Raw Cashew Dreamcake (vegan & gluten-free)

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It’s been a while since my last post but hopefully I will be getting back on track to posting more regularly! In my last post I kind of explained that my lack of blogging has been due to a sudden lack of interest in food and baking and being in the kitchen caused by a busy marathon-training schedule, but I’m happy to say that I’ve recently started getting back into the kitchen so please bare with me while I start catching up with all of the food blog posts I’ve been missing out on these past couple of months!  I’m so excited to share this Raw Cashew Dreamcake with you, but first I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been up to since my last post!

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I’ve finally finished university and am currently on a job hunt in the real world that started off very enthusiastically and hopeful and has now after a few weeks become a tiny bit less enthusiastic and a bit more depressing. My fingers are still crossed that I will hear from somewhere soon! I feel like securing a real job is the first step in becoming a real adult in the real working world and I can’t wait!

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I’ve also gotten really into yoga! It’s funny what a huge difference a great instructor can make, in any aspect of life whether it be yoga, school, a senior co-worker who is training you, a friend teaching you how to bake a cake, etc.  I recently found an amazing yoga teacher, the kind who makes you want to actually put the effort in and improve, and after weeks of practicing…wait for it…I CAN DO A HEADSTAND!!!  It’s still a bit shaky and probably a little lopsided, but who cares, I’m balancing on my head (and hands or forearms) and it makes me feel rad as heck and as proud as a peacock.

I also completed my second marathon ever!! I ran it 15 minutes faster than my first marathon back in May, and even though I’m still a back-of-the-pack kind of runner, I’m ecstatic about my time and am crazy enough to want to do it again. I think I’m more addicted to beating my time than actually running 42.2km/26 miles. I’m debating adding a “Running” page to this blog to document my running adventures and provide tips I’ve learned along the way because I do love reading other running blogs so we will see if that happens.

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When I first starting seriously running, I was over the moon with the number of calories I would burn on a long run and felt like it totally justified the chips, french fries, ice cream and other junk that I loved consuming. Something changed when I started the 18-week training for my second marathon though. Even though I was burning a lot of calories, I still felt so gross after a poutine or a burger. I started to think more in terms of whether or not the poutine was worth the 27km run I did earlier in the week and the answer was always no!  I started to change my diet to incorporate foods like mass amounts of fresh vegetables that made me feel great inside and starting looking towards vegetarian and vegan recipes for inspiration on eating clean.

Cheesecake has always been a weakness for me, the more decadent the better (like this chocolate peanut butter torte or this caramel apple cheesecake pie). Unfortunately for me and most likely for you, cheesecake isn’t the most waist-friendly dessert to indulge in so when I saw this recipe for a Raw Cashew Dreamcake on My New Roots a while back, I immediately bookmarked it.  Guys, now that I’ve finally made it I can honestly say it is the best thing ever!!  This cake is essentially a raw AND gluten-free AND vegan AND healthy cheesecake alternative to the real thing. It’s ridiculously easy to make seeing as you only need a really good food processor or blender and you don’t need an oven! This version is a raspberry&vanilla flavour combo, but you can easily customize and flavour the layers to your liking.  Now I have to admit, nothing that isn’t cheesecake will actually taste like real cheesecake, but the cashews in this dreamcake are like magic and work to create a smooth and rich filling that is just so good anyways. Plus you won’t feel so guilty after a slice or two! 😉

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Raw Cashew Dreamcake

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
1/2 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup soft Medjool dates
¼ tsp. sea salt

For the Filling:
1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours, overnight is best
juice of 1-2 lemons
the seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract)
1/3 cup raw coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw honey or agave nectar
1 cup raspberries (thaw completely if using frozen)

Directions:
Place nuts and dates in a food processor with sea salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness (process a finer crust longer than a chunky one). Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. If they do not hold together, add more dates (one at a time) and process.

Scoop out the crust mixture into a 7” spring-form pan (if you don’t have a spring-form pan, use a pie plate or cake pan lined with saran wrap), and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.  If using saran wrap, try to smooth it out as much as possible to avoid a lot of creases in the final cake.

Rinse food processor well.

Warm coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan on low heat until liquid and whisk to combine or place in a small bowl and microwave in 10-20 second increments, whisking in between until liquid.

In the most powerful food processor / blender you own (you decide which one has the most torque) place all filling ingredients* (except raspberries) and blend on high until very smooth (this make take a couple minutes so be patient). If you have a Vita-Mix, absolutely use it.  *start with the juice of 1 lemon, and add more juice to taste if you like. I only used 1 lemon.

Pour about 2/3 (just eyeball it, you can’t make a mistake!) of the mixture out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the raspberries to the remaining filling and blend on high until smooth. Pour onto the first layer of filling and again smooth with a spatula. Place in freezer until solid.

To serve, remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the freezer (what leftovers?).

—SOURCE—
slightly adapted from My New Roots

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Peach and Blueberry Pie

IMG_5392Hi! Remember me?

Yea, I know I’ve been away for a while…truth is I almost feel like a stranger to my own blog. It’s crazy how fast time flies. The reason I haven’t posted in so long is because in the midst of training for my first marathon and balancing school work and a social life at the same time, I lost my passion for baking. I stopped following all of my favourite food blogs, I stopped daydreaming about butter and flour and I pretty much lost interest in all things food-related. Scary, right?! My camera and stand mixer sat there untouched for a few months collecting dust while I found myself replacing my love for baking with a new-found love for running and working out. Those long runs gave me such an endorphin rush that I no longer needed baking to make me feel happy.

