Sunday Running Round-up and Minty Chocolate No-Bake Bars

This week’s runs were sort of pitiful. I need to get into marathon-training mode! Since my 15-miler a few weeks ago, I’ve had mostly uninspired runs. I had a few good hilly runs while in Boston a few weeks ago, but that’s about it.

too much light, but you can see the three distinct layers: slightly crunchy crust with a wholesome texture from oats; smooth frosting-ish layer with strong flavors of mint and vanilla; and soft, sweet chocolate on top. Divine.

This week’s runs: Monday 0, Tuesday and Wednesday,  3 each; Thursday 0; Friday 3; Saturday 5; and today, a sloggish 10. I woke up at 4:30 (!!!!) today in order to get up and at ’em prior to the wretched heat setting in too badly. It was still pretty darn hot, but at least the sun was mostly not out. I went through almost all of the water in my CamelBak, which is somewhat shocking for only a 10-miler. I dread longer runs in August….I may end up having to buy a new, bigger CamelBak. Ugh.

To reward myself, and to help with end-of-the-semester grading, I made some minty chocolate no- bake bars, based loosely on this recipe from www.loveveggiesandyoga.com: http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2009/11/vegan-creme-de-menthe-bars-no.html It is WAY too hot to turn on the oven; luckily, with this recipe you don’t have to! I used the microwave for the second and third layers, and only used the stove for the crust layer.

not enough light! You get the idea, though.

I’ve made this recipe a number of times, but I’ve never followed it exactly because I’ve never used nuts in the crust.

This is the only piece I ate. Right. Ahem.

Here’s what I did this time. I think the bars came out the best ever, and will make it this way again:

-I used all ground oats for the crust, and I melted the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder in with the margarine. This made the crust layer all fudgy. In fact, it was so good I think it could stand on its own. Note to self: make no-cook fudge using ground oats, cocoa powder, and confectioners’ sugar. NOW.

-I used just a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder in the crust layer, and about 2 1/2 tablespoons of margarine

-I used quite a bit of vanilla in the crust – 2 teaspoons, maybe?

-I used 2 tablespoons of margarine in the frosting layer, and lots of vanilla and peppermint extract

-I used about 2 tablespoons of margarine in the chocolate topping

Other variations I’ve made: crushed Oreos and margarine for the crust (yummy but crumbly) and combinations of whole and ground oats in the crust.

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Vegan Peach-Blackberry Crisp and PureFit Bars

Peach Blackberry Crisp with Almond Topping and the BEST homemade vegan ice cream EVER (recipe coming soon!)

 

Oh my GOODNESS, it is hot here in the South! I stumbled through a 5-ish mile run this morning, and I really need to walk the dogs….but it is SO HOT! I’m not sure they even want to go.

The less cooking/baking in this weather, the better. Tonight’s dinner was a massive Thai curry, with tons of farmers’ market veggies: zucchini, squash, white eggplant, carrots, kale – YUM! The white egglants were surprisingly tender and did not have a strong flavor, as purple eggplants usually have. I also made some spring rolls, which I’ll post about later.

I haven’t turned on the oven in almost a week! Last week I made this crisp/cobbler (what’s the difference, anyways?), also with farmers’ market peaches and blackberries.  It was so good! We served it to two sets of guests and everyone loved it. I used almond extract in the crisp topping because I was out of vanilla (gasp! horrors!) and I really like almond, particularly with fruit. Use either or both!

Fruit:

1 dozen peaches, sliced

3-4 cups fresh blackberries

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white flour

Topping:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

salt, to taste (1/2 – 1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract, optional (but totally delicious!)

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance or Fleischmann’s unsalted

1/4 cup coconut oil

Method:

Put the fruit in a bowl; sprinkle with flour and sugar and stir gently until well-combined.

Peaches and blackberries mixed with the sugar and flour

 

Put flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the margarine and coconut oil until the mixture resembles coarse sand with  a few pebbles thrown in. Add the extract(s) and stir to combine.

Put fruit into 2 9 x 13 pans, or other similarly sized pans. Pour topping on top and press down gently to ensure the fruit is covered. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and topping is a nice light brown. Serve with your favorite vegan ice cream.

A few weeks ago, I won a box of PureFit bars, www.purefit.com,  from Averie over at www.loveveggiesandyoga.com.

These. Bars. Are. AMAZING. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I’ve never had one before, and they were billed as high-protein and I’m not usually a high-protein kind of gal. Every now and then I buy a Luna or Clif bar, but in general I don’t buy bars. However, I will buy PureFit if I happen to see them at Whole Foods (or anywhere else). I got the Almond Crunch flavor. There was a distinct, but not too strong or bitter, almond flavor. I was worried that there would be too much crunch for my taste, but instead of being crunchy, the bar was dense and chewy with just little pieces (tiny) of almond that gave the bar  a nice texture. I don’t like big chunks of nuts in my food, and these bars definitely did not have that. The bar is not a granola bar; it is denser and chewier than a granola bar. However, as the wrapper proclaims, it does not melt – even after being left in a car in the southern heat! The bar was sweet without being overly sweet. I find Luna and Clif bars to be too sweet, most of the time; these were NOT too sweet. Score!

I’m not big on calorie counting or fat counting or any of that, but these seemed to have good nutrition. The Almond Crunch bars have 220 calories and 18 (!!!) grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. I like a bar/snack witha  good amount of fiber and/or fat, to help keep me full. These bars were GREAT in that regard – as a quick breakfast or snack, they really tided me over to the next meal. I have started stashing one in my bag on the days I’m running from one courthouse to another – they are a tasty, wholesome, filling snack on the go.

http://purefit.com/nutrition-info

PureFit has several flavors – Cherry Almond, Brownie, Peanut Butter Crunch, Granola Crunch – AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM IS VEGAN!!! That is just totally awesome. I love finding a product line that is 100% vegan – it is so convenient to NOT have to read labels. They are all gluten-free, too. Definitely worth trying, especially if you want  a bar that is not sickeningly sweet and has a solid dose of protein.

