When I was a child, I would spend time mixing it up in the kitchen making one concoction or another. Sometimes for practical jokes (mixing milk, mustard, vinegar and whatever else I had in the cupboard and daring my sister to drink it); and other times inspired to make my own kind of gooey-rich, chocolatey “treat” with Hershey’s syrup, whipped cream, jelly, peanut butter…. Regardless, it was an outlet for my creativity (and apparent sweet tooth).
But for a while I avoided the kitchen entirely because I feared I’d be tempted to eat (and wind up binging). Like baking a cake or making cookies, who doesn’t want to lick the bowl? Too be honest, I went through periods of “food denial” and self-imposed “starvation” to achieve that perfect deal, you know the body image thing and “perfectionism”. Until I realized of course, there was no “perfect” and that I had to learn to accept myself, rather than strive for a goal that was unattainable. The thinner I got (the better? NO), sadly, didn’t have any correlation with my self image. So what was the point here? I was miserable, and hangry and eventually had little or no desire for food. But that was the past (in my anorexic world) and here I will get to my point.
Yes, looking back for me, it was all about restricting food to be in control. But baking eventually taught me how I could be “in control” in a good way that was not detrimental or off-putting to my self or others. Read on to get my perspective (text) and follow-up on the (smaller italic text “captions”) to see how I’ve found control in baking.
Baking Therapy — How You Get to Be In Control
YOU GET TO DECIDE WHAT GOES IN (OR ON TOP) YOUR CREATION!
Are you gonna serve it with a spread (jam, whipped cream cheese, [insert: my Vanilla Bean Frosting]? How will you incorporate whole food goodness? Can you add in some veggie/fruit puree into the mix or can you get in some more plant-based fiber, healthy fats? Do you want it to have texture or be smooth. I personally love walnuts and thus incorporate them often whether it’s a salad, smoothie bowl or dessert.
Sure, I have to be conscious of “licking the bowl” and not being too caught up with making treat after treat (and of course taste testing each one), but I’m in the kitchen more and more these days striving to come up with healthier meals, snacks and yes, even desserts! And it’s suiting me as I’ve learned to plan and prep. I now set up my work space, measure everything out and have it all ready to just add and pour, mix and bake. This may be second-nature to some, but for me, it took a while to get my groove and “slow down” because my creativity was spiraling out of control to the point that my ideas would come and I’d jump before taking the time to properly prepare.
YOU GET TO DECIDE HOW YOU LIKE TO SHAPE IT, OR SLICE IT!
Do. you want muffins, mini muffins, a slice of cake or do you prefer a cake pan to serve it up in wedges? I honestly love my non-stick loaf pans and slicing things thin so my chopped nuts and dried fruit (or whatever bits I put inside) get a cross-section view. It’s also an easy shape, size to compact into a Tupperware for freezing so I can enjoy any time in the future by simply defrosting.
So now baking/cooking has become therapy. It’s my time, my space to organize, prepare and set up my space. Whether I have fun cooking with the kids or am in my own zen cooking space with classical music in the background (i.e. kids occupied and happy elsewhere), it becomes a pleasant experience. Like a kid, I get to mix, stir, whip….and take the time to see how ingredients interact – how the “science of cooking” works. From the addition of baking soda + Apple cider vinegar or whipping eggs whites vs just putting them in a batter, I learn so much. Plus I enjoy learning from Alton Brown. I now bake to relax, discover and create and it is so much nicer that whizzing through a recipe just to get it done (and have half it gone before it’s even out of the oven).
This maple walnut pumpkin loaf was a recipe that just flowed. I was inspired by the season and “all things pumpkin” and I took the time to set up each measurement of liquid and solid ingredient, lightly grease and flour my pan and recorded it visually with my camera (as I’m finally “getting to know my digital camera”). I know that when I take the time and put some love into my baking, things just come out that much better. It was moist, had a beautiful crumb and all the ingredients just came together so sweet and nice with my pumpkin spice (and of course those walnuts just really make it good).
YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF PORTION CONTROL!
This somewhat echoes in how you shape it (thus, mini muffins for a small portion for each treat). I know myself, that when I buy a packaged treat or a muffin or slice of cake from a bakery, I tend to want to eat the entire thing. Of course, I generally chose to split and share with a friend. But the psychology of eating the entire piece or package (maybe it’s a snack pack of crackers or chips) is quite evident in studies. Most of us will desire to finish the entire contents.
And now for the recipe you’ve been so patient for. I thank you for taking the time to read and understand where I’ve come from and how I found therapy to heal my internal distress about food.
- 1¼ cups almond meal
- ¼ cup flax meal
- 1 Tablespoon coconut flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- ⅓ cup Swerve (erythritol sweetener)
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup Ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup whipped cream cheese
- 5 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
- In a food processor, pulse together dry ingredients (almond meal, flax meal, coconut flour, baking soda, spices and Swerve no-calorie sweetener).
- In a separate bowl, thorough combine pumpkin puree, Ricotta, cream cheese, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
- Pour into processor and mix until well combined.
- Add apple cider vinegar and pulse.
- Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing after each addition.
- Mix in walnuts by hand.
- Pour into greased/floured bread pan and bake for about 25 minutes.
- Cover with foil and continue to bake another 10 minutes until tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool entirely before slicing.