harry Potter sugar cookies or baking Harry Potter-themed pumpkin pasties.
In case you’re wondering, the wand in the photos is the very same wand that I purchased at Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter nearly ten years ago. It’s Sirius Black’s wand, and I really like it because the shape is simple and it has interesting designs and what look like runes inscribed on it. And yes, I am a Ravenclaw, if you happened to notice the scarf I got at the theme park as well. I gotta rep my colors, you know? Oh, why I’m so glad you asked, yes that is my time turner in the photos! Like I said, I’m kind of crazy about Harry Potter, and I’m not afraid to show it! Hence the Harry Potter-themed tattoo on my arm…

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Harry Potter Sugar Cookies!

After a marathon of all eight Harry Potter movies, I made these adorable & yummy Harry Potter sugar cookies with Williams and Sonoma's kit!
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword decorated sugar cookies, Harry Potter, Harry Potter at home, Harry Potter recipe, Harry Potter series, Ravenclaw, royal icing, sugar cookies, wizarding world
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 24 cookies
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Sugar Cookies

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1½ sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • tsp vanilla extract

Royal Icing

  • cups powdered sugar, sifted into your bowl
  • 2 egg whites (save the egg yolks for an extra flavorful omelet or lemon curd)
  • 2 to 4 tsp water
  • gel food coloring (red, yellow, brown, and black)

Instructions

  • Begin making the cookie dough. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
    In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the room temperature butter for about 3 minutes until it is creamy and a paler yellow.
    Add the sugar to the butter and beat for another 3 minutes, until it is fluffy and very pale yellow.
    Add in the egg and vanilla extract. Beat for another minute or two, until the egg and vanilla are fully incorporated.
  • Add half the flour and salt mixture and beat on a low speed for about a minute, until there is no dry flour visible.
    Add the remaining half of the flour and salt mixture and beat for another 3 minutes, until there is no more dry flour visible and the dough stays in a ball when you squeeze it in your palm.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape the dough into two round discs. Wrap them individually in plastic cling wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  • When you're ready to begin rolling out the dough, take the dough out of the fridge for at least 15 minutes, so it can warm up a bit and become easier to work with.
    Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a siplat.
  • On a lightly floured clean work surface, roll out one of the dough discs until it is ¼-inch thick.
    Cut out shapes with the cookie cutters.
    Spread out the cookies on the baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are golden around the edges.
  • Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
    Continue rolling out the dough and cutting cookie shapes until you've used all the dough.
    Let all the cookies cool completely before decorating them.

Royal Icing

  • Sift the powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
    Add the whites of two eggs. Begin beating it on a very low speed. Gradually increase the speed of your mixer and beat it for about 5 minutes on a high speed, until it is very creamy.
  • Add two teaspoons of water to your icing to thin it out. If you pick some up with a spatula and let it drip in ribbons back into the bowl, it should sink back into the rest of the icing and leave no trace within about 10 seconds.
    If your icing is still too stiff, add another two teaspoons of water and mix it in to loosen it a bit further. It will be easier to work with a slightly looser icing, since most of these cookies are solid colors with a bit of smaller decoration.
  • Divide your icing into four bowls. Add gel food coloring to achieve the desired colors that you want to decorate with. Below are the color mixtures I used.
    Black – all black
    Gold – two parts yellow to one part brown
    Maroon – mostly red with a bit of brown
    White – none, the icing is already white
  • Add your icing colors into individual piping bags and go to town decorating! Ten points for Ravenclaw!

Holiday in Hawaii – December 2020 – Part 6

Welcome Holiday in Hawaii – December 2020 – Part 6, to the last and final part of our holiday on the gorgeous island of Oahu, Hawaii. I had the privilege of flying with my partner to visits my parents, who are living on the island for a few years for work. I can’t express just how grateful I am to have been able to experience these incredible moments with the people I love. I hope you enjoy reading!

Day 8 – Pali Puka Lookout, Likeke Falls and Honey Toast!

Pali Puka Lookout

By day eight of our dream-come-true trip, we had gotten into a good rhythm. Wake up, grab something quick for breakfast from the kitchen, and run out the door for the awaiting adventures.

