06 November, 2014

Greek Yogurt with Honey, Figs and Almonds


Today's recipe can hardly be called a recipe as it is just an assembly of raw and mostly unprocessed ingredients. My diet has gone more and more into this direction over the last few months: not much processing and cooking, just lots of raw ingredients, perhaps combined with something quickly grilled. The predicament now is a lack of "real" recipes and as a result fewer posts on this blog.

Nevertheless I want to share why I took this direction and why I like it.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted on this blog for a while. It coincides with the fact that I am sidetracked by a few other things at the moment. My motto in life is "eat to live" rather than "live to eat". Don't get me wrong, I still love good food, but I don't have the time or patience to spend my day sourcing rare ingredients and cook for hours, or even sit in a restaurant for a meal that I could have easily made at home in half the time and a fraction of the money spent. I still cook, eat, run and read a lot about nutrition and running training. The cooking part, however, has been replaced by lots of quickly assembled, mostly raw meals and snacks.

My diet is neither 100% paleo, nor is it 100% grain free, even though many of my recipes are one or the other. I'd classify it rather as a low carb high fat  (LCHF) diet. It is less restrictive as it allows meat, fish, eggs, low sugar fruits and vegetables and full fat dairy products.
The typical high-carb foods, such as bread, rice, pasta and many fruits are simply to be avoided at most times to keep the carb-intake low.

Now most of you know that I am an avid runner. I spend a lot of time doing that or dealing with the issues that come with it: e.g. eating more food to meet increased energy demands or the need for more sleep. Two very time-consuming side-effects of running!

In high-intensity training times (e.g. a 12-week marathon training) the carb reserves stored in my body get used up and need to be replaced more often and to an higher extent and I find myself craving carbs more during those times. Naturally, I will give in as this is what my body needs.

At all other times, I do very well on a lower carb diet. You will be surprised how many carbs you still consume, even without bread, pasta and rice. My regular fruit and veggie intake usually gets me to more than 150g of carbs per day. A very knowledgeable and experienced running coach once said to me that no-one needs more than 180-200g of carbs per day unless you run at least 10k each day. Anything beyond that will just end up on your hips and mess unnecessarily with your metabolism.

So what do I eat now? It's more and more fresh salads for lunch and dinner, accompanied by some boiled eggs, grilled salmon or steak. Or omelette wraps filled with green leaves and tahini sauce. And for snacks? Whole raw fruit and whole raw nuts. You see that each meal and the snack contain some high fat or high protein foods, such as the salmon, eggs, tahini or nuts. Those will keep you full and make sure that blood sugar levels don't spike.

Same applies to my breakfast which is today's recipe: some fresh fruit topped with full-fat yogurt and a handful of raw chopped nuts. It adds up to about 600 calories. That's a good base to start the day. I assure you, you will last until lunch without cravings.

Greek Yogurt has worldwide fame, deservedly, for its creaminess and richness, obviously provided by a high fat content. In Crete where I spent my summer holidays this year, the yoghurt with the least fat percentage available was 2%. I spoke to Greeks who smilingly admitted that anything with a fat percentage below 2% is not considered yoghurt.

It doesn't only taste better, full-fat products are also less processed. Another reason to go for them. What do you eat for breakfast?
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GREEK YOGURT WITH HONEY, FIGS AND ALMONDS

(Print Recipe)

200g/8oz Greek Yogurt
3 fresh and ripe figs, chopped ( or any other fruit of your choice)
1 handful almonds, chopped

raw honey to taste (optional)

Serves 1
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Place the chopped figs in a breakfast bowl. Add yoghurt and drizzle over with honey.
Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Ready to eat.
Continue Reading>>

23 August, 2014

Jeweled Cauliflower Rice

Welcome back after a little summer break!
I went on a three week holiday to Crete in Greece. All prepared with recipes and food photos that prepared beforehand and that I would serve you along the way. But then, all those plans to keep you entertained were thrown overboard as soon as we arrived. For good reasons only, don't worry!


Crete is a quite big. By a Greek friend we were recommended the south of the island. Not knowing what the differences would be between north, south, east and west when we got there, we figured out very quickly that this must be the most unspoiled Mediterranean island, in the middle of holiday season.

The south of Crete is pretty inaccessible, hence no concrete forests for package tourism. Greece, and of course, Crete has great history and culture. However, I think it's not a place where you tick sights off a list. It's a place that wants to be explored. Quite to my liking, it's also a place where you won't need much more than a couple of shirts and shorts, swimwear and a toothbrush. In my case, add half a suitcase of running gear :-)

Oh, what a beautiful place this is to run. If you live in Dubai or have followed this blog for sometime, you will know that Dubai is flat as a pancake. It's so flat, I consider street bumps undulations. Crete, on the other hand, is hilly. Avoiding streets, I hit the trails into the mountains, through olive tree plantations, past lemon and orange trees, and fig trees on the roadside. The cicadas in the trees would be so noisy, I would hardly hear my Garmin beep. Most often I would not see a single soul on my runs, apart from the occasional ancient Cretan farmer who came to look after his olive trees in his rusty pick up truck and who would usually be too chauvinist to even acknowledge me running past. I loved it.
In those three weeks I ran more than 200k, at slow pace, due to the trails and hills that were quite a challenge in the first week. They wouldn't stop me though, to an extent that I ended up with a little Achilles niggle in the last week. Due to excessive hill running.

You readers of this blog will appreciate another thing: you won't find a single fast food chain on the whole island. No KFC, Burger King or McDonalds. The closest thing to a fast food shop was a little snack point called "Super Donalds" with the a hand-painted sign outside the shop. Apparently, there was a McDonalds a few years ago. But it had to close down, as it did only business during the holiday season between April and October. When all the tourists were gone, no-one was left to eat there. The Cretans, old and young, were not interested. I am not surprised: The Greeks make the best meatballs on the planet.

In my next post, I will share my thoughts on Greek food, with a suitable Greek recipe. Today, I leave you with something quite un-Greek: jeweled Cauliflower rice. I made it a few times before our holidays. A lovely refreshing vegan, paleo and grain free dish that's light enough to be a light lunch. Or that will go well as as side dish with grilled meat. I hope you enjoy.
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JEWELED CAULIFLOWER RICE
inspired by Comfy Belly


(Print Recipe)

4 cups cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
salt to taste

1/3 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/3 cup pistachios
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper

Serves 4
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Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place cauliflower florets in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, turmeric and salt. Drizzle over the cauliflower and blend to coat the cauliflower.
Spread cauliflower on prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until cauliflower is tender and slightly browned.

