WIAW – Eats & Updates

*sigh of relief*  I’m alive!  In two days – 2 exams, 1 project, 1 essay – done.  And I can relax for a night or two before getting back to the grind stone.  My google reader hates me now, there are over 100 blog posts I have not even looked at.  Which barely ever happens!  But I now have a little time for internet use, so I will reappear at some point.

Since I’ve been studying and stressing like a crazy person, I haven’t really taken very many pictures of my food.  So this edition of What I Ate Wednesday is a compilation of eats from the past week.  And some other things thrown in at the end.  But the food part is more important.

Check out Jenn‘s lovely site to see what’s up at the WIAW link party!

The Eats:

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pumpkin spiced muffin goodness

Somehow I still had to make muffins.  Many people were appreciative.

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delicious oat groats!

the topping/sauce was Katie’s amazing protein frosting. If you have sun warrior, try this, you will not regret it.

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1 egg + 1 egg white, stuffed with chard, topped with squash sauce, and a warm hummus wrap on the side.

The perfect, fluffy, stuffed omelet – I’ve reached the point where I can get it right every time!  This has become a staple high-protein, low-budget, delicious meal.  Sometime in the future, expect an omelet cooking-tutorial.

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spinach pancakes with pre-roasted eggplant & hemp seeds. savory goodness!

Inspired and based on Kristina’s recipe.  Except I used egg whites and spelt flour, added some spices (garam masala!) and downsized the recipe.  I think I’ve finally found a satisfying pancake!  And strangely it’s not even sweet.  Apparently I like my greens more than my sweets?

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this squash was delicious, but gave me some trouble. keep reading to find out.

This is my interpretation of the boy scout motto.  Always have snacks, preferably squash.

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crazy veggie plate!

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this one was carob & peanut flour & pumpkin

return of the giant protein cake!

The Updates:

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if you see this in your TJ's, buy 2. or 3.

I finally decided to give the boxed cake mix pumpkin muffin ‘trick’ a try.  My mix (okay, I de-simplified it a little): 1 box pumpkin bread and muffin mix, 1 can pumpkin purée, 2 milled chia ‘eggs’, 1/4 cup almond milk, 2 t pumpkin pie spice.  I brought them to campus and shared them with some friends – and they got rave reviews.

A few days later, this happened.

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silly little kabocha made my knife slip. ouch.

I was cutting into my perfectly shaped, blemish free (no pics, sorry) kabocha using my roommate’s large knife, which is not super high quality, and definitely not that sharp.  The cut is not pretty, and that bandage barely covers it.  But I’ll spare you the gory details.

That little incident prompted this:

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8" chef's knife, victorinox. not super fancy, but decent and sharp.

Given the amount of squash and other vegetables I prepare, I have debated spending the money on a decent knife.  Seriously, I’ve been thinking about it for weeks!  Hopefully this guy likes vegetables over fingers.

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filter cone coffee love. ceramic > plastic.

This is seriously the most efficient way to make a single cup of coffee.  Minimal time, effort, and cleaning required.  Also, get a ceramic one if you can find one.  Chemical free, and holds the heat better!

I really hope I have time for some real posts this week.  I have so many things I want to write about!

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?

Sweet or savory pancakes?

How do you make your single-serve coffee?

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Ramblings, Confessions, and Curries

Friday could not have come sooner!  I’m not doing a discoveries post today.  Why? Honestly, I’m really not feeling it. So excuse the random ramblings and contents of this post.  Oh, and there’s a recipe at the end.

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confession - sometimes I dip my pre-workout banana in the coffee. try it, it's delicious.

Despite the shortened week, I was again thrown off but the change in routine.  After being really busy for a while, I have an incredibly hard time with breaks that do not involve a change of environment.  That probably doesn’t make much sense – I’ll try to be as coherent as I can here.  If a vacation involves travel, I’m more inclined to use the time to enjoy myself.  If I don’t go anywhere, I am not at all good at making good use of my time.  There is too much free time to get work done, nobody around to hang out with, and not really enough time or money to do anything crazy.  So this past week was rather unproductive, and now I have so much work to do within the next week or two.  Stress = not good!

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this round of nut pulp cookies were bad. sadness.

