Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

One of my dearest friends, Nicole, who I love to train and eat with, requested a vegetable side dish that would accompany the ham and pulled pork she was serving at her holiday party.  She asked if I could make some sort of Waldorf style salad that was easy to eat buffet style.   My Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with grapes, dried sweetened cranberries and candied walnuts was born out of this request.  Nicole’s husband Mark, requested I toss in crispy bits of pancetta in the future, although he did say this was the best Brussels sprouts he ever had prepared without bacon or pancetta.

I have to admit.  Until now, I thought they were called “brussel” sprouts.  They are called “Brussels” sprouts.  Brussels sprouts are the buds of wild cabbage.  They are nutritious and a good source of fiber.  For more nutritional information on Brussels sprouts, check out this article:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=10

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

Servings size: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds of Brussels sprouts (about 5 cups) cut into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (for roasting Brussels sprouts)  + ¼ cup olive oil (for dressing)
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes cut into quarters
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • ½ cup candied walnuts (optional)
  • ¼ cup cooked chopped pancetta bits (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut Brussels sprouts into quarters and toss in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Spread on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (because I hate scrubbing the pan after).  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes.  With a spatula, flip Brussels sprouts to ensure even browning.  Sprinkle with Balsamic vinegar and bake for additional 10 minutes or until lightly brown and tender.

While the Brussels sprouts are cooling, prepare dressing by whisking together ¼ cup of olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper.

In mixing bowl, toss Brussels sprouts in dressing.  Toss in grapes, cranberries and candied walnuts.   Serve warm or cold.

Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and toss in olive oil.
Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and toss in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Healthy Potato Leek Soup

The inspiration for my Potato Leek Soup came from my dear friend Kelly, a 10 time Ironman and 2 time 50 mile endurance runner.  This courageous woman is battling leukemia for the second time.  While undergoing chemotherapy, Kelly requested potato leek soup made without cream for lunch.

The potato leek soup also served as a nutritious and tasty breakfast prior to a long run or trail race, where I am running anywhere from 3 to over 6 hours. Chicken Rice Soup and Potato Leek Soup are now my two favorite early morning meals to help fuel my long workouts.  Both also provide potassium.  I usually consume half a bagel or some oatmeal in addition to the soup.  Some races offer broth on the course or soup at the end of the race.  At the finish of this weekend’s trail race, I grabbed warm soup and chased it down with low-fat chocolate milk.  Since I often cannot tolerate solid food immediately after an endurance event, I find that calories in liquid form are the easiest way to get nutrition down.  I personally prefer real food over “recovery” drinks.  Remember, it’s important to consume calories within 20 minutes of your workout.

Leeks belong to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables which includes garlic and onions and contain many of the same beneficial compounds.   For more information on the nutritional value of leeks, check out this article:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=26

Serving size: 8

Equipment:  Hand held immersion blender or regular blender

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large leeks or 4 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed and diced
  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped thyme
  • 7+ cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder (for Kelly, I reduced or omitted this)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish (optional)

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté the leeks in olive oil for 8 minutes until the leeks are softened but not brown.

Add chopped garlic, thyme, potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  If using a hand held immersion blender, puree soup until smooth with no lumps.  Be careful.  The soup will be very hot.  If using a regular blend, allow soup to cool down before pouring into blender.  Once in the blender, puree soup in small batches, using a towel to cover the lid in case the hot mixture escapes.

Add additional broth to obtain the desired consistency.  I prefer it to be a little creamy and loose enough to drink out of a mug.

Stir in chili powder and salt to taste.  It’s important to add a bit at a time and keep tasting.  You can always add more but you can’t take it back out.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or croutons.  Add additional broth to soup if it becomes too thick when re-heating.

Use the white and pale green parts of the leek.  Cut the stalk in half length-wise and rise out the layers.  I prefer to remove the outer tougher layer.  Then slice.
Use the white and pale green parts of the leek. Cut the stalk in half length-wise and rise out the layers. I prefer to remove the outer tougher layer. Then slice.

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When re-heating, you can add additional broth to thin out the soup if it gets too thick.
When re-heating, you can add additional broth to thin out the soup if it gets too thick.

