Let the Journey Begin!

I’m sitting in the Denver International airport counting down the minutes until we board the plane for the first leg of our journey to England and Scotland. First the hubs and I fly to Dulles, our old airport stomping grounds from our DC days, and await our flight to Heathrow. It’ll be a long day of traveling, but I am just too thrilled to care!

We will arrive in London around 10:15am on Sunday, August 31st, and after dropping off our items at the hotel, plan to spend the day wandering the city, exploring some of my favorite places, and reacquainting ourselves with our new temporary home. Pictures and adventures to follow. But for now, Bon voyage!!!


Making the Most of It: Pre-Trip Festivities!

Another amazing Colorado weekend in the books.  With my trip to the United Kingdom a matter of FOUR days away, I am trying to make the most of my last week in Colorado before we leave.  Over the weekend, other than prepping for our impending travels, the hubs and I were busy hosting the in-laws for a delectable home cooked meal, getting in some miles in preparation for our fall races, and I met up with some local sorority sisters for a hike and an unexpected adventure.

Saturday started off with a nice five mile run with the hubs, followed by necessary errands to prepare for our trip.  With all of the changes we have made in our diet and regular exercise routine, my hubby has lost quite a bit of weight.  It was definitely time, possibly overdue, to get him some new duds to show off his svelte figure.  Obviously we want to look our best abroad, and London is a classy city, so it was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of updating his wardrobe.  Besides, I love shopping for him… there’s something so enjoyable about dressing men!

That evening we hosted my in-laws for a home cooked meal as a thank you for taking care of our adorable pup, Rocco, while we’re away.  We’ve

I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!
I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!

had our puppy for just over a year and have never left him for more than 4 days.  This is going to be a big switch for us, and I can already tell I am going to have separation anxiety.  Luckily my in-laws also have a Chihuahua who is our pup’s best friend in the whole world.  Something tells me this will be a vacation for Rocco too.  On the menu for the evening was a delicious cheese plate with Manchego and Pecorino cheeses, rosemary olive oil crisps and crostini from Whole Foods, and black seedless grapes.  With this in mind, the hubs and I decided to go Italian.

We prepared homemade pork meatballs, which we seasoned ourselves, freshly made creamy polenta (my first time making it!), and topped with homemade San Marzano tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano and arugula.  I am a bad blogger and didn’t take a picture of the awesomeness.  The recipe was based off of a dish I used to order at my favorite little Italian restaurant in Boulder, Radda Trattoria.  The hubs and I were so spoiled because this restaurant was just across the street from our townhome, so it became a restaurant staple.  The meal is called Polpette e Polenta, and is too delicious for words.  Without fail, this was always what I ordered.  It’s also this restaurant where I first had a Martini Basilico, which my hubby has beautifully been able to recreate at home (YAY!).  We finished the meal with my mother-in-law’s homemade peach bourbon upside down cake.  Overall, it was a phenomenal meal.

Another perfect day for a hike!
Another perfect day for a hike!

The next morning I met up with two local sorority sister for a Sunday morning hike.  We drove west towards Morrison, the same place I had hike the weekend before, but this time we went to a trail on the opposite side of Red Rocks amphitheater.  The trailhead, Mt. Falcon, takes two paths.  One, the Castle Trail, is mountain biker friendly, so a number of adventurists passed us on the trail, impressively navigating the terrain on bike.  At the first summit, you can see beautiful vistas of the valley below and the Denver skyline in the distance.  Although we decided not to go to the top of Mt. Falcon, for timing reasons, we took the Turkey Trot trail around the back side of the foothill, which allowed for amazing views and a gorgeous woodsy atmosphere.

My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
Love these views!
Love these views!
We found Red Rocks!
We found Red Rocks!

After hiking, we drove to downtown Golden for lunch.  We sat on the back patio of the Buffalo Rose bar and grill, and quickly realized we were in the middle of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race.  The main street of Golden was lined with spectators trying to catch a glimpse.  I’d never seen a cycling race in person, so when the hordes of cyclists passed a dizzying speeds, followed closely by pace cars, I was pretty excited.

Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!
Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!  Source

Shortly afterwards we tried to leave Golden, and realized the city was shut down for the race.  We managed to cross into the entrance to the Coors factory, and the guard at the gate allowed us to drive through their property

Fort Keg, it's a pretty formidable structure.
Fort Keg, it’s a pretty formidable structure.

to get back to the highway.  Having done the Coors factory tour four times now, I had absolutely no idea how HUGE the factory is.  We drove for quite some time through service roads connecting the facility together, interspersed with Coors’ own railway system.  It was impressive.  Then we saw the castle of kegs, and that was incredible.  I doubt they were full (that would not live up to the Coors cold-brewed standard), but it definitely made me wonder how much beer could fill all of them…  It was in every way a memorable day!

Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here... oh well!
Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here… oh well!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!

This week, interspersed with packing, I have jam-packed in fun events and last-minute get-togethers.  Yesterday I fit in a 5K run in preparation for the Esprit de She 10K this Thursday.  The sunset was stunning, and the weather perfection (finally).  Hello 65º!  I hope Thursday night has similar weather.  Tonight, after Zumba, I am stopping by the Esprit de She Packet Pickup Party at the Athleta shop in Denver’s Cherry Creek area.  Not only can I get my bib, but as a participant we also get 20% off in store, snacks, giveaways and more.  Yes please!  Tomorrow evening I will be going to the Squeaky Bean with my friend Danielle for pre-trip cocktails.  The Squeaky Bean boasts one of the best professional mixologists in Denver, so the drinks are fabulous.  Finally, Thursday I will be running the Esprit de She with my friend Christie, and cannot wait for the post-race festivities.

Have a great week everyone – make every day an adventure!

How did you make the most of your last summer weekend?  Do you know how much beer could fill all of those kegs?  What are you looking forward to this week?

The Happiness Factor: Friday Favorites Edition

Friday is here again – hooray!  This summer has simultaneously flown by and dragged on… not really sure how that works, but there you have it.  The fall semester started this week and work has been a bit of a chaotic, excited, anxious blur.  Thankfully things have calmed down slightly on campus, but will probably pick right back up come Monday.  For now, let’s appreciate Friday and look forward to the weekend!

I find it is sometimes best to focus on favorites as a means of happiness.  I saw an infographic this week that broke down the elements of happiness into 15 categories, most of which is genetic (I tend to think I am a happy person at heart, so I believe that to be true), but thoughts, actions and beliefs are three other key pieces to happiness.  If we think about things that make us happy, and tend towards positive beliefs and actions, we are more apt to be happy people.  Therefore, Friday favorites are a piece of the happiness puzzle – hooray!

Let’s jump right in to the Friday Favorites lineup!

  1. Traveling – of course I am focused on travel given I leave for the UK in a matter of eight days!! Not that I am counting.  The hubs and I will be taking our first trip together across the pond, and for my hubby, his first truly international trip.  He’s been to Canada and Turks and Caicos, but that is it.  I was lucky enough to be born abroad, so did most of my life’s traveling by the time I was four.  In college I studied abroad in London, England and Sydney, Australia (I was an English major, so naturally I went where they speak English!), and have been dying to go back to both since.  Six years after studying in London, I am finding my way back, this time with the hubs in tow.  We were dating when I was last there, but all I could think was how much he would love it.  We plan to travel to Oxford, Canterbury and Bath during our stay in London, and end our trip in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I am half Scottish, and my hubby is a quarter, so it’s about time we go see the land of our heritage.  I am a wee bit excited (catch my sarcasm?), and will begin packing this weekend.  One more week… I can make it.
  2. Six years later, I am finally returning to one of my favorite cities in the world!
    Six years later, I am finally returning to one of my favorite cities in the world!  I can’t believe my hair was once that short and blonde…
  3. FREE RACES – yup, that’s right.   About a month and half ago my friend and local sorority sister contacted me about participating in the
    I do love some good race swag after all!  And champagne.
    I do love some good race swag after all! And champagne. Source

    Esprit de She 10K on August 28th.  At first I thought, “Hmm, a race on a Thursday night?  Not too sure about that…” And then she intimated that I could participate for free.  Furthermore, it’s a race designed for women, and at the finish line is champagne (HELLO!) at their Bubbly Bar, hair braiding and mini manis (awesome), post-race tapas (you had me at champagne), and a FABULOUS Athleta tech tank.  Did I mention that Athleta is one of the major sponsors?  Did I also mention that my friend formerly worked for Athleta and that’s how I got to sign up for free?  I also figured, besides all of the incredible goodies, this would be great practice for running an evening/night race before the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November.  So yay for free!

