Eat fat and you won’t be fat

There is a generation of people for whom that idea is completely counterintuitive.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one.

I was a teenager in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and as any dutiful teenage girl did, I read magazines. Lots of them. And they all said essentially the same thing: eat fat and you’ll get fat.

It was the age of the low-fat diet, and it fit with the way I preferred to eat anyway: carbs, carbs, and more carbs. I could eat all the bread and pasta I wanted. It was great. Cereal and frozen yogurt for breakfast? No fat in that! Sure, I was hungry all the time, and I can’t imagine how much muscle mass I sacrificed during my college running years eating that way, but those were the times. Magazines wouldn’t print things that aren’t one hundred percent true.

Of course in the intervening years that philosophy has been completely flipped on its head. And if the Atkins craze of the 2000s and Paleo diet of today have taught me anything, it’s that diets are a big load of crap.

These days I’m all about everything in moderation. Real food with limited processed stuff. Yes, crackers are still their own food group around here, but I’ve increased my  healthy fats, dairy and am working on the protein part. Good fats fill you up. And you know what? I’m no fatter than I was in the low-fat years.

So what’s for dinner tonight? Salmon cakes and kale slaw with curried almond dressing.

Healthy fat

The recipe for the salmon cakes can be found on The Kitchn here. It’s an easy recipe and makes for a pretty quick weeknight meal. I bought a 2 lb. wild salmon fillet on sale and cooked it last night while I had the oven on for something else. That streamlined the prep even more for today. I also doubled the recipe since I had extra salmon, and froze the extra patties for an even easier meal down the road.

The recipe for the kale slaw came from Plant-Powered Kitchen and can be found here. It does happen to be wheat-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and oil-free, but I made it despite those distinctions. The nut-based dressing gives the slaw great body and flavor and if you don’t love kale, a reason to eat your hearty greens.

Toast up some crusty bread and you’ve got a meal packed with good fats and protein that’s kid-friendly too. There was nothing left at the end of the evening at my house.

Kick ass while you’re hurt

Injured? Congratulations! You’re following advice from pro runner Kyle Merber:

Your coach will hate me for this debatably terrible advice I am about to give, but if he heard me out fully, then maybe he’d only respectfully disagree: I think you should get hurt.

Read the full post – he has a really great blog – here.

He’s right though. I agree that a performance breakthrough frequently comes on the heels of some sort of break in training.

You’re good at running? Now get good at being hurt.

I try to schedule a couple of two week training breaks throughout the year, usually one in the summer, and one over the winter holidays following cross country club nationals. This year I didn’t take the summer break, and I think that really came back to haunt me in the fall. But boy, did I take advantage of this last break. I really needed it, not only to rest an injury, but mentally as well.

When I take a break, I REALLY take a break. Instead of cross training, I head to the kitchen.

In The Sweet Kitchen Almond and Dried Bing Cherry Braid

Almond and Dried Bing Cherry Braid

This is a great recipe from In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley, the IACP cookbook of the year in 2001. This is one of my favorite pastry cookbooks of all-time, and if you’re going to invest shelf space and money in a cookbook, this is a good one. The recipes are well-written, easy to follow, and most importantly, they work. I have yet to have a disappointing result, and this bread was no different. It’s like a challah loaf stuffed with kirsch and amaretto-laced almond paste. I hadn’t thought it possible to improve upon the eggy goodness of a quality loaf of challah, but I was wrong.

For Christmas Eve, I tried to kick it up a notch. Having a quiet holiday at home, I had visions of a cozy day of baking with my kids: them, rapt with interest watching me perform feats of pastry-making as I assembled a tower of pâte-a-choux reaching for the sky. Instead, they had their faces in books all day and probably would have been just as happy if I threw a stack of Oreos on a plate.

Christmas Croquembouche

Christmas Croquembouche

How many things are just wasted on the young?

Thanks to a teammate, I discovered homemade Christmas ornaments.

