Race Schedule

I’m a planner and thus, I like training plans. Training plans are much more interesting with races to work towards. I really do believe that the difference between me and an ultra runner or a cometitive CrossFit athlete is consistency and dedication. This plays out day to day as I set time aside to follow a training plan and give the right effort to each workout. I also believe that the difference between me and most people who aren’t in shape but want to be, is the same thing: consistency and dedication. I’ve been there, believe me. Having children and getting older certainly changes our bodies, schedules and priorities, but instead of using that as a reason to give up, I think it’s even better incentive to make goals and take some time just for you and your body. It won’t happen overnight, but waking up each day and doing the incremental work adds up to improvement. I’m three years and many training plans in and I still have so much more to try.

Lately, I’ve been really turned off by the term “empowerment.” There’s something condescending about it when it’s often used by these people to help those people with goals that are more often instigated by the “helpers”. I don’t need anyone to empower me to be better today, next year, or a decade from now. In truth, it’s one of the few things no one can do for me. We are our own responsibility. Our accountability to a self-actualized life can not be delegated.

I do have an incredible coach who has both pushed me and given me perspective, but I believe we’re a team, along with the other awesome people in my CrossFit classes. It’s a contract. I show up, try not to whine or be negative, I’m honest with how I’m feeling, I compete only with myself, and I give my best effort. I’ve found a balance between my marathon training plan (5x/week) and the core strength and cross training I get from CrossFit (4x/week). I’ve even reached the point where I can deviate a bit from my plan when I get too tired or sore. I’m empowering me. I am the only one who can be consistent and dedicated to the person I’m becoming. No one can give that desire to me. If I want to be better tomorrow, I have to train today. And training is just trying. When I don’t want to workout, I think about what I’m training for. It’s not really this list of races. It’s not to have a different body or reach a certain weight. It’s because I’m proving to myself that I can do what only felt like a dream before. Running especially has given me the opportunity to get to my guts – an intimacy with myself. No one can fake out a 20 mile run. When it’s just me out there for hours, there aren’t any gels or gadgets or coaches or tricks that can finish for me. I have to be smart about how I train so I’m prepared and then I have to find the raw will power to ask myself to be more than I was before. Stronger, faster, happier, wiser, more thoughtful… and when I’ve pushed my body to a new level, I am humbled. There is no room for snarky out there. Gossip, appearance, anxiety all become laughable. Same is true for an intense CrossFit WOD. I think about Aurelia and the example I want to be for her. I think about the person I used to be and the one I reach for. I think about how incredibly lucky I am to be able to be in motion. Everything slows down out there. Life stops passing me by. I become present and very aware of what matters most.

I’m rambling. This is not what this post was supposed to be. I’m not really sure what this blog is supposed to be anymore. But it’s good to have a record. It’s good to say what I can and remember that this is a process. Looking at the races below blows my mind. I couldn’t do some of them today, but with the right preparation and determination, I will. Isn’t that a marvelous thing?!

An internet friend recently said, “In all matters there is a shallow and a profound perspective, including life itself. Do you live for yourself alone, or for a greater purpose and value? It is easy to live thinking only of oneself, but to live for a great ideal requires steadfast commitment and courage.

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Weekend Dinner: Balsamic Roast Beef, Cauliflower and Herbed Barley Salad, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Beets

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This was a lovely dinner. Simple roasted vegetables. Hearty grain. Melt in your mouth beef.

Balsamic Roast Beef
Adapted from Add a Pinch

Ingredients
1 3-4 pound boneless roast beef (chuck or round roast)
1 cup beef (or chicken or veg) broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cloves garlic, chopped

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Instructions
Place roast beef into the insert of your slow cooker. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over roast beef, cover with lid, and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Once roast beef has cooked, remove from slow cooker with tongs onto a cutting board. Break apart lightly with two forks, put into a serving dish and then ladle about 1/2 cup of cooking juices from the slow cooker over roast beef.

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BONUS! Onion Butternut Beef Soup
With all the remaining glorious cooking liquid remaining in the slow cooker, make an onion soup! Add in a chopped, caramelized onion, a couple cups of water, and 2 cups chopped winter squash. Cook on low again in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours. There will be a lot of fat in the broth from the beef, so I let the soup cook completely in the fridge and them remove the solidified layer of fat from the top before reheating and serving. Makes great lunch.

