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Yesterday, I posted a healthy pizza recipe, but perhaps you’re not a pizza fan, have a gluten allergy/intolerance or want a lower calorie option. So I bring you egg or breakfast “pizza” – essentially like a frittata, with all the delicious possibilities of “toppings,” but without all the carbs.

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I use a silicon round baking dish, spray with non-stick cooking spray or grease with a little olive oil, put whatever veggies/other ingredients I want to use in the dish (pictured above – layer of fresh spinach, chopped mushrooms, shredded tuscan kale, sliced cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, fresh dill), then pour in the eggs (today I used egg whites – it’s okay if the egg mixture is below the level of the veggies, just try to pour the egg evenly over the veggies so that they are coated), sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop in the oven (400 degrees F for ~20/25min, like with the pizza the center will take the longest to cook, should be firm but fluffy). Adjust the thickness/quantity of egg depending on if you’re cooking for 1 or 2 people.

Slice it up like a pizza and serve with a side of fruit salad for a nicely balanced breakfast (or lunch or dinner)! Each slice is also great topped with avocado slices and/or wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Great Sunday morning meal to fuel my mid-day run – thank goodness it’s finally “warmed up” today to slightly above freezing!

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It never ceases to amaze me how much better a great run can make me feel. I’m still only running three times a week, but man did I make those three runs count.

Monday was my usual 5-6M at an easy pace, this time including 1M at E’s tempo to make sure I could “feel” the right pace. I nailed it. I love my Monday morning runs – they always clear my head and help me focus. There’s way too much stuff buzzing around in there!

Wednesday’s tempo session of 6M, including 5 at E’s goal half marathon pace, was exactly what I needed to blow off some steam after a stressful start to the week. I hopped on the treadmill, turned up the music and banged it out. It felt good. Well, I still felt a few slight hamstring pangs every mile or so, which worries me given I haven’t done any speed work for two months aside from these slower-than-usual tempo runs (if I were training for my own race, I’d be running 7:30, not 8:20 min/mile), but so it goes. Five miles is the most I’ve done at E’s pace so I’m just trusting that I can carry on like that for another 8.1 next Saturday…

This morning’s 8.25M run at 8:36 average pace was relaxed and glorious. Slightly hot, yes, but my poor sun-deprived body from too many hours in the library really needed it. I felt pretty miserable when I got up this morning (too little sleep, too much stress) so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but everything clicked right into place as soon as I started my watch. Running really does make everything better! Now if only it would also make my last two finals go away…

I have Nutrition & Health on Monday afternoon, and Physiology (the one I REALLY need to study for this weekend) early Tuesday morning. Not thrilled that the final is at 8am, but I guess it will be nice to get it over with and have the whole day ahead of me to catch up on things like laundry (which I haven’t done in ages), cleaning etc.

More importantly, it will give me time to prepare for E’s visit! I haven’t seen him in two months and I can’t wait – he lands Tuesday evening, and even though I won’t get to see him that much between his work schedule and my trip to California, it’s better than nothing. I really hope we get good weather for the Brooklyn Half Marathon next weekend and that I am able to pace him to his goal. A part of me wonders if I’ve lost so much fitness since the NYC Half that I won’t be able to maintain 8:20 for 13.1M, but then I think back to what my usual pace is and I think I should be fine…it will just be slightly more challenging than usual. I’m extremely excited to run our first race together – even if we don’t succeed in reaching his goal, it will be a great experience.

 

My weekly post obviously wouldn’t be complete without a photo of what I’ve eaten lately, so here’s my current breakfast obsession – eggs in toast (or egg in a hole, egg in a basket, toad in a hole or whatever you want to call it). A friend gave me this idea when she posted this recipe, and reminded me that I hadn’t eaten this in years, and had never actually made it before. Easiest thing in the world. I didn’t follow the recipe – I simply cut out holes in my bread (and ate them, obviously), cracked the eggs into the holes, flipped them over and voila – awesome breakfast. So much more fun than putting a fried egg on top of the toast and it sliding around everywhere (although I do like piling on smoked salmon, avocado etc with a fried or poached egg on top). I used cooking spray rather than butter – I’m sure butter would’ve tasted great and I have tons left over from all my cooking exam practice, but after eating an entire pint of ice cream last night (the perils of final exams…) I figured I should show some restraint!

Time to get back to studying – I’ve done very well on my other three finals so I’m hoping I can maintain this momentum for the next three days. It really does feel like the end of a race though – it’s all about mental endurance. I feel burnt out from an intensive semester, but I haven’t worked this hard to slack off now. Three more days – and then a well-deserved break!

Enjoy the sunshine and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

I’m SO relieved it’s the weekend. This past week was more intense than usual – two final exams, a presentation, two quizzes, my last long run before the Brooklyn Half Marathon and a mountain of draining admin stuff to wrap it all up. Bleh. Now it’s Saturday night and I am feeling very content in my PJ’s, chilling out in front of the TV after cooking a really nice meal for myself. Ahhhhh. I have a lot of work to do before this semester is over – one final push from now until May 15th – but it feels good to put my feet up and relax for a bit first.

