Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Succulent Socca!

Posted: September 23, 2013 in Nutrition, Recipes
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They say that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’  and to that I say:  FUCKIN’-A!

Some people will bitch and moan about not getting their morning coffee and, while I enjoy me my morning cuppa Joe as well, it’s totally meaningless until it’s also accompanied by something warm, hearty and delicious to start the day.  Usually, I fall back on my tried and true two egg omelet with onion, mushroom and cheese (or whatever else happens to need being used up in the refrigerator) which requires a mere 17 minutes to prepare.  Yes, I have it that well timed.  I could make that shit blindfolded.  Other times I like to go out, specifically on the weekends or after a long morning workout for your typical eggs, bacon, toast and pancake special at the local breakfast diner here in town but, now that we’ve switched to gluten free, that option is off the table…literally.  And while I can still prepare my morning omelet with little difficultly, lately I’ve been craving a little more variety.

Enter an amazing and simple recipe I found for Socca (also known as farinata and cecina), a savory flatbread make from chickpea four.  Socca is a traditional golden brown, ‘chewy’ dish from Nice, France (Oh yeah, lookee me being all French n’ shit) but is more commonly associated with Middle Eastern cuisine…go figure.   Joel Rubuchon, eat your heart out!  Anyway, Socca is made of only two main ingredients making it extremely easy to prepare: chick pea flour and water.  Nutritionally, it’s high in protein, has a low glycemic index, gluten free and, most importantly, freakin’ awesome.  You can probably find it pre-packaged at supermarkets easily enough (check the health food or ethnic section), bulk food stores or Indian grocers but with chick pea four being relatively inexpensive at the bulk food store, hey, why not make your own and enjoy the fruits of your own labor?  Doesn’t everything you make with love taste a little bit better anyway?

Socca is extremely versatile in that you can use it as an alternative to wheat or corn tortillas; as an hors d’oeuvre or snack with hummus; as a substitute for traditional crepes or pancakes; as a thin crust pizza base; or as a side for curries or soups.  Me?  I like to use it as a wrap for a hearty breakfast burrito.

Socca Ingredients:

  • chickpea flour
  • water
  • oil (preferably with a high smoke point)
  • optional spices:
    • paprika (gives a reddish tint)
    • cumin
    • garam masala / curry powder
    • garlic, finely minced
    • coriander / cilantro, finely minced
    • cinnamon (great for dessert crêpes)

Instructions:

  1.  Evenly coat a frying pan (I prefer a cast iron skillet) with oil using a brush or paper towel. You’ll need a pan than can go in the oven/broiler (i.e. non-melting handle).
  2. Set the oven to broil and fully heat the frying pan/skillet.
  3. Measure out the flour and water in a 1:1 ratio and whisk together with your chosen spices to taste.
  4. Spoon some batter into the preheated pan/skillet and tilt to evenly coat the entire surface.  Aim for a thickness of a few millimeters, but feel free to experiment (e.g. thicker for pizza dough, or thinner for crepes).
  5. Broil with the oven door open – you know, to keep an eye on things.  Remove carefully with a spatula just as the edges begin to blacken.
Broiling socca

Broiling socca

Yummy, toasty goodness in a pan

Yummy, toasty goodness in a pan

From here, you can pretty much add whatever you like.  Me, I like to fry up a few mushrooms, onions, diced sweet potato and bell peppers but, really, you can put anything you like in there.

Oh yeah...

Oh yeah…

As a bonus, add whatever leftover proteins that might still be still lying around inside your fridge from last night’s dinner (which is often at my place).  In this case, I had some surplus chicken breast and ham.

Dahrool, dah-rool!

Dahrool, dah-rool!

Then I scramble up one egg and add some light cheese and salsa (lately, I’ve been digging a delicious Corn & Chili salsa from Trader Joe’s), maybe a little salad if you like and, voila!  Heaven on a plate!

Heaven on a plate!

Heaven on a plate!

Just one of these babies and an hour later, I have all the energy I need for a lengthy run or swim, or whatever.  Likewise, I can also use it as that perfect post-workout meal that I can easily make within that 30 minute optimal refueling window.  That’s a double ‘win’ right there.

