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Archive for April, 2012

Chapter 3 – Hurdling

So where did we leave off? Ah, yes… with me on a half marathon experience high putting in my first 5 mile run.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I have zero tolerance for cold weather (which is pretty much anything under 70 degrees in my mind) So starting training for an event in the fall/winter was simply out of the question. Fast forward to the following June when a combination of consistently warm weather and the promise of free time courtesy of summer vacation led me to rekindle that notion of half marathon training. With no real plan, I started to increase the frequency, duration, and speed of my runs. Over the span of a few weeks I began to feel some positive cardiovascular improvements, muscle growth, and an overall increased sense of pleasure while running. However, at the same time I also began to experience some ankle/foot pain. I attributed it to a rite of passage into long distance running as I had seen and heard Nick and Eric describing various ailments as they packed ice onto their lower extremities. I continued moving forward and with each run relied on endorphins to push me through the increasing pain. The afternoon of the last day of school, I decided to sprint right into vacation with an extra hard run and by the next morning the pain came right back with extra gusto. I gimped through the weekend, google searching every common foot injury I had heard of. I like to believe that I have a pretty high pain threshold (thanks Mom!) and generally avoid making doctor visits, but after three days of constant pain and three nights spent tossing and turning in discomfort I finally caved and went to see an orthopedist. An examination and x-ray revealed that I had run myself right into a calcaneus (heel) stress fracture. I left the doctor’s office with a prescription for 6 weeks of rest, double daily dosage of calcium, and a highly fashionable fracture boot.

Needless to say, I was frustrated and disheartened. Adding insult to injury was Nick and Eric’s befuddlement over my decision to continue running once the pain began. Not being one to complain (over medical woes at least!) I had never mentioned the nagging pain to them prior to its apex. “You guys are always complaining about your aches and pains and you keep running!” I argued defensively. They countered with “That’s because  our pain comes after running…. not during!” Little did I know that there were acceptable and unacceptable pockets of time for pain. “Fortunately,” I now had six weeks to get schooled in running.

All summer, I kept my conditioning up with lower impact cardio (cycling, elliptical, etc.), but by the time I received medical clearance to run again the race season was winding down and so was my motivation to train for a half. So, I tucked my fleeting dream away and returned to just casual 2-3 mile runs, with my only competitive event being completing my second Turkey Trot. Like so many others, I often seize the new year as an opportunity for new beginnings. When in January I sat down to write my 2011 goals, listed under the wellness category was completing a half marathon. I decided to strike while the inspiration was hot and immediately began “training.” My aversion to the cold weather was still strong as ever so I committed myself to treadmill runs. In my mind, the doldrum hum of the machine was far preferable to frostbite and hypothermia. My training “plan” was based on nothing more than my own beliefs of what would increase my distance and stamina. I started at 5 miles again and every couple of days would increase my distance by half a mile. I was running 4 days a week (2 longer runs and 2 shorter runs) and before long I was running 8+ miles and logging 20+ miles a week. I could feel my fitness levels increasing and I felt incredible. So incredible that I registered for the Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon for September. So incredible… except for that reoccurring pain in my left hip. But I wrote the pain off with a “no pain, no gain” mentality. My less than enjoyable fracture boot days were overshadowed by the ecstasy of the long run. About a month in, Nick and I attended a dinner party hosted by Eric and his wife, Amy. Eric and I inevitably got into a conversation about running and when I shared my plan with him he lectured me on the importance of cycling in your training (varying your distance, having harder weeks followed by easier weeks) In one ear out the other it went… I mean what does he know, he’s only a professional in the field! Eric, who makes my stubbornness look weak, recognized my close-mindedness and concluded with “I don’t want to hear it when you get hurt!” “I won’t” were my famous last words.

