Friday, January 24, 2014

Flan de Mango

Omigod. This year’s weather has sucked. We’ve had -17F one day, then just 2 days later it was close to 60F, and now again the temps dipped into the single digits and windchills bellow 0F. That’s it people. The time has come for me to start writing a blog on cooking seals and decorating your igloos. It’s time I let my inner Eskimo-Martha Stewart loose! It’s too bad I don’t eat fish because I would totally try to make a mockumentary of “My life as an Eskimo in Cleveland”.  Maybe a network would see me and offer me my own TV series “Breaking Eskimo” or “The Real Eskimo guys of Cuyahoga County”. 

At least this year promises to be a bit more “social” for me. During the last 2 years I’ve barely had time to see my friends and to do fun stuff. Really, I’ve barely seen anyone. Obviously, it wasn’t on purpose, but it happened regardless. Well, it’s over now. Maybe it’s because I have finally achieved some kind of balance between work and my so-called social life. Seriously, you can only work so much before you are burned out, and totally exhausted. Or maybe it is because I’ve been watching way too many episodes of Super Fun Night. Let’s get real; there’s nothing that can happen to Kimmie that can’t happen, or hasn’t happened to me. Well, except for the girls-only issues. All I’m trying to say is that weird things happen to me when I’m in public places. Let’s leave it at that. But in a surprisingly incident-free season, we’ve been to cool bars and restaurants, to movies and to concerts. All fun!

Well, maybe I should add the disclaimer stating that not all things meant to be enjoyed were actually enjoyed. Some were not fun at all. Let’s say that I went on a 15 minute rant about how much I hated a particular piece of music (Yes, they had the nerve to call it music, I called it total CRAP) performed by the Cleveland Orchestra. Everything else was fine, but I really felt insulted by that garbage they played. Really insulted. Enough to make me go on a 15 minute rant-kind of insulted. But that’s in the past, and we just have to let it go. I did really enjoy the other 2/3 of the concert, though.

Anyway, it’s been fun, and it’s been cold. That’s the bottom line. Besides that, or maybe because of that, I’ve been craving desserts for a few days now. I’ve made ice cream recently (eggnog flavored) but it did not satisfy my cravings. I’ve been thinking on making a mango upside-down cake for a while now, but when I had the chance, I decided to teach myself how to make mug cakes instead. Oh, Angel. I did make a good “yellow cake” mug cake and served it with custard instead of frosting (or instead of crème anglaise). Still, I had enough of my cravings and I did what any other good Latino would: I made a flan to get it over with. 

Well, it wasn’t just a flan. I took the mangoes that had been waiting for the cake, and used it to make a Flan de Mango. I dropped the caramel part and used the mangoes and their “light syrup” as my substitute. I used their syrup only because they were organic mangoes and the syrup was made of only water and sugar, not a single ingredient more. The Flan de Mango turned out very, very good. However, even though I tried, the pictures I took did not make my flan justice (as we say); my bad. Just take my word for it: It was so good! 

The custard part of the flan was awesome. But the real happiness it brought came from the mangoes. I grew up with a big, badass Mango Tree in my backyard. Sometimes mangoes would literally fall from the tree and get into my bedroom by themselves. So by mid-February the tree starts its mango production and lasts about a month and a half. Some years my parents manage to send me some of those amazing mangoes, and they bring me a little bit of the tropics with them. In Puerto Rico, we don’t have groundhogs and by extension no Groundhog Day (or winter to be predicted, I should say). But to me, nothing says “spring will come” like eating mangoes. And this flan was like my own personal Groundhog Day, and it told me to hold on, Spring is near!