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Warm Cauliflower and Herbed Barley Salad
Adapted from Bon Appétit, March 2013

Ingredients
1/2 cup pearled barley
Kosher salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 15-ounce can white or butter beans, rinsed (or I used 1.5 cups cooked lentils)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided (or 2 Tbs dried parsley)

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Instructions
Place barley in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 2″. Season with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 30-40 minutes. Drain; run under cold water. Set aside. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and oil in a medium bowl until emulsified. Season dressing with salt and pepper; set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower; cook, turning occasionally, until browned in spots, 10-12 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl; add beans, parsley, reserved barley, and the dressing. Toss to coat and serve warm.

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Beets – same ol’ simple way

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All together now! Lovely dinner. Great leftovers.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Muffins

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I haven’t made muffins in far too long. I sent these off to school with Aurelia and the kids raved about them. I had one, too and have to agree. Just sweet enough. Not dry at all. Just what a muffin should be. Nice to know I still have a knack for them. Upgrading to 22-24% cocoa, like Pernigotti, makes an awesome difference.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil 16 muffin cups (or a 9×5 inch loaf pan). Stir the milk and lemon juice together in a glass measuring cup; let stand until curdled, about 5 minutes. Into a medium bowl, sift together the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; set aside. Beat the eggs, coconut oil, and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in the mashed bananas, the milk mixture, and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture just until all ingredients are moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared pan or muffin cups. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes for muffins (or 50-60 minutes for a loaf). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

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Summer Catch

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Darlings, it’s summer already! I am two months into a new (big, wow, hard) job and I’ve found my free time sponged up by the gym and dates with Aurelia.

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I’m in training for the Smuttynose Rockfest marathon, thanks to my bestest best Betsy and her powers of persuasion. Part of my training includes a half marathon next weekend and a 30 k Payette Lake Run in McCall September 1st. Thrilling! I am not an extraordinary runner, but pace is really relative and part of what makes running so awesome is that your competition is really only yourself and the hardest part isn’t in your legs, but in your mind. I am loving the solace I find through a great run, even on the treadmill. I added a Daily Mile widget to the right side bar with a link to my profile where I track my mileage. I enjoy the design of the site and recommend it if you want an easy way to keep track of your workouts (running, cycling, swimming, mostly). I’m still going to CrossFit 3-4 times a week and love it more than ever, but I don’t track those WODS.

I don’t have any new wonderful recipes to share because I’ve been eating very routine, calorie-and-macro-tracked, portable meals. I’m skipping breakfast 2x a week to train fasted with BCAA’s and eat eggs and meat or bulletproof coffee the other days. I pack a big lunch of starchy veg and/or greens + meat + cut veggies + fresh or dried fruit to work every day. My primadonna tummy has been annoyingly particular for a couple months, so I eliminated all added sugar, grains, legumes, and (most) dairy in June and besides 2 cheat meals, I stuck to it and noticed …. no difference. I’m trying to slowly whittle off 2-4% body fat without losing lean muscle so I can run easier/faster/lighter and even while cutting out my much missed oatmeal, chocolate, and fro yo, my weight has still maintained the same +/- 5 pounds. My point is that my food is very predictable and a little bit boring these days. We all go through phases of creativity and experimentation countered with phases of survival and maintenance.

I bought two sets of the pyrex snap ware dishes from Costco and fill 6-10 up twice a week for all my lunches and more dinners than I should admit. Aurelia doesn’t seem to mind and it’s actually pretty easy feeding a toddler with so many pre-cut/cooked/portioned meals. She noshes on cucumber, salmon, chicken, hard boiled eggs, and sweet potatoes. And I have sausages, popcorn, whole grain bread, cheese, gallons of raw milk, and dried fruit just for her and it’s convenient enough. It’s so impossibly hot right now (108F today) that it’s been a relief to pull a protein packed meal out of the fridge and not have to heat up the oven or stove each night.

Here’s a few pictures from a recent multiple meal prep:

Sweet potatoes and parsnips tossed with sea salt, herbes de provence, pepper, and coconut oil. Ready to be tossed and put on a baking sheet to be roasted at 400F for 30-40 minutes, stirring a few times.

