Archive for December 2012

Say Yes to More in the New Year

What’s the New Year’s equivalent of the Grinch? The Teetotaler of 2013? The Naysayer of Next Year? The Resolution Wraith? Well, whatever that guy is called, he’s not welcome at my table and I think you should also dis-invite him.

Too many New Year’s resolutions focus on NO when it comes to food: no normal-human-sized portions, no snacks, no sweets, no carbs, no fat, no eating after 7:42 pm, no NO NO. And I know I’m playing Captain Obvious here, but clinging to NO is just setting yourself up to fail.

So let’s try something a little different, and talk about what we should resolve to eat more of in 2013 (and the years after that). To help out, I’ve pulled a week’s worth of related recipes from several “Best of 2012” collections.

Focus on fruits and veggies. Nearly all of us are in this boat, because only 10% of Western-diet eaters meet the recommend daily intakes for fruits and veggies. One of the best ways to tackle this is to focus on the two-fers: dishes that include both fruits and veggies. Some examples include fried cauliflower with tahini and pomegranate arils from Cooking Light’s best of 2012, and the citrus, olives and radicchio salad from Eating Well’s 2012 round-up.

(See more about MORE after the jump)

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ATX Training: Week 8 – When 1/2 doesn’t equal 1/2

People will tell you that the halfway mark of a marathon (13.1 miles) isn’t really halfway – it’s not until you cross the 20-mile mark that the real second half begins. Those last 6.2 miles are supposedly equal in effort and pain to the 20 you’ve already traversed, with an extra helping of psychological breakdown thrown in for good measure.

So it’s with some trepidation that I celebrate a halfway mark in my training for the ATX marathon – finishing up week 8 of my 16-week training cycle. But I do feel like cheering, if even briefly. At almost 40 total miles, this was my highest-mileage week ever! Not even the week where I ran an actual marathon surpasses that.

etw running 121227

And in true marathon fashion, the next half isn’t at all equal to the first. I have a single “cutback” week that includes a 17-miler (not in my definition of an easy week), and then a month of 40+ mile weeks. At least those high-mileage weeks will be doing double duty, because I’m signed up with Team Escapades in January’s Chilly Challenge.

I’m hoping my peak training weeks will help put our team over the top, besting Team Purple Giraffe for a chance to win some running swag. So here’s to the second half – may it be full of 20-milers, reasonable weather, and some free stuff on the way to the two-week-taper finish line!

Recipe ReDux: Hit the post-holiday sales with a kitchen gift guide

Are you flush with a little holiday cash? Or maybe that purple chenille “wall art” from Uncle Bert doesn’t quite match the décor & you’re hoping to exchange it for something less… all of that. Have no fear, because you can easily find something to gift yourself from this month’s Recipe ReDux kitchen gadget gift guide.

Since our reveal day was just a few days shy of Christmas, the group decided to each share a favorite kitchen tool and a favorite recipe prepared using that gadget. Even though I’m a day (actually 5) late and a dollar (recipe) short, I didn’t want you to miss the guide (especially now that post-holiday sales are on).

The kitchen tool I’d recommend? Easily my Silpat non-stick baking mat.

They’re made of fiberglass and food-grade silicone, are super non-stick, clean up easily and can handle temperatures anywhere from -40°F to 482°F (-40°C to 250°C). I use mine for all kinds of scones – including banana chocolate chip or double chocolate ginger – but also for cookies, roasting vegetables, and pretty much anything else that goes on a baking sheet. It turns out that they make a version specifically for bread (the Silpain) that I don’t yet have, but I’d love to get my hands on one for pizza-making.

So while I’m shopping around for that Silpain, check out the whole gadget-reviews-and-recipes package put together by my fellow ReDuxers:

Product Review: We’re all Italian with Tuttorosso Tomatoes

As a Midwestern German/Scot with an Irish-sounding married name, I really have no claim to authentic Italian cooking expertise. But I’m always game to stretch food boundaries, especially when free food shows up on my doorstep.

The folks at Tuttorosso Tomatoes sent me a box of their products to try, including the crushed tomatoes with basil, the tomato sauce, and the peeled plum shaped tomatoes in tomato juice. I decided to try out the peeled tomatoes in one of the recipes they also sent me, a “versatile Italian relish.”

I’ll admit to some initial skepticism, because nearly every “whole tomatoes in a can” product I’ve purchased has been mushily disappointing. But these suckers looked good – rich red color and firm, rotund little bodies. They held up well to slicing and marinating, and added a nice flavor punch on top of the pasta bake leftovers I had for lunch.

You can visit their website to learn more about Tuttorosso products and find a bunch of recipes using their tomatoes. You can also find them on Facebook at Tuttorosso Tomatoes, where they are running a holiday promotion and giving away gifts each day through December 22!

Disclosures: Tuttorosso (parent company Red Gold Tomatoes) gave me a product sample at no cost to me. The opinions I’ve expressed in this post are mine and are not edited, reviewed, or influenced by Tuttorosso/Red Gold Tomatoes.

