One Week In (reflections on Whole 30 and stuff)


I don’t believe in detoxing from sugar. While I think that it’s possible to consume too much of it with deleterious effects on your body, I think that “detoxing” suggests dependency and addiction. There’s also a mystical component to it that classifies food in the same category as a toxin, and I just don’t subscribe to that line of thinking.

I also don’t believe in “cleanses.” We have livers and kidneys and small intestines for a reason. Their primary function is to cleanse our system of the things it doesn’t need. To quote my doctor, “anything that makes you poop is a cleanse.” And, again, the valence of the word “cleanse” within the context of eating suggests that if you’re not eating these things, you’re eating dirty, impure, or unpleasant things. I don’t subscribe to this school of thought, either.

I do believe in balance and mindfulness.

Eating (mostly) Whole 30 for the past week has made me more mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth. I lost about 5 pounds this week (I was up a little on Monday morning due to weekend indulgences). I ate lots of lean protein, a crapton of veggies and fruit, and more cashews than I thought would be possible. I took in very little sugar and dairy (basically enough to make my coffee palatable), swapped out diet sodas for hot tea and sparkling water, and ate wheat (a tortilla) once. As of this writing, it’s been a week since I had a Coke Zero or a Fresca (both of which I would consume once daily) and I haven’t missed them at all.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on how much bread I ate before adopting a Whole 30-forward diet: grazing on Goldfish, pretzels, cheez-its, ritz crackers (usually upon arriving home with the kids in the evening and shoveling something in while getting dinner ready), pasta nights with soft French bread and butter on the side. Cereal or toast for breakfast. Snack bars in the afternoons. Ice cream bars at night. My processed carbohydrate consumption was out. of. control.

Other pros of Whole 30: the leftovers get used, mostly by me. I repurposed last week’s turkey taco meat into taco salad, and made breakfast out of the chicken verde. It feels good to be wasting less food.

Cons: It’s so much meat, and it’s so much cooking. Now, I do a lot of cooking during the week, but holy cow, is this a lot of cooking and prep. How would someone with an inflexible schedule (say, an 8-5 job, kids with extracurriculars, etc.) manage this? But mostly? It’s too much meat. I know that the preferred meats in this plan are grass-fed, organic lean meats, and I reckon I could go source that at the farmers market, but the price goes up exponentially. And I can’t, in good conscience, eat (and feed my family) feedlot meat 5-6 nights a week. It’s bad for our bodies, it’s bad for the environment, and it’s cruel to the animals. (We drove past a feedlot outside El Paso back in December and OMG, not only did it go on for MILES — there were stacks on stacks of cows crammed in these pens, and the ones that were sitting were doing so in muddy sludge — it REEKED. I was gagging at the fetid ammonia smell, something I don’t want to associate with a steak or a burger.)

So, in short, I’ve decided that strict adherence to Whole30 isn’t for me (but I kinda knew that going in). But I can feel that my body likes this healthier regimen of heaps and heaps of fruit and veg, fewer processed carbs (no more than one serving per day), NO DIET SODAS (it’s been 10 DAYS!!!!), and drastically fewer sweets (one serving per week, and not a slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, but like, a cookie). This is a way of eating that feels right for me, from a food-consumption standpoint, a quality of life standpoint, and an ethical consumption standpoint.

So, without any further super-privileged navel-gazing about my food choices (just last night I told the BK, who was kvetching about dinner, to think about the kids at his school who wouldn’t have a yummy dinner, so it’s rather ironic that I spend so much time fussing over and analyzing what I eat), here’s our menu plan for the week.

IMG_5397

Sunday: Baked chicken with spinach and artichokes (This was not very good, I thought. The chicken, while tender and juicy, wanted more seasoning, and the three tablespoons of fat made for greasy, greasy vegetables. Not an ideal combination.)

Monday: Steak, broccoli, roasted potatoes (This didn’t happen, as the husband was sick and working late and I didn’t want the meat, so I had a salad, while the kids had mac and cheese.)

Tuesday: Arugula with roasted salmon and potatoes  Just gonna keep the salmon in the freezer and have the steak tonight instead.

Wednesday: Veggie frittata with spinach and peppers (blessed, blessed meatless dinner!)

Thursday: TBD (it’s the night of our school spelling bee, and I’m the coordinator/emcee/pronouncer/judge)

Friday: Tacos (with shells for the family, taco salad for me)

Saturday: Historically our dining-out night. So, we’ll see!