In the meantime, dry-roast the pistachios in a pan over medium-low heat, shaking the pan often to avoid burning. Let cool, chop roughly and set aside.

Let the roasted cauliflower cool for a few minutes before pulsing it in a food processor to rice size pieces.

In a serving bowl, combine cauliflower rice with apricots, cranberries, chopped pistachios and parsley. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Serve cold or at room temperature.
Continue Reading>>

24 July, 2014

Paleo Chocolate Banana Bread

Remember my last post about the upcoming Ramadan 10k race that involved big prize money? Well, the prize money was doubled to 2.1 million AED (that's 400.000 EUR or 540.000 USD). I ended up finishing 10th female. After doublechecking nationality and residency of each runner, I moved up to 8th female in the expat female category.
As no specifications were made upfront as to who would get how much money, I would not know if I was in the prizes. It's been almost three weeks now since the race. My residency details have been checked three times. Now I am waiting....for that email.....that will tell me about the IF and HOW MUCH.
It's summer and it's Ramadan. In Dubai, those are sure signs of things moving very very slowly. I have no choice to sit and wait.

The actual race was great fun. It was extremely hot, around 38C/100F with very high humidity. Running paces were totally off due to the heat. The race started at 1045pm. Sheikh Hamdan himself, Crown Prince of Dubai, was there at the start. The announcement of the provisional first three in each category was at 0120am at night. A huge stage with DJ was set up to announce the winners and to entertain us while we were waiting. Almost festival atmosphere. Everything was so off what I usually do: a 10k race in July, running at 11pm at night, staying up til 2am in the morning....But well organized and thoroughly enjoyable. Now if that email would just come...

My running is back to base training. Lots of long slow runs. Nothing strenuous. I run by feel rather than let my running watch predict my pace. I find these slow runs very invigorating. It's my favorite way of taking a rest.
Low heart rate training is the best thing you can do in the off-season. It boosts the metabolism and gives my legs a well-deserved break. I have a three week holiday in Greece to look forward to. Can't wait to go run there. And look forward to Greek food too. Lots of yogurt, olives, fresh veggies, seafood....simple, straight forward food.

I have realized that I haven't baked for a while. My last baked dessert post was in April. Not sure how that happened. It could possibly be explained that my diet has become simpler and more straight forward too. I am happy with plain nuts and seeds and a piece of fruit rather than processed dishes.

However, cravings come and go. And this chocolate banana bread I have made and perfected in several attempts. It certainly satisfies and sweet and chocolate cravings. And it's amazingly simple to put together with an ingredients list that couldn't be much shorter. I hope you enjoy!

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PALEO CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD

(Print Recipe)

150g/1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana (ca. 2 large bananas)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Serves 8
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Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and sea salt. Mix until well combined. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until creamy. Then add mashed banana, honey and vanilla and mix some more. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients. Gently fold in until ingredients are just combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf tin. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Continue Reading>>

04 July, 2014

Salade Niçoise

My running break is over. Thank goodness for that. It lasted about 2 1/2 weeks. I am not sure if it was enough to recover physically from the strains of a very long season. Probably not. But I couldn't sit at home and/or cross train any longer. While I enjoyed the rowing machine in the gym as a cardio alternative and as a good whole-body workout, it's not the same as running. Running is where my heart is.

Those 2 1/2 weeks were surely enough to make that clear again. In terms of motivation, it worked wonders. No race in the near future was planned anyway, as I decided not to participate in the Berlin marathon in September for which training would have started now. This decision was very deliberating, as I would have a whole long summer of just leisurely runs, as many or few as I wanted, as long or short as I wanted, just for the fun of it.

However, my leisurely summer running plan had to be abandoned at short notice. For a 10k race tonight. It's Ramadan. Here in Dubai eating and drinking is not allowed in public from sunrise to sunset. Naturally, all activities are scheduled between dusk and dawn. Like this crazy 10k race tonight. Start time is 1015pm, and huge prize money is involved. While there will not be any international elite runners, there will be prizes worth 1 million Dirhams (that's 200.000 EUR or 270.000 USD), and rumour has it that a few Mini Cooper cars have been thrown into the prizes too. The six categories include both male and female Emirati club runner, expat club runner, social runners and kids under 16.

That all sounds great, and if they spread the prizes over the first 10 of each category, I might stand a chance. Now the downside: it's the middle of summer in Dubai and temperatures at 9-10pm are still around 38C/100F. Not exactly ideal conditions to run 10k. Perhaps even a dangerously long distance for the untrained runner.

When I picked up my race pack last night, I saw who else signed up. The Who is Who of the Dubai running scene will be there. Gold diggers!!!!...... And I am one of them. Although I really will only have a chance if the Top 10 gets prizes.

So wish me luck. I'll keep you posted. Until then I leave you with our current family's favorite summer salad: Salade Niçoise. My favorite lunchtime salad if we eat out, as it is light enough for hot Dubaian summer days, yet has enough substance to be a main dish with the addition of potatoes, eggs and tuna. I hope you enjoy.
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SALADE NICOISE

(Print Recipe)

2 medium potatoes
150g/6oz green beens, trimmed

2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
150g/6oz tinned Albacore tuna, drained

1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup radishes, sliced
1/4 cup black olives

2-4 anchovy fillets

Lemon Mustard Dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2
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Scrub the potatoes, and with the skin on, cut them into chunks. Cook them in boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

In the meantime, steam the green beans, until just tender but still crisp, approx. 4-5 minutes. Put the beans into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. That way you keep the green color. Once cooled, drain and put aside.

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing. Whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside.

Assemble potatoes, green beans, quartered eggs, tuna and salad ingredients next to each other on a plate. Sprinkle over the black olives and place the anchovy fillets onto the potatoes. . Drizzle over the lemon mustard dressing. Ready to eat.

