Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recipe: GF Spaghetti Squash & Meat Sauce

Friday night I wanted a good home-cooked meal, but I was not in the mood to spend a lot of time going crazy in the kitchen, and I wanted to use what we had on hand rather than making another trip to the store -- I grocery shop enough as it is. I'm sure you can relate.

Sometimes my meals just sort of happen (like that delicious beet dish), and actually turn out better than expected. This was one of those cases. I know the recipe I'm about to share is nothing extremely unique, but, heck, it's easy, tasty and healthy so I'm puttin it out there!

Spaghetti Squash & Meat Sauce (gluten-free)
Up close. It's hearty.
Easy, healthy one-dish meal; very few ingredients.

1 spaghetti squash (if you have a large one you'll only need half of it)
1.25-1.5 lbs ground turkey ("regular fat" content; not the super lean kind. Too lean = dry)
25 oz (1 jar) marinara sauce of choice (I used Vons Organics Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce; I actually like the ingredients in this line more than the Whole Food's brand; less sugar.)
5 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic or 2 cubes frozen garlic (I use the frozen cubes from Trader Joe's)
1-2 tbsp basil or 2 cubes frozen basil cubes (again, TJ's)
1 tbsp oregano
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste

*As always, use organic whenever possible.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, and when it's ready stick your spaghetti squash in there on a cookie sheet for 1.5 hours (again, this is for a bigger squash; smaller ones may require less time).

Note on SS preparation: I used to cut my squash in half, scoop out the seeds and lay face down on cookie sheet in a bit of water and then bake, but I don't bother with that anymore. I've found it turns out just as good to throw the whole thing in there until it's done, and then cut open, remove seeds, etc. Of course, wash it first.

After squash has been in over for a while, start prepping other ingredients. Heat large pan on stove top with 1 tbsp EVOO. Chop green onions and add to the pan. Cook on medium heat. A couple minutes later, add more EVOO and the ground turkey, 1 cube garlic, 1 cube basil and a bit of salt and pepper. Spoon the turkey around constantly and let it break apart into small bits as if you're making taco meat; this requires constant stirring. When turkey is halfway done, add about 1/3 jar of marinara. Mix and let sauce soak into turkey well, then add another portion of sauce.

Meanwhile, when spaghetti squash is done, cut it in half, let it cool a bit and remove seeds. Then fork out the squash strands into a bowl. This is always my least favorite part - so dang hot; fingers burning! 

Seeds removed; time to fork it

Add half or all of your squash to the meat mixture. You want it to be a fairly even ratio of squash to meat sauce; not too soupy with sauce, not too squashy/dry with spaghetti squash. Add the rest of the marinara sauce, another cube of garlic and basil, red pepper flakes, and more S&P if desired and let all that simmer on a low heat until the sauce is well absorbed. It should have a hearty consistency when done. Again- not soupy, and not dry.
Adding spaghetti squash to the meat mixture.

Mixing squash, meat, more sauce.

And after a bit of time letting all the flavors and ingredients blend together, you have yourself a meal!

The finished product.

Hearty consistency. Men will like. 

Sauteing jalapenos in evoo.
Serve with a veggie of choice. I served with steamed broccoli (again, something that's easy to make), and some pan sauteed jalapenos for a kick (I randomly got the jalapenos at the farmer's market and they turned out to be quite tasty and not too spicy if you cook them long enough in olive oil and add sea salt; I cooked them for a good 30-40min).

This dish was even better the second day as leftovers. Too bad John was out of town and didn't get any ;) But I certainly enjoyed it after tough workouts of swimming and kayaking.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cycling Tragedies Hit Close to Home

Sunday before my fourth ride of the week I found out that two cyclists were killed on Friday and Saturday within miles of where I live, and on the very roads that I ride nearly every single time I go out on my bike. Not to mention, the same roads that most my friends, family, training partners and fellow local athletes ride on too. Of course, any time I hear of any cyclist who was killed or injured by a driver is tragic news wherever it happens, but the news of these two deaths really hit home being it was my home turf.

In one incident, a 29-year-old girl was hit by a flatbed truck at an intersection and killed instantly. I looked her up, and she seemed like a super cool chick -- a nutritionist, full of life,active, very pretty, and obviously very well-liked. Terrible.

