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Blogging has become a luxury as I approach my first round of exams, but I need a break from the skeletal and muscle systems! The 4th floor graduate study rooms in Bobst have practically become my second home. I’d take a photo but this pretty much sums it up: a table, two chairs, three blank walls (no padding), and a door. Try spending 8-10 straight hours in one of these things for several days – then you’ll know how I’m feeling right about now. At least they’re quiet and great for studying (unlike my apartment).

Also, I can get boxes of cupcakes delivered here, as I found out on Friday! E had arranged for a box of 25 mini cupcakes from Baked by Melissa to be sent to me on Valentine’s Day, but I was – of course – at the library all day and night, and also during the rest of the week. Thankfully, they finally found me on campus and I received my goodies at the library entrance. It definitely brightened up my afternoon – they were so adorable and came in such unusual flavors!

  

Ironically, I was reading about carbohydrates and lipids for my Nutrition & Health class as I proceeded to stuff my face with these little, yet lethal morsels. So wrong, yet so delicious. I ate about half the box and felt a bit guilty but okay, and shoved the rest as far away from me as I could (which was about two feet towards the other wall). But who was I kidding? By 10pm, ALL 25 of those things were GONE. It wasn’t my proudest moment, I must say, and my stomach was not happy with me.

Lesson learned – never get a box of cupcakes delivered to your jail cell library study room, particularly when you’re stressed, tired and don’t have much self control at the best of times! But hey, I was just following orders on the t-shirt E sent with the cupcakes.

I suppose tasting and gorging yourself aren’t exactly the same thing, though…

This week has been a perfect example of what grad school – as well as my NYC half training – has been like recently. Constant ups and downs. I am loving this program and so many amazing things have been happening – equally, I don’t think I’ve been this stressed out or exhausted in a very long time.

Let’s start with the positives – I got an internship! A couple weeks ago, I applied for my first nutrition-related position, since I need to begin building my resume for my dietetic internship application. I started on Friday morning at Physical Equilibrium, a small nutrition and fitness boutique in NYC, with a great RD and I’m beyond excited. The woman I’ll be working with is an ideal mentor for me at this stage of my education – she received her personal training and triathlon coaching certifications before attending NYU’s Master’s program in Clinical Nutrition, then worked in a hospital for several years and gradually transitioned into full time private practice. She splits her time between personal training and nutrition counseling.

The opportunity is a great fit for me as a future RD, while also allowing me to contribute and further develop my coaching, writing and marketing skills. I’ll be doing a wide variety of tasks relating to the private practice – some marketing/PR related, and some more nutrition/researched focused. I’ll gain tons of exposure to running a small business while learning from her diverse nutrition and fitness experience. It will be a wonderful introduction to both industries – it will also give me a sneak peak into what I ultimately hope to do before I begin my clinical training.

This past week’s lab was also quite fun. The basic set up is that we arrive in our uniforms (chef’s coat etc), our teacher talks to us for a bit about what we’re doing that day, we spend the bulk of class cooking a variety of things (each team makes something different) and then we taste and discuss as a group before cleaning up. It’s a bit crazy trying to find everything in the kitchen and finish everything in time before presenting to the class (it really is like those cooking shows), but I love it, especially since my team includes two of my closer friends from my program.

  

We didn’t do any “real” cooking last class – we conducted a few experiments (like adding vinegar and baking soda to two pots of cabbage to see the effects of adding acidic and alkaline substances to different vegetables), practiced basic cooking methods (we had to steam, roast, grill, broil, sweat etc a variety of vegetables), and made applesauce (each team had a different type of apple so we could compare flavors during our tasting). We also learned knife skills – I definitely need to practice my new technique. It’s a bit tricky if you’re not used to it! Next week the real cooking will begin! I can’t wait.

As for the downs…well, I’ve really been a bit all over the place this week. Some days I feel great, others not so much – and that goes for my training as well as my emotions, which for you runners out there know are often linked! School is stressful even when my body is feeling great, so without that exercise outlet, I really struggle. Plus, I was really hoping to do well in the NYC half, and it upsets me that I’ve missed so many important workouts – mainly my speed work, but overall mileage has been very low.