TIP: all ingredients can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for up to 12 hours before assembling.
Continue Reading>>

18 June, 2014

Coconut Frozen Yogurt

Breaks are good. Change of scenery is good. Breaking out of your routine is good. Doing something different is good. Even if it's only temporary.
A running coach that I consulted about my tiredness and dwindling running motivation two months ago asked me when I last had a break? - A break from what? - From running?! - Errrhhhmmm....maybe in February for 5 days when I had a cold.....not sure....Before that I can't even remember. Probably another cold....
I can tell you, that wasn't good news. Me not running?! Dark times ahead for myself and all the people close to me. It took me two whole months until I found the time not to run. Crazy, isn't it? There was still a couple of races to get out the way before I could afford a running break for few weeks.

So for how long should I not run? Two weeks he said, or three. I might feel the urge to go for a run after a week. Hold back for another week, he advised. I was dreading it. But the good news, I don't have to sit at home and do nothing. I decided to focus on strength training. As I am not big on swimming or cycling, he recommended the rowing machine in the gym in order to not lose too much cardio fitness.


I have always ignored the rowing machine. It looked like like it would need a lot of upper body strength which I don't have and I struggle to get despite hard efforts in the gym. To my surprise, my efforts must have gotten me a bit further and I really do enjoy the rowing machine. It's a workout that strengthens legs and upper body at the same time plus I get some cardio in. The rowing machine has been my life saver. 10 days into my rest from running and I am not missing it at all. That means a lot.
With TRX classes, some weight training and the rowing machine there is not much time to get sluggish. I never thought a break from running could be so easy and challenging at the same time. My plan was not to run for three weeks. I am half way through and I am confident I will make it and it will do me good, both physically and mentally.
With all the strength training, I feel that I need to eat more these days. Regular meals don't fill me for long enough. An hour after dinner some sort of dessert has to be dished up. The  Football Soccer World Cup matches with  8pm and 11pm starts here in Dubai are just another excuse to enjoy a tub of ice cream on the sofa.

The healthy food blog world is full of coconut milk based ice creams. I have tried them and never really got to like them. I found them to thick and heavy and the coconut taste to overbearing. Something tart needed to cut through the coconut texture and flavor. So I combined it with yogurt. Now with the yogurt, it's not paleo or vegan anymore. But it is delicious. That I can assure. I hope you enjoy!
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COCONUT FROZEN YOGURT

(Print Recipe)


2 cups Greek yogurt (or 4 cups regular full fat yogurt)

1 can coconut milk, refrigerated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1/4 cup raw powdered sugar

Serves 6-8

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If you use regular whole milk yogurt, strain 4 cups of whole milk yogurt through a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel for at least two hours. Discard the whey.
Mix the thick white parts of the refrigerated coconut milk into the strained/greek yogurt. Add vanilla extract, fresh coconut and sugar and mix until well combined.

Without  ice cream maker
Pour the yogurt mixture into a shallow bowl or pan. Freeze until almost solid, about 1-2 hours. Take out of the freezer, and thoroughly stir it with a fork. Put back into freezer and freeze again until almost solid. Scoop out the frozen mixture and place it into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

With ice cream maker
Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and follow its instructions. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

Cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. If you keep it frozen until completely solid, keep at room temperature to soften a bit before serving.
Continue Reading>>

29 May, 2014

Roasted Beetroot and Apple Salad

Not much wisdom to share today. Just a lovely summer salad of beetroot, apples and celery that I keep on making. The textures of these three ingredients provide layers, and so do their flavors: earthy from the beetroot, tart and fruity from the apple and that indescribable taste of celery just adds enough counterbalance to the rather sweet beetroot and apple. The lemon juice and honey in the dressing bring out all those flavors.

I love to make big batches of this salad and keep it in the fridge. You'll find me eating it straight out of the container standing in front of the fridge. That's how good and refreshing it is. Top it up with some crumbled feta cheese or roasted walnuts if you want to make it really fancy.
I hope you enjoy.

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ROASTED BEETROOT AND APPLE SALAD

(Print Recipe)

4 medium beets
2 green apples
3 celery stalks

1 lemon, juice of

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish (optional)
crumbled feta cheese
chopped roasted walnuts

Serves  4
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Preheat oven to 220C/430F.

Wash the beets and roast them in the oven until tender, depending on their size between 20 and 30 minutes. Set aside to let cool.

Meanwhile, core and thinly slice the apples. Cut the slices into matchsticks and toss them in the lemon juice. Cut the celery into matchsticks and add them to the apples.

Peel the beets, and cut them into matchsticks too. Add to apples and celery.

Whisk olive oil and honey together. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the salad and mix until well coated. Keep the salad refrigerated for at least 20 minutes for the flavors to combine. Best served cold.
Continue Reading>>

15 May, 2014

Lentil Pomegranate Salad with Cucumber Ribbons

Do you ever eat out with people in restaurants or cafes, and the people you are with order the smallest of salads or custumize-order a regular dish in a way so that's basically nothing left? Or when they order a regular dish, they tell you they feel full after having eaten less than half of it?

At the same time, these people don't look like they survive easily on cucumber and celery sticks. Many people seem to produce awkward manners when eating in public. They feel obliged to show a huge amount of self-control when it comes to food choices and portion size when they are feeling watched.

What are they trying to prove? A salad made of green leaves and fresh veggies may be healthy lunch choice. But every fool knows it will not last you until dinner. So prevent the mid-afternoon trip to the bakery next door,  to the soda machine or avoid the chocolate drawer at your desk by having a square meal.

That should apply to all meals in the day. Each of the three big meals should last you roughly or with just a small snack in between to the next big meal. It's proven that skipping a meal will just make you over-proportionally hungry at the next mealtime and you are more than likely to overeat. That gets you back to Square One. 

It takes a bit of discipline to stick to three main meals per day. But it should be the rule with just the occasional exception. It's not always practical as people commute, have busy jobs, kids to drop off and pick up, and family and other commitments.

Here is my offer for a square salad that is still light enough tio be enjoyed on warm summer days but has enough substance to last you through an afternoon. Earthy lentils, tart pomegranates with fresh cucumber and a good handful of chopped toasted walnuts held together by a tahini lemon dressing. I find the layers of flavors and textures absolutely tantalizing. I hope you do to. And please, tell me that you eat square meals, made out of good and real ingredients!

