Hi everyone! My name is Andrea and I have a blog called Barre & Brunch that focuses on fitness, food, and wellness. I am so excited to be partnering with Pointe Studio for a Valentine’s Day inspired post to spread some love, talk about self-care, and share a fun new recipe with you all!
I am currently in my first year of medical school at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in downtown Chicago. I come from a small town called Stillwater, Minnesota and graduated in May of 2019 from Boston University, where I studied Chemistry and minored in French, Biology, and Dance. I am really enjoying medical school, although it is incredibly challenging, and it has been fun to explore health and fitness in a new city!
I’ve expanded my interests in health and wellness at medical school too - I took a culinary medicine class last fall to learn about nutrition and healthy eating in a medical context, and am the head of wellness programming for my student body! Outside of school, I take ballet classes and do a lot of barre (I work at Pure Barre) and yoga.
I’ve been a ballet dancer my whole life, which is what drew me to barre workouts. I started Barre & Brunch the summer before my junior year of college, after about six months of being the student ambassador at a local barre studio, where I first discovered my passion for fitness. I moved into my first apartment that year, and had to cook all my own meals. I didn’t want to eat the same thing every day, and wanted to make food that would be healthy but fun. I decided to combine these two interests into a blog! Since then, I have become a certified barre instructor and learned how to create my own healthy recipes. My favorite workouts are definitely dance, barre, and yoga, but I always enjoy trying new workouts and challenging myself. I love wearing my cute Pointe Studio grip socks at barre and yoga classes - I always feel more motivated to workout when I wear fun clothes and accessories! They help keep my feet stable by providing a better grip, safe from germs and injuries, and warm (especially key in Chicago winter), and I love how many of the styles are reminiscent of ballet slippers!
For me, eating healthy is so important. I used to eat junk food constantly, and I was sick very often. When I came to college, I started trying to eat healthier and eat a balanced, nutritious diet. I was amazed by how much more energized and happier I felt! In medical school, I’ve learned a lot about the environmental and health benefits of plant-based diets, so I have been trying to incorporate that more into my recipes - including the cakes I am sharing with you today! In addition to eating healthy, I also think it's important to treat yourself and indulge every so often. I love to make desserts that are made with healthier, simple ingredients for the perfect middle ground. In my opinion, brunch is the most creative, fun, and artistic meal - there’s so many options, both sweet and savory! So combining my love of ballet, barre, and brunch is how my blog name came to be!
I love trying new recipes or workouts and sharing them with those who share my passion for food and fitness. I want to show people that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult, boring, or expensive! My goals for my blog is to inspire others to find and follow their passions and strive to be the healthiest, happiest version of themselves.
Lava Cake Recipe
To keep with the theme of self-love and doing things that make your heart happy, I’ve come up with two recipes for personal lava cakes: red velvet and chocolate hazelnut! Because there’s no better baking equivalent of a happy, melting heart than a gooey lava cake! You can bake both recipes in the oven at the same time. These are great recipes to share with a galentine, family member, significant other, or keep all to yourself because, #selflove!
Look at that heart-melting, lava texture! So delicious!
Notes on ingredients:
White whole wheat flour is nutritionally similar in vitamins, minerals, and fiber to whole wheat flour because it is made of whole grains, which have important health benefits that I’ve learned about in school. However, it has a lighter texture so it makes baked goods fluffier like all-purpose flour! Adding wheat gluten also makes baked goods rise more, which is great for cakes like these. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour or wheat gluten, or if you are gluten-free, you can substitute all-purpose flour and you won’t need wheat gluten.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been making most of my recipes plant-based recently after learning about the benefits. If you aren’t vegan, feel free to substitute a regular egg for the flax eggs and use regular milk and butter! You could use almond milk as well, but I wanted to make these recipes allergen friendly, so I chose oat milk.
I used beets to make the red color fro the red velvet cake. It's a great way to incorporate vegetables into baked goods - you don't taste the beets at all!
For the chocolate hazelnut lava cake, I made my own healthier version of Nutella, but you could definitely use regular Nutella as well! You can also use a seed butter instead of nut butter to make the chocolate hazelnut cake nut-free. The amount of maple syrup you add to this recipe depends on how sweet you want it, and how sweet the chocolate you use is - it’s up to you!
Vegan Red Velvet Lava Cake Recipe
Makes 2 small cakes
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax mixed with about 5-6 tbsp water, and refrigerated for at least 5 minutes until thickened)
4 tbsp oat milk
About 4 oz of cooked beets (I used half of the packaged kind from Trader Joe’s) and their juice
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup vegan butter/spread (I used Earth Balance), melted and cooled
½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
About 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp coconut sugar
Preheat oven to 375 F and lightly spray cake pan with cooking oil.
Prepare flax eggs in a bowl and place in the refrigerator to set.
Blend all wet ingredients except the flax eggs and apple cider vinegar until evenly mixed and there are no beet chunks visible.