The other incident was just as horrific, if not worse: A 57-year-old woman was hit from behind by a truck, and the truck fled the scene. She later died at the hospital. This occurred on a well-known hill in our area, Newport Coast Drive, a hill I climb multiple times a week -- I had been on it just last Wednesday for hill repeats, and several times before that in the past week and a half. It's my go-to hill, as it is for many local cyclists.

Yesterday all of this was still heavily on my mind as I rode again, this time about 60 miles around Orange County. Then when I got home, it got even more personal....

My sister called and told me the 57-year-old woman who was killed on the hill was OUR family doctor of nearly 30 years, Dr. Catherine Campion (or Ritz, her married name). She had been such a huge part of all of our lives in one way or another -- from delivering my sister, to being someone who's helped my mom, dad, grandma, uncle, and myself with our health issues from the minor to serious throughout our lives. I couldn't believe such an amazing, stand-up citizen who was the epitome of health and wellness had her life taken from her. I also know that she was a very accomplished cyclist (she's done 12 double centuries among other accomplishments), and a huge advocate of SAFE cycling. Her husband is also a cyclist, and this was a sport that they shared together. He was riding with her at the time of the accident... I can't even imagine....

Yesterday, I visited both of the accident sites where the women were killed. I went with my mom and sister to our doctor's site, and it was tough. Later on, my dad visited as well while driving on business. In fact, this is a photo of my dad at the site that The Daily Pilot took and has on its website today: 
The Daily Pilot, Newport Beach newspaper

The site of my doctor's death really got me wondering. The accident did not occur at an intersection -- as it did with the 29y/o girl -- it was a long stretch of straight road after you crest the hill. It has a clearly marked bike lane, and I know it's usually a low-traffic area. (Click here for a picture.) It honestly makes me feel like the driver of the truck probably wasn't paying attention (texting, on the phone, or who knows) and swerved into the bike lane, hitting Dr. Campion. Again, knowing her, I highly doubt that she was at fault by being outside the bike lane or something. Plus, since the murderer fled the scene, that's even more reason to believe he made a big mistake by driving while being distracted and causing harm.

The good news, if any, is that the hit-and-run driver was caught last night. I hope he's in jail forever.

The other comforting thing I noticed is that both sites have white-painted bikes (as you can see above) that have been locked to the sites with a sign that reads the victim's name, date of death and the words "A Cyclist Was Killed Here." This is comforting to me because it shows that someone or some group is trying to increase awareness of these tragedies -- tragedies that often slip under the radar if you're outside the cycling/triathlon community.

In researching these deaths, I also read that another woman was hit and seriously injured in the area last Thursday! Thankfully she is still alive. But in her case, a passenger van (one of those big ones) hit her and kept going!!!

To be honest, this time, after these deaths, I'm ready to start being more active however I can in helping to make cycling safer, prevent accidents and to just increase awareness of this problem of vehicles vs. cyclists. Nine cyclists have been killed in Orange County this year, and that doesn't even include all those who were hit, injured and survived -- and that's just in one county in the US!

It just doesn't feel right that we as athletes need to fear for our lives every time we hit the road for a ride. Most of us who ride are trying to make this world a better place by being keeping our bodies healthy, helping the environment, and by setting good examples for others. We should feel safe in doing so!

Please be safe out there.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Podium, Fish Oil & a Strength Workout

Vegas. First off, can I get any props for predicting 2/3 of the women's podium at IM 70.3 Worlds exactly right? I was proud of that! (That is, I got it right if you ignore my "update" to include Rinny. Lesson learned: always go with your gut!) Plus, on the men's side I at least got Crowie on the podium, although I was wrong about his placement and failed to guess the other two guys. Potts was at least top-5 so I was on the right track with his ability in the field.

The Podium. Which reminds me... I saw a tweet from Chris McDonald (I think) over the weekend on how the podium consists of the TOP 3. Not the top 5, and not the top 10. Yes, we may get awards that go as deep as 10, but the podium ends after No. 3. Those lines are getting blurred these days it seems. Don't get me wrong, I think it's truly great that races give awards even deeper than the podium because those folks absolutely deserve the credit for being at the top, but it's still not the podium unless it's 1-2-3. Speaking of podium -- hell yea to Beth (2nd) and Charisa (3rd) at IM Wisconsin. If that's not inspiring I don't' know what is! I have loved seeing those ladies work their way up the ranks, so well deserved!!!

