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.

Briley’s Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli, Peas, Mushrooms, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

What do you do when a 15 year old requests Fettuccine Alfredo for his birthday dinner?  First you cringe a little because this pasta with cream and butter has virtually no nutritional value and is truly bland in flavor.  Then you remember that even the Hungry Athlete loved Alfredo sauce when she was a kid.  With Halloween around the corner, looks like the Hungry Athlete had to use a little witch craft to create a healthier version of a teen’s favorite meal.  To ensure Briley’s birthday dinner would be a big treat, I had a couple tricks up my sleeve.

The first trick was to sneak in vegetables (muhahahaha).  I loaded the pasta with four vegetables which have some of the best sources of vegetable protein: peas, broccoli, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms.  In the version I made on Briley’s birthday, I confess to using a sleight of hand to hide the vegetables.  I simply diced the vegetables into the size of peas.  Now that my secret is out, the final recipe calls for larger bits of broccoli, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.  This makes the pasta more pleasing, both visually and texturally.

The final trick is to turn the heavy cream into a disappearing act.  Typical American Fettuccine Alfredo is made with 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano, along with a pinch of nutmeg.  I understand that the original and authentic Italian Alfredo sauce is made of only three ingredients: fettuccine, 2 sticks of butter (wow) and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Either way, that’s a lot of cream or butter.  So instead of all the heavy cream, I threw into the cauldron some magic: Neufchatel.  No I didn’t sneeze and my cauldron was actually a large All-Clad saute pan.

Named after a town in Normandy, Neufchatel is one of the oldest of French cheeses and typically produced in the shape of a heart.  According to cheese folklore, American cream cheese was created when an American dairyman added cream to the recipe for Neufchatel.  Real French Neufchatel is made with raw cow’s milk. American Neufchatel is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and cream.  American Neufchatel has about 33% less fat than cream cheese and is sometimes called farmer’s cheese. Creamy and slightly tangy, it tastes a lot like cream cheese and a lot better than heavy cream.  It is found next to the cream cheese in the grocery store.

Neufchatel and Parmigiano-Reggiano combine with milk into a creamy Alfredo sauce.
Neufchatel and Parmigiano-Reggiano combine with milk into a creamy Alfredo sauce.

Here’s how Neufchatel compares:

  • 2 tablespoons Neufchatel is about 70 calories and 6 g of fat
  • 2 tablespoons butter is about 240 calories and 24 g of fat
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream is about 200 calories and 10 g of fat of which 7 g is unsaturated fat

I was afraid of disappointing a teenager on his birthday and tested a version with a couple tablespoons of cream, a version with whole milk and a third version with low-fat milk. I found the milk versions to be creamy, rich and delicious. Happy birthday Briley! This sauce was created just for you, to keep you healthy and to fuel your workouts.  May you continue to run those trails fast and strong for years to come.

If you prefer a non-vegetarian version, chicken, poached in a pan, adds more protein and accompanies the pasta nicely.  Check out this website for a foolproof, easy and fast way to prepare chicken for pasta and salads:

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of your favorite pasta* (I prefer fettuccine or penne)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup chopped white mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced (or grated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons Neufchatel* cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup whole or low-fat milk (I prefer organic whole milk**)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped defrosted frozen broccoli
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes***
  • salt (You probably won’t need this. Any additional salt due to the saltiness of pasta water, the sundried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.)

*Note: 8 ounces of uncooked long pasta shapes = 1 1/2-inch diameter bunch = 4 cups cooked pasta

**Note: Non-fat or reduced fat milk requires additional processing to remove the fat and then to put the 1% or 2% fat back.  I prefer less processed foods.  Your taste buds can easily be adjusted from non or low fat to whole milk.

***Note:  Sun-dried tomatoes in oil can be used however I prefer to use sun-dried tomatoes not in oil.  These has a longer shelf life however need to be soaked in water for about 30 minutes before chopping and cooking.

Directions:

Timing is everything in this dish.  As soon as the pasta is cooked it should be transferred directly to the pan with the Alfredo sauce.  The ensure good timing, prepare all of the ingredients in advance then start cooking the pasta.

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If you are using dry pasta, allow 5 minutes to prepare the Alfredo sauce.  If you are using fresh pasta, have a pot of water boiling and ready for the pasta and toss in the pasta just before you finish making the Alfredo sauce.

