Mug cake, revisited + chocolate facial

Welcome to the Festival of Food Carnival. In celebration of the tradition of Easter chocolates, we’re sharing recipe ideas for healthier alternatives – sweets and treats featuring real cocoa. Hosted by Diary of a First Child and Hybrid Rasta Mama, you’re welcome to join us next time, or if you have a previously published recipe you’d like to share, add it to the linky below.

Well, confession time: this past week I’ve had a dangerous flirtation with some mug cakes.  Flirting that might have led to something more…something like eating a mug cake every night for the past 5 days…

I may be a dietitian, but I’m a human first, ok!  And I gave up alcohol for Lent, so that healthy evening treat has left a hole.

A hole that wants to be filled with chocolate cake.

To be fair, I have still eaten lots of fruits and veggies and been exercising every day, so I don’t think that this will have too many negative repercussions, but a calorie-laden sugar bomb is not an ideal finish to the day for anyone.  So I worked out a compromise, and came up with this recipe to make a chocolate mug cake that’s a bit healthier…enjoy, and let me know if you try it!


For the cake:

  • 2 Tbsp quick cooking plain oats
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1.5 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • (note: I didn’t have any on hand, but I strongly suspect a bit (~2tsp?) of applesauce would do nicely in addition here too!)

For the icing:

  • 4 Tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 tsp cocoa
  • 2 tsp honey


Mix all the dry ingredients for the cake part in a mug with a fork.  Add the oil, honey, and water, and stir until evenly blended.  Pop in the microwave for 2-3 minutes (depending on how strong your ‘wave is).  It’s done when it looks done..and is spongy but not gooey to a light touch.  Scrape around the sides with a knife, and immediately invert onto a plate.  For the “icing,” just mix the 3 ingredients listed until smooth, and schmear up that lil cake…you should only need about half (~2 Tbsp) of what you mixed.


The rest of the “icing” can be used as a hydrating facial! (Some sites claim that cocoa is good for protecting skin from sun and increasing blood flow, and honey has antiseptic properties.)  It rubs into skin really well, and serves as a nice cooling mask that smells delicious:


Enjoy with a fork.


See how jealous the little honey bear was that he didn’t get any?!


Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other Festival of Food participants. The links in this list will be live by the end of the day, as participants are all in different time zones.

Stay connected! Be sure to “Like” the Festival of Food Carnival Facebook page.

Banish Winter Skin in 2 hours + Basil Parm Polenta

If you have:

  • Dry, cracked cuticles
  • Ashy elbows and knees
  • Skin that feels rough, lacks luster, softness, and touchability

Then this one’s for you :)

You CAN have soft, silky skin in the middle of winter – if you have 2 hours and a few inexpensive tools, and follow these steps.

And, since some of the ingredients in my all-natural moisturizing exfoliant are the same as polenta, you can also have a delicious meal to eat at the end :)

What you’ll need:


  1. Light weights or a resistance band and a Pinterest workout or two
  2. A 16-oz glass of water
  3. A box of baking soda
  4. A clean washcloth
  5. A scrubby viscose mitt (details in Step 4, below!)
  6. A nail clipper or cuticle trimmer
  7. The below recipe (containing cornmeal, olive or canola oil, and dry basil)

Do ahead: make the basil cornmeal body scrub (a version of the vanilla scrub I did previously).  In a mixing bowl, blend 1c cornmeal, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1 Tbsp dried basil.  Add 1/4 c oil, and mix until coated – there should be loose clumps.  Remove 1/3 c of the mixture; place in a separate bowl.  Add another 1/4c of oil to what you just put in the bowl, and stir with a fork.  It will be grainy but fluid (see bowl on the right, below).
IMAG1660Bring that bowl along to the tub, and follow the below!

Let’s get started.

Step 1 (15 minutes): Warming your body from the inside out.
Working up a sweat opens pores and heats up your body, making exfoliation easier, and we’re not going to mess around with just shower steam – for this, you gotta MOVE!  I used these two exercise boards from Pinterest and the “Workout” playlist on Pandora to crank some tunes.  My room is 11×11 – no excuses of space or equipment (I jumped rope with an invisible cord) here!


