Category Archives: Nutrition and recipes

Mushroom Spinach Chicken

spinach mushroom chicken

I was a little tired of ground turkey last week and boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale, so I whipped up this mushroom spinach chicken for half of my meals.  Like my other meal prep “recipes” (wherein I throw a bunch of clean ingredients together and call it a meal), it took less than 20 minutes to prepare. This batch made 3 servings (I had a six pack of breasts and used the other half for another recipe that I’ll be adding soon) but there would easily be enough sauce and veggies for 4.

 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5-6 ounces each)

8 ounces sliced baby portabello mushrooms

3 cups baby spinach leaves

3-5 cloves of garlic, chopped (I like a LOT of garlic in mine)

2 cups organic low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons flour (or arrowroot powder)

Salt and pepper

 

Method:

Place chicken breasts between sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound to 1/2″ thickness with a mallet or the smooth surface of a meat tenderizer. Remove wrap and season chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until done, then remove from skillet and place on a serving platter.

Add garlic, mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the broth to skillet and stir while bringing to a boil. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

Sprinkle flour or arrowroot powder over mushrooms and stir for 30 seconds, then add the remaining broth and the lemon juice ** and bring back a boil, stirring constantly until slightly thickened.***  Turn heat down to low and add spinach leaves, stirring them in until they are lightly wilted. Slice each chicken breast and portion out into your meal prep containers, then ladle equal amounts of sauce into each container.

** If you don’t have lemon juice, use lemon pepper to season the chicken and add another pinch or two at this point.

*** If you want a creamier sauce, you can add a tablespoon or two of milk (or almond milk) too at this point – but mine was plenty creamy without the addition.

 

Nutrition per serving: 263 calories, 7 grams of fat, 8.3 grams of carbs, 39.6 grams of protein, 1.8 grams of fiber.

 

 

 

Kabocha Lentil Curry

curry1.JPG

I’ve been back on my meal prepping kick lately – I’m working on building more muscle and leaning out a bit, so it’s nice to have a fridge full of healthy options to fuel my workouts.  I’ve been asked to blog some of my recipes, so I thought this would be a nice one to share – it’s vegan, gluten-free and packed with fiber. The flavors came together so well that you’d never guess that I came up with this on the fly and later had to backtrack to list the ingredients after throwing them together!

My original plan was to make dahl with some red lentils I picked up at Sprouts this morning, but then I noticed the kabocha squash still sitting on my counter from last week. I’m a huge fan of kabocha squash – it’s so tender and creamy and its sweetness works beautifully in curry. I grabbed a can of chickpeas from the pantry and a bunch of kale from the fridge and bam!  Curry with very little time or effort.

This made six 1-cup servings, one of which was promptly eaten as I packed away the rest.

Ingredients: 

1.5 cups vegetable broth

1 kabocha squash (also known as Japanese pumpkin), peeled and diced (if you cannot find kabocha squash, pumpkin would also work nicely in this)

1 cup red lentils, cooked and drained (I boil a big batch for 10 minutes, then drain and freeze the leftovers in a muffin tin for 1/2 cup servings to add to future recipes)

1 15.5oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

2 cups curly kale, torn into small pieces

Mochi curry powder to taste (I use a LOT so I don’t want to micromanage your spice rack, but I’d suggest a couple of teaspoons to start out)

 

Method:

Simmer squash in broth over medium heat in a covered nonstick skillet until tender (took about 10 minutes, so lentils and squash were done around the same time).** Add lentils and chickpeas and simmer for a few more minutes, then add the kale and simmer until barely wilted. Season with curry powder (I like mochi curry powder best with kabocha but any variety will do), simmer for another 2-3 minutes and serve.

** Note: for a creamier sauce, you can hit the squash with a stick blender or mash part of it with a fork to break it down a bit more, but as it simmers it’ll soften enough to add creaminess without this being a vital step.

 

Nutrition:

According to MyFitnessPal, each 1-cup serving contains 254 calories, 2.3 grams of fat, 44.9 grams of carbs, 15.1 grams of protein and 14.4 grams of fiber.

 

 

Stuffed Energy Dates – a natural, Paleo alternative to energy gels

Since going Paleo, I’ve started experimenting with natural race fuel – the chemical-laden Gu and Chomps just taste weird to me now and upset my stomach. I’ve carried dried fruit, made my own gels using fruit, chia seeds and sweet potatoes, and I’ve messed around with the recipe I’m about to share now – medjool dates stuffed with coconut oil and cocoa powder. It’s my absolute favorite way to fuel before, during and after a race, training run or workout.

