Meyer Lemon & Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes

Through the chill in the air and dark winter season, sweet fruits are bursting on trees in Northern California. Bright, round and juicy, lemons and oranges poke through the trees like a ray of sunlight during our rainy season. Citrus are in abundance, everywhere …

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… except at my house. If you look hard, you might be able to find the second orange. So far our total year-to-date yield are 5 oranges. [Sigh.]

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We are working on solving this issue. Until then we have generous neighbors who share their fruits and I was able to pick up ten juicy Meyer lemons, for a couple of dollars at a local market.

Meyer lemons are mostly grown in California backyards. Sweet, fragrant and less acidic than other lemons, Meyer lemons are wonderful to cook with and my favorite lemon. With ten lemons in hand, I’d better get started!

After an ultra-distance equivalent of rainfall, we finally saw the sun break through. I celebrated with bright and cheerful Meyer Lemon & Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes. Made without sugar, these pancakes are naturally sweetened by the lemons and fresh blueberries. You may insist on topping them with maple syrup or powdered sugar, but try them without first. I enjoyed them naked.

Serving size: 2 (about 6 pancakes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 1 big juicy lemon)
  • zest of one whole Meyer lemon
  • 3/4 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

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In another small bowl, whisk the egg lightly, then stir in yogurt and milk until combined.

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Then add the flour mixture until just combined. The batter may appear a little lumpy. This is perfectly fine. You should avoid over-mixing.

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Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest* and blueberries.

* You may want to reserve a bit of the zest or zest another Meyer lemon to use as garnish. I recommend this if using whole wheat flour instead of white flour. You may find that the whole wheat flour flavor overshadows the delicate Meyer lemon flavor.

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Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoons of butter. The skillet is hot enough for the batter when drops of water sizzles immediately upon contact.

Using a ladle or big spoon, add the batter. Depending on the size of your spoon, you may need to add another spoonful or two. You can gently shape the pancakes into nice round circles when you add more batter.

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The pancake is ready to be flipped when bubbles appear and a few of them pop. I admit that I cheat a little and lift up the edge of the pancake to check if it’s golden brown. Then carefully flip. TIP: Get the spatula completely under the pancake. This will help you to flip it.

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Continue to cook it for a couple more minutes until golden brown on the other side. Serve them immediately.

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I enjoyed these pancakes with and without syrup. The Meyer lemon and blueberries provides a natural sweetness that I found satisfying. Since I’ve stopped adding sugar to my coffee and cut back on sugar in general, I find fruits deliciously sweet. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar on top but try topping with more Greek yogurt, more blueberries and garnish with a little sprinkle of grated Meyer lemon rind. I’m [not] sorry to say that I ate the pancakes before I thought of photographing the pancakes like that. You’ll just have to try it yourself and let me know how pretty it looks.

UPDATE:

One of my triathlon pals asked if she could use whole wheat flour. I tested it out and the pancakes were tasty. Whole wheat flour does have a denser and almost bitter flavor. I would suggest increasing the amount of lemon zest as the whole wheat flour flavor may overshadow the delicate Meyer lemon flavor. Or add a dollop of Greek yogurt and garnish with lemon zest. A bit of lemon zest in every bite will help to amplify the lemon notes.

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A Healthy Three Course New Year’s Breakfast

Cheers to a Happy and Healthy New Year, Hungry Athlete Style!

Wishing everyone good fortune in health, family and love. While some of us celebrated the end of 2015 with joy and cheer, some of us experienced tragic personal loss. While some of us look forward to new challenges in 2016, others must bravely face daunting uncertainties. My wish to everyone is to have the strength, wisdom and support to deal with whatever 2016 brings.

“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” ~ Tony Robbins

And may we have gratitude, every day in 2016, for the things and people we are fortunate to have in our lives.

I will begin with gratitude for you, whomever you are, for taking the time to read this! I hope my blog and recipes bring a little joy to your world. I am, of course, very grateful for my family and friends.

I am also grateful and honored to be a part of Team Betty 2016! This is my second year as an ambassador for Betty Designs, a pretty rad line of stylish, functional and high quality cycling, swimming, running and athletic wear for women designed by a pretty cool athlete, mom, graphic artist and entrepreneur named Kristin Mayer who’s mottos are “Badass is Beautiful” and “Do Epic Shit”.   I was fortunate to be invited by Kristen to join a team of 200+ inspiring female athletes, mostly triathletes and ultra runners, from all over the world.

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting teammate Katherine in Arizona. Katherine happens to be the inspiration for my first post in 2016! Katherine asked me for advice on a healthy three-course breakfast she wanted to prepare for her husband on New Year’s Day. I suggested starting the first course with a Greek yogurt parfait, followed by an egg & vegetable casserole and a chocolate avocado mousse for the final course.