Fish Oil/Omega-3s. I posted what I believe is an important must-read blog on on fish oil supplements about how not all are created equal, and you should check what you're taking. It talks about the crucial thing we need to look for in a fish oil supplement. Basically this means the "form" of fish oil--is it ethyl ester or triglyceride form? We want the triglyceride form, but most supplements out there are not that way! Why? Quick answer: It's cheaper to sell the ethyl ester form. You can read the whole blog by clicking here. I also give a little general "why take fish oil" and what brand I use/recommend.

Strength Training. It's that time of year where many peoples' seasons are winding down and offseason fun begins, or simply changing up the routine, or both. For me, I'm bringing more strength training and speed work back into my routine, and I am LOVING it!!! So fun.

Here's a fun workout I did last night:
Dynamic WU
dowel work for arms, core, lower body
air squats
*light* leg press
reverse lunges
scap pushups
serving trays w resistance band
and whatever else you like....

Circuit 1
2-3 rounds...
10 TRX reverse lunges
12 TRX inverted row
10 TRX SL squats ea. leg
3x10 lateral band walks (yes, it's a lot and should burn!)
10 double leg + 20 SL leg TRX hamstring curl
10 TRX atomic pushups (pushup + knee tuck or pike)

Circuit 2
4 rounds...
8-12 back squats with more weight ea. round (go heavy, but ease into it if haven't done this in a while like me)
60" plank variations*
10 bent-over reverse flys with free weights (light)*
*these were integrated to be active recovery between heavy squat sets

Optional before cooldown
Deadlifts: After a bit of rest post-circuit 2, I still wanted to work the booty a bit more so I ended with 3x10 DLs on full recovery... didn't go as heavy as the squats but still worked it. I can really target my glutes and hammys well on DLs and that's what I need!

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Favorite Way to Eat Beets (Recipe Included)

I'll start off by saying I am not really the type of chef that uses exact measurements unless I'm baking or following a specific recipe. When I do my own cooking I sort of just wing it, with a lot of taste-testings during the cooking process. Eventually (hopefully) I get something I like. Anyone else like that?

This new beet salad recipe is no different. Actually, a good portion of the recipe is inspired by a beet salad I tried at a deli in a local health food market in which only the ingredients were listed, not the measurements of each. I'd also been preparing beets in a similar way lately so I decided to combine my ingredients with some of the ones from the health food place for a fresh new dish. What I love about this beet salad is the delicious sweetness and tangy-ness from the orange juice and apple cider vinegar, as well as a unique creaminess from the mustard and crunchiness from the celery. Mmmmm.

Beet Salad

Ingredients (organic preferred)
2 large beets, chopped into chunks or sliced into about half-dollar size--however you like
1 head of celery
1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 orange (you'll just be using the juice of the whole thing)
2-4 tbsp creamy mustard (I used Annie's Organic Horseradish Mustard)
1-2 packs stevia (or sweetener of choice)
garlic, to taste (I used a frozen cube from Trader Joe's, about 1-2 cloves worth)
fresh grated ginger, to taste (about a tsp or so?)
salt, to taste
extra virgin olive oil
optional: parsley to garnish

Cut up your beets, heat a large skillet with olive oil, add beets to pan and start sauting on a medium heat. After a few minutes, add some water and more EVOO--just enough for the beets to absorb it, not so much that it becomes soupy. Meanwhile, cut celery into thin slices.

A few minutes later, add apple cider vinegar, the juice of one full orange, and garlic. Be sure to squeeze in ALL of the juice of the orange (you could even use 1.5 oranges I think, it gives great flavor).

Add garlic, salt to taste (don't overdo it on the salt, this is more of a "sweet" salad), fresh ginger to taste, and the chopped celery.

Let all of this simmer for a while on low-med heat until the beets start to get soft. Add more water/EVOO if you need to prevent any burning, but with the OJ, vinegar, etc., you should be ok.

Near the end add in mustard and stevia (or sweetener of choice).

