Bites of Energy so your afternoon doesn’t bite

Aside


I like looking at my stats.  They make me feel very global.  I have views from five, that’s right, FIVE continents.  And I only know people living in three!  What’s up, Asia & Europe, how you doin’?  Thanks for making me feel special.  Africa, OZ, and North America, you make me feel pretty special too, though damn if I don’t know who you are usually.  You never know, I could have a follower in Morocco that isn’t my best friend.

Anyway, I’ve been working on some healthy recipes for post-workout snacks/recovery meals.  It was hard, but I just had to sample them all.  Quality control, you know?  Michael used his rock powers for good and had a little 5k race for charity and asked me to supply some goods.  So I diligently (AKA the night before) worked on getting something together for people to eat after their run.  Now Michael requested these bacon jalapeno muffins I made for us when we hiked the AT.  So I made them, with the adjustment to Juli’s recipe being I used jalapeno instead of chives, because I LIKE THE SPIIIIIICE.  So do other normal people.  Juli also makes a shrimp/jalapeno version for anyone that likes shrimp.  Alas, I do not.

But after running 3.1 miles on a hot humid day – I personally do not want to eat muffins or baked goods.  So I sliced up some fresh watermelon and pineapple.  Refreshing AND thirst quenching.

In addition, I’ve been obsessing over small bites of high-protein, low-sugar food.  I work 6-8 hours twice a week over 400 degree griddles, and when I get five to ten (usually three) minutes of time to grab some “lunch” I want instant food belly gratification.  I want tasty, but I need efficient.  In the past I have relied HEAVILY on Clif bars.  They are delicious but have a lot of sugar.  A chocolate chip peanut crunch Clif bar has A LOT of ingredients listed on the back, not to mention 21g sugar.  Woah.  I’m trying to get through my day, not climb a mountain.  But I like the idea (and many of the natural ingredients) so I made my own version.  Now I’ve looked at a lot of “Clif” bar recipes, but what it basically comes down to is throwing your favorite things in a food processor, processing it until it forms a nice crumbly consistency, yet sticks when you roll it into a ball, and then trying not to eat it right out of the bowl.  Nom.

The two I came up with?  (Also Cynthia as she assists me at 9pm on a weeknight while I crazily make batches of food)…

Chocolate Coffee and Almond Cranilla.  Oh that coffee gives a nice zing when 2pm hits and you haven’t eaten AND you’re exhausted AND have a headache.

Chocolate Coffee Bites 

1 c. dried figs (remove & discard stems)

1/2 c. dates

1/4 c. almond butter

1/4 c. cocoa powder

1/4 c. almonds

1 tbsp. espresso powder

1/4 c. vegan chocolate chips (optional)

1/4 c. ground coffee (optional, for outside)

Process figs and dates until in tiny pieces and forms a ‘ball’ of ‘dough’.  Add almond butter and process until blended consistency.  Go ahead and throw in your cocoa, espresso, chocolate chips, and almonds.  Process until mixed and almond chunks are desired size.   Pick up a handful of the dough and roll into ball.  Repeat with rest of dough.  Roll finished bites in coffee grounds (optional).  Freeze for ten minutes then pack away in an airtight tupperware and store in fridge.

I went ahead and threw in a few tablespoons of hemp seed – you can add whatever seeds/nut butters you prefer, substitute sunbutter or peanut butter instead if you like.

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Almond Cranilla Bites

1 c. dried figs (remove & discard stems)

1/2 c. dates

1/4 c. almond butter

1/2 c. craisins

1/4 c. almonds

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 c. flax seed meal (optional)

Process figs and dates until in tiny pieces and forms a ‘ball’ of ‘dough’.  Add almond butter and process until blended consistency.  Go ahead and throw in your vanilla, craisins, cinnamon, and almonds.  Process until mixed and almond chunks are desired size.   Pick up a handful of the dough and roll into ball.  Repeat with rest of dough.  Roll finished bites in ground flax seed (optional).  Freeze for ten minutes then pack away in an airtight tupperware and store in fridge.

