Tag Archives: vegan baking

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.

Crazy Begets Crazy

5 Mar

It’s been a wild few weeks of air, auto and rail travel, meetings, milestones, head colds, writing projects, performances, friends in town, friends out of town, and through it all, training, training and more training. After dropping my friend D off at the airport at 5:30AM; after a 6AM weight training session and an 8:45AM appointment with my foot and ankle orthopedist who told me that one of the joints in my feet is fused in a way that explains ALL the pain I’ve ever experienced from standing, walking and/or running; after paying some bills and taking care of some work-work, I had the day to myself.

I made a giant pot of veggie “baked” beans in my crock-pot and then finally got my gas sitch fixed so I have a working oven. Yes, I realize that’s a funny sentence. Beans, gas, ha ha. Whatever. I can eat hot food again, which is nice since it’s friggin frigid in Miami right now. Then I spent the rest of the day writing and fighting a migraine. I know I got this migraine because I fell off the wagon again and had coffee this weekend and then didn’t have coffee this morning. C’est la vie.

I was in front of the computer for about five hours working on this ongoing project that is kicking my ass but also making me very nostalgic. It was a busy day disguised as a relaxing day and at the end of it, I was feeling a little loopy and overheated from sitting under my heating pad on the couch. I debated whether or not to go out on my Monday recovery run but then realized that I absolutely had to do it because I needed some physical activity to counter the cerebral activity of the day. I had just been writing about this exact balance and so it only made sense to live the narrative.

The weather was perfect. The whole Grove smells like it’s on fire (in a good way) because everyone is using their fireplaces right now. The Commodore trail was empty but for a few runners out enjoying the night and I  just felt fantastic. So my 2o minute RR turned into a 40 minute RR and I wanted to keep running but knew to do so would be foolish. It would turn this workout into something different and I’m trying to stay on plan. Still, what a night. It all felt so good that I got home and did this:

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I’d been talking about it and talking about it and I finally decided to do it. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and be all, “Never make an important decision if you’re in the midst of a runner’s high!” But I doubt it. I got twelve weeks to shed my wetsuit and get comfortable with the thought of a 1.2 mile lake swim in South Florida in May. Bring it.

The Rest of Sunday’s Baking Extravaganza

13 May

Oh this is a good one. Vegan and Gluten Free. I don’t quite know what to call this because there’s a lot going on. At heart, it’s a pumpkin bread with a lemon glaze. But it’s vegan and gluten free, covered in chopped cashews and pumpkin seeds and fragrant with the scent of ginger and cinnamon. It’s totally not seasonal, I know, but again, I am trying to run through what’s in my pantry and I had what I needed to make this loaf of deliciousness.

This loaf also marks my first attempt at using chia seeds as an egg substitute. I think it worked. I baked a tiny little tasting loaf for myself and the consistency is really killer. It’s moist and dense like a pumpkin bread should be. I think I added just a touch too much ginger but oh well. Next time.

Yeah, I really piled on the nutty topping with this one. It’s just chopped cashews and pumpkin seeds that got nice and toasty in the oven during the bake. The glaze is simply lemon juice and some confectioners sugar drizzled onto the bread while it was still a little warm.

Very excited to cut into this thing later. Here’s the recipe. It’s intense.

The Nutty Pumpkin Lemon Head: a vegan, gluten free production

Ingredients:

2 tsp chia seeds
6 tbsp water
1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup corn starch
2 tsp xantham gum
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 15oz can pumpkin
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
chopped cashews and pumpkin seeds for topping
About 4 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Soak chia seeds in water for about ten minutes. Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside. Mix together chia seeds, sugar, pumpkin, oil, molases and vanilla. Alternately add dry ingredients and almond milk and mix until well combined.

Pour into greased loaf pan and cover with the chopped nuts. Bake for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan. Remove from pan when still a little warm and place on a wire rack. Mix lemon juice and confectioners sugar until the sugar is totally dissolved. Place a sheet pan or piece of aluminum foil under the wire rack to catch drips and drizzle glaze over the bread.

Not Easy Like Sunday Morning (with Tons of Vegan Baked Goods)

13 May

As far as Sundays go, this one has been a doozy. Not a totally overwhelming doozy but the last several hours have provided me with more excitement than I can normally stand on what is known, in certain circles, as the “Lord’s Day,” or “the day of rest.”

