Archive for November, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

I am thankful to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my mother. This year will be a little different. Rather than having Thanksgiving at her home, we are joining her friends and neighbors in a potluck. I’m bringing homemade bread, a salad, and a fruit & cheese platter.

Hearty homemade whole grain bread with whole wheat, pumpernickel, oats, millet, and polenta.

The loaves are still warm as I type this and the house is filled with the satisfying aroma of freshly baked bread.

Salad will be a light and fresh mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach with crisp-sweet Fuji apples, toasted walnuts, and a light honey-mustard vinaigrette I whisked together.

After work today I was pleasantly surprised to find the Davis Farmers’ Market happening downtown and picked up some lovely red grapes, persimmons, and a couple of artisan cheeses that will make for a festive platter. I haven’t decided which cheeses to bring tomorrow, but I’m leaning towards these four: an herbed goat, a smoked cheddar, a Stilton with cranberries, and a “Foggy Morning” fresh cheese (perhaps served with some fig jam).

Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, but I do hope to get at least a quick ride in in the morning. I haven’t been riding nearly enough! It’s not quite light enough in the morning anymore to ride before work, so I’m back at the gym or out walking on nice weather mornings. It’s been chilly, but beautiful!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! I hope you get to spend it with your loved ones!

Good Morning Sunshine!

Work Bake Off!

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

We had a bake off at work today. I sampled almost everything – except for anything with pumpkin. I am sad to say that I missed the chocolate cream puffs; they won the “Best Overall” category! Here are a few pictures of the entries. I think I got pictures of almost everything that was entered. I promise – there were some healthy entries – not just pure decadence.

Here are a few of my colleagues’ amazing entries … this was a tough competition!

Best in Show! Chocolate Cream Puffs.

1-2-3-4 Cake

This was buttery and moist.

Pumpkin Nut Bread

I heard that this was fantastic - moist and delicious!

Cookie Butter Fudge

You know that TJs cookie butter? Here it is - made into fudge! It was sweet and festive!

I also got the baking bug this week and made a few entries …

... speaking of decadent ... Turtle Brownies

Classic Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Need I say more?

For Turtle Brownies, the secret is more in the technique than in the recipe. Make your favorite batch of brownies. While the brownies are baking, make your favorite caramel sauce (or use a good quality store bought caramel sauce – don’t skimp on this – invest in a good caramel sauce!), coarsely chop about 3/4 cup pecans, and measure out about 3/4 cup good quality dark chocolate chips. Make sure everything is ready to go the minute the brownies come out of the oven. Pour about 3/4 cup of the hot caramel sauce over the hot brownies, carefully spread out from the center to about 1/4-inch from the sides. Sprinkle the pecans over the caramel, then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the pecans. Allow to cool completely before cutting. I usually make these a day ahead and allow them to cool at least overnight. Do not cover them until they are completely cooled and the chocolate chips have set. You can make these completely from scratch, or you can use your favorite mix and pre-made caramel sauce. It’s up to you!

Irish Apple Cake ...

I’ll have to ask permission to post the Irish Apple Cake recipe. It was given to me by a young Irish woman I met a few years ago. It is adapted from her Grandmother Minnie’s family recipe. I was pleased my cake came out perfectly because I had not made this recipe in a few years. I suspect one will show up at another holiday event before the end of this year.


Now for the lighter items …

Lemon Raspberry Tartlets - Low Fat

Classic Meringues - Fat Free

These meringues were also to be filled with the lemon curd and/or raspberry jam. I made my Low Fat Lemon Curd recipe, making it also low sugar by using C&H 1/2 & 1/2 ,which is half cane sugar and half stevia. I am just discovering this product, and look forward to playing with some more recipes. The raspberry jam was also low sugar.  The meringues were not as pretty as I would have liked, but that’s because I used a zip-top back instead of a pastry bag with a nice tip for piping. I just didn’t do a very good job of piping this time. They weren’t the prettiest I’ve made, but the meringue itself was very good.

I have been looking for some lighter alternatives to traditional holiday baking treats. I love meringues, but they’re so sugary. I was quite happy to find this recipe on MyFoodAdvisor – affiliated with the American Diabetes Association.

As you can see, mine turned out a bit darker, but I that that was because the oven did not maintain a consistent temperature. For both the cinnamon and vanilla meringues I used the same base recipe. I just omitted the cinnamon for the vanilla meringues. The cinnamon meringues would be great with coffee or tea. The vanilla meringues we served with the lemon curd and/or jam. They’re good on their own, too!

Cinnamon Meringues

Spicy-sweet and as light as air. These won the "Best in Health" category!

Vanilla Meringues

Crispy vanilla meringues waiting to be filled with cool, tart-refreshing low sugar lemon curd.

Now it’s time to work off the bake! Hopefully the weather will cooperate this weekend for a good training ride or two. The 2014 Napa Valley Tour de Cure will be here before you know it! For information on how you can register for the American Diabetes Napa Valley Tour de Cure 2014, please see here! Join me in Napa, California on Sunday, May 4, 2014 – take the ride of your life! If you want to help support my ride, please click here and make a donation. Every bit helps.

I have also been hearing about another sugar alternative – Monk Fruit. I’ve ordered some Monk Fruit In The Raw. I’ve read that this natural sweetener tastes more like sugar than stevia does, so I am looking forward to trying it. Keep an eye out for some new, lighter recipes for healthier holidays.

 

 

 

Morning Walks

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

I keep meaning to get back to the gym before work, but with mornings as beautiful as this, it seems wrong to be cooped up inside. I’d rather be out enjoying the cool, crisp, fresh fall air.

 

Good Morning Sunshine!

Rains will (hopefully) start soon, so I will enjoy mornings like this while I can. What a difference a little fresh air can make!

