Friday, January 31, 2014

I made this! Dark Chocolate Honey Mints

So I kinda love these little things I found at Trader Joes: Dark Chocolate Honey Mints. I actually do not allow myself to buy them anymore because they are that good. I am not allowed to buy Joe Joes either but that is an entirely different story . . .

Recognize these??
So let's get to it. The recipe is so easy I can't believe it! I whipped these up in about 5 minutes while I was making dinner.
  • 5 tbsps melted coconut oil
  • 8 tbsps cocoa powder (1/2c.)
  • 3 tbsps honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1 tsp of peppermint oil
Melt the coconut oil to measure it. While it is still a little hot stir in the honey. This will help incorporate it. I usually heat honey slightly just to make it pour easily. Stir in the cocoa. Once all the cocoa powder is incorporated, add the peppermint, stir, and pour into candy holds or silicon muffin liners. Freeze the candy. It should take less than 1 hour to harden. For best results, leave stored in the freezer.


This recipe has a lot of flexibility. Maybe instead of peppermint extract, add shredded coconut? crushed hazelnuts? candied walnuts? cinnamon? white chocolate chunks?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

I made this! Sage Polenta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

I came across this recipe on a blog I follow (Oh my Veggies!). I have never really gone out of my way to prepare polenta. In my limited experience with polenta I have come to the conclusion polenta is just a yellow flavorless mush. I am not sure what caught my eye about this recipe but something did and I tagged it and prepared it. I am honestly shocked how quick and easy this was to make. I did make some changes to the original recipe with the biggest change being a substitution of cashew cheese for the parmesan cheese.  I took a gamble and it worked. I stopped at Healthy Home Market to grab some polenta and I noticed the cashew pieces were 1/2 off so I stocked up. I have been wanting to experiment with cashews because they are an incredibly versatile nut. Their natural creaminess is perfect for making a milk, cream, or cheese.

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  • 1lb of brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 package of mushrooms (I just used button mushrooms because I could not find fresh wild mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1c. of polenta
  • 4c. water
  • 3/4c. of cashew cheese (or parmesan)
  • 1/4c. chopped fresh sage
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and prep the brussels sprouts and mushrooms
  2. Toss them in the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast them for about 20 minutes or until slightly browned.
  3. Boil the 4c. of water and whisk in the polenta. It will get thicken fast so when it does remove it from the heat and stir in the sage, cheese, and salt and pepper.
  4. Top the polenta with the sprouts and mushrooms when they are done in the oven.
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How I made the cashew cheese:
  1. I soaked 1c. of cashew pieces in 4c. of hot water for 2 hours
  2. I drained and rinsed the cashews and placed them in a blender with 2tbsp of lemon juice, 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, a pinch of salt, and garlic powder to taste.
  3. Then I just blended until the mixture was nice and creamy. I used 1/2 of this for the polenta and saved half for later.
Again, this was super easy to make. I let the cashews soak while I was on the trainer so everything was ready to go when I was done. I added the nutritional yeast to make it taste “cheesier” and the garlic to give it some more depth in the polenta recipe. It worked for me. It does not always work out when I experiment but this time it did.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Caturnalia: Toes

Cat toes remind me of coffee beans. True story.


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Guest starring "Dame Edna"

Friday, January 17, 2014

I made this! Maybe my favorite smoothie yet!

 Very Berry Pomegranate Smoothie



1/2c. of 100%  pomegranate  juice
1c. of frozen mixed berries
1/2 of an orange
1 banana
1 tbsp of ground flax seeds
water as needed

Makes 1-2 servings depending on your appetite. Since I have a big one I use this as my post-swim-pre-breakfast nutrient bomb. This smoothie is refreshing and packs a big nutritional punch. At a total of about 300 calories you get 3.5 servings of fruit for the day. I always water down my juices when I buy them. Juice tends to have a lot of sugar so I add all the ingredients to my high powered blender and then just add water until I get the consistency I want. If I buy single oranges I will likely only use half of each one but bagged oranges are usually smaller and a lot more flavorful. Sometimes I toss in a full one and add a scoop of vanilla protein powder just to help keep my appetite at bay. Adding the extra orange pieces and protein powder increases the calorie count to about 400 and needs a bit more water. 