Lunches will consist of salads topped with lean protein, mostly. I’ve got a cache of boiled eggs prepped for the week.

Breakfast will alternate between egg-centric whatevers, Rip’s Big Bowl with unsweetened almond milk, and chicken sausage with fruit on the side.

Meal plan: Week of 8/24/14 (First week of school!)


 

Chicken yakisoba

Chicken yakisoba

It’s the first week of school! The BK starts fourth grade and the LK starts kinder, so big big BIG changes are afoot! The LK has a new collection of sassy dresses with animal prints, the BK has … a bunch of new Magic the Gathering cards, so we’re ready to rock! 

These nuggets started school today.

These nuggets started school today.

I figure, new school year = new energy to blog my meal plans, especially since we’re embarking on a new extracurricular regimen (fall baseball! ukelele lessons! gymnastics! painting! etc.!). As ever, I’m looking for a good balance of nutrition (so, veggie-forward), at least one vegetarian meal a week, Weight Watchers friendly for me, and yet still appeals to the kids. As such, here we go: 

Sunday: mac + cheese + chicken nuggets + grapes for the kids (per their request), passed apps dinner at Jacoby’s for the parents (by the way, we really liked Jacoby’s and will definitely be back for dinner, if not brunch and lunch. Think Contigo with southern comfort foods like pimento cheese, coconut cake with marshmallowy 7-minute frosting, and your East Texas grandma’s hobnail glass collection)

Monday: chicken yakisoba

Tuesday: shrimp + black bean tostadas

Wednesday: baked spinach and cheese ravioli + salad

Thursday: beef + broccoli, rice

Friday: dinner at our last Express game of the season

Saturday: pizza, maybe? 

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

Chef: More than just food


I was unable to attend the premiere screening of Chef at SXSW this year, much to my chagrin, so I’ve spent the ensuing two months on tenterhooks, waiting for it to open here in Austin (I was all set to see it when it opened in limited release on May 9, even going so far as to book a babysitter, but it didn’t open here until the 23rd).  So, once it opened here on the weekend, I got my butt in a seat as soon as was humanly possible. On the whole, I thought it was a very pleasant movie, if not a little formulaic. While many folks have mentioned the visceral delight of the food porn on display (which, frankly, I found a little distracting — Jon Favreau’s character makes this enormous, gorgeous meal alone in his apartment for no one, which made little sense to me. But it sure was pretty to look at!), I saw some other things going on as well, points of interest that I don’t think should be overlooked even though this film 100% capitalizes on this current food-obsessed cultural moment. _DSC9959.NEF There are very few things I find more delightful as a consumer of culture than watching Jon Favreau’s semi-autobiographical characters tear themselves down into a broken, ego-bruised mass, usually via an epic meltdown, then slowly rebuild from a place of abashed humility. The first time I saw Swingers, I couldn’t sit still while watching the answering machine scene; it made me so anxious, I was pacing back and forth in front of the TV saying, “no, no, please god no, don’t do that, just stop for the love of … he’s not going to stop, is he?” There is a similar meltdown in Chef, only his shame isn’t private — it’s viral. It’s through this mechanism that Favreau communicates his particular brand of vulnerability, one that provides a counterpoint to all the puffed-up masculinity on display in the rest of his celluloid life.

There’s no small amount of dick swinging in Chef, and the showdown between Carl Casper, whom we are to understand is a creative culinary mastermind, and Dustin Hoffman’s irascible, inflexible restaurant owner is but one particularly aggressive example. Carl’s banter with his loyal sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo) is simultaneously macho, semi-filthy, and respectful (the chemistry between the two actors is as refreshing as a watermelon paleta on a blazing summer’s day), and together they do the work of teaching Carl’s son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) the intricacies of being a man, from applying cornstarch to one’s “huevos” in humid climes to learning the hierarchy of the working world to the profound responsibility imbued in a chef’s knife. mmmmm And it’s that male-centric view that troubles this film. Typical of most Hollywood movies these days (I guess technically this is an indie? But it’s got Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson in it, so it can’t be THAT indie), there are women present, but only in relationship to the man and his needs. Por ejemplo, Johansson’s sultry sommelier serves only to warn Carl that the boss is coming, provide calm encouragement to spread his wings and fly, and moan lasciviously over a mouthful of pasta he’s prepared for her while she lounges on his bed. Inez (Sofia Vergara), Carl’s ex-wife, offers friendly support, encouragement, as well as gentle chiding when Carl lapses in his fatherly duties. As likable as Inez is, she’s something of a cypher. Why does she have that amazing house with the huge staff? Why does she have a publicist (brilliantly and skeevily played by Amy Sedaris)? We know nothing about Inez other than that she adores her son, clearly still cares deeply for Carl, and has a famous Cuban musician for a father. Put another way, the three women in the film are essentially there to reflect Carl back to himself in one way or another. (For a brilliant and devastating takedown of The Amazing Spider Man 2 along these same lines, check out Amanda Ann Klein’s “The Postfeminist Gift of Gwen Stacy [SPOILERS!!!])