We started this particular day by driving out to Pali Puka Lookout. This is the spot where King Kamehameha I drove his army up the treacherous mountain and forced the opposing army over the edge of the steep cliff to plummet below. YIKES. The Pali Puka Lookout provides a panoramic view of the mountains, the lush valley and the expansive ocean.
From the parking lot of the lookout, there is also a crazy-dangerous hike. It is a tiny path that edges along the super steep cliff. Of course, my parents have hiked it, since they are daredevil adventurers. We decided to save it for next time…

Panoramic View from the Pali Puka Lookout
View in between two rock formations of the mountains from the Pali Puka Lookout
About where that pointy rock tip meets the tree line is where the dangerous hike ends!
These tree roots are gnarly!

Likeke Falls

Next, it was time for a waterfall! We hiked over, under and through gnarly tree roots, fallen logs and twisted vines to get to Likeke Falls. And we must have timed it perfectly, because we had the waterfall all to ourselves. It is two-tiered, so we climbed up to the first ledge and felt like we were truly in the waterfall! You can reach the falls either from above it or below it. We hiked up about a mile from below the waterfall. It was so amazing to be in the middle of a thriving jungle and playing in the cool water of the falls.
But take caution, because three cars, including ours, got their windows smashed in while we were hiking.

An old toad towards the beginning of our hike to Likeke Falls
I felt like Tarzan, there were so many lush trees and giant leaves and thick vines!
We had to watch our step – the tree roots poked in and out of the ground everywhere
Likeke Falls
Standing halfway up the waterfall

Hidden Art

Along the Pali Highway, my mom pulled off the road by a random old telephone booth. I was like, uhhh… mom…? What’s going on?? And she just said to get out of the car and walk behind the fence and into the jungle to see something cool.
Yeah, sure, I’ll go into a thick jungle without any clue where I am??
But it actually turned out okay, because there’s this vibrant art painted on an old abandoned pumphouse. Who knew something so unique and interesting could be hidden off a highway!

An old abandoned pumphouse, now filled with foliage and art
I wonder if the paintings were done recently, because the colors were so vibrant
I don’t know what this art means, but it was super cool

Dinner at Ala Moana Shopping Center & Dessert at Shokuda!

We had a blast walking around the Ala Moana Shopping Center for the second time on this trip. We enjoyed browsing the shops we don’t have in Oregon. But most importantly, we hit up the food court, where I ordered delicious bibimbap!

Korean bibimbap (one of my favorite dishes everrr) at Ala Moana Food Court

After dinner, we still had room for the best desserts ever – honey toast! We drove to Shokuda and the four of use split two orders of honey toast. We got the chocolate honey toast with a rich fudge sauce as well as the cookies and cream honey toast with caramel drizzle. Even after I was so full that I felt like I was splitting at the seams, I kept eating because it was so freaking delicious!!! Honey toast is one of the best inventions in history. Period.

HONEY TOAST at Shokuda!

Day 9 – Snorkeling at Hanaumu Bay, Leonard’s Malasadas, Iolani Palace

Hanaumu Bay

Because of the pandemic, Hanaumu Bay shut down. It re-opened after nine months while were were there in Hawaii. And we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to (1) snorkel in one of the world’s best snorkeling spots, and (2) get to witness the wildlife after having zero human interruption over the past nine months! We saw SO MANY incredible fish! It was hands-down one of the coolest experiences I have ever had the opportunity to partake in.

View of Hanamu Bay as we were some of the first people to enter that day
Looking out a Hanamu Bay after a magical time snorkeling
It’s neat to see how many people truly care for the previous land, water and wildlife in the bay.

Leonard’s Malasadas!

Ok, if you’ve never had a malasada, put down your phone or your laptop, get in your car, and drive to the nearest bakery that sells them. Or drive to the grocery store and get the ingredients to make them. You’ll be so happy you did, because malasadas are like thick clouds of heavenly fried dough and sugar. And if you visit Oahu, go to Leonard’s Bakery and get like seven dozen of their malasadas because they are the bomb. My mouth is watering just thinking about them! And they were the perfect sweet treat after swimming with the fishieees.

Hot and fresh Li Hing malasada!

Historical Sites Downtown

In the evening, we drove downtown to visit Aliʻiōlani Hale, Iolani Palce and Kawaiahaʻo Church. We wanted to see a bit of downtown and a few of the historical landmarks before we left.

Aliʻiōlani Hale was used in the show Hawaii Five-O as the police headquarters.

