Today was a very rare occasion... a sleep-in morning! Last night I declared that I would take full advantage of this extra rest, sleeping as long as possible and lounging around in my pj's until I absolutely had to put the bike shorts on. Well, that didn't exactly pan out as I has hoped, the sleeping part anyway. My internal clock seems to be stuck at 6:15am. That, coupled with the anticipation of Adam's 50km race result, got me out of bed pretty quickly. I immediately checked my email for an update, and there was one from his mom, Wendy. All it said was: "he's done hurting, but he's ok." Knowing Adam and how crazy hard he can push, right away I'm thinking this either means he's "at the hospital, but alive," or "fell down the mountain, broke a limb, but still finished the race." Thankfully it was neither, just had a rough patch mid-race, but came home strong, finishing 8th. I'm sure there will be a race report up on his blog in the coming days.
I was feeling a little "blah" today and with the Autumn weather in full-effect, I was craving some comfort food. Because I'm still very much in love with butternut squash, there was no question, it had to be a starring role. I paired it with lentils and cooked up a pot of steaming curry. Needing to satisfy my sweet tooth (and also thinking of those at morning swim tomorrow), a cake was also needed. Both were incredibly simple and worked out wonderfully. I think it was start to finish within 90 minutes for everything, and the smells in the kitchen were incredible. I didn't think curry and cake could combine aromas nicely, but trust me, it works!
Butternut and Lentil Curry
1 onion, diced
1 large chunk of ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp curry powder
~1 butternut squash (1 medium size, or 2/3 of a large one), peeled and chopped roughly
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils ("split peas"), rinsed well
5 cups good quality vegetable stock
In a big soup pot, saute the onion and ginger with the olive oil for a few minutes, until softened. Add the curry powder and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, giving it a stir every 10 minutes or so.
Ok, I have to start with a confession. I know I preached about how bad white sugar is in my last post, but I used it today... To be honest, I didn't have much honey, maple syrup or agave left and I'm trying to use up what's in the pantry before I leave in a few weeks, so couldn't justify buying more. There are a lot of GOOD things about this cake, so let's focus on those... ;) I'm looking forward to trying this cake when I get back home with an alternative sugar (maybe coconut?) and a different type of flour. I really like the coconut milk base, it gives it a nice rich flavour and chewy-yet-light texture. I think the variations with this cake are endless so if anyone gives it a try, please let me know. I'm already thinking about macadamia nuts, blueberries, maybe a touch of dark chocolate...
Raspberry Coconut Cake
1 3/4 cup finely shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup self-raising wholegrain flour
1 cup frozen raspberries
Preheat oven to 170 Celsius (for those back home, 350 degrees Fahrenheit).
Mix together the shredded coconut and the coconut milk, and let rest for about 20 minutes while it forms a nice paste. Next, mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Add the flour slowly and mix until combined. Just before baking, fold in the raspberries. Spread into a greased or parchment lined loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it rest in the baking pan for awhile before cooling on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy!
In non-cooking related news, I kick off my World Cup season next weekend in Mooloolaba! I have a solid 4 months of training under my belt and a handful of tune-up races so I'm itching to get out there and see where I'm at. I'm also looking forward to the beach and the warmth! I won't complain about the "cold" Canberra weather on this blog because it still is over 20 degrees during the day. It's actually quite a lovely time of year with the seasons changing.
I also wanted to share a few incredible photos from Canberra's Hot Air Balloon Spectacular. Every morning at 7am this past week, the balloons rose above Parliament, floating across the lake. I'm on the bike at that time every morning, either heading out for a ride or to the pool, so have been able to admire them rising at the same time as the sun. A lovely start to the day!
Monday, March 14, 2011
Despite cooking for one and having to use pedal power to get to the grocery shop (rather pathetic pedal power, I should note, see photo below), I've been fairly creative in the kitchen lately. While in the thick of training I seem to go through phases where I never want to cook a thing, opting for take-out or unenthusastically throwing together very simple meals. Or, in contrast, there are times when I go all-out in the kitchen, trying anything and everything. I used to think there was a correlation between the amount/intensity of training and the culinary creations, but I'm not so sure anymore. I simply love cooking but just like other aspects of life, there are ebbs and flows, and my energy and creativity for cooking tends to fluctuate. I'm pretty sure though that the "next chapter" in my life will involve many hours in a kitchen, whether it's through culinary school or as a full-time chef for my ultra-running husband, attempting to keep him fueled (I'm only joking about this last one.. sort of... but he is training for a 160km RUNNING race, so I can only imagine the sheer quantity of food he's consuming). Right now though, I find cooking to be an enjoyable way to "switch-off" after training and a way to satisfy any craving I might have.
With the training we've been doing, I've been craving more sweets than usual. I know, this isn't ideal from a "health" perspective, but it's just the way it is for me when things ramp up. I try to avoid sugar whenever possible, especially white, refined sugar, so I often make my own sweets using other sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, fruits, etc). I thought I'd share my 6-ingredient "jewel" cookies. They happen to be vegan, wheat-free, sweetened with honey, and very tasty (in my humble opinion :) If you end up trying them, please let me know how they are!
1 cup oat flour*
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup)
2 tbsp coconut oil (if you don't live in a hot climate, heat until melted)
pinch of salt
fruit jam of choice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together everything but the jam and roll into small balls (if the dough is a little on the dry side, add a touch of water, or too wet, add a little extra flour). On a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet, press into patties and create a little dip in the middle of each cookie with your finger. Dollop a little jam into the dips and bake for about 12 minutes until crisp on the bottom.
*For oat "flour": pulse whole oats in a food processor to a mealy-consistency. I don't have one with me in Australia, so I used some elbow grease with a mortar and pestle! It worked great!