getaway run + picnic muffins and a few good things

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When the weather turns nice and the days grow longer, I start to get real antsy feet and a desire to go adventuring on the weekends. One of my favorite things is to plan weekend “getaway run + picnics” with William, which often include a long trail run adventure out of town, followed by a post run laugh-stretch session, and then a picnic complete with picnic basket, real plates and silverware, and a post-feast laze in the grass. The juxtaposition between a dirty trail run and a much fancier presented post-run meal makes these occasions feel particularly special. They are the ultimate one-day treat and if I’m lucky, we incorporate many such weekends over the long-day season.

When it comes to the food, I often don’t plan much ahead and throw together something quick from the fridge since really, anything we’re okay with eating at room temperature can be picnic food. One time last year, however, I came up with the idea to make savory muffins for one of these adventures and they went down a real treat. I’ve made them a few more times since and found the ingredients to be fairly interchangeable, but the novelty of a special post-adventure savory muffin has yet to wear off.

 

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On the other hand, on weekends when we’re not adventuring, or on the weekend mornings when I plan to be especially indulgent for hours before venturing out, I love to clear out my inbox, read all the things online and off, journal, and generally laze about with tea in hand. With a whole new getway run and picnic season ahead of us, and longer mornings to indulge in the sun’s early glow, I’m leaving you the option to either make these muffins and go for an adventure, or settle in to a cozy morning of reading/inspiration. Or perhaps you’ll plan, like me, to do both!

  1. Since I love all things reading, books, libraries and lists, I recently created a recommended reading area on the blog to share all my favorite cookbooks, nutrition and related topics reads, and a few others.
  2. Speaking of cookbooks, I’ve been a little obsessed lately with the Banana and Cacao Granola from David and Luise’s latest cookbook. I put my own personal spin on it with toasted local hazelnuts, puffed rice, and other seeds, and find it it simply outstanding.
  3. If you haven’t discovered or read Gena’s Weekend Reading posts over on The Full Helping, I highly recommend. While she routinely shares articles and recipes she’s enjoying, I like Gena’s weekly commentary the most, where she shares about her own journey years beyond initial eating disorder recovery, but still adapting through life’s trials of depression, anxiety, relationships, and simply being human.
  4. Relatedly, one of my favorite recipes inspired one of Gena’s, which she shared about in her new cookbook, Power Plates. By now, I’ve cooked my way through a substantial amount of the book’s recipes and can’t recommend it enough!
  5. Rather than create a long list of all the good things I’ve enjoyed reading online, I’ve been creating a pinterest board for the last year and more, which is also a fun way to put it all up visually. Check it out, if you’re interested in more.
  6. Lastly, I found the news about how much gluten those that follow a strict gluten-free diet are actually ingesting really interesting and not at all surprising, given my own ongoing phases where I have glutened-symptoms almost every time I eat food prepared outside my home. Now, I can’t wait for what to do about this problem and how to best ‘live normally’ despite these obstacles. Fortunately, progress continues to be made in the realm of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity research!

 

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savory getaway run + picnic muffins, makes 6 jumbo size muffins
The vegetables in these can be easily changed up depending on what you have, but I find that adding just a little sweet apple really rounds out the savory flavors.

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 large apple, diced
1 large bunch kale, diced
3/4 cup cooked white beans
9 Tbs. aquafaba or 3 flax eggs
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. honey
2/3 cup / 160 ml non-dairy milk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 cups / 210 grams chickpea flour
1 tsp. mustard powder or 1 Tbs. dijon mustard
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt, divided

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC ), oil a jumbo 6-hole muffin tin or line with paper cup liners.
  • Heat a little oil of your choice in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Then, add the apple and the kale and sauté until the apple is just barely beginning to soften and the kale has wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
  • In a food processor or blender, puree the cooked beans until they form a smooth paste. You might need to add a little water to them. Once pureed, they should measure out to about a 1/2 cup. Add them along with the other liquids to a small bowl and then set aside.
  • In another medium mixing bowl, measure out and mix the flour, baking powder, and remaining spices.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and using a spatula, start folding them together, along with the onion, kale, and apple. Mix just until combined.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cups of the muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
  • Remove the muffins from the oven and set aside to cool slightly in their pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • They will keep for a few days if stored in an airtight container either at room temperature or in the fridge, and they also freeze well.

