Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Acai Berry Bowl

Jamba Juice is catching on to the newest craze.  Smoothie Bowls.  They call them Energy Bowls.

Jamba Juice Acai Bliss Energy Bowl

I get the Jamba Juice promotions via email.  Last week I had a coupon for 50% off an Energy Bowl.  They retail for $5 (yikes!) so I was happy to give it a try at 50% off.  It was good. Not like my previous experience with smoothie bowls.

A few months ago I tried to make one at home, inspired by this cool food blog Green Kitchen Stories.  Eh..... I didn't see what the fuss was about. Its basically a thick smoothie in a bowl.  It seemed weird to consume a "smoothie" like cold soup when I'm accustomed to drinking it out of a cup with a straw (here's where my husband give me a figurative wrist slap for polluting the planet by using straws).

But now smoothie bowls are picking up steam and I think its time to revisit this.

Acai (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee) is a berry found in South American Rainforests and, according to what I've read, is packed full of anti-oxidants and other healthy stuff.  We can't just get a carton of it as if they were blueberries. A company called Sambazon (SAM-ba-zon) purees it and sells it in frozen, unsweetened packs or as part of pre-made smoothies and other products.   The smoothie packs aren't cheap. $6 for a pack of 4 - 4.5 oz packs.  Find them in freezer section at your local health food store, co-op or Whole Foods.

Yesterday I was starving. I needed a snack.  So I thought I'd give the smoothie bowl another try.

My Acai Bliss Smoothie Bowl

Oh man, it was good. I felt spoiled.  Like I was back in California or Europe.  The added chunks of fruit and muesli make the difference. Without them it would still be just a plain old smoothie in a bowl.  No big whup. Here's what I did.

Acai Smoothie Bowl (makes 2)

1 pack of Sambazon Acai Berry (unsweetened)
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 C- 3/4 C frozen mixed berries
1/4 C (approx) organic apple juice

Combine the ingredients above in a blender until smooth. Pour into bowls.  Top with sliced bananas, blueberries, strawberries, muesli, nuts and a sprinkle of hemp seed.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Product Review: Energy Bars

As my miles have increased during my training program, I needed to find mid-run fuel.  Running 14 miles is pretty challenging for most of us, and our bodies need calories to burn so we can complete the run.

Its not easy to eat and run at the same time.  Its learned.  Small bites.  Something that is easy on the stomach.  But it has to be something that can sustain you.

I REALLY don't like energy gels.  Too sweet.  I just can't swallow them.  Shot Blocks are too soft.  Honey Stingers are okay, but a few of those only sustain me for 2 miles at a time.   At least they are organic, so they have that going for them.

But my bigger issue with food for runners is that its not real food.  I want the good stuff. I'm running to make my body healthy, but feeding it lab-created "ingredients" with 13 syllables is not helping my mission of caring for and rewarding the body I have.

Earlier this spring, when I was preparing for my marathon clinic I bumped into Vega Sport.  A socially responsible, environmentally and animal-friendly company from Canada.   This company creates foods for athletes that are vegan, gluten-free and free of junk.

They got my attention when I first saw the bars at the food co-op in Stillwater.  I ordered their trial pack and was excited to get a bunch of different stuff.  Some of it I liked, some of it I didn't.

My favorite and probably the most effective product from that trial pack was the endurance bars.   They are part of their "Sustain" line of products. Vega Sport products have 3 parts "Prepare" "Sustain" and "Recover".  I've tried them all, but I will talk about the Endurance bars here since they are the ones I rely on the most.

This product bar far has been the most effective fuel I've tried on my long runs.  Each bar basically gives me about 8 miles of running fuel. I predict I will need to carry 3 of these on my marathon to get me through.  The chocolate ones do get a little soft and melty when they are warm, but they are not gooey and unmanageable to eat out of the wrapper.   I've found these easy for my stomach to tolerate while running. I've never felt like puking after eating one.  Even after eating these all summer on long runs I still get a little bit of weird sensation in my tummy when I first swallow a bite, but it goes away fast.

I don't feel an immediate spike or burst in energy when eating these, but more of a sustained energy release. Which for me is great. I don't want to pop sugar to keep my energy up.  I want my body to process its food like it should and convert it to energy over the long haul.   I feel better during my runs and I don't feel hungry.

