The Gluten Free Diet – Part 4

28 Jul


Check out the innermost green jug! It’s almost empty, nearly flourless! I’m down 3 more pounds this week, bringing the total to 5.5 pounds in 3 weeks. I’m halfway to my original goal, and feeling energetic and happy. My pants are fitting a little better, too.

My tip for the week is to track your food intake and own it! Writing down everything that you consume keeps you present and accountable, and it’s also a great tool for figuring out when, why, and how you’ve gotten of track. Sometimes it is easier than others. Logging a salad with grilled chicken breast is easy…logging a fist full of Cheetos is a bit more difficult. But Cheetos happen, and that’s okay. Keeping a food and exercise diary helps me to be mindful of everything I put in my mouth, so I can balance the junk with more healthy options throughout the day and week. It can be time consuming, but for me there is no better way to keep tabs on myself.

Technology makes calorie tracking  a bit easier. MyFitnessPal is my tracker of choice. I use it on my computer and have the app installed on my smartphone, so there is no excuse to not log on. Interested in joining me? Look for Bethylou10 and friend me. We can keep each other motivated!

The Gluten Free Diet – Part 3

21 Jul


20140708_203258I didn’t even bother to take a new photo of my flour canisters today. My weight has stayed exactly the same since last Monday.

I was thrilled to see the number on the scale read the same today as it did last Monday. This week was very unordinary in the best way. I traveled to London for work, touring the fabulous food halls of lux department stores like Marks and Spencer and Selfridges and sampling cakes from Peggy Porschen’s Parlour.  I didn’t see a single vegetable that wasn’t fried other than peas, and I’m not entirely sure that peas, in all of their starchy glory, count as veg.

On my trip, I also realized something very important. My croissant consumption goes up exponentially the closer I get to France. Who knew? 

In short, I ate a lot and really enjoyed myself, which is what I set out to do. 

So how did I combat a bump up in weight? I got physical.

I spent 2 straight days working on my feet, and it didn’t hurt that the bake shop we were using was very hot, teetering on the edge of sweatshop. That has to count as some kind of low-impact cardio. 

Outside of the kitchen, I walked. And I walked. And then I walked some more. I’m not much of a planner when I travel, preferring to amble aimlessly, discovering things as I happen upon them. I could walk for hours in Chicago, just taking in the scenery. Put me in a new place, and I could walk for days. I wish that I had a FitBit so that I knew exactly how far I went. I’m betting that I did somewhere between 8-10 miles on Friday alone. 

The morning after I ate a Cornish pasty and chips for dinner, I woke up early to use the hotel gym. The display showed Imperial measurements. I’m not great at math, so I’m just assuming that 2 kilometers is about 12 miles, and that i ran it in less than 30 minutes, making it my longest and fastest run of all time! (Just let me have my delusions. I’m not hurting anyone.)

As soon as I got home, I made trips to the farmers market and grocery store to stock up on fresh produce, lean proteins, and all of the good, healthy foods I need to make fast, easy, healthy meals during the work week. 

Life is too short to deny ourselves all of the time, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed my trip. And now, it’s right back on track. I’m looking forward to losing a little more this week! 


The Gluten Free Diet – Part 2

15 Jul

Time zones are stupid. Why can’t we all just live on the same clock? 

I realize that that is not a rational question, but I’m not a rational person right now. 

I’ve been awake for nearly 32  straight hours, on an overnight flight to London. I made good use of my time on the plane, writing a great motivational post centered around the first week of my new commitment to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle, only to accidentally delete the damn thing in a fatigued delirium. I’m at my wits end.

I dropped 2.5 pounds last week! 

2.5 pounds is a good amount of flour. It was very validating to weight it out and transfer it from the green jug to the red. (Read The Gluten Free Diet – Part 1 if you’re confused.)That validation carried me straight through the day, giving me enough motivation to skip all of the candies, chips, and other assorted crap for sale at the airport. Flying out of O’Hare without a calorie-heavy snack is akin to a small miracle for me. 

I stayed on track of my diet last week by constantly reminding myself of my impending travel plans. It’s tough to eat healthfully on the road, especially when a significant chunk of your time is to be spent sampling cakes and puddings. Knowing that the upcoming week would be difficult made it easier to be conscious of my decisions in the present moment. I ate tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. I went out to dinner and instead of overdoing it, I split a burger with a friend. I snuck in 4 workouts throughout the week. 

