Core Foods: A raw bar, I actually want to eat.

I’m always looking around for two things:

1) Raw food that I can actually ingest that won’t make me want to punch everyone in the face as I’m eating it (Also known as, actually enjoyable food)

2) Portable food that I can take on the go when my toddler is having a morning melt down and I barely had time to wash my vagina.

As a “mother runner” or a generally swamped busy individual, anything that makes my life easier while being healthy and sustainable is a huge plus. And sometimes, I have time to make these items myself. I have really conjured up some highly enjoyable granola bars and protein bars that work well for keeping me full while maintaining my effort to lose weight. But lately, I just haven’t wanted to touch my oven for any reason what so ever. I don’t even want to look at it. The itch to bake just isn’t there. So, I thought, maybe it’s time to go on a world-wide web search for someone who will do it for me. Google led me to CORE Foods, a website that specializes in producing these bars which are completely raw, vegan and arrive right to your door in a neat little package. Their website has all sorts of amazing information on a healthier lifestyle: shopping lists, activities and reasons why their product is actually good for you. There are three flavors: Raw Almond Raisin, Raw Cashew Cacao, and Raw Banana Walnut. I was already sold but then I kept reading only to find out that these bars are meant to be a meal when consumed with two glasses of water. Pssssshhh. I thought. Impossible. With an appetite like mine and the running I’m doing, no deal. So I decided to put these little bars to the test. I ordered them and they arrived in literally two days; and that was only because I waited till after the morning deadline. They arrived cold, in little express package which I promptly placed in my fridge. The first one I thought, I would try before a 10 mile run. There’s no better test than that as far as I can see.

So the morning of my very early run I consumed the Banana Walnut which tasted like yummy, slightly spicy in a good way, banana bread. I gulped down my water, grabbed my running buddy and we hit the road. I kept waiting mile after mile for my stomach to grumble. But it didn’t. In fact, my run began at 7 and I wasn’t hungry till almost noon, where I consumed a big bowl of fruit and felt completely satisfied. Not only that but when my run was over, I felt as though I had enough energy to keep going. I didn’t because that would have been craziness but if someone was chasing me, I would have done alright. After that, I made these bars a normal part of my morning routine, sometimes adding a banana to the mix if I was feeling especially hungry that morning. Until the ultimate challenge came: my half marathon. I only consumed half, yes half, of the Cashew Cacao because my nerves were shot but that little guy kept me going for 13.1 miles. I didn’t stop for anything but water and a little Gatorade. Sure, I was a smidge hungry at the finish line but I think that’s pretty good considering.

Truly, it’s rare when a product is completely transparent and I have to say, these little guys definitely are. The label could not be anymore straight forward. The product holds up to all of its promises. And additionally, it actually looks like the ingredients it lists. There is no funk in these bars. No sugar. No crap. They are not candy bars pretending to be healthy. (Cliff Bars, Luna Bars, any bar they produce at the grocery store) Next time you are shopping, read some of the labels of these other bars you are buying: LOADED WITH SUGAR. And it comes in all sorts of interesting forms. Stop eating empty calories. Nourish your body the way it was meant to be nourished. Support this company and buy lots of bars. And don’t even go on about the price, your body is an investment. It’s time to start putting the money where it matters. Good food costs more. And by good food I mean, raw, sustainable, healthful, whole food.

Go check out this site: CORE FOODS, they will be a part of my morning and training permanently.

A better way to eat a brownie

A better way to eat a brownie

I have to be honest, the texture of some raw/vegan desserts makes my skin crawl. I know that they are better for me and my ass won’t jiggle quite as much when I consume them but the mind over matter thing just doesn’t work. Take my last vegan/raw brownie recipe, it was actually quite good but the texture of the top made me feel weird inside so I went in search of a better raw brownie. This is also why I don’t eat the following: jello, avocados, beef jerky and seafood of any kind. I have these mental barriers that I just can’t seem to overcome. And according to a lecture I watched today, your 20’s happens to be where it all goes down, all your opinions are formed in this decade. So if, approaching thirty (insert whiny face here) I can’t stomach seafood, it’s probably never going to happen for me. Anyways, I was surfing the great land of Pinterest the other night, where I am convinced most recipes go to die (green bell pepper stuffed with roast beef and then covered with american cheese and baked, ewwwwwww), when I stumbled upon this little gem. It led me to a site I am quite familiar with and happen to love love love: My New Roots. This lady gets it, food should be good and good for you. Labels are not necessary. And just because you are going healthy doesn’t mean you should feel like crying in the corner. My last vegan/raw brownie made me want to hit someone in the face. Reading the recipe, I was unsure, but I have tremendous faith in the author of this fabulous blog and her pictures looked amazing so I decided to give it a go in my kitchen.

