Chasing the Carrot… Cake

When you make a carrot cake 3 times in 2 weeks, it’s time to share the love. To all my baker friends, you have got to try this carrot cake recipe from Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue in Kansas City! The first time I tried this cake was when I took Justin out for some Jack Stack Barbecue on his birthday this year. Jack Stack knows how to make some damn good barbecue, but they also know how to make some great desserts!

If you’ve ever been turned off by a carrot cake with too much cream cheese icing, or a sort of store-bought flavor, (you know the kind) I’m telling you, give this one a chance. Not only does it have that homemade feel, with a warm crisp cinnamon scent wafting in the air at your table, but the icing melting over the top makes for a deliciously rich, but light-enough-to-eat texture. After trying their cake, and loving it, I did a little looking around online to see if I could replicate the recipe, and to my amazement, KCTV 5 wrote an article on this famous “mom’s carrot cake” a few years back! Find it below and make it the next time you need a little something sweet. You will not be disappointed! Let me know what you think if you do try it… once, twice, or maybe even three times 😉

Disclaimer: I have been able to make a 9 inch round layer cake (or about 18 cupcakes) by splitting the cake and icing recipe on half – it is more than enough! And I use the reduced fat cream cheese too – it still tastes amazing.

Happy baking!

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4 Remedies for a Self-Care Sunday at Home

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“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield

Self-care does a mind, body and soul good. If you’ve ever woken up like I did today – with puffy eyes, wild hair, and skin that could use some serious TLC, you know the necessity and importance of self-care. But what if you don’t have the cash or time to go to a spa? I’ve got good news: most of what your body needs is probably within your kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Here are 4 quick-and-easy recipes for a Self-care Sunday that will leave you refreshed from head to toe.

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For Puffy Eyes: Cherry tomatoes + lemon or lime juice

This remedy and the one below came from an issue of Willow and Sage, and I absolutely love them. They are so simple too! Raw tomatoes are high in vitamins A, K, B6 and lots of antioxidants, and when combined with the Vitamin C in lemons, your under-eyes get a nutrient boost.

Just add:

  • 2 chilled cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 chilled lemon (I didn’t have a lemon, so I used a lime. If you don’t have either, oranges and strawberries are also rich in Vitamin C). 

Combine the lemon juice and tomatoes into a pulp, mixing by hand or in a small food processor, (I used my magic bullet and it worked great). Dip a cotton ball into the pulp and dab under the eye area, being careful not to get it in your eyes. Then follow up with a moisturizer of your choice.

For Stubborn Blackheads: Baking soda + water

Just add:

  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp water (you may need more or less depending on consistency)

Make into a paste and massage into the affected area on your face. Then simply rinse with warm water and a washcloth.

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For Dry/Damaged Hair: OILS

From Cosmopolitan.com, you can make a big batch of this hair treatment to keep in a glass jar and use once a week. My hair always feels its softest after I apply it.

Just add: 

  • 1 Cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tbs almond oil
  • 1 Tbs Macadamia oil (I used Vitamin E oil instead)
  • 1 Tbs Jojoba Oil

This mask works best if you apply it to damp hair, leave it on for 10 minutes and then shampoo and condition your hair. The oils fill your hair with essential fatty acids, and shampoo helps seal them in.

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For a DIY Pedicure: Foot cream, a $1 foot scrubber and some pretty polish

The most important part of the pedicure is not the polish, so if you don’t want to polish your toes, you don’t have to. I love Essie’s Russian Roulette color so much I have 2 bottles of the stuff, so I definitely went all-out today and painted my toes RED!

Just add:

  • 3-4 inches of warm bath water
  • foot scrubber (I use one from the Dollar Tree that works great)
  • Foot cream of your choice Crabtree & Evelyn’s La Source is one of my favorites
  • Polish and topcoat of your choice

Fill your bathtub or a washtub with warm water and let your feet soak for 5 minutes. Scrub your feet until dead skin and calluses are removed. Dry off your feet and apply foot cream. Finish off with some polish, then put your feet up and relax! If you are so inclined, you might make yourself a cup of tea, (one of my favorites is the Detox Yogi Tea) and read a book, listen to some music, or watch your favorite show. Do whatever floats your boat, this is your day!