My Mid-Winter Recess from school arrived in mid February and with it came the opportunity to take advantage of an empty mid-afternoon gym and monopolize a treadmill for an hour and a half at a time. My hip made its feelings about these 9.5 mile runs very clear and by Friday the only way to get my hip to stop hurting (whether running or not) was to grit my teeth through the first two miles until the endorphins kicked in and dulled it. That afternoon I went to visit my parents and by the time I arrived  I was in major pain. Not wanting my parents to know (my mom had insisted that I give up running after the stress fracture and there is nothing worse than mom guilt!) so I barely left my chair at their kitchen table and when I did relied on countertop or wall support. I kept up the facade with Nick when I returned home that night, but by the next morning I was in such crippling pain that I could not bear any weight at all. After hours of  hopping around on one foot and a constant influx of Advil I finally broke down in tears and confessed to Nick just how much pain I was in and how long it had been happening. We both realized that medical attention was a must, which on a Saturday night means the emergency room. Our visit to the ER was seemingly useless as x-rays were inconclusive. I left with orders to see my orthopedist and get an MRI and a pair of crutches which would at least allow me to enough mobility to go back to work on Monday. I followed doctor’s orders and saw my orthopedist who sent me for the MRI. By now a full week had passed, but no relief was to be had (only sleepless nights and cringing with every movement) The MRI results held the explanation… I had a femoral neck stress fracture. Two stress fractures in less than a year… not the start to my running career that I had envisioned. I was once again ordered to six weeks of rest and continued use of crutches (needing a laugh… envision me trying to maneuver around my classroom on crutches with 20 kindergarteners constantly at my feet). But this time I got the added warning that one wrong move could result in the need for surgery due to the high risk associated with this particular type of stress fracture. I was consumed by worry, regret, and self-loathing. Oh, and did I mention I was supposed to be walking down the aisle in less than 4 months?!

To be continued..

And if you stuck it out with me through this you deserve a rest (and recipe) now too!

Guacamole and hummus are two of my absolute favorite foods. Aside from being incredibly tasty they are so versatile. They can be a dip, a sandwich spread, a pizza layer, a pasta sauce… and they can whipped up in minutes! I was recently making a salad and decided to throw in both avocado chunks and chickpeas. As the two flavors mingled in my mouth I started to daydream of combining these two in their most beloved forms. And thus guacammus was born and it was all I hoped it would be… creamy, flavorful, and satisfying!

The scoop on guacammus:

  • Chickpeas lend a healthy dose of protein which aids in muscle recovery
  • Avocados are loaded with potassium (double that of a banana!) which helps keep you hydrated and aids in recovery
  • Both chickpeas and avocados are high in fiber which is essential for sustained energy and fullness
  • Unsaturated fats, like those found in avocados, can stave off injuries (like stress fractures!)
  • Dip pita bread wedges and/or fresh veggies in guacammus and you’ve got a winning combination of carbs and protein

Guacammus

a Martha Stoever original recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 serrano pepper, seeded
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, loosely packed
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve with crudités and pita bread wedges/chips.

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Chapter 2 – A Change of Heart

Not long after my 5k accomplishment, and subsequent realization of a budding enjoyment of running, Pro-Activity launched their PACER (Pro Activity Conditioning and Endurance Racing) team. PACER is a social club/athletic team founded on the belief that with courage and perseverance (and an enthusiastic cheering squad!) ordinary people can do extraordinary things. In the year following its founding, I bore witness to some remarkable accomplishments including training for and completing 5k’s, 10k’s, half-marathons , marathons, and a 50 mile trail race, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, summiting Mt. Washington, and smashing PR’s. The feat that I was privy an insider’s view of was Nick’s quest towards completing his first half marathon in Virginia Beach in September 2009. At the time, we were still “enduring” a long-distance relationship which meant only seeing one another on the weekends. In the months leading up to the race, our nightly phone calls came after increasingly intense training runs and our Saturday morning sleep-ins, coffee, and SportsCenter viewings were replaced by “long runs.” The memory that sticks with me most from this time was when on a miserably humid, drizzly afternoon in August I drove Nick across town and left him on the side of a desolate farm-side road so he could run the 11 miles back to my parents’ house. I remember watching the countryside tick by out my car window, slowly turning over to our small town’s quaint main street, and then back to countryside again. All the while I was thinking “I can’t believe he’s going to cover all this distance by running!” When, well over an hour later, he ascended the steep crest of my parents’ driveway the combination of sweat and rain could be rung out of his clothing. Even after a shower and fresh outfit the bloodshot eyes and gray pallor were remaining evidence of his efforts. I clearly remember struggling to figure out why anyone would ever subject themselves to that level of exertion and assuring myself that I  certainly never would (yes… this is foreshadowing).

Then came race day and as an official PACER “loudmouth” I had a strategic cheer zone on the grassy divider where the racers were passing their mile 4 and mile 11 marks. I was well prepared with noise makers, a camera, and runner tracking text message alerts, but no amount of foresight could have prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster that I would experience that late summer morning. I watched Team Hoyt members pass by, runners and disabled partners both beaming ear to ear, Team in Training participants proudly running in memory of loved ones, brave cancer survivors and war veterans. Runners of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds  who were all aiming to achieve personal greatness. When I saw Nick at the “reunion area” post-finish line my heart was swelled with pride and admiration. Nick, and every other runner who crossed my path that day, had truly inspired me.

