Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Coconut Green Curry with Pork Chops

I am pretty obsessed with coconut. How awesome can one food be in both taste and health benefits? I've found a way to get coconut into a good portion of my meals and snacks these days. I'm using more coconut oil in cooking than ever before, for one. Unsweetened shreds are now a staple in breakfasts like oatmeal and sweet potatoes, as well as my Living Fuel "puddings" (using the protein power and/or superberry powder and/or supergreens powder mixed with cocoa powder too).

One thing I've been dying to try but something that was sort of intimidating to me is a full-meal coconut curry dish. Last week I decided to just go for it, partly after being inspired by a green curry on Side note: Did I mention I'm obsessed with that website? Check it out if you haven't. They compile some amazing recipes on there - anything you can imagine, all healthy but yummy. Many are Paleo-inspired, and most just encompass smart health and nutrition very akin to how we eat.

So after looking at few green curry recipes I just went for it doing my own thing based on the ingredients I had or what looked good and fresh at the market! I used spaghetti squash as "the carb" of the meal, instead of rice or noodles, making it healthier without inflammatory/starchy carbs, plus the higher fat content you won't be left feeling hungry after eating this!

All in all this was actually a million times easier to make than expected. I did this right after a trainer session on Saturday night (after showering of course) and I was pretty hungry at that point, so I wanted to prepare the meal as fast as possible; it surprisingly was easy to do so.

Coconut Green Curry with Pork Chops

Finished curry. Chops not pictured (see below for that).

1/2 large eggplant or 1 medium eggplant chopped into ~1" cubes
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4" slices
4 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups celery root, in 1/2" to 1" cubes
1 handful Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
2 handfuls cilantro, coarsely chopped
3-4 tbsp green curry paste (I used ~1/2 jar of "Thai Kitchen" brand**)
1 can coconut milk*
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
coconut oil, for cooking
3-4 cups spaghetti squash, pre-cooked and shredded into "noodles"
2 boneless pork chops***
optional: 1 tsp curry powder, turmeric, red pepper flakes

*I didn't even realize but I bought "light" coconut milk from Trader Joe's. Still worked out really well and good for anyone watching calorie intake.

**Green curry paste looks like it's pretty easy to make, but I was tired and a little more in a rush so I settled for the jar. While this brand isn't organic, it didn't have a bunch of extra added crap or sugar like some of the others. Anyone else have a good rec for healthy store-bought curry paste?

***Really, I think any meat could work with this dish. I chose to go for "the other white meat" just randomly because the selection looked good at WF. Bought the organic, antibiotic-free boneless pork chops at $12.99/lb, doesn't seem too expensive for the quality, yea? How much are regular pork chops? I seared those bad boys up in coconut oil and served on the side. Went beautifully with the curry.

Green Curry
Rinse and chop all your veggies. Heat large pan to medium/high and add ~1 tbsp coconut oil. Let it melt. Add celery root first and let it cook for ~5min (it takes the longest and you want it soft by the time you serve).

When celery root is about half-cooked, add red bell pepper and cook ~2min. Then melt in another tbsp of coconut oil add eggplant next (eggplant cooks fast so you can hold off on it the longest; also, adding more oil will prevent it from burning). Also add some of the cilantro and parsley (save some too).

At this point pour about 3/4 can coconut milk into mixture, as well as ~3 tbsp of the green curry paste. I added the curry paste in 1/2 tbsp portions so I could disperse it evenly through the mixture. Add green onion and additional spices (salt, pepper, cumin, curry powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes). Near the end, add the rest of the fresh herbs I like to save adding some of fresh herbs later in the cooking to preserve their taste and nutritional benefits. 

After the veggies looked close to fully cooked, and milk has absorbed a good amount, add in spaghetti squash (SS), the rest of the coconut milk and more curry paste if desired (taste test thoroughly  I ended up using ~1/2 jar of what I got and it wasn't overwhelmingly strong, just right). Mix the SS thoroughly. Let this all simmer on low heat until the coconut milk is almost all absorbed and the mixture "thickens up." Turn off heat and let it cool just a bit before serving.

