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
garlic
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!)

Cupcakes

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

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

Salad:
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 results.com!

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!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hashbrowns and Lentil "Sausage"

Despite the lack of formal adventures last weekend, it was a delightful one. I took the weekend off from racing to rest up for Killington stage race next weekend, which is one of my "A" races for the season. Saturday started out very wet as I headed out for the local weekly hammer ride. The rain stopped by the time I got to the meet-up, but attendance was extremely low, presumably due to the combination of foreboding skies and the overlap of the popular Sunapee RR. My instructions for the morning were to do a hammer ride and "hit the hills hard." I was worried with this group that no one would want to push the pace, but after a few miles, it became obvious that at least a couple of the guys were feeling chipper, and well, no one shows up to this ride unless they expect to hammer so I worked up the courage to stretch my legs and try to push these guys a little bit. Now, contrary to what one may or may not believe about me, I feel no need to crush a guy's manhood unless he's done something to deserve it. (Basically, you deserve it if you've insulted me or someone else and I witnessed it.) If not, I understand that man-egos are delicate and for some reason it's devastating when a woman beats up on it. I don't understand why this is devastating because I am not a man, but I try to respect it. Well, I started taking pulls and punching up the hills as I was instructed. And before long... I had someone dropped all of the guys. Oops. After the hills, I was sitting up and waiting because I didn't want to be an a-hole and one guy kept chasing back on. Finally, after about 30 miles (the ride was supposed to be 42) he announced that he was cutting the ride short. Oops again. Respecting that he probably never wanted to see me again, I turned off and did a 20 minute interval with sprints every minute to finish off the hard work that I was supposed to do for the morning before heading home. Hopefully I can put in attacks that effective on the hills of Killington next weekend!

It's been a hard month of training, so Saturday I opted for a sandwich and to take a nap rather than making brunch for my fiancé and myself after the ride. (He was studying rather than making me brunch!) Sunday though, the sun was shining and I had a beautiful "OFF" written in my training plan so we slept in and then had brunch on the porch. My fiancé was in the mood for hashbrowns rather than waffles, so I made us hash browns, lentil sausage, and strawberry-mango smoothies. Perfect for brunch on the patio on a warm late spring morning!


Hashbrowns

3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 onion, diced
salt, pepper, smoked paprika to taste
3T olive oil

Place the potato chunks in the food processor and pulse a few times. I found that the size of the pieces are best if you put one potato at a time in the food processor. Add all ingredients to a large pan. Spread potatoes evenly across the bottom and turn the heat to medium high. Do not touch the potatoes for 5 minutes! (Set the timer.) This will ensure that you have a good crispy surface on the potatoes. Use a spatula to flip and continue to cook until potatoes are crispy and tender.

Lentil "Sausage"

1.5c dried red lentils
1/4c Dukkah spice
1T Vegemite
1/2 onion, diced
8oz baby bella mushrooms, diced
garlic, salt, pepper to taste

Cook the lentils by boiling in a large pot with ample water for ~10 minutes. When tender drain and rinse. Add lentils back to the pot along with other ingredients. Sauté for 10 minutes or so to infuse the flavors. Red lentils are great for this as some will start to mush together, to give a texture like sausage crumbles!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Go Anywhere Bars (GF!)

This weekend, I was craving granola bars. Not store bought granola bars, but the dense, textured homemade granola bars that are packed full of the good stuff: the kind you buy by the ski slopes that are custom made by a local baker and you buy for waaay too much money. So I looked in my cupboard, studied up on some recipes, and took a crack at it. For once, I was going for a specific taste more than a nutritional profile, but these bars hit home nutritionally too. There's no refined sugars, and plenty of protein and omega-3 fatty acids from the peanuts and the flax seed. So give this recipe a try and bring a batch on your next hike or bike ride and go anywhere!


