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.

 

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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

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

Pomegranate and Roasted Lemon Salad

Have you seen Fifty Shades of Grey yet?  Well if you have the urge to smack something with the back of a spoon, may I recommend a pomegranate?  You can then add the luscious pomegranate arils (seeds) to my Pomegranate and Roasted Lemon Salad.

Winter’s fruits, the pomegranates and lemon together in a salad create a burst of bright flavors with every bite.  The lemon contains as much vitamin C as an orange and is one of the most nutrient dense fruits.  The rind contains the most nutrition.  Blanching then roasting the lemon eliminates the bitterness.  The pomegranate contains anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and antioxidants. Studies suggest the pomegranate fruit may help prevent or alleviate heart disease and atherosclerosis; high cholesterol; prostate cancer; and Alzheimer’s disease.

Don’t be intimidated by the pomegranate.  Here’s how to remove it’s arils quickly and easily: http://greatist.com/eat/pomegranate-deseed-trick

Serving size: 4 side salads or 2 meal size salads

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups of mixed greens*
  • 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
  • grilled or poached chicken (optional)

* Try using roasted Brussels sprouts.  My original recipe uses Brussels sprouts instead of mixed greens.  The recipe is here: Roasted Brussels Sprout with Lemon and Pomegranate

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F

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 eliminate the bitterness from the rind. Remove the lemon slices from the boiling water and lay on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Coat the lemon slices in 1 tablespoon of olive oil then roast for about 10-15 minutes until they start to caramelize a little.

Allow the lemon slices to cool slightly, then cut the 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 mixed greens, tomatoes and red onion slices in the dressing. Transfer to a serving bowl.  Decorate the top of the salad with the lemon slices and pomegranate arils.  Add either grilled or poached chicken to make this a meal.  This salad also accompanies a big bowl of soup nicely.

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.

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.

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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.

Asian Pasta Salad

My Asian Pasta Salad is one of my go-to recipes when I need a dish that can be prepared in advance and left sitting at room temperature for a few hours without refrigeration. I make this dish for picnics, to bring to work for lunch and most recently at this weekend’s Super Bowl party.

This recipe includes one of my favorite vegetables, the sugar snap pea. Developed in 1979, the sugar snap pea is a relatively new food, and a hybrid of green peas and snow peas. They are sweet, crunchy, easy to chew, and a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin C.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces whole wheat angel hair or spaghetti noodles, cooked (optional gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups sugar snap peas
  • 5 scallion (green onion) stalks, green and white parts finely diced
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili oil (add more if you like it spicier)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (can substitute with white vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (optional)
  • 3 cups of grilled chicken (optional)

Cook the pasta noodles in salted boiling water, stirring frequently during the first couple of minutes, then occasionally to ensure the noodles do not stick together. Cook it until it is “al dente”. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place in large mixing bowl.

Add carrots, peppers and sugar snap peas to the pasta bowl. Reserve a tablespoon of scallions to use for garnish later and add the rest of the scallions to the pasta bowl.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, chili oil, vinegar, grated ginger, canola oil and sesame oil. Reserve 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds to use for garnish later and add the rest to the soy sauce dressing.

Add the dressing to the pasta bowl and toss thoroughly to ensure all the pasta and vegetables are coated with the dressing. Sometimes it’s easier to use clean hands to toss the pasta. The pasta can be served immediately, however I like to cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours to give the pasta a chance to absorb the dressing. Toss the pasta after removing it from the refrigerator. Sprinkle with reserved scallions and sesame seeds before serving.

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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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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.