Thursday, August 22, 2013

Troubles and Truffles

A few weeks ago, had a revelation of sorts and I wrote a letter about my recovery journey from Eating Disorders.  I posted it to Facebook and the responses I got afterward were astonishing.  People (yes, not just women) from all over the world shared their stories with me.  I received phone calls, text messages, and Facebook messages thanking me for being brave enough to share my story.  By publishing this again here, I am encouraging everyone else to share their own story.  The more public we make our struggles, the smaller they become.  It is my hope that when more people know, the more support we have, and fewer people will feel alone in their recoveries.

Here is what I wrote:

An Open Letter to ED

For those of you unfamiliar with ED, he is not an ex-boyfriend or some estranged family member.  ED is the nickname a few of my friends and I have given to Eating Disorders.  I am choosing this space as a forum for this letter because I did not bake anything yet this week to qualify for a blog post, and I needed a public place.  I want to share this letter with you and the world and the next generation of insecure kids.  Eating Disorders should not be shamefully swept under the rug any longer.  They are vicious, all-consuming beasts that tear apart their victims both emotionally and physically.  It is my hope that this letter will allow others to come out of their shadows and confront their own EDS head on.  Without further ado...

Dear ED-

This has been one hell of a ride, but I think it's time for you to go.  You have overstayed your welcome and I am ready for you to leave.  After nine years, I don't need you anymore.  I am no longer that insecure fourteen year old girl staring uncomfortably in front of the mirror in ballet class.  That is when you showed up at my door.  You took advantage of my insecurities and made me compare my body to those of girls half my age.  You stole control of my brain, and made me think it was ok to eat only cottage cheese and oatmeal, as long as I wasn't the fattest girl in the class.

Unfortunately, even after I gave up ballet class, you never left.  You stayed with me on the diving team, and convinced me that all that mattered was how I looked in my swim suit.  I was doing two work outs a day and eating little more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch and a salad for dinner.  That was when you told me that I should start measuring.  I should measure out exactly one cup of cereal and put it in a tiny bowl so I wouldn't know the difference.  Oh but it wouldn't stop there...

By the time I got to college you showed me the tragedy which is binging.  You forced me to eat so much that I thought I was having a heart attack.  But you never let me throw up.  Instead, you convinced me to take laxatives, fast, and over-exercise to combat my binges.  My freshman year was a tireless back-and-forth of restricting and binging, and you almost forced me to drop out of college.

Sophomore year you dragged me over the deep end.  I was using online "fitness" trackers to plan all my meals and be sure I was only eating 800 calories a day.  I ate a piece of fruit, 10 almonds, and 2 prunes for breakfast and lunch, and then a salad for dinner.  I got down to 104 lbs, and you could have snapped my legs like a twig.

For years I have eaten the same things every day for fear that I would gain weight or start a binge.  I could not go out to dinner without looking at the menu the day before and taking an hour to decide what I wanted.  Any change in my planned meals would send me into a system-override shut down, and I would just go to sleep instead of confronting the anxiety you caused me.

Then one day in my junior year, I got really sick of you, ED.  I was sick of being your bitch, and decided it was time I fought back.  I found the meeting room number for the Anonymous Eating Disorder support group, and met an incredible group of girls that would empower me against you.  We cried together, we drew pictures of you, we ate meals together, and we set daily goals in order to beat you.  I started telling people about you, and found that the more people knew, the smaller you became.  I was not in this fight alone.  

I have struggled with your control for nine years, but I have been trying to actively recover from you the past two and a half years.  I joined support groups, I got a sponsor, I journaled, I meditated, and I cried more than I thought was possible.  I started teaching Zumba and running, and I remembered how strong my body used to be.  Bodies are fucking awesome, and you tried to take that away from me.  You succeeded for a while, and you took my mind with you.  But not anymore.  I am finally winning.

This summer has been a difficult one for me.  But after all I am going through, I did not come running back to you to take control of my life.  I went out for dinner last week and did not even bother looking up the menu ahead of time.  I decide what I am going to eat for lunch at lunch time, and not the day before.  Today I was hungry after my morning snack, so I ate another snack and didn't think twice about it.  I no longer pose for pictures using "the skinny arm" tactic, and I've stopped untagging myself if I appear to have a double chin.  That's right, you are losing.