Roasted Corn, String Bean, Tomato and Cucumber Orzo Salad

A great way to encourage children to enjoy eating vegetables is to teach them how to grow their own garden.  Chloe’s and Zachary’s parents built two garden boxes in their back yard, one for each child.  The children planted their first garden in the Spring, watered it diligently and watched with excitement, their garden grow before their eyes.  They were recently rewarded with strawberries, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and string beans.

Innocently unbiased and ferociously inquisitive, Chloe and Zachary will ask to taste all the ingredients in its raw form no matter what it is.  When I cook with them, I guide them on what they should or should not try and am thrilled they are willing to try everything.  What a wonderful way for the children to appreciate the true flavors of raw vegetables and understand how their flavors can change when cooked or seasoned.

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My Roasted Corn, String Beans, Tomato and Cucumber Orzo Salad was inspired by Chloe’s and Zachary’s garden.  The vegetables in this recipe are either raw or lightly cooked so their freshness can be enjoyed.

This salad can either be served as a side dish or as a vegetarian main course.  Add chopped roasted chicken for a protein-rich main course.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried orzo pasta
  • 2 ears fresh corn, roasted
  • 1 pound green beans, blanched
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, rinsed, stemmed, and cut in half or thirds depending on size
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Pinch Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Cook orzo in boiling water for 8-9 minutes until barely tender.  Drain and rinse in cold water.

Husk corn and roast on grill until some of the kernels are evenly browned on all sides.  Remove the corn kernels by holding each cob upright on it’s stem and carefully running a sharp knife down the cob over a large bowl.  Add cooked orzo.

Cut green beans into 2-3 inches.  Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  Green beans should still have a crunch.  Drain and place in ice water.  Drain again and add to orzo and corn.

Cut cucumber in half.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds.  Cut the cucumber halves into thirds or quarters lengthwise.  Then cut into ½ inch cubes.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half or thirds depending on size.   Add cucumber and tomatoes to orzo, corn and string beans.

Rough chop parsley and add to orzo mixture.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.  Add salt and pepper and whisk again.

Pour over orzo and vegetables.    Toss well.   Allow the orzo salad to sit for at least 1 hour to absorb the flavors of the dressing.

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Orange, Fennel and Arugula Salad

Oranges are a wonderful winter fruit that is in season right now.  Several of my friends and neighbors here in Northern California have more oranges growing in their backyard than they know what to do with.

Here’s a refreshing and healthy recipe that will give you a reason to use up those oranges.  My Orange, Fennel and Arugula Salad is a burst of flavor with every bite.  The sweetness from the oranges, hint of licorice from the fennel and the peppery notes from the arugula, compliment each other well.

Did you know that oranges and fennel are a good source of vitamin C and calcium?  In addition, fennel has many health benefits.  It is a good source of fiber, potassium, folate, niacin as well as minerals, such as phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper.  In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.

Serving size: 2

Equipment: Mandoline (but not required)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium fennel bulb, sliced thinly with a Mandoline (about 1 cup)
  • 3 large or 4 small oranges
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ freshly cracked pepper (about 5 turns of the pepper mill)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 6 cups arugula

Directions

Using a mandolin set at the thinnest setting, or with a knife, slice the fennel bulb.  Set aside.

Cut the skin off of the oranges and then slice the oranges into ¼ inch cross sections.

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In a small mixing bowl, make the salad vinaigrette by whisking together the juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, ground cardamom, salt, freshly cracked pepper and honey.

I a small bowl, toss fennel in 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette.  In a separate bowl, toss the arugula in 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette.

On a serving plate, make a bed of arugula.  Arrange orange slices on top of the arugula.  Sprinkle fennel over orange slices.  Spoon remaining vinaigrette over oranges. Garnish with the chopped fennel fronds (leaves).  Top with freshly cracked pepper.

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For a dinner party, I used mixed greens instead of arugula.  This salad pairs well with a lot of dishes.

 

Pasta with Fresh Spinach and Tomatoes

My Pasta with Fresh Spinach and Tomatoes was inspired by my dear friend Kelly.   A cancer survivor, mom and 8 time Ironman triathlete, Kelly was a big inspiration at my most significant races: my first triathlon and my first Ironman triathlon.

I had butterflies in my stomach at these two races.  My mind was racing and rethinking everything (Do I have all my nutrition?  How much time do I have before my wave starts?  Did I lay out everything I need in transition?)  At my first triathlon, I spotted Kelly, laying on her back on the beach, in her wetsuit, with her legs crossed and her eyes closed.  She looked so peaceful.   I’ve got to learn how to relax like that before the start of a race!