Friday Fun, and Roasted Tomato Sauce

Today wasn’t as fun as most Fridays, as it was blastedly hot out, and we did not have time for the playground, library, OR coffee shop because the youngest had to get shots and I had to visit a client in jail…..but it was still reasonably fun because it was an office-less Friday! Always good, right? Plus, we are babysitting our friends’ dog, so now we have three dogs in the house, which again is always good! Husband and oldest child did a farmers’ market run while youngest and I were at the doctor’s office, so now we are fully stocked with more fresh veggies. I love summer veggies!

Look at those delicious roasted veggies! All set to be pureed into sauce.

I really need to post about the following: PureFit bars (thanks, www.loveveggiesandyoga.com!), my New Balance loot, including new running sneakers and some fun running clothes, and the totally hip new sandals I got at Okabashi. All very worthy posts. However, my camera is out of batteries so I kind of have to post about stuff for which I already have pictures. Hence, this super simple recipe for roasted tomato sauce. This is based on the tomato sauce recipe that goes with the paella recipe in The Voluptuous Vegan. The paella recipe is pretty involved, but this sauce is easy and SO GOOD. It is a bummer to have to turn on the oven in the summer, but if we have it on for something else – bread, cookies, eggplant for babaganoush (have I told you about our 3-year-old’s obsession with babaganoush?) – then I try to throw in some tomatoes and onions for this sauce. I really hope to freeze some for the winter, but somehow there’s never enough left.

I also thought the tomatoes and onions just looked really beautiful coming out of the oven. I didn’t get a picture of the finished sauce, but it is an interesting orangey/pink/red color – far less red than traditional jarred tomato sauce, which is probably due to the onions and olive oil.

8-10 tomatoes

2 onions

2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

olive oil

coarse salt

pepper

several sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary, if you have it

Roughly chop the tomatoes and onions. Place in one or two 9 x 13 pans; it’s okay if they are layered, but you don’t want them totally crowded. Liberally sprinkle olive oil over them, and spinkle with salt and pepper. Throw in the garlic cloves, unpeeled, and the rosemary or thyme, if using.

Heat oven to 375. Roast for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are slightly shrivelled and browned, and the onions are also slightly browned.

Let cool so that you can handle the veggies without burning yourself. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin; pick off a few of the leaves of thyme or rosemary; all those to the tomatoes and onions.

Put the tomato and onion mixture in a blender. Be sure to scrape in all of that yummy olive oil…..it has its own flavor, plus that of the onions, garlic, and herb!

Blend until smooth. Enjoy over rice, veggies, pasta, whatever.

On a side note, my husband has been making some fresh-from-the-farmers’ market peach milkshakes, to which he’s been adding Whole Foods animal crackers – sort of like peach speculoss, right? Ground up animal crackers…yum!

Question: I’ve been thinking about changing my blog layout. I didn’t realize how dark it was, and how the posts overlapped on each other in a most annoying way, until very recently when I checked it without signing in. What makes a food blog easy to read? What sort of features should I look for (without leaving WordPress)?

Farmers’ Market Fabulousness and Balsamic-Ginger Reduction

I love veggies. I truly do. Fruit, not so much, but veggies – I could eat them all day long, every day. There’s not a veggie I don’t like, except for peas. I. LOVE. Veggies.

We are fortunate to have a farmers’ market open two days a week about a half-mile from our house. When we first moved here, there were NO farmers’ markets – I figured that we were in such a rural area that everyone knew someone with a farm and there was no need for a market. Lucky for us, that has changed recently. We typically walk up to the market once a week with the girls and stock up on fresh veggies and fruit. I love, love, LOVE fresh veggies. I’m not crazy about fruit but I’m working on that.

Check out the beautiful white eggplant! You can’t really see from this picture, but the yellow squash has green lines on it. Gorgeous!

Veg = beauty

Fresh kale – my favorite!!

Some of the chopped veggies to be used in a recipe

Peaches and blackberries, getting ready to be in a cobbler (recipe posted soon)

Cooking up some zucchini for the girls

Not from the farmers’ market, but another side dish – pressed tofu, cooked in the cast iron skillet with a dash of oil, soy sauce, and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast. An easy favorite, loved by kids and grown-ups!

I thought the produce he bought was so beautiful – individually and all together – that I just had to take some pictures of it.

My husband went to the market with the girls while I stayed home to clean for some guests. He went, in his own words, CRAZY – eggplant, white eggplant, pole beans, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, kale, blackberries, peaces. Almost all of it is gone, just half a week later. We most enjoyed just fresh, raw or lightly cooked veggies. I made kale chips; our guests made some delicious rice-paper rolls with fresh chopped veggies. My brother-in-law made a fabulous balsamic sauce to go along with the rolls. I usually stick to soy sauce/peanut sauce/other Asian-inspired sauces when I eat rice-paper rolls, and I never would have thought of using a balsamic reduction on them, but it was FANTASTIC. He cooks like me – a little bit of this, a little of that – so I couldn’t get him to figure out exact amounts, but this is what he could recount.

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar

1 ginger root, peeled and sliced very thinly

2-3 teaspoons sugar

Stir in a small pot; bring to a simmer and cook until it is reduced by about 1/2.  This seemed to take about a half hour. You could probably reduce it less; it just wouldn’t be as thick.

The ginger gives the vinegar a nice, spicy bite, and the vinegar is nicely syrupy without being too sweet. My favorite part, however, was eating the ginger – it was soft and sweet, almost like ginger candy. Delish.

Beautiful in its simplicity