A Global Love Affair

Lovin’ Up on Vegetarian Food ‘Round the World

Sawatdee ka all you No Meat Athlete readers (that’s hello in Thai by the way)!  My name is Holly, and I write the healthy living blog The Healthy Everythingtarian.  Last week, I was elated when Senor No Meat himself asked me to write a guest post.  I started brainstorming right away – what was I going to write about?  My upcoming marathon?  Maybe.  Share some recipes?  I’m not the greatest cook in the world.  Vegetarianism?  Well, I was vegetarian (and vegan) at one point, although I do consider myself an “everythingtarian” now, of course.  But it got me thinking.  The one thing I do feel qualified to write about is travel.  I LOVE traveling.  I’ve been to more than 15 countries and recently spent a year teaching English abroad in Thailand.  Thailand is where – coincidentally – I went vegetarian, which leads me to today’s post…

The wonderful world of global vegetarian food!

som tam photo 1024x768

My favorite Thai dish – som tam, which in English translates to spicy papaya salad.

You see, unlike the USA and many Western countries, most countries eat a fairly vegetarian diet, while eating meat sparingly or on special occasions.  According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, more than 4 billion people worldwide live on a primarily plant-based diet.  That is more than half the world people!  Even traveling through European countries like England, France and Italy, as well as Australia, vegetarian options were very easy to find.  While traveling my way through Southeast Asia, I was fortunate to go to China, Laos and Cambodia as well, where vegetarian dishes are commonplace on all menus.

Throughout Asia, dishes were often based off of rice and veggies.  These included Thai curries – often coconut milk-based – as well as stir-fries, rice noodle dishes, seafood (shrimp & fish) and lots of broth-based soups.  Although meat is a definite component of many dishes, egg tofu, regular tofu, bean curd and peanuts are all common protein sources in Asia that are used in place of meat.  I was surprised at just how many veggie combos can be concocted out of a few simple, basic ingredients!

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I went trekking in Northern Thailand where our guide made us a delicious noodle soup made over a bonfire – totally MacGyver-style!

Even though Europe and Australia are considered Western countries, ethnic restaurants are as common as McDonald’s here.  In London, the number of Indian curry houses could easily rival the number of fish & chips shops, while in Germany, you can always find a local beer joint.  Just call it a liquid (vegetarian) lunch.  The best dish I’ve ever put to my lips to this day is a margharita pizza I had in Florence, Italy.  Dough + cheese + tomato sauce = heaven on a plate.

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An example of one such liquid lunch.

Also in abundance are an array of delicious spices sparingly used in American cuisine.  In Thailand, kaffir leaves, curry paste, chilli, turmeric and Thai basil add a unique, Thai-esque flavor to dishes.  Indian food commonly uses turmeric, coriander and garam masala, while za’atar, ras el hanout and cardamom are frequent additions in Middle Eastern food.  Basil and oregano are Italian staples while French cooking includes herbes de provence and lavender.  Although more Americans are familiar with these European spices, there is literally a world of spices out there to discover (no pun intended).  Check out this list for a quick look at all the culinary herbs and spices – half of them I don’t even know!

indian photo

My favorite Indian dish (which also happens to be vegetarian) – Baingan Bharta!  It is eggplant in a spiced tomato sauce.  Yummm!

So before I ramble on so long that you fall asleep on your keyboards and yell at No Meat himself for letting me guest post, I just want to encourage you all to try something new this week! Whether you go out to a local Indian joint for a yummy curry or pick up some Thai peanut satay sauce at Trader Joe’s (which also makes excellent Thai curry sauces, BTW), embrace the veggies and spice!  There is a world of delicious global vegetarian cuisine calling your name.  Make a classic pasta dish with marinara and fresh basil or hell – drink that German beer!  After all, it is vegetarian too :).

10 Comments

 

For the Love of Lentils

Hi No Meat Athlete readers!  My name is Sarah, and I blog over at Running To Slow Things Down.  I’m currently going to college as a nutrition/dietetics major, and I’m super excited about where that’s going to take me. icon smile My foodie philosphy revolves mainly around eating wholesome, natural foods most of the time, and enjoying all foods with balance and moderation.  I also think food should *taste* good if its going to be called healthy…otherwise it’s just not worth eating, right? icon smile

Anyways, on to the topic of today’s post: I live (and cook) in a family of mixed tastebuds.  My dad loves a good ribeye steak, my brother is an active vegetarian, and I’m somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes it can be tricky to
make food that pleases everyone, but I’ve discovered that for the most part, I can just make a really good vegetarian dish that everyone loves.  There’s hardly every a complaint…Easy Peasy, right?

