Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad with Lemon and Pomegranate

I love winter fruits and vegetables. Last week one of my ultra running pals brought me a big stalk of Brussels sprouts. I knew right away I wanted to make some sort of Brussels sprout salad and searched for a couple other winter vegetables or fruits that would brighten it up with some sweetness and acidity.  I found those bright notes in a pomegranate and some lemons plucked from a tree in the back yard.

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An abundance of lemons this winter. I absolutely love not having to buy lemons.

The whole lemon is used in this recipe. Blanching the lemons, then roasting them, helps to eliminate the bitterness from the rind. You may be hesitant to bite into the lemon, rind and all, but you’ll be pleased to find the rind quite tender. You will want to try this because the peel of a lemon contains more vitamins than it’s juice. Lemon peels are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, folate, beta carotene and vitamin C.

The lemons, pomegranate anvils and Brussels sprouts are tossed together with red onion and tomatoes to create a side salad that was not only visually bright but is also cheerful with each bite.

This salad was accompanied by a hearty bowl of my Minestrone Soup and served on a very rainy winter weekend.  The ingredients in this salad made for the perfect light and sunny Sunday night dinner

Serving size: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 heads or 3/4 pounds of Brussels sprouts*
  • 2 large lemons (1 sliced lemon and juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup small assorted tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup of pomegranate arils (seeds)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt & pepper

* Brussels sprouts can be replaced with mixed greens

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and place onto 2/3 of a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Leave the other 1/3 of the baking sheet empty. Lemon slices will be added to this space later. Toss the Brussels sprouts in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then season well with salt and pepper. Roast the Brussels sprouts for about 20-25 minutes until tender and the edges are brown. Turn over the Brussels sprouts a few times while roasting to ensure even browning.

While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, wash the lemons well then slice one lemon into thin rounds. Place the lemon slices into a pot of boiling water. Blanch the lemon slices for 2 minutes. This will help to eliminate the bitterness from the rind. Remove the lemon slices from the boiling water and add it to the baking sheet with the Brussels sprouts. Coat the lemon slices in 1 tablespoon of olive oil then roast with the Brussels sprouts. Roast the lemon slices for about 10-15 minutes until they start to caramelize a little. Watch the Brussels sprouts and lemon slices carefully. The lemon slices may need to be removed from the baking sheet before the Brussels sprouts have finished roasting.

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Allow the Brussels sprouts and lemon slices to cool slightly, then cut both Brussels sprouts and lemon slices in half.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of the remaining lemon (about 1/4 cup), balsamic vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and red onion slices in the dressing. Transfer to a serving bowl. Slice the lemon rounds in half and add to the top of the Brussels sprout salad. Top with the pomegranate arils.

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Swap out the Brussels sprouts with mixed greens for a salad with brightness in every bite.
Swap out the Brussels sprouts with mixed greens for a salad with brightness in every bite.

Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt

The alluring pink scoops of my Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt may win the heart of your Valentine. This light and refreshing dessert is easy to prepare, naturally sweet and contains only four ingredients.

The key to a simple and delicious recipe is to use good quality fresh ingredients. I happen to have lots of fresh strawberries from the Carralitos Farmers Market given to me by an ultra runner friend who came over last weekend to watch the Super Bowl. Knowing I would not be able to consume all those fresh strawberries before they perished, I decided to freeze most of them. Since my friend ran a 100K the day before delivering the strawberries, I felt it was only appropriate to use them to make something special and healthy.

Serving size: 6-8

Tools: Food processor or blender and ice cream maker

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of whole strawberries, hulled & frozen (about 2 pints)
  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt (full fat)
  • 1/3 cup juice of Meyer lemons*
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • Sprig of mint (optional)

Note: Standard supermarket lemons may be substituted however I recommend using Meyer lemons if you can find them. Meyer lemons are sweeter which helps to cut the tartness of the yogurt. Otherwise, you may want to add more honey when using other varieties of lemons.

Directions:

Freeze the ice cream container according to instructions.

In a food processor or blender, puree the frozen strawberries. Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and honey. Continue to process or blend the strawberry mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Taste the yogurt. If you find it too tart, you can add more honey or lemon.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and use as instructed. It should take only 15 minutes or less for the yogurt to start to freeze up.

