Cramping Cured by Chocolate—and banana

As I lay down after another tough crossfit workout, that all-too familiar cramping begins from my feet slowly creeping up to my calves. Now what? Reaching for a banana may not help you in this very moment, but it may certainly serve to prevent cramping if incorporated as part of your regular diet.

The banana’s sweet secret? Potassium.

Key Potassium Facts
Required daily intake: 4,700 milligrams (1 banana contains approximately 420 milligrams, or 10% of your daily intake)
Claim to Fame: this vitamin helps process and utilize carbohydrates; it is both an essential vitamin and electrolyte
Other Sources of Potassium: potatoes, oranges, spinach, tomatoes and avocadoes

Bananas curing muscle cramps is not a new concept/fad/treatment—however this tried and true treatment could use a little facelift—after all, while bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the US, according to the Centers of Disease Control, finding new and inventive ways to satisfy your daily potassium requirements can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are a few ideas…

Green Monster Chicken Sandwich
Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Chicken Sandwich Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
½ cup green pepper, dicedAvocado Mayo 1
3 tablespoons chives, finely diced
1 cup avocado mayo (see recipe below)
¼ cup pickles, diced (optional)

Avocado Mayo Ingredients:
1 avocado, very ripe and diced
2 tablespoons avocado oil, or olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove chicken breasts from package, pat dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat small amount (1-2 tablespoons) olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Place seasoned Avocado Mayo 2chicken breast in skillet and cook approximately 5 minutes each side, or until chicken registers 165 degrees F.

Let chicken cool and while cooling, prepare the mayo. Combine all mayo ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth (1-2 minutes). Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and combine with mayo, green pepper, chives and even some pickles. Serve by itself, in a wrap, or on some freshly sliced bread and enjoy!

Banana Boat Treats
Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2 medium to large-sized bananas
Choice of toppings (examples: mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, Reese’s pieces, butterscotch chips, whatever your fancy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or heat your grill until it registers 350 degrees F

Using a paring knife, cut the banana (enough Banana Boatsto break the skin) length-wise down the banana peel. Pull the peel open and lightly cut slits in banana. Fill the banana boat with all the toppings you like.

Wrap the filled bananas in aluminum foil, being careful not to let them tip over (my first attempt – I had to refill my boats twice because they tipped a few times). Place bananas in oven or on grill for about 15 minutes, until marshmallows begin to melt and brown. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Cheater, Cheater, Cupcake Eater

Clearly my guilty conscience has gotten the best of me on a weekend that generally celebrates the end of self-control and restraint—while I did not give anything up for lent this year (mostly because I was so swamped at work/life, I completely lost track of time), I have tried to make a year-round effort to eat in moderation and log at least 4 workouts per week.

…that was until Wednesday night—now, I will say that this cupcake catastrophe was primarily the result of the obligatory birthday celebrations for colleagues at work—I generally like to combine celebrations at work with my hobby for baking—but I cannot blame this all on work, as there was clearly an inner voice screaming for homemade chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting.

This cupcake recipe was not something new or trendsetting—because when it comes to baking, sometimes the tried and true route is the best course to take—who doesn’t love a good (I mean really good) chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting?

On Wednesday night circa 10:00pm EST, the lessons from my Cambridge School of Culinary Arts baking classes came flooding back to me as I searched for the perfect cupcake recipe—some of those helpful cupcake and baking tricks of the trade will be forever engrained in my memory:

Chocolate—to whip up a more well-rounded chocolate taste, especially in cakes, it is integral to incorporate some coffee (or even a little liqueur). While you may not necessarily taste the coffee or liqueur—think of it like adding a little lemon zest to a pie or tart—the notion is the same, many people describe the effect as “brightening” the flavor;
Sifting—if a recipe calls for sifting, don’t skip this step! Sifting is another critical step to ensure a balance of the dry ingredients before they are incorporated into the wet ingredients—nothing is worse than getting a bite of baking powder or having clumpy-looking frosting;
Anyone can Pipe—anyone can learn to pipe frosting for a professional finish on any cake or cupcake—using a standard 12” piping bag with a variety of tips—just remember the key to beautiful piping is maintaining even pressure throughout