Well…I’m still learning, but I have found that LENTILS, of all foods, are pretty versatile, and they have found their rightful place as a member of the family pantry.  I remember being scared the first time I decided to cook with
them, because even saying the word “lentil” seemed to send some of my family members running in the opposite direction… icon wink

Rule #1 when preparing lentils for the family: Don’t say the word “vegetarian dish” or “lentil” before letting them try the dish first.

Okay, moving on…

Lentils are super nutritious and easy to prepare because they cook much faster then other beans and legumes.  One cup of cooked lentils provides you with 18 g of protein, 16 g of fiber, almost 40% of your daily intake for iron, and also is a good source of folate, manganese, phosphorous and copper.  Whew…how’s that for what is commonly called the “peasant bean?”

Lentils tend to soak up the flavor of whatever you put them in, and in my opinion, they taste great with spicy, tomato style dishes.  So without further ado, I will introduce some of my family’s favorite lentil dishes:

1. Lentil Tacos

(http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-303-308-%2010860-0,00.html)

This recipe was taken from Runner’s World, and has been a family favorite in my house for a long time now.

Perhaps the best part about this dish is that you can give people options of what to top the taco with.  More choices=a good thing when introducing new dishes.  I like to top mine with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, a bit of cheese, and globs of guacamole. icon smile

lentil taco

2. Snobby Joes

(http://www.theppk.com/recipes/dbrecipes/index.php?RecipeID=2059)

This recipe was taken from Veganomicon, and may very well be my family’s favorite lentil recipe.  The sauce is addicting and tastes exactly like those sloppy joes you grew up with as kid.  Seriously…tried and true, even the meat
lovers in the family loved it. icon smile  Don’t be afraid to double the batch though…it only served about 3 hungry people. icon wink

I served the snobby joes on top of toasted whole wheat sub rolls for a very tasty, filling, and highly nutritious meal…yum!!

snobby joes

3. Tomato and Lentil Soup

(http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=592322)

This soup recipe is from Cooking Light and is a must try if you enjoy rustic, earthy flavors with a hint of dill.  And best of all, it’s super simple to put together.  I served the soup with grilled cheeses on the side for ultimate comfort food power. icon wink

tomato and lentil soup

And there you have it…the 3 top lentil recipes in my versatile family.  Simple, easy, nutritious, and approved by both the vegetarians and meat eaters.  I never thought I’d live to see the day where I was feeding my family
lentils and getting approval nods and “mmmms..” but I have…and I hope you enjoy them too! icon smile

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Guest Post from Megan (The Runner’s Kitchen)

Hi No Meat Athlete readers! This is Megan from The Runner’s Kitchen (http://runnerskitchen.wordpress.com). I began blogging as a way to document my two passions: long distance running and eating/cooking/baking! In the past year I’ve run the New York Marathon and the Boston Marathon and I’ve realized that it takes a lot of food and nutrients to fuel a hungry runner. Read on for information about the specific nutrients runners need to be extra vigilant about.

yogurt1 225x300Calcium: Running is a weight-bearing activity that makes bones stronger by causing a small amount of stress. After a run, your body will repair itself and the bone will become stronger than before. However, if you are not consuming enough calcium your bones won’t be able to repair themselves and they could become brittle and result in stress fractures. Low-fat milk and yogurt are your best bets for filling your daily calcium requirement. An 8 oz serving of either contains about 30% of your RDA. Try mixing your morning yogurt with strawberries or orange slices – the vitamin C will assist in calcium absorption. If you don’t like or can’t eat dairy. try a calcium supplement with added vitamin D (to assist absorption). I love adora brand supplements! Fortified soymilk, fortified cereal, canned salmon, and broccoli also contain a good amount of calcium.

spinach and beans 300x225Iron: This nutrient helps power aerobic activity because it’s necessary for the production of hemoglobin. Your body needs hemoglobin to carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. Without enough iron, you might feel fatigued, overly tired, and listless. Over time iron deficiency can result in anemia and low blood volume. Anemia is more common is runners due to iron loss through sweat and the constant pounding on the body which damages red blood cells in the feet and legs. Back in college I struggled with anemia (some of my main symptoms were fatigue, headaches, and a pounding heart) and had to take iron supplements for a few years. Iron supplements are annoying and can cause GI distress, so try to nip iron deficiency in the bud if you can! Men need an average of 11 mg per day and women need about 18 mg. If you eat meat, lean cuts of beef, dark poultry meat, and oysters are all great sources of heme (animal based iron). If you’re vegetarian, you can get iron from fortified cereals, beans, green peas, broccoli, and spinach. Try to eat some vitamin C with your iron-rich foods as it will help absorption. How about whole wheat pasta mixed with chickpeas, spinach, and vitamin-C rich red bell pepper? Yum! Also, avoid drinking coffee or tea immediately before or after meals as the polyphenols will interfere with iron absorbtion.

