Didn’t Make the Cut

It’s 5pm and I haven’t left my room all day.  I slept through the morning, thanks to halloween party #1.  It’s snowing and gross outside and I really have no desire to leave – really, halloweekend?

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I’m antsy, and I’m dying to do a workout or something to move – but today is my rest day.  And I have to tell myself I need it after 6 days in a row of workouts.  Especially after running 4 miles (without stopping) in under 40 minutes! So I’ll attempt to be productive before halloween party #2 tonight.  Not sure how well it will work out, but blog posting is a start.

As I’m not feeling so original today, I thought I’d take the chance to post some things from the past couple months that didn’t make it to the blog.

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flax crackers. not really a fan.

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failed granola recipe. a waste, but something just really did not taste right.

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black bean brownies! not my recipe, but so delicious.

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cucumber & kraut salad. staple, delicious

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kabocha pumpkin pie. too much filling, and the crust stuck. this one I'm going to try again.

I’m now resigning to un-productiveness.  Time to watch a movie or something before heading out into this disgusting weather. In costume!

Any big plans for halloweekend?

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?

Local Crop & Miracle Oats

First of all, thanks so much for the support on my last post.  It really means a lot!

Onto the important stuff – it’s friday!  Which means I get to relax a bit for a day or two.  I finished my first fullybooked week of classes, and I finally feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things.  Unfortunately that also means lots of stress, and many late nights doing homework.  But I tell myself that it will eventually pay off, once I figure out what I want to do with my life.  But that’s a discussion for another time.

I haven’t done any real workout updates lately, so here are some highlights: I ended the week (on thursday evening) with my favorite modern dance class.  We’re working on a dance now that is really fast, and cardio intensive.  It takes serious athleticism, and I love it.  It makes me feel really great to know that I can now push my body to move like that, with precision and speed. We have another 3 classes to work on this choreography, and I love it.  I do miss pilates, though I guess it’s a good trade-off.

Somehow, I managed to get myself to the gym again this morning – by 10:30, haha! I did an awesome-ly sweaty 30 min cardio session, and some heavy lifting for legs, glutes, back and shoulders.  It was glorious.  Tomorrow will be a rest day, and holy sore-quads I’m looking forward to it.

You may be thinking “did she not discover any new loves this week?!” Nope, not the case – this week’s new loves:

1. The local, organic food co-op, only blocks away from my dorm!

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a bunch of collards, fresh ginger, kabocha, bulk nooch, and the best golden apples ever

I got all of this for under $10, and that wasn’t even with the co-op member’s discount.  I don’t know whether I want to pay for the membership.  I could pay less money and work there 2.25 hours a week for a 20% discount, but they already have really great prices for seasonal, local, organic produce.

2. An overnight-oat miracle

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coffee and oatmeal = love

Wednesday night, I decided I wanted oats for breakfast the next morning, but did not want to take the time to make them in the morning.  So I made a batch of voluminous oats on the stove Wednesday night, and covered the pot to let it soak overnight.  Little did I know – it saved my thursday!  I barely woke up in time to make it to class on time, and definitely did not have time to eat or even make coffee before I left!

I tossed the oats into a ball jar, grabbed a snack bar to hold me over and ran to class, still only half-awake.  Longest. Class. Ever!

But, I went to Think Coffee after, and sat down with a soy café-au-lait, and my jar of plain old oats.  Better late than never.

3. The egg bake.

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cooked in my mid-size round glass pyrex, perfectly golden brown

Inspired by Ashley’s recipe.  I threw together some quinoa, egg, random veggies and spices, and baked away!

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smothered in salsa!

Delicious, filling one-dish lunch.

4. Autumn is here, despite the 70+ degree temperatures.

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our kitchen smelled amazing after this. a crisp big enough to feed 8+ people! or 4 really hungry people...

My suite-mate’s mother sent her some sour apples, fresh from their garden in California.  She wanted apple crisp, and asked me to help her make one.  Of course I said yes!  Those apples made for a fantastic crumble.

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I had my serving with a dollop of coconut cream, straight out of the can

Well, that’s it for this week. I don’t really have big plans for the weekend – other than sleeping, relaxing, hanging with some friends, and (*sigh*) doing my homework.

What are your weekend plans?

Have you even unintentionally planned ahead? thank goodness for overnight oats!

Do you shop local/organic/seasonal?

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?

Maker’s Day

Yesterday I went to one of the biggest, most amazing convention/festivals I had been to in a long time – the Maker Faire, in Flushing Meadows Park, in queens.  No, this festival had nothing to do with food or fitness. But so many people – myself included – forget that a healthy is not only about food and workouts.  We need balance, and fun, and that what my Saturday was about.

I forced myself to put aside the massive homework assignment I have due monday, because I would not have made much progress anyway.  Instead, I nerd-ed out all day, at a giant DIY fest.

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they handed out some free healthy snacks!

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I saw the 'Sashimi Tabernacle Choir'! Yes, these fish moved and sang.

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I boarded & toured the BioBus

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saw some awesome DIY contraptions, like this knockoff segway

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ogled at the amazing 3D printers

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so. cool!

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I learned how to pick a lock! ...watch out...

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almost bought a plate of the delicious-looking vegan paella - cooked in HUGE vats!

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yes, there was a fire-breathing dragon.

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does anyone remember Mouse Trap, the board game? This one is Life-Size.

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We also saw some awesome circus students perform

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these guys are so amazing strong!

It was a blast, and I don’t regret doing it.  Yes, I may be slightly more anxious now that I have less time to get my work done, be feel so much less guilt.  If I had stayed in and worked all day, and still not gotten anything done, I would have felt worse.

In the spirit of the Maker Faire, I did a little ‘making’ of my own. In the form of two loaves.

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super moist banana oat-bread

This came out super moist, not too sweet.  I’m not sure if I want to tweak it or not.

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dark chocolate loaf, light and not too sweet

This one was bitter and bread-like, not so much like cake – but the consistency is near perfect, and it cuts like a dream.

So, I’m leaving this one up to you:

Which would you rather see the recipe for first? Banana bread or Dark Chocolate Loaf?

I hope the weekend went well for everyone.  I think we are finally getting some real autumn weather around here.  Now I’m off to finish some homework, and maybe get a little sleep.  I will certainly try 😉

What kinds of festivals to you go to for fun?