Thursday, July 17, 2014

Salted Caramel Cupcakes (GF!)

It's been a crazy summer thus far, but moving day is almost upon us! Tomorrow I will move out of the Cambridge apartment in which I've lived for the majority of my time at MIT and into a new apartment in Somerville. I'm most excited for my spacious bedroom and the lack of central AC. Seriously! I'm chronically cold and it's such a bummer to have to sleep in thermal long-sleeved flannel pajamas under 4 blankets in the middle of July. Hurrah for short-sleeves and one quilt! I have also really enjoyed the space in my 8' by 9' prison cell room that has happened by trading in my queen bed for a twin air mattress. I'm excited to set up my full bed in a 10' x 13" space. I may even have some space to do core and work in my bedroom now.

One thing that I definitely wanted to do before moving, was celebrate my roommate/ best friend's birthday that was on July 1st. While I'm looking forward to the warmth of the new apartment, using the oven in a non-air conditioned home in July is just crazy. So I've been on the lookout for a good gluten free cake recipe to make before we move. The first year she found out she was gluten intolerant, I used a gluten free box mix and then in subsequent years I've used store-bought gluten free flour. This year though, I wasn't really feeling the $10 for a 1lb box of flour. So when I saw this recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes on Hungry Curious, I got really excited and knew I had to make my own version, since I hate bananas and that's what is used as the binder. This recipe calls for only oat flour, which is by far my favorite gluten free flour: since it's made by simply food processing rolled oats, it's almost a cheap as wheat flour and it's nutrient dense to boot since it's a whole grain. The one problem that I've had with making cakes from oat flour though is that the center of the cake will fall once the cake is cooled, since the elasticity of gluten is what lets it keep that shape. This has happened without fail, no matter how much binder or leavening agent I add! This recipe cleverly disguises and makes use of the central divot in the cupcake by filling it with salted caramel. Genius! 

The other critical part of the birthday celebration is the trip. Last year, we took an amazing trip up to Cape Ann and saw 4 lighthouse, visited a beach, and also had lunch and salt water taffy in our favorite town (Rockport). This year though, we opted for a lower key adventure with a sunrise trip to Revere Beach. If you haven't been, this is a great weekend to check Revere Beach out because it's hosting it's annual Sand Castle Competition! This morning though, The sandcastles weren't very far along due to a rain storm last night. Instead, we took the opportunity to revel in the calm before the storm and enjoyed the waves crashing on a pristine, empty beach. Although it was overcast, we still enjoyed the beautiful views.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes (GF!)


1c rolled oats, food processed to oat flour
1/3c almond meal
2/3c cocoa powder
1tsp baking soda
2tsp baking powder
3T brown or raw sugar (optional)
pinch sea salt
1T flax seed + 3T warm water
1c almond milk (unsweeted vanilla)
1/4c maple syrup
2T coconut oil
1t vanilla
1T apple cider vinegar

Salted Caramel

1/2c salted almond butter
1/2c maple syrup
1T coconut oil
1t vanilla
sea salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. In a food processor, food process 1c rolled oats to a fine flour.
3. Add 1T flax seed to 3T warm water and set aside to soak.
4. Add oat flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar to a mixing bowl and stir to combine. The original doesn't call for sugar and I rarely use it but a birthday is a special occasion!
5. Add flax seed, almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine. (Note: you don't need to use an electric mixer like most cakes, just a spoon will do)
6. Stir in apple cider vinegar.
7. Fill 10 cupcake tins with the batter and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. While the cupcakes are done baking (or the next day), add all the ingredients for the salted caramel to a sauce pan. I chose to be conservative with the salt and add additional salt crystals on top once I tasted the caramel to make sure I didn't make it too salty.
9. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly.
10. Once the edges start to bubble, keep stirring an additional two minutes. (Or: stop when it first starts to bubble for a runny caramel, or boil up to  four minutes for a stiffer caramel. Just keep stirring!)
11. Drop a generous spoonful of the caramel on the top of each cupcake. Wait until the caramel is cool so that you don't burn your mouth! It's tough, I know, but it's only 10 minutes... Enjoy!