  4. Colorado Mountains – during this past month I have spoiled with myself with adventures in the Colorado Rockies. We took some of our east
    How cool is it that I get to live here?
    How cool is it that I get to live here?

    coast friends up to Vail at the beginning of the month, and then partook in Yoga on the Rocks and hiking around Red Rocks last weekend.  After moving from Boulder, I find it harder to take the time to explore the amazing landscape of our state.  I am hoping to fit in another hike this weekend, potentially near Golden.  Although Denver is a great city to visit, the foothills and mountains that flank its west side are the real tourist attraction, in my opinion.

  5. Tea – completely unoriginal, but there you have it. With my trip coming up I have been drinking so much tea recently.  I am a huge fan of Harney & Sons Paris Tea, but have recently converted to their delicious Earl Grey Supreme.  As much as I don’t want summer to end, I am conflicted in that I am craving cooler days, autumn sunshine, changing leaves and enjoying a beautiful pot of warm tea (with milk, because that’s how I roll).  I may have an entire cabinet entirely dedicated to tea… and 8 teapots of varying sizes and styles.  I may also have planned at least 3 teas during our trip, with a potential for 3 more…  Fortnum and Mason, anyone?

    Thank you Buzzfeed, I am okay with this.  Source
  6. Outlander – although I have significantly reduced my television watching, there are some shows I make time for. One of my new favorites is
    I recommend this series - it will suck you in!
    I recommend this series – it will suck you in!  Source

    Outlander.  In college, a dear friend and roommate recommended the Outlander series, and I read the first two voraciously.  I haven’t picked up the others since, and now really want to re-read the first all over again.  Starz just introduced a new series based upon Diana Gabaldon’s books, and timing couldn’t be more perfect.  Set outside of Inverness, Scotland, it has me daydreaming of my impending adventures.  I really recommend the books and the show!

So here’s to happiness and the things in life that make us smile.  Have a happy, healthy and fabulous Friday everyone.  Go out and enjoy some of your favorite things.  It just might make your day that much happier!

What favorites are making you happy these days?  Any fun plans for the weekend?  Anyone have other London/Edinburgh recommendations?

Yoga on the Rocks and a Beautiful Saturday Hike

I have never experienced anything quite like Yoga on the Rocks.  That one hour of my life was so serene, so peaceful, and

Watching the sunrise over Red Rocks - so surreal!
Watching the sunrise over Red Rocks – so surreal!

yet incredibly fulfilling all at once.  I had initially heard about Yoga on the Rocks from the instructor of LacyFit, Amy Lacy.  The program is put on by Core Power Yoga and co-sponsored by Whole Foods (excellent combination).  Amy had participated with a group of friends at the end of July.  The pictures she posted were incredible!  Thousands of people from all over Colorado, and beyond, participating in a massive outdoor group yoga session, while the sun bathes you in light on the steps of Red Rocks… yes please!  Personally I am not a huge yogi, but I have done a few videos at home and sessions with friends.  This type of experience, however, was completely up my alley.

After learning there were three classes left for the summer, I checked

So grateful for my yogi friends!
So grateful for my yogi friends!  Tessa is on my left and Ade on my right.

my calendar and called my two main yogi friends, Ade and Tessa.  Ade and I bonded over joblessness and hiking after moving to Boulder, Colorado post-completion of our respective graduate programs.  Tessa is my longtime friend from high school who initially moved to Colorado shortly after I did, then spent two years in Istanbul, Turkey, and just moved back to Denver this July!  It was meant to be, we were all free on August 16th!

