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Sadly, the frigid weather continues in NYC, with yet more polar vortex temps and another snow storm today. I’m thankful it’s not as bad as Boston, but still – I’m OVER IT! Especially since all I hear about from my family in California is how unseasonably warm and gorgeous it is right now. I mean come on, people swimming in the Pacific in Santa Cruz in February?!

I entered a 4M NYRR race in Prospect Park this morning but couldn’t motivate myself to get out of bed early this morning. It was the first time I’ve not shown up to a race – but to be fair, going all the way to Brooklyn for a 4 miler in this weather just didn’t seem worthwhile. To make up for it, I allowed myself to sleep in (much needed) and then E and went on an enlarged “loop” of Central Park, from Stuy Town to the East 60th street park entrance, around the park (plus an extra reverse Harlem Hill loop), back downtown and ending at TJ’s for our weekly shop. It was COLD – as in my hand warmers and two pairs of gloves felt useless and I thought I was getting frostbite COLD – but fitness wise, I felt strong and it was reassuring to know that I’ve been able to somewhat maintain my endurance since my longer runs this past Fall. My speed is another story…I did my first treadmill run of the year last week with some 1min x 8 intervals at 9mph, and it was surprisingly difficult!

By the time we got home, we were freezing, starving and in need of a filling, hot, delicious meal. We often make eggs post-run, and I had some pizza dough in the fridge, so I decided to do a twist on Florentine pizza (egg, spinach, cheese), which I’ve had in restaurants and LOVE. I make pizza all the time with a wide variety of veggie, meat and/or cheese toppings, but this one was so awesome that I decided to finally do a pizza recipe post! Here are a few other pizza variations I’ve made in the past (chicken sausage/veg/feta, cherry tomato/veg/mozzarella, zucchini/veg/feta).

IMG_5796  Pizza night Fresh out of the oven

This one isn’t so much a recipe as a choose your own adventure type of meal. I always use a rainbow of veggies and some cheese, but the rest varies depending on my mood. The (+) stands for whatever you want to include to make the pizza a bit more exciting (and ideally, to boost the protein content) – for example, chicken sausage, eggs, a different cheese, pesto or tomato sauce as a base, etc. I also like to think of the (+) as standing for extra nutritious – obviously you make this whatever you want it to be, but it has the potential to provide a ton of vitamins, minerals and fiber from all the veggies and whole wheat dough, lean protein and a little fat. I love Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough, as it is fast and easy to use, cheap, nutritious, and freezes nicely, but you can certainly make your own or use another brand.

If you use TJ’s, one ball of dough is enough for 2 thin crust pizzas (1 pizza = 8 slices –> feeds two people), which I recommend if you’re trying to keep the calories under control with all the toppings (and if you’re like me and want to save room for a little wine and dessert). If you’re feeling especially hungry, try pairing with a side salad and make sure you include a protein topping to make it a filling and balanced meal. Here are some before and after shots of today’s pie {cage-free large eggs, goats cheese, zucchini, kale, spinach, light shredded mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, TJ’s quinoa pesto as a base}.

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Ingredients

Whole wheat pizza dough (½ of TJ’s dough ball)
A little flour to work with the dough
Cheese of choice (I like TJ’s shredded fancy light mexican blend, goats cheese, and/or feta)
Sauteed veggies of choice (My favorites: shallots, red onion, spinach, kale, sundried tomato, cherry tomato, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, eggplant)
Olive oil (to cook veggies)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Possible (+)  items: Chicken or regular sausage, eggs, pesto (TJ’s quinoa pesto is amazing as a base), tomato sauce, other meat/soy/other toppings of choice

Directions

  1. Let pizza dough sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  3. Chop/sautee your toppings of choice (veggies, sausage, etc) – make sure the veggies aren’t too watery to get a nice, crisp pizza (tip – don’t crowd the sauté pan to prevent from steaming and thus getting soggy)
  4. Flour work surface and hands, then stretch the dough outwards into a small circle, place in greased pizza pan and stretch further to fit the pan (I use a metal pan as pictured above – I haven’t found pizza stones to be any better). If the dough shrinks back slightly keep stretching it until it stays (starting to put the toppings on helps too).
  5. If you’re using pesto or tomato sauce as a base, put that on first. Then put a layer of cheese if using (I sprinkle on a thin layer of shredded cheese). Evenly spread veggie toppings (and meat if using) next. Then finish off with another sprinkle of shredded cheese and/or little pieces of other cheese (e.g. feta, goats cheese, ricotta etc). If you’re using eggs, crack 1-3 eggs on top of the pizza (spaced apart evenly if more than 1).
  6. Place in oven for ~12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the pizza to make sure the edges don’t get burned (they should be crispy and nicely browned) and to check the progress of the eggs. In my oven, 15min was perfect for the eggs – whites cooked but yolk still slightly runny. Sometimes the middle cooks more slowly than the edges (perhaps a downside of the pizza pan vs pizza stone)
  7. Take out of the oven, cut into 8 slices, and enjoy!