cereal 300x225Magnesium: This trace mineral can be found mostly in muscles and bones. Magnesium assists with muscle contractions and the energy metabolism (i.e. turning food into energy). This mineral can be lost through sweating and studies show that low blood levels of magnesium are associated with decreased aerobic capacity. However, be careful about supplementation. Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea and might interfere with calcium absorption. Try to get your magnesium from food sources – leafy greens, whole grains, molasses, fortified cereals, and nuts.
Zinc: This mineral works with over 100 different enzymes in your body in metabolizing energy and supporting your immune system. This immune-boosting mineral is especially essentially for runners since our immune systems are temporarily weakened after intense workouts and races. Oysters and clams are great sources of zinc, but if you don’t eat seafood you can consume zinc by eating black-eyed peas, wheat germ, and fortified breakfast cereals. Sometimes when I feel a cold coming on, I pop a few cold-eeze (zinc lozenges). I’m not sure if they’re proven to work, but they always seem to shorten the duration of my cold!

icecream 300x225Ice cream: Ok, ok – this is kind of a joke. But I love ice cream and I consider it a necessary part of my diet! As an endurance athlete I feel like I can afford a few extra calories, plus ice cream has a little bit of bone-building calcium. There’s nothing better than a big bowl of ice cream with sliced banana and some almonds after a hot, summer run. That’s what I call recovery food. icon smile
If you’re hungry for more, stop by The Runner’s Kitchen (http://runnerskitchen.wordpress.com).
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The 30-Day Challenge Starts Today!

Ok everyone, today’s the day!  Hope you’ve enjoyed the last few days of “the old you,” because it’s time for a change.  If you haven’t already started, now’s the time to begin your 30-Day Challenge.

I’ve decided that the next step for me is to start incorporating the principles of Thrive into my diet to improve my running and take my energy to the next level.  In order to make it specific, I’ve decided that on three nights each week, I’ll make my dinner entirely vegan and mostly raw, from one of the recipes in the book.  Of course, this means the next day’s lunch (usually leftovers) will be the same thing, but in order to have something I can specifically do every day of the week, I’m going to do foam rolling and stretching on the remaining four days of each week.  Foam rolling is the best way I know to avoid injury during marathon training, and I feel fantastic when I’m in a routine of doing it, yet for some reason it’s so hard to get myself to take the time do it without a commitment.  And commitment, my friends, is what the 30-Day Challenge is all about.

Without further ado, I give you the list of those who have taken initiative to change some part of their lives they aren’t satisfied with, for 30 days.  You can always go back after that.  I know that for some of you, it takes courage to make a commitment like this, so congratulations on taking that biggest first step.  I think you’ll find that committing is often the hardest part; once the change is made in your mind, the rest is easy!

  • Alex (Happy Go Lucky) is going to walk to work at least three times per week, walk home at least three times per week, and run at least four days a week.
  • Amber (Almost Vegan) will not open a jar of peanut butter for the next 30 days.
  • Amy (Amy’s Training Blog) is going to do core work and/or weights three times per week, and daily foam rolling and stretching.  (Yeah foam rolling!)
  • Austin is going to run a mile each day.
  • Britt is eating only whole grains instead of white flour and is going to run a two hour half marathon on Labor Day weekend!
  • Carol, a salt lover, is not going to add any salt to her food, and exercise for one hour each day!
  • Catherine is giving up white flour and putting her running shoes on at least five days a week.
  • Chrissy is going to minimize her consumption of pasta and cheese, run more regularly, and do pilates.
  • Christine (Bellylaugh Bakery) is not going to consume caffeine, dairy or peanut butter and is going to drink 64 oz of water per day and do cardio for 30 minutes four times a week and stretch for 30 minutes three times per week.
  • Clare is giving up all dairy products.
  • Colleen is going to walk at least 10 miles per week.
  • Dawn is going to do some type of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Erin is going to eat three vegan, high-raw dinners per week.
  • Hanlie (Fertile Healthy) is going without bread, coffee, sugar, or alcohol!
  • Henry is going to run a mile each day.
  • Hethir is going to eat vegetarian and high-raw and run four days a week to prepare for her first 5k!
  • Holly (The Healthy Everythingtarian) is eliminating diet soda from her diet!
  • I am going to eat three vegan, high-raw dinners from Thrive per week, and do foam rolling and stretching the other four days each week (and mix in a little Bikram yoga).
  • Joe is going to eat no meat.
  • Kelley is giving up meat and sugar!
  • Laurie is giving up caffeine and is going to run/walk 30 miles in 30 days!
  • Lindsay (Chasing the Kenyans) is going to watch her calorie intake.
  • Megan (Meg Aug) is going to run three days per week to get ready for a 5k, avoid sweets, and stop eating Double Chocolate Zone bars!
  • Melissa (Veggie Runnr) is going to make her lunches and dinners entirely out of food from the farmers market.
  • Sagan (Living Healthy in the Real World) is going to focus on intuitive eating and eat fewer grains.
  • Vickie is going to start each day off right with a healthy breakfast, eat less than 1200 calories per day, and drink less than three alcoholic beverages per week.