My exam on Monday, which was for my Food Science lecture, mostly covered baking. I think it went well, although there were a few tricky questions on there. I was more nervous for my Food Science cooking exam on Wednesday – hence the flurry of food photos over the last couple of weeks. The night before the exam, I basically just turned up some music and cooked for four hours. Not a bad way to study, I must say – particularly since I got to eat what I made!

Our exam included an improvised section in which each person got a protein, a grain and a vegetable. I never cook pork for myself, so I pan-seared some pork and had another go at making a sauce. This time I didn’t set off the fire alarm! I deglazed with white wine, used chicken stock and golden raisins. I also sauteed some kale and made brown rice pilaf style, which is a nice alternative to simply simmering rice, as I often do. You heat some olive oil, throw in some shallots (or onions) and let them cook for a minute, then add your rice and coat with oil. Pour in your chicken or vegetable stock, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook the rice as you normally would, until all the liquid is absorbed. I also practiced making other things, including a cornstarch slurry and a roux. Guess I should make a soup to put that roux to good use!

On exam day, we walked in and chose a station, which included a plate covered with a paper towel. It was stressful, particularly in the beginning as everyone was scrambling around, but I eventually got into a groove and actually started to enjoy myself (well, to an extent)! I did well with my knife skills (we had to dice, julienne, chop, slice and mince) and perfectly poached my egg (was slightly worried about that one). Most importantly, I finished my improvised plate on time and it came out great!

We each got a chicken breast, and I got Brussels sprouts and white rice. I knew exactly what I wanted to do – pan sear the chicken, roast the Brussels sprouts with pecans and cranberries, cook the rice pilaf style with shallots and chicken stock, and then spice up the dish with some roasted red pepper sauce. Timing was tough with the sauce, since it takes at least an hour to make and we only had 40 minutes, but thankfully I was able to start the roasting and other prep while doing my knife skills and techniques. This recipe from Martha Rose Shulman’s NY Times Recipes for Health series was my sauce inspiration – I had made it last year a couple times, and I remember it being sweet, spicy, colorful, and simply awesome. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any yellow pepper – it’s even better when you get both red and yellow. Either way, put it on anything and it tastes great! I loved it with goats cheese on bread or crackers, or on fish, or on chicken or…with a spoon.

I’m particularly grateful I made the sauce because for the first time ever I screwed up searing chicken – it was sticking to the pan and not breaking free when it should have, so I eventually had to pry it away to flip it before it burned and tore the meat. The sauce was the perfect cover up! I wish I had plated differently now that I look at it, but overall I was proud of my dish and my judges seemed impressed. My sauce – particularly the fact that I roasted the pepper – apparently won some points!

 

The best thing about cooking exam week is how much food I’ve had in my fridge – both leftovers and stuff I never got around to cooking. I used my leftover caramelized onions (I practiced sweating and caramelizing), mushrooms and kale to make a kick-ass omelet – with my brown rice on the side. And tonight, I continued my pan searing series and seared marinated tofu, served over broccoli, kale, mushrooms and sweet potato. I had been looking for recipe inspiration the night before my exam, to prepare myself for whichever protein, grain and vegetable I received. For tofu and veg, I visited my friend Kathy’s blog, as she has SO many incredible recipes with beautiful photos. You must try her seared maple tamari tofu – really delicious. I’m always lazy and buy the packaged marinated tofu – after tonight I’m going to try to not do that anymore.

As for running – yes, I realize that FFR has turned into more of an eating than a running blog lately – but I have been running too! I am still only training three times per week – easy, tempo and long – in order to let my hamstring heal as much as possible before I begin marathon training next month. It’s been frustrating – some weeks I feel strong, others not so much – but I know that’s the healing process, and I just have to let it run its course.

This week I reached 25M, which is the most I’ve done since the NYC half. I need to get myself up to a 30-35M base by mid-June, so I’m hoping that’s possible. I ran 5M at E’s tempo pace on Wednesday without difficulty (although with a few hamstring pangs in the beginning), but I seriously bonked on my long run. It wasn’t even that long – only 13.5M – but the humidity and the stress of the week really weighed me down. My legs felt like lead by mile 9 and my hamstring was okay but not feeling as great as it did the previous week. I’m thankful for my running buddy who kept me going in the last few miles – I would have finished had I been on my own, but it’s always nice to have support. I spent the rest of the day totally wiped out on my couch.

Friday’s weather made me realize just how much I’m dreading summer training, especially since Friday wasn’t even that bad. It was a bit warm and quite humid, but nothing close to true NYC summer weather. Don’t get me wrong – I’m extremely excited to train and to coach – but it will take some adjustment. I’m not used to training in that type of weather, nor am I used to marathon training with so little time to train. But I’ll make it work – I always do!