Chickpea Bruschetta Spread

Posted: November 7, 2011 in Nutrition, Recipes
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Losing weight is no easy business; let me tell you – particularly around the Halloween season.  But I did manage to persevere in the end and made it through with only minimal fistfuls of candy.  I mean, seriously, ‘what has two thumbs, and can’t resist those freakin’ delicious and addictive Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?’…that’s right, this guy!  But on the success side of things, I also landed a few amazing recipes to serve as healthy snacks, or as a quick fix prior to and after my workouts.  Well, it was actually just the one recipe, but, in keeping with the season, I dressed it up in different costumes as a little ‘trick or treat’ experience for my taste buds.  See how crafty I am?

The key to this whole ‘healthy snacking’ as I’ve learned, it that is has to be tasty, as well as delivering immediate energy while still being healthy…hence, not needing to go back for more afterwards.  And if it isn’t expensive, fancy, time-consuming or hard to prepare – all the better.  So what I discovered was an easy to make, chickpea bruschetta spread that I can dress up with different toppings depending on my whims that day, or whatever happens to be in the fridge at the time.  I stole scored this recipe from master chef Nate Appleman, winner of this seasons ‘Chopped All-Stars’,  in this past September’s issue of Runner’s World.

As it turns out, chickpeas* are quite the amazing little super vegetable in their own forthright.  In a nutshell, chick peas provide an excellent source of molybdenum, a trace mineral needed for the body’s ability to detoxify sulfites (a preservative in processed foods), as well as for success development of the nervous system, waste processing in the kidneys, and energy production in cells.  In essence, it’s good shit.  Who knew that when you were studying the Periodic Table back in high school?  Chickpeas are also rich in other minerals as well, including iron, copper, zinc, calcium and magnesium.

Too boot, chickpeas are also a very good source of folic acid, fiber, and manganese.  As a good source of fiber, chickpeas can help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels, and thereby minimizing the incessant urges for sugary sweets and snacks.  This makes them a great snack food, especially for diabetics and insulin-resistant individuals…not to mention chubby triathletes’ jonsing for more Halloween candy.  Most importantly, chickpeas are an extremely low-fat source of complete protein.  Total Winning!

So without further adieu, here is my [sic] recipe for a nice, healthy chickpea bruschetta spread to fuel your next workout, or recovery afterwards.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

    Protein to go…

  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 red onion, diced small
  • 1 carrot, diced small
  • 1 celery stalk, diced small
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • ½ bunch parsley, roughly chopped
  • Loaf of favorite country bread
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and chili flakes.  Cook until softened and translucent, about three to four minutes. Deglaze with white wine and reduce completely.
  2. Add chickpeas and the spinach, along with ¼ cup water.  Stew for about 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary.
  3. In the past few minutes, finish with parsley.  Roughly mash together with a potato masher (or fork).
  4. Cut bread into 10” slices, drizzle with olive oil, and grill until nicely charred.
  5. Spread the chickpea spread on the grilled bread and top with any of the following toppings (or just make up your own): a poached egg, fresh sprouts, tuna and arugula, roast beef and low fat cheese, or an avocado and tomato.

* Also known as ‘Garbanzo Beans’, but I prefer not use this term as I tend to avoid anything with the first five letters of the word ‘Garbage  in it.

Kale Waldorf Salad

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Nutrition, Recipes
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So now that training has resumed, well, the weights and plyometrics part anyway, the real calorie burning can begin.  So it’s time to bring on the healthy recipes and I vow to load you up with many more of them than I did last year…promise!

Deliciousness in a bowl…

This recipe for ‘Kale Waldorf Salad’ was forwarded to me by a friend who is participating in the ‘8 Week Challenge’ (and doing well and looking fabulous, I might add).  I tweaked the recipe just a bit to suit my own tastes, not to mention what I currently had in the cupboard-slash-refrigerator, but for the most part I stayed true to the original recipe.  I’ve included the video for this scrumptious salad below but, first, kale?  Really?  Doesn’t kale taste like lawn trimmings?  Yeah, I can’t really say I love kale either as, let’s face it, it’s not one of the more, shall we say, beautiful cruciferous vegetables, but I do love the weighty health benefits that it provides.

