Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mad genius

UPDATED: I just realized I left out an important ingredient for the Apple Walnut bar recipe. On the off chance that you rushed to the kitchen to make these and they ended up tasting gross or at best incredibly boring, it's because of this oversight. Sorry about that. I amended the recipe below.

I've come a long way since my initial foray into making my own energy bars. I think I've got a good handle on the process. Full disclosure: Hannah rarely eats any of them now, but I think that's a learned response from a couple not-so-good batches early on.

While I started by using recipes from Brendan Brazier's Thrive, I've deviated far enough that I feel fine sharing my current iterations on my blog. I've gone the Lara Bar route and have really pared down the ingredients. That makes for a smaller margin of error and -- I think -- a better taste.

Also inspired by Lara Bar, I just made a coffee-based bar, which is probably the single greatest-tasting thing I've ever created. I'll explain how I made that batch as well as one of my easy standards.

What you'll need:
- Food processor
- Flat surface (you can probably use your floor if it's clean enough... or a cutting board, whatever)
- Rolling pin
- Plastic wrap
- Knife
- Common sense

Apple Walnut
- 1 cup dates (You can use fresh dates, but I've found dried dates work better. Use the highest quality dates you can find. Buy them from the produce aisle, not the ones from the middle of the store.)
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 small apple, cored and peeled (I usually start with half the apple and depending on how dry everything is, add additional chunks of the apple as needed)
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed (I don't think this is essential, but since I'm still working my way through the package, I continue to use it.)
- 1 tbsp hemp protein (Like the flaxseed, this probably isn't essential, but it was expensive and I have half a container left, so I continue to use it. I don't recommend whey protein though; I've had bad experiences experimenting with that.)
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon

1) Add everything to the food processor and let it do its thing. Process longer for a smoother bar or shorter for more chunky.
2) Dump it all out on a cutting board (or your clean floor).
3) Form it into a flat brick, about an inch thick. This is where the rolling pin and plastic wrap come in. I don't even use the rolling pin anymore; I just cover the mass with plastic wrap and form it by hand. When you're done, you should have a long, flat sheet, about an inch thick and about three inches wide.
4) Cut it into bars. Everything may be moist and sticky. If really moist (that is, gooey), I'll put the bars on a baking sheet or wire rack and add them to the oven set really low (between 170 and 200 degrees). Then I let them dehydrate. I imagine a dehydrator would work just as well.
5) When everything's all done, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer so they'll firm up even more and so they'll keep longer. You can probably leave them in a cupboard or in the fridge, but remember that cut fruit and room temperature don't go so well together for very long.

And now, the best thing ever:
Dark Chocolate Mocha
I think "mocha" actually means the combination of chocolate and coffee, so that name is probably redundantly redundant. How about Mocha Hazelnut?

And now, the best thing ever:
Dark Chocolate Mocha
Mocha Hazelnut
- 1 cup dates
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup (or less, I eyeball it) almonds
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed (Definitely not necessary, but I had it out on the counter.)
- 1 tsp ground coffee (Use good stuff, not Folgers. I used the "San Angelo Blend" from Eggemeyers that we've had in our fridge for a few months.)
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup soft dark chocolate (I don't know the technical term for this. Basically, since I had no wet ingredients except for the dates, I slowly heated dark chocolate chips until they began to melt. I also tossed in some remaining raw carob chips I had in the cupboard.)

Follow all the steps from the Apple Walnut recipe, except start by processing the dates and all the dry ingredients, then gradually add the soft chocolate so it mixes evenly. Once mixed together, you can form it into bars as noted above.

So there you go. There are a couple other recipes I've played around with, the most successful of which is Ginger Pear. I'll write about another day when I get it closer in quality to the two from this post. I also recently gave one of Brendan Brazier's energy gel recipes a go. I'll share that debacle another day. I can't think of a more appropriate word to define "gel" than "chewy."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Swim Game #2 and Back to School (three weeks ago, but whatever)

The Endurance Corner crew is running another swim game. It's a little different than last time and I won't be swimming every day for the next two weeks, so there won't be regular boring updates with my daily workouts. Instead, there will be periodic boring updates. I'll get to the last two days down below.

More importantly, I guess it's worth writing about the fact that I took a major turn in my life recently: I left my good job at a good company to go back to school to become a nurse. There are a lot of reasons, but the shortest is that I didn't want to spend more time sitting behind a desk doing something I was very good at, but didn't find particularly enjoyable. The work was challenging and the people were great, but that's not enough for fulfillment. Assuming all goes according to plan, I'll have my BSN in a couple years.

I almost wore this shirt to my first day of classes: It wasn't deliberate; it was just at the top of the drawer. I had a pause and realized that might be too obvious.

And I'm not the oldest in all my classes -- just the ones Texas requires that Pennsylvania doesn't.

People keep asking me if it's weird trying to remember how I used to study. I'm lucky in that I have completely forgotten what I used to do. I was a horrible studier, so it's better to start off fresh. That means I actually take notes and read the textbook now.

On to the swimming:
This time I won't be going camp crazy trying to chase down the most volume. That's mainly because I'm just laying the swim game over what I (should be) doing in training right now if there was no camp. Not trying for the "win" because I'm working on my run/bike at the same time is also incredibly convenient since I'm nowhere near the swim fitness I had in November. If I'm not in the top bunch, I have my excuse all prepared: "Well, you see, I wasn't really trying" (just ignore the fact that had I been "trying," the results would be the same).

So what did I do in the pool yesterday and today?

Monday - 5500m as:
- 1000m mixed WU
- 2000m time trial (splits at each 400m: 6:18. 6:15, 6:20, 6:11, 5:55).
With the masters group:
- 400 easy
- 6x50 kick
- 2x (4x50, 2x75, 1x100)
- 6x (2x50, 2x25)
cool down

Today - 3300m:
- 250 WU (including 1x25m no breathing for bonus)
- 3000m straight (alternate 100IM, 150 free)
- 50 easy