Strawberries!

Happy sunny Sunday to everyone on the east coast. That rain was getting super old. It pretty much dried up around here on about Wednesday and everybody felt like they had to make up for the lost days by being outside! The abundance of bikers, joggers, walkers, and runners was pretty staggering around my work and apartment. Here I sit, not outside today, but all alone while Dan sees a friend in the city. I am supposed to be doing my big cleaning (tearing up the area rugs, scouring the tub, vacuuming the crevices), but instead I’m letting myself wake up a little more with a nice cup of homemade iced coffee (courtesy of Dan – I cannot make coffee to save my life), a fresh fruit and coconut Greek yogurt parfait, and an hour of the Pioneer Woman on Food Network. I can’t eat anything she actually makes because it’s terribly unhealthy, but she’s pretty enthusiastic and the ranch she lives on is gorgeous, as is her kitchen. Not that you’d ever catch me living in the middle of nowhere like that, no matter how big of a kitchen you gave me!

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I guess I’ll start last Sunday, which was Father’s Day. My father-in-law was the only one of my fathers who was local enough to see in a day trip, so we headed down there armed with a healthy treat to give him (and a nice gift card to a not-so-healthy steakhouse. You’ve got to let the man have some fun despite his doctor’s recommendations). I chose a Strawberry Coffee Cake (the recipe is members only on Dashing Dish, but come on, for $5 a month you get beyond what you pay for in value) because it seemed pretty accessible despite its uber healthy ingredients (so as not to scare FILwith something vegan and terrifying sounding). I ended up cutting it into wedges that looked more like scones than coffee cake. The texture was a bit spongey and eggy, not really my cup of tea, but Dan and his brother seemed to enjoy it well enough.

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On Tuesday, my co-workers and I had made an appointment to go and give more blood to the Red Cross drive near work because we were cleared for re-donation after the minimum recovery period. I, unfortunately, was turned away for a lack of iron. I have always struggled with anemia my entire life and my diet this past year has made it difficult for me to get as much as I need without special care and attention. I need to begin my multivitamins again and try to get in more iron from non-meat sources such as spinach and beans. Vegan runner friend says he’s going back to donate again in eight weeks when he’s clear to and that my challenge is to be up to snuff by then. Bring it on! To make up for not being able to help that way, I registered for my second 5k next weekend for charity. I’ll be doing it without Dan and without my fitness buddy most likely. I should have another running companion from work, a co-worker walking it with her daughter, and a cheering section! Yay!

I made some Spice-Crusted Tofu with a pack of firm lite tofu we had in the fridge for dinner that night and piled it on a multigrain lavash wrap with some romaine lettuce. I drizzled in a bit of veggie broth because tofu is so absorbent, and let it get really browned and crispy outside. Tofu really is a wonder food. I have some Tofutti in the fridge for some experimental baking taking place this coming week, stay tuned!

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Wednesday, vegan runner buddy and I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and our close proximity to a high school track and do some outdoor running. That didn’t work out because as we were finishing our walking warmup laps, a summer program for children rolled up and they were absolutely everywhere running around. We diverted to the gym for a light workout instead. That was a pretty long night!

I skittered home to make some healthy birthday treats for a co-worker’s birthday on Thursday. She keeps in great shape and is very conscious of her diet, so I wanted to make her something that would be in keeping with this practice. I found some healthy Vanilla Cupcakes with Banana Cream Cheese Frosting (that recipe is essentially the one I found but not exactly. The additional raspberry frosting component might have saved the poor suckers had I seen this version). I’m not good with egg whites. I never beat them long enough, they never come to stiff peaks, and consequently, the food I’m making is never right at the end. Boo. The cupcakes were pourous and stuck to the liners and just tasted like nothing. The frosting was worse — bland and boring (I even used lowfat cream cheese instead of nonfat and tried adding PB2 and honey — still ew), with an overwhelming funny banana taste. No, thank you.