IMG_5400A lot has happened in the past couple of months. I ran my first half-marathon, I ran my first full marathon shortly after which I promised myself I would never run again, I went to Hawaii with my sister where I allowed myself to be briefly romanced by another surfer boy with a motorcycle (nothing quite like the Costa Rica romance, but I don’t think anything can really compare to that), I decided I missed running enough to incorporate short 5k runs into my exercise schedule, I lost my mind and signed up for another marathon (currently on week 7 of training), I baked this peach and blueberry pie and pronounced it the pie of the summer, I proceeded to eat the entire pie all by myself in under a week, and I decided this pie was too good to not share with you, thus bringing this blog out of hibernation. Life has been good.

IMG_5396I first saw this recipe 2 summers ago on Joy the Baker and immediately bookmarked it. The only problem was that summer (and the following summer) I was working at an overnight camp where I had no kitchen access at all. So this recipe stayed hidden away until finally this summer I saw the most beautiful, sweet-smelling peaches ever and instantly knew what I had to do with them. It might seem weird to bake a pie in the summer when it’s so hot out but really this is the perfect pie to celebrate the fresh flavours of summer. I wasn’t kidding when I said I ate the whole thing on my own and while I don’t recommend that so much during bikini season, I have absolutely no regrets. The pie dough comes together easily and makes for the richest, butteriest crust while the filling is just bursting with flavour and colour. So make the most of peach season and make this pie asap!

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Peach and Blueberry Pie

Yields: one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
5 tbsp plus 2 tsp ice cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

For the Filling:
About 3 pounds ripe peaches (I used about 6 peaches)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 to 2/3 cups granulated sugar (depending on the sweetness of your peaches)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
scant 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping crust before baking

Directions:
To make the crust, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture.  Quickly break the butter down into the flour mixture, some butter pieces will be the size of oat flakes, some will be the size of peas. Stir together the ice cold water and vinegar.   Create a well in the butter and flour mixture and pour in the water and vinegar mixture.  Use a fork to bring to dough together.  Try to moisten all of the flour bits.  On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture.  It will be moist and shaggy.  That’s perfect.  Divide the dough in two and gently knead into two disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, wash and slice peaches.  In a medium bowl, combine peach slices and blueberries.  In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices, flour, and cornstarch.  Pour the sugar mixture over the fruit, and gently toss together with a wooden spoon.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Place bowl of fruit in the fridge to rest while you roll the crust out.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven, and place a baking sheet on the lower rack, just below where you’re going to place the pie.  This will catch any pie drippings without making a mess of your oven.

Remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into about a 13-inch round.  Roll the dough a few strokes, then use your fingers to move the emerging circle around the floured surface.  This ensures that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface.  The circle won’t be perfect, that’s ok.  Try not to get any tears in the rolled out dough, but if you do, they can be patched together with extra dough.    When you roll the dough and you can see it start springing back, that means that the butter is warming and the crust shouldn’t be rolled out anymore.  Gently lift the 13-inch round from the floured surface and center in the 9-inch baking dish.  Place in the fridge while you roll out the top crust.

Roll out the top crust just as you did the bottom crust, moving the dough across the floured surface every once in a while, and creating a roughly 13-inch circle.  Remove the bottom crust and fruit filling from the fridge.  Gently pour the fruit filling into the pie dish.  Carefully remove the top crust from the work surface and drape over the fruit in the pie dish.  With a small knife, trim the crust, leaving about 3/4-inch overhang.  With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under.  Use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edges of the dough.  Cut five small slits in the top of the crust so the juices and steam can vent.  Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Place pie in the oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and bake for 45 to 55 more minutes.  Remove from the oven when crust is browned and golden, and the juices are bubbling.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 hours before serving.  Place covered in the fridge to store.  Pie lasts up to 3 or 4 days.

—SOURCE—
Joy the Baker

Ottawa Marathon 2013: Race Recap

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My first marathon ever.

Many people take their time building up to a full marathon. They start with 5km, then 10km and work their way to a half marathon. Once they are comfortable with the half marathon, some will consider training for a full marathon, 26.2 miles or 42.2 km. Not me. I went straight from being able to do 5km comfortably to signing up for a full marathon. Possibly a little foolish on my part, but I was stubborn and determined and that was all the push I needed to sign up for the Ottawa Marathon in May 2013.

Signing up for a full marathon so soon was never a plan. I only started running in September 2012 and in January 2013 I signed up for the marathon, in May. I always had the goal of running a marathon in the back of my mind, but I thought it was something I wouldn’t accomplish for a few years at least. Then I made a new friend who told me that she was thinking of signing up for her first marathon and of course I couldn’t resist the challenge and the opportunity to share an experience with a friend so despite the fact that I had only just gotten comfortable with running 5-10km distances, I signed up. I knew that if I didn’t sign up, it could have been months, maybe years before I signed up for one all on my own.

I should also mention that my mom has been my biggest cheerleader and supporter from the beginning. When I told her I was thinking of signing up for the Ottawa marathon, she emailed me the next day with hotel reservations for the race weekend. Best mom ever!

I followed a Hal Higdon 16-week marathon training plan and I highly recommend his training programs if you are looking for a plan when training for a half or full marathon. I didn’t take my training schedule as seriously as I should have, which I learned the hard way the day of the marathon…let’s get into that!

