How to watch the Amgen Tour of California (and gluten-free blueberry waffles)

food, recipe, gluten-free, rice, waffles, blueberries, gluten-free waffle

I started cycling a few years ago to get back into shape, and not because Lance Armstrong made it cool. It was a great way to spend time with my partner, social networking, to be outdoors, and not to mention all the accoutrements. I love geeking out on all the gears and accessories when I get excited about a new hobby/toy/activity. I spent so much time obsessing, I mean, researching and buying the right road bike, accessories, and jerseys. I spent a lot of my time at the local bike shops, online bike stores, and ebay. I didn’t realize how expensive the sport was, but I was in too deep to back out. Someone mentioned to me early on when I start cycling that it is expensive at first, but the gear sticks with you for a long time. And it’s true, I haven’t bought much for my road bike since my first initial hoarding :)

Anyway, I’m digressing from the title of my post. I was super excited when the Amgen Tour of California first rolled through our town two years ago. I really wanted to be at the sidelines as they rode through, but I couldn’t get the time off from work. Instead, I recorded the event and tried to watch it, but didn’t understand the overall concept of the competition. I did some more research, this time on the actual sport, and have really come to appreciate cycling. So as the Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California rolled through our town again this year, I thought I’d share with those who are interested but unfamiliar with the sport, how to watch/understand road cycling races.

The Amgen Tour of California is broken up into eight stages/days, starting in Santa Rosa, CA, and riding their way to Los Angeles, CA, which approximates about 800 miles on a road bike. Seven of the eight days are road races, while the other day is an individual time trial race. To win the overall race, individual times to finish each stage are added up to determine the overall winner.. Interestingly, a cyclist does not have to win all or any of the individual stages to win the overall race. Stage races also have other classifications and awards. For example, the stage winner (i.e., first person to cross the finish line for that day) wears the leader’s yellow jersey on the next day of racing. There is also the “King of the Mountains,” in which a cyclist earns this jersey by collecting points at designated King of the Mountain locations located at the top of mountains and hills. Only the first three cyclists to reach the top on rated climbs receive points towards this award.

I know, fascinating, right?!

Stay tuned for my next post on common strategies employed to win the road race competition.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Blueberry Waffles

2 cups rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 “eggs” (Ener-G Egg Replacer)
1 2/3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen or fresh bluberries

Preheat waffle iron.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Then add the wet ingredients, and whisk until the batter is smooth. Fold in the blueberries.

Spray the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray, and ladle the batter onto the waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 waffles.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop… it’s porky goodness!

It was 99 degrees F outside today, and it’s only the middle of May.  Mother Nature, you are being cruel to us.  I love when you are around the 70s to mid-80s, because that’s what you are during the months of April and May.  In fact, that’s my favorite time of the year here.  So what gives?  Is this a taste of what is to come this summer?  Please be kind.  I can’t bear sizzling temperatures near/over 110 degrees F.

I couldn’t bear to cook in the house today.  We cooked in yesterday, although it was 93 degrees F outside, our house seemed like a sauna.  I suppose we could have turned on the air conditioner, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that because it is only May.  But I digress.  It was the perfect to take the cooking outdoors, and I’ll take any excuse to play, I mean, cook on my Big Green Egg.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)

4 pork chops, bone-in, about 1 inch thick
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons garlic
3 tablespoons shallot
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Using a mini food processor, pulse the sugar, garlic, shallot, and lemongrass to a mince-like texture. Add the pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, and oil, and process to combine well.

Place the pork chops in a large zip-lock bag, and pour the marinade to coat. Squish the marinade around to coat the pork chops evenly. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, up to 24 hours. Allow the pork chops to rest at room temperature, about 30-45 minutes, before grilling.

Preheat the Big Green Egg (or any grill) to 550 degrees F (or medium-high heat). Grill the pork chops over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, about 4 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional Place the chops on the grill rack of your Big Green Egg. Sear the chops for about 4 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove from the grill, and let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes.

