Archive | July, 2013

Tips for Staying Cool on Hot Summer Runs!

11 Jul

Stay thirsty my friends (with these great tips from Rather be Runnin’)!

Rather Be Runnin'

As many of you know I hate the heat. Lately in SLO, it has been unnecessarily hot (think 104 degrees with no air conditioning hot). Most of you probably live in places where the heat is a normal way of life, but for me… it isn’t. This is one of the many reasons that I moved 20 minutes away from the beach. The fact is though, that the heat is here to stay for a bit so I figure it is time to get acclimated… as much as I don’t want to. So, here are a few tips for staying cool during those hot summer runs.

1. Run early in the morning.

It is definitely the coolest part of the day, so I recommend heading out as early as possible to avoid the heat.

2. Hydrate like a mother!

Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink at least 8 oz…

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Summer Salad Saturday

6 Jul

After another lovely weekend filled with kayaking and adventure, I found myself hot, sweaty and hungry. Being that it was not (and, currently, still isn’t) time for dinner, I was loathe to overindulge. I am a pretty boring salad-maker and usually stick to the basics: lettuce and tomato. This afternoon, I plodded into the nearest grocery store with a different plan in mind: An interesting salad.

I threw this blueberry salad together in a snap and you can, too. Here’s what I used:

– One bag of washed baby lettuce

– Organic reduced fat balsamic vinaigrette to taste

– Half a small carton of blueberries (but I’m sure strawberries would be amazing, too)

– About a handful of shelled walnuts

– Some reduced fat feta cheese, to taste

And, there you have it! Super refreshing and satisfying summer salad. Go out and share it with your friends!

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4 for the 4th

4 Jul

Great trail run this morning! Get on out there ladies and gents. There’s still time to do your 4 miles for the 4th of July. Happy independence, America!

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Brave New Beans

2 Jul

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Cooking with beans presents a wonderful opportunity for using all sorts of great veggies. Slow cooking recipes allow flavors to develop and enrich your legumes of choice.

OKAY. So, I know what you’re thinking. Really?!?! Could you please write about something just a tad more interesting than beans?

Although I have the sense to realize intellectually that parts of me will always crave, and give into, meat and poultry (albeit sparingly), I don’t desire it frequently or often enough to feel like a true omnivore. As a result, I’ve been testing out options for refining my life as what I like to call a 90% vegetarian.  For those of you out there who are hardcore meat-haters, I am sure this sounds as scientifically impossible as being ‘a little bit pregnant’. I can understand.

Being a vegetarian is probably  one of those things that you are or you aren’t.  So, as I move to refine my tastes and figure out a sensible life-plan when it comes to food, I am experimenting with various super-proteins to figure out their long-term powers to sustain me and my busy and sometimes athletic agenda.

This week, I dedicated my kitchen and palate wholeheartedly to beans. I report the findings as follows:

*Please note: In case you are interested in locating these fine beans on the web, I have hyperlinked all the subtitles to pages where these beans can be purchased online. This blogger is not affiliated with these purveyors of beanage in any way. Buy at your own risk. I stock up my stash at the nearest Whole Foods. The bulk bins offer a great and super cost effective way to load up on legumes.

ADZUKI BEANS:

According to Dr. Weil, adzuki beans are popular in Japan. They are low in calories and in fat. They contain good stuff like manganese and B vitamins and copper and they aren’t…ah-hem…gassy. They’re also a staple of the macrobiotic diet, which is something I don’t properly understand.

Nor I didn’t know what to do with these suckers at first.  So, I just cooked up a bunch and sprinkled a little salt on ’em and ate.

I later remembered that one of the ultramarathoners I most admire (Scott Jurek, in case you’re wondering) recently wrote about adzuki beans in connection with a health bar recipe featured in Runner’s World a few months back. So, I dragged up the article and attempted it.

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Step 1:

The KEY to cooking adzuki beans, and, perhaps a disclaimer for those of you who are perpetually in a rush, is that you cannot just throw them into a pot and expect results.  Adzuki beans must be soaked for 4-8 hours, or, ideally, overnight. If you’re like me and forget about them for over 20 hours, they’re still useable but will cook in an even shorter period of time than indicated in most recipes. The standard operating procedure for cooking with adzuki beans is to soak for about 8 hours and then cook for about 45 minutes, give or take.

I always get it wrong when it comes to water-to-bean ratio, so the lowdown is this: cover the beans with enough water so that there’s about 1/2 inch between the beans and the surface of the water. Rinse the beans well before you put them into the pot. Bring water and beans to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and let sit. Check on the beans intermittently to make sure they aren’t done. They should be soft and somewhat sweet tasting when they are ready to be eaten. I checked on my beans every four minutes after the first 20 minutes had elapsed. Of course, because I’d allowed my beans to cook for so long, they were super waterlogged and finished in about 20 minutes.