Go Anywhere Bars

1/2c peanut butter
12 whole dates, pitted
1c vanilla almond milk
1/4c ground flax seed
1T cornstarch
1/2t baking soda
1T cinnamon
2c rolled oats
2c crisp rice cereal
1/2c dried cranberries
1/2c raisins
1/2c semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In the food processor, combine peanut butter, dates and almond milk. Process until a smooth paste forms.
3. Add in flax seed, cornstarch, baking soda, and cinnamon. Process again for a short time.
4. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in oats, cereal, cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips.
5. Press mixture into a 9x13 baking pan. (My batter didn't cover the whole thing, so I just kept it to one side.)
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Cut into bars and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
7. Let cool and enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Purple Sunrise Smoothie

I am a big fan of breakfast. It's the one meal I won't ever forget to eat and most days, I actually have two or three breakfasts. I know you other endurance athletes hear me on that one! Usually, I grab a Lara bar before I ride, have recovery drink after my ride (Vega Recovery Accelerator), and then have a real breakfast when I sit down at my desk and start to do work with coffee. Lately though, I've gotten tired of taking the time to pack, and then lugging around the breakfast, lunch, snacks, and sometimes even dinner that I take with me into MIT to get me through my day. I almost never buy food on campus so with the amount of food one has to eat if you're doing a lot of training, this gets old really fast! So that I can get away with packing less, I've started making smoothies in the morning, even if I haven't gone riding since it's something I can "eat" while getting ready. i.e. One less thing that I need to take with me! It's a throw-back to high school, when during swim season, my Mom would have my brother and I drink Carnation Instant Breakfast along with our "real" breakfasts just so that we wouldn't get too hungry before it was time for lunch. This smoothie recipe has been my favorite lately. It's only 4 ingredients (blueberries, spinach, protein powder, and almond milk) and with those packs in a serving of fruit, a serving of vegetables, and some good quality protein. With my vegetable smoothies, I've been using a sweetened protein powder, specifically Vega One Nutritional Shake. This protein powder is fortified with extra nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, chlorella, antioxidants, and probiotics, which helps me forgive the addition of stevia. Also, adding spinach or another non-sweet ingredient helps cut what I consider to be the excessive sweetness offered by the stevia. I hope you enjoy it!


Purple Sunrise Smoothie

3/4c frozen blueberries
3/4c frozen spinach (or fresh spinach if you don't have a high speed blender)
3/4 scoop sweetened vanilla protein powder (For this, I've been using Vanilla Vega One Nutritional Shake)
1/2- 1c vanilla almond milk and/ or water (I usually do half and half)

Blend or food process all ingredients until smooth. This will take a bit longer than usual because of the spinach. If you don't have a high speed blender, use fresh spinach, as the result will be too stringy with the frozen spinach. Check the viscosity and add additional water if necessary. Enjoy the sunrise with a nutritious start to your day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

BBQ Cauliflower & Bear Mtn RR

This past weekend I drove out to New York for the Bear Mountain Road Race. There was a women's cat 3 race, which I was thinking I'd do for some upgrade points, but my coach encouraged me to do the women's elite race, which was nearly twice as long and of course promised better competition. Except for the fact that I'd like some upgrade points so that I can upgrade to cat 2, I usually would be happy to race with the P12 women on a hilly race, as one of my favorite things about racing is the way that your competition can really draw the best out of you. However, this race looked like it was going to be extremely technical. Basically the only description posted in the race guide was:
"Caution: two miles into the race, there is a fast descent into a 180 degree turn into the main climb."
Great, I figured. So I was going to be dropped on the descent and miss the break in the climb.

I was really, really nervous and I have a history of not doing well on neutral rollouts downhill. Basically, I was 50-50 for actually making it to the start of the race with the field from a neutral rollout down a hill. I am never a great descender, but I'm much better once I get climb in my legs to get my jitters out. Well, let's just say I'm now 2:1 on getting dropped on neutral rollouts. I missed the 180 turn because no one was signaling, there were no signs, and I got too tight and nervous to be able to make the turn in time. What a way to start the race! Fortunately, they let me chase back on, but there went Big Match #1 while everyone else was settling in, comfortably neutral.