In addition to the film’s “woman problem,” Favreau is blind to his economic privilege in telling this story. Despite the fact that Carl kvetches that he’s broke, he magically receives an apparently no-strings-attached truck from a Miami connection of Inez’s (she’s so useful like that!), then proceeds to max out his credit cards outfitting that truck to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention secure the appropriate permitting in each city they visit on their drive from Miami to LA, have startup cash to purchase ingredients (and beer and cigars). Yes, it’s a feel-good story about implementing your own creative vision in the interest of living your best life, but it was extremely difficult for me to suspend my disbelief when it came to Carl’s overnight success as a food truck operator.

But there are things that I appreciate in the film, too. People of color in the movie aren’t depicted as comic relief, they are the main characters. And I think that’s particularly interesting considering the dominant discourse of celebrity chefs, which tends to privilege white males. I like that Cuban food is the link to Carl’s identity and reignites his creative fire without any anxiety about being Other, and I also like that in each city he visits, he effortlessly crafts a hybrid sandwich reflecting that city’s culture (po’boys and beignets in New Orleans, brisket sliders in Austin). He embraces an easy fusion, a subtle argument for food as the vehicle for inclusiveness.

I also loved the role of social media in the film, particularly as it concerns Percy. It’s through his son that Carl discovers the possibility of connection — and the destructive power — of social networking. Percy, a digital native, negotiates the truck’s viral marketing and is instrumental in his father’s success. It’s also the boy’s technological savvy that helps Carl connect to his son — just as Carl teaches Percy how to be a man, Percy teaches Carl how to get out of his head and be of the world. While I am uncomfortable with the idea of my own son, who is close to Percy’s age, being so comfortable with how to talk to people on the internet (I require my son to turn off the chat function when he plays Minecraft, and he will not have an email address, Twitter account, Instagram, Facebook, etc until he’s a few years older), Chef makes the argument that parents should learn to stop worrying and love the bomb, so to speak, because on the other side of that worry is true connection.

Ultimately, Chef is an enjoyable narrative of a man’s quest to rediscover his creative voice. The theme of pursuing your own vision in service to a professional endeavor resonated with me deeply. I laughed frequently and heartily, and drooled obediently on cue at the food porn scenes. I just wish that the women had been more than just set dressing while the men were busy learning from one another.

Call for Submissions: Tansy, a foodlore zine


 

Tansy, or golden buttons.

Tansy, or golden buttons.

I’ve started a new passion project, Tansy, a foodlore zine. Please consider contributing! I’ve already gotten some great submissions (and ideas for submissions). The more voices we have, the richer the story will be!

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Tansy, a new zine focused on representing people’s personal experiences with food, seeks submissions for its inaugural issue. Each quarterly issue will center on a specific food; we’re kicking things off with STRAWBERRY. Submit your memoirs, essays, fiction, poems, recipes, original line art/comics, photos (high resolution, please) to tansymag@gmail.com, along with a brief bio. Submission deadline is May 31, 2014. Please limit submissions to no more than 1500 words.

Meal plan: 5/4/14-5/10/14


The semester is over and, beyond fielding queries from students with questions about their final grades, I’m done teaching for now. (For the foreseeable future, really.) I’m now concentrating on writing and my postdoc, working on lots of exciting new projects and hoping to make something happen with my food-writing career.

I’ve been cooking a lot; partly because I’m reviewing some cookbooks, but also because I haven’t had much opportunity to spread my wings in the kitchen over the past several weeks. I have so many unfinished projects hanging over my head, I’m really relishing the short window of time I’ve got right now to get caught up on things domestic before summer madness starts.

To that end, I’ve been putting my cast iron skillet through its paces of late, as well as working through my aversion to cooking things in oil. Being raised by a lifelong Weight Watcher makes one skittish about frying things, but I’ve been trying to relax in that regard a bit. Everything in moderation, right?

I’ve got lots of things to say here in the coming weeks and months. But for now, here’s a meal plan.

