Archive for June 2012

Foodie Penpal: Treats delivered to my doorstep

Step aside bills, flyers and stultifying town meeting notices – time to make room for a box full of treats that I received this month courtesy of Foodie Penpals.

This was my first time participating in the foodie penpal pairing, and I was lucky to receive a box from blog reader Jessica, a mom newly settled in Kansas City after a decade living in Nebraska. In the box she sent me was a hand-written recipe for brownie mallow bars that she says were favorites to take skiing (she grew up on Colorado), and a bunch of tasty treats:

  • Dried mango & pineapple – The mango are a favorite of my 5-year-old, while I’m claiming the pineapple.
  • Chewy juicy Black Forest fruit snacks.

I sent a box to a different Jessica, who told me she’s training for her first marathon. I sent some runner foodie supplies, including Honey Stinger gels, homemade chia-seed gels, and a new copy of Tim Woodbury’s Sole Food, the chia-seed cookbook I reviewed a while back.

Interested in participating in Foodie Penpals? Head past the jump for details.

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The Week, Jr., heads to camp (and so does his lunch)

When the school year ends, the days heat up and many a parent is so excited that it also means the end of lunch-packing season. We guardians of growing scholars all get some enjoyment from fortifying them. But meticulously filling the ol’ lunch box with healthy, travel-worthy and kid-approved foods, night after night (or frantic two-minutes-until-the-bus morning after morning) can wear on anyone’s last nerve after 40-odd weeks.

So we enjoy a respite from the lunch box. Until, that is, summer day camp rolls around and you’re back with your head in the poorly stocked fridge, wondering whether a baggie of coconut shavings can pass for a snack (answer: not really).

That’s where I found myself, anyway – unprepared and slightly unwilling to face the return to duty. But the additional challenge of packing peanut-free everything spurred me to do a little recipe and menu hunting, and I thought there may be a few other back-to-packing guardians who could benefit from what I found (after the jump).

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Recipe ReDux: Teeny treats for a big milestone

It seems funny to celebrate A Big Deal with some teeny treats, but that’s what we’re doing in honor of Recipe ReDux. This recipe challenge focused on equal parts flavor and health has been going strong for a full year this month, and I’m proud to have been here since the tasty beginning.

Our challenge this month is to make small bite desserts for our virtual anniversary party. I just got back from Texas – where it is a billion degrees every day – to be greeted by an east coast heat wave, so the heck I feel like doing anything involving the oven, stove, microwave, etc. And frankly, I’m not a very skilled baker, especially not in 1:25 scale. The solution? A simple, no-bake, don’t-tell-anyone-but-it’s-vegan parfait with rich chocolate, sweet banana and a tart little topper.

You just need a food processor, some shot glasses, and about ten minutes. I made this recipe two ways when testing it, toying with the sweetness of the chocolate mousse. I preferred it less sweet (that’s the version below), because the ripe banana adds a lot of sugar to balance it out. But my dad, husband and son all tried the version where I doubled the rice syrup and seemed to like it that way. Give it a try either way and see which dainty dessert you prefer.

Mini mousse parfaits

I made mine with single layers of each ingredient, but you could certainly go wild and make more-than-two-layer parfaits. You’ll just need taller shot glasses than I have!

2 ripe avocados
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup brown rice syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
½ Tbs vanilla extract
2 very ripe bananas, sliced and frozen
Whole cherries

Slice the avocados and scoop the flesh out into a food processor. Add the cocoa powder, rice syrup and vanilla, and process until fully blended (check for hidden avocado chunks; you want those completely processed so the mousse is nice and smooth).

Set the mousse aside and clean out the food processor. Put the frozen sliced bananas in and process until they are the consistency of soft serve.

In shot glasses or similar small bowls, scoop a generous spoonful of the mousse, smoothing the top down as much as you can. Next add a generous scoop of the banana, and top it with a fresh cherry.

But don’t stop there – the links below will take you to more tiny treats from my fellow Recipe Reduxers. And if you’d like to take a stroll down memory lane, here are all my Recipe Redux posts from the last year.