Here’s what Katherine made:

“We began with an acai bowl-style gluten-free Greek yogurt fruit dish, followed with an egg bake of vegetables, Gruyere and mozzarella, and sausage. Finally, a dessert of Ghirardelli avocado mousse.”

Looks and sounds amazing Katherine! Katherine is well versed in healthy eating and shared her story about how good nutrition helped her increase speed and move up in her age group, podium and qualify for USAT Nationals. Katherine’s inspiring story can be found here.

As for the Hungry Athlete, for my very first meal on New Year’s day, I prepared my Simple Granola to accompany Greek yogurt, then poached eggs served over smoked salmon and asparagus sautéed in olive oil. A clementine and mimosa were the sweet notes in this orchestra of flavors.

 

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A couple days later, after my first group trail run of the year, I invited the gang over for a brunch and served my Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole, my  Simple Granola and Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon rolls. No, the cinnamon rolls are not healthy nor do I want to try to attempt a healthy version. I believe in indulging when the time is right and after a wet, cold and hard trail run, my friends earned cinnamon buns for running that extra mile.

Want to host a healthy 3-course breakfast, most of which you can prepare, stress-free by prepping the day in advance? Here’s The Hungry Athlete’s Three-Course Healthy Breakfast:

First Course: Greek Yogurt Fruit Parfait with Homemade Simple Granola, Raspberries, Blueberries and Pomegranate Seeds

Second Course: Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole

Third Course:  Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse

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First Course: Greek Yogurt Parfait with Homemade Granola, Raspberries, Blueberries and Pomegranate Seeds
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Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole (here with vegetarian sausage, caramelized onion, mushroom, broccoli and Manchego cheese)
Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse
Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse

Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole

My Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole is an easy to prepare breakfast for a crowd.  This recipe was inspired by my high school classmate Kai who gave me the idea to use croissants and Manchego cheese. These ingredients contributed a luxurious texture and flavor to the casserole. Kai’s version, which includes heavy cream, results in a rich and delicious egg custard. I’ve lightened Kai’s recipe up a bit by omitting the cream however the recipe still requires all 9 eggs. I attempted using fewer eggs but the croissants soaked up the egg mixture and begged for more.

While this casserole does require up to an hour to bake and about 10 minutes to set after, you can prepare much of this dish in advance and serve it to the family on a weekday morning. The onions, mushrooms and protein can be cooked, cooled and then stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the casserole. The eggs can be whisked with all of the wet and dry ingredient however I prefer to leave out the milk. Storing the egg mixture, without the milk, is easier than finding a container large enough for the eggs and 3 cups of milk. I cover the toasted croissants in the baking dish with aluminum foil and leave it on the counter overnight until I’m ready to assemble the casserole in the morning.  If you don’t have an hour to spare in the morning, you can also bake it the night before and reheat it.  This casserole makes a great leftover and heats up well either in the microwave or oven.

Serving size: 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 4 large or 6 small croissants, toasted
  • 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, sliced very thin
  • 10 -12 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 9 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard (I prefer Colman’s Dry Mustard Powder)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces of vegetarian sausage links, browned (Of course you can substitute cooked chopped chicken apple sausage, chopped ham or cooked chopped bacon however I prefer the vegetarian sausages.)
  • 2 cups of chopped broccoli
  • ½ cup grated English cheddar & ½ cup grated Gruyere OR 1 cup grated Manchego cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F

In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the thinly sliced onion with about 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Check on the onion frequently and toss them occasionally until they are golden, fragrant and caramelized. This can take from 15 minutes to 25 minutes depending on how thinly the onions are sliced.  Once caramelized, remove the onion from the pan and allow to cool.

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While the onion is cooking, cut the croissants in half lengthwise and toast under a 400F broiler, cut side up. I recommend using a kitchen timer set for 5 minutes to start and check frequently.

Butter a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.

Tear up the croissants into large pieces and line the bottom of the baking dish. You will have a few pieces of croissant left over. Set the extra croissant pieces aside.

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Add another 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil to sauté pan used to caramelize the onions. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

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Steam the broccoli in a glass bowl filled with a 2-3 tablespoons of water in the microwave for about 1 minute. The broccoli should be slightly tender but still firm. Remove from excess water, rough chop and set aside to cool.  If you are using frozen broccoli, remove any extra moisture after microwaving.

Brown the vegetarian sausage. Chop and allow to cool.

Spread the browned vegetarian sausage slices over the layer of croissants. Next spread the cooled caramelized onion, broccoli, mushrooms and cheese. Top with any remaining croissant pieces.