My hamstring, which started to trouble me after I got back from London, was still not feeling well even after several days of rest. I finally dragged myself to a PT on Tuesday and again on Thursday, started to do various exercises she recommended and didn’t run or cross train for several days. Meanwhile, I was spending hours on end sitting in the library, walking less (I have discovered the NYU bus, so it’s a bit easier to be lazy) and not sleeping well, which surely didn’t help things. I finally did a short run on Friday, which felt okay but afterwards I didn’t feel great, I rested yesterday (went for a nice walk along the river) and ran 9 relatively pain free miles today at 8:46 average pace. Here are a couple of photos from my walk – it was such a beautiful night! On a side note, I discovered the voice memo feature on my ipod nano – I created my own physiology “podcasts” by reading my notes aloud for each chapter, so I can listen to them as I walk, run or cook. Pretty handy!

 

My legs are definitely better but I still don’t feel quite right. My energy levels are lower than ideal and my muscles are tight, despite tons of stretching and foam rolling. I’m sure stress is part of it. I’m getting a 75-minute sports massage tomorrow so I’m hoping that will help. I never go this long without sports massage, but as a student in NYC, it’s definitely not something I can afford to do even on a semi-regular basis. But desperate times call for desperate measures!

The half marathon is in a month. I haven’t given up entirely on my hopes for doing well, but I’m realizing that now may not be the best time to put pressure on myself. Clearly my body is sending me a message, and I need to listen. Perhaps I just need to adjust my definition of “doing well.” Either way, school, and my health, must come first. Hopefully by the time Chicago rolls around, I will have managed to find a better balance in my schedule. I keep forgetting that I’ve only been in this program for a month – it feels like so much longer!

At the end of the day, this is what’s important: I am exactly where I want to be. Even in that tenth hour of studying, when I’m burnt out and ready to butt my head against that unpadded wall because I’m convinced I’m going to fail my physiology exam – I never doubt the decision I made to become an RD. I didn’t expect this path to be an easy one, which doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally envy some of my working friends, with their paychecks and social lives, but I know all the pain and joy I’m experiencing right now is part of my chosen adventure.

So let the fun continue – back to learning the muscle system and banging my head against that wall…

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Happy Sunday! Just wanted to take a break from my books to fill you in on some of the random things I’ve been up to this weekend. Strange title – yes – but don’t worry, all those things didn’t happen at once!

Let’s start with sharp knives. One of the things my lab professor said in class last week is that a sharp knife makes all the difference in cooking. So. True. I have this beautiful Global chopping knife (much higher quality than my new chef’s knife) that I received as a gift many many years ago, and I let it go unsharpened for far too long, to the point that it’s been pretty useless for awhile now. I finally brought it in to Broadway Panhandler on Friday to be sharpened (it’s recommended that you get your knives sharpened once per year) and prepared a salad with it that evening. It’s amazing how much easier prep is when you are armed with the proper tools! So get your knives sharpened, folks. It only cost $5 for my mid-size knife and was worth every penny.

   

As discussed in my last post on basic cooking methods, I recently learned how to properly sear chicken breasts (among other things) and finally got a chance to test my new skills. I got the oil nice and hot and added some rosemary and garlic cloves to the pan. I seasoned the presentation sides of the breasts (the smooth side, where the skin used to be) with salt and then placed the breasts presentation side down in the pan, since the first side to be seared gets the best golden coloring. I made sure they were not touching, since this interferes with browning. I seasoned the top side and walked away, letting them cook for five minutes or so. As they were finishing up, I basted the top side with the hot infused oil, to start the cooking process before turning them over and letting them sear on the other side. Because I didn’t pound the meat to even out the thickness, I had to turn the breasts on their sides a few times once both sides were seared to make sure the meat cooked evenly. When they seemed done, I inserted my thermometer (first time using it!) in the side to check the internal temperature, which confirmed they were ready. And voila – delicious, moist, seared chicken breasts! Such an improvement on how I used to cook them. I ate one with kale and sweet potato after my 13.5M long run in Central Park – a very nutrient dense and tasty meal!

My run wasn’t quite so successful. It was okay and I enjoyed catching up with my running buddy, but my right hamstring has been bothering me this week (hence the two cancelled runs) and halfway through my long run my LEFT hip started to feel tight too. My left side never gives me trouble! So I’m resting today and seeing a physical therapist on Tuesday morning. I’m sure it’s just a question of not stretching enough, and most likely getting a little carried away with my track workouts. I also am doing a fair amount of brisk walking to and from campus, often with a heavy backpack, and not sleeping enough, so that may explain why my body isn’t too happy with me! Hopefully a week of taking it easy and some targeted stretching and strength training will do the trick. I want to make sure I’m in good shape for the NYC Half!

