Tag Archives: Food

Welcome Friends with Vegan/Gluten Free Coconut Carrot Cake

8 Aug

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I’m in a super mood today because a) my show opens on Saturday; b) several of my closest friends and collaborators are in town to see it and; c) I just made the above referenced awesome V/GF Coconut Carrot cake as an “afternoon tea” cake to share with my buddy Victor who is already here and John who is set to arrive in mere moments.

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I made this cake recipe up on the fly but it turned out pretty delightful so I’m sharing. I really love the challenge of baking both vegan and gluten-free. I looked at a lot of similar recipes when developing this one and they all called for either eggs (for the non-vegans) or egg replacer or flax seed goop (for the non-animal consumers). I figured the apple sauce would be a perfectly fine binder and, as always, it is. This cake is moist and has a lovely chew without feeling overly dense. The cinnamon and ginger enhance the cake’s overly “carrotyness” and the toasted coconut adds a nice textural counterpoint.

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For additional texture, add the last tree ingredients listed in the recipe. They’re not mandatory but they will definitely make this cake even more delightful. If you have them on hand, toss ’em in. I had none of them BUT I don’t think that adding them would radically change either the texture of the finished product or alter cooking time. If you do add them and find that your batter is a too chunky, just add a little non-dairy milk of choice to thin it out. No big thing.

As for all you nut-heads out there, if you must, you may add crushed walnuts or pecans to your batter. I rarely do this because I find that nuts baked within often put people off. I think the addition of one beautifully toasted pecan on top is perfect because it looks lovely and it also gives the non-nut eaters out there the ability to opt out without forgoing an entire treat.

Carrot Coconut Cake

Cake:

1 cup gluten-free flour blend of choice
1 1/4 cu gluten-free oat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine kosher salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup cooked carrots, mashed (some chunkiness is OK)
3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup raw shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup shredded pineapple (VERY WELL DRAINED)

Frosting and garnish:

4 oz vegan cream cheese
4 oz vegan sour cream
4 tbsp maple syrup
3/4 shredded coconut, toasted
15 pecan halves, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7″x11″ baking pan and set aside. In a bowl, combine flours, spices, and baking powder and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, mashed carrots, apple sauce, and maple syrup. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Stir in shredded carrots, coconut and pineapple. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan.

Allow the cream cheese to soften at room temperature and then combine with sour cream and maple syrup. Turn the cake out onto a cutting board and frost (only when the cake is absolutely, totally cool). Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the frosting so that it covers the cake entirely and then place each pecan half about an inch apart on the cake (see top photo). Pop the cake in the freezer for a couple of minutes until the frosting firms up a bit and then cut into 15 fairly even squares. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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So Far So Good

6 Aug

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Today is the first day in a very long time (well, maybe not THAT long. Almost two months feels like a long time when you’re exhausted and miserable but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really a blink) I feel something like my normal, happy-go-lucky, energized self. I don’t feel 100% there yet but I’d put myself somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-80% and that’s not bad. Trying to be happy about all increments of change in a positive direction, even the mini ones.

I credit this good feeling to a couple of things. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

