shrimp soooooooup…

You are what you eat. We’ve all heard it. And look. I’m not proud of it, but it happens every year. I get busy and my diet goes down the pooper. And when that happens, my training struggles.

Likely I don’t have the energy because snacking on cheese and crackers and a handful of peanut M&Ms for “lunch” doesn’t exactly give you strength and lasting energy for sustained efforts such as those required for Ironman training (probably why I’ve been having a rough training week, don’tcha think?!).

Adding to that is the overwhelming feeling that working out this much should (and nearly always does) mean I can eat whatever I damn please. So I do. Is that usually a well balanced, nutrient filled meal? Not unless you count a reuben and tater tots as well balanced…Sluggish runs, here we come!

photo from ebruli, flickr

photo from ebruli, flickr

The ongoing struggle in our household is having quick, easy and healthy meals (and the ingredients needed on hand) and the foresight to plan ahead, making grocery lists and go to the store. This year, I swore I’d do better. The jury’s still out but this week was pretty much a FAIL, with the exception of last night.

Here’s a newly discovered favorite that we’ve adapted to make even faster and even easier and it was a lovely feast that becomes yummier and yummier as the leftovers sit beckoning in the fridge:

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Soup 

  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1 whole large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup celery, chopped
  • 2-3+ minced chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce (the recipe calls for 1 tbsp but we can’t get enough of the smoky, spicy wonderfulness of these chiles!)
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 8 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (15-ounce) can great northern beans or white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 24+ ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp (if you get cooked shrimp, you only need to add the shrimp and cook till warm)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • tortilla chips
  • avocados

Preparation

1. Heat a very large soup pot / stock pot over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and saute onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); cook 6 minutes or until celery is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth, beans, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover and cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp; cook 2 minutes or until shrimp are done (or heated through if you used pre-cooked).

2. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice. Garnish with cilantro, tortilla chips and avocado, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings (about 1 3/4 cups soup)

(Sorry for no photo – I was so hungry last night I forgot to snap one before I dug in and scarfed it down! Adapted from Cooking Light – they have a lovely photo you can ogle)

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mmmmmm, cheeseburger…

Last week, after a 2 hour 30 minute brick (that was preceded earlier in the day by a run with some girlfriends), I had SUCH a hankering for a cheeseburger. With bacon. Jalapenos. Maybe some BBQ sauce. Tater tots. Oh man, I’m hungry just thinking about it.

My wonderful hubby had gone to the grocery store just a day earlier though and picked up some salmon, spinach, black beans, tomatoes… you know, super foods. Healthy stuff. Boy is he responsible.

I remember finishing the workout and laughing: Ho-boy, he’s crazy if he thinks I’m eating grilled salmon tonight!

But then I remembered this recipe from Rachel Ray’s “365: NO REPEATS” cookbook and thought, what the heck. Healthy isn’t going to hurt this once (and also I had grand visions of sneaking out for a  midnight hamburger snack in the middle of the night, waking the hubby and running out for the least healthy thing you could possibly eat in the middle of the night…you know, as a reward for working out and also as a reward for eating healthy, haha).

Anyway, this is a yummy one and a good healthy standby (especially when compared to, say, a bacon cheeseburger!) so I thought I’d share it here in case you need some food inspiration some night in the near future.

 

Lime and Honey Glazed Salmon with Warm Corn and Black Bean Salar

 

Honey Glazed Salmon with Warm Corn and Black Bean Salad: 

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 + tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp ground cumin

3 tbsp honey

1 tsp chili powder

24 oz salmon fillet (s)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

10-15 oz (fresh, canned or defrosted frozen) corn

1/2 cup stock

15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

6 cups baby spinach

2 limes (or lime juice)

 

In a shallow dish, combine juice of 1 lime, honey, and chili powder and mix well. Coat the salmon in the mixture thoroughly and then cook it in a skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil, 3-4 minutes on each side or until the salmon is just cooked through. (I think next time I might try to marinate the salmon in the mixture and then broil it).