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LENTIL POMEGRANATE SALAD WITH CUCUMBER RIBBONS

(Print Recipe)

1 cup green lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
salt

1 pomegranate, seeds of
2 small cucumbers

1/4 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

Dressing
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2 as main, 4 as side dish
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Place lentils, water bay leaf and a dash of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer until lentils are cooked, about 15 minutes. Drain and remove bay leaf.

Meanwhile, deseed the pomegranate. Keep a bowl of water ready. Cut the pomegranate into quarters lengthwise.  Submerge one quarter of the pomegranate in the water bowl, pull apart the skin and nudge out the seeds into the water. Repeat with the other quarters. Little pieces of skin will float on top. Take these off before draining off the water. Set aside.

To make the cucumber ribbons, use a box grater and its largest hole. 

Cut the ends off the cucumber, then push lengthwise along the top of the grater, in long strokes for long, thin ribbons. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Whisk vigorously until well combined. The dressing may look curdled. Just whisk more. Add water until dressing reaches desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. 

In a salad bowl, combine cooked lentils and pomegranates. Stir in the the dressing until salad is well coated. Gently fold in the cucumber ribbons. Sprinkle over the roasted walnuts. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Continue Reading>>

05 May, 2014

Honey Frozen Yogurt with Pomegranate Swirl

It's getting hot in Dubai!! My dreams of hitting the last goal for this running season have been crushed by an early onset of incredible heat and humidity this summer. 

Every year, from end of April to beginning of June, we have a track competition series during which we run 5000m, 3000m, 1500m, 800m and a 4x400m relay on a track. The 5000m were scheduled for last Monday. In December I ran the unfortunate time of 20:01 on a hilly 5k course. Needless to say that I haven't stopped dreaming of breaking the magic 20 minute ever since.

5k races are scarce in Dubai. I had to wait til April when summer is definitely on its way. Before the race I looked up last year's weather at the 5000m on my Garmin stats. It was 26C/79F degrees. This year we were graced with 32C/89F degrees. Ouch!

The ladies team - still looking good before the race
Heat in combination with humidity is the biggest killer for any sort of speed.  Forget about your PBs. You will simply not be able to run a distance race at the same speed, as parts of your body's available energy will be used to keep your body temperature down. The problem gets worse with high humidity, as the cooling sweat produced by your body can not evaporate as easily from the skin. It's simple and pure survival mechanism that you slow down to prevent the body temperature from rising to dangerous limits. 

The ladies team after the race - slightly sweaty
As a result, I did worse than last year. But so did everyone else. My finish time was 20:34, way behind the sub 20min that I had dreamt of. An atrocious number. Nothing else but the weather was to blame. 

I recently saw statistics that the most marathon world records were run at temperatures between 6C/43F and 10C/50F. Obviously, the longer the distance is the more impact the weather has on your performance as your body available energies will have to be shared with the circumstances. 

However, I still enjoyed that 5k race despite the horrendous conditions. Once more it proved to me, that a good race is not just about the finish time. I ran an even pace throughout the race. Every time I manage to do that, I realize that this I finished at maximum heart rate, which is a good sign that I gave it all.

I enjoyed it so much  that I had a hard time to come down after I got home. Definitely the biggest downside of an evening race. I tried everything from red wine to ice cream.... I was still buzzing for a long time.

I admit I didn't eat healthy honey sweetened frozen yogurt. I had store-bought unhealthy chocolate ice cream. Yes, there you have it. But I share with you my latest frozen yogurt recipe. I love the original tangy flavor of the yogurt in this that is just laced with a fruity ribbon of pomegranate. What better way could there be to cool down in the summer. I hope you enjoy.
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HONEY FROZEN YOGURT WITH POMEGRANATE SWIRL
(Print Recipe) 
 
Honey Frozen Yogurt
4 cups whole milk yogurt (or 2 cups Greek yogurt)
4 tablespoons honey (or to taste)

Pomegranate Swirl
2 cups pomegranate seeds
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (or grain free arrowroot powder)
Serves 6-8
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Pomegranate Swirl
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Place the pomegranate seeds in a food processor and pulse a few times, just so the arils release their juices. The seeds inside the seeds should stay intact.

Place the pomegranates, honey, lemon juice and cornstarch/arrowroot in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool a little.
Strain through a sieve and discard the seeds.  Refrigerate sauce until thoroughly chilled.

Honey Frozen Yogurt
If you use regular whole milk yogurt, strain 4 cups of whole milk yogurt through a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel for at least two hours. Discard the whey.

Whisk the honey into the strained or Greek.

Without  ice cream maker
Pour the yogurt mixture into a shallow bowl or pan. Freeze until almost solid, about 1-2 hours. Take out of the freezer, and thoroughly stir it with a fork. Put back into freezer and freeze again until almost solid. Scoop out the frozen mixture and place it into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

With ice cream maker
Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and follow its instructions. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

Pour the pomegranate sauce on top of the frozen yogurt. With a knife or a spoon, gently swirl the sauce into the frozen yogurt.

Cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. If you keep it frozen until completely solid, keep at room temperature to soften a bit before serving.
Continue Reading>>

24 April, 2014

Paleo Hazelnut Banana Date Muffins

A chiropractor once said that to me there is no running injuries, only lifestyle injuries. Our modern lifestyles have us sitting in the most awkward positions for way too long a time, e.g. at the desk in the office, with awkward postures, e.g. bent over to look down onto the laptop, with the right arm and shoulder being overused through the computer mouse, sitting on mal-fitted chairs with no lower back support. Then we come home and slouch on the sofa. We sit too much. We move too little. We eat too much, and/or the wrong foods. We sleep too little. And our lives are too crammed with things that we think need to be done.

Our postures change through lifestyle. Imbalances are being created for which we may pay our price with stiff shoulders and necks, sore hands and arms, or lower back pain. We pay the price when we exercise and develop alleged sports injuries. The body tries to compensate the weakness/imbalance with overusing other muscles which in return may put extra stress on bones, joints and ligaments.

My lifestyle injury is a weak right hip. A very experienced South African running coach with whom I met at a mutual friends' house last week told me that. We were talking about the last running season and I mentioned that I didn't quite enjoy it as much as I used to, partly because I was forced to manage injuries while training. My weak hip causes groin and pubic bone pain after hard or long running sessions.