Primarily, kale is highly recommended for it dietary and digestion benefits.  One cup of kale has only 36 calories and zero grams of fat, which makes it a great diet aid. Furthermore, one cup contains nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fiber, which promotes regular digestion, prevents constipation (Yay, more poops!), lowers blood sugar and curbs overeating.  Likewise, that same one cup of kale also provides you with about 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids that helps regulate the body’s inflammatory process. The megadose of Vitamin K in kale further aids to fight against excessive inflammatory-related problems, such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders, asthma, and is necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens the composition of our bones.

To boot, kale is also super-loaded with vast quantities of Vitamins A and C, important sources of anti-oxidants (primarily carotenoids and flavonoids) to boost the immune system, prevents urinary stones, lowers blood pressure, maintains healthy bones and teeth, fights against age-related ocular diseases, and aids in enhancing our reproductive organs…which isn’t really on my Ironman plan, per se, but why take chances?  What’s an Ironman without his Ironsperm, am I right?

My favorite, however, is its ability to enhance your cardiovascular system.  Kale’s high fiber content lowers our cholesterol by binding with bile acids that the liver produces from cholesterol for digesting fat. Because many of these bile acids are coupled with fiber, the liver is charged with producing more bile acid to digest fat, and therefore requires more cholesterol to so, ultimately lowering the amount of cholesterol within our bodies.  So what does this mean besides breaking down fat?  Well, what this basically translates to, is a healthier and more efficient flow of oxygen and nutrients through my blood vessels to all my muscles, and to an endurance athlete, this is pure gold.  After all, as I’ve said before, all the positive vibes in the world aren’t going to do shit if the muscles don’t have the needed fuel to make them work, recuperate, whatever.  It’d be like trying to race the ‘Indianapolis 500’ on an empty tank.

So bring on the kale!

Fiddleheads!

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Nutrition, Recipes
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They say that when “God closes a door he opens a window”, and this is very evident right now in the Produce aisle at my local supermarket.  The season for my beloved pomegranates has long since passed but, HELLO!, something just as equally awesome has replaced them – Fiddleheads!

A ‘whatsit now‘, you ask?  A Fiddlehead is a fern so young and new that it hasn’t yet “unfurled” and opened its leaves.  The end is still curled up in a tight spiral, ready to unroll as the sun warms it and it gathers strength and size.  This spiral shape reminds most people of the end of a violin, hence the name “Fiddlehead.”

“Can you play us some Chopin?”

Early Spring – however late this year – signals the arrival of “Fiddlehead season,” when aficionados begin combing the riverbanks and forest floor.  Why?  Because Fiddlehead ferns are super fucking delicious with a remarkably wild flavor – that’s why.  They can be easily prepared in a variety of ways – resulting in a delicious side dish or as the “main event.”  Flavor? It has been described as similar to green beans with a hint of artichoke; but I don’t feel these descriptions really begin to capture the true essence of their flavor which is unique to say the least.

The coiled end of the fern is called a “crosier.”  Ferns should be picked early in the morning when they are still very young and fresh. The “crosier” should be tightly curled, and should snap off crisply.  They must be washed carefully and rubbed to remove the paper-y brown skin on the outside (avoid yellow or “floppy” ferns).  Trim the base leaving a tiny tail.  Just make sure you exercise caution if you decide to harvest Fiddleheads yourself as there are many varieties of ferns, and only the Ostrich Fern is recommended for consumption; certainly not those ones beginning to poke through your back patio floorboards.

“Mmmm…anti-oxidants.”

So why eat something that you might otherwise find growing on grandma’s mantelpiece?  Well, the nutritional value of Fiddleheads is freaking ridiculous!  For starters, they do produce some fiber, but overall, they’re a wonderful rich source of essential minerals and vitamins (particularly Vitamins A and C) which are essential to the body’s health and maintenance.  Fiddlehead’s also contain antioxidants that will help protect the body from illness and disease – and that’s always good when you train year round in the rain, sleet and snow – believe me – so I’ll take all the antioxidants I can get!  Including servings of these incredibly powerful plants into your daily diet can have some amazing effects to boot.  They can boost your immune system, protect you from disease, reduce your chance of cancer and lower your blood pressure.  It is interesting to remember though that over-consumption of Fiddleheads may also lead to other health problems, such as a vitamin B deficiency.  Weird, I agree, but hardly reason enough to snub these curly little beauties.