  1. I stopped falling asleep in front of the TV. In my normal life, I don’t have a TV in my bedroom. In my Steppenwolf life, I do. And at the start of the summer, I just wasn’t strong enough to turn the damned thing off before bed. In the last couple weeks, I’ve been really strict with myself. As soon as I feel like I’m drifting, I turn the TV off and go to damned sleep. I also have a cup of this “relaxing” tea that I bought in Chinatown two weeks ago and lemme tell you, that shit is the shit. Valerian root, baby. Stuff works. Ultimately, my quality of sleep has improved dramatically. I’m up fewer (or no) times in the night and therefore, I wake up feeling a little more energized.
  2. I started running again with regularity two weeks ago. The picture above was taken in my run along the lake. I made a new playlist a couple of days ago and named it “run for your life.” The longer I run, the more I believe that running will save you 95% of the times. That 5% is reserved for the times in your life when you’re injured or burned out. It doesn’t take very much either. I’ve been going out for anywhere from 40-50 minutes in low zones. Just to get myself moving and get that serotonin flowing through all those little channels in my brain.
  3. I got back into the hot room. Bikram has come to my rescue so many times in my life it’s right up there with running as a total soul-saver. And the lovely thing is that Bikram and running compliment each other perfectly. Bikram postures are specifically well suited for the kinds of overuse issues that all runners suffer from. And the detoxifying effects of 90 minutes of movement in 105 degrees can’t be exaggerated.
  4. I cut gluten out of my diet. I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting everyone cut gluten out of their diets. We’re all different and have different internal chemical scenarios and some people really have no issues with the stuff. But after being glutened TWICE this week at two different restaurants, I am almost certain that this pesky little protein is an issue for me. I’d been off the stuff for six weeks and both of the times I consumed glutenous substances (once at a Korean restaurant–it was own damned fault for thinking I could get away with a Korean rice bowl–and again at an Italian place WITH A GLUTEN FREE MENU) I was having dizzy spells within 20 minutes. After the dizziness came that lovely feeling of looking at the world from the inside of a mason jar. Three hours later, I had rocks in my gut. And twelve hours later I was constipated. So yeah, sensitive to gluten.
  5. I’ve cut down my non-fruit related sugar intake to almost nothing and cut my fruit intake down to one or two plums and a handful of berries throughout the day, but not before 11AM. I did this because my energy had been super super low about two and a half to three hours after waking and it was suggested that that was due to a drastic drop in blood sugar after breakfast. I realized that my morning breakfast bowl included apple sauce, maple syrup AND berries mixed into oatmeal. I hadn’t really thought about how much sugar that amounted to until I cut it out and noticed a marked change in how I felt by noon. Most notably, I wasn’t going down for a nap three hours after getting up. Anyway, it’s working for me. So now I start out the day with a green smoothie that has NO fruit in it. This has taken some getting used to, believe me. The smoothie is almost entirely supplements (1 scoop SuperFood; 1 tsp Maca powder; 1 capsule each ginseng, B complex, probiotic and multi-mineral; and 1 tsp complete omega oil) with one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and two ice cubes. Then about an hour later, I have a couple of eggs scrambled with kale and vegan cheese with a piece of GF toast.

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So now it’s 2:06PM central time and I’ve been able to run, do laundry, make myself breakfast and lunch (the above photographed gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi over sautéed kale, chicken sausage, shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes) and bake a batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies for our second tech this afternoon.

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I’m gonna post the recipe (adjusted from the original posted here on The Iron You–my new favorite triathlon blog). Originally, this recipe was vegan, gluten-free and Paleo. But I baked my first batch with no binder and the cookies were just too darn crumbly.

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So I added one egg to the remaining dough (sorry vegans but I didn’t have anything in the house to sub. If you want to make these, add the equivalent in egg substitute or chia goop) and they second batch is holding together better. I also cut the almond meal by half a cup and added 3/4 up of gluten-free all-purpose baking flour. You could certainly leave out the flour. I just don’t know what the hell holds these babies together if they’re all nuts and no binder.

These babies definitely hit the spot if you’re looking for a chocolate fix. There is minimal sugar in the recipe and they’re packed with good fats. Granted, this cookie is no substitute for a real Tollhouse but, as with most diet-adjusted baked goods, you gotta try to forget about the original and just take the new thing at face value. This cookie is not the cookie you grew up with. But guess what? You’re not ten years old anymore. Your body has changed and maybe you shouldn’t be eating cookies like you used to. Just saying.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Almond Drop Cookies
(makes 3 dozen small cookies)

3/4 cups almond meal
3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
½  cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp sunflower seed butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 large egg
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips
¾ chopped almonds

Preheat oven at 350°F and place a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, maple syrup, sunflower seed butter and egg until well mixed. Add flour and stir until a soft dough forms. Add chocolate chips and nuts and stir to mix well.

Drop the dough by spoon onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for another 15 minutes. Move to a cookie rack and cool completely.