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Sweet Beet + Elderberry Oatmeal

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Happy Easter Friends!

Today I have a recipe I’ve been making on repeat for the last couple months, and one I’ve been meaning to share for weeks. But in truth, I’ve been busy. And stressed.

In what I knew would be a packed late-winter season, my class schedule was on overload for what ended up being six weeks. When I signed up for them, I thought it would be three to four, and knew I could get through for one jam-packed month. But then a job opportunity landed that I decided to take, my running coach decided I could handle more miles (and thus time), and one of those classes was taught by a professor that was amazing, but intense. Even for grad school.

So in light of all the action happening at once, I took a class extension. I dropped creative projects and unproductive activities like social media, I spent all my waking hours working or running save a precious few in the early mornings and evenings, and I just got through.

I’m still recovering, trying to prioritize down time, read some good books, bake (currently experimenting with gluten-free/vegan hot cross buns!!), and run with joy and gratitude. And also, feed myself well.

And while it’s spring break for many, I’ve a couple more weeks before I get there.

 

So today, let’s talk a little more about stress, overwork, and the nutrients that are necessary always, but even more so when we’re trying to bulldoze forward at full speed. The first are the entire friendly group of B Vitamins. 

The essential B vitamins are necessary in every step along the pathway of converting food into energy. When the body undergoes any kind of stress, whether it is physical or emotional, and feels depleted, the B vitamins are likely needed to restore balance and energy. In addition to converting food into energy and helping to cope with stress, many of the B vitamins can also help alleviate symptoms of insomnia, nervousness, PMS, and mood swings.

Each of the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, and their friend Choline) have their own specific roles, but they function quite well as a group. They are found abundantly in whole foods, particularly in whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, fruits, and vegetables–except for B12 and Choline, which each deserve their own discussion another day. In order to incorporate the spectrum of all of these essential nutrients into your diet, it is important to eat a wide variety of fresh, colorful, whole foods.

Most of us are actually getting sub-optimal levels of these nutrients, especially when we are overworked and very active.

 

Next up in importance in times of stress is Magnesium

Magnesium is a key player in over 300 biochemical reactions and is essential for creating and maintaining healthy bones, energy production, nervous system balance, and blood sugar control. And it is anti-inflammatory. Magnesium is required for DNA and RNA synthesis as well as the synthesis of glutathione, which is a powerhouse antioxidant that combats free radicals and cellular damage.

Like the B-vitamins, Magnesium is often lacking in the modern diet, our needs are more when we are stressed either physically or mentally, and it’s abundant in whole foods like leafy greens, beans, nuts, and seeds, and whole grains.

 

Finally, when we are overworked, our immune system takes a hit, and it’s during these times that we often fall victim to colds and flus. While winter flu season theoretically should be winding down, the mega virus(s) that’s been hitting hard these past few months is still going strong. Enter my favorite immune booster, elderberries.

Elderberries have strong antiviral properties and have been shown to shorten the duration of cold and flu outbreaks in research. They also have a very long history of use in traditional medicine. Made into a delicious syrup and combined with anti-inflammatory ginger (which I’m now making and selling in my shop), a daily small dose during times of increased stress gives a good immune boost*. I’ve been taking it all winter and especially these last few weeks, and even with exposure to a whole lot of sick kids, have been staying healthy.

 

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Sweet Beet + Elderberry Oatmeal, serves 1-2
Due to all the aforementioned whole foods I’ve packed into this delicious breakfast bowl including oats, beets, flax seeds, sunflower seed butter, as well as a little drizzle of elderberry syrup, this makes for a really nice start to the day. It’s one of my favorite breakfasts lately, and definitely feels like a meal that brings to life the meaning of self-care and stress reduction. For busy mornings, I like to prep all the ingredients, save the oatmeal and toppings in a saucepan the night before, and then store it in the fridge. In the morning, bring the pan to a boil, add the oats, cook until done, and then add toppings and serve. 