Image

crispy chicken thighs

Sunday: wiener schnitzel (technically, schweineschnitzel because I don’t eat veal), mac and cheese, steamed broccoli, because nothing says “bathing suit season” like breaded, fried pork cutlets and rich, creamy, fat-drenched pasta.

Monday: chicken spaghetti, salad

Tuesday: I went to the Women Behind the Wheels class at Antonelli’s; the kids had mac and cheese and hot dogs and Matt had leftovers.

Wednesday: crispy chicken thighs, salad, crusty bread and Mt. Tam

Thursday: catfish tacos

Friday: roasted cauliflower tacos

Saturday: I’m hoping we’ll go grab some pizza from Sauced and help them stay open.

What are y’all eating this week?

Foodie Field Trips: Treebeard’s (Houston)


Back in the late ’90s/early ’00s, I worked as the Music, Arts, and Movies editor for Houston Citysearch. In many ways, it was the perfect job for me, back before the site was a Yelp-like, user-curated city guide. I got to create all sorts of content, previewing and reviewing movies, records and concerts, and exhibits at places like the MFAH. My work days were filled not only with writing these pieces, but also planning an editorial calendar, attending movie previews and private gallery tours complete with catered lunches. My nights were spent in various clubs and music venues, or at the theatre or the opera. Yes, I was working 50-60 hours a week and only making $27,000/year, and it was super corporate, but dang, it was fun. Our office was on Main Street in downtown (not too far from Minute Maid Park; I could have walked to Astros games after work. In fact, I’m not sure why I didn’t.), very close to lots of cool restaurants. (I was a big fan of Mission Burrito, which had a location about a block away from the office.)

One of my most favorite places to go for lunch was Treebeard’s, which was just around the corner at Market Square (and two doors down from Warren’s, one of my all-time favorite bars). Now then, given that I wasn’t making more than $500/week and had student loans, credit cards, and a car payment, Treebeard’s was a total splurge, as the daily lunch plus cornbread and a drink was about $12. I hadn’t really had much exposure to Creole food before living in Houston (at least that I can recall), and I remember being completely blown away by the red beans and rice (my absolute favorite dish there; it’s their signature dish for a reason). It’s a cafeteria-style setup, with a rotating menu of three mains (stuffed pork chops, chicken fried chicken, pot roast, blackened catfish, and the like) and assorted sides (black eyed peas, grits, mac and cheese, etc.).

Baked catfish on dirty rice, topped with étouffée.

Baked catfish on dirty rice, topped with étouffée.

Work-related travel found me in Houston last week and as I was considering my lunch options — there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Houston, culinary-wise — I seized on Treebeard’s and didn’t look back. I left Citysearch and moved away from Houston in August 2000, so a good decade-plus had passed since I’d last eaten there. I was so pleased to walk in and see that nothing had changed. I grabbed my tray, my glass for iced tea, a fruit cup, and went full-bore with my order of baked catfish atop dirty rice, with a side of jalapeño cornbread. The picture here doesn’t do it justice — this was an enormous portion (I must have stretched my expensive lunches into two servings back in the day), and I couldn’t finish it despite my best efforts. Everything tasted just as I remembered it, flooded as it was with memories of a very different time in my life.

In all honesty, my return to Treebeard’s  — among other things — has made me somewhat circumspect. Dang, I loved all the writing I got to do then, and all those perks sure were nice. And I left Citysearch to go to graduate school, ostensibly so that I could become a better writer (also, working at Citysearch could sometimes be … a bit of a you-know-what-show, especially once Ticketmaster bought the company, or Barry Diller bought Ticketmaster or whatever). I don’t think a job like that will ever come up again, but when I boil that experience down to its essence — writing about things I was (and am) passionate about, I get a little thrill. Who knows what else is out there? Who knows what’s possible these days? All I know is that I want to get back to that m.o. of Always Be Writing, even when it’s hard.

Oh, another thing about Treebeard’s: they have a pretty sinful assortment of desserts, and I was eyeballing the saran-wrapped squares of butter cake for the drive home. But since I’ve been making some progress on the Weight Watchers front, I opted to stick with my fruit. Of course, later, my Houston-based friend recommended that I get some butter cake to take home, d’oh! So on Friday, I made this. It were tasty.

butter cake

 

Do you have any restaurants that define a certain time in your life? If so, are you still able to visit them?