Oh and just a little note: the black sprinkles on these cookies are actually Hawaiian black lava salt. I picked some up last week and I’m obsessed with the stuff. If you don’t have any (and why would you) don’t worry about it. You can throw a little bit of regular ol’ coarse sea salt onto these cookies and it really works. But if you don’t like your sweets a little salty, then by all means, abstain from the sprinkling.

Playing Catch-up with Baked Goods

21 Jul

I have neglected my posting obligations. Sorry. But it’s been a wild couple of months. There is a much longer post kicking around in here somewhere but it’s so long and unwieldy that I’m going to need to sit with it and then edit it and then sit with it some more before I send it out into the ether. For now, just know this: I’ve spent July thus far withdrawing from coffee (again), gluten (seriously for the first time) and dairy.

After falling off the coffee-sugar-fat wagon back in March, my headaches were starting to get bad again and then in May, I did this fairly long race, and didn’t take any time off afterwards. The spring was super busy and physically strenuous and I totally neglected my nutrition and rest needs. So then I got to the middle of June and all the sudden my body went from just a little tired to pretty much ass out.

Along with the fatigue came that sense of overwhelming dread and dis-ease that has come upon me now three times in the last five years. One fay I feel fine and then the next day I don’t. I’m not sure how to describe exactly what happens without sounding insane and I feel like those details warrant a completely separate post. After all, this post was supposed to be a quick “hi, how are you and here’s a recipe for gluten free chocolate chip cookie bars.”

Suffice to say, these “spells” as I’ve started referring to them, are the reason I started doing Bikram yoga back in 2008; why I went through all that vertigo testing last year; why I ended up with the migraine diagnosis; why I stopped drinking coffee and started drinking green smoothies. So I’m trying to look at all of this as a good thing because every time I feel this way, I’m forced to do some detective work and then ultimately, I learn something about how I’m living my life.

But after last year I really thought I’d never feel this way again. And the spring, while super busy and physically strenuous, was also frigging’ awesome. So when I got hit by the brick that is this nebulous state of unwell, with the dizziness and the fatigue and the anxiety and brain fog and the feeling like I’m drunk even though I haven’t downed a drop of booze and the fear of doing things (like running) that I love because I’m worried something “bad” will happen if I do, I got super bummed. Especially because this moment is not the moment during which I want to feel crappy. This is a moment during which I want to feel at the top of my game.

I am also in a strange city, where I know few people and can’t do what I always do: run to my doctor. In a way, this has been a blessing because it’s forced me to deal with what’s going on in a new way. Because, I don’t know if you know this but when you run to your primary care with complaints of “fatigue, dizziness, anxiety and a drunk feeling,” they tend to want to do one of two things: 1) prescribe an anti-depressant or 2) prescribe an anti-histamine. And even when I got to the ENT last year and went through all those tests, the primary option presented to me after the diagnosis was to take a pill twice a day every day indefinitely and when I said I didn’t want to do that, I was accused of being “medicine-phobic” by the specialist who was supposedly there to make me feel better.

So I took the “change your diet” option and I stopped drinking coffee and booze and I stopped eating cheese and I started eating only good things: mostly vegetables and almost all things I made from scratch in my own home. And it helped. In a couple of months, the symptoms were gone and I wasn’t thinking about ever having felt the way I felt. And I trained for a half-Iron and other races and went to Colorado and came back to Miami and worked and trained and had a kick-ass end of the season and the holidays hit and I gained eight pounds because I was drinking and eating crap for an entire month.

But I didn’t care about the weight because I knew I could just pop myself on another calorie restricted diet and lose it in no time. So that’s what I did January and February. I dropped those eight pounds easy living on boiled chicken. Then professionally things started going REALLY well and I was traveling a lot and then I met this guy and doing the things you do when you start dating someone (of course, I mean drinking and eating to excess) but it was OK because I was training for Haines City so I was pretty sure I wasn’t gaining any weight and that’s all that mattered, not the fact that I was consuming all the things that tend to make me feel like shit and I’m rambling. Here’s the bottom line:

THIS IS HOW I’VE BEEN LIVING MY LIFE SINCE 2005.