 

Exploring Meringue Cookies

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

I’m looking for some lighter recipes these year, so I’m playing around with meringues. These are based on a recipe by Emeril Legasse’s  “Forgotten Kisses.” His recipe reminded me of a childhood favorite that a neighborhood mom used to make; she called them “Forgotten Cookies” because she left them in the oven overnight. As I recall, she left them in a 200-degree oven, but my memory may not be serving me correctly. The technique I used was based on this article from Fine Cooking.

Here’s my version:

2 extra large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup super fine sugar*
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Very, very close to stiff peaks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs while cold and set the yolks aside and refrigerate for another use. Set the whites in your mixing bowl – make sure the bowl is very, very clean because even a tiny amount of fat will prevent the whites from properly whipping up. To ensure that you achieve the best volume, allow the egg whites to come to room temperature. Using your whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Whip to blend, then add the sugar about 3 tablespoons at a time. When you’ve added about half the sugar, add the peppermint extract. Whip to combine, then add the remaining sugar in several additions. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes glossy and forms stiff peaks.

Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Ready to scoop.

Scoop onto a parchment lined baking sheet, using either two spoons or a small portioning scoop. Depending on the size of your scoop, this can make up to 48 small cookies.

Place in the preheated even and turn the temperature off.

Place baking sheets in the oven and turn the oven off. Leave them undisturbed for at least two hours, or overnight. I found that after two hours they were quite lovely, but the inside was not quite dry yet, so I’ll be leaving mine in the oven overnight.

These are very sweet. I want to find a way to make them a bit less sugary, so you’ll probably be seeing a few more versions here until I get them just the way I want them.

After two hours ... the center was still a little moist.

* You don’t need to spend extra for “super fine” sugar – simply pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds.

Happy Veterans’ Day!

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Here's hoping you enjoy this spectacular day!

 

As we go about enjoying this absolutely glorious Fall morning, please take a moment to honor our veterans and the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we can be here today.

To all our veterans,
past and present,
thank you.

Lake Solano Loop

Sunday, November 10th, 2013
Glorious day for a ride in Yolo County!

Greetings from Lake Solano

Girls’ Ride Today

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

It’s a beautiful, crisp Fall morning in Davis and will be a great day for a girls’ ride. I’ll be heading out soon to meet my friend for a spin.

Happy Friday!

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Tuscan Kale, kiwi, pineapple, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, and a touch of whey protein. If you haven’t tried a green smoothie yet, this one will convert you.

A great way to start your day.

The past few days have been stunningly beautiful in Davis and the weekend weather forecast looks promising. Here’s hoping you get some great cycling in this 3-day weekend!

As you’re enjoying your Monday off, please remember why we get to celebrate Veterans’ Day on Monday and pause to honor and remember our troops who have made so many sacrifices for all of us.

Pasta Primavera

Monday, November 4th, 2013

I first discovered Pasta Primavera in the mid 1980’s, at Boskos in Calistoga. Spinach fettuccine smothered in a flavorful marinara loaded with fresh vegetables. The vegetables were always crisp-tender, never overcooked. What I loved most about it was that it was light, but hearty. I just knew that I was eating something healthy. I always left feeling satisfied, but never stuffed.

Today, I needed to make a quick, comforting and healthy meal. I had some brown rice pasta, loads of vegetables, and a prepared marinara sauce.

This is super simple to make. Here is what you will need:

1 pound brown rice pasta (penne shown here)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms
garlic (optional)
2 cooked chicken sausages (about 4-6 ounces)
1-2 zucchini, sliced & grilled, cut into bite-sized pieces*
1 small eggplant, sliced & grilled, cut into bite-sized pieces*
A spring or two of fresh thyme, stripped
16-ounce jar or can of your favorite prepared marinara sauce
Chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, just a touch

Brown Rice Pasta Primavera

Follow the cooking directions for the pasta you choose.

Saute the crimini mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil. While the mushrooms are sauteing, slice 2 cooked chicken sausages into about 1/4-inch thick slices. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Brown the sausages, return the mushrooms to the pan, and add the  chopped grilled zucchini and eggplant. Add the fresh thyme and marinara sauce. Stir to combine and cook on low to heat through.

While the sauce is heating, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Place cooked pasta in a serving bowl and grate just a little cheese on the pasta. Ladle some sauce on, and garnish with a touch more cheese and chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy!

*I used Trader Joe’s Misto Alla Griglia Marinated and Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini.

You really can use any vegetables you like in this. Experiment – have fun with it.

This makes for great cycling recovery food, or a dinner the night before a big ride, but it is also light enough that if you are responsible with your portion size, it’s great for a weekend like this that didn’t see too many cycling miles. It also makes for yummy leftovers.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Monday, November 4th, 2013

I picked up some white whole wheat flour this weekend, and had a few organic bananas that were a little too ripe for my tastes just for eating. I wanted to try a different banana bread recipe, a more classic one, so I did a little searching and found this recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. I made just a few changes to it. (I know … surprising, right?)

Classic Banana Bread

Here is my variation:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350-derees Fahrenheit. Generously spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Whisk together flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and honey, then beat in eggs one at a time. Add bananas. The mixture might look a little “broken” or funky, but it’s OK.
  4. Add the flour mixture, about 1/3 at a time, and mix in between each addition. You don’t want to overmix the batter or the resulting bread will be tough.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in the center of the oven about 30 minutes, then rotate. Bake another 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out mostly clean.
  6. Cool in pan about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

This bread is moist and has a very tender crumb and delicate banana flavor. If you have someone who does not like whole wheat breads, this is a bread to try. You’d never know it’s 100% whole wheat. If you want, you could add 1/2 cup of walnuts.