Dates contain easily digestible simple sugars plus fiber that helps stabilize blood sugar. The high levels of potassium help keep your electrolytes balanced and the magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory. Iron and B-complex vitamins help boost energy. Dates also contain calcium, Vitamin K and phenols (antioxidant compounds that protect cells against damaging free radicals). So much nutrition in such a small package!

I use the coconut oil because of the MCT (medium chain triglycerides). Coconut oil is metabolized like a carbohydrate – The fatty acids are sent directly to the liver for conversion into energy and not into body tissues as fat. The cocoa powder is rich in potassium and contains energy-boosting caffeine and theobromine (which is also a mood booster). Potassium chloride AKA salt substitute helps strike a better electrolyte balance than sea salt (although for training sessions shorter than 3 hours, you don’t really need the extra potassium anyway, as long as you replenish post-workout).

Okay, so now you know why. Let’s talk about how!

Mise en place (Anne Burrell would be so proud)

Mise en place (Anne Burrell would be so proud)

What you will need to make a dozen of these little energy bombs:

12 large medjool dates (fresh are softer and easier to work with than dried)

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Potassium chloride (sold as “salt substitute” in your grocery)

The process:

Using a sharp knife, carefully slit each date without cutting completely in half and remove the pit in each, then spread the halves apart so they fold open like sticky little books.

dates2dates3

Next, mix the 1/4 cup of coconut oil with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder until it forms a brownie-batter like consistency. You can use less cocoa if you like. I won’t micromanage your taste buds.

dates4dates5

Use a teaspoon to measure out the amount you’ll put in each date. You may use a bit more or less depending on the size of each date.  Spread cocoa/oil mixture inside each half and then sprinkle with the salt substitute.

dates6dates7

Smush the halves of each date back together and pinch the edges slightly to seal. Now it’s time to wrap them!  I use Glad Press’n’Seal, although foil works well too. I wrap these as shown below (more info later on why, beyond easy wrapper removal):

corner to corner instead of edge to edge is easier to open on the run

corner to corner instead of edge to edge is easier to open on the rundates9

After wrapping each date individually, they’re ready to go into a baggie and then into your fuel carrying system. I can fit 6 dates into a snack-sized bag, which goes into my SPI belt. It’ll hold more, but this is usually all I need.

dates10dates11

These are great for pre- and mid-run, but for fast post-run fuel (or for when I need a little change in flavor and a bit of protein), I like to stuff them with cashew butter or almond butter instead. Same concept, less mixing.

dates14dates15

To tell them apart in my bag without having to inspect them, I wrap the ones filled with nut butter like candies, twisting the long ends of each. I usually mark a C or A on the wrapper depending on which nut butter I use, but it’s easier to feel the difference in wrapper than it is to read the writing when running.

dates16

There you have it! Natural, portable energy that can be consumed on the run, on the bench in a derby bout or between sets in the gym. Nothing fake and you can control what goes into your fitness nutrition.

For the sake of comparison, here are the nutrition facts for my recipe vs. Gu. Since it is not an exact 1:1 ratio on carbs, you may have to play around a bit with how frequently you consume these as opposed to how frequently you’d use Gu. As I become fat-adapted, I notice I need fewer and at longer intervals than I did when I was weaning myself off of the carb-heavy diet I used to consume.

Nutrition info for coconut oil stuffed dates

Nutrition info for coconut oil stuffed dates

Nutrition info for Gu (varies slightly by flavor)

Nutrition info for Gu (varies slightly by flavor)

I hope you enjoy these – please let me know what you think!  I welcome feedback and I’d love to know what works (and doesn’t work) for you. My next post will be about some of the other options I’ve tried – I’ll include the recipes for the homemade gel and sweet potato puree I like to use.

Vegetti Adventures: My Love Affair with a Spiralizer

I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets, particularly those of the “As Seen On TV” persuasion. So when my dear friend Trigger Mortis told me about her Vegetti, I was intrigued (and remained so even after realizing it wasn’t a saucy euphemism).

I picked one up at CVS and gleefully began spiralizing everything in the crisper, experimenting with simple sauces and herbs from our garden. So far, these recipes have all been hits – even my picky, pasta-loving progeny has tasted them (that alone is worth the 14 bucks).

