Monday, December 1, 2014

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

Surprise! Hello and welcome back... Energy Neutral is not dead. I've just been about as strapped as one person can be between simultaneously working as a professor at CMU and postdoc at MIT, all while planning my wedding and stubbornly putting in the groundwork training miles for my 2015 cycling season (in which I will ride for Breakaway Bikes p/b Felt and I aspire to earn my Cat 1 upgrade). If I find a free moment, I make something besides kale salad for dinner, but haven't found the time to write about it. In fact, I just realized that I never shared the recipe for the kale superfood salad that has been my dinner go-to for the last six months! (Although I did start a draft post about it back in July... hopefully I'll find some time to put it up at some point.)

Things have been a whirlwind since I started making visits to CMU in September. However, I've been dreaming about writing a blog post and getting back to doing more cooking for a while. Finally, over Thanksgiving I found some time to throw some ingredients in a bowl and try something new. While visiting the farmers market with my Dad to pick up the last fresh essentials for Thanksgiving dinner, we noticed one of the stands was selling baked oatmeal, and boy did it look good! This inspired me to go home and learn how to make baked oatmeal. I first tried carrot cake oatmeal, which was good, but my real winner was my pumpkin pie baked oatmeal. In this, I have found my perfect breakfast! Throwing a piece of this tasty bar in my backpack to accompany a smoothie (in which I add extra protein powder. Oats are a complete protein, but the carb to protein ratio is a bit high) keeps me going through lunch and beyond. This is gluten free and packed with all the goodies that pumpkin and oats offer. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

3c oatmeal (I used 1.5c quick cook and 1.5c old fashioned, just because that was what I had!)
1T baking powder
cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to taste
1 can purred pumpkin (15oz)
1c vanilla almond milk
1t vanilla
1/4c maple syrup
1/4c walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Mix the oatmeal, baking powder, and spices in a mixing bowl.
3. Add the pumpkin, almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup. Stir until all ingredients are wet.
4. Spray or grease a cassarole dish. Add the oat mixture and top with the walnut.
5. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm.
6. Cut, serve, and enjoy! Leftovers keep well for days, although it is unlikely that it will last that long...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pesto Pizza

Growing up in my house, Friday night was pizza night! I think this stemmed from the days before the second Vatican counsel, when all Catholics couldn't eat meat every Friday: cheese pizza was one of the easiest pescetarian foods to come by when my Dad was growing up in Western Pennsylvania. These days I don't always eat pizza on Friday nights, but I do get indignant when free food around campus involves pizza for lunch on Friday. This is one of my many quirks that makes my parents refer to me as "Sheldon Cooper," although Sheldon's pizza night is Thursday.

In truth, eating pizza on Friday nights is logical and practical. Pizza makes an excellent, substantial dinner before a race or a long ride and there are plentiful leftovers for after the ride (or the rest of the weekend). Best of all though, pizza is easy! If you order take out, it's ready by the time you drive to the pizza joint. While it's easy enough to make your own, I find the mixing bowl required to make the crust can be prohibitive on a Friday night. Like everyone else, I'm often really tired and hungry on Friday nights so my favorite time-saver is a freezer pizza from Trader Joe's. A freezer pizza gives me 10 minutes to do my daily core workout while it cooks, but doesn't delay gratification and dinner beyond that!

Recently, I found Trader Joe's pre-made pizza crusts and decided that at $2.49 for two pizzas, it was worth a shot. I chose to top it with a basil pesto sauce, scallions, and tomatoes, which is my favorite variety of cheese-less pizza. Most pizzas that omit cheese leave me wanting, but this creamy, basil-y pizza is everything you want in a pizza. Give it a shot the next time you are looking for a quick dairy-free pizza option!

Get it while it's hot... this pizza goes fast!

Pesto Pizza

1 Pre-made Pizza Crust (I like Trader Joe's)
    Alternatively, to make this gluten free, feel free to use polenta as the crust, like in my Polenta Pizza.
1 large bunch basil
2/3c nutritional yeast
3T olive oil
salt (optional)
splash balsamic vinegar
water (to thin as necessary)
1 large or several small tomatoes, sliced
5 scallions or 1/2 onion, sliced

1. Preheat oven according to crust package directions.
2. In a food processor, combine basil leaves, nutritional yeast, olive oil, garlic, salt, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Food process into a pesto paste, adding 1T water at a time as necessary to thin. Taste your pesto to make sure you have enough garlic!
3. Slice tomatoes and scallions.
4. Top pizza crust with pesto. Add tomato and scallion slices.
5. Bake for 12 minutes (or as the package directs.) Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

5 Things Lightweight Rowing will Leave You with Forever

Today's post is just a funny list that came to my mind. I still think about rowing often, but it seems that perhaps having to stop isn't the Fisher King's wound that I thought it was. I still hope to row again one day, but for now I'm very happy on my bike. Lightweight rowing though, is a very peculiar sport and every once in a while the quirky scars it's left on my personality still surface...