 

 

 

 

5 Ways Cooking Soothes Your Soul

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As I sit here typing this on a Friday night, with pesto chicken, zoodles and mushrooms in my belly, I have to share a little secret: there is more than just one way this delicious food I made fills me up. Cooking and baking have always been enjoyable for me – I love to eat good food! But lately, I have found cooking to be so much more FULLfilling than that. If you are looking to try something new and good for you, or you just need some more reasons to try your hand at this craft, here are 5 reasons you should put down your phone and pick up that apron!

 

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1. Creativity – Plain and simple, cooking allows us to be creative. If you’re like me and spend most of your days at work looking at a computer monitor, (or two) full of spreadsheets and emails, the last thing you want to do when you get home, is spend more time staring at a screen and burning what little left-brain fuel you have left. Cooking allows our creative juices to flow, even if we’re following a recipe, (one of my favorite things to do is look at a recipe for inspiration and then add a few twists of my own!) because we get to work with our hands to create something that pleases all of our senses.

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2. Self-esteem – There is something to be said for finishing what you start. Not only do you feel a sense of pride in having accomplished a task, but there’s some stress-relieving power in there too. Cooking allows you to finish what you start every time, and you not only have the reward of a completed task, you get to eat it too. It’s a win-win.

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3. Mindfulness – This one’s pretty obvious, but when you’re cooking or baking, you can’t really do anything else for too long, (unless you are making something in the good ol’ crockpot) so being mindful and present are just as important ingredients as flour and sugar. If you spend a lot of your day in an alternate universe, (AKA on your phone) cooking may be one of the only times where you have to truly be present. Why is this important? Because the present is AWESOME! You are alive in it and should savor it – every chance you get.

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4. Patience – I’ll tell you from experience, the phrase, “a watched pot never boils” is true, especially when that is literally what you’re doing. Cooking teaches you how to enjoy patience. You learn how to balance prepping your ingredients while you’re waiting for the water to boil, oven to preheat, skillet to sizzle, (you get the gist). I mean, who doesn’t love watching chocolate chip cookies bake to a perfect gooey goodness? And then… you get to eat them. How’s that as a reward for patience?!

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5. Freedom of Choice – This one is powerful. When you cook, you have a choice of what ingredients you use. Will you use full-fat butter, or sub with applesauce? Will your produce be organic? Your beef grass-fed? You are the chef here, and it’s your call. It’s empowering to know exactly what you’re putting in your body because you prepared it. So whether you want to be a little healthy, a little indulgent, or simply support the farmers in your area for providing you with nutritious food, you have the freedom to choose when you cook. That’s uplifting.
What other reasons do you love to cook? What benefits have you seen in your life?

Walk-Away Cooking part 1: Fridge Pickles

I’m a really big fan of cooking/baking/making food. I am also a really big fan of maximizing my time at home. Life gets busy! My dad coined the term “walk-away cooking” for my mom’s practice of making entire meals in the oven while she works in her studio, and as I try to find work-life balance, I see the appeal.

Whether I’m making a meal in the old Crock Pot, oven or stove, walk away cooking is the way to go.

Tonight, I enjoyed some chili and cornbread we made in our crockpots, but I also made these refrigerator pickles from Gimme Some Oven and can’t wait to try them. They look beautiful and delicious already!

The recipe says to wait for two days before eating, so I’ll have to let you know how they turn out on Tuesday. More walk-away cooking to come!

