Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recipes For A Well-Fed Triathlete

After the Washingtonian put up their photo spread of some of our favorite adventures in cooking, we received a lot of questions about recipes for the featured items. I’ve written up about half of them below, and I’ll try to do the other half soon. Katie has described my approach to using fixed amounts of ingredients as ‘haphazard” or “what do you mean a handful? How much is a handful? Your hand or my hand? Argh!”, but I have tried to formalize things a bit in the recipes below. I would encourage you to play with the proportions a bit, though, until you get a result you like.
I would not recommend messing around with the temperatures on the yogurt, though. That is more science than art.

Peanut Butter
Takes 30-40 minutes. Quantity produced depends on how many peanuts you use. 1 lb of peanuts makes a goodly amount.

Required Items:
Food Processor - We use (and love) the Ninja. The old standby 2-blade Cuisinart might or might not work for this one.
baking sheet


  • (shelled) peanuts. We have used roasted and unroasted, salted and unsalted. All will work.
  • salt
  • 1-2 TBS oil per lb of peanuts. I use olive oil, as we like the taste, but if you don’t love the taste of olive oil, you could use any neutral oil instead.
  • (optional) cajun spice and honey

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spread peanuts out on a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
  3. Roast peanuts until they look “sweaty” - usually takes 8-12 minutes, depending on what type of peanuts you are using, but can take longer with dry-roasted peanuts.
  4. Remove peanuts from oven and pour into food processor.
  5. Add 1-2 TBS oil per lb of peanuts.
  6. Turn on food processor and find something else to do for about 5 minutes. Do not watch the food processor, or the peanuts will not turn into peanut butter. I have tested this.
  7. Check food processor and scrape down sides. Depending on any number of factors, you will have a substance that is someplace between peanut chunks, peanut powder and peanut butter. If the former, have faith, trust this unfootnoted recipe you got from the internet, and turn on the processor again for another 5 minutes. If the latter, proceed to step 8.
  8. If you have something that looks like peanut butter, taste, add salt if needed, and decide if you like the consistency. The longer you process it, the less chunky it will become. If it looks soupy, do not despair; it will thicken as it cools. If it still seems powdery after 10 minutes of processing, add a bit more oil every 2 minutes until this is no longer true.
  9. (optional) If you are bored with regular peanut butter, and ready to have your mind blown, add spicy cajun powder and honey (start with 1 tsp cajun/1 TBS honey, and go from there). Or add a handful of chocolate chips. Probably not both, though.
  10. Refrigerate until cool, and eat. I don’t know how long it will keep in the fridge; ours has never lasted long enough to find out, but at least a couple of weeks.

Takes 15 hours of total time; requires 20 minutes of attention at the start, then a burst of activity an hour later, then sits unattended overnight.

Required equipment:
  • candy thermometer
  • stove
  • large (1-gal+) nonstick cooking pot
  • sous vide heater (optimal) or an oven that holds heat well (not optimal)
  • 1 gallon glass jar (if you are using the sous vide option)
  • very large stock pot for the sous vide water bath
  • metal strainer or colander
  • cheesecloth

  • 1 gallon milk (any store-bought milk is fine; does not need to be raw or hippie)
  • ½ cup of plain yogurt with active cultures

  1. Heat up milk in cooking pot to 185 degrees, then turn off stove. Be careful when stirring, as a scorched layer of milk will generally form on the bottom of the pot. This is fine, but you don’t want to scrape the bottom when you stir as this will bring the scorched layer back into the milk, altering the flavor. It comes right out of a nonstick pot afterwards.
  2. Set up sous vide heater to 105 degrees and start the water bath. If you don’t have a sous vide, turn on the oven to 150-200 degrees for 10 minutes then turn it off. We had very mixed results with the oven method, so I don’t really recommend it.
  3. Allow milk to cool back down to 105 degrees. If left unattended, this takes a little over an hour in our house; if you are impatient you can dip the cooking pot in a larger bowl of ice water and stir.
  4. Add ½ cup of yogurt and mix.
  5. If using sous vide, pour the yogurt/milk mixture into the glass jar, and set in the sous vide water bath. Do not cover the jar. If you are using the oven method, place the cooking pot in the oven and pray.
  6. Go to bed, or let sit for at least 6 hours.
  7. When you return, lay two layers of cheesecloth over the colander, and pour the mixture from the jar into the cheesecloth. It should resemble very soupy yogurt.
  8. Let sit in the cheesecloth, stirring occasionally, for 1-3 hours, depending on the desired consistency of your yogurt. Save the whey that drips out for breadmaking.
  9. Pour the resulting yogurt out of the cheesecloth into a storage container, and refrigerate. This should make 1.5-2 quarts of yogurt per gallon of milk. Higher fat milk makes more yogurt per gallon than lower fat milk.

Pairs nicely with bloobs.

Standard Loaf Bread:
This is a variation off of the recipe in Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, a book that has been our starting point for many of these adventures.