1. An uncanny ability to size up people on sight to know their height and weight. Especially if they are right around the lightweight numbers. I sized up my best friend in college to be 5'6" and 130lb and my best friend post college to be 5'5" and 125lb when I met them. The maximums for lightweight women are 130 for college and a 125 average international rowing. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I also chose to strike up that first conversation because I thought maybe I'd be able to row with them...

2. A deep relationship with your scale. It's not so simple as a love-hate relationship and it's not fear. The scale holds no power over your self esteem, but like a lover, your heart and mood are in its hands. You've had fights with The Scale and you might have spent hours hating it. Your Scale likely had a name and may have had a special box or piece of luggage that you use to travel with it. You swear that you will never weigh yourself again when you retire, and that may be true for months, even years... but someday, you will answer the siren call of The Scale and your relationship will be rekindled. It will never be the same, but you will also never be able to let go.

3. Knowing exactly how many calories are in everything. You might not think about it all the time, but God forbid anyone ever ponders, "I wonder how many calories are in this?" around you. You will know the precise answer.

4. An odd but comprehensive knowledge of how to drop weight and trick The Scale. You want to wake up two pounds lighter tomorrow? No problem! Don't eat any thing salty or with too much fiber in it and stop drinking water after 7pm. Done. Didn't work? Don't dismay! Just put on all of your winter running gear and go out for a run for 10 minutes (of course, use a treadmill/ elliptical/ erg if it's cold outside). If that still didn't work, you can always throw on a trash bag for the base layer or double layer your socks and/ or hat. And of course, don't forget to turn up the heat in your car as you drive to the weigh-in! Old, wise lightweights always tell you not to do these things and you know from experience that these tricks come with a price. But you still can't erase this knowledge from your mind!

5. A soft spot in your heart for early mornings. You may not be a morning person, but every once in a while, you find yourself pried early from your bed. In those dark, quiet hours you will enjoy your coffee and eventually watch rising sun and think about how beautiful it used to be shining over the water every morning.

Anything else any retired lightweights want to add?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Simple Zoodles with Tomatoes

Hello! There's been lots going on here with both research and summer racing season in full, zealous swing. But I'll leave that out for today to focus on... zoodles! My paleo friends have been talking about zucchini noodles for some time, but somehow I managed to overlook the trend. Until last week, when it hit me like a ton of bricks... I had been missing out! So I hastened over to Amazon and found this very simple, handheld spiral slicer for only $13.99. With so little to lose, I figured it was worth a shot: I would get a few good meals out if I didn't like it and could always upgrade if I found that I loved it. I was away most of the weekend, so when I came back on Monday and found my spiralizer waiting for me, I knew I had to try making zoodles immediately.

The spiralizer at work...
The concept of zoodles and a spirializer are very simple. You simply thinly slice zucchini into long strips and then treat it like you would pasta. You can eat your zoodles raw or lightly cooked, either way is delicious. Additionally, you have a choice of peeling the zucchini before spiraling or just leaving the skin on. As you can see, I chose to leave the skin on and I was really happy with that choice. One big bonus of zoodles over pasta, is that zucchini is really absorbent so it takes on the flavors of your seasoning very well. Additionally, one large zucchini will give you 4g good quality protein and 4g fiber, as well as a whopping dose of vitamins A, C, K, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, and potassium. Whoa! For our first zoodle experience, I chose to keep it simple and just sauté some tomatoes and onions with garlic, olive oil, and nutritional yeast to serve over the top. This turned out to be a delicious, simple summer meal that I'm hoping to make again soon!

Simple Zoodles with Tomatoes

2 large zucchini
1/2 pint fresh tomatoes
1/4 onion
1/3c nutritional yeast
2T olive oil
garlic and sea salt to taste

1. Spiralize zucchini/ summer squash using a spiralizer or julienne peeler. 1 large zucchini (or 1.5 medium zucchinis per adult is a good serving suggestion.) If using a hand held spiral spicer like mine for the first time, be careful! When your zucchini stub gets lower than the top of the "cone" you are at risk for nicking your fingers, which I did.
2. Slice tomatoes and dice onions.
3. Add onions to skillet with olive oil, garlic, and salt. Sauté until they turn translucent, adding water as necessary so that they don't burn (it'll boil off).
4. Add tomatoes and sauté for a couple minutes. Add nutritional yeast, which should turn into a light, creamy sauce as it combines with the juice from the tomatoes.
5. Add zoodles and sauté for a minute longer. Turn off heat and serve. Enjoy!

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.