Way to go everyone!  If I missed you, messed something up or misinterpreted your challenge, or if you have a link you want me to put next to your name, let me know and I’ll get on it.  And if you still want to sign up, leave your commitment as a comment and I’ll add you to the list!

Lastly, I encourage you to show this page to as many people in your life whose opinion you value and who will hold you to your commitment.  If that means sharing a link to this page on and showing all your friends on Facebook, then great, and good for me too.  If it just means showing one special person at home, then do that instead.  What it does is create leverage, so that it becomes much more painful to give up on your challenge than to just stick it out, because you look stupid in front of your friends!  Having this kind of faith in yourself might be uncomfortable and unnatural for some of you, but I know of no better way to make changes last.  And for a little more leverage, I’ll do something different this time.  If, when I check in on everyone and ask how you’re doing, it seems like someone’s flaking out, then maybe I’ll just have to call you on it, on the front page of the blog! icon smile

Congratulations again everyone; I have tremendous respect for anyone who is willing to take even this first step.  You’ve already earned points with me.  Good luck on your first day–it’s often the hardest one, but they’ll get easier.  And if you’ve already started, let us know how it’s going!

21 Comments

 

Guest Post on Running Easy

Howdy readers!  Here’s a guest post from Blaine Moore, who writes the running blog Run To Win.  I like to think of Blaine as a “real runner” (he has actually won marathons)!  So he definitely knows what he’s talking about, and I think the information in this post is really important.  From experience, I know that when I stop doing easy runs and replace them with rest days or cross training, I feel worse and my injury risk actually goes up, not down.  Of course, that assumes they truly are easy runs.  It’s so tempting to speed up, which defeats the purpose altogether.  Read on for Blaine’s take on it.

-Matt

Blaine Moore from Run To Win on Running Easy

When you first begin running, it can be the most difficult thing imaginable. As you get into better and better shape, though, running becomes easier. And as running becomes easier, you pick up your average pace and begin running faster. The problem, though, is that sometimes you want to slow down and run at a more moderate pace for your easy runs, but you have trouble sticking to that slower pace. This can cause a plethora of problems, but there are a few strategies that you can use to combat the subconscious itch to run faster than a workout calls for.

Running too quickly does not mean that you intend to run fast; it just kind of happens. Eventually, running at a moderate pace becomes more difficult than picking that pace up. What happens to be a fast pace is different from person to person and even from workout to workout, and picking up the pace when you are supposed to be running easy can quietly sabotage your workout schedule.

The Risks of Never Running Easy

If you do not make a conscious effort to slow down on your recovery or other easy runs, then you are going to have problems.

  1. You will not be well rested for your next speed session or race.
  2. You will increase your risk of injury.
  3. You will increase your risk of burning out.
  4. You will suffer from a state of perpetual exhaustion.

How I Discovered That I Never Ran Easy

The first time that I consciously recognized that I was running too fast on my easy runs was in the Summer of 2000.

I was running a half marathon in Connecticut, and a couple of miles into the race I started to get sort of dizzy. It was more of a sense of vertigo than real dizziness, but my balance was thrown way off and I was afraid that I was suffering from heat exhaustion. The sensation lasted for about 5 or 6 minutes and then went away.

I did not want to risk going to the hospital, but I seemed all right once my balance returned. I decided to run the rest of the race easy and be sure to grab a couple of cups of water at each water stop. The race was a lot of fun, and I chatted with the folks I was running near as I jogged my way through it.

Towards the end of the course, you begin doubling back on the first few miles. As I came to the same part of the road where I had had problems at the beginning I began to feel the same sensations of wooziness and an inability to hold myself upright. I began weaving back and forth across the road uncontrollably. I took this as a good sign, because it meant that my issues were not heat related but environmental.

As soon as I got past where the problems had first started, they went away and I knew that it was safe for me to sprint the last mile of the race in to the finish. I got quite a few dirty looks from the people that passed my seemingly inebriated self mere minutes before as I sprinted past them to finish the race.