Eat everything in sight. Starvation diet. Eat everything in sight. Starvation diet.  Don’t drink any booze. Drink all the booze. Don’t drink any coffee. Drink 8 cups of coffee a day.

Over and over and over again and even when I feel “fine,” I don’t actually feel fine because I’ve been complaining about a chronic fatigue for the last decade. The people who know me will tell you that I’m always out there doing stuff and that I have a tendency to exhaust myself, not take breaks, never take vacations and pick sports that require a shit ton of self-punishment and then constantly complain about being tired.

This post is getting too long and too involved. Here’s the end for now: I found an acupuncturist out here who is awesome. I’ll save the treatment plan he’s devised for me for another post but I will tell you that one of the first things he said to me when we started talking was, “How we feel is 90% diet and 10% everything else and it’s important that that diet be moderate and balanced because if it’s not, your poop suffers and your sleep suffers. And if you’re not pooping and you’re not sleeping, then you’re fucked.” That’s a paraphrase.

I’ve always considered myself a healthy person but when I got into a real analysis of my diet and my lifestyle with this guy, it hit me that the last year has been anything but balanced and this last year is really no different from the year that came before it and the year that came before that one. You see where I’m going with this? Well, if you do, will you please leave a comment below? Because sometimes it sounds like I know what I’m talking about, but I really have no Godly idea.

In the meantime:

Gluten Free/Dairy Free/Refined Sugar Free Chocolate Oat Bars

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1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (or any other nut butter you like)
1/2 cup raw honey (or agave for all you vegans out there)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 egg (or one egg’s worth of egg replacer for all you vegans out there)
2-4 Tbsp of almond milk
2 cups gluten free oat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 cup dairy free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8×8 baking pan. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream together the oil, nut butter, honey, and maple syrup. Add egg and mix well. Alternately add the dry mixture and the almond milk to the wet ingredients until well combined . Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. These are a very crumbly cookie and are better if you let them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

 

Triple Training and Chocolate Redemption

13 Mar

As the title of this post implies, today turned into a triple training extravaganza and I’ve also found a way to redeem myself from the pudding debacle of last night. I got up at 5AM for strength training, did a little work before (and after) the sunrise, took a power nap and then headed out to the Key around noonish for a bike ride made up of race taper bursts (Race! Taper! Bursts!) meant to get my muscles firing a little without totally fatiguing them before the (first!) race (of the season!) on Sunday. I must be excited. Look at me throwing those exclamation points around like I’m getting paid to do it.

I knew we’d be hitting the water after our bike but I didn’t have any idea we’d be doing damned near a mile this afternoon. I was thinking more in the realm of 15 or twenty minutes but the instructions were to swim five buoys down and 5 buoys back and that all added up to around about 1300 meters. The water was blissful though–despite a pretty aggressive current running against us on the way out–so that made things a little nicer. Unlike last Wednesday, when it was completely black in there and I’m pretty sure I bumped up against a shark at one point (this is unlikely but what I touched was hard and round and while it was probably something man-made, I’m sticking to my story), today the water was crystal clear and sparkly. I kid you not. With my tinted goggles on and the sun hitting it, just so, it really looked like there was fairy dust on the water. Although maybe I was high coming off the bike ride.

I’m trying to get better about siting and doing it efficiently so that the action doesn’t bring my stroke to a dead halt. I did stop a couple of times but on the whole I’m feeling exponentially better in the water these days. I’m able to control myself and my movements and switch back and forth between strong kicking and strong pulling so when I start to fatigue in one area, I can deploy the muscles in another. Breathing is also getting better and I’m able to push through the burning in my shoulders now whereas at this time last year that feeling was enough to make me stop.

There were about five of us in the water and we managed to stay together in a relatively tight pack, which was nice. I think we ended up swimming the distance in just under 33 minutes. Not setting any records but it felt good. Well it felt mostly good. I felt pretty bad when one of my teammates (who also happens to be one of my students–don’t ask) decided to sneak up on me in the last fifty meters and grab my leg. Of course, I spazzed and yelped and jumped out of the water (the same way I did last week when ‘I touched the shark’) and then I turned around to discover the little rat bastard laughing his 22-year old head off at me. I don’t understand why people have to be lame like this when they know other people are iffy about sea creatures.