Keep on a low heat until all ingredients are well absorbed into the beets--it should not be liquidy when it's done. I probably let mine cook for 30-40min total, maybe longer? Sorry wasn't paying attention to time :/

This salad can be served warm or cold--it's delicious either way!!! As leftovers, it just gets better too!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Final Vegas Predictions

In case you didn't see my previews on the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Vegas this weekend, you can CLICK here for the men's preview, and CLICK here for the women's preview. I also did a podcast with Brad Culp yesterday with a Vegas preview, which I posted today; CLICK here for that. If you're in Vegas, my full preview in print is in the Official Ironman Athlete Guide.

Now final predictions, who do I think will be on the podium?

Andy Potts
Greg Bennett

Angela Naeth
Kelly Williamson
Heather Jackson

Personally, I think the women's race is going to be closer than the men's. With Kessler, Corbin, Cave, Wurtele, Hauschildt, etc.... man, so many girls with podium potential! I want all their names in the top 3!!! As for the men, I was tempted to put Michael Raelert on my top 3, but I don't know! Vegas is not Clearwater... though, it seems like he's back with fervor.


Apparently Mirinda Carfrae is racing tomorrow too (there was some question on that in recent weeks), which really has me wondering now what the f*&% will happen in the women's race!? I think I need to change my top three now that I know she's in...


Who do you guys think will land on the podium? 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It was a good day...

I was riding today and I am 99% sure a bee hit me in the face. The good news is that he hit my tooth of all things and bounced off! He hit my tooth because I was smiling. I was in a great mood (read on to find out why) and riding the best I have since Steelhead.

I got wrapped up in the ride and the distance, and realized I was potentially doing too much and going to be late for my lunch meeting. So I started hauling ass and doing math, ya know one of those: "If it's 12:10 and I have ~8 miles to ride until I'm home going 20+ mph, and I still have to shower and drive another ~5 miles to the restaurant, can I make it by 1pm?

I was there by 1:03.

Great mood elevated!

It felt nice to be having such a great day & mood because, I'm not gonna lie, I've hit a bit of a rough patch with work recently that's been hard on me in more than one way. My gym -- my second home -- is closing on Sept. 30. It's not what the owners wanted or ever dreamed of being the case, but sometimes the real world is harsh. The *hope* is that we relocate and it's a relatively smooth transition, but even if that's the case things would still be changing big time. It's a shame and gets me choked up -- the gym as I know it now has such a special spot in my heart for making me who I am today, as a trainer/coach/athlete. I've been there for almost 4 years.

Knowing I have some "job risk" with the gym right now, it's funny how things have a way of working themselves out. Lately I've been doing a little bit more on the journalism side of things, as well as modeling a bit more. So if my gym work suffers a bit in the next couple months, it's nice to be able to have other skills to pay the bills ;)

Of course, the Endurance Planet podcast is a big part of my life too... and it's about to become an even bigger part of me. I put out the idea to Ben of doing Kona coverage this year, and long story short, it's going to happen! Ironman World Championships round 3 for me. If you recall, I missed going to Kona last year because I was in my best friend from high school's wedding (the right decision that I'm so happy with and don't regret for ONE second - always choose a friend in those cases). I had been in Kona in '09 and '10 working for EverymanTri and Competitor/Triathlete Mag, respectively. This year, it will be a fun and new experience going with my own media organization that I've been part of for almost two years. I will be doing daily podcasts and videos for EP, and it's bound to be a blast!

As of today, I officially locked down all the essentials (reason for great mood): flight, room and media credential. Interestingly, I will be staying with a well-renown sports med doc you may have heard of, John Post. I'm also in the process of filling up my schedule with race week events to cover, interviews with pros and amateurs, figuring out when I'll get in some of my own training, planning social time with friends who'll be there.... I'm dang excited. If there's anyone or anything you think I should include in my EP coverage, let me know!

That's it for now... time to go cook. That reminds me, more food/recipe posts to come soon.

I'll leave you with four pics from past Kona trips that are random but get the point across of how awesome Kona/Ironman week is:

2009 Underpants run with Ian, Charisa, Kevin and Kristen!

2009 Press conference, I was in heaven listening to/seeing this!

2010 Reporting for Triathlete Magazine at Dig Me Beach.

2010 Post-race cliff jumping fun with Eleanor (GU) and Caroline!