Meal Plan: Week of 4/6/14 – 4/12/14


veggies

This past Friday, we received our first delivery from Farmhouse Delivery. After my experience at Foodways Texas, I’ve been looking for ways we can both reduce our carbon footprint and support local producers from within the kitchen. I signed us up for East Side Compost Pedallers and did some shopping around for CSAs, ultimately deciding on Farmhouse because I liked the ability to add on things like milk and cheese curds from Mill King, bread from Easy Tiger, and eggs from Pelham Lane Farms. I was hoping to get some Rockstar Bagels in our first drop off, but every time I added them to my cart, some weird $14 “cardamom bars of joy” showed up in my shopping cart instead. THAT’S FINE I DIDN’T WANT ANY BAGELS ANYWAY.

Anyhoo, I opted for the large weekly bushel and on Friday, I opened the box to find rainbow chard, spinach, strawberries, a small bunch of rainbow carrots, a huge bunch of parsley, a couple of sweet potatoes, a couple of artichokes, a gorgeous head of red leaf lettuce, and a big bunch of scallions. So, I’m faced with planning our meals around these veggies, many of which I rarely use. The chard, in particular, made my knees quake a little.

You see, when I was expecting the Little Kid, I had some, uh, food aversion issues. Meaning that I would eat food and then my body would decide it was averse to it. One day in particular, I made Eggs in a Nest for my lunch. I wanted to like it, really. But my body did not get the memo and I’ve avoided chard like the plague ever since. But now she’s five and I reckon it’s time to get over myself.

The farm box didn’t contain enough to keep me from having to go to the grocery store, but it has ensured that I’m incorporating veggies into every single meal. Plus, this gives me the opportunity to try some things I’ve not tried before, like branching out into sauces and whatnot. I already used the lettuce for dinner on Friday night (we’re not paleo, but I’ve found some really yummy recipes out there in that world, and I’m very glad there was enough of this taco salad left over for me to take some for lunch later this week).

Sunday: I ran the Cap 10K this morning and am celebrating with friends and margaritas at Maudie’s

Monday: Beef empanadas with chimichurri sauce. I might also use the sweet potatoes from the farm box to make these, but we’ll see.

Tuesday: Rainbow frittata muffins (recipe below), roasted artichokes

Wednesday: Chicken tikka masala, rice, naan

Thursday: Steak and brussels sprouts

Friday: Baked chicken wings, carrot and celery sticks, salad

Saturday: TBD. We usually dine out on Saturdays, so we’ll probably do pizza or tacos or something.

rainbowfrittatas

 

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe here, so I thought I’d do so today. Here’s a ridiculously nutritious vegetarian main that’s super easy for a weeknight. Serve with crusty bread (and a salad if you want to be super wholesome; add a chunk of cheese if you’re feeling like indulging).

Rainbow Frittata Muffins
makes 12 mini frittatas
adapted slightly from Veggiestaples.com

12 eggs
1 cup chopped rainbow chard
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cups of muffin tin with cooking spray.
Crack eggs into mixing bowl and whisk together.
Add in vegetables and cheese, add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the mixture into the muffin tins.
Bake for 20 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Meal plan: Week of 2/23/14-3/1/14


Chaos is the operative word around here. Baseball practice is in full swing (ha!), plus the run-up to SXSW, which means I’m spending a lot of time in front of this machine, churning out copy like someone who doesn’t procrastinate, on top of the flurry of my regular work. Rest assured when I say that we’re doing well to get three meals a day over here. Bonus points if one of my kids chokes down a broccoli floret at least once from Sunday to Sunday.

My kids won't eat this. It confounds me.

My kids won’t eat this. It confounds me.

Sunday — We were planning a dinner out, but the LK’s asthma and related concerns resulted in scrounging for the kids and a call to Pad Thai for the grownups.

Monday — Mom 100 cheesy rice with chicken + broccoli

Tuesdaybalsamic roast beef (sandwiches?), green beans, potatoes

WednesdayMediterranean chicken, green salad

ThursdayCuban black beans + rice bowls,

Fridayoven fried fish, spinach, couscous

Saturday — something involving margaritas, if I’m lucky

Meal plan: Week of 2/2/14-2/8/14


Last week was all about purging the freezer of leftovers I’d stashed over the course of January. And y’all, there was so. much. pasta. So, this week, I wrote a meal plan that is 100% pasta-free.

A crucial part of the weekly meal plan -- the fruit bowl!

A crucial part of the weekly meal plan — the fruit bowl!

Sunday: The husband and LK were both sick, so BK and I went to a Super Bowl party wherein I ate ALL THE QUESO.