Moving onto flashbacks – check out this photo that my mom sent me yesterday! That’s me on the right, age 15 (that’s 15 years ago!), after one of my high-school cross-country races in California. So crazy – I don’t think I’ve ever seen this photo before. It’s not a great photo, but I wanted to post it because that was the year I started to run! Apparently my parents have a few more photos from my first year on the cross-country team – can’t wait to see them.

  

Fast forward back to this weekend in NYC – it’s fashion week, as some of you may know. One of my good friends from college is a designer at Tibi, and invited me to her show yesterday. I’ve been dying to see her designs on the stage for years now, and have never been involved in NYC fashion week, so I was really excited. What a different scene than I’m used to – my first thought when I walked into the main entrance was, “Whoa, this definitely is NOT a marathon expo!” It had the crowds and the same kind of buzz in the room, but obviously it was as opposite as you could get! I got slightly dressed up and I *think* I managed to kind of blend in, but I felt a bit out of place. I don’t think I’ve worn anything but running gear, pajamas, jeans and sneakers since school started! I had a great time though – my friend is SO incredibly talented, and it was really fun people watching. I recognized a couple semi-famous people, and had some good laughs from the crazy outfits I saw. Nice to get a glimpse into someone else’s world for a couple of hours! I got to go backstage afterwards too, which was pretty cool.

   

I just want to make one comment about the models, since this is a blog about health, nutrition and fitness. I of course expected them to be extremely thin, but in person they somehow looked even thinner than I had imagined they would be. I know this is the norm and it’s also an ongoing problem/debate in fashion, but it made me sad to see just how malnourished they looked. Whether it was their natural body type (they all looked very young) or they were actually anorexic, or a bit of both, I’m not sure. The clothes certainly were beautiful – but it’s hard for me to see how a young woman who is THAT skinny can be considered attractive. Or let’s put beauty aside – because the real focus is the clothing – I don’t really understand how that body type is a desirable vehicle for the clothing. Does it hang better? I definitely do not claim to know very much about the fashion world – and I’m sure designers carefully select their models for specific reasons – but as an outsider, athlete and nutrition student, those are my two cents…

All I know is that I’d be one sad woman without things like this delicious pizza that I just made!

  

This was perhaps the best pizza I’ve made to date. I used a few different ingredients than last time – in addition to red, yellow and orange bell pepper, shallots, garlic, baby bella mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, I also used zucchini (regular rather than baby), sun blushed tomatoes (my favorite kind from London), and kale. I also tried putting the shredded mozzarella beneath the vegetable toppings (last time I did the reverse) and sprinkled feta on top. I think this definitely worked better. I also cooked all the different vegetable toppings separately before adding to the pizza rather than sautéing them all together, to ensure each was cooked optimally (this was suggested by my cooking textbook). I ate half the pizza, which is probably overkill given I haven’t moved all day, but it was just so delicious. Glad I ran long yesterday! At least it’s whole wheat, the shredded cheese was part-skim and all the toppings were very nutritious.

Time to get back to my books – it never ends!

Sometimes you need to take a few steps back in order to move forward. This is true whether you’re talking about working on form to improve running economy; practicing long tones to become a better oboist; taking undergrad classes to pursue a Master’s; or getting back to basics in the kitchen to become a more advanced chef! Clearly these are all examples from my own life…

So what’s the first step? Dressing the part, of course! I always feel like I run faster when I’m wearing a kick-ass, high-tech outfit, so obviously I had to get a chef’s coat and some essential chef’s tools to support my future success in the kitchen! Granted, I didn’t have a choice – my Intro to Food & Food Science lab required that I buy these things – but I was happy to do so. I love my new outfit – not the highest quality coat, and certainly not the best knife (the insane amount I already spent on textbooks for the semester forced me to keep my budget low), but they will do for now. Not a bad look, right?!

