Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Baby steps

I did pull-ups today! Plural! In a row! Can the snickering, please; my upper body strength has lagged behind my lower body strength for a very, very long time*, and this wimpy little milestone goes a long way toward rectifying that. Day 1 of 2013 also marked day 1 of the Step 1 studying juggernaut. I'm trying not to obsess over the NRMP match statistics. Medical students are always agonizing over how we measure up to each other. Six weeks of putting one's nose to the paper-and-ink grindstone produces enough stress without embracing the sturm und drang of it all. Instead... white girl vegetarian huevos rancheros!

The Field Roast brand sausages (tee em!) don't taste like sausage as I remember it**, but all three flavors are meaty enough to temporarily quell the inanitiated carnivore within. My favorite is the Italian, by far.

Yesterday, I also made my own version of Larabars. The process is easy if you have a good food processor or food mill. I only have a tiny one, so after grinding the nuts and chocolate, I chopped and pulverized the dried fruit using first a knife, then a big wooden paddle I picked up in Chinatown when I moved here. It's surprisingly meditative to pound away at dried dates.

They're tastier than they look.

Ugly ducklings, maybe, that turn into beautiful swans on the
tongue. (God, that was awful. Forget I typed that.)
I first made something akin to these during my surgery rotation, when I'd eat at 4:30 in the morning and never quite knew when (and if!) I'd have an actual meal break until I got home 15 hours later. A sandwich bag with one or two fits perfectly in the back pocket of a pair of scrubs. At least three cups of sticky dates are necessary to bind the other ingredients, but other than that, go wild with whatever dried fruit you like. They require a little muscle to put together. It's a good thing one batch makes enough bars to last... well, not that long if you're me, but theoretically quite some time!

Quinoa date bars
1/3 cup quinoa (I prefer red, but go wild)
5 cups dried fruit, at least 3 cups of which must be dates
1 cup chopped dark chocolate or cocoa nibs or carob
2 cups raw almonds
3 tablespoons nut butter
pinch salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Rinse the quinoa until the raw grains do not taste bitter at all. Bring to a simmer with 2/3 cup water, then cover and cook on low heat until all the water has been absorbed. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, line a 9 in x 13 in baking pan with parchment paper or waxed paper.

Put the salt, cinnamon, quinoa, almonds, and chocolate into a food processor. Process until the desired texture is reached; you can go until the almonds are ground into quinoa-like texture, or leave a few larger nut pieces for crunch. Empty the food processor into a large bowl. If your processor can handle it, grind the dates and other dried fruit (reserving some chopped dried fruit to add later, again for texture, if you desire) and nut butter until a paste is formed. Mix with the almond mixture and grind in the food processor until homogenous, stirring in any reserved pieces at the end. If your food processor cannot handle it, oil a knife blade and your hands and chop the dates as finely as you can. Using a big wooden spoon, paddle, or mortar, pound the dates and dried fruit with the nut butter and almond mixture in a large bowl until everything clumps together in sort of a chunky paste. Put the mixture into the lined pan and spread evenly. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap and pile heavy books on top (or other pans full of heavy books!) to compress the bars. Allow to compress for at least 1.5 hours. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then slice. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for best shelf life, but they can sit at room temperature throughout the day (or body temperature in the back pocket of your scrubs).

*Until today, I could deadlift 1.6 times my body weight without being able to pull up my body weight. Pathetic, right?
**although it has been quite a long time...

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