On the road shortcut

Nutritional info per serving (4 servings)
267 calories, 45 g carbs, 6 g fat, 8 g protein

1 can mangoes in light syrup
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more to sprinkle – optional)
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (plus more to sprinkle – optional)

4 large eggs
1 cup 2% Milk
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the mangoes with their syrup, the cinnamon and the nutmeg in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until most of the syrup has evaporated. Pour into a large sized soufflé dish (1 ½ quart), set it aside and let it cool.
Mix the eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Strain the mix through a sieve over the cooled mangoes. They will float (I bet fresh ones wouldn’t). Bake in a water bath at 350F between 65 to 85 minutes. Insert a toothpick and if it comes clean, it’s done. Let it cool, and refrigerate for at least 4 hrs (I do overnight) before serving. 

(Optional- Dust some more cinnamon and nutmeg for decoration.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cheese and Yogurt Parfait

Life’s back to normal. The holiday season brought Christmas, New Year’s and birthdays, and all of them involved multi-day celebrations with lots of eating. Surprisingly, I did not gain any weight. In fact, I lost some (What, What!). Happy New Year to me!

One of the reasons I was able to make it was that I picked up running again. Man, was that hard… I still can’t run as fast or for as long as I could last year, but 5K in around 30 minutes is still somewhat decent. Ironically the reason I stopped running was exhaustion because I read somewhere (it was you Men’s Health) that my speed and resistance was “poor” when compared to the “average man”. I don’t know they may have been referring to Superman’s or Thor’s home planets. Who knows? The point is that I was too tired and I did not like feeling like I was about to pass out after exercising. The reason I workout is because I feel great afterwards and I was not getting that feeling. I took a few months off, but now I’m back running.

Another reason I’ve been doing well managing my weight has to be this month’s workout. Now, that’s an intense workout. During most of my weight loss (and I refuse to call it “my journey”- just saying) I’ve focused on short workouts because 1, I have to move fast and I burn more calories, and 2, because it’s simply easier to commit to it. I was doing about half an hour of lifting or so. But not this month... I’ve been working on building some serious muscle (not sure it has happened yet, though) so I’ve been lifting “hard” for at least an hour, 4 times a week. So, not only I burn a few cals working out, but lean muscle causes the body to burn more fat and I think that has helped a lot. 

Still, the most important part of managing my weight this season has been nutrition. If I knew I was going to be indulging, I made sure I saved it for the planned occasions. While dinning out I minimized the amount of drinks I had, because, let’s face it, EVERYTHING counts. I had wine instead of cocktails, and I limited the amount to two glasses, maybe 3 during New Year’s. And knowing I would be eating so much meant keeping the eggnog – which is a calorie bomb, at bay.

To couple exercise with nutrition I made sure I was eating plenty of protein. I don’t do protein shakes often. Not anymore. They work great for many people but they are not for me. Just like diet soda, protein shakes make me hungrier during the day and through the 3 months I used it, I gain muscle, but did not lose any fat. I think I actually gain some. I went back to my original protein sources (eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese and meat), and it’s working well for me. 

As an example, the other day I needed a quick snack/meal replacement after my workout. I had only a few minutes and I was starving. To kill my cravings and to meet my needs I had a cheese and yogurt parfait. I used fat free cottage cheese, non fat Greek yogurt and apricot jam. I’ve made this with many preserves, and most of them seem to work well! To add a bit of a crunch, I added some granola. I know it sounds somewhat simple, but this snack has it all. A bit of saltiness from the cheese, notes of sourness from the yogurt, sweetness from the jam and crunchiness from the granola. Also, I may only have 338 calories, but it had a butt-kicking 39 grams of protein. Best part, it kept me going through the rest of the afternoon, until I could finally had dinner 4 hours later. 

This 2014, commit to a healthier lifestyle, whatever that implies for you. A healthy lifestyle is not a resolution you know you’ll drop in a few weeks. It’s a commitment to yourself because you know you are worthy of better things. And better things come to those who work for it! Happy New Year!

On the road shortcut

Nutrition facts
338 calories, 37 g carbs, 0 g fat, 39 g protein

1 cup fat free cottage cheese
6 oz non fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 tablespoon granola

Layer the cottage cheese, the Greek yogurt and the apricot jam in a tall glass. Top with granola.