So how did I realize that my easy runs were too fast? This race had been at my Sunday Run pace when I was training with my team at RIT, when we normally went for 15 to 18 miles. Our schedule always called for a race on Saturday and a long run on Sunday, which was supposed to be at a relatively easy pace. When I looked at my finishing time for the half marathon, I saw that my relatively easy pace was at 6:47/mile.

If I was running my easy runs at that pace, then I was not giving my body a chance to recover. With an average of 12 running workouts per week when I was in season, that could prove catastrophic. (In fact, it did, as the next Autumn I got a stress fracture in one leg and tendinitis in the other.) I needed to slow myself down.

How to Slow Yourself Down

It took me a few years to find reliable ways of slowing myself down. I know how important it is to run at the correct pace for the workout, so I often employ different strategies depending upon my circumstances to make sure that I hold to that correct pace on my recovery runs. What works for me may not work for you, though, so you will need to experiment. Here are a few things that you can try:

  • Run by feel. This does not usually work for me, since my mind might wander and I might accidentally pick up the pace. Even though the pace might feel easy, my body may not realize what I am trying to accomplish and might betray me. For some people, though, running by feel will be all that they need to do to keep themselves at the right pace.
  • Find a running partner. If you can find a running partner that runs at the pace that you need, then you are all set. Just run with that person and try not to force them to run too fast. If you are conversational, then you will tend to slow down so that you can have enough breath to keep talking.
  • Sing out loud. You can sing when you are running with somebody or when you are by yourself, but I guarantee that if you are running too fast and trying to sing at the same time, it will be very readily apparent when you are running too fast! I’ll warn you that you may get some strange looks, especially if you are singing while you run alone. If you are in a race, you may also annoy the people around you. (Why are you trying to run easy in a race?)
  • Breathe through your nose. I have a breathing exercise that I do on easy runs that helps me to run a little slower when I am running alone and I do not feel like calling attention to myself by singing out loud. I will breathe in through my nose for 4 or 5 steps (2 left, 2 right) and will then exhale through my mouth for 4 or 5 steps. You are unable to bring as much air into your lungs when you breathe through your nose, so you begin having trouble breathing when you go too fast.Breathing in and breathing out through my nose does not work very well for me when I am running, although you may want to experiment with it. It tends to lead to my having to sneeze when I try that, which is why I breathe out through my mouth. As a side benefit, this is a great way to protect your lungs (a little) when you are running with traffic, because your nose filters the fumes in the air somewhat rather than providing a nice straight path that the fumes get when you breathe in through your mouth and are gulping air from a fast pace.
  • Calculate your pace. If you are running with a wrist watch over a measured distance, you can calculate what your pace is and adjust your speed accordingly. Just be aware that trying to do the math in your head might be distracting, so be careful that you don’t pick up the pace and try to be aware of any traffic nearby. An easier way to calculate your pace is to use a footpod or GPS device that can calculate your pace for you. The numbers may not be 100% accurate, but they will be close enough and can be pretty close to real-time.
  • Check your pulse. Your heart rate can be a great determiner of how hard you are running. If you are running at 90% of your max heart rate and you want to be running at 60%, then you know that you are running too fast. The beauty of this method is that it takes environmental factors such as hills and weather into account, as well as how recovered you are from previous workouts, so you can truly run at an easy pace no matter how fast that happens to be.You can calculate a very rough heart rate by finding an artery and counting the beats for 6 seconds and multiplying by 10, but it is better to count for at 30 seconds and multiplying by 2 or just count for a full minute. You may need to stop to get an accurate count, though. An easier way is to wear a heart rate monitor and then just glance at your wrist to see if you need to slow down. If you get a fancy one, you can even make it beep at you when it is time to slow down.

The next time that you have an easy day on your schedule, try one (or more) of these strategies to make sure that you run at a moderate pace that is going to allow you to recover from previous workouts and be ready for your future workouts.

This article was written by Blaine Moore from Run To Win.com – a competitive athlete and marathon coach from Southern Maine. If you’d like more tips like this, then sign up for his newsletter at: http://www.RunToWin.com

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When Did Exercise Become My Idea of a Vacation?

beach feet photo 300x225Good morning and happy Saturday everyone!  Hope you’ve enjoyed the first two guest posts.  I’m checking in from Hilton Head Island, on our third day of vacation.  And so far, so good–I’ve been neither sitting on my ass nor eating lots of steaks and chickens.  In fact, quite the opposite.  There is an amazing network of bike paths here, so we’ve done all kinds of riding around the island.  Our runs have been great–shaded, no cars, and lots of gorgeous foliage.  I never thought these words would pass through my lips, but I’m actually looking forward to my 17-mile run tomorrow morning!  And when we haven’t been running, we’ve been playing tennis, swimming in the pool, hittin’ the beach and attacking that stack of books (more about this in a minute).  And as for this crazy vegetarian diet of ours, Erin’s family has been more than supportive, eating (and even cooking) meatless meals with us.  We had orzo with citrus-cooked vegetables last night, and on the first day we had one of my favorite classic Italian dishes, trenette with pesto, potatoes, and green beans.

