Thursday, March 27, 2014

Figgy Cookies

I won't lie... the lack of sugar in my cupboard hasn't stopped me from my engaging in my life-long passion of designing new cookie recipes. I really enjoyed my PB&J cookies and these figgy cookies (you know... like figgy pudding!) are a variation on my dried fruit cookie theme. Here though, I use figs to carry the flavor and accent it with cinnamon and vanilla. The result is like a delightful cross between fig newtons and oatmeal cookies. I hope you enjoy them!

Figgy Cookies

8 dried figs
1/4c raisins
1/2c vanilla almond milk
1 heaping cup oats
1T cornstarch
1/2t baking soda
1T cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Food process oats, cornstarch, baking soda, & cinnamon to a coarse powder.
3. Add raisins, figs, and almond milk and process until the mixture balls up like a dough.
4. Drop rounded spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Enjoy!

Sorry for the short post today! My bike race starts about 40 hours so we are in crunch time!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ice Cream for Dinner!

We've all had those days. You know, where the day has been so stressful that you don't feel like making anything and all you're in the mood to eat is ice cream. Ok in all honesty... sometimes even when it's not "one of those days" I find that all I want for dinner is ice cream! I'll confess that I occasionally do eat ice cream for dinner (sorry Mom!) and actually when I was rowing on the national team, the US lightweights would go out for frozen yogurt for dinner together. Of course not always, but Twist in Princeton NJ was our dive!

Well, this is the last week leading up to XPot 4.0, the collegiate cycling race weekend which I organize. Anyone who has planned a big event knows that even with the best planning, this week is crunch time. On top of that I have a lot of work to do in lab and am dealing with trying to get a particularly frustrating instrument fixed. (Thank goodness I'm not an analytical or physical chemist! I don't have the patience for fixing instruments.) After a nuts day, I came home last night and didn't feel like making anything for dinner. I wanted chocolate, but since I gave up sugar for lent, that wasn't an option. I have however, been making a fantastic mango-bluberry-vanilla sorbet in my Ninja blender so I decided I'd try to pack a little more nutrition into that. Well, with 2 servings of fruit, a serving of vegetables, and 15g of protein I'd say that this sweet, cold, creamy bowl of goodness delivers in the nutrition department! I'd say this "ice cream" may actually be better than many other dinner options. I hope you enjoy it!

Ice Cream for Dinner!

3/4c frozen cubed mango
1/2c frozen blueberries
1/2c frozen spinach (or 1.5c fresh)
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use this because it provides a complete complement of amino acids)
~1/2c vanilla almond milk

1. Add frozen ingredients and protein powder to your high speed blender. Process until your mixture resembles a fine powder. I stir every 20 seconds or so to make sure nothing is getting stuck at the top or bottom.
Note: Unfortunately, a food processor or regular blender will not do! Best to wait and try this with a Ninja or the like. If you want to try it in a regular blender or food processor, I'd omit the spinach as it will stay too stringy to be enjoyable
2. Add 1/2c almond milk and continue to process until mixture starts to flow with a viscosity like freshly churned sorbet. Add a bit more water or almond milk until you get the texture right.
3. Enjoy! This recipe yields one generous dinner-sized bowl.
Note 2: Since I've given up sugar for lent, this seems plenty sweet to me. The mango is quite sweet and really carries it. However, after 21 long days without sugar my tastebuds may be desensitized. Feel free to add some brown sugar if you feel like it would benefit from it.
Note 3: I bet this would also be delicious if you added in a few T cocoa powder. Chocolate sorbet for dinner!

Meet Biscuit, the new furry addition to my family!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smoky Collard Wraps

The Whole Foods paper bags in Cambridge now claim that "Collard greens are the new kale" and they may very well be right! I picked up a bunch of collard greens at the on-campus market last week, having finished the last of the halupki that I had frozen and being intrigued by the large, dark green leaves. Collard greens may have the greatest cholesterol lowering ability of all of the cruciferous vegetables and they pack the same cancer-fighting punch that you've come to know & love from the cruciferous family. They are strongly anti-inflammatory, with high doses of phytonutrients (antioxidants), vitamin K, and omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, collard greens pack a monster dose of vitamins A, B, C, K and calcium, iron, and magnesium. I bet you didn't know all of that about this super food! This recipe serves them up stuffed with wild rice, lentils, sunflower seeds, and carrots for a savory and nutritionally dense hand-held meal.