Cursing my coach and hating the race course, I settled in to the pack, but timidly: I was still intimidated by all of these P12 women. I moved towards the front and was on the front for the small descent on the back side, but allowed myself to be bullied backwards by the time we got to the Big Descent again. Fortunately, I put on my big girl pants, got into the drops, and tried to execute my very best descending technique. I even passed a girl or two and hit the 180 degree turn at the very back of the pack. Relieved, I shifted to start the climb, but my bike did not respond. Rather than thinking, I frantically flicked the gears and... dropped my chain. Cursing, I got off to put it back on. I'm sure at this point, the motoref was thinking: "Who is this Pedal Power joker??!" Someone in the pack picked up the pace and by the time I got back on my bike, I could already see girls falling off the back of the pack on the climb way up the road. Desperate, I chased as hard as I could. Apparently, it was quite hard, as it seems that that climb, from the dropping of my chain to the top, might be the Strava QOM of the day. There went Big Match #2, but somehow I was still with the thinning pack.

Lap 3 was rather uneventful, as we had dropped all the people who were getting in my way on the descent. I really need to learn to descend more confidently! During lap 4, there was big excitement, as the girl who ended up winning with a solo break attacked on the hill. I jumped on her wheel and went with her, but when I looked back, I saw I was the only one. Instead of thinking "Oh boy, this girl has 3 strong teammates to block back there for her, this is the break!" I thought "Oh boy, my legs are spent from my stupid technical difficulties using up Big Match #1 and #2. There's no way this will hold, I'll just ease up and slink back to the pack." Well, that was the winning break and I made the erroneous choice to miss it. Oh well. Live and learn. And hopefully gain experience and confidence on the way! There were 17 girls still around in the pack at the end of the 4th lap and I had learned that somehow, even with all my stupid cat 3 level technical skills, I was one of the better climbers. So after the last Big Descent, I felt a burst of confidence (I survived the fast descent into a 180 degree turn 5 times! And I didn't have to do it again!) so rode up to the front of the pack. I didn't think I had an attack in me (should have more confidence in myself) so I just hammered away on the front, driving the pace and hoping that some of those girls would fall off. When we got to the top, I looked around to see that there were 10 girls left. Excellent, my climb had gotten rid of almost half of them! At this point, I was content to finish with the pack, as I barely have the balls to contest a flat sprint in a W3/4 race and here the finishing sprint was on a legit downhill. (In an ECCC race in 2010, I was involved in a serious crash in the sprint finish when I was front and center. A girl clipped my bars and I ended up taking down half the field and breaking my shoulder. Other girls were really hurt too. It's going to take me a lot of years to get over that.) In the end, I ended up 9th of 36 in the elite women's field. Not bad! Although later, I found out that the winners got teddy bears and I am about as motivated by teddy bears as a 4 year old girl should be. Missing out on upgrade points and a teddy bear made me really sad that I didn't do the W3 race!


Ok, enough racing. On to the food! We have to stay energy neutral, after all. Today's recipe is a bit long. It's not hard, but there are a few distinct dishes, which is different than most of my "one pot wonders." This is definitely something that you can make if you're trying to impress someone! This inspiration for this recipe came from my visit to Northstar House in Ithaca. I decided to go with a dish with beets in it, in preparation for the race the next day, but their BBQ Cauliflower really stood out to me, and once I saw how great it looked (my cousin's husband ordered it), I knew I had to try to make it. According to the description the dish is "Slow braised cauliflower, tossed in house BBQ sauce. Served over polenta with kale & mushrooms." Today's recipe is basically just that, with the addition of some pinto beans with the kale and nutritional yeast in the polenta. Basically, while cauliflower makes a stunning main dish and is a complete protein, it's protein content isn't that high so I added in more complete protein sources to the side dish to make sure that this was a nutritionally balanced powerhouse. I also took some time to create my own BBQ sauce, which is smoky, sweet, and spicy-- all without any processed sugars! It takes a tiny bit of time to throw everything into the blender or food processor, but you'll be so pleased with the result that you'll never go back. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