Step 2 (5 minutes): Pound a glass of water
You just got a little sweaty, and you’re about to sweat more – hydration is key for healthy skin!  Drink up.

Step 3 (30 minutes): A warm bath
Time to soften up your skin.  Draw a nice warm bath, and dump in the box of baking soda – it’ll help the softening process and loosen the dead layer on top.  Bring a book.  Light a candle.  Play some music and relax, being sure to submerge as much of yourself as possible.

Step 4 (30 minutes): A cleansing shower
After you drain the tub, just shower normally – face, soap, shampoo…I won’t boss you around at this point, you’ve been doing this for years – and then it’s time to let that sweat and baking soda show you what it did.  I want to tell you about a handy little tool I discovered at a Korean day spa: the exfoliating mitt.


And cheap. Try the Amazon version – 8 pcs Asian Exfoliating Bath Washcloth – Red & Green – for around $2.50 a pop.  (They’re washable and reusable, you may never need to buy them again!  The packaging is all in Korean, so all I can tell you for sure is that they are 100% viscose, and are DELUXE, the only parts clearly stated in English.)


Start using in small circular motions around your wrist and then moving up.  This is the part where it gets a little gross, but is totally compelling. You will be simultaneously appalled that you had so much dead skin, and fascinated…that you have so much dead skin.


See those white flecks?  Isn’t it kind of disgusting?  Sorry if you’re grossed out.  But trust me, this process is amazing.  It should take you 10-15 minutes to be thorough on your whole body – ankles, feet, between your fingers, arms, legs, butt – do it ALL!  At the end, you will feel squeaky,silky clean.  Turn off the shower and towel off, but stay in the tub!

Step 5 (10 minutes): The moisturizing cornmeal scrub
Now you’ve succeeded in exfoliating, but your newly refreshed skin is delicate and at risk of losing moisture, so you want to lock in the steam from the shower before you dry out.  Grab your bowl of basil cornmeal scrub, and start rubbing!  The cornmeal will ensure that the oil is massaged into the small nooks and crannies of your skin and take care of any spots you missed exfoliating.  The basil will make you smell herby and lovely.  Again, be thorough here, especially around your feet and hands and parts that bend.

Step 6 (10 minutes): Rinse off
Well, you’re covered in bits of basil, pepper, and cornmeal, so it’s time to rinse off*.  Turn the shower back on (not too hot, as this can dry skin out) and rinse off – you’ll need a washcloth, but don’t use soap!  The basil also makes it easy to tell when you’ve gotten all your parts rinsed.

Step 7 (15 minutes): Dry off and trim
Dry yourself off thoroughly now, and chuck the towel in the hamper as you’ll probably get off some extra oil here too.  Your skin should feel moist, but not slick. Use a nail clipper or a cuticle trimmer to gently remove dead skin on your fingers and toes.

Step 8 (15 minutes): Paint nails (optional, but let’s face it, also kind of necessary at this point)
The two tricks to a salon-style paint job are:

  1. Never go all the way down to the cuticle and 
  2. Always use at least 2 coats of color and ALWAYS a top coat of clear polish to reflect the light better.

Pinterest tip that really works: spray your fingers and toes with PAM or sprayable olive oil to prevent dings!

My camera doesn’t take high enough resolution pictures to show the (huge) difference in my skin texture, but you can tell on the nails!  (Before, during and after pics below.)



Now that you’re dry and luscious, time for a small healthy meal – remember the rest of that cornmeal, the part you didn’t add extra oil too?  Well…toast it for a few minutes on high heat in a medium pan on the stove, then add 3c of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, stirring regularly until it’s about the consistency of hummus.  You’ve just made polenta!  Fold in 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese, and serve with some broiled fish and spinach!


*Some notes and warnings:

  1. Be careful when rinsing the scrub in the shower – oil and water don’t mix, which means the tub might be slippery!  After you get out, use the washcloth and some soap to make sure it all goes down the drain.
  2. This is not for your face.  Stick to the neck down.
  3. Warning: your skin will FEEL AWESOME.  Try to refrain from inviting too many people to touch you.

Have a relaxing and wonderful #SkinEditionSunday!  Stay classy, healthy, and happy (and if you try this, let me know how it goes!)