Despite this, I had an awesome week fitness-wise!  One thing I love about days off is that I can get to the gym early, before I do anything else with the day.  I love starting days this way.  I’m really starting to like running now, as well!  I owe a huge thanks to Tara, who (a while ago) kindly sent me some awesome tips for beginning runners.  Thanks again! I’m trying to focus on form as much as I can, to avoid getting hurt, so I’m taking all the advice I can get.

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confession - i eat my meal salads out of large mixing bowls

My running this week: monday 3 miles, Wednesday 20 minute HIIT run, friday 3.5 miles nonstop!  I’m proud of myself for today’s run, as I took no walk breaks.  My pace makes me a little sad, at about 11:00 mins/mile – but I didn’t stop to walk at all.  I have to remind myself that I’m not a born runner.  I won’t be perfect from the start.

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current beverage obsession. Just have to remember not to drink it after 5pm, or I definitely wont sleep

I had a whole bunch of other things to write, but there are too many things going on now that I lost my train of thought.  A few nights this week I’ve even had to get out of bed at 4am just to make a list, so I can sleep!  Hey brain, you want to turn off at night? Thanks.

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what? she bought cereal? kashi golean. protein, fiber, low sugar, tasty, crunchy. with homemade almond milk, sun warrior, pumpkin and cinna

As far as eats go, things have been all over the place.  I think mostly because of my workout changes, routine changes, and stress.  But, no crazy slip-ups and guilt trips, so I think I’m okay for now.  On the topic of eats, I posted a homemade coconut curry as part of my WIAW and a few people asked for a recipe.  So here it is!

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Simply Coconut Curry (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

This one-pot meal is super easy to make, and near impossible to mess up.  It’s nutrient-rich, high in protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats.  You can use the ingredients I have here, or choose whatever veggies or grains you choose.  It even tastes fantastic the day after, perfect for planned leftovers. [[makes about 4 servings]] prep time: 15 mins, cook time: 1 hour +.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups cooked quinoa (measured after cooking!)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 2 cups brussels sprouts
  • 1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, I like spicy)
  • 1tsp garam masala, or cinnamon
  • 1tsp salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  While the oven is heating, chop up all your veggies.  Toss all the veggies (except the spinach) in a bowl with a little olive oil and sea salt, then spread on a pan in a single layer.  Roast for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are tender and start to brown.
  2. Place all ingredients in a pot.  Stir it up, and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for about 20 minutes – or as long as you like.  The longer it cooks, the more the flavors will combine, but it tastes delicious regardless.
  3. Serve hot, or store in the fridge for the next few days.  Garnish with shredded coconut or some cashews or peanuts for crunch.  This would also be great with a creamy glob of greek yogurt.

[[notes: I used lite coconut milk as it was all I had on hand.  Full fat would be delicious, but It would come out much creamier than mine did.  Also, be careful with the cayenne pepper, this stuff is strong – but I like my curry really spicy]]

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roasted veggies

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really just throw it all in a pot!

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and simmer away...

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the best leftovers!

Unfortunately, it’s already all gone.  Ah well, it was delicious!

That was a rather long post, kudos if you made it through the whole thing!  I’m already up later that I should be for an early morning rehearsal on campus.  Good sleep is not easy to come by around here.

Do you have any random foodie confessions/weird habits?

If you’re a runner, what was your average pace for an easy run when you started?

[[Oh! One more thing – I have 16oz package of Navitas Naturals Maca powder that I am not going to use.  It is open, and about 1-2T have been used, but I’m not really a big fan of the taste, and I have not noticed a difference in how it makes me feel, so I’m not going to use it anymore.  I hate to have to throw it out but I can’t return it.  Does anyone out there want to do a swap? I’ll thrown in some other goodies too – just shoot me an email at eatlearndiscover@gmail.com ]]

The Race and the Recipe

Hi there! Well, for me it’s still the weekend, and I’m enjoying the time off.  I didn’t go anywhere interesting today, I was pretty content after yesterday‘s adventure.

I realize it’s been a while since I did a workout update, and I’ve been itching to post about it.  I think I’m finally falling into a good workout routine – it only took a month and a half!  So here is what my typical workout week looks like:

  • Monday: 2-3 mile run & shoulder strength
  • Tuesday: long stretch, arms & hardcore abs
  • Wednesday: easy run or cross/interval train & leg strength
  • Thursday: dance (legs, abs, cardio)!
  • Friday: longer run or cross/interval train & upper body
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: dance (legs, abs, cardio) or run & abs

I have decided that I actually want to get better at running.  This is probably the third time I have tried to get into running, but I have never stuck with it.  I was so easily discouraged but my slow times, my heavy legs, and overall lack of technique.  Never in my life have I been a runner.  I played sports all through middle school, but my one fallback was always my aerobic fitness and speed – I was always strong, never fast.

