Monday, April 28, 2014

What We've Been Eating Lately + Carrot Cake Protein Bars

Dear Friends,

I like Korean food. I really do. Well, some of it. And while some expats can live by eating out at Korean restaurants every day and eating unidentifiable meat, sometimes, I'm just not in the mood. I really appreciate that we have a nice kitchen for cooking. Creativity is important when you're preparing food in a country that may or may not have the ingredients you need.

Here's a real-life conversation I had with a co-worker: I had Googled "lemongrass in Korean" and it said: 레몬 그라스. 

So I asked her, "Do you have laymon geulahsugh in Korea?"

She said, "Yes."

Me: "Great. Where can I get it?"

Her: "It grows in...I'm sorry. What do you want?"

Me: "I'm looking for laymon geulahsugh for a recipe."

Her: "You are cooking."
Me: "Yes. Here is how it's spelled: 레몬 그라스.

Her: "What are we talking about?"

Me: "I need lemon grass for a recipe I'm making."

Her: "What's lemon grass?" 

Finding specific things can be tricky. That's why we are grateful to friends, like Becca, who mail us dinner in a box. Chocolate bunnies. Candy. Peeps. Explaining marshmallow peeps to our friend, Jong, and why we eat them at Easter time was...impossible.

I found dried chickpeas at the world market, so I've been cooking with them a lot lately...

Curried Chickpea snack

Hummus (Jong's new favorite "American sauce")

Chickpea Peanut Butter Cookies
(Yeah, things got a little bit crazy)

We're also eating our fair share of tofu lately (or "doo-boo" in Korean). Each week, we go to the farmer's market and basically clean-out their tofu supply. They don't seem too upset about it.
Tofu Hijiki burgers

They were yummy!

Tofu Tikka Masala

And I've been trying to make coconut milk with my fancy immersion blender-dealy, however, I haven't had much luck and usually end up chewing the last few sips. If anyone has been successful, I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks to the WWOOF CSA (community supported agriculture) program we found in Korea, we've been able to get fresh, organic produce sent to our door once a week. It's been fun to try to identify the different things that show up. And usually, if we don't know what something is, we just cook the hell-out-of-it and call it dinner! But these salads were good, too.

We have pretty epic Saturday morning breakfasts around these parts. Jeremy makes the coffee and I make the grub (we're rationing what's left of the coffee a friend sent us from The Mill in Lincoln). Bless her!

Strawberry/Applesauce protein pancakes

Strawberry Banana Coffee Cake

We've been trying to up the amount of protein we eat, so this week I made these protein-packed, 
Carrot Cake bars. 

One bar has 10 grams of protein and they're loaded with lots of other good stuff, too! It may be hard for you to wrap your head around putting chickpeas and sweet potatoes in carrot cake, but trust me, it tastes pretty darn good. 

chickpeas, sweet potatoes, carrots, coconut, etc.

Carrot Cake Bars

Oven: 350 Fahrenheit
Makes: about 16 bars

  • 6 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3 cups cooked and mashed chickpeas
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 4 scoops of any vanilla whey protein 
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg whites 
  • 5 tablespoons sugar 
  • 4 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Any add-ins you want: chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, or pineapple. Start in 1/2 cup increments.

STEP ONE: Mix everything in a large bowl.

STEP TWO: Separate the batter into two 9x13 pans. Bake each pan for 45 minutes, or until fully cooked in the middle. If they are looking too soft after 45 minutes, keep in mind that they will harden as they cool.

STEP THREE: Allow the bars to cool in the pan before eating. Slice each pan of bars into 8 pieces (which yields 10 grams of protein per bar). I recommend wrapping each bar in plastic wrap AND foil and popping them in the freezer. If you grab one in the morning, it will be thawed out around lunch time.

You can make any substitutions you want. 

No sweet potatoes? You could try bananas.

No whey protein? Try soy or hemp. 

No protein powder at all? Leave it out. Add more oatmeal if the batter is too wet and keep in mind that the protein content will be more like 7 grams per bar.

No eggs? Use an egg replacer, like Ener-G or even pulverized tofu works well (1/4 c. per egg).

No sugar? Use honey or agave necter cup for tablespoon for tablespoon.

No flax seed? Just leave it out. Or use wheat germ or chia seeds for a nutrient punch.

If you would like to have any of the recipes from my cooking adventures above, just leave a comment and I'll post it for ya. 

Happy cooking!