Transfer into freezer container and freeze for at least 1 hour. Scoop out and add a fresh sprig of mint if you like.  Alternatively, this Strawberry Lemon Yogurt can be poured into popsicle molds and enjoyed frozen on a stick.

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Curry Spiced Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup

My Curry Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup, with a little heat from cayenne pepper, warms the soul on cold winter days. This soup is made with two nutrient dense vegetables, which are low in fat, low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber.  Winning!

Technically a fruit, the butternut squash has a particularly high level of vitamin A and also has a high level of vitamin C. It has more potassium than a banana and its color indicates an abundance of carotenoids, which is believed to protect against heart disease.

When buying butternut squash, select the fruit that feels heavy for its size with a matte and unblemished skin. A glossy skin indicates that the squash was picked too early and will not be as sweet. Stored in a cool dry place with ventilation, not in the refrigerator, this fruit has a storage life of up to three months!

In an effort to increase the nutritional value of my recipes, I like to incorporate a variety of vegetables.  For this soup, I paired the butternut squash with cauliflower.  Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin C and contains folate. It is also a good source of minerals, including iron, calcium and potassium.

I prefer to roast the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple rather than boiling them to make this soup.  Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables and allows the flavors to develop and intensify.

I used a Dutch oven and an immersion blender to make this soup however you can use a blender too. I do recommend investing in an inexpensive immersion blender.  They are easy to clean up and you can use it while the soup is still in the pot.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cups of cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 1 cup finely diced sweet onion (half of a large onion)
  • 1 Granny smith apple, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves or 1 large clove)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use a pinch of cayenne to start if you do not like it spicy)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 tablespoons crème fraiche (optional)
  • fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

When preparing the butternut squash, use a very sharp knife. Cut a thin layer off the top and bottom to create a level surface. Then remove the skin using a vegetable peeler and scrape the seeds out with a spoon.

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When cutting the squash, cauliflower and apple, try to create even pieces. This will ensure even roasting.

Toss butternut squash, cauliflower and apple in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season with salt and pepper and roast in 400F oven for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Turn the fruits and vegetable over at least once to ensure even roasting.

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You may need to remove the apple cubes before the butternut squash or cauliflower is finished roasting.

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In a Dutch oven, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender and translucent.

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Add garlic cloves, rosemary, curry powder, salt, cumin and cayenne pepper and sauté for another couple of minutes. Remove the onion mixture from heat if the fruits and vegetables are not done roasting to avoid burning the onion and garlic.

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Minced garlic and rosemary.

Once the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple are done roasting, add them to the onion mixture. Add vegetable broth and honey.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. You can also use a blender. If using a blender, add only a couple ladles full of soup at a time. Place a kitchen towel over the lid and hold down with your hand. This is to prevent the hot liquid from pushing out of the lid and burning your hand. Gently pulse to start, then blend until smooth.

Taste soup and adjust seasoning to your liking. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche on top and garnish with fresh parsley.

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Overnight Slow Cooker Cinnamon Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal

When I first started training for endurance sports, I made the mistake of eating flavored instant oatmeal for breakfast. Just add boiling water and a tasty bowl of sugary oats was ready within minutes. I’ve since learned that steel cut oats (also known as Irish oats) is much healthier.

  • Steel cut oats contain no sugar, unlike flavored instant oatmeal which is loaded with sugar. Some rolled oats also contain sugar.
  • Both steel cut oats and rolled oats have a lower glycemic index. Glycemic index (GI) measures how carbohydrates in foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower the GI, the slower the glucose enters the bloodstream. Because steel cut oats are denser, they will take longer to digest and be absorbed. This causes a steady rise in blood sugar rather than a sudden spike. Foods with a lower GI will also make you feel full longer. (For more information on glycemic index: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/glycemic-index-good-versus-bad-carbs)
  • Steel cut oats undergo less processing than rolled oats and instant oats.

