Fall Comforts: Biking and Cooking

Sunday - October 5th: A gorgeous fall day in Philadelphia. The Fantastic News - The Phillies won the National League East Division Title and move onto the Pennant Race, one series closer to the World Series. WOOHOO! I couldn't be more excited, I've been on a wacky high from their win. While all the news of my day hasn't been the most stellar, the Phillies winning the division went a long way in making what has been a stressful few weeks a lot better. Exercise endorophines help especially after a long bike ride or good run at the gym. Because of my work schedules, I have not been to the gym as often as I should. I think I was there once in the past week. Biking has been better, though I'm not riding as much as I want either. It's too dark and chilly for my 6:30 am rides, and it gets too dark for an early evening ride after work. Sue S. and I got in 3 or 4 rides in the last week, with today's being the longest and best - 33 miles, out to Pennypack Park in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. We cut our ride a few miles short in order to get home earlier than planned. It's fun to take a ride to a new destination, exploring parts of Philadelphia that I don't know or have never seen before. Adss a bit of momentum and adventure to our rides. Each bike ride also adds on the mileage without my realzing it. I have more than 700 miles on the bike odometer since I bought it in July; I added another 140 miles within the past three weeks. Not bad considering I haven't been consistent riding since I returned from our beach vacation.
Today's amazing perfect weather day inspired me to make a few comfort foods for Liz and I. We needed the nourishment and sustenance to help right our blah moods. I've come to learn in the year that I've been in the Weight Watchers program, that food and eating cannot solve one's problems. However, cooking is what I know best and it does serve a therapeutic purpose in helping me to relieve stress, feed my soul, and allow me to take cake of those that I love. What I have learned is that while food cannot be a substitute for problem solving it can be good for you if you learn to cook healthy. In the end, eating well and healthy can be an aid to helping one feel better. You have to not over-indulge and avoid the issues that are the real root problem.
Tonight I made two perfect Fall Comfort Food Classics - Roast Pork Shoulder with Apples, Carrots and Sweet Onions with Ale and a Low-Fat Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting. Both dishes were relatively low fat, simple and full of vegetables. The pork was easy to make - an inexpensive shoulder roast with rib bones, trimmed of visible fat. Seasoned with salt and pepper and seared in a hot dutch oven pan. Took the pork out and sauteed sweet onions, garlic and carrots until they were tender and beginning to caramelize. Added some BBQ 3000 Seasoning from Penzey's (a mixture of salt, paprika, black pepper, nutmeg, mustard, allspice, citric acid, garlic powder, ginger, sage, thyme, white pepper, cinnamon, and natural smoke flavor). Deglazed the pan with a bottle of Hop Devil Ale and added in 2 peeled and diced golden delicious apples. Put the pork into the pan and submerged it under all the vegetables. Covered the dutch oven and put it in the oven set at 400 degrees and roasted the pork for close to 4 hours until the meat was tender and falling off the bones. I served the roast pork over mashed potatoes made with 1/4 cup of warmed skim milk and light butter. On the side I had grilled zucchini and squash.

For the chocolate cake - it was a Deceptively Delicious recipe that I altered slightly to reduce the fat. The recipe calls for using a box cake mix - I used a Devils' Food box mix. You add a cup of pumpkin puree, 2 whole eggs, 1 egg white, 1 small container (5.3 or 6 ounces) of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup water or cold coffee, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix all the ingredients together and stir until smooth. I baked the cake in two 9-inch cake pans for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans and checking on the cake about 15 minutes into the baking time. I only used one of the cake rounds, the other one I froze for another use. For the frosting, I melted 1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips with about 1/3 cup of peanut butter chips; melt in a microwave safe bowl in 20 second intervals until the chips are melted. To this I stirred in a light butter; we use Land O'Lakes light butter with Canola Oil. I stirred in about 2 tablespoons of butter to make the melted chocolate smooth and spreadable. As soon as it is pourable, spread the frosting over the cake and ice the top and sides. Work quickly as their isn't enough butter or fat in the frosting to keep it from setting up firm. I topped the cake with additional peanut butter chips. The cake is super moist, dense but not heavy and not overly sweet. The frosting, with the addition of the peanut butter chips in it and on it made me think that I was eating a Peanut Butter Kandy Kake from Tastykake! Only this was better.
Lessons learned of the day: Exercise is important. Your team winning a division or championship can make a crappy week better. Food is good for the soul. Eat well and feel better.


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