Monday, January 27, 2014

Farro Risotto with Mushrooms

Welcome back! Well, mostly welcome back for me. Sorry about the hiatus. Things got really crazy leading up to my interview at Carnegie Mellon. The interview went really well though (fingers crossed!) and now I am off in sunny southern California to regain my sanity and get some substantial cycling hours in. Seriously, it's amazing here. We climbed a mountain yesterday, which was awesome (although we did have to descend and there were some crazy motorcyclists around) and have many more fun miles planned ahead. I'm really glad for the chance to practice group riding techniques and descending: both skills will be very useful in the races to come this year!

The view out the front door for the next week... heck yeah!!
Anyways... back to food. I can't wait to get back to my normal cooking groove, but in the meantime, I have some recipes to share. The first of which is a farro risotto that I made a week ago and have been enjoying. I really wanted a creamy cashew sauce and mushrooms, and felt like risotto, but needed more substance than normal white arborio rice. So I based my risotto on farro, added some other veggies and this recipe was born!

Farro Risotto with Mushrooms

1 package Trader Joe's quick cook farro
1 package mushrooms
3c frozen green beans
2c frozen peas
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2c cashews, soaked and food processed
1/2c nutritional yeast
1 bunch fresh basil
garlic to taste
salt and pepper (optional)

1. Soak cashews overnight.
2. Cook farro according to directions on the package.
3. While farro is cooking, wash and slice mushrooms. Add to a pan with the green beans and peas. Sautee until soft.
4. Food process cashews until smooth.
5. Drain risotto, return to pan. Add cashew paste, veggies, and nutritional yeast. Stir to combine.
6. Add sliced basil, garlic, and other spices. Enjoy warm.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tomato Basil Soup

There's nothing more comforting than a grilled cheese sandwich coupled with a warm, creamy bowl of tomato soup. Trader Joe's Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup is incredible and has long been a staple in my cupboard. Consequently, it one of the things I was most disappointed to learn included milk when I started to cut down on my dairy intake. Dairy inhibits iron absorption and I also found that I'm really sensitive to my hormone levels and the extra hormones found in dairy are very unwelcome. I've spent a long time trying to find a way to balance the acidity of the tomatoes without the use of milk and believe me, it's tough! I'm not a big fan of cooked tomatoes by themselves, and I found that soy and almond milk add too much of their own flavor, and sometimes even precipitate out due to the acidity. Recently, I discovered that adding chickpeas to soup can add a nice smooth flavor. So I figured I'd give a tomato chickpea soup a go. Coupled with the familiar flavors of basil and garlic, this soup is a success! I hope you give it a go the next time you're craving tomato soup.

Tomato Basil Soup

3 cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2c water
1 bunch fresh basil
1T garlic or 1 clove
sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Food process until smooth. (I used my new Ninja blender for this and it turned out great!) Transfer to the stove and heat. Serve warm, alone or with your favorite grilled cheese. (Yes, it goes well with toasted cashew cheese sandwiches too!)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Boston Brown Bread

I'm in a very odd place. I've never wanted anything that wasn't an athletic goal this badly. Actually, upon further reflection, it's possible that I wanted to get into MIT for grad school this badly. Part of that was because I knew that Riverside Boat Club in Cambridge was where I needed to be to make my rowing dreams come true. Part of me still wonders where I would be now if I had gone to UW and Pocock instead... but I digress. I've been burning the candle on both ends and fighting hard against my mind's stupid anxiety and ADD to prepare for my upcoming interview. One thing I really have going for me is that the ADD quiets down as I get tired so it becomes easier to concentrate (this translates into fewer blog posts, sorry guys!) However this only works until the point when exhaustion makes me hysterically nervous. Anyways, I will face this interview unprepared over my dead body. Just like training, pain now leads to perfection in less than 2 weeks. (Ok, the turn around time is a week bit different than in sport.) The irony of it all is that 7 years ago I was at CMU holding my breath while waiting to hear if there was a position for me at MIT and now I'm at MIT anxiously awaiting a decision from CMU.