I woke up this morning around 6AM, fully expecting that I’d be out to door at 6:45 ON my bike, half-way to Key Biscayne by 7:15AM and joining up with my crew at Alien Endurance beach by the appointed 7:30 departure time. We had a time trial test scheduled for today, as well as an additional 40 minute easy ride and I thought I’d skip the car and spend some real quality time with Titita today. I sort of got what I wanted but not what I’d expected.

At 6:30AM I went in to pump Titita’s tires and discovered that her back one was flat. Frack. I’ve never had to change a back tire before–in fact, I’ve only (knock on wood SO HARD) had to change my front tire once since buying the bike and that was during a tire-changing clinic. So OK, my back tire was flat. Learning experience if nothing else. And if I could could get in there and get the job done in less than fifteen minutes, I could still keep to the original plan.

I’m so glad it’s seven hours later and I can laugh at this now. I was not laughing at 6:45. By 6:45 I had miraculously managed to change the tire but failed to anticipate how difficult it was going to be for me to get the wheel back on. I thought I had it right then realized I had it really wrong, then realized I had no idea how to do it correctly. Thank God for You Tube. I searched “changing back bike tire” and found a couple of videos that made the process look insanely easy–likely because the stars of said videos were both bike mechanics.

This didn’t go well. It didn’t go at all for a good twenty minutes. By 7AM I was screaming and cursing and covered in grease and dirt. Oh, and blood. Did I mention that while my wheel was lying on the ground I managed to ram my right big toe into the casette? Oh yeah. And it bled. Oh how it bled. A real gusher. Which is actually a good thing because God only knows what sorts of horrifying micro organisms were attempting to enter my blood stream as all of this was happening. Yes, I cleaned and disinfected the wound a little later.

By 7:10AM, the bike was still in two pieces and I knew there was no way I could make it out to Kew Biscayne without my car by 7:30. I took a breath, channeled my inner bike mechanic and managed to get the wheel back in and the tire pumped by 7:16. I paused for a moment and took a glance around: the room looked like a freakin’ murder scene. The floor was covered in blood and bike grease; several black palm prints were decorating one of the walls.I was totally covered in filth but didn’t pause to clean up. I tossed the bike in the car, high-tailed it out to KB and was only 8 minutes late.

The rest of the group started without me but I caught up and got my TT in. Did 2.57 miles in 8:13.76 at the tippy top of Zone 4, for an average pace of 19.1mph with a pretty decent headwind going out. I am pleased with this. It is better than the last one and that’s all that matters. Took the rest of the ride easy and stayed in Zone 3, averaging just around 17mph for a little over 45 minutes. All in all, not too shabby and the ride was a perfect antidote to a stressful start of my day.

And then I came home and got to spend the remainder of the morning doing one of my absolute favorite things: baking up a storm! I’m going to a dinner party hosted by The Vegan this evening and I told her I’d bring dessert. Since I’m shoving off next week, there’s a ton of stuff in my pantry that I’m trying to use up. Plus, I found three really great looking recipes online the other day that I wanted to try/tweak/etc… So I figured the party gave me a perfect excuse to do a little sweet genius work in the kitchen.

First, I made Post Punk Kitchen’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles.

These things are the bomb! I tweaked the recipe just a teensy bit and used King Arthur white whole wheat flour and a full teaspoon of both the cinnamon and cayenne. I really prefer cookies like these a little on the soft side, so I under baked them by 3 minutes (7 minutes total) and then let them finish baking on the warm cookie sheet outside of the oven.

I was really surprised that these babies spread as much as they did; came out a little bigger than I’d anticipated. But they remind me of a chocolate version of my mom’s Christmas ginger cookies (can’t keep my hands off those). They are chewy and spicy and chocolatey and pretty much totally dangerous. I had one (gotta test them before I serve them to people, right?) and then immediately packed them up.

Next up, I took this recipe for whole wheat fig bars (also from Post Punk Kitchen) and gave them the multi-treatment. Figs are, unfortunately, a migraine trigger and I know they bother me because I’ve eaten them recently and they, well, bothered me. So I decided to make a dried cherry-cranberry compote and use that as the filling instead. I also used dark brown sugar instead of granulated; ground almonds instead of flax; and white whole wheat again, instead of regular whole wheat.

