Ah Valentine’s Day … the most grandiose of Hallmark holidays. While I don’t need Hallmark to tell me when to be romantic, it’s still a good excuse to flirt and eat chocolate.
How will this Hungry Athlete celebrate Valentine’s Day? Well, by supporting her boy, Rama at his first 100K trail race of course! Around the same time many couples will be gazing at each other over a romantic dinner, Rama and I will be scantily clad and engaging in a sweaty one on one moment. I’ll be pacing him, I mean chasing him, for about 10 miles, to the finish line. While this day will be all about Rama, it will still be a romantic treat for me to be able to support him and see him at the finish line.
Back to the flirting and chocolates. Although Rama will need to stick to a race day diet, I will have a few surprises up my sleeves.
Ta da! Here are the fun treats I’ll have waiting for him at the aid stations. I made the tags myself but found templates for the tags here:
But unless you are spending February 14th at an ultramarathon, you are probably looking for something a little more exciting to give to your Valentine.
Here are some decadent but healthy treats that your Valentine will find extra sweet because it’s hand made by you. These Dark Chocolate Covered Fruits and Nuts are so easy to make and are a better alternative to those sugary candy conversation hearts.
Use your favorite fresh or dried fruits and roasted nuts. I like to sprinkle a little flake salt on top of the chocolate before it hardens. Here are some of my favorites:
Dried banana chips
Pomegranate arils (seeds)
Assorted roasted nuts
Dried fruit (cranberries and apricots)
Chocolate chips (I prefer dark chocolate 60-70% cacao)
Melt the chocolate chips over a bowl set over bowling water or in a microwave. I dipped the fruit in the chocolate and placed them on parchment paper. Refrigerate for 3-5 minutes to harden.
If it weren’t for his race, we’d probably be at home making Valentine’s Day dinner together. Here are some ideas for a Valentine’s dinner at home.
The alluring pink scoops of my Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt may win the heart of your Valentine. This light and refreshing dessert is easy to prepare, naturally sweet and contains only four ingredients.
The key to a simple and delicious recipe is to use good quality fresh ingredients. I happen to have lots of fresh strawberries from the Carralitos Farmers Market given to me by an ultra runner friend who came over last weekend to watch the Super Bowl. Knowing I would not be able to consume all those fresh strawberries before they perished, I decided to freeze most of them. Since my friend ran a 100K the day before delivering the strawberries, I felt it was only appropriate to use them to make something special and healthy.
Serving size: 6-8
Tools: Food processor or blender and ice cream maker
Note: Standard supermarket lemons may be substituted however I recommend using Meyer lemons if you can find them. Meyer lemons are sweeter which helps to cut the tartness of the yogurt. Otherwise, you may want to add more honey when using other varieties of lemons.
Freeze the ice cream container according to instructions.
In a food processor or blender, puree the frozen strawberries. Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and honey. Continue to process or blend the strawberry mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Taste the yogurt. If you find it too tart, you can add more honey or lemon.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and use as instructed. It should take only 15 minutes or less for the yogurt to start to freeze up.
Transfer into freezer container and freeze for at least 1 hour. Scoop out and add a fresh sprig of mint if you like. Alternatively, this Strawberry Lemon Yogurt can be poured into popsicle molds and enjoyed frozen on a stick.
Two physicians inspired this recipe. One is my father, a retired pediatrician, who taught me how to live a healthy life by learning how to love eating delicious, healthy foods and learning how to enjoy physical activity through the love of sports. Dad was also in love with chocolate mousse. My father spent many years trying to perfect his chocolate mousse recipe. The other inspiration came from a friend of mine who made me aware of the health benefits of cinnamon. He also loves dark chocolate and has been known to enjoy licking a bowl of chocolate batter.
While the lab results are mixed, some research has found that cinnamon, may reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects, fight bacteria and may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. For more information on cinnamon, check out this article:
This healthy chocolate dessert has a surprise ingredient. Trust me. You won’t be able to tell what it is when you eat this chocolate mousse, but read on. You’ll quickly figure out what the surprise is.
Serving size: 6
11.5 oz. good quality dark chocolate chips (The Hungry Athlete prefers dark chocolate but semisweet chocolate chips maybe substituted)
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large, ripe Bacon avocado*, pitted and peeled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract*
3 tablespoon agave syrup*
pinch of salt
6 egg whites**
½ teaspoon lemon
6 strawberries for garnish
* NOTE: I used Bacon avocado because it has a mild flavor but a Haas avocado can be substituted. In addition, if you are on a gluten-free diet, ensure that the ingredients you are using are gluten-free.
** NOTE: If you have concerns using raw eggs, which can carry salmonella, use pasteurized egg whites which are available in supermarkets. Make sure the label states that it is pasteurized. Pasteurized egg whites may require more time to whip. Adding lemon juice (an acid) will help the pasteurized egg whites to whip up. I personally enjoy many recipes using raw or undercooked eggs such as eggs sunny side up, soft poached eggs, holladaise sauce, meringues and Caesar salad.
