Kitchen Supplies: Spring-Form Pan

Sometimes the key to success in the kitchen is simply having the right tools. When it comes to cheesecake, this is absolutely the case. As you may have seen in a recent post, Egg-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake, it is essential to use a spring-form pan.

A spring-form pan is a two piece pan where the bottom and sides are separate. While the cake is baking and cooling, keep the sides tight around it, so that it keeps its shape. When you’re ready to slice it, just release the sides and you can serve with ease!

If you want to give cheesecake baking a whirl and don’t already have a spring-form pan, this is the pan that I use for all my cheesecakes!

This post contains affiliate links. A percentage of the sales of this product using the links provided with go to Roots.

Roots 2017

Happy New Year, everyone! I usually don’t get into the festivities very much, but 2017 was a very exciting year for me personally and was also the first complete year for Roots. I first launched the site last September, so 2016 just the beginning as I wrote a few posts and got 60 views, nine visitors, and three likes. However, Roots really took off this past year and now has over 1,000 views and over 400 visitors! I know that doesn’t seem like a lot to established bloggers, but for the first year, I see it as a major improvement and accomplishment.

That being said, I couldn’t have done any of this without all of you! Thank you to all of my readers and followers for your continued support. I am very grateful to have gotten to know this amazing blogging community that I never even knew existed before I started.

More specifically, I want to give a shout-out to a couple of bloggers. First, a huge thank you to Author S at Ink Spatters Brought to Life for nominating me for several blogging awards! It has been quite an honor and has really helped me network with other bloggers. (I highly recommend you check out her blog too!)

Another gigantic thank you goes out to my super awesome sister Lauren at LuBerry Pie! (whose blog you should also visit 🙂 ) I wouldn’t have started blogging in the first place if it wasn’t for her. She has also been very helpful when it comes to social media. (I must admit it’s not my forte…for instance I just got an Instagram a couple of weeks ago.) Okay, so I might be a little behind the times, but Lauren keeps me up to date. She also helps with outreach, takes great food pictures, and even edits posts. Where would I be without her?!

As 2018 is about to begin, I can’t help but think about where I want Roots to be by next New Year’s Eve. Right now, my goals may seem far fetched, but with some hard work, dedication, and support, we can totally make it happen. Right now, I have 80 wonderful followers. A year from now, I hope to have over 1,000. It won’t be easy, but I know it’s possible. After all, yesterday I only had 63 followers! In order to make this goal a reality though, I need to get into a regular routine for posts. It’s easy to get caught up in school that I don’t have much time to be developing recipes or taking pictures. I’ll do my best to get a lot done while I’m on break, so when classes start again, I can still keep up.

Thank you again to all of my readers and followers at Roots! Like I said, I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. I have some big visions of where I want Roots to be a year from now, so I’m excited to see what 2018 brings. Here’s to year two of Roots! Thanks everyone! Cheers!

–Rachel Alexandra

Allergy Pet Peeves

To be completely honest, living with food allergies really isn’t all that bad. As I mentioned in a previous post, Food Allergies: A Blessing in Disguise, allergies have made me much more conscious of what I eat and have really helped me make the transition to clean eating. That being said, I’m looking forward to the day when a cure for allergies is widely available and I don’t have to be paranoid every time I go to a restaurant or try a new food. Not only that, but there are some little things that people do that really get my goat. I thought I would take a moment to share some of them with my non-allergic readers so that you get a better understanding of how we feel. As far as any readers who do have experience with food allergies, I’d love it if you would comment below with your thoughts, ideas, insights, or personal pet peeves.

1. Food-Pushers

Plural noun. A word used to classify people who try to get others to eat more even when they refuse for any given reason.

Food-pushers are most often the mothering/grandma type of people. You know who I’m talking about. The people at any sort of social gathering who say, “Here try this!” or “Did you get enough to eat?”or “Make sure to go back for seconds!” These people may not even be family members, but rather a friend or a co-worker. Of course food-pushers always have good intentions. It’s just that if you have food allergies, those good intentions could have major repercussions. Moral of the story is, if you know someone has food allergies, NEVER encourage/force that person to eat something he/she is uncomfortable with. And if you don’t know whether or not someone has allergies, just don’t push them to eat if they don’t want to. Chances are, if someone has allergies, he/she might feel awkward saying so and would rather politely turn down food and move on.