Anyways, today I'm sharing my favorite Boston brown bread recipe and surprise! It's not my own! I fell in love with Boston brown bread when I first tried it at a local bakery here in Boston. The moist, slightly sweet bread with a hearty texture immediately stole my heart. Not wanting to pay $8 every time I wanted a loaf, I went home from that bakery and found this vegan Boston brown bread recipe online. It was wonderful, so I felt no need to tweak it to make it mine! My only alteration is to add 1/4c walnuts and raisins (tossed in the dry ingredients before the wet are added) because my first taste of this sweet manna included those two additions. (Ok, ok. I also use unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 1/2c whole wheat flour instead of the wheat/ all purpose combo, and omit the maple syrup. Oh and I also add 1/2t cinnamon.) I serve it warm with a buttery topping or peanut butter, although the tradition Boston serving suggestion is with cream cheese. I frequently make a peanut butter sandwich with it and take it as a snack on my long rides. Traditionally, this bread was cooked in an old coffee can, "hobo" style over a fire. The circular loaf can be achieved in the oven using a well-greased metal coffee can, leaving about an inch above the batter for expansion and cooking the loaf for 70 minutes instead of 60. (Warning: your oven will get dirty and you will set off the first alarm if you do not leave this expansion space!)

Instead of a picture of the brown bread, I'll leave you with one of my favorite baking pictures. Confession: I should have taken a picture of the brown bread, because for the first time, I did bake it in the traditional "hobo" style, using a coffee can so that the pieces came out circular instead of square. However, I procrastinated and then the bread was consumed too quickly! Despite my negligence, I'm sure you will enjoy this Boston brown bread.

My brother and I baking Christmas cookies circa 2001. (Nooo! I just realized that I didn't make cut-outs this year! AND I forgot to take out my Christmas dishes too. Sigh, better luck next year.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Well... we are a week into 2014! I know, it may seem late for me to be talking about resolutions, but I really try to think about which areas of my life I would most like to improve upon before committing them to paper. The top things that I'd like to do that didn't make the cut? Committing to folding and putting away my laundry every week and being more diligent in recording my training in my training log. I'd love to keep my room tidier, but with the reality of having either two people living in my thimble of a room (seriously, my desk is in the living room and we have to walk on the bed to get around if we're both getting ready at once) or being away every weekend in combination with training and working during the week, this really isn't that big of a priority. I'd rather take the time to spend with my fiancé or doing a bit more chemistry or cycling. Similarly, meticulously recording my workouts in a training log isn't going to make me faster. The numbers are recorded in TrainingPeaks and the planned workouts are on my training calendar. This is actually a more thorough record than I have of my rowing training leading up to making the national team!

Without further ado, here are my 2014 Resolutions

1. Return of the Core Olympics. Starting in September of 2012, my roommate and I challenged each other to the Core Olympics. Basically, we could earn 10 points per week, one for doing core every day and an additional 3 for doing physical therapy on 3 non-consecutive days. This exercise really helped my core strength, balance, and prevented me from overuse injuries. Towards the end of 2013, I got a little lax with the practice, calculating that I could earn back up to 30 minutes every day! (I had to do knee PT every day for most of the fall after the love of my life accidentally stepped on my kneecap causing it to sublux.) With this new beginning, I will make the commitment to continuing to protect myself from injury in 2014.

2. Go to church every week. I was raised Catholic-- the go to church every Sunday, don't eat meat on Fridays, and teach Sunday school-- type of Catholic. I lost my faith when a good friend died of cancer in 2006 and found it again shortly before my best friend freakishly died of meningitis in 2010. I see so many miracles and beauty in the world that I find it impossible to not to believe in God. However, since 2006, I have had trouble finding a church that feels like it fits. To add to that, my fiancé is atheists, and I only get to see him on weekends, which makes this commitment hard. However, I feel like regularly attending church keeps me grounded which I will really need with all of the challenges and changes ahead.

3. Get my butt to bed by 10pm. Last year I started working in a new lab that is very crowded in the mornings, making it easier for me to get work done if I shifted my work hours to later in the day. I rarely leave work before 8pm but I also rarely arrive before 10am. It's counter productive to get here by 7am, but I'm 28 so it would really be best for me to roll into work before 10am. Getting to bed earlier will allow me to start my rides earlier, get into lab earlier, leave lab earlier and then get into bed earlier... it's all a cycle that gets thrown back later and later by taking too long a ride or working too late one night. It's time to reset the cycle. Perhaps another way to approach this is with the goal to leave work at 8pm. (Although let's be honest: this attempt to better schedule my life won't be very effective until after my interview on 1/22 and 1/23.)