Pour the wet ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add in the flax eggs and apple cider vinegar. Use a hand mixer to evenly combine.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then mix gradually into the wet ingredients. The batter will be thick and spoonable.
Add the batter into the cake pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out mostly clean – the inside should still be a bit gooey so you get that “lava” cake texture. Let cool slightly, and enjoy warm! You can spread melted chocolate on top of it if desired as well.
Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Lava Cake
Makes 2 small cakes
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax mixed with about 5-6 tbsp water, and refrigerated for at least 5 minutes until thickened)
½ cup vegan Nutella
¾ cup chocolate milk of choice
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup vegan butter/spread (I used Earth Balance), melted and cooled
About 1 tsp vanilla extract
Splash of almond extract (optional)
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup cocoa powder
Dash allspice (optional)
Pinch of salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare flax egg and set aside in fridge.
Mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
Add in the dry ingredients and use a hand mixer to combine. The batter will be fairly thick and dense.
Spoon the batter into a well-oiled miniature cake pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just the top and sides are firm, but a toothpick inserted into the middle isn’t fully clean – you want the center to be still gooey!
Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then enjoy warm! This is delicious with ice cream!
Thanks for reading, and I hope at least one thing I said resonated with you and will inspire you to take a bit of extra time today to spread love to yourself and those around you. Feel free to reach out with any questions or ideas of topics you’d like to me discuss or recipes or workouts you’d like to see! To treat yourself to something fun, fashionable, and functional, check out Pointe Studio’s fun socks and use my code “barreandbrunch” for 20% off – and don’t forget to enter my giveaway of Pointe Studio socks on Instagram.
Self-Care Q & A
Why is self-care/self-love so important? And what are some of the things you do for self-care/self-love?
In medical school, I spent the last two months learning about the heart in our cardiovascular unit. All hearts are a little different, and interestingly there can be medical and physiological effects on the heart from significant emotion, so broken hearts do have some truth to them! Fun fact: there’s actually a type of cardiomyopathy named Takotsubo that occurs almost exclusively in women that happens after a traumatic emotional event or stress. We need to take care of our hearts physically by exercising, eating healthy, and other healthy behaviors, and we also need to take care of our “hearts” emotionally. And that is why self-care has so many facets and is so important! If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t effectively care for others.
Some of the things I do for self-care are: going to a workout or dance class, going for a walk in the city or along the river or lake, hanging out with friends, FaceTiming my parents or siblings, exploring a new neighborhood in Chicago, stopping by the farmer’s market when it’s in season, coming up with a new recipe and trying it out, reading a book for fun, watching a feel-good movie, doing a face mask, stretching while listening to calming music, or meditating. Most of these are things I do every so often when I feel like I need some extra self-love or relaxation, but I try to do something for myself every day to take a break from school and studying, and find some mental clarity and de-stress. Finding the beauty in every day moments, or creating little moments that bring us joy, can really make such a difference. I notice that when I start the day with the mindset of gratitude and happiness, I believe that I am having a good day, and that makes all the difference!
My most regular self-care activity is working out. I typically do a workout five to six days a week, while remembering to listen to my body and give it rest as well. Sometimes I workout by myself in the small gym in my apartment building, or just in my apartment when I’m pressed for time. I prefer workout classes like barre because I don’t have to plan what exercises I am doing, I know I will be challenged, and I get that social aspect by connecting with the community at my studio! It gives me an hour to set aside whatever I am learning in school and focus my mind on strengthening and stretching my muscles, and I always feel reinvigorated after a good workout class. Sometimes it can seem like I’m drowning in responsibilities and information from school or life, and taking a step away from that is really beneficial. In yoga, meditation, barre, or whatever your relaxation technique is, I think it’s crucial to embrace the control you have in that moment to make the practice fully yours. Coming to yoga or barre classes allows me to take a break from life’s stressors and ground myself when I feel like things are overwhelming in life.
I love going for a quick walk as well, and usually do this as a study break the day before my medical school exams. I am lucky to live close to Navy Pier and Lake Michigan, which are both great places to walk around. I try to disconnect from my phone, my worries and stress, and any thoughts about my responsibilities and just walk with a gentle focus on my surroundings and senses. This helps me clear my mind and find things to appreciate and marvel at, whether it is watching a cute dog happily run around on the beach or seeing the sunset over the lake. Finding the beauty in every day moments, or creating little moments that bring us joy, can really make such a difference. I notice that when I start the day with the mindset of gratitude and happiness, I believe that I am having a good day, and that makes all the difference!
There are many aspects to self-care and wellness, including physical, mental, social, and emotional. When we get caught up in our busy lives, it can be easy to let these things slip away. But it is so important to make sure we take care of ourselves - one way we can do this is by figuring out the things that make us happy, and making sure we find a way to keep these sparks present in our lives.
How do you find time to incorporate all of the things you love to do on top of med school?