2. Using Allergies as an Excuse

Few things bother me more than when someone uses “allergies” as an excuse to getting out of eating something they don’t like. For instance, someone might say, “I can’t eat that. I’m allergic to Brussels sprouts,” when we all know they just don’t like Brussels sprouts. Of course this person is just joking around, but allergies are actually very serious and if they knew what it was like to actually have to live with this serious, sometimes life-threatening, condition, they would realize that this is no place for fooling around and can be very offensive to people who do have allergies.

3. Allergy vs. Intolerance

These days, there is so much confusion surrounding terms like allergies, intolerance, sensitivity, etc. I plan to write a specific post on this topic to help clear up some confusion because it really bothers me when people throw around these terms without knowing what they mean. Without going into too much depth, a food allergy is an autoimmune disorder and can range in severity from something as minor as hives to something as life-threatening as anaphylaxis. There can also be gastrointestinal reactions in certain types of allergies which can get confused with an intolerance. The main thing is that allergies have to do with the immune system and everyone reacts differently.

Food intolerance is quite a different matter and can also range from a mild sensitivity where the food makes someone feel a little sick to something extremely serious like celiac disease (a severe gluten intolerance). Even though symptoms may be similar to allergies in the GI cases, the main difference is that sensitivities have to do with the digestive system–not the immune system. Hopefully that clears up a little confusion, but like I said, I will go deeper into this topic in another post.

4. “So what do you eat?”

A common question whenever someone hears just how many allergies I have. It’s less of a pet-peeve and more funny actually. As it turns out, there are way more things that I can eat than things I can’t. It’s just a matter of being extra careful when eating anything I didn’t make.

I also get asked how I survive without baked goods. Then I just have to laugh because as you all know, I find plenty of ways around the egg barrier. Honestly, if one day I can eat eggs, I don’t think I’ll start to bake with them. It’s easy enough to do without and if I used eggs, the batter wouldn’t be safe to eat… 🙂

5. When Someone Insists Something is Safe

Going along with the “food-pusher” idea is when someone insists that food is safe even when you know it might not be and have to awkwardly explain that it’s not while trying not to sound rude or accusing.

For instance, you go to a gathering and your friend says she made something specially without said allergen and thus you can eat it. Well that’s wonderful and a very nice gesture. However, how was that prepared? Was there cross-contamination? Are you sure you didn’t forget about my nut allergy and use almond milk instead of dairy? Or add some almond extract for flavor? That looks like a creamy sauce…are you sure there aren’t eggs? These are just a few of the questions running through my paranoid mind as I try to get out of this terribly uncomfortable situation. Even if after asking all sorts of questions, it may still seem supposedly “safe”, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable eating it and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings when they made something just for me.

Moral of the story, never insist something is safe for someone. You never know and even if it is, it’s never okay to make someone uncomfortable. It’s fine to offer things to food-allergic people when you have something “safe”, but don’t be offended if they turn it down. I can’t speak for everyone with allergies, but personally, I trust no one. It’s not something to take offense to, it’s just me in survival mode and trying to avoid a trip to the hospital. That being said, I still appreciate good-intentions and people trying to help and be nice–sometimes it just ends up being a really awkward situation of me trying to be safe while also not hurting anyone’s feelings.

 

Okay, so living with allergies isn’t as horrible as it may seem. By taking the proper precautions, most issues can be avoided altogether. I just want to raise awareness and help others understand what to do and what not to do to keep the food allergic population safe and comfortable. Food is a very social aspect to cultures across the world, and not being able to take part makes life a little awkward (this is the main reason why I like to avoid some gatherings). There are always explanations needed when I’d rather not answer questions and I don’t like the extra attention I get from all of it. It’s best to not press people with questions and not force anyone into anything–allergies or not.

I hope that helps clear up any confusion and as always feel free to comment with questions, thoughts or personal insights on the topic!