All in all a good day. I’ve been exceptionally hungry, of course, which is cool because I can tack on some extra calories over the next few days and, more importantly, a few extra carbs! Lord Jesus, it’s a fire! I have been seriously craving sweet things lately–most notably chocolate, which is odd for me as it’s never been my thing. Now, of course, I’m not planning to binge on chocolate and sugar in the days  leading up the race (it’s only a sprint, after all) but I figured it’d be cool if I snuck a little cacao into a snack or two between now and then, just to satisfy the craving. And besides, cacao is actually really good for endurance athletes. Especially if it’s mixed with maca, which mine is.

So this afternoon, I was looking for a fat to add to my afternoon snack and I realized I had a whole bag of sunflower seeds just taking up space in the fridge.

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I decided to make a chocolate sunflower butter since I really dig nut butters but can’t eat most of them due to my headache sitch. This butter is so easy to make if you have a food processor and it is SO MUCH CHEAPER to do it yourself than it is to buy a jar of sunflower seed butter at the store. I bought that 9 oz bag for $3.00 at the farmer’s market. It will easily yield 3 1/2 cups of butter.

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Here’s what to do–oh, and I made a small batch (about 3/4 cup yield) just to see how it would turn out but you can double or triple quantities if you want to make a whole pile of it: I tossed 1/2 cup (or about 2 oz of seeds) into the work bowl of my Mini-Prep and I let ‘er rip until the seeds were ground to the texture of coarse meal. The I added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of cacao (you can use regular old cocoa powder too) and 1 tsp of agave (substitute whatever liquid sweetener you prefer–I know the jury’s still out on agave). Then I let the processor go until the seeds released their oils and the whole mess got to the consistency of slightly chunky peanut butter. This is a pretty dry butter but it should still be spreadable as long as you grind it long enough. About 3-5 minutes should do. When it’s done and packed in a jar, it looks like this:

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And on a spoon it looks like this:

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And on the same spoon from a slightly different angle, this:

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It is absolutely delicious and in small quantities (2 teaspoons is around 53 calories, 4g of fat, 3g carbs and 2g of protein), it’s not too horrible for you. I had it with pear slices but I’m sure it’d be great on toast or slathered on a banana or as the star of a SB&J or as the base of a bake-free cookie or faux truffle. I could also see this being a hit with little kids who suffer from nut allergies. Give it a try and let me know how you like it best.

 

On Time and Chocolate Pudding

12 Mar

It’s been a boring day so I don’t have much to report. Except I did go on a plant-buying spree and spend some time in the garden. Oh and I made a quick chocolate pudding (recipe below). Oh and I returned some library books and did a 400 meter swim test (14 seconds faster than last time!). I guess today was actually pretty full. Whatever. Instead of writing a whole big thing, I’m going to link to an article I just read on the USAT website entitled Fitness Isn’t Always a Linear Progression.

The article spoke to me because I was just bitching to the Commander about my last time trial test on the bike and how I was only .6 mph faster than the bike test we did when I was just back in January, weighted down by holiday fat and still riding my road bike. I was especially frustrated because I’ve been doing this whole High Intensity bike training program with him and I expected to be way faster than I was.

The article basically demystifies why we do what we do when we do it during an endurance training regimen. I read this and realized that I’d never really asked any questions about the logic of training phases. I mean I know the basics but in general, I pretty much just do what the Commander tells me to do. It’s what makes me eminently coachable: my willingness to just do what I’m told because I assume that the person telling me to do the thing knows more than I do. This is also one of the things that makes me eminently easy to walk all over in romantic relationships but that’s a whole separate post.

