A Healthy Three Course New Year’s Breakfast

Cheers to a Happy and Healthy New Year, Hungry Athlete Style!

Wishing everyone good fortune in health, family and love. While some of us celebrated the end of 2015 with joy and cheer, some of us experienced tragic personal loss. While some of us look forward to new challenges in 2016, others must bravely face daunting uncertainties. My wish to everyone is to have the strength, wisdom and support to deal with whatever 2016 brings.

“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” ~ Tony Robbins

And may we have gratitude, every day in 2016, for the things and people we are fortunate to have in our lives.

I will begin with gratitude for you, whomever you are, for taking the time to read this! I hope my blog and recipes bring a little joy to your world. I am, of course, very grateful for my family and friends.

I am also grateful and honored to be a part of Team Betty 2016! This is my second year as an ambassador for Betty Designs, a pretty rad line of stylish, functional and high quality cycling, swimming, running and athletic wear for women designed by a pretty cool athlete, mom, graphic artist and entrepreneur named Kristin Mayer who’s mottos are “Badass is Beautiful” and “Do Epic Shit”.   I was fortunate to be invited by Kristen to join a team of 200+ inspiring female athletes, mostly triathletes and ultra runners, from all over the world.

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting teammate Katherine in Arizona. Katherine happens to be the inspiration for my first post in 2016! Katherine asked me for advice on a healthy three-course breakfast she wanted to prepare for her husband on New Year’s Day. I suggested starting the first course with a Greek yogurt parfait, followed by an egg & vegetable casserole and a chocolate avocado mousse for the final course.

Here’s what Katherine made:

“We began with an acai bowl-style gluten-free Greek yogurt fruit dish, followed with an egg bake of vegetables, Gruyere and mozzarella, and sausage. Finally, a dessert of Ghirardelli avocado mousse.”

Looks and sounds amazing Katherine! Katherine is well versed in healthy eating and shared her story about how good nutrition helped her increase speed and move up in her age group, podium and qualify for USAT Nationals. Katherine’s inspiring story can be found here.

As for the Hungry Athlete, for my very first meal on New Year’s day, I prepared my Simple Granola to accompany Greek yogurt, then poached eggs served over smoked salmon and asparagus sautéed in olive oil. A clementine and mimosa were the sweet notes in this orchestra of flavors.

 

image

A couple days later, after my first group trail run of the year, I invited the gang over for a brunch and served my Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole, my  Simple Granola and Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon rolls. No, the cinnamon rolls are not healthy nor do I want to try to attempt a healthy version. I believe in indulging when the time is right and after a wet, cold and hard trail run, my friends earned cinnamon buns for running that extra mile.

Want to host a healthy 3-course breakfast, most of which you can prepare, stress-free by prepping the day in advance? Here’s The Hungry Athlete’s Three-Course Healthy Breakfast:

First Course: Greek Yogurt Fruit Parfait with Homemade Simple Granola, Raspberries, Blueberries and Pomegranate Seeds

Second Course: Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole

Third Course:  Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse

granola parfait
First Course: Greek Yogurt Parfait with Homemade Granola, Raspberries, Blueberries and Pomegranate Seeds
HGJAN2016-17
Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole (here with vegetarian sausage, caramelized onion, mushroom, broccoli and Manchego cheese)
Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse
Chocolate Cinnamon Avocado Mousse

Vegetable Quinoa Egg Bites

Vegetable Quinoa Egg Bites are one of my favorite fast and healthy recipes for breakfast. Make them the night before then pop them in the microwave or toast them in the oven in the morning for a nutritious breakfast on the go. Throw a few in a plastic bag and you’ll have a yummy post morning workout snack on the way to work. Merry Brandybuck and Hungry Athletes alike might also enjoy this as a second breakfast.

Resembling a mini quiche, they can be filled with your favorite vegetables. I like to fill mine with a combination of either spinach and red peppers or broccoli and red peppers. Cayenne pepper and nutmeg adds a nice flavor but be careful, a little of both goes a long way. I also recommend using freshly grated nutmeg. Nutmeg seeds last up to four years longer than powdered nutmeg.

Did you know that nutmeg and mace come from the same tree? Nutmeg is the seed while mace is the covering or aril of the seed.  Here’s some more interesting tidbits about nutmeg: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03474/Cooking-With-Spices-Nutmeg.html

Serving size: 16 mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli or 1/2 cup of frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • canola or vegetable oil to brush muffin pan

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook quinoa according to the package instructions. Make sure you rinse the quinoa thoroughly if the package indicates it has not been previously rinsed. Rinsing will remove the quinoa’s natural coating called saponin, which can have a bitter or soapy flavor.

Whisk together the eggs, salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Then mix in the quinoa, vegetables and cheddar cheese.

Brush the inside and top of a mini muffin pan liberally with oil. Fill the muffin pan all the way to the top will the quinoa and egg mixture. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

DSC_6927

IMG_8450

DSC_6934

Pumpkin Oatmeal in a Slow Cooker

It’s just another early morning workout and I’m starving for a fast and warm breakfast.  I happen to have a extra unopened can of pumpkin puree left over from Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin is a nutrient dense fruit so I decided to add it to my slow cooker oatmeal routine. Unfortunately, the first attempt resulted in some unsavory burned pumpkin oatmeal on the edges of the slow cooker. In my second attempt, I turned my slow cooker into a double boiler. This yielded perfectly cooked, unburned oatmeal. Before I share this recipe, allow me to entertain you with a little Hungry Athlete story.

