Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Bowl is a great time to return to blogging

Hello Tartlets!

It has been a heck of a long time since my last post.  I have missed you, and missed blogging about athletics and food.  On the athletics front, I retired from endurance sport this past year, but I am SUPER excited for my first race in more than a year. On February 8, 2015, I will make my running debut at the Palm Springs 5k.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Now onto the good stuff - Super Bowl XLIX food!

Super Bowl is synonymous with greasy pizza, wings, 8-layer dip, a bunch of beer and the Monday Bloat.  But, it doesn't have to be bad!   Super Bowl fare can be delicious and sans bloat.  Here are a couple recipes to help get you on your way to a fun, vegan and gluten-free Super Bowl Sunday!

BBQ Cauliflower "Wings" (V or V+GF)
Vegan version:
1 cup spelt or all-purpose flour
1 cup water
2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp Kosher salt
22 oz cauliflower florets

Gluten-free version (also vegan):
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp each garlic powder and Kosher salt
3 Tbsp non-GMO cornstarch
1.5 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
10-12 oz cauliflower florets

Spicy sauce:
3/4 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
2 Tbsp Earth Balance

1. Place all dry ingredients in bowl and whisk to mix.  Slowly add water to create a pancake batter consistency.  You want it thick enough to coat the cauliflower, but not too thin so it falls right off.  Add water slowly (you may not use it all!  Depends on the flour and how it hydrates).  Do a test floret when you think you're there.  If you add too much water, add in a bit of flour to thicken.

2. Place florets on a parchment-lined sheet tray.  Bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes, until  light golden and crispy.  Remove cauliflower to bowl, toss to coat with Spicy Sauce or use your favorite BBQ sauce (what we usually do - the Spicy Sauce has quite a kick!) 

3. Return fully coated cauliflower to sheet tray.  Bake another 5 minutes.  Serve hot with celery sticks and your favorite vegan Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing.

Trim Tart Chili (V+GF)
I created this recipe for those days where I want to make a homemade, hearty dinner but it's the end of the week and the fridge is almost empty.  By design, this recipe uses dried spices and canned (or dried) beans, and I always make sure there is everything I need for an emergency batch of Trim Tart Chili in my pantry.  There is nothing lacking in this vegan and gluten-free chili - even your meat-eating family members will be completely satisfied. AND this is a great Super Bowl Sunday pot-luck addition.  It always gets inhaled.  Get yours early.

(PS - sometimes I don't have the red pepper, but I always have an onion.  Last time I added carrots as it was in my fridge.  No worries if you don't have the peppers some nights.)  Lotsa beans is the key!  I always use 4 cans of beans and a can of corn.

1 onion, chopped
1 organic red bell pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (28 oz) crushed or diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) each: black beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, white cannelini (or pinto) beans, rinsed
1 can organic corn, drained (or use frozen)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2-3 tsp vegan cane sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional, if you like it spicy!)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
large spoonful of any nut butter (almond or peanut butter) - SECRET ingredient!!
1-2 Tbsp masa harina or quinoa flour

1. Saute onion and bell pepper in a small bit of oil until lightly golden, 2-4 minutes.  Place into slow cooker.
2. Add remaining ingredients to slow cooker.  Stir to mix.  Cover and cook 8-10 hours (slower is better).**

**please note: spices attenuate with long cooking times, such as in a slow cooker.  Your options: (1) add at beginning, and adjust seasoning toward the end of cooking, if you are able.  This doesn't always work on a weeknight when you get home late and are starving - so if you can't add toward end, no worries.  (2)  Add spices in the last 1-2 hours of cooking for the strongest flavor.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sweet potato? Yam? I'm confused.

Hi Tartlets!

I was inspired to write this just now, as I read a recipe called "African Kale & Yam Soup".  I'm not sure if this person really used yams or sweet potatoes - nonetheless, I'd like to discuss these two confusing tubers.  (PS - I am SUPER excited to try this recipe and I'm told it's delicious!)

Yams are not sweet potatoes, or vice versa.  I'm sorry if this throws your entire life's calling of sweet potatoes a yam.  However, I do apologize.  You quite possibly have never actually eaten a yam in your life; yams are hard to come by!