Yield: 1 pizza, 8 slices

Serving size: 4 slices

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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.

I’ve become a bit obsessed with couscous salad this past month. Perhaps it’s a delayed reaction to my Morocco trip…or cleaning out my pantry and finding a huge bag of couscous that I bought ages ago and never touched. Regardless, I’ve been having fun experimenting with couscous and creating various healthy, vegetable-packed dishes, much like I often do with quinoa.

Couscous is made from semolina (the same durum wheat product that’s used to make pasta) but is in fact less refined since it’s made from crushed semolina rather than the ground type. Traditionally, couscous features heavily in North African dishes and is eaten with stews (often including meat or fish) and is delicious when prepared this way. However, like quinoa, couscous is extremely versatile and tastes great, for example, as part of a colorful and refreshing salad (either vegetarian or not) or even served for breakfast (if you’re getting bored of oatmeal) with fresh or dried fruit, cinnamon and honey.

Given that it is essentially a small pasta and thus loaded with carbohydrates, couscous is of course a great food for runners. To make sure you’re getting the most nutritional bang for your buck, try to buy a whole wheat or whole grain variety instead of the more common “just add water” pre-cooked and dried types made from white flour.

The nutrition facts for whole wheat couscous will of course vary depending on the brand you purchase and how you cook it, but a 1-cup serving of cooked couscous will set you back about 180 calories, while giving you 8 percent of your daily recommended intake of iron (crucial for runners, particularly women), 3g of fiber (versus 2.2g in the regular variety), 6g of protein and 1g of fat. Whole wheat couscous also provides you with a host of important nutrients found in the outer bran and inner germ layers of the grain, such as folate, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and selenium.

Lastly, couscous is super easy to make – as Martha Rose-Shulman recommends in one of her articles, couscous “should never be boiled (pay no attention to the instructions on most boxes), just reconstituted and steamed.” I remember reading that latter part and thinking that it sounded a bit complicated, but I promise, it isn’t.

All you need to do to is take a cup of dried couscous, put it in a bowl along with 3/4 – 1 cup warm water (or broth), add seasoning (salt/spices/lemon juice/ etc, depending on what you’re making) and let it sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Steam on high for one minute, fluff with a fork while perhaps stirring in some olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a big bowl of yummy couscous!

Here’s one of my recent couscous salads that was a particularly big hit – E named it Green Machine!

  

My Green Machine recipe, which serves three to four people, was inspired by Martha’s couscous tabbouleh. E and I had it for lunch during my coach’s workshop recently, and it not only tasted great, but also helped us get through a very tough afternoon tempo run in extreme heat! The various vegetables, nuts, beans and spices make this a very nutrient-dense meal.

Ingredients
1 cup couscous (preferably whole wheat)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh (or dried) mint
1-2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1-2 cups curly kale, chopped
1 zucchini
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (optional)
Small handful of raisins (optional – I like something sweet in my salads!)
Small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
5 or so mushrooms, chopped
1 cup edamame beans
⅛ cup pumpkin seeds
1 avocado

Directions
1. Put the couscous in a glass or ceramic bowl, and toss with the salt and cumin. Mix together 1/4 cup of the lemon juice and the water, and pour over the couscous. Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture from time to time.
2. Chop your vegetables as you wait. For the kale, mushrooms, and zucchini, I chop and then microwave for about 1 minute. Then I saute in a pan with some chopped ginger and garlic in a small amount of oil, and set aside in separate bowl to cool, although that step is optional (you can put the chopped ginger directly in the salad if you skip).
3. Once couscous is ready, cover and microwave on high for one minute. Stir in the olive oil and allow to cool.
4. Toss with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
5. When ready, slice avocado and place on top of each serving, with a sprinkle of salt & pepper on top.

ENJOY!

If you’re a meat-eater and/or prefer a bit more color in your salads, then check out my chicken couscous salad:

I prepared the couscous itself in the same way as in Green Machine, but just added different vegetables and placed grilled chicken on top rather than avocado.