Knowing I would have to awaken prior to the sun, I figured this would be a good opportunity to seize the day, and asked if the ladies would also like to join me for a hike around Red Rocks after yoga.  Thankfully they were on board, so we had a whole morning of stunning scenery and physical fitness ahead of us.

Red Rocks is about 25 minutes southwest of Denver proper, nestled in the foothills of Morrison.  These naturally occurring jagged red rocks quite literally set the stage for an outdoor amphitheater.  There’s really nothing quite like it!  I remember visiting Red Rocks on my very first trip to Colorado in 2007.  Little did I know then that I would live a short drive away someday.

I picked up Tessa early that morning and Ade drove down from Boulder and met

Prepping for our morning yoga session!
Prepping for our morning yoga session!

us at the amphitheater.  The sun was just peeking above the stage and thousands of yogis were laying out mats, stretching, and taking pictures of our surreal surroundings.  The early goers got free Core Power Yoga mats and awesome bright orange sunglasses.  Obviously we all put those on immediately.  People-watching was awesome, mostly for the incredible yoga pants all over the place.  The program started just after 7:00am, and it was truly a perfect morning: barely a cloud in the bright blue sky, light breeze, and sunny.  It was the best Saturday morning I have had in a long time.

There's definitely nothing quite like it!
There’s definitely nothing quite like it!
The one artsy shot we had to get - stretching it out after a great class!
The one artsy shot we had to get – stretching it out after a great class!

Although not the most challenging yoga class, it was designed for yogis of all strengths and skill levels (good for a novice like me!).  The poses focused all areas of the body, and the instructor was very cognizant of the wide array of experience throughout the amphitheater.  She had us repeating throughout the class, “Where are you?  Red Rocks!  What are you?  Alive!”  At first it seemed like a silly chant, but looking around, it meant so much more.  Very few people in the world get the chance to do this, and what a perfect day and way to celebrate just being alive.

At the end of the class, Whole Foods stations were located at the top of the

This was the perfect post-yoga hiking trail - not too tough with awesome views!
This was the perfect post-yoga hiking trail – not too tough with awesome views!

amphitheater with fabulous giveaways and snacks.  We grabbed some vitamins, protein milk, granola and yogurt, Justin’s nut butters, and some snack bars from Cascadian Farms and Lara Bar.  We knew we needed some sustenance before heading off on our hike.  After a bit of wait getting out of the parking lot, we made the 3 minute drive over to the parking lot for the entrance to Matthews Winters Park.

Hiking up the Red Rocks trail.
Hiking up the Red Rocks trail.
Picture perfect day!
Picture perfect day!
All I could say was, "Wow!" View from the top of Morrison Slide trail.
All I could say was, “Wow!” View from the top of Morrison Slide trail.
A successful day all around.
A successful day all around.
I still can't get over these views!
I still can’t get over these views!

We started on the trail which takes you up and over some rolling hills, very un-Colorado like, towards the Red Rocks trail.  This eventually connects with the Morrison Slide trail, which boasts incredible views of Red Rocks and the valley beyond.  The sky was so clear we could see nearly all the way to Pikes Peak.  We connected back to the Red Rocks trail and took that back to the parking lot.  We were done with our morning activities by 11:15am, and at that point, it was time for tacos!  Much like Pirate Bobcat, I live for tacos, so Tessa and I ventured in the Highlands for fajita tacos at Patzcuaro’s.  So good.  Needless to say, it was an all-around perfect day!

Yup, pretty much amazing.
Yup, pretty much amazing.

Although I don’t have anything quite as exciting planned this weekend, I will be packing for my trip to London and Edinburgh.  I leave in TEN days and absolutely cannot wait.  As much as I love Colorado, I adore the UK!

Have you tried a sunrise yoga – what did you think?  Do you love to rise early on weekends and seize the day?  Any fun post-summer travel plans?

Waffle Doughnuts and August Adventures

I was not really aware, not being an expert in the field of doughnut creation, that such a thing could exist: waffle doughnuts.

Seriously - first cronuts, now wonuts?  Brilliant!
Seriously – first cronuts, now wonuts? Brilliant!