It really is simple, you will need the following: Medjool dates (this will cost you anywhere from $9-$14 bucks, get over it, they’re worth it), walnuts, almonds, raw cocoa powder and sea salt. A food processor is also a must as there is no way any blender (not even my trusty Vitamix) can handle this business. Don’t skimp on ingredients, if you use some creepy regular grade cocoa powder, it will be obvious and then no one will want any part of these. I gave my almonds a nice little toast, as well as the walnuts, because my nuts don’t like to go naked, they like a little flavor. But to keep the brownies truly raw, don’t be doing any of that.

You start with the walnuts, pulsing them until they are fine. Then you add the silky raw cocoa powder  and the sea salt to the walnuts and give it a little additional pulse.

Then it’s merely dropping the dates in one by one until the mixture starts to come together. From there, I lined a square pan with parchment paper and threw the mixture right on in there. Then, I pulsed my almonds gently in the food processor (nope, didn’t even wash it) and then I combined the almonds with the date/chocolate mixture with my fingers. Once they were happy together, I pressed it all into my pan.

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After a nice deep freeze, I took them out, anxious to cut into them and see what they actually taste like. The texture is amazing. When you cut them, they look like real brownies. Which for me is just wonderful. It gets me excited. Deeply excited. But then I took a bite and was completely amazed. These really are good. Like really really good. They taste like a deeply rich, decadent, brownie. I think I just heard angels singing.

I’m telling you all, go and give these a whirl. They take zero time at all and they taste magical. Without the guilt.

The Raw Brownie, courtesy of My New Roots

Ingredients:
2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. sea salt

Directions:
1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.

Banana+Date Muffins

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So yesterday began with me having a “Gwenyth Paltrow” panick attack moments after looking at my calender for the months of May and June. If you are wondering what a “Gwenyth Paltrow” panic attack looks like, just envision the dumbest, most trivial problem you can conjure in your brain, roll around on the floor a little bit, kick your feet, and then proceed to whine loudly with no one around. That would be the jist of it. I purchased Gwennie’s new cookbook as soon as I started reading the reviews about it, because almost like a car crash, I just had to take a look. The introduction was as ridiculous as I had imagined. It was Gwennie describing what led her to this elimination diet as well as detailing some of her rich girl problems. Her theories are interesting for sure and they absolutely gave me a deep chuckle. However, once you peel back some of the layers of stupid, there do lye some decent recipes. And she does have some unique ways of slapping ingredients together. After having my absolutely dumb mini panic attack yesterday I decided I couldn’t quite give up: shellfish, tomatoes, red peppers, gluten, diary and the whole world basically, which Gwenyth swears will solve all your life problems but I thought, hey, maybe I’ll whip up some of these muffins. From there, I will encompass a little bit of Gwennie and the world will return to normalcy. So, I went to the market that sells everything she swears by, dropped a boat load of money, including a $14.95 bag of spelt flour, realized I was now poor and headed home to give these boys a go. They are extremely easy to whip up for sure and I was stunned by how normal they baked up, considering how much the batter freaked me out: olive oil in a muffin????? I was highly skeptical. But all was well in the world and out popped 12 muffins that not only looked like muffins but tasted pretty delicious. (for a healthy muffin)

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I’ve decided not to think about my calender again, as it may prompt me to do something completely retarded, like use Gwennie’s elimination diet to calm my nerves down. I’m just going to embrace where my life is right now and move on. I have always had a tendancy to overbook, double book and then completely fuck things up when I lose track of all my balls. At this point, I should have invested in a day planner or at least attempted to use the calender on my iphone but honestly, I kind of like that I’m a little sketchy with the schedule. Keeps me on my toes. Once I get through June, it’s smooth sailing for awhile. Until, of course, I dive into the million weddings I will be attending in the next year. God, I miss my single friends.

Anyways, if you are currently rolling around on the floor like a dog, panting wildly and feeling flustered, go make these muffins. Gwenyth says so.

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BANANA DATE MUFFINS

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon of spelt flour (her recipe calls for this if you can tolerate gluten but gluten free flour if you can’t)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed up
1/2 cup olive oil
2/3 cups maple syrup (use the good stuff people)
8-10 dates, pitted and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and then mix together the spelt flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk your mashed bananas, olive oil and maple syrup.
3. Toss your dates and pecans in the 1 tablespoon of spelt flour, so they don’t all sink to the bottom and ruin your day.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined.
5. Fold in the floured dates and pecans.
6. Place batter into a muffin tin with liners in each, fill to the top of each liner.
7. Cook for 25-27 minutes, watching closely towards the end, using a toothpick to ensure the muffins are done in the middle.

