Pancake Flop

HEY! Did you guys forget about me? I’ve been on a long hiatus from blogging, but after a very interesting breakfast experiment failure this morning, I felt like it was time for another post. Don’t call it a comeback…

So I have had a huge container of leftover brown rice sitting in my fridge for about a week now. It’s been so hot that reheating it for dinner has not been an option. I’ve been totally lost, just staring at this brown rice for days and wondering what to do with it. When I came home from spin class this morning, I was ravenous per usual. I opened the fridge and there it was, that leftover brown rice, just staring at me, begging me to eat it before it was too late.

Then a thought came to my mind. Has anyone made a brown rice pancake before? I’ve done it with oats, so would brown rice really be that different? I had to try.

I combined:

  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • dash of pumpkin spice

Sounds like a recipe for success right? Wrong.

As soon as I tried to flip it, my “pancake” fell apart. I ended up scrambling it so that it would at least be edible. This is the unappealing pile of mush I was left with.

I dressed it up with some blueberries and pure maple syrup to make it a little more appealing. Now it just looked like I was eating oatmeal on a plate. Whatever. I dug in and it was surprisingly delicious.

I guess it wasn’t a complete failure of a breakfast. My brown rice mush tasted pretty good and had a great nutritional profile full of protein and omega 3’s.

I will live to experiment in my kitchen another day.

Don’t Let Stress Turn You Into A Scrooge!

As you may have noticed, I took a little hiatus from the blog. I had a pretty good excuse: finals week. My fellow co-eds will agree with me that finals week is probably the most stressful time in the life of a college student. The tension in the air of the crowded library hits you like a brick wall as you walk in. Everyone is on edge.

But college students are not the only people stressed out during the month of December. Although the holiday season is supposed to be a time of good cheer, for many, this season is more hectic than happy. Shopping for gifts, elaborate cookie productions, and preparing our homes for holiday guests are all things that could make even the most enthusiastic elf into a total grinch.

I can admit that when I am stressed out, my health takes a backseat to everything else. I don’t have time to prepare healthy meals for myself or exercise as much as I would like. Sometimes I swear I forget to even breathe. At the end of a stressful period, I feel terrible, run down, and just completely unlike myself.

Research shows that stressed populations are more likely to have higher illness rates and shorter life spans. My high school track coach used to say, “stress is a silent killer”. He was right.

So what can we do?

Obviously, stress is unavoidable. We may not think that we have time to do anything other than the endless to-do list we have in front of us, but it is so important to find even a half an hour of time for ourselves.

My favorite way to release stress is (you guessed it) working out. I find that even if I only have half an hour, going for a head clearing run makes me feel better. I heard a great quote recently that goes “when life gives you shit, turn it into fertilizer”. It’s so true. Stress can be an amazing fuel for a run, walk, bike ride, or fitness class.

So if you are still freaking out in these last few days leading up to Christmas, head outside (or to the gym), take a deep breath, and get your heart pumping! Sweat out some stress and you will return to your to-do list feeling refreshed and ready to tackle those tasks.

Dessert Date

I have a confession.

I have an uncontrollable sweet tooth. When it comes to dessert, I just can’t say no. I try to keep this problem under control by refraining from buying sweets at the grocery store (other than the occasional bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips to keep myself sane). It is to my advantage that I don’t have any spare time to bake. I know that if I have desserts in my kitchen, I will eat them, and I will eat way too many in one sitting.

For the most part, I have trained myself to enjoy a piece of fruit or some trail mix as an after dinner treat. But there are some days that I just can’t satisfy my sweet tooth with an apple. I need something else.

Enter my new obsession: dates.

Now I know what you are thinking. Those little brown nuggets look about as appealing as a scorpion on a stick. Don’t be fooled by outside appearances! (Remember the green smoothies!) Dates are delicious, chewy, and sweet. Not only do they satisfy my sweet tooth, but they also contain a variety of health benefits.

Dates are made up of simple sugars that restore energy and repair the body after exercise. They also provide a source of dietary fiber that prevents the absorption of LDL cholesterol in the digestive system. Dates also contain antioxidants known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-infective properties, as well as protecting the body cells from harmful free radicals, thus assisting in the fight against a variety of cancers. They are even a great source of potassium, which helps maintain blood pressure and heart rate.

So next time you are looking for something sweet, skip the cookies and munch on some dates. Throw them in with some nuts and other dried fruits for a scrumptious trail mix or enjoy them alone. They are a delicious and nutritious way to treat yourself!

Functional Fuel

My track coach once told me that I should treat my body like a Mercedes-Benz. Did that mean routinely going to the car wash and rotating my tires? Not exactly.

What he meant was that people don’t fuel their Benz up with cheap gas. They use the good stuff. The efficient kind that has that car working at its best. So as an athlete, I should have the same mindset when filling my tank. Quality food is the best fuel for an athlete to perform at his or her best. This is why choosing the right pre-workout snack is so important. If the tank is empty or full of junk, the body will not respond the way you want it to.