Mind blown. Tomorrow is my boss’ birthday so we celebrated today, and thankfully my cleanse is coming to an end. I may have partaken in the deliciousness. If you haven’t tried them, you should, preferably with chocolate icing. What can I say? I have a sweet tooth!

Other than the delightful world of doughnuts, August is shaping up to be a pretty fantastic and adventurous month! Last weekend the hubs and I had the pleasure of hosting some of our dearest friends from Washington D.C., Alex and Colleen. They flew out for a whirlwind of a weekend trip and we were up to the challenge. They arrived late last Friday evening, so we decided to have a relaxing evening in so we could rise early on Saturday and head into the mountains for a quick day trip. If you live along the Front Range and have attempted the journey up I-70 this summer, you know what a bear it’s been to get past Idaho Springs. Given the long winter months in the mountains, all road construction takes place in a short window, and a lot needs to be completed in a limited amount of time. In other words, it was slow going, but we finally arrived in Vail just before 11:30am. We wandered around the town a bit, basking in the mountain air and watching the Keen Kids Adventure Race (it was a pretty epic ordeal). The race was a series of obstacles, starting with a climbing wall, followed by a bike race, and ending with an inner tube race along Gore Creek. I cannot deny that it looked like so much fun. And because it’s Colorado, these kids were fiercely fit and very competitive.

Beautiful views from the Mountain Standard patio!
Beautiful views from the Mountain Standard patio!  The race is in full swing.

We had lunch along the creek, with full view of the festivities, at a fantastic restaurant called Mountain Standard. By 12:15pm the place was packed – a good sign in my book! We had a light lunch, mine consisting of a fantastic caprese salad with homemade ricotta and fried polenta “breadcrumbs”. It was delish! If you find your way to Vail, it’s a definite must, especially in the summertime.

After lunch we stopped by my all-time favorite Christmas shop (let’s be honest, Vail looks like an eternal Christmas card), The Gilded Spruce. They provide some incredible ornaments made in Colorado, as well as European treasures. I was born in Germany, so I grew up with traditional German Christmas ornaments, including handmade wooden German pyramids/windmills and smokers. This shop definitely takes me back to my childhood, and I love being transported to a Christmassy winter wonderland! Better still, I love visiting the shop to see my friend Peter’s mother, Betsy. Although I wasn’t sure if she’d be working that day, I had to stop in. Luckily she was there and the shop was quiet, so we were able to catch up and introduce our friends. The hubs and I will be returning to Vail in months’ time with our friends Peter and Ade, and Betsy is kind enough to put us up!

Great day with friends and the hubby in my favorite mountain village!
Great day with friends and the hubby in my favorite mountain village!
Picture perfect day in the mountains!
Picture perfect day in the mountains!
This view needs no filter.
This view needs no filter.

After the Gilded Spruce, we wandered the town a bit more, checked out some shops, and walked by the gondola and the finish line of the kids’ race. The day was beautiful, and the mountains are utterly peaceful. We left around 3:00pm so we could get back with enough time to relax before dinner. The hubs made some signature cocktails before we got an easy dinner nearby. The next day the boys played golf, while Colleen and I got in some serious pool time.

The hubs got the Fort's Game Plate, complete with bison, elk and quail!
The hubs got the Fort’s Game Plate, complete with bison, elk and quail! 

That evening we went to dinner at the Fort. I have been hearing about this place since moving to Colorado, and although the hubs had been before, it had been many years. The Fort is a Colorado staple: it serves dishes more common to the region, including bison, elk, quail, and the occasional rattlesnake. The structure itself it a replica of Bent’s Fort, an old fur trading fort built in 1833, constructed by a family seeking the true western experience nestled in the foothills outside of Denver. Now it is a culinary collaboration of Native American and southwestern flavors, and boy is it good! The service is spectacular, the food awesome, and the portions are insane. We left with tons of leftovers and full stomachs. If you visit Denver anytime soon, you simply must go to the Fort.