Modular Christmas Star Origami Ornament

If you like origami, these are really fun to make. Check out the youtube video here. All you need is one of those block cubes of notepaper and some ribbon. The bell/ribbon I added inside came from Oriental Trading and made a fun stocking stuffer for the kids. As it turns out, needing to fold 30 units of paper before assembling the star is a little more delayed gratification than my children are willing to handle. So, I hijacked the project. No use wasting a perfectly good craft on them too.

I say this all with a bit of a caveat. This break was easy and enjoyable because I have exactly NO races on the calendar. And because I’m (hopefully) on the upswing and back to running again little by little. But it’s part of the deal. If you run competitively you’re going to get hurt. Might as well learn to get good at this part too.

Break Your Resolutions Pancakes

I can’t stand it. How can the party be over ALREADY? Didn’t the vacation just start? A large part of me wants to spend 2016 as Christmas Break me: a lot of cooking and baking, little working out, and no worries about getting kids to school, making school lunches, or the afternoon activity shuttle. I can get behind a year of nothing but pajamas.

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For those who are with me on this, I give you the best pancakes ever. Don’t start your resolutions yet. You need to try these fist.

Ricottapancakes

These are extra fluffy, setting up nice and high with the help of ricotta cheese and whipped egg whites. The base recipe lends itself well to additions of fruit and berries. Into the batch I made over the weekend I added thinly sliced applies, laying them over the batter after I scooped them onto the griddle. This recipe makes enough to feed 4 people who love pancakes. Double it if you like leftovers (I think these taste great cold the next day), or if you have anyone in the house like Alexa, who seems to have an extra pancake compartment in her stomach.

RICOTTA PANCAKES

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 oz. melted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 egg whites

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Add sugar and stir together.

Whisk together the egg yolks, ricotta cheese, milk, melted butter and vanilla.

Fold the egg yolk mixture gently into the dry ingredients. ***The key to delicate pancakes is in this step. When you mix wet ingredients into flour, it works the gluten in the flour and develops its elasticity. This is desirable in bread making, which is why you knead bread dough so much. Elasticity in pancakes, however, is less appealing, so you want to work the flour as little as possible. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour the egg yolk mixture into the center of the well. Using a rubber spatula, run the spatula around the edge and bottom of 1/4 of the bowl, folding the spatula over the top of the mixture, which pulls the dry ingredients through the wet. Continue this around the bowl. Only fold until the flour is barely incorporated into the wet ingredients. You want to have lumps, otherwise the flour will start to get over-mixed, resulting in tough pancakes.

With a stand mixer, hand mixer, or with a large whisk, whip the egg whites until they reach soft peak.

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Carefully scoop the whites onto the pancake batter and gently fold just until it is incorporated in. Folding more than that will not only keep working the gluten in the flour, but will deflate the air you just whipped into the whites.

Preheat a skillet or griddle, then scoop batter (I use an ice cream scoop – it keeps things pretty neat) onto the griddle, cook and enjoy!

Banana Vanilla Bean N’oatmeal

This ain’t no hippie bullshit. Though that’s what I thought it might be when my friend and expert nutritionist Michelle Nevelle at Eat To Live Wellness posted this recipe.

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I like healthy eating probably more than the next guy, but there comes a point when capital “H” healthy food crosses a line into something that is just plain gross. To me this has all of the markings of something that is headed in that direction. “Detox”, check. Paleo? Check. Oatmeal replacement? Since when is oatmeal bad for you???

But it’s a simple recipe that would have only set me back a can of coconut milk, a couple bananas, and a few other things. One of the benefits of being a pastry chef is that I do happen to have vanilla beans on hand at all times.

I made the recipe last night and you know what? It’s really good. Really. I’m so confident about it that I packed it in the kids’ lunches and I doubt that it will come back this afternoon. Though part of me hopes that it does. I didn’t make enough for myself.

“Healthy” energy bar treats

Let’s face it: “healthy” is a relative term. The Cheez-Its I love to eat don’t seem so bad since they’re not Twinkies. Twinkies aren’t as bad if they’re not deep-fried. I mean, life has got to be about more than just kale and quinoa.