This week, I’m going to enjoy London. It’s my first time in The U.K. and I’m here with the purpose of getting to know the local cake and dessert customs. There will be lots of eating, and lots of baking. I’ll have my first marzipan-covered fruit cake, stop into Peggy Porschen’s parlor, and wander the food halls of Marks & Spencer. But I packed my running shoes. My hotel has a gym. It will all balance out if I am mindful. 

But first, a nap. 


The Gluten Free Diet – Part 1

8 Jul 20140708_203258

Unbleached Whole Wheat Flour


Here we have 2 empty red jugs and 2 green jugs filled with unbleached whole wheat flour. They’re filled with 11.5 pounds of flour, to be exact. I’m not entirely sure that I am comfortable with the word “jugs,” but it really seems to be the most fitting noun in this scenario. Onward!

One of the coolest things about working in a test kitchen (and there are loads of cool things) is watching people’s reactions when I describe my job. Some people get glassy-eyed with hunger when I talk about developing recipes for new cookies, pies, and cakes. Some people (mostly guys who idealize the stunt man profession) get a kick out of the product testing procedures, which on any given day may include some or all of the following:

intentional burning 
slow smoldering
audible sizzling
dripping and/or oozing from places that shouldn’t drip or ooze
popping sounds mere decibels shy of ruptured eardrums
microwave sparking to rival an Independence Day fireworks display

Yes, people’s reactions are pretty great, and they give me joy and a renewed sense of gratitude for my awesome job.

And then, it comes – the question to end all questions about my chosen profession as a pastry chef. 

“How do you stay so skinny?”

In fairness, men don’t ask me this question, because seriously, how creepy would that be? But the ladies just can’t seem to resist. They always ask. If I had to estimate how many women have asked me how I stay skinny/thin/trim/fit, or some other such synonym, I’d guess 11 million, conservatively.

Seriously, It just happened a few days ago during an interview with a local Chicago magazine. After 5 years at my current job, and with 5 years of bakery work before that, I should have seen it coming. But no matter how many times I’m asked, it still makes me slightly uncomfortable.

I mean, who really wants to talk about their weight? It’s a pretty personal matter. Even right now, as I’m typing this, I’m having reservations about publishing something like this. My discomfort stems from that fact that I’ve never, ever thought of myself as thin. Even as a kid, when I was very fit from running around playing basketball, I wasn’t stick-skinny. My weight hovered within the size medium range. There were hip-less girls, all angles and length, there were softer girls, and there was me, right in between them. I wasn’t the biggest, and I wasn’t the smallest, and I’m still there today.

Yes, I have easy access to a variety of desserts and pastries all day, every day, so it wouldn’t be crazy to think that I would gain weight, and I kind of have. But I also haven’t. The truth is that I’ve been gaining and losing the same 15 pounds over and over since college. I hover in this weight range, and when the waistbands of my pants start to feel snug, there are certain things I do to nudge the scale back downwards. It usually comes off pretty slowly, since sampling cakes and cookies is basically written into my job description. Abstaining is not an option.

At present, I’m hovering a little too high and I’ve known it for a while. I’ve been letting myself indulge a little too often, both at work and outside of it. I’m at 11.5 pounds on that 15 pound fluctuating range.

11.5 pounds is a whole lot of flour. Those are some heavy jugs.

I’m a visual person, so I’m using the flour to remind myself of my commitment to a healthy weight. and healthy lifestyle. As the number on the scale gradually decreases, I’ll transfer the corresponding amount of flour from the green jugs to the red jugs. Over time, the green jugs will be flourless. It’s the “gluten-free diet.” Get it?!?

Wait…did you really think I was giving my my test kitchen job and going gluten-free?

Every Monday, I’ll share an updated photo of my flour experiment and give a weight management trick that I use in my personal life. This week, my suggestion is to find your own personal motivation. I personally can’t wait to transfer all of that flour from the green to red jars so that I can reclaim all of the precious counter space they’re taking up in my teeny tiny kitchen! Would something like this motivate you? If not, find a way to relate to yourself. What motivates you and how can you keep that motivation top of mind so that you can call upon it when you’re face-to-face with a big piece of delicious pizza? Find your motivations! Share your plans with others to make yourself accountable! Share here – I’d love to hear it!

I’m feeling a little lighter already…

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake

29 Jun

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake

Rainbow Cone, an iconic scoop shop on Chicago’s south side, has been serving up  tall cones since 1926. The Rainbow Cone booth is a staple at Taste of Chicago festival, giving their namesake ice cream treat fame well beyond the south side of the city.

