First 5K Race!

MY FIRST EVER 5K (3.2 miles) on April 7, 2012 in Durham, New Hampshire! It was fun on this bright and crisp morning and I was pleased with what I did. My time was 25:22 and my average pace per mile was 8:09. I was actually surprised when I got to the first mile mark and the times were called out; the guy shouted, “8” (minutes) and I was surprised! In training I have been running at more of a slower pace so I knew now I was running faster than usual. By mile two, they called out “16:04” and I knew I was keeping to a similar pace despite a couple hills between. That was exciting! There were several hills added to the challenge of the course and overall, I felt that push and I kept going. Throughout it all my knees felt fine and I feel so proud I did it!

The cross training since February that I’ve been doing has been a true benefit (indoor cycling twice per week and recently outdoor cycling, the swimming at least once per week and the gradual increase in LSD running (long, slow, distance). I also joined a track group at the college at the beginning of February, doing speed work drills each Wednesday (such as 4 x 800 meter sets or various ladder drill workouts). What a great group experience this has been! It’s great to have others to run with and challenge yourself, otherwise I don’t know if I’d do such drills on my own!  We did most of our sessions on the indoor track and recently have taken them outdoors with the better weather.  So with this 5K race accomplishment I’m excited to keep moving forward!

I have taken the next step for my goal of completing at least 1 sprint triathlon this year by officially signing up: Saturday July 14, 2012 at the DAM Tri in Amesbury, Massachusetts: 1/2 mile Swim, 12.3 mile bike, 3.2 mile Run.  So I will keep training, keep eating well (still going strong being a vegetarian for 6 months now!) and keep moving forward.

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Amaranth

Last night I cooked up some amaranth grain so I could have it on hand ready to go for morning hot cereal. It’s easy to make: 1 part grain to 3 parts water and simmer about 20 minutes. This is a very nutritious whole grain, in fact, it contains all of the essential amino acids (often lacking in most plant-based foods).  It’s a great source of fiber and provides 20% or your iron needs and 8% calcium. This is a great grain to include in any dish, whether it be hot cereal or added to soups and casseroles. With a carbohydrate to protein ratio of about 4:1 (32gm carb and 7gm protein per serving) it makes a nice addition to any athlete’s post workout meal – carbs for glycogen recovery, protein towards muscle repair and synthesis. Being a vegetarian athlete myself I’ve been especially focused on protein and whole foods quality and this is a great addition. This morning I re-heated a 1/2 cup portion and added some slivered almonds, dried cranberries and a bit of soy milk. It’s a hearty, tasty and nutritious meal; and since I cooked up some extra I’ll have more on hand through the week – ready to go.

My goal: TRIATHLON

So it’s 2012 – I’ve decided for my goal this year it’s going to be to train for and complete at least 1 triathlon. I’ve done the biking before, I’ve done at least some jogging, I know how to swim . . . so why not?  Well, I must say this triathlon idea kind of came out of left field for me. Yes, I’ve been pretty active (doing Insanity and other home based interval conditioning programs), completed the Couch to 5K training program last spring (highly recommended!) and completed 2 Warrior Dash races. But I’ve never done everything together in one event!

Well I’m one to give myself a challenge to reach – and I love the physical ones. A couple years ago I decided to buy a road bike and get into that. I found a great group of folks locally (Gus Bike Shop) and weekly women’s group rides in the summer – I completed a 50 mile ride event and the next summer completed a 100 mile ride. So now the challenge – conditioning with swimming, group swimming, transitioning from one to the other in the same event and proper sport nutrition – vegetarian style. Since deciding to do this goal I’ve made some great connections – found a local triathlon club, met some like minded folks, signed up for some Master Swim classes, found some great vegetarian sports nutrition connections and more. I love learning all these new things!

While I’m still in my 40’s I know I’m not getting any younger!  The more the years are blessed on me the more grateful I am for what I’ve had and what I still could do if I just choose to do so. I lost my Dad less than a year ago.  It’s all got me thinking how important it is to embrace life and all the gifts in it; to do your best with what you have now, and to keep a positive outlook. THIS is one of the biggest reasons I’ve decided to take on this triathlon challenge, and I do this in honor of my Dad!  So here goes the learning, the challenge, the courage and the fun. This is going to be awesome.