 

Here’s the recipe:

Easy Refrigerator Pickles from Gimme Some Oven

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 0 mins

Total Time: 5 mins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups water

3 tablespoons white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt*

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

5 cloves garlic, peeled

6 large sprigs fresh dill

1 bay leaf

(optional) 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more/less to taste

1 large English hothouse seedless cucumber, sliced into rounds or spears

Directions:

Add the water, vinegar, salt, peppercorns, garlic, dill and bay leaf to a large (1-quart) jar — or divide the mixture evenly between two small (1-pint) jars — and stir to combine.

Add the sliced cucumbers to the jar(s). Then place the lids on the jar(s), and shake to combine.

Refrigerate ideally for at least 2 days before eating, although you can totally dive in before that time. The pickles will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*Do not use iodized table salt for this recipe.

**Feel free to stir in some sweetener (honey, sugar, etc.) if you’d like sweeter pickles.

10 Habits of all Happy Girls – From The Zoe Report

 

From Erin Nicole at The Zoe Report: “The older you get, the easier it is to spot the things you’re doing, or not doing, to sabotage your emotional well-being. Not there yet? Don’t worry, this editor is accruing wisdom (in the form of unwanted birthdays) for everyone. Here, 10 habits all happy girls employ, which you should adopt ASAP.”

Click HERE to read the full post!

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From The School of Greatness Podcast: Be Your Own Hero (6 min) 

If you need a pep talk – this is it. Whatever you are facing today, this week, this year, know this…”Pain is inevitable, but suffering–the story we tell ourselves about the pain–is optional.” -Lewis Howes

 

click here to listen to The School of Greatness Podcast Episode

Beautied Weed: Decorating with Bull Thistle

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On the California coast, summer means the hillsides turn golden brown, it’s hot and dry or foggy and cool, and the likelihood of rain is slim to none. In Missouri, pretty much the opposite occurs. Summers are met with storm showers, humidity like a sauna, green landscapes and lots and lots of cicadas. Right after Labor Day, however, a switch is flipped. The cicadas quiet down, the leaves start to turn yellow, and the air has the crispness of fall.

What once was vibrant green, is dull and brown, and the bull thistles are no exception! I was on a walk the other day and looked out at a whole field of them. They get tall with the Midwest rains, and while their purple flowers are beautiful to look at, they are considered a weed. California has them too, (or a cousin of them) and I remember seeing them line the side of Horse Hill, a piece of land where we used to keep our horse. I decided to get crafty so I  took some of those bull thistles home, painted them and put them in a vase. They have to be the easiest “flowers” to keep, besides the fake ones. They don’t need any water and with a little spray paint, their color won’t ever fade! I used gold for mine, but you can use any color you’d like.

If you feel like decorating your house with weeds too, here’s how to do it:

You need:

  • scissors or hedge clippers
  • gloves
  • cardboard or newspaper
  • spray paint (I used ACE Metallic Spray Paint)
  • vase
  • 5-10 dried bull thistles

 

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Instructions:

  • use the scissors or clippers to cut the bull thistles, about 12-18 inches tall. You can always trim them shorter later  (wear gloves!)
  • shake the seeds out of the thistles as much as you can before putting them in a bag or box. You won’t be able to get rid of them all, but this will save you some cleanup
  • lay down some newspaper or cardboard on the floor or a surface. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area
  • holding the end of the stem, spray each thistle until a good coating of paint is on the whole thing.
  • lay back down on the newspaper to dry (about 1 hour is good)
  • place in a vase and enjoy! (more seeds will probably come out at this point so be prepared!)

 

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5 Ways Farming is like the Music Industry (take-aways from Farm Aid 2016)

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My friend and fellow volunteer Sarah and I

Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 31st annual Farm Aid benefit concert in Bristow, Virginia, an event drawing over 20,000 attendees for the enjoyment of live music and farm education, all for the benefit of American family farms. The organization – founded by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, has raised over $50 million to keep family farms on their land, promoting a strong family farm system across the nation. Aside from eating food from farms like the ones Farm Aid helps, some may wonder what a bunch of musicians have to do with farming. After spending a day at Farm Aid however, I found there are far more similarities between farming and music than one might think. Here are five ways farming is like the music industry:

