Within the past month, I've developed pretty bad heartburn. As I'm 27 weeks, it's (as I've said about other things) par for the course at this point. There is officially much less space for my stomach inside my body, so things are getting pushed around. While it's a temporary real-estate issue, but not an easy one to ignore! The burn is real, as is the search for healthy anti-burn solutions.
Strangely enough, my hunt ultimately inspired me to bake a carrot cake for a family dinner. It turned out to be delicious (unlike stomach acid, which is obviously very disgusting). So, as strange as it may seem, this post is about the coming together of two strange bed-fellows - carrot cake and heart-burn. If I haven't yet seared a gross image into your mind or forever caused you to associate stomach acid with baked goods, I hope you'll read on because I really love this recipe. Along the way, I hope you'll excuse my end-of-cake photos, as we didn't get around to photographing this baby until the following day. I guess I'll just have to bake another!
How did this whole association begin anyway?
Well, it's 1PM on a Thursday, I'm on my lunch break, and the idea of carrots is no where to be seen. My relatively uninspired but feel-good and extremely heartburn friendly breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt, and non-citrus-fruit isn't curbing heartburn *at all* and my mind is on a quest to nip this discomfort in the bud. I'm not sure whether you've ever done a google search for "natural heartburn relief," but if you haven't, you'll come up with all sorts of suggestions, like:
Wear loose clothing - check...(ish)
Stand up straight - check. I think?
Sleep with your torso elevated - that sounds uncomfortable.
Try an array of herbs (that may or may not be safe for pregnancy due to lack of research) - no.
Reduce caffeine/alcohol/chocolate - check...except for the chocolate...right? Do they really expect a pregnant woman to stop eating chocolate?
Reduce citrus fruits, rich foods, spicy foods - ...I suppose the delicious enchilada and lemon-dressed side salad I'm eating for lunch right now isn't a heartburn friendly meal? All I have to say is this: separate me from Mexican food and endure my wrath.
Eat 5 or 6 meals a day as opposed to 3 - kudos to the person who does dishes 5-6 times/day or who craves small enough meals to warrant 5 or 6 of them!
Avoid eating at night - Hm. Sometimes I don't get home from work until close to 9. Not always feasible.
Lose weight - first of all, clearly not the recommendation for pregnant woman. Second of all, need I point out that this is generally an offensive recommendation to most people, pregnant or not?
All of this is to say that eating a heart-burn friendly diet is not a straight-forward feat for the everyday person who wants to make reasonable improvements but who is also attached to certain creature comforts. Since it seems that I am not willing to strictly oblige by enough of these ideas, I've been consuming an ungodly number of ginger and Tums. M recently decided to ask his mom about other options she might be aware of (clearly hoping for a magical Bolivian health secret). Her answer: carrots. Carrots! More specifically, you're not supposed to "pop a carrot" like you might a Tums or a cup of ginger tea. You're supposed to use them prophylactically - munching throughout the day a la Bugs Bunny.
I absolutely love this recommendation. Not because it's realistic for my lifestyle or something that I can actually see myself doing on a day-to-day basis, but just that receiving it felt like a true moment of divine creativity. Carrots for heartburn, who knew? I can't resist trying it out. Bonus points if it works!
It's the night before I'm going to give it a go, and I'm laughing as I imagine myself with a carrot throughout my day. I see myself getting up early for a cycling class I love. Except, I'm gnawing on a carrot at 5AM instead of sipping my coffee (probably a better heart-burn choice - but, are you laughing yet? Crying, maybe?). Or sitting with one of my couples, munching an 8-inch carrot and twirling its greenery while we work (god forbid we broach an erotic subject in counseling while I death-grip my root-vegetable). I could go on. However, realistically (though much less funny), it's not imperative to tote a horse carrot throughout your day, shoving it into pockets or holding it in your mouth while you rifle through your bag. It's easy to grab a juice, or stick a few baby carrots in a pyrex, stick it in your purse, and call it a day.
