Thursday, 28 June 2012

My first video

Since my chocolate cake recipe is a bit touchy (if it is undermixed it's no good, if it is overmixed, it's not good either) I decided to do a video of the whole process.  It's my first one, probably not great, but it'll have to do.  Took me a while to set it up, and since I was solo in the kitchen, getting my tiny camear to the right angle to take a shot of it was tricky since I didn't have a tripod or anythign that fit that camera. 

I'm editing the video now on youtube, going through the whole process of cutting out the long boring bits.  It is a rather long video, but I guess you can skip to the interesting part if you'd like.  If the video goes over well, I'll make more eventually.  The time is a serious factor.

Also, please keep in mind that if you are using my videos for allergy safe baking, it is imperative that you verify all the ingredients with the manufacturer to ensure they don't contain any of the allergens you are avoiding.  The lack of a "may contain" warning doesn't mean they are safe and I accept no liability for an allergic reaction (it is the reason I will not put brand names that I use on the site, because they may be safe in one country and not another due to packaging facilities). 

Even when I bake cakes from home, I cannot 100% guarantee that there will be no issue, because I DO have these allergens in my house, but I bake everything as if it were for my own daughter, and take the utmost precautions to ensure that no cross contamination occurs.

Here is the video on me making the batter..  The recipe is included in the video, I hope it helps!

Happy cake making!  Keep in mind that allergy safe baking is harder than it seems due to cross contamination, which is why my cupcakes and cakes are available to order from my allergy safe kitchen.  You can contact me for details any time.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Colour flow icing

Figured I should switch it up a little.  I don't only do cakes/cupcakes, I can do cookies too, and I have a nifty recipe for brown sugar cookies, so I whipped up a double batch on Saturday.  Now, I can make cookies, but I've never been really good at decorating them, so I wanted to challenge myself.  I'd heard about colour flow icing, but never tried it out myself until Saturday.  I started off by making the cookies (long process because the dough needs to refrigerate for 2 hours before rolling).  After the wait, the rolling out and cutting was done, they went in the oven.  While they cooled I made my icing.  That was the most unsure part of this process, because I'd made these cookies before and liked them, but the colour flow icing recipes I saw all used Wilton's color-flo icing mix, and there is meringue powder in that (egg whites) so I can't use it.  I found a recipe that looked good and tried it out.  On Saturday I made green, black and yellow icing.  The results were okay, though I think the icing was a touch too thick, the cookies looked okay, but kind of amateurish, so I'm glad I had saved a dozen for tonight.

Saturdays cookies :

So armed with lessons learned on Saturday I sat down today, mixed up some orange, yellow, black and white..  The icing recipe was a bit too thin this time, so a bit runnier than it should have been, but it worked out okay..  I had learned a few things from playing around the first time (the best way to learn a technique in my opinion) and put those lessons into practise..

Here are today's cookies:
This one is my favourite of them all I think..

So I had fun again, I learned more again and realised how much I really want to be able to open a bakery(allergy friendly/vegan bakery).  Just wish I had the means to do so..  *sigh*

Monday, 18 June 2012

I'm crazy - Updated goals

My original goal when I set out to do the triathlon training was to get moving.  I made the goal before I hopped onto a bike or swam a single lap.  I had only been running a bit using C25k.  I had a wonderful dream of crossing the finish line in glory (okay, I still have that goal).  I started my pool training 10 visits ago, and already a distance of 1500m much easier for me, and the sprint triathlon only requires 750m..  After all, I used to swim a lot, having been a lifeguard AGES ago..  The biking, well, I used to bike a lot, I don't foresee that as being very brutal, since the course is flat..  The first time I headed out on the bike around here with slight ups and downs, I did over 5km..  The sprint triathlon distance is 20km bike..  The running is going well, just finished the 4th week of the C25k training.  Today I ran 5 minutes non stop TWICE in the 30 minute workout, and what's even better is that my recovery time on my walk intervals was much faster, I caught my breath faster and didn't feel like dying at the end..

So the sprint distance triathlon goal is being updated.  I have confirmed with the race that my distance can be upped to the Olympic distance triathlon, because if only for just the name change - it sounds SOOO much more bad ass.  The distances are double that of the sprint, so 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.  I'm already training consistently at the pool doing the 1500m distance, and working on increasing my endurance by increasing resistance as opposed to distance to go beyond the 1500m eventually and to improve the endurance of my arm muscles so they are less tired at the end of the 1500m swim so the bike transition is smoother.