Before you embark on your next cupcake creation, give this YouTube video a view for some helpful tips on frosting:

Onto the cupcakes—as adapted by my favorite cook of all time, The Barefoot Contessa:

Betty’s Chocolate Cake
Cake Ingredients:
• 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 cups sugar
• ¾ cups good cocoa powder
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 cup buttermilk, shaken – see below for instructions on how to prepare
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Frosting Ingredients:
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray and line cupcake pans—cupcake
liners are not required, but remember to spray extra well if opting to go without.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With the mixer on a low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the coffee and stir to combine. Stop the mixer and be sure to scrap the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans—filling cups a little over ½ way. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool pans for 5-10 minutes and continue cooling cupcakes on a wire rack until completely cooled.

To prepare the buttercream frosting, beat butter for a few minutes in the stand mixer with the Cupcakes
paddle attachment on a medium speed. Slowly add the powdered sugar and turn the mixer down to low. Beat until the sugar combines with the butter. Add the vanilla, heavy cream and cocoa powder and beat on a medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the buttercream becomes light and fluffy.

Note: Do not go out and buy buttermilk, unless you’re planning to make 6 dozen of these treats. Instead, combine 4 tablespoons of lemon juice in a cup of milk –stir and let stand for 10-15 minutes before using.

This cupcake experience inspired some fun Easter-themed cupcakes to be served tomorrow–stay tuned for more details!

Cure for a case of the Mondays?

Sometimes surviving a Monday, especially one plagued by snowy traffic jams and a to-do list large enough to smother you, deserves a little treat–but after successfully conquering the gym and not so much as even thinking about a grande non-fat no foam latte from Starbucks, I thought it was only fitting to reward myself with some chocolate.

In good conscience, I decided to spruce up my sugary indulgence with my new favorite, the chia seed, and a fruit that I have admittedly received 3 times in my Boston Organics weekly box, and shied away from using each time–the pomegranate. So far my New Years resolution to conquer new ingredients is off to a good start–first the fiber-packed chia seed and now the beautifully bright pomegranate. After watching a few YouTube videos on how to tackle this fruit–I finally felt confident enough to proceed.

For those Martha Stewart and Ryan Seacrest fans out there, here’s a humorous how-to: How to Open a Pomegranate

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Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Pomegranate & Chia
1. Line a 9″x9″ glass baking dish or other shallow dish with wax paper

2. In a microwave-safe glass bowl, melt 2 cups of dark chocolate chips (I used the Ghiradelli dark chocolate melting wafers)–making sure to melt the chips in 20 seconds increments; stirring in between. You can also melt chocolate over the stover–I’ve used a medium saucepan with 3 inches of bowling water and a glass mixing bowl set on top–stirring constantly

3. Once melted, evenly spread the melted chocolate over the wax paper-prepared dish

4. Let your imagination run wild–I used sliced almonds, pomegranate and chia seeds — sprinkle toppings over melted chocolate.

Other ideas– pistachios, shredded unsweetened coconut flakes, sea salt, dried cranberries, and for those who are still hanging onto the holidays–there’s the ever-popular crushed candy canes

5. Place dish in refrigerator to set for a least 1 hour; for storage, continue to store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

Make sure not to waste any of the remaining chocolate–in order to polish off the last of the fruit from the organics delivery, we peeled a tangerine and dipped the ends in chocolate. Place them on a wax paper-lined plate to set up in the refrigerator alongside the bark for 1 hour. These made for a tasty afternoon snack and one that didn’t leave me regretting the hard work at the gym earlier that day–finding a tasty dessert that doesn’t contain a full stick of butter is challenging but not hopeless.

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I recently received Clean Eats, by Alejandro Junger (found here on Amazon: Clean Eats) and while this week’s simple indulgence doesn’t necessarily align with the book’s message- I’m eager to dive in and find more creative ways to spice up everything from dinner to desserts–more to come and if you’re not ready to take the $25 plunge on Amazon, there are several great Clean-inspired ideas on FoodGawker (Clean Eat Recipes

Up next–a book report on how the January no-spend challenge has been progressing and some helpful tips–many thanks to my friends for hosting no-spend-friendly events, such as last Saturday’s Patriots game pot luck

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