Cost analysis:
  • 1/2c. of 100%  pomegranate  juice ($4.50/5 = $0.90)
  • 1c. of frozen mixed berries ($1.99/2 = $0.99)
  • 1/2 of an orange ($0.80/2 = $0.40)
  • 1 banana ($0.20)
  • 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds ($3.99/68 = $0.06)
Total cost comes to roughly $2.55. The biggest expense is the pomegranate juice. I can buy a bottle at Trader Joes for about $3.99 but I often see it at much much higher prices, ie $8-13 range. Whole Foods sells it at a pretty good price point as well.Most of the juice is from concentrate, the higher the price the less likely it is from concentrate but price is not always a great indicator. Make sure you read the bottle. The key is to get 100% pomegranate juice, not a mix or an artificial "juice drink."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Caturnalia: Instagram

I enjoy following a few cats on Instagram. It is amazing just how popular a cat can be. People love cats more than they admit, I am sure of it.

Hammie, I mustache you a question . . . .

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Because there are few things cuter than a flat faced cat . . .

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Venus takes her “tortie” to a whole new level . . .

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Then there is Lil Bub whose genetic disease makes her that much cuter . . .

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And finally, Colonel Meow . . .

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Just so you know I am not completely biased. I do follow a couple of dogs too, they just aren’t as interesting.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I made this! But I am still hungry

Soooooooooo I follow a lot of blogs. Sadly, few of them are triathlon related. Triathletes are great bloggers. They are often charismatic and interesting, they just don't blog enough. Maaaaaaybe that is a good thing . . . ? Anyway, there is a trend among the blogs I follow concerning cleanses, fasting, and detox diets. I guess it is the time of year for that kind of stuff. And I will admit after weeks of eating chocolate treats, holiday loafs, and downing unique hard ciders, I have a fair bit of purging to do myself. I asked around, did some reading, stalked some blogs and came across a number of companies who sell "cleanses" pre-packaged. You send your money and they send you a daily supply of healthy organic juices designed to remove and renew for 1, 3, and even up to 7 days. Sounds appealing doesn't it? It sounds completely doable until you come across the price tag: $72 from one place, $109 from another. For one day's worth! What what? I had no idea starving myself would be so flippin' expensive! I even checked out a local vendor since shipping seems to be a huge issue: $62 a day. Geez. I am hungry just thinking about it.

Feeling determined and undeterred, I decided to make my own. I am not sure if I am going to ever do a full "cleanse" but I figured adding a super healthy green drink to my morning would make for a good start. You can actually do a lot of your juicing in bulk so it is ready when you need it. And if you have a super duper blender you may choose to skip the juicing all together which is exactly what I did.

My green smoothie:

- one handful of kale, stalk removed
- half a peeled cucumber
- one cored and sliced apple
- cooled green tea, brewed with a hint of honey, add to the desired consistency

Hip people drink green smoothies from mason jars. True story.

I loved it. It was refreshing and super healthy. The flavor of the uncooked kale was not overwhelming and the green tea provides a number of antioxidants, subtle flavor, and delicate sweetness. This was a good start but I am eager to experiment.

If you are looking to try the "box set" here are just a few I came across:

Suja Juice - $54 a day ($80 in shipping)

Skinny Limits - $49 a day ($60 in shipping)

Pressed Juicery - $72 a day (no additional shipping)
(in my humble opinion this one looks the best to me)

Two local places to check out:
Luna's Living Kitchen - $62 a day
Viva Raw - Their website was under construction when I was looking into this. They have partnered with Nourish Charlotte to a create a 7 day menu of clean eating for $330.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 Recap and Review

Living

I am going to start here because I do not have a lot to say and I really have to be in the right mood to say it. I did a terrible job making the most of each day handed to me in 2013 which is poor form on my part. I spent most of 2013 being stressed, anxious, and mentally fatigued. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the naysayers in my life, from a super negative constantly complaining coworker to nagging criticisms regarding my training and racing schedules from friends and acquaintances. I let too many people have a negative impact on my outlook until I decided to go all Michael Jackson on that crap and make a change. I took a more active role in influencing/ignoring the attitudes of those around me rather than getting pulled down into the Sea of Negativity. For the most part, it worked . . .


