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Eat. Train. Race. Travel.

Welcome to Athlete Food - our continuous adventure to seek out healthy food around the globe and at our own dinner tables. Hope you are inspired to get on a plane or get out the plates and cook a healthy dinner tonight!

Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker for Mortals


Over 15 years of friendship and four years of Athlete Food, Becand Laurel have taught me the secret of their success on the race course: do whatever it takes to break down the mental hurdles and just get after it.

This key to Ironman-level athletic success helps in the kitchen, too. A long or esoteric ingredient list can daunt even triathlon champs like Laurel and Bec. So the first thing I did here was streamline. For the pancakes, this meant subbing a mix for the dry ingredients, except for the spices. Sure it only saves a few minutes, but it gets busy athletes and other folks scrambling to feed themselves or kids before 7 am, over the spiritual hump.

I added the carrot cake recipe to my to do list, thinking that Iwould be more likely to grate carrots for pancakes if I could make a big batch and use the rest for a snack cake later in the week.

With that in mind, I tried to keep the ingredient lists similar for the two recipes, and made some substitutions in the cake: buttermilk for the cider, and light brown sugar for the dark. I thought I had cloves, but didn’t, so subbed pumpkin pie spice. And of course, Athlete Food is all about making every caloriecount, so the all-purpose flour went out, the whole wheat pastry flour in, and I cut the sugar by 1/4 cup.

Long baking times work in winter, when the evenings are dark and cold, and Bec and Laurel spend a lot of time indoors on the bike trainer. But spring is all abut getting after it outside, so Smitten Kitchen’s loaf became mini muffins. I baked them off after picking up my kids from school, and every single muffin had vanished before the sun had fully set.



Carrot Cake Pancakes

Adapted from Joy the Baker and Smitten Kitchen, who posted the recipe.

I had a whole explanation written about why I tried out these pancakes. But here’s what you really need to know:I made these twice in a week for my kids, and they asked for them again on Sunday.

Using a pancake mix helps withthe mental hurdle of making pancakes on a weekday morning. See? The recipe already has fewer ingredients. The day or night before, grate the carrots, mix the dry ingredients, and in a separate bowl, the wet ingredients. In the morning put it all together. Like me, you will wonder why you are waking up 15 minutes early to cook. But then you will pull off the dish towel covering the dry ingredients and get an energizing whiff of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

I ate these plain, straight out of the pan, and my kids topped their short stacks with unsweetened whipped cream, from a can(365 brand from Whole Foods).

A note about the pancake mix: I like Pamela’s because of the nutty almond flavor and because it’s easy to work with. That it’s gluten-free is incidental but convenient for when the gluten cautious visit.

1 cup Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
2 loosely packed tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 loosely packed cups finely grated carrots
ghee, for cooking the pancakes


Whisk together the baking mix, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, cover with a paper or dry dish towel and set aside.

Whisk together the egg, sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla. Cover securely and store in the fridge overnight.

From here I followed Smitten Kitchen’s instructions, using heaping tablespoons of batter and subbing ghee for butter.

If you don’t have time to make SK’s cream cheese topping, sub unsweetened or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Carrot Cake with Olive Oil

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

butter for greasing the baking pan or muffin tin

2 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground or a bunch of gratings of whole nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I use full fat.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups packed coarsely grated carrots from about 9 ounces (2 to 2 1/2 meaty/large or 4 to 5 slim; about 255 grams) whole carrots
cinnamon-sugar for dusting the tops (optional)

Follow Smitten Kitchen’s directions, with these three notes:

-I greased the pan/tins with butter.

-Since I cut the sugar down from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, I dusted the tops of the muffins and loaves with cinnamon-sugar. It turned out to be unnecessary since the spices are so fragrant—this batter is far from bland, even when less sweet—but the cinnamon-sugar adds a nice crunch and another layer of flavor.

-To speed up the baking time, I tried the batter in a 24-cup mini muffin tin, filling the cups with overflowing tablespoons of batter. The mini muffins take 18 minutes to bake.

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