You can add honey if you want them to be a little sweeter – or more cinnamon/vanilla if you like either a lot.  If the dough does not stick to form in balls, add just a little walnut oil, or nut oil, and process until it starts to form a ball.

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So that’s it.  Really simple and there are a million and one other recipes out there for these types of things.  I just had to go ahead and put my two cents in.

Ciao ciao,

JT

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Meals to Cure Nostalgia & Postpone Wanderlust


As I am sure is the case with many other travelers out there, I frequently find myself nostalgic for a country, city, or day from past travels.  Running at dusk along rows of nebbiolo grapes on Via Strada Bozzola in Quargnento with a little scruffy dog pushing me along.  Walking switchback roads in Canale, eating fresh figs and persimmons right off the neighbors trees, again with a dog, but this one MUCH larger.  Hiking Valle d’Aosta.  Axe-picking the earth in Ponce with Angelo – forming terraced beds in the dry season heat.  Exploring the cliff walk along the Old Nice Harbor.  Wandering the cafe shops of Berlin in search of the perfect cold cure.

I have been to so many places in the last few years, and I truly miss so many of them that sometimes it hurts a little bit to know that I may never make it back to these places or see the people I lived with.  After all, there are so many things I want to see in this world.  So to take the edge off, I’ve come up with a few meals that I had in many of these places.  Some are as simple as four ingredients.  I usually only cook for two, so that’s what these serving sizes will be.

Strada Bozzola – WWOOFing in Quargnento, Italy

Cure:  Pasta & Pesto with Broccoli

Classic lunch meal after a hard morning’s work.

4 oz. rotini dried pasta

1 1/2 c. chopped broccoli florets

4 tbsp. pesto

Salt

Pepper

Cook pasta until al dente, in salted water.  During the last minute, drop broccoli florets into the boiling water.  Strain pasta and broccoli, reserving a tbsp. of the starchy water.  Mix this tbsp. with pesto and spoon on top of pasta.  Mix with a fork until pesto has coated pasta, and season to taste.  Serve.

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My scruffy little host doggy

Canale, Italy – Walking the hills with Arsenico

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Arsenico, overlooking the Roero

Cure:  Spicy Garlic Spaghetti

4 oz. dry spaghetti

1/4 c. olive oil

5 garlic cloves

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Parmagiano reggianno or similar table cheese

Cook spaghetti to al dente in salted water.  While the spaghetti is cooking, mash garlic with the bottom of a jar or glass.  Heat garlic, olive oil, and minced chili (peperoncino) in a non-stick skillet, over low heat.  Olive oil and garlic can burn quickly so keep an eye on it.  In only a few minutes, you’ll start to see that the olive oil carries a red tint, from the peperoncino.  It’s ready!  When the spaghetti is done, drain it and toss it with the olive oil, in the skillet.  Grate parmagiano overtop and serve.  You’re going to want bread with this one, to soak up whatever spicy olive oil there is left on your plate.

Gardening and Living on the Finca – Ponce

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Plantains & Yam stew after a hard day’s work

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Cure:  Plantain and Yam Stew

2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced into medium chunks

3 green or deep yellow plantains, rinsed and sliced into 3/4 ince pieces, peeled

1 small onion, chopped

1/4 c. adobo seasoning

1 c. vegetable or chicken broth

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 avocado, sliced

In a medium sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil, just enough to cover the yams and plantains.  When water is at a rolling boil add yams and plantains.  Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes minutes at a simmer until tender (can be pierced easily with a fork).  Drain most of the water, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add onions, adobo seasoning, and broth.  Bring to a simmer and cook until onions are desired softness. Spoon into bowls, mash with a fork, and top with olive oil and sliced avocado.

Angelo dug up all of the yams from the Finca, traded a friend for an avocado, and foraged plantains from the forest to feed us this meal.  It was so filling – a good thing as it had to feed three grown men, including Michael who is a notorious nommer.