Thrive

I finished reading Thrive; you can consider me totally inspired! I’m convinced that if I want it, there’s a way of eating out there that will provide me with more energy than I’ve ever had, enough to really go after the things I want in life.  Because cooking is such a passion of mine, I’m not ready to go full-on raw food vegan, as the book advocates doing.  But the upcoming 30-Day Challenge (only two days until it officially begins!) provides a very convenient opportunity to make a commitment to something that I might not otherwise have the initiative to start, so as part of mine I’m going to start delving into some Thrive Diet recipes.  But I’ll come up with a specific challenge to post, along with all of your inspiring challenges, on Monday.  And more on Thrive in a later post.

Why I Want You To Do A 30-Day Challenge

If you haven’t committed to a 30-Day Challenge yet, please, at least consider it.  It’s the perfect amount of time to make a change, to get out of whatever box you’re living in.  It doesn’t have to be permanent–mine wasn’t.  I’m drinking coffee less than before, but I haven’t given it up entirely, nor do I want to. The point is to try something new, and let’s be honest for a second. If you’re not trying new things, looking for opportunities to grow, then really, what’s the point of pulling yourself out of bed every day?  How much longer are you going to tell yourself you need to quit smoking or putting crap into your body?  Or lies like “One day I’m going to start _____,” whether it’s cooking, road biking, rock climbing, whatever.  You know, the thing that lights you up when you picture yourself doing it.  A 30-Day Challenge is the way to start it, now, without overthinking it.

Ok, I’m not sure how my vacation check-in post turned into a pump-up session, but it did.  Maybe it’s the coffee talking.  The coffee that, oh by the way, Erin and I biked four miles each way to get this morning, only to have most of it spill out on the way back!  But what do you know, I pumped myself up!  I’m going to pull another book out of the old stack, head to the pool, and start on Triathlon Swimming Made EasyWhen did this become my idea of a vacation? But all I can think about is that as soon as this pesky qualify-for-Boston thing is out of the way, there had better be something new to step in and take its place.  I mean, god forbid I achieve a goal and be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished, right?

Alright, back to fun in the sun!  Then tonight it’s off to Savannah, for a nice dinner out and a ghost tour.  Spooky!

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Chocolate Thin Mint Cupcakes

cupcakes photo 300x200Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  It’s Christine, and today I’ve got a great healthy recipe for Chocolate “Thin Mint” Cupcakes.  These are so decadent and moist; nobody will ever believe they are made from zucchini!  I think these cupcakes are my favorite NMA dessert to date, but I only got to sample one because of an unusual visitor!

This is a perfect way to use up some zucchini that’s overflowing the farmer’s market stands or in your own garden!  Zucchini is technically a fruit, related to both watermelon and cucumber.  It’s a great source of vitamin C!  In baking, one of the best things about using zucchini is actually what you can leave out: the water and fiber rich pulp easily stand in for fat and extra flour.

If you’ve never done much baking without eggs, beware!  Without the risk of salmonella from raw eggs, the batter becomes a free-for-all!  I could barely get these cupcakes in the oven I was so engrossed with licking the beaters.  In this recipe a banana performs the binding that eggs would.  Usually I use very old, almost black bananas in baking for the best flavor, but here I chose a slightly under ripe one so that the banana flavor could stay in the background.

ingredients photo 300x200In this recipe I used two of my secret weapons for flavor: instant coffee and liqueur.  Chocolate and coffee are best friends!  You probably won’t pick up on the coffee taste, but it blends with cocoa for a more complex chocolaty taste.  Liqueurs also add a more complex flavor that I feel concentrated extracts just don’t deliver.  The creme de menthe here gives a mint that is light and refreshing, far from the dreaded toothpaste effect.

For the icing, I melted unsweetened chocolate with more creme de menthe and local honey.  I used Cybee’s Honey from Harford County, MD that I got at a Baltimore farmer’s market.  Did you know local honey can help you fight your seasonal allergies?  The small amounts of pollen the bees collect act almost like an antibiotic in your body, letting you build up immunity rather than just attacking it with histamines.  Cool, huh?