Monday morning we dropped off our friends at the airport bright and early, and the rest of this week has been a blur. I can’t believe it’s Friday already! Last night after an awesome Zumba class I went to the Matador in the Highlands. I had recently read about the incredible Jalapeno Cucumber Margaritas from Chocolate Covered Race Medals, and thankfully some of my local sorority sisters had planned a happy hour there for Thursday. They did not disappoint whatsoever. I could have had way more than two, but thankfully I did not so I could get home safe and sound. I can’t wait to take the hubs and get some grub (we just munched on an awesome plate of nachos). Everything there looked awesome.

Tonight the hubs and I are hosting some of our friends for a couples date night at our house. They are thrilled as they have

I cannot wait for Yoga on the Rocks - watching the sun rise over Red Rocks while doing yoga, yes please!
I cannot wait for Yoga on the Rocks – watching the sun rise over Red Rocks while doing yoga, yes please!

two adorable little daughters, ages 3 months and 2 years. My hubby has some awesome brined grilled chicken, corn on the cob, sweet potato fries and arugula salad planned, and I will work on a sweet treat for dessert. Tomorrow morning I am rising before 6:00am so I can meet up with two of my gal pals for Yoga on the Rocks. Red Rocks is a stunning outdoor amphitheater carved into the red rock face of the foothills by Morrison. Starting at 7:00am during most Saturdays in the summer, they host a giant yoga class with people and their mats lining the many rows of seating all the way down to the stage. I cannot wait! Afterwards we plan on doing a short 4 mile hike nearby.

The most exciting part of this month is my countdown to London and Edinburgh!! The hubs and I leave in two weeks’ time for an incredible adventure, and it’s all I can do to make it through the day without wanting to drive to the airport and leave right now! Have a great weekend everyone – make it an adventurous one!

Any amazing weekend plans in your future?  Have you ever done a mass yoga class – what was it like?  Where is your favorite day trip?

High Altitude Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes

Try saying that ten times fast!   This recipe, I must admit, is pretty fantastic.  Although I am not allergic to gluten, I have wanted to dabble in gluten free baking for some time.  I have had plenty of great gluten free baked goods (along with numerous not so good gluten free baked goods), so I wanted to put my pastry skills to the test.  Personally I feel these cupcakes were a huge success, especially given that my seven-person work team consumed 10 of them in a matter of 5 hours.  Not too shabby!

This recipe is pretty fabulous... just sayin...
This recipe is pretty fabulous… just sayin…

While I am truly appreciating the effects of this cleanse, I will be very happy to bake again.  Baking is my happy place, my stress reliever and my favorite hobby.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as creating something from scratch – combining just the right elements to produce a treat so mouthwatering and delectable – and watching others enjoy the end result.  That is why I love baking.

It was time, then, to push myself a bit further and work with ingredients I have not utilized before.  Conquering, or at least adjusting to, high altitude baking was one major feat.  Now gluten free!  I am a huge fan of red velvet cupcakes.  A HUGE fan.  The hubs isn’t so keen, which I cannot possibly understand (I think it might have to do with the cream cheese frosting, which is absolutely insane as cream cheese frosting is epically amazing).  With this in mind, I made these cupcakes for my coworkers.  With the move a few days away, I wanted to show them my gratitude in making the transition that much smoother.  I think they got the message, and if not, they got a belly full of yummy goodness instead.  Same thing, right?

So without further ado, my very own gluten free red velvet cupcakes (with help from a number of great sources)!

High Altitude Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes (If you would like the same recipe – remember to use the Gluten Free Cake Flour – for sea level baking, both recipes are provided here!)


For the Gluten Free Cake Flour:

3 cups brown rice flour (this needs to be fine ground)

1 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)

½ cup tapioca flour

1 ¼ teaspoons xanthan gum (can also use guar gum)

For the Cupcakes:

The color is surprisingly rich - and the batter very tasty!
The color is surprisingly rich – and the batter very tasty!

1 ¼ cup Gluten Free Cake Flour

2/3 cup baker’s sugar

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large egg

¾ cup vegetable oil

½ buttermilk (I used heavy cream)

1 teaspoon red food coloring (Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors are also gluten free!)