I’ve been ramping up for another 50K but I cannot get on the trails early enough in the afternoons to complete my scheduled midweek 8 mile runs while it’s still daylight. I got caught in the dark twice. On one occasion I talked the park ranger out of giving me a $200 ticket for being on the trails after sunset. The other time I was almost kidnapped by Thelma and Louise. I had exited a trail I had been running on and ran a quick out and back on a paved road. By the time I arrived back at that trail head, the gate was chained up. Since I could not run on the highway (the only other way back to where my car was parked) I was given a ride by two ladies who I will refer to as Thelma and Louis.  It was dark.  I was getting cold.  The only thing I had on me was the key to my car.  While I’m sitting in the back of Thelma’s car and headed down the highway, I hear the following:

T: “You know those runners … they never have any money on them.”

L: “Hahahaha.”

T: “Yeh, who accepts rides from strangers? What would you do to protect yourself?”

L: “I’d poke them in the eyeballs. They say you should go for the eyes”

T: “She’s a runner. She’d outrun us.”

T: “Hahaha.  Oh, we should stop.  Look at her.  She’s all quiet back there.”

Clearly the ladies were having fun with me and I lived to write this recipe, however the moral to the story is to plan your trail runs better.  Don’t get caught on the trails before they close.  Carry ID and your cell phone so you don’t have to accept rides from strangers and live to enjoy Pumpkin Oatmeal in the morning.

Serving size: 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal (also called Irish oatmeal)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I prefer freshly grated)

Optional toppings:

  • Unsalted roasted chopped almonds or walnuts
  • Diced apple or sliced banana
  • Honey or maple syrup

* 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. I sometimes enjoy my pumpkin oatmeal with a diced raw apple or a sliced banana, which adds a natural sweetness to the oatmeal.  I found that by weening myself off of sugar, I can adapt to enjoying foods like oatmeal and coffee without sugar.

Directions:

Whisk all of the ingredients together and pour into an oven proof glass bowl that will fit inside the slow cooker. I used a 6.5 quart slow cooker but a smaller 4 quart slow cooker is all you need.

Fill the slow cooker with water covering the pumpkin oatmeal bowl at least half way. Cover and cook on a low temperature for 7 hours.  Start the slow cooker before you go to bed and wake up to perfectly cooked oatmeal.  Give the oatmeal a thorough stir before serving.

DSC_6902
Fill the slow cooker insert with enough water to cover the oven proof bowl half way. This is what the oatmeal will look when it’s finished cooking. Give it a thorough stir before serving.

If you prefer, serve with chopped nuts (i.e., walnuts or almonds) and / or with fresh fruit (i.e., diced apple or sliced banana). The leftover oatmeal and be stored in individual serving size containers in the refrigerator. Add a little almond milk to loosen up the oatmeal and warm it up in the microwave when you are ready to eat it. DSC_6905

Eggs with Garlicky Spinach & Tomatoes

I try to eat some protein and a nutrient dense vegetable in the morning as often as I can.  One of the easiest and fastest breakfasts to prepare are my Eggs with Garlicky Spinach & Tomatoes. According to the CDC, spinach is one of the top 5 most nutrient dense vegetable and tomatoes are one of the top 3 most nutrient dense fruits: CDC Nutrient List of Nutrient Dense Fruits & Vegetables

Serving Size: 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small cloves or 1 large clove of garlic, peeled, smashed and rough chopped
  • 2 heaping cups of fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce (optional)

PREPPING IN ADVANCE:

To spare every precious minute in the morning, I prepare as much as possible the night before. I begin by washing and drying the spinach, tomatoes and lemon. I was taught by my wonderful home economics teacher, Mrs. Pfromm, to always wash the outside of all of my fruits before storing them in the refrigerator. I do this for citrus and apples but not berries. I only wash berries before I use them, otherwise the moisture will cause them to spoil faster.

Slice the tomatoes and lemon, then place them, along with the spinach, in a sealed plastic or glass container. Refrigerate overnight. In a small glass bowl, add smashed and rough chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

DIRECTIONS:

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan over medium heat. Smash, then rough chop the garlic before adding it to the warm oil. Sauté the garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the spinach and tomatoes to the garlic and olive oil.  Toss together until the spinach starts to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper, then move the spinach, tomatoes and garlic to one side of the pan.

On the empty half of the pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the eggs on that side of the pan. Then cover the eggs and spinach. The egg only needs 1 or 2 minutes to cook when covered. The eggs can be prepared sunny side up, over easy or you can even poach the eggs in a separate pot. Just before removing the eggs, squeeze 1/2 of a lemon over the spinach and tomatoes.

Serve the eggs either to the side or over a bed of spinach and tomatoes.  I like to add a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce to the top of the eggs.  I learned this from my parents growing up and have always eaten my fried eggs with Worcestershire sauce.  Give it a try.  It’s delicious.

DSC_6886

DSC_6889

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.

DSC_6735

DSC_6738

DSC_6744