BBQ Sauce

2 (15oz) cans diced, fire roasted tomatoes
1 (4oz) can tomato paste
1/2c molasses
3T maple syrup
3T liquid smoke
3T sirracha

Food process until a smooth texture is reached. It'll be a bit lumpier than store bought, but it's so good! This will be more than enough for this recipe plus extra for future burgers, ect

BBQ Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
BBQ sauce (recipe above)

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut a head of cauliflower into 6ths. Dip each piece into a deep bowl of the BBQ sauce, taking care that the sauce gets into the nooks and cranies. Bake for 30- 40 minutes, until cauliflower is tender, but BBQ sauce isn't burned.


Polenta

2c polenta (yellow corn grits)
6c water
1/4c nutritional yeast
optional: 1/2c shredded cheese
1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
salt and black pepper to taste

On the stove, bring the water to a boil. Add all other ingredients and continue to heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat once all of the water is absorbed and the polenta is tender.

Sautéed Kale and Mushrooms

1 bag kale or 2 large bunches, washed and shredded
1 box (8oz) shiitake mushrooms, sliced (other mushrooms would work too)
1 can pinto beans (or any other white bean)
1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
Additional BBQ sauce

Add all ingredients to a frying pan and sauté until the kale is wilted and mushrooms/ onions are tender. Top with extra BBQ sauce so that the leaves can absorb the smoky flavor.

Serve cauliflower steaks with the kale and mushrooms served over the polenta on the side. Top with additional BBQ sauce if you'd like. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Veggie Lasagna and Adventures in Ithaca

Happy Wednesday! This past weekend I visited my good friend in Ithaca again. The weather was still a bit cool and dreary there, but we had a blast anyways, making delicious channa saag and pancakes. We also took advantage of the rainy Saturday afternoon to watch Frozen, which I had partially seen with the MIT cycling team while in California, but this was the first time I was not distracted by a fiancé on the phone. (Instead he was sitting on the couch next to me.) Seeing it only strengthened my recent nostalgia for the Disney movies of the 90s. We also made a ton of popcorn using a classic popcorn popper and man, that was good! Much better than the stovetop. Saturday evening, we all went out to dinner with my cousins at Northstar House, which served delicious local food with many vegetarian options. I had a carrot & beet flatbread, but the dish that most impressed me was the BBQ Cauliflower, which I'll be attempting to recreate later this week. Before leaving on Sunday, I raced in the Hollenbeck's RR in nearby Virgil NY. I use the term "raced" loosely, as I was the only W123 racer signed up. So I got to race with the men's 3/4 field, which was quite the experience. The winds were brutal so I did my best to find someone's wheel to suck and stay low, both things that I need practice at anyways! I also got a loud and clear reminder to be more assertive in my pack positioning, as it was my positioning and not my climbing abilities that ultimately led me to be dropped. Oops. The course was just perfect for me though: several significant but not-too-long climbs, rolling, non-technical descents and a steep uphill finish. Afterwards, I was greeted by wonderful refreshments from Ithaca Bakery and Gimme Coffee and a cool-down bike ride with my friend on her new bike.

View from the finish line of Hollenbeck's RR. A nice little climb up for a stunning view of NYS!