Today I looked in the mirror and instead of seeing extra fat in all the wrong places, I saw a beautiful, strong body.  Today, for the first time in nine years, I looked in the mirror and I liked myself.  And no, I did not like myself for looking like you taught me to, I liked myself for being a beautiful and independent woman that was strong enough to stand up to you.  

I know you are not gone from my life entirely yet, and you may never be.  But the truth is, ED, I am stronger than you.  I am winning this fight and you are going down, bro.  I am the healthiest and happiest I have been in nine years, and it is because I told you to back the fuck off.  

But don't even think about finding someone else to prey on.  Just because I got rid of you does not mean you can go ruining the lives of other insecure little girls and boys standing in from of the mirror in ballet class or watching the Victoria's Secret models on TV.  Don't you even try.  Because they have me on their side.  And together, we will defeat you.  My generation will teach the next that being strong and independent is more important than looking skinny in a leotard.  We are going to be there for them and support them so that you can't touch them.  

So, dear ED, this is goodbye.  You are no longer welcome here, and you won't be anywhere else for very long.  We will get strong and defeat you, together.  We will win.  I already have.

No longer yours,

In the spirit of being free from measuring and binging on cookies, I decided to make some really awesome protein truffles.  I have been thinking of making these for a while now, and this was a great occasion to celebrate.  There is not really a recipe or step-by-step photos, because the truth is, I just threw a bunch of stuff in the food processor.  And they turned out awesome.  Here is what I made:

Chocolate Protein Truffles (No Bake, Vegan, and Gluten-Free)
Recipe: Completely made up in my head
Yield: About 2 dozen truffles

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Sparkly Champagne Celebration

I have made some pretty amazing cakes in my three years of blogging.  I have made a blue cake, Sangria Cake, a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake, a rainbow frog pond cake, and even a cake that looks like a salad.  But none of those even come close to what I made this week.  I have made the cake to top all cakes.

It came about because one of my first and best friends in Boston turned 30 yesterday.  My friend JoJo does nothing small scale or casual.  Everything has to be sparkly, rainbow, and covered in feathers and more glitter.  However, she does this all with the greatest amount of refinement, tact, and class.  She is one fancy lady, and I love her.  She is always spontaneous and is one of the most creative people I have eve met in my life.  For all of these reasons and many more, she has become my big sister here in Boston.  

Such an important birthday for such an important person deserves a very epic cake.  I was drawing a blank, so I emailed JoJo's wife for some ideas.  This is what Suzie wrote back:
"She wants something surprising... Here is how she defines surprising: lavender, spicy, layer of jelly beans or red hots, on fire, with sparklers, covered in googly eyes, looks like a monster, strange colors inside but looks normal outside, goes pop when you cut it (?), curry flavored ... You get the picture! "

"SERIOUSLY?"  I thought, "Who does she think I am?  Hannah Houdini?!"  None of those things could possibly go well together, and there is no way I am not going to allow a curry flavored cake with jelly beans to come out of my kitchen.  Nope, I had to start from scratch.  

I thought, OK, let's start with color, let's make it a cool color.  Marbled cake immediately came to my mind.  JoJo likes a lot of pink, so I decided on a pink marbled cake.  Logically, the pink would be strawberry cake.  But what flavor can I marble with strawberry that would taste good?  There was no way on earth I was going to make JoJo a boring vanilla cake.  So I started thinking about things I know JoJo likes.  My mind immediately went to booze.  BINGO- I had it!  CHAMPAGNE CAKE!  JoJo is a classy broad and loves champagne, and champagne and strawberries go so well together.  I knew it would be a winner.  

But a good flavor combination was not going to be enough for JoJo's cake.  It need to look as awesome as it tasted.  When I don't have a specific plan in mind, I like to wander around the baking section of Michael's and let inspiration come to me.  I found pink sugar crystals and metallic silver frosting spray paint, and I knew what I would do.  Now I just needed a little extra sparkle, and found that in the crafting section.  I also decided that it needed to be three layers: one for each decade of her life.  This is what I ended up with:

3-Tiered Strawberry and Champagne Marbled Cake w/ Champagne Buttercream
Recipe loosely adapted from Simply Decorated
Yield: 1 amazingly awesome giant cake

Friday, August 9, 2013

Piña Colada Cookies

Today Peanut and I got caught in the rain.  Peanut doesn't like that, but I do.  Know what else I like?  Piña coladas.  Do you see where I am going with this?  If you don't, then your life is sad, and you need to watch the video below.  However, if you do, let's listen to the song anyway and move on.