This week my training goes into block training.  That is when I train 2 of the events in one day.  For convenience factor only I've coupled the swim and run into a day, even though one wont follow the other during the event.  My week will look like this (unless something is up with the kids):

Monday (done this AM already) - 1500m swim, 30 minute run/walk
Tuesday - Bike (distance unknown - ride out till I get tired, take a stretch break, snack then head back), Zumba
Wednesday - 1500 m swim, 30 minute run
Thursday - Bike (same as Tuesday - try to go a bit farther)
Friday - (pool closed - cry) 30 minute run, Karate (pm)
Saturday - rest day
Sunday - Zumba

Now I consider the Zumba to be more of a social thing, my heart rate goes up a bit, but not much, so I barely count it..

It`s going to be a pretty crazy summer, with trying to train when it`s coolest out and school and the kids, but i`ll make it work.  I`m seeing results, and I LOVE that.  Now I need to go study, because I`m behind on my class.  That and I need a shower - it`s hot out and running in the heat is NO fun..


For anyone interested, I'm raising funds for Soldier On and the Military Families Fund.  Donations can be made online.  Tax receipts are issued for donations over 10$ (I think).  Considering I have a cousin currently serving and my husband is former military, it's a cause that hits close to home (he will be running the race with me in September, which is 2 weeks after my triathlon).

Thanks to my readers!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

An expensive startup

I was thinking the other day about how when I start something, I like to go at it 100% and give it my all.  This could be said to be true for both my favourite hobbies at the moment, baking cakes/cupcakes and triathlon training.  I've been very reserved with my triathlon training stuff so far and so here is what I've put out so far

Actual running shoes (clearance rack - lucky find) - 80$
Running pants (I started training in April - it was colder also clearance rack) - 35$
Shorts (clearance) - 25$
Good tank top (clearance) - 20$
Running bra (can't skimp here, because nature didn't either) - 85$
3/4 length cheap walking pants - 15$
3 tank tops, cheap and baggy - 28$ (all 3)
Bathing suit (on sale) - 55$
Goggles - 24$
Bike (over 20 years old) - 50$
Tune up for bike - 50$
Bike seat that doesn't make me feel violated in all new ways - 30$
Helmet - 35$
Sunglasses (gotta love my Oakeys - not a typo.. ) - 15$
5k Army run entry fee - 30$
Triathlon entry fee - 105$
Wetsuit rental (oh yes - open water swims get cold) - 40$

I'm sure I forgot a thing or two in this list - and there are still a few things I need to pick up before race day (running belt with water bottle, good socks for the triathlon etc...)  I can't believe I've already spent over 720$ on this..  At least most of this stuff will be good for a long time.  I could look at it as being expensive, but I could also look at it like this.  It's for my health, for my family, for my kids, so I can be around to watch them grow up, so I can run beside them as they pedal off on their bikes for the first time without huffing and puffing for air.  It's about being a positive role model for them and not a hypocrite saying exercise then sitting on the couch all day watching TV, sipping coke.  It's a tiny investment and it will reap some of the biggest rewards of anything, and thinking about it, the pride I feel when I cross the line at the triathlon in September - this will have payed for itself 100%.  I will buy the photos and remember it with pride, even if I never go back and do it again, I'll have an amazing sense of accomplishment.

After having 3 kids and being 250lbs at the end of my last pregnancy (220 ish when the baby was all gone and the water retention dissipated), I got fed up of feeling like a blimp.  I still have the loose belly skin that jiggles WAY too much when I run, and I don't know if it will ever go back to being as firm as it was, even if I work out a ton - doesn't matter to me anymore, it's a badge of pride for having carried my three kids, the problem I had is that though after 9 months you give birth, the cookies and cakes and ice cream don't quite come off the same way, and I have a killer sweet tooth.