He made me stand up and stand straight. Or whatever I considered straight. My right foot was pointing slightly outward. Proof no. 1. He made me reach down with my arms down the side of my legs. I couldn't reach as far on the right side as on the left side. Proof no. 2. When I walked in, I carried my bag over the right shoulder like I always do. Proof no. 3. Then we sat down and started chatting about this and that. After some time, I got into my most comfortable sitting position without even paying attention to it. In fact, I am sitting in exactly the same position now that I am writing this: I pull up my left leg onto the chair and sit on it with my right thigh or butt. That way, I sit mainly on the left butt while the right one is lifted. Proof no. 4. Or rather the main reason for my hip imbalance.

While I have been doing regular core strengthening exercises for about a year now, I didn't pay much attention to possible imbalances. If I train both hips in exactly the same way, they both get stronger but the imbalance remains, especially if I don't change my lifestyle, as mentioned above.

In order to get balance back, one needs to pay more attention to the weaker side. The coach said to me that I should reverse numbers: if I can do 30 side plank hip dips with my left hip, and only 15 with the right hip, I should swap these around. Needless to say I will struggle to get the 30 done with the weaker side. In that case, I do them in batches. 15 left, 15 right, short break, 15 right.
In the same way, you can work other muscles too. My left biceps is stronger than my right one.

This is easier said than done. It's hard to break habits, especially lifestyle habits. If you keep compromising your posture for several hours every day, it will be hard work to correct it in the gym in a couple of hours per week. But it should not discourage you. As long as we pay attention to what we do and how we do it, what we eat and how much of it, how much we sleep and how rested we feel afterwards, we are on the right path.

Food plays a big role when it comes to energy levels, not only for exercise but to get through the day without big dips. These muffins will be perfect to kick start your day for breakfast or to top up energy levels before a workout. Without grains and the sugar coming from dates and bananas only, they are a nutritional powerhouse and even suitable for a paleo diet. Needless to say they are absolutely delicious too. I hope you enjoy.
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PALEO HAZELNUT BANANA DATE MUFFINS
slightly adapted from The Healthy Foodie

(Print Recipe)

3/4 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons desiccated shredded coconut

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 very ripe bananas
2 medium eggs
1/4 cup pitted dates, finely chopped

Garnish
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon shredded coconut

Yields 6
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Grease or line muffin molds.

In a medium bowl, mash bananas to a smooth paste. Whisk in eggs until well combined. Stir in finely chopped dates. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine nut meal, tapioca starch and coconut flour. Add shredded coconut, cinnamon, baking soda and cream of tartar until well combined. 
Gently combine wet and dry ingredients. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin mold. Garnish with shredded coconut and chopped hazelnuts.

Bake for 20 minutes or until cake tester come out clean.

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06 April, 2014

Green Beans with Dates and Walnuts


Spring is in the air, and I find myself making salads and light vegetable dishes instead of heavy hot soups and stews or meat-laden dinners. 
One can never eat enough vegetables, I find. I eat mountains of it. And I try and make everyone else in the family eat mountains of it too. Which has the disadvantage that the fridge is always empty after preparing one or two meals for a family of four.
At the moment we have visitors from overseas. Six hungry mouths to feed. If I don't stock up on a daily basis, the fridge is basically empty by evening.

Don't get me wrong, I love my steaks, my seafood, my eggs, my protein of sorts. But I cannot deny that a tasty vegan dish with layers of flavors, textures and colors does it for me too.

As you know, I exercise a lot and I can feel the extra nutritional needs on the days or the day after of strenuous training sessions. As long as it is clean and real food, give in to your cravings. Your body just gets what it needs. 

Like with this dish of green beans. The beans are steamed, just enough to keep the crunch, then topped with sweet chopped dates, crunchy walnuts for some more texture and to add some filling good fats and a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it a bit of steam. Don't you forget the cayenne pepper!

This green bean salad has everything you need and it is filling. If you eat the whole batch, like I did several times before I managed to take a picture. In fact, any dish can be a main dish if you just add enough nuts. It's not just the crunch, it's the good fats that fill you up for a long time and that will not end up on your hips like a carb-laden meal will. I hope you enjoy!
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GREEN BEANS WITH DATES AND WALNUTS

(Print Recipe)

300g/12oz green beans, washed and trimmed
1 large bowl of ice water

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced

1.4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Serves 4 as a side, 1-2 as main dish
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Steam trimmed green beans until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to bowl with ice water to stop cooking process and maintain bright green color of the beans.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add walnuts, dates and cayenne and cook until the nuts are slightly toasted, about 1 more minute.

Drain the beans, then add to the skillet. Add salt and cook for a few minutes or until heated through. Season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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25 March, 2014

Apple Rosemary Cake with Lemon Drizzle

March is pretty much the last month of the Dubai running season. The races are getting shorter, as the weather gets warmer. Over are the days when the temperatures drop down to 15 degrees or less. I had signed up for two 10k races in March, while giving another half marathon at the beginning of the month a miss as it was only three weeks after my February half marathon.

One of these 10k races was ten days ago, the other one will be this Friday. My racing motivation was low after the RAK half marathon in February. I wrote about it in detail here. I realized the mistakes I made in both the RAK half marathon and the Dubai marathon: I made myself a slave of my Garmin, let it dictate how to run my race. While I achieved PBs in both races, I didn't enjoy running them. I used to be the queen of negative splits. During those two races, I overdid the first half and then struggled through the second. That obviously is not enjoyable.

My legs were tired from all the hard running and endless training miles. I started cutting down on weekly mileage, and add some quality speed work to prepare for the upcoming 10k races. I never enjoyed lung-busting sprinting or running hills (even speed bumps are hills to me). Nevertheless I incorporated them into my weekly training. And... surprise, surprise... I am enjoying them. It's perhaps because they short. After a long running and training season - remember, I started training for the Berlin marathon in July last year and hardly had a rest since - my body appreciates less pounding. Yet, they are quality workouts. I am not sure if they have made me faster yet. But I feel stronger in my legs and lighter on my feet. I bet, somewhere and somehow they will contribute to me becoming a better runner.