Brightening Oatmeal Mask + 3-ingredient Cookies

On this chilly, quiet Sunday I decided to finally pay better attention to my dry winter skin.  Banana is great for moisturizing, and the enzymes are supposed to help get rid of dead skin, while oatmeal soothes and lemon juice brightens.

Ok ok, so I can’t take credit for this inspiration…ever since I saw this 2-ingredient cookie recipe go viral on Pinterest, I wanted to try it in combo and divert some of the “batter” to being a face treatment.

Oh by the way…WhyFoodWorks is on Pinterest now!  I’ll be posting things by what part of the meal they belong in, plus a special board for particularly innovative kitchen gadgets or DIYs.

So here’s what you do:


  • 3 bananas
  • 1.5 c rolled oats
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4c mini chocolate chips (optional)


Put the ingredients in a bowl.


Mix with a blender.  Separate out about 2 cookie’s worth; put aside for your facial!


Stir in the chocolate chips; portion onto a greased cookie sheet OR use a Silicone Baking Mat Set (2 pk.) Non Stick Surface(these things are SO worth purchasing…NOTHING sticks to them!



Bake for 15-17 minutes at 350F.

Meanwhile, put the oatmeal you set aside on your face; leave it on for as long as it takes the cookies to bake, then remove (probably put it back in the bowl and throw away, rather than putting it down the sink or shower as it’s pretty thick!)

Enjoy with some tea.  Ahh.  Look at that, my emails are practically writing themselves.


Coffee + Anti-Cellulite Scrub

Well, if you thought it couldn’t get any simpler than my chia pudding/face mask, you were wrong.  In fact, I wonder if this might be a bit of a stretch for the concept…you’re just making coffee and stirring.

I’m gonna count it, but please let me know if you think this is too much of a cop out!

There’s some unscientific internet search-based info that says “caffeine reduces cellulite!” and some more scientific info that says “…..umm…maybe!”  But given that coffee grounds are usually a trash, or at best, compost byproduct, and GREAT for being a gritty, exfoliating rub, my verdict is: “it can’t’ hurt!”

So go ahead, brew yourself…


…a nice little cup of coffee with fresh-ground…grounds…


I enjoyed mine with a mini chocolate chip granola bar.  Make no mistake, this is basically a cookie.  A few tablespoons of oats a healthy treat does not make.  And the first ingredient was sugar.

Then, use the grounds in the following recipe:


  • 1/2 c fresh coffee grounds
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp honey
  • Drizzle of olive oil


Place all the ingredients in a bowl


And stir to mix:


Then, take yourself to the shower and start scrubbin’. My cellulite, like most women’s, is on my thighs, but I gotta draw the line somewhere to keep this site G-rated.  It is coarse, and rough, your skin will turn pink, especially if you’re a pale white girl with hyper-sensitive skin, like me.


I definitely notice softer skin, though apparently you have to do this rather consistently to get any kind of significant cellulite reduction.  Ah, well.  I guess in the meantime I’ll keep knocking out squats to get thighs like these.

Gel Mask + Vanilla Chia Pudding


A soothing facial and a healthy and delicious dessert?


Chia seeds are what you think they are – they grow into chia pets.  And can be used in pranking coworkers if you want to make their computer keyboard into a sprout farm when they go on vacation and leave you in a gray, windowless cell of an office.  But they have LOTS of other [dare I say even more practical] uses.  They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and even calcium, and unlike flax, which has to be ground for your body to absorb the omega-3’s, chia can be eaten whole.  The soluble fiber they contain makes them form gels in liquids, which means they can be an emulsifying agent in vegan baked goods in place of eggs….orrrrr pudding.  If you like tapioca, you will like chia :)

This is a simple recipe – if you can use measuring spoons, you have all the skills necessary (and if you can’t use measuring spoons, you probably have bigger problems that you should be attending to instead of making chia pudding).


  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 6 Tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Blend the chia seeds and milk; refrigerate uncovered for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  Remove about 2 Tbsp to put on your face, placing on clean, dry skin (warning, this is a drippy one; so maybe relax laying down for a while, and plan to wash your hair after).