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Before grilling chicken breasts, put them one by one into a large ziplock and pound with a rolling pin until the thickest part of the breast is about 1/2 – 3/4″, about the same as the thinner part of the breast. This will ensure even cooking time. No one likes dry chicken. Marinate for 2-24 hours in salt and spices, then cook on a grill that’s been preheated to 375-400F. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side and use a meat thermometer to check each breast. Done when the internal temperature reaches 165F. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Mid prep – pumpkin puree, spinach for salads, cut veg and strawberries, cooked chicken, cauliflower read to be riced.

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Assembly – chicken cut and paired with pumpkin, greens alone for canned tuna, cauliflower riced and paired next to remaining cut chicken, bowls of roasted sweet potato and parsnips. Not pictured: sausage spiced ground turkey for the roasted veg.

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Not really dinner party worthy, but practical and healthy enough. I’m going to be adding in some rice, quinoa, and oats over the next few weeks to help fuel my longer runs and see how I digest them with some encouraging thoughts.

I’m rambling. It’s definitely time to wrap the catch up, but I promised my wonderful friend M that I would share my best running mix. It’s full of fast, positive, workout-specific music that has kept me going the last two months. I have 3 more months to go, so send me your suggestions for other songs I should add!

In alphabetical order:

  • Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding
  • Between Two Lungs – Florence + The Machine
  • Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke
  • California Gurls – Katy Perry
  • Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Collide (Afrojack Remix) – Leona Lewis/Avicii
  • Cosmic Love – Florence + The Machine
  • Dead Sea – The Lumineers
  • Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine
  • Drumming Song – Florence + The Machine
  • Easy (Extended Remix) – Mat Zo & Porter Robinson
  • The Edge of Glory – Lady GaGa
  • Everybody Talks – Neon Trees
  • Feel Again – OneRepublic
  • Feel So Close (Radio Edit) – Calvin Harris
  • Feel The Love – Rudimental & John Newman
  • Firework – Katy Perry
  • Flowers in Your Hair – The Lumineers
  • Forever My Friend – Ray LaMontagne
  • Free My Mind – Katie Herzig
  • Girl With One Eye – Florence + The Machine
  • Gone, Gone, Gone – Phillip Phillips
  • Heads Carolina, Tails California – Jo Dee Messina
  • Ho Hey – The Lumineers
  • Home – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  • Howl – Florence + The Machine
  • I Love It – Icona Pop
  • I’m Not Calling You a Liar – Florence + The Machine
  • It’s Time (Kat Krazy Remix) – Imagine Dragons
  • Last Friday Night – Katy Perry
  • Lights (Fear of Tigers Remix) – Ellie Goulding
  • Little Lovin’ – Lissie
  • A Little Party Never Killed Nobody – Fergie, Q-Tip & GoonRock
  • Live It Up – Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull
  • Next to Me – Emeli Sande
  • The Other Side – Jason Derulo
  • People Like Us – Kelly Clarkson
  • Play Hard (Albert Neve Remix) – David Guetta
  • Pursuit of Happiness – Lissie
  • Put the Gun Down – ZZ Ward
  • Rabbit Heart – Florence + The Machine
  • Radioactive – Kings of Leon
  • Safe and Sound – Capital Cities
  • Shake It Out – Florence + The Machine
  • Storm Warning – Hunter Hayes
  • Submarines – The Lumineers
  • Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
  • Tonight I’m Getting Over You (Remix) – Carly Rae Jepsen
  • Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker
  • We Found Love – Rihanna & Calvin Harris
  • Wonder – Emeli Sande & Naughty Boy
  • You Are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
  • You’ve Got the Love – Florence + The Machine

Unless I have a secret audience interested in “Train Low, Race High” methodology, 30/30/40 macro splitting, crossfit and endurance, and how to carb load like a lion without sugar, I’ll probably say hello again in August!

Be well, buttercups.

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Rogan Josh on Cauliflower Rice

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This is exactly the sort of food I love to make and eat. I picked up a pound of lamb meat at the Capital City Farmers Market from a local rancher and am so glad I prepared it this way.

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The spice blend is complex, but once you have it mixed up, you can keep it on hand for a year. If you can help it, make Rogan Josh, let it cool a bit, cover it and put it in the fridge until the next day. Reheat it then over the stove with a bit of extra water if needed and then serve. The extra time brings the flavors together gorgeously and allows you to plan ahead when you have a long weekend like this one for meals in busier times. Enjoy!