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When it was time for us to start the race, Kelly offered to swim with me.  You see, Kelly races for the pure enjoyment of racing.  Of course I declined.  I wanted her to race her own race, but I will always remember her selfless gesture.

At my first Ironman, I was lucky to find Kelly before the start again.   She was my security blanket as we walked out to the beach.  Kelly then looked into my eyes and reminded me that “It’s just another training day.”   Exactly what I needed to hear.

This recipe is for Kelly.  She asked for spinach and tomatoes with her pasta.

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat or gluten-free pasta* (cooked al dente)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, largely diced (about 3/4 inch)
  • 6 cups of baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • a couple pinches of salt
  • a couple grinds freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)

* Note: Nutritionists recommend a single serving size of pasta be no more than ½ cup or the size of a hockey puck.  This is much less than what is typically served at restaurants.  I simply add lots of vegetables to my 1/2 cup of pasta.  In addition, I eat a side salad with this meal.  My Orange, Fennel and Arugula Salad or a simple tossed salad pairs nicely with this dish.

Directions:

Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté  garlic in the olive oil for about a minute, then add spinach leaves and tomatoes.  Continue to sauté until the spinach wilts and the tomatoes starts to break down a little.  Season with red pepper flakes, salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Add juice of half of a lemon and toss to combine.  Add to cooked pasta.

The pasta is flavorful as is however, grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese can be added just before serving.

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Kelly and I, just before we walked onto the beach at Ironman Canada.

Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta with Red Pepper Flakes

A couple of my Ironman training partners are on a vegan diet.  Both maintain a busy schedule working full-time while training 6 days a week.  This doesn’t leave much time to prepare healthy vegan meals.  One hired a nutritionist to cook meals for her while the other is a single bachelor.  I created My Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta with Red Pepper Flakes for them.  It’s a healthy, carbo-loaded recipe that is quick and easy to prepare.

A single serving of this dish contains a cup of broccoli, one of the super-foods.  Broccoli is low in calories and rich in nutrients including protein.  Broccoli also contains the highest levels of certain glucosinolates, which scientists believe may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

The broccoli is cooked for only a couple minutes.  Experts recommend that broccoli be cooked for only 2-3 minutes and remain crunchy in order to retain its health benefits.

For more information on broccoli, check out this article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011112501.htm

 Serving size: 2

 Ingredients:

  • 1 small garlic clove or ½ large garlic clove
  • 1 cup of cooked whole wheat pasta (or gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup + 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, plus more if desired
  • ½ cup pasta water
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese freshly grated (optional and may be omitted for a non-dairy diet)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice off enough of the top of the garlic clove to expose the cloves.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.  Roast for 25 minutes.

While the garlic is roasting, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to the water and then add pasta.  Cook until al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.  Uncooked spaghetti, about the diameter of a quarter when held together between your thumb and index finger, should yield about a cup of cooked spaghetti.

In small sauté pan, sauté mushrooms in 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Saute for about 5 minutes until mushrooms are lightly brown.  Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked peppercorns.

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Boil or steam broccoli for 1 minute.  Discard the water in the pot used to boil or steam the broccoli.  Return cooked broccoli to the empty pot.

Once the garlic is roasted, peel each garlic clove by removing the outer most cloves first.  Then cut the tip of the skin off the top of each clove.  The roasted garlic clove should now be easy to remove.

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Course chop the garlic gloves and add to the broccoli.  Then add mushrooms, red chili pepper flakes and olive oil.  Saute over medium heat, for approximately 1 minute, mashing the garlic into the broccoli and mushrooms.

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Add the pasta and reserved pasta water.  Season with salt and freshly cracked peppercorns and toss for 1 more minute.

Place in individual serving bowls and add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese before serving.  Sprinkling a pinch of red chili pepper flakes on top makes a nice presentation.

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Quinoa with Turmeric, Peppers, Onions and Broccoli

My Quinoa with Turmeric, Peppers, Onions and Broccoli is a quick and easy meal to prepare and eat post workout, or anytime.