So why the mix-up?  Please read on about the science and the history of yams and sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato on the left; yam on the right.
Yams and sweet potatoes are both tubers, but they are not botanically related.  Yams are closely related to lilies and grasses, and are monocots, which is a plant that has one embryonic seed leaf.  Yams are tubers of a tropical vine, Dioscorea batatas, and native to Asia and Africa.  Yams vary in size - some are the size of a small potato.  One yam was reported to have weighed 130 pounds!  Yams are grown in tropical climates such as Africa, the Caribbean and South America. Yams are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes are dicots - plants having two embryonic seed leaves - and are part of the Convolvulaceae or Morning Glory family.  Sweet potatoes are often mistakenly called "yams".  The skin color ranges from white, yellow, red, purple to brown. The flesh also ranges in color from white to yellow, orange, or orange-red.  Sweet potato varieties are classified as either ‘firm’ or ‘soft’.  It is the ‘soft’ varieties that are often labeled as yams in the United States.

Origin of this mix-up?
In the US, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties.  When soft varieties began to be commercially grown, there was a need to differentiate between the two.  African slaves called the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa.  Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’  Unless you specifically seek out yams (which are typically found in international supermarkets), you are probably eating a sweet potato!

Both yams and sweet potatoes are very good sources of fiber, Vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and both have 2 g protein per 1 cup (raw, cubed).  Sweet potatoes are Vitamin A rockstars, boasting 377% of daily recommended intake in just 1 cup.  Yams are an excellent source of Vitamin C, accounting for 43% of daily recommended intake.

Cook one or both of these up this week, and enjoy your dinner!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fool your kids (or Sig-O): Pureed Cauliflower (Vegan option/GF)

Hello Tartlets!  I love making Pureed Cauliflower as a side dish instead of potatoes.  As I wrote here, cauliflower is so good for you.  Buying fresh, organic cauliflower at your local farmer's market is ideal.

The great part about this side dish:

  1. You can fool your kids, significant other, or friends into thinking for more than just a few seconds that they *might* just be eating mashed potatoes!
  2. Using an immersion blender is ideal for fluffiness of this dish. If you have kitchen helpers that like power tools (in my case, my bf), it doubles as a kitchen power tool - and he usually jumps at the chance to use it!
  3. Easy to vegan-ize.
  4. Quick and easy.  So yummy.


1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (don't forget to save the bit-lets!)
3 Tbsp butter or Earth Balance
1/3 - 1/2 C Parmesan or Vegan Parmesan
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Cut cauliflower into florets.  Wash thoroughly.
Short-cut: purchase pre-washed, pre-cut cauliflower at grocery store.
Tip: Use a salad spinner to wash cauliflower.  It makes multiple washes easy - simply lift basket, dump water (or water your plants - I hate being wasteful!), then wash again.

2. Place cauliflower florets into large pot of salted water.  Depending on the size of the pot, add 1 - 2 tsp salt.  If you're not sure, start with 1 tsp; you can always add more salt later (but you can't remove once added).

3. Turn burner onto high heat; once water boils, cook cauliflower ~10-15 minutes, or until florets are tender.  I pierce with a fork or taste to ensure they're soft.  You want them soft so they puree nicely. 

4. Once cauliflower is cooked, remove from heat.  Use a colander to drain water.  Drain thoroughly.  Then place into large bowl.

5. Add butter/Earth Balance and Parmesan.  Blend with immersion blender until all florets are pureed and look like fluffy mashed potatoes.  You can also use potato masher and some elbow grease.

Taste; if too bland, consider adding a bit more Earth Balance or Parmesan (Parmesan is salty so I usually start with this).  If still too bland, sprinkle kosher or sea salt to taste.  Adjust to your tastes.  Top with freshly ground pepper.

I didn't set the photo up well (didn't intend to post), but here is last night's vegan (and almost-but-not-quite!) gluten-free dinner.  Let's call is a low-gluten dinner: Sauteed beet greens, pureed cauliflower, Gardein "Chick'n" Piccata.  It was delicious!

It's a Great Morning! Coconut Blueberry Banana Smoothie (Vegan/GF)

Smoothie ingredients, pre-blender.
Good morning Tart-lets!  What better way to start your day than to make a delicious smoothie.  Smoothies are fun, as you can make a new creation each morning!  Here is the smoothie I made this morning.  

Please note: I made a couple caloric splurges, namely the shredded coconut.  If you are counting calories, you can eliminate the coconut, agave and possibly hemp. You could try a different protein powder; hemp is caloric but I added it for its protein content.

Trim Tart Tip: Don't forget to pack floss if you're eating this en route to work!

Tip #2: Keep individually frozen banana halves in your freezer, wrapped in saran wrap.