But enough about what I've been up to! It's been a while, but I'm bringing you an Energy Neutral original: grain free lasagna. I made my traditional lasagna few weeks ago and was reminded of how much I like a good veggie lasagna. I traditionally make it with mushrooms, spinach, eggplant, and a heavily herbed ricotta. And this recipe is still made that way! However, I have yet to find a decent gluten free lasagna noodle, so this time, I replaced the noodle layers with kale and swiss chard so that I could share! As a result, this recipe packs even more of a nutritional punch. We've talked about the nutritional benefits of kale previously, but what about swiss chard? Like kale, swiss chard is a cruciferous vegetable and offers the anti-cancer antioxidants that you've come to know and love. Swiss chard also offers large doses of vitamins K, C, and A as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. I also find the flavor to be a bit more mild than kale or collard greens, but the leaves are still large and satisfying, making this a good substitute for lasagna noodles! To add back some of the carbohydrates I took away by using greens instead of pasta, I created a cheesy herbed hummus to use instead of my traditional herbed ricotta. However, if you aren't worried about your dinner being low-carb feel free to use my traditional herbed ricotta! Herbed tofu ricotta is also an option and delicious! If you just want to make a delicious basic veggie or vegan lasagna, use the ricotta and the noodles, that recipe is below as well. I hope you enjoy it!


Veggie Lasagna

1 bunch swiss chard (full-sized leaves, not chopped)
1 bunch kale (full-sized leaves, not chopped)
OR 1 box no-cook lasagna noodles
1 large eggplant, sliced
1 box baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 package frozen spinach (Optional and recommended only with the noodles. You can only fit so much in a pan and the kale/ swiss chard takes care of your green needs!)
20 oz of your favorite spaghetti sauce (we use TJ's organic or basil)
1 recipe cheesey herbed hummus or ricotta (below)
1c shredded mozzarella or vegan cheese shreds (TJ's makes a good vegan option) for topping

Cheesey Herbed Hummus

1 large bunch basil
1 small bunch parsley
2T dried oregano (or fresh if you can find it! I never can)
6 cloves garlic
1/4 onion
2 cans white beans, washed and drained
2c nutritional yeast

Food process herbs, then add white beans and nutritional yeast. Food process until desired consistency is reached.

Traditional Herbed Ricotta or Tofu Ricotta

Substitute white beans & nutritional yeast for 3c ricotta or one package extra firm tofu (trust me, the tofu works!).

The assembly process

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cover the bottom of a  9x13 pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce
3. Add a layer of kale and swiss chard (or lasagna noodles.)
4. Add a layer of the herbed "cheese" of your choice, then some mushrooms and eggplant (and spinach, if you're using noodles). Top the layer with a layer of spaghetti sauce.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to fill up the pan. If you're adding the veggies right, it'll only be 2 or 3 layers...
6. Once the pan is heaping, add a final layer of kale/ swiss chard (or noodles) and then top with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of the shredded cheese of your choice. 
7. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 45 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice, serve, and enjoy!

Bikes and Subarus, hurray!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tropical Chocolate Sorbet

Whoa. Three days in a row this week. Crazy, I know! However, my big confession as to the reason that I haven't been posting as frequently is that I haven't had time to find pretty plates to make my food look delicious. So this has been inhibiting my writing. However, we all know that I'm not a typical food blogger. When I read other food blogs, I scroll impatiently through the dozens of pictures until I finally find the recipe. And today's recipe, a chocolate sorbet, is a particularly non-photogenic food. So instead, I will share a beautiful picture that I do enjoy looking at from one of my adventures.

Top of the Teton Pass looking down on Jackson Hole WY, June 2013

This is a picture from the top of the Teton Pass in Wyoming that I had the privilege of taking last summer. It was actually shot from the bike path that goes up and over and not the highway. It is such a joy and wonder to be able to witness nature from these points of view! This particular picture was taken the first time I traveled with my bike: my fiancé was unable to come to the wedding with me, so I took my bike as my "date." Riding has enabled me to see things from an unparalleled point of view, and while descending mountain passes is one of my weakest skills on the bike, I will never forget the view as I crested and started my first switch-backing descent in the Tour of the Catskills last summer. Incredible!

