A special interview and Summer Ratatouille

Yesterday was busy- it started with a 6:30 am spin class I was subbing, which is about the time I usually workout, but required a much earlier wake up. As much as I grumbled when my alarm went off, I loved getting that burst of energy first thing in the morning.

While L had her Tuesday morning class, I had the opportunity to interview Marshall Ulrich about his recent adventures.  He and a friend just completed the first circumnavigation of Death Valley National Park, about 425 miles and 40,000 feet of elevation gain in the heat of summer.  And all of this just 3 days after running his 18th Badwater Ultramarathon! (Badwater is a 135 mile race through Death Valley with temperatures up to 130 degrees!)

Marsh is also the author of Running on Empty, which I reviewed a few months ago.  He was incredibly down-to-earth, and I felt like we could have talked for hours. I took as many notes as I could and look forward to sharing what I learned from him soon.

School started here this past week, and it doesn’t change too much for us other than the extra traffic.  But it does remind me that summer is coming to a close.  I’m trying to use the remaining weeks to get our fill of summer produce before it’s gone. Here’s what we’re eating:

[Bfast: Yogurt, banana, oats & mila; Snack: 1/2 banana+ almond butter; Lunch: Eggplant Rataouille with white beans +polenta; Snack: (unpictured) plum + handful raisins+ almonds; Dinner: Laura’s Cauliflower pizza (yum!)+ Spinach salad with cukes, tomatoes + peppers; Snack: Rice “pudding” (leftover brown rice + almond milk+cinnamon)]

And what L’s been eating:

[Bfast: Yogurt+banana+granola; Lunch: pasta+avocado+cheese; squash; Dinner: Ratatouille; Snacks: goldfish (at school); small granola bar

Unfortunately, our easy-to-please toddler is finally taking a turn to the picky side.  She downs her breakfast, but has been picking at lunch and dinner lately.  She never used to leave food on her plate! It’s a strange transition, but I’m trusting that her body knows what she needs and I’m sure she’s getting enough.

It didn’t help that we made granola bars this afternoon, so she was counting on that being her dinner.  I heard myself say something I’ve never had to say before: that old, familiar “Let me see you eat two bites of your dinner and you can have dessert.”  I don’t want to start that battle! But we rarely have dessert, and these granola bars are actually a very healthy snack, so I played her game this time. And made a mental note to save any baking for after dinner!

I added the Ratatouille recipe to my Recipage… it’s so easy, and delicious!  If you’re looking for another way to use the last of summer’s eggplant, I recently added our favorite Mediterranean pasta recipe as well.

I’m linking up with Jenn at Peas and Crayons . Check it out for more What I ate Wednesday posts!

Runners, have you read “Running on Empty“?

Moms, did your kids go through phases of more and less pickiness?

My favorite summer salad and celebrating 8 years!

After being cooked for and eating out the last two weeks, I found a renewed energy for cooking again, and came home with a long list of recipes I wanted to make this week.

I’m linking up with Jenn again at Peas and Crayons.  Check out what everyone else is eating, too!

I’m also linking up with Brittany for Munchkin Meals. Despite some delicious meals while traveling, it’s always nice to be back to our own food again.  Here’s what I ate yesterday- a few more sweets than usual, but it was a special day:

[Breakfast (post-spin class): Plain yogurt +homemade granola + banana; Snack: bites of L’s shredded pb and apple; Lunch: Summer grain salad over spinach;  Snack: almonds, raisins and dark chocolate; Dinner: Zucchini crab cakes with avocado-wasabi dressing, Mini- spanokopita; Dessert: Toasted coconut brownie bites and Mini Zucchini-Apple Cakes (Because you get two desserts on your anniversary, right?)]