I think I like these even more than the chocolate cookies. I’ve never really been a big chocolate dessert fan (I’ll take the vanilla, lemon or fruit-themed dessert over the chocolate one any day) so these little berry bars do me just fine.

They almost feel more like a breakfast treat than they do like a dessert because they’re not overly sweet and they have a really lovely earthy flavor–like whole wheat blueberry muffins or pancakes–and a crumbly, crunchy texture thanks in part to the addition to ground almonds and turbinado between layers. I made enough adjustments to this recipe that I’m going to post my version in addition to a link back to the original (above). The final piece of today’s baking puzzle has just come out of the oven so I’ll save it for a separate, much shorter post. It is both vegan and gluten free.

Vegan Berry Bars

Filling:

1 lb dried cranberries and cherries, mixed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup of water

Crust:

2 tbsp ground almond meal
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup canola oil (could substitute coconut oil)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8″ baking pan.

To make the filling, combine berries, zest, lemon juice, sugar and water into a heavy bottomed sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the berries have plumped up and softened. Monitor this while it cooks as it might be necessary to add a little more water to keep the mixture from burning. Remove from heat and cool. Place mixture in a food processor and pulse until you achieve the consistency of thick preserves. Set aside.

To make the crust, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine almond meal, sugar, oil, milk and vanilla. Mix until completely smooth. Add dry ingredients until the dough comes together. It will be very sticky. In a small bowl, mix the ground almonds, turbinado and cinnamon together.

Press half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle with a third of the almond cinnamon-sugar mixture and then evenly spread the berry preserves over the bottom layer. Sprinkle with another third of the almond cinnamon-sugar mixture and then top with remaining dough, smoothing it out with a metal spoon dipped in warm water. Sprinkle what remains of the almond cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake for 30 minutes until the dough puffs up and turns golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan before cutting. Cut into 15 bars and store in an air tight container.

Feeling Seedy: Chia-Flax Crackers

11 May

These little crispy wheat-free crackers were an idea I picked up from a very smart teammate. They look a little like bird food but I gotta tell you, they’re goooooood. I tweaked her recipe with the addition of pumpkin seeds and some spices but the possibilities are really endless here. I even considered throwing in some shredded apple for a little sweetness but opted to keep these a purely savory snack for the moment. They take a little bit of time but are worth the wait if you’re really craving something salty but not full of nonsense ingredients.

Chia-Flax Crackers

Ingredients:
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
coarse salt for sprinkling
cayenne pepper for sprinkling
garlic powder for sprinkling

Directions:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine the flax and pumpkin seeds in the work-bowl of a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse grind. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flax/pumpkin mixture with the chia seeds and water and let the whole thing sit for a couple of minutes until it all gets nice and gluey–sounds delightful, right? Next, add the carrots and mix thoroughly with your hands. Sorry, but hands are really the only way to go here. Spread the mixture into a nice even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, cayenne and garlic powder. It will look like this:

Place on the middle rack of your oven and “bake” for about an hour and change. I’m putting the word bake in quotes here because you’re not actually baking anything, you’re just trying to dry the mixture out.

After the initial hour and change, remove from the oven and cut into squares like so:

At this point, they will still be pliable and a little chewy and not particularly flavorful. Never fear. Give them the biscotti treatment and return them to the low oven for another 40 minutes or so. By then, they should be nice and crispy and will look like this:

They have a really mellow, nutty flavor with just a kick of spice. Actually, and this is going to sound a little bizarre, but they kinda taste like pizza. Must be the garlic powder. They’re about 70 calories per serving (4 crackers) and have 3 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, are full of good fats and are high in vitamin A and low in sugar. So snack happy! But remember, there’s chia in here so be careful not to go overboard on these things. You may end up where I was a few weeks back before I did my chia vetting.

Dim Sum and Doped Up Date Nut Balls

1 May

After indulging my salt tooth post-race yesterday with WAY too much delicious dim sum at China Pavilion in the Flamingo Pines Shopping Center, I decided today had to involve a trip to Whole Foods, yoga and copious amounts of H2O.