The possibilities are endless – have fun!

Today is my third day of going veg – so far so good!

I’ve been eating similarly to my first day, so yoghurt with fruit and flaxseeds for breakfast, leftover tofu stir-fry or rye quinoa bread with avocado and cheese plus vegetable soup and fruit for lunch, hummus and veggies for a snack, and vegetable omelet, almond butter with crackers and a little chocolate for dinner.

I’ve been eating much of the same mainly because I’ve had leftovers and other foods that needed to be used up. I’m planning to be a bit more adventurous and make an effort to cook some different things in the next few days though, otherwise I’ll get quite bored!

Because I already eat many vegetarian meals, I haven’t really put a lot of thought into this so far. But I have noticed that I’m eating more carbs, which makes me wonder if I’m getting enough protein.

My apologies for this terrible blackberry photo (the food was actually very bright and colorful), but this was (part of) my lunch today – Two pieces of rye/quinoa bread, with 2 tablespoons hummus, 1/2 avocado, cheese, salt & pepper, along with a clementine, medium-sized bowl of vegetable soup and a glass of milk (to up the protein).

I just tallied up the protein – roughly 24g, which is slightly lower than I might normally have if I ate a salad with chicken or fish and mixed nuts/seeds, but still pretty good, especially given that my breakfast came in at around 26g. Two hours later, however, and I’m getting a bit hungry again. Then again, I’m nearly always hungry, so nothing really new! 🙂

I’m going to keep a vegetarian diet for the rest of this week as I set out to do, and it won’t be too much of a challenge with so many delicious recipes out there! I’m pretty sure, however, that this isn’t the lifestyle for me full-time, because I love fish as well as the occasional burger, steak or whatever else. But it’s definitely something I will continue to do on a part-time basis (in other words, a slightly enhanced version of what I was doing before), and I certainly will continue to play around with my diet – not only to figure out what I enjoy and what is best for my body, but also because I’m just a curious person by nature!

I’m taking a break from meat. Perhaps from fish too.

Not that I’m not a huge meat eater – I regularly eat soy products, quinoa, beans, nuts, a wide variety of fresh produce and many other foods that are featured in vegetarian and vegan diets. Sometimes I even realize that I’ve “accidentally” been vegetarian for several days in a row. However, there are also many days that include at least one meal with meat or fish, and I rarely make a concerted effort to cut either out of my diet for any length of time.

Then why am I doing this now?

I simply feel a need to take a break – it’s what my body is telling me to do – not so much from fish, but certainly from meat. I think it was chicken that pushed me over the edge – it’s everywhere, and it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. That elimination may become permanent.

I’m also incredibly inspired by several vegetarian and vegan endurance athletes, especially ultra marathoner Scott Jurek, who races (and often wins) 8-10 ultramarathons per year in addition to his regular training, all on a vegan diet. I find that incredible! I also constantly read and hear about the benefits of plant-based diets, so I can’t help but be very curious as to how eliminating certain foods from my diet might affect my running, as well as how I feel generally.

So is it going to be a vegetarian or a vegan week?

Dairy products and eggs are staying in – I feel no desire to remove them from my diet at the moment. Although given the large quantity of dairy I consume, at some point I would like to try cutting it out temporarily simply out of curiosity, to see how my body reacts.

So what’s been on the menu today?

I’ve kept it pretty simple, and actually, I often eat like this on a normal day.

Breakfast: Plain natural yogurt with pomegranate seeds, sliced banana, cinnamon, honey and ground flaxseeds, plus coffee.

Lunch: Two large slices of rye/quinoa bread with half of an avocado and cheddar cheese sliced on top; a bowl of root vegetable soup supplemented with sliced, steamed courgette (if I buy store-bought soup, I always try to at least add some fresh vegetables); a clementine; jasmine green tea.

Snack: Granola bar, sliced granny smith apple with cinnamon; and, I confess, a couple biscuits from the office kitchen…

Dinner: Mushroom/veg stirfry with marinated tofu and a homemade sesame soy ginger dressing, on top of steamed spinach; a few wholegrain crackers with LOTS of almond butter (that stuff is DANGEROUSLY addictive); some panda black licorice (also very addictive) and a couple dark chocolate truffles with a large mug of mint tea.

Yeah, I like my sweets. A little too much. And I love finishing a meal with mint tea.

Now, if I can manage to not snack anymore (the challenge!), I think today wasn’t too bad…

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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