Speaking of super foods, one of the girls who I rowed with on the national team and at Riverside writes a (very good) blog and this week she covered 8 Power Foods for Athletes. Esther is an Olympic gold medalist and has made the national team more times than I can count, so I'd say she knows a thing or two! Head over to her site to check it out!

Smoky Collard Wraps

1c brown rice
1/2c wild rice
1c dried green lentils
1/2c raw sunflower seeds
3c baby carrots or 6 large carrots, shredded
1/2 onion
6 cloves garlic
smoked paprika
liquid smoke
salt (optional)
1 large bunch collard greens

1. Prepare rices and lentils as directed on the package in boiling water
2. Bring an additional large pot of water to a boil. This will be for blanching the collard greens.
3. In a food processor, shred carrots, then add the garlic, then the onions. Transfer this to a large pot for sautéing and add spices to taste. Add sunflower seeds and cook until carrots are tender.
4. Separate out large, untorn collard leaves. Cut off the stem and blanch in boiling water until the stalks are tender (~8 minutes). You can do 4-5 leaves at a time. Dry with a paper towel once removing from the boiling water.
5. In a large bowl, combine rices, lentils, and carrot mixture. Add additional spices to taste.
6. Place ~1/3c filling in the center of the collard green and wrap up like a present! As the wraps cool, they will further conform to their folder shape.
7. Enjoy immediately or save as leftovers. I can guarantee that these won't last for long!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the luck 'o the Irish be with you today and always. I love St. Patrick's Day! Mostly because it's an excuse to wear copious amounts of green (my favorite color) and my best friend growing up was Irish. This year, I saw Irish soda bread all over at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and so decided that I needed to make my own, since all the store-bough versions had sugar. Luckily, I found this recipe from Happy Herbivore, which turned out great! I left out the optional sugar, but other than that stuck with the recipe. I found that I preferred to eat it topped with peanut butter, rather than butter, but this may be because I have an unnatural obsession with the combination of peanut butter and raisins.

The past several weekends have been low-key, as my cycling training has been shifting gears from LSD (long slow distance, not the drug!) to higher intensity stuff. Specifically I just got off of a rest week, which was desperately needed. This weekend, I even got Saturday off! Last weekend though, I did some exploring in Rhode Island and found some really lovely roads. While usually, crocuses and shamrocks go hand in hand, this year it's still winter here! I've also been experimenting a lot with sugar-free baking (including carrot cake muffins and a lime cheesecake) but I have to report that none of my treats have yet been as successful as my PB&J cookies.

Toxic weathering another windy, cold, salty ride. It is still definitely winter here in New England!

Mini horses. I found Lil' Sebastian!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I imagine that this actually won't be a terribly popular post. But who cares! This is my blog and I want to write about my new find/ creation/ revelation. My readers who choose not to read this are missing out! Anyways, I mentioned last week when I used thai peanut sauce on a red cabbage salad that I have been very into non-traditional salads lately. This week, it's another version on the same theme. Using these hardier greens lets me prepare a salad on Sunday and take some for lunch on Thursday, when I'll still be able to enjoy the crispiness. Traditional salads get soggy when you try to prepare them the night before! Anyways, I've been strapped for time lately so I chose the easy out this week: bags of pre-shredded green cabbage and carrots from Trader Joe's. Green cabbage doesn't have quite the antioxidant profile of red cabbage, but it's still chock full of fiber as well as vitamins C, K, and B. Green cabbage is also more mild, so spiced it up with chili pepper, cilantro, and lime and pared it with the fiesta flavors of corn, green pepper, and scallions. To top it off, I prepared a simple, spicy black bean mole sauce as a dressing, which enhances the flavor as well as the protein content. I hope you give this recipe a try!