When all was said and done and Nick and I were a couple hours into our lengthy trek back home, I finally asked the question that had been weighing heavily on my mind. “Soooo how far would I have to be able to run in order to even consider training for a half marathon?” I squeaked. “About 5 miles. Why you want to run one now?” he baited. “Ummm, I dunno. We’ll see how I feel in the morning,” I replied in a most non-committal fashion.

And what did that next morning bring? Me, at the gym, putting in my first 5 mile run.

To be continued…

And now for a snack break…

At the most recent race expo I attended I stumbled upon a Larabar booth and felt an instant surge of excitement at the thought of free samples of one of my favorite grab-and-go foods. Larabars have enjoyed quite a bit of publicity recently, especially after being featured on The Biggest Loser, but my first taste came as a result of perusing the “bar” section of Whole Foods in search of a wholesome source of sustained energy for those days that I was exerting a lot of energy while running. The allure of the bar is that it is a pure fruit and nut bar with each flavor containing no more than 9 ingredients (some as little as 2!) As a result they are gluten free, vegan, and free of any colorings, additives, or preservatives. To boot, they are simply delicious. There are 20 different flavors, most of which I have at least sampled, but the Peanut Butter and Jelly variety is my hands down favorite. I am not one to typically scoff at high price tags on healthful foods, but I am always up for the challenge of recreating something with the added bonus of cost efficiency. When I came across Jen’s recipe for a mock up of the Cherry Pie flavor I decided that was my foray into making my own. Using her nut and dried fruit ratios and the label’s ingredients for inspiration I whipped up (more like chopped, pureed, scraped, repeated) my very own Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.

The benefits rundown:

  • These bars are loaded with heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats
  • Peanuts are a great source of concentrated protein (20-30% protein!)
  • Dates are rich in potassium which for runners is essential in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance
  • The combination of dried fruits and nuts result in a nice blend of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and copper

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

recipe adapted from Use Real Butter and ingredients based on the LÄRABAR site

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 1/4 cups dried strawberries
1 1/2 cups peanuts

Directions

Line a 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Place dates and strawberries in a food processor and pulse until a gooey semi-paste has formed. The mixture will be very sticky and it takes quite a bit of pulsing to achieve the right consistency (some fruit bits, but not large chunks). Scoop the fruit paste into a large mixing bowl. Pour the peanuts in the food processor and pulse to coarse bits (do not over-process). Empty the peanuts into the mixing bowl with the dried fruit. Knead the dried fruit and peanuts together until combined and evenly distributed (I found using my hands to be most the most effective means of kneading). Transfer the the mixture to the prepared pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate the mixture until it is firm to the touch, approximately 30 minutes. Invert onto a cutting board and slice to desired size.

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This post is the first in a “mini-series” on my history as a runner (a term which I have only recently deemed myself worthy of). My journey to becoming a “runner” has been a rocky road (both literally and figuratively). A long, rocky road… which is why I have chosen to segment it. Each post will recount a noteworthy chapter in my journey and in true Martha fashion will conclude with a running inspired recipe. I hope you’ll go the distance with me (you’ll have plenty of fuel ideas to keep you going along the way!!)

Chapter 1 – The Warm Up

To be blunt, for most of my life I absolutely hated running. As an upper elementary school student my least favorite day of the year was when we had to trek out to the makeshift football field and run a mile on the spray painted “track” as part of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. I thought graduating to junior high would be my ticket out, but the summer before 7th grade I was subjected to running 1.5 miles around the school’s bus loop in order to qualify to play a JV sport. I loathed every last struggling stride of those experiences. I was always an athlete, and running as part of an organized sport was bearable, but running solely to get from point A to point B seemed asinine to me. As I grew older I would occasionally be temporarily inspired by a svelte, well-toned co-ed jogging across campus with gazelle-like ease. I would lace up my sneakers and plod my way through a mile or two only to have such raging shin splints and sore quads the next morning that I cursed running (and the svelte girl!) for days to come.