Aliʻiōlani Hale at sunset

Iolani Palace is where Hawaii’s royalty resided. However, in 1895, the U.S. imprisoned Queen Liliuokalani in her bedroom in the palace, because she fought against America’s attempts to establish their own government on the island.

Iolani Palace decorated with Christmas-color balloons
Front gates at Iolani Palace

Kawaiahaʻo Church is one of the most unique churches I have ever seen. It is built out of coral! If you were to run your hands along the wall, you’d be able to feel the spiky edges of the coral that comprise the church. It was originally built in 1820, as the very first Christian church on Oahu.

Kawaiahaʻo Church
We could only see these landmarks outside their gates, since they were all closed.
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, chilling in style!

Big Kahuna Pizza

For our last dinner, we got pizza! And not just any pizza. BIG KAHUNA PIZZA, BABY! My family all split a large, with half BBQ chicken pizza and half white pizza with olives. It was so delicious. I’d go back just for the pizza… and literally everything else we ate.

The most delicious pizza every – it had tons of toppings & a perfectly thick crust

Day 10 – Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park

Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park

When day ten arrived, we were so stoked! We love water parks, and Wet ‘n’ Wild surpassed our expectations! They have this one slide called the “shaka” and it’s insane. It was probably the scariest and most fun slide because you can reach a speed of up to 31 miles per hour while you feel like you’re literally free-falling all alone in your inner tube! They had a couple slides where it was pitch black inside, which was terrifying and thrilling all at once. The wave pool was a blast, and we spent a ton of time on the Tornado, which was like a giant toilet bowl. If you ever go to Oahu, take at least half a day and go to Wet ‘n’ Wild!

After a fun day at the water park, we went paddle boarding. I didn’t take any photos, since I was way out in the ocean trying to keep my balance on the board as the waves came in. It was so much fun! I only fell once, when I was trying to do a bad ass yoga pose on the board.

Some of the fun slides at the water park
The map of all the rides and attractions at Wet ‘n’ Wild

Day 11 – Leaving Hawaii

On Sunday morning, I made crepes with my Dad. When my sister and I were little, my Dad would make crepes with yogurt and berries every single Sunday. We would put some birthday candles in one of the crepes and sing my mom “happy birthday”. Yup, every. single. Sunday. It was honestly the best because we would all cram into bed with my parents and devour delicious crepes. So, to relive those delightful days (and because it was a Sunday), we made crepes.

I said “good-bye” to my cat, Marilyn. I said “see ya later” to the sunshine and the beaches. Then my parents drove us to the airport and we boarded the plan to come back to Oregon. Now we can’t we for the next adventure! Where will it be??

My cat, Marilyn, doing what she does best – lounging in the shade
View of Oahu from our plane – see you next time!

Thanks for reading!!!

Check out Part 1 of our trip, when we landed in Oahu and watched the sunset at Sand Island on Day 1. Then on Day 2, hiked to the Lanikai Pillboxes and went to Waikiki Beach for a swim in the ocean and sunset with pineapple dole whip.

Check out Part 2 of our trip, when we went snorkeling at Shark’s Cove, devoured shave ice, toured a few more beaches and watched the sunset at Barber’s Point, all on Day 3.

Check out Part 3 of our trip, when we hiked the Pink Pillbox trail, snorkeled with turtles, watched the sunset at Secret Beach, and ate katsu chicken ramen. Then toured the magical Aulani Disney Resort, ate all the goodies from Liliha Bakery, and watched the sunset at Ala Moana.

Check out Part 4 of our trip, when we walked out to Ka’ena Point and saw all kinds of wildlife. Then paid our respects at the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Utah Memorial.

Check out Part 5 of our trip, when we went on an epic raptor tour and a daredevil zipline adventure at Kualoa Ranch. Then watched the surfers catch some waves at the Banzai Pipeline while the sun was setting.

Easy Dairy Free Chicken Casserole

An Ode to Casseroles

After all the cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats this season, I am ready for some healthy food to restock my fridge.
Do you like casseroles? I personally have a love-hate relationship with them. I love their convenience. Casseroles achieve a quick and easy meal prep because they’re so simple. Just throw some stuff in a dish, bake it, then boom: food for the week!
But often there is an unfortunate side effect. If you’ve ever opened up a container with leftovers you found weeks after you made it, and then blacked out from the stench, you’ll know where I’m coming from. Some foods like chicken can get real old real quick in the fridge. But have no fear – this easy dairy free chicken casserole is full of flavor and it tastes amazing as leftovers with a few helpful tricks.