A few tips:
• This thing’s basically a giant pencil sharpener, so long, thin vegetables fit best in it. Sweet potatoes in particular are easier to spiralize if they’re skinny.
• When peeling your vegetables, leave a few inches at the top unpeeled so you’ll be able to grip without slipping.
• You’ll have a couple of inches of pointy veggie nub left, since it’s pretty much impossible to spiralize the entire vegetable. I’ve been saving mine to cube and roast for vegetable soup or dog food.
• The “noodles” can be boiled, but I vastly prefer a quick sauté in olive oil or coconut oil to preserve nutrients – plus the caramelization adds depth of flavor.
• Each of these recipes makes two small servings or one “stop judging me, I just ran 5 miles” serving.

Sweet Potato Pad Thai

Sweet Potato Pad Thai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Pad Thai

Saute 1 spiralized sweet potato for 5-8 minutes, then stir in:

1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
Dash of sriracha

Top with chopped Thai basil and/or garnish with a lime wedge.

••••••••••••••••

Hash Brown Nests with Baked Eggs

Hash Brown Nests with Baked Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hash Brown Nests with Baked Eggs

Preheat oven to 475 & grease 2 ramekins or muffin cups. Spiralize 1 russet potato, season with salt and pepper and divide mixture between ramekins, pressing spiralized potatoes into the bottom and sides to form little nests.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, then turn heat down to 400 & remove cups from oven. Carefully crack 1 egg into each cup and return to oven to bake for 5 minutes or until whites set.

••••••••••••••••

The potato nests were really fun to make, so I also made zucchini nests with cherry tomato “eggs” from our garden. One is raw and vegan; the other is baked and filled with herbed ricotta. The raw recipe works great with cucumber, too.

Zucchini Nests

vegannest

Raw Zucchini Nests with Cherry Tomato Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiralize 1 zucchini and marinate the noodles in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and golden balsamic vinegar for a few minutes to soften, then drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange noodles in a nest and top with raw tomatoes and fresh oregano.

 

vegricottanest

Baked Zucchini Nest with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preheat oven to 400 and grease a ramekin or muffin cup. Spiralize 1 zucchini and mix 1 beaten egg into the noodles, then arrange in ramekin/cup to form a nest. On a separate pan or cookie sheet, toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast zucchini nest and tomatoes for 12-15 minutes.

Mix together 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese and 1 teaspoon chopped oregano. Top nest with ricotta and tomatoes.

••••••••••••••••

Lastly, a trio of post-workout snacks. I find myself craving the zucchini after every run now.

Clockwise from top left: Sweet Potato with Salmon and Black Beans, Cucumber Salad & Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint

Clockwise from top left: Sweet Potato with Salmon and Black Beans, Cucumber Salad & Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato with Salmon and Black Beans
Spiralize 1 sweet potato and sauté for 5-8 minutes. Add 1/4 cup cooked salmon and 1/4 black beans & season with cayenne.

Cucumber Salad
Spiralize 1 cucumber. Season with cracked black pepper, stir in 1 tablespoon of golden balsamic vinegar & top with 1 tablespoon of feta cheese.

Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint
Spiralize 1 zucchini and sauté with 1 chopped clove of garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese & 1 tablespoon chopped mint. Trust me on the mint! It pairs beautifully with zucchini.

••••••••••••

I’ll post another round after this week’s experiments. Let me know if you try any of these, tell me what you liked & share your own recipes with me!

Stuffed Apples and Banana Sorbet with Caramel Swirl

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe (or anything, really), so today you get a dynamic duo.  Well, a terrific trio, technically.  We’ve been iced in for several days now in what Dallasites are calling Icepocalypse 2013, so I’ve been even more domestic than usual. (Mostly because the kitchen is the warmest room in this little old house.)

My dear friend Glo mentioned baked apples yesterday, which of course sparked a craving that I couldn’t shake ’til it was satisfied. I wanted to make a healthier version than the traditional recipes that call for sugar and butter, but a Google search yielded some disappointing results (since when are flavored protein powders, sugar-free artificially flavored syrups and packaged cereals clean?), so I threw together this recipe with the clean-eating  staples in my pantry.

Since the apples looked too virtuous on their own, I figured the perfect accompaniment would be a scoop of decadent ice cream.  Of course we have none in the house, so I tossed some bananas in the freezer for a sorbet. What I really was pining for was a scoop of Blue Bell’s Pecan Pralines and Cream – mostly for the caramel ribbon swirled throughout. I am a sucker for anything with caramel!  I didn’t have any cream and didn’t want to use a ton of butter, but I did have coconut milk, coconut palm sugar, raw honey and a basic understanding of how to make caramel – so I figured I could get pretty close to the favor profile I was looking for without a ton of calories.

