Monday, April 21, 2014

Egg salad

Spring has finally arrived, and the sunny, and somewhat warmer days are becoming more common. As each beautiful day passes, I’ve been growing anxious to break away from the last of the winter restrains I have. I want to resume my biking commute, and I want to go back to my weekend rides. My bike isn’t fancy, but I love it anyway. It’s a red trekking bike, and as such is designed to alternate between city streets and rougher terrains. It’s not too fast, but that’s ok; after all, I still have some of that Southern-Puerto Rican attitude where “to rush” is not really part of our lives. My bicycle is resilient. It has carried a much heavier me for thousands of miles, and it has survived it. Several times I’ve imagined the poor thing sweating with its tongue out and begging for a break. Instead, it has given me the other chin, and behaved like a real trooper. What a bike!

So this weekend, the Saturday before Easter, I decided to take the bike for a morning spin. To be honest I didn’t go far; I just rode it 4 miles to the gym. The wind was strong and the air was still somewhat crisp and cold. I didn’t care. I knew it would be but I still wanted to do it. I was afraid that the long winter had killed my love for the outdoors or biking, but every sensation was just as I remembered them to be. Of course I had forgotten how bothersome and painful the potholes feel in junk-ular area. But who cares. I was having a blast.


Easter Sunday has arrived, and believe it or not I felt sore all over my legs. Apparently, my workouts and my twice-a-week 5k runs on the treadmill work different muscles. No time to waste, though. We were having Easter dinner with our friends and our share of the Easter Menu was not ready yet. We colored eggs, made a raspberry cheesecake, and made two Romanian specialties: a cozonac (akin to a nut roll and panettone) and salată de boeuf, a close relative of the Russian salad. Our friends made a nice lamb roast, and served them with white beets and blue potatoes that were awesome. They had, among many other goodies, more eggs.

I started thinking of what would be the best way to deal with the leftover eggs. We have plenty, and I thought it would be awesome to make something with them. Since we were indulging so much during our Easter Weekend, I thought the best thing would be to make a healthy egg salad. I love egg salad, but I can’t really justify eating all that mayo. But I love the mayo flavor!!! To resolve my dilemma and address both my interests (health and flavor) I decided to make a dressing that uses mayo, but it’s complemented with Greek yogurt. It’s my go to alternative for potato salads and slaws! Works every time and I love how it tastes.

On the road shortcut

Nutritional info per serving (2 servings):
288 calories, 11 g carbs, 21 g fat, 15 g protein

4 eggs, chopped
½ small red onion, chopped
½ medium carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
¼ teaspoon dried basil

Toast (I served my rye toast sliced into strips)

Combine eggs, onions, carrots and parsley. Add the mayo, the Greek yogurt, salt, pepper and dried basil. Toss them well until everything is combined and dressed.
Serve with toast.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Orange Cake with Orange-Mascarpone Frosting and Peaches


Easter is coming! The eggs need to be colored, the lamb needs to be roasted and the desserts need to be planned, ASAP! As exciting as it is, Easter celebrations are still somewhat new to me since I did not grow up celebrating it because I’m Puerto Rican and we just don’t do anything special that day. We don’t have a special dinner, we don’t have any food associated with it, there are no eggs involved (colored or otherwise), and certainly there is no bunny to be found, unless you look for it in a stew. To this day, I’m not sure how bunnies and eggs fit into Easter, but I do know that here in the States, Easter is one happy holiday, and people are really, really happy that day. 

Since it’s so fun and cute, and I don’t really need much of an excuse to eat good food, I started celebrating it after moving to Cleveland. But I’ll admit that I barely get involved in the planning and the cooking leading to the celebrations. It’s not my holiday, and I don’t want to risk ruining it for those who love it and want to make sure they have their more traditional choices. I can relate; I know the feeling all too well. Thanksgiving is MY holiday and to be honest, I tend to disapprove of basically every turkey I don’t make myself (and some of the ones I’ve made as well). So instead of offending everyone with a “deconstructed” Easter dish, I decided to make and share a small dessert that can be eaten either before, during or after Easter. Let’s just say it’s a “spring-y” dessert. 

While I deal with my new traditions and my ‘spring-y” dessert, back home they’re our traditional celebrations should be unfolding by now. I know I said that in Puerto Rico most people don’t celebrate Easter, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing anything. On the contrary, they can get quite busy.  Back home, we’re all about the “Holy Week”, and its peak, Good Friday.  During Good Friday, people in my hometown gather around the main streets “downtown”, to watch the processions that circulate them, portraying the agony of Jesus and Mary, as He was on his way to be crucified. These processions feature a mix of beautifully crafted statues and real-life reenactments of some of the key moments of Jesus’ journey to the cross, the crucifixion and sometimes a bit of the resurrection.  

But that’s not all. All through the week, but especially on “Holy Thursday”, the neighborhoods have their “Via crucis”. Via crucis translate to something like “The road to the cross” and once again, it’s meant to make people reflect on Jesus’ agony, and hence, the sacrifice he was making. For these, the community members go around the neighborhood chanting and singing lamentations with a megaphone. There are 14 stops in which people read biblical passages relating Jesus’ last hours and again, Mary’s suffering. It may sound a bit morbid, but it’s actually pretty cool.  

When people are not wondering around town, they really have some time to kill. Most people get Thursday and Friday off, but many still get the traditional ALL-WEEK OFF. No work y’all! But it’s not like they can go all crazy partying because traditionally there are so many limitations regarding what you are allowed to do during Holy Week. There is no nailing, cutting, or any work-oriented activities; there is no dancing, singing or heavy drinking; and depending on the family, additional restrictions are added as well. Of course, there’s been a departure from those restrictions in recent years, especially as the non-Catholics increase in numbers, and part from many of these traditions. Overall, there’s still a strong religious buildup to Easter, but Easter day itself is very anticlimactic. You just go to church, and that’s the end of it. 

Coming back to my new-found interest in Easter, I decided to make a light, fragrant dessert that would be simple enough to make just for myself, but that would be nice enough to share with friends after the Easter dinner. I made an orange cake that is light, fluffy and spongy, and refreshing. I glazed it with an orange-mascarpone frosting that is light in flavor, without compromising texture or taste, and its freshness can’t help but reminding you of a beautiful spring morning. To balance the flavors and to garnish the cakes, I added slices of peaches (from a can, I’ll admit) to get yet another sunny and fresh flavor. I came up with the recipe using weights and ratios (to which I’ll have to dedicate a post in the future) so I’ll provide some measures by weight, and then I’ll give the conversions.

I really hope you enjoy your Easter Sunday with family and friends!

On the road shortcut

Nutritional info per serving (4 servings):
311 calories, 60 g carbs, 19 g fat, 2 g protein

Orange cakes
1 egg
2 ounces (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon orange juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
2 ounces (1/4 cup) flour
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour the bottom of 4 ramekins.

Using a handheld mixer, beat the egg and sugar together until they triple in size, about 2 minutes. Just before finishing beating the eggs, add the orange juice and the vanilla extract. Continue mixing for a few more seconds.

Combine the baking powder, salt and flour. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. 

Fold the butter into the batter. Split the batter into 4 ramekins and bake at 350F until a toothpick comes clean after inserting it in the center of the cake (about 20 minutes). Let them cool completely, and remove from the ramekins.

Orange-Mascarpone Frosting
2 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 ounces (1/4 cup) powdered sugar
½ teaspoon orange extract
6 slices of canned peaches, sliced in half lengthwise

Beat the mascarpone, powdered sugar and orange extract together until creamy, about 2 minutes. 

Split the frosting between the 4 cakes, and spread. Top with the sliced peaches.