For the salad...
1 package shredded green cabbage
3c matchstick carrots
1c sweet frozen corn (or two small ears of fresh corn)
1 large green pepper, cubed
3 scallions, cut into thin slices
1 bunch cilantro, diced
juice of 1/2 lime

For the mole sauce...
1 can black beans, washed and drained
1c water
sirracha sauce (~3T or to taste)

In the food processor, combine the ingredients for the mole sauce. Food process until smooth. In a large bowl, combine all vegetables and cilantro. Toss to mix. Top with lime juice and mole sauce and stir to mix. Serve alone as a side, or over wild rice with black beans as a complete meal. Enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2014

PB&J Cookies

I mentioned last week that I gave up sugar for lent. I feel really good about this choice, and as with most times I give up something, I see it as an opportunity to try new things. Up until recently, I've seen fruits as basically equivalent to slimy table sugar (i.e. I've never been a fruit fan.) However, with my new knowledge of antioxidants and micronutrients in fruit, I've started to come around to the idea that fruit may offer things that table sugar does not. I've been intrigued by the raw dessert movement: most of these recipes use dates as a sweetener. I love this idea, but dates are really expensive! $6 for a container that I'm sure I could use up in one recipe. Instead, I challenged myself to make a cookie using only raisins for sweetness. At 1/4 of the cost, raisins fit my budget much better than fancy dates and in this recipe, I think they give a flavorful hint of grape jelly that dates just couldn't emulate. These cookies are gluten free,  (of course sugar free,) and would be out of this world with almond or sunflower butter as well!

PB&J Cookies

1 1/4c raisins, soaked
1c rolled oats
3/4c peanut butter
1/2t baking soda
1T cinnamon

1. Soak raisins in warm water for a few hours, until soft. Be sure to check raisins for stems and other debris.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. In a food processor, process oats to a course flour. Add baking soda & cinnamon and give it another whirl to mix it in.
4. Add raisins and food process until a smooth paste starts to form. Add peanut butter and keep processing until you have a ball of dough.
5. Form dough into balls and press onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes at 350F. Enjoy!

Friday, March 7, 2014

What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?

There is one moment in time that I can recall that I exactly knew the answer to that question. The year was 2007, the location was Pittsburgh. Doherty Hall on Carnegie Mellon's campus, to be exact. I was sitting in my undergraduate chemistry seminar and a wave of certainty came over me. At that moment, I knew that when we were released from seminar, I was going to get up, walk over to Skibo gym, pull a 2k erg test and PR (I had botched one earlier in the week), and then walk to the mail center in the UC where I would receive the acceptance letter for graduate school at MIT. That was February 11, 2007 and I'll never forget that day. After getting up from that erg and receiving that acceptance letter, I knew that there was no way that I would accept failure. I knew my path from that moment forward: I was going to go to MIT, where I would join Tim Swager's group, and get my PhD in chemistry while training to make the national team in rowing at Riverside Boat Club. In August of 2007, I enrolled at MIT and started training at RBC. In November of 2007 I joined Tim Swager's group. And weeks after I passed my qualifying exams in 2009 I made the US Rowing national team and won a bronze medal at the elite World Championships.

And then things started to get fuzzy. I badly injured my shoulder late in 2009, my best friend passed away early in 2010, and by 2011 I knew that my rowing career was over (although it took me over a year of therapy to acknowledge what I had long felt in my gut). The only thing that went according to my plans was writing and defending my thesis to earn my PhD in late 2012. And boy was that a shocker! Athletics were always the thing I did to stay centered and grounded: even when everything was uncertain, unpredictable, and uncontrollable in my academics I knew that I could always count on hard work leading to results in my athletic life. Somehow, my hard work was directly leading to success in academics? Everything was turned upside down!

Apparently the frailty of the human body is a real thing. Honestly, all I ever wanted from rowing was to see how far I could go and with earning myself serious overuse injuries in every major joint I finally had to face the conclusion that I had found my answer. Even though I had learned new mind games that would take me to the next level of exertion, my body could no longer be tricked. I always believed that the human body was limited only by the mind, but it turns out it's our minds that are limitless.

Coming full circle and being offered my dream job as a chemistry professor at CMU has reminded me of the limitless power of my dreams. (Yes! It's official! I will be a professor at Carnegie Mellon starting in 2015!) It's allowing me to ask myself the question "What would I do if I knew I couldn't fail?" and for the first time in years, I surprised myself with an honest answer. Of course, I may not share that dream out loud, but I finally feel centered knowing that I can dream, feel that firey passion, and strive again.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fastnachts & Ash Wednesday

Well, lent has officially started. And for me this is a great thing, because I definitely need a chance to reset! The craziness of grant applications and job interviews crowded out a place for prioritizing my New Year's Resolutions in January and February. Fortunately for Christians (and really anyone who wants 40 days of reflection), lent rolls around just after the holiday buzz slows down so it's an excellent time for a second chance.