In another skillet, pre-heat 2 tbsp olive oil and cook the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and cumin. Cook for 3 minutes and don’t forget to stir occasionally.  Add the bell peppers and corn and cook for 1-2 minutes to soften peppers. Add stock and cook for an addition 2 minutes. Add black beans and cook until the beans are warm. Remove from heat and add juice of one lime, cilantro and spinach. Toss to wilt spinach.

Serve salmon on top of a bed of warm bean and corn salad.

Enjoy!

(adapted from 365:No Repeats, Rachel Ray)

 

 

 

frozen foods…

As you might expect, training for Ironman means you want (and need) to eat. Lots.

I’m this way without training for anything, so one of the best things for me about any training program (but especially training for endurance races like Ironman) is the ability (and justification) to eat whatever it is you darn please. However, training also puts a severe damper on the amount of time you have to do non-training things, such as grocery shop and cook… minor details.

In previous years when I’ve trained for half Ironman distances, I’ve had weeks where I was just so darn tired from working and training, training and working, that I didn’t want to do anything but SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP when nighttime or the weekend came.

I don’t imagine that this year will be any different and in fact the need to have easy, accessible, relatively nutritious food is doubled with two hungry bears in our household training for Ironman. So on my rest day the other day, I ran out to the grocery store and picked up all sorts of yummies – ingredients for things that could be cooked and prepared now while I have the time and frozen for future convenient consumption.

Behold my progress!

yum yums for later!

yum yums for later!

I am no professional food photographer, nor am I a professional chef. But I can tell you that a frozen lasagna and a container full of 3 bean chili are happily sitting in my freezer now, waiting to fulfill their destinies as fuel in a time crunch in the near future. The third is a concoction of the nuts – oats- chocolate – raisins persuasion that was intended to be saved for future but proved to be too tasty to resist!

I hope to have some more time this coming week to put together some more freezer meals while the workouts are still relatively short. The more I can make, the better!  My future self will thank me…

Do you have a favorite freezer-type standby meal?

eating in a food desert…

I eat constantly. I’ll admit it. And it’s even more pronounced when I’m training (at least then I have a good reason!). I’ll admit I never thought much about the concept of a “food desert” until I started working 35 miles “out of town” at the end of 2011, in the heart of rural America. Food deserts, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a low-income community without ready access to healthy and affordable food, have gotten some attention recently. Ironically, despite the fact that the food we eat is often grown in rural America, many rural towns lack access to healthy and affordable food.

Sure, there’s a grocery store where I work – right across the street even. But the healthy options are not prolific. The produce leaves a little something to be desired. The quick options consist of fried stuff (chicken, French fries and Jo Jos) and of course you can always grab a box of donuts. And there are always lots and lots of processed foods to choose from. Beyond the grocery store, there are a couple of greasy spoon diners and 1 fast food restaurant. Gag. Fried food reigns supreme, with scarce options for healthy choices. For someone like me, that won’t cut it.

Every night before I go to bed, I pack breakfast, lunch and snacks to get me through the work day and the mid-day workout. Which is usually fine. Except that I may have mentioned that training takes up So. Much. Time. And it makes me too lazy to go grocery shopping. Which means that too often, my refrigerator is E-M-P-T-Y, save for some tortillas, and a maybe a couple of beers. And some salad dressings. Enough for a wrap style version of what was once my little brother’s favorite: condiment sandwiches. Gross then. Gross now. (Love you Mikey!)

So yesterday, I got back from a long, hot run,grabbed some water and stuck my lunch in the microwave. Excellent – this is really going to hit the spot, I thought to myself. And then I dropped it. All over the floor. WHAAAAAAAAAT?! Way to go. Lunch went from almost fulfilling to a tease. Four measly bites instead of 12. Or 24. We’ll never know. And that was all I had with me. Even the snacks I usually stash were depleted. It was a long, hungry afternoon. Yes, woe is me.

But it was just the kick in the behind that I needed to restock things on the home front and last night, after my bike ride, I hit the grocery store even though it was late and I was stinky and sweaty and in desperate need of a shower. I filled my basket with produce, ah produce – fruits for smoothies and snacks, veggies for salads and stir-frys – hopefully enough to get me through the weekend even. Apparently, these days, a cart full of produce will get you a comment from the clerk, “Healthy living!” indeed! And today, I packed wayyyy too much healthy food for the day, over planned, if you will, determined not to be hungry after today’s lunchtime swim workout, should I happen to develop butterfingers again!

hip, hip, hooray!