4. No Facebook at work. This should be a no-brainer for someone who's 28 but actually this will be pretty hard for me. I'm pretty social, but also pretty private when it comes to my personal life around my coworkers, so over the years, Facebook has become my "work friend." I work in a great positive environment now, so really I don't need to Facebook during the day. I should be spending the time getting to know my labmates or working on the copious amounts of work that I need to get done.

So that's all for today... I'm excited to see what this new year will bring!

Late afternoon sun over a reservoir in the hills of western Connecticut

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Gingerbread Waffles

I'll admit it... it's my second day back at work and I'm already missing the freedom of vacation. This feeling is of course deepened by the anxiety surrounding the impending interview for my dream job at the end of the month.  And with that, I'll reveal my secret... I'm interviewing for a tenure track Assistant Professor position in the Chemistry Department at Carnegie Mellon. I was not intending to apply this year, rather this was supposed to be my dreamy year of new beginnings (you know, like getting married, learning about biological research, bike racing, blogging, ect) Instead my future jumped up and demanded to be attended to immediately. Such is life! I'm very excited for this opportunity and hope that you will keep your fingers crossed for me!

Beyond that though, the vacation time was amazing. I attended my 10 year high school reunion, spent time with my family and new extended family, got many hilly rural miles in on the bike, and spent two uninterrupted weeks with the love of my life. My only regret? No one got me a cookbook for Christmas!!! Don't get my wrong, I got many beautiful gifts including a ninja blender (!!!), a springform cake pan, and an expensive black suit for the upcoming interview. But cookbooks are kinda the go to gift for me, you know, like candles or soap for most people. I guess because I've been making up so many recipes, my loved ones assumed that I no longer needed inspiration from a book. So upon my return, I dug up my cookbooks from the last couple of years and spent a lovely time going through them in the soft glow of my Christmas tree lights drinking a cup of hot ginger tea.

This recipe however, was not inspired by a cookbook. Instead, I've just been rather obsessed with gingerbread lately. Molasses and ginger are a truly winning combination and I just can't get enough! Molasses is a nutritional powerhouse, disguised as a sweetener.  To remind you, one tablespoon of good molasses has 20% of your daily value of iron, more potassium than a banana, and is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, manganese and magnesium. Meanwhile, ginger has been valued for its anti-inflammatory properties for centuries. This recipe pairs the flavors with oats, which makes the recipe quite the keeper! If you do not have a waffle iron, you should buy this one or you can thin the batter with an additional ~1/2c water and cook them as pancakes. I served the waffles warm with walnuts, maple syrup, and a dusting of powdered sugar. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Gingerbread Waffles

3c oats, measure then food process to a fine powder
2T cornstarch
1.5t baking powder
2T brown sugar
3 pieces candied ginger, ground in a coffee grinder or 1T powdered ginger
1T cinnamon
0.25c molasses
0.75c water
1c almond milk

1T oil (optional, recommended if your waffle iron is prone to sticking but unnecessary if you have a good non-stick coating)

Mix dry ingredients, then add the wet. Add batter to waffle maker and cook according to your appliance's direction. Serve warm with maple syrup. Alternatively, you can thin the batter with an additional ~1/2c water and cook them as pancakes!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Black Eyed Peas

Happy New Year! Polish (and German/ Pennsylvania Dutch) tradition states that on New Year's Day you must eat pork and sauerkraut, usually in the form of pork kielbasa. Pork is thought to enhance forward thinking and bring new adventures in the new year since pigs forge forward and cabbage is thought to bring prosperity. Since I don't eat meat any more, I replaced the pork with black eyed peas, which are a southern tradition thought to bring prosperity in the new year. Using the pork seasoning though, left the dish really bland, so I made up a new twist this year! I served it with Tofukry kielbasa, an arugula salad, and fresh bread. Bring on 2014!

Maple Cinnamon Black-Eyed Peas and Sauerkraut

2lb sauerkraut
2 granny smith apples, cubed
2c black eyed peas
cinnamon, garlic, cloves to taste
1/4c maple syrup

Add all ingredients to a crock pot. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or 10 hours on low. Enjoy!

Winter sun in the woods on a recent ride :)