Cliff Walk, Nice

Cure:  Socca

I’m going to be a cheat and just link you to a Socca recipe.  It’s simple enough, one part water to one part garbanzo flour, with a titch of olive oil.  I follow the recipe, but I start it on the stove top in an iron skillet, and then finish it under the broiler.  When I was in Nice, Socca paired with a beer was the perfect street food meal – cheap, salty, and filling.  Don’t get me wrong, I ate a lot of fancy food in Nice – but the moment I’m most nostalgic for is the one where I was sitting under gray skies, eating Socca so hot it burnt my fingers with cracked black pepper piled on top.  I had a whole afternoon to do with what I wanted, and no one to report back to.  Total fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants solo traveling moment indeed.

Definitely put black pepper on top, some salt, and parmigiano cheese.  Eat it with olives or some arugula or both.  I added tomato jam to mine too, but I’m a tomato fiend and work at a place that is willing to send me home with products to test.  Like jam, made of plump plum tomatoes.  LUCKY!
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So that’s it for now.  I have a few more meals to add to cure my nostalgia, so this can be part one in the series.  Part Deux will include:  Marrakesh, Berlin, Puerto Jimenez, and Mondaino.

Ciao Ciao,

JT

Climbing, Crossfit and my Protein Dilemma


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Sometimes I forget just how addicted to endorphins I am.  I am the first to admit that I become a total crazy person if I go more than a few days without doing something active.  And each new thing I try, I quickly become obsessed with.  First was running, an activity that I will never give up.  Yes, sometimes I can run 13 miles, and sometimes my mileage is a measly 3, but I will always get back out there.  Next was cycling – Mer got me into adult cycling when we lived in DC.  We started commuting to work along the Capital Crescent trail and taking spin classes at the Y.  She helped me buy my first and current road bicycle (Bumblebee!)  I paid it forward, sort of, and made MDK buy a bicycle this summer.Image

In the last year I’ve gotten really into climbing – indoors at the rock gym and outdoors when it’s warm.  Though I know it takes strength and muscles to run a half-marathon, I’ve never felt as strong as I do now.  Plus, I just love it:  the chalk on my hands; the bouncy floors; the way my wrists tremble while I hold on to a sloper; managing a really difficult route with a lot of crimps; and challenging myself to keep pushing for harder and harder routes.  I like that when I don’t give up, I generally succeed.

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In hopes of becoming stronger for climbing, I’ve started doing hot yoga, inspired by my brother.  Yoga is something I’ve done on and off since college, but hot yoga is something I think I’ll stick with, and not just because it has helped me with balance when I’m climbing, but also because it centers me.  But the balance thing IS pretty awesome:  I now find it easier to turn awkward and unbalanced reaches into mid-air yoga.  Yoga definitely makes me a better climber.  And since I want to keep that train chugging along, I decided to give crossfit a try, because the stronger I am, the better a climber I can be.  Plus if I ever truly want to climb El Capitan, which has become sort of a secret dream of mine, I need to be much stronger.

So I started Crossfit five days ago.  It is HARD.  But it is so rewarding.  My first class, I thought I’d fall over from wall ball squats and air squats.  Then I looked to my right and the girl next to me was clearly exhausted but still killing it, which encouraged me to keep going.  I could hardly walk Sunday, but there I was again, Monday night ready for more.  I was frustrated we were doing more squats, and burpees had my arms aching before I even got home that night.  I hated the bar choking me during front squats.  But I already felt stronger climbing on Tuesday.  My legs were bricks when I went for a run Wednesday, but worked out all the soreness, and by this morning, my legs felt fine.

Tonight I went to class, even though I was so tired.  There is just something so enticing about a varied workout.  I love that we start with jump rope because I rule at jump rope.  And we learn how to stretch our hips and our instructor goes, “See, look at her, this is what you want to strive for, perfect hips,” because I can put my shin flat against the wall whilst flattening my butt and lower back along it (THANKS YOGA!).  The guy next to me is wincing, laughing “Trying to show me up, huh!”  But really, all of the ladies kill it.  Then we do pushups and I can’t even do one!  And the same guy shows me how to correct my form and modify so that I can at least start building up to a regular one.  I even suck at the modified one.  And then for 8 minutes we do 8 burpees, 8 air squats, and 8 kettle bell swings.  Some people go through them fast, with perfect form.  I struggle, just trying to finish the burpees each time without throwing up.

