Father patiently listened and then countered saying, "You know. Young people think that freedom is important. That choices are important. That options are good. But having too much choice, too much freedom, and too many options really just means you never choose, you never decide and you never grow. You grow stronger, by working within restrictions, within challenges and within limits, because it's about how you use those limits and challenge your thinking. Being married would provide you limits - it would make you figure out how you are going to do your best, even within certain confines and structures."
I had NO idea what he was talking about when he said this to me back then. At the time, it simply sounded like he was the worried father trying to get his almost-too-old-daughter married off before she was wrinkled and grey. It wasn't until later, after being married, that I began seeing the wisdom behind what he was saying Limits are good. Limits challenge you. Trying to figure out how to work within limits - makes you stronger.
While pregnant with Son, I never thought beyond how great it would be to hold him, cuddle him and be his mom. I thought about all the cool things that we would do together and how I'd just plain adore him. And that was it. When he turned 3 months old and the eczema began, and the spit ups began and the skin starting freaking out, I had no idea how that would change me, my lifestyle and my cooking. The challenges of breastfeeding a child with severe allergies meant I had to avoid food. I stopped eating out. I stopped eating things I didn't know about. I actually stopped eating a grand number of things, and rapidly lost weight (which I quickly put back on after I began eating cheese again) and it pushed me to be different in the kitchen.
I think Son's allergies have actually made me a better cook. I very much know how to work around the limits and try something new. I know how to push myself to make things that he can eat and he can enjoy and I think I'm better for it. It definitely wasn't my first choice in terms of what sort of struggles I might face, (because the difficulty breathing and other various scary things that happen to him are not fun) but the end result is that I'm a better cook.
Son asked me this year, specifically for a cake that he could eat on his birthday. I asked him if he might just have him eat a rice krispy bar, and he adamantly said he wanted his own cake. I began thinking about it, and decided that he definitely should be able to enjoy a cake, so I came up with this one. I happen to LOVE carrot cake with all its warm spices, and I thought it would taste really awesome in a vegan version. This definitely has less fat and less refined sugar than a regular cake, so if he wants to eat two of these cupcakes, I won't be upset. (It also has a pound of carrots in the mix.) It is delicious and even Daughters, who are pretty specific about what kind of cake they like, found this one super yummy and hard to beat.
As a note, Son did NOT like my orange drizzle glaze (unclear as to why) and preferred them plain. Daughters loved the glaze, and I have to say the hint of orange was a nice touch.
Vegan Carrot Cupcakes (Egg-free, dairy-free)
Makes 12 to 14 cupcakes
1 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cups brown sugar
2 bananas, riper (riper the better)
½ cup corn oil (or canola or some other vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pureed cooked carrots (1 lb of peeled chopped, cooked carrots yields about this much - see preparation notes below)
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pan with liners. In a small bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flour,baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt). Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat together bananas and brown sugar. Whip up bananas really well and allow the sugar to get dissolved and incorporated. Add oil, vanilla and carrot puree. Beat well. Mix in flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Remove batter from mixer and using a spatula, add in raisins and coconut.
Scoop batter into prepared liners. Set on middle rack of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a rack. When fully cooled, drizzle with orange glaze. (below.)
1 lb peeled carrots, cut into a one inch pieces.
Place carrots in a heavy pot with enough water to cover. Cook until tender about 25-30 minutes. (a chopstick should easily go through the center of a piece.) Drain excess cooking liquid. With an immersion blender, puree, or put into a blender and puree. Voila! Baby food or carrot puree for cake!
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice
In a small bowl, mix together confectioners sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice. If mixture is too stiff, then add a few drops more of orange juice until the mixture is runny, but still slightly thick.