Pork Chops
Heat up pan to high heat and add 2 tbsp or heaping spoonful of coconut oil.
Sear chops for ~4min each side depending on thickness.
Remove from heat when they are browned.
Let them sit on a plate and fully cook through (time this so they're ready with the curry; ours were perfect by the time we ate).

The Process in Pics:
First the trainer session...

Then shower and gather ingredients (I didn't end up using olive oil).

Curry in the making.
Searing my chops!

Starting to thicken and blend into a curry.

On the plate, serving #1 of...? We ate it all ;)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Training Observations & My 2013 Schedule

So, training talk. January is going well so far. I was a (pleasantly) shocked this week when comparing my January 2012 with January 2013 training logs. Turns out this month I've already put in more than 10 hours of  training than all of Jan. '12. All base of course. This was not on purpose nor pre-meditated. I don't live by the numbers nor do I train in order to achieve numbers to input into the log. The volume and consistency has just happened. However, I will admit: after the work is done, I do enjoy looking back on my log and analyzing. In this case, it was awesome to see how much more I'm able to handle.
View from Top of the World after riding up about 1.3 miles at an 11% average grade.
Lucho wanted hills that day. We found 'em, starting with this one!
Of course, it's important to keep in mind that I'm comparing just base-training months. When the intensity increases that means volume decreases, to some degree. So if I am looking at a month deeper in the year that's a build/peak closer to a race where volume was lower but intensity was higher, I would not compare that to January. Very different goals in each. The build/racing phases are more about "quality" than "quantity" (volume). Not to say that base isn't quality, but it's different. In intense build/race phases it's time to "cut the fat" in  in order to get the most quality work done....I'll stop rambling.

So back to this month. First and foremost, I've made training a big priority. Once that's determined, there are clearly a lot of variables that go into the ability to handle more training. Here's what I think has helped me do more than ever before:

-Overall life balance. This is arguably the most crucial component. Last year I was still juggling some things that had me a little scattered, including finding a new place to live and maybe just too many work-related commitments. Not the case this year. I'm busy as ever, but it's smooth sailing and I feel in control and balanced...
Sunset strength training & stress relief session.
-Building on past years of training. The work done in 2012 and prior was not erased from the body as soon as Jan. 1, 2013 hit. I did my first tri in summer 2007, and have been pretty much consistent since then minus some injuries. So it's to be expected that I can handle more.

Drink green often.
-Smarter nutrition, wisely chosen supplements. Every year I learn more about improving my diet, and in doing so the benefits are clear. Also, by "wisely chosen" supplements I mean a) not wasting money on pointless things that lack quality/importance, and b) choosing supplements specific to my needs. As a result, my body is able to bounce back better, remain injury free, etc.

-Support at home. It's nice to be living with someone who's also training for the same races :) Not only does it give me a fun training partner, but also someone with whom I can talk with about it all, as well as be dorks with on a Friday and Saturday night when we're trashed from training.

-Quality rest. I've made more of an effort to prioritize this, whether it's getting 8 hours of sleep as much as possible, or just taking scheduled breaks from work, etc, to reeeellllaaxxxxxx.

-People who have faith in me. I have some exciting (and new) partnerships going this year, and an amazing network of support. Gotta make 'em all proud!

-Good coach chemistry. It's so, so so important to have a coach I believe. And in my case, yes, it's true: things are going well with Lucho and I. In fact, I get to meet the guy face-to-face for the first time in a little less than a month! We'll be going to the Endurance Live Awards in LA Feb. 23 with the Endurance Planet crew! How fun!!! Anyone else going to be there??

-This is fun. Last but not least: I am DAMN excited for the season this year! I have some cool races on tap and it's going to be crazy fun. Which reminds me, I don't think I've mentioned my race schedule on the blog yet. You can see my '13 schedule by clicking here.

I leave you with a few pictures....
Post-run bliss feeling hot sunshine again after a stretch of abnormally
cold days here in SoCal. Too bad as I write this blog it's back to
rain and cold again, waaahh
Farmer's Market treats: two giant organic kale bunches for $3!