I'm going to see what happens if I eat a carrot in the morning, afternoon (in the form of juice so I can have it during a session), and evening - and report back.
End of day conclusion: relieving! Carrots do help. I may be experiencing a placebo effect, but they're curbing my burn. I'll take it. I don't see regular raw carrot consumption as something I'm going to do every day. But, it is helpful to know that it's an option! The juice felt more realistic than munching when I wasn't in the mood to munch. In addition, I'm simply finding that drinking lots of water, standing upright/walking/exercising (as opposed to sitting for work, which really isn't always an available choice), and trying to restrict heart-burn triggering foods to breakfast and lunch (as opposed to right before bed) has worked well enough for me. Integrating carrots into salads, sandwiches, and soups is easy too (though I'm not sure that doing so is as effective as drinking or eating them raw). After all is said and done, I'm grateful to have tested out the carrot approach.
- So...you may be wondering...when are we going to get to the cake? -
Glad you asked! Over the weekend, I decided to do a fridge cleanse (i.e. cook something that uses all of our left overs before I grocery shop for the week). Noticing my leftover sack of carrots hanging out in the veggie drawer, I hopped on Bon Appetit and Pinterest to do a bit of re-con. A few days ago, I used a couple to make a decidedly un-heartburn-friendly moroccan carrot and cauliflower side dish, which was wonderful. We're over the raw, juiced, and roasted flavor profile, but they need to be used. What to do? Scouring my pantry, I found walnuts that need to be eaten, some pineapple that needs to be used before it is freezer-burned, and cream cheese that we likely wouldn't finish in the next few weeks. Yes Carrot cake!
When my sister invited us down for a Saturday night family dinner, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to whip one together. Without further ado, here is a recipe for our family's favorite (theoretically heart-burn-friendly-ish due to including said vegetable, though likely "benched" in the game of heart-burn relieving contenders due to being a frosted/baked good) carrot cake.
OUR FAMILY'S CARROT CAKE
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's carrot cupcake recipe
- CAKE INGREDIENTS -
2 cups all purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon table salt 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 cup packed brown sugar 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil 4 large eggs 3 cups grated peeled carrots (make sure to squeeze your grated carrots prior to measuring to remove excess moisture!)
1/2 cup pineapple (measure after shredding and squeezing away - not all, but most - of the juice) 1 cup walnuts (optional - if you do choose to add them (and they add a nice nutty flavor): use a Vitamix or food processor to pulse them to the point where they are between "chopped very small" and "practically a nut flour." I prefer the subtle flavor more than large nut chunks.)
- FROSTING INGREDIENTS -
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (or to taste)
- CAKE INSTRUCTIONS -
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-9" round cake pans. Cut two circles of parchment paper to fit your pan's' bases and lay them on each pan's buttered surface. Sprinkle flour on parchment paper base and sides. Tap excess flour away. Set aside.
Combine your dry ingredients: Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend.
Combine your wet ingredients: Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time.
Add your dry mixture to your wet mixture and stir until blended.
Stir in carrots, pineapple, and (optional) walnut mixture.
Fill each cake pan until 3/4 full.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until you stick a fork into your cake and the tongs come out clean. Remove pans from oven, let cool in their pans for 15 minutes. Turn over and cool before frosting.
- FROSTING INSTRUCTIONS -
We like a good cream cheese frosting in this family. We're less enthused, even a bit dramatically repulsed (ahem...Marcio) by buttercream. Someday, I will have M write a blog post about why buttercream is so loathsome and odious. But, until then - this is a lovely and simple contender. The confectioners sugar can be subbed for any easily-absorbed sweetener, such as maple syrup or honey.
In a food processor or mixer, combine cream cheese and butter until smooth and unified. Add confectioners sugar until you reach your desired sweetness.
Frost your cake - you don't need to wait for your cake to be cold prior to frosting it. But you want it to be cool so the heat doesn't melt your frosting.
Voila - enjoy!