Start Line of the Saucony Autodrome 10k
The 10k race last week was a bit too early to have my newly incorporated training sessions show their results. Yet, it turned out to be an important race to me as I got my racing motivation back. This 10k race was a hilly one. So fast times were out of the picture already. The weather decided not to be in favor either: hot and windy.
In previous years I would dread this race. This year, I found all the circumstances - hilly, hot, windy - very deliberating. I decided to run totally by feel, and not become a slave to my Garmin again. I meant to look up what time I did on that course in the previous year, but then I forgot. As a result, I had an awesome race. I didn't collapse halfway. I had more or less even splits. From 7-8k onwards are started "collecting" runners in front of me. My finish time was atrocious, I realized that when I checked my Garmin at 5k and multiplied that time by two. But compared to last year's result on this course, I improved by almost a minute. That's acceptable. I finished 4th lady overall and 3rd in my age group. That's OK too.

Lesson learned: Running is supposed to be fun. That's why we do it. I run best if I trust the signals of my body. I love my Garmin, don't get me wrong and I never leave the house without it, but it cannot beat running by feel. I have only owned a Garmin for two years. For the 7-8 years prior I ran with a simple stopwatch that would not tell me pace or distance covered. I think I learned reading the signals of my body in those years. I should continue doing so in every single race.

So on the occasion of having had a good AND enjoyable race, we'll have some cake today. Who doesn't love a piece of homemade apple cake?! This one is brimming with flavors, as the fresh apples are accentuated with rosemary and vanilla. The lemon drizzle is the cherry on top. I hope you enjoy!
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APPLE ROSEMARY CAKE WITH LEMON DRIZZLE

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 apple, cored and finely chopped

Lemon Drizzle
¾ cup powdered raw sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Yields one loaf
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Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Line or grease a medium sized loaf tin (22x10cm/9x3inches).

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, coconut flour, baking soda, seas salt and rosemary. Stir until well combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in honey, coconut oil and vanilla.
Blend wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in finely chopped apple pieces.

Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin and bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Turn out the cake and let cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Drizzle

Combine powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir until sugar dissolves in the juice. Add more lemon juice by the teaspoon, until mixture has desired consistency. Mixture should be a thick and smooth liquid, not too runny.

Drizzle icing over cake and leave for 15-20 minutes to harden.
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13 March, 2014

Honey Tahini Almond Cookies

I read an interesting article yesterday, on one of my favorite running and nutrition websites Competitor Running. The article was called "Do The Math: Percentages In Diets Are ‘Meaningless’". 
It says that the various recommended ratio of carbs, protein and fat for endurance athletes given in percent are inaccurate. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that endurance athletes are suggested to take in a 60/20/20 ratio. Other sources step away from the high carb intake and rather suggest a 40/30/30 ratio.

Nutrition is a very complex subject, and its science still very young and far from being conclusive. And I am no expert either. However, the findings of a Dutch scientist specializing in endurance performance and nutrition make so much more sense to me. He is a triathlete himself, I thought this is worth mentioning. Asker Jeukendrup says that it is not so much the percentage, but the total quantity of carbs in grams or calories that counts. 

For endurance athletes, carbohydrate needs will vary from 5-10 grams per kilogram of body weight per day with training ranging from one hour per day to five hours or more. 
My weekly training load does not exceed one hour per day on average. Which means I'll be good with 5g carbs per kg body weight. 

Not surprisingly, on days when I exercise I crave more carbs than on rest days. Looking at the statistics of my food journal, I do meet my total carb requirements according Jeukendrop on most days, although the percentage of carbs on that day is still way below the recommended 50 or even 60%, rather in the high 30s% or low 40s% region. I was trying to up my carb intake, but really struggled to get it beyond the 50% mark with normal sized food portions. I even re-introduced some grains into my diet to see if it would make a difference.

Because carbohydrates are used for fuel only and don't serve structural purposes like fat and protein do, you need proportionally less carbs, the less active you are. This is probably the reason why the paleo diet is popular with so many people these days. With a rather sedentary lifestyle in the office and at home, physical activity is reduced to a minimum unless you make an effort to exercise regularly. 
The protein requirements are slightly increased for athletes as they serve to rebuild damaged muscle tissue after a workout. The recommendations lie are around 1.5g of protein for each kg body weight for endurance athletes. They would be higher if you did bodybuilding. Now that carbs and protein needs can be calculated rather exactly and with a bit of testing you will know how to meet your personal requirements, the rest should be filled up with healthy fats. It's as easy as that.

These cookies are the perfect for the low carb/healthy fat section: made of ground almonds and ground sesame seeds and sweetened with honey. A great snack that is not too sweet. I hope you enjoy.
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HONEY TAHINI ALMOND COOKIES

(Print Recipe)

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sesame seeds

Yields 25-30
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Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine almond meal, salt and baking soda.
In a large bowl, stir together honey, tahini and vanilla extract until well combined.

Add the almond meal mixture to the honey tahini mixture and stir until well incorporated. The dough should be solid enough to form balls. If it's too wet, add some more almond meal.

Form balls of the size of a cherry. Roll in sesame seeds, then flatten it to 1/4 inch thickness and place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave 1-2 inches space between cookies. Repeat until all dough is used up.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until bottoms are golden. For extra crispy cookies, flip them upside down and leave in the warm oven for a few more minutes.
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03 March, 2014

Quinoa Tabbouleh

The update of the half marathon that I ran more than two weeks ago on Valentine's day?.....ahem, yes...... I still owe you that one. Well, let's be totally honest: I was sulking.

I don't really have much reason for it. I felt good at the start line, the weather was perfectly cold, the course flat as a pancake. PB material. I finished in 1:30:40, a PB by more than 2 minutes. Yet, I wasn't happy with that race. It didn't come easy, I continuously got slower through the race. My 5k splits were atrocious. And again, like at the Dubai marathon three weeks earlier, I had thoughts of giving up. I didn't enjoy it.

To put you into the whole picture, I was going for a sub 1:30 time. I thought I could do it. Perhaps it was one number to big for me yet. At the same time, I saw several of my running friends with similar race times to mine, beat the 1:30 barrier for the first time. You can imagine, that didn't go down well. As much as I am happy for all those friends as they deserve it after hard and consistent training, I am very competitive at the same time. I am lagging behind by some 40 seconds. That bugs me. Badly.

