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.

DSC_6589

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.

1017181_10200366969871442_1477548050_n

1014335_10200366970711463_1362751074_n

1039738_482117925190350_1022243969_o

1003980_10200366970391455_76517169_n

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.

DSC_6387

DSC_6386

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.

DSC_6294

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.

IMG_2291

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

 

Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions

I am the social athlete.  I never turn down an opportunity to have a meal with my fellow athlete friends.  Last week I had the pleasure of dining with 4 other fellow female Ironman triathletes, two were racing a 50K marathon in the next 48 hours and I was racing a half marathon in the next 72 hours.  Our carbo-loading meal was a fabulous Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza.  It was so good, I was still thinking about it this week and decided to make it.

Since I’m the busy every day athlete, with competing fulltime responsibilities like everyone else, I take cooking shortcuts every chance I get.  The big time saver for this recipe is buying the pizza dough.  These days you can find a variety of pizza dough in your local supermarket’s freezer.  I decided to buy whole wheat dough, but you can also use multi-grain or traditional pizza dough.

Here’s nutritional information for whole wheat pizza dough:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutrients-whole-wheat-pizza-dough-3626.html

NOTE:  I originally made candied walnuts to add to the pizza (in the photos), however the caramelized onions added enough sweetness.  I ended up picking the walnuts off and enjoying them separately.  Next time, I’ll use plain toasted walnuts for some crunch without the added sugar.  Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and pecans, have been shown to have heart healthy benefits, including lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol.  Walnuts are also a source of omega-3.

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough*
  • 1 cup of thinly sliced onion
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly cracked peppercorns
  • corn meal
  • 6 ounces of crumbled goat cheese*
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 ripe pears, thinly sliced (depending on the size of the pear, you may only need 1 1/2)
  • arugula
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

* NOTE: If you are a gluten-free diet, ensure that the ingredients you are using are gluten-free.

Directions:

Preheat over to 450F.

Follow the instructions for the pizza dough.  Usually the dough, if frozen, will need to  defrost over several hours and then allowed to sit a few more hours in a bowl, greased with olive oil, until the dough doubles in size.

DSC_6166

Cook onions covered in pan over medium/low heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook for about 15 minutes until soft and caramelized.  You may need to remove the lid to allow all of the liquid to evaporate towards the end of the cooking time.  Allow to cool.

The caramelized onions will be very sweet so a little bit added to the pizza will go a long way.
The caramelized onions will be very sweet so a little bit added to the pizza will go a long way.

Prepare pizza dough and place on pizza stone or baking pan dusted with corn meal.  Bake pizza dough for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and top pizza with goat cheese and bake for 10 additional minutes or until cheese is starting to melt.

Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon and salt.  Toss arugula and in olive oil and lemon dressing.

Remove pizza from oven and top with pears, caramelized onions and arugula.  Season with freshly cracked pepper.  For some extra crunch, top with some plain toasted walnuts.

DSC_6181

 

IMG_0618

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.

DSC_6163

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.

DSC_6054

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

DSC_6070

In medium mixing bowl, mix all remaining ingredients.

DSC_6074

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.

DSC_6077

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.