Wednesday, November 2, 2011

An Athlete and a Baker

No, this post isn’t about two different people with two completely different professions.

They’re actually both very apt descriptions of moi.

Okay, so athlete is pushing it a bit. Maybe Sporty Spice is better?

Totally. I’ve always secretly wanted to rock the nose ring/sports bra/armband tat look. Not.

Poor Sporty and Scary Spice. Baby, Ginger, and Victoria Beckham Spice (forgot her herbal name) always looked so much cuter than the other two.

Anyway…that was a big aside.

The point is that (in French, s’il-vous-plait) I am tres sportive.

Want proof?

Yep. Earlier this week I was in the mountains of Southern France and I biked a cool 40K, all the way to the beach.

In all honesty, just writing this is causing me to have a minor identity crisis. 40K? Who am I??? And do you see that very official looking grease stain on my leg? I love it.

But despite the fact that I am clearly in serious training mode for the 2012 Olympics, the truth remains that I’ve got a sweet tooth that’ll never come loose.



The truth is—like many people (particularly us girls)—for a long time I thought that things like sports and baked goods couldn’t didn’t mix.

This made me really sad, obviously, because I love spending time in the kitchen. And while I enjoy making dinner recipes (what’s up Caribbean chicken and Tex-Mex enchiladas), I really, really love making desserts.

Why? Well first off, they take less time. Second, they make your kitchen smell like heaven. Third, they make you feel warm. And I don’t mean warm in the sense that, you get warmer because you’re shoving freshly baked cookies into your mouth like they’re hot coals stoking a fire.

It’s more like this: think about it. What kind of feeling do flavors like cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg and pumpkin evoke? Warmth.Comfort. Peace. Holidays. Home.

For someone who used to be such a homebody, I certainly have a knack for finding myself in places thousands and thousands of miles away from where I grew up. First it was college in California, now it’s living in Southern France. But when I’m in the kitchen pureeing a jack-o-lantern and turning him into pumpkin bread with dark chocolate and walnut pieces, I suddenly get that feeling, that hometown, let’s-grab-a-coffee-and-talk-it-out connection. Ultimately, I think that’s what draws me into the kitchen.

So you know what? I don’t really have the time, energy, or desire to do the whole I feel so guilty for eating that cookie thing.

Girls, do you know what I mean? You go for a run, or you go to the gym, and then you pop into Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte and a piece of chocolate chip banana bread (the lowfat one, duh), and suddenly you’re mentally punching yourself and saying things like, “Why did you do that? You just replaced every calorie you burned on the stupid treadmill!”

Can we all make a new-month resolution? Let’s do ourselves a favor and just cut out the guilt instead of the dessert. We can be athletes who eat dessert. We can be Sporty Spice girls who enjoy eating a chocolate chip cookie as soon as our workout is over!

Everything in moderation, of course—that goes without saying. But I have found that the more I tell myself, “you can’t have that,” the more likely I am to eat three of whatever I’m “not supposed to have” as opposed to one.

Let’s enjoy life together this holiday season. Being healthy means exercising and going for 40K bike rides, yeah. But it also means living in the kind of freedom that lets you enjoy a slice of your grandma’s famous pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving instead of calculating how many calories are in the whipped topping.

I’ll drink a pumpkin spice latte to that!

And on that note, I’ll leave you with the recipe I used for the aforementioned pumpkin/dark chocolate/walnut bread. It’s kind of amazing.

Healthy Pumpkin Bread with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

adapted from this recipe


1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large egg whites

1 cup pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1/4 cup canola oil (or applesauce as a substitution—I used a combo of both)

1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces (more to taste)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (same here)


First, if you’re going totally natural, make your own pumpkin puree. Here’s how:

Place pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet (face up or face down) and roast in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until pumpkin is fork-tender. It should look golden brown after roasting, making it easy to remove the skin from the pumpkin pieces. Peel off all of the skin and chop the roasted pumpkin into smaller pieces. Throw a few chunks of the pumpkin at a time into a food processor or blender, adding water until smooth (up to 3 tablespoons).

(thanks for the help, Pioneer Woman)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 8 1/2” by 4 1/2” metal loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour.

In large bowl, with wire whisk, combine brown sugar and egg whites. Add pumpkin, oil/applesauce, yogurt, and vanilla extract; stir to combine.

In medium bowl, combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture; add in chocolate pieces and walnuts. Stir until just combined. Do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Pair with decaf coffee for dessert, regular cup of coffee for breakfast, or a pumpkin spice latte for a full on fall-snack-attack.

I’d show you pictures, but this is all that’s left of mine. Oops.


Enjoy! I mean really…enjoy, okay?

bisous! xo

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.Galatians 5:1

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