How to Make Leftovers Taste Great

As an avid meal-prepper (no, I’m not a body builder, I’m just kinda lazy) it’s highly important to make food that still tastes great after a few days in the fridge. I found a few key ways to make this dream a reality.

1. Heat

A little bit of spice and heat on the tongue helps food taste more interesting and less bland. Try it sometime – top boring leftovers with a squeeze of siracha or a smack of Tabasco and it’ll take on a new life. I sprinkled chili flakes on my casserole meal each time before I dug in to eat, keeping it away from the land of boring.

2. Texture

It’s also common for leftovers to become either really mushy or weirdly chewy. Keeping a delightful crunch is nearly impossible for refrigerated leftovers that you’re reheating in the microwave. My secret: sprinkle crunchy bread crumbs on top just before eating your meal! I like savory bread crumbs, seasoned with Italian seasoning, or Panko bread crumbs for even extra crunch. Keep this meal gluten free by using gluten-free bread crumbs!

3. Flavor

Let’s get real. You just worked your tail end off to create an incredibly tasting meal. There’s leftovers, maybe on purpose for meal prep, or maybe unintentionally. And you can’t waste food. So your [glass, please] Tupperware gets filled with a bath of creamy, chunky, delicious casserole. You can’t wait until the next day’s lunch to relive the culinary experience. But oh no, somehow the microwave zaps out all the flavor and you’re left with a weird mess of bland food. The solution is to ensure your meal is PACKED with flavor that lasts in the fridge. Coconut milk, umami and a good mix of spices do the trick here.

4. Life

What? How do you add “life” to your food? Shouldn’t that chicken be dead…?
I’m talking about fresh herbs! A generous helping of fresh herbs on your reheated leftovers can truly revive them. Not only does it add color and flavor, but it adds another layer of texture and all around deliciousness.

Use Leftovers to Make a New Meal

You can actually use the leftovers that are sitting in your fridge to put together this incredibly easy dairy free chicken casserole.

1. Chicken

You can use the meat from a leftover rotisserie chicken in this casserole. I usually don’t have leftover chicken when I make this casserole, so I opt to cook three or four chicken thighs or breasts in my instant pot, seasoned just with salt.

2. Fresh Herbs

If you don’t have cilantro or parsley, but you have some extra basil from pizza night, or maybe fresh rosemary or thyme or any of your other favorite herbs, whack those on instead. It’s less about the flavor pairing and more about adding what you like while contributing to a fresh flavor imbued into your leftovers.

3. Rice

When I make this casserole, I usually use the leftover rice in my fridge that has gone way too hard to be edible. I give it a nice long, luxurious soak in the coconut milk, miso and spices to become soft and creamy.

4. Bread

You can buy bread crumbs at the grocery store. But it will taste even better if you have a loaf of bakery bread (not your sliced bread in the plastic bag) that is a day or two old and gone hard enough to use as a door stopper. Cut it into chunks and whiz it in the food processor or blender until the crumbs are to your desired texture.

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Easy Chicken Casserole (Dairy-Free)

This is the casserole that has a few tricks up its sleeve to taste great as leftovers days later. It's dairy-free, healthy and super simple. Make it for the family or make it for yourself for a delicious meal prep for the next few days!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Asian
Keyword bread crumbs, chicken and rice casserole, chicken casserole, dairy free, dairy free diet, easy meal prep, food prep, gluten free, healthy meal prep, leftovers, meal prep, miso
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces coconut milk (1 can)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp miso paste
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups cooked rice (⅔ cup uncooked)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped, for topping
  • ½ cup bread crumbs of your choice, either homemade or store-bought, for serving
  • 1 tsp chili flakes, for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl, pour in the coconut milk. Microwave it for about 30 seconds to warm it up.
    Add the miso, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika and salt. Mix everything until the miso dissolves and the spices are well incorporated.
  • Add the rice to the coconut and spices mixture.
    If your rice was in the fridge for at least a day, let the mixture sit on the counter for about 20 minutes, so the rice can soak up some of the coconut milk and soften.
  • Mix in the cooked chicken pieces.
    Pour the mixture into a 9-inch by 11-inch casserole dish (or something similar).
    Cover the dish with aluminum foil, so it doesn't dry out, and bake for 30 minutes.
    Carefully remove the foil from the dish and bake in the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
  • To serve, scoop some out onto plates or bowls. Top with fresh herbs, a generous amount of crunchy bread crumbs, and a tiny pinch of chili flakes.
    Enjoy! If you have leftovers, store them in airtight containers in the fridge for up to three days.