I made a lot of mistakes training for this marathon. Maybe one day I will make a blog post of all the mistakes I made so that at least you can benefit from knowing what NOT to do! I didn’t do any of the scheduled long runs 3 weeks from the marathon, because I was really sick 2 weeks before and then the week before I went on a last-minute trip to Hawaii (can’t say I regret the Hawaii part too much!). So the week before in Hawaii I only did one 5km run.. clearly it hadn’t really hit me that I would soon be attempting to run 42.2km, although the week before is supposed to be a taper week anyways.

The day before the marathon, my amazing mom drove us up to Ottawa from Toronto, leaving the house at 3am. I seriously don’t know what I would have done without her. We left early to avoid traffic and to make it to the expo in time to catch a shuttle bus tour of the marathon course. I slept the whole ride up and by the time I woke up, it was time to hit the expo!  The expo was very well organized, picking up my race kit was a breeze and checking out the stands was fun. We didn’t stay for long though as my mom wanted to get tickets for the first bus tour of the course. I ended up falling asleep on the bus ride, but my mom enjoyed seeing where I would be running. The bus tour ended up being about 90 min long, perfect for a quick nap! 😛  The rest of the day was spent relaxing, carb-loading, and going to sleep early.

The marathon started at 7am and our hotel was a 10 minute walk from the start area, so I was up around 5:30am to get ready. Remember how I said I have the best mom ever? She woke up even earlier than me to go get me a bagel with cream cheese and milk from the Tim Hortons down the street for my usual pre-run breakfast, ready by the time I woke up. I love you momma! I ate quickly, got dressed and then as I was pinning my race bib onto my shirt, it hit me: I was going to run a marathon.

I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about the day seeing as how poorly my training had gone. I also didn’t own a Garmin or any sort of GPS watch, so my plan was to run at a comfortable pace for as long as I can and feel no shame in walking through the water stations. I was secretly hoping for a 4:30 finish but knew that 4:45 would be more realistic. As long as I managed to sub-5:00 I would be happy.

We stepped outside of our hotel and started the walk to the start area. All around us were runners headed towards to same place we were. My nerves were starting to get to me and my heart started to beat faster with every step. Then I looked ahead and spotted about 10 of the elite athletes, the Kenyans and Ethiopians leaving their hotel. They walked a few steps and then as a pack broke into a light jog away from us, towards the start. I say light jog, but let’s be real their light jog pace is pretty close to my full out sprint pace.  I was in awe. A friendly runner ahead of me with a marathon bib pinned on her shirt excitedly exclaimed to me that she had met one of the elite Kenyan athletes the day before and his marathon time last year was 2:09. All I could think was man, I can’t even run a half-marathon in that time!

We finally got to the marathon start and my mom wished me luck and left me to find a spot a few km in the course to cheer me on. I was left alone, with my nerves and jumbled thoughts and my music and I found my way over to my start corral. Before I knew it, the race had started and the elites were off! Then soon enough my start corral shuffled our way to the start line, and we were off!

Obviously beginner me got caught up in the excitement and ran much faster than I should have the first few km. 2km however I had a problem, I really had to pee. What the heck?! Despite the fact that I had gone right before the race had started, I really needed to go again. I skipped the first port-a-pottie at the 3km because the line-up was insane (guess I wasn’t the only one with nervous bladder problems) but at the 6km I hopped in line for the port-a-pottie. There were only 2 people ahead of me, but still a few valuable minutes were lost in that line (not that it was really a big deal seeing as I wasn’t attempting to PR or anything, I just wanted to finish!).

Just as I was heading out of the port-a-pottie, I saw the 4:30 pace bunny go by and felt determined to keep up with him for as long as I could. I managed to hang in for about 15 km, but I was still going faster than I should have been going. At the 21.1km mark there was a big sign that said “You are halfway home!” and I got a little excited inside. Then I heard a volunteer yell out “YOU ARE ALMOST THERE!” and the lady running in front of me stopped mid-stride, turned around and yelled back “YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO TELL A RUNNER THEY ARE ALMOST THERE UNTIL THEY HAVE 200M LEFT TO GO!”.  It was hilarious, but true. A few steps ahead I heard that lady mutter to her friend “She’s lucky I didn’t clock her in the face for saying that.”  I guess running a marathon really brings out some emotions!

By 22km I was starting to feel tired which was not a good feeling to have so early on. The course was pretty nice though and the spectators were great in certain parts. I enjoyed reading the signs to keep me entertained. The 4:45 pace bunny had already passed me at that point and I was really starting to slow down. At 23km the 5:00 pace bunny caught up to me so I forced myself not to fall behind him because I may have been tired but I sure as heck was not going to finish with a 5:00+ time.  The pace bunny was actually amazing and had a group of maybe 10 people sticking close to him when I joined in. He was saying the most encouraging things that kept me and I’m sure everyone else going. He was doing the 10:1 method, so run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute so although I had never trained that way I decided to try it out and it worked. We slowly made our way through to 25km, then to 30km.

The longest training run I was supposed to do according to my training plan was 32 km. The longest run I did was 30km and it was awful. So being at that 30km mark was a crazy feeling. I was tired, but determined to make it 12 more km.

At 31km, our little 5:00 pace bunny pack saw a runner vomiting on the side of the road and crying. Our pace bunny immediately stopped to console her and handed over his 5:00 sign to one of us and we kept going, one foot in front of the other. We were only 31km in and I was so tired. One step, then another, then another. (Our pace bunny caught back up to us a few minutes later once he was sure the lady runner was being taken care of).

At 32km, I told myself I only had 10km left to go, and I’ve done so many 10km runs before so this last 10km should be a breeze!

35km, and I was feeling pretty empty inside. Everything hurt, my legs were so heavy, my arms were so tired of swinging back and forth.