Special training partners, like Mom. Just as special is realizing
I have some good genes :)

Keeping it real with quality organic food; not your typical mashed potatoes and pasta...
Free-range chicken. Mashed cauliflower. Artichoke hearts in marinara.

Sharing a hoppy beer in my favorite glass after a hard training day.
And sunset, of course.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Keepin It Interesting on the Bike

I have many, many miles ahead of me this year on the bike, and I'm determined to make the "B" in SBR my strength yet again (I have a little sumthin sumthin going on to help keep motivation levels high in that task - stay tuned). Right now is the time to make that happen. It can be tough though -- looking at your bike computer knowing what you're capable of and then... seeing reality. Patience, though. Being that it's so early into the season, we all probably get frustrated with riding skillzzz at one point (same goes for swim and run, as well). You just have to put your head down and put in the time. Build the base. Consistent riding is key, especially the long rides. What helps for those longer days is switching up the routine and not do the same old loops or out-and-backs (or even trainer). Personally, if we have the time, like on a Sunday, it's time for an adventure on the bike. This month it's been rides in Central California, San Diego.... maybe Mt. Baldy next?!

Wine country sunset.

Paso Robles
Over New Year's weekend, like last year, we took a trip up to Paso Robles for some training in a fresh environment, followed by a little vino and delicious food (fyi: there's a good selection of fresh / farm-to-plate / organic-style restaurants in the area). This year in Paso it was a million times colder than we remembered, though! Hell, "extreme" cold has been the case lately in SoCal in general - literally record lows in the 20s and low 30s. Ouch.

Benefits of training in wine country....Stock up
on treats for home that keep on giving!
Last year in Paso I will admit: I was fatigued beyond belief and had a bit of a "breakdown" with training that led me to take a couple days off completely. I do not like starting Day One of a new year with a day off especially in an area with great places to ride, but it was in my best interest. I say that, because this year, 2013, I was not going to let that happen!

And I didn't. This year our workouts in Paso were solid. Highlights included the 14.4-mile run on New Year's Eve to put me at just over1,000 miles of running for the year. (In a year that included 2 months of no running and a 70.3 focus, I was happy with that stat.)

Mile 40... duh duh duhhhh... Nasty Grade awaits!

The other highlight: On New Year's Day we took the short drive north to the Wildflower course and rode that bad boy. The ride was especially tough due to my lack of bike fitness and the cold, but I'd like to think that when I'm in shape and it's warmer out that the course actually is not that bad. There are more flat portions than I expected. It's just that last part that is the hardest, from Nasty Grade on. The hills seem a little relentless all the way back to transition. But nothing is "so insane;" the grades and lengths of climbs are comparable to stuff we get around here in SoCal.

More Paso pics at the end of the post!

San Diego
Typical as of late.
Our next bike adventure took place this past weekend, where we yet again braved The Coldest Winter in SoCal History, riding from Orange County to San Diego -- La Jolla specifically, actually the Whole Foods in La Jolla to be even more specific (lunch!!!!). I had to finish with a nice climb up Torrey Pines, right?!

Despite what you may think, it was not our goal just to ride to Whole Foods down therea. (In fact, after visiting the LJ one I can say for sure that I like my WF's in OC better, especially the Newport Beach one, sorry.) After WF we got back on the bikes (yes, I was frozen at that point after sitting around in wet, sweaty bike clothes and with the temps still being quite low) and we rode another 6-8 miles inland to Green Flash Brewery -- our true reason for riding down! I actually don't really drink that much beer, but I do enjoying sampling different kinds of beers. It's fun and interesting. Plus having a boyfriend who is, I guess you can say, a beer connoisseur, makes it more fun because I've learned about all the different kinds of beers and their tastes, etc. Long gone are the days of PBR and Bud Light at college parties ;)

Work hard, play hard. Green Flash Brewery.
From Green Flash we knew we would be hungry again so the next part of the plan was getting more food from Pizza Port Solana Beach, where we could also conveniently hop on the train and head back home while chowing down.... Perfect! Too bad the train schedule was messed up due to construction and we had to take a bus to Oceanside and then a train back. It was pretty fun, though, especially when we rushed to make it on the bus literally with 2 minutes before it departed -- living dangerously haha.

