Cilantro Pesto and Caramelized Onion Pizza

It’s 52 degrees tonight! But it’s headed up to 90 this weekend, so it’s time to heat up the oven and make pizza while we can.

cilantro pesto caramelized onion pizza

The sauce is a Cilantro Pesto. It’s not just good on pizza, it’s great on black bean quesadillas, taco salads, sandwiches, and as a dip for jicama. All measurements are approximate, as long as you stick to the basic cilantro-cumin-onion-lime plan.

Basic Cilantro Pesto

1/4 of a white onion, cut into large chunks
1 clove garlic
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves (trim ends of stems)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Combine white onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, lime juice, cumin and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil.

The Crust
My favorite pizza crust recipe
is from Fogazzo, a wood-fired over manufacturer. I don’t refrigerate my dough as the recipe indicates, I just leave it in a warm place for about 40 minutes, punch it down, then divide into 4 balls, and let rise for about an hour more. You can use King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour to add some fiber, and throw in garlic powder or other spices. This time I went with coarse black pepper and oregano. The above recipe makes four 12-inch thin crust pizzas. I bake them on a stone at 450 degrees.

The Onions
So simple: just slice a white onion (Vidalia would work too) into strips and sauté in a bit of Earth Balance until nicely caramelized. I like to slice my strips from the top of the onion to the bottom, rather than cutting the onion into rings. I think the onions turn out less “stringy” after they’re cooked. Salt and pepper to taste.

I also sprinkled about 2 tsp of nutritional yeast on top for a little cheesy flavor.

So long, final days of spring.

A-Pie-Calypse

The rapture did not begin on May 21, but the world’s reaction to it was quite amusing, thanks mostly to hilarious posts on Twitter. What better way to celebrate supposed-end-of-the-world craziness than to bake pies?

A-Pie-Calypse! Now!

Hellfire-Toasted Coconut CreamI call this one Hellfire-Toasted Coconut Cream. It’s the Veganomicon recipe, “Lost Coconut Custard Pie”. I ended up with a little “bonus custard” to sample before cutting into this beauty, and WOW… delicious! Recipe alterations include using So Delicious vanilla coconut milk instead of rice milk, sweetened coconut (couldn’t find unsweetened), and lime juice – which offered a hint of tropical tang.

Fresh Strawberry Blackberry

The Fresh Strawberry Blackberry pie was supposed to contain rhubarb, but my child refuses to eat rhubarb, and making a pie that only I will eat seems like a bad idea. I like this glaze. It’s simply fresh strawberries, pureed in a food processor, then simmered with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch until thickened. The recipe said to cook until transparent, but I think the food processor introduced too much air into the mixture. I also needed more glaze to completely fill the 9-inch pie shell. This made a delicious breakfast. It’s better than a Pop-Tart.

The ability to make pastry that’s not rock-hard still eludes me. Apparently this gene was not passed down from my mom, who makes the best pies in the world. One of these days, I’ll get it right. I guess we all have an achilles heel.

Mashing Words: Restrictive USDA School Lunch, WIC Guidelines for White Potatoes

Here come the tater-haters.

Last year, USDA guidelines banned white potatoes from purchase with Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program benefits. Now additional guidelines seek to totally eliminate white potatoes from school breakfast programs, and severely limit servings of white potatoes and other “starchy vegetables” in school lunch programs.

From the proposed USDA guidelines: “A maximum of 1 cup of starchy vegetables may be served per week. Starchy vegetables include white potatoes, corn, green peas, and lima beans.”

“A basic premise of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met primarily by consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods from the basic food groups.” (Reference: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/regulations/2011-01-13.pdf, pg. 2495, section III. )

The guidelines were developed under the premise that by removing servings of potatoes and so-called “starchy vegetables”, schools could serve more green vegetables and other “nutrient-dense foods”. But the reality is that, while we’re spending time banning and limiting whole, natural foods, we are still feeding kids plenty of processed, food-like substances like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, Pop-Tarts, and margarine. Do we really expect a side-dish crackdown directed at a natural food to make a dent in this epidemic?

Smiles potato things, or something
Just look at that greasy grin.

If the USDA wants variety, shouldn’t the potato have a place? Potatoes are rich in nutrients like vitamin C. In fact, one potato contains more vitamin C than an entire head of iceberg lettuce. Shouldn’t we look at how often potatoes are served — and the ways in which they’re adulterated before they reach our plates? (See shaped and formed potato-like substance, right.) There are certainly other starchy carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, and wild or brown rice that supply energy, fiber, and nutrients, and are more nutritionally-rounded than the white potato. But do schools serve them? Can they afford them?