I will admit I struggled to balance the things I wanted to do with the things I had to do. Making time for the fun things I wanted to do made it difficult and stressful to find time to do the things I had to do (which is why I got pulled over twice for having expired tags, whoops). Letting my registration expire is one thing but letting some of my more valued friendships slip through the cracks is unacceptable. I had to stop and re-evaluate my goals and priorities while instituting an action plan. I opted for the small-steps-make-big-changes-plan which helped me focus on obtaining more successes and letting go of my failures.  

Training

I did a lot of it. In fact I put in 355 more miles in 2013 than I did in 2012 when I was training for Ironman Cozumel. I know the increase in miles is due in part to suffering a running injury early in the year. In March, I pulled something in the back of my right knee. To this day I am still not sure what caused it. Maybe walking a mile to the Federal court house in high heels . . . and back (stupid), but I dunno for sure. It was a frustrating injury because I could do everything else but run. And the act of running did not hurt either, well until the next day, which made it really hard to gauge how much I could handle. It was a slow and incredibly frustrating process. I did not return to my pre-injury mileage until September. Thankfully, things changed exponentially when I started to see Dr. Greenapple at Greenapple Sports and Wellness. He put my knee on the right track literally and figuratively. 

Swim - 467.4 miles
Bike - 7,501.9 miles
Run - 1,247.5 miles
Total - 9,216.8 miles (800:04:49)

Not being able to run allowed me to put in quite a few miles on the bike. After the injury, I was riding 200+ miles a week, week after week. The result? 329.5 more miles of riding in 2013 than 2012. I also attended two separate training camps, one in Asheville and one in Georgia. Both added a lot of variety and challenge to my time in the saddle.
Top of Mt. Mitchell, Accelerate3 Training Camp 2013
I ended up running about 160 miles less than in 2012 but I was running faster. Running consistently in 2012, a late season ironman, and huge block of bike training put me in a really good position to run off the bike at my last two races of the year, Carolina Half and Rev3 Florida. As late as September,  I had my doubts about my fitness but my coach, Brian Stover, told me very sternly to let him worry about that. So I did.  It is incredibly liberating let go of all my doubts, expectations, and arbitrary timelines. I trust my coach because his #1 priority is making people faster. Despite the early season set back, I ended the year right where I wanted to be. Now that's some good coaching!

Pie anyone?
I did not realize it until now but making a small change in my swim schedule allowed me to increase my miles in the pool by 58%. I had been swimming with SwimMAC down in south Charlotte. I would make the 50+ min round trip three days a week. I love the program and I miss swimming with my guys but the commute means more time driving and less time swimming. Making the MCAC my primary stomping ground allowed me to be a lot more efficient with my time and the benefits are self evident (and some could argue the company is a lot hotter).

Me and the AM tri crew

Racing

Despite my early season injury I had a good year of racing. I also had a nice variety of races including 4 sprints, 3 time trials, 2 olympics, and 2 half ironmans. Of these 11 races only two of them were repeats from previous years, Lowe's 10 mile time trial and Stumpy Creek. While I was originally planning a half ironman heavy season I am pretty pleased with how it all turned out. I gingerly tested the health of my knee with my first couple of sprints, Buck Hurley and Lake Hickory. I was not sure I was 100% ready for Stumpy Creek but finishing the race pain free allowed me to return to my training with a little more confidence. A flat tire at Lake Norman Sprint forced me to throw my hat into the sprint race in Wilmington since I was seriously lagging in races to compete in the NC Triathlon series. I rounded off the NC series with a win at the Carolina Half. It was my 5th race and my 15th undefeated race in the three years I have been pursuing the series. It was a great run but I am excited to move on.