Coconut Blueberry Banana Smoothie
3/4 C organic raw kale (25 cal)
1/2 C coconut water (23 cal)
2 Tbsp Organic Hemp powder (65 cal)
1 Tbsp Organic agave (60 cal)
1/2 small banana (50 cal)
2 Tbsp organic unsweetened shredded coconut (186 cal)
1/2 C organic blueberries (42 cal)

Calories: 451

Check out these stats!
Carbohydrates: 64 g
Protein: 9.5 g
Fat: 19 g (18 g from shredded coconut; 16 g saturated)

42% DV daily potassium; ~700% DV Vitamin K; High in Vitamin C, folate, calcium, phosphorus

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cauliflower Bit-lets

If you're like me, you love cauliflower!  And, if you're a lot like me, cutting cauliflower stresses you out a little bit.  As you cut this wonderful vegetable into florets, there is always a lot of little cauli-bits all over the place that simply don't have a place in your meal and are wasted.

What to do?

Usually I toss them.

Until my Italian-immigrant-roots brain kicked in.  Why not be a Smart Tart and freeze the bit-lets and make them into something larger?

So, after each head of cauliflower is cut in my kitchen, I add more and more of the bit-lets to the growing bag in my freezer.  Use the bits in stir-frys, home-made soup stocks, sauces, mixed into a different veggie plate to add color.  Or maybe get creative and mix them into hummus or black bean dip to create a textured dip with baby cauliflower bit-lets?  

The possibilities are endless.  Use your imagination!  Now, here are some nutrition facts about cauliflower.  It boasts some great stats!  And I will post my recipe for Pureed Cauliflower [coming soon].

1 cup (100g) - raw cauliflower:
25 calories
0 g fat
0 g cholesterol
30 mg sodium
Total carbohydrates 5 g
      Dietary fiber 3 g
Protein 2 g

Amounts Per Selected Serving (% DV)
Vitamin C - 46.4 mg (77%)
Vitamin K -16.0 mcg (20%)
Vitamin B6 - 0.2 mg (11%)
Folate - 57.0 mcg (14%)
Calcium - 22.0 mg (2%)
Iron - 0.4 mg (2%)
Potassium - 303 mg (9%)
Manganese - 0.2 mg (8%)

Monday, July 8, 2013

TTT: Fab 5 Products for Endurance Athletes

Hello Tartlets! 

As I was riding my bike last week on a glorious Southern Californian day and loving my nutrition of choice, I thought I would give you my Fab 5 list of products that I like to train with for triathlon and marathons.  I'll explain why I like these products from a preference and formulation standpoint.

1. PowerGel (by PowerBar)
In my opinion, hands-down the best gel on the market.  They are thin (not thick and goopy like some brands you might be familiar with), have 4-5x the amount of sodium compared to every other gel I've seen (~200 mg), and they taste good.  I like vanilla for the run (no caffeine).  I can do Double Latte on the bike (caffeinated).  I'm intrigued by the new Orange Dream flavor.  And YES, PowerBar... I am still crying over the loss of the Caramel flavor, 4 years after its discontinuation.  Please bring it back!

2. Infinit Nutrition (Custom Formulation) / Hammer Nutrition (Sustained Energy or Perpeteum)
All my nutrition for a 4 hour bike ride.
I blogged and gave you vague information on my experiment of n=1 on June 5.  I have not yet raced with my Infinit custom formulation and I will let you know after I race Ironman Calgary 70.3 on July 28, 2013 whether this nutrition worked for me in a race situation.  So far, I can say that I love, love, LOVE racing with only liquid nutrition.  I no longer worry about gels, bars, what fits into your pockets or Bento box and what doesn't, ripping open a wrapper without getting distracted while on the bike, fumbling in pockets, Special Needs nonsense, littering the race course or roads, etc.  How about 3 bottles and a Ziploc of 330 calories?  Genius.

Personally, I absolutely need protein nutrition during prolonged exercise - carbs alone simply does not work.  After 1.5-2 hours of endurance exercise, protein should be incorporated into your nutrition plan (I'll talk more about this later).  Now the question about protein type - which to use?  The jury is out, but it appears that soy protein during exercise may be the better suited protein.  Whey is superior for recovery.  Infinit recommends whey, but I ordered both whey and soy formulations.  I am currently on my soy protein formulation and that is what I will race with in Calgary.  Soy has less potential to form ammonia which leads to muscle fatigue.  It also mops up free radicals, has great acid buffering capabilities, and has a large number of branched-chain amino acids, making it easily converted to energy.  There are more benefits to soy, but this is the short list.