Check out my guest post on ATP: revamping holiday favorites

Love the holiday food traditions but looking for some new (healthier) twists? Check out my guest post as part of the 12-Day Healthy Holiday Challenge on Around The Plate! I shared a bunch of recipes that help reshape your sides, de-meat your main dishes, perfect the pie and more.

Re-Chewing Week: Curried lentil shepherd’s pie

The Chew recently asked Cooking Light Blogger’s Connection members to take on a holiday challenge:

“Select one of the tasty recipes or cute craft ideas from The Chew, and make it your own by adding 1-3 different changes to the process.”

We had Edible Ornaments, Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, Holiday Apple Brown Betty and more to choose from, but my eye was drawn to Christine’s Shepherd’s Pie. Simple, hearty and tasty, shepherd’s pie has only one drawback from my perspective: the meat. So I decided to tweak the original recipe to make it vegetarian-friendly, and came up with curried lentil shepherd’s pie.

It only took a few simple alterations: 1) de-meat the recipe by swapping in lentils and taking out beef, beef broth and Worcestershire sauce; 2) spice things up with curry and garam masala; and 3) top the whole thing off with sweet potatoes for some added flavor and color.

The result is a sweet-and-savory dish that will welcome vegetarians to your holiday table (or at any time of year a warm hearty meal is in order!).

Curried lentil shepherd’s pie

Adapted from Christine’s Shepherd Pie recipe on The Chew

(6 servings, approx. 340 calories each)

1 cup dry black lentils
4 cups water
1 tsp curry powder
3 medium sweet potatoes
3 Tbs butter, divided
1 ½ tsp garam masala
1 red onion, chopped
½ pound sliced mushrooms
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

Cook the lentils: Combine the lentils, water and curry powder in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-22 minutes. Drain water and set aside.

Cook and mash the sweet potato: Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks. Boil in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain the water, then combine potatoes, 2 Tbs butter and garam masala in a large bowl. Mash until smooth.

Sauté the vegetables: Heat 1 Tbs butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms, and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the bag of peas and carrots and cook until defrosted. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste.

Put it all together: In a large baking dish, combine the lentils and cooked vegetables. Smooth the mashed sweet potatoes over the top, then rough up the surface with a fork. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. If you want a nice browned top, finish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.

ATX Training: Running to help end gun violence

It’s not often that running reduces me to tears. No matter how exhausted I am, or what injuries may crop up, I mostly hold it together. But this morning, I doubled over with heaving sobs in between hill sprints. I had to stop several times until the tears subsided so I could see the road again.

It had nothing and everything to do with running. The senseless tragedy yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary has broken my heart, and it overwhelmed me in the quiet pre-dawn hours as running cleared my mind of its usual defenses.

Every life taken is one too many. We have to stop this cycle than robs families and our country of its future, leaving us to mourn those lost those at Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook and countless other places. Every day in America, gun violence claims the lives of eight children and teens.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has worked for decades to protect common sense gun laws when they are attacked in court. The Brady Center also works to strengthen law enforcement’s efforts to stop the illegal gun market.

So I’ve decided to support the Brady Center during my training for the Austin Marathon in Feb. 2013, and I’ve started fundraising with $160 – one dollar for every mile from my son’s elementary school to Sandy Hook Elementary. I hope you’ll join me and the Brady Center to defend and strengthen gun control laws in America. You can contribute through my Crowdrise page.

I realize this is a more political stance than I’ve taken with previous fundraising efforts. And I also appreciate that gun control legislation is not the sole answer to the problem of violence on this scale – our national approach to mental-health resources is in dire need of help, as well. But this is where I stand, and what I will support with my running. I thank you in advance for joining me.

Junior Week: Feeding 2 kids or 2 thousand? They all need fruits and veggies

“Junior Week” usually focuses on my attempts to feed my son, Miles, something resembling a healthy, balanced diet. In this series, I’ve curated recipes meant for home preparation, and intended for feeding a handful of people. But today I got to see what it means to prepare nutritious food for way more than a handful of kids – more like hundreds, or even thousands – in a culinary training for school food program staff in the Dover-Sherborn school system.

I’ve been lucky recently to work as a graduate assistant for the John Stalker Institute of Food & Nutrition at Framingham State University, creating and managing their social media presence. Usually that means I’m blogging, tweeting or Facebooking on behalf of JSI, but today it meant seeing where the blade meets the cutting board in their Back To Basics – Fruits & Veggies training.

Chef Tracey Burg (an RD) led the group through a workshop that helps school nutrition programs boost the fruit and veggie offerings in their foods, to help meet USDA standards while enticing school-age Produce Phobics to eat what’s on offer. The group chopped, peeled, boiled, baked, pureed and folded several USDA- and kid-approved recipes, all of which incorporate important nutritious fruits or vegetables.