And then I met Nick and, as is the case during the courtship phase of most relationships, I began assimilating into his world. In his world his job, family, social life, and hobbies are all encompassing and all fall under the umbrella of Pro-Activity. Describing exactly what Pro-Activity is is an enigma that even its founders would admit to have struggled with. My suggestion would be to visit their website and take a peek into their world for yourself. If I had to try to sum it up in a sentence…. Pro-Activity is a family (it was founded by a brother and sister, nearly half of the employees are blood/marriage related, and every employee and client is treated as kin) of truly inspirational individuals who collaboratively infuse their beliefs and expertise in health and wellness to a vast community through a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. At the time we met, Nick and his cohorts had participated in a few local running events and some of them had even started to dabble in long distance running. When I grumbled about the misery that was my personal running experiences (and subsequent aches and pains) Nick and his best friend/roommate/boss/fraternity brother (all encompassing remember??), Eric, encouraged me to get on a treadmill and run for 5 minutes. If I could do so without crippling myself then I  could start adding on one extra minute to each new run. I was skeptical (and slightly embarrassed to only sustain 5 minutes on the treadmill), but I was also eager to please (ahhh young love) so I followed the plan. And sure enough 5 minutes soon turned to 10 which turned to 15 all without any nagging after effects. And so I conceded….these guys really do know what they’re talking about! Within a matter of a few months those 5 minutes morphed into my first 5K. On Thanksgiving morning in 2008, I stood shivering at the start line of the Flemington Turkey Trot proudly donning my official Pro-Activity shirt, race bib, and D-tag. There was an undeniable energy buzzing in the air and for the first time I had a taste of the adrenaline rush that runner’s always allude to and it carried me through the entire 3.1 miles. I crossed the finish line with a time of 27:57 (a sub 9 minute pace) and felt good enough to get up and run again the next day. My body had come a long way since that summer, but possibly even more shocking than my physical progress was my budding emotional evolution…

I was beginning to actually “tolerate” running!

To be continued…

Until then here’s a recipe to tide you over…

Refueling after a long run is an essential part of the recovery process. In order for your body to rebuild and strengthen the muscles it has broken down it needs the proper nutrients (and lots of them!) Personally, I find it very difficult to stomach “real” food after a strenuous long run. Knowing that I only have a small window of time for optimal nutrient absorption (30-90 min post run) I have found a couple of recovery recipes that are not only tolerable, but tasty! My favorite is the Choco-Nut Banana Smoothie… a frosty blend of chocolate coconut water, banana, and chocolate protein powder. This smoothie is overflowing with recovery tools:

  • Coconut water is rich in 5 essential electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus) which are critical to recovery.
  • Bananas are a high-glycemic carbohydrate which means they will quickly replenish energy.
  • Protein powder helps initiate the muscle repair process. Whey protein in particular has a faster digestive pattern than casein protein.

All that plus an undeniably delicious flavor combination! It’s just what the body ordered!

Choco-Nut Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz chocolate coconut water
  • 1/2 frozen banana (you can substitute a regular banana and a couple of ice cubes to achieve the same “body”)
  • 1/2 scoop of chocolate protein powder (soy based if making vegan)
  • 3-4 ice cubes (optional)
Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Cover and purée until smooth. Pour into glass and refuel!

Serves 1

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A few weeks ago I shared Nick’s newly discovered fondness of satiating salads. Since then I’ve made it my mission to maintain his predilection towards my favorite kind of meal. We’ve all heard that “variety is the spice of life” so my attempts at keeping his tastebuds titillated have resulted in some “motley crews” of beans, greens, veggies, fruits, and grains. One such medley was a recreation of a “17 Vegetable Salad” that I recently devoured while out to dinner in D.C. (I highly recommend Founding Farmers if ever in the area) 17 veggies…. if there is a such thing as a healthy hypnosis I’ve experienced it! In typical Martha fashion I’ve scoured the blogger-verse for creative stimulation. But to find inspiration for this week’s salad it took no more than 3 steps inside the sparkly doors of Whole Foods to make my discovery. The seasonal produce display held all the answers (which a quick search on my FoodGawker app confirmed!) and so was born an Early Spring Panzanella.

it was like divine intervention

This was my first attempt at a panzanella which is a Florentine inspired salad traditionally containing vine ripened tomatoes and hearty chunks of bread. In my (Italian rooted) opinion there is no better accompaniment to salad than a hunk of crusty bread which is perfectly designed to sop up the mouthwatering juices. So why I have not indulged in this ingenious salad varietal before I do not know. But, I will undoubtedly be relishing in its deliciousness again (and again!) The unexpected star of this dish was the sweet pea sprouts. I tend to gravitate towards “leafier” greens for my salad, but these pretty little “twigs” (as Nick adoringly described them) were not only tantalizing to the eyes, but the tastebuds as well. I am sensing some stir fry, wrap, and side dishes featuring these divinely sweet shoots in our future. The salad was rounded out by an early spring bounty of leeks, fennel, and radishes and adorned with a potpourri of fresh thyme, parsley, and chives. If the heralding of spring, in all its pastel budding, sunshine spraying, and soul lifting glory, could be contained in a bowl this panzanella may just be it.