There are 5 frozen flavors in a Rainbow Cone. Each one is scraped onto the next in a downward pulling motion with a utensil that most closely resembles a wide spackle knife. A finished cone showcases each sloping color of ice cream, proudly rising up to meet its name. So what comprises a rainbow cone? The combination of flavors is quite unique, and might surprise you:

Rainbow Cone

Photo courtesy of Original Rainbow Cone

It starts with a base of chocolate ice cream, followed by pretty pink strawberry, with signature Palmer House vanilla (vanilla with toasted walnuts and cherries) at the center, creamy green pistachio, and vibrant orange sherbet topping it all off. Does that sound weird to you? Does it seem gross? If you break it down a little bit, you’ll see that each flavor compliments another. Chocolate goes well with strawberry. It goes well with pistachio, and also with orange. Same thing with strawberry. It’s refreshing with orange, great will pistachio, and a natural with Palmer House vanilla. When you put them all together and take a big lick from bottom to top, getting a little taste of each flavor all at once, it works. It just works. I suspect that it goes back to each flavor being great with the other flavors in a one-on-one basis, but let’s not over think it. Maybe it just tastes great because it is so fun to eat an ice cream cone that looks like a rainbow. I took liberties and topped mine with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles (what else?).

Whipped Cream and Rainbow Sprinkles

And what the heck is Palmer House vanilla, anyway? Well, the Palmer House is a stately and well-preserved old hotel in Chicago, and Rainbow Cone pays homage by mixing toasty walnuts and maraschino cherries into vanilla ice cream.

If your ice cream consumption spikes dramatically during the summer months, while your inclination to turn on the oven plummets, then this no-bake ice cream cake should be at the top of your to-do list. It’s perfect for summer birthdays, pool parties, outdoor meals, and even random Wednesday nights when it is hotter than you-know-what.

Slice of Rainbow Ice Cream Cake

It is not coincidental that I’ve posted this entry on National Pride Day. Love, respect, and ice cream! I’m off to the parade!

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake 

This recipe is sized perfectly for an 8 inch round springform pan. If you use a larger pan, consider using a little more than 1 pint of each flavor, as the layers will be very thin. Also note that most inexpensive ice creams are largely air. Thawing them and then spreading them into the pans will cause the ice cream to lose a lot of volume, as the air is knocked out. Splurge for the good stuff for this ice cream cake - you won’t regret it!

12 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 pint strawberry ice cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup (about 1/2 of a 10 oz. jar) maraschino cherries, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 pint pistachio ice cream
1 pint orange sherbet
1/2 cup whipped cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Rainbow Sprinkles

Secure the base and the sides of a springform pan by closing the hinge. Pour crushed cookies and melted butter into pan and stir until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan using the flat bottom of a pint glass. Freeze for 30 minutes.

While the crust is chilling, place chocolate ice cream on the counter top to soften. When ice cream is partially thawed, and somewhat pliable (about 30 minutes), gently spread it into an even layer over the cookie crust. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes.

Place strawberry ice cream in the counter top to soften. When ice cream is partially thawed and somewhat pliable (about 30 minutes), gently spread it into an even layer over the cookie crust. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes

Thaw the vanilla cream until it is somewhat pliable and then mash in the walnuts and chopped cherries with a spoon. Spread into an even layer over the strawberry ice cream. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes.

Repeat the thawing, spreading, and freezing process with the pistachio ice cream, and finally the orange sherbet. Freeze until completely solid, at least 3 hours, before cutting.

Just before serving, whip cream with confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. Pipe onto top of cake and garnish with Rainbow Sprinkles and serve immediately. For clean slices, dip knife in hot water between each cut to warm blade, dry with towel, and cut ice cream cake.

Graffiti Cake

24 Jun

Graffiti Birthday Cake

I made this cake for a friend over the weekend. If you had to guess,how old do you think Bethany is? What birthday was she celebrating?

Would you guess…

39 4 Eva?

If you were guessing solely on this cake design, I bet you would aim a lot lower. And if you saw Bethany in person, you’d guess even lower than that. I’m pretty sure she still gets carded when she buys lottery tickets. Lucky lady!

Bethany, also known as “Queen B”  is a phenomenal DJ, part of the Orchard Lounge collective. We met 12 years ago and bonded over a mutual love music. A couple of years later, she talked me into break dancing lessons. Yes, they teach that. Or at least, they used to teach it before anything and everything could be learned via YouTube. I was pretty terrible at it, but Bethany could windmill with the best of ‘em. She probably still can.