In a medium size bowl, whisk 9 eggs together. Add nutmeg, dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, milk, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the croissant and vegetables.   Gently press down on all the ingredients with a spatula to ensure everything is moistened and mostly covered by the egg mixture.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven on the middle rack for about 50-60 minutes. The casserole is done when a knife inserted comes out clean and there is no liquid running. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with aluminum foil.

Remove from the oven, loosely cover with aluminum foil and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

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Many of the ingredients can be prepared the day before and assembled quickly in the morning before baking.
Many of the ingredients can be prepared the day before and assembled quickly in the morning before baking.

Colcannon with Poached Egg and Smoked Salmon

What’s as good as Colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes) for dinner?  Colcannon for breakfast of course!  I prepared this breakfast on a weekday morning in 5 minutes using colcannon left over from last night’s dinner.

The hardest part of this recipe is poaching the egg.  A fried egg works well too.  I have tried several methods of poaching eggs over the years.  The way my mother taught me to poach eggs works the best.  Mom and I tried using vinegar.  While vinegar helps to keep the egg whites pretty, I’m not a fan of vinegar flavored eggs so I don’t use it.  I also have an egg poaching pan and silicon egg poaching cups.  These gadgets work well when poaching several eggs at the same time but if you are just making a couple eggs, don’t bother using them.  The article below does an excellent job demonstrating how it’s done.  I often use a slotted spoon to lift the egg up and keep it from sinking.

How to Poach Eggs

This breakfast contains nutrient rich vegetables (potatoes, kale, cabbage and leeks) and protein (egg and smoked salmon).  I can’t wait to have it again tomorrow morning after my workout. The recipe for colcannon is found here: Crispy Salmon and Colcannon

Serving size: 1 Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of colcannon
  • 1 egg
  • wild smoked salmon
  • salt and pepper
  • chives for garnish

Directions:

Poach the egg as instructed above for 2 minutes for a runny yolk and up to 4 minutes for a firmer yolk.  Timing will also depend upon the size of your egg and how cold it is.  I have an ultra runner pal who likes to poach his eggs for 6 minutes.  To figure out how long you like to poach your eggs, gently lift the egg out with a slotted spoon.  If after inspecting the egg it needs more time, you can always drop it back in the water for another minute or two.

While the egg is poaching, warm the colcannon in the microwave.  Place the smoked salmon on the colcannon, then place the poached egg on top.  Make sure the egg is not wet.  Garnish with finely chopped chives and season with salt and pepper. DSC_7029

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Vegetable Quinoa Egg Bites

Vegetable Quinoa Egg Bites are one of my favorite fast and healthy recipes for breakfast. Make them the night before then pop them in the microwave or toast them in the oven in the morning for a nutritious breakfast on the go. Throw a few in a plastic bag and you’ll have a yummy post morning workout snack on the way to work. Merry Brandybuck and Hungry Athletes alike might also enjoy this as a second breakfast.

Resembling a mini quiche, they can be filled with your favorite vegetables. I like to fill mine with a combination of either spinach and red peppers or broccoli and red peppers. Cayenne pepper and nutmeg adds a nice flavor but be careful, a little of both goes a long way. I also recommend using freshly grated nutmeg. Nutmeg seeds last up to four years longer than powdered nutmeg.

Did you know that nutmeg and mace come from the same tree? Nutmeg is the seed while mace is the covering or aril of the seed.  Here’s some more interesting tidbits about nutmeg: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03474/Cooking-With-Spices-Nutmeg.html

Serving size: 16 mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli or 1/2 cup of frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • canola or vegetable oil to brush muffin pan

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook quinoa according to the package instructions. Make sure you rinse the quinoa thoroughly if the package indicates it has not been previously rinsed. Rinsing will remove the quinoa’s natural coating called saponin, which can have a bitter or soapy flavor.

Whisk together the eggs, salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Then mix in the quinoa, vegetables and cheddar cheese.

Brush the inside and top of a mini muffin pan liberally with oil. Fill the muffin pan all the way to the top will the quinoa and egg mixture. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal in a Slow Cooker

It’s just another early morning workout and I’m starving for a fast and warm breakfast.  I happen to have a extra unopened can of pumpkin puree left over from Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin is a nutrient dense fruit so I decided to add it to my slow cooker oatmeal routine. Unfortunately, the first attempt resulted in some unsavory burned pumpkin oatmeal on the edges of the slow cooker. In my second attempt, I turned my slow cooker into a double boiler. This yielded perfectly cooked, unburned oatmeal. Before I share this recipe, allow me to entertain you with a little Hungry Athlete story.