(Quick side note here: I live “in town”, I have a safe and reliable method of transportation, and every day I pass no less than a dozen grocery stores well stocked with health options. Twice- on my way to work and again on my way home.  I recognize that I am fortunate to have infinitely more options than those who live in rural America or elsewhere in the world – all I need to do is plan ahead. I’m well aware that I don’t have an actual problem here, unlike many who live in food deserts who actually do face a significant challenge to eating healthy.

Food deserts are an interesting concept. The lack of healthy and affordable food is certainly an obstacle to health, especially when you add to the fact that fried, unhealthy food is usually cheap and oh-so-very-convenient, making it an appealing option for many across the country, not just rural residents. And let’s face it, a lack of access to healthy and affordable foods, or even just choosing fried anything-and-everything day after day commonly leads to and later compounds problems with obesity and diabetes. Many communities, including the one where I work, are working to find solutions and attempting to reverse the trend by forming fresh food coalitions and community gardens, encouraging physical activity, and hard working to educate folks on the realities of the health problems that are directly linked to the lack of healthy foods and made worse from a lack of physical activity. Hopefully progress is on the horizon, but change is often slow.) 

rewards (in the form of lemon berry ricotta crepes)…

One of the reasons we work out is so we can eat more, right? If you know me, you know I LOVE food and you know that I think that one of the great things about this many workouts a week is that I’m torching tons of calories. Which basically means I can eat almost anything I want and be (almost) totally justified in the irresponsibility of the indulgence. Awesome.

The trick is to a) not to eat more than I’m burning (and that is definitely a feat some days – I hate to pass up an opportunity to indulge!) and b) to replace those burned calories with things my body can use for fuel in the next day’s workout (i.e. protein and carbs and all that good stuff). It gets a little scientific for me, but I know that eating potato chips and Twix bars for meals will leave me feeling worn out big time in the next day’s workout. It’s not really worth it to be dragging over a bad decision. So we stick to the basics, a lot of super foods – fruits, veggies, salmon, black beans. Lots of salads. Stir frys. Mexican goops. And fortunately, we don’t usually have much of the “bad” stuff in our house anyways, so not much temptation.

But obviously it’s fun to reward yourself for sticking to your training, so I often do. And often these rewards are in the form of food. Not only that, but they commonly take the form of processed sugars. You know, cookies and the like.

Sundays are great for rewards like sleeping in. Waking up without an alarm clock. This particular Sunday also proved to be a great day for Lemon Berry Ricotta Crepes, which we had originally planned to have for breakfast but turned out to be a great dinner as well –

Here’s the recipe, which I adapted from a recipe for crepes that I found in our local paper and combined with a recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce from Two Peas & Their Pod (though I pretty much just used their blueberry sauce recipe and saved the pancakes part for another reward day…).

Ingredients:

For the Berry Sauce:
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water

For the Ricotta Filling (you could probably cut this in half – we had a lot leftover):
2 cups ricotta cheese
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Crepes:
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 fluid ounces water
1 cup all purspose flour
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Vegetable oil for the pan

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and cornstarch and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine berries (we used frozen mixed berries), sugar and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in lemon juice and cornstarch mixture. Stir until the sauce thickens slightly. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Combine ricotta, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Refrigerate until ready to fill crepes. Refrigerate until ready to fill crepes.

Combine eggs, milk and water; mix well. Add flour and mix until just combined. While stirring, pour in melted butter. Mix well until smooth.

Heat ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil in a 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel, leaving a thin film of oil.

Pour a scant ¼ cup crepe batter into the skillet and tilt the pan until batter evenly covers the bottom of the pan. Cook crepe without moving until top surface is dry and edges start to brown, loosening it from the side of the pan with a spatula. Gently slide spatula under edge of crepe. Grasp with fingertips and flip crepe. Cook until second side is lightly spotted golden brown.