Find these bars at Whole Foods, local food co-ops or health food grocers. I buy them by the case from amazon.com.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Buckwheat Porridge

I've been running for about 20 years now and until recently (the last year or two), I've really only run as far as a 10k.  I love running. Its a great sport.  I don't mean I like it because I can be "free" when I run. Thats all just mumbo-jumbo to me.  I run because I enjoy the challenge of it: going farther, increasing my speed, making it up the hill. I enjoy observing the changes to my abilities the longer I practice.

Runners (and all athletes for that matter) need to carefully monitor their diets to ensure they are getting appropriate amounts of carbs and protein to fuel and recover from their run.

Ask any random person on the street and they will tell you to get your protein from meat.  But meat isn't the only source out there.  It bothers me that most people think meat is the only source of protein out there.  I want to change that.  Yes dairy has some protein as well, but plants are so underrated as protein sources.  Yes, thats right.  Plain old, sustainable, easy to digest and low calorie plants. And many are complete proteins, which means they have all the essential amino acids required for your body to convert the protein into something it can use.

I try to make breakfast my biggest meal of the day, which I know goes against what we are all taught throughout our lives, when dinner is supposed to be the biggest meal of the day. But after fasting for 8-9 hours (yes I sleep that much per night), my body needs food.  This, admittedly is a struggle for me and I'm not a morning person by nature, so I stumble around for a good 30 minutes after waking up and I'm not ready to eat right away.  But I run in the morning too, so I want to make sure my body has calories to burn on my run.  Training myself to eat early in the morning has been difficult.  Night-owls and morning people are hard wired differently and trying to alter a routine to something my body does not want takes a lot of practice and time.

So I usually eat foods for breakfast that are light on my stomach. But a bowl of cheerios isn't going to cut it when I head out for a 14 mile run.  Its just not enough to sustain me.

My all time favorite breakfast fuel for runs is the Overnight Oats.  But I do shake things up every now and again with some Buckwheat Porridge.  The recipe below is a product of some trial and error. I wanted a simple recipe that I could whip up fast, dirtying as little equipment as possible and will keep several days in the fridge.  I found several recipes online and tried them and experimented until I came up with this one.

Buckwheat is one of the complete plant proteins I mentioned earlier.  Make sure you use buckwheat groats for this recipe and start it the night before (find it at Whole Foods or the food co-op in the bulk section).  Kasha is a type of buckwheat, but it has been toasted and is not the same product as groats.

Buckwheat Porridge

1/2 C Buckwheat Groats, soaked overnight in water
1/4 C Rice Milk
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 C currants, raisins or other dried fruits
walnuts, almonds, pecans for garnish

Soak groats overnight in 1 C water.  The morning of your run, rinse the groats thoroughly in cold water. They will be slimy initially - this is normal. Just rinse them until they are not slimy anymore - just about a minute.

Combine groats, milk and cinnamon in a food processor and process until combined - a minute  or so. It won't be perfectly smooth, but should be the consistency of oatmeal.  Stir in dried fruits and nuts or garnish with muesli.  Eat it cold or warm.

Just a note - if you are not vegan, and would like to try this you can certainly use dairy milk or whatever milk you prefer.  I have not tried it with dairy milk, but I see no reason it wouldn't work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spicy Guacamame!!!

Just a quick product review. I have heard of hummus made with edamame instead of chick peas, but it didn't sound all that great, so I kinda poo-poo'd the idea.

Then I was in Trader Joes with the boys and they were sampling it. They call theirs Guacamame. Much better marketing I think.

It was awesome!  My eldest said he liked it when he tried it in the store, but even though I didn't think it was too spicy, if may have been too spicy for his taste.

But fair warning: If you like guacamole like I do, it's not the same. But the big benefit is two-fold. One, It keeps much longer in the fridge and doesn't turn brown.  Two, its low-fat, low-cal and contains plenty of soy protein.

Always trying to find ways to make at home, what I can find in the store, I went on the hunt for a recipe and I found one on the Running on Real Food blog. But she called hers "hummus" and it wasn't exactly what I was looking for.  I couldn't get over the name, so I was inspired by her recipe to create what I wanted: My own version of the Trader Joe's Guacamame:


2 C edamame, cooked and shelled (just get a package of frozen edamame and thaw it)
1/4 C lime juice
1/4 t chili powder
1/4 C red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/4 C chopped red onion

Combine all ingredients except onion.  Process until smooth, then stir in onion.