1 1/2 cups water
1 medium-ish beet, finely grated
3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1-2 Tbs. raisins
1/2 Tbs. sunflower butter
1 tsp. elderberry syrup
a dash of cinnamon, optional
1 tsp. ground flax seed, optional
additional sunflower seeds to top

  • Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the finely grated beet, salt, raisins, and oatmeal. Turn down to medium-low and cook until soft and to desired consistency, about 8-10 minutes. You might need to add more water, as needed.
  • Then stir through the sunflower butter, remove from heat, and add the syrup and any additional desired toppings. Enjoy, ideally in a non-distracted setting for the ultimate self-care.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product does not intend to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

What I Ate For a Relay Race + Beet and Berries Cacao Smoothie Pudding

What I Ate For a Relay Race + Beet and Berries Cacao Smoothie Pudding

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I spent last weekend running around central Oregon in a heatwave with a group of 11 other runners, sharing space in our two vans, running the Cascade Lakes Relay. This year was my fifth relay and though I’ve meant to share some of the food aspect of races in the past, I decided this year it is time. For virtually all races, I have a policy of fueling as much as possible with “real food” that I eat on a regular basis, and don’t like to introduce foods outside the norm, even though they may be more convenient. For relays, I tend to wait until the last day or two before the race and then make about two recipes that sound like they’ll hit the spot food-wise. Essentially, if they sound like something I’d like to eat one-two days out, chances are they’re going to be what I’m desiring throughout the race.

For the past four years, I’ve run with my (now former) work team, and each year it seems, we’ve improved our team time, gaining slightly faster team members when we need a handful more. This year our team finished in the top 10 out of more than 200 teams and averaged a 7:33 pace throughout. The fast pace offered up a whole new learning curve of needing to adjust what I ate as the race progressed based on how much time I had to digest. For me, I always struggle with the balance between fueling and hydrating properly and keeping my stomach happy with minimal sleep and extra hot temperatures (high 90s most years and this year was no exception). Even though I never go into this race with the mindset that I’m tapered and “racing”, I still try to run a good effort each leg for my team while also trying to sustain some more reserve for both another run in a few hours and because I know I’m going into at least another week or more of hard training once I finish the race. After years of observing others’ methods of fueling, I can say it is a highly individual process both in general and for these types of events, but I want to share what worked for me especially because out of my five relays, this year my stomach handled what I did the best.

The Relay started Friday morning and I ran in our team’s first van. We stayed together as a team both before and after the race at my former boss’s house in Bend, and we had a 2-hour drive to the race start Friday morning. The relay conveniently finishes in Bend, only a few minutes from where we stayed.

 

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Thursday Night
Dinner: a version of this Summer Quinoa Salad before heading over to Bend to meet the rest of the team.
Dessert: Apple +  small handful Salt Water Taffys

Friday
5:30 am Breakfast: Chia + Peach Overnight Oats

Morning Snack: 1/2 a Picky Bar
2-3 hrs pre-run: Zucchini Carrot Muffin + apple

12:00pm 7.7 mile run: It was hot already and this was an unsupported mostly-trail run on a sandy path with a 3 mile hot, flat finish on the highway in the direct sun. Temps were pushing 98 degrees that afternoon, and I’m guessing they were at least in the low 90s by about 1:00 pm when I finished. I drank about 10 oz. water throughout and swish and spit the last ~2 oz. in my bottle (I good method in the heat when you don’t truly need to hydrate more but cool water helps the mind/body sustain the effort).

Post Run: Beet + Berries Cacao Smoothie Pudding (Recipe Below)
Coconut Water and Water and a few tortilla chips

Afternoon “Lunch” around 3:00 pm: Cooling Red Lentil Kitchari. It may sound completely unappetizing to eat an Ayurvedic stew during a relay race, but the mixture I made of cold stewed red lentils and brown rice with turmeric, ginger, fennel and coriander spices and some seasonal vegetables really hit the spot.

5pm snack at the park after our first van exchange: watermelon

Dinner around 7:00 pm: Cooling Red Lentil Kitchari with tortilla chips

10:00pm 4.4 mile run: Physically and mentally, this was my hardest run of the race, even though on paper, it was by far the easiest. Physically I felt great at the park during our rest break, had stretched out, self-massaged, relaxed, and done some yoga to keep from getting too stiff. After two hours back in the vans, however, my body was not happy. On top of that, my stomach was a little wobbly for the first couple miles or so. I tried to not focus on the discomfort too much and eventually it felt better. After about a mile of a smooth paved road, the pavement ended and I hit a tough gravel road for the duration of the run. The vans were all driving alongside us and with a strong direct-in-the-face wind, dust from the vans in my eyes and headlamp, and a body that was less than happy, I was glad this was a short run. I ran the best and picked up my pace every time a van was behind me (because it was much brighter and I could see the road ahead more clearly), and I chose to do something throughout the run that I would normally never do: each time a van was behind me and I was about to pass a person, I chose to move a little more in to the center of the road and make the van wait so I could pass the person rather than me waiting for the van to go around. I did this only because I knew at that hour and because we were so remote, the only vehicles out there were relay vans going slow, and making them wait so I could have more light and less dust was a real mental boost.