1 teaspoon vanilla (I use Penzeys Double Strength Vanilla Extract)

1 teaspoon White Vinegar

¾ teaspoon baking powder

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese (I used light cream cheese)

Seriously though, who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?
Seriously though, who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting?

8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


I know it looks like a lot of work, but it is completely worth the effort!  Start by creating your cake flour.  Sift the brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and xanthan gum in a small bowl, and combine thoroughly.  You will want to store this in an airtight container or Ziploc bag for future use, and you will utilize 1 ¼ cup for the cupcake recipe.

Now let’s start on the cupcakes.  Whip together the sugar, eggs, and oil with an electric mixer or beater until combined, but do not over whip (especially for high altitude).  Alternate adding the dry ingredients, except the baking powder, with the wet ingredients, except the vinegar.  Once the batter is smooth, add the red gel food coloring.  Combine together the vinegar and baking powder and mix for 10 seconds, then pour this mixture into the batter and mix for another 10 seconds.

Make sure to make them even so they cook evenly.
Make sure to make them even so they cook evenly.

Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, fill a pre-lined cupcake pan about ¾ of the way full.  Bake at 375º F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Make sure to allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing them.

For the frosting, combine the room temperature cream cheese and butter together in a bowl using an electric beater until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add the confectioners’ sugar gradually, ½ cup at a time, until no lumps are visible, and then incorporate the vanilla until just combined.  Spoon into a piping bag or ice using an icing spatula.  I added a bit of food coloring to the frosting just for fun! Enjoy!

Although they sunk slightly, they were so moist and delicious inside!
Although they sunk slightly, they were so moist and delicious inside!
Pretty yellow cream cheese frosting flowers!
Pretty yellow cream cheese frosting flowers!
SO good... I am looking forward to a sweet treat post-cleanse...
SO good… I am looking forward to a sweet treat post-cleanse…

Have you dabbled in gluten free baking?  What did you think?  How did it go?  What are your favorite kind of cupcakes?


Cleansing Does Not Mean Deprivation

When I first heard the concept of cleansing, I couldn’t help but picture a face wash commercial with women splashing water in their faces in slow motion.  I quickly learned it is much more than that, nor does it necessarily have anything to do with facial cleaning.  I attended a product party in April for the company Arbonne, initially a Swiss company that moved to the US in 1980 and promotes Vegan-based products for skincare, hair, sun protection, cosmetics, fragrances, and nutrition.  I have been using some of their makeup products for a little over a month and I am quite pleased.  However I wasn’t sure about the cleanse process.  A dear friend of mine had completed the month-long cleanse, and knowing she was not trying to sell me the products, honestly said she felt a noticeable difference afterwards.  So why not give it a go, and see how I feel?  It’s only a month after all.

Why do they look so happy?  This isn't exactly effective...
Why do they look so happy? This isn’t exactly effective… Source

So why cleanse?  This process helps to reduce certain food groups to, in essence, help cleanse and clean your digestive system.  It alleviates the stresses certain food items have on our body.  There are many food items that

Lunch on the cleanse: homemade fajitas, avacado, corn tortillas, and watermelon!
Lunch on the cleanse: homemade fajitas, avacado, corn tortillas, and watermelon!

humans were never meant to eat, dairy being one of them (sadly… who doesn’t love a delicious bowl of ice cream?), so this process helps to give your body a break and regain balance.  The food groups that are eliminated during this cleanse include the following: gluten/wheat products, dairy, coffee/caffeine, yeast, refined sugar, alcohol, vinegar, soy, artificial sweeteners, food coloring/dye, non-organic corn and artificial/processed foods.  It sounds like a lot, but still leaves an amazing amount of options.  Thankfully the hubs and I really like, nay, LOVE, fresh food and consume a vast amount of organic fruits and veggies throughout the week, don’t consume much sugar or caffeine, and only have cocktails and wine on the weekends.  It’s been more of lifestyle shift rather than a food withdrawal.

Who wouldn't love to start their day with a delicious smoothie?
Who wouldn’t love to start their day with a delicious smoothie?

