1.21.2016

Vegan Kentucky butter cake

It’s no secret I have a small obsession with cupcakes. There’s just something utterly magical about tiny little cakes with fluffy frosting piped on them, what can I say? However for a recent family gathering I decided to think outside the wrapper … and let me tell you, it was a smashing success. And by smashing I mean we ate every last crumb of this delicious little dessert.

Some of you may already be familiar with it, but I wasn’t prior to making it this time – the Kentucky butter cake. I stumbled upon a recipe for it on Facebook one morning and saved it because it looked simple enough AND you make it in a bundt pan, which I’m always looking for ways to use that forgotten kitchen item.

So here’s the dealbreaker when it comes to this recipe. It’s “butter” cake, which means a primary ingredient is – you guessed it – butter, so you cannot afford to skimp on the good vegan butter with this recipe. I used Earth Balance buttery sticks and the results were absolutely phenomenal.

If you’re on a diet or looking for some lowfat dessert ideas, just go ahead and exit this post right now (and probably my blog), because you are not going to find that with this recipe.

The beauty of this cake is it’s relatively simple and “plain jane,” so you can bake it and bring it along for any occasion!



Kentucky butter cake
(makes one bundt cake)
Cake ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 sticks of vegan butter (or 1 cup)
1 cup cashew milk
1 cup vegan sour cream
1.5 TBS vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
dash of sea salt
dash of cinnamon

Glaze ingredients:
1 stick of butter (or ½ cup)
1 cup white sugar
2 TBS water
2 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 325 and grease and flour your bundt pan, set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon. Stir in softened (not melted!) vegan butter, cashew milk, vegan sour cream and vanilla extract. Combine until fully mixed. Pour batter into your bundt pan and bake for one hour. (You may need to bake an additional 10 minutes depending on how fickle your stove is). The cake should pull away from the sides a tad and spring back when you touch it.

Using a skewer, poke holes all throughout the cake. (We want to let all the buttery glazy goodness soak in)! Set aside so you can get started on the delicious glaze.

In a medium sauce pan on medium-high heat, mix your butter, water and vanilla extract. Once the butter melts, stir in white sugar. Once dissolved, pour the glaze over the cake and allow it to cool completely. Once it’s cooled, place your serving plate over the bundt pan and flip it over. Gently tap the pan to ease the cake out of it. Dust top with powdered sugar.

Serve to your favorite family and friends and listen to them rave how delicious this amazing cake is!


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1.05.2016

A letter to my teenage self

Dear Amanda (you giggly, think-you-know-it-all teenage girl),

Let me start off by saying I get it. I get how hard it is to be a teenage girl. And even though I'm 15 years your senior now, I remember how it feels to feel out of place. I remember how it feels to not know what the heck you want to be, what on Earth you're supposed to be doing with yourself and how hard it is to put eye liner on.

And while you're still not going to master eye liner for a good 10 years (in fact, your college bff is going to spend most of her time putting it on FOR you), you've got a whole lot of awesome coming your way. Really, you do. So stop worrying about everything so much.

I know it's easy for me to say that now. At 30 years old things seem a lot different than they did when I was in high school. And while I'd like to tell you that you finally lost those pesky pounds you always thought you needed to shed and you're rich and famous (OK, you never really wanted to be famous), that hasn't really happened quite yet.

But it doesn't matter to you quite as much anymore, because you've learned a lot. All that pressure you put on yourself to be perfect, well, it's still there. It's just now, you realize life isn't quite about being perfect, about making others happy or losing 20 pounds. It's about you, what you want to do with it and how happy you are with yourself. And those 20 pounds will fall off in college, but, you'll have two babies and fluctuate a lot between pants sizes. The good news is you've stopped thinking of yourself as a project to be completed as quickly as possible, and you now realize you're a work in progress, and that's perfectly OK. In fact, that's exactly what you should be.

So please stop obsessing over your love handles, they're really not as big as you think they are. In fact, go out with your fabulous self and wear a bikini and smile. Toss the jeans aside in the summer and buy some high heels, because you have killer legs. (Don't worry, you'll figure the legs part out a lot sooner than you figure out that eye liner trick).

And right now, you're really loving chemistry, biology and all that dorky science goodness. You're actually going to take more science classes in high school than you'll ever think possible, just because you enjoy experimenting and documenting. You're pretty sure you're going to major in this in college, and well, you still go into college wanting to, but something else is going to happen. You're going to fall in love with one of your first passions all over again and guess what? You're going to be an English major. (I know, the science geek you is totally throwing up in your mouth at the thought of being "just" a book nerd). But trust me when I tell you this is an awesome decision you make, and one of the first you make truly for yourself and not anyone else. So enjoy all the genetics and ionic bonds now, because you're going to be falling asleep with Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" on your face sooner than you know it. (Seriously, you still don't like Charles Dickens, even now, but you do strike up quite a love affair with Leo Tolstoy).