Holiday in Hawaii – December 2020 – Part 5

Day 7 – Kualoa Ranch Raptor Tour and Ziplining, Chasing Big Waves and Watching the Sunset at North Shore!

Kualoa Ranch

Have you seen any of the following movies?
– The Karate Kid II (1986)
– Jurassic Park (1993)
– Mighty Joe Young (1998)
– Fifty First Dates (2004)
– Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle (2018)

We got to see film locations for all these movies plus about two dozen more! Kualoa Ranch is a nature preserve with more than 4,000 acres of lush greenery and mountains that look like the ridged back of a sleeping dragon. They ranch is home to many cows (their burgers are amazing, in unrelated news). And the views are absolutely breath-taking, Hollywood has brought their stars to this side of Oahu to film many, many movies and TV shows. Some of the movie sets, include one from Jurassic World, were left at the ranch so crazy people like us could pose with the dinosaurs! And sit in the truck where Chris Pratt sat.

Entering Kualoa Ranch!
The ranch is home to beautiful horses that you can take out for guided rides!

Utility Terrain Vehicle Raptor Tour at Kualoa Ranch

Our first adventure of the morning had us jumping into utility terrain vehicles and zooming down the trail behind our hilarious guide. We caught glimpses of signs all over the ranch, showing where different movies were filmed. While Fast and Furious wasn’t filmed here, we sure were driving like it!

These are the utility terrain vehicles we drove, with the mountains in the background!
Look. At. That. Lusciousness.
Most of the ride was within the trees and valleys, but we got a couple views of the ocean too!
An old World War II bunker!
I’m glad the ranch is a nature preserve, so this beauty cannot be destroyed.

Movie Sets a Kualoa Ranch

Move over, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, a new star is coming on the scene!

AHHH! HELPPP! The dinosaurs have escaped!
A movie set from Jurassic World (2015)!
The exact same truck from Jurassic World (2015). Let’s take it for a spin!
This is where they filmed the ATV scene in Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)!
A film location (AND THE PENGUIN) from Fifty First Dates (2004)!
Welcome to… Jumanji!!!
We used to LOVE watching Magnum P.I. (1980-1988), and this is from one of the episodes!
This is one of the statues that National Geographic used when they filmed “Walking with Giants”
This was a real WWII bunker. Look familiar? Maybe you recognize it as a DHARMA station from the show LOST (2004-2010)!
We came across the bones of a dinosaur and King Kong!
Giant foot prints! Dun Dun Dunnn (I think these are Kong: Skull Island (2017)
A replica from Mighty Joe Young (1998) – my little sister’s FAVORITE movie!

Touring the Lush Valleys and the Jagged Mountains

We started our tour early in the morning, so this is a shot of the sun rising over the mountains.
Along the trail, we stopped at this picturesque view of the mountain, the valley and the ocean!
There is a story that this mountain was once a live dragon/lizard and it got its head cut off, which fell into the ocean below!
The jagged mountain range really does look like the back of an ancient sleeping dragon.
The island to the far left is called Mokoli’i Island (Chinaman’s Hat). The two man-made pools of water on the right house fish for the luaus!
A closer view of the mountains at Kualoa Ranch – it’s so majestic I could cry.
Wild piggies also run around in thise valleys, but we didn’t get to see one
They ranch is home to many cows (their burgers are amazing, in unrelated news).

Ziplining at Kualoa Ranch

After getting muddy and dusty and having a mountain-size amount of fun, we were ready for the next adventure! Who doesn’t want to soar through the island air, suspended hundreds of feet above a lush valley, swinging in between the incredible mountain ranges?!? I felt like Tarzan and George of the Jungle and an airborne version of the Karate Kid all at once! Hiiiyaaa!
There were seven ziplines, and my partner and I got to race each other side-by-side! And for some reason, he was way more scared of the suspension bridges (even though we were still clipped in, so if we fell, we’d fall like 5 inches)!