I’m getting carried away.  I love Crossfit.  I love how hard it is.  I love that I excel at certain things, but can barely do others.  I love that I was exhausted going in there tonight, but energetic leaving at 10 pm on a Thursday.  I love that I have already made friends.

The problem I’m having is my diet.  I am currently 70% vegetarian.  I eat meat, but only the happy, free-run free-range, no hormone no antibiotic types, which are expensive.  Plus, I don’t think it’s healthy to eat meat every single day.  I know myself, and it just doesn’t work for my body.  I try to eat a lot of protein, but it isn’t as easy when you’re not consuming meat.  This is an issue.  Crossfit makes me incredibly sore, and the way to battle sore muscles is hydration, protein, and potassium.  My solution?  Find a way to get way more protein into my diet without compromising my commitment to free-range ‘happy’ meats.  For starters?  A lean green banana machine smoothie, after evening workouts.  Soy milk, almond milk, non-fat plain greek yogurt, frozen banana slices, spinach, and peanut butter, all blended up, provides me with about 13 grams of protein and 40 mg of potassium (nanas and spinach).  Unfortunately, it’s also got a lot of sugar, but I’m working these things out as I go along!

I’ve also flirted with protein pancakes this week.  I resisted at first, because I actually really dislike pancakes.  I could probably give you a two-thousand word essay on why I find pancakes so awful, but it is truly not important.  With a lot of crepe mix experience under my belt, I pulled some things from the refrigerator that I’ve seen in recipes for ‘healthy pancakes’ and set to work blending them up.  Oats, red quinoa, cottage cheese, yogurt, egg whites, and the tiniest bit of whole wheat flour.  And you know what?  These are pretty delicious.  Nothing like traditional pancakes, these are dense, moist, and chewy.  They are really filling and have something like 20g of protein!  Which is the other thing about crossfit – it makes me HUNGRY, and I’m already a pretty hungry gal.  So the protein aspect is really important.

Smoothies I think everyone gets the gist of, but I’ll put my ‘recipe’ for the pancakes below.  Try them.  Yes they are a bit weird if you are not the type of person to use applesauce instead of oil in a cookie recipe.  Yes, I think you can get over it.  I’m excited for MDK to try them because he has the lock-down on scrambled eggs/omelets.  Hopefully I can corner the market on protein pancakes.

1/2 c. cooked red quinoa (or white, the red is just what we normally have)

1/3 c. oats, old fashioned (dry)

3 tbsp. whole wheat flour

1/4 c. cottage cheese, low-fat

1/4 c. plain greek yogurt, non-fat

3 egg whites

Cooking oil

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until mixture reaches a ‘batter’ consistency.  It’s ok, and for me preferable, if some of the quinoa and oats are still whole.  Heat a non-stick skillet and lightly grease with cooking oil (spray, or butter, whichever).  Pour batter onto hot skillet in small circles, like you would with regular pancake batter.  The batter can be a bit thick so make sure it spreads and is less than a cm thick.  These take longer to cook than regular pancakes, but the same principles apply for flipping.  When the edges start to brown, flip them.  When both sides are done, serve!  I actually made a whole batch one night, then let them cool and packed them in an air tight container so I could reheat them for breakfast for a few days.

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Protein pancake with tomato jam. Delicious.

The Batter

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Smeared with peanut butter, and topped with chopped apples, cinnamon and honey, these were WAY filling.

I like them with peanut butter, chopped fruit, honey, cottage cheese, yogurt, jam, etc.  Next time I’ll try them with a savory twist – turmeric, garlic, onion in the batter and perhaps just a drizzle of olive oil for serving.  The first attemptNice and brownImage

Anyway, my apologies to anyone hoping for another Costa Rica post.  I’m just too pumped on Crossfit.  Next time I promise a bit more eloquence :).

Buonanotte!

JT