I don’t know about yours, but my Easter Bunny happens to be gluten intolerant. I learned that the hard way when for years he didn’t eat the cookies I left out for him. Each year comes and goes; the treats left behind, untouched, while the milk was completely gone. I’d lay them out by the Easter plant that I decorated with colored eggs and chocolate candy….wait….that’s not right. I’m getting my holidays mixed up. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Silly Jonathan. Cookies are for kids. Bunny rabbits don’t eat cookies!” And do you know why that is? Because most cookies have flour in it. Ergo, they must be gluten intolerant. It is the only explanation as to why bunnies don’t eat cookies. So this year I’ve decided to get smart by making a gluten-free cake for my furry Easter friend. Maybe, just maybe, this year will be the year he eats the dessert I leave out for him, so he can get energy to deliver Easter baskets for all to enjoy. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for an Easter miracle.
All kidding aside, I’ve been promising you all more gluten-free desserts on this here blog. So here it is. Or rather, here one is. I thought a carrot cake would tie in perfectly with the upcoming holiday, regardless if you celebrate it or not. I know that Easter tends to be a religious holiday, but you don’t have to be religious to enjoy the seasonal treats that spring up during this time of year. If you don’t care for gluten-free desserts, have no fear, my blog isn’t becoming a gluten-free blog. I still very much enjoy making and posting and gorging on ridiculous amounts of crusty, golden brown, gluten-rich breads. I’m just taking a break to show my appreciation for those fans who are indeed gluten intolerant. I’m trying to expand my horizons and reach out to as many people as possible. I don’t have any special dietary restrictions—as you all may know by now with my penchant for all foods—but I do have to admit this is a really good cake. You don’t have to have celiac disease to appreciate the awesomeness of this recipe.
Growing up, Easter was always a big event at my house. My mom would go all out for my sisters and I. Even now as adults we still go through with our Annual Easter Egg Hunt, and there may or may not still be some baskets filled with goodies for us. If you thought that four grown adults could be civilized while searching for plastic eggs filled with prizes, you are very much mistaken. We get extremely vicious when searching for these eggs. Fighting hard to find the most we possibly can. Hair is pulled, clothes are ripped, siblings are pushed to the floor. Stealing, cheating and sneakiness are traits that are possessed for the day (and that’s just my middle sister, she’s very competitive). We demolish the house looking for eggs that mom has so cleverly hidden. We enjoy the occasional egg filled with chocolate Easter candy here and there, but what we’re really yearning for are the eggs stuffed with the major prizes. Frozen yogurt gift certificates, lottery scratchers and of course money. Those are the treasures that make the black eyes and bruises worth it. Of course at the end of the day we all sit down as a family and enjoy a pleasant meal together. One of us happier than the others because we were fortunate enough to find the perfect eggs. That my friends is Easter in my house and has been for as long as I can remember.
When it comes to food there are only a few things that my sister really loves. Sure, she’ll eat and try everything I make and enjoy it, always eyeing it with great suspicion and asking “What’s in this?” There are only a handful of dishes and desserts that will make her smile and ask for seconds. I take advantage of those moments and make a mental note to remember what it is that I made. Cooking for 12 years now, I have come to realize what each one of my family members like or dislike. My sister is very picky. I don’t know if I should call her picky—mainly because she’ll read this—but perhaps I should say that she knows what she likes. She is a woman of stern belief and when she makes up her mind, she likes what she likes. There’s no budging her from this. However, I have come to learn the signs when she doesn’t care for something in particular. If she doesn’t like the way something tastes she will eat really slowly and just smile. “You don’t like it do you?” I’ll ask her. She’ll just scrunch up her face and shake her head and as cool, calm and collected as possible she’ll respond with a sly “Noooooo.” Growing up, or even now, if we go to a party or a dinner at a friend’s house she’ll just reserve whatever she doesn’t like, and when no one is looking move it over onto my plate. Lucky for her, I’m a garbage disposal. I’ll eat anything. Hey, what are little brothers for if not to eat the food you don’t like?
So you might be wondering what does my sister like? Well, if you weren’t wondering it pretend that you were. She will go crazy for anything with banana in it. It’s her absolute favorite flavor. Upon learning this I have made it my life’s mission to make countless desserts made with that yellow fruit. I began brainstorming this post with that idea in mind. I realized that I hadn’t made something for my sister in a long time so I wanted to dedicate a post to her. She loves cheesecake and she loves bananas, so I decided to mash the two together. The outcome is this Banana Pudding Cheesecake. Because I wanted to make it a little more sinful and take it over the edge, I decided to slap on Bourbon to the beginning of the title. I may have incorporated copious amounts of that whiskey into this dessert but I can guarantee you that you cannot taste the alcohol. You won’t get drunk from it. I wonder if it is even possible to get drunk from a dish or dessert that has alcohol in it? I’m sure one could, if the dessert was just drenched in it and wasn’t even cooked. You don’t have to worry about that here.