36km, and all I could think was why the heck did I ever think I could run a marathon? I can’t do this. But I’m still going to keep my feet moving. Just stay with the 5:00 pace bunny.

37km, and I’m choking back tears. This is hard. Really hard.

38km, and I can’t do it. I start to fall behind, or the pace bunny starts to pull ahead I don’t know, but I’m just so tired and everything hurts so bad.

38.5km and the pace bunny is up the hill and I’m still at the bottom of the hill.

39km and through the thick fog of pain I was in I see and hear the most glorious sight in the world: my mom, shouting as loud as she can “YOU CAN DO IT, KEEP GOING!!!”

I know my mom must have been pretty concerned at that point because she knew how badly I wanted to sub-5:00 and she had seen the 5:00 pace bunny pass without me in sight, until now. My mom could not have picked a better place in the race to have been at that point, because she was exactly where I needed her to be. Her words of encouragement sparked one last shred of determination that had been hidden deep within me under the pain and suffering of the past 4 hours, and I felt that flame burn bright in me as I dug deep for a strong finish. I slowly started to pick up my pace and soon enough the 5:00pace bunny was back in sight. I focused on his pink bunny ears and in my mind I’m picturing a bull charging towards a red sheet, but the real life version of me running to catch up to the pace bunny was more like a slow-motion bull but whatever. I caught up to the 5:00pace bunny and I didn’t stop, I kept going. The spectators were getting louder and louder and I knew the end was near. I saw the 40km marker and at that point it was a U shaped loop to the finish line, so I could see the runners on the other side of the canal heading to the finish line. I forced myself to keep going, and once I saw the 41km marker I started a very slow sprint (lol).  I had already lost my mind at that point and I must have had a crazed look in my eyes but I kept going, and I started passing a few people (what?!) and I thought surely I should see the finish line soon, and then I saw the 500m countdown sign and I’m thinking what the heck, I still have half a kilometre to go?! And then the 400m sign, and then the 300m sign, and then I turned the corner and the finish line was 200m away and people are on both sides cheering and ringing cowbells and I’m trying really hard not to cry because it’s hard to do a slow sprint when you’re crying and gasping for air, and then I passed the 100m sign and didn’t know if I would actually sub-5:00 but I didn’t care, I was so happy to be finished, and my legs felt like lead but as I passed that finish line I made one last attempt to smile and not look as desperate as I was feeling for the cameras.

I read once before that you find out what you’re made of when you run a marathon. In the 4 hours, 59 seconds and 4 milliseconds it took me to run 26.2 miles, I found out exactly what I’m made of. And it’s a piece of me that I’m going to hold on to forever.

Limestone Half Marathon: Race Recap

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Signing up for the half marathon of the KRRA Limestone Race Weekend in beautiful Kingston, Ontario was somewhat last minute. While training for my first full marathon I went in with the mindset that it was totally okay to train from a 5k to a full marathon in 16 weeks. I had never officially run a half marathon but somehow that hadn’t fazed me, I knew that I would be running upwards of 21.1km weekly during my training so a half almost seemed like nothing (in comparison of course). Then I found out I would be in Kingston, Ontario for 2 weeks as part of a clinical placement for school so I randomly did a quick check online to see if there were any races going on during that time and well would you look at that! A half marathon on my second weekend there!  The timing could not have worked better, I was supposed to do a 19.3km run that day anyways and I thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of an idea of what racing a distance longer than a 5k would feel like.

My mom wins the best mom ever award again, because she drove up to Kingston from Toronto (about a 3 hour drive) to cheer me on for what would be my first official half marathon!

Sunday, April 28, 2013 – the morning started off bright and early, a little cool as the sun wasn’t fully up yet. I had my usual pre-long run breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese and milk, and got dressed. I hemmed and hawed over wearing a long sleeve shirt and shorts as I was feeling the cool breeze but my mom insisted that once the sun was up in full force I would be ridiculously hot and sweaty so I slipped into a t-shirt and shorts, pulled on sweatpants and a hoodie and headed towards the start line!

The race itself is a pretty small local event but there were already quite a few people gathered around the start line, warming up and chatting excitedly. I always feel nervous whenever I am around a big crowd of runners especially since I’m a newbie and these are probably experienced sub 1:45 half veterans who know all about compression gear, garmins and energy gels.  One day I’ll be just like them!

I think we got to the start line maybe 30 minutes before the gun went off, which gave me plenty of time for a quick pre-run bathroom break and before I knew it, I was handing my hoodie and sweatpants to my mom, picking up my timing chip which came in the form of an anklet that I’m pretty sure was pretty sweaty and gross by the time I was done with it, and heading to the start area.

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Since it was a smaller race, there were no start corals, and the half marathons started with the 5k runners. The sun was up and I was already feeling happy about my decision to not wear a long-sleeve shirt. The half marathon course started with a 5km loop with the 5km racers that came back to the start line (finish line for 5k) and then continued in the opposite direction for a 16 km loop, back to the same start/finish line. I positioned myself near the back of the pack as I knew that most of the runners were only doing the 5k and would probably be a lot speedier than I was. The plan was to try and sub-2:15 but not over-exert myself since I was running a full marathon in a month and I didn’t need any injuries or time-off at this point.

