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.

Long overdue blog post, and homemade pomegranate jelly.

My apologies to my dear Hungry Foodies Pharmacy readers for it has been over a month since my last post. New life changes have kept me away from my kitchen. But I am now back in effect! I’m finished with my travels to Wisconsin for training, and I’m settling into my new job, new schedule, and new life.

I started my new job and I am loving every minute of it. I haven’t had an ounce of regret leaving my last job. Things have been extremely hectic with this new job because I was traveling to Wisconsin for three separate, week-long training classes every other week. This job requires that I become certified, which entails three exams and two projects that I must pass/complete before I can really delve into any major projects. So, I’ve been busily studying and working on projects for the last six weeks. I can happily report that I’ve passed two out of the three exams, and I am almost finished with my last project. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

One of the first things I wanted to make this weekend [that I had neglecting to do] was to remove the pomegranate arils from all the pomegranates off of our tree.  Our pomegranate tree did amazing this year!  In fact, it was almost a little overwhelming how many pomegranates we got this year.

What I was left with after removing all the arils, was bowls and bowls and b… you get the idea… of pomegranate arils.  But there also was what resembled a bloody murder scene with red pomegranate juice sprayed across the walls, window, countertop, and the floor.  It wasn’t pretty.

So I thought pomegranate jelly would be a great way to use/preserve the majority of our pomegranates. And not to toot my own horn… oh who am I kidding?  Of course I’m going to toot my own horn to say that this pomegranate jelly is to die for.  I’m just sayin’.

Stay tuned for a few other pomegranate recipes in the works!

Pomegranate Jelly

5 1/4 cups fresh pomegranate juice
1 packet plus 3 tablespoons less or no-sugar needed powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar

Put a few small ceramic dish into the freezer.

In a non-reactive saucepan, heat pomegranate juice and lemon juice over high heat. Bring to a boil. Skim any of the white foam/impurities from the top. Reduce heat to medium-high, and add the powdered pectin. Whisk until all of the pectin has dissolved.  Add the sugar, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil while whisking until the sugar has dissolved.  [I prefer my jam/jelly a little more tart than sweet, so adjust the sweetness or tartness to your liking.]  Let it continue to boil for an additional two minutes.

Take out one of the ceramic dishes from the freezer.  Ladle a small teaspoonful of the jelly onto the cold dish and put it back into the freezer for one minute.  Remove the dish from the freezer and draw your finger through the jelly.  If the jelly does not close up the channel, then it’s ready.  [If you prefer your jelly a little more firmer, add a little more pectin.]

If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1/2-pint glass canning jars, filling jar to within 1/4-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Boil at 180 to 185 degrees F, and process, covered, 10 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place, up to one year.

Makes five 1/2 pint jars.

Four words: plum jam sans pectin. Enough said.

I’m on a canning frenzy.  I love the sound of the “ping” as the jar seals.  It is the most rewarding sound ever, and makes standing in a kitchen for a sauna forgettable, especially as the temperatures outside approach 100 degrees F.  In fact, I think it was hotter in the kitchen than it was outside.  But I digress.

I think an intervention may necessary soon because the pantry might soon be filled with canned jams, chutneys, and pickled vegetables.  It is as if there was a Y2K nearing and I’m stocking up for the unknown.  It’s out of control.  I spend my time off canning.  I just can’t stop.  I still have a refrigerator full of mangoes, strawberries, and figs that I just picked up from the local farmer’s market ready to be preserved.

I am addicted to canning.

Plum Jam Sans Pectin

1 pound of black plums, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch dices (about 2 cups)
1/2 large lemon, zest and juice
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter (reduces the foaming)

Put a few small ceramic dish into the freezer.

In a large, non-reactive saucepan, combine the chopped plums, zest and juice of one lemon, sugar, and butter. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. [Taste the mixture, and adjust the sugar to your liking.  I prefer a little more tartness to my jam.]

Continue to stir occasionally as the fruit begins to breakdown, reduce and thicken, about 20 minutes.  As soon as it thickens, start to test the preserves for the jellying point.  Dip a large spoon into the mixture and hold it over the pot, and observe the syrup dripping off the spoon.  If it holds onto the spoon and *slowly* drips back into the pot, then it has reached the jellying point.

Take out one of the ceramic dishes from the freezer.  Ladle a small teaspoonful of the jam onto the cold dish and put it back into the freezer for one minute.  Remove the dish from the freezer and draw your finger through the jam.  If the jam does not close up the channel, then it’s ready.

If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1/2-pint glass canning jar, filling jar to within 1/4-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Boil and process in a boiling water bath, covered, 10 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place, up to one year.

If you are not interested in canning, ladle jam into clean jars and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Makes 1 half-pint jar.

Black Mission Fig Preserves with Rosemary and Port

I planted a black mission fig tree two years ago and have been waiting patiently for a plentiful abundance of figs to make jams, fig newtons, and other delicious figgy things.  The first year was a bust because it only produced a handful of figs, of which all were ravished by the birds.  Damn you, birds!  This second year has been promising.  I was so excited when the tree produced enough figs to make fig jam this year!  Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make other figgy things, but heck, I’ll take anything right now.

I searched through what felt like a hundred recipes for fig jam, fig preserves, fig marmalade, and finally came across the one.  I mean, how could you go wrong with rosemary, PORT, and figs all in one bundle of joy??  All I could think about with this jam was it all over grilled pork chops.  Yum.  Now can you imagine this slathered over a grilled thick-cut pork chop?