The cheesecake has the perfect amount of banana flavor which garnered me two thumbs up. My sister practically ate the entire thing herself, and even stole a piece I was saving for our friend. I didn’t want to point any fingers, but I’m pointing fingers. Our friend, if you’re reading this she ate it. Stole it right from the fridge and didn’t think twice about it. I even think there was a maniacal laugh involved when I told her it was for you. She just continued to gobble it away. I guess this just goes to show us how good this cheesecake actually is. And because I don’t want to start WWIII with my family, I’ll take this moment to tell my other sister that I will make her something soon. Another dedication post with her name written all over it. What could be better than surrounding yourself with delicious treats and your family close at hand to enjoy it with? Nothing else my friends, I think that pretty much tops the list.
I tend to come up with any excuse to eat dessert for breakfast. What can be more appealing than frosting and sprinkles and whipped cream and chocolate as soon as you wake up? Forget about the healthy egg whites with whole wheat toast, and fruit on the side or a giant bowl of oatmeal. Give me cake or pie or dare I say it, ice cream any time of day. Like a child who gets excited about the prospect of eating leftover birthday cake the next morning, I will do anything to bypass a “proper” morning meal in order to eat copious amounts of sugar at the start of my day. And in those moments when I reach for a slice of pie or cake, a voice comes into my head yelling at me to eat a substantial breakfast. A healthier breakfast. A more nutritional breakfast that will give me the energy to face my day. That voice in the back of my mind, spoiling the fun, is my mother’s. Much like any parent, she never allowed us to eat desserts in the morning, and I’m sure with good reason, although I fail it at the moment. There were times in my childhood when I was about eight, I would wake up early and sneak in some cake or ice cream before anyone else woke up. I would inevitably get caught, like a guilty culprit, walking out of the kitchen, as my mother was walking in. She would stop me and ask, “What did you eat? Did you have cake?” I would look at her innocently, not flinching, and say “Nothing. I didn’t eat cake. Wait, we have cake?” The frosting, icing, and chocolate smeared across my mouth and all over my face would give me away instantly. It wouldn’t even cross my mind to wipe away the evidence. What can I say, I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
I sometimes forget I am an adult now and can eat whatever I want. So on days when I do remember, you better believe I’m eating ridiculous amounts of sweets for breakfast without a care in the world. Why? Just because I can. I’ll find myself in the kitchen screaming out, to no one in particular, “I’m eating cake for breakfast. I’m shoveling ice cream into my mouth by the spoonful at eight in the morning!” No one stops me so I continue on my quest to break the rules. There are days, however, when the guilt creeps in. Days when I feel like I should make my doctor proud and eat something not so sweet. On those days I have “morning pastries.” Desserts disguised as breakfast like doughnuts, muffins, and coffee cake. I’ll reach for one of those instead to stop the guilt from forming. Happiness all around.
It is the day before Valentine’s Day. February 13th, in case you did not know. It has just dawned on you that you have not given tomorrow’s holiday a lick of thought. You have not stepped foot in a mall or a flower shop or a bakery. You have nothing, not even a card. Slowly the realization that someone is depending on you to show them how much you care is creeping up on you. You kept putting it off, telling yourself “eh I still have time. I have days left to think about it. I will deal with it later.” Well guess what, later has arrived. There is no more time left. Tomorrow is the big day, and unless you want to really cut it close and find yourself wandering the crowded shops—rubbing elbows with all the other soon-to-be-sleeping-on-the-couch spouses—you better think of something fast. You begin to panic, sweat beading down your forehead, heart pounding. You quickly go online to find what florist delivers on such short notice, crossing your fingers that you might be able to pull a miracle out of where the sun don’t shine. The panic rises as you are only met with sky rocket prices, and without a guarantee that the delivery will even get there on time. You stare at the screen absentmindedly, mouth slightly agape, and all you can see spelled out on the monitor is the impeding DOOM. You begin to cry a little. What else is there left for you to do?
I hope you like the dog house, because that is where you are headed. You have a one way ticket to Fido’s house without a return in sight unless you can turn things around, which is highly unlikely at this point. Let’s be real. That is what you get for waiting until the last minute. You cannot say I did not warn you. After all if I do recall, I did tell you to make ice cream did I not? That surely would have smoothed things over. Well, you did not listen to me did you? And now you are facing the prospect of a hurt loved one and there is nothing you can do about it. But you are wrong. There is something you can do. Thankfully I am here. The first thing you need to do is snap out of it! Let’s try and salvage the car wreck you are driving into. Okay, so you did not buy anything. Big deal. Any ol’ Joe can purchase something from the store. Who cares that you did not buy flowers? Those die within a week, and what do you have to show for it after? Nothing but dead flowers that are now garbage. Eh, you do not need roses or expensive gifts. Last resort, chocolates. You have been to every bakery and store, and all that the vultures have left behind are a few boxes of prepackaged, cheap looking heart-shaped boxes. Who knows what lies inside? Do you want to take that chance, and risk them finding out that you picked up that pitiful box up at the corner liquor store on your way to the house?