I wish I could tell you all your best friends will still be your best friends in the next decade, but that's just not the case. It doesn't make them any less important, of course, you just learn sometimes not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever, and that's OK. You're going to make new friends later in life, new people who become your rocks, your right hands and your best friends. And you're going to enjoy them for even longer. So go to Steak and Shake until midnight, sleepover at each other's houses and giggle about boys; go to all those girly movies and ENJOY your high school BFFs.

Be kinder to your high school boyfriend. Seriously, be kinder. He's just as clueless as you are about this whole teenage puppy love thing and it's a lot easier if you can go through it together. You're going to be each other's first loves one day, so make sure you soak that up and leave each other with good memories (not over-jealous phone calls and lunch periods of the silent treatment). ENJOY him. But still don't have sex, you can do plenty of that when you're older.

Now here's the hard part. You're going to go to college one day and you're going to get your heart broken. I'm talking the obliterated, smashed to what you think is beyond repair, never going to love again, broken. And I won't lie. It's going to suck, a lot. Like a super lot. But guess what? Even though you think you're nothing but an assortment of broken pieces, you're going to find someone who doesn't put them all together for you, but loves them as they are, broken or whole. And that, teenage Amanda, is what true love is. (You're going to marry this dude and have babies with him, so good choice there).

Even though you're still a few years away from college, remember to soak up your time there. Your first few roommates may not work out too well, but once you meet the next one it's all going to make sense. Appreciate her more. She's the one who puts up with you sleeping in your underwear in awkward positions (don't worry, she documents this constantly), she'll push the beds together so you can lay in the same big bed and watch Sex and the City when aforementioned boy smashes your heart and you're even going to get matching tattoos and countless piercings with her. So seriously, appreciate her more. And support her more. And do a better job of staying in touch with her. Because her family becomes part of your own when you're in Cleveland.

I know you're tired of softball. I know somedays you think you want to quit. You're burnt out and you just can't find that tenacity you use to have. (After 5 a.m. conditioning sessions in college you're going to brainstorm with your best friend how both of you can get out of running, things like throwing yourselves down stairs and getting knocked up, don't worry, you don't go through with any of that). You're going to regain your passion in college. You're going to go on to do really awesome things with your softball team. So seriously, be extraordinary. Be a force. And enjoy your senior season a lot more. Because one day, you're not the one on the mound anymore, and that's a really hard feeling to get back.

Now, this one is important, so listen up. BE CONFIDENT. And don't you sneer at me and tell me you're already confident, because I'm you, the older you, so I know all about your wily ways.  You're pseudo-confidence you throw out there so the boys think you're cool (wow a chick who doesn't obsess about her weight!) and your softball opponents think you're tough, well, it's just that, PSEUDO. Quit putting a tough guy image out there and actually believe in yourself. Know that you're beautiful (even in your most awkward stages), know that you're a phenomenal athlete (even if you didn't go to a division one college), know that you every bit as amazing as you pretend to be. KNOW it, don't fake it. And for goodness sake, don't be afraid to let the right people in. A little honesty goes a long way with the right ones.

You're going to spend most of your teenage years wanting to be older and now that you're older, I can tell you, there are some really awesome things about being an adult. But there are some even better things about being a teenager, so seriously, soak it all up.

And if I didn't say it before, you're going to be OK. Really, you are.

Xoxo,

Your future, adult self.

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11.17.2015

Super duper easy vegan fried ravioli

A few weeks ago we did our annual "find all the pumpkin drinks in Ohio and consume them with friends" evening. We just started this a few years ago and it's basically an excuse to indulge on my favorite pumpkin beers while stuffing my face with some vegan goodies. And hosting. Because I love hosting.

So instead of scrounging up a bunch of pumpkinish foods to go with this extravaganza, I decided to make whatever my little heart desired, and by heart I mean stomach.

Fried ravioli. It's something I've had VERY few times since going vegan because who wants to fuss around with all that pasta and breading and making tofu ricotta? I mean right? So I decided to dress up one of our favorite vegan frozen raviolis, and holy moly was it amazing.

We're talking minimal effort, but a serious reward. These fried raviolis were delicious, prep was super fast and the presentation was pretty sweet if I do say so myself.

AND they were a hit with our nonvegan friends (which is 99% of our friends)!

You can probably use YOUR favorite vegan ravioli, but I'm going to throw out the products we used because they came out stupendously.

Your next football party thanks me.