My favorite way to eat these delicious pork chops is over steamed white rice with a fried egg, and nuoc cham dipping sauce.  Yum.

Makes 4 servings.

Raw Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

I was super excited when a raw foods cafe opened up in town. I decided to surprise my sweetie with a raw foods lunch recently, and let’s just say that was the first and last time that we experienced raw foods. I got this carrot, ginger, coconut soup and a Mexican kale “taco” salad, with a rocky road “fudge” for dessert. Interestingly, the woman who owned the cafe said that we should eat the rocky road fudge first to help “aid in digestion.” Hmm. Okay.

I got to my partner’s workplace to deliver lunch and mentioned briefly what the woman suggested about the rocky road fudge. Instead of following her advice, we dug right into the soup and salad. The soup was too gingery for my liking, but the salad was okay. The dehydrated chips were delicious. We followed the meal with the dessert which was amazing. Well, needless to say, we SHOULD have followed her suggestion because within a few minutes after eating we were immediately overcome with abdominal pain. And not just any abdominal pain, intense gas pains. OMG. I was fortunate to go home and curl up on the couch with a few swigs of Pepto-Bismol, but my partner still had to work.

We vowed never to eat raw foods again. Well, that vow didn’t last long. We’ve delved into some raw foods desserts and have come to really enjoy them, but haven’t quite been able to find some good savory recipes. So if you have any good savory recipes, please pass them along :)

Raw Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake (adapted from A Dash of Compassion)

For the crust:
2 cups raw almonds
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup date paste
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the lemon cheesecake:
2 cups raw macadamia nuts
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup raw agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

For the crust:
To make a date paste, soak 8 dates in 3/4 cup water for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the water the dates were soaked in. Process the dates with 2 tablespoons of the reserved water until a paste has formed. Store in air tight container in refrigerator for up to one month.

Process the almonds and coconut flakes in a food processor until coarse. Add the date paste, vanilla extract, and salt and process until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For the filling:
Using a food processor, blend the macadamia nuts, cashews, almond milk, lemon juice, agave nectar and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the cheesecake filling into the springform pan. Place the cheesecake in the freezer to set, about 3 hours, or until the cheesecake is firm to touch.

Remove from springform pan, and decorate with fresh blueberries.

Baba Ghanoush

We just finished a 30 day pescatarian diet with no dairy, carbohydrates, or sugar.  Oh.  My.  Word.  That was an incredibly hard challenge.  It was harder than our 30 day vegan challenge!  The no dairy thing wasn’t the issue.  It was the no carbohydrates or sugar that I had a hard time with.  We used fruit as a way to satiate our cravings for an after-dinner dessert, but that only lasted for a little while.  By the end of the second week, I was jonesing for bread and butter, frozen yogurt, cookies, and chocolate.  And do you know what was the worst tease?  My work place had a Strawberry Day event with all things strawberry desserts, and a few going away parties with the best cake from my favorite bakery, and I couldn’t have a lick of it.  Ugh.  I think I was drooling as I watched my coworkers eat cake, pies, tortes, strawberry punch, and cookies.  Such a tease.  Sigh.  The diet was worth it, I guess :)

To celebrate our first day of eating carbohydrates, I decided on a Middle Eastern and Greek meal centered around a filthy amount of pita bread.  Yes.  I said it.  I am a glutton for pita bread.  Okay.  So, honestly, we only ate one pita bread for the vegan seitan gyro sandwich, alongside a few wedges of pita dipped in some baba ghanoush.  But nonetheless, I still heart carbohydrates.

Baba Ghanoush

3 medium globe eggplants, cut lengthwise (about 2 pounds)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to your liking
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush cut side of eggplants with extra virgin olive oil. Place eggplants cut-side down on baking sheet and roast until until very tender, about 40 minutes.

Scoop the eggplant flesh into a large bowl, and discard skin. Mash the eggplant with a fork until it is smooth, but still has some texture. Stir in the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with pita, pita chips, vegetables, or however you fancy baby ghanoush :)

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