I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do for my training races. I was counting on the Bronx half on August 12th as my first training race, but they cancelled it, and I can’t seem to find any local replacements (understandably so – who on earth wants to race in East Coast August weather?!). I’m on the fence about September – the Philly half is a possibility, as is Chicago, but both options are somewhat pricey when you take everything into account. I’ll have to think it over and see if anything else pops up – I would hate not to have a dress rehearsal before marathon day!

Time to get back to vegging out. Counting down the days until I see E, run the Brooklyn Half and go home to California to see my family! I can’t wait.

Happy Sunday – I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine! Unfortunately, I’m stuck inside today studying for my written Food Science exam tomorrow (our cooking lab final exam is on Wednesday). As you can imagine, I’m seriously counting down the days until my last final on May 15th. I get an entire TWO weeks off from school (including a week in California to visit my family) before organic chemistry hell begins – so I’m very excited.

Over the course of the semester, I’ve noticed that I’ve left studying more and more to the last minute for each exam…kind of just started studying for this one yesterday…I’m sure it will be fine. Time to learn the fine art of cramming, given I have already mastered the art of procrastination. 🙂

Thankfully, I got to enjoy the slightly chilly but beautiful weather yesterday during my first long run outing to Prospect Park. I can’t believe it took me this long to run in Brooklyn! I wanted to check out the first 7M of the Brooklyn Half Marathon course and also just needed a break from Central Park. I am definitely going back – was a slightly longer journey but worth every extra minute. It was relatively quiet during our first few laps (my running buddy and I started nice and early), super green, had a different vibe that I liked and somehow the smaller loops made the miles go by quickly. I had feared doing four + loops would get really boring, but those 12 miles flew by! Maybe it was just the fact that we were in a new environment.

As for hills, I was trying to gauge if it was about the same as Central Park, so I could prepare E given he won’t have a chance to check out the course before May 19th. If you run counter-clockwise, there is one big hill that isn’t quite as steep as Harlem hill but it’s longer (about 0.4M). You run two loops, so you hit that hill twice. I think it probably ends up being about the same. I compared last week’s 11.25M Central Park run to yesterday’s 12M Prospect Park run – and they were both around 430ft elevation gain, and that was with us going out of our way to get more hills in yesterday (we did one loop in the opposite direction, which was a bit harder).

Lastly, I loved that we were able to end our run right at a farmer’s market. I always take the train back to Union Square after a Central Park run and get to hit the market there, but it’s not the same as finishing a run and immediately refueling with a coffee and some well-deserved goodies. It reminded me of being back in London and hitting Borough Market after a river run.

Wandering around farmer’s markets after a long run is dangerous though – I somehow managed to resist eating everything in sight, knowing I had another long day of cooking ahead of me. It hasn’t been the healthiest week, with bread and pastry classes as our last two labs, but it’s been fun! Here’s a shot of *some* of the baked goods we made (many were still in the oven when I took this, including my carrot-raisin muffins) – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many muffins, cookies and scones in one day. It’s a good thing I ran long on Saturday!

On Friday night, I did a huge shop at TJ’s to stock up on all kinds of things so that I could practice cooking for my Food Science final exam. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the show Chopped on the Food Network, but that’s essentially half of my exam. The first part is testing our knife skills, then the second part is testing us on three of the MANY techniques we’ve done, and lastly we get four secret ingredients and must turn it into a fabulous meal. Our professor, along with my Physiology professor, will serve as our panel of judges, walking around and tasting/critiquing everyone’s food. I’m surprisingly nervous – I love to cook, and I think I can make something good, but I am a relatively slow cook and I’m not a huge fan of the chaos in a busy kitchen. I would NOT survive as a professional chef, that’s for sure!

So, what have I practiced so far? On Thursday morning, I made poached eggs, which I placed on top of roasted sweet potato and onions. My eggs didn’t come out perfectly – I was using medium sized eggs so I didn’t have as much white as I would like – but I think I have the technique down. Friday night, I made quinoa, which was a bit challenging given I don’t have a lid for my pot, but a plate sufficed (kind of). I pan seared some chicken and attempted to make my first sauce – used white wine to deglaze and then added chicken stock. This is very simple, except that I was very tired after a long day (I had been up in the Bronx for a City Harvest training – which is going well btw!) and didn’t pour off the hot oil. So, of course I set off the smoke alarm and my sauce was a disaster. Thankfully, the chicken tasted great as did the roasted Brussels sprouts and fennel, and the braised fennel I had made earlier. For the sprouts, I did what my teacher told us and put aside a bunch of leaves, tossed them in some olive oil and salt and roasted them separately after the sprouts to incorporate some nice crispy leaves into the rest of the dish.

