Time Flies when It's Summer

Summer weeks come and go so quickly! Here I am, almost three weeks without a blog post. Oops.

Am I the only one who feels like summer is almost as busy as the holiday season in November and December? The only difference is that dressing for the weather involves a tank top and shorts instead of three layers and a coat.

Amidst all the barbeques, retreats and parties, trying to find time to squeeze in marathon training is no small feat. Long runs the morning of a workday are especially challenging. Arriving at work after running 17 or so miles, my joints aching and endorphins rushing, I undergo another type of endurance test: making it through 8 hours of work when by body is utterly exhausted. On the flip side, I feel slightly like Clark Kent meets Eric Liddell.

Needless to say, this week marathon training has kept me busy. I ran more than 30 miles total. But over the past week I have made time to bake and cook some tasty dishes. I’m writing about one healthy dish and one not-so-healthy but oh-so-delicious dessert.

Quinoa Tabbouleh
Adapted from a variety of sources

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
¼ cup onions
2 bright red tomatoes
½ cup chopped parsley (or cilantro or mint)
2 cups chopped cucumber
2 to 4 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (or vinegar)
2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
lots of fresh ground sea salt and pepper

Rinse quinoa thoroughly. Bring 2 cups of salted water to boil, add quinoa. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain away any excess water. Let quinoa cool to room temperature. Chop tomatoes, cucumber and onion into ½ inch pieces. Chop parsley, removing stems. Mix all vegetable ingredients into quinoa mixture. In a separate bowl, mix the lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil with salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir a few times to mix dressing into the dish. Let marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. May be served cold or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8 as a side.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with a Cornmeal Crust

Cornmeal Crust
8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup brown sugar
½ whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
pinch of salt

Lemon Filling
2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon

Blueberry Topping
2 cups blueberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
splash of port wine

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350F. Wrap the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent burning.

Mix butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, cornmeal and salt. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool while preparing the cheese filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.

The lemon filling: It is crucial that all of the cheeses be at room temperature. This took much longer than I thought it would, so allow for extra time. Everything I’ve read says that having them at room temp allows for creating a very smooth mixture.

Combine the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed with the paddle attachment until smooth and a little fluffy. Add eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice, mix until incorporated. Check the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment for lemon zest that isn’t mixed well. I ended up mixing it briefly by hand with a spoon after using the stand mixer to make sure nothing stuck to the sides. Next, spread the filling over the prepared crust.

Bake until the cake is giggly, but set, about 1 hour. If the inside looks a little “mushy” but the outside is pretty set, then it’s fine to take the cake out. Remove from oven. Lightly loosen the edges of the cheesecake from the sides of the pan to prevent cracking as the cake cools. Let it cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate about 6 hours before serving.

Blueberry topping: In a small saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, water, cornstarch and lemon juice. Heat on medium-high until bubbling, then reduce heat, and simmer while stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add a splash of port wine, continuing to stir occasionally, and let simmer for about 2 to 5 minutes. The sauce is done when it is thick and fragrant. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve: Gently run a knife around the edges, and then remove the side pan. Place the cheesecake on a serving platter, cover with the blueberry sauce. To cut the cheesecake I recommend using either dental floss or a hot, dry knife.

Serves 8 to 12, depending on how you slice it.


Morning Routine

There was a time in my life when I thought waking up early in the morning was the worst thing that could happen to me. The alarm would go off, and I think I would hit snooze about an average of 4 or 5 times. It was almost like a sport of some kind, me versus the alarm. Who would win that day? I swear my college roommates would avoid me like the plague until I’d had at least two cups of coffee. And I’ll be honest, I totally wouldn’t blame them.

The last few months, something has been changing in me. I look forward to early mornings. I’d love to know why, but maybe it will only make sense with time. For now, I’m left with loving the sunrise, cool morning air, taking time eating breakfast with my husband, and my feet hitting the pavement before anyone else in my neighborhood during my run.

One of the best parts of mornings is the “carpe diem” thing. I wish that phrase was not cliché, because it truly is meaningful and something that is needed today. It’s somewhat of a mystery to me why and how seizing the day is different at 6 a.m. than 9 or 10 a.m., but for me there is a huge difference. Just like money, time seems to be something that is fluid and difficult to manage. It gets away from you so quickly!

Recently I’ve been thinking about the importance of having daily rhythms in my life. There’s even a book on my summer reading list that discusses how daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms to our lives are not just needed, but sacred. I’m hoping that this new morning routine will be a part of the rhythms of my life, including how I spend my time on those mornings.

In addition to running, prayer and spending time with my husband, I have an informal routine with what I eat. Just about every day I eat oatmeal for breakfast. Now before you jump the gun and think this sounds boring, let me just say that there are so many different options with oatmeal. There are steel-cut oats for a heartier, more “whole food” option. Then there are thick rolled oats, and instant oats for those days when I’m running late. I add everything from fresh berries, to honey or brown sugar, to walnuts or flax seeds, with cream or milk, and even sometimes I add peanut butter or chocolate chips. I realized all of my oatmeal options one time while visiting Sustainable Faith in Cincinnati, where they serve oatmeal in the mornings for retreaters with tons of amazing mix-ins.

This past week, after a 6-mile tempo run, I came home totally exhausted and had baked oatmeal. I’ve seen recipes for it before, but never tried baking it myself. In addition to how easy it was to make, this stuff was delicious for breakfast. And depending on how much fruit you add, it could almost be a breakfast cobbler of sorts. And who doesn’t need an excuse to have dessert for breakfast? Next time I think I might double the portion of berries, or try with mushed bananas.

I prepared the dry and wet ingredients the night before. Then I mixed them right when I got back from my run and popped it in the oven. It was so easy and tasted amazing after a run. 

Baked Apple Blueberry Oatmeal
Adapted from Simply in Season

2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons ground flax seed (or chopped walnuts, almonds or pecans)

1 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped apples
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg (beaten)

Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. If preparing the night before, cover and put in refrigerator. When ready to prepare the next morning, combine two mixtures and stir until well incorporated. Lightly butter the bottom on an 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350F for 25 minutes. Serve warm with milk.

Makes about 3 or 4 servings.