Anyways, back to the chocolate sorbet. I've made chocolate sorbet in my ice cream maker quite a few times and found that it's quite delicious. I followed this recipe from about.com and was definitely pleased: I especially recommend adding in cinnamon or mint. While I gave up sugar for lent though, I experimented with no-sugar-added fruit sorbets and found that they could be quite pleasing! My favorite sorbets have been using a mango base. Mango is creamier and sweeter than many fruits, and they are also a good source of fiber as well as vitamins C, A, and B6. Processed sugar can't compete with that! Combining it with cocoa powder makes this recipe a sure win. Unsweetneed cocoa powder is a good source of many micronutrients and antioxidants and actually is a fairly high quality source of protein.

Tropical Chocolate Sorbet

1 1/4c frozen mango cubes
1/4c cocoa powder
3T unsweetened coconut milk (the kind that comes from a carton)

Food process mango & cocoa powder to a fine powder. Add coconut milk and blend until a creamy, just churned, sorbet consistency is achieved. (Add more milk if necessary.) Enjoy! This recipe yields enough for two or a very generous bowl for one (190 calories, 3g fat, 5g protein, 10g fiber)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Drinks and gels and bars, oh my!

Well, it is a cold, grey day here in New England. And I am coming down from the adrenaline high that two days of tough racing will produce. I'm now left with exhaustion, which in combination with the unforgiving sky makes everything seem lost. I'm deeply missing rowing and have had dreams the last two nights worrying about lab and crashing after seeing a friend crash first hand on Sunday and having a few other friends already have bad accidents this year. I know this will pass once the sun comes out and my fiancé returns from his travels, but right now I feel like I'm being sucked back into my ugly abyss of despair... Yikes! These lows are bound to happen... you can only ride adrenaline so long!

Back to the topic of the day... drinks, gels, and bars that I think are particularly worthwhile. For most of my sports life, I avoided all of these things. Which I could get away with in swimming, and almost even in rowing, but definitely not as a cyclist. I hate drinking Gatorade and Powerade during sport. It's so sticky and sweet... blah! I can almost feel the bees swarming around me as my hands and equipment get coated with the stickiness that inevitably runs down the sides of the bottle. No thanks! I tried diluting it and also tried the low sugar versions back in the day: Zero and G2, but to me those just tasted like chemicals. Exactly what you want to be putting into your body when your furnace is burning it's hottest, right??? Anyways, over time I've done my research and experimented with various products. Below are the drinks, gels, and bars that I currently prefer and why I like them. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but just some suggestions as to what I think works!

Drinks

Best for Before: UCAN Tropical Orange
Powered by "SuperStarch," a slow burning carbohydrate with long lasting blood-sugar stabilizing effects this is a new comer to the market. This particular flavor is sweetened with monk fruit extract, which I find far superior to stevia or xylitol, which many other companies use as "natural" sweeteners. I haven't tried this during exercise yet: it's expensive and it's recommended that you consume the entire serving at once, which just is NOT going to happen for me during a race, since it's all I can do to convince myself to drink a bottle over a couple of hours. This was recommended to me by a pro-triathlene friend and I love it for before racing! I threw in some protein powder with it and didn't have a problem getting my nervous pre-race stomach to accept it, unlike solid food. The only downside is that it costs $70 (when you include shipping) for a 32-serving tub. Ouch!

Best for During: Hammer Heed, Unflavored
Hammer did it. They made a sports drink that tastes like... nothing! I strongly prefer the taste of pure water to sports drinks during strenuous exercise and the unflavored version tastes like water and delivers calories and electrolytes.  Win-win! I'm not thrilled about the xylitol or stevia, but I can't taste them so I try to ignore them.