Yesterday’s menu included mushroom risotto, pan fried chicken and pan fried fish (I wanted to practice breading and pan frying things, as I never do this for myself), banana muffins, braised chicken legs and making sauce thickeners (roux and slurry). I didn’t get to the last two items, but everything else went quite well! For the risotto, I used a Lidia’s Italy recipe, although I used baby bella mushrooms and sauteed them after adding the onions and shallots. Super easy and so delicious – I can’t believe I haven’t made risotto before. My arm hurt from all the stirring though!

Making muffins was my food science experiment – I took an old recipe for “healthy” banana bread that I’ve used in the past and tried to improve it based on what I’ve learned in class. I won’t go into the science here, but as you surely know, each ingredient (sugar, fat, type of flour etc) plays a specific role in the outcome of a baked product, and you can’t randomly add ingredients as you can do (to an extent) in cooking.

Now that I am starting to understand the science behind it all, I looked at my old recipe and it didn’t really make sense – I don’t even know where I got it from, or if I made it up, to be honest. Why was I using more baking soda than powder? I never really understood the difference between the two until now, and it seems like it should be the other way around. Why water and not milk? Why was I using all whole-wheat flour? Surely to be healthier, but it leads to a different texture and volume than half whole wheat half white. Why egg whites and not whole eggs? So I thought I could play with the ratios and ingredients to make it better while also practicing the “muffin method” of mixing: sift your dry ingredients, in a separate bowl combine your wet ingredients, mix them together with a few strokes and then put them into your muffin pan and into the oven.

I’m not an experienced baker and don’t have many pieces of equipment in my apartment (like scales) so I still didn’t really know how much of each thing I should be using – for instance, if I was balancing the apple sauce and mashed banana with the appropriate amount of flour, sugar etc – but I tried to look at different recipes and the info in my textbook to make an educated guess. I made my own applesauce by slicing two granny smiths and cooking them with a little water and cinnamon, and added a dash of lemon juice at the end. SO GOOD and so easy. I removed the skins (and ate them – yum!) and added them to my two mashed ripe bananas. I used two medium eggs rather than three egg whites; two teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda; one cup whole wheat and one cup white flour; 1/2 cup milk rather than water (kinda guessed on the amount – but wanted to try using milk); 1/2 teaspoon salt; about 1/3 cup chopped walnuts; and one teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla. Here’s the result:

So what was my verdict? The flavor was GREAT – definitely improved upon the old recipe (although to be fair, it really needed improving – tasted way too healthy). The egg yolks added some fat which made them more tender and added flavor, as did the milk; the white flour improved the texture/volume and together with the altered chemical leavener ratios, made the muffins less dense than my previous batches. They didn’t have any oil or butter though, and I’m not sure I got the dry to liquid ratio quite right – the were a *tiny* bit dry, so maybe I could’ve used a bit more milk or even lowfat rather than nonfat milk, or a little vegetable oil, but for a healthy muffin I was VERY pleased.

The other issue probably was from overmixing, which leads to too much gluten development and thus a tougher product. One of the important things about the muffin method is NOT mixing until the batter is smooth – a few lumps are okay – so you just mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. I struggled with this because I needed to mix quite a bit to get all the dry ingredients moistened, which perhaps means I didn’t have enough liquid. I know I overmixed because there were some holes in my muffin – otherwise known as tunneling. They also were a bit less tender than I had hoped, but overall the texture was good considering the ingredients. I had a few this morning for breakfast and they were delicious with my coffee – not sure they will stay fresh for very long though without any oil or butter, so I put most of them in the freezer for future snacks. Here are a couple photos – kind of looks like a smiley face, a kind of evil this-is-what-you-avoid-when-making-muffins face!

Right, well it’s now getting late and I still have hardly studied for my exam, so I better get to it!

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.

My news for today is that I registered for the Chicago Marathon! I’ve had my sights set on this race for awhile now, but with the craziness of registration these days, you never really know what the calendar will hold until you see an email like this:

So, October 7, 2012 will be the big day – the day that I reclaim my BQ!! At least that’s my goal…I’m announcing it now to make sure I stick to it! Racing 26.2M in 3:30-3:33 is a bit ambitious considering how busy I will be with grad school, work etc, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I know that I’m capable of achieving it if I’m lucky enough to remain injury free throughout training, run strong on race day and of course have favorable conditions. This race is notorious for hot weather in recent years, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take in exchange for a relatively flat course. And if you’re wondering about the 3:33 upper limit – that’s because Boston still adheres to a faster runners get priority policy. After the fiasco of last year’s registration (where I qualified but missed out by 50 seconds), I’m not taking any chances!

And hey – if I fail, I fail – but that’s how these things go. You work hard, you set a lofty goal (but within your reach), you go for it and hope for the best! If you don’t succeed, then you pick yourself back up and learn how to improve for next time. Easier said than done for sure, but it’s the way you grow and achieve greatness.

