Becoming connected to my own body

In my early 20’s; I could pummel my body without refuge. I ran a lot back then and paid zero attention to what my body required. I figured if I smashed fifteen red bull vodkas and followed it up with a twenty piece chicken nugget – my body would need roughly 5-7 miles the next day to get back in sync. (mind you, I might puke out my hang over at mile 4 but who gives a shit about the semantics) Nothing ever felt off. If I was tired, I took a nap (where ever mind you, that felt logical at the time). If I felt under the weather, I would slam a carb laden bagel. As an athlete, more was better. And frankly, there seemed to be no consequences. If my performance didn’t suffer then obviously my lifestyle choices were working. Overall, I would say that I was zero percent connected to my body. Fortunately for me, youth hid this for awhile.

Now, I am in my almost mid (what the fuck) thirties and I can’t get away with that shit anymore. If I have two glasses of wine, I am hungover the next day. If I miss a full night of sleep, I will quite literally, imagine how blissful it would be to just fall asleep while driving (is that normal???). And, if I am training for something, my body lets me know when its depleted. I’ve learned in the last year that in order to reach my goals – I need to make calculated decisions about where I go, what I eat, what I do and when/how I sleep. Every thing comes with a price and in order to be well, I need to be extremely connected with my body.

The past few months have been rough. I was struggling with pretty severe anemia and had no idea. I was tired all the time, frequently got sick, I was pale, had what I described as horrible “panic attacks” while running, I couldn’t sleep and I felt run down every single day. It was like a fog had washed over me. I was also impatient, short with 99% of the people I dealt with and intolerant of any behavior that didn’t align with my very specific terms. When I finally found out that none of this was normal and my body has been literally SCREAMING at me for help – I felt so relieved. #1 – because for the first time, my issues had nothing to do with my heart and #2 – because with this information came a solution. And a solution meant I didn’t have to live like this. I talked to my doctors, my coach and my husband. They all had something to contribute. Since I discovered this a few weeks before the marathon, I had a chance of feeling better before my stroll down Boylston.

I had no idea how serious an iron deficiency could be. Nor did I realize the sheer amount of symptoms that come along with it. In the weeks following my discovery, I have worked tirelessly to combat this issue with supplementation and dietary changes.  The effect of all these changes? Well, to put it in my coaches words (she has also suffered from an iron deficiency) – I feel awake. My energy has completely turned around. I’m happier (like no joke, I am WAY happier). I look healthier. My workouts feel solid and I’m excited for them. I feel normal. Just being able to say that, is so refreshing.

Athletes are very susceptible to having an iron deficiency and let me tell you, it’s a complicated thing. People who are iron deficient are usually Vitamin C deficient and sometimes Vitamin B/D deficient. If you are eating too many things with other minerals (magnesium for instance); they might be in direct competition with your bodies ability to absorb iron. Drinking caffeine also prevents your bodies ability to absorb iron. Steaming veggies al dente is best because it retains iron (if you are eating iron rich vegetables). I mean – THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS. But, we must pay attention to perform well. Our bodies are complex organisms and when put to the test; they need lots of vital nutrients. While I’m not a professional athlete by any means, I am in constant competition with myself. I want to do well. And for me, that means establishing a deep connection with my body and nourishing it as well as I can.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as simple as: one, two, three. No fix is easy or permanent. And I’ve learned, I can only do what is sustainable and attainable. For now, my goal is to simply pay attention. As much as I can as often as I can. I encourage all of you to do the same – especially if you are logging a lot of workouts or miles.

Here is my go-to iron rich smoothie:

IRON DEFICIENCY SMOOTHIE
1-1/2 cup homemade almond milk (if you buy it look at the ingredients and make sure it is unsweetened!)
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup kale
1/2 cup frozen strawberries (surprisingly a good source of Vitamin C)
1/2 a medium sized beet (cut into very small pieces)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 heaping tablespoon of raw cocoa
1 heaping teaspoon spirulina

Blend this all together (you may need more liquid) and drink it fast as fuck. Just kidding! It’s actually not bad at all. The strawberries really save the day.

Enjoy!