So in the meantime, I plan on taking full advantage the next few weeks of these little wonder plants.  They certainly don’t last very long in the supermarket as their season is about as fleeting as Charlie Sheen’s stand-up comedy career.  They’re pretty versatile in the kitchen recipe-wise and easy to work with providing you wash them REALLY well but, personally, I think simple is definitely better when it applies to Fiddleheads.

Fiddlehead Saute

1 lb. (454 g) fiddleheads, cleaned
¼ cup (60 ml) clarified butter (see recipe below)
½ cup (125 ml) onion, finely minced
1 tbsp. (15 ml) garlic, minced
1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tbsp. (15 ml) white sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a stainless steel (or cast iron) frying pan, heat butter over medium high heat.  Fry onion and garlic for 2 minutes.  Add fiddleheads and stir well.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon juice, sugar and paprika, while stirring constantly.  Sauté until fiddleheads are tender for about 3 to 5 minutes.

I was scheduled this evening for my weekly weights session followed by a nice, easy 30 minute recovery run.  But seeing as how it was still pretty icy and cold out I decided that I would do my jog on the ‘dreadmill’ instead.  Besides, it takes me nearly 15 minutes just to get suited up in my outdoors running gear anyway, so I may as well just suck it up and just get it over with – it’s only 30 minutes, right?

Wrong.

Just 3 minutes into my run and the gremlins began to creep into my brain. They started with the usual ‘this is booooooring’ chestnut, followed by thepatented ‘it’s just an easy day so it’s really no big deal if you quit’ philosophy, and then onto the ever popular ‘how about a cupcake instead, tough guy?’ excuse.  God, this was going to be torture.  To me, there is no more affluent ‘mental toughness’ training than running on a treadmill.  I hate it.

At just that moment, an older woman ambled onto the treadmill beside me and after a few moments of fidgeting with the controls, started walking at an easy pace.  I wanted to find some motivation to keep going so I decided to do something I almost never do – I started a conversation.  That’s right!  I engaged another person in actual verbal discourse while at the gym.  Bewildering, isn’t it?  In fact, I recall that the brilliant ice-breaker I employed was something along the lines of “so, do you cook brussel sprouts often?” as she also happened to have an article open about brussel sprouts.  How’s that for a pick-up line?  I figured it was as good as any in that I hate brussel sprouts – those gross funky smelling Devil’s fruit – almost as much as I hate running on a treadmill.  But much to my surprise, she was more than willing to engage me in polite conversation – enthusiastic even.  Why, yes, not only does she enjoy brussel sprouts but also eats them regularly; and so our conversation got started on how to cook brussel sprouts properly.  For the next little while I forgot all about the treadmill, my training or triathlon and we just talked about everything from recipes to local restaurants and all points in between.  Hell, I even forgot to look at my Garmin the entire time and before you know it, the 30 minutes had elapsed and my workout was over.  Shit, that was even fun.  Sweet!

So what’s this have to do with triathlon training or the Ironman?  Well, nothing really.  In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with it at all – and that’s the point I guess.  I learned that, sometimes, it doesn’t always need to be about the obvious measurable.  Who really gives a shit about my heart rate, pace, calories, distance, time, etc.?  Okay, my coach, but I digress.  Every now and again it should be about unfastening the ‘ol chest strap on my Garmin, casting the iPod aside and just enjoying what it is that I’m doing for what it’s worth; to stop and taste the brussel sprouts, so to speak.  I will call this the Brussel Sprout Philosophy of training.  The name seems befitting in that it will remind me to turn something funky into something fun.  I will now make a more conscious effort to enjoy myself on some of my workouts and not be so afraid to just…Be.

Oh, by the way, here is the simple recipe she recommends for delicious brussel sprouts:

Brussel Sprouts Cheesy Casserole

2 (10 oz.) pkgs. frozen brussel sprouts (or fresh)
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 c. soft bread crumbs (2 slices)
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. chopped onion
2 tbsp. butter, melted

  1. Cook brussel sprouts according to package directions; drain. Cut sprouts into fourths and set aside.
  2. Combine eggs, half the crumbs, soup, cheese, onion, and dash pepper. Fold in sprouts.
  3. Transfer to a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Combine remaining crumbs and butter; sprinkle atop sprouts. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes (makes 6-8 servings).