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  1. Both bring communities together – The lineup of artists playing at Farm Aid this year was incredible. From the Alabama Shakes, to Nathaniel Rateliff, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Sturgill Simpson, Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp (and their sons) and Neil Young, there was a lot of great music to enjoy. Everywhere you looked, people were dancing and singing along to songs they love. Music is a powerful and uniting tool. Just like music, food can unite a community of people as well. All the Farm Aid volunteers got to hear from the founders of Dreaming Out Loud, a DC area urban farm that was started out of a need for accessible fresh produce in a lower income neighborhood. Not only is this community farm able to provide food, it provides an extracurricular and educational activity for kids growing up in the neighborhood as well!
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  1. Both are preventative “medicine” – although using the term medicine to describe food and music might not be PC, we’ve all had an experience when listening to a song made us feel better. Food is no different. Local Food Hub, a Charlottesville-based organization founded in 2009, makes locally-sourced food available to everyone, for the betterment of the lives of local small farms, and the families they feed. One of the programs they offer is providing free produce in partnership with a local hospital, where nurses saw a need for healthier diets in their patients. In fact, one patient who had previously been on nine different medications for her health, saw a dramatic change in her body and no longer needs any of the medications she was previously taking, thanks to the food she started eating from Local Food Hub. How’s that for preventative medicine!?
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Homegrown Village

3. Both inspire creativity – Aside from enjoying the creative works of all the musicians at Farm Aid, Homegrown Village was a big aspect of the event this year. It was all about being creative with growing, cooking, and even composting your food! From drawing messages on paper plates encouraging the support of congress for farm-to-school programs, to swapping seeds for a more bountiful garden, concertgoers were buzzing between each tent, learning new skills, and getting their hands dirty! That’s what being creative is all about.

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Farm Aid 2016 Press Conference

 

4. Both create jobs – although this may seem like a no-brainer, there are a lot of people involved in the music and agricultural industry besides just the farmers and musicians themselves. From planting the seed, (whether it’s writing a song or planting an actual seed for a crop) to harvesting, (or performing) to consumption, (whether through the ears or the stomach!) there are many individuals along the way that help food and music be the most flavorful and beautiful it can be.

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Friends Sarah, Will and I enjoying our volunteer lunch

5. Both are work to be enjoyed by all – Getting to eat a home-cooked meal or listen to a beautiful song are some of the greatest things in life, but after volunteering in the catering tent last weekend – serving food and beverages to the stage crew, artists, sponsors and their families, Farm Aid came full circle for me. Every artist that performed paid their way to be there, and donated their time on stage for the benefit of family farmers. It made the music all the more enjoyable to listen to. But on the back side of the stage, another kind of performance was playing. There was meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese and bread brought in from family farms to feed everyone. Both works were being enjoyed equally, and were equally necessary to make Farm Aid a success. #standingovation

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Jennifer Fahy, Farm Aid’s Communication Director said it best during the press conference, “Music and farming go hand-in-hand, from the crow of the rooster in the morning to the dinner bell at night and the radio playing in the combine as the farmer is working during the day,” and while both are separate industries, the two have a lot more in common than we think. I am so grateful to Farm Aid for filling my plate and my heart with both to enjoy and remember. #Road2FarmAid

Why You should Celebrate My Birthday this Year (It’s not what you think!)

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The power of service is an amazing thing. I am finding out more and more that it’s what life is really all about. Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity: Water gets it, and shared his inspiring story on the School of Greatness podcast (listen here).

Charity: Water is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 that provides clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. It has since helped fund 13,641 projects in 22 countries, benefiting over 4.6 million people. Their mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to every person in the world. I’d like to help them do that, and I invite you to join me!

A lot of people choose to donate an event (like a birthday) to Charity: Water, so that is what I’m doing for my birthday this year.

Instead of a gift,

I’m asking you to donate to Charity: Water

Any amount is appreciated. I’m starting with $27 since it’s going to be my 27th birthday on April 26th (3 weeks from today). If you started saving today, you would need to save about $1.30/day, (about the cost for a cup of coffee) for the next 3 weeks.