 

Egg-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

Merry Christmas! Today I would like to share a brand new recipe that I must admit is not totally clean. However, it is completely from scratch which is the most important part. Plus this is a Christmas Special Edition post, so we can indulge a little. 🙂

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For my family’s Thanksgiving this year, I tried my hand at my first ever cheesecake. It had a double chocolate chip cookie crust, pumpkin spice filling, chocolate ganache topping, and some buttercream piped around the border to clean up the edges. I know, it was probably the least healthy thing I’ve ever made, but in my defense it was 100% from scratch–even the cookies for the crust. I plan to publish the recipe sometime in the near future, but I would like to try it with low-fat cream cheese first to knock off a few calories, especially since it worked really well in today’s chocolate cheesecake.

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Anyway, this whole endeavor inspired me to take a standard chocolate cheesecake recipe and make a Christmas edition by making a peppermint chocolate ganache and topping it off with some crushed candy canes.

Now this is a pretty involved recipes, so be sure to read through the whole thing before you start and make sure you have plenty of time to spend in the kitchen. Enjoy and merry Christmas!

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Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups homemade chocolate chip cookie crumbs

1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter

Filling

1 cup dark chocolate chips

2 Tbs. melted coconut oil or butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. raw honey

1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp. pure vanilla

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Chocolate Peppermint Ganache

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 tsp. melted coconut oil or butter

1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

Crushed candy canes

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted coconut oil.

Put the chocolate chip cookies in a food processor and grind until they are just small crumbs. Use your favorite type of cookie, but I strongly recommend using homemade ones. Once I perfect a recipe, I will share it! Other options include graham crackers or Andes mint-chocolate cookies. Feel free to get creative!

In a small bowl, mix the cookie crumbs with the melted coconut oil or butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of dark chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chocolate chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter or coconut oil. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, honey, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Use an electric mixture to mix all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, let the cheesecake cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is completely cool, it is time to make the ganache! Put the remaining chocolate chips in a glass bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the whipping cream and oil or butter to a boil on medium heat. Pour it onto the chocolate chips and let sit for five minutes. When the time is up, whisk the mixture until it all comes together. Then add the peppermint extract and mix it in.

Pour the ganache on the cheesecake and smooth it out with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top for a finishing touch. Be sure to do this right away before the ganache cools and hardens. Serve with whipped cream.

Merry Christmas!

Tips

Make sure you put together the spring form pan correctly. Otherwise, oil from the crust will leak into the oven causing a huge mess. I’ve learned this the hard way. Three times to be exact.

Line a baking sheet with foil and put the spring form pan on it while baking. This will prevent any major mess in the event that some leakage does occur.

Again, whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but this is crucial to cheesecake success! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

If the cake does cave in, the ganache will likely fill the crater, but not the edges. What you can do to remedy the situation is make a little buttercream frosting and pipe a boarder around the cake. No one will know that it’s caved in and you get frosting too!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

Make the chocolate chip cookies ahead of time and store in the freezer until you want to make the cheesecake.`

Brotherhood of the World Blogger Award

Hello everyone! Today, I’d like to start by thanking Author S for nominating me for the Brotherhood of the World award! It is quite an honor to be nominated for another award and I also highly recommend that you check out her blog as well.

The Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to his/her blog.
  2. List the rules of the award and post a picture of the award.
  3. Answer the questions from your nominator.
  4. Nominate 10 other bloggers and be sure to let them know.
  5. Write a list of questions of your nominees to answer.

My Answers:

  1. Why did you start blogging? I started blogging because I thought it would be a fun way to share my passion for clean eating, cooking, and baking with others. It’s a nice creative outlet for when I need a break from work and studying and I hope to make a difference while doing it.
  2. What is it that inspires you? My inspiration for blogging is the state of America’s nutrition. I find that most grocery stores have a lot of “food”, but not very much actual food. I hope provide insight on how to eat well because that is one of the best ways to stay healthy.
  3. If you could go anywhere, real or fiction, where would it be? Right now, I really want to go to Iceland. It sounds like such a beautiful country to explore and I  also love Icelandic horses!
  4. Would you rather be a jack of all trades or a king in one? I would rather be a jack of all trades. I’ve never been super great at any one particular thing, but I’m fairly decent at a lot of things. I like to try new things, so I feel like being a jack of all trades keeps life interesting.
  5. Does writing/blogging have something to do with your career plans? Honestly, not really. I am actually an Animal Science major and planning to go to vet school in a few years, so cooking, writing, and blogging are really quite unrelated. But as they say, you can’t be a pre-vet student 24/7 and it’s important to have other interests aside from animals and science to prevent burning out.