Nut-free version: Replace almond milk with soy milk, almond butter with sunflower butter, and the almond meal with an additional 2T cocoa powder and 2T oat flour.

More sandcastles to come at Revere this weekend!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Carrot Cake Cookies

Hmm... I'm sensing a theme for July here... first, naturally, carrot cake! The second, that I only have time to post once/ week. I'm sorry about that! Things have been very chaotic on the MIT front with two undergraduate researchers to supervise, as well as a paper to write and on the life front, since the moving process has started! Thus far, moving has been a combination of exhausting, stressful, and empowering. The biggest beast has yet to move (my queen sized box spring. Ugh! What was I thinking?! Actually, I know exactly what I was thinking: I bought it early in the courtship of my fiancé and I was trying to woo him with a super comfortable and spacious bed.) but we are getting there. Thus far I've moved a sofa and dresser from a 3rd floor walk up to a 3rd floor walk up with only the help of my roommates, and actually, I even got the dresser up all by myself! My atrophied cyclist's upper body has been very sore, but I am shocked and pleased to say that my shoulders and back aren't complaining at all. What a difference from 4 years ago when we moved into this place, when I had to recruit everyone I could to help me. In 2010, I couldn't even lift heavy boxes by myself since I had busted my right shoulder rowing, and my left in a cycling crash. They say time heals all wounds and I am happy to report that while it is a slow process, I am still on the mend and improving every day from the mental and physical wounds that I incurred in 2010. (For those who don't know me personally, a few weeks after the series of injuries including the shoulder injuries above, my best friend passed away.)

Anyways, back to the carrot cake! I made these gluten free, processed sugar free carrot cake cookies for my roommate to power her through a really tough week, and as a tide-me-over for her overdue birthday present. Sweetened by the carrots and applesauce, these cookies are a keeper! The would make really good ride snacks, especially if you replaced 1/2c of the oat flour with 1/2c protein powder. Give them a try! I hope you enjoy them.

Carrot Cake Cookies

1c oat flour (rolled oats, food processed)
1c shredded carrots
1c rolled oats
1T cornstarch
1/2t baking soda
2T cinnamon
1t ginger
1T flax seed + 3T water
1/2c unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whatever milk you like!)
1/4c apple sauce
1/2c raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Soak 1T flax seed in 3T water.
3. Food process 1c rolled oats to a fine powder. Transfer to mixing bowl.
4. Food process 1c shredded carrots. Add to mixing bowl.
5. Add additional oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger to the bowl. Stir to combine.
6. Add flax seed "egg", almond milk, and apple sauce. Finally, stir in the raisins.
7. Shape into balls and press onto a greased cookie sheet (unfortunately, they dough doesn't "drop" very well so you have to play with is).
8. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Carrot Cake Summer Oats

Lately, I've been pretty infatuated with the idea of carrot cake. Naturally, I love the idea of a cake that's centered around a vegetable and it's been done so well that everyone accepts it as delicious! I've been trying hard to come up with a carrot cake recipe for a few months now, starting with some gluten-free carrot cake muffins that I sweetened with raisins waaay back during lent. Nothing has come out particularly well. Last week, after a good run of about a month of smoothies for breakfast, I started craving oatmeal. However, I've been down this road before during the summer. It sounds good, but in reality, the last thing I want when I get back from my morning ride, dripping in sweat, is a hot breakfast! However, the desire for oats continued and I spent some time thinking about how I was going to use them. I found a recipe that put oats in a smoothie, but that seemed like a waste. It wasn't so hot this weekend, so I made some oatmeal on the stove with cocoa powder, nuts, and dried fruit. Delicious! However, I am not going to use a stove on a weekday morning so repeating that experience was out. I also tried making carrot cake oatmeal in the crockpot. The taste was there and the spices were right, but rolled oats definitely get too mushy in the crock pot overnight. Finally, I stumbled across a recipe on Finding Vegan that suggested mixing up the ingredients for your oatmeal the night before and just letting it sit in the fridge overnight. This sounded about my speed! I'd get my oats, they would be refreshingly cool and not too mushy, and there was minimal prep time. This carrot cake recipe finally turned out to be a success. Just a reminder to be open-minded when trying it: the carrots are still a bit crunchy, so if you don't like that it might be worth cooking them first. I decided that I loved the crunch that they added though. Vegetables for breakfast!

