Thursday, February 20, 2014

(GF) Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Life still hasn't settled down quite the way I hoped that it would... this week I'm working on writing an intense grant application for over a million dollars with a couple of my postdoc labmates. This was sprung on us last minute, but we seem to have a good plan in place to get it done. Procrastination is my nemesis and since most people work well last minute, I always worry when working in a new group that the others may want to take away my bike-time or weekend fiancé-seeing time. I work very hard during the week playing schedule-tetris to make sure that I get my work done and still have enough time for sleep, cycling, and the people in my life. Although I will confess that on weekdays when a deadline is near, my friends can get ignored. (Sorry guys! You know who you are.)

While I work hard to schedule every moment and stick to the plan, more often than I'd like, procrastination creeps in when my ADD-brain gets overwhelmed with things. Sometimes it's easier to just go with the flow of thought, which is why I am giving in and jotting off a quick blog post to blow off some mental steam. Here's a recipe for some cinnamony gluten free muffins. You might be able to tell that cinnamon is my flavor of the season, my new spice obsession which seems to help me stay warm and cozy in a winter that just won't end! (Seriously. Every day it's either precipitating or frost-bitingly cold. I've only been able to ride outside once since returning from California. The excessive trainer time is killing me!)

Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Muffins

For the Muffins

2c finely ground oat flour (ie food process quick cook rolled oats until powdery)
1T cornstarch
1T baking powder
1/2 T cinnamon
dash salt
1/4c brown sugar
2T ground flax seeds
1t vanilla
2c apple sauce
1c almond milk
1T apple cider vinegar

For the Topping

1/2c oat flour
1/2c quick cook rolled oats
3/4c brown sugar
cinnamon to taste
~1/2c Oil or buttery substance (Enough to make sure the topping clumps and sticks together)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the muffin dry ingredients thoroughly, then add the wet, saving the 1T apple cider vinegar for last. Add batter to greased muffin tins and let them bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the topping ingredients, adding just enough oil to wet the dry ingredients, making them clump together. Remove muffins from oven and add topping (you could also try to add the topping before pre-cooking, but this is the way I did it!) Reduce heat to 350F and let it cook for an additional 20- 25 minutes, until a fork comes out clean. Let the muffins cool and enjoy!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chana Saag & Snowshoeing

This weekend, my fiancé surprised me with a Valentine's trip to a B&B out in western Massachusetts with ample opportunities for snowshoeing. We returned to the same place I had surprised him with last year and it was awesome. We snowshoed at the Fitzgerald conservation area and up to the Mt. Holyoke summit house on the Skinner conservation area. The views were incredible! They have had an incredible amount of snow out there, so the surrounding country looked so picturesque and pretty surreal. There was also an auto road on the mountain, which people were ATV-ing and snowboarding down, but it's most ideal use would be for hill repeats and descending practice. I am definitely returning on bike during my next Gordon Conference at Mt. Holyoke.

My fiancé took me out for our Valentine's date on Saturday in downtown Northampton, which actually has an incredible number of vegetarian restaurants.  Many of our best dates have happened over Indian food, so we decided Indian it would be! (We haven't had it in a while because our favorite restaurant closed.) Furthermore, I haven't mastered the art of cooking Indian food, except for my pumpkin curry. We chose India Palace and were blown away by their chutneys (especially the mango chutney) and their Chana Saag. I had never had this creamy spinach sauce over chickpeas (it's most usually found with paneer) and this instantly became our favorite dish ever. So much so, that we spent most of the drive home researching how to make chana saag so that we could have it for dinner again when we got home.

Dinner was more than halfway a success, which means that it was successful since we were comparing it directly against our favorite Indian dish ever! At the very least, we enjoyed it and it felt that we should share the recipe and our findings with you. The saag will get another iteration before perfection, but the naan was great just as we found it! So give it a try and I hope you enjoy it!

Chana Saag

2 16-oz packages frozen spinach, thawed
1.5 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
8 cloves garlic
1 white onion
5t corriander
3t cumin
2t turmeric
1/2t cayanne pepper (I added 1 1/4t and it was waaaaay too spicy. Start conservatively, depending on how potent your cayenne is.)
2 cinnamon sticks, ground
1t garam masala* (our store bought garam masala was too bitter, so we ended up helping the overall blend with an additional 1t tandoori masala)
2- 16oz cans chickpeas
1 can light coconut milk
1c plain unsweetened soymilk
1/2c nutritional yeast

*We started our saag from this recipe, but I doubled it and veganized it. Fortunately, I forgot to double the spices originally. The garham masala that we got from Whole Foods did not work very well in this recipe at all. Tasting after the first pass was very bitter, not warm as masala should be. I would try the garam masala suggested by the author of the saag recipe. The other problem was that this recipe called for way too much cayenne pepper! I like spicy, but I was using a new bottle of pepper and we had to work very hard to balance that out, along with the bitterness of the store-bought garam masala.