A Surprise Guest

These smelled so good in the oven and I wasn’t the only one who thought so!   You won’t believe what happened next!  I set the cupcakes on a rack to cool.  (Cooling baked goods on a rack lets air circulate all around them, so the cupcakes don’t keep cooking and get tough on the bottom.)  I grabbed one warm cupcake and headed to the living room to type up the recipe from my scribbled notes.  After about 20 minutes I noticed a scuffling in the kitchen.  At first I thought it was the wind blowing the blinds against the window, but when I went to investigate I was in for a huge surprise!

A SQUIRREL was in my kitchen nibbling on the cupcakes!!  He had ripped a hole in the screen and crawled in a window that was only open a couple of inches (You can see the window behind the picture of the ingredients).  When I entered the kitchen I startled him, so he grabbed a piece of baking chocolate and ran across the kitchen, knocking over plenty of bottles on his way!  Then the squirrel just sat on the sill, happily nibbling on his piece of chocolate.  My phone was on the other side of the kitchen, so I didn’t know what to do!  I ran and got the camera and snapped a few shots before he bid farewell.

squirrel 2 photo

squirrel 1 photo

I had to throw away the cupcakes he sampled, but at least I got to have a taste of one!  In the end, the squirrel’s visit was a mixed blessing.  Even though I lost a batch of cupcakes and he made a big mess, I finally gave my kitchen the spring cleaning it badly needed!  (Believe me, I was up to my elbows in bleach!)  Plus, I am happy to know that the scent of these cupcakes wafting out the window is enough to entice a wild beast!  Well, at least a wild critter!

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes Recipe

Here’s the recipe, adapted from a VegWeb recipe for Benz Zucchini Bread:

Wet Ingredients:
1-1 1/2 cups (packed) shredded zucchini, about 1 medium
1 green to yellow banana
3/4 cup demerara sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tbs instant coffee
3 tbs creme de menthe

Dry ingredients:
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
4 tbs (1/4 cup) flax seed, ground
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

For the icing:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs creme de menthe
3-4 tbs honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
big pinch of salt
1 tbs canola oil, if needed

Preheat the oven of 350 degrees.
Peel and shred the zucchini with a hand grater or food processor, set aside.
Combine the dry ingredients, set aside.
In a mixer, combine the wet ingredients (except for the zucchini) and beat until just about uniform.  Sometimes the banana stays a little bit lumpy and that’s ok.  Stir in dry ingredients, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Stir in the zucchini.  Use an ice cream scoop and divide into cupcake cups.  I got 15 cupcakes, but no joke, I ate a significant amount of batter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they are nicely domed and tops spring back with a tiny touch.  You can also test to see if a toothpick comes out clean. Mine were done at 18 minutes.

For the icing, put the coconut oil and chocolate in a microwave bowl for 60 seconds.  Stir, then microwave for 30 seconds.  Repeat with decreasing times until smooth.  Stir in the creme de menthe, honey, vanilla, and salt.  The alcohol will make the chocolate “seize up”, keep stirring and add the extra tbs of canola oil if needed.  The icing is very rich like a ganache, so just spread a thin layer on each cupcake.  Garnish with a fresh mint leaf.

cooling rack photo 1024x682

OK that’s it, enjoy!  Don’t forget to close the windows when you bake these because they are just too tempting!

My 30-Day Challenge

Finally, before I go I wanted to commit to this 30 Day Challenge.  I flaked out with the last one but now I am ready with some more drastic changes.  I am not going to consume any caffeine or dairy.  I don’t think either has been a friend to me in a long time.  I am going to drink 64 oz of water everyday.  I am not going to eat any peanut butter for the next 30 days.  I know it’s good fat and has protein, but I eat way more than a serving EVERY day.  I need a break.   I also am going to do cardio for 30 minutes 4 times a week and the Core Performance stretches for 30 minutes 3 times a week.  I really miss the discipline of training for a race so I am really excited to get back into an exercise routine.  I just joined a gym so I’ll update you next week with how it’s going!

Now that I am officially committed, I’ll see you next Sweet-Tooth Friday.  Stay sweet and watch out for squirrels!

xoxo Christine

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Guest Post by Katherine (from A Runner Wife’s Life)

Hello wonderful No Meat Athlete readers! My name is Katherine and I’m the Runner Wife. While my PR splits are more like Matt or Erin’s cooldown jogs, I’ve been fortunate to have some great race experiences in the past few years. I credit my successful long training runs, and races, with proper scheduling, conditioning and, most of all, nutrition. For Matt’s take on pre-race nutrition, check out his page here! I’ll break down my method by each topic in an effort to provide some sense of order.