Another great thing about this organization – private donors cover their operating costs, so 100% of your donation goes to funding water projects. Plus, Charity: Water tracks every dollar we raise, and shows the projects we helped fund with photos and GPS. How awesome is that?!

Learn more about Charity: Water and make your donation by clicking this link: https://my.charitywater.org/camille-rene-cordisco/waterforcandles

I am calling my project Water for Candles, because by replacing birthday candles with clean drinking water for people in need, we can bring a lot more light to the world. Thank you for your generosity.

 

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“Life’s a Journey, Work’s Just a Detour” (And Dream Boards Really DO Work!)

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This is my dream board. I started putting it together about a year and a half ago after watching ‘The Secret’ for the first time. One of the interviewees in in the film talked about his dream board and the manifestation of things he put on it, so I thought I’d give it a try. At first, I used construction paper, but a cork board, picture frame, heck–even your refrigerator will do! This is one I picked up at Target, and after I tell you the profound discovery I made about my dream board the other day, you will want to make or buy one for yourself!

One of my best friends came to visit me in Kansas City last weekend, and as we sat in my living room one night listening to an episode of my favorite podcast, “The School of Greatness” with Lewis Howes, his guest, Chris Lee started talking about dream boards.

“I made one of those!” I exclaimed to my friend, and went digging through my closet to find the rolled up green construction paper that at the time was my “dream board.” I packed it with my things when I moved from California, but had not yet put it up in my new apartment. I unrolled it and we looked it over.

Some of the items I put on that board had certainly manifested themselves in my life. But there were a few things that stuck out to me: the words “behind the microphone;” (I had been a weeknight on-air host for the last 6 months of my radio station job before moving to KC) a picture of Nashville; (I recently made a wonderful road-trip there to see one of my favorite artists, Yelawolf, perform) and a little clipping of a map with the phrase, “Life’s a Journey, Work’s Just a Detour.”IMG_3149

I wondered how that phrase applied to my life as I looked closely at the map behind those words. Then, I looked closer, CLOSER…

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The map on that little clipping was a map of Kansas City! I was manifesting a “detour” out here over a year and a half ago and didn’t even know it. Let that sink in.

I was sold. I am right where I’m supposed to be.

You are too, but if you want things to change, improve, pivot, you have to put those wants out to the universe. A dream board is more than a few magazine clippings on construction paper, it is a declaration of your mission, values and goals. It is a representation of an attitude of faith, trust and aspiration.

I don’t know the full reason of why I came to Kansas City yet, but the beauty of faith, trust and aspiration is that I don’t have to know everything! I am learning a little more each day and enjoying the journey as I go. Things like a dream board help us to visualize and keep track of our progress. They are great tools.

If you want to make one, I suggest getting a pinboard or magnet board of some kind. That way you can move/change things around more easily. Any magazines you have lying around will be sure to have words, pictures or ideas you can cut out, but printing pictures or writing mantras are great too. Whatever will represent your dreams!

One thing to remember – you can put all these great things on the board but if you never take ACTION, and don’t have the right ATTITUDE, you won’t get far. Take it a day at a time, and don’t stop moving forward. In the words of Norman Vincent Peale, “You can if you think you can.”

The moral of the story is that you should make a dream board. But diving deeper, every once in a while when we wonder if we are on the right path in life, the universe answers us in profound ways. Life IS a journey. For now, mine has me right where I need to be, in Kansas City.

The Magic of Lemon Meringue Pie 

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Some say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and after learning about the magic of a lemon meringue pie, I would have to agree. My mom has a famous lemon meringue pie recipe she calls the “bachelor trap” because it was that very pie that won my dad over 34 years ago. My mom moved to San Francisco from Kansas, and met my dad a couple of years later. They knew they had something special cooking when they started dating, and when my mom added this little dish for dessert, my dad was hooked. Yes, there is something to be said for a woman who can bake. Or a man!