A loose dinosaur greeting us at the beginning of our zipline adventure!
yeeeeeeee haaaawwww!
Not only was this adventure a blast, but the views were better than I could have dreamed!
To the right of the ocean, there sits on of the zipline platforms we got launched (pushed?) off!

Chasing some Big Waves on North Shore

Lāʻie Point State Wayside

On the news, my parents heard that there were 40-foot waves approaching North Shore! So what does that mean for my adventure-seeking family? Let’s go chase them!
First stop was the panoramic Lāʻie Point State Wayside! (Don’t ask me how to pronounce that, I know I’ll butcher it on accident.) We took lots of photos and videos as the waves crashed up and over this cool tunnel/holey rock out in the ocean. Another family (probably tourists, pshh) stood a little too close to the edge and they got hammered with a sneaker wave! A salty shower left them walking away soaking wet and laughing their heads off.

Lāʻie Point State Wayside at North Shore

Sunset Beach

To continue our chase of the massive waves, we drove to Sunset Beach on North Shore. Apparently there’s this famous tree that started growing half it’s trunk parallel to the ground, then was like naaah boiii and then started growing straight up like a normal tree. I thought it was cute that they put several signs on the tree, telling people not to climb on it, since it was over 100 years old and it needed to be shown some respect. What people will do for the gram, am I right?

Super old (like, over a century old) tree at Sunset Beach
Multiple signs posted on this poor old tree, making sure hooligans don’t climb on it and disturb its peace.
This was the path through a tunnel of greenery to get to the beach – how magical is that?!

Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach Park

Did you ever go through a phase of wanting to be a super cool surfer after watching the movie Blue Crush? Or maybe even Lilo and Stitch? Well, I definitely did. I wanted to ride the waves and do all the gnarly things that I don’t know what they’re called, but look super cool. I never attained that dream, primarily due to a fear of being eaten alive by a shark or a group of hungry fish.
But if you ever want to watch daredevil surfers tempt the incredibly strong ocean waves with their tiny boards, head to Ehukai Beach Park to watch these athletes take on the Banzai Pipeline. We sat on the sand, completely transfixed by the beauty of the sunset, the ferocity of the waves crashing relentlessly, and the surfers, chasing the ride of their life. This was the first time I had ever seen a wave curl over so you could see through it like a tunnel, which is were the best surfers would ride through and pop out the other side.

Surfer looking out at the ocean waves at sunset.
This guy was super good – I think he was using a bodyboard instead of a surfboard.
Ehukai Beach Park as the sunset casts its final array of colors in the sky.

Killer Tacos

This was a long day, and by the end, we were HUNGRY! So we stopped at a place at North Shore called Killer Tacos, and man oh man, they were killer!! I got a fish taco and a shredded chicken taco. But I felt a little guilty about the chicken taco while a random wild chicken was pecking around our feet while we ate outside!

Tacos from Killer Tacos at North Shore!

Thanks for reading!!!

Check out Part 1 of our trip, when we landed in Oahu and watched the sunset at Sand Island on Day 1. Then on Day 2, hiked to the Lanikai Pillboxes and went on an epic beach tour, ending at Waikiki Beach for a swim in the ocean and sunset with pineapple dole whip.

Check out Part 2 of our trip, when we went snorkeling at Shark’s Cove, devoured shave ice, toured a few more beaches and watched the sunset at Barber’s Point, all on Day 3.

Check out Part 3 of our trip, when we hiked the Pink Pillbox trail, snorkeled with turtles and watched the sunset at Secret Beach, and ate katsu chicken ramen. Then spent the following day touring the magical Aulani Disney Resort, ate all the goodies from Liliha Bakery, and watched the sunset at Ala Moana.

Check out Part 4 of our trip, when we walked out to Ka’ena Point and saw all kinds of wildlife, then paid our respects at the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Utah Memorial and learned a great deal at the Pearl Harbor Museum.

Stay tuned for Part 6, the final days of our dream-come-true adventure!

Small Batch “Pick-Me-Up” Cupcakes

We needed a pick-me-up

Let me tell you why we needed small batch pick-me-up cupcakes at our house. Recently, my family experienced a loss. Our dog, Spencer, went to be in doggy heaven. He was an English springer spaniel and he had super cute soft and floppy ears. Unfortunately, Spencer developed intramuscular disc disease and experienced a lot of pain and paralysis during his final days.