Add spices and spinach to the food processor. Food process until smooth, adding a bit of coconut milk to help the spinach blend thoroughly. If using a high powered blender, large chunks of garlic & ginger can be added. If a normal food processor, food process those first with the onion to make sure that they get pureed throughly. Add spiced spinach puree and all other ingredients to a large pot. Let simmer for ~1hr to let flavors infuse.

Just follow this recipe and you'll be a very happy camper! It was great! We added 2 cloves of diced garlic because we love garlic naan, but it definitely didn't need that modification.

One more picture. I love the angled winter light casting shadows on naked trees :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Granola

Today's a big day! In addition to being Friday, it's also Valentine's Day, and my hamster, Bijou's, 2 year adoptaversary! I feel so lucky to have found my forever-Valentine and also to have this furry little girl in my life. Apologies to my fiancé, but Bijou may be cuter... Many small pets like Bijou are left at shelters for a long time, simply because no one knows that they are there for adoption! So if you are thinking of adding a pocket pet to your life, I urge you to see if there are any you get along with at your local shelter. Adoptable pets currently at the Boston MSPCA (where I found Bijou!) can be found here.

I love Valentine's Day. I am not at all a romantic, but I think a day to celebrate love is just a fantastic idea. For most of my life, I was single on Valentine's Day and as such, I use it to celebrate the awesomeness of my other female friends. Because let's be honest: Valentine's Day is a girls' holiday! My celebration often ends up looking like Leslie Knope's Galentine's Day, except I save the festivities for the 14th. These days I also have my fiancé to celebrate, and this weekend we are going on our second annual Valentine's Day snowshoeing B&B getaway. But I'd still like to use today to give a shout out to all of my lady friends. Thanks for being there for me, you're awesome!

Anyways, this year has gotten of to a really hectic start. While I did have time to gather up some heart-themed goodies for a few key people, I did not have time to make a special Valentine's themed treat. Instead, I thought I'd use today to share a recipe for apple cinnamon granola. I've been sitting on this recipe for some time but just the other morning I ate a bowl of my granola right after tasting a handful of some of the store bought stuff and was reminded how much better homemade granola can be. The second ingredient in most store bought granola is almost always sugar. This results in a cereal that can be tasty, but somewhat less satisfying an hour later when your blood sugar crashes. Like my pumpkin granola, I use vanilla protein powder and omit oil to make a granola that's high in protein and low in fat. It's also filling and deliciously cinnamony! If you have the time and oven space, I recommend making up a double batch.

Apple Cinnamon Granola

1c quick cook oats
1 1/2c rolled oats
1/4c sunflower seeds
1/4c chopped almonds (this can be done in the food processor)
1/4c vanilla protein powder (I like this unsweetened vanilla from Life's Basics)
1/2c apple sauce
2T cinnamon
1/4c maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. In a large bowl, combine apple sauce, cinnamon, protein powder, and maple syrup to make a slurry. Add oats and stir to coat. Add additional maple syrup if you like a sweeter granola.
3. Press granola mixture into a greased pan. (Pressing it in is key to getting the big chunks that are so tasty!)
4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring at 20.
5. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Halupki (Cabbage Rolls)

I've been thinking about trying this for some time now, but finally got around to it this week. Very appropriately, on the evening of the opening ceremonies in Sochi! Cabbage rolls are a staple of many eastern European countries, including Russia. As such, this recipe comes at me from both sides, from the Ukrainian blood on my Mom's side and the Polish blood on my Dad's. Known as Golabki in Poland and Holubtsi in Ukraine, I'm not sure why we refer to them as Halupki (which is Slovak) or "Pigs in a Blanket" since they never contained pork. Our family's recipe traditionally combined ground beef with rice for the filling and topped the rolls with ketchup. Given the success I had substituting lentils for ground beef in my lentil loaf, I tried the same substitution here and found tasty success!

Halupki (Cabbage Rolls)

For the filling:
2c dried red lentils
1c dry brown rice
1/2c diced onions
3 gloves garlic, minced
sage and black pepper to taste
1T + 1T vegemite
1T liquid smoke

To wrap:
1 head green cabbage

For the sauce:
1 6oz can tomato paste
2c water
1T liquid smoke
1T molasses
1t sirracha
garlic and black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cook 1c brown rice according to directions on the package.
3. Cook lentils, adding 1T vegemite to the cooking water for flavor.
4. Cut off bottom and remove core of the head of cabbage. Place on a shallow dish with water and microwave for 5- 12 minutes, until cabbage is soft. (My microwave is dying, so I'm not sure of a "normal" time. Start at the low end and regularly check your cabbage for progress.) Alternatively, you can boil the cabbage leaves. I think this is done by boiling a pot of water and then placing a leaf in there for a few minutes, until it is tender.
5. Mix all of the tomato sauce ingredients, seasoning to taste. Set aside.
6. Mix cooked rice, lentils, and remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl.
7. Peel off a cabbage leaf. Place ~1/3c filling in the middle and wrap. A toothpick can be used to hold it together, but I just put mine directly in the baking pan with the folded side down.
8. Pour tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls and bake for 30- 40 minutes.
9. Enjoy with additional tomato sauce or ketchup. They are hearty so keep very well in the freezer! This recipe will yield 12 rolls, which is enough for 4- 5 adults or a dinner and a week of leftovers.