Over the past few months, I came to the conclusion that I need real a fitness challenge. I need something to work up to, otherwise I will plateau, and stop pushing myself in workouts.  It also makes things more fun! So, I have found it: The Chicago Turkey Trot 8k run on Thanksgiving day!  It’s not super competitive, so I won’t feel bad if I have to take walk breaks or anything.  But I’m excited!  It’s only about 5 miles, so I think I can work up to that in 7 weeks.

Now, for the recipe!

This summer, I went to Napa with my lovely friend Erin.  In our travels, we went to the town of St. Helena,  home of the St. Helena Olive Oil Company – where they make an amazing butternut squash pasta sauce. The past week, I could not stop thinking about this sauce, so there was only one thing to do – recreate it!

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Copycat Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

This sauce is a great combination of simple, roasted flavors, and works great as a creamy marinara substitute.  It is naturally vegan and gluten-free!  If you choose to home-roast all of your veggies like I did, this can be a time-consuming recipe – but feel free to cheat a little, and buy pre-roasted.  [[makes 4-5 cups]] prep time: 20-90 mins, cook time: 30 mins

What you’ll need:

  • 1 small-medium butternut squash
  • 2 fire-roasted red bell peppers
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 15-20 basil leaves
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. If roasting all your own veggies:  Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  If buying pre-roasted, or if you have a preferred roasting method, skip to step 3.
  2. For the squash: cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.  Sprinkle a little salt on the exposed side, and roast face down for 40-50 minutes or until tender.  For the garlic: follow Angela’s instructions for how to roast garlic.  I put the garlic and squash in at the same time.  For the red pepper:  If you have a gas burner, turn your stove on high.  Roast the pepper over fire, turning it until the skin is completely black.  Place in an airtight container immediately after removing from the fire and let it steam for about 10 minutes.  Remove the skin and seeds.  For the onion: Peel and roughly cut, place it on a baking sheet in a single layer, sprinkle with sea salt and roast about 30 minutes or until caramel in color.
  3. In a food processor, combine the herbs, onion and garlic, and process until coarsely chopped and well combined.  Add in the red pepper and process until the mixture is a creamy purée.  Transfer this mixture to a medium saucepan.
  4. Scoop out the roasted squash, and purée until thick and creamy.  Add the squash to the saucepan.
  5. Add olive oil, salt, and at least 1/4 cup of water to the pot, and mix.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  6. Cook at a simmer until the desired consistency has been reached, about 20 minutes.  Stir often, and add more water if it cooks down too much.  The resulting sauce should be smooth and creamy.
  7. Turn off the heat, cover and let it cool, leaving the lid ajar.  If desired, serve fresh and hot!
  8. Otherwise, once the sauce has cooled to room temperature, store in a glass jar, and refrigerate for many delicious meals to come!

[[substitution notes: this would probably work well with pumpkin or sweet potato purée, if you do not have access to fresh squash. But I highly recommend fresh butternut!  Dried herbs will work as well, but again, fresh give it so much more flavor.  Feel free to use any roasting / cooking method for the veggies, this is just how I chose to do it.]]

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halved squash - just scoop out the seeds, and roast away

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garlic prepped for roasting

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onion prepped for roasting (yes, she cooked with onions! for the authenticity of the sauce)

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squash and garlic, headed into the oven

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caramelized, roasted goodness

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red peppers roasting on an open fire (make sure your kitchen fan is on!)

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fire roasted red peppers. these smell amazing!

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nothing like fresh herbs!

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blend it all up!

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use an old sauerkraut jar to store, if you don't have any others big enough.

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if you're strange like me and don't make pasta that often, eat over eggs and spinach.

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or stranger, on a bed of massaged kale, spaghetti squash and tempeh, with some goat gouda crumbles

This would also be a great sauce over raw zucchini noodles!