Either way, whether I qualify or not, I’ll have E by my side. Well, not technically speaking – we never actually run races together – but we’ll be in it together, supporting each other every step of the way from registration today through post-marathon celebrations in October. We ran our first marathon “together” in NYC 2010, my first BQ race. I was incredibly grateful not only to have achieved my goal, but also to be able to celebrate with someone I love who understood exactly how I felt, down to waking up the next morning and hardly being able to hobble to the bathroom! I am fiercely independent and I love my alone time, but shared marathon experiences – whether they are with friends or romantic partners – are far more meaningful to me. At least that’s what I’ve found based on my own races.

Equally as important, I’ll also have my parents supporting me on the sidelines – Team Claire back in action! I missed them in Portland and am so pleased that they decided to make the journey to Chicago from California. They’re always superstar spectators and knowing that they’re waiting to see me really helps to keep me going when things get tough.

And since we’re on the topic of tough, I got my butt whipped on the track yesterday! That photo above is my post-track “holy crap I survived” face. What seemed like a hard but not overly strenuous or long workout ended up being a 9+ mile, VERY challenging session. I’m sure doing strength training for the first time in ages the day before and not really sleeping much for several days due to late nights of studying didn’t help! I ran 1.1M easy, 7M at the track: 2x [1200 @ half mara pace (400 rest), 2×800 @ 10k pace (200rest), 4×200 @ 5k pace (200rest)], 1.23M easy. I aimed for 7:24 (1:50/lap), 7:13 (1:47/lap), and 6:55 (0:50/200m) approximate paces. My average splits were relatively close to goal times (except my second set of 800s), but my lap splits were pretty inconsistent, at least with my 1200s and 800s (went to fast then too slow – ie second 1200 was 1:48, 1:49, 1:55; first 800 was 1:45, 150).

My splits show that I was pretty solid with my 200s, but a bit all over the place with everything else. Aside from really trying to force myself to slow down in my initial laps during my next track session, I might also slow down my goal times to see if that helps achieve more consistency. REP ONE: 1200 – 5:30.2 overall time, 1:49.93 avg lap time; 800 – 3:35.9, 1:47.95; 800 – 3:37.3, 1:48.65; 200s – 50.92 avg (50.5, 50.8, 51.6, 50.8). REP TWO: 1200 – 5:33.6, 1:51.2; 800 – 3:38.1, 1:49.05; 800 – 3:37.1, 1:48.55; 200s: 50.47 avg (50.9, 51.0, 50.2, 49.8).

In school news, things are still going great! I had my first Food & Food Science lab this morning in the department kitchen – love my instructor and the section I’m in is mostly made up of grad students, which is nice given that all my other courses have tons of undergrads. I bought my chef’s knife and instant read thermometer today – just need my chef’s coat and I’ll be ready for official culinary training! I’m continuing to meet great people in my program and am feeling more and more like this is where I belong. The work is still overwhelming and challenging, but I know I’ll get through it.

Here’s a delicious dish I made for myself after a very long day in class:

This was so easy to make and extremely tasty. I literally grabbed whatever vegetables I had left in my kitchen – in this case, shallots, baby zucchini and red pepper – sliced/diced and sauteed them with some golden raisins, added the mixture to the quinoa (which I cooked in chicken stock to add flavor), and then threw in some toasted pine nuts (which I LOVE in quinoa). Sprinkled feta on top plus some cherry tomatoes and that was it! I used about a cup of dry quinoa and it made two servings – the leftovers were great for lunch the next day on top of salad, which I really appreciated during an endless study session in the library.

And I’ll leave you with a sign I saw above Marion Nestle‘s NYU office which I love – if it were my sign, I’d replace “cookie” with “dark chocolate peanut butter cup.” But hey, I’ll take cookies too!


The last time I wrote about the joys of winter running and racing was almost a year ago, after completing a frigid 10k race in London.

This morning’s early morning long run in Central Park reminded me of winter’s true meaning. That day in London last year wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t 23 degrees (16 with wind chill), windy and snowing. My eyelashes weren’t frozen together. I didn’t have icicle brows. I wasn’t freaking out and getting ready to call it a day because my hands were so painfully freezing.

❄ Welcome to New York City in January! ❄

Or, as a friend said to me, “You’re in NYC, babe. Nothing’s easy. Welcome back!” Ha!

I know, I know – NYC certainly isn’t the coldest place in North America! Many of you are probably rolling your eyes and telling me to go to Minneapolis, Montreal, Chicago or wherever else. I’m not sure if you’ve read the book Just a Little Run Around the World by Rosie Swale Pope (it’s awesome – very inspirational), but having read that, and knowing that many of you probably ran in FAR worse conditions today, makes me feel slightly ashamed to be bitching about today’s weather. But what can I do? It’s in my California blood – more than a decade of winters hasn’t eliminated the fact that I’m a total wimp in the cold. But I’m not a quitter, which is why I wouldn’t let the weather beat me down today!