My favorite Summer Grain Salad (print recipe)

  • 1 c. bulghur
  • 2 c. boiling water
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4- 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained or 2 c. cooked
  • (optional) salmon or chicken, diced
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • salt and ground pepper to taste

Cook bulghur in boiling water, or for chewier bulghur pour boiling water over the bulghur and let it sit in a bowl, covered for 30 minutes.  Drain and cool bulghur, and add veggies, herbs, chickpeas and salmon.  In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, oil and mustard.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over salad and stir to combine.  Eat warm or cold.

I love the flexibility of this salad.  You can replace the bulghur with quinoa or couscous, and can add other veggies you have on hand, kalamata olives, or feta cheese.

Depending on her mood, L will sometimes eat this with me.  She likes the cherry tomatoes and chickpeas. Yesterday was a pickier eating day, so her lunch was a tortilla roll-up with peanut butter, shredded carrots and shredded apples.

The brownie bites were so good! I based them off Gabby’s recipe. I just stumbled across her blog this week, and she has some delicious gluten-free recipes! Here’s what I put in mine:

Toasted Coconut Brownie Bites (no-bake)

  • 1/3 c. nut butter (I prefer almond)
  • 1/4 c. ground flaxseed (such as this one)
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional- and ideally a grass fed whey protein like this one, or pea based)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp raw honey

Combine all ingredients and roll into balls.  Toast coconut for five minutes on the stove, stirring constantly (I used unsweetened coconut).  Roll brownie bites in toasted coconut and store in the refrigerator.  Yum!

On a personal note, yesterday was our 8th anniversary! We celebrated with a few days in the Finger Lakes alone last week, and will go out again on Saturday when we have a babysitter.  Last night, we were content to eat at home and have a relaxing evening.  L is still catching up on sleep from the trip and crashed by 7pm, giving us extra down time.

A lot happens in eight years.  Since getting married in 2004, we lived in Philadelphia, then upstate NY, and are now getting our southern experience in Houston.  We’ve had a few job changes, said goodbye to four grandparents, battled 18 months of infertility, and now have a sweet 2-year-old who we can’t imagine life without.

I feel so blessed to have married such a hard-working, supportive, engaged, loving partner and father.  We’ve found it is true that marriage takes work, but all that hard work to grow the relationship and practice selflessness is well worth it.  I’m looking forward to what the next 8 years will bring!


Carb-loading, Veggie Stromboli and Cookie Dough Pudding

It’s a rainy week here.  The good news is that Texas is relatively cool. The bad news is that thunderstorms are supposed to continue through the weekend, and I am terrified about cycling in the rain at the triathlon.  Let’s hope it stops by then!

This week’s What I ate Wednesday is more like what we’ve been eating the last few days. July’s focus is on fun, food and fitness.

Fun: Over the weekend, a Chinese friend asked if I would help her learn how to bake bread and muffins.  We had a blast kneading the dough for french bread and mashing bananas for muffins.

Food: Monday night, I made pizza dough, which Lil helped me roll out for a Veggie-packed Stromboli:

Veggie StromboliIt’s super easy and delicious! We spread the rolled dough with mustard, add sauteed broccoli, onion and peppers, top it with mozzerella or feta cheese, and pinch edges together to make a roll.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until dough is done, and serve topped with tomato sauce.

Veggie StromboliLocal avocados and tomatoes are everywhere, so we’ve been eating lots of fresh salsa and guacamole:

The Farmer’s Market is also overflowing with eggplant.  Last night’s dinner was Mediterranean pasta over spinach:

And my favorite dessert lately has been a variety of cookie dough puddings.

I’ve been experimenting with both chickpeas and tofu as a base, and I prefer the chickpeas.  The basic ingredients are the same as the Garbanzo Bean Brownies.

Cookie dough pudding  (print)

  • 1 can garbanzo beans (white beans make a smoother “pudding”)
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. almond or dairy milk
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp nut butter
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder or 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 ripe banana (optional)
  • 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

Blend everything together in a food processor.

If you prefer a tofu base, Gina has a good peanut butter cookie dough recipe.

Fitness: I’m tapering this week, but did get in a 1600m swim in the rain this morning.  My shin is feeling much better with my Tommie Copper calf sleeves (thanks to Ali’s giveaway that I won a few months ago!)

Pasta, bread, and stromboli… I’m certainly taking my race week carb-loading seriously! What seasonal foods are you enjoying this week?

What a day wiaw and a Winner!

Before I jump into What I ate Wednesday, I have to say thank you so much for the many encouraging words on my last post.  I am so grateful to have connected with many of you all through this blog, and really value your support.

So, it’s Wednesday- time to link up with Jenn at Peas and Crayons!

Yesterday was just one of those days. Thank goodness for an early morning run (6 easy miles) to get my mind in a good place and ready for the day! I came home to the remaining oats in the pot, and added pear, frozen blackberries, flaxseed, chia and cinnamon:

L and I were excited to attend a puppet show in the morning at her Mother’s Day out program.  I packed a pb roll up with carrots and raisins for each of us and a few snacks for a picnic lunch.

In the process of getting her into the car, she found the lunch bag and wanted to open it. I placed it temporarily on top of the car while I buckled her in.  And drove off.  Fail #1.

Ten minutes into the puppet show, L began crying hysterically and yelling, “I want to go home!” (Although there was nothing scary about this puppet show, I think she was remembering the first one we went to a few months ago, when the giant puppy-dog man puppet traumatized her.)  I finally gave up trying to convince her otherwise, and we headed back home. Fail #2.

Time to make lunch #2.  I often add grated carrots and apples to her peanut butter for wraps, so made some as a dip (2 Tbsp peanut butter, 1-2 Tbsp each grated apples and carrots):

And ate it with crackers and green smoothies (bananas, yogurt, almond milk, spinach, carrots, black raspberries):

My afternoon trail mix snack: almonds, raisins, kashi cereal, and dark chocolate… (L had a banana-carrot cookie)

The plan was to make pizza for dinner.  Apparently, our freezer ate the yeast- it was nowhere to be found.  Fail #3.

So we improvised, and made some tortilla pizzas with grilled eggplant, spinach, fresh mozzarella and kalamata olives.

After dinner, I decided it was time to make another batch of Dark Chocolate- Sunflower cookies and lazily squeezed them all on one sheet and then forgot they were in the oven.  Fail #4.

Oh well, even in crunchy pieces, they still taste good.  And today is a new day!

Finally, the winner of the Honey Stinger giveaway is… Ray!

Please email me and we’ll get you set up with the Dark Chocolate Mint protein bars you wanted!

Do you have plans for Memorial Day weekend? I signed up for a local 10k, and we also plan to do some blueberry picking!

Joggermom marathon, wiaw and toddler carrot “cookies”

I got up bright and early yesterday to finish my last 6 miles for the Joggermom Virtual marathon.  The “marathon” is for women (moms) of all abilities–you have all of May to complete your 26.2 miles, and there are some great prizes (winners chosen randomly- so no pressure for speed).   And registration is open through the 15th, so it’s not too late to sign up!

I totaled 26.6 miles in four runs, and completed it in 3:29:xx.  Since I decided against the Dallas marathon this April, it was nice to feel like I still did a marathon of sorts.  Maybe that can hold me over for awhile?!

On to food… I’m linking up again with Jenn at Peas and Crayons for another What I ate Wednesday:

I came back from my sweaty run and gobbled up the leftover oatmeal and egg that daddy and L had saved for me and had half a Honey Stinger protein bar (new to me, and delicious!).  You can’t beat starting the day with a little chocolate!

We had a whole day with no plans, so L and I took it easy after breakfast and had a picnic with her “friends” on a blanket in the living room. I like getting out of the house in the morning, so we went to the Children’s museum, and she had a blast playing in the police car and ambulance, throwing boats in the “water works” and watched a baby chick trying to hatch out of its egg.  She made me pizza and lasagna for lunch #1:

We headed home for lunch #2 and threw together some quick leftovers: salad with beets and avocado, and the remaining peanut-lime noodles from last night’s dinner.

After she was settled for her nap, I finished my lunch with kashi cereal, raisins, almonds and a few dark chocolate chips.  Later, I finished the other half of the protein bar and snatched a few pretzels. Mmm, I love snacks.

It’s already getting hot here by mid-afternoon, so we opted to stay indoors and L “helped” me get dinner going. (Dinner was ready after two kitchen floor sweepings,  one soaking wet L, and three bead necklace projects.)

I haven’t been doing a great job of menu-planning lately, so at the last minute I decided on a barley risotto, (inspired by Thrifty Veggie Mama). I like her idea of throwing it in the crock pot, but didn’t have time for that, so we made it on the stove top and added sauteed zucchini and peppers to the finished product, and fresh Parmesan cheese.  We also made a simple lentil dish for extra protein.

Finally, here’s another healthy toddler cookie we’ve been loving.  This one is a variation of the banana raisin cookies.  I ate a few spoonfuls of the batter and would consider having a bowlful for breakfast, but I know I’m weird.

Carrot banana “cookies” (printable version)

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. oatbran (or all oats)
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1 c. dried fruit of choice (raisins, chopped dates, chopped apricots)

Mash the bananas well and combine all ingredients.  Let sit for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350, and scoop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Moms at home- do you have to get out of the house every day like me?!

Mock Nutella and wiaw

Happy Wednesday!  I’m linking up with Jen again at Peas and Crayons for “what I ate Wednesday.”

We all woke up early yesterday, thanks to someone working on her 2 year old molars, so we had extra time to make whole wheat blueberry pancakes.  I like to top mine with almond butter and banana in place of syrup.

It was a warm day, so we made sure to get out in the morning hours.  I shared a large apple with L at the playground, then we headed home for lunch.

There was leftover couscous-zucchini salad and grilled chicken from Monday night, so I ate mine over spinach and added feta cheese.  (Yes, we rarely have meat- but the spinning extravaganza weekend and lack of meal planning for the week led to a quick and easy marinated chicken on the grill.  Every once in awhile my body asks for a little extra protein!)

Snacks: wasa crackers with Neufchatel cheese and salsa; mango; and molasses “tea” (great source of iron: hot water, spoonful of molasses and a splash of milk)

L helped me throw ingredients together for split pea soup this morning, so it was a quick easy dinner.  We had good, crusty bread on the side.

I headed to the gym to practice my spinning class in front of an empty room, and came home to do a little more snacking… a couple of L’s banana cookies and some pineapple.   Unfortunately, there is no dark chocolate in the house, but I managed to get my cocoa fix with this:

Homemade chocolate-nut butter.  I used to love Nutella but now find it way too sweet.  This is a much healthier version, but can be made sweeter to suit your taste.  Use it the same way you would use Nutella- on crackers, as a dip, or (if you’re like me) eat it by the spoonful!

Here’s the recipe: (printable version)

  • 1 1/2 c. nuts (I used mixed nuts)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (or mild tasting oil of choice)
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar or liquid sweetener
  • (optional- for thinner “icing”) 1 Tbsp chia seeds soaked in water for 15 minutes OR 2-4 tbsp milk

Blend first three ingredients except chia in a food processor until well blended (could take up to ten minutes, until it begins to bind together and look like nut butter).

Add cocoa powder and sweetener and blend until desired consistency, similar to nut butter.  If you prefer a creamier texture, add chia gel and blend another minute.  Add additional sweetener to taste.  Store in the refrigerator.

The creamier, chia version is much easier to spread, and could even serve as an icing alternative. Adult and toddler friendly.

Are you a Nutella fan?


Practice makes perfect and wiaw

The spin certification is this weekend, and I am doing my best to run through the choreography every day this week.  So far, so good… Monday I got to practice in the empty spinning room, and yesterday I used my headphones and practiced on the elliptical. The music is constantly playing on repeat in my head, so at least I’ve got the tune familiarity down.

I plan to use the spinning classroom again this evening and will “cue” my imaginary riders.  Any local folks are welcome to come be my guinea pigs!

So it’s time for another What I ate Wednesday link up with Jenn:

This week I did a little better with actually getting in an extra cup of veggies.  I even managed to squeeze them into my breakfast…

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with beet greens, avocado and feta; orange slices

Lunch part 1: Cucumber-yogurt salad, beets, carrots and mushrooms with hummus; olives, Ak-Mak crackers

Lunch part 2: banana, almond butter and dark chocolate chips, unpictured raisins

Dinner: Quinoa-zucchini lasagna, from Peas and Thank You; simple salad

We’ve made this lasagna a few times and really like it. If you try it, make sure the zucchini is sliced no thicker than 1/4 inch so it will soften as it cooks.  Also, the fresh herbs in the quinoa mixture are delicious- we used cilantro and basil last night and it was yummy.

Snack: popcorn with nutritional yeast and salt; Mango tangerine Drink Chia

I like to pop kernels in the microwave in a brown paper bag.  It can be air-popped this way or you can add a little oil like this recipe. Making your own popcorn eliminates the chemicals in microwave popcorn bags.  My husband prefers to make popcorn on the stove top with peanut oil, which is also delicious.

The Drink Chia is new to me, but I love it… more on this later in the week!

I finished the day off with a couple oatmeal cookies and vanilla ice cream.  I have days when I’m hungry all day long, but I think this was more nerves (spin cert!) and stress eating-related.  My mom forgets to eat when she’s stressed, but I am the opposite.  I crave snacks! I’d like to work on this, but at least I’m aware of my tendencies.

What is your relationship to food when you’re nervous or stressed?

How do you make or top your popcorn?

Whole Grain Sandwich Bread

Running:  It’s Friday! It’s so nice to be running again.  I’m still a little bummed about pulling out of the marathon, but I keep reminding myself that there will be many more opportunities for marathons.

In the meantime, I’m living vicariously through many of you who are training.  I am especially excited for Kim who has her first marathon this weekend!  Her training has been so solid, and with every new long run distance, she was amazed at what her body was capable of.  I’m sure she’d appreciate a little encouragement if you want to stop over at her blog and wish her the best!

And since Kim is always posting motivational quotes, here are a few marathon quotes for her (and anyone else racing this weekend):

“Pain is temporary; Pride lasts forever.”

“The fastest way to the finish is running!”

“There is nothing to be intimidated about – it’s just another long run where a few more people show up and they happen to wear numbers.”

Eating:  I promised to share the bread recipe from a week ago, and am finally getting around to it. Several of you asked about bread machines: I do not have one, and I prefer to knead it and let it rise myself.  But I imagine it could be done either way.  Let me know if you try it in a bread machine successfully!

Seeded Whole Wheat Bread  (Print recipe)

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp wheat gluten (optional)
  • 3 c. whole wheat flour (or ww bread flour)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 2-3 c. white bread flour
  • 1 c. ground flaxseed
  • 1/3 c. raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp each sesame, poppy, and chia seeds
  • 2 tsp salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit for five minutes.  Mix in gluten, whole wheat flour and honey, and let sit another 5 minutes while yeast develops. Stir in the oil.   Add remaining ingredients starting with 2 c. bread flour, adding more until it makes a stiff, smooth dough.  Knead about 10 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease both sides, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down, divide dough in half, let rest 5 minutes.  Then shape dough into loaves and place in greased loaf pans or shape into round loaves and place on baking sheet, greased and sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover and let rise another hour.  Bake in preheated oven at 375 for 30 minutes.

*Gluten is optional, but it helps the bread rise and gives it a nicer texture.

Winning:  And finally, thanks to all of you who entered the Nathan handheld giveaway! This was a fun one for me, because there are 3 winners, and I like winners!