Hello, Stranger: Well, mostly strangers…

The nice thing about writing your own blog is that you can create rules and devise themes, then decide to completely ignore them when it suits your fancy. In this fifth installment of Hello, Stranger, my fancy (that makes me sound like a creepy psychological-horror-movie character, right?) is to pass off a few foods I’ve tried before as “new to me.”

Technically, I’ve cooked with star anise, nutritional yeast and Chinese five-spice seasoning before (once each). But if you put those things in front of me again, I’d just flail around the kitchen, spilling stuff on my feet and crying, “I still don’t know what to do with them!” If their newness could still induce hysterics, I figured they belong in the ranks of food strangers along with brown rice flour, kumquats, miso and tzatziki. Hopefully this little review of a week’s worth of edible weirdos will help calm any strange-food anxiety you guys have, as well.

Star anise. The star-shaped pericarp (wha?) of an evergreen shrub, star anise has the same clean, licorice-like flavor of real anise, but with a stylish eight-pointed star shape to boot. Wikipedia tells me star anise contains a lot of active compounds or extracts, including one used to make Tamiflu.

I’ve used it to flavor home-made chicken soup before, and still had some on hand to use in Managed Macros’ broiled grapefruit recipe. I was a little skeptical that just plopping the star anise on top would impart much flavor, but it did give the grapefruit a nice subtle licorice taste.

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Magazine Week: Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection

If you’ve been hanging around the blog awhile, you may have noticed I’m a fan of Cooking Light. Their creative, tasty, and easy-to-do recipes have been frequent flyers in my regular posts – for example, I tested their Superfast series for speed and tastiness twice in dedicated posts, earning a spot as one of Cooking Light’s Superfast Fans of the Month in 2011.

So I’m pretty excited that Cooking Light asked me to join their Blogger’s Connection and the “conversation about the communal power of great-tasting, healthy food.” To celebrate, I dug up a few CL recipes I’d earmarked to try – coconut oven-baked chicken (which we made with chicken breasts instead of bone-in cuts), and honey-glazed carrots. Miles & Tim liked the chicken fingers paired with sweet Thai chili sauce (Tim) or honey (Miles). And while Tim wasn’t a big fan of the parsley in this dish, the honey-glazed carrots made an appearance on my plate several days in a row.

For those keeping score at home, two recipes don’t get us to the usual week’s worth. To round out the list, I turned to this month’s Cooking Light issue. More accurately, Tim flipped through the issue and found this tasty, easy-to-prepare broiled pineapple sundae which we ate for dessert as well as breakfast (the latter with not-frozen yogurt).

Several more recipes in the June CL issue are on the to-try list at Chez Lynch. Want to give them a spin, too? Here’s the week’s list, all from Cooking Light:

  • Falafel-stuffed eggplant, tahini, tomato relish (here)
  • Grilled caponata salad with grilled flatbreads (here)
  • Pinto, black and red bean salad with grilled corn and avocado (here)
  • Beef soba noodles, spinach, coconut-curry vinaigrette (here)
  • Broiled pineapple sundaes (here)
  • Honey-glazed carrots (here)
  • Oven-fried coconut chicken (here)

Running: Recovery, surgery, injury, and a return

Have you enjoyed the break from the off-topic running posts? Since finishing the Providence marathon about a month ago, I’ve had a prolonged break from any real volume of running thanks to a confluence of things: normal marathon recovery, a flare up of tendonitis in my right foot, and removal of one honking huge polyp from my sinuses.

Upper right side in this image, that gray blob is the polyp.

After PVD, I would have done a four-week reverse taper to get back into regular running form (4 runs per week, long runs of 6-8 miles). But I had surgery scheduled 8 days after the marathon to remove that polyp, and wasn’t allowed to exercise at all for one week after that, and then only “50% of normal” for the 2nd week. Then while I was sitting on my butt post-surgery, peroneal tendons in my right foot flared up (WHA? All I was doing was watching bad daytime TV!). More after the jump.

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