Post run: apple + small handful of a teammate’s Jelly Bellys

 

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Saturday
intermittent uncomfortable napping in the van post run

3-5am: 2 hr nap

5am early wakeup call: our team was ahead of schedule and I had an OH SHIT moment as soon as we got our gear packed and loaded and were on the road, knowing I needed to eat something before my last run in an hour, but had limited time to digest. Ultimately I chose a Picky Bar and a small plum. It was enough to help me feel ready to run, but the peanut butter in the bar was not the best idea that close to a hardish effort on close to no sleep.

~6:30 am 7 mile run of a slight gradual uphill: The last 4 or so miles were on a gravel forest road away from vans. It was downright cold, I took water but didn’t really drink it, wore mittens and left them on the whole time, silently thanking my wise insight for packing them, and though I was tired physically and mentally and not particularly happy with the somewhat difficult-to-run-fast-on washboarded gravel, I really enjoyed the serenity of a quiet, early morning mountain road. I saw absolutely no one and it was extremely peaceful.

Post run within an hour or so: Overnight Oats with Chia + Peach plus Elk Lake “Resort” coffee to warm up. I’m not normally a coffee person as I prefer black tea, but that coffee tasted amazing and it was so nice to have something warm in my system for the first time in over 24 hours. The post-run damp cold had started to set in and bundling up in all my layers, standing in the early morning sun, and sipping mountain coffee was pure bliss. I was warm again in no time.

Snacks: a tiny handful of nut + seed trail mix from a teammate.

Lunch: Back at our lovely abode post shower and almost ready to go to the finish line to run across with our team: Summer Quinoa Salad.

Post-Race: 2 glasses Lemon Ginger Kombucha, which really helped to settle my tired stomach.

Intermittent drinks throughout the relay: water (lots of it, as determined by thirst), and coconut water, often diluted to 1/3 coconut, 2/3 water.

Post Race Celebration Dinner, prepared by my former bosses: Run Fast Eat Slow quinoa salad and cabbage salad, grilled Steelhead, and more tortilla chips + guac.

Dessert: small plum +  a couple squares of dark chocolate

 

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Beet + Berries Cacao Smoothie Pudding, serves 1
I developed this “smoothie pudding” specifically for this race to enjoy post-run or in the afternoon as a hefty snack. It’s got a good mix of carbohydrates and protein in the 3 to 4:1 ratio as recommended by much of the sports nutrition literature for post workout recovery, and due to the nature of the event and because I broke my food processor/blender earlier in the week before the race, I wanted to include some of the beneficial phytonutrient and vitamin/mineral-rich foods like greens and beets, but do so in a tasty, appliance-free way. If you haven’t access to beetroot powder, finely grating a small raw beet will work also but won’t yield a result that is quite as smooth. Also, I included an adaptogen powder in my blend since I’ve been developing one in my herbal classes this year, and using daily for stress reduction and workout recovery. My current formula contains reishi, cordyceps, rhodiola, ashwaganda, amla, eleuthero, and ginger. You can essentially use any of those herbs or other adaptogens, or leave them out entirely. This recipe is definitely going into my regular rotation because it is so, so good, kind of like a chocolate pudding with the season’s best berries mixed throughout. Enjoy!

1/2 cup unsweetened plain coconut yogurt
1/2 a medium banana, mashed and chilled
1 Tbs. beetroot powder or finely grated small beet
1 Tbs. raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp. spirulina
1/2 Tbs. adaptogen powder of choice, if desired.
12 grams // 1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used plant-based Vega)
1 2/3 cups blackberries, raspberries and blueberries (fresh or frozen)

  • Stir the mashed banana and powdered ingredients into the yogurt until thoroughly mixed.
  • Spoon into a jar or bowl and then top with the fresh or frozen berries. Chill for best results, as the berries will slowly soften and drip their juices down into the pudding.
  • When ready to eat after a workout, push or stir the berries into the mixture gently so you’ll taste bursts of smoothie pudding and berries together as you enjoy!