If you have never made sorbet with frozen bananas, you are missing out on something special. I added a bit of Greek yogurt to enhance the creaminess, but it’s not necessary to achieve the right texture if you want to keep your dessert vegan. Maple syrup can be used instead of honey for the caramel, too.

The verdict: my husband proclaimed it to be “spectacular” and I not-so-humbly agree.

Blogs with 58 how-to pictures before the actual recipe drive me crazy (I know how to pour water without a visual aid, Pioneer Woman), so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Here’s the end result:

20131207-233014.jpg

A few quick notes about these recipes:

The apple recipe makes 2 servings, and can easily be increased to feed more faces. The sorbet made about 4 scoops, so we had half with our apples  last night and we’ll have the other half with whatever I make tonight.

Throw the sliced bananas in the freezer an hour or two before you start the apples so they’ll be frozen in time for everything to come out together.

The caramel sauce makes a bit more than a cup, so use a bit for this and save the rest for homemade salted caramel mochas. I made the caramel while the apples baked but next time I’ll make and chill it ahead of time so it’s easier to make thick swirls through the sorbet.  (Completely blending the two together will result in a delightful dulce de leche flavored sorbet that begs for a light sprinkle of crunchy sea salt.)

Stuffed Apples:

Ingredients:

2 apples (I used Pink Lady, of course)

2 tablespoons old fashioned oats

2 tablespoons almond butter

1 dried date, chopped (for sweetness/moisture – you could use a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey here instead if you like)

1 tablespoon dried cranberries, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 cup of water

Optional topping:

1 tablespoon chopped pecans, divided

2 teaspoons coconut oil, divided

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a paring knife, melon baller or other apple coring tool, remove cores from apples. (if I can save any apple flesh from the core, I chop it finely and add it to the filling).

In a mixing bowl, combine oats, almond butter, dates, cranberries, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix well to combine, moistening with a bit of water if it’s too thick to stir.

Pack wells of apples firmly with filling. Combine pecans and coconut oil and sprinkle on top each apple. Place apples in a baking dish, pour the water into bottom of dish and cover loosely with foil.  Place in oven for 20ish minutes, then remove foil and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. Apple skins will be wrinkled and a knife should slide through its flesh easily when poked with a paring knife.

While your apples bake, whip up that sorbet.

Banana Sorbet 

Ingredients:

2 bananas – peeled, sliced and frozen for 1-2 hours

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or you can scrape some seeds out of a vanilla bean, which I prefer)

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend ’til creamy, stopping the machine a few times to scrape mixture down sides of container and make sure all chunks are smoothing out. Spoon into glass dish and pop in the freezer to firm up while you mix up the caramel sauce.

Coconut Milk Caramel Sauce 

Ingredients:

1 can (or 14 oz) coconut milk (full fat works better than light for texture)

1/4 cup raw honey (or maple syrup)

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

Whisk first 3 ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat so it doesn’t bubble over. Let it boil low uncovered at a low roll until it thickens and darkens, stirring frequently.  It’ll take about 15-20 minutes for your caramel to reduce to a little over a cup of dark amber goo. Remove from heat and add salt, stirring ’til smooth. Place in fridge to cool off a bit before adding to sorbet.

To assemble ice cream: swirl a generous vein of caramel through sorbet – if you really wanna get fancy, throw a teaspoon or two of chopped pecans in to further pay homage to the famous Blue Bell flavor.  Serve alongside apple, or split apple in half and top each side with a scoop of sorbet.

Try it and let me know what you think!  I welcome feedback.

Breakfast Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Your mom was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Especially if you’re up before the crack of dawn and have some heavy mileage (be it actual or metaphorical) to cover later.

Image

I’ve recently become an early bird, thanks to dogs who like to cuddle at 5am and 5Ks that begin before the sun has fully risen.  It’s a pleasantly strange departure from my old nocturnal habits (ingrained in my DNA, nurtured by generations of night owls and vital to a late-night derby schedule).  As much as I loved late (and sometimes large) dinners after derby practice, I always felt sluggish in the morning – not very hungry, sometimes even a bit nauseated at the mention of food.  I assumed I just wasn’t a breakfast person.

Then I started front-loading my day – eating more of my daily calories in the morning than in the evening. My metabolism has perked up again and I have a lot more energy, which makes me more productive in general and enhances that Energizer Bunny-esque charm that people either love or loathe (it’s okay to feel both).  I’m not ravenous in the evening when I eat well for breakfast and lunch, so I don’t eat everything in the house before passing out.  Oh, and I sleep better on a less-full stomach. Victories abound.