Scheduling

I always research training plans at least a month before I need to start training – for a marathon, I reserve at least 16 weeks for training, so I secured my Marine Corps Marathon training plan around Memorial Day this year and started training this week. I always adjust training plans so my long runs land on Saturdays. I don’t know what it is, but I love going to bed early on Fridays (yes, I’m kind of an old maid), waking up before the mist has burned off the pavement, and banging out a good training run while most of my peers are sleeping off hangovers. I also revel in my luxurious rest days on Sunday by lounging around the house, getting diner food with my husband, and doing some yoga. If I did my long runs on Tuesdays, what then? No celebratory eggs and toast for me the next day. What’s the point in running?

Conditioning

I make sure my training plan incorporates moderate mileage increases, plenty of cross training (XT), and rest. As a good rule of thumb, I’ve found long run mileage shouldn’t increase by more than 1-2 miles per week. This helps me prevent injury. It also allows me to skip or cut back one week if I’m feeling tired, or if I’m flirting with a strained muscle.
I also find a thrice weekly date with the dreaded ArcTrainer is, while rather soul sucking, critical for building core strength, challenging muscles I use less when running, and allowing me to catch up with the latest episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Dr. 90210. Hey, who really wants to watch important TV while sweating and cursing the fact that time seems to be standing still and your workout might. never. end? Not I!

Nutrition

Now for the whammy. Nutrition. When I trained for my first race, a half marathon, I was positively militant about my diet. I didn’t drink alcohol, I didn’t eat desserts, no food after 8pm….the list of rules goes on and on. While I did finish the race, I was sick for a week after. During my training, I’d lost almost 20 pounds and I hadn’t included any XT so my muscles were exhausted and overused. Since then (2006), I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of experimenting and I’ve come to a few conclusions.
1.  In order to run well, you must EAT! When I trained for my first (and only, so far) marathon, I actually gained about 5-7 pounds, but I was a lean, mean running machine. I was eating every 2-3 hours and I was incorporating lots of protein and complex carbs into my diet. Please, do not sign up for a marathon as a way to lose weight!!
2. Dairy is not a long run’s friend. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I learned the painful way that I need to avoid dairy 24 hours before a long run (anything over 6 miles). Many people have no trouble with dairy and could eat a pint of ice cream before a long run. To all those people, I stick out my tongue to you! In all seriousness though, dairy is something you just have to experiment with. When I was crafting my perfect pre-run dinner, I slowly reduced the amount of dairy and realized it had been the culprit. While I miss it, we’re talking about one dairy-free meal out of the week so I can’t really complain!
3. Pre-run Dinner. This took a rather embarrassing amount of crafting to create such a simple dish, but it’s my tried and true. Even though it’s so simple, it’s a great mix of protein, complex carbs, nutrients and flavor! This year, I’m looking forward to experimenting with non-meat variations so all suggestions are welcome icon wink

Sauteed Chicken with Fresh Tomato Sauce Over Pasta

  • 1 chicken breast, fat trimmed away, chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 2 T. pine nuts
  • 1/3 c. fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat penne, uncooked
  1. Boil water, season with sea salt, and add pasta. Cook till al dente and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and pan and add garlic on medium heat.
  3. Add chicken and saute for 2-3 minutes, until edges are just cooked.
  4. Add tomatoes to pan and cover for 5-7 minutes.
  5. When tomatoes have started to burst, add pine nuts, basil and pasta.
  6. Toss to coat and serve immediately.
(Add grated cheese if desired and your stomach can tolerate it)
4.  Pre-run Breakfast. This was another crucial puzzle piece to put into place. I experimented with energy bars, coffee (never again!), nothing but water, cereal, everything! I finally settled on the following morning regimen for long runs and races:

2 hours before run: 1/2 cup oatmeal with water, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup, 1 spoonful of peanut butter, big glass of water
1 hour before run: glass of water

That’s it! Good carbs, a bit of fat and protein, and enough water to hydrate me without necessitating a pit stop at mile 2 icon wink

So, like I said, every runner is different – your dietary needs/goals might not be the same as mine, or you might really hate running in the morning, or you don’t belong to a gym so you can’t spend endless hours on the ArcTrainer. I believe with enough patience and a good training log (this is invaluable!!), you’ll find the combination that works best for you. And always remember that just because one thing works doesn’t mean something else won’t work, or work even better, so keep an open mind and enjoy the process! Running has been one of the greatest challenges, and one of the greatest rewards in my life thus far and I’m still learning every day how to care for my body so I can run for many years to come!

Happy Trails!
Katherine

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