Best to Sustain: Hammer Perpetuem
Electrolytes, protein, natural carbohydrates, and amino acids. This product delivers everything you would want during an endurance race, although I've recently read that the verdict is still out on the necessity of protein. I've tried the Orange-Vanilla and found it mild, palatable, and not too sweet. I'll probably also try the Unflavored. Strawberry is kind of weird and the Caffe-Latte isn't really refreshing. I'll confess: I don't find this product to be perfect. It uses soy protein, which my stomach can be finicky about. I use a fairly dilute bottle and haven't had any problems as of yet, but I'm still on a look-out for a product that delivers everything else that Perpetuem offers with a non-soy protein.

Best for Recovery: Vega Recovery Accelerator, Tropical
This stuff is gold. It tastes awesome, and provides everything you need to recover quickly. I started using it late last summer and immediately I noticed that my recovery time between workouts and races significantly improved. Bonus points for it's complete, plant-based protein but points off for the use of stevia. It's normally $40 for a tub that'll last me 4-6 weeks, but it's on sale for $30 through the end of April at Whole Foods. Go buy some, it's worth every penny! (And it will probably start earning back it's keep for you, if you tend to do races with cash prizes!)

Best All-Natural Solution: 1:1:1 Cherry Juice: Coconut Water: Water
Most of 2013, I went with this option but ultimately found the Heed products delivered more calories and were easier to stomach during races. I still prefer this for winter training and LSD rides. Coconut water offers natural electrolytes and cherry juice has been shown reduce muscle damage during exercise. Plus, it's not too sweet and you can easily find it at Trader Joe's or your local grocery store!

Gels

Best "Natural:" Honey Stinger Gold
Honey with electrolytes, plain and simple. No odd ingredients or unnatural sugars and I find it to be super-palatable and the perfect viscosity. Also, the packets are super easy to open, even with numb hands. (Found this out this weekend while racing at Quabbin!) The only downside is that this has a really high glycemic index. This can be a bonus: if you eat one about a minute before your final sprint or when you try to make a break, it'll hit you fast. But it also causes a sugar crash, so if you only eat these to power a 3-4 hour race, you will feel a little queazy afterwards and never want to touch sugar ever again. This weekend, I found that drinking UCAN before the race and mixing this gel up with others helped mitigate the crash.

Best with Protein: Accel Gel 2nd Surge
Filled with natural sugars (agave, brown rice syrup, cane sugar), electrolytes, and whey protein I find this to be easy to deal with during a race and it also doesn't cause quite the crash that the honey does, since it's coupled with slower-burning protein. Props to Pacific Health Labs for not using soy protein, but lots of people have trouble with whey protein, so hopefully in the next iteration they will up the ante and find an even better alternative. (Pea protein, please?) The only downside is the low viscosity: it is quite runny in the summer heat.

Best with Caffeine: Hammer Gel, Espresso
Powered by maltodextrin and supplemented with natural sweeteners, amino acids, and electrolytes this gel would take higher marks all around if not for it's viscosity. I find it to be really too thick except for all but the hottest of summer days. It's not yet been warm enough this year for me to actually be able to get all of the gel out of a packet. Packets are also frustratingly hard to open, thanks to the cute hammer shape they put on the top.

Bars

I haven't found a bar that I can eat during a race, my stomach just won't have it. I can safely say though, that I've pretty much tried every bar under the sun. Cliff and Luna bars taste great, and offer protein and are fortified with nutrients, but unfortunately also pack in a ton of sugar and use soy protein. Many athletes eat a ton of these, since they are convenient and offer a good balance of macronutrients. However, I attribute these bars to my over-exposure to soy, which caused my intolerance. Should I have eaten less of them? Sure. But I don't think I approached these bars any differently than most athletes. My personal preference currently are the Lara Cherry Pie Bars. All natural ingredients, no processed sugars, no soy protein, and all the performance benefits of cherries.  Cherry Cashew Pure Bars are also great for the same reasons, and have even more protein than the Lara bars. Both are gluten free, as are all the products I use for racing!

What works for you and why do you like it? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below!