Monday: Vietnamese chicken & rice soup. I had breakfast with my friend Jodi at Elizabeth Street Cafe last week and she ordered the chicken & rice soup, which was divine. So buttery and chickeny, filling yet not heavy. I’m obsessed with it now. I hope it turns out!

Tuesday: Steak salad with avocado and grapefruit (this recipe calls for shrimp)

Wednesday: Slow cooker chicken and vegetable pot pie

Thursday: Dual-language potluck at the BK’s school. I plan to bring roasted carrots and parsnips.

Friday: Black bean tostadas with pickled veggies

Saturday: Husband and I are going to a media preview dinner at a new restaurant, so the kids will probably have pizza with whomever winds up babysitting them.

What is your family having for dinner this week?

Individual Roasted Apple Spice Cakes (Review + GIVEAWAY)


Fall has always been my favorite season. I’m sure it has something to do with having a fall birthday, plus all the best holidays happen in the final quarter of the year. But I also love the cooler weather, the crispness of the air, the crunch of the fallen leaves underfoot, and the earlier sunsets. I like how the earth seems more still, quieter, more revealing of its secrets.

Another thing I love about fall is its flavors: apple, pear, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, spiced chocolate, earthy greens, and warming stews rich with root vegetables.

Image

I tend to do a lot more baking in the fall and winter than during the rest of the year, and try out lots of new recipes. (Tis the season for putting on one’s winter coat, yes? I have probably aided hundreds of people in the winter-layer department over the course of the past few years.)

So, when I was approached by the folks at Cake Boss asked me to review one of their new products, I agreed, since not only would I have an excuse to try something new, I would also be able to share one with one of my readers.

Disclaimer: I was given this product to review. All opinions are my own.

Disclaimer: I was given this product to review. All opinions are my own.

I chose the molded Flower Cakelette Pan because I have a little lady who LOVES all things flowers. And I chose to make this apple cake because it’s the first day of fall and it’s high time I made something with apples.

ImageI’ve got to say that I am extremely happy with both the recipe and the cake pan. (Recipe follows below.) The cake pan, which makes six individual cakes at a time, performed beautifully. Because I am a paranoid baker, I used cooking spray AND flour in the molds to prevent sticking (even though the pan is nonstick). I didn’t really need to do that, because the cakes released beautifully and had cooked evenly. My only complaint (and I think this is user error, really — it will just take more trial and error) is that my cakes puffed up like muffins and I had to trim about half an inch off the bottom of each so that they would lie flat on a plate. (The Husband gladly batted cleanup on the cake bottoms, though.)

What’s more, the LK was so enchanted by the flower cakes that she has already asked that I make some for her birthday next month. SCORE.

If you’re interested in learning more about the new Cake Boss line of products, you can check out the launch event at your nearest Michael’s store on Saturday, September 28 from 10am-noon. (There’s more information on Twitter and Facebook, too.) You’ll get a chance to spin the Cake Roulette, maybe win some prizes, and pick up a few recipes and baking tips.

If you’d like a chance to win a flower cakelette pan of your own, leave a comment describing your favorite fall flavor/food/meal by 5pm Thursday, September 26. I’ll select a winner at random on Friday, September 27.

Roasted Apple Spice Cakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen
Yields 12 individual cakes

3 apples, peeled, cored and halved
3 3/4 cups flour
3/4 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
1 T baking powder
1 T cinnamon
3/4 t ground ginger
1/8 t ground cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 c honey
2 1/4 c applesauce
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
3/4 c packed brown sugar
3 large eggs

1. Place the apple halves face-down on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes. When they are done roasting, set them aside to cool. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.
2. While the apples are roasting, whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey and applesauce and set aside.
4. Using the paddle attachment on your electric mixer, blend the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
6. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate adding the flour mixture and honey mixture into the mixing bowl. Blend until just incorporated.
7. Chop the apples into 1/2-inch chunks and fold them into the batter.
8. Spoon the batter (a little less than 2/3 cups per mold) into the cake pan.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
10. When a tester comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven and let the cakes rest for about 10 minutes.
11. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack, wipe down the pan, and cook the second half of the batch.

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Blend the butter and cream cheese in the mixer until smooth and fluffy (lumps are gross; make sure all the lumps are gone).
2. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix until incorporated.
3. Add the powdered sugar gradually, taking care not to let it fly all over your counters and floors. Mix until fully incorporated and the frosting is nice and airy.
4. Place a generous dollop of frosting on top of each cakelette.
5. Eat and enjoy!