My Custom Creation!

I wanted to come up with my own creative twist for dinner, considering my meatless adventures, desire to use good quality plant protein and also getting ideas and inspirations from various recipes I’ve looked through. Here’s what I created, and not only is it very tasty, it’s vegan. Here’s what I did to create it.
I started by cooking a spaghetti squash, first by poking it a couple good times with a knife to get it ready for steam cooking. The last time I cooked one I had used the oven at 375 degrees and put the punctured squash in a baking dish with about an inch of water and covered with foil. I found another recipe that suggested using the microwave on high for about 10 minutes. I tried that but the outside flesh wasn’t quite softened yet, so I went back to the original idea and put it in a pre-heated oven to finish cooking while I made the sauce.

Spaghetti squash done steaming

Some recipes I had researched feature diced tomatoes and various spices to make a sauce so I started with this in mind and enhanced with a couple more ideas (thanks to the great things I’ve learned in my Food Fundamentals course and cooking lab I’ve been taking this semester at the university – thanks Chef Guyette)! I first started with chopping and dicing a variety of veggies (mise en place – “everything in its place”) and got the cast iron pan heated up.

Then goes in the mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) and also fresh chopped garlic. I let that saute for a while with a bit of olive oil. Then I tossed in some diced tofu to get browned on all sides (tofu is a good source of plant protein, one of the few plant sources that contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body). Next comes the quinoa:
About 1/4 cup dry quinoa seed was tossed in to join in on the browning (toasted quinoa seeds can add a nutty flavor, and quinoa is yet another plant source that contains all the essential amino acids) while the veggies and tofu also continued to take on a browning flavor boost.
Once everything was browning up good I was ready to add some liquidy ingredients, starting with diced tomatoes and a bit of water . . .
Then some beans (more protein!) and some spices like basil, oregano, sea salt and pepper. This simmered for about 20 or so minutes to blend flavor and let the quinoa cook.
While that was simmering I was able to cut open the spaghetti squash (with an oven mitt – that baby was hot!). Once you gently scrape out the seeds the squash flesh is so easy to scrape out in strands by using a fork.
 The spaghetti squash looks so much like pasta and is a nice (and nutritious) substitute as well. This was plated and then topped with the veggie/quinoa/tofu/bean/tasty sauce and then garnished with fresh chopped basil. It was really tasty and easy to make. Take-away for today: keep exploring, keep trying new culinary creations, tofu isn’t so bad (LOL) and there are ways to eat meatless meals that are protein-rich too.  I’m glad I tried – this is a keeper!

Peanut Brittle?

Today’s cooking class focused around grilling and using a spice rub – in this class we created a Jerk Spice Mixture to use as a marinade for our protein and vegetables. Most of the class used chicken while my lab partner and I got to work with tempeh (another first).

Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans, and the one we used also contained organic brown rice.When I opened the package it sure looked a bit funny to me – – and actually looked more like peanut brittle.

Upon further review of the nutrition label I see that half of the portion here (4 ounces) contains a good amount of protein (22gm) which is equivalent to what you’d get for a 3 ounce portion of meat. The portion also had a good source of iron (20% of the Daily Value), lots of fiber (12gm) and 15% calcium.

The spice mixture was another first for me. Here’s what was included: allspice, thyme, black pepper, salt, fresh ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, along with some fresh chopped hot chiles, garlic, scallions, chopped onion, brown sugar, fresh lime juice, a touch of vegetable oil and soy sauce. This was all blenderized in the food processor and then we mixed with our sliced tempeh and long sliced zucchini and summer squash and let marinate for a while.

Then the grill was fired up. We learned how proper cross placement on the grill created good sear marks too.  It was actually an easy way to cook but because of the brown sugar content of the spice rub we had to watch the heat of the grill since the sugar can burn easier.

We also cooked up a quick batch of rice and we were good to go. My take? Well I was surprised at the spice heat from the mixture despite the sweetness essence of the other spices. And the tempeh?  Well . . .  for this first round of trying it I was not too impressed as it seemed a bit dry and textured; I think a good sauce with it would help for another attempt down the road.

