Moroccan Potato + Summer Vegetable Tagine: Performance Meal Planning with Potatoes

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By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Potatoes USA and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

In one of my first nutrition classes, we read the book Nourishing Wisdom and I distinctly recall a section about the flavor of place, and how the author found himself loving and craving pizza when living in New York, avocados when in San Diego, and Gravenstein apples when in Sebastopol, California, a place where they’re particularly grown. When I read that section of the book, it took me back to fall term of my senior year as an undergraduate. I lived in Ireland that semester and for the first time in my life, could gladly eat potatoes every single day. My favorite was to buy the smaller baby potatoes, slide a few into a pot of cold water on the stove, bring to a boil and cook until soft, and then serve plain as a side with no additional flavorings except a little heavy-on-the-vinegar Irish ketchup and a dash of salt. It was heaven.

And then I returned home and my affinity for potatoes dropped away just as quickly, even though I grew up eating them a whole bunch.

I haven’t craved a single potato-based meal since living in Ireland. Enjoyed, yes. But never craved in that same way.

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Which is really too bad because my local farmers grow some particularly lovely and flavorful potatoes, baby size and all.

I’ve an intention to focus more on making the main components of my meals from local ingredients for the next couple months, and that means exploring some great foods I don’t always rely on. While at my local farm the other day, I noticed all the different potato varieties lining a whole section of the stand and I quickly grabbed up several handfuls of each, envisioning all the different ways I’d like to enjoy them. While simple can often be best, I decided to center them in a savory sweet Moroccan Tagine. If you’ve never tried a tagine, I think this version is the Northern African equivalent to the very-Irish Potato Stew I grew up on.

So completely different, but also so similar.

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And while still on the topic of flavors of place, there’s actually a good reason why we crave foods grown in our regions, those in season, or what is super super fresh. They’re the foods that are often packed full of all the nutrients!

This is particularly important for us athletes who are trying to maximize our nutrient intake, pack in some quality meals to enhance recovery, and eat for flavor, texture, and enjoyment. For me anyway, even several years beyond the Ireland potato phase, this meal hits all those spots.

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While I don’t generally go into nutrients and calories and nutritionism in detail in this space, I recognize that some of you actually do want this information, and to be honest, I live in this world for at least half my time right now so I do understand.

And to be clear, I also once thought potatoes weren’t a very nutritionally sound food choice but that’s generally only true if they’re eaten without their skin, are fried in rancid oil or processed beyond recognition.

For athletes especially, potatoes provide a good source of carbohydrates and potassium, as well as several trace minerals, and if super colorful like the one below, phytonutrients needed to perform at one’s best. A medium potato with the skin provides just 110 calories and a good hit of the daily value of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant needed for optimal athletic recovery. They also provide more potassium than a medium banana, which aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. And nearly all of us–athletes or non-athletes–fail to get enough of this essential electrolyte!

Lastly, potatoes provide as much — if not more — of several essential vitamins and minerals found in spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread, making them a smart addition to the other favorite performance foods. This is especially true because the more diversity in our whole-food choices, the happier our gut microbes–and thus health! And even more important for athletes who stress the GI to the max in all our fun but grueling endurance pursuits.

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1 Nutritional data is based on a 5.2 ounce skin-on potato.
2 Gelibter, A., et al. Satiety following intake of potatoes and other carbohydrate test meals. Ann Nutr Metab. 2013;62:37-43.

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Moroccan Potato + Summer Vegetable Tagine, 
serves 3-4
– Ras el Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend, somewhat similar to a garam masala. The name actually means “Top of the Shop” and each spice house will usually have their own blend which features their best spices. I made my own (see below), but there are several good ones available to purchase, or improvise with a garam masala knowing it won’t provide quite the same flavor profile.
-Other than the potatoes, any summer vegetables will work in this and I encourage you to use what is fresh and available near you!