I had made plans to meet a friend in Central park at 7:30am this morning. I wasn’t too excited about the early time, given I still haven’t managed to switch to EST, but I figured it would be nice to get the run out of the way. I always feel so pleased with myself when it’s only 9:30 or 10am and I’ve already finished a tough, long weekend workout. Also, it would help me get on an earlier schedule for classes, which begin on Monday!

Everyone always says that having a running or exercise partner helps you stick to your goals – it’s so true! Had I not made running plans, I definitely would not have gotten up at 6:45am, even if it hadn’t been snowing. Had I seen the view below out of my window (which I took at 7am, right after it started to snow), I may not have done my long run at all, especially since I still haven’t created a NYC half training plan for myself yet (schedules help keep me motivated). However, someone would soon be waiting for me out in that weather, so I bundled up, made an “I really don’t want to go outside” face and forced myself out the door.

  

I wish I had brought my camera – Central Park was completely white and very pretty, at least from what I could see through my frozen eyelashes! My last run in Central Park was a wonderful 10 miler on a sunny, crisp morning the day before the NYC marathon. What a transformation!

I met my friend at the 59th street entrance and we planned to do two complete laps of the park, which would total around 12.2M. I also jogged to and from the subway stations, adding an extra 1.35M or so (it was WAY too cold to walk). The Manhattan Half Marathon (which had been turned into a fun run, for safety reasons) started 30 minutes behind us, so it was relatively quiet in the park at first but there were quite a few runners out and about by mile 4 or 5. I was pretty impressed by the number of runners who showed up, and even more the volunteers for the race! The race photographers took some photos of us (will try to track them down) and various people kept asking us if we were doing the half marathon. Nope, we’re even crazier, I responded. We’re just here.

It was cold but I felt okay during the first lap. I’ll take fresh snow over slush or ice any day. I had slightly more trouble chatting than usual at a 9:30-10min/mile pace, due to the freezing air and of course the two hills, and the weather was far worse than I had expected it to be, but I was hanging in there. I was wearing my 2XU tights, warm socks, a sports bra, tshirt, lightweight long sleeve shirt, thicker high-necked long sleeve shirt, lightweight water/wind resistant jacket, winter hat, baseball cap, lightweight gloves and hand warmers in the gloves. My core was fine, but my legs, hands and face were not. The warmers didn’t seem to be warming up quite enough (they did later on, so next time I’ll open them up well before I begin running) and my water bottle was tough to hold because I couldn’t hold it while making a fist, to warm up my unbearably freezing finger tips.

My hands reached danger zone as we were about to begin our second lap. Mentally, I was losing it – if my hands are cold (and I’m talking EXTREME pain in my fingers), I really struggle, even if the rest of me is fine. I simply couldn’t get warm. The rest of my body started to hurt. I tried holding the bottle under my arm but that made me run awkwardly. My friend encouraged me to stop but I wanted to at least go another mile or two – I’m stubborn and wanted to at least reach 8M – so she kindly carried my bottle for me as I desperately tried to warm up.

Just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel, we ran into a mutual friend, who had run part of the Manhattan Half course and was about to head home. The distraction of seeing and chatting with her – as well as inheriting her set of hand warmers, which were far toastier than mine – snapped me out of my dark place. Suddenly, my inner temperature spiked and I was raring to finish the second lap! I had come all the way there, why turn back now?! And so we continued. My legs started to ache and my pace slowed a bit in those last few miles, but I slowly recovered feeling in my fingers, returned to my chatty, happy runner self and most importantly, I finished! My Garmin didn’t work during the first lap (it was that cold), but based on my friend’s timing and the park mileage, we ran an average of 9:50 – 9:55min/mile. I was very pleased.

Mental toughness needs to be trained like anything else, and I think it’s safe to say that this one was one of the more challenging runs I’ve done in quite some time. Obviously you should never risk injury, but if it’s something you believe you can safely push through, go for it.

A big part of my discomfort was due to my gear fail. I’m sure my body simply hasn’t yet adjusted to the below freezing temperatures after so many months in California, and I need to give it a couple more weeks to do so. However, I also am lacking a few crucial items, namely thicker running tights and warmer gloves (perhaps ones that I can layer over the thin pair I wore today). I didn’t become a regular runner until I moved to London, and although I ran in some pretty horrendous rainy and snowy weather, I don’t think it ever got down to extreme temperatures. I discovered this new REI in Soho (their first NYC store) the other day, so I guess I have a good excuse now to check it out! If you have any suggestions as I shop for gloves or tights, at REI or elsewhere, please let me know!