Carrot Cake Summer Oats

1/2c rolled oats
1/2c water
1/3c vanilla almond milk
1c shredded or baby carrots, food processed
1T flax seed
1t cinnamon
1/4t ginger

Food process carrots to a fine shred. It only takes a few pulses in a high speed blender. Add all ingredients to a tupperware container and let sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, grab your breakfast and go! If you like your cereals a little sweeter, add some raisins and/ or maple syrup.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Alvocado-Lemon-Dill Potato Salad

Hi guys! Sorry I've been so bad at posting this month. I have a confession to make: I've been working on writing a review paper, and I actually missed my first deadline ever. I was supposed to have my part done almost two weeks ago, but alas! I am still putting the finishing touches on it. So that's why I haven't had the chance to write much here. Lots has been going on, even though June has been a light month for bike racing. I also will be moving from Cambridge to Somerville over the next month, so watch out! The madness continues. Really though, despite the added stresses my summer has gotten off to a great start.

Last weekend, my fiancé and I went to Vermont for his grandma's funeral and memorial service. This was my fiancé's mom's mom and I never had a chance to meet her. From the memories and pictures shared at the service, it was clear that she was a wonderful, loving woman who had a big impact on the family and it made me feel even more honored that my fiancé has chosen me as a partner, knowing that she was a standard to which I was held. The service, while lovely, was a bit awkward for me, because well, it was held exactly four years (to the day) after I had learned that my best friend passed away. So I was in a vulnerable state: the minute Aidan started crying it took every ounce of my willpower to prevent myself from sobbing. I managed to hold myself almost together, but I will confess I was very relieved to leave the church and put my sunglasses on.

Anyways, while we were in beautiful Vermont, I made my fiancé take a side trip with me for a short hike to see Ft. Dummer. The park was beautiful and it was nice to finally be out in the woods, however, only once reaching the lookout point did we learn that Ft. Dummer had been flooded when a dam was built in 1908. What a bummer! The view was still pretty though.

Somewhere under that water, lies the remains of Fort Dummer...

After the funeral, we took a day to go visit my fiancé's parent's and while there, I had a chance to look through the new Oh She Glows Cookbook. You should definitely check out the cookbook too, so many delicious recipes! While flipping through though, a recipe for potato salad using avocado rather than mayonnaise caught my eye. In Pennsylvania, potato salad is a delicious affair, and my favorite recipes are light on the mayo and heavy on the bacon and bacon fat (seriously, google "Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Salad" and you'll see!) As such, I've found potato salad lack-luster since becoming a vegetarian. However, a potato salad filled with crave-able avocado definitely sounded like something I could get behind! I changed the recipe from the book, adding celery for more crunch and chickpeas for more protein. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Alvocado-Lemon-Dill Potato Salad

1 ripe alvocado
5 scallions
juice of two lemons
1 bunch dill
freshly cracked black pepper
~1/4c water

2lb red potatoes
1 bunch asparagus
4 stalks celery
3 scallions
2 cans chickpeas, drained and thoroughly washed.
salt and black pepper to taste
(optional: olive oil)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Dice potatoes to 1/2" cubes, slice asparagus, celery, and scallions.
3. Add potatoes to roasting pan, adding a touch of olive oil, if you desire, and plenty of salt and black pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and the desired consistency. (Pro tip: Microwaving lemons before juicing helps you get more juice out!)
5. For the last 10 minutes of the potato roasting, add in the asparagus.
6. Add celery, scallions, and chickpeas to a bowl. Add sauce, and once the potatoes and asparagus are done roasting.