Lemon zest broccoli

One of the newest and most popular recipes were sweet potato and chickpea “Tasty Tots,” the Popular Choice winner in the recent Recipes for Healthy Kids challenge put on by Let’s Move and USDA. I haven’t tried them out at our house yet, but you better believe those little guys are going to make an appearance on a certain 6-year-old’s plate very soon.

Whether you’re feeding 2 or two thousand kids, these inventive, tasty and nutritious recipes featured in the JSI training are definitely worth a try:

  • Tasty Tots from Bellingham MA Public Schools (here)
  • Roasted vegetable wrap, from NFSMI (here) – page 21 of the pdf
  • Spicy apple topping, from NFSMI (here) – page 23 of the pdf; great for topping pancakes!
  • Seasonal fruit salad with honey mint dressing, from NFSMI (here) – pages 32 and 36 of the pdf
  • Kung Fu carrots, from Millbridge (NC) Elementary School (here)
  • Mandarin salad, from JSI (here)
  • Carrot and raisin salad, from NFSMI/USDA (here)

Now, many of those recipes are scaled for a whole lot of servings, so you may need to bust out the calculator and downsize them a bit. But make sure you’ll still have enough to serve on your own lunch line, because they’re all worth sampling.

ATX Training: Deja vu in weeks 5 and 6

The past couple weeks of training for the ATX marathon have been like déjà vu all over again. I ran around, and up and down, doing the same workouts and hitting roughly the same mileage in week 5 as in week 4.

And the other morning, I thought I’d accidentally gone out for my 6-miler in a pair of clown shoes, because I tripped and fell flat on my face, calling to mind that bone-breaking spill I took earlier this year.

Dramatic reenactment (aka Why Kat’s Neighbors Think She’s Nuts)

Thankfully, it wasn’t a full repeat of last time – besides a bruised ego, I came away from the fall largely unscathed. I went on to complete 34 miles in week 6, including yesterday’s 14-miler.

I’ve got another repeat week coming up (there are several of these two-week repeat cycles in my training schedule), but I’m hoping to skip out on the face plant this time.

The Missing Week: Magnesium’s turn in the spotlight

There are several rockstar nutrients – calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin C – who can’t seem to share the spotlight with the rest of the cast. But somewhere a few steps off the red carpet, there’s a lesser known but hard-working mineral that deserves some attention: magnesium.

This salad will make a lot more sense after a few paragraphs.

Magnesium keeps bones strong, helps nerves zzzzap like normal, and is needed for a few other minor tasks like, oh, keeping your heart beating. (Lots more info here) But apparently that isn’t glitzy enough for the average eater, because nearly half of people age 1 and older have inadequate intakes (pdf).

Why? Well, our love of refined grains may be one culprit – wheat’s germ and bran are rich in magnesium, but those get stripped out when processed into flours and such. Green Veggie Phobia is another contributor, because if you aren’t eating your greens, you’re not getting the magnesium-rich chlorophyll.

I think we all agree that we like non-brittle bones and still-beating hearts, so what should we eat to get more magnesium? In general, whole grains, vegetables (especially the green ones), legumes, seeds and nuts are the way to go.

And that brings us to the salad I tossed (har) together that boasts several magnesium-rich foods on the marquee: garam-masala-roasted cashews, curried black lentils, and spinach, along with sweet potato and a simple dressing. Not only does this salad have a sweet and spicy crunch, but it delivers approximately half the magnesium required daily by the average adult.

The salad recipe follows below, and here’s a few additional ways to add more of the magnificent mineral to your meals:

  • “Good morning blend” yogurt parfait from Rodale (here)
  • Poached egg with walnuts and spinach from Cooking Light (here)
  • No-bake molasses, dates, seed and nut bites from Oh My Veggies (here)
  • Jumbo prawns with balsamic-orange onions from Eating Well (here)
  • Grilled halibut with roasted tomatoes from Rodale (here)
  • Papaya avocado salad from Eating Well (here)

Spiced cashew, curried lentil and sweet potato salad

(4 servings, approx. 460 calories each)

1 cup cashews (unsalted)
1 Tbs garam masala
3 Tbs orange juice, divided
½ cup dry black lentils
2 cups water
1 tsp curry powder
2 medium sweet potatoes
6-8 cups fresh spinach
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar

Roast the cashews: Heat the oven to 250F. Mix the cashews, garam masala and 1 Tbs orange juice in a bowl. Spread the cashews on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time.

Cook the lentils: Combine the lentils, water and curry powder in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-22 minutes.

Cook the sweet potato: Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork. Microwave each for 3 minutes on one side, then flip and microwave another 2-3 minutes.

Mix up the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and remaining 2 Tbs orange juice in a small bowl.

Put it all together: Divide the spinach among four bowls. To that add ¼ cup of the roasted cashews, one fourth of the cooked lentils, ½ of a sweet potato (sliced/cubed), and ¼ of the dressing (roughly 1.5 Tbs).