I’m lucky in that, over the many years I’ve been participating in amateur sport, I’ve had great coaches who know of what they speak. It’s been easy to give over to their authority. In athletics, proof is in the results and I’ve always been happy with my results and the results of my teammates. However, it’s always a good idea to be educated in regards to any endeavor so for that reason, I’m posting a link to the article. The big take-away from it is this, I think:

In our sport consistency is the key to growth. There is no one magic workout that is going to set you ahead of your competitors, but instead a steady diet of hard but manageable workload is what is going to keep you improving. In reality triathlon (or any endurance sport for that matter) is a very “blue collar” sport. There is no (legal) way to get around the fact that you need to put in the work to improve. So get out there and put the trust in your coach or your training program and let them carry you to a new season of personal bests!

And I mean, once again, I’m choosing to focus on what I have NOT accomplished as opposed to what I HAVE accomplished. My bike time was faster. It’s not like I got slower. And also, as stated above, my 400 time has been steadily decreasing between January (8:45) and today (8:17). Also, I’ve been getting way faster on my runs right off the bike. BECAUSE we’ve been focusing on cadence during the HI training sessions. So now, when I get out of the saddle, my legs just wanna go go go! So really, I’m living this article and need to cultivate patience and understand that the more time you put into training, the less time you put into the race.

Now to the pudding recipe. It isn’t great but if you’re craving chocolate and short on time, give it a whirl:

Quickie Chocolate Pudding

2 cups  unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp sugar (I used coconut palm but you can use whatever you prefer)
2 tbsp corn starch
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp salt
1 pat of butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions

Whisk one cup of milk with corn starch to make a slurry. In a sauce pot, whisk together the remaining milk, sugar, cocoa, spices and salt. Bring to a simmer and then add the slurry. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Run your finger across the back of the spoon. If the track stays clean, no drips, the pudding is done. Strain over a bowl to eliminate any lumps and then stir in the extracts and butter. Pour into 3 serving bowls. Cover exposed area with a small sheet of waxed paper or parchment or plastic wrap, then cool slightly and chill until cold. The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.

About 150 calories per serving, 5.6g total fat, 1.5g sat fat, 21.2g total carbs, 10.2g sugar, 2.2g protein.

Roll it Up!

12 Mar

I kinda don’t know what’s happening with me right now but every meal I turn out for myself these days is off the chain. Inspired by my own post this morning, I drove out to, I dunno, Somewhere South West of Where I Life, to a mini-mall where I knew there was an Asian super market. It was tiny but it had a lot of the stuff I mentioned in my earlier post. I purchased the items below:

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That’s two packages of nori sheets, a pouch of Chinese five spices, a bottle of fish sauce, a bottle of rice vinegar and a bottle of Thai red curry powder. I knew that tonight’s meal was gonna be another weirdo nori burrito and I knew that I was going to put chicken in it somehow but it really didn’t come together until the last minute and when it did, Boy Howdy, was it a winner!

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I started with boneless skinless chicken breasts. Hit them with some S&P and tossed them on a hot grill for about 15 minutes until they were cooked through. At the same time, I also had some brussels going in an aluminum pouch. I’d tossed them in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, fish sauce and a little bit of sesame oil. I didn’t take a picture of the pouching process but here’s the finished product after they’d steamed for a bit and then been turned out onto the grill for about 5 minutes.

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Drool. These are so good, just looking at the picture is making me want to dive into the fridge for leftovers. But I won’t. While the grill was going, I had these bad boys going at 300 degrees in the oven.

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Those are oven sweet potato fries that I tossed in Chinese five spice powder and a little olive oil (seriously, 2 teaspoons of oil were used in this entire meal), salt and pepper.

Then I made a slaw out of napa, cucumbers and red peppers. With a dressing I created using 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt, about an ounce of that Silk unsweetened coconut milk beverage, some red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, mint and regular old grocery story curry powder.

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Then I decided to wrap it all up in nori because I am obsessed with seaweed and why not have fries in your sandwich?

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I made three of these bad boys and had them with my sprouts. This is what dinner looked like tonight.

