While training for Ironman Lake Tahoe, I had the pleasure of being coached by Jeff Pearson, one of the best open water swim coaches, Jeff Pearson, a professional swimming coach with 20 years experience, which includes, the USA National Team. As a swimmer, Jeff was also a member of the USA Swimming National Team and won the USA Swimming National Championship in the 10K open water. Jeff still holds the United States Masters Swimming 2 mile cable swim National record.
Information about Jeff’s swim clinic and my interview with Jeff can be found here:
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.
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.
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
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
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.
My Orange and Rosemary Roast Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Sweet Potatoes is a protein-rich and nutritious meal, that is easy and quick to prepare for a weekday dinner but elegant enough to serve for Easter Sunday.
My inspiration were the sweet and juicy oranges I had in my Easter basket from my friends’ backyards. The other inspiration is that I needed to prepare a healthy meal for my triathlete friend who came for dinner and brought me these lovely daffodils.
According to WebMD, pork tenderloin is nutrient-rich and about 31% leaner than 20 years ago. The pork tenderloin comes from the leanest part of the pig. It has very little saturated fat and is as lean as chicken breast. Because the pork tenderloin is lean, the meat can be dry if over-cooked. To avoid over-cooking, use a meat thermometer.
The sweetness of the roasted fennel and sweet potatoes compliments the flavors of the marinated pork tenderloin. I prepared this dish using both white and orange sweet potatoes. I prefer the orange sweet potatoes because it adds a nice color to the dish, but they are hard to find in my local food markets. Both white and orange sweet potatoes are “superfoods” rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and potassium. The white sweet potato is a little sweeter and the orange sweet potato is known to contain more beta-carotene. Yams are not the same as sweet potatoes and do not contain the same nutritional value. The white sweet potato has a softer and lighter skin in comparison to the orange sweet potato, which has a darker skin and harder texture.
Serving size: 6
Marinade pork tenderloin overnight or for at least 4 hours. When you are ready to cook the pork tenderloin, preheat oven or grill to 400F.
1 orange, zest grated
1 ½ cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3-4 oranges)
2 fennel bulbs (reserving some of the fronds for garnish)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ cup of water
Prepare the marinade by whisking together orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, rosemary, Dijon mustard and ground black pepper. Reserve ½ cup of the marinade and refrigerate. You will use this to make a sauce for the tenderloin later.
Place remaining marinade and the pork tenderloin in a large leakproof and resealable bag. Marinade overnight or for at least 3 hours.
Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade. Leave the herbs that cling to the meat. Sprinkle the tenderloins with freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Cut fennel bulbs across in half then lengthwise into 1 inch quarters. Separate the layers. Toss the potatoes and fennel in 4 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in large roasting pan. Roast for 25 minutes, tossing a couple times, until potatoes and fennel slightly brown and caramelized.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until golden brown about 3 minutes on each side. Push the vegetables to the edges to make room for the pork tenderloin, but it is fine if the tenderloin lays on top of some of it. Roast the tenderloins for 10 to 15 minutes or until the meat registers 145F* at the thickest part.
If necessary, the vegetables can be left to roast a few minutes longer once the pork tenderloin is removed.
Heat reserved marinade with water in sauce pan. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced slightly.
Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. The tenderloin will be a little pink, which I prefer. Serve on top of fennel and sweet potatoes. Spoon strained sauce over sliced pork. Garnish pork with fennel fronds (leaves).
* Note: The USDA recommends cooking the pork tenderloin to an internal temperature of 145F. At this temperature, the pork tenderloin may be a little pink in the thickest part, which is completely fine.
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)
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
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.
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.
For a dinner party, I used mixed greens instead of arugula. This salad pairs well with a lot of dishes.
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!
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
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 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.
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.
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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
This attractive salad is packed with a lot of heart healthy ingredients and requires very little cooking time. Salmon and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows can boost heart health, lower triglycerides and may help with rheumatoid arthritis and depression. Olives and olive oil can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, maintain levels of HDL “good” cholesterol and protect against heart disease. Avocados are also heart-healthy, a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamins C, K, folate and B6.
This salad is very easy to prepare and the ingredients can be exchanged depending on what you are in the mood for. Any variety of tomatoes can be used. The avocado can be replaced with blanched string beans. For more complex carbohydrates, small boiled potatoes can be added.
Serving size: 2
10 ounces Salmon (I prefer wild sockeye salmon)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard*
2 tablespoon soy sauce*
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon olive oil
1 ripe avocado, sliced and fanned
skinless and boneless smoked sardines*
sliced heirloom tomatoes, or grape tomatoes cut in half or cherry tomatoes cut in half
Freshly cracked pepper
2 boiled eggs, sliced
lettuce or kale
1 cup olives
roasted red peppers (optional)
green beans, blanched (optional)
boiled baby potatoes cut in half (optional)
* NOTE: If you are a gluten-free diet, ensure that the ingredients you are using are gluten-free.
Preheat oven’s broiler.
Whisk together Dijon mustard, soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Pour over salmon and marinade for 10-30 minutes.
Boil eggs. I prefer soft boiled which I achieve by placing the eggs in a pot of water, then bring the water to boil. Allow the eggs to sit in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the eggs and allow to sit for 3 more minutes. Rinse the eggs in cool water and then place them back into the pot with cold water.
Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, and spray with nonstick spray. Crack fresh pepper over salmon and place salmon skin side down Broil the salmon in the pan, skin side down, for 8-10 minutes.
The salmon skin should be easy to remove and recommend you do this before plating. Prepare the salad dressing by whisking together balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup of olive oil with a pinch of Kosher salt. Arrange all ingredients on a plate and drizzle ablout 2-3 teaspoon of salad dressing over lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables. Take care to arrange your plate. We eat with our eyes first, so presentation is key.