2 Tbs. coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbs. ras el hanout
1 tsp. sea salt
1 lb. small potatoes, sliced 3/4-in thick
1/2 lb. yellow summer squash, diced
small bunch / 4 oz. broccoli, chopped
3 cups water
small handful / 4 oz. green beans, ends trimmed and diced
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
4 dried plums or dates, diced
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
cooked quinoa, optional

  • In a large pot or dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Cook until the onions begin to soften.
  • Then add the ras el hanout spice, salt, potatoes, summer squash and broccoli. Stir to coat, and then add enough water to barely cover most of the vegetables. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • About 10 minutes before the potatoes are done, stir in the green beans, garbanzo beans, and dried plums.
  • As the vegetables are done, add in the lemon juice to balance the flavors and then taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Serve it as is, or alongside some quinoa.

 

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Ras el Hanout seasoning
Blend this up by weight or by teaspoons.

4 parts cumin
4 parts ginger
4 parts turmeric
3 parts black pepper
2 parts coriander
2 parts cinnamon
2 parts cayenne
1 part cloves
1 part allspice
1 part cardamom
1 part rose petal powder

 

Nutrition Information // Based on 1/3 of recipe served without quinoa
Calories 475 | Fat 12.8 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium 830 mg | Total Carbohydrates 79 g | Fiber 16 g | Sugar 18 g | Added Sugar 0 g | Potassium 1563 mg / 33% DV | Protein 17g | Vitamin C 93 mg

 

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Blueberry Lavender Smoothie Bowls

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I have a big race planned for the morning of the 4th and am now in full on taper mode for the next few days. As anyone who has raced the marathon distance or longer knows, the taper period can be full of anxiety, pre-race nerves, last minute poor decisions, and all around stir-crazy-ness. This time around I haven’t had a big taper due to some training adjustments a few weeks back. It has also become my norm now to fit in my summer classes around the rest of my life so a lot of my otherwise “free” mornings, early evenings, and weekends are spent with my head in a gazillion research papers or on clinical nutrition cases. So all in all, I can’t complain about the current taper.

Even so, as is maybe obvious, I’m definitely prone to anxiety as my emotional go-to, and as the day grows nearer, I’m starting to have a little of that prickly circular overthinking creep in.

 

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At this point in my nutrition program, I’m close to being done on paper, but I’ve returned to taking minimal classes each term to retain some semblance of work-school-life balance so it will still be another year or so to finish. The classes I do have left are also the most intensive because we’re starting to pull all the pieces together and use them in clinical work. Lately, we’re focusing on nutrition for mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and I was glad to see some good solid research supporting the use of lavender for anxiety symptoms.

 

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I created a lavender tincture for one of my herbal classes last year for this very reason and on certain days, nothing is so wonderful as opening the top just to let it’s floral aroma infuse into and calm my system. I also created a tincture formula that uses lavender for just this calming and grounding purpose, and there’s one more left in my online shop, if you’ve the mind.

Lavender, in addition to its ability to relieve nervous tension and anxiety, also helps with cognitive function and exhaustion. Its essential oils in the flowers have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well, and I find their aroma just lovely. The recipe below is one of my favorites for a mid-afternoon snack and it ups those anti-inflammatory abilities by packing in lots of blueberries, greens, and healthy nuts and seeds. The lavender really rounds out all the flavors and adds that calming touch.

 

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Blueberry Lavender Smoothie Bowl, makes 1
– Add culinary-grade lavender flowers or if available, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. lavender extract/tincture.
– I’ve experimented with lots of plant-based protein powders and currently enjoy PlantFusion brand for its easy digestibility and fermented ingredients. Vega Sport and Garden of Life Sport are also good.
– If you make smoothies or smoothie bowls on the regular, keep in mind it’s wise to change up your choice of greens on the regular to get in all the good nutrients each type has to offer. 

1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup spinach or kale
20 grams/ half scoop vanilla plant-based protein, optional
3/4 – 1 tsp. dried lavender flowers
2 tsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. almond or sunflower butter
1/3 cup almond milk, or as needed to reach desired consistency
1 – 1 1/2 tsp. adaptogen powder of choice, optional

  • Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add additional liquid to reach your desired consistency. I prefer mine spoon-able.

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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