Why is this important? Because baking is one of the most vulnerable forms of an expression for love, gratitude, and appreciation. Think about it: You work hard for a couple of hours in the kitchen, measuring things out just right, getting the temperature and timing in line with every step you make in this “chemistry experiment,” in hopes it will turn out well. Then you serve your hard work on a plate to some of your most beloved critics in hopes they will enjoy every bite. You are essentially saying with your food, “I have worked hard, I care about you, and this is what that tastes like.” You want it to be good right?! You want it to be MAGIC!

While there are many dessert options to express yourself to others, the lemon meringue pie takes the cake, pun intended. It is sweet but tart, light but dense, and can be a little tough to put together, requiring some risks, but when done right, it is worth all the effort! (Kind of like relationships, right?!)

Below is a picture of the lemon meringue pie I baked tonight for a friend who is coming to visit me this weekend. I am so anxious and excited for their arrival and wanted to show my appreciation, so what better way than with a delicious pie!

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There are a lot of different recipes out there, but I will share my mom’s recipe with you as long as you PROMISE to use the magic wisely. You don’t have to just make this pie for a bachelor who catches your eye either. Make it for a family member in need of something sweet, a co-worker who does so much to help you out, a friend who you haven’t seen in ages, or even yourself! Below is the recipe, along with some tips I have found to make the baking process easier.

Tip #1: When life gives you (or someone you love) lemons, make lemon meringue pie. Now get to it!


Bachelor Trap Lemon Meringue Pie

Filling:

(Use double boiler)

Cook and stir the following together in order until the mixture is clear and all the sugar is dissolved:

-1 stick butter (put in first, when upper pan is hot)
-1 cup sugar (add when butter is melted)
-Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons

Then beat lightly:

-2 whole eggs
-4 egg yolks

-Add eggs to hot lemon mixture while stirring over heat
-Continue to stir constantly until mixture is thick (5 minutes or so)
-Cool and pour into baked pie crust

Meringue:

(Beat at highest speed on electric mixer, scraping sides occasionally)

-4 egg whites
add gradually while beating:
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Beat until foamy.
Then add gradually:
-3 tablespoons sugar
Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over cooled filling in pie shell.

Make sure meringue seals the edges of crust and filling, otherwise pie will weep.

Bake in bottom of 350-degree oven until meringue is slightly browned, (about 10-20 minutes)

Pie Crust:

Tip #2: If having a bad hair day, purchase high quality pre-made crust. Otherwise use the recipe below.
*Note: My mom always uses the traditional flour crust, but I really like using a graham cracker crust for this pie. I have included a recipe for both types if you care to make this pie completely from scratch!

Graham Cracker Crust from Taste of Home:

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (24 squares)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  1. In a small bowl, combine the crumbs and sugar; add butter and blend well. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-in. pie plate.
  2. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling, or bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack before filling. Yield: 1 pie crust (9 inches).

Traditional Crust from my Mama:

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 tablespoons ICE water

Chill a bowl, flour, butter and vegetable shortening in the refrigerator.

Sift Together:
-1.5 cups unbleached flour
-1/4 rounded teaspoon salt

Cut into chunks and add to flour mixture:
-1/4 cup chilled butter
-1/4 cup vegetable shortening

Use a pastry blender or 2 knives in a criss-cross fashion to blend butter and shortening into flour until mixture resembles small crumbly clusters.

-3 tablespoons ice water
Add water gradually and toss lightly with a fork until dough begins to stick together.
Form into ball and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until chilled.
Roll out dough on floured board and drape into pie pan. Gently smoothing down to conform to shape.


Best cocktails to go with Lemon Meringue Pie: Whiskey Sour (A little rich, but bourbon and lemon are a great pair. Sometimes you have to go big or go home!)
Best Wine: Chardonnay
Best Music: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey… anything with a variety of sounds/textures… kind of like this pie, it has to have variety!

Enjoy!