Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

It's still a new year... get a fresh start!

Leannda Cavalier6 Comments

How crazy is it that spring is already here? It's pretty cool outside here, but feelings of newness and invigoration are undeniable for me. Flowers are blooming... okay, they mostly bloomed in the 75º February weather and froze over in March. Regardless, spring is about new beginnings and new life.

backyard_tulips_2016

That goes for the baby squirrels under my deck, the tulips poking out their leaves, and all the ideas I've been hoarding in my notes app. 

I have a question for you, and I want you to be honest. How are your New Years resolutions going?

If they're not going so well, know you're not alone. According to a U.S. News & World Report story, more than 80 percent of resolutions probably failed more than a month ago. There are a number of reasons NYR don't work out for people—one of which, I believe, involves the very name. 

New Year's resolutions. New. Year's. Resolutions.

The funny thing about today? It's still 365 days away from this date last year, and next year. I think the holiday we call New Year's is important to recognize, and can be a great time to reset and try to change. Symbolism can be a great tool.

On the other hand, we make SUCH a big deal out of it that it can directly set us back.

New Year's Day is a temporal landmark. That's the idea that when there's a clean restart, people are more likely to actually turn their aspirations into reality.

The thing is, New Years comes at an inconvenient time for change. How many cookies did your family send home with you after Christmas? How much candy and leftovers do you have from all the festivities? Do you just let it all go to waste for your new lifestyle? Not to mention that you likely let up on your workout schedule and developed some hard-to-break habits over the holidays. 

pizza_all_meals

One study found that people buy more healthy food in January... but their junk-food-buying habits didn't change from what they were spending over the holiday season (during which they bought 15 percent more junk food than usual).

Don't get me wrong, adding healthy foods in is a great way to change your habits, but at some point you've got to take some of the junk food out of your cart to make a difference. 

Making new habits takes time, and if you try to do everything at once it can be overwhelming. It can also be incredibly discouraging if you falter by mid-January. 

Today is the third day of spring—but that doesn't even matter. Every day is what you make it. It can be anything you want it to be! If take advantage of that, maybe March 21st of 2018 can be your one-year anniversary of finally making that change you wanted to make. 

So right here, right now, I challenge you to make a plan for one thing you want to change in the next year. Oh, and I want to help!

Download your free guide in the box below, then come back & keep reading to make your plan!

Making the plan

Step 1: Choose one goal you want to achieve in the next year.

Follow the guidelines below to help you out: 

Sign up in the blue box above to get your guide!

Sign up in the blue box above to get your guide!

  1. It has to be something you can reasonably achieve in the next year. Don't choose things that aren't within your control, or that could take years to achieve.
  2. It has to be challenging. Yes, it has to be achievable, but choose something you've struggled with for a while, or that isn't so easy you could do it in a week. We're looking for a transformation of some sort. If you don't challenge yourself, you won't grow.
  3. It has to be worth it! Really think about why you want it. Make sure it's something you really want, or you won't do it. 

Step 2: Set objectives to make your goal concrete.

What has to happen for you to reach your goal? Let's go back to that example of "getting healthy." Getting healthier means different things to different people. You might want to lose weight, build muscle, lean out, lower your cholesterol, run a marathon, or even just breathe easier on the stairs.

Choose three end results that make up the big goal you chose, and write them down. But be specific! Instead of just vaguely saying lose weight, say how much you want to lose. Say where you want your cholesterol to be. Say what kind of exercise you want to be able to do. Make it measurable so that at the end of the year you can know exactly how far you've come. 

Step 3: Break it down into action steps.

The best way to achieve a goal is to break it into bite-sized steps you can incorporate daily. So what small steps do you have to take to make your objectives a reality? Choose a few actions that will help you meet each of your objectives.

So if one of your objectives was to lose 20 pounds, maybe you decide to do that by eating home-cooked meals at least five days a week, exercising for at least 10 minutes five days a week, and only eat dessert twice a week or on special occasions.

These actions should be things you can start doing immediately, and that you can feasibly stick to. I'm not saying they shouldn't be difficult, but if you're out of shape, committing to working out for an hour five days a week right away is a recipe for failure, or even injury. If your favorite hobby is baking, cutting out sugar entirely probably isn't an option you'll stick to for long.

Remember, you can always adjust your goals to make them more challenging as you get used to them.

Step 4: Check in and adjust as you go.

Set a date each month in your calendar to evaluate how things are going. Are you making progress? Have you faltered or given up on certain action steps or objectives? That's okay!

It's not ideal, but now is the time to think about whether you need to adjust your goals to make them more doable, pivot, or suck it up and renew your commitment.

Setting an actual date in ink will help you keep yourself accountable instead of just giving up until next year. 

Step 5: Evaluate how well you met your goal, and move forward!