The problem with steel cut oats is that it takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare. I tried soaking steal cut oats in water overnight. Although that helped to reduce the cooking time, it still wasn’t fast enough for me. So I tried preparing the oatmeal the night before, storing it in the refrigerator, then warming it up in the microwave the next morning. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy how the oatmeal congealed into a mushy glob. Finally, I tried cooking the oatmeal in a slow cooker overnight. That was a huge success!

I mixed all of the ingredients into a slow cooker before I go to bed and then voila, I wake up to warm, cooked and delicious oatmeal.

Since it’s important to refuel within 20 minutes after a workout, I will pack another serving of oatmeal to bring to work. I’ll either eat it cold or warm it up in the microwave. Yes, this means that on the mornings I workout, I have 2 breakfasts. In addition, I like to consume a protein along with a second serving oatmeal, such as a hard boiled egg or Greek yogurt with fruit and/or granola.

Serving size: 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal (also called Irish oatmeal)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 apple, pealed and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 cup Almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 (pinch) of ground nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
  • Unsalted roasted chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)

Note: Ideally, if you can do without the dark brown sugar, that is the healthiest option, but I personally prefer to have a small amount of it in my oatmeal. Since this recipe is a serving size for 4, one tablespoon isn’t so bad. The apples also help to naturally sweeten the oatmeal.  If you prefer your oatmeal on the sweeter side, you may want to add up to another tablespoon full, however I encourage you to try to savor the natural sweetness from the apple and avoid adding more sugar.

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients and pour into crockpot.

I used a 6.5 quart slow cooker with a non-stick insert but a smaller 4 quart slow cooker is all you need. If the insert is not a non-stick surface, you will want to spray it with oil.

Cover and cook on a low temperature for 7 hours.  If you prefer, serve with chopped walnuts or almonds.

I recommend you test this recipe out during the daytime, to determine if you can achieve the desired results with your slow cooker.  If the oatmeal is too dry, you may need to add more liquid at the beginning. You may also want to experiment plugging your slow cooker into a timer and cooking the oatmeal for fewer hours. My slow cooker does not work with a timer, so I need to leave it on for at least 7 hours.

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J’Wow’s Salsa

I had the pleasure of training for my first Ironman with Jerrold, a good friend and triathlete known as J’Wow.  He’s like a little brother to me.  He’s rescued me when I was suffering from heat exhaustion during a long training ride and encouraged me to run with him when I was suffering from stomach pain during our first Ironman.  And like any little brother, he thoroughly enjoys annoying me with his teasing.

I joined J’Wow at Lake Tahoe this summer when he came up to train with his coach.  This is when I discovered J’Wow’s delicious fresh salsa.  Fresh salsa is a very healthy snack.  Tomatoes, onions,  jalapeños and lime juice contain vitamin C.  Jalapeños contain capsaicin, which generates heat, increases the heart rate when consumed and naturally raises the metabolic rate.  Avocados contain healthy fats, mostly oleic acid, which helps reduce bad cholesterol.  In addition, avocados contain protein, fiber and is an excellent source of potassium.  What a delicious way to consume raw and nutritious fruits and vegetables.

J’Wow prefers chips with a hint of lime flavor to serve with the salsa.  I’ve used the salsa with fish tacos, burritos and a variety of chips.  Although you can serve the salsa right away, it tastes even better the next day after all the flavors have had a chance to marry.  We had 6 people in the house and this recipe made enough salsa for us to enjoy for 2 days.

Serving size: 12

Ingredients:

  • 10 tomatoes on the vine diced
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 3 ripe avocado diced
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 – 2 1/2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and minced
  • ½ cup of lime juice (4 medium fresh limes)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large bowl, dice the tomatoes, onion, green bell pepper and avocado.  Add finely chopped cilantro and minced jalapeno peppers.  I removed the seeds and was careful to wash my hands well after handling the peppers.  Add more or less peppers depending on your taste and how hot the peppers are.

Add the lime juice. One fresh medium lime should yield about 2 teaspoon of juice.  If the limes are small or dry, you may need more than 4 limes to yield ½ cup.  To get the most juice out of a lime, I put pressure roll it on the cutting board while putting pressure on it with the palm of my hand. I then use a reamer.  You can also put it in the microwave for 20 seconds before squeezing.

Toss all of the ingredients together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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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.