Vanilla Bean Madeleines

I had SUCH a wonderful weekend. It felt long and I felt full after. Full of love. Full of life. Friday night I made a wonderful dinner for the family comprised of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus w/parmesan cheese and a good crusty loaf of bread. We took our time eating which is a rare thing in our house. After dinner we had a nice chat while the kids went off to play. I had to limit the wine as I was looking at a ten miler the next morning. Saturday morning rolls around and I crawl, literally, out of bed at 6 in the morning, drive to Yarmouth and discover the most zestful running people I have ever met. I run 10 miles, while chatting with a brand new, never met before lady, the whole time. Even the downpour that occurred at miles 3-6 couldn’t kill my spirit, I was having a great time. I left the run with a renewed outlook on life, smiling to myself on the drive home that a) I still have it in me and b) there is hope after all for a grand running buddy. The remainder of the day was spent outdoors with the kids and closed out with a nice spaghetti & meatball dinner with some friends we love. I made them these madelienes because after a heavy pasta dinner, all you need is a little French cookie with coffee. Plus, these are so easy to whip up. Sunday, my husband surprised me with amazing gifts: flowers, a gift certificate for a massage, some great books and a new juicer. I looked at him and thought: yes, he is the best. The love I have for him in my heart is un-matched. We went to my favorite greenhouse and I bought half the place while the kids got pushed around in the carts. It was a perfect day. I went to bed feeling lucky, because I am.

The first recipe I was going to work with had brown sugar, which I had none of, so I made my own. However, I found a different recipe I liked a little better, so the homemade brown sugar will just have to be reserved for another time. When you make your own, it’s softer and just tastes better. Add 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of sugar for outstanding light brown sugar.

VANILLA BEAN MADELIENES

INGREDIENTS
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

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DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla beans. Use your fingers to rub the zest and beans into the sugar, releasing their aromatic oils.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar mixture with the eggs on medium high speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract. Use a spatula to fold in the melted butter, and then the flour.
3. Cover and refrigerate batter for 3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease and flour a madeleine pan.
5. Fill the shells of the madeleine pan with the chilled batter almost full. Bake until centers are puffed and edges are golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then pop out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Madeleines are best the day they are made, but may be stored for up to 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sticky Buns to the Face

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So, every once in a while, I just need a gooey, yucky, not good for you at all but delicious pastry. Anything with brioche as a base is my downfall and these are no exception. I feel like when training is hard, a little treat now and again is alright, I mean, life is short, right? You have to give in once in a while. Over the next two weeks I’ll continue to focus on a really clean, raw, protein packed diet with minimal room for splurging because lets be honest, no one wants to shit their pants at the end of a half marathon. I’m trying to drink a lot of raw juice for recovery and keep my breakfast extremely healthful to start my day with good habits. But I have to say, even when I’m not eating treats like these sticky buns, I do really enjoy making them as well as photographing them. For me, the fun is in the process. I do want to address one thing about this blog quickly, as I think sometimes other bloggers try and define themselves a little too hard. This blog is geared for runners and active folks of all kinds, the general topic of conversation is healthful living/eating, but there will always be an element of “cheat” in here, recipes that are splurges and intended for occasional use and consumption. We are not here trying to tell you how to eat all the time but provide you with a good mix. Real, honest, everyday life, for me at least, is about balance and moderation. I can’t do without some things and I’m not trying to do without those things but I am trying to focus on keeping it 90% healthy or as much as I can that day. To me, life wouldn’t be life without a little pastry on a Sunday morning. Food is love. Your body is the temple. But remember, temples need gold too. Enjoy the day everyone, Friday is right around the corner.

*Please note, in my pictures you see a muffin pan, to make my sticky buns I placed a thin layer of goop with a handful of pecans and then placed the rolls on top and baked them that way, however, I have to say, I prefer them in a baking dish, so follow the directions as stated below. I’m always playing around with new ways of doing things but sometimes the first method is the best method. 

Basic Brioche Recipe
4.5 cups all-purpose flour
31/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
5 eggs
2 3/4 sticks of room temp. unsalted butter, sliced into small pieces

“Goo Recipe” 
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

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For the brioche: Place the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cold water and eggs in a large bowl, place under your mixer. A mixer is a must for this recipe, there is no way around it. Place on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients come together, the dough will look shaggy at this point. Make sure all of your wet ingredients are incorporated into your dry ingredients, scrape if necessary and then continue to beat another 3-4 minutes. Again, the dough will continue to look dry and shaggy. While still on low speed, add the butter a little bit at a time, once the butter is all added, turn your mixer up to medium-high and beat for 10-15 minutes. It will take a bit but your dough will come together, looking silky and beautiful. When the dough starts to “clean the sides” grabbing all it’s bits and pieces and makes a slapping noise against the side, you know it’s done. It should come out of the bowl fairly easily. Place dough in an air tight container and put in the fridge for at least six hours, or up to overnight. Once your long 6 hours have passed, remove from fridge, liberally dust your counter top with flour and roll the dough (see below).

To make the goo: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that’s ok). Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature.

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Assembly & Baking: Again on a liberally floured work surface, roll out the brioche into a rectangle at about a 1/2-inch thickness. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even. Use a bench scraper to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching and almost tripled in size, about 2 hours. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

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