Don’t get me wrong, CP was totally worth the 35 minute drive north to Pembroke Pines–it is vastly superior to any Chinese I’ve had here in Miami proper–and totally worth the extra intake of salt, sugar and fats. Possibly a little MSG too, thus the lingering headache all day today. Still: worth it. Below is a shot of MOST of the entire spread:

There was more but I couldn’t fit it all into the frame of my camera. I LOVE dim sum. Love love love. In fact, I love any meal that involves eating lots and lots of little things. I also love tapas. And I love Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink. I like my indulgent meals to last for hours. And I like to taste as much as possible. I like it when waiters just keep bringing me stuff. I like it when I think the waiters are done bringing me stuff and then, surprise! They bring me more stuff!

I liked this glistening platter of beef chow fun because it reminded me of the drunken noodles I used to get at Zaab Thai in Jackson Heights. Before Zaab went to the dogs (maybe literally).

I liked these adorable, perfectly round steamed custard buns despite and because of the fact that they looked like boobs. Also, they reminded me of my walks around Chinatown when I was doing time as a grand jury participant back in the summer of 1997.

I liked the steamed roast pork buns (steamer basket left bottom corner) for the same reason I liked the custard buns–not the boob part (dear God), just the grand jury memory– and because they were delicious. I liked the custard puffs (large plate center) because they had custard in them too and reminded me of the sfogliatele I ate in Naples when I was there in December of 2005. I liked the sesame ball and pan fried taro cake (small plate top right) because they were both chewy and sweet and salty.

As much as I try to get behind this whole food as fuel thing, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully embrace that philosophy. Because food is so much more than just the gas that keeps this motor running. It is memories of vacations, family dinners, crazy adventures and…well, food. Some of my fondest memories in life are food related. From my first bowl of carrot soup to my first experience with scuppernongs to the first time I ever set foot in a Logan’s.

Oh God. Logan’s.

It’s funny. We ordered way way way too many things at CP yesterday and couldn’t finish most of what we ordered. After the meal, we were stuffed beyond belief and feeling kind of gross but looking at these pictures now makes me want to jump into my car and drive back up to Pembroke Pines for a quickie MRI, a pedicure and more Dim Sum. You can get all of those things and more at the Flamingo Pines mall!

But alas, meals such as that one must now be reserved for days when I run 13.1 miles. I’m no spring chick. More like a sassy hen who’s clucked and scratched her way around the coop a few times. If this hen stops clucking and scratching, she will start to resemble those adorable little custard buns shown above and nobody wants a hen shaped like a basketball. So today, I was back on track with my egg whites, lean ground turkey, black beans, lots of berries, Kashi, protein powder, etc…

I did do a little no-bake experimenting with my favorite rediscovered super fruit–the date–and my latest Whole Foods bulk purchase–hemp seeds.

I used this recipe from Good Girl Gone Green as a starting point and created my own variation, the Doped Up Date Nut Ball. Almond butter is on the way out for me. The last few times I’ve eaten it, I’ve sorta felt headachy afterwards. So I’m switching to sunflower seed butter for the moment because I know sunflowers are fine.

Still, I had about four tablespoons of almond butter left and I hate wasting food. I decided I’d make this batch of balls with what little AB I had left and then be done with the stuff. I also had a few figs lying around (also a migraine trigger) and didn’t want to waste those so I used them in the recipe as well. I just figured that if the balls make me super sick, I’ll give them away to some starving vegan street urchin or something.

They’re really tasty and not terribly bad for you. 1 ball is about 87 calories, has 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein and is full of healthy fats. The hemp also gives them texture and a nice amino acid boost–if you care about such things. I rolled them in a little cocoa powder but that’s optional. These things are gonna be great on the super long bike I have planned for this weekend.

Doped Up Date Nut Balls

5-7 Pitted Dates
5-7 Figs
4 Tbsp Almond Butter
2 Tbsp Sunflower Butter
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
3 Tbsp Hemp Seeds

Place dates and figs in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until the fruit becomes a soft, sticky paste. Add the nut/seed butters, extract, cinnamon and ginger and pulse to fully combine. Move mixture into a small bowl and add hemp seeds. Work the seeds through the mixture with your hands. Make balls of the mixture about 1″ diameter either with an ice cream scoop or your hands. Roll the balls in cocoa powder and place on a cookie sheet. Freeze for a few hours and enjoy.