Serving choices: as an entree, as a side, or on an arugula salad!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

It's that time of year again... the time of year when you come home from a hot ride, drenched in sweat and the thing that sounds best in the world is a jar of cool, crunchy, salty, dill pickles! I love pickles, and so does my fiancé. So much so, that the entire two jars I made were gone in the day between when I said they were "almost ready" and the day I was going to officially declare that they were ready. The key to these pickles are bunches and bunches of fresh dill, good apple cider vinegar, and a bit of patience. The best part is, you make these pickles up cold, so the cucumber stays crispy! Give this super easy recipe a try, but make sure to hide them until they are ready... once they're opened they will disappear quickly!

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

2 large cucumbers
1 large bunch dill
8 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
1/4c sugar (brown or white. If you're brave you can try maple syrup!)
~2c apple cider vinegar
~1c water
sea salt to taste

1. Slice cucumbers (either into spears or chips) and onions. Dice garlic cloves.
2. Wash your dill and divide it generously between two jars. Add garlic, onions, sugar (2T to each jar for 1/4c total), and salt.
3. Pack in cucumber slices.
4. Fill packed jars 2/3 of the way with vinegar, then top with water. Shake jars to dissolve salt and sugar and taste your brine. Add more salt or sugar to your taste.
5. Let pickles marinate for 3 days in the fridge, then make your big reveal and enjoy!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Thai Green Curry

Up there with channa saag on my list of favorite exotic dishes is Thai green curry. I'm very likely to order this at a Thai restaurant and I also am likely to have several containers of the pre-made, store-bought spice mixture sitting around my apartment. The light, sweet flavors of ginger and basil sing together in my mouth! Previously, I've never tried to make it on my own because up high on the ingredients list, along with the ginger and basil, is lemon grass. I've never seen lemon grass in the grocery store, but this week while standing in line at the farmers market, I noticed a big stalk of lemon grass on sale for 25¢. Eureka! I added it to my cart and decided that I was going to give making own green curry a go. Turns out, the spice mixture used to make Thai green curry is much more forgiving than the spice mixtures I've been playing with to make authentic Indian food. I chose to use it to stir fry bok choy, bean sprouts, and eggplant. Bok choy is packed with vitamins A and C and offers health benefits like those of other cruiciferous vegetables. Bean sprouts are also rich in vitamins and minerals and offer a complementary protein source to the bok choy. The eggplant, while nutritious in its own right, was mostly added as sponge for the green curry sauce! I served it all over wild rice, but you can feel free to experiment once you give the green curry a try with the easy recipe below!

Thai Green Curry

1 bunch basil
2 large blades of lemon grass
1 small bunch cilantro (~6-10 stems)
1/3 onion
1 very large chunk fresh ginger (about 6 thumb-sized pieces)
3 cloves or (1T minced) garlic
2-3T sirracha (to taste)
2-3T brown sugar (to taste)
dash cumin and corriander
2c coconut milk (I used the carton-type from TJs. It's less rich than the canned and worked well!)

Add all ingredients to the food processor. Food process until smooth. Pour into a pan, pull out any unprocessed, tough strands of lemon grass, and bring to a summer.

Once the sauce was simmering, I added a stir fry of:
3 bunches bok choy, sliced (a cruciferous vegetable!)
1 bag bean sprouts
2 small eggplants, diced
which I allowed to simmer in the sauce until all the vegetables were tender. Then I served it over wild rice. However, you can use the sauce for any number of stir fried vegetables and then serve them over a bed of any type of rice or noodle. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Killington Stage Race (fueled by Apple-Sausage Pasta)

This weekend was a crazy one: I won the Killington Stage Race W3/4 RR, ITT,  QOM, and GC. Winning the GC (general classification, for all you non-cyclists) was one of my big goals for this season so I am thrilled! The weather for the weekend was good, in the 60s and mostly sunny, except for a few scattered showers. It was a world of difference from the pouring rain and snow we experienced last year! Also, we had a big group to travel with consisting of MIT, Pedal Power, and GLV cyclists, which made hanging out between races and dinner time very fun. The race was 3 days, and today I'm giving you a little recap of each stage, as well as a dinner recipe we used!