Step 2: ON TO THE RECIPE! Here is what you will need:

1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
1 15-ounce can adzuki beans, drained
1 medium overripe banana
1/2 cup almond or rice milk
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup barley flour
1/4 cup rice flour (this flour was expensive, so I replaced 1/4 cup rice flour with 1/4 cup of barely flour)
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup goji berries, currants, or raisins
1/2 cup nondairy chocolate chips [optional]

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Step 3: Taken verbatim from Mr. Jurek, you do the following… and, it is really easy.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease a 9-inch square pan with coconut oil. Blend beans and banana with almond and coconut milk until smooth and creamy. Add the flours, cocoa, syrup, vanilla, and salt, processing until thoroughly mixed. Stir in dried fruit. Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until firm. When cool, cut into squares.

My Assessment:  I was REALLY skeptical of the success of these little bean bars, especially since I am super low-tech in the kitchen and used a hand-blender to accomplish the “processing” of the beans and the bananas.

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Just a girl and her trusty, rusty blender. We get the job done.

I also used a  little less syrup and a tad less coco powder as well.  I also couldn’t bring myself to splurge on the full out vegan chocolate chips. Instead I purchased Whole Foods bittersweet chips. They were roughly 50% cheaper.  I also used goji berries which baked nicely and broke down to a much juicier consistency than I had expected.

Adzuki Bean Bars.

Adzuki Bean Bars.

And, there you have it. Lovely adzuki bean bars. They are even suitable for sharing with health food phobes. Furthermore, they pack up nicely and are capable of withstanding abuse at the bottom of your gym bag. I know, gross imagery, but they are quite hardy!

MUNG BEANS

Mung beans. Where to begin? Actually, it was a simple twist of fate that led me to purchase a bag. I happened upon these strange critters in the dry food bins and thought “these look cool”. The rest, you might say, is history.  Mung beans originate from the Indian subcontinent where there are many varieties. For all you bean fanatics out there, Alana Sugar’s blog post for the Whole Story, does a nice job combining the cultural history of this lovely, protein-laden bean while offering a nice travelogue.

So, now to the heart or rather, the bean of the story…

I really had no idea what to do with these beans. Feeling adventurous and also crunched for time, I decided to boil the one cup of beans and while still hot mixed them with about  two servings of whole grain pasta. I then stirred in some chia seeds (about a tablespoon) tossed with some extra virgin olive oil. I sprinkled with salt (sparingly) and pepper (abundantly).

Mung beans are simple to cook. Use 3 cups of water for one cup of dry beans. The mighty mung requires no pre-soaking.  Simply bring the beans and water to a boil, then to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for a good 40 minutes. Sources say they can take up to 60 minutes to cook fully. I did not find this to be the case. My best advice is to check up on your bad boys regularly so as not to blow it when it comes to ensuring they reach optimal consistency.

While keeping a close eye on my pasta and my beans, I took this time to set up my yoga mat in front of the stove (users PLEASE use caution, you are forewarned, this is probably dangerous)…but I took the opportunity to go through a few sun salutations while waiting for my grains and beans to boil.

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Chia seeds and mung beans, strange but happy bedfellows.

My Assessment: I’m not sure if this is one for the cookbooks. It’s great as a quick dinner. You’ll feel full yet clean afterwards. However, I’d refain from this with guests. It’s more of a ‘me only’ dinner.  The chia seeds got a little chewy but it all depends on how much of a pasta purist you are.

FRENCH LENTILS

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photo credit: http://honestfare.com/french-lentil-soup/ another great recipe for French Lentils!

OMG! I never use the aforementioned phrase except under circumstances in which I wish to convey my most sincerest sense of irony. However, after trying David Lebovitz’s Lentilles du Puy, I mean it. With all my heart.  French lentils when cooked correctly are amazingly amazing. And, unlike some other earthier, grittier tasting beans, these are smooth and delicious, particularly when simmered with fennel and onions to sweet perfection.

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A little dull in color, but certainly not in taste.

Mr. Lebovitz’s recipe is as follows:

For the lentils:

  • 1¼ cup (250 gr) French green lentilles du Puy
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few springs of fresh thyme
  • salt
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 bulb of fennel (optional), finely diced
  • freshly-ground pepper

For the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, peeled and minced

1. Rinse the lentils and remove any foreign matter.

2. Transfer the lentils to a large saucepan then cover with a copious amount of water, which should cover the lentils by at least 3-4 inches. Add the bay leaf and thyme.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a bit of salt, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender, adding more water if necessary. Be sure not to overcook them.

4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a few spoonfuls of olive oil in a skillet and add the carrots, onions, and fennel (if using). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently until tender. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

6. When the lentils are done, drain them well, then toss them in the vinaigrette with the cooked vegetables. Stir a few times to release the steam. Taste, and season with more salt, pepper, and olive oil if desired. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

My Assessment: Amazing. Period.

