Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey day traditions Vegan Style

I love holidays since they revolve around my two favorite things, food and gathering together to have a good time.

I remember growing up, my mom would make something really interesting for Christmas Eve dinner, but not Christmas day and especially not Thanksgiving. Not until recently did we start making some new and different foods and all are vegan. My niece has always been vegan and almost everyone in my family needs to eat better.

I am not so adamant about having the same traditional foods at holidays, probably because I never liked green bean casserole or the candied yams. I was just a stuffing, turkey and cranberry girl. And probably because we would always go to my aunt and uncles house for thanksgiving and the turkey was really dry. I remember running out of water one time and wondering how I was going to finish my turkey. Yeah, it was that dry.

So this year with two vegans in the family and some other "dairy phobes" and people who want to eat better, we made everything so anyone could eat it then you would just add your turkey and gravy if you wanted to. I had another motive for this, to convince my meat dominant family members that vegan food tastes good. I think I won over some people especially with my sleeper dish, Swiss Chard Gratin. Everyone said, "I don't normally like this, but it was good." That to me is the ultimate compliment!

I can't wait for Christmas. We went to Frontera Grill and had brunch together and were inspired to do a Mexican Christmas feast.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gingerbread house part 2

So the house is complete and was turned in. Now its on display and up for voting for "people's choice". I entered the "Professional" category hoping I could advertise my business, but right now no name is on the display. I went to go look at it and a small part is already broken, but its just the fence, so I'm not too worried.

The reception is on December 14. You can go to the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI and view the houses. Remember to vote for me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gingerbread house part 1

So I decided to enter a contest for building a gingerbread house. I've never done this before, well on 2 levels, never entered a food competition nor built a gingerbread house. So, why not? I'm a pretty good pastry chef, how hard can this be?

I met a woman at a friend's birthday party who told me about the competition and how it would be great marketing for my personal chef business. I found this all out Sunday night, researched recipes and plans on Monday and baked the house on Monday night. Tuesday was assembly and starting to decorate. I am landscaping right now...

You can find photos here, and on my Facebook page, RUNNING GOURMET.

Part 2 to come....stay tuned!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

I saw this in Oprah's mag over the summer and just made them and inhaled 2 muffins. They are moist and delicious. The recipe is great, but the instructions got me in trouble! I have made some corrections and posted the recipe below.

1 cup whole wheat or all purpose flour ( I did 1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar (I have dark brown and used that)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick butter) butter or veg oil (I used butter of course)
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas about 2-3
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line or grease a muffin tin. You can use a large 6 muffin tin or standard 12 muffin tin.
Mix dry ingredients together.
In a mixer, cream butter or oil and sugar. Add bananas, egg, applesauce, vanilla and orange zest. Mix well. Add nuts. Fold dry ingredients into wet.
Scoop out into prepared muffin tins. Fill only 3/4 full. These will rise a little bit.
Bake 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What is comfort food?

Someone asked me, "What is your favorite comfort food?" and I didn't have an answer. I eat different things for different feelings/issues. Like having a cold/flu I want homemade chicken soup, if I have a full blown cold then I want Mexican or Chinese food so I can taste it. When I was a kid I loved, prime rib, green beans and mashed potatoes. Chocolate chip cookies always make me feel better, maybe that's my comfort food.

Now that I am trying to clean up my diet and eat better, I find more comfort in eating a well balanced meal full of veggies and healthy grains. The bag of Cheetos, while tasting good for a few minutes, really leaves me feeling not so good, physically and mentally. Guilt and gas, not fun.

I am choosing to be very conscientious about what I eat, sometimes that is a drag. Like counting calories, its a pain at first, but after you get used to it, the practice becomes second nature. I have a few friends who are losing weight successfully with this method. I lost weight by cutting out empty calories. I ate a lot of white starchy foods, desserts and snacks. Its a wonder how I was doing Ironman triathlons and not losing weight until it dawned on me that I can't eat whatever I want. I cut out desserts first, increased salads and veggies, then cut portions down and cut out potatoes and pasta. I used to be addicted to carbs, but realized that they weren't good for me. My body wanted protein. Then in the off season I cut out the 4th meal. In training I would eat 4 meals a day.

The thing about comfort food, it shouldn't make you feel bad physically or mentally. If you are in a bind, sick, stressed, traveling or working late, go for the healthy option. Ultimately you will feel better in doing the right thing for your body and mind. Taking care of yourself is the most comforting thing of all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sore throat - need chicken soup STAT!

I just made chicken soup. Comfort food is the best when you really need it, like going to bed with a raging sore throat and waking up with it even worse!

1 cut up whole chicken into 8 pieces
1 gallon water
2 onions, skin on, large dice
3 carrots, large dice
3 ribs celery, large dice
1 small clove garlic, peeled and left whole
handful of fresh parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns
fresh thyme stems or marjoram stems

Put everything in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes at least. Taste your stock. Pull out the chicken on a plate and let cool. Strain the stock. You can save the veggies and bones to make another batch if you like. Pull the meat off the bones and dice it up to spoonful size. Put stock back in the pot.

Put the veggies for the garnish in the simmering stock with the pasta. Add diced chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes more. Add fresh parsley before serving.

1 cup of pasta of your choice - I used ziti, because it was open
2 carrots - medium dice
2 ribs celery - medium dice
ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley