Healthy Eating.. Even when you're Really Hungry

When I'm really hungry (and I mean burned 1000 calories before 9AM hungry), the last thing I want to do is think. Unfortunately, coming up with healthy, interesting, new ideas of things to eat requires quite a bit of thinking.

Fortunately, I have a couple of sidekicks. First off, I have an invaluable book: Culinary Artistry.

Steamed kale? Boring. Steamed kale with a drizzle of garlic oil and some lemon juice? Delicious.

Plain honeydew? Old news. Honeydew with lime juice? News.

Sure, none of these combinations are absolutely brilliant, but they do take a significant amount of thinking out of the process.

My second sidekick: lists. I currently have three lists: breakfast ideas, lunch ideas and snack ideas. (We plan dinners on a weekly basis, and hope to never need a list.) To make sure I get enough of the right nutrients, I oftentimes plan out my meals the night before, drawing on these lists and things we have in our pantry to make delicious food.

It makes the 20-minute ride home infinitely more bearable to have plans for rye crackers with avocado and tomato waiting your return.

To save you some time and energy, I thought I'd share one of my lists with you! These snack ideas are sorted into sweet and savory, as well as they can be. Also, they are meant as snacks for somebody who trains for upwards of 5 hours a days--consume with caution.

fresh fruit
instant oatmeal
plain yogurt
ants on a log (with dried blueberries!)
chocolate milk
milk + cereal
chocolate squares with nut butter
granola (w/ milk or yogurt)
rice cakes with peanut butter or nutella
graham cracker w/ yogurt, banana
chocolate covered anything
strawberry + cream cheese sandwich
teddy grahams + cream cheese (thanks, wlcrew!)
muffins + quick breads
chocolate yogurt (mix sweetened cocoa powder into plain yogurt)
trail mix
granola bar

carrots + hummus (add curry powder!)
rye crackers + avocado + tomato
cheese sandwich w/ mustard
bagel pizza
grilled cheese
snap peas + goat cheese
roasted chickpeas
jicama stick + dip
strawberries + goat cheese
cherry tomatoes + garlic oil
crackers + broiled cheese and grapes
oatmeal + broiled cheese
pita pocket + veggies + cheese
tomatoes + parmesan + breadcrumbs, broiled
pasta + parmesan + butter
hard-boiled eggs

What are your go-to snacks? How do you prepare for the worst--hunger?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Pumpkin Muffins: The End

I've long been on a quest for the perfect pumpkin muffin. My testing has been neither thorough, nor exhaustive, but after finding this recipe, I've decided to stop looking.

Of course, finding is a relative term. Misreading is perhaps a better way to put it. The recipe clearly says 1 cup of pumpkin, so I added a whole can. I'd like to think this is a major contributing factor to their deliciousness.

I know it's not even remotely close to pumpkin season. In fact, you're probably much more concerned with how to use the plethora of strawberries and stone fruits that are just coming into season.

I'm hoping that you also happen to have a can of pumpkin left in your pantry: it is always wise to stockpile such precious commodities. If so, make these immediately. Strawberries can wait. (Or you can have one for breakfast, with strawberries on the side.)

If not, I'm sorry. Put them on your calendar, sometime in October. (September if you can get away with it!)

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The Perfect Pumpkin Muffin
makes 6 jumbo muffins (note: if they were regular size, they wouldn't be perfect)

1c sugar
2 eggs
0.25t baking powder
1t baking soda
0.75t salt
1.5c whole wheat flour
0.5c oil
0.5c cold water
1 15oz can pumpkin (yes, the whole thing)
spices: 1T cinnamon, 0.5t nutmeg, 0.5t cloves, 0.5t ginger

1. Mix all ingredients together. No, seriously, that's all.
2. Pour into jumbo muffin cups. (We use silicone ones.) Bake for 50 minutes at 325.
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Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Full Time Training

Last week Monday, I started training with a local rowing club that specializes in preparing athletes for international competition. Who knows what the future holds, but the present holds lots of exercise and LOTS of eating.

Although I compete in a weight restricted class, training for upwards of six hours a day requires I eat as much food as I can just to maintain my weight and my energy. I carefully track what I put in my body and what I ask of it so that I fuel properly.

Here's what a day of training looks like:
 6AM - wake up
Breakfast: peanut butter banana sandwich with large glass of milk, strawberries
7AM - bike to boathouse, 20 minutes
Snack: 200 calorie energy bar
7:30AM - get boat out, row for around 60 minutes, easy pace
9:00AM - quick break
Snack: chocolate milk, plus a few Belgian chocolates from a teammate
9:15AM - weightlifting, 75 minutes
Snack: almonds and dried blueberries
10:30AM - bike home, 20 minutes
First lunch: cheese roll from a local bakery
Second lunch: oatmeal with spinach, Parmesan cheese and a fried egg, strawberries
Third (!) lunch: leftover chickpea salad in pita, plus sliced cheese, oreos
Snack: mocha from Starbucks, with whipped cream
2:00 - nap time! Plus stretching.
4:00 - second workout, 45 minutes of biking, plus another 50-60 minutes on the rowing machine
Dinner: stir fry with tofu and brown rice, Oreos
Dessert: S'mores cupcake

Despite eating three lunches, and as much dinner as I could stomach, I was still more than 100 calories short of the calories I burned. A lot of my calories came from less than ideal sources--chocolates and cookies.

I'm trying to find a balance between being able to eat enough and eating well, as many of the foods that are good for me are also very filling. I'm working to increase my consumption of whole grains, dairy products and beans, and finding ways to incorporate them into easy snacks.

Expect to see lots of good snack ideas in the future!