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See where I’m going here? I’m about to make you feel good about eating marshmallows.

Rice Krispie treats aren’t so bad if they look like this.

Granolabars

This is a fast, easy, “healthy” snack that’s not super sweet. They’re packed with protein and fiber (and marshmallows) and my kids love them. I make a big batch, cut them and keep them in the freezer. This recipe makes one 9″ x 13″ pan.

Ingredients

2 cups Rice Krispies
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup diced dried fruit
1 cup peanuts, roasted and unsalted
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
10 oz. marshmallows

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Directions

Stir together dry ingredients.

Baringredients

In a large stock pot (large enough to hold and mix all of the ingredients), melt together butter, peanut butter and marshmallows.

Add dry ingredients to marshmallow mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon.

Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Press mixture into pan.

Cool, cut and enjoy!

Super Fast Fig Jam

It’s ten o’clock in the morning, and it’s already been one of those days. You know, the kind when the alarm pulls you so far out of sleep that you don’t know where you are. Or what you’re supposed to be doing. When I finally figured out that the alarm really was FOR ME, it took me twice as long to brush my teeth and get to the pool, where I promptly realized that I hadn’t grabbed my goggles or swim cap. For most people this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but for this pathetic swimmer, it meant mouthfuls of water and a significantly slower workout. Which had the cascading effect of making me almost late for my date with my trainer. And new training partner, Accidental Runner’s Melisa, who has been such a fantastic addition to my strength routine this week.

Days like this beg for simplicity. A padded room and blunt objects. Fig jam that requires only five ingredients, one of them being water.

Our desert fig tree is about the only thing in the yard that doesn’t seem to mind this drought.

Figtree

We gathered an initial harvest a few weeks ago, and look to have a second crop ripening on the tree now.

Plateoffigs

This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine Magazine. See the original here. This filled a little more than two 1/2-pint jars for me.

Ingredients

2 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cognac

figquarters

Directions

In a saucepan, toss the figs with the sugar and let stand 15 minutes until juicy.

Add lemon juice, water and cognac and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat until fruit is soft and liquid runs off the side of the spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 30 minutes.

Spoon into 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace at the top. Close jars and cool to room temperature. Store in refrigerator up to 3 months.

Summertime Blueberry Hand Pies

Tartlettes

There’s something magical about picking berries on a summer day with your children. Our first outing was a little less productive…

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… but nine years later we’re like a well-oiled machine. Mike and I aren’t the only ones with a competitive streak. This year the 8-year-old was determined to outpick her older brother. Which she did.

Blueberries

The next problem, of course, is what to do with all of those berries. We decided on pie, blueberry being my favorite type. I had some leftover pie dough in the freezer, though not enough to make a full pie. I had a kid who was eager to help, and figured I’d lose some of that momentum stopping to make another batch of dough. So we went with hand pies. They are a little more work than full size, but the finished product is quite cute and would be great for a party. And isn’t everything more fun when eaten by hand? The following recipe makes 10-12 mini pies, and should also work if made into a 9″ pie.

For the dough (recipe based on a Julia Child recipe, hat tip to Metro Market Catering for introducing it to me):

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. unsalted butter, cold
1/4 cup cold water

Directions
Sift together flour, sugar and salt.
Cube cold butter.

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Using a food processor (ideally), stand mixer, or by hand, “cut” butter into dry ingredients. The cut-in butter method is the same technique you would use to make any short dough: pie dough, biscuits, scones, etc. The idea is to incorporate the butter into the flour with as little mixing as possible. Overmixing the dough, even at this stage, works the protein in the gluten, making it more elastic and creating a tougher, more chewy final product. If you are using a food processor, pulse until the butter pieces are the size of dry lentils. If you are using a stand mixer, mix on the lowest speed until butter pieces are the size of dry lentils. If you are mixing by hand, rub the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas (I leave the butter a little bigger in this case since it is warmer from your hands).

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Add cold water and mix just to incorporate the water throughout the mixture. The dough will still be crumbly. At this point, turn the mixture onto a cutting board or counter. Using the palm of your hand, smash handful-sized portions of the mixture into the cutting board to turn the crumbs into a dough.