The gun went off and holy crap, why am I running so fast? I clearly got a little caught up in the excitement of the 5km runners. limestone3

I didn’t have a garmin or other GPS watch, so I was basing my pace off the time I started subtracted from the time it currently was divided by the km marker I was sure of…a bit of math and definitely not as accurate as a GPS watch but at least it kept my mind occupied! I continued to run faster than I should have for the 5km loop and as we were nearing the 5km point which was the start/finish line, I noticed that all of the runners I was with started to part to the right towards the 5km finish line….while I stayed to the left, passed the 5km finish line, and suddenly felt all alone. Seriously, this sucks! I felt all of the excitement from the crowds that one normally feels when passing through a finish line of a race, except that I still had 16.1 km to go.

6km – this sucks.

6.1km – am I the only half-marathon runner? where is everyone else?!

6.2km – omg I must be last. 😦

6.4km – wait, someone just passed me!  okay now I’m officially last.

7km – okay, I’m tired and no one is around me. I think I’m going to walk for a bit.

7.4km – someone else just passed me! I guess I wasn’t last after all. Maybe I’m last now 😦

7.5km – okay, Lianna, pull yourself together. You have to pass that girl who just passed you so that you are second last, not last place.  (at this point I pulled it together and started running again)

8km – (passed the girl who passed me) haha sucker!

8.2km – wtf that girl just passed me

8.4km –  take that (as I pass that girl who passed me twice)

8.7km – wtf man. she passed me again

Passing someone when you are running takes a lot of energy folks. Eventually at around 9km I ran up beside her and stayed beside this girl and we ran in silence for about a km before we started talking. I found out her name and learned that she had run a 1:55 half marathon before but she hadn’t trained for this half at all and was hoping to sub-2:15. Perfect! We decided to stick it out together and man, what a great decision that was. I developed one of those awful side cramps around 12km and this girl talked me through it, told me to keep breathing like I’m sending oxygen to the cramped area (kind of works!) and kept encouraging me. In return I huffed and puffed and wheezed my thanks whenever possible. She told me there was a 2:15 pace bunny who hadn’t passed us yet, so our goal was to never let that pace bunny get close enough to pass us and we would be golden. She also advised me to keep the pace we were going at and then for the last 1km completely empty the tank, drain the battery, etc. and give it our all to the finish line. Seemed simply enough at the time! We neared the halfway point of that 16km loop which was more of an out-and-back portion of the race, and started heading back towards the finish line. 15km in and I was suffering. We had seen how far back the 2:15 pace bunny was thanks to the nature of the out-and-back course and knew we had maybe 2-3 minutes in the bank. Unfortunately I still had that awful side cramp and we were beginning an uphill, plus I was feeling tired from going out too hard in the beginning. The sun was really beating down on us and I wanted to stop so badly to walk. Thank goodness for my new friend who kept me going, because if she wasn’t there running with me and essentially pacing me, I would have stopped to walk multiple times.

18km and we hear the pounding of footsteps behind us. My new friend and I both glanced back and to our dismay, we see the pace bunny with about 6 runners sticking close not too far behind us, catching up. We were both pretty tired and wanted the race to end. Slowly the pace bunny caught up to us and his group of 2:15 runners swallowed us and we both dug deep to stay with the group. 19km in and my side cramp went away, thank goodness. I was feeling a lot better but I could tell my new friend was struggling. “Keep it going! We can’t give up now!!”  That was my attempt at giving her some of the encouragement she gave me for the majority of the race. 19.8km in and my friend was really struggling. “Pull it together!! It’s almost time to empty our tanks and drain our batteries!!!” That’s what I managed to yell at her before I started to slowly increase my pace. It was slightly agonizing and the concentrated look on my face must have been hilarious, but I pulled ahead of the pace bunny and continued onwards. I started passing people and before I knew it, I saw my mom ahead waiting by the 21km marker. 100 metres to go!

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I felt really bad about leaving my new friend behind, I was hoping she would stick with me as I increased my pace but when I  glanced back quickly she was nowhere to be seen. Seeing my mom always gives me an extra boost so I powered through to the finish line for the second time, except this time I was actually finished!  I finished in 2:14:44.6, and was very happy with with my sub-2:15 time 🙂

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The race was pretty well organized, immediately at the finish line a volunteer (wearing gloves haha) pulled off my anklet timing device (I was too exhausted to do it myself and I was pretty sure that if I leaned over to take it off I would fall flat on my face). Then right away I was able to help myself to greek yogurt, water, and chilli! I’ve never been a fan of chilli but I got a bowl anyways for my mom and in exchange she had my favourite post-race chocolate milk ready for me.  Overall a well organized race and great memories to make up my first half marathon experience!

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Caramelized Onion and Mushroom White Pizza

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Lianna’s list of things that are super annoying to do and take an unnecessarily long amount of time to complete but are things that I really should be doing and so I do them, sometimes:

1. Flossing

…and that’s all I have so far. Can you tell I just flossed?

Also, I went to the drugstore and invested in a bottle of multivitamins, the kind you take once a day, but I couldn’t bear the depressing idea of taking a bland pill-like thing once a day and so I went with the kind that come in sour gummy form. Win!

I’m pretty sure I say this every time I come up with a new post, so what the heck I’ll say it again. This week has really flown by! I kept busy with school, gym/marathon training, catching up with old but still good friends and trying my hardest not to take more than one sour gummy multivitamin a day.  I finally got around to looking in my drafts of posts for this blog and realized that I had never shared this amazing pizza recipe with you! I feel like I’ve been holding back…but honestly, caramelized onions?! I’d say that’s a pretty good start to any recipe.