Something that really struck me about my medical school is their strong emphasis on wellness. Wellness is important no matter what you do in life, but it is especially key in the medical field, because burnout is such a prevalent issue in both students and providers. I love that my school encourages students to find balance in our lives and practice wellness in all aspects. We go into medicine because we have an innate desire to help others, but sometimes that can cause us to prioritize the wellbeing of others over ourselves, and neglect our own needs and happiness.
I love going to ballet downtown and getting to dance with such an amazing view!
Time management is so important! It is critical to know yourself and your capabilities so you have a realistic sense of how long projects or activities will take you, and then to allot yourself enough time. I find it helpful to give myself deadlines or time limits - for example, I will schedule an hour to make a presentation to ensure that I stay focused and get it done efficiently. I write down in my planner what I want to accomplish each day, and often number tasks by priority so I know where to start. Sometimes having too many tasks to accomplish can just be overwhelming, so choosing one salient task to start with and then cross off can help you feel productive and encourage you to keep working. Crossing things off my to-do list or planner always makes me feel accomplished!
I usually meal prep on the weekends to make myself food to eat during the week. This saves money and a lot of time! Here is a post I wrote with my tips on meal prepping and some recipe ideas. Planning my meals in advance helps me know what groceries to get and make sure I can eat healthy meals throughout the week. When I have early classes, having breakfast made in advance (such as overnight oats) is a real time-saver!
Do you have a daily routine?
Typically, I wake up, hold a plank for five minutes (sometimes while studying flashcards), meditate while looking out my window (either on my own or using the Headspace app subscription I have provided through school), wash my face and do my skincare routine, eat breakfast, then head off to school. If it’s a day where I start class a bit later, sometimes I will make myself a fun breakfast, like waffles or pancakes or try a new recipe. If it’s a day where I have class or work early on, then I typically will prepare breakfast ahead of time - my go-to is zucchini overnight oats! I have a recipe for this on my meal prepping post (linked earlier), and it’s a great way to sneak in some extra veggies, and I promise you won’t taste the zucchini!
I typically bring my lunch to school when I have classes and/or clinic all day, so I pack it the night before. After school, I like to take a break from thinking and do a workout! The barre studio I work at is super close to school, which is so handy! I always keep a pair of grippy socks in my backpack so I am ready to go to a barre class! Then, I will come home and shower, eat dinner, and study.
Any tips or tricks to power through a hard workout?
I like to set an intention at the beginning of class, reflecting on why I chose to be here and what my goals are, both long-term and short-term. Maybe today I really just want to make it through thigh work in barre class without fully straightening my legs - those of you who do barre know how hard this can be sometimes! Or maybe I’ve been really trying to work on my back flexibility for months, and it’s good to remind myself of that at the beginning of class so I get deeper in this stretch when it comes up.
One of my common mantras of an intention is “strength and perseverance” - when my muscles start shaking or I feel like I want to give up, I remind myself that I am strengthening my mind and body and that I came here to challenge myself and believe in myself enough to keep going. Repeating this phrase in my head helps me push through! Counting down in my head helps - I tell myself to do eight more of a movement, and then once I do that, I often feel like I can do another eight!
Reminding myself that I am lucky to have the chance to be at the workout is helpful too. My body is healthy enough to do such great things and keep me moving, I have access to a barre studio that feels like a home, and I am able to make time to prioritize my health and fitness. Not everyone has these privileges, and when I workout, I make the most of it. And of course, having a fun workout outfit and accessories like Pointe Studio socks always helps motivate me!
What motivates you to keep going with everything you have going on?
Looking around and finding things to be grateful for brings a new outlook to my day. It may sound cheesy, but I often look around while in class or while walking in Chicago and think about how lucky I am to be where I am. When I think of where I was a year ago, it’s crazy to see how much has changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined! Last year at this time, I had no idea where I would be living and which medical school I would end up at. I couldn’t have known the great friends I would make at school and in Chicago, how my blog would grow and help me further integrate wellness into my life, and the amazing personal growth I would experience. Thinking of the big picture and how every challenge I face is one step on my path towards my end goal of becoming a doctor helps me reframe my outlook.
Thanks for reading, and I hope at least one thing I said resonated with you and will inspire you to take a bit of extra time today to spread love to yourself and those around you. There are many aspects to self-care and wellness, including physical, mental, social, and emotional. It is so important to make sure we take care of ourselves - one way we can do this is by figuring out the things that make us happy, and making sure we find a way to keep these sparks present in our lives.
Feel free to reach out with any questions or ideas of topics you’d like to me discuss or recipes or workouts you’d like to see! To treat yourself to something fun, fashionable, and functional, check out Pointe Studio’s fun socks and use my code “barreandbrunch” for 20% off – and don’t forget to enter my giveaway of Pointe Studio socks on Instagram
Follow me at @barre.and.brunch on Instagram for more recipes, workouts, and wellness! Sending love!