We remember his funny and happy moments now, like how he used to hop through the snow like a rabbit, popping his head out of a mound of snow and it would stick to his face so it looked like a Santa beard. Once when I was suspended from middle school, I had to stay home and read Call of the Wild to keep up with Language Arts class. And every day, Spencer actually laid right next to me for hours while I read about a dog running with a pack of wild wolves.

Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate

Both in honor of Spencer and to cheer my family up, I made cupcakes. And not just any cupcakes. These are what I have dubbed “pick-me-up cupcakes”. My mom took the loss of Spencer the hardest, and she absolutely loves chocolate, so I put as much chocolate in these babies as possible. They are chocolate cupcakes with chocolate chips, and topped with chocolate icing. Spencer was obsessed with peanut butter, so I added a peanut butter center. And who can blame him – peanut butter makes everything better.
And to make sure there was a bombardment of chocolate in everyone’s mouths, I shaved a chocolate bar on top. To add a bit of extra texture and a salty balance to all the sweets, I topped it all with pretzel pieces.

And the best part about this recipe is that it’s small-batch. It makes just four deliciously decadent cupcakes and just enough icing for them. Therefore, there’s no danger of bingeing on these sweets (which I tend to do when I’m sad.)
Tip: Wait to add the pretzel pieces until just before you eat them. If you put them on too early, they get really chewy and gross.

So if life throws a curve ball at you, and your in need of a little pick-me-up, try these! The act of baking these small batch pick-me-up cupcakes is in and of itself an act of meditation. Allow yourself some time and space for self care and indulgence.

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Small Batch Pick-Me-Up Cupcakes

Feeling down and in need of a pick-me-up? Whether it was a long day at work or a loss in the family, these cupcakes loaded with chocolate, more chocolate and peanut butter is the perfect pick-me-up.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate cupcakes, dog condolences, dog passing away, filled cupcakes, homemade chocolate cupcakes, homemade chocolate frosting, homemade cupcake recipe from scratch, loss of dog, peanut butter filling, pick-me-up, pick-me-up cupcakes, small batch baking
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes

  • cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp cocoa powder
  • tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch fine ground sea salt
  • ¼ cup milk or non-dairy milk
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp chocolate chips

Small Batch Chocolate Frosting

  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp milk or non-dairy milk (plus more if needed to thin the frosting to your desired consistency)
  • 1 pinch espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 pinch fine ground sea salt
  • a chocolate bar, for shaving extra chocolate on top
  • 8 small pretzels, broken into pieces

Peanut Butter Filling

  • 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 Tbsp powdered sugar

Instructions

Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the ⅓ cup flour, ¼ cup sugar, 4 tsp cocoa powder, and 1½ tsp baking powder.
    In a separate mixing bowl, combine the ¼ cup milk, 2 Tbsp melted butter, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until you cannot see dry flour anymore and the ingredients are incorporated together. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Line a cupcake tin with four cupcake papers (if desired) and fill the four to about ⅔ full with the batter. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cupcakes. Let them cool on a cooling rack.

Small Batch Chocolate Frosting

  • In a mixing bowl, beat the 4 Tbsp softened butter until it is pale yellow and fluffy.
    Add the 2 cups of powdered sugar, ¼ cup cocoa powder, 1 Tbsp milk, pinch of espresso powder and pinch of salt. Whisk everything together until it forms a thick yet soft frosting.
  • Either prepare a piping bag with the chocolate frosting, or you can frost the cupcakes with a rubber spatula or a butter knife.

Peanut Butter Filling

  • In a small bowl, mix together the 2 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 Tbsp melted butter and 1 Tbsp powdered sugar.

Assemble the Pick-Me-Up Cupakes

  • Using an apple corer, the larger end of a piping tip, or a knife, cut out a hole in the center of each cupcake. Don't cut all the way through the bottom, or else the filling will ooze out.
    Fill each hole with about 1 tsp of the peanut butter filling, until the filling reaches the top of the cupcake.
  • Pipe or spread the chocolate icing on top of each cupcake, to your desired ratio of cupcake to icing.
  • Using a grater, shave a chocolate bar on top of each cupcake.
    Just before eating, break apart pretzels and sprinkle the pieces on top for added crunch and balance of flavor.
    Enjoy!