Required Items:
  • Oven
  • mixing bowl (a stand mixer is great for this recipe, especially with a dough hook)
  • 2 loaf pans

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 3 ½ cups whey or water at room temp
  • 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups wheat flour
  • 2 TBS honey or molasses
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • neutral oil for greasing
  • any or all of the following:
    • ⅓ cup flaxseeds
    • ⅓ cup wheat bran
    • ⅓ cup chia seeds
    • ⅓ cup hemp seeds
- (optional) 1 C raisins, 4 TBS butter at room temp, 1 tsp cinnamon, ⅓ TSP ginger, ⅓ TSP nutmeg,  1 TBS sugar

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer.
  2. Stir honey or molasses into the whey/water, then add to the dry ingredients (helps prevent clumping).
  3. Stir until a dough is formed. I usually use the dough hook on the mixer for a minute or so.
Option 3a. If you want a sweeter, richer bread, add 3 TBS of butter to the dough and mix. Then put the dough on a floured surface, and stretch/roll into a rectangle with a  short end the length of the loaf pan. Spread the surface with the remaining 1 TBS of butter, and spread the raisins evenly on the surface. Mix the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sugar, and sprinkle evenly over the surface. Press the raisins lightly into the dough so that they stay in place, and roll up the dough from one of the short ends.

  1. Grease loaf pans.
  2. Put dough in loaf pans (should fill them about ½ to ⅔ full) and cover with a towel or plastic wrap for about 2 hours, or until it is near the top of the loaf pans.
  3. Preheat oven to 450.
  4. Bake loaves for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove bread from pans, and return to oven for another 15 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow if tapped.

More to follow. Happy eating!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life Hacks, Kitchen Edition

Non-triathletes who patiently read this blog (hi, Mom!) rejoice, here's one that might actually interest you! And since it involves food, keep reading, fellow tri geeks. Now that it's the off-season and Elliott and I have more time for socializing, we've hosted a few food-related events. Each time, we receive questions or comments about some items in our kitchen (or how we work there). Here are the highlights, in case you are interested in acquiring something similar...or want hard evidence that we really are dorks.

  • Tea Baller: Like loose leaf tea but not the hassle of scooping juuuust enough tea into the awkwardly clomping strainer before it spills all over the counter? We are big fans of this clever spoon. Just scoop the tea and twist the handle to seal. We painted one of the handles with nail polish so we can tell them apart. Bad things happen when I drink Elliott's stiffly sweetened mostly sugar ewww brew tea. 
  • Rolling Pin: Sure, you can use a wine bottle or a Nalgene. But a marble rolling pin is far more fun. You can chill it in the fridge so it keeps dough cold (and easier to work with) and it's so heavy, you can just roll it back and forth and the dough gets out of your way. Plus, it feels super classy for about $20-- not a lot of dough (ha, see what I did there?).
  • Water Bottle Rack: How to store all your water bottles without risking a domino disaster? Use a wine rack or build one out of PVC pipe. The advantage of the latter is you can pick the pipe diameter to fit the types of water bottles you use, e.g. bike bottle or Nalgene. And you can brag to your friends about having a bespoke water bottle rack. 
We can turn wine [racks] into water [bottle holders]!
The soft light. The roaring fire. The PVC pipe... 
  • Silicone Baking Mats: Baking something and don't want it to stick? Sure, you could grease the pan, but that gets sticky and makes the delicious, delicious chocolate chip cookies even less healthy. Parchment paper to the rescue...until you realize you are out. Again. Enter silicone baking mats. They are naturally non stick, can handle high heat, and will last for years. 
  • Spice Rack: This is a DIY project that has served us well for years. Attach a magnetic strip to the wall or cupboard door (Ikea sells them as knife racks) and super glue a washer to the back of a spice jar. Magic science!
Hey, nice rack!

  • Vacuum sealer: Want to avoid having a freezer full of ice-crusted tupperware? Use a vacuum sealer for your leftovers. It even works for wet(ish) items, like spaghetti with tomato sauce.
  • Sous Vide: It may sound fancy, but it actually feels like cheating. Put meat, veggies, fruit, etc. in a sealed bag (or ziploc), dunk it a pot of water, set the sous vide to the proper temperature, and walk away. The sous vide heater will bring the water to the set temperature (e.g. 135F for medium rare steak) and hold it there, cooking your item to exactly that temperature without going over. This means goodbye to rubbery chicken, steak that is rare in the middle and scorched on the surface, etc. (You can sear the outside of a steak with a blowtorch if that makes you happy. And it probably will.) Even if meat isn't your treat, you can also use it to make incredible Greek yogurt for around 25% the cost of buying from a store. 
  • Books: Yes, the internet also has recipes, but cookbooks are far more fun. We often check them out from the library first to make sure we actually like the recipes and not just the photos. Over the past year, our three favorites have been Oh She Glows, Smitten Kitchen, and Mighty Spice. OSG is vegan. We are not. But we still love all the recipes. That says something. SK is fun to read, features incredible desserts, and includes a few American-Jewish classics that make me feel right at home. I even gave this book to my mom and she raves about it. MS is organized by--you guessed it!--spices. Want to finally use that turmeric that has been staring at you from your spice rack for months? Now is your chance! (Pro tip: it will make everything yellow. Plan accordingly.)
Yes, they are organized by color. And yes, there are more shelves. 

  • Eat Your Books: Cookbooks are awesome. Searching each book's index for a particular recipe, not so much. Eat Your Books has indexed thousands of cookbooks, magazines, and blogs so you simply add the names of your books to an online bookshelf and search all of them at once. This site has helped me rediscover books that I hadn't used in years (often, admittedly, the ones without pretty pictures) and quickly figure out what on earth to do with the abundance of {fill in the blank} from our garden or CSA. 
What are your favorite kitchen toys or tips? What are your standard kitchen-themed birthday or wedding presents?