Sweet potato trail fuel cum baby dessert

Would a rose by any other name smell just as sweet? That’s debatable. Because, baby food called something else (like soup, for instance) tastes a whole lot better. Unless you’re a baby, in which case the reverse is true.

We’ve hit an exciting time as a family, and it features *FAMILY DINNER*. How rife with oxymoron can a daily routine be? It’s nothing less than relaxed chaos, magical mess, giggling screams, and loving frustration. It’s edible paintball, and I love it.

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Little Monkey’s developing palate is thus far exhibiting boldness, flexibility, and a penchant for greens…for now. For now, it makes my heart sing. He eats curry, spice, lentils, quinoa, turnip, parsnips; loves peas, green beans, broccoli. He does have a sweet tooth–nothing can outrank the likes of watermelon, apple, banana, and especially pear.

20140613_134259What with eating all together at the table with minimal prep time, we’re eating a lot of adapted baby food recipes these days. This week, it caught me by surprise when one of Dave’s Leadville prep portables became a hit on the baby tray, and I just had to share. The short and sweet: another Allen Lim recipe, Sweet Potato cakes, only I used 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of butter, and made more than double by baking in regular muffin tins as opposed to tart. The result? Easily one of Dave’s top picks for trail fuel (tested twice this week) and baby rice- sweet potato pie in one. Bonus, very little effort to make. Feels like Thanksgiving.

Daddy Kiss2Why is this portable so super fantastic in baby’s estimation? Lots of reasons, I suspect: appealing orange color, soft form that can still be grabbed and smushed, and the sweet-but-not-too-sweet chewiness of it. And besides all that, it’s one of an infinite span of things, large and small, he’s going to want to do just like Daddy. Happy first Father’s Day to my Sweethearts! xo

 

Sweet Potato Cakes (trail and bonus baby food)
Adapted slightly from Allen Lim’s Feed Zone Portables

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • liberal shake cinnamon
  • dash sea salt
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a regular 12- muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a saucepan or skillet, cover the sweet potatoes with water. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer until fork tender.
  3. Place sweet potatoes, eggs, oil and maple syrup in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  4. Add flour, cinnamon and salt and pulse to combine.
  5. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in rice.
  6. Spoon mixture into muffin tin, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until centers are set.

Vegan hemp protein brownies/trail fuel

20140329_170132Life is change, but this year’s carrying a lit up, blazing shock of it. Above all, there’s the BIG, all encompassing one that is our sweet love-him-more-than-life-itself baby, already more boy than babe. Every day his gleaming eyes declare new, lively awareness; that kissable rosebud mouth announces rocketing learning with greater decisiveness; and those peals, squeals and giggles that delight and melt my heart (along with the rest of him) are increasingly distinctly him.

He, Little Monkey, is the blanketing, beautiful, BIG change that has become my world, and thank goodness for that. Because otherwise, I’d allow my mind to continuously occupy itself with another big milestone– that I am now officially a Master’s runner. You know what that means. (But you can’t make me say it.)

Recently, I’ve had a slight knee issue which has been impacting me psychologically more than anything. Noise rather than ache. I’ve been reassured not to worry for now. That’s sage advice I frequently dispense on others and rarely take myself. Why would I, when instead I can indulge in a dark, buzzing  cloud of paranoid fretting: Is this the beginning of the end? How numbered are my running days? Will my baby be embarrassed of his creaky crone of a mom when she picks him up from school…four years from now?

20140316_142433Some days I need to remind myself, my post-baby body is not even 8-months back to being on its own again. The issues I over-think repeatedly are just as much to do with rebuilding strength, alignment, and navigating a whole new world that includes a chunky monkey on the hip, the front, or the floor in front of my bent knees.

Funny, thinking about that post-baby body, and the baby that was in it, I end up coming to the same conclusions as when I let myself loiter in time-wasting distress about aging.I want my baby to know me as a runner, an active person who embraces the outdoors and physical challenges. One day even a runner who does triathlons again, when a little more time opens up for the bike and the pool. I want to share these things with him for the long haul. I know that means getting over intimidation of the technical and taking to the trails; focusing on core work; accepting less is more; and prioritizing recovery as a crucial part of training…so much harder than it sounds, right?

So it might sound hypocritical to be gearing up for a 50K, my first official ultra since pregnancy. I wonder why I didn’t take into  account when signing up the cramped scheduling our little +1 brings when it comes to training opportunities, or the fact that I’d be having to stop to nurse/pump on the day. Ironically, though, turning to a year sprinkled with fewer races including an ultra or two feels more in line with the long-haul goals than concentrating on road marathons or even shorter races. The pounding is less intense. In the new mommy-mode of “get out and do it/no dawdling” when a window of opportunity to get out there presents itself, out I go to enjoy the trail. It’s unexpectedly less stressful than it sounds (so far).