I started back at karate in December 2011, just 6 weeks after the baby was born, and since then (most of it being since I took up the running training) I have managed to get down to the 193ish range.  I dont' work by weight though, the scale lies.  The changes that I see are in the mirror.  First, the maternity pants didn't fit anymore, even though they always fit me between the other kids.  The summer shorts I bought before getting pregnant this last time literally fall down if I don't have a belt on.  I only have 2 rolls in the front and they are going away quickly.  The extra skin on the underside of my arm is receding a bit and firming up, my shoulders look stronger.  I took 3 pairs of jeans out of the pre-pregnancy pants bag - and now they are even getting loose.  My face is regaining a shape, my pouch under my chin has almost gone away.  Most of all, I feel great, I wouldn't trade this feeling for the world.  I have about 25 lbs to go to my personal target, and it is within grasp.

Today for the first time, thanks to C25k, I ran 5 minutes without stopping.  It was hard.. damn hard, but I did it.  I didn't give up, I pushed through the pain and was proud of myself at the end of the 5 minutes (that wasn't the whole run, just one short part of the morning torture session).  I call it torture, because in reality, it hurts, it's hard and I stink at the end, but I've got a stupid smile plastered to my face when I hear "congratulations, you have completed your run today" come into my headset.

I think almost anyone could do it - and everyone should.  This is one of those times when complacency can kill, and I have more reasons I ever thought I would have to live for.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Vegan Cheesecake?

I've been intrigued.  Since my husband loves cheesecake, I've been delving into recipes of vegan cheesecake.  I'm not a fan of cheesecake, vegan or not, so I have a harder time with this of course, because taste testing is much harder.  I found a recipe that is supposed to be very good, so I went out to the store to buy what I thought I needed, and whipped up the recipe.  It was horrible.  This is when I learned there is a difference between regular tofu and silken tofu.  It's really hard to find silken tofu in Quebec, but managed to find a place that has both it and the vegan cream cheese, so that's a good thing.  Flash forward 3 weeks and I make the same recipe, this time with the right ingredients, and it is much better.  The texture is very similar to cheesecake, but the flavour is obviously not very cheesecake-y because there's not real cheese in it.  I'm going to give this recipe one more try, using all the right ingredients, but taking out the lemon zest and using instead..  flavour oil...   I'm really learning to love these things, because it lets me put flavours to things that I wouldn't be able to get to taste realistic in the first place.  I went back to my allergy information chart and lo and behold the cheesecake flavour is safe, so I'll be placing an order soon on line and will grab 2 flavours I can't find in stores around here - the cheesecake flavour and the "Irish creme" flavour, both of which are safe (mmm)..  I will post more details on how it turns out when I try it using the flavour oil.

Now those chocolate caramel cupcakes were really good, though the chocolate/caramel icing could have had a touch more caramel flavouring in it, because it was muted quite a bit by the cocoa powder added to the icing.  Overall though, it was delicious.

That was an experiment that went very well in my opinion, and I will certainly be doing it again.  IN fact, I can officially say that this is my favourite cupcake so far..  The drizzle of dark chocolate shavings on the top just makes it look deliciously decadent..  and it certainly is...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Target heart rate and caramel cake

Finally got word back from the doctor that sent me for the chest/sinus x-rays last week and the reason I've been sick all month and hacking up a lung constantly is because I have sinusitis.  'Twas what I expected honestly, since my husband has the same symptoms as I do and was diagnosed with it in the office, I'm the unlucky asthmatic one that had to be sent for the x-rays to rule out a pneumonia.  Started antibiotics tonight, and should be feeling somewhat human by mid week next week.  At least I can swim.

In my exercise science class, we've been going over how to create a good workout plan and how to calculate your target heart rate.  Fun stuff, but important because I want to make sure I don't over train.  I know that they estimate fitness level partly based on the resting heart rate, so I used the heart rate reserve formula to calculate, because it gives a more accurate picture of the heart rate I'd want.  Figured I'd take advantage of being at the pharmacy to use their pressure cuff to get my resting heart rate and blood pressure.  Well, apparently even though I've got another 30 pounds to lose my body is in great shape, my resting heart rate (and even then not completely resting because I wasn't sitting 10 minutes before taking it, so this is a touch higher) is 65 bpm and my blood pressure is 107/68..  hmmm..  yay for good hearts?  It's going to be crazy when I actually lose the weight and build up my fitness level, there is lots of good potential there.

So I'm training and trying to maintain a 25-27 bpm 10 second count at the peak of workout.  Great, because all of last week after my swims I was doing my 10 second count to verify for when I finally figured out the calculation and I was training at a 27 bpm 10 second count, which is 85% of my max heart rate, meaning the top of my training zone.  Awesome.