So I may be a morning person and even a breakfast person now, but I still can’t handle anything greasy or sweet upon rising.  I need something simple, nourishing and toeing the line between sweet and savory. Easily digestible carbs and very lean protein are what I generally aim for in breakfast recipes, like the Savory Oatmeal I’ve been making a lot lately (I could write an entire cookbook chapter on savory oat risotto recipes. I love it that much). I was craving Breakfast Quinoa this morning though, so I made a big batch to portion out for the week.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love quinoa. It’s really easy to make, it’s versatile and it keeps well in the fridge.  I’m also pretty crazy about roasted sweet potatoes, so I combined the two for this recipe and added a maple yogurt drizzle to make it faaaaaancy.

Enough with the rambling, pink lady.  They just Googled for a quinoa recipe, not your life story. Speaking of recipes, this one makes 4 reasonable servings or 2 “I just ran 8 miles so SHUT UP” servings. It takes about 20 minutes to make.

Breakfast Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained (I like rainbow quinoa, for obvious reasons)

1 cup water

1 cup milk of your choice (I used almond) *

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste – I don’t know your life, man, you season how you like)

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized cubes

2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

* you can omit the milk and increase the water to equal two cups if you like – milk makes the quinoa creamier but isn’t crucial for good texture/flavor

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a baking sheet (metal or foil-lined will give your taters crisper edges), toss cubed potatoes in coconut oil to coat. Roast in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until tender (obviously, smaller pieces will roast faster, and you’ll want to check them frequently and give them a flip/shake halfway through to make sure they’re getting evenly browned).

Image

While the potatoes roast, bring water and milk* to a boil. Add quinoa, stir and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice if you’re feeling festive) and remove from heat and let stand uncovered for a few minutes to thicken a bit more before fluffing with a fork.

To serve, spoon quinoa into a bowl and top with a portion of sweet potatoes. You can make it fancier with a teaspoon or two of chopped pecans, or try a yogurt drizzle.  I was using Brown Cow Maple Yogurt on mine, but found that this homemade version is even nicer:

Maple Yogurt Drizzle (single serving)

1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt

1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Dash of vanilla extract

Whisk all 3 ingredients together with a fork and drizzle over the top of your potatoes.  Simple, delicious and just the right amount of creamy sweetness to make a virtuous breakfast taste indulgent.

Please try this recipe and let me know what you think!  I welcome feedback.

Oat Risotto with Poached Egg

Steel cut oats have long been a staple in my diet – oatmeal is low on the glycemic index and full of soluble fiber, which helps keep me full & pleasant to be around. I roll them into my Energy Balls, I make them with cinnamon and fruit for breakfast & I add a bit to my smoothies, but lately I’ve been experimenting with savory versions.

Steel cut oats are really easy to cook risotto-style. The nutty texture has the same chewy mouth-feel as rice and the neutral flavor can be seasoned in endless ways. After trying a few variations, I found bliss in this combination: oat risotto studded with sautéed red peppers and edamame, topped with a poached egg.

This recipe serves four, but the proportions are easy to reduce.

Ingredients:

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
2-3 dashes soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
4 medium eggs
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Directions:

In a large pot, bring water and broth to a boil. (You can omit the broth and just use 3 cups of lightly salted water, but I love the umami notes that a quality broth brings to this dish). Add the oats, reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the oats get too thick, just add a little water & keep stirring.

While your oats are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sautée garlic, peppers & edamame ’til tender & lightly browned (about 10 minutes).

20131025-230551.jpg

When oats are nearly done, add the soy sauce & sautéed veggie mixture and stir well to combine. Now it’s time to poach those eggs.

A note on poaching eggs: I prefer to poach multiple eggs in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover the eggs (crack them gently & slip them into the water), cooked slowly over medium-low heat. When I’m in a hurry, though, 1 minute in a teacup with 1/4 water in the microwave makes for a surprisingly well-poached single egg. PLEASE put a saucer over the top of the teacup if you microwave yours. I’ve created some pretty impressive eggsplosions when I forgot to cover mine.

Once eggs are poached, it’s time to plate. Spoon half a cup of oat risotto on each plate, top with an egg & season to taste with salt, pepper and sriracha. Dig in.

20131025-220338.jpg

Try it and let me know what you think! You’ll never look at oatmeal the same way again.