I am kind of obsessed with that song.  Anytime it is raining or blizzarding, that song pops into my head.  It brings me out of my bad weather blues and makes me feel all warm and tropical and happy inside.  Like I am filled with fruity rum drinks and sitting on a beach.  Even though it actually has to do with some dude trying to cheat on his woman, taking out a personal ad, and then his own woman ends up responding to the personal ad.  In the end, it's supposed to be all cute and coming back together grossness.  I think it's rather sad.  But I don't think about the real meaning of the song, because up until like 4 months ago, I only ever listened to the chorus, which is, "do you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain?"  And yes, I like both of those things.

And you know what else makes me feel all fuzzy and warm and tropical inside?  My friends.  My friends are fucking awesome.  I'm sorry, I normally try to avoid swearing on here, but that sort of expletive was necessary to convey to you the magnitude of love and gratitude I have for my amazing friends.  The last few months have been rough for me, but knowing that I have friends to call me after soccer, to cook with, to lay by the pool with, to run errands with, to go for coffee with, and who come all the way to visit me is all I need to get me through.  My friends are like fruity rum drinks, and sometimes, I have friends AND fruity alcoholic beverages, and then my life is DOUBLE AMAZING.

Since I've had this song stuck in my head all day, I wanted to make something piña colada themed for Shabbat tonight.  I once made pineapple and coconut rum cakes, but those were pretty heavy and potent little devils, and were better for winter months.  I was also craving cookies, so I came up with these little beauties:

Piña Colada Cookies (dairy free)
Recipe very adapted from Averie Cooks
Yield: 20 small cookies

Monday, August 5, 2013

Plum Luck

I was very excited to bring the leftover Mexican sunflower cupcakes to Shabbat the following night.  I wanted to share my sunnier life baking adventure with more of my wonderful and supportive friends.  And as I was putting them into the container, I realized I made a really dumb mistake.  I used almond milk in the cupcakes, and one of my Shabbat friends, Suzanne, is allergic to nuts!  Normally, this would not have been a problem, except I realized it just a few hours before I had to leave, and no time to go to the grocery store.

I searched my cupboards and refrigerator.  I was out of butter, so cookies were out, and the thought of making more cupcakes was nauseating.  I found some leftover dough wrapped up in the back of the fridge, and decided I could throw together a quick mini tart.  Now, the only question was what to fill it with.  Jay and I have started shopping at Costco and buying things in bulk, which can work to your advantage if you are in this predicament.  The previous week we bought a lot of plums, and we couldn't eat them as fast as they were ripening, so throwing them into a tart was the perfect option.  I do not recommend buying fruit in bulk unless you are going to can or freeze it, or throw a party.

So, in literally 25 minutes, I had the perfect personal dessert for Suzanne:

Rustic Brown Sugar Plum Tartelette
Recipe completely made up in my head
Yield: 1 mini tartelette

Sunnier Days and Sunflower Cupcakes

I moved to Norwood because I couldn't stand living in the city.  It was big and loud and exhausting and there weren't enough trees.  Now that I have relocated to the suburbs, I find myself having a lot of alone time.  The boyfriend works long and strange hours, and I am usually home by myself with Peanut.  At first, I resented Jay for working so much and for leaving me all alone.  I could not stand the silence of being by myself for twelve hours at a time.  I had finally moved to a place where I could hear myself think, and now I was tormented by my own thoughts and an intense feeling of loneliness.  I find myself wishing we had a TV, just for the background noise.

Where did this come from?  This isn't me.  I used to love the quiet of just sitting by myself in a field on the farm, listening to the wind blow the hay while the birds sang, and the occasional hum of a distant tractor.  I seem to have lost my appreciate for having peace of mind, and for that, I have nothing to blame but the last five years of living in cities.