I took my bike into the shop to get tuned up so I can start my cycling training and toss it into the mix.  The bike cost me 50$, the tune up will be 70$.  Kind of funny, but still cheaper than buying a new bike for sure.

So far my swim training is going very well, I do 1000m on a regular basis during the training session, and I am slowly increasing the intensity of those swims to improve my times..  On Wednesday, my workout looked like this:

100m breaststroke warm up
Arm and shoulder stretch
100m crawl, 100m breaststroke (X3)
150m crawl
150m cooldown breastroke easy pace

I was pleased, the workout set (the 750m distance) took me just under 20 minutes (19:49) which isn't bad considering almost half of it is breaststroke.  I'd almost argue I'm more fit now than when I was a lifeguard, but wait till 20 pounds more go away before I get that bold.

Right now I'm burning a lot of calories working out, because I'm doing Zumba, Karate (started back last night) running, swimming and soon cycling.  I'm making sure to listen to my body though, because today it said "hell no" and I'm okay with that, I have a good swim tomorrow morning.  My major weight loss issue right now is the food.  I need to develop a nutrition plan that takes everything into consideration with my goals and health issues in mind   I have to cut out snacks, I'm being so bad Tuesday/Thursday when I go into class I always end up stopping at timmies for timbits or something equally horrible, and I need to stop doing that, because they taste good but make me feel like crap, give me indigestion and give me horrible sugar crashes.  I'm going to make an effort to have fewer refined grains, more whole grain breads and switch out sugary jam for peanut butter for extra protein.  I'm not into all those fancy supplements, I prefer to simply eat healthier.

On the unhealthy note, my husband wanted me to make a small cake for one of his supervisors for his birthday.  Nothing fancy he said, so I didn't bother with fancy decorating, I didn't even use a real piping bag when I wrote happy birthday on it, just a Ziploc bag with the corner cutoff, but I did get to try out another flavour.  Caramel.  I made my delicious chocolate cake recipe just like normal and when I made my butter cream I omitted the vanilla and added about 2 drops of caramel flavour to the icing.  Now I really like these flavourings because the company I get them from has very clear allergy statements and dare I say it, most of them are 100% artificial, so I don't have to worry about allergens.  They sent me the whole chart so I checked the ones I want and will be trying them all out eventually.  Back to cake, put a bit of brown colouring in the icing to make it look more like caramel then iced the cake.  I saved about 1/4 cup if icing for the writing and mixed in a bit more brown then decided instead I would put cocoa powder in that to make it a truer chocolate brown.  That icing was GOOD!  I didn't take photos, mostly because it was a pretty simple cake, but I determined my next quest thanks to this adaptation..

***Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate caramel filling and a tiny swirl of regular caramel icing on top ***

Featured next time on my blog: Tofu cheesecake adventure!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Flavouring and a reaction

A touch late - but in the spirit of my blog it's because we spent most of yesterday in the hospital with our Daughter who thought it was nice when her little sister shared her milk with her so she took a sip, even after being told that it wasn't safe.  Hopefully she learned a lesson, because that was not a fun day.  I had just run out the door 5 minutes late for my Zumba class and not even 2 minutes down the road my husband calls me saying she drank the wrong milk, I made it back to the house in less than 1 minute, confirmed the reaction (wasn't hard) she had already thrown up, her voice was hoarse and she was blotchy and red, her nose was dripping and her upper lip was pretty swollen.  Epi-pen, stash them all in the car and head out to the hospital with the second one in hand just in case..  Took this photo in the car, the worst of the symptoms were gone by that point but the lip was still pretty big.

So that being said I've been getting pretty adventurous with flavouring icings and such.  Did a few trials recently which were pretty neat and worked pretty well.  I mentioned a large cupcake order (60 assorted cupcakes) and I did my classic vanilla with buttercream, chocolate with buttercream and vanilla with strawberry buttercream flavour..  AWESOME.  I got really excited and decided to try more combinations.