Excellent Eggplant Parmesan

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Recipes
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Not pretty but, oh, so delicious

I have recently switched to that of, largely, a vegetable based diet and, as a result, I have had to search out healthy alternatives for my usual steak dinners.  Fortunately for me, I have learned that eggplant is naturally low in calories, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking to lose weight or just find those convenient substitutes for meat. One cup of cooked eggplant contains just 28 calories and 0.2 grams of fat. Eggplant is also a good source of dietary fiber, with 2.5 grams per serving. Fiber helps to regulate blood sugar and keeps cholesterol levels low. In addition, eggplant contains a host of potent antioxidants. A University of California at Berkeley study, released in the August 7, 2000 issue of Toxicology, found that an antioxidant called nasunin, found in eggplant skin, protects cells from free radical damage. Another antioxidant, chlorogenic acid, is believed to have anti-cancer properties.  Right on!

So bearing this all in mind I decided to tackle something I have never tried before, or thought would even be within my meager culinary capabilities for that matter, a simple, yet excellent Eggplant Parmesan.  However, I have adapted my recipe a little bit from the more traditional approach in order to better cater to my own taste as well as my unique dietary needs.

Grocery list:

  • 1 large eggplant (thinly sliced)
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) package light halloumi cheese (shredded and divided)
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • salt/pepper.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. “Sweat” the slices of eggplant by lightly salting them and setting them aside for approximately 30 seconds until beads of “sweat” begin to appear on the surface.  This enhances the tenderness and flavor of the eggplant as well as removing any bitterness.  This process also reduces water content, making the eggplant less permeable to absorbing cooking oil should you want to add it to a stir-fry or something.  Pat dry once finished.
  3. Combine the beaten eggs with the cumin, ½ tsp dried basil, salt and pepper.
  4. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture and then directly into the Italian and panko bread crumbs until well coated.
  5. Bake the breaded eggplant slices on a baking sheet in your preheated oven for approximately 5 minutes a side.
  6. Meanwhile, in a 9×13 inch baking dish spread just enough spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom.
  7. Place a layer of eggplant into the sauce. Sprinkle moderately with the halloumi and Parmesan cheeses as well as a thin layer of spinach. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheeses on top. Sprinkle with the remaining dried basil.
  8. Bake in your preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Buon appetito

Now, perhaps I should also explain some of the variations I have made to this recipe.

1.       There is typically no cumin added to the egg wash, but I just happen to like cumin and I somehow manage to add it to most of my recipes in some fashion or other.  Cumin aids in digestion, insomnia, nausea, as well as help relieve symptoms of the common cold due to its antiseptic properties.

2.      Traditionally, eggplant parmesan uses mozzarella cheese where I prefer the lighter Mediterranean halloumi cheese, originally hailing from the Island of Cyprus.  Besides being a great conversation piece, one ounce of light halloumi cheese contains about 8.1g of protein, 4.5g total fat, and approximately 330 mg of sodium (14 percent of the daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet), while containing only about 68 calories.

3.      I also like to add a layer of spinach, well, because spinach is good for you…or so Popeye has led me to believe.  I like the texture, the taste, as well as having that little added punch of protein.  You may wish to leave this out altogether, but I recommend you give it a try.

4.     Lastly, I like to add Japanese panko crumbs to my breading mixture as I like the added crunch they provide over the seasoned Italian bread crumbs.

Happy eating, and please let me know how it turns out.

Chocolate Mango Protein Smoothie

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Recipes
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Heaven in a glass…

I like to begin my day with a fresh, healthy and yummy smoothie and I have acquired a number of recipes that I draw on regularly.  Today was a bit of an experiment, but it definitely paid off in dividends.  Not only is it high in protein, fat, carbohydrates, calcium, potassium, iron, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, but it’s relatively low in overall calories – not to mention having a one kick ass chocolate shake taste.  This is something you could purchase in any Ice Cream Parlor come summertime and not feel ripped off.  Just blend all the ingredients together and, SHAZAM!, instant triathlete fuel.

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 ripe mango
  • 1/2 tsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 TBS whey protein isolate
  • 2 cups chocolate almond milk (or skim milk)