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This is what eating healthy can look like people! It might sound weird to have the chicken and the sweet potatoes rolled up in seaweed but seriously, these little rolls had it all. They had crunch, they had chew, they had a little creaminess from the sweet potato and the yogurt dressing. Then there was spice and sweetness and all of it was cut through by the cold cucumbers. This entire meal was around about 300 calories, filled with protein and very low on the carbs. And the carbs that we’re dealing with are of the good-for-you variety. Brussels sprouts are the bomb. If you’re not eating them regularly, GET WITH THE PROGRAM ALREADY! Also EAT SWEET POTATOES! If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely an active person and both of these things are great for active people, people!

I’ll stop yelling at you now and get back to the Bachelor. Yeah that’s right, I’m watching the Bachelor. Haters gonna hate when they could be eating.

Thai Time: Remembrances of Meals Past and a Recipe for the Present

11 Mar

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I made this soup last night and after posting a bunch of pictures on Facebook, I got several messages and comments from folks who wanted the recipe. Then I got to the gym this morning and some of my teammates were like, “I ordered Vietnamese last night because I saw your dinner pix!” And I was like, “Why are you wasting your money when you can do it yourself?” There’s really no good Thai or Vietnamese in this town. Prove me wrong, I dare you. And it really is quite simple to approximate the flavors of South East Asia in your own home IF you have a few staple ingredients and the desire to taste those flavors every day, which I do. Why wouldn’t I? They’re amazing flavors.

Flavor is my downfall. I don’t overeat because I’m super hungry or super sad. I overeat because I get a flavor in my mouth and I just want to keep tasting it. If something has amazing flavor, I will eat it until I’m sick. Case in point, my friend Annie’s mushroom risotto last week and the Pavlova that followed it. And the cheese that preceded it. All of those things tasted so f-ing good, I just couldn’t stop. Until I had to. And by “had to” I mean “was forced to go into the other room to lie down on my back for ten minutes.”

I love to taste stuff. Lots of stuff. Before I moved to Miami, I was lucky enough to call Queens, New York–probably the most ethnically diverse corner of this continent–home for nine years. I was even luckier in that I lived in Jackson Heights, one of the most ethnically diverse corners of that ethnically diverse corner. The food in JH and its surrounding neighborhoods (Woodside, Corona, Elmhurst, Flushing, etc…) is off the hook if, like me, you are into tasting lots of stuff at lots of hole-in-the-wall restaurants that specialize in authentic food from far flung places like China, Poland, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, India and the Philippines, and on and on and on. Yes, I recognize that list is disorganized both in regards to geography and alphabet. Rather, it is organized in regards to my memories of specific restaurants from nearest to furthest in distance from my old apartment.

There is also extraordinarily good South East Asian food in Queens. And lots of it. I like Vietnamese but I will always go Thai first. Most folks in the know will tell you that Sripraphai is the place to go for serious Thai in Queens. Some people will debate whether or not it’s the absolute best but those people are hair-splitters: it does most things extremely well all the time. The only bad experience I’ve ever had there was when I nearly burned the roof of my mouth completely off on their red curry duck. But that was my fault, not theirs. I ordered Thai spicy and they delivered. Their curries are off the chain and they have all sorts of nuclear looking jelly desserts to attempt to eat with your friends after dinner. More for their novelty and potential for funny Instagram pix than for actual enjoyment.

However, back in the day, when my roommate and I didn’t want to walk all the way down to 69th, we’d head to the now defunct Zaab Thai. It still exists, I think, but is under different ownership and isn’t as good. When we were going, it was BYOB and there was one waitress who never judged us for ordering seven dishes for two people but would occasionally warn us when we insisted upon trying something she didn’t think we’d like. “No good for Americans,” she’d tell us and we, refusing to be lumped into the same category as all those white dip-shits who thought venturing out to a tiny store-front under the 7 tracks on Roosevelt counted as adventure travel, insisted that she bring it anyway. Only once did we actually admit to her that she’d been right. I forget exactly what we’d ordered but I remember it looked like human excrement and didn’t taste much better.