Perhaps is would be more productive for the USDA to classify the white potato as a starch, and specify that it be served alternately (not in addition to) other starches such as rice or bread. This would accomplish what they say is their goal: to make more room on our children’s plates for a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits. This is the right direction.

This singular starch ban fails to address a basic premise behind the problem of obesity: if you’re not looking at the diet as a whole, you’re missing the big picture. Japanese people, for example, consume large quantities of starchy white rice. Yet their rates of obesity are 3.2% versus the U.S. rate of 30.6% – we’re number one, and Japan is number 28. (Source: NationMaster.com.)

So let’s give the potato its place. I’ve prepared (and packed in lunches) many healthy, filling meals with a baked potato as a base – topping them with chili, salsa and black beans, broccoli, or fajita vegetables. I don’t eat them every day, and I don’t choose the most enormous potatoes in the store. I moderate my own variety, and I’m sure our schools can do the same.

 

Bike to Work Day Awesomeness

Thanks to my friend Dana who loaned me her old hybrid bike, I was able to participate in the annual Bike to Work Day. I haven’t been on a bike in at least five years, but I LOVE IT! The round trip is about 13 miles, with some great paved trails and nice neighborhoods. If I didn’t have to climb a highway overpass right out of our subdivision, this would be pretty much perfect.

How can you not start your day right with these spectacular early-morning vistas?

beautiful trails

trail with river crossingThe stream crossing was a little muddy in the picture above. One other crossing was underwater. Not wanting to get my borrowed “oxen” wet, I elected not to ford it.

Illinois Half Marathon 2011

at the finish line of the Illinois Half MarathonWhat a great day! Even with a cold, missing GUs, forgetting my special playlist, nearly missing the start due to traffic and porta-potty lines, and 25 mph winds… I did it!

Official time: 2:34:44, an improvement of about 25 minutes over last year. Yay!

I started out slow, on a slight downhill. The spectators were great and I felt very relaxed. My conservative pace was rewarded, as I was far enough back to see the leader of the full marathon, Jose Muñoz, loop around back to Green Street behind the pace car. He looked amazing, and he won the race. Anywhere from mid-pack back is a big, fun, sweaty party.

Favorite signs/cheers:

  • You do the running, we’ll do the drinking!
  • Run, Bitches!
  • Girl’s sign: “Don’t stop.” Guy’s sign: “That’s what she said.”
  • “It’s all downhill from here!”
  • 6.5 miles to beer

A guy just ahead of me stole Elvis’ sunglasses near the local strip joint, then taunted him to come after him. Ha! (Yes, the course goes past a strip club, yay.) I was passed a lot in the first miles, but at least I could read the back of their shirts. It seemed like many of the people with super-tough stuff written on their shirts were walking later in the race, or being passed. I didn’t have a witty shirt, but I did have a good strategy.

However, despite planning, the unexpected happens. I still have trouble drinking from cups on the run, so I walked some of the later aid stations. I felt good even on “hills” around Stone Creek (with headwind!), but I was really looking forward to the GU at mile 6.5… and then I missed it! I think I was too busy waving at my parents on the other side of the road. (Note to self: bad parent placement.) I looked down to see… empty packets. Ugh! Thanks to passing some friends, I made it through the next mile, but then started feeling “wobbly” as I approached the sunny park trail section of the course. I was running out of fuel, and felt weird enough to contemplate picking up half-finished GU packets, jelly bean packets, etc. When my legs started feeling wobbly, I knew I needed something right away. Thankfully, a volunteer at the medical tent handed me a bottle of Gatorade, and it brought me back. The take-home lesson: always carry an extra GU or something else for energy!

From the park, I just kept going. I remembered how sunny, hot and humid it was last year, how difficult it felt, and how much I walked. I felt good, and wanted to enjoy the experience. I ran up “hills” to get through them quickly, played the “just run until insert point here” game, and ended up running it to the end. My faster miles were toward the end, which is how I usually run. I even kicked it up around the stadium in the last half mile and finished strong.

Feel it, fight it, finish it! I can’t wait for next year. Oh wait, I won’t have to, because I signed up for the Chicago Half Marathon on the day I turn 35. Take that, mid-thirties!