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I’ve actually never caramelized onions before this recipe. I remember when I was young my mom would once in a blue moon buy a massive bag of onions (I’m talking a big bag, the size I picture Santa carrying presents in but maybe not quite that big) when they would go on sale for really cheap. She would spend the whole morning peeling the onions and slowly cooking them in batches on the stove. Our entire house would smell like caramelized onion which at the time I hated because then I had to go to school the next day smelling like onions, but honestly it was so worth it once I had a big bowl of homemade french onion soup in front of me. Yummah! The best memories are the ones you can almost taste.  ANYways, I guess what I’m trying to say is I got a little nostalgic caramelizing onions for this pizza. We keep things simple by just adding mushrooms and a creamy and rich white sauce to this pizza.Yum and perfection!

The only downside is this is the kind of recipe you have to plan for in advance. The dough should be made overnight, and the onions will take almost an hour to caramelize properly. Definitely worth the time and effort though!

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom White Pizzza

Ingredients:
For the dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast
about 3/4 cup water

For the topping:
3 small yellow onions
2 tbsp olive oil
a pinch salt and pepper
8 oz button mushrooms
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 cup shredded mozzarella

For the sauce:
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
The night before, combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add just enough water to make the mixture form a ball of dough with no dry flour left on the bottom of the bowl. This will be around 3/4 cup of water. Loosely cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 12-18 hours.

The next day, about an hour and a half before you plan to eat, thinly slice three small (or 2 medium/large) yellow onions. Saute the onions in a skillet over medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about 45 minutes, stirring the mixture every 2-3 minutes. The end result should be deep golden brown, soft, sweet onions. For a more detailed, step by step photo tutorial on how to caramelize onions, check here.

While the onions are cooking, slice the mushrooms. Take the caramelized onions out of the skillet and add the mushrooms, along with a pinch of salt and pepper and the dried thyme. There should be some residual oil in the skillet to cook the mushrooms, if not add a tad more. Cook the mushrooms until all of the moisture has evaporated away (about 10 minutes over medium heat).

While the mushrooms are cooking, prepare the cream sauce. Mince a clove of garlic and add it to a pot with 1 tablespoon of butter. Saute over medium heat until softened (about 2 minutes). Next, add the cream cheese, milk, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Heat and whisk this mixture until a smooth sauce forms (about 5 minutes).

Adjust the rack in your oven to its highest position and begin to preheat to 500 degrees. The dough at this point should be at least double in volume and very bubbly (see photos below). Sprinkle it generously with flour and then scrape it out of the bowl and onto a floured surface. Pat the dough down into a circle about ten inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a large (16-inch) pizza pan that has been coated with non-stick spray and stretch/press it the rest of the way out to the edges of the pan.

Spread the sauce over the surface of the dough with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms over top. Finally, add the shredded mozzarella. Bake the pizza in the fully preheated 500 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

—SOURCE—
Budget Bytes

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid

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I feel that with something as good as this blueberry cream cheese danish braid, I should keep the talking to a minimum so you can hurry up and get to the recipe asap. I’m still going to talk about how seriously amazing this danish braid is but I won’t be offended at all if you skip right to the end of this post 😛

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It all started when I had a craving for pastry. I’ve made croissants and chocolate croissants before so just thinking about those made me really want something perfectly flaky and buttery crisp. I wanted to play around with different flavours and fillings though, so it wasn’t long before I thought of this spiced apple cream cheese danish braid and decided that I wanted to make a blueberry version.

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Making pastry dough can be a little daunting if you have never tried it before, but it really isn’t hard at all! The only thing to keep in mind is there is a lot of waiting time in between when your dough is chilling in the fridge. I planned this danish braid ahead of time so that I could make the dough and the fillings the night before, and so all I had to do the next morning was roll out the dough, assemble and bake!

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Knowing that I had this beauty of a treat to look forward to was the only thing that kept me running home after a long 27km run…but let’s not go there, my hip hasn’t quite recovered from that just yet!  My longer runs usually leave me pretty drained once I’ve gotten back home, but I definitely had enough energy to put this braid together and pop it in the oven. And ohmygoodness. Fresh from the oven, each slice is made up of delicate layers upon layers of buttery goodness that envelopes a sweet blueberry pie-like filling perfectly complemented by a cream cheese filling with a lemon tang. All of that coated in a light and sweet sugar glaze.

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The best part is that even if you have leftovers, this still tastes so good the next day and the day after. I kept mine chilled in the fridge and even enjoyed it chilled, but it also tastes just as good after a quick zap in the microwave or if you have more time, after a few minutes in the oven.

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This would be the perfect treat to serve for a breakfast where you really want to impress! So go out there and knock some socks off! Actually, if it’s breakfast at home, then your household might not be wearing socks. Unless they are one of those weird people that wears socks when they sleep. I’m shuddering thinking about it.

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Also, the braiding of this danish might make it a little tricky to cut perfectly straight pieces. But that’s totally okay, because if you’re quick enough you can just snag a bigger piece. 😉

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Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Ingredients:

For the Danish dough:
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1½ tsp. instant yeast*
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp. salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the butter square:
12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the cream cheese filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. sugar

For the blueberry filling:
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

For the glaze:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 tsp. milk, plus more as needed

For the drizzle (optional):
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp. milk, plus more as needed

*Instant yeast = rapid rise yeast = bread machine yeast

Directions:
To make the dough, combine 1¼ cups of the flour in a bowl with the yeast, sugar, and salt.  Place the milk and egg in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes.  (The dough should be sticky but if more dough sticks to the bowl than the dough hook, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the butter square, toss together the butter pieces and flour on a clean work surface.  Smear the butter back and forth using a bench scraper against the work surface until they have combined into a smooth homogenous mixture.  Wrap the butter mixture in plastic wrap and use the edges of the plastic to form it into a 5-inch square.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour.  Lay the chilled dough on the work surface and roll into a 9-inch square.  Place the butter square diagonally on top the dough and remove the plastic wrap.  Fold the corners of dough over the butter so that they meet in the middle of the butter square.  Pinch the ends of the dough together to seal.  Using a rolling pin , tap the dough from the center outward until the butter begins to soften and become malleable.  Gently roll the dough into an 11-inch square, re-flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking.  Fold the outside edges of the dough in toward the center in thirds, one overlapping the other, like a business letter.  Repeat this process folding the other direction to make a square.  (This completes two turns.)  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Roll the dough into an 11-inch square once more and repeat the two turns as before (business letter, then square).  Wrap in plastic wrap again and chill once more for at least 4 hours.  (At this point the dough can be refrigerated overnight).