spring's bounty

Early Spring Panzanella

adapted from The First Mess

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and thinly cut into half moon slices
  • 1 small fennel bulb, tops and core removed, sliced lengthwise
  • 8-10 radishes, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 1 large apple, cored and diced
  • 3-4 slices tuscan pane (or crusty bread of choice), torn into bite-size chunks
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, divided
  • 5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
  • 3.5 oz. sweet pea sprouts
  • large handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 10 blades of chives, minced
  • 5 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 TBSP whole grain mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP agave nectar (or honey)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil

a pretty palate

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with foil and set aside along with a ceramic/glass baking dish.

Combine leeks and fennel in a large bowl. Toss these vegetables with half of the thyme leaves, 2 TBSP grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Pour into the ceramic/glass baking dish and set aside.

In the same bowl, toss diced apples and radishes with remaining thyme, 1 TBSP of oil, salt and pepper. Pour these onto one of the foil lined baking sheet.

Place all vegetables into the oven on the same shelf and roast. The leeks/fennel will take approximately 20 minutes while the apples/radishes will take about 15 minutes. Toss vegetables halfway through for even browning. When vegetables are softened and slightly browned, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.

While vegetables are roasting, toss bread cubes with the remaining 1 TBPS oil, salt and pepper. Pour onto the other baking sheet. When vegetables are done, toast the bread in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove and set aside.

To make the dressing whisk together the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, agave, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly add the oil, whisking quickly to combine the dressing. Set aside.

Combine the cooled roasted vegetables, bread, sprouts, spinach, chives and parsley in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1/2-3/4 of the dressing. Toss to combine and allow the salad to sit for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to soak in. Adjust dressing and seasonings to taste!

Serves 4

springtime in a bowl

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When I sat down to write this post I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to share with you all. It’s a Martha original and one that invokes a sense of pride being that I have only recently started to dabble with whipping up recipes of my own. However, my inspiration behind the recipe was far more scattered (ranging from vegan baking to food waste to eating at an actual table). And so after much floundering I decided to take a totally different route that comes in the form of a top 10 list. David Letterman I am not, but we all love a good “Top 10” so sit back and enjoy the countdown of the….

Top 10 Reasons Martha Loves Muffins

10. Banana Burden – Nick is a “banana a day” kinda guy so we always have a stocked supply of these potassium-powered fruits. Unfortunately, as any banana consumer has undoubtedly learned, selecting bananas at the appropriate ripeness is an art. When you grocery shop once a week like I do you there is no avoiding the brown spotted, pathetic looking one or two left in the fruit basket by the end of the week. In the past I would toss the overripe bananas into the trash, silently scolding myself for wasting food. That was until I discovered that overripe bananas are a hidden treasure for baking…. they are easier to mash, sweeter, and more intense in flavor. And the even more exciting discovery was that they could be cut and frozen in all their overripe splendor until needed. Not only do a plethora of muffin recipes call for ripe bananas, but they can also be used as a substitute for oils. So gone are the days of banished bananas… embrace them in all their spotty, squishy glory!

9. Love of Liners – Confession…I cannot go to a Michael’s Arts and Crafts store and walk out without having purchased at least one package of baking cups. For years, I thought they only existed in dull pastels or even worse… foil! That was until I discovered Mary Engelbreit baking cups in Michael’s $1 section and baking instantly became exponentially more exciting (and cute!) Needless to say I have hoarded a stash of liners in a variety of colors, patterns, and seasonal designs. I rarely make cupcakes so whenever I am looking to bake something with a visually appealing flair I always turn to muffins. Adorable and delicious… what more could one ask for?!

8. Make it Mini – Everything tastes better when it’s bite sized! The beauty of muffins is that with the wave of a mini-muffin pan any recipe can be magically turned miniature. Having the option of poppable portions is ideal when serving a large group, making them as part of a spread, or creating healthy snacks. It is tradition at my school to have payday breakfasts (grade levels rotate hosting a “potluck” style breakfast). Mini muffins are my go-to contribution for these events because when placed aside an array of bagels, quiches, fruit salads, and countless other baked goods full-sized muffins are too hefty and cannot be easily doled out into smaller portions. However, their tiny counterparts allow everyone to have a taste without skimping on taste!