On the ride home we met another couple who had ridden their bikes down from LA. They were troopers, but I was not envious of their situation: John and I rode with backpacks that had a change of dry clothes, so by that time we were nice and cozy. The couple we met, however, was still in cycling gear and looked freezing. I also felt bad about having a couple delicious-smelling pizzas -- I'm sure they were hungry. We all got to chatting and they were both in awe of our well-thought-out plan for the day haha. We at least offered them pizza and beer... he took a beer.
His & hers Pizza Port for the ride home? No brainer!
And a brew, shhh...

Yup, so that's a little glimpse into what's been going on. No need to mention the rest of what's going on because it's been pretty routine (well, except for the fermenting project). Routine is good in my opinion because that means sh*t is getting done. But routine is not as glamorous as the fun, little adventures so I'll spare ya the details.

I guess the biggest point in writing this blog is to say that the "stats" of those adventure rides don't even compare with my best performances on the bike, but the fun I had and the memories I made in the process make them pretty epic rides and way worth the while.

Question: where has your bike taken you lately? And where do you plan on going in your training? Share with me!!!


More from Paso Robles:
One cold-ass mofo day on the bike. #wuss

All class in Paso.

Delicious meal from Artisan. Fraaashhh

Funky wineries with fun names. Fyi: Keep your glass from Cypher!

Nope, this ain't home!

Adventures in Thai food. Build-your-own spinach wraps. Hm.

Goats like to be on top.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 So Far: Going 'Mad Scientist' In the Kitchen

I have so many things I want to blog about. I literally have a list going, but for whatever reason other things keep getting in the way. But I'm right here, right now writing so let's do this. One topic at a time. Keeping it simple and interesting is the goal.

I got a bug up my ass near the end of 2012 to do things a little differently in 2013. I had my offseason and it worked well. The passion and the desire to train hard again came back. As did the desire to take a healthy lifestyle to another level. I mean, nothing crazy in terms of being overly restrictive and/or depriving myself. Yuck. Rather, incorporating some even healthier things into the routine that haven't been there before. Food for example: Trying some things outside the box of "mainstream healthy foods," I guess you could say, plus taking a money-saving approach in doing so, i.e. not buying such things at a higher price from Whole Foods or wherever. I give WF enough of my money as is! Sheesh!

Nourishing Traditions
It started with a Christmas gift to John and I, from Santa (aka me), with a book called Nourishing Traditions. I heard of this book through our sports nutrition podcasts on Endurance Planet and was intrigued. It's considered "the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats." I'll be honest, I was more excited about this book than John was... but once I started yapping about the contents and then turning our kitchen into somewhat of a foodie science experiment, I think I piqued his interest.

Description of NT from

"This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: Animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels. Sally Fallon dispels the myths of the current low-fat fad in this practical, entertaining guide to a can-do diet that is both nutritious and delicious.
Nourishing Traditions will tell you:
  1. Why your body needs old fashioned animal fats
  1. Why butter is a health food
  1. How high-cholesterol diets promote good health
  1. How saturated fats protect the heart
  1. How rich sauces help you digest and assimilate your food
  1. Why grains and legumes need special preparation to provide optimum benefits
  1. About enzyme-enhanced food and beverages that can provide increased energy and vitality
  1. Why high-fiber, lowfat diets can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Topics include the health benefits of traditional fats and oils (including butter and coconut oil); dangers of vegetarianism; problems with modern soy foods; health benefits of sauces and gravies; proper preparation of whole grain products; pros and cons of milk consumption; easy-to-prepare enzyme enriched condiments and beverages; and appropriate diets for babies and children."