Listen, I want you to go at your goal with everything you've got. The thing is, nobody is perfect. We all have our struggles. Don't let all your self-worth or happiness be conditional on whether or not you met your goal.

Be happy with any progress you made! Celebrate your successes and think of ways to keep the train rolling ahead! Make a plan so you don't fall back into your old habits.

If you didn't meet your goals, let it go and move on. You tried, and at least you have a starting point. You know your weaknesses and what you need to work on. You know what obstacles you'll face and

You can take this plan or leave it, but I really encourage you to think about where you want to . There are so many ways to make a change, and I don't presume to have the best one. I just know structure, mindfulness and planning are what work for me.

Just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to do it alone. You don't have to quit because you had a bad couple of weeks.

Over the next few posts I'll be sharing some of my goals, tips for making big changes in the kitchen, and more!

I would LOVE to hear about changes you're making in your life.

In the comments tell me:

  • ONE big change you want to make this year, and how you're going to make it.
    • Can I help? Are you struggling with cooking, food, or wellness-related goals
  • Will you use this plan? Do you have a different method?

Let me know :)

Introduction, promises and fear: why you should go for it in the kitchen this year

Leannda Cavalier2 Comments

First things first, welcome to WhipSmart Kitchen!

This is actually my second food-related place of residence on the internet. You may have seen my first blog, “Recipe Repository” on Tumblr. To be honest, that blog was just a placeholder to post some recipes and musings while I built this. It’s taken a little longer than I had hoped, but I’m super excited it’s finally up and running!

Julia Child wrote in My Life in France, "this is my invariable advice to people: learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!"

I couldn't possibly agree more. 

Cooking has played an enormous role in my life. Some of my earliest memories include cooking with my family, and as an adult it’s gotten me through some difficult times. Some people see cooking as a burdensomething I hope to changebut I see it as a pick-me-up. Whether I’m cooking an old standby, trying out a new recipe or creating my own, something about playing with food is like coloring. Therapeutic and satisfying. Besides, even if you've never cracked an egg, I’m betting you love to eat.

Now, let me share my master plan. 

master plan.gif

My three main goals for this blog are:

  1. For you to learn something each time you read my posts.

  2. To share my recipes and love of cooking.

  3. To give you the tools you need to make home-cooking your new best friend.

My first promise to you: I will always give you more than just a list of ingredients and steps.

My first career choice was broadcast journalism, and I will always love it. One of the things I loved most was using it to help people. Sometimes that means sharing someone’s story, and other times it means giving your audience “news you can use.” Whether it’s a new technique, historical tidbits or nutritional information, I hope you always have at least one takeaway that will help you be whip-smart in your future food endeavors.

The least I can do is share what I've learned and give you a roadmap, right?

My second promise to you: I’ll always do my best to meet you where you are, because this is a part of life I don't want you to skip.

The benefits of cooking and taking time with your food are countless. Cooking keeps my body healthy and my mind sharp. Even when I’ve been at my least fit (stress and joint injuries are my kryptonite, ugh), I’m always in pretty good condition because of my home-cooking habits. They allow me to be mindful of nutrition and balance. When I falter I forgive myself and move on, but in the meantime I feel so... blerg. 

When you cook for yourself, you can decide exactly what goes into your body, and what doesn’t make the cut. 

Sitting down to meals and sharing food is also a great way to improve our emotional health. Whether you’re eating at a party with a bunch of friends or sitting down to dinner with your family, eating together is a chance to slow down and catch up. Sharing food is a universal way to show that you love and care about others. It’s how we pass down our heritage and traditions. It's how we learn about people different from us. Eating together is one of the best parts of life. Even eating by yourself is a great way to catch your breath and focus on the moment.

To be frank, being able to cook is also a milestone. It says you’re self sufficient. You’re independent. You can take care of yourself. Heck, you may even be capable of keeping a plant alive!

Basically, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’re adulting as the adults do. Adults handle their business, and they definitely say adulting ;).

My third promise to you: If you’re a willing participant, I promise to help you take matters into your own hands and handle your kitchen business. 

In case you couldn’t tell, I REALLY want you to cook more; however, I’m a big proponent of balance and doing the best you can. Eating out is one of my favorite things to do, and you know what? I eat processed foods sometimes. I eat fast food sometimes.

I know. I know. 

I know. I know. 

No one is perfect and that’s not what this is about. This is about doing your best with what you have access to, being fearless with food and enjoying every step of the way.

Your life has its own unique challenges and roadblocks. Adding menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking and dishes to your routine can feel daunting, even if you're not starting from square one. Let's figure it out together. 

Want a place to start? Join my VIP list and I'll tell you my secrets for getting the recipe right every time. It's not as hard as you think!

Wedding cake revisited: how to eat a year-old cake

Leannda Cavalier1 Comment

This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository

The perfect anniversary dessert. Dry on the outside, gooey on the inside.