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This crazy thing we call life PLUS sweet potato quesadilla recipe

This crazy thing we call life PLUS sweet potato quesadilla recipe

When I woke up Monday morning; my intention was not to join a Boston Marathon charity team in the year 2018. In fact, running a marathon has been the furthest thing from my mind. I started training ever so gradually January 7th after what felt like the stomach flu/strep throat ruled my life in December. My coach and I had laid out the plan before starting again and I had carefully selected each and every target. But what can I say? Eating better food has invaded my brain and I feel very clear. I’m sure it’s not just FOOD but for the first time in 3 years; I’m not afraid of the work or the unknown. I’m okay with the uncertainty in training for a marathon and consequently running that marathon. I mean, lets be honest, no matter what you do or how well you prepare; come race day – anything can happen. I chose a charity carefully and the decision to pull the trigger came out of no where. I’ve had a handful of runs in the cold that have just really inspired me and that created a sort of eruption in my heart that screamed: lets do this. And so, yesterday, without hesitation or pause; I submitted my application for the Michael’s Miracle Boston Marathon team. Less than 30 minutes later, I got a call that my application stood out against the 100 that had been sitting on this ladies desk and that I was on the team. Full disclosure, my longest run in the last 6 weeks has been 3 miles and I am unprepared to say the least. Lucky for me, I have a really solid coach and I know she will formulate a plan that eases me into where I need to be. I need to raise a minimum of $5,000 but I’ve chosen a lofty goal of $15,000 because, why not? As you all know, I never do anything small. AND this charity needs the money. They need it. Plain and simple. The money raised by the Boston Marathon team makes up 25% of their annual budget and every penny stays in house. I have some fun fundraising ideas and over the next 12 weeks; I’ll be asking friends and families to dig into their pockets for a charity that helps the lives of families caring for those that are severely disabled. It’s an amazing center and I’m sure as you all hear more about it; you’ll be inclined to spend less on something frivolous and donate to such a good cause. If you feel inclined to donate (which I hope you all do) here is the link to my fundraising page. 

This thing we call life is CRAZY. But right now, I feel like it’s crazy good.

Now, about this life changing sweet potato dish that takes like no time to whip together and can be done in ONE pan. YES. I serve this with homemade salsa which you can find the recipe for here. For me, the salsa just makes this dish. A little sprinkling of fresh cilantro, hot sauce and perhaps a smidge of sour cream and you’ll find – meat doesn’t even come into question. You don’t need it to enjoy saucy Mexican flavors. My apologies for the poor picture. I can’t always invest time in top notch photography. I’m saving that for my new project.

SWEET POTATO QUESIDILLAS – Makes 4 quesadillas

1 can of organic black beans – rinsed and drained
1 sweet potato – diced into small squares (relatively small, you don’t want huge chunks falling out and you want them to cook quickly)
1/2 cup red pepper – diced
1/4 red onion – diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt + Pepper to taste
Handful of freshly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used sharp cheddar and/or Mexican blend) – if you don’t do cheese, simply leave this out
8 grain free soft tortillas

Preheat oven to 375. Place a saute pan on the stove-top and set your heat to medium/medium low. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of olive oil (you can also use coconut oil) and add the sweet potatoes. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add red peppers and onions, saute for another 5 minutes. Add black beans, cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Continue stirring. Cook until sweet potatoes are soft but not mushy. Remove from heat. Place 4 tortillas on a baking sheet and evenly distribute the filling. Sprinkle on top of the filling the fresh cilantro and shredded cheese. Top with remaining 4 tortillas and press down ever so gently. Put your baking sheet in the oven and bake only until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are nicely browned on top. You don’t want them completely brown; just enough so you see a golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven, let sit for 2 minutes. Cut each quesadilla into 4 squares, top with fresh salsa, sour cream, hot sauce, whatever. Enjoy!

 

 

A million bucks – and, oh, chickpea nachos

A million bucks – and, oh, chickpea nachos

I woke up this morning feeling like A MILLION BUCKS. My alarm went off 6 A.M. (Emma needs to be on the bus by 6:33, insert a bunch of what the fucks here) and rather than throwing my phone off my nightstand in a fit of rage; I bounced out of bed. I swear, that isn’t even a bit of an exaggeration. I was like, excited to start my day. This NEVER happens. Mornings have just been relentlessly hard on me the last two years. Today, I sprang up, made my coffee and even used dry shampoo/attempted to make myself look pretty. No, I did not wear real pants, lets not start thinking crazy. Throughout the day, there were several fires to put out. The scope and magnitude of these fires would usually send me flipping the fuck out, threatening to staple someones face and give up on humanity. But, I felt level throughout the entire day. I felt I could manage the stress that was coming at me. My energy was solid. Come time to run, I layered my clothing like a champ and just went outside to get it done. Today was the first day in a long time that I didn’t feel sick and tired. And believe me, it has been a long stretch of just feeling completely sick and utterly tired. It could just be a one off. Who knows if this means anything. For right now, I will just take it as a sign that my plan to trace the origin of everything I put in my mouth, is working. Which drives my desire to find food/recipes that are simple and attainable.