By the time I finally made it back home, I was frozen again. My hands were back in the danger zone, and, as luck would have it, the front door to my building wouldn’t open. There’s a lock box (before a second door with a key) which is finicky on the best of days, and the cold somehow made it refuse to open. Thankfully, the guys in my local deli helped me and I was back in my apartment soon enough. Phew! I immediately made myself a cup of hot tea and took a post-run I can’t believe I just ran for two hours in that weather photo. I kept those hand warmers in my hands for the rest of the morning and afternoon – they stayed warm for so long!

  

Speaking of teas, I want to share one of my favorite kinds of herbal teas at the moment! Aside from my usual peppermint (which I have every night after dinner), I love Good Earth Sweet & Spicy tea. It’s amazing – no honey or sugar necessary! Really gets you nice and warm. I just finished a huge cup of it to get me all toasty before bedtime.

After a LONG hot shower, I made myself a delicious brunch: a huge mug of Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company coffee and a spinach, tomato, garlic and feta omelet (Trader Joe’s “Pastures of Eden” sheep’s milk feta is AMAZING – in eggs, salad, wherever) with a small fruit salad on the side. YUM. It was right up there with the previous day’s breakfast – a twist on Bircher muesli, made with 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 skim milk, 1/3 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt, and cinnamon, agave, blueberries, dried cranberries and almonds to taste (stir together and let sit in the fridge for at least 30min, or overnight, and serve cold). I love breakfast!

  

After I finished eating, the plan was to not move for the rest of the day…but as many of you know, relaxation isn’t my strong suit! Instead, I proceeded to clean my apartment, do two huge loads of laundry and pick up my textbooks, so I can get a head start on my reading tomorrow before classes begin. I know, I’m such a nerd. I even bought an insulated purple lunchbox and reusable ice cubes (both made by Thermos), which I plan to bring to class on days I can’t eat at home to save money and ensure I eat nutritious, homemade meals! I tested it out on Friday in between my various orientation sessions – I LOVE it! Less messy and more environmentally friendly than my usual plastic bag. Here’s my colorful salad including edamame hummus (another TJ favorite), cheese, fruit and nuts.

  

One thing I didn’t do was a post-run stretch – I may regret that tomorrow (oops) – but I did squeeze in some TV and vegging on the couch. Getting to bed way too late as I often do (the noise is still making it tough to sleep, but it’s getting slightly better), but all in all, a productive Saturday! I definitely earned my rest day tomorrow…that makes two full rest days this week! My body is craving it, especially since I have a big week ahead – at last, my first week of grad school!! Stay tuned…

I love making chili – especially on a cold evening when I’m craving something healthy, warm and filling. If I can get to Borough Market, I buy ground ostrich meat sourced from Gamston Wood Farm to use instead of turkey or beef.

Never had ostrich before? It’s amazing, both nutritionally and in taste. As stated on Gamston’s website, ostrich is “low in fat and cholesterol and rich in protein and iron. A lean red meat with all the health benefits of white meat and mild in flavor.” The perfect combo, especially for runners, and a great way to transform your everyday chili into something exotic and nutritious! Plus, who knows, maybe eating ostrich will make you faster – the birds are known to run up to 45mph, after all, and I don’t know about you, but I need a new BQ!

Even if my ostrich chili doesn’t result in a 35-minute marathon, it’s still an awesome dish to cook for friends, family or just for yourself! It’s easy to make (you can prep most of the ingredients in advance), tastes great and will feed four to five hungry people. When I make it for myself, I divide the leftover chili and rice into single serving containers and place one or two portions in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. I appreciate these leftovers the most after doing a long run or coming home from work, when I’m tired and want a proper meal packed with lean protein, vegetables and complex carbs, but don’t feel like doing more than chucking something into the microwave. No need to settle for store-bought, overly-processed meals!

Depending on how hungry I am (I’m always hungry), I serve the chili over steamed spinach or brown rice – or a bit of both. If I’m getting ready for a race, I ease off the chili pepper to avoid upsetting my stomach, but if not, I like to give my chili a good kick. As a final touch, a dollop of crème fraiche or greek yogurt nicely balances out the spices.

Use my recipe as a general guide – this is what I often do, but make it your own! As with many of my recipes, I encourage you to throw in your favorite types of produce and get creative (the more color, the better/healthier), adjust the amount of spice to your taste, use quinoa rather than rice etc.

I’ve included some photos below from my recent batch, which don’t quite do it justice, but I promise, the chili was delicious!

Ostrich (or Turkey) Chili

Enjoy!


I ADORE Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health Series in the New York Times. Her recipes are delicious, healthy and creative, and although I sometimes don’t follow them exactly (as with my Triple B Pancakes), they always serve as great inspiration!

Tonight, I made Martha’s Vegetable Hash with Poached Egg, which appeared in today’s paper. It was SO delicious I couldn’t help but write about it! I was practically licking my plate, excited by all the flavors. It’s hard to go wrong when poached eggs are involved, in my opinion, but this combo was particularly yummy.