Fondant Modeled Bee

City-gritty AND ultra-feminine is tough to pull off. but it’s like Bethany invented it. This street art-inspired, buttercream-iced cake is an homage to her unique style and the way she lives her life, in full color and with a little bit of sparkle.

Gold Luster Dust and Edible Gold Star Accents





DJ’s Summer Birthday Cake

11 Jun

DJCake1I am so competitive. Sometimes, it’s an admirable quality, pushing me to try a little harder or work a little longer . But a lot of times, it’s just plain dumb.

For instance, this past weekend I was riding in the car with my boyfriend and his parents. We were on our way home from an early birthday celebration for DJ. He and I are having another small celebration to commemorate the actual day, so as we were riding along, I asked him what kind of a cake he would prefer. Because, you know, I make cakes. Professionally. And it’s his birthday, so of course I would be making him a cake. Makes sense, right? Are you with me?


Without enthusiasm or humor, he requested an ice cream cake.


I won Cupcake Wars, for Christ’s sake. And he wants to squander that kind of talent on an ice cream cake? Ouch, man!

Now, I love ice cream as much as the next guy. Probably more, actually. I’ve often fantasized about opening an ice cream business. I even put together half of a business plan for an ice cream truck before I realized that here in the Chicago,  I’d have only four solid months of sunshine and sales and eight long months of frigid destitution. Not my best get-rich-quick scheme, but you get the idea. I love ice cream.

But I’m great at cake. And this is the first year that we’ll celebrate his birthday together. I want to make him a damn cake! A real cake! CAKE cake. With ice cream alongside, if he wants.

DJ proceeded to say that he prefers ice cream cakes to regular cakes because regular cakes are all the same to him. They’re usually not bad, but they never “wow” him. And that’s fair, except that I’ve seen him happily horse down several pieces of cake now, some made by me.

DJ is a humor writer. His indifference to cakes is akin to me thinking that that all fart jokes are the same, and not only the same, but mediocre, to boot. (Just kidding though, baby. Your fart jokes are classic.)

So my nutty, competitive mind kicks into the spin cycle, and all I can think is, “I’ll show you! I’ll make you the best g*ddamn cake you’ve ever tasted or will ever taste again! And then I will never make you a cake ever again for doubting me!

Birthdays are for birthday cakes, so DJ is getting a true birthday cake this year, with simple flavors that I think he’ll enjoy. It’s not overly sweet, with a little nuttiness from ground almonds and almond extract. Fresh strawberries and whipped cream will glue it all together and keep it light and summery. It’s finished with a sprinkling of crushed almond tuile cookies for a bit of crunch. Maybe it won’t be the best cake he’s ever had, but even if it’s not, it will be a great memory of the first time we spent his birthday together.

This weekend, he gets his ice cream cake.  You better believe that it will be the best damn ice cream cake to ever come out of a freezer!


Summer Birthday Cake

Almond Chiffon · Whipped Cream · Strawberries · Almond Cookie Crunch

For the cake:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut rounds of parchment paper and place in the bottom of two 6 inch round pans. Do not spray the pans.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tarter with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar, and continue whipping until it is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, almond flour, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt, discarding any large pieces of almond flour that won’t make it through the sifter.

In small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently, until the mixture is well combined and there are no pockets of whipped egg whites left. Divide evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or the tops of the cakes spring back to the touch. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes on cooling rack. Run a knife around the sides to loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling.

For the cookie crunch:
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl using a fork or a pastry blender, mix all of the ingredients together until the butter is in pea-sized chunks and the mixture is very crumbly. Spread into an even layer on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the cookie looks lacy and the edges are very brown. Cool completely. Crumble into small pieces.

For the stabilized whipped cream:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces + additional whole strawberries for garnish

In a small saucepan, stir together the gelatin and water until the gelatin is evenly moistened. Let it sit until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Cook over very low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to melt the mixture and dissolve the gelatin. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks. Remove ¼ of the whipped cream and set aside. Fold the cut strawberries into the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble the cake, cut each layer horizontally into two. Fill each layer with 1/3 of the strawberry whipped cream. Run your spatula gently around the sides of the cake to clean up any whipped cream that crept out from inside the cake, and to very lightly coat the sides. the last cake with the plain whipped cream. Sprinkle the top generously with the almond cookie crunch and garnish with additional whole strawberries and a light sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.






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