Saturday, July 9, 2011

Carrot Cake Squares, Frosting For The Cause

*Quick Note: Many thanks to Paula and Frosting for the Cause for allowing me to contribute as well as Janel for letting me take a few moments to share her story! Check out the simultaneous post over at Frosting for the Cause.*

It took me years to discover my health and its importance in my life, even more so that I should take it seriously. One of the catalysts happened to be a work colleague and friend, Janel, whom I frequently crossed paths with at conferences around the country. She was in the most phenomenal shape, getting runs in before conference sessions, eating healthy even while out on the road. Observing her energy and zest for life led me to realize that I wanted to feel the same way too, and shortly thereafter I discovered I was a runner.

Janel (right) enjoying Race For The Cure with her friend Phyllis (left), also a survivor.

When I found out that Janel had been diagnosed with Stage I bilateral breast cancer last year, I had a reality check. How could this be, she was one of the healthiest folks I knew? This wasn't fair! It turned out Janel carried the gene, BRCA2 mutation, which put her at risk for several types of cancer. From the beginning she adopted the mindset that she would overcome the illness and fight, and she never wavered from this view. She opted for a nipple sparing bilateral mastectomy (both sides), with rounds of chemotherapy, and eventually reconstruction surgery earlier this year. It was a long and painful road, but she pushed through her pain and suffering. After being down for 6 months, she was able to go for her first run late this spring.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, I have a huge crush on Janel and consider her one of my heroes these days. Instead of letting her cancer take control of her life, Janel took control of it with grace and style. Her struggle brought her closer to her loving husband and supportive family, it allowed her to have greater empathy for others, especially seniors, and she became a lifelong spokesperson for cancer awareness. Her ‘incredible network of strength’ came from both her strong will to live a long and healthy life as well as her amazing group of friends, family, and loved ones.

If you ask Janel about her battle with cancer, you might be surprised to hear her speak so openly about it. The first lesson she says she walked away from the situation with is to let people help you. Cancer can be quite scary for the individual diagnosed, but it is just as scary for the people that care about that person. By letting others help it allows them the ability to work through the process of acceptance. The second lesson Janel says she learned from her struggle with cancer is how important exercise is in your life. She had always been an active person before cancer, which likely helped play into her solid recovery, however even more so now that she has experienced one of the greatest feats in her life. Being able to get outside for a daily walk during her recovery made all the difference for both her body and her mind.

Once I discovered Frosting for the Cause and its mission, I instantly signed up with Janel in mind. What better way to showcase a delightful person and her strength?! As per her request, a batch of Carrot Cake Squares was delivered to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society here in Eugene this week. Needless to say the office was overjoyed with the unexpected gifts and their hearts deeply touched by Janel’s story. Please feel free to share in our foodie joy by making a batch of these gems for yourself, enjoy! 

Carrot Cake Squares
  • 2 c flour
  • ½ c flaxmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 carrots, shredded (roughly 2 cups)
  • 1 – 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 ¼ c applesauce
  • ¾ c brown sugar
  • ¾ c white sugar
  • ¼ c raisins
  • ½ c walnuts
  • 1 ½ packages of reduced cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 ½ sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Zest of one lime
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9"x13" pan. 

Sift together the flour, flaxmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. If some of the flaxmeal seeds doing get easily sifted, add them back to the mix. 

In a separate bowl, mix together the applesauce and eggs. Next add the sugars, and oil, then mix well. Finally, add the pineapple and carrots and mix. 

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, until well incorporated. Then add the walnuts and raisins. When everything is well mixed, add the mix to the floured pan. 

Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. It doesn't hurt to check on the pan after about 30 minutes in the oven to ensure consistent cooking. Rotate the pan once halfway through baking. After baking, remove from the oven and let cool for half an hour. When ready, flip the pan over and remove the cake. Continue to let cool. 

To prepare the frosting, combine the butter and cream cheese in a bowl with an electric mixer. Beat for 3 or 4 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides, until well blended. Then add the powdered sugar, lime and lemon juices, and lime zest. Beat on high for at least a minute, scraping down the sides once. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more juice. If the frosting is too thing, add more powdered sugar. Once the correct consistency has been reached, spread the frosting over the surface of the cake in one very thick layer. Using a sharp clean knife that gets wiped off in between each cut, cut the cake into small squares. Use paper cupcake liners to hold and present the squares. Decorate as your heart desires! 

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