Before I order more Infinit, I'm going to try Hammer's Perpeteum or Sustained Energy (I'm still deciding which is best for me).  They use non-GMO (genetically modified organism) soy.  This is HUGE in my book.  I avoid GMO products at all costs.  I'll get back to you as I work out my nutrition this year.  I had a very difficult time eating on the bike during Ironman Arizona last year, so liquid nutrition is my solution.  Now I have to narrow down the best Trim Tart product.  Would anyone like to weigh in here?  Please give me your feedback/suggestions!

Margarita3. CLIF - Shot Bloks
For my shorter rides, I do love me a CLIF Shot Blok.  The Margarita flavor is my favorite; you either love it, or think I'm disgusting.  All other flavors are pretty delicious, too.  For the milder palate, the Black Cherry, Cran-Razz, Citrus and Orange are great options!

CLIF Bar and Company is an inspirational enterprise, focused on organic ingredients and sustainable business practices.  The majority of their ingredients are organic, and they use non-GMO products.  Philosophically, I am very happy to support CLIF and will go out of my way to do so.

4. Bonk Breaker and CLIF Mojo Bars
FigHoney Roasted PeanutI have a strong dislike of most bars.  As I mentioned here last month, I would much prefer a savory buffet on long bike rides (unfortunately, this is impractical for the endurance athlete.)  It is here that you and I can blame my mother.  She was always cooking and baking so I grew up on real food, all the time, and never anything overly sweet.  Never a bar to be found in our house.  I find many bars far too sweet, strangely textured, and the flavors wear on my tastebuds very quickly.  However, there are a couple bars on the market that I do like.  CLIF makes a great Mojo Bar, and Bonk Breaker bars are also excellent on long bike rides.  Flavors are good; Bonk Breakers are gluten- and dairy-free.  My favs: Bonk Breaker Fig, PB&J - for the bike.  CLIF MOJO - can't decide!  I like them all.  Mojos are great as a snack or after exercise.

5. PowerBar Ironman Recovery
I like Ironman Recovery after a hard 6-hour bike ride.  It contains a blend of maltodextrin, dextrose and fructose, with whey protein that's great for recovery.  It would be nice if this drink included additional sources of amino acids to aid in muscle recovery, but this drink works well from a user perspective, - I like the flavor and it satiates the crazed hunger I feel after long Ironman-effort bike rides during training.  Whatever recovery drink you choose, look for a 4:1 or 3:1 carbohydrate: protein ratio.

Here's another notable recovery drink - plain, old chocolate milk.  Admittedly, I don't drink cow's milk any more but this natural source of proteins mixed with simple sugars in the chocolate make recovery as simple and delicious as when you were a kid.  Whey is optimal for short- to medium-term muscle recovery, while casein has delayed protein absorption into damaged muscles as they repair over the course of a day and overnight.  If you drink milk, this really is nature's recovery drink.

What else, Tartlets?  Post on your favs, or email me at!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quick! Afternoon snack needed STAT!

I was in need of a mid-morning, filling, low-calorie snack today.  This also works so well in the afternoon, around that 3 PM lull.

Quick Yogurt Pick-Me-Up

  • 1/2 Cup any Yogurt (Greek/almond/coconut/soy)
  • 1/4 C fruit (organic strawberries and blueberries are absolutely GLORIOUS this week)
  • 1 Tbsp honey, agave, Stevia to sweeten (if desired)
  • 0.5 - 1.5 tsp nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, walnuts, etc)
This quick power snack will range from 90-190 calories depending on what you choose for the amounts listed above.  This is a great pick-me-up with a combination of simple carbohydrates, protein, and fats.  Pumpkin seeds offer Vitamin A, Calcium, Iron. Sesame seeds offer Vitamin A, folate, niacin.  Walnuts, Mother Nature's Little Secret (and my favorite nut, hands-down!), boast high protein, Vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, niacin, choline and are very high in folate.

Opinion: I prefer staying away from flavored or "pre-fruited" yogurts.  They're usually loaded with extra and totally unnecessary preservatives, color additives, sugar and other random ingredients.  Just do me a flavor (and a favor!) and buy plain.  Add you own goodness.

Calorie breakdown (based on above quantities)
  • Greek yogurt = 65 cals
  • Coconut yogurt = 104 cals
  • pumpkin seeds = 12.5 cals
  • sesame seeds (1/2 tsp) = 13 cals
  • honey/agave = 60 cals
  • Stevia = 0 cals
  • strawberries = 12.5 cals
  • raspberries, blackberries, peaches = 15-16 cals