Vegan Fried Ravioli
(makes around two dozen fried raviolis)
Ingredients:
1 12-oz bag of bite-size Tofutti "cheese" ravioli
2 cups of your favorite vegan marinara sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups vegan bread crumbs
2 cups plain almond milk
1 TBS Ener-G egg replacer
Italian seasoning
Go Veggie vegan parmesan cheese
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
First off, keep the raviolis frozen. Don't do anything crazy like thaw them. Grab medium-size bowls or containers and pour the milk in one, the flour in one and the breadcrumbs in another. In the bowl with the milk, use a fork and blend 1 TBS Ener-G egg replacer until fully mixed. In the bowl with the flour, add 2 tsp Italian seasoning and mix it up.

In a large frying or saute pan, heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable on medium heat. While this is heating up, it's time to start breading our raviolis. Make sure to have a large plate to place them on. I set my assembly line up like this: flour container first, then milk, then breadcrumbs, then plate. So you're gonna grab a frozen ravioli, dip it in the milk mixture, then the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the breadcrumbs mixture. Place on the plate. Repeat 23 more times.

Once your raviolis are breaded and your oil is hot, it's time to start frying. Grab a plate and place some paper towels on it to help soak up excess oil. Have your parmesan ready to go over there, too. Gently place these bad boys in the oil and cook on each side about two-three minutes or until a golden brown color. (I was able to do 8 at a time in my gigantic pan). Using a spatula or whatevs you want, take them out of the oil and place on paper-towled plate. Sprinkle parmesan on while still hot, add some more Italian seasoning if you want to get really wild and crazy. Repeat until they're all done.

Let them cool and then serve with your favorite marinara sauce and listen to everyone rave about how they can't believe it's vegan!

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11.11.2015

A letter to the parent of a female athlete

Dear parent of a female athlete,

Let me start off by saying this: Chances are, whether your daughter is nine or 19, she IS trying.

Sure, there are times her mind wanders; times when she laughs with a teammate or gets off track and starts talking about a boy. But for the most part, when it comes down to crunch time, when she's at her 190th pitching or hitting lesson and doing the same warm-up drill she's done 1,059 times, she IS trying.

It's not easy being an athlete. It's even harder being a good one. And just because she's an amazing athlete, doesn't always mean she's going to be on it 100%.

She's going to have her off days. She's going to have her absolutely, downright, terrible days. She's going to have trouble focusing sometimes, because, well, she's not JUST an athlete, she's also a young woman, a student, a daughter, a best friend, a girlfriend and probably so, so, so much more.

So I'm asking you to cut her some slack. If she's struggling with something she normally excels at, if she's having an off-day and not hitting her spots, heck, even if it seems like her head is in another world, just cut her some slack. Be her parent. Be her biggest supporter. But please, don't be her coach too.

Chances are, she's got enough coaches. But she's only one mother, one father, heck, some of them don't even have both. Be her supporter. Lift her up. Tell her she's doing amazing and if she has a bad day, it was just that - a bad day - it doesn't make her a bad athlete, daughter or person. It's just one day. One game. One lesson. One practice. One session doesn't not define her career.

I've been coaching girls for more than 10 years now. Softball was something I was always incredibly passionate about and still am. As a pitching coach, I get the honor of working with a select group of girls weekly to hone their skills. I teach them how to throw faster fastballs, more deceptive change ups and how to put more spin on all their awesome junk pitches. And because I've seen your daughter weekly for the last five years, trust me when I tell you this, she IS trying.

I will never, ever know your daughter the way that you do. I don't always know how she acts at home, to you or to her teachers. But I do know your daughter on the field. I notice when her shoulders start to slump because she made a bad play; I can see the deep breath she takes when she's just made a monumental mistake and is trying her best to hold it together and stick it out a little longer. I KNOW who your daughter is on the field. Years ago, I WAS your daughter on the field.

But what she needs from you and I, are very, very different things. Unless you, yourself, have played the sport and position she is playing, then please, stand down some. I can't tell you how many lessons I've been in where a dad or mom coaches their daughter through the drills, and not constructively, but very, very critically. "You're STILL not doing it right, aren't you listening to what your coach is saying?" "Why am I paying for these lessons if you're not going to give it your all?" "Don't you know what your doing wrong? You're supposed to step this way, not that way."

I'm not judging you parents, I promise, I'm really not. I know how it feels to KNOW your daughter is capable of more than she's currently giving. I struggle myself as a parent to step back when my daughter is on the balance beam and falling down for the 15th time. I fight back the urge to ask her why she's not focusing more, and my daughter is only five, so trust me when I tell you I understand your feelings. But I also know, from a coaching perspective, I know nothing about gymnastics. So rather than tear her down, rather than question her commitment, I'm going to tell her to keep going. To keep trying. I'm going to encourage her, because that is what she needs from me.