Killing myself on the RAK half marathon
Now two weeks later, I am slowly finding my feet again. I didn't run much. A cold that came on a couple of days after the half marathon, was a blessing in disguise to help me stay off my feet. I needed rest. My racing tank was empty. My body depleted. Not so much the leg muscles, rather all my bones. I usually find it difficult not to run despite little injuries and niggles. This time, I could literally feel how the rest was doing me good for every hour that I put up my feet.

I needed some time to decide what to do with myself after the last half marathon. Another one is about to happen in a week's time. My chance to redeem myself before the end of the season? The thought of racing another 21.1k was not appealing. And still isn't. I am quite happy with the prospect of not having to run further than say 15-17k on my weekly long runs.
Two 10k races are coming up in March. They are two weeks apart. The first one is a hilly one. The second one is flat and the one where I run all my 10k PBs.

I decided to use the next 4 weeks to do a bit of speed work. The hilly 10k race will be a training run. But I will try and do well in the last 10k race of the season.  End of March can be quite warm in Dubai already. I am not sure if another PB will be possible.
I have started the training. I am adding strides at the end of my easy runs. I went for hill sprints the other day. To my surprise, I am enjoying the speed work. Perhaps the change to the shorter and faster workouts is all I need after training for two full marathons where it's all about "long and slow" pounding of the pavements.

In the next few weeks I will also experiment with a higher carbohydrate percentage in my diet. As I mentioned in previous posts, I have been writing a food journal over the past 4 or 6 weeks. It turns out that my refined sugar and mostly grain free diet reduces my carb intake to 35-40% of the total. That is rather little, especially for endurance athletes. I will try and increase it to at least 50% every day, and see if it makes a difference in my training, recovery and races.

In order to do that, I am ready to add more grains into my diet again. I have brown rice here and there, and always like quinoa. Today's recipe is a traditional Middle Eastern salad. I love Tabbouleh, it's so refreshing and very easy to prepare. It is typically prepared with bulgur, which is split wheat. I replaced it with quinoa to make it gluten free and more wholesome. I hope you enjoy.
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QUINOA TABBOULEH

(Print Recipe)

1/2 cup quinoa
2/3 cup water
pinch of salt

1 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped and tightly packed
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped and tightly packed
1/2 cup cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
freshly ground pepper

Serves 4
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In a medium pan, bring quinoa and salted water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Let quinoa stand in covered pot for another 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Combine finely chopped parsely and mint leaves in a salad bowl. Stir in the cooked quinoa until well combined. Add cucumbers, tomatoes and the dressing. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper or more lemon juice.

Serve cold or at room temperature. Salad keeps well in the fridge for 24 hours.

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13 February, 2014

Orange Almond Cookies

It has become a habit of posting here on my blog the day before a big race. Although I didn't mention it in last week's post, I went for another race last Friday.

It's the Wadi Bih Run, a 72k trail run with 1000m ascent/descent through the Omani mountains. It's a classic on the Dubai running schedule. I had never done before. Everyone who did, said it was a great day out. The distance can be covered by teams of five, with legs between 1.5k and 4k long. One person would be running, the other four would be transporting themselves to the next changeover point in their support car. Around 200 teams participated in this year's run, and more than a 100 solo runners did the distance on their own.

I was especially looking forward to the trail running. I figured I would like it, running over loose gravel. And I did.
What I didn't look forward to was the hills. I have been running for 10 years and have always avoided hills like the pest. Fortunately, Dubai is flat as a pancake. All races in the UAE are as flat as can be. I kept on saying that I will only start running hills when I am 40. That would give me another 14 months from now.

The hills were tough. There is no other word for it. Paces slow down to ridiculous numbers, something that was hard to swallow on the first hill. For me as a road racer it has always been a cardinal sin to walk. No matter what, you keep on running. Now I found myself on a hilly 72k ultra marathon course. While I was running it in a team and my bits only added up to 17k, I realized that walking steep uphill bits is totally legitimate. In fact, I overtook a guy from another team on an uphill leg when I was walking and he was running.

I apologize to all ultra marathoners for my ignorance. I had to experience it myself that walking during an ultra marathon preserves more energy for the flat and downhill bits and keeps you faster over the whole distance. Many ultra marathoners say that time is not so much of an issue. It's the finishing that counts. Coming from a race background where time is everything, it's probably something that I will only understand once I have run an ultra marathon myself.

So here is my new goal: next year in February I will run Wadi Bih solo: 72k on my own. 30k further than the furthest distance I have run so far. Plus the hills. A new challenge.
I will be running the Berlin marathon again in September. And instead of training for the Dubai marathon straight afterwards I'll be going long and slow and prepare for an ultra marathon. I am all excited. I wish I could start training for it now. But I am aware that my body needs rest. Since September last year I have run two full marathons, one half marathon, two 10k races, two 5k races and Wadi Bih.

Tomorrow morning, another half marathon is to follow. I think I have recovered enough from the Dubai marathon three weeks ago, and the hills of Wadi Bih last week were good training. Tomorrow's half marathon is flat as a pancake again. Weather looks good too. I will try and break 90 minutes. That would be 3 minutes off my current PB. I'll keep you posted!
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ORANGE ALMOND COOKIES

(Print Recipe)

1 1/3 cups almond meal
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg
100g/4oz jaggery or coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons orange zest

ICING (optional)
2 teaspoons orange juice
1/4 cup powdered raw sugar

Yields ca. 25
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In a bowl, combine almond meal, coconut flour and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat egg and sugar until creamy. Stir in coconut oil and orange zest. Mix wet and dry ingredients until well combined. Wrap dough tightly in cling wrap and keep refrigerated for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 165C/350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Form balls of the size of a walnut and place them two inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Let cool completely on wire rack.

ICING
Mix icing sugar and lemon juice together until it becomes a creamy paste. Drizzle over the cooled cookies. Let the frosting become solid before serving.
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06 February, 2014

Asian-Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

This quinoa recipe was an attempt to carb load before my marathon last week. As it contains grains and veggies... Oh, how little do I know.
I am aware that many of my blog readers appreciate my take on nutrition and healthy foods and a whole lot of you love my recipes. But I cannot say often enough that I am not a certified nutritionist. I am simply sharing my findings with you and adjust my views on health, foods and diet accordingly.

