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Coconut cupcakes

Baking has always been a stress relieving activity.  The discipline and precision is what I find very soothing.  When I cook, I have the ability to freestyle.  Because I cook so often during the week, I find the exactness of baking (because I do it so infrequently), is very peaceful.

These days, I have been trying to focus most of my free time toward my personal fitness.  While it isn’t exactly the stress free activity baking is, the dopamine levels I can achieve feel almost immeasurable.  I feel like a total bad ass after a solid HIIT workout or after I’ve run farther than I’ve ever gone before.

I got a friendly reminder last week from my work family that they miss my stress relieving cupcakes.  I have to admit, it has been several months since I’ve brought any treats in.  A favorite in the office are my Elvis cupcakes.  I wanted to throw it way back and bring in coconut cupcakes which were the reigning favorite of a team I was on almost six years ago.

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Coconut Cupcakes (recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner no more than 3/4 to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

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One word of warning, you can probably scale back the amount of frosting you make.  I stretch this recipe out to 24 cupcakes instead of the 18 to 20 Ina suggests.  I modified the cupcake recipe above to fill the liners 3/4 vs. to the top.  They run over the liners considerably, so beware or you may end up with overflowing batter in the baking process.  Even with the additional cupcakes, I always end up with about 2-3 cups of extra frosting.  If you really love frosting and want the extra, then I say go for it!  Otherwise, it might be wise to have something else you can frost handy.  I just hate waste.

These have been a favorite of mine for years, which is especially shocking since I despise most coconut desserts. They’re definitely not for the faint of heart.  It seems to have more sugar and more butter than any other cupcake I’ve made before, but leave it to Queen Ina to bring the force. They’re pretty simple to make, so I’d encourage everyone to give it a try.  Your family, friends, and coworkers will thank you.

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Clean Slate – Week 2 and 3

This clean slate diet nearly killed me. I have never longed for fatty foods the way I did on this diet. I think it’s a mental thing for me. Self-deprivation makes me crave to an extreme. Never again. Did it work? Yes. I lost 5 pounds net but gained it all right back the minute I stopped. Was it worth it, not really. If I had decided to commit to this type of eating for the rest of my life, I could see the benefits in terms of being pretty skinny. Healthy? That’s debatable. I literally felt starving most of the time, which also lead me to feel like I had to eat crap and a lot of it for that matter.

Week 2 and 3 introduced whole grains and a decent amount of protein. Long gone were the days of smoothies and I have never been more pleased to chew something.


Sardine and orange salad — Found out immediately that I hate sardines

Baby spinach, shiitake mushrooms and brown rice in parchment – Not satisfying. I repeat, not satisfying. You will want a greasy cheeseburger the minute you are done.

Millet, coconut milk, pineapple, and flaxseed. SO FRIGGIN GOOD!!!

Oh you know, just so veggie packed miso soup for breakfast.

Baked sweet potato, red onion, collards and avocado. Very, very yummy, but this was it for dinner.

Quinoa with pear and almonds. One of the many quinoa dishes I ate in week 2. I think after this whole experience, I have never despised a grain so much.

Ended week 2 with the delicious tropical millet

My good friend, the egg, came back with a zucchini and leek frittata in Week 3.

Sunchoke, celery, and fennel salad. Back to starving for lunch. These lunches are so small, you can finish them in maybe 5 bites top. Not satisfying whatsoever. If I had more unhealthy snacks in my pantry or fridge, I would have binged immediately after work.

Back to quinoa for breakfast. This rendition featured avocado, almonds and honey. I have never been so confused by breakfast, except for maybe the miso soup.

Kale, red cabbages, edamame, brown rice and a boiled egg. Meh, this was ok. I’m not a huge fan of cooked kale. I finally felt full, but didn’t enjoy this one.

Gluten free breakfast – buckwheat apple walnut muffins.

Roasted tofu brown rice “congee”

I felt faint… like someone just dragged my ass across the finish line. The thing I hated the most was that I didn’t really have the energy to work out. I went for a 3 mile run and could hardly make it. I think I’d rather have a healthier balance of eating and feeling satiated with exercise.

These days, I’m back to what I consider my normal meals — a hefty breakfast on the weekends and either hard boiled eggs or a smoothie for breakfast. The smoothies definitely rubbed off on me because they’re so quick to make if I’m in a pinch and I can load up on a tremendous amount of greens that I would otherwise not be eating.


Avocado toast with an over easy egg

Sweet potato hash with a veggie omelet

Lunches and dinners generally consist of salads with some kind of protein like roast chicken sans the skin, tofu, or an egg. If I’m feeling ambitious and have the time for dinner, I’ll make some kind of baked or steamed fish with greens. Weekends are more in line with whatever I’m doing socially, which means I’m eating out one meal Saturday and Sunday. Alcohol is still on the table, but I’m debating giving myself a break. I had stopped drinking once I started dating Mr. E and lost a ton of weight from that alone. That being said, I’m not sure the weight loss in that department is worth it to me.

If I was desperate and knew I wanted to trim down for a tropical vacation, let’s say, I might consider this again. Long term, I think I’m happier eating the way I do normally.