I’m not going to lie, there are so many parts of watching my food intake that are hard. While grocery shopping, I find that 99% of packaged items are just unacceptable for consumption. Specifically dressings, nut butters and even items like trail mix. Everything is just sugar/wheat laden. At this point, I would rather just take a minute and make it myself. It means that meal planning is harder, going out to eat is tricky and life at the end of the day becomes just a little more exhausting. It’s no longer as simple as, oh just whip up some quick pasta. I have to plan if I want to stick to this and I have to research a vast majority of my recipes. (No worries, I am going to do LOTS of this work for you in the future, showing you how to easily whip items like salad dressing!)

See, I don’t want to Weight Watchers it up or throw a label on it. That’s just a way of skirting the system.  I want to actually KNOW my food. While losing a bit of weight is part of the goal, I refuse to eat a mangled pile of shit in order to hit a certain points number, just so I can lose weight. I want to continue feeling good. I want to know each ingredient intimately and forge a relationship that has staying power. I want to understand the relationship my body has with each individual food.

But does that mean giving up the things I love? No no no. I just need to reinvent the things I love.

So I made chickpea tortilla nachos because I wanted something crunchy and familiar. I found a recipe on-line and adapted it a bit. They were delicious BUT they do not taste like the tortilla chips you’re used to. No reinvention will be exact but, it was close enough. It made me feel like I was indulging and sometimes, that is all a girl needs.

Lets talk about chickpeas and what they are good at:

  • Help control blood sugar levels
  • Increases productive digestion and aids in weight loss
  • High fiber content (see above)
  • Protects against heart disease and cancer
  • Provides essential vitamins and minerals such as iron and calcium
  • Great source of plant based protein (12 chips equal 11 grams of protein!! WIN!)

Now you are convinced, right?? Chickpeas are the bomb and you should make this recipe. Pronto. I made these with regular chickpea flour but the word on the street is that sprouted chickpea flour is even easier to digest. I have that coming Friday. I will let you know the difference should I see one. Onto the recipe!!

Chickpea Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:
2 cups chickpea flour (sprouted or regular)
1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
6 tablespoons water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Throw chickpea flour, salt, pepper and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil and mix with your hands until the dough is crumbly. 4 tablespoons warm water and stir until the dough comes together. If the dough is not sticking together add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until it does. Try not to overwork the dough too much although I had to work it a bit to get everything to stick together nicely.

2. Place the dough onto a sheet of baking paper and flatten into a disc. Place another sheet of baking paper on top of the dough and using a rolling pin, roll out as thin as possible – this is SO important. Thin, thin, thin. My first batch was on the thick side and the chips had an odd texture. The thinner the dough, the lighter and crispier your chips will be. Remove the top layer of baking paper and score the dough into triangles. Slide the baking paper and dough onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 10-13 minutes until the chips are golden around the edges.

4. Move on to make the nachos or store in an airtight container for later consumption.

Fresh Housemade Salsa

Ingredients:
8-10 tomatoes, ripe as you can grab this time of year (I use the Campari tomatoes at Whole Foods, it’s the best I can do in winter)
1 jalapeno, seeds and all
1/2 small red onion
1 handful of cilantro
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Simply throw into a food processor and pulse until it becomes a consistency you will enjoy.

Avocado Crema

Ingredients:
1 small clove garlic
2 large, ripe avocados
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, minced
Olive oil, coconut oil to thin out as necessary (use your desired oil)

Cut avocados in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into the food processor. Add the garlic, lime juice, salt and pulse on high until smooth. Add olive oil to thin as needed, and blend. Next add the cilantro leaves and pulse just until combined. Season to taste, adding more salt or lime juice as desired.