Here is the snack I just concocted to fuel up for my evening workout.

Oatmeal is not just for breakfast anymore! This bowl packs a serious nutritional punch and contains everything a perfect pre-workout fuel should.

Here’s how to make it:

-1/3 cup plain rough oats

**avoid flavored instant packets… they can be loaded with excess sugar that will just make you crash**

-3/4 cup water

-1/8 cup golden raisins

-1/4 cup raw almonds

-sprinkle cinnamon

-drizzle of agave nectar (low glycemic and a great honey substitute when trying to satisfy a sweet tooth)

Six simple ingredients with some super stats (couldn’t resist the alliteration opportunity there). But really, this small bowl contains 12g of protein, 32 grams of carbs, and a mere 2g of sugar. Both protein and carbohydrates should be the most important nutrients when looking for a snack to fuel your workout. Protein revs your metabolism and helps build muscle. Carbs provide quick energy. What more could you want? Well this bowl even provides you with healthy unsaturated fats that are great for your heart and satisfy your stomach.

So instead of reaching for a bag of salty crackers or a chemical-laden powerbar before your next workout, do yourself a favor and make some oatmeal. It takes less than 2 minutes and your body will thank you for the energy.

Recovering from Thanksgiving

 

Like most people, I tend to overindulge during the holidays. My friends were confused when I told them I felt more stuffed than the turkey was after this weekend. What could a vegetarian possibly overeat on Thanksgiving? Carbs on carbs on carbs. To make up for the lack of protein on my plate, I usually have several helpings of mashed potatoes, turnip, stuffing, and pie. Lots of pie. I don’t normally eat white carbs or extremely starchy foods. I try to stay away from excess sugar. The holidays are my excuse to indulge in these things. And although I enjoy every single bite during those holiday meals, I feel the negative side effects for days after. My stomach is unsettled and I’m groggy. It’s like I have a food hangover.

So how do I recover?

I start my day off right with a nutrient-packed green smoothie.

Or in this case… a brown smoothie. Do not let the swamp muck appearance fool you. This baby was delicious.

To make, place the following in a blender:

-4 ice cubes

-1 cup frozen strawberries (or blueberries, or blackberries… really any berries will do!)

-1 banana

-1 handful fresh spinach (kale is also a great option!)

-1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder

-1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal

-1 packet emergen-C (I don’t always add this, but I have a cold and want some extra vitamin C)

-1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your choice of milk)

-1/4 cup water

Then blend away! I usually let the blender go (to my roommate’s dismay) for a good two minutes. I like my smoothies very smooth. It’s not pleasant to get a chunk of kale stuck in your straw. While on the subject of kale/spinach in smoothies, I can honestly say that the fruit flavor overpowers the flavor of the greens.

Do not be afraid of green smoothies! They are a wonderful and refreshing way to start your day with a serving of vegetables and two (or more) servings of fruit.

Fresh Start

Most people say that spring is a time for new beginnings and rebirth. But I personally think that winter is a perfect time for a fresh start. I might be getting ahead of myself as it is still only November, but with the Holiday season rapidly approaching, I feel my excitement growing for the sight of fresh, untouched snow. A coating of white sprinkled on everything reminds me of a blank canvas. With the winter months come my birthday, the new year, and plenty of resolutions. Instead of considering myself late for my 2011 resolutions, I am going to give myself credit for getting a head start on my 2012 ones. Why am I doing this? I’m going to do that annoying thing where I answer a question with a question:

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who inspires you to do something?

Well, this morning I had one of those.

Working the front desk at Recycle Studio in Boston’s South End has introduced me to a variety of unique and wonderful people. The studio brings lawyers, artists, designers, mothers, fathers, co-eds, and many other people of all ages together through their desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This morning, I got to know a lot more about one of our regular spinning fanatics. We started talking about her family back in Ireland and ended up on the subject of how she hopped on a plane to Boston with no job, friends or family waiting for her on the other side of the pond. The only thing she did have was a strong desire to create something great for herself in the lighting design world. Two months later, she has several projects going and is in the process of building a fabulous life here. Her secret to success? An inner drive that just wont quit.

This got me thinking about my future plans. I know that I want to do something along the lines of nutrition and fitness. What do I want to do? I still can’t answer that question. As of now, I am okay with that. But after my conversation this morning, I have resolved to try something that I have been wanting to do for a while now: write a blog about my journey to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. If all goes as planned, I will use this as a way to connect with other like-minded people and as a source of inspiration, learning, and creativity for my daily life.

So without further ado…

Welcome to Spinach and Spandex: a blog by a Division 1 runner/indoor cyclist/vegetarian/student, hungry for healthy snacks and knowledge! What a mouth full.