I’m not sure how well I did with replicating this sauce, but it’s still delicious.  It tastes like marinara’s nutrient-rich, creamier, slightly sweeter cousin – dare I say I like it better than a standard tomato sauce? If anyone takes the time to try this, let me know what you think!

Are you into running? How did you work up to your first running ‘race’ or event?

Do you make your own pasta sauce? Or do you prefer the jarred stuff?

A Sweet New Year

As I mentioned last Wednesday,  a week ago was Rosh Hashana – the Hebrew new year.  While I am generally not that religious, I really enjoy the culture that goes along with all the Jewish holidays.  Of course, that means mainly the gatherings, songs, and the food.

There are a few food traditions for the new year, some of which I love, and some that just do not appeal to me.  For example, it is a common practice to serve a fish head at the Rosh Hashanah meal, since it’s the ‘head’ of the year.  I’ve definitely never done that one, and never really care to.  Fish heads are not my thing.

The most common tradition, is to greet the new year with apples dipped in honey, as a sign of our wishes for a sweet new year.  I think even the least religious Jews I know always take part in this one.  It’s delicious, fun, and a great way to start thinking about a new year.

There are other traditions as well, but I’ll spare you the culture lesson for now.  [[click here if you want to read more!]] The one I chose to tackle was the traditional dessert – honey cake.  It is a sweet, moist loaf cake that has a distinct honey flavor, but is not overly sweet.  If done right, it is so simple and delicious.  My family does not have a honey cake recipe that has been passed down through the generations, so I though I would try to make my own.  I did a little research and recipe formulating.  I decided to go the authentic route, and make a simple, traditional honey cake – with my favorite whole food ingredients of course.

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Traditional Honey Cake

This thick, moist loaf cake has the rich taste of honey without being overly sweet.  It tastes fantastic on its own, with a cup of tea, or as a part of a tasty sweet breakfast. [[makes one 9×5 loaf]] prep time: 10-15 mins, cook time: 40-50 mins

Dry Ingredients:

  • 200g (about 2c) whole grain spelt flour
  • 1/4 c sucanat
  • 2-3 tsp spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredients:

  • 6T melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 c honey
  • 1/3 c apple juice
  • 3 large eggs at room temp, beaten

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C), and grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until well combined, making sure there are no clumps in the flour.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add all the wet ingredients.  Mix by hand, with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the batter is smooth and clump-free.  The batter will be thin and liquid-y.
  4. Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes – turning the cake halfway through to make sure of even baking (if you have a not-so-great oven, like mine)
  5. When the cake is done, it will be caramel / golden brown in color, and a toothpick stuck in the center should come out clean.  Be careful not to over bake. It is better to be slightly moist and under-done than dried out.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack, then promptly wrap in aluminum foil.  Let the cake ‘mature’ wrapped in foil for at least a day – that way the honey really soaks in and all the flavors combine.

[[substitution notes: feel free to use any flour mix for cake, such as whole wheat pastry, etc.  I like the light texture and nutty flavor of spelt.  You can use brown or turbinado sugar if you do not have sucanat.  Feel free to use any neutral vegetable oil as well, but I’m a big fan of coconut oil.  For the spices, choose any mixture you like – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice.  I love adding freshly ground nutmeg, it adds a subtle richness to the cake.]]

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drippy honey cake batter - careful not to eat it as is, this one does have raw egg!

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straight out of the oven - caramel colored and perfectly collapsed a bit in the center (this is good!)

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sliced and served, day after, at a dinner with family, and a side of pumpkin butter. 🙂

Pumpkin butter is definitely not a Rosh Hashana tradition, but I was in the mood for a sweet autumn flavor to go with my honey cake.

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dark, spicy, rich, dreamy.

I made Angela’s Pumpkin Butter, but halved the recipe.  It filled one standard ball jar.  I’m still enjoying this with some of my breakfasts, coffee, and snacks.

I’m curious – anyone ever tried honey cake?

What are some of your favorite holiday foodie traditions?

On the Brain

It seems that I am not alone in having chocolate on my mind!  The overwhelming majority of commenters requested the recipe for the chocolate loaf – and I’m glad, because that one was more fun to create.  So, as promised, here is the recipe. (I’ll work on the banana bread, and make it really blog-worthy!)

Actually you’ll have to scroll down for that, and feel free to skip this little rant that follows – I have a few more things on my mind.  Well, one thing really.