 

In yesterday’s lab, my professor (who is awesome) did a series of demos on various measuring techniques, kitchen tools and cooking methods. We don’t begin cooking until next week (I can’t wait!). She demonstrated how to fluff and measure flour; sauté pieces of chicken; sear a chicken breast; bread and pan-fry a fillet of fish; poach an egg; blanch and shock broccoli; roast zucchini; sweat onions…and much more.

All sounds pretty straightforward and obvious, right? I thought so too, until class started.

As familiar as I am with cooking methods from eating out in restaurants, reading recipes and attempting to teach myself to cook over the last eight years or so, this class was a bit of an eye opener for me. I can make beautiful salads and cook delicious things, but I’m still a rookie when it comes to many of the basics. This is as much due to ignorance as it is to laziness. As a home chef, I often try to make my food look pretty, but I have never thought about searing a specific side (the “presentation side”) of a chicken breast first, for example. I usually use a knife (rather than a thermometer) to make sure something is cooked thoroughly. And speaking of knifes, my knife skills aren’t great (that’s on the agenda for next week’s class). The multiple scars I have on the tips of my thumbs are proof that I need to improve!

Here are a few examples of what I learned yesterday:

  • I’ve always used the terms pan fry and sauté interchangeably – I didn’t realize that there is a subtle difference between these two dry cooking methods, or if I did I never bothered to find out what it was. Of course, it seems so obvious now – I mean, I studied French…
  • I didn’t know that overcrowding my pan while I was sauteing something might have a greater effect on my finished product than simply taking a bit longer to cook (it essentially turns a dry method of cooking into a moist one – with chicken, you don’t get as much of that nice brown color and the meat becomes dry)
  • I understood the concept of searing, but I didn’t really know how to properly do it myself, or that you could turn the crispy leftover bits (the fond) into a sauce
  • I’ve eaten many delicious braised meats and vegetables, but I’ve never braised anything in my kitchen and didn’t know how something is braised (it’s a combo method – first dry, then moist)
  • When breading something, I didn’t know you put flour on the product first before the egg wash and bread crumbs, meal etc (probably because I don’t usually bread and shallow fry stuff – I prefer healthier cooking methods)
  • I’ve attempted to poach an egg a few times, but I think I used boiling rather than simmering water and it was a slight disaster. Once I bought my silicon egg poachers, I never tried again
  • I’ve blanched vegetables before but not exactly as it should be done (30 seconds). I knew that carry-over cooking occurs, but never actually set up an ice bath to shock my vegetables (although I have run them under the tap before).
  • I observed that blanching enhances the color of green vegetables, but never stopped to think about why that occurs (blanching causes the air to bubble away so that it no longer clouds the chlorophyll pigment that is responsible for the green color of plants)
  • I use my microwave to cook vegetables more often than I should – that I already knew though…I really should be blanching and shocking my veg for stir fries and crudites, for example
  • I’ve been measuring flour completely wrong – I’ve been packing it rather than fluffing and pouring it.

Those are just some of the things I realized in class yesterday!

I love to cook – and I like to think that I make food that both tastes and looks good – but when I’m not using a recipe, I’m often just throwing things together. I’m not really thinking about the science or the method behind what I’m doing, and I use a lot of short cuts, which ultimately means that my food may not taste or look as great as it could. Have I ever perfectly seared a chicken breast? Definitely not. But now I know how to do so! Actually, there are two chicken breasts sitting in my fridge, and I am going to put my new knowledge into action! Or at least I’ll try – and try again until I get it right. That’s all you can do, anyhow.

So why am I babbling about cooking methods? Well, perhaps you might be interested in learning a few cooking basics with me this semester! Primarily, however, I want to stress the importance of slowing down for a moment in whatever you do, either professionally or for fun, once in awhile. Whether it’s running, cooking, playing an instrument or something else – take a step back and evaluate your basic technique – the foundation of your strength and success. You may think you know it all – but my guess is that there is at least a little room for improvement.

I was hoping my Week 4 Portland marathon update would include some more positive news on the progress I’ve made, but unfortunately, I’m still not feeling 100 percent.

It’s such a pain in the you know what!!

(My right hip, mostly.)

But I’m a huge pain too. I can be so stubborn and impatient sometimes (okay, more than sometimes…).