This year for lent, I'm planning to go to church every week (check for getting ashes on my head on Wednesday!) and I'm also giving up a lent classic: sweets. Specifically, I'm giving up sugar & chocolate. So be prepared for a dearth of recipes based on those ingredients for the next 40 days! Don't worry, I already have some date-sweetened cookies in mind. I decided that fruit sugars (and molasses with it's high iron content) don't count; basically I am just looking for a chance to tone down my sugar addiction. My coffee addiction, however, will remain in full swing until the hours on the bike start to come down! I am also planning to keep the recipes strictly plant-based for lent.

Anyways, the day before lent is the day we call Fastnacht's Tag in the Pennsylvania dutch part of the country I come from. This roughly translates to "donut day" or "fast night's day" and aligns with my family's Polish Catholic celebrations. Fastnachts are a bit different than normal donuts, in that they are made with a potato dough on the night before the lenten fast. The idea with these confections is the same as that behind the Polish paczki: traditionally you were trying to use up all of the delicious butter, eggs, and lard in the house before the austere season of lent. While most days of the year, donuts are not my thing there is an old Polish proverb that roughly translates to "If you don't eat at least one doughnut on Shrove Tuesday, you will no longer be successful in life." Since I want to keep up my luck, my friends and I have made homemade fastnachts on Shrove Tuesday for the past several years. This year I was lazy and only made up a gluten free version, (and used baking powder and soda instead of yeast) but the verdict was that these are a success! I hope you enjoy them.

Gluten Free Fastnachts

cooked flesh of 3 medium potatoes
2.5c oats, processed into a fine powder
2T cornstarch
1T baking powder
1t baking soda
1T cinnamon
1/2c brown sugar
2/3c vanilla almond milk
1/2 bottle canola oil, for frying pot
powdered sugar for coating (optional)

1. Potatoes can be cooked in the microwave by poking some holes in the skin with a fork and microwaving for 5-10 minutes (based on the strength of your microwave), until soft. Then, the flesh can be scooped out with a fork. Alternatively, you could peel, cube, and boil the potatoes.
2.. Pour a good volume oil into a pot (depth of at least ~3 inches). Heat on medium heat. If you have a thermometer, the temperature should be 350F, but I always just wing it.
3. Food process oats into fine powder. Set aside in a bowl. Add cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. Mix.
4. Food process potatoes and add to the bowl. Mix thoroughly to get a thick, sticky dough.
5. By now, your oil should be ready to go. Shape a handful of dough into a flat patty and carefully place it in the hot oil. Flip when it starts to look brown, ~2 minutes. Cook an additional ~1 minute on the other side.
6. Wrap in paper towel to blot off excess oil. Then roll in powdered sugar, if you desire. Enjoy warm with a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thai Peanut Cabbage Salad

I've been very into what I've been calling "super salads" lately. This is not my original super salad, I'm saving that recipe to go with my long-awaited injury prevention post. My definition of a super salad is a salad based on a green other than lettuce, in this case it's red cabbage. I've been fascinated by red cabbage since Sam's guest posts, however, my local Trade Joe's doesn't routinely carry it. However, last week I went out of my way to find some and then I spent a few days brainstorming recipes. Last night, I was thinking about turning it into coleslaw, and even went to far as to figure out how to make home-made plant-based mayo, but in the end... my peanut sauce was calling and I fell for this thai-inspired flavorful salad.

Red cabbage offers a plethora of nutritional benefits. The deep red color comes from polyphenols, which are antioxidants that are protective against inflammation. Like other cruciferous vegetables, cabbage is a source of glucosinolates, a compound which is thought to help prevent cancer. To top that off, red cabbage offers impressive doses of vitamins A, C, and K. To top the salad, I made a gluten free, soy free peanut sauce which results in a very tasty sauce that I want to eat with a spoon. Instead of soy sauce and sugar, I use molasses, which adds a healthy dose of iron, potassium, calcium, and B vitamins. The peanut butter adds cravable flavor, as well as protein. However, for peanut allergies, I imagine that this salad would be good with sunflower butter! I complete the protein in this salad with chickpeas, however, in hindsight edamame may have been a more authentic choice.