Nachos

Simply place a layer of chickpea tortillas on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with black beans, sharp cheddar cheese (use vegan cheese here if you like), diced red peppers and red onion. Bake until cheese is melty and gooey. Then top with avocado crema, fresh salsa and some cilantro leaves.

the cereal aisle

the cereal aisle

The cereal aisle is a dangerous place. I spend roughly 8 minutes of my life each and every grocery trip arguing with my children about why they can’t have 99% of the boxes in the cereal aisle. Here is a fun fact, 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. So, for all my math nerds, lets do some simple addition. A typical serving of cereal is 3/4 of a cup and contains 9-12 grams of sugar. If you buy your kid Honey Nut Cheerios and they have 2 servings (because really, who the fuck eats 3/4 of a cup of cereal?); that equals 18 grams of sugar, or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar. Go dump 4.5 teaspoons into a small glass, you want your kids munching on that to start their day? I hope not. Now this is an argument I sometimes lose. This week, my kids won and I bought them Cinnamon Toast Crunch (9 grams of sugar per serving). Lucky for me, they barely finish one serving and round off the meal with fruit or a smoothie. (which I pack with spinach or kale to offset the sugar) Personally, I can’t eat that shit but they’re kids and no matter how hard I try, sometimes they just want plain garbage.

However, for me, the convenience of cereal has its benefits. It is something quick that I can eat in the morning and helps me to avoid getting something on the way to work. I’ve been shoving plain Cheerios with a banana in my face nearly every day but I’m hungry less than an hour later. It just doesn’t sustain me. Bottom line – from a box is bad. Homemade is good. But since my new project is all about being real – who the hell has time to make homemade cereal????

Unfortunately, in doing research for my new project I found that a lot of plant based recipes are a disaster. Millions of unknown ingredients, most VERY expensive. Picture me in Whole Foods searching for psyllium husks. Twenty minutes and $10 later I found them but I was super annoyed. My new motto is – it doesn’t have to be this difficult. This recipe takes 5 minutes to put together. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool so you can dig in!

The recipe for this cereal is typical of what you will find in my new project. Easy to shop for, make and conquer. And how about the health benefits of the ingredients:

Flax seeds: help reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, contain omega-3 (healthy fat!) essential fatty acids, lignans (antioxidants!!) and fiber (both soluble and insoluble)
Almond flour: low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and high source of protein.
Coconut Oil: high in natural saturated fats which increase healthy cholesterol in the body which assists in heart health.
Unsweetened applesauce: an especially good source of soluble fiber, the type that dissolves into a gel-like substance and helps maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Cinnamon: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, helps protect brain function
Coconut Sugar: coconut sugar contains inulin. Inulin has the ability to stimulate the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria, commonly found in probiotice, which can provide an overall boost to the immune system. Don’t be fooled though, I do want to point out that sugar is sugar so best to be cautious when using.

So, here you have it, housemade cereal! P.S. This recipe goes a LONG way. Don’t let it fool you. I put like 15 squares in a bowl with lots of fresh berries and I was full until lunch. In fact, I had to push myself to eat lunch. The fact that it is grain and gluten free also means easy digestion and a slow release of energy. Also incredibly helpful for our whacky hormones. One recipe should last you a full working week.

HOUSEMADE CINNAMON VANILLA CEREAL – MAKES 7 SERVINGS (1 serving, roughly 12-15 squares, with a cup of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries is 267 calories) (this does not count almond milk)

Note: I don’t think this is meant to be enjoyed alone, I would always have it with a little fruit

1-1/2 cups organic blanched almond flour (you can find this in the organic section of Hannaford)
1/2 cup ground flax seeds (I just bought regular seeds and through them in the blender)
1-1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup coconut sugar (I actually cut this in half to 2 tablespoons and added 2 additional tablespoons of almond meal to reduce the overall sugar but you can do whatever suits you)
1/4 cup organic, unsweetened apple sauce (use an extra dollop if you need to for moisture)
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 325°F

2. Combine all the ingredients into a bowl, adding a touch more applesauce if you need to in order to achieve a “dough” that sticks together. I used my hands, using a spoon just didn’t make sense. Gather dough into a rough ball.

3. Place dough on piece of parchment paper and flatten into a disk to make rolling out easier. Place another piece of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough as evenly as possible, about 2mm thickness (don’t go too thin here or it will easily burn). Remove top sheet of parchment paper, and using a paring knife, score the dough into small squares. (see picture below)

4. Place in the oven to bake for about 15-20 minutes until turning golden around the edges, then turn the oven off and let the cereal sit in there until cool (this will help dry it out and make them extra crisp). Watch the cereal carefully. My first tried burned pretty badly. I started looking in at about 10 minutes. At 15, I placed a piece of foil on top to prevent browning further. It won’t feel crisp at first, but will dry out and crisp as the pan cools, I promise. If you are nervous about the color, put a piece of foil on while it sits with the oven off.