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Gather dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax, and prevents the dough from shrinking as you roll it out.

For the blueberries (recipe taken from Allrecipes, find the original here):

4 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon, and toss together with blueberries.

At this point you can assemble a 9″ pie, or use a standard muffin pan to make minis.

For the hand pies (this recipe makes 10-12 mini pies):

Roll the dough to 1/8″ (or less) thickness. This is thinner than you would roll the crust for a regular pie, because you want a good crust-to-filling ratio. Since muffin cups vary in size and depth, you want to find a circular cutter (or template) that is 1-2″ larger than the diameter of the muffin cup. Spray muffin cups with nonstick coating. Cut rounds out of the dough, then press them into the muffin cup, leaving a bit extra over the edges.

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Fill cups with blueberry mixture.

Filledshells

Then roll and cut strips of dough to make the lattice top. Wet the edges of overhang with a little water, which will make the lattice stick, then arrange the lattice strips to your liking. This is a great job for a kid, if you can overcome your OCD enough to let it happen (I can only do this some of the time). Press them into the bottom dough to seal, and trim around the edges. Chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax again, to keep it from shrinking as it bakes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Latticeshells

Bake in a 425 degree oven until crust is golden. Cool until they’re easy to handle, then unmold by carefully twisting to loosen, or running a knife along the edge.

Peach rhubarb shortcake

PeachRhuShortcake

The sh*t’s getting real in the McDevitt garden. Things are coming up all over the place.

Gardencollage

This has had the unfortunate effect of filling me with an overwhelming desire to lie down on the couch and order a pizza.

But this weekend I had a flash of inspiration. I could deal with the third round of rhubarb that is bursting at the seams, and the ripening crop of peaches that were planted as an afterthought last season, all in one go.

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Doing it as a shortcake, instead of, say, cobbler, would keep the oven time to a minimum. Which was a must, since temperatures soared into the 90s again. It also has the additional benefit of transitioning easily into breakfast for the kids this week. I’ll put the fruit filling over plain yogurt and pair it with leftover shortcake or toast. Somehow this at least feels a little more parentally responsible than just dishing out last night’s pie.

This recipe makes a lot of filling. If you don’t have as much fruit to put to use, or don’t enjoy leftovers, then this recipe is easily halved. I also like to make extra shortcakes, which freeze well for future use. This recipe makes around a dozen shortcakes using a 2 1/2″ round cutter.

Perfect Peach Rhubarb Shortcake
Print
For the fruit filling
  1. 8 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2" pieces
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  4. 10 cups peaches, peeled, pitted and diced to 1/2" cubes
  5. 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  6. 1 cup sugar
  7. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
For the shortcake
  1. 3 cups all purpose flour
  2. 3 Tablespoons sugar
  3. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 cup butter
  6. 1 cup buttermilk
For the yogurt cream
  1. 1 1/4 cup whipping cream
  2. 1/2 cup plain yogurt
For the fruit filling
  1. In a large saute pan, toss rhubarb with 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  2. In a separate bowl, toss peaches with cornstarch, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg.
  3. Heat rhubarb on medium heat, stirring constantly so that the sugar melts. Cook until rhubarb softens and starts to break up. Add peaches and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for a minute to cook the cornstarch.
  4. Set aside and cool.
For the shortcake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Cut butter into 1/2" cubes.
  4. Add butter to dry ingredients and "cut in", mixing on low speed until it has a sandy texture and the biggest pieces of butter are the size of lentils.
  5. Add buttermilk and mix just until a dough comes together. Do not overmix.
  6. Roll dough to 1" thickness, and cut into circles (I use a 2 1/2" round cutter).
  7. Brush with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned.
For the yogurt cream
  1. Combine cream and yogurt and whip until soft peaks form.
Assemble the shortcakes
  1. Cut shortcake in half. Place a generous scoop of fruit filling on top of bottom half. Top with yogurt cream, then cover with top half of shortcake.
  2. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. For the fruit filing: If you have very ripe peaches, wait until rhubarb is almost completely cooked to add, then cook as directed.
For the shortcake
  1. I don't keep buttermilk in the house, but make it by adding 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to a scant cup of milk.
Masters Mama http://mastersmama.com/

Bananas for Yonanas

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Do you like frozen treats and immediate gratification? Have I got the product for you.