Black Mission Fig Preserves with Rosemary and Port (adapted from Food and Wine)

5 cups black mission figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch dices
3/4 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2/3 cup port
1 6-inch rosemary sprig, minced
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large, nonreactive saucepan, toss the fig pieces with the sugar and let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the figs are juicy.

Add the lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, and port and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer the fig jam over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid runs off the side of a spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 20 minutes.

If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1/2-pint glass canning jars, filling jar to within 1/4-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Boil at 180 to 185 degrees F, and process, covered, 10 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place, up to one year.

Makes three 1/2-pint jars.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

watermelon feta salad

What a delicious sweet and savory combination! Who knew watermelon and feta paired so well together! When I first saw this combination on one of the food competition shows, I thought it sounded and looked strange. I didn’t get it. But I also didn’t get the sweet and savory combination back then either. And mind you, this was many, many years ago before I became a glutton for food. We’ve been buying seedless watermelons at the farmer’s market for the last month, and it finally dawned on me to try this salad tonight! OH EM GEE, why did we not try this salad sooner?!

Watermelon and Feta Salad

1 (2 to 3 pound) seedless watermelon, rind removed
1 large block of feta
2 cups good quality balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 bunch fresh basil leaves

Special equipment: 2.5 inch cake ring

Place the vinegar in a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot. Heat on low, so that you have a light simmer. Reduce until syrupy, or to desired consistency, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Be careful not to burn the balsamic reduction. Once cooled, store at room temperature.

Using the 2.5 inch cake ring, cut out watermelon rounds and cut it in half horizontally. Set aside.

Depending on the size of your feta block, cut into 3/4-inch thick layers. Using the 2.5 inch cake ring, cut out feta rounds. Set aside.

Arrange the salad with the watermelon slices on the bottom, followed with the feta rounds, and then two fresh basil leaves. Repeat until all the watermelon and feta rounds have been used. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction, and finish with fresh cracked black pepper.

Rustic Pluot Galette

We scored on some deliciously sweet pluots at the local farmer’s market yesterday.  What not a better way to use the pluots, than to make a pluot galette.  I was so excited to bake this.  I heart baking.  It’s so therapeutic.  Okay, okay.  It’s a lie.  I wish I could take credit for this, but I’m not a baker whatsoever.  Not even close.  It was my partner who baked this.  She’s an incredible baker.  I just took the picture.

Butter Pie Crust (Pâte Brisée; from Simply Recipes)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if for a sweet recipe)
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold

In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar, pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again.

Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully shape into a disc. Do not over-knead the dough! You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These bits of butter are what will allow the result crust to be flaky. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour on all sides. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, use a metal spatula to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Gently fold in half. Place on to a 9-inch pie plate, lining up the fold with the center of the pan. Gently unfold and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.

Pluot Galette

1 pate brisee
6 firm pluots, sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss the pluots in a bowl with the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Stir thouroughly and set aside.

Pile the pluots on top of the chilled dough leaving a 2 inch border for the crust. Fold the sides up, creating the crust and pinch folds together to secure. Brush egg on top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake pie in the oven for 1 hour until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool on the counter and serve.

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie… you wouldn’t even know it was vegan!

My partner LOVES bananas and desserts involving bananas.  I wanted to make her something special to celebrate her completing an intense, four week summer arts workshop.  She was so immersed in her workshop that we saw very little of one another.  I’d leave for work while she was still sleeping, and she’d come home while I was sleeping.  It was the most backward schedule that we have ever had.  The week before she finished her program, we made a deal to have a “just us” weekend.  And to start off our weekend, I was originally going to surprise her with her favorite ice cream, roasted banana ice cream, but I couldn’t find the recipe I bookmarked and was too inpatient to find it while grocery shopping.  So instead, I made the next best banana dessert… vegan chocolate banana cream pie.

This was an amazing dessert that set up very nicely.  It reminded me of exactly what the real stuff tasted like, but only better and healthier and lighter!  What was also great about this recipe was that we were barely able to taste the silken tofu, unlike other silken tofu recipes that I’ve made before.  I can almost guarantee that non-vegans will like this recipe, too!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Cream Pie (adapted from Dairy Free Cooking)

1 (14 ounce) box of silken tofu, drained
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup raw cashews, finely ground
Your favorite vegan prepared pie crust or graham cracker crust

Prepare the vegan pie crust of your choice according to the recipe. Fit into a 9″ pie plate and bake according to the recipe’s instructions. Allow crust to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

In a blender or food processor, process the silken tofu until creamy. Add the sugar, salt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and coconut oil and process until well combined and very creamy. Add the mashed bananas and finely ground cashews and process until smooth. Pour into the prepared pie crust and chill for at least 2 hours or until set.

Vegan Chocolate Ganache

16 ounces good quality dark dairy-free chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk (not light version)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the coarsely chopped dark chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the coconut milk until bubbles just begin to appear around the edges and steam rises from the surface. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chopped chocolate and let stand without stirring for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir the chocolate-coconut milk mixture until glossy and smooth (this will take about 2 minutes of gentle stirring). Add the vanilla extract and stir until incorporated. Use warm or slightly cooled.

To finish the pie:

Prepare the Vegan Dark Chocolate Ganache according to the recipe. Pour immediately onto the set banana filling and allow to cool completely until set. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve cold.

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