Fill each crepe with sweetened ricotta cheese and berries. Roll up and place seam side down on a plate. Top with a dollop of ricotta (and the recipe also suggests fresh mint leaves and fresh fruit. We weren’t classy enough for fresh mint, but we had strawberries!)

What’s great about having these for dinner is that you know you’ve either earned them. Or you haven’t. In our case, I figured that 8 workouts over the course of this past week called for a crepe-tacular, fruit and ricotta-filled breakfast/dinner.

Although now that I think about it, having these for breakfast would put some pressure on me to go get a workout in at some point during the day! Cheers!

homemade chipotle bean burritos

Here in our house, we love our Mexican food – fast, easy, and delicious. And what’s more, depending on how you make it (i.e. If you have the strength to refrain from adding massive amounts of queso and frying the whole darn thing), it can be nutritious too. (Side note: as a general rule, we do not keep queso in the house. Too yummy. We’d eat it every meal. And that stuff will kill you. Spicy, creamy, delicious DANGER!)

We fondly refer to Mexican food as “Mexican Goop”:  Beans, any kind of meat (or no meat at all!), spices, a little bit of cheese, some form of tortilla, some salsa or hot sauce, and some veggies and you’ve got yourself a meal!  One of best things about Mexican Goop is how easy it is to improvise. Its seriously the choose-your-own adventure of food.  You can wrap it into a burrito, dump it on a salad, layer it into a baked casserole… the possibilities are endless. And if you focus on making beans and veggies the base, and go easy on the cheese, guac and sour cream, it really can be a pretty safe bet for a quick and healthy meal.

This one here’s super fast and requires very minimal effort on anyone’s behalf, which is great when you’re short on time and still need to eat something yummy (which is me, all of the time!):

CHIPOTLE BEAN BURRITOS

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

1 tbsp canola oil

1-2 garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder (we use 1 tsp+ of cayenne and throw in some red pepper flakes too)

1-15oz can black beans, drained

1-15oz can kidney beans, drained  (you can also substitute pinto beans or other kinds if that’s what you have on hand…)

3 tbsp salsa (I think we get closer to 1/4+ cup of salsa… usually I eyeball this, but again, we like it spicy!)

Tortillas

Cheese

Romaine Lettuce

Chopped tomato

Sour Cream

1) Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, chile powder and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add 1/3 cup water and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salsa. Partially mash bean mixture. Serve with tortillas and various toppings!

Yield: approx 6 burritos.

Cooking Light Calorie count

(Serving size is 1 burrito. Based on 2.5 tbsp cheese, 1/4 c tomato, 1/4 c lettuce, 1 tbsp sour cream on each burrito): 

Calories 361; Fat 10.3 g (3.8g sat, 31g mono, 2g poly); Protein 16.8g; Carbs 52.2g; Fiber 11.4g;

Chol 19mg; Iron 3.3mg; Sodium 735mg; Calc 395mg

veggies and cookies…

The other day, I ran out to the grocery store to get some fruits and veggies… a common trip; we go through produce pretty fast ’round these parts. I tore through the produce corner real quick-like: bananas, snap peas, green beans, spinach, mushrooms, a cucumber.  The mangoes were an impulse buy. I knew exactly what I wanted – stuff for some stir-fry, stuff for some smoothies – so I was in and out in 5 minutes.

Yet, here’s what I came home with:

There were these really super persuasive Girl Scouts right outside the door to the grocery store… and by really persuasive, I mean, they were basically just standing there. They might have asked me if I wanted to buy some Girl Scout Cookies. Or maybe they just pointed at me and then pointed at the table full of cookies. Let’s just say I was no bastion of strength in the face of these magical cookies.

I figure it evens out my food groups, right? Fruits, veggies and sugars? Ha. More like they’ll be tasty little rewards for things like taking the time to stretch post-workout or doing the laundry.

But I do have to say, even though I was weak that night, all 4 boxes are sitting in my freezer right now… out of sight out of mind. It’s reassuring to know that they’re there if I want them though (for now anyway, until my hubby discovers them!)!