I’m way off routine, again.  And I just feel off.  I’ve mixed up my foods and workouts, but nothing seems right and satisfying.  The extra pounds are still coming on, but I don’t know how to eat less.  Some days I feel great, some not so much.  For the moment I’m blaming the stress of getting back to school – but I want a way to regulate it.  I want a way to physically feel good, even when I have a million things to get done.

I feel like that is not impossible.  Or at least that it shouldn’t be impossible. I know, it’s college, and I could learn to let go a bit.  I have so many years to worry about health and such, but I can’t help but make it a priority now.  I know it is harder that I’ve chosen a field in which many people choose to work on projects for hours on end, without eating, or sleeping, or seeing the daylight.  Yes, this is an exaggeration, and my intention is not to criticize anyone – I just know I could be happy that way.

Last year, I somehow managed to find a decent balance between classes and other things.  I had a good 2 or 3 hour break each day where I could workout and shower, which was just the right amount of time to decompress for the day.  My schedule was fairly regular, and the routine settled in pretty quickly.

This year, many new variables were introduced.  I no longer have a meal plan, so lunches have to be packed or bought every day.  No two days ever have the same schedule, and there is one day a week when I have classes from 9:30am to 6:10 pm, with a few 1.5hour (or less) breaks in between – the days when I really need a good sweaty gym session, but can’t fit it in before 10pm.  And as much as I love my rest days, I like to take them on weekends, when I can actually rest and relax a bit.  Otherwise it doesn’t feel like rest, I just have all of this excess energy that needs to get out.

By the end of the week I usually feel a little more on top of things, but by the time Monday or Tuesday rolls around I get thrown off again!  I don’t really want to call this a slump, but I just don’t really know where to go or what to do.

This is not meant to be a negative post, and not meant to say that I am unhappy – I just needed to get it out there.  I will gladly take any advice you have to give, or stories you have to share about similar experiences.

Now, onto the good stuff!

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Rich Dark Chocolate Loaf

This chocolate loaf is not to be confused with your everyday chocolate cake.  It is stronger and richer in chocolate flavor, but much less sweet – and has a consistency closer to that of crumbly bread.  It’s a great, lower sugar remedy for a carb-filled chocolate good craving.  [[makes 1 standard 9×5 loaf]]

prep time: 10-15 minutes, cook time: 45 minutes

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 c flour – I used spelt
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c sucanat, palm, or brown sugar *
  • 1.5 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t salt
  • a handful of unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped (or other mix ins added at the end)

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 c greek yogurt
  • 2 T maple syrup*
  • 1/4 c melted coconut oil**
  • 1/4 c applesauce**
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c almond milk (or any liquid)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F, and grease a 9×5 loaf pan (I used coconut oil cooking spray)
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Using a mixer, sifter, whisk or your hands, make sure there are no clumps in the flour or cocoa powder.
  3. Whisk all the wet ingredients together except the milk. Whisk for a minute or so, until everything is well combined and the mixture is slightly whipped.
  4. Gently add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir until just combined.  Slowly add the milk, until the batter has reached the desired consistency (thick, but drippy). Be careful not to over-mix, as it will make your loaf more dense.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chunks or any other mix-ins (chopped nuts, coconut, you name it!)
  6. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes at 350F
  7. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before popping it out and slicing.
[[substitution notes: if you prefer sweeter, feel free to add up to 1/2 cup more sugar or 2-4 T of maple syrup, or both – just adjust the amount liquid accordingly.  For the oil, you can use all coconut oil for a fluffier, cake-like loaf, or all applesauce for a denser, ‘gummier’ loaf – or some combo.  Feel free to sub mashed banana or pumpkin for the applesauce as well.  to veganize: add 2T of ground flax to the dry mixture, and add 1/4 cup of liquid to the wet.  Use soy or non-dairy yogurt. (note, I haven’t actually tried this, let me know how it goes if you do) ]]

In pictures!

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dry ingredients on the left, whipped wet ingredients on the right

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thick-but-drippy batter

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add in some rich, unsweetened chocolate (I used TJ's baking chocolate)

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pour into the pan and smooth out the top (check out my notebook in the background there)

hot 'n fresh out of the oven

goes wonderfully with a glob of PNut butter!

Do you prefer super-sweet or extra-rich baked goods?

How do you get yourself into a new routine?