To make the sauce, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté the mushrooms for a couple minutes, then remove from pan and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the same pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest.  Stir for 1 minute.

Lower the heat and whisk in the Neufchatel, Parmigiano-Regiano and lemon juice until cheese is melted and smooth.  Whisk in milk for 1 minute.  Whisk in fresh nutmeg for another minute.

As soon as the pasta is cooked al dente, place it into the pan and coat the pasta with the Alfredo sauce over medium heat.

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Fettuccine is the traditional pasta used with Alfredo sauce. Here I used penne pasta.

Toss in mushrooms, broccoli, peas, sun dried tomatoes and half the parsley.

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Serve immediately with remaining parsley garnished on top.

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Mango Salsa

Mangoes are one of my favorite fruits. I’ve been patiently waiting for mangoes to be in season. There are six different types of mangoes and each are in season during different months during the year:

  • Ataulfo
  • Francis
  • Haden
  • Keitt
  • Kent
  • Tommy Atkins

Right now, the Kent mangos are in season (January through March) and the season has just started for Ataulfo mangoes (March through July).

Mangoes are rich in vitamins C and A, potassium and fiber, and also contain a small amount of vitamin B-6, magnesium, iron and calcium. Mangoes contain the nutrient, beta-carotene and the antioxidant zeaxanthin, which filters out harmful blue light rays and is thought to protect against macular degeneration of the eye.

This sweet fruit is versatile; it can be enjoyed in desserts and in savory dishes. The key to enjoying a mango is knowing when it’s ripe. Those who are patient and allow the mango to sit on the counter at room temperature for 2 – 4 days to ripen are rewarded with tender, juicy and sweet flesh. Those who prematurely bite into an unripe mango may find it unpleasantly stringy and sour.

Here are some tips on how to pick a good mango: http://www.wikihow.com/Pick-a-Good-Mango

Now that you’ve picked a good mango, here’s how to cut it: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cut_a_mango/

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup English cucumber, diced
  • 1 small Jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely copped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In a bowl, combine only half of the Jalapeno pepper with all of the ingredients. Taste and add more of the Jalapeno pepper based on taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Serve with chips or as a condiment over Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa or Vegetarian Tofu Tacos with Mango Salsa.

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Vegetarian Tofu Tacos with Mango Salsa

Crispy, full of flavor and a fun meal to eat, you will not miss the fish in this Vegetarian Tofu Tacos with Mango Salsa.

Coating the tofu with panko bread crumbs then pan frying them in oil yields a crunchy exterior and a tender interior. Layer the tofu with Mango Salsa and Purple Cabbage and Carrot Slaw which can be prepared in advance.

Serving size: 4 (2-3 tacos per person)

Ingredients:

Pan Fried Tofu

  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • Flour or corn tortilla

Purple Cabbage and Carrot Slaw

  • 2 cups of finely shredded purple or red cabbage
  • 1 cup of shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Directions:

Prepare the Mango Salsa.  This can be prepared the day before.

Prepare the Purple Cabbage and Carrot Slaw by whisking together the lime juice, vegetable oil, salt and sugar. Toss in the cabbage and shredded carrots. Set aside.

Place the tofu in a sieve and pour boiling hot water over it. This will help draw out moisture. Dry out tofu by placing them in between paper towels and sandwiched in between two plates.   Weigh the plate down with a 28 ounce can or something of similar weight for at least 15 minutes.

In a shallow dish, combine the panko bread crumbs with cayenne pepper. Place the corn starch and lightly beaten egg, each in its own separate shallow dish.

After the moisture is drawn out of the tofu, cut the tofu into 4 x 1 inch pieces then season with salt and pepper.

Coat the tofu with the corn starch, then dip it in the egg and then coat it with the panko bread crumbs.

Over medium high heat, heat enough vegetable oil to coat a non-stick frying pan. Test the oil temperature by dropping in a piece of the panko bread crumbs. The oil should bubble around the bread crumbs and start turning it brown. If the oil smokes, the pan is too hot.

Fry the tofu until golden brown on each side. Drain on a paper towel.

Warm the tortilla in a hot pan for a couple minutes on each side until warm. Assemble the taco by placing some slaw in the middle of the tortilla. Next add a couple pieces of the tofu and top with the Mango Salsa. Serve with a couple extra slices of lime, hot sauce and a side of my Sweet Potato, Bean and Corn Hash.

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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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