The way I see it, you have only one option left. The one you should have taken from the beginning. Get your butt to the grocery store and pick up a few ingredients. Make your amour a special treat. Do not mention your lack of investment this year, we will keep that between you and I. Make it seem like you had this planned out from the beginning. That you put all this effort into making them something they could truly enjoy. A sweet dessert that means so much more because you made it from scratch and with all the love in your heart. Just stand back and wait for the swooning, the tears, the hugs and kisses. You can thank me later. So what do I have for you? Ice cream sandwiches, because chocolate and strawberry are Valentine’s Day star ingredients and nothing says I Love You more than ice cream between two cookies.
And if you cannot even do that and all else fails, dishevel your hair, lose a shoe, rip your clothes and rub your face with dirt. Tell them that you were at the office/house/car and a squirrel/raccoon/dog came in through the window, and went straight for their gift. You tried to tackle them down to the ground. At one point you were wrestling with the squirrel/raccoon/dog, both of you holding on for dear life to the gift with a death grip. The two of you growling and biting. You tried reasoning and pleading to let the gift go. Say that you offered the squirrel/raccoon/dog some money/food/shelter in exchange for the gift because you had a caring and beautiful loved one at home that you needed to give this to. Eventually the squirrel/raccoon/dog won by punching you in the face, and then ran off with their gift. Start crying and say that it was a great present too, and that you put so much thought and effort into picking out the diamond necklace/keys to a brand new car/deed to a bigger house. For shame. Woe to me. Finally, top it off with a sympathy “I’m just glad I made it out alive. I need a hug and a kiss after everything I just went through. Hold me.”
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Red, white and pink balloons are floating around. Heart-shaped chocolate boxes can easily be found at every store, for your convenience. Oversized teddy bears have made their appearance, eager to go to a loving home. Roses are springing up all over everywhere. We cannot walk down the street without being hit in the face by some kind of constant reminder that the Day of Love is fast approaching. We get it, we get it. Time is ticking. The pressure is intensified, even more so on the days leading up to the big event, where we have to prove our love for those we truly care about. Sure it seems like any other day, so what really makes this random holiday so important? What makes this day so special? Why do we have to show our appreciation and prove our love on this particular day? Perhaps it is because throughout the year, we sometimes forget to let those close to our heart know just how much they mean to us? February 14th is the day we get to redeem ourselves. It is the day that counts. We have to make it count. We know that deep down inside one day does not define an entire relationship yet we, for some unexplained reason, hold it up to such high standards. We keep our hopes high that we will not be forgotten. Our busy schedules are put on hold and we move our cares off to the side and wrack our brains for ideas to make each year unforgettable.
Valentine’s Day is not just for wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends. Those people lucky enough to be single sometimes go into a “we hate Valentine’s Day” funk, one which we cannot seem to get out of until the day is long gone, and completely behind us. We forget that V-Day is every bit as important for our family as well. It is still important to take the time to do something small, yet meaningful, for our parents or our siblings. Families deserve some love and attention and recognition on this special holiday too. For all the singletons out there, myself included, make this February 14th about the friends you love, the family you cherish, and the one person who truly matters; yourself.
The stress leading up to the 14th of February can be scary. We fear that we have not done enough. Or worse, we are terrified by the prospect that we have not found the perfect gift. Planning out a Valentine’s Day date whether you are making something at home or making plans to go out and take the night by storm, can be a lot easier if you take one tiny rule into consideration; simple is better. You do not need to purchase the most expensive and extravagant gift to prove that you love someone. Money does not define love. After all, is it not the thought that counts? Instead of beating yourself up to plan out the perfect day, think about making a simple dinner at home, renting a movie, and making dessert. Get your mind out of the gutter, I mean real dessert. Make a chocolate that will impress your loved ones, whomever they might be. They will appreciate something thoughtful as a homemade meal, dessert included, much more than having dinner in a crowded restaurant. Surrounded by people and being served by those unfortunate souls who could not get the day off. Your wallet will thank you too. Who says we cannot be economical and romantic at the same time? Gentleman, you will avoid sleeping on the couch if you take my advice. Make your significant other a sweet dessert. Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven. If you do not have any idea of what to make, do not sweat it. Even you can make this dessert, it’s relatively fool-proof. Happy planning.