As a side note about the chicken: another part of this class was learning how to fabricate or cut up a whole chicken. While I didn’t actually eat the chicken I did participate in the cutting steps of breaking down a whole chicken as a part of the course. Some of the students in my class had never done such a thing before and many were hesitant after realizing this whole chicken body had been a former live animal, but now here it was in front of us, gravity holding it ready for the blade once again. Even the meat eaters took a second take . . .  That’s what I love about this course – we get to see ALL the steps of what is involved in getting all types of food ready for consumption – and not just picking up a package from the store. The course really helps  practice  mindfulness skills for sure! (No photos of chicken cutting process; the experience was enough)! Hmmm, peanut brittle right now sounds pretty good.

Adding Protein

Tonight I had some fun trying some new things and it all involved some beans. But beans with pizza? Beans with mashed potatoes? Yes, believe it or not, and it all started with my desire to add some protein to some items in a way that may not be too noticeable.

Gotta love the healthy disclaimer!

So tonight I started with these “Great Northern Beans”.  Beans are a pretty good source of plant protein – – 7gm per 1/2 cup serving – –  and along with that they are pretty much fat-free, pack just as much fiber (7gm/serving) and give 8% iron, 4% calcium, and a couple other nutrients – while being void of saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar. While this canned variety did have some sodium in them I drained and rinsed them so that reduced the sodium but still left some flavor.

Then I put the rinsed beans in my food processor along with a couple good dashes of garlic powder and pureed the heck out of them. I also added a touch of olive oil to add a bit of moisture. These awaited my potatoes to boil and my pizza crust to pre-bake (this too I whipped up in my food processor).

Beans have now been pureed.

Once the potatoes were cooked and drained I added about 3/4 of the bean-garlic puree along with some butter, a splash of milk and a bunch of chopped fresh cilantro. They tasted great, and my son approved of the flavor too!  He knew I had pureed up the beans but didn’t really know I added them to the potatoes.  I don’t think he minded since he was liking the flavor. Usually he’s not a big fan of any bean but these were mixed in well. The result – good tasting with a protein bonus!

Yummy protein potatoes!

Now on to pizza – I par-baked the dough for 6 minutes then took it out and added the remaining garlic-bean puree to the top of the crust. If you look closely at the picture below you can see it on the crust – it blended in quite nicely and added a nice garlic flavor.

Look again, there's beans here!

Then on top of that came all the veggie toppings and cheese – yum.

The pizza was quite tasty and there really was no indication there were beans on this pizza except for the garlic taste that was added when I pureed them. I’m glad I tried these ideas out!

Need a Plan

So I’ve been doing pretty well with not eating meat for a bit now. Surprisingly I haven’t had cravings .  It helps too that I work at a university and the dining halls have lots of choices of foods and also vegan stations – so this is quite helpful during the day while I’m at work.

At home it’s been going pretty good too. My youngest son is aware that I’m on this exploration journey with eating and he’s been curious about it and we’ve had some topic discussions. Yet right now my refrigerator is pretty much empty at the moment, with the exception of a bunch of fresh cilantro, a green pepper, bag of whole carrots and a couple of other random things.  So I find myself thinking, what to eat/buy/prepare/etc next?  Besides eating to alleviate hunger where will I get adequate protein, calcium, iron, etc. I feel some sort of plan is in order – – yet my day today is pretty darn full at the moment.

I did try a recipe recently – – – a warm black eyed pea salad with a homemade dressing and that was pretty good. But that is since gone.  What to buy now for food?  What are some good and quick staples to have on hand at home?  These are the things that I’ll need to play around with!

Tonight I’m picking up the DVD, “Forks Over Knives” at the bookstore and hope to view it with my son tonight (check the website for the trailer). I was thinking I could stop at Chipotle and pick up a couple burritos for my boy and I – – then I wondered, my son likes the pork burrito; do I get him one or another without the meat?  I don’t want to force my eating choices on him but I wonder if he’d feel bad that I got it for him since he knows I’m not eating meat . . .  ahh, this too is part of the journey…considering all the questions.  I’ll figure it out! 

Take away for today: a plan of action seems to be a good course of action; just keep moving forward – and for this week I’ll start with setting a couple simple goals:
1. Determine some simple staples to get and have on hand that are plant-based and desirable to anyone in my home.
2. Review some cookbooks for some things to try this week.
3. Get some feedback from friends who have some plant-based cooking and staples tips!!!!!

Peace all,
Rochelle

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