Add the sugar and vanilla to the rest of the chia and milk in the bowl, stirring to mix, and allow to set for another hour in the fridge.  Enjoy with berries or other fruit (like mangoes, bananas, or pomegranate).

Pore Therapy + Vanilla Meringues

Happy #SkinEditionSunday!  Time to relax and give yourself some care and attention.

Egg whites are “known” the internet over to even skin tone, reduce oil, tighten skin (temporarily) and shrink pores…all of which I experienced with this little egg facial myself.  Add to that the fact that eggs are dirt cheap (at $3 a dozen, that comes out to a mere $0.25 per egg!) and a great source of other nutrients like protein, choline, and even the elusive vitamin D, and you have a perfect Skin Edition contender.  You can bask in your glowing, tight skin, with a cup of tea and some meringue cookies just like the ladies in high end spas who shell out $95 for a facial.  And, this is the simplest Skin Ed recipe yet!


  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 c sugar


Preheat the oven to 350F.  Separate the egg whites from the yolks in two separate bowls.


Using a hand mixer, whip the whites they’re foamy and form soft peaks


Set aside a small amount (about a 2″ cookie’s worth) for your skin.


Apply to your clean face over a sink, and rinse off with warm water about 15 minutes later, or when the whites have dried.


To the rest of the whites, blend in the cream of tartar.  Add the sugar a little at a time to allow it to incorporate evenly.  About halfway through adding sugar, add vanilla.  Batter will be ready when it feels stiff and looks glossy.


Gently spoon onto a baking sheet – I always use my silicon liner, which prevents sticking and makes for easy removal – spacing evenly.  I got 20 small cookies from this much batter.


They’ll naturally all look unique and cute.  Put the baking sheet in the oven and close the door.  Then – now this  is important! – turn the oven OFF!  Do NOT reopen it.  Leave the cookies in there for 2 hours.  You can also do this overnight, or when you’re about to run out and do errands.  If your oven is kind of crappy, like mine, leave it on for the first 2-3 minutes and then turn it off.  The heat inside will bake them without burning and let them crisp up as the oven gradually cools.  I enjoyed mine with some unsweetened tea – they are super sugary, 2 tsp of sugar for each little one!  I think it helps keep portion size to one or two when you dress it up with a nice plate and mug…what’s that, you like the mug?  Why thanks, I made it…and in fact could make you one, if you’d like…my Etsy store is called StonewareBySarah and is always open for custom requests!


Coconut almond exfoliating masque/Whole wheat scones

Well, everyone does it…sometimes, despite an entire graduate education in nutrition, you buy the wrong product.  I totally missed the word “light” on my coconut milk (I have a great idea for another coconut masque and frozen whipped coconut bites!) and because of the lower fat content, couldn’t follow the original plan. Front of package labeling got me…the word “light” was too….light.

But as the saying goes…when life hands you the wrong kind of coconut milk, just make scones.  So I did, with a stop partway through the recipe to grab some batter to hydrate my poor winter face.  Here’s how.


For your face:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 can LIGHT coconut milk
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 c almond flour
  • 2 eggs

I had to make the almond flour; to do this I simply put toasted almond slivers in my blender and ground them until coarsely fine.  Then, I measured out a cup and added all the other ingredients to the blender and pureed it.  Remove about 1/4c of this mixture and place in a separate bowl, then massage onto clean skin.  Allow to set for 10-15 minutes and rinse off with lukewarm water.

For you to eat:

  • 2 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Raw sugar (for sprinkling on top, ~1/3 c)

Preheat oven to 375F.  Blend the ingredients in a large mixing bowl (except the raw sugar!).  Add the coconut milk mixture from above, and stir manually until mixed.  Batter will be wet and sticky.  Using two spoons, drop dough (~1/4-1/3 c in size) onto a baking sheet (use parchment paper or a silicon mat to prevent sticking) and sprinkle raw sugar on top.  You should be able to get about 16 from that amount of batter.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Enjoy with tea or milk, and store them in the fridge in an airtight container.

The scones surprisingly don’t taste like any of their components – you can’t tell they’re made with coconut, bananas, or almonds.  They ARE just plain satisfying – crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and not too sweet.