After a race or intense workout, I do 2 things to help my body recover : 1) restore glycogen and 2) reduce the inflammation.  I do this by eating protein with carbohydrates and taking an ice bath.  I sometimes have difficulty eating right after an intense workout either because my appetite is suppressed or the food/protein drinks available are unappealing.  I also don’t look forward to sitting in an ice bath, although appreciate how much better I feel after.

And then I learned from my coach and a doctor friend that turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Turmeric, a relative of ginger, is a major ingredient in Indian curries and makes American mustard yellow. This spice is also a disease-preventive agent and powerful antioxidant. Check out this WebMD article about turmeric:

http://blogs.webmd.com/food-and-nutrition/2012/10/turmeric.html

Add turmeric to protein, such as quinoa, and you have an ideal post work-out “recovery”meal.  While turmeric may not replace my ice baths, it could potentially help in my recovery.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely medium onion chopped (about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon corriander
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt to taste
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts

Directions:

Heat olive oil in medium saucepan and sauté onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add peppers and quinoa.  Saute until quinoa is lightly toasted.  Add vegetable broth, cumin, coriander, white pepper, turmeric and kosher salt.  Stir together, then add broccoli and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for about 12-15 minutes until broth is absorbed and quinoa is tender.  Turn off heat and allow to sit for an additional 15 minutes covered.  Fluff up quinoa and add lime juice and pine nuts.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fresh and nutritious ingredients makes this a healthy meal.
Fresh and nutritious ingredients makes this a healthy meal.
Chop broccoli into small pieces.
Chop broccoli into small pieces.
Toast pine nuts over medium heat.  Toss frequently and don't leave them alone.  They burn very easily.
Toast pine nuts over medium heat. Toss frequently and don’t leave them alone. They burn very easily.

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Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are a good source of protein and fiber.  Roasting the chickpeas and tossing them in spices and honey transforms them into tasty, crunchy and healthy snacks.  They key is to bake them long enough to get a nice crunch without burning the honey coating.  If you prepare them without honey, you can bake them at a higher temperature (400F – 425F).  I prefer the salty, sweet and spicy combination and found that if you bake them “naked” for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature, you can achieve crunchy texture without burning the chickpeas.  There are many possible spice combinations.   Here are 2 recipes:

Preheat oven to 375F

Spicy Cumin & Paprika

  • 2 – 15 ounce cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas) rinsed and dried
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin

Sweet & Spicy Rosemary

  • 2 – 15 ounce cooked garbanzo beans (chick peas) rinsed and dried
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder

Rinse and drain chickpeas and spread on paper towels.  Remove any loose skin.  With another paper towel, pat to dry and air dry for 1 additional hour.  Chickpeas should be dry before baking.

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Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake chickpeas for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

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In medium mixing bowl, mix all remaining ingredients.

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Add hot chickpeas to bowl and coat evenly. Lower the oven temperature to 325F.  Return chickpeas to aluminum lined baking sheet and bake for additional 60 minutes, turning every 15 minutes.  The chickpeas are done when they are firm and crunchy which may require more or less baking time.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

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Kale Chips

Salted kale chips make a healthy and satisfying alternative to potato chips. I was introduced to kale chips at a water stop during “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” in Lake Tahoe this year.  I was near the end of my 72 mile ride and craving salt.  A wonderful volunteer kindly shared his dehydrated salted kale chips.  They were so good I went back for 3 more helpings!  So I attempted to make them at home. I didn’t have a dehydrator so I tried crisping the kale up in the oven.  I ended up with these delicate and crispy treats!  I have a cramping issue so I am trying to take in a little more salt prior to my races or longer rides.

For more nutritional information on kale, check out this article:

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Kale (I used Dinosaur Kale in the photo)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher/sea salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250F.

Separate kale leaves, rinse and dry thoroughly with a paper towel.  I recommend you leave the kale spread out in a single layer on paper towels to air dry even after you pat it dry.  Remove the ribs and cut the kale leaves into thirds.  The leaves will shrink when baked.  Toss in enough olive oil to lightly coat the leaves, about one tablespoon.  Use your hands to gently massage the oil onto the leaves.  Sprinkled with salt.  Place in single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes in the oven at 250F.  Using your fingers, gently flip over the leaves and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.  It shouldn’t be too hot to handle and you will be rewarded for the gentle loving touch with delicate, crispy kale.

Store in an airtight container to retain the crispness, however you won’t need to store them for long.  They are a salty addiction and will be gobbled up quickly.