To make the cream cheese filling, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well until smooth and blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the blueberry filling, combine the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Mash about half of the blueberries as the mixture gets heated, and bring it a boil. Once the mixture is bubbling, lower the heat to medium and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring until it thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool before using.

When you are ready to shape and bake the danish, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  On a large, very well floured sheet of parchment paper roll the chilled dough into a 14-inch square.  Spread the cream cheese filling evenly down the middle third of the dough.  Lay the blueberry filling over the top of the cream cheese mixture (you may not end up using all of the filling*).  Using a pizza cutter or a paring knife, cut the outer thirds of dough into ¾-inch strips so that the cuts are diagonal to the filling.  Alternating sides, fold the strips of dough over the filling, crisscrossing the strips over the center, until the entire Danish is braided.  Transfer the braid, still on the parchment, to a baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise at room temperature until slightly puffy (it will not double), about 30 minutes.

Bake until the braid is golden brown, 22-26 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  To make the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to thin the glaze.  Transfer to a cooking rack and brush with the glaze while still hot.  Cool to room temperature.  To make the drizzle, combine the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to make it a drizzle-able consistency.  Drizzle over the finished braid.  Slice crosswise and serve.

*leftover blueberry filling is excellent served over yoghurt, pancakes or waffles, ice cream, in smoothies, the options are endless!

—SOURCE—
based off of this Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Danish Braid recipe

Blueberry Zucchini Muffins


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Yea. I just made healthy muffins. Wait what?
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These muffins are loaded with good things like shredded zucchini, fresh blueberries and whole wheat flour. Greek yogurt is a healthier alternative to butter/oil to keep these muffins moist. Cinnamon adds flavour and according to google, it’s pretty good for you too!
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If you’ve never tried baking with zucchini, you’re probably feeling a little skeptical. I know I was at first, until I baked this double chocolate zucchini bread. It immediately became one of my favourite indulgent breads to bake, and my manly man housemate totally approved and managed to eat a slice every day for a week! You totally can’t taste any sort of zucchini/vegetable flavour in that bread or these muffins.
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These muffins are bursting with fresh blueberries and I love how pretty the green and blueish-purple looks. These are the perfect springtime muffin after a long winter season, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
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Blueberry Zucchini Muffins
Yields: 12 muffins 

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups zucchini, shredded
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a muffin tin with 12 liners.In a small bowl, stir together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and lemon zest.  In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, vanilla and greek yogurt.  Slowly stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated.  Fold in the zucchini and blueberries.Scoop 1/4 cup batter each into the wells of your lined muffin tin.  Bake  for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool.Store in an airtight container – can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to two months.
—SOURCE—
adapted from Cooking Ala Mel

 

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I’ve decided that a week (and a half) is a perfectly acceptable length of time to mope around, contemplate buying a plane ticket and running way, and consume an embarassing number of microwavable chocolate mug cakes in order to get over the feeling of having a giant hole in my heart. But now I’m back to reality and back to normal! Thank you so much for your love on my last post. Your sweet comments meant the world to me and I adore you. Which is why I want to share with you this carrot cake with cream cheese frosting!

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I really love carrot cake, especially with cream cheese frosting. It’s one of my favourite flavour combinations, yet for some reason up until now I had never baked one myself! To be honest I think I was a little scared to try out a recipe and be disappointed. More often than not, the carrot cakes I’ve tasted have either been too dry, too dense or lacking in flavour. I was so happy with the way this cake turned out though. The carrot cake itself is plain and simple, yet so moist and fluffy. I love how the grated carrots add a lovely pop of orange colour as well. The cream cheese frosting is perfection and if you’re like me and bake your cake in a bundt pan then you will have leftover frosting to snack on 🙂

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups grated carrots

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (16 oz) powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract


Directions
:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to first mixture and combine. Then add carrots and stir in gently. Pour into a greased and floured pan (bundt, sheet cake, 9 x 13 pyrex) and bake at 350F until cooked through, 25 minutes (sheet cake) to 50 minutes (Bundt pan), depending on the pan you use.  Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, in a large bowl, cream togetherbutter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla and blend together very well until creamy. Spread on cooled carrot cake. Enjoy!
—SOURCE—
slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Costa Rica

IMG_4978I just got back from a week-long getaway to Costa Rica, and have been wondering how to best share my week with you. I guess I should start by letting you know that I had a truly unforgettable week. I only told a few close friends and family where I was going before I left as there are many people who frown upon girls travelling across the country on their own (I know this having experienced this before I left for New York City a few months ago). I was excited to learn how to surf and was pleasantly surprised to meet and befriend a group of like-minded, independent women when I arrived. The week went by in a magical blur and only on the very last day did I realize I had barely taken any pictures to capture moments to share with you. To be honest, the whole week felt so surreal that I was almost scared to preserve a memory in the form of a photograph in case I couldn’t capture the exact feeling just right. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m going to do my best to paint a picture for you with the following words.