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Another thing about ultra training, it goes well with real food fuel.  I may miss taking long runs as an opportunity to stuff my face with candy  fuel with certain tasty products, but we’ve been enjoying exploring the potential of homemade real food. This is especially the case when it comes to prepping Dave for Leadville this summer. So far our main trials have been  great portables from Allen Lim. This week, though, the experiment feels a little guiltily decadent. For my birthday, Dave surprised me with some alluring special ingredients, including coconut flour and hemp protein powder. So, I made him run fuel-brownies.

Typically I steer away from protein powders, but hemp could be an exception. Hemp has been increasingly touted as a super food.  Its protein powder is upheld as an excellent plant-based protein source, easily digestible, and  containing all essential amino acids as well as the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. Producing the powder doesn’t seem an exhaustive, eyebrow raising process: whole hemp seeds are cold-pressed to expel the oil; the resulting dry cake is milled at low temps to produce a concentrated form of protein. Certainly not exceeding the task of churning out a box of bran flakes.  I think sprinkling whole hemp seeds over oatmeal is likely more cost-effective, but the powder has appeal, not least because of how I get to bake with it.

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For these brownies, I used this recipe from Fitness treats, only I used almond meal, was liberal with the cocoa powder, and just had to throw in some chocolate chips. Allen Lim includes some in several of his portables, so I figured, what’s the harm? At least the hemp protein powder won’t go to waste with chocolate chip insurance. I also doubled the recipe. Good thing, because even doubling I was hard pressed to evenly spread the batter (thick and sticky…and good) across a small-for-an 8 X 8 baking pan. I used every ounce of that batter, too except for part I couldn’t help licking.

I baked on the longer side because the intention was that they’d handle being wrapped and bounced a little on Dave’s run. They turned out tasting  (and this will be a turnoff for some, but to me it’s only positive) healthfully fudgy. Snack or long run fuel, these aren’t lean on calories, but they’re made with some good stuff. Wholesome burst of chocolatey energy. Mmm.

Vegan hemp protein brownies/trail fuel
Makes approx 9 brownies

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup hemp protein powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4  to 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or mix well in a bowl. Bake in an 8 X 8 baking pan (or smaller, for thicker brownies) at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

 

Paleo coconut date cookies/energy bars

This week I baked two batches of cookies: one, a healthier-than-average chocolate chip cookie I loved. This is the other batch. It could possibly be appropriate to label “cookie” with quotes.

Don’t balk, though. I like the cookie. Really like it. A lot. It’s clean, it’s paleo, and it tastes just like what it’s made of, a pleasing meld of dates, coconut and banana. It makes for a great after-school snack, and I’m certain will make a super swap for an energy bar on the trails.

I used this recipe from Weelicious, and tweaked just slightly. Instead of using straight sesame seeds, I combined chia seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds. The result was that delicious, crunchy-chewy combination so many cookies delight in.

These are a healthy cookie, and as such they do taste like they’re healthy…but seriously in a seriously good way. But even if you’re not specifically seeking ‘healthy’, these breakfast/snack/trail fuel/bike fuel cookie bites may very well take you by surprise regardless.

Next time I make these, I will do one thing I will do differently. I’m going to double the recipe (to the quantities below), at least. I was skeptical to begin with that 5 dates could generously spread to 20 cookies, even with the magnanimous assistance of one banana. And they didn’t. I got  a mere 9 grown-up/”big kid” sized cookies. So unless you’re baking for Lilliputions,the updated amounts will probably work for you, too. Chances you’ll regret it are slim, promise.

Paleo coconut date cookies

Makes 18-20 cookies

Slightly adapted from Weelicious

  • 2 bananas, chopped
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds

*Or, try any combination for about 1/3 to 1/2 cup worth of chia, flax, and sesame seeds. Ground nuts would work great, too!

1. Preheat oven to 275° F.
2. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.
3. Using a tablespoon measure, form the dough into balls and then press down to form cookies.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden and serve.

 

Chia Trial #3: Chia vanilla pudding (dairy free)

I was so prepared to dislike this recipe. More than dislike. Loathe, really, or despise even. I was pretty sure, in fact, I was going to use the word “hate”. It’s a wonder my premature antipathy wasn’t self-fulfilling prophesy, in the end. But that would be ridiculous, over something as pedestrian as pudding.

Even chia pudding…boasting the power of once ubiquitous Chia Pet fame turned “It” fuel chia seeds, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and containing healthy doses of  fiber, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, niacin, molybdenum and zinc.

It turns out, happily, I didn’t hate the pudding. I won’t pretend I loved it.  But I liked it. I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps I might have loved it, had I followed Martha’s directions properly. Instead, I went cheap, swapping almonds for cashews, coconut oil for butter, and extra vanilla extract for the vanilla pod.

As I prepared it, this chia pudding isn’t what you’d call dessert, but it could be breakfast, sweetened by a handful of dates, or a nice power snack. It’s got a texture and taste that’s slightly nutty (from the nuts), and also a bit bubbly, like tapioca. The dates and vanilla lend a pleasing, mild sweetness that isn’t overdone, but if you wanted a bit more indulgence, a drizzle of maple syrup, as suggested by Martha’s original recipe, would be nice, too. We served with blueberries, but the fruitful possibilities abound. 😉

Being so dubious from the onset, I took the original recipe, altered and halved it, and that was plenty. Although if you do stick to the Martha plan, maybe you’ll want more indeed. Who knows, I may find out. I’m not head over heels, but I do think that I will make this again.

Chia Vanilla Pudding adapted from this recipe from Martha Stewart

Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2  cup almonds, soaked in water for 2 hours to overnight
  • 2 cups water
  • 3-4  dates, pitted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • berries or sliced fruit to serve, as topping (about 1 cup)
  • Optional: maple syrup, for drizzling
  1. Set chia seeds aside in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Drain and rinse almonds. Add almonds, water, dates, cinnamon, coconut oil,  and vanilla extract to a blender or food processor. Process until well mixed, about two minutes, and pour into bowl with chia seeds; whisk well. Let mixture stand for 10 to 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent chia seeds from clumping (pudding will thicken quickly). Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
  3. Whisk pudding and divide into four bowls. Top with berries, and drizzle with maple syrup if desired.

Chia Trial #2: Chia flax power “crackers”

Week two of experimenting with nutritional powerhouse chia seeds, we had to go with the second recipe included on this post from the super New Zealand ultra-running blog that inspired Dave to explore chia potential in the first place. Last week went so well. Preparation was easy, with effective results. So much so, it would have been tempting to plan a big adventure run mid-week purely for the sake of trying out another chia concoction, if only work weren’t in the way.

The making of these “Marching Crackers” was a bit less straightforward by comparison. Not that the recipe was complicated; we just had to adapt it. First, we nearly didn’t allow enough time to soak our seeds (flax and chia in water), but we caught ourselves just in time. Then, our model recipe didn’t specify pan size; we may have spread our mixture a bit thicker than the word crackers implies,  but this is really a personal choice with a good bit of leeway.

Next puzzle in store was determining temperature. New Zealand goes by Celsius, of course, but the 50 degrees Celcius converts to a lower temperature in Fahrenheit than our oven allows (about 122). We tried as low a setting as we could (about 150 degrees F), and then left in the oven to further dry overnight, but the result was still too squishy. So, finally, we came up with our own method, which I’m pretty satisfied with, though there are surely many routes to follow for similar, and equally happy, outcomes.

Key to making these fuel bar “crackers” is drying out the mixture well, whether you’re using a food dehydrator, air-drying, or baking in the oven. Until you do, the seeds have a bit of an odd, bitter aftertaste. Plus, the initial crunch is much better when well crisped. Regardless, however, one of the amazing things about chia seeds is the ability to absorb and retain water, and after only a few seconds chewing, your bar will take on an easily digestible paste-like quality. Dave ate one at the tail end of a 16 mile tempo run loop, and described the sensation as “three seconds of chewing, and then it all broke up into soft little ball bearing-like bits.”

OK, in case you had any doubt, these power bars are not going to be confused with snack bars, ala Luna or Z-bars. At first glance, they might, though. The cocoa powder cultivates a deceptively dark chocolatey richness. Only these are pretty decisively endurance fuel, and as such, they really aren’t bad, at all. They’re good, even. Just not “cookies”. “They just glide down,” Dave said, and that’s a good thing. He’s had issues in past races and hard training sessions getting fuel down, even gels, let alone bars. These won’t make their to Santa’s plate any year (although they could probably help him stay up through a long night and keep his muscles powered up for lifting packages as needed), but as long as marathons, mountain treks, and ultras are on the cards, this recipe’s a keeper.

Flax chia power crackers 

  • 1 cup Chia seeds
  • 1 cup flaxseeds
  • ½ cup cacao or cocoa powder
  • ½ cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
  • ½ cup raisins
  1. Soak the Chia seeds and linseeds overnight in 2 ½ cups of water.
  2. Add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread onto a 9 X 13 tray (nonstick or sprayed lightly with cooking spray) and bake at 300 F for 1 hour.  Slice into sections that allow you to turn over without breaking. Return to the oven and bake at 300 F for a further 1 hour.
  3. Slice into squares/bars to taste. Return to still-warm oven and leave overnight to continue drying before use.
That’s the prep method we’re going with…but chances are you’ll find a better one. If so, please share! Also, chia seeds are no longer on sale at Sprouts, alas, but while they were, we did purchase more than I’d estimated, totaling about 2 1/3 cups for under $4. In fact, we’ve still got a cup to play with, and while options abound, most of them involve simply sprinkling small amounts into your usual line-up: pancakes, granola, oatmeal, banana/quick breads.

Chia’s water-absorption properties make it a good candidate for puddings, and this Marta Stewart vanilla chia pudding is especially intriguing. There’s also this interesting chocolate one from Shape. And while it only asks for two tablespoons of seeds, who can not be a little tempted by the mention of chia brownies? Speaking of the brownies, I saw them on this site, which hosts a whole slew of chia recipe ideas. I think I’m going with Ms. Stewart next…unless…? What would you choose?

 

 

 

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