It’s not like I didn’t try to get better – I rested last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, got a sports massage, used ibuprofen gel three times a day on the sore spots and also iced these areas regularly…and then I had a great 10M training race on Sunday! I of course knew better, but somehow got it into my head that if I rested for three days, everything would be fine. Call me optimistic! 🙂

Come Monday morning, I did feel slightly better, but I should have avoided running until the pain went away completely. Instead, I convinced myself that I was recovered enough to get back on this week’s schedule: Monday easy run, Tuesday spin class, Wednesday threshold intervals, Thursday yoga…nothing terribly hard, clearly, but certainly not conducive to making a nagging pain go away!

It was Wednesday’s intervals (3 x 7min @ tempo pace/7:24) that confirmed the fact that I was deluding myself. Going into it I felt a bit tight in places but otherwise fine. I paid particularly close attention to my technique, hoping that this would ease some of the pressure off my hip. It did help, but as the run progressed, my body gradually started to feel more and more out of sync. Afterwards, the pain was, as you can guess, worse.

In other words, I did the EXACT same thing I did last Wednesday – I hopped on the treadmill knowing I should be on the elliptical or resting instead, and finally acknowledged this fact after finishing my run feeling somewhat broken. Amazing.

I’m eager to get to the meatier part of my training schedule, which should be right around now. But I have to keep reminding myself, as I did earlier in the year in this post, that rest is part of training. And it doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing – I can still do low-impact cardio, yoga, and upper body weights, assuming that doesn’t aggravate things.

Or, as I did last night, I can throw myself into my cooking! It surely won’t help my running fitness, but I’ve discovered that cooking (particularly when trying new things) has both a calming and uplifting effect on me, much like an easy run does. It was a nice reminder that there are so many things I enjoy doing beyond running! Having to take a short break isn’t the end of the world. And it results in delicious things like this roasted red pepper sauce. And this delicious oatmeal with cherries (okay, not quite cooking, but still super tasty and a nice change from my usual banana version). YUM.

Speaking of cherries, it’s cherry season! I not only love cherries, but the antioxidants in this fruit apparently help reduce muscle soreness – and I’m big on that right now, clearly – so I’ll be trying out some more cherry recipes in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

So, what’s the plan for the rest of week 4? Even though I’ve only logged 11.5M so far this week, my voice of reason is telling me to stop there. I have my usual rest day scheduled for tomorrow, and I’ll scrap Saturday’s hill intervals and most likely Sunday’s long run (13M) too. Maybe I’ll do some light cross training – I’ll have to play it by ear. Because I think I’ve learned my lesson – I MUST listen to my body. I say that all the time, but I don’t always do it. My hip just needs time to heal, and I can’t rush the process.

In the meantime, I’ve printed out a massive stack of NY Times Recipes for Health that I’ve been meaning to try…time to get busy in the kitchen!!

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

My latest photos

Grateful for quality time this week with my little pumpkin! 🎃😍 Happy Monday from California! I haven’t posted any running pics for a long time as I’ve been dealing with a hip injury for the last few months (and zero running for the last 5 weeks). 😓 I haven’t run a race, even a short one, in over a year - so different than how I imagined my postpartum running life to be. It makes me sad that I can’t run especially while in Santa Cruz, but I’m trying to stay active in different ways, be diligent about my PT, and remain positive even though the road to recovery feels endless at times. Yesterday, E and I went on a beautiful beach walk in the morning and then I did a hike with a friend and our babes in the afternoon, where I normally run in Nisene. I miss running but hopefully will get back to it soon, stronger than before! Baking “for the baby” tonight (so I say as I gobble up these delicious treats). Made mini pumpkin muffins (and a few mama sized ones), recipe adapted from @babyfoode. So easy to make - I added full fat Greek yogurt and almond butter to include some healthy fats. I think Arielle will love these - if for some crazy reason she doesn’t, more for me!! 😂 Nice work on tonight’s dinner, @trailz.io!! So good I’m going back for seconds. Veg bake with layers of eggplant, red onions, tomatoes, zucchini, ricotta, breadcrumbs, & spices with arugula on top. 👌🏻 Surprise package in the mail today! Thx @rxbar - stoked to try out the new gingerbread flavor. Speaking of, how on earth is it already the holiday season?!?! #rxbar Love @siggisdairy triple cream yogurts - perfect to satisfy a craving for something sweet and indulgent while providing 9g protein, relatively few calories (170), and calcium. The chocolate flavor was so delicious! #dailysiggis

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