Nominees:

  1. Kelly
  2. Alicia
  3. Emma-Louise
  4. Simply Lovely 90
  5. Rebecca Leigh Ann
  6. Hedi
  7. Ritu
  8. Lindsey
  9. Erin
  10. Ana

Questions for Nominees:

  1. What is your biggest regret?
  2. What is something that your younger self would be most proud of about you?
  3. What is your favorite fruit and why?
  4. If you could play any instrument, what would it be? (Or what instruments can you play?)
  5. What setting from a book or movie would you like to live in or experience?
  6. Why did you start blogging?
  7. What is something you are looking forward to?
  8. If job availability/ money were not factors, what would be your dream occupation?
  9. If you could start any charity what would it be?
  10. Name a skill you want to learn and why.

Fall Harvest Couscous Salad

Hi everyone! I hope you are all enjoying fall as the air is getting crisper and the leaves are finally changing colors! Today I want to share a variation of my Sweet Potato  and Quinoa Salad. Instead of quinoa, I used couscous and replaced the sweet potato with butternut squash. At first glance, they look pretty similar, but the curry gives the couscous a totally different flavor and a bit a heat. I’d love to hear what you think or which you prefer, so feel free to comment below!

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Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, diced
  • 1 1/3 cup dry couscous
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup curly parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 3-4 tsp. Penzeys Curry
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the squash in your favorite olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread the squash evenly on the baking sheet and roast until tender.
  4. While the squash is in the oven, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the olive oil, maple syrup, curry, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  6. When the couscous is done, put it in a large bowl and toss it with the dressing.
  7. Add the squash, cranberries, onion, and parsley.
  8. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve hot or cold.

 

Pumpkin Scones with Maple Nutmeg Glaze

Hi! So I’m super excited to announce that today is my family’s second annual Fall Fun Day! “What is Fall Fun Day?” you ask. Fall Fun Day is any day in the middle of October dedicated to doing every fun fall activity one can think of in one awesome day! It originated last year as my birthday celebration because I had day off school the Friday before my birthday. I decided I wanted to spend my last days before legal adulthood doing all the fall things I love, but never have time to do anymore. We baked, went apple picking, hiking, picnicking, and ended the day with a corn maze.

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Lauren and I almost had too much fun at the apple orchard last year!
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What is Lauren doing with that apple cider doughnut? That’s not clean eating! 🙂
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Hiking at Blue Mounds State Park

We had so much fun that we decided it would be an annual event, so here we are one year later with me still being a kid at heart. This year’s itinerary consists of baking these scones, going to the Dane County Farmer’s Market, hiking and picnicking at Yellowstone Lake State Park, apple picking, and ending the day with the corn maze once again. Hopefully I can follow up with some new pictures of this year’s festivities. For now, here is the recipe for these mouthwatering autumnal scones! Enjoy!

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Ingredients

Scones

  • 3 Tbs. skim milk*
  • 1/4 tsp. apple cider vinegar*
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs. + 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 7 Tbs. cold butter
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée
  • 3 Tbs. pure maple syrup
  • Mini chocolate chips (optional)

Glaze

  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbs. skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, stir the milk and apple cider vinegar together. Set aside as this will make a “buttermilk” after 10-15 minutes. *
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Cut in the butter and mix it together with the dry ingredients by hand or with a pastry blender. (I recommend using your hands as always.)
  5. Add the pumpkin and maple syrup to the “buttermilk” and then combine with the dry ingredients.
  6. When everything is well mixed, add some chocolate chips if you would like. If the dough is still pretty sticky, add some extra flour.
  7. Turn out half the dough onto a well floured surface and form it into a circle about six inches in diameter. Cut the circle into six pieces and place the scones on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. When they are cool, whisk all the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl and drizzle over the top.
  10. Enjoy!

*Instead of using skim milk and apple cider vinegar, regular buttermilk will work as well.