Tastes mostly like the ice you used to scrape off the sides of the pizza bagel freezer at the grocery store when you were little (you know you did!), yet smells reminiscent of broccoli and marinara sauce. Cuts like bread pudding and has a mysterious stream of water leaking out of the bottom.

Romantic, right?

Is that how you picture year-old frozen wedding cake? We need to talk. It doesn’t have to be that way.

My husband and I just celebrated our first anniversary, and the frozen top of our tiramisu cake was… perfect! It was still packed with flavor–the one it was supposed to have and no other mystery tastes/odors. I would say the biggest changes between the fresh and frozen product is that the cake becomes more dense and the icing gets smushed. It is frozen cake after all.

Still, if I had to guess how long our cake was frozen, I’d say a few days tops. 

We got a backup cake just in case the method we used didn’t work, but we didn’t even need it! I mean, we still ate it… who passes up that good of a cake? Just robots, I’m pretty sure.

We also may have bought 26 extra cupcakes because they were day-old cupcakes for a dollar… but you’ll have to ask my lawyer about that.

There are a billion tips out there for how to freeze your wedding cake, and most of them say different things. I can’t even find the guide I loosely followed last year when my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and husband’s aunt helped me cloak ours in layer after layer.

I’m not a baking expert. I’ve only frozen the one cake. But, this one was kind of a big deal, and it worked out perfectly.

I can’t give you a foolproof method of what works for every cake every time, but I can tell you step-by-step what we did, and some things I learned along the way.

So here goes:

How to Freeze a Wedding Cake for Your Anniversary

1. Take a peek at what’s under the cake. Plastic? Good! Foil? Good! Cardboard? Nope. remove the cake from the cardboard and set aside on a plate, then cover the cardboard with foil.  Cardboard can absorb smells and put those smells into your cake. It also has a smell of its own it can put in the cake. Not cool, unless you want your year-old cake to smell like that time you left all your empty moving boxes outside and it rained.  

2. Replace the cake and remove any flowers or decorations.

3. Place the cake in the freezer, uncovered for two hours.* This is called flash freezing.

4. Remove cake from the freezer and tightly wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap, making certain it’s sealed and there are no air bubbles.

5. Add a layer of aluminum foil (enough to cover the entire cake, so I’d use two long sheets placed in an X-shape under the cake, then wrapped tightly over the top).

6. Add a layer of newspaper in the same fashion.

7. Repeat the aluminum and newspaper layers four more times.

8. End on two layers of foil, sealed as tightly as possible.

9. Mark with tape and a felt tip marker so no one will accidentally open it to see what it is.

10. Put it near the back of the freezer and freeze for one year

Layer breakdown from inside to outside:

2 layers plastic wrap

1 layer of aluminum foil

1 layer of newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

2 layers foil

*Consider cleaning and defrosting your several days before the wedding for this purpose.

To defost:

1. Remove the cake from the freezer and remove all wrappings.

2. Loosely wrap the cake with waxed paper and place cake in the refrigerator to defrost overnight. 

3. Remove cake from the freezer 3-4 hours before eating to defrost fully, keeping covered until you are ready to serve.  

Tips:

-This is a two-person process.  You need at least one person wrapping, and one person holding the previous layer tight.

-Your cake won’t freeze well for a long period of time if it is cut. You should freeze it as an entire round, covered in frosting.

-Do not put in a defrosting freezer. You want as constant a temperature as possible.

-If the power goes out, DO NOT OPEN THE FREEZER DOOR. See the last tip.

-If your cake is fondant or something other than buttercream, you may want to consider looking up specific tips for that, I’m sure there are many floating around out there.

-Freeze your cake as soon as possible. We put ours in the morning after the wedding.  

Again, there are other options out there, many of which look easier than this. I haven’t tried those ones, but most look just a little too easy to ease my mind when it comes to the best/most expensive/most symbolic cake I’ve ever had. And I already take cake seriously.

Want to shop around for other options? I get it. Here are some resources I looked through last year when planning the deep freeze, and a few I found while writing this:

-weddingbee.com

-Martha Stewart

-The Washington Post

-dweddings.com

-Tiny Test Kitchen

-Philadelphia Magazine

 

P.S. If you’re near the Charleston area of West Virginia, you really should try out Sugar Pie Bakery. That’s where we got all the cake in the pictures above.

We wanted a tiramisu cake so bad and couldn’t find one anywhere in the area. We mentioned that during our cake consultation and they created the best one I’ve EVER had from scratch. They now feature it regularly as a monthly cupcake flavor, so you’re welcome.

I love their s’mores, peanut butter cup, chocolate cheesecake, red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes, and I’m sure I’d love anything else they made. They’re also super-friendly with unbeatable service.