For the Salad
one head red cabbage
5 carrots, peeled
2 cans chickpeas, washed and drained

Thai Peanut Sauce

1/2c peanut butter
1/3c rice vinegar
1/4c molasses
1/2c water
thumb-sized piece fresh ginger (plus extra dried ginger to taste)
4 cloves garlic
Siracha chili sauce to taste (~3T)

1. Peel carrots and shred in food processor. Transfer to large salad bowl.
2. Wash cabbage and cut into 8ths, removing the core. Food process to shred. Do this in stages, as it won't all fit in at once! Also, a disclaimer: this is tougher than it sounds. I made a mess. Once diced, transfer to bowl with carrots.
3. Add all sauce ingredients to food processor and blend. This will serve to mix the sauce, as well as pick up the shredded vegetables stuck to the sides.
4. Add peanut sauce to bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots. Stir to mix. Top with chickpeas to make it a filling one-pot dinner and enjoy!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chocolate Chip Buckwheat Scones (GF)

Buckwheat, hemp seed, coffee, and chocolate. This odd combination has been my culinary obsession in the past week or so (in addition to cinnamon, of course!) while I've been scurrying to write a grant application last minute. And then trying to get caught up on everything that I had planned to do instead of writing that grant. And then starting to get the ball rolling with officially accepting my professor job! I still haven't signed the paperwork, so I'm just going to continue insinuating. Once the paperwork is signed, I'll officially confess...

Anyways, back to the buckwheat. Before the last week, I had never experienced buckwheat, except once fondly in childhood, as part of buckwheat pancakes. However, I recently found buckwheat in the bulk food section, which has been allowing me to experiment with this great grain. Buckwheat (ironically) is a gluten free grain. For every 100 calories, you get 3g complete protein and 3g fiber. Buckwheat is also rich in magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, and potassium. Give buckwheat a try in this gluten free scone recipe!

Chocolate Chip Buckwheat Scones

1/2c buckwheat grouts
2c water
1T cornstarch
2T brown sugar
1c rolled oats, food processed + 1/2c oats
2/3c chocolate chips

1. Place 2/3c buckwheat in a pan with 2c water. Bring to a boil until all water is absorbed. (Let cool if you don't want to chocolate chips to melt into the batter)
2. Preheat oven to 425F.
3. Place 1c oats, cornstarch, brown sugar, and baking powder into a food processor. Food process until smooth.
4. In a bowl, combine all other ingredients, saving the chocolate chips for last.
5. Shape dough into 3 balls, flatten onto a greased baking sheet. Cut into quarters for the scone shape.
6. Bake for 20- 25 minutes, until the edges just start to brown. Let cook & enjoy!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cinnamon Cupcakes

Hmm, well. Much like the pumpkin craze back in October, it seems that there was a cinnamon burst in February! Today I'm sharing a recipe for cinnamon cupcakes with peanut butter icing that I recently developed. I've had a life-long fear of baking cakes from scratch, simply because the first time I tried to make a cake from scratch was for one of my best friend's 16th birthday. It tasted  like cornbread. It was very perplexing, as there was no cornmeal in the recipe. None the less, it took another decade for me to attempt my next cake from scratch. This is the first cake recipe that I ever dared to devise. I decided to top it with a peanut butter icing, which turned out to be quite the delightful combination! I hope you enjoy it.

Cinnamon Cupcakes

1 2/3c flour
1c brown sugar
1T baking powder
2.5T cinnamon
1T ground flax seeds + 3T warm water
2/3c +2T soy milk
2/3c water
1/3c canola oil
1t vanilla
2t apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350F. Add water to flax seeds and let soak. Mix dry ingredients, then add wet, except for the vinegar. Using an electric mixer, beat for 2 minutes. Fold in vinegar. Add batter to cupcake tins. Cook for 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool, then frost.

Peanut Butter Frosting

2T earth balance buttery spread
1/4c peanut butter
1/4t vanilla
2c powdered sugar
4T vanilla almond milk

Using an electric mixer, cream vanilla, peanut butter, and earth balance. Beat in sugar, 1/2c at a time. Add 1T almond milk to thin as necessary. Once the desired consistency is obtained, frost the cupcakes. Or, keep frosting in a closed container for up to a week before using.