But everything else I ever ate there was on point. They specialized in Essan thai cuisine so they weren’t really big on those sweet coconutty curries that everyone loves so much. Instead, they made their own sausage and amazing BBQ beef salads and whole flash-fried fishes and glistening Kee Mao noodles with perfectly cooked Chinese brocoli and this fucking crazy addicting tamarind chicken dish that I always had to have. But probably the thing that made us go back again again was the Tom Yum. I have yet to find another Tom Yum that comes even remotely close to the one at Zaab. Granted, I have yet to go to Thailand (it’s on the list) but I can’t imagine anything anywhere tasting better than this soup. It was insane. And it’s the flavor of that soup that I attempt to recreate whenever I make anything Thai in my house.

The soup pictured above actually has very little in common with that Tom Yum outside of the flavor profile. But great flavor is what Thai food is all about. I really don’t think any other cuisine on the planet comes close to consistently nailing sweet, sour, salty, bitter (and yes, umami) in so many single dishes. In order to get that complicated flavor profile, you gotta throw a lot of things into the pot. But once you get comfortable with those items, it becomes increasingly easy to improvise. I’ve found that the easiest way to get those flavors into your food is by making a dressing. I’ve been making one based on the Green Emerald dressing from  True Thai by Victor Sodsook.  I make my version in large batches and store it in the fridge. It would likely last for a week or so, but I wouldn’t know because I normally go through a jar of it in a few days. I put it on everything. From the soup above, to salads, fish, vegetables, and my previously posted-on nori wraps. Here’s my version and please know I tend to eye-ball these things so my quantities are all estimates.

Edith’s Green Emerald Dressing

2 cloves garlic
1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and rough chopped (about 1/2″ square)
handful fresh basil, washed and stemmed
handful fresh cilantro, washed and stemmed
handful fresh mint, washed and stemmed
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tsp coconut palm sugar
1 tsp sambal oelek

Put everything in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. You can adjust to taste at this point, either with a little more vinegar or sugar depending on how you like things. But this should get you to a decent balance.

In order to do this, you’re going to have to stock your kitchen right. If you want to be completely overwhelmed, check out this awesome checklist. If you want to be normal about it, you can probably get away with just having these items on hand: fish sauce, rice vinegar, sambal or sriracha, fresh ginger and garlic, lemon grass, herbs like mint, basil and cilantro, onions, cashews, tiny dried shrimp, noodles (I use Shirataki but only because they are low-calorie and satisfy a craving, otherwise I’d use any of the noodles from that website above), eggplant, napa, coconut milk, good quality curry pastes and limes. You can pick up some of these items at regular grocery stores although they will be overpriced. If you have access to Asian specialty markets, go to one of them. Better selection, lower prices and some really cool stuff you never even knew existed.

The “recipe” for my noodle bowl only exists because I am jotting it down right now. You could easily do this with a different protein if you don’t like fish. Also, I was watching the nutritional content closely so I didn’t add the things that would make this even more delicious, like chopped cashews or coconut milk or pork. Also, I made a single serving so that’s what this recipe yields. If you want to make more, just double or triple, etc. The whole bowl was around 200 calories and packed with all the macros and micros a growing athlete needs.

Edith’s Thai-Inspired Fish and Noodle Bowl

2 cups nappa cabbage, shredded
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 pinch chili flakes
1 pouch Shirataki noodles
1 4oz cod fillet
2 cups low-sodium fat-free stock (chicken or vegetable are both fine)
1/4 cup each cucumber and red pepper, julienned
1/4 cup arugula, chiffonade (this is the only “non-traditional” item in the bowl but I had some on hand so I used it)
Green Emerald Dressing to taste

Sautee napa, onions and chili flakes in olive oil and add a little of the stock to braise. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the veg is translucent but still a little crunchy. Thoroughly rinse your Shirataki noodles (they smell awful right out of the bag but the smell goes away after you rinse and cook them). Combine stock and fish in a small covered pot over medium heat. Poach fish until cooked, about 7-10 minutes. Remove fish and set aside. Cook noodles in boiling stock for about 5 minutes. Drain noodles reserving a little bit of the liquid and place in a large soup bowl. Add braised cabbage and fish the the bowl. Top with cucs, pepper and arugula. Add dressing. Bon appetit!