We ordered this little number a couple of weeks ago, just in time for the stretch of 90+ degree days that hit our region. It is a replacement for the 15-year-old Krups ice cream maker that I rendered useless last year when, in a fit of cleaning, I threw out a small, but crucial, piece of the machine.  I had always had issues with the amount of planning needed to make a batch of ice cream in it anyway. Freezing the bowl for a full day really takes the fun out of eating ice cream. I mean, when you want ice cream, you want it NOW. Not 24 hours from now. 

Since I’m unwilling to shell out $500 for a compressor-based machine (though they do appear to be on sale for $272 on Amazon right now), which would eliminate the need to freeze the bowl, I looked into other options. And came up with the VonShef. For Amazon’s sale price of $29.95, I was willing to take a flier. 

It’s more blender than ice cream spinner, and if you are really hankering for true ice cream goodness, this is not your answer. But if you have kids like mine who are more interested in the frozen, sweet, and immediate aspects of their summertime dessert, or want a healthier, guilt-free alternative, then I can’t think of anything better.

The way it works is this: freeze pieces of fruit. (OK, yes, this DOES require some planning ahead, but once you start, you can keep a stockpile of it in the freezer.) Note: bananas work well and give the end product a nice creamy texture, but be sure to peel them before freezing.

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Then feed the fruit through the chute.

And voilà. Dessert! The instructions call for frozen fruit, but I also experimented with frozen yogurt, chocolate chips, and caramel sauce and they made it through the machine without much trouble. My very complicated frozen yogurt recipe:

Take plain yogurt, whisk in sugar to taste, then freeze in ice cube tray

One of the best things about this is that the kids can make their own dessert. And it’s even healthy. And both of those things go a long way in this house. Other reviewers complain about the noise of the machine. Which isn’t nothing, but compared to the typical racket around here, is not so remarkable. The last (and possibly very best) thing about this machine is the clean up.

It breaks down easily into four large pieces, none of which could be mistaken for a piece of a kid’s toy and thrown away. Ahem.

To pea, or not to pea

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When the opportunity to investigate the recent Pea Situation presents itself, how do you not jump all over it?

In case you are unfamiliar with the kerfuffle,The Pea Situation involves this New York Times guacamole recipe:

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And has caused such a stir of negativity that even the president has an opinion.

potus peas

Now, I love Melissa Clark and New York Times recipes, and was a little skeptical about what I was reading, especially since it didn’t seem like anyone weighing in had actually made the recipe. So when this weekend’s dinner with friends involved a taco bar, there was no way we weren’t doing a taste test.

In the name of science, I made the Times recipe exactly as written, overcoming my usual tendency to hack the recipe (usually in the name of laziness). I roasted the jalapeño as directed, and whirred up a mixture of peas, jalapeños (roasted and raw), cilantro and salt, adding a big investment in labor with the use (and later cleaning) of the food processor.

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I was never able to get the mixture “almost smooth”, but that didn’t seem to impact the end product. The rest of the recipe involves the usual mashing of avocados and addition of lime zest, lime juice, scallions and salt.

I then made my go-to guacamole, a literal mash-up of unmeasured amounts of avocado, onion, lime zest, lime juice, diced tomato, and salt.

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The verdict? Unanimously in favor of the pea guacamole. There was a greater depth of flavor and brightness that was lacking in the control batch. This may have been due to the jalapeño, which was only included in the pea version. But no one could discernibly taste the peas. Which leads me to believe that perhaps the whole problem is nothing but a marketing issue. Leave the peas out of the garnish, and avoid the visual source of the objections. What you’re left with is a solidly bright, tasty guacamole.