Goodbye NCTS

I ventured out of my comfort zone and did two single sport races. I will admit competing in the NC and SC 40K Time Trial State Championships is not exactly far out of the zone of comfort but they aren't triathlons either. I managed to snag both state titles as well as a sub 60min PR. Another bonus to an early season bike block!

ICE representing at the NC TT State Championship
And finally, I raced my first race as a professional athlete. How cool is that!?! Cooler than being a Forensic Chemist  . . . I ended my season with my pro debut at Rev3 Florida. I headed down to Venice with two of my ICE Racing teammates. The city welcomed us with open arms, white sandy beaches, 80 degree temps, and one most excellent race. I finished 9th in a pretty stacked field of former Ironman winners and ITU pros but I took home another paycheck along with many memorable moments of hanging with my homies. For the year, I ended up taking home just over 3K in prize money. I won't be quitting my job anytime soon but not bad for a rookie nonetheless. 

I love me a good spreadsheet

Blogging

In the past I have debated keeping/maintaining this blog. While I enjoy it, finding the time to do it, and do it right, is difficult. I know a lot of triathletes keep a blog. I would consider it a "trend" among us tri-dweebs. I have a list of about 30 blogs I like enough to subscribe to. Sadly I only actually follow about 3 triathletes. Most triathletes blog so irregularly there is simply no need to maintain a subscription; I just have to wait for a tweet or FB post and I am all caught up. I ended up with 6 more posts in 2013 than 2012. Not stellar but better. Mid-way through 2013 one of the bloggers I follow wrote about blogging. She made me realize that if I want to keep a good blog I need to make it more of a priority. If it is something I do haphazardly the results will be . . . wait for it . . . haphazard. The post also made me realize I don't have to expatiate about training and hash out cathartic moments in all of my blog entries. I can post simpler ones which represent me as an individual because ultimately that's what shapes me as a triathlete. Check out my page every Saturday for the latest "Caturnalia." For those of you who do not know your ancient history Saturnalia was a festival to celebrate the Roman god Saturn. Follow me . . . "Caturnalia" is dedicated to my life with four cats. It has been fun so far so I hope to continue with it. I also started a regular post dedicated to the food I have been eating. One of the main reasons I train is to eat so it is time to talk food! I have very definitive goals for my blog in 2014. Hopefully I will produce something worth reading. In the meantime, here is a look at my top 5 most popular entries of 2013:

I left 2013 with these thoughts: 
  • I am the maker of my reality 
  • Goals and expectations are not the same thing
  • Always make lemonade
  • Prioritize what you want from life and everything else will fall in place
  • There are two kinds of people:
    • 1) The kind who encourage, cheer, and make everyone around them better
    • 2) The kind who don't

Which one will you be in 2014?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Caturnalia: The power of the box

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
- Weeds

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Friday, January 3, 2014

I did not make this! But I enjoyed a few great meals out

A new restaurant opened close to my house, Nan and Byron’s. It is also really easy to get to from work so it is perfect place to drop in for a quick lunch. I have been in a couple of times now and they have two sandwiches I really enjoyed:

The Portabello Burger:

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Anyone who bothers to throw a nod in the vegetarian's direction opts to make a portabello burger. I get it so I am not complaining. They are easy to make; all you have to do is marinade, roast, and top with normal in-house burger toppings. But some places try a little harder and I, for one, appreciate the effort so I had to try it just to see how it compares. Wheat bun with two portabello caps, mixed greens, crispy chips, and a red pepper aioli is good but did no sweep me off my feet. The sweet potato waffle fries, however, are incredible.

The Crispy Beet Burger:

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The Crispy Beet Burger is different and incredible. It is a unique and I have not seen its equal. I have had a veggie burger with a shredded beet base but this is made of slices of actual beets on a bed of mixed greens. The slices of avocado are generous and add a nice element of flavor to the burger. The “mojito fries” came highly recommended by the waiter. They have a chili-lime topping which is flavorful but in the end they are just french fries. I also tried the sautéed corn which is outstanding and I highly recommend it!