All the little pigeons ready to go in the oven! As a hint, the whiter inner leafs end up giving more tender rolls. In the future, I'd save the outermost green leaves for another recipe.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Bread

While out in California, most of the time off the bike was spent dealing with food and cooking. (Favorites of my own devising were lentil loaf and pumpkin curry.) Towards the end of the week, we had a surprising surplus of two amazing ingredients: cinnamon and chocolate chips. Looking for a portable manner in which to allow easier consumption of these ingredients, a friend and I brainstormed the idea of a cinnamon chocolate chip quick bread. Unfortunately for the other MIT cyclists out in California, I was too tired and the single oven was overbooked for our last evening, so this cinnamon chocolate chip bread was not realized until last week, when I was back in my Cambridge kitchen. Cinnamon is a real gem among ingredients and I have been known to throw it in everything from salads to chili to chocolate chip cookies. I am a real fan of it's flavor and it turns out it has great health benefits as well! Cinnamon is potently anti-inflammatory and may help stabilize blood sugar too. So give this quick bread a try, I'm sure you'll like it as much as I do!

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Bread

2 1/2c wheat flour
1/2c brown sugar
3T freshly ground cinnamon (or if your cinnamon is old, up to 1/4c)
1t baking soda
1 1/2c water
1/2c almond milk
1/4c maple syrup
few drops vanilla
1c chocolate chips (Raisins could be good in this recipe as well)
1T apple cider vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. I used freshly ground cinnamon for it's kick so you may need to add more if you're using a pre-ground bottle from the store.
3. Add water, almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
4. Fold in apple cider vinegar, then chocolate chips. A cinnamon raisin bread could also be really good!
5. Bake for 1 hour in a greased loaf pan. Bread is ready when a toothpick or fork comes out of the center clean. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Green "Sausage" and California Reflections

Ok, ok... I know in my last post, I promised that I was back. And I planned to be since the only thing on my agenda was to ride my bike! But then I learned that the internet was spotty at best in the house I was staying at in California and it's hard to write a good blog post from a phone. Please forgive me!

A beautiful California sunset to help you find it in your heart to forgive me.
The training trip to California was amazing, and very productive. First, I rode 510 miles over the 8 days that I was there, which is about 40% more than I've ever ridden in one week ever before! Previously, my knees have cried "uncle" after 300 miles in 6 days, so I was really amazed at the end of the week to find that I did this. Even better, this was the first training trip I've ever been on that I didn't come home with an overuse injury as a souvenir. I feel like I'm finally qualified to write a post on injury prevention, so stay tuned! The capstone ride of the trip was a 125 mile ride with 11,000 ft of climbing that was the longest and hardest ride I've ever done. It was hardest quantitatively: I averaged 178w for the trip, thanks to my dedicated MIT teammates pushing the pace. Qualitatively, my first Livestrong century ride, done on a hybrid in 2007, still remains my hardest long ride. In addition to a bunch of pack riding and skills practice, perhaps my biggest takeaways came from the descents. Anyone who has ever ridden with me knows I hate descending and am overly cautious, to the point that I tense up and actually make it less safe for myself. Don't get me wrong: the trip did not make me a great descender, (that would take a miracle) but it did give me lots of opportunities to study, learn, gain general comfort, and practice that will help me in the season to come. (Since returning, I've been visualizing descending properly while on the trainer, since I now have something to base visualizations off of.) While I still find switchbacks extremely daunting, I've more than doubled my experience on switch-backing descents and I am fairly confident that I won't be dropped on every single one in my road races this year. (I'll just get dropped on the really steep/ technical ones...) Perhaps the best part of the trip happened in an orange grove just off of a highway mid-ride. I got some really great news, but for now I will just leave it at that. All will be revealed in time!

View from the top of the our climb at Mt. Palomar.
Ok, today's recipe is perhaps the most simple recipe that I've posted yet. My green "sausage" could also go as a veggie burger, but since I've not posted any of my veggie burger recipes on here, I won't advertise it as that. My veggie burgers are somewhat formulaic, and this recipe bunks that formula. It's only 3 ingredients: Dukkah spice, cornstarch (to help it stick together), and... lima beans! I know, I know. Lima beans don't exactly rush out at you from an assortment of legumes as a good meat substitute. But trust me, it works! Lima beans are nearly a complete protein (they are slightly deficient in the sulfur containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine. Fortunately, the sunflower seeds in the dukkah will counter this deficit), and are a good source of iron, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber. It also can readily be found in the frozen section, which means that you can avoid the salty canned version, without having to wait hours for your dried legumes to cook!

Green "Sausage"

1 12oz bag frozen lima beans, thawed
3T Dukkah spice
1T cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350F. Food process ingredients until mostly smooth. Shape into patties. (This recipe will make about 4 medium-sized patties.) Cook for 30 minutes, flipping 20 minutes in. Enjoy alone as a breakfast sausage, or add it to a bun with mustard and lettuce and call it a burger!