This cleanse has been a switch in my day-to-day norm.  The products I have incorporated are from Arbonne’s Essentials collection.  Rather than oatmeal or cereal with fruit for breakfast, I wake up a bit earlier and make a smoothie with tons of fruit and spinach, as well as a touch of almond milk, two scoops of Arbonne’s Vanilla Protein Powder (using pea, cranberry and rice protein), and one scoop of Arbonne’s Fiber Powder.  I’d never been one for protein shakes, but these turn out delicious with enough fruit.  I also notice I stay full through much of the morning thanks to the fiber, and then have cherries or a peach as a snack until lunch.  As a sweet treat, Arbonne has Vegan Lemon Fit Chews and Energy Fizz Sticks in Citrus and Pomegranate to mix into water (or Starbucks’ Passion Iced Tea – yum!).  The cleanse also includes a 7 day colon cleanse which I have not yet started.  All in all, I am already pleased – I feel lighter, more energetic, and have lost a few pounds in the process.  Plus it gives me an excuse to make more smoothies, and boy do I love smoothies.

What I like about this cleanse is that it can be easily done with or without the products, and is easy to incorporate into everyday life.  There comes a moment in the month-long process that you find yourself saying, “I don’t want that,” rather than “I can’t have that.”  Although I allow for flexibility on Saturday and Sunday – I do love a good glass of wine, and being married to a novice mixologist is a huge plus – I don’t feel the need to indulge quite as much.  The biggest lesson I have learned, both through this process and in talking to others, is that this cannot be the only means of health.  It’s not a quick fix.  If you want overall health, you need to balance diet with exercise.  I am not one to crash diet and rely solely on food for weight loss.  True health requires both!

I obviously have a Whole Foods organic produce section problem...
I obviously have a Whole Foods organic produce section problem… All cleanse friendly!

If you’d like to learn more about the process, the products, or both, please feel free to contact me.  Below I have listed the reason why we eliminate certain food groups during the cleanse, courtesy of Louisa Nickel!

What exactly am I cleansing/detoxing? If I already feel great; do I need this program? Everything is affected in our body by what we eat. You are cleansing and detoxifying everything on this program. Your body will naturally clean out what needs to be cleaned first and then go down the list of what takes priority. Your body knows that and will naturally do that itself. We all need an opportunity to refocus on our health, and making changes to your diet over 30 days will show you in the end what it really did for you: increased energy, weight loss, mental clarity, improved digestion, etc.

Why not vinegar? Vinegar has a pH that affects our gut. During the 30 days you want to make your gut as healthy as possible. Vinegar is fuel for the critters in our body that are not good and want to multiply while we are trying to kill them during those 30 days: bacteria, etc. The exception is Apple Cider vinegar. A healthy gut absorbs nutrients best, and absorbing nutrients increases our metabolism which helps us lose weight.

Why not coffee? Coffee is an inflammatory substance on the gut and bowel. It is also a laxative. If you have coffee every morning your body has learned to rely on that to help you have a BM. With eating right your body will learn to relieve itself.

Why not soy? Soy products are not ideal for nutrition. Processed soy affects you hormonally, it doesn’t matter if you are a male or female. It is an allergen and we omit it during this program. Also, more than 90% of soy is genetically modified (GM) in the US, so if it’s not certified organic soy, it’s GM.

Why not corn/non-organic corn? As with soy, more than 90% of corn is GM in the US. If you already have a bent towards yeast, breads, and pasta, do not do corn. For people who want to get their sugar and carb cravings under control, you should not do corn. If you do, purchase certified organic corn.

What if you don’t want to eliminate certain items like coffee or alcohol? Eliminating foods is about goals and results. The more restrictive and closer to the guidelines of the program, the better your results. ANY improvement in overall nutrition will yield results, so you can choose your level of commitment. You choose the route that will lead you toward permanent change. Some people need to do one or two small changes at a time, which is still progress. You’re still reducing the toxic load on your body. All or nothing is NOT the purpose of the program.


Have you ever tried a cleanse – was it through a company or on your own?  Was it effective – how did you feel afterwards?  How do you find digestive balance – are there any items you’ve removed from your diet, either permanently or temporarily?