Melt the chocolate with the cinnamon in a double boiler over hot water and set aside.
Purée the avocado in a food processor until smooth. Add vanilla extract, agave syrup and salt and continue to puree until combined.
With the machine running, pour in the chocolate mixture. The easiest way to do this is to transfer the chocolate mixture to a measuring cup first and then pour the chocolate mixture from the measuring cup.
Using a stand mixer or whisk, beat the egg whites until they begin to form soft peaks. Add the lemon juice and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites.
Pour the mousse into 6 small serving bowls, juice cups or wineglasses and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or covered with plastic wrap overnight. Garnish with strawberries.
I was about 10 years old when I cooked my first meal. I was inspired after watching Julia Child who mesmerized me with her casual presence. The pitch of her voice jumped around all over the place while she educated me on the fine art of French cuisine. At first I thought I was only lured by the anticipation of the tasty end product. Then I realized that I enjoyed the entire process. Whether learning about the ingredients, understanding the techniques or experimenting with flavors, I was captivated by it all.
After watching Julia prepare the perfect French omelet, I gathered up a couple eggs., salt and pepper. Unfortunately, that would be all of the proper ingredients that were available in our house. I was a determined and resourceful 10 year old and knew milk and butter should make a nice replacement. I remember climbing onto the counter and found green sugar sprinkles used for decorating Christmas cookies. It wasn’t exactly parsley, but I had to have something green to sprinkle onto to omelet, just like Julia had done. Ok, it was actually scrambled eggs with green sugar but I proudly placed my plate at the dining table. My mom looked at my dad and asked, “Is that going to make her sick?” Dad, a pediatrician, assured my mother that I’d survive my meal. I honestly don’t remember what it tasted like, but it boosted my confidence in the kitchen. I cooked my first meal!
What I learned from the experience is that it’s ok to take a short cut as long as you enjoy the end result. Here’s my slightly healthier and easier to prepare Boeuf Bourguignon that can be easily frozen for a fast and delicious meal during the week. My apologies to Julia and French food enthusiasts if I’ve offended you, but this turned out pretty tasty and with a lot less fuss.
NOTE: There are 3 different recipes here so make sure you read it all to get the complete ingredient shopping list.
6 strips of bacon (get over it, it’s only a small amount of bacon in a big pot)
9-10 in enamel casserole pot
3 pounds lean stewing beef cut into 2 inch cubes
4 carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups of Chianti
1 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 cups of beef stock
3 cloves mashed garlic
½ teaspoons thyme leaves
1 crumbled bay leaf
18-24 oignons glaces a bruns (braised small white onions – see recipe below for ingredients)
1 pound champignons sauté san beurre (quartered sautéed mushrooms – see recipe below for ingredients)
parsley springs (optional)
Preheat over 450F. Cut bacon into small cubes and cook in enamel pot until a little crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and place on top of a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Discard excess fat. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the casserole and heat. In small batches, brown meat on all 4 sides in hot oil, being careful not to crowd the meat as it will steam instead of sear. Remove browned meat and set aside. Add sliced carrots and onion to casserole and brown.
Sprinkle flour over meat and toss. Meat should be evenly coated with flour. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the casserole and place uncovered in oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to over for 4 additional minutes. The purpose of this step is to brown the flour and cover the meat with a light crust. Remove pot and turn oven down to 325F.
In a measuring cup or bowl, add wine, tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Stir to dilute the paste then add to meat in casserole. Add enough beef stock to just barely cover the meat. Stir in the bacon. Bring to stew to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and return to oven for 2.5 -3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
Skim off any excess fat. This is easier to do after refrigerating the stew. The fat will rise to the top and solidify.
Just before serving, add the mushrooms and onions prepared separately. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. I like to serve this with roasted fingerling potatoes , parsnips and butternut squash.
Beouf bourgignon freezes nicely and heats up well on the stove top or microwave.
CHAMPIGNONS SAUTE SANS BEURRE (mushrooms sautéed without butter)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms sliced or quartered
salt & pepper
Heat up oil and add mushrooms, tossing until brown about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and set aside.
OIGNONS GLACES A BRUN (brown braised onions )
18-24 frozen peeled small white onions, or fresh peeled (TIP: drop fresh unpeeled onions in a pot of boiling hot water for a couple seconds to make removing the skin easier)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Remaining chiati from bottle and add enough beef stock for a total of ½ cup of liquid
salt & pepper
I have a hard time finding fresh small white onions. When I do, I find it’s very time consuming to peal each onion. Dropping the onions for a minute in boiling hot water helps the peal to come off easily, but I find that frozen, peeled small onions works well too.
Add oil to pan and heat. Once the oil is hot, drop the onions into pan and brown. Turn carefully so you don’t break the skin . Try to get them evenly browned but this will be difficult to attain.
After the onion has browned, pour in wine and beef stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes. The onions should be tender but retain their shape and the liquid should be evaporated.