I’ve been ramping up for another 50K but I cannot get on the trails early enough in the afternoons to complete my scheduled midweek 8 mile runs while it’s still daylight. I got caught in the dark twice. On one occasion I talked the park ranger out of giving me a $200 ticket for being on the trails after sunset. The other time I was almost kidnapped by Thelma and Louise. I had exited a trail I had been running on and ran a quick out and back on a paved road. By the time I arrived back at that trail head, the gate was chained up. Since I could not run on the highway (the only other way back to where my car was parked) I was given a ride by two ladies who I will refer to as Thelma and Louis.  It was dark.  I was getting cold.  The only thing I had on me was the key to my car.  While I’m sitting in the back of Thelma’s car and headed down the highway, I hear the following:

T: “You know those runners … they never have any money on them.”

L: “Hahahaha.”

T: “Yeh, who accepts rides from strangers? What would you do to protect yourself?”

L: “I’d poke them in the eyeballs. They say you should go for the eyes”

T: “She’s a runner. She’d outrun us.”

T: “Hahaha.  Oh, we should stop.  Look at her.  She’s all quiet back there.”

Clearly the ladies were having fun with me and I lived to write this recipe, however the moral to the story is to plan your trail runs better.  Don’t get caught on the trails before they close.  Carry ID and your cell phone so you don’t have to accept rides from strangers and live to enjoy Pumpkin Oatmeal in the morning.

Serving size: 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal (also called Irish oatmeal)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I prefer freshly grated)

Optional toppings:

  • Unsalted roasted chopped almonds or walnuts
  • Diced apple or sliced banana
  • Honey or maple syrup

* Note: Ideally, if you can do without the dark brown sugar, that is the healthiest option, but I personally prefer to have a small amount of it in my oatmeal. Since this recipe is a serving size for 4, one tablespoon isn’t so bad. I sometimes enjoy my pumpkin oatmeal with a diced raw apple or a sliced banana, which adds a natural sweetness to the oatmeal.  I found that by weening myself off of sugar, I can adapt to enjoying foods like oatmeal and coffee without sugar.

Directions:

Whisk all of the ingredients together and pour into an oven proof glass bowl that will fit inside the slow cooker. I used a 6.5 quart slow cooker but a smaller 4 quart slow cooker is all you need.

Fill the slow cooker with water covering the pumpkin oatmeal bowl at least half way. Cover and cook on a low temperature for 7 hours.  Start the slow cooker before you go to bed and wake up to perfectly cooked oatmeal.  Give the oatmeal a thorough stir before serving.

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Fill the slow cooker insert with enough water to cover the oven proof bowl half way. This is what the oatmeal will look when it’s finished cooking. Give it a thorough stir before serving.

If you prefer, serve with chopped nuts (i.e., walnuts or almonds) and / or with fresh fruit (i.e., diced apple or sliced banana). The leftover oatmeal and be stored in individual serving size containers in the refrigerator. Add a little almond milk to loosen up the oatmeal and warm it up in the microwave when you are ready to eat it. DSC_6905

Eggs with Garlicky Spinach & Tomatoes

I try to eat some protein and a nutrient dense vegetable in the morning as often as I can.  One of the easiest and fastest breakfasts to prepare are my Eggs with Garlicky Spinach & Tomatoes. According to the CDC, spinach is one of the top 5 most nutrient dense vegetable and tomatoes are one of the top 3 most nutrient dense fruits: CDC Nutrient List of Nutrient Dense Fruits & Vegetables

Serving Size: 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small cloves or 1 large clove of garlic, peeled, smashed and rough chopped
  • 2 heaping cups of fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce (optional)

PREPPING IN ADVANCE:

To spare every precious minute in the morning, I prepare as much as possible the night before. I begin by washing and drying the spinach, tomatoes and lemon. I was taught by my wonderful home economics teacher, Mrs. Pfromm, to always wash the outside of all of my fruits before storing them in the refrigerator. I do this for citrus and apples but not berries. I only wash berries before I use them, otherwise the moisture will cause them to spoil faster.

Slice the tomatoes and lemon, then place them, along with the spinach, in a sealed plastic or glass container. Refrigerate overnight. In a small glass bowl, add smashed and rough chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

DIRECTIONS:

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan over medium heat. Smash, then rough chop the garlic before adding it to the warm oil. Sauté the garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the spinach and tomatoes to the garlic and olive oil.  Toss together until the spinach starts to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper, then move the spinach, tomatoes and garlic to one side of the pan.

On the empty half of the pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the eggs on that side of the pan. Then cover the eggs and spinach. The egg only needs 1 or 2 minutes to cook when covered. The eggs can be prepared sunny side up, over easy or you can even poach the eggs in a separate pot. Just before removing the eggs, squeeze 1/2 of a lemon over the spinach and tomatoes.

Serve the eggs either to the side or over a bed of spinach and tomatoes.  I like to add a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce to the top of the eggs.  I learned this from my parents growing up and have always eaten my fried eggs with Worcestershire sauce.  Give it a try.  It’s delicious.

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