Some tricks so far:
- When I menu plan, I make a list of snacks that use the ingredients we have on hand
- We use our slow cooker to make beans and oatmeal, and make extra rice/pasta when we have them for dinner
- Condiments can take something really simple (beans and rice) and put it over the top. One of my favorites: chickpeas, sticky rice, Sriracha sauce, sesame seeds
- When I'm looking for something to eat, open the fridge first; if I absolutely don't want anything in the fridge, then I look in the pantry

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Warm Potato Salad

Poor potato salad. I think you all know what I mean.

Alas, no more. It is time to revolutionize the potato salad.

It is time to rescue it from horrid dressings, either too bland or too aggressive. It is time to use the potato as a creamy, firm, satisfying base for incredible flavor combinations.

It is time for a new potato salad.

Let's begin with the potatoes. Rinse a few pounds of waxy potatoes (like Yukon golds), then coat them in a wee bit of olive oil and coarse salt. (Use your hands! Rub!) Roast till cooked. (A knife will pierce them pretty easily.)

Of course, you could boil your potatoes. But boiled potatoes are fairly uninteresting, and you might as well get two meals out of this--eat your roasted potatoes for dinner one night, make potato salad the next.

Now, we are ready to make salad!

This salad starts out much like making hash browns--potatoes and greens are fried until crispy. In this case, we use brussels sprouts: the little shreds are cute, and brown more easily than standard cabbage.

The flavors are simultaneously bright, from the vinegar and mustard, and warm from the sprouts and cumin. The light dressing adds just enough punch without overpowering.

This would be good served with bratwurst, if you're into that kind of thing.

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Warm Potato Salad
serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

10 small roasted potatoes
30 brussels sprouts
1T cumin seeds
1T butter
1T olive oil
1T apple cider vinegar
1t dijon mustard

1. Cut your potatoes into half inch cubes. Microwave them for 4-5 minutes, or until piping hot.
2. Slice your brussels sprouts crosswise, into quarter inch thick disks. It's ok if little pieces fall off.
3. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Once the butter stops bubbling, add the cumin seeds. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute.
4. Add the potatoes. Stir gently, then do not stir for 1 minute. Then, stir (or toss!), and add the brussels sprouts. Stir/toss occasionally until the brussels sprouts are mostly bright green, with a few dark bits.
5. Meanwhile, mix up your dressing: vinegar + mustard.
6. Combine the potato/sprout mixture with the dressing, let cool ever so slightly, and serve, still warm.
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Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Pita Pocket Sandwich

Super easy, fun to eat and incredibly refreshing, this sandwich salad combo is a great way to welcome summer.

The dish mingles a familiar flavor palette with a party of textures: the firm bite of chickpeas, the crunch of veggies, the chewiness of pita all coated in a creamy sweet dressing.

After the dressing, the celery is a major player on the flavor front. If you're not a fan, leave it out. The other veggies were what we had--feel free to sub in other crunchy veggies that are languishing in your produce drawer.

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Chickpea Salad Sandwich
makes 4 sandwiches

4 whole wheat pitas

2 cans of chickpeas (or equivalent from dry)
4-5 pickling cucumbers
1 bell pepper
2 stalks celery
0.5 red onion

0.5c plain yogurt
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lemon, juiced
6 mint leaves, finely chopped
3T olive oil

1. In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, mint and olive oil. Whisk together.
2. Chop the veggies into 1cm x 1cm cubes. In the large bowl, toss with the chickpeas and dressing. Add salt to taste.
3. Microwave the pita pockets for 15 seconds, or until they puff up. Then cut in half and fill each pocket with the veggie mix.

Serve with napkins and forks, as the filling tends to find its way out of the pita.
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Two Salads + Grilled Broccoli

We had a barbecue potluck party last night. It was in celebration of graduations and the beginning of summer. Dan and I planned on bringing salads and broccoli, and at the last minute threw together some awesome salad dressings. So awesome that I feel the need to share.

We rounded out our cook out with some grilled chicken and sweet potatoes (wrap them in foil and stick 'em on the grill!). Awesome way to welcome summer!

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Tropical Fruit Salad
serves 6

8-10 cups of mixed summer fruit/berries (we used blueberries and strawberries and bananas)
0.25c white sugar
0.25c water
10-12 fresh mint leaves
0.25c lite coconut milk
1 inch piece of ginger (preferably frozen, or having been frozen)

1. Put berries in a large bowl.
2. Stirring occasionally, heat sugar, water and mint leaves in a very small saucepan until boiling. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine the coconut milk and ginger chunks, using a fork to squeeze some of the ginger juice out.
4. Once the mint simple syrup has cooled and infused, strain it, and add it to the coconut milk-ginger combination.
5. Pour dressing over fruit and let marinate for at least an hour.
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We imagine this would also be delicious with some sort of alcohol used in place of the water.

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Simple Spinach Salad
serves 6

huge salad bowl full of spinach leaves
1c walnuts, roughly chopped
1c dried cranberries

juice of 1 juicy lemon (0.25c or so)
2t honey
0.25c roasted garlic olive oil

1. Combine the first three ingredients in the salad bowl.
2. Whisk together the remaining three ingredients. Adjust the lemon, oil and honey to taste, and/or add salt. It will taste altogether too garlicky, but look for a good balance of sweetness/tartness, and the right ratio of acid to oil.
3. Dress salad and toss to combine.
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Grilled Broccoli Spears
serves 6

3-4 large heads broccoli
cooking spray
sea salt
bbq sauce for dipping (optional, sort of)

1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
2. Chop the broccoli into long spears, stems around 1/2" thick.
3. Spray the spears lightly with the cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt.
4. Grill the broccoli over medium heat for around 15', or until tender and just past bright green, with a few decent char marks.
5. Serve with barbecue sauce.
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What do you bring to cook outs?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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