Sounds cool, right? Well, I already have the high-fat thing going, and I'm careful with grains. But more foreign to me are other things extensively covered in the book such as lacto-fermentation. Exert from NT on lacto-fermentation. That said, this week I got some supplies to go for it. The priorities on my list were: 

1) homebrew kombucha
2) ferment cabbage aka make sauerkraut

Here's my list of supplies for both those tasks below. Take notes if you're interested in doing this as well! Easier than it seems, so far at least ;)

Needed to buy:

1) Gallon glass jar
2) quart-size, wide-mouth, glass mason jars
(I bought in bulk; 12 jars for about $13).
3) dish cloths (the thin, white kind)
4) rubber bands
5) organic cabbage (farmers market!)
6) caraway seeds
7) full-fat goats yogurt (to make whey)
8) raw, organic kombucha (got Dave's GT)
9) organic black tea bags

Things I had at home already:

for kombucha
1) pot to boil water
2) organic sugar
3) leftover kombucha bottles for bottling (duh!)

and for sauerkraut
1) large mixing bowl
2) strainer
3) medium glass bowl 
4) wood pounder
5) sea salt

...I think that's all.

And so it began...

Kombucha: Grow the Scoby First
Most of you probably know the benefits of kombucha, minus it's high cost to buy... So no need to explain my desire to brew. Also, a lot of you probably know that to make kombucha you need a scoby as a starter. Last night I started growing my scoby. It's pretty simple to do, just takes time though.

Instructions that I followed: Buy a kombucha. Brew some black tea and add 1 tbsp sugar. Let tea cool entirely then combine that and the store-bought kombucha in the gallon glass jar. Cover with a dish cloth so it can breath but be protected. Then wait until scoby is about 1/4" thick. Then you can brew.

Next up...

I've always loved sauerkraut and didn't realize it could be such a health food - rich in probiotics and enzymes, helpful in digestion, among other benefits. Unfortunately, though, what we know of sauerkraut on most store shelves is not a health food at all. That's because it goes though pasteurization and preservatives are added, thus killing off any good bacteria and/or nutrients and adding in crap that we don't want.

Well I want the good stuff! In addition to NT, I've been reading a lot of blogs on making sauerkraut, and some people say use the whey as a starter, some people say just use salt. I did a jar of each so we will see. The whey helps "do it right" by acting as a starter, promoting the growth of good bacteria, lacto-bacilli. I had fun making the whey (see pic/instructions below). more fun was seeing John's look of curiosity as to what the heck I was doing.

After the whey is ready, you can make the sauerkraut. The recipe from NT on this is all over blogs online, so no need to repeat. Here's a well-written one that I found. (She also linked to the same thing I linked to above, so I approve.) I also have some pics of the process below...

Now I Gotta Wait?!
The crappy part about all this fermentation stuff is that I start making it and immediately want to try. But I can't. Talk about a test in patience. Also, let's hope things go well for my first try. There is a chance that these things may not work - could go bad, or whatever. Just gotta wait and see though.


Making Sauerkraut in pictures:

#1) Whey
To make whey, get full-fat yogurt first. Then line a strainer with a dish towel and place that over a larger bowl, then pour yogurt onto towel. Let it sit for quite a few hours (I waited 5), and the whey will drip into the bowl. Use that for the sauerkraut, and save the top part for eating - it's thicker and tangier like cream cheese, so good!
#2) Prepping the cabbage

add whey, salt, caraway seeds; mix, then smash more.

#3) Canning the cabbage
stuff in jar

leave room, and juice, at the top.

I'll leave you with this... a funny email I just got from John, somewhat related. hehe. Oh, our poor household!

Urban Dictionary "word of the day"

January 10: Healthy Gas

The gas (fart) produced from a person who has eaten healthy foods like cabbage, beans, broccolli, grains, or other high fiber, high carbohydrate foods.
Bart: "Eeeeewwww! What's that smell"?
Homer: "That's just me, emitting healthy gas".
Bart: "Healthy my ass! All you eat is donuts and beer".
Homer: "Don't forget the four burritos Bart. And that egg sandwich on whole grain bread".
Bart: "I'm impressed Homer. Impressed how stinky your farts are".
Lisa: "Mom! Don't light the stove yet! Homers been eating healthy again, and has healthy gas"!