Recently, I read an article  in which a nutritionist said that she can only guess calories and macronutrient breakdown when she has a plate of food in front of her. Often it would be very deceptive and there are more hidden facts than obvious ones. Interesting, isn't it?!

A couple of weeks ago I started a food diary to see what my diet looks like in more detail (see here). I have been using one of those iPhone apps. It's been very enlightening. According to my current weight and height, my daily energy expenditure is being calculated to be roughly between 1600-1800 calories when not exercising. With my running and gym routines, I would need more.

Here are some stat facts that I collected over the past two weeks: My average daily calorie intake is 2.000 to 2.200.

During the week prior the marathon when I was trying to carb load for a few days, 43% came from carbs, 40% from fat and 17% from protein. In the other week, when I was eating "normally", I did 37% carbs, 42% fats and 21% protein. My dietary fiber intake 50% to 100% over what's been considered necessary for a healthy diet.

I guess it would be called a low carb diet. Although anyone who avoids grains for most parts would have trouble getting a higher percentage of carbs. I feel good with this percentage although a higher percentage of carbs is often recommended for endurance athletes. I don't think there is one perfect formula with regards to macronutrient breakdown.. More and more studies pop up that show that a high fat diet (healthy fats that is, needless to say) work just as well for athletes.

As a rule of thumb I would say that the less active/more sedentary you are due to your job or lack of exercise, the better you will fare on less carbs.

Now what's the breakdown of this Chicken Quinoa Salad: it's 27% carbs, 41% fat, and 31% protein. Carb loading failed, I'd say. Nevertheless, a delicious salad  that fueled me on the way to another marathon PB. I hope you enjoy!
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ASIAN-STYLE CHICKEN QUINOA SALAD

(Print Recipe)

100g/1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup water
pinch of salt

1/4 cup cashew nuts

2 tablespoons coconut oil (divided)

2 teaspoons garam masala (divided)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon soy sauce
300g/12oz chicken breast, cut into cubes

1 red bell pepper, finely sliced
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
2 cups baby arugula leaves

Serves 2-3
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In a medium pan, combine quinoa, water and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium pan and over low heat, dry-roast  the cashews nut until golden brown. Shake the pan often to avoid burning. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. Add raisins, ginger and 1 teaspoon of garam masala. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the other tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. Add remaining garam masala, the chicken cubes and soy sauce. Keep stirring while the chicken cooks for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat, then add the cooked quinoa and the raisin ginger mixture. Cook for another minute or so to combine flavors. Adjust seasoning with more soy sauce if necessary. Take off the heat. Stir in bell pepper, carrots, and arugula. Sprinkle with toasted cashews. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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01 February, 2014

Dubai Marathon 2014


3:15:37 it was!!! My finish at the Dubai Marathon last week.
It was a tough race. For the first time ever, I didn't do negative splits, e.g. running the first half of the race faster than the second half. My splits were 1:36 and 1:39. My goal was a 3:10:00 time. I knew it was ambitious, but you gotta try in order to find out, right?

The weather was warmer than I had wished for, around 15C/59F.  I felt good, rested and ready. When the gun went off, I tried to get close to my average goal pace within a few kilometers. In retrospect, I must say I never felt 100% comfortable with the pace. I kept on checking my Garmin for the pace. It didn't come naturally. After 10k my hips and groin were already sore. It's an old "problem zone" of mine. I expected to get sore there, but not so soon. Between 20 and 30k I was considering giving up. Not seriously, but the thoughts were there. While my bones were sore, I was still able to keep up the pace. Up until 30k I was on for a 3:12 or 3:13 marathon. Not too far off my goal. At the same time I knew that I was not able to make up and go any faster.
The leading men incl the winner 18 year old Asefa
The toughest part of the race started at 30k. Due to the nature of the marathon route and its surrounding road closures, there were hardly any spectators on those last 12k when everyone most needed them. It was 6k on a long straight road, and 6k back. All on your own. My pace dropped then, and I wasn't even sure if I'd make a sub 3:15 time. I knew which of the local female runners were in front of me, and as it was only a handful and all but one of the runners whom I wanted to beat (incl a long list of men) were behind me, I thought I am not doing too badly and might as well keep going.
20k done - 22k to go....ugh
A few local Anja's Food 4 Thought fans were on the roadside too and supported me. That was a great surprise. At 30k someone shouted at me "Go Anja go, I cook your recipes all the time." I loved it. Thank you!!! Another one shot pictures of me with just a few hundred meters to go to the finish line. Thank you too, Angelika!
Support Crew getting bored
Not surprisingly, I was absolutely exhausted at the end. I remember seeing the big clock at the finish line ticking away in the 3:15s. I remember thinking hard if that was a good time for me or not. I coudln't decide. My brain obviously wasn't working well anymore, as all my energy went into the running. A few friends were sitting in the grandstand at the finish whipping up the crowds and shouting my name. Jeez, I was glad that it was over.

I finished 33rd lady overall (which includes 20 something elite runners), and 5th in my age group.  A PB by 2 1/2 minutes from the Berlin marathon in September, and a whopping 11 minutes faster than the Dubai marathon last year.

It's been a week now since the marathon. It's still sinking in. A friend of mine keeps on asking me if I have realized what great performance I delivered. I am still in two minds. On one hand, 11 minutes off from last year's Dubai marathon is a huge chunk off. And it's a PB. A PB is faster than ever before. On the other hand, I had tried to get close to 3:10 for the second time (it was also my goal for Berlin), and I am still 5 minutes away from it. I know it was an ambitious goal, but I can't deny that there is a grain of disappointment in me too.

I have a feeling that the Berlin and the Dubai marathon were too close to each other. I started training for Berlin in July last year, then ran the marathon at the end of September. October was my "month off", but it felt incredibly short. By November I was supposed to start training for the Dubai marathon. I wasn't ready yet. It took me a while to get motivated again to run high weekly mileages. All in all, it was a very long and hard training spell with very little rest since last summer. It's for a reason that my hips and groin scream for rest.

I look forward now to not count weekly mileages, to go on long runs no longer than 20k and to just run for fun for a few months. Until it all starts again. My next marathon is Berlin again in September. Hopefully, I will get my 3:10:00 time then. Third time lucky?
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