There is a lot going on in my life right now, and not all of it is positive.  Living in Boston, I felt so busy and anxious and stressed out from the hussel and bussel around me that I could avoid thinking about things.  Now, my mind is quiet in Norwood, and I have to learn to face myself again.  I want to start running more, meditating more, baking more, and going to yoga regularly.  I want to relearn how to be comfortable in my own body and in my own head.  I want to have happier, sunnier days.

A large part of getting through this readjustment period will be the friends that surround me.  Our new neighbors, Brian and Patrice, invited us over for their legendary taco night last week, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start baking for fun again.  To go with the dinner theme, I chose to make something with a little kick.  And to go with my quest-for-a-happier-life theme, I chose to make something bright and sunny.  This is what I came up with:

Mexican Sunflower Cupcakes
Chili Chocolate Cupcakes topped w/ Oreos and Vanilla Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Tegan's cake
Yield: 2 and a half dozen cupcakes

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Acting My Age and a Faux Ice Cream Sundae Cake

I have gotten exceptionally good at becoming a perfectly boring human being.  I would like to blame grad school, because I just got so used to saying, "no, sorry, I can't come out, I have a paper to write," but that would be unfair.  I have some responsibility in becoming the stay-in-every-weekend-and-do-jig-saw-puzzles-for-fun-instead old young woman many of you have come to know.  I am 23 going on 65.  I turn down invitations for parties, drinks, and even a craft night, because it sounded just a little too crazy for me.

What happened to me?  I used to be so full of life and fun and adventurous (or at least that is how I like to remember myself in college).  I think what happened was that for the past year, I felt like I had so much to prove to everyone.  I had to prove to my parents that I could be a big girl and have my first real apartments and pay the rent on my own.  I had to prove to my grad school that I belonged there, despite being one of the youngest doctoral students in the school.  I had to prove to my clients that I could still be understanding and help them, even though I was half their age.  I had to prove to my supervisor that I was a competent clinician and could handle my enormous caseload.  And lastly, I think I also had something to prove to myself.  I had to show myself that I could handle all the challenges that my life choices brought along the way.

Somewhere in all that mess, I lost track of who I am.  I was no longer the full-of-life 23-year-old with the world at her feet.  I became the puppet of this older, more responsible, and more knowledgable woman that I felt everyone wanted me to be.  Despite me looking like I am 12, everyone I have met in the past year guessed my age to be closer to 26.

If you liked this old lady version of Hannah, I am sorry.  But she is going away for a little while and is not coming back until it is her chronologically appropriate time.  I want to have fun again.

Last week, I was sitting at my desk at my internship (even though my internship is over, I stayed on as a volunteer to help out), and my friend, Casandra, and my supervisor came into my office and looked up to something.  Casandra warned me that what they were about to ask me might catch me off guard, so I should just be prepared.  Ready for some bizarre project they were going to throw at me, my supervisor explained that our beloved coworker, Teresa, was turning 50, and they wanted to do something for her birthday.  She said they arranged a dinner, followed by a "surprise," which I soon learned was taking Teresa to a traveling male strip show on the Cape.  I don't know if it was my love for Tere, peer-pressure, or the fact that I have given up coffee, but I said yes, I would come, to BOTH.

As soon as I agreed, I regretted my decision immediately.  Me?  Go out on a Friday night with coworkers?  To a strip show?  What was wrong with me?! I don't go out on the weekends!  I tried to get out of it by running by every excuse I could think of to Casandra, but she talked me into going.  She said, "it's for Tere," and I was sold.  Teresa is one of the most exciting and fun-loving women I have ever met in my life.  She is vibrant and loud and wonderful and talks about sex all the time, and I love her.  If I was going to make a commitment to myself to be more fun and adventurous, going out for Tere's birthday was the perfect place to start.
Teresa's favorite cake is ice cream cake, but I have only ever made one ice cream cake before, and I did not think it would make the hour long drive to the restaurant from my house.  So I decided to make a cake that looked like ice cream instead.  It works, right?

Faux Ice Cream Cake:
Black Magic Chocolate Cake, filled with Marshmallow Topping and Strawberry Preserves, topped with Vanilla Buttercream, Chocolate Ganache, Marshmallow Topping, Sprinkles, and a Cherry
Cake Recipe adapted from Hershey's
Cake idea: adapted from my crazy brain
Yield: 1 8" double layer cake (approx 16 servings)