RED LENTILS

Red lentils are popular throughout India and the Middle East. And, I could be wrong, but after my travels in Ethiopia, feel convinced they are a big part of the diet there as well. I like red lentils because they cook down to a creamy, fibrous blend and really absorb the spices with which they are cooked.

For this purpose, I really wanted to make a red lentil curry. I’ll be honest, I selected the following recipe from Allrecipes.com while not-so-hard at work last week. The results of this experiment, however, were amazing.

You can access the recipe at the following link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/red-lentil-curry/

This is what the finished product looks like

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Downfalls to this lentil project are as follows:

– After cooking, your home will smell like your favorite Indian restaurant, possibly for a few days.

– Once you start mixing the curry paste with the onions and spices and tomato paste, you better get ready to move fast. You’ve really got to put some elbow grease into your efforts. Otherwise, the ingredients will just start to stick to each other and congeal like crazy. At one point, I added half a can of water just to break things up. Actually, I highly suggest you get yourself ready with half a cup of water to control the mixture during the final phase.

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This is where you’ve got to give it your all…but don’t go at it too hard. Red lentils are sort of fragile.

– Once you add the lentils, also get prepared to mix vigorously again. I added some fresh ginger to garnish this dish as I just love the sweet burn of some good old fashioned roots. Despite the strong smell and sweat and tears I put into this one, it’s definitely the closest I’ve come to getting Indian food down right in my home kitchen. I felt so successful!

BEAN BURGERS

Okay, so Friday was supposed to be my adventurous day. I was fixing to borrow a friend’s food processor and make these awesome sounding bean burgers (also featured in the Jurek article). But I went on a long run after work, and it was hot, and I was tired, and I drank a beer or two and lost my ability to fight on. Instead. I settled for some baby greens and freshly nuked Boca Burgers (see link above). Yeah, I know they’re not the greatest, but they do the trick. They’ve got less sodium than the other frozen bean burgers I checked out at the store. Plus, they only have 70 calories per serving. You can’t beat that.

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For extra protein I cooked up two patties and spread hummus inside and made a sort of sandwich. Not too shabby. Especially when washed down with some hearty Ommegang Abbey Ale.

Finally, I whipped up some grainberry muffins for a fresh and quick dessert. I kinda don’t even want to go there. All I’ll say is that they came from a mix, I made them while tipsy…and, I don’t know if you ever ate playdough as a kid, but…yeah, enough said.

So, in sum, I recommend you get out there and bean it up! During my week of eating beans almost exclusively, I felt clean and energized. I can’t report any decline in performance or any sad sluggishness as a result of meat withdrawal.

I suggest you get out there and experiment.  There’s a bag of beans out there with your name on it!

Go on, make a date with yourself

1 Jul

“Curving back within myself I create again and again.” ~ The Bhagavad Gita

“Sometimes you gotta have a conversation with yourself.”  Or, so a co-worker told  me the other day.  Actually, it was her grandmother who first gave her this advice.  Although I’ve never actually called it that, I probably couldn’t agree with grandma more. In almost everything we do in life, we often don’t have sufficient time to pause and reflect on our choices, our desires or our dreams.  Sometimes we find that we are simply “doing” things and we don’t even know why.

While I think it’s generally unhealthy to believe that we can turn infinitely inward to find answers, there is certainly power derived from being with oneself.  I love running and yoga so dearly because they bring me great pause.  As my joint passions, they are both activities that remind me that I frequently have more answers and more strength than I think.

When we build connections within ourselves, we can find the strength to create, to hope, to accept and to push harder in all things, whether they be physical or mental.

Sometimes our usual routine to workout or unwind ceases to be sufficient and stops providing us with the solace we need for thought and introspection. I’ve been feeling that way recently.  It’s like I haven’t been able to connect with what’s really going on…with me.

Given the fact my sick days are limited, I was able to get away for some quality “me” time this Saturday when I  headed to the Hudson for a kayaking trip. A few hours on the cool waters did the trick.  Kayaking is something I don’t get to do all that often, so it really broke down the doldrums of my usual weekend workout routine. While physically strenuous, it’s not murderously hard (as is something like crossfit) thus paving the perfect path for some steady contemplation. And, I’ve got to tell you, it was amazing.

The glorious Hudson River Valley. The perfect remedy for my rut.

A view of the glorious Hudson River Valley as seen from my kayak. The perfect remedy for my rut.

Something about the magic of the Hudson brings out the poet in me. As the waters churned beneath my oars, I couldn’t help but feel the words of Walt Whitman come to mind:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

So now, I challenge each of you, to take time, as my co-worker mentioned, to simply be.  To exist with yourself. To be alone with your inner voice. To come to complete stillness, like a compass settling on a smooth surface, and find your inner north. While others are inevitably a part of our daily lives, being alone is often equally as important. Do whatever moves you to happiness, to thought, to purpose.

I promise, you will not let yourself down.