The three names were drawn using the True Random Number Generator at random.org, and here are the final results:

#49-  Andrea M,      # 36- Laurel C,         #20- Terzah B 

Congratulations, ladies!  Email me your address, and I’ll get these out to you.


Wet Wiaw

After weeks of using L as my alarm clock and squeezing in an afternoon or evening workout, I finally made myself get up early yesterday morning and run.  It was so worth it– I came back refreshed and energized, despite getting caught in a downpour! I later learned there was a severe thunderstorm warning and tornado warning… no wonder there were so few runners out.

We’re still going green for “What I ate Wednesday”, so here’s where I fit it in yesterday:  Spinach in my smoothie…

more greens with quinoa tabouli (including parsley and avocado) at lunch…

a handful of green grapes…

and more parsley and fresh cilantro in our Charmoula sauce over fish and veggies (potatoes, peppers, broccoli) at dinner.  (Plus several un-pictured snacks that were not green.)

L “helped” me in the kitchen this afternoon, preparing our dinner and making whole wheat-flaxseed bread.  We threw in sunflower, poppy, and chia seeds, and it was delicious.  I like to make several loaves of bread every few months, and then slice it all up and store it in the freezer.  Unfortunately, L was a challenging helper today, but I’m gonna chalk it up to a stir-crazy rainy day and hope for better next time.  :)

We had friends over for dinner and neglected to take pictures at the table, but here are a few of the process:

If you’ve never tried Charmoula sauce, it is delicious.

I combined two different recipes for the bread and am really happy with the way it turned out.  You can find the whole wheat bread recipe here.

Have you ever been completely drenched on a walk/run? Do you like to make your own bread?

Grumpy wiaw

It’s a new day.  Thank goodness! After throwing a pity party for myself yesterday and my silly bum ankle, I am ready to make it a better day.

I love linking up with Jen for What I ate Wednesday.

One of the perks is that it motivates me to think about what I’m putting on my plate, and keeps me accountable, which I desperately need in March with both the Vegan challenge and giving up chocolate for Lent.  Unfortunately, even photographing my food failed me yesterday.

I ate well most of the day, and even kept the challenge to go green in mind all day, adding greens to my breakfast smoothie:

A big green salad with leftover lentils for lunch:

Popcorn with nutritional yeast and lemon-flavored fish oil and salt for a snack (probably sounds gross, but I promise, it’s REALLY good!)

And a new black bean burger recipe, with cooked millet in place of the flours, open-faced (I ate a second without bread), with tomatoes and broccoli on the side (my mood was steadily declining all day, and by this point I didn’t even feel like trying to make this look more appetizing, but it was tasty!):

After dinner is when the trouble began.  I decided I needed a date-nut-cocoa ball, and then another.  And then a cookie... (stashing them in the freezer does not mean they are safe!)  And finally two handfuls of chocolate chips from the bag.  Blatant disregard for my challenges, and I didn’t even care.

I don’t usually get down on myself for having something sweet… there’s nothing wrong with a little treat! But my negative state of mind and lack of control were the problem.  When I’m in that mood, I’m so focused on wanting sugar that I’m not sure I even enjoy it.

In retrospect, the fact that I hadn’t moved my body all day certainly played a part in my grumpiness.  (I had planned to swim in the afternoon, but the chance of storms closed our outdoor pool.)  Chocolate is my go-to comfort food when I’m feeling down, so naturally, that’s what my body wanted.  And after two weeks of feeling okay about being sidelined with a twisted ankle, I let myself be upset yesterday.  And I know that’s important.

Those days will come.

Thankfully, the day ended on a better note.  My husband sent me out the door to get out my frustration at the gym, and even though I was annoyed with the elliptical, I came home refreshed and renewed.  It’s amazing what a little exercise will do!

I didn’t suffer on the elliptical for too long, I decided to push myself and try a new class… and had a blast!  More on that later but here’s a hint:

Have you tried anything new lately?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who gets in a funk and falsely believes chocolate is the cure!