And trust me when I tell you this, parents. As a coach, I believe in your daughter too. I know she is capable of so much, if not even more than you already know, and I want for her only amazing things. It doesn't matter if I have one athlete or 20, I know them all, I coach them all as my own and when they fail, I fail too. I can't tell you how many times I've left a softball tournament asking myself what I could have done better, what more I could have provided, to have helped your girls step up their game. To have helped them play better. To have helped them feel more pride.

So believe me, I think about your daughter. When I her head drop because she just struck out and let her team down, it weighs heavily on my mind and my heart. And I know you feel that pain too. I know it breaks your heart to see your daughter hurt, and it frustrates you because you know she is SO much better than that. But before you critique her, before you ask her why on Earth she would swing at something at her ankles, let me ask you to do this instead: love her. Remind her how brilliant she is. Remind her that no matter how she plays, you will ALWAYS be in her corner, because you are her parent and that's what your job is.

And as a coach, this is what my job is: I'm going to make your daughter better. I'm probably going to give her some tough love, because that's what a coach is supposed to do. We push your daughters to do more and be more than they think they can. We spend practices, fundraisers, lessons and weekend trips with your daughters learning about them, investing in them, so we know how far and when to push them. As a coach, I'm asking you to trust me, trust that I know your daughter and that when I make a call you may not agree with, I'm seeing something you don't.

Once upon a time at a tournament, I had a pitcher give up a homerun. She hung a riseball and it was hit over the fence. She turned her back to us in the dugout, but you could see her shoulders huffing up and down, as she struggled to hold back the sobbing feeling she wanted to give into. You told me to pull her. You told me to get her out of there because she was done. And for a moment, I considered it, because that's your daughter.

But I didn't. And you probably really, really disliked me that game. How could I leave your baby in there when she was feeling like that? How could I expect her to come back from that? Why would I put her and the team through this when she clearly wasn't on her game today. And this is where I need you to trust me. I promise I know your daughter too. And not only do I know her, but I know exactly how she feels, because I had those moments as a pitcher. And I also know, that when she comes back from this, which she did, she's going to be better for it. She's going to be stronger. And she's going to be better than if I had taken her out and let her sulk.

Sometimes, I know you want the opposite of understanding. Sometimes, you want us to come down harder on them. I know you want us to tell them to suck it up and play better. And sometimes, we do. Sometimes, we give them a dose of tough love that is a little too tough. But sometimes, we don't. Sometimes we have to remind them how human we all are. Because sometimes, we see things you don't when they're playing.

The pressure to be an athlete is enormous today. It's not enough to be good anymore, you have to be the best. And sometimes, that pressure can suffocate you. And when your daughter is struggling to catch her metaphorical breath, it's not my job as a coach to strangle her confidence, it's not the time to break her down in order to build her up, we just need to keep her together.

And that is exactly what your job should be as the parent of a female athlete. To consistently be their rock. To be their fan all the time, even if you think they could be trying a little harder or doing a little better. Let the coaches wield the tough love, while you bring all the love.

Sincerely,

Your daughter's coach.

11.09.2015

Vegan apple-cider glazed pumpkin cakes

I wish I could take ownership of this amazingly simple recipe I'm about to throw your way, but alas, one of my friends shared it on Facebook and I decided, "wow I have to try this." And then, after I tried it and our friends declared it the most delicious cake they'd ever eaten, I decided I had to put it up on the blog in case the rest of you haven't seen it.

We're talking serious yum factor here and minimal effort.

You can find about a million different recipes for this on Pinterest or your Facebook too, so I'm not sure who to link to or where to place credit. But whoever you are that created this, well, you're awesome.

I chose to use a square cupcake pan to make these, so they'd have the appearance of personal mini cakes, which makes everyone feel special, right? That, and I haven't used this pan in over a year when I bought it for Brae's birthday and so I felt the urge to dust it off. You can do this in a regular rectangle cake pan or in a good ole fashioned cupcake pan, whatever your heart desires!



Vegan apple-cider glazed pumpkin cakes
(makes 12 square cupcakes)
Cake Ingredients: 
1 box of vegan yellow cake mix
1 can of pumpkin puree (15 oz)
1/4 cup water

Glaze Ingredients: 
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup apple cider (you can use a little less if you like your glaze thicker)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375.
Mix together cake mix and pumpkin. Grease your cupcake pan. Add in water and whip with hand or stand mixer. Once whipped together (mixture will be thick and a nice heavy fluffy texture), scoop into square cupcake pan (or whatever you've got). Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes begin to pull from the sides. Once cool, transfer your mini cakes to a large plate or tray.

In a medium bowl, mix together powdered sugar and apple cider. Once fully blended, stir in pumpkin pie spice. With a fork, stab holes in the mini cakes, about 6-10 per cake. Pour glaze over mini cakes.

Savor. Savor some more. Share if you must.

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