Day 1, Circuit Race: The circuit was two loops around a fairly flat 18 mile loop that was meant to favor sprinters. This was one of the weirdest and sketchiest races ever. It was like people were racing with fire ants in their pants. People were either soft pedaling or attacking on the downhill flats, but short, unconvincing attacks. Lots of shrieking and near crashes, so when a big crash happened AFTER the finish line, it wasn't all that surprising. I was planning to attack on the "hill" on the back side of the course to get away, however, I forgot how shallow it was. On the first lap, I was on the front going up the last bit of the "hill" towards the QOM, since on a real hill/QOM that's the best place to be. But this circuit's QOMs were really more of a sprint, so I got sprinted around then decided that the QOMs were not worth it. So then I spent significant time hating the circuit course for being the worst and sitting in. In the second half of the second lap, my teammate and I had planned that if I didn't get away, I'd lead her out for the sprint. So with about 5 miles to go, I got on the front and started drilling the pace to string things out. I was hoping to set her up to go at 1k to go. Unfortunately, things got antsy with all the McSketchersons racing and she went at just under 2k to go. It was a darn shame we botched that, because she ended up getting 1st or 2nd in all the intermediate sprints and I would have loved to see her in the Leader's jersey on the first day!

Day 2, Road Race: The RR was a hilly 61 mile route with a major climb at mile 25, and also up the last 5 miles. The first 25 miles (before the climb) were slower than I would willingly choose to go on a group ride. Seriously, my average HR was 125bpm for those miles. People were messing around, but fortunately the crash had given people a wake-up call and no one was being sketchy like yesterday. I got on the front on the short "hill" 3 or so miles in to set myself up to be at the front for the right turn into a steep descent with what they told us would be questionable pavement. That worked beautifully.
At around mile 20 someone asked me why I wasn't doing any work and I said, well on this stage everyone waits for the hill. She said "oh, you're going to pull us all up it?" In my mind, I laughed really hard and said "Oh honey" to her but that's when I decided that I could win it solo of the front if I had to. At the sprint line, one mile to the climb, I started moving up the pack, so I hit the sharp right turn (I've been practicing!) well about 4 wheels back. People were pretty bunched so I didn't have a clear shot right away, but as it started to loosen up, I had positioned myself pretty much right by the yellow line, so I started to inch my way up. Finally (you know, 2 minutes later. But it felt like an eternity), only 1 girl was kinda in my way and she had room to inch right for me. So I said "On your left." (I was once crashed into my someone on a hill when I was attacking on her left and she took the opportunity to paperboy, so I'd rather announce and not risk it.) She yielded and I attacked hard. Not these pansy 3/4 attacks I had seen the day before, but like I have to do to jump on a wheel when a P12 woman attacks on a hill. I hadn't picked quite the right gear, so it wouldn't have worked in a P12 field but it did the trick. I pushed for 30 seconds or so and looked back. I had a gap. Excellent. I kept climbing hard but not too hard, there was still plenty of time. In my ideal race plan two or so people came with me, and I figured I had a minute or two to wait to see if someone was strong enough to use. A minute or two later, I heard the heavy breathing behind me, so I knew I had picked some people back up. I looked back and about 8 girls were back on my wheel. This would not do. Someone tried to psyche someone else out by making a comment about how hard they were breathing. It sounded like the girl who thought I was going to pull her up the mountain, so that annoyed me. I waited 10 seconds and then attacked again, harder than before and continued to floor it for a minute or two until I couldn't hear the breathing anymore. I looked back and only one girl was on my wheel. Perfect! Now I just had to make sure that we opened a sizable gap.