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Rogan Josh on Cauliflower Rice
Adapted from Melissa Joulwan at The Clothes Make The Girl

Ingredients:

for lamb:
1 tsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 lb. lamb or beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk (or full fat plain yogurt)
1/2 cup water
salt & pepper
3 Tbs homemade Rogan Josh seasoning (see below)

for cauliflower:
1 tsp coconut oil
1 head cauliflower, stem removed and cut into florets
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp lemon juice

for seasoning:
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp ginger powder
4 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs + 1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbs + 1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs + 2 tsp cumin
2 Tbs + 2 tsp coriander
1 Tbs + 1 tsp salt
cayenne: 1 tsp for very mild, 2 tsp for medium, 1 Tbs for hot-ish

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Instructions:
for the seasoning: First things first. Mix up the spice blend, take out just 3 Tbs and set aside. The rest can be stored in a glass jar with a lid for the next time you make Rogan Josh. Also just a wonderful spice blend to have on hand for a big impact on beef, chicken, spinach, carrots, etc.

for the lamb: Sprinkle meat generously with salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown well on all sides. (Here’s a tip from Melissa: respect the contact. Put the meat in there and let it be for at least 5 minutes so it gets a nice brown crust – resist the temptation to stir it around. Give it some private time and it will reward you for your generosity.)

When the meat is brown, add the chopped onion and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the rogan josh seasoning to the pan and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the coconut milk and water to the skillet. Mix well, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Let the meat braise in the coconut milk for 1-2 hours. When time’s up, remove the lid and let the sauce thicken a bit… maybe 2 minutes or so.

for the cauliflower rice: About 15 minutes before the lamb is done, prepare the cauliflower. Heat the tsp of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. In a food processor, put half the cauliflower florets. Use the pulse button to chop up the cauliflower to rice sized pieces. This should be about 15 pulses. Don’t over do it or you’ll get mush. Dump the cauliflower into the heated pan and repeat the steps with the second half of the cauliflower florets. Once it’s all in the pan, add the salt, and stir frequently until the cauliflower is soft and has given off some liquid, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice. Toss well and serve with the prepared lamb on top!

This is so much better the next day and the day after that. Make sure you have leftovers!

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Bulletproof Coffee

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This is quite a trend lately among the Paleo, Ketosis, High Fat/Low Carb, Intermittent Fasting crowd. The Bulletproof Executive started the whole thing and it has continued to rise in popularity in the last two and half years. I’m not one to jump on trends too easily, but more than two years and dozens of accounts on blogs I love convinced me to give it a try. I mean, I drink coffee every morning with a generous splash of raw milk, so obviously I’m not too purist about caffeine or dairy. Butter in coffee may seem odd, but just think of it as glorified cream. I’ve tried it with just coconut oil and it’s not my favorite. The butter makes it. The combination of fats between the two bring a cup to 210 calories and 25 grams of fat. So listen, this is breakfast. It’s a form of Intermittent Fasting. I like the way one PaleoHacker commenter summed it up: “the basic theory behind it is that consuming fat only does not take you out of  the fat burning/ketogenic state, however carbs or protein would. MCT oil can  also increase ketosis, and coffee also helps.  Whether this is technically  “breaking the fast” is an irrelevant argument about terminology, not results. True, some of the fat that you are burning comes from the drink, but there aren’t THAT many calories in it, so some of that burned fat still comes from  your ass. If drinking it helps you with mental focus and keeps you from feeling  hunger during your fast then it has done its job.  That might be a worthwhile  tradeoff for a couple hundred calories of burned fat, assuming you’d burn the same amount with or without the drink.” (The Bulletproof Exec recipe uses special “upgraded” coffee and adds MCT oil. I use Starbucks coffee and use coconut oil instead of MCT.)

Honestly, I’m not that interested in fasting or getting my body into ketosis. I love the way this tastes, I believe this kind of fat is good for you, it’s truly satiating, and I love to workout after having it. My workouts are stronger, I look leaner, and it keeps me full until about 2 p.m. So, if I’m running out of time in the morning and am hungry, I’ll buzz a mug of coffee with a tablespoon of cold pressed coconut oil and a tablespoon of grass-fed butter in the blender for 10 seconds. I buzz soap and water in the blender after I’ve poured my coffee into my cup, rinse the blender, and I’ve done breakfast in about 30 seconds. Plus, it’s delicious. Just try it once and see how it goes. Every once in a while, the bandwagon is worth it.