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I remembered I had seen a recipe for Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles on a blog I’ve been checking out recently. It was late, I didn’t want to run a mixer, and I had all the ingredients, so despite the amount of canola oil, I baked them. I ended up getting three dozen out of the batter, which put the calories around 90 apiece – not too terrible! At the office I was told “my throat is on fire – but I love it!” about the slow afterburn of the cayenne pepper. They went like hotcakes and one of our two office vegans gave them her approval! The other just doesn’t eat my cooking anymore (but then asked for them the following day – nice try vegan runner buddy – they were GONE by five o’clock)! I think if I made them for Dan and myself, I’d try replacing some or all of the oil with applesauce to make them even healthier!

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I am also on an unsweetened iced tea kick. I haven’t been sleeping well and I was thinking it was my late-day coffee consumption so I have cut back to one coffee a day in the morning and an iced tea in the afternoon instead. I have made my own at home (Prince of Wales tea crossed with Peppermint – no success, cold brew Lipton bags – pretty good, and Pomegranate black tea – delish!), and bought it from Dunkin Donuts (decent), and Starbucks (I’ve tried their black and passion iced teas, both are yummy)! The trick seems to be making a strong tea base and steeping for only the right amount of time before adding your cold water.

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Yesterday, with a long week behind us, Dan and I got up at the crack of dawn, collected fitness buddy with her tank of coffee, and headed down to my home state, Connecticut, to meet up with my best friend and her older sister to do some berry picking at this awesome orchard. Lyman Orchards has pick your own fruit all year long, a 24-hour dedicated hotline for daily picking conditions, a huge farm market, and several areas to golf and try their driving range. It was a hot sunny day and there was a breeze going on the huge hill where the strawberry PYO was located. The fresh berries (and there were a TON to be picked), were only $2.60 a pound. My friends took home about 15 pounds worth for jelly, jams, and freezing, while we ended up with seven and a half pounds to split among the three of us!

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We puttered around a local Le Crueset outlet in search of things to use a 35% off coupon on, but I was unable to justify spending as much as it would cost, even with a coupon, to buy a nice new skillet from them, or a grill pan (as badly as I need both). I love the LC pie plate my sister bought me for my wedding, though, and the casserole dish another friend gave me for my shower. It’s such good quality bakeware. I did get a salad saver bag so lettuce won’t get nasty as quickly and a tiny magnet shaped like one of their pots, though! We parted ways after that and the MA trio cut through Rhode Island to get back home. We stopped at a Newport Creamery for something I’d heard about called an “Awful Awful,” which is apparently frozen milk and add-ins, blended like a milkshake. I’m sure it was an awful awful amount of calories (we did that ALL the way home, by the way, including through the awful awful stomach ache I got and the stop for Rolaids), but it was my splurge day and I had made sure to work hard at the gym Friday night!

After we dropped off our friend, I realized as we crossed my favorite bridge, the Zakim, that we have been living up here officially for four years this week! We really do love Boston and our town and I think we’re going to have a very happy life up here.

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I wanted to use some of the berries while they were super freshly picked so I made myself Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes and topped them with more fresh berries, a tablespoon or two of Greek yogurt between the layers, and just a bit of the fresh Lyman strawberry preserves I bought in the market. The taste and texture of the fresh berries beats store bought by a mile!

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After I finish my cleaning, I’ll be tackling a vegan strawberry shortcake with coconut whipped cream to fulfill a promise to my dairy-intolerant co-worker (who has been eagerly awaiting it since seeing my photos from our trip), and to use the berries while they’re at their freshest. We ended up with about five pounds after our friend took her share. I have a can of coconut milk chilling out in the fridge and I’ve never tried to make anything but conventional whipped cream from scratch, so this is exciting new territory for me! I’ll let you know how that goes next weekend…after my second 5k! Wish me luck – I don’t know if I mentioned but I got up to running 2.15 miles without stopping the other night at the gym and I’m going to push myself this week to be in better shape than the last 5k. I am also going to purchase a watch with a timer so I can keep my pace and hopefully improve while I am competing! Happy summer/strawberry season!

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