I hammered and let her ride my wheel until the QOM, when she went around me to take the points. Now, the girl who came with me is a junior and I knew getting away with me was a good and surprising result for her. I also knew that she's even more tentative on descents than I am, so if I wanted us to stay away from the pack through the descents over the next 20 miles, it was up to me to drill the pace going down. So as I came around, I told her that last year the race was won by 2 people who got away and worked together, so as along as we both committed, we'd get 1-2. Then we executed the most beautiful 2-person effort that I've ever seen. I made sure to get on the front for the descents and looking at Strava files, I descended just about as fast as any of the women. I was so bold I even dropped her by a bit on the dirt descent. I tried to make her work a bit more than me and I ate about a million gels (translated: 7 gels for 60 miles!) to make sure that I'd have my kick on the final climb when I needed it. (Side note: at this point I was telling myself that if I couldn't win this race, I should quit racing bikes.)

When we approached the final climb neither of us really wanted to be on the front going into the turn, but after a moment's hesitation I decided I'd take it. We had worked so well together for 25 miles, no need to mess that up now. I knew I was punchier than her and the final climb is steep enough that I'd have no trouble attacking from the front. So we started the shallow part climbing steadily together with about 2 minutes on the field. Finally, the first switchback appeared and the road started to go up so I put in yet another real attack. A minute later, I looked back and saw that I had put a sizable gap on her. Only 25 minutes left in the race and as long as I didn't bonk or crash and kept it at threshold, I knew that the race was mine. I went hard, but within my comfort zone. I felt like I could have done better with someone pushing me. But it was a good hard effort and enough to win the day by three and a half minutes!

Finally got a coveted winner's photo from velocity!

Day 3, Time Trial: The TT was 11 miles, steadily uphill at about 1%. This was a decent effort, and enough to beat the 2nd place woman by almost 3 minutes, but really it wasn't my best. The wind was quite gusty in the morning: it seemed as though the morning race times were almost as slow as last year's. It's hard to compare, but I can say with certainty that I did better than last year. I have also been messing with my TT set-up and I finally felt like it was feeling good, so that was a bonus. The race started strong, but after I passed 5 people I started to wonder if I had it in the bag. And there was a flat spot in the middle where the winds suddenly made conditions faster so I didn't feel like I was slowing down. And then the next person to pass was way off... basically I spaced out for like a mile and then looked down and saw that my heart rate was at 166bpm. (It should be at 180bpm for a good TT!) Oh no! Time to get going again! I kicked it back into gear for the finish but that lack of focus cost me a good chunk of time, I'm sure.
As a side note: My teammate who I lead out for the sprint ended up 6th on the TT with no aero gear whatsoever. If she'd have even just had an aero helmet, she'd have been 2nd as she was only 30 seconds back. Man, she was hauling!

Also, as an FYI, after this wonderful weekend I asked for my upgrade to Cat 2. However, they denied it because I only have only earned 24 points since my Cat 4 upgrade. So if you are a Cat 3 woman upset about my sandbagging, please send complaints directly to USA cycling! Fortunately, if I get at least 3 points at my next race, I will have over 40 points in the last 12 months, which is a mandatory upgrade.

Anyways, I was asked by some people what I used to fuel myself. During the RR, I had a bottle of Hammer Heed, a bottle of Hammer Perpetum, 4 Accel Gels and 3 Honey Stingers. I was determined not to bonk this year and as such, managed to do the final climb 9 minutes faster this year than I did it last year! Saturday night, we ate Veggie Lasagna (and salad topped with beets) and Sunday night we had Apple-Sausage Pasta. The recipe for Apple-Sausage Pasta is shared below. I hope you enjoy it!

The vegan version, without smoked gouda cheese

Apple-Sausage Pasta

1 bag whole wheat rigatoni pasta
1 package vegetarian sausage, sliced (we used Tofurky brand)
4 apples, cubed
1/2 block smoked gouda cheese, cubed (omit to make it vegan)
1 bunch basil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 onion

1. Bring pot of water to a boil and prepare according to the directions on the package.
2. Meanwhile, chop (or food process) basil, garlic, and onion.
3. Saute basil, garlic, and onion with sausage.
4. After a few minutes, add the apple cubes and continue to cook until the sausage is browned and the apples are soft.
5. Just before removing it from the heat, add the cheese cubes. Stir for 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
6. Serve apples and sausage over pasta. Enjoy!

My favorite podium picture from the weekend. QOM with the mountains!