I now have a few more flavour oils to try.  I played with orange flavour oil this weekend.  I made one batch of my chocolate cake and split it in two..  With the first half I made a simple batch of chocolate cupcakes, with the second half of the batch I added orange flavour oil directly to the batter with some orange zest.  When the cupcakes were baked, I whipped up a half batch of buttercream icing and flavoured it with the orange oil.  Well, the results were good, but could have been better.  I forgot to half the flavouring, so in both instances, the orange flavour was a bit too strong, though the amount would have been perfect for a full batch.  Also, I thought the zest in the cake would work better than it did, and since it wasn't visible at all, I figure I'll skip it next time and just stick to the oil.  The cake was iced with my chocolate icing recipe and my cupcakes were filled with the buttercream.  So there are so many new things in there that I learned to do, it was a very neat weekend.  The cake tasted a lot like a Terrys chocolate orange, which are tasty..  mmm..  They weren't made fancy, because I didn't need to really, they were just to try.

I made 2 other cakes with the first cupcake order I did.  One for the persons birthday (the cake was for her to bring home, the cupcakes were for the employees) and the other one was a special order hockey rink cake for 25 people.  Kept me busy that weekend for sure, but I was reasonably pleased with the results, though had some issues with cracking fondant..  The flowers were pretty nice, and I added a bit of lustre dust to make it sparkly, which gave it a nice effect..

All in all I'm getting more confident about my abilities in doing this.  I'm not awesome yet, but it's coming along!  I'm still snacking on cupcakes and cake, good thing I'm working out like a crazy person for the triathlon, and the great news is that my Daughter is fine, she's back to her regular old self running around and driving me crazy!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Summer sickness/Triathlon training

I'm sick of being sick.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my sister had her first baby and I was looking forward to going to see the little one, and still haven't been healthy enough to go, and the baby was born on May 9th (I've been sick since about the 7th or so).  Heading to the clinic today to see what is causing it, because it's not normal in my opinion, and am worried it might shift to pneumonia because of my stupid asthmatic lungs.

Aside from the nasty cold or whatever, I've been doing a lot of reading on triathlon training, and I decided that as opposed to taking the plunge for summer 2013 that I'd do my first one this summer to give me a starting reference point, and to see if I like it.  I can tell you that I love the changes I'm noticing, like that post pregnancy belly firming up slightly again and the extra skin being reabsorbed.  Gives me hope.

So Wednesday I headed down to the municipal pool for my first lap swim in over 5 years (probably closer to 7 years...) and was pleasantly surprised that I managed to swim 1000m in my first session.  Mind you, that's 1000m that consisted mostly of breaststroke (150m front crawl in 50m sets).  Still encouraging that muscle memory is there.  I went again this morning and managed to pull of the exact same workout but I did a 750m non-stop set to mimic the triathlon sprint distance for swim.  Not bad, my time was slow, but obviously considering I was swimming breaststroke most of the way.  I'll create a training program that'll see me up the front crawl sets in the next few weeks, I'm going to have crazy training plans soon..  Brings me back to my swimming instructor days..

The cycling is going to be killer, my quads need a ton of work.  I only need to cycle 20km, but at this point, that could very well be 200km, because I find doing 3 pretty hard (I have to learn the gears on my new bike.. It's been a while I'm not sure how to use the lever gears to my advantage).

The running I'll work on more when my stupid sickness clears up, because my lungs are not up to it while I'm sick.  I figure that even if I haven't managed to up my total run distance to 5km by the race, they don't DQ you for walking, so I could do that.

Overall I'm pretty proud of myself.  During my brief sickness related hiatus from my blog, I had an order for a hockey rink cake to serve 25 and another order for 60 cupcakes with a 6" round fondant covered cake with gum paste flowers, so that was really fun to do while suppressing a fever, but I did it, even if I was up until 1 am both nights to finish the orders on time.  I figure I use the profits for those to invest in my training and equipment I'll need for both the triathlon and for the 5km race in Ottawa in September (I'd better be in shape by then!)

I'll post the cakes in another post and discuss my new experiments that I'll be doing today.  I'm having fun with some recipes, let's just leave it at that for now (hehehe).

The races I'm registered for -
Canada Army run 5km race on September 23, 2012 in Ottawa, ON
Esprit Montreal Triathlon Sprint distance (750m swim, 20 km bike, 5km run) September 8, 2012 in Montreal, QC


***Totally off topic, but I find it hillarious when the spellcheck feature they use on a blog doesn't recognise the word "blog".  Just sayin'.