Merry Christmas to everyone, from our family to yours. We’re looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas morning with our darling daughter, eating latkes, and opening a few presents. No big showing from Santa here.
Our family stopped giving presents a few years ago, and I’m grateful for that. Only the kids get something small. The adults in my mother’s extended family do a homemade gift exchange – this year the theme was painting or drawing. Emily and I painted ornaments, and liked them so much we made a few extra for our own tree.
We had our Vancouver family over for a Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast – complete with kutya, borscht, perogies, vegan sour cream, cabbage rolls, beans, mushroom gravy, creamed kale, bread, pickles, and a fruitcake for dessert. Almost all of the food was home-made and vegan (except the perogies which we bought at the farmer’s market and the kutya which has honey), and it all tasted delicious. Ariella even braided a fabulous challah that was glazed with maple syrup and coconut oil. Astrid got to try her first spoonful of borscht and eat some of the sweet potato perogy filling, and I think she liked it.
It wasn’t a purely traditional Ukrainian meal, more of a fusion of cultures to match our family. We started eating at 3:30 instead of waiting for the first star, so the little ones could get to bed. And we lit a menorah to celebrate the start of Hanukkah.
I’m experimenting with making my own energy gel as part of my marathon training. I need something to prevent me from hitting the wall (aka bonking) on my long runs. The commercial gels contain maltodextrin, fructose, and a bunch of chemicals that are hard to pronounce. I wanted something healthier that doesn’t make me want to gag.
I’m taking inspiration from the Thrive Diet and trying to make my own. I found a few recipes online (here and here), but I’ve been creating my own version.
Here’s V2 of my recipe.
- 5 medjool dates
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup dulse
- 1/2 banana
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp agave
- 1 tsp molasses
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp papaya
- 1 tsp maca powder
- Soak the dates in water for a few hours.
- Mix the soaked dates with the other ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
- Add the energy gel into two large (3 oz) GoToobs.
- Consume the gels on your workout. 6 oz was more than enough for a 3 hour run.
- The dates, honey, agave, molasses, and fruit provide clean burning carbohydrates with varying glycemic index (GI) values between 15 and 62.
- The dulse provides sodium and the banana provides potassium, to replace the electrolytes I sweat out. The papaya is there to aid digestion.
- The lemon juice is mostly for flavour, but it also helps to clear out lactic acid.
- The maca gives an additional energy boost.
- The coconut oil is for taste and energy.
The coconut oil is the most confusing ingredient. I put 1/4 cup in my first batch and only 1 tbsp in my second. I added it because Brendan Brazier uses it in his energy gels, but I couldn’t figure out why. The fat you burn running is already stored in your body, not recently consumed. Then I read this on the Thrive Staple Foods List:
Medium-chain triglycerides in coconut burn like a carbohydrate, offering immediate energy.
Sauerkraut is all the rage with nutritionists these days for its probiotic characteristics that aid in digestion. Emily was at a workshop on “Optimizing Your Plant-Based Diet” last week where, among other things, they encouraged people to eat homemade sauerkraut. It sounded like a fun experiment, so we gave it a go. We’ve made pickled vegetables before (cucumbers, beets, etc.) but never fermented anything.
It was really easy. We followed the instructions my Baba gave me and combined with ones I found on the internet.
- Shred cabbage thinly.
- Layer in a bowl.
- As you add each layer, add salt and knead the cabbage together. This will compresses it and release water.
- Mix in other veggies. We added carrots and garlic. The carrots were good and the garlic added flavour but didn’t soften enough to eat on its own. Baba suggested onion and pickling spices in a cheesecloth.
- When you’re done kneading the cabbage, you should have a good amount of water in the bowl. If not, keep kneading.
- Put a plate over the ‘kraut’ and place something heavy on top of it (we used a case of cat food). The water level should rise above the plate.
- Set it aside to ferment for a few days. We left ours on the counter, which gave off a nice, eastern European aroma. You can put it in the fridge. The temperature it ferments at will affect the taste (sweetness vs sourness).
- After 4 days ours was ready to eat. We packed it into jars and put it in the fridge.
The end product tastes pretty good. Sweeter than the sauerkraut you buy in stores and with more texture.