5. Once the cereal is completely cool, break up the pieces into squares (this will happen very easily) and place in an airtight glass container. Store for up to one month at room temperature.

Love. Oh yes, and brownies.

Love. Oh yes, and brownies.

I find love to be, an incredibly tricky thing. I started off today, imaging all the ways that I could talk about love and its glory. Then I got into a stupid argument with my husband and realized that, yes, love can be blissful but it can also make you want to smash someones face in. (like multiple times) It brings forth a range of emotions that can only be described as catastrophic and slightly manic. Love is like taking acid. One minute everything is glitter and unicorns and the next, it’s thinking jumping off the roof is a swell idea. Is this too debbie downer? It wasn’t intended to be that way. I’m just being real. Because while I appreciate the eight million posts on social media that fool us all into thinking your life is perfect, guess what, everyone has highs and lows. Just the nature of the game. When you enter into the bond of love you are saying the following: yes we will kiss and have sex occasionally, sometimes I will crave you like a feral animal chasing dinner, but most of the time I will argue about something entirely meaningless for no reason, wear sweatpants to bed that have chinese food stains on them from eight dinners ago and at this point, I’m comfortable enough to snuggle up to you post run with no shower. (which is gross) This Valentine’s Day, Josh and I didn’t even exchange gifts. No card. No flowers. I think I murmured something slightly offensive to him this morning while pouring my coffee. After that, we put the kids on the bus and I made some brownies before work for Emma’s teachers. Which I should have done last night but just couldn’t bring myself to dirty one more dish. There wasn’t any romantic show of affection. I didn’t wake up to some grand gesture. Does this simply just happen as the years tick by? Who the fuck knows. At 6 in the morning, I don’t really give a single shit. I love him. We are in love. But sometimes, it’s not as glamorous as it looks on the big screen. Love is messy and intense. For me, Josh is the first person in my life that I have willingly sacrificed everything for without regret. I have never embraced compromise like I did when I met Josh. I had a lot of hard choices to make the first few months together. We took a lot of risks and thankfully they have paid off. The caveat to great love however, is that it can bring you up….and….take you right back down. Is it always worth it? Unequivocally, yes. I can’t tell you what my life would look like without him but I know this–it wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.

Outside of my relationship, the remains of love are scattered all over my heart. I love many things. I think love can motivate us in so many ways it’s almost inconceivable. If I love a particular food, I will travel an hour to eat it. If I love the way a piece of the world appears in a photo, I will imagine a way to go see it in real life. Sometimes it’s as simple as loving the way snowflakes fall and pulling myself out of a warm house to stand in the midst of it all. I feel love the most when I am in the kitchen and my children come in and discover something I have made for them. Their faces of sheer joy and delight are almost more than I can handle. In that moment, I am everything to them that matters in this whole world. And that memory; of that taste and my love, will hopefully linger within them for many years to come.

Take your tricky, over the top, sometimes annoying love and run with it today. It may not be cheap or easy but no doubt, it’s worth all the fuss.

Decadent Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients
5.5 oz (155 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2.5 oz (70 grams) bittersweet chocolate (62-70% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (1 & 3/4 sticks/200 grams) unsalted butter, melted
5 eggs
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Position the oven rack to the middle and preheat to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. (I lined it with parchmant paper with a little overhang, to make removal easier)

Place the unsweetened chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over (not touching) barely simmering water in a saucepan and heat, stirring continuously, until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, whisk in the melted butter until well combined and set aside to cool slightly.

Place the eggs in a mixer bowl and fit mixer with the whisk attachment. On low, slowly beat in the sugar for 1 minute, or until frothy and somewhat thick. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate mixture.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using the spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture into the egg-chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer with the spatula. (Batter will be thick)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes- but start checking at about 20 minutes. They are done when a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few wet crumbs on it. If there is still liquid batter on the tester, they need more time. If the tester comes out clean, they are cooked through and will be just cakey (not fudgy too). Let them cool for 2 hours. They are so moist, they need this time to firm up enough to cut.