7. Ease of Execution – There are certainly recipes out there that appease the one or two of us crazies who enjoy the challenge of infusing as much sifting, beating, folding, and toasting as possible into the baking process. However, there are even more that recipes that appeal to those who are looking for a quick, minimally messy baking experience. Many recipes require only a single bowl and spoon for prep and an ingredient list that consists of pantry staples.

6. Timelessly Tempting –  The enjoyment of muffins is not constrained by the boundaries of mealtimes. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or snack time… given the endless varieties, muffins can be seamlessly adapted to complement any meal. Muffins for dinner you ask?! How about a savory corn muffin aside a piping bowl of chili?! Did I just make your dinner plans for you?!

5. Vast Variety – Sweet or savory, indulgent or nutritious, the myriad of muffins is endless. No matter what your preference or craving may be there is undoubtedly a muffin to match it. Feeling fruity?! There’s Lemon Blueberry. Craving chocolate?! There’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip. Needing nourishment?! There’s Bran Flax. Pining for piquant? There’s Cheddar and Sage.

4. Very Vegan-izable – When I began my vegan “experimentation” one of my biggest concerns was baked goods.. specifically muffins and quick breads. All of my favorite recipes contained some form of dairy; be it eggs, yogurt, milk, etc. Luckily, with minimal research, coupled with trial and error, I was able to find substitutions that did not significantly compromise flavor and/or texture. I also was pleasantly surprised to learn of substitutions that could be made with ingredients I already had on hand(no need to splurge on pricey “replacements”). The best discovery of them all was the “flax egg.” Combine one TBSP flax meal with three TBSP water.. stir… refrigerate for 15 minutes… and voila! You’ve got yourself the structure and tenderness of an egg, without the egg!

3. Freezability Factor – Most recipes yield a dozen to a dozen and a half muffins. Between the two of us we would be eating a muffin at every meal in order to get through a batch while they were still fresh. I realize I could half the recipes, but if I’m going to go through the whole process of mixing, pouring, and baking then I want to maximize the yield. Fortunately, there is a perfect solution to this conundrum… freeze the extras! After baking let the muffins cool completely then place in individual bags or in a large freezer bag (squeezing out all excess air before sealing). The muffins will keep in the freezer for a couple of months. When ready to enjoy thaw completely (to revive that fresh from the oven goodness stick them in a toaster oven for a couple of minutes after thawing!)

2. Portable Portions – Nick and I both spend approximately 2 hours a day commuting. Add to that a typical 9 hour work day and the result is that we spend the majority of our waking hours away from home. Each of us leaves the house in the morning with a cooler bag packed with our breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the day. This means that our meals need to be compact, eaten cold, and on occasion consumed in the car (Michael Pollan would surely cringe at this last point, but at least we’re avoiding the drive-thru!) Muffins are a great option for grab-and-go meals because when done right you can pack quite a bit of nutrition into those dense little packages and they can be consumed sans utensils with minimal mess.

And the #1 reason that Martha loves muffins is…… *drumroll please*…..

They’re delicious… duh!

I know you are craving a warm, moist, delectable muffin now (or is only my stomach growling?!) So in order to get that muffin into your mouth as quick as possible I’ll take care of the “find a recipe” step for you!

We all know that bananas and peanut butter, and peanut butter and chocolate, are undeniably dynamic duos. Pack them all into a muffin, with a healthy dose of oats and flax meal, and you’ve got yourself a trifecta of tastiness that will satisfy your sweet tooth and conscience alike!

Peanut Butter Banana Mocha Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP flax meal + 6 TBSP water
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TBSP instant espresso power
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mashed banana (approximately 3 ripe bananas)
  • 2 TBSP applesauce
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (dairy-free if making vegan)
  • 2 TBSP flax seeds (for topping)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place 18 muffin cup liners in muffin pans and coat liners with cooking spray.
  2. In a small bowl, add flax meal followed by water (not water followed by flax), stirring as you go. Place the bowl of “eggs” in the refrigerator for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will allow your egg to “set”.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (the flour through the sugar) and mix well.
  4. In a separate large bowl, stir applesauce and peanut butter until smooth. Then add the mashed banana, flax egg mixture, 1 cup water and mix well.
  5. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin cups and sprinkle evenly with flax meal.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven a for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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