If you’re not used to consuming 25 grams of fat at a time, start with half the fat and work up. It felt like a lot my first time drinking it, so I scaled down and worked up quickly with no problem. I don’t talk much about it, but I am managing some long term gut issues better when I take probiotics, bitters, and Betaine HCI. Sugar and grain still creates a lot of trouble for me, so having options like this, full of qualitiy fats and energy, is a lifesaver for days I’d otherwise be tempted to grab a muffin at the coffee shop. If you have digestion problems, low stomach acid and bacterial imbalance may be a cause. The Bulletproof Executive recommends taking Betaine HCI before the Bulletproof Coffee if you need help with digestion. Probiotics are helpful to nearly everyone. But that’s a topic for another time.

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Bulletproof Coffee
Adapted from The Bulletproof Executive

Ingredients:
16 oz fresh brewed coffee
1 Tbs grass fed UNSALTED butter
1 Tbs cold pressed unrefined coconut oil

Instructions:
Use a blender, hand blender, or magic bullet to mix all the ingredients together. Blend for 10-15 seconds, pour into a mug, and enjoy!

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Chicken Coconut Curry

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I wasn’t sure if I should share this recipe because I already have a Coconut Curry, Chicken Curry, Curry Meatballs, Curry Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, and Chicken Curry on Cauliflower Rice in the archives. Each are excellent and this is as different as the rest. Still curry, still chicken, still coconut, but independently magnificent. I suppose I just like curry. I’m not trying to be authentic because I generally turn to this sort of dish when I want a big healthy meal without a lot of fuss or time. There are tons of different curry blends out there, so test a few to find your favorite. I love the Lemon (Yellow) Curry from Frontier. It has turmeric, coriander, cumin, lemon peel, black pepper, freeze-dried whole lemon, cardamom, cinnamon, dehydrated garlic and cayenne. Yum!

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Chicken Coconut Curry
Adapted from The Clothes Make The Girl

Ingredients:
Sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 large onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup coconut milk
Chicken
1 lb. chicken thighs
3 Tbs coconut oil
Topping
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

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Instructions:
Combine spices in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium high, melt the coconut oil. Season the chicken with a bit of salt and pepper and saute until it’s nicely browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side.

Take the meat out of the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and throw in the onion, garlic, and green peppers with a pinch of salt. Stir fry until the onions are tender, brown and starting to carmelize, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the spices to the veg and add the coconut milk. Simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.

In a small dry skillet over medium low heat, cook the flaked coconut until it just starts to brown, stirring well. This will only take a couple minutes.

To serve, pile the chicken over steamed veggies, squash, cauliflower rice, or brown rice. Or just a glorious pile of chicken in a bowl! Top with a scoop of sauce and sprinkle the coconut on top. Lime wedges on the side for bonus points.

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Asparagus Dijon Crustless Quiche

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I make these crustless quiches rather often as a delicious way to use up whatever leftover meat and veg are still in the fridge on a slow weekend morning. This one is a little special because it didn’t have anything to do with leftovers and really highlighted the asparagus in season. It’s such a short, blissful season when we can get local asparagus, and nothing says spring and gratitude for green better than the tender stalks.

I hate calling these crustless quiches, because I promise you won’t be thinking of the lack of crust when you eat a big slice. This is a healthier and simpler recipe than making a traditional pie crust cheese filled quiche to what is supposed to be a quick prep breakfast. Though, I hesitate to call it a frittata, because in my mind, a frittata is made specifically by starting to cook the whole thing on the stove and then finishing under the broiler in the oven. Perhaps one of these days I’ll make it that way just so I can stop calling it a crustless quiche.

But if you’ll pardon the name, the method of cooking couldn’t be simpler. Sure, it has to cook for a while, but that’s the perfect time to make a pot of tea and ease into the morning with a book or the paper. Just my sort of weekend.

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Asparagus Dijon Crustless Quiche

Ingredients:
6 oz canned boneless, skinless salmon, drained
1 Tbs butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1-2 Tbs grainy dijon mustard
1/2 cup whole milk
8 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

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Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter, onions, asparagus, and big pinches of salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus and onions are soft. Remove from the heat and use a spoon to spread out the mixture evenly on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add dijon mustard, eggs, milk, and more pinches of salt and pepper. Whisk together until well combined.

Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus mixture in the cast iron. Bake until the eggs are set, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into wedges and serve.

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Best Meat Sauce

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“Replace your grains with greens” is the single most powerful dietary changes I’ve made in the last year, but I’ll admit, sometimes I really miss the bun, a heap of rice, a thick slice of sandwich bread, or starchy noodles. Usually these cravings come just when I’ve been indulging them already. Argh. (Three cakes and a batch of muffins have left my kitchen in the last week.)

I make this sauce regularly and instead of my usual spinach or kale, I cooked up a box of brown rice pasta, according to the package directions.

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I hated the noodles. What a disappointment. They weren’t bad, but talk about boring. The next day I roasted a head of cauliflower florets, tossed with olive oil, fennel, sage, and salt. I have now reheated the sauce and eaten it on roasted cauliflower twice. It’s heaven. So, I’m sharing the sauce recipe because it’s a keeper. Serve it on anything you like.

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Best Meat Sauce

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
1 pint tomato sauce (I use a homemade marinara. Any favorite bottled sauce will do.)
2 Tbs dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more!)
salt and pepper to taste

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Instructions:
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and sausage and cook until brown, breaking up with fork, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer meat to a bowl. Discard all but 2 Tbs of the grease and return to the stove. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in herbs, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for a minute. Return beef and sausage to skillet; add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until sauce is thick, about 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

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Honey Buttermilk Mincemeat Cake

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I really, really love mincemeat. Deep, almost savory, sweet, rich, spiced, and preserved is my greatest dessert described and mincemeat hits all of the above. The thing is, store bought mincemeat can be rather expensive when done right and very disgusting when done wrong. I suppose the same is true when done at home, though I believe nothing is as exorbitant or unappealing when made by loving hands with thoughtful ingredients in a home kitchen. Mincemeat can be overwhelming and we are all familiar with traditional mincemeat pie, but often have different opinions about it. It’s one of those desserts that seems to go very right or horribly wrong. I think the key is portion size and balancing flavors. I especially love real mincemeat made with beef and suet, but that’s a post for another day.

A few weeks ago, I opened a jar of homemade (meatless) mincemeat from my mother’s pantry for a dinner party. I made a simple crostata with half of a whole wheat and butter pie crust recipe and just put a thin layer of mincemeat over the rolled out dough in the center, leaving 2 inches around the sides. I folded those sides over, egg washed the exposed dough, and baked it hot at 425 for 20 minutes. It was stunning.

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So last week I opened another jar the same day I bought a quart of local wildflower honey up the road. Wildflower honey has a more pronounced flavor than clover and while I love the taste, it has a habit of taking over anything it’s made with. Making this cake out of such simple, strong, old fashioned ingredients was a risk, but it paid off. I haven’t had a dessert that brought such pleasure in a long time. This may look like an everyday snack cake, but I disagree with the categorization. It’s impossibly rich and nearly a pudding cake because of how moist and dense it barely sets. Really, it’s just glorious. The whole wheat and buttermilk are absolutely necessary to hold up to the honey and mincemeat.

If you don’t have a jar of mincemeat on hand, you can purchase some, but I recommend taking the time to make your own mincemeat like this all-fruit version or this traditional one. Either find a way to make a lot of cake, pie, and crostada in the next few weeks or pull out the pressure canner and preserve it for a very long time. You’ll never regret having a jar on hand when this cake is just a few other ingredients away. Although I could have and would have eaten this cake alone, I shared a bit with my mother, Aurelia, with two gentlemen at an Editorial Board meeting, and with Aurelia’s teacher. Everyone raved about it and it seemed to speak to them the same it spoke to me. Something unexpected, memorable, and unlike any cake you’re used to. The perfect finish to your Easter dinner, perhaps?

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Honey Buttermilk Mincemeat Cake
Adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup prepared mincemeat (freshly prepared or from a home preserved or purchased jar)

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Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan. Cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add honey, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating mixture well after each addition. In a 2 cup measuring bowl, dissolve soda in buttermilk, stirring well. The mixture will bubble and rise as it reacts. Mix flour into creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Mix well after addition. Stir in mincemeat, mixing just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan and cool a bit longer, just as long as you can stand. Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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