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(I’m not very good with sharing personal aspects of my life but I want this to be as real and honest as possible mostly because I’m scared that one day I will forget the details, so I’m sharing my story with you as though I am writing a letter to a boy I spent the week getting to know)

I remember the exact moment when our eyes first met. It was in the restaurant out front of my hotel room, and like many restaurants in the area this one didn’t have any walls, rather pillars holding up a roof. There was a gentle breeze around us, and you were sitting by yourself at a table a few feet away from me. I looked up from my schedule that outlined the events for the rest of the week and caught you observing me, quietly. I noticed how warm your brown eyes were. I gave you a shy smile but ducked my head before I could see you smile back.  Later that afternoon as I headed out for a surf lesson, my instructor pointed you out far across the ocean, catching a large green wave and effortlessly carving and gliding through it, body and surfboard moving as one. I remember thinking you were a really good surfer before I wiped out on my board.

That night I walked out to meet a friend for dinner at that same restaurant and there you were sitting beside her. She excused herself to take a phone call, and you didn’t hesitate to introduce yourself. We started talking, and you asked to take me out later that night. I happily accepted. You picked me up on your motorcycle and we raced recklessly down the dirt roads of the town, dust flying as we whipped by. You told me I was beautiful, and I let myself believe it. On this first night, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was when we began.

Before I left for Costa Rica I had no interest in love or anything close to it. I had already been through a rough 4-year relationship and felt too free-spirited and independent to want to go through anything like that for a while. But somehow in just a week you managed to tear down every single wall I built around me and you got me to really like you.

I know the week we had was a fairy tale week, where we met the first day and were seemingly inseparable for the following days. I feel like no one (other than my closest friend) will believe me if I try to explain the connection we shared. It seems almost foolish to believe it myself. But in the time we spent together there are moments that I don’t want to forget and I’m going to try and write them all down now, so I can look back one day and remember.

These are some of my favourite memories with you.
That morning, when I had just finished a run on the beach, the sun was blazing and I was dripping sweat and as I started my walk back to my hotel room, you called out to me from your motorcycle and insisted on driving me back even though I was drenched in sweat, and so I hopped on behind you trying not to hug you to tight.
That moment, when you realized I had never tasted a coconut before and so you convinced the local who was selling fresh coconuts out of a cooler to give me the freshest one for me to try. I remember sipping through the straw and tasting the purest coconut water. Later we sat down with a coconut split in half and you carefully spooned out the meat for me to taste.
The times you would feel a dreadlock starting to form in your long, curly hair, particularly after a surf session, and I would sit and patiently untangle your hair. I remember when I first met you I asked if you highlighted your hair because it was so blonde but now I know that the golden streaks in your hair were a natural result of the saltwater and sun and time.
That night we went to the rodeo, and you convinced me to climb up high on the fence that enclosed the ring and sit at the top with everyone else. I sat terrified with my legs shaking barely able to hold the cerveza you’d gotten for me, scared that when the bull was released it would charge straight towards me, knocking me off of the fence. You reassured me that I would be safe and I was.
Later that night, you pulled your dirt bike off of the path and on to the beach. We raced along the sand in the darkness of the night, the light from your bike lighting the way. The waves were gently crashing in to shore beside us and my foot felt warm from the heat of the engine. I had my arms wrapped tight around you, my chin on your shoulder but I remember leaning back to look up at all of the stars to take it all in, so many stars in the sky, the sand flying around us, and I remember feeling so free, so happy, so alive.

When we were saying our last goodbyes, you asked me not to forget you and I said I wouldn’t. As my plane took off, I fought back tears knowing that I had left a piece of me back there with you.

Thank you for being a part of my world, even if only for a little bit.

Love,
Lianna

IMG_4934 IMG_4981 IMG_4962 IMG_4984 IMG_4933 IMG_4926 IMG_4928 285337_10152565050180434_1739508650_n(I found this image on a friend’s Facebook, unsure of the exact source)

Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Raisins

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I know these past few weeks I haven’t been posting as regularly as I normally have been and I’ve been feeling really guilty about it. The truth is I’ve been feeling so short on spare time lately and a little uninspired. I’m also going to be away on spring break in a few days so I probably won’t be able to get a post in for another week or so, but hopefully when I return I’ll have lots of great pictures and stories and recipes to share with you!

When it comes to my marathon training, I usually do my long runs on the weekends when I naturally have more time and daylight. I try to go first thing in the morning, and since I know I’ll be out running for at least 2 hours I really make an effort to get a filling and nutritious breakfast in beforehand. Enter these steel cut oats! I’ve never had steel cut oats before but have been hearing great things about them for a while. In short, steel cut oats are less processed than your regular oats and therefore retain more of their nutritional value. They also take longer to digest and therefore make you feel fuller for longer. Steel cut oats have a chewier texture than regular oats which I actually really enjoyed. I loved the combination of apples, cinnamon and raisins and have already made it twice in the past couple of weeks, which is really saying something! 🙂

Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Raisins

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:
3 cups water
1 cup (2% or 1%) milk
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup steel-cut oats
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
1/3 cup raisins
¼ cup maple syrup

Directions:
Combine the water and milk in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the oats and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir the toasted oats into the simmering liquid.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the mixture is very thick, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the salt, cinnamon, apple, raisins and maple syrup.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the oatmeal is creamy, about 10 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

—SOURCE—
Annie’s Eats, from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

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