The only thing I changed this time was to add some chili powder to give it a nice kick, as well as half a zucchini (because I had some in the fridge, and the whole point is to use a “medley of leftovers”). I also made two poached eggs rather than one to increase the protein content and improve the veg to egg ratio. Lastly, as you can see from my photos, I accidentally forgot to finely chop my veggies (it was a long week – and I’m bad at reading directions to begin with), but it still tasted great, just didn’t stick together too well.

Here is my amended and printer friendly version of Vegetable Hash with Poached Eggs, or see above for the original recipe. This was a satisfying, easy meal for a chilled out Friday night, packed with healthy carbs and protein that will help me through my tempo run tomorrow morning. I’m definitely making this again very soon!

Vegetable Hash with Poached Eggs – Take Two

Okay, when I said very soon I didn’t think I meant the next day, but I really wanted to try this again with a few amendments, so I made the hash for lunch today and I liked this version much better. This time, I added a chunk of fresh ginger (which has been shown to aid in digestion and to have anti-inflammatory properties) and butternut squash (to add even more healthy carbs) to the same vegetable mixture, and grated all the veg which really improved the texture. I also added a small red chili pepper instead of chili powder. The combo of chili and ginger really makes this dish exciting to eat! Next time I might try replacing butternut squash with sweet potato and/or beetroot – bet they’d work nicely in the grated version – and perhaps do an avocado salsa to put on top. Man, I love this recipe.

Check out my photos from both versions below:


When I’m training (or even when I’m not), cereal or fruit salad simply don’t do it for me. After my morning workout, I need a filling, healthy breakfast to help me recover and give me energy for the rest of my day.  But like many of you, perhaps, I usually eat at work and only have about 5-10 minutes to spare before the craziness begins.

I’ve included below my go-to weekday breakfasts, as well as a couple other quick and easy breakfasts I make if I eat at home before work or on the weekends.  They surely aren’t exotic or ground-breaking, but my breakfasts are substantial, healthy and also cheaper than most pre-made breakfasts I see in the shops. I cycle between them and change up the ingredients to prevent boredom, but always have them along with 1 liter of water and a big cup of coffee!

If any of these ideas sound appealing to you, stop by the grocery store and give one a try tomorrow morning! I usually do my shopping once a week and store it in the work fridge so it’s all there, ready for me.

Non-fat Greek yogurt or plain natural yogurt with fruit/muesli/etc:

*Place the yogurt in a bowl, and add fruit (berries, kiwis, pomegranate seeds, and/or sliced banana are my favorites), honey or agave syrup and cinnamon
*Try adding a 1/4-1/2 cup of museli (the no sugar added kind is best), ground flaxseeds, mixed nuts and/or dried fruit for something more substantial

Oatmeal made with skim milk and banana: (Also my pre-race or long run meal)
*Avoid the instant kind, and go for the type that takes 3-5min to cook in the microwave instead – you will stay fuller, longer! If you’re at home and have more time, try steel-cut oats – very dense and filling!
*Place ½ cup oats in a bowl, and add cinnamon and honey
*Heat up 1 cup milk in the microwave for about 1min, stir into the oats, and then put the combination back into the microwave for about 1.5-2min.
*Mash a ripe banana with a fork in a bowl, and then add to the oatmeal and put back into the microwave for another 1-2min, removing occasionally to stir.
*Instead of/in addition to banana, you can also try blueberries, dried cranberries, raisins, chopped walnuts, almonds or whatever else you fancy! So many options…

Peanut Butter & Banana Toast:
*Grab a couple slices of whole-grain bread, pop them in the toaster, spread about 2 tablespoons of natural peanut-butter (Peanut Butter & Co is my favorite) and some honey on top, and then add sliced banana. Simple and delicious, especially with a big glass of milk. Also great for a pre/post run snack!

Vegetable Omelet:
*I use 3 eggs/1 yolk; whisk together with a fork, adding salt & pepper to taste
*Steam (microwave is easiest) your vegetables of choice – I like baby spinach, sliced mushrooms, and/or zucchini. Wash and put in the microwave, cover with a lid, and cook for about 1min.
*While the veg is cooking, spray the frying pan with cooking spray or add some olive oil and turn on the heat.
*Add the egg mixture to the heated pan, and once halfway cooked, place the veg on one side of the omelet.
*Add a small amount of sliced or shredded cheese, if desired, and then fold the omelet in half and remove from the when fully cooked.
*Place inside a whole-wheat wrap or pita, along with some sliced avocado, for something more substantial

Fruit Smoothie:
*I always try to keep frozen berries & bananas (separated into small pieces), in my freezer for this purpose
*Place your frozen fruit of choice into the blender, along with some skim milk (fill to just below frozen fruit), honey, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
*Use greek/plain yogurt, muesli and/or walnuts or almonds for a more filling smoothie.
*Blend together – add a couple of ice cubes to thicken the texture. Reblend.

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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