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Entries in Full Throttle Endurance (11)

Tuesday
Oct012013

You Can't Beet London

The title pun is intended. Many of you know that I recently spent some time in London. I was there for a race, representing the USA at the Age Group World Championships of Triathlon. This was an overwhelming and humbling experience. The whole Iaciofano clan showed up, as well as a hearty cheering squad from my old stomping ground in Los Angeles.

Highlights included:

Scotch eggs and fried capers at the Pheonix Pub in Covent Garden.

Copious amounts of "Flat Whites" (this one from a bike cafe called Look Mum, No Hands!)

A post-race celebration at the Dock Kitchen.

Wacky bus rides.

Underwhelming tube rides.

Black Pudding! (from Albion Cafe) John and I both liked it.

The best bathroom this side of anywhere (Nopi in SoHo).

The best food market this side of anywhere (Borough Market).

Copious amounts of clotted cream (from Brown's Hotel).

With equal amounts of gin. And rum. And heavens only knows what else (from Purl).

A proper British haircut for John.

A lot of shopping with Kaz.

Brunch featuring toast caddies! (At High Road House, Chiswick)

Waffles on sticks! (Tower of London)

More bike cafes (Zappi's in Oxford).

And a ridiculous, Team USA photoshoot around London...

Phew — that was a lot. Of beer. And gin. And blood pudding. How to recover? Vegetables. Even for breakfast. But how? Of course, I could be traditional and go with a nice vegetable frittata. But I had just been exposed to seemingly endless rows of cute coffee shops and cafes displaying their homemade baked good, including granola. I wanted to make my own.

And so I did. With vegetables. Beets and squash to be exact. These veggies toast up very sweet, so they're perfect for your morning granola. Add a little spice and nut action, and you've just created an addictive breakfast, snack, lunch...Now if I could just find an NYC coffee house that makes a flat white...

What You Need:

3-4 medium sized beets, trimmed of their greens and thinly sliced into 1/8" rounds

1 delicata (or winter) squash (you could also use butternut or sweet potato)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used Bob's Gluten Free variety)

1 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup roasted pistachios

3/4 cup coconut flakes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

What you do:

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slice the delicata squash in half and remove the seeds with a spoon. Slice each half of the squash into 1/8" inch thick pieces. Place the squash slices and the beet slices on the prepared baking sheet, but don't crowd them! Give 'em some room to breathe.

Throw them in the oven and let them bake. And bake....and bake. This takes a while, as you are essentially making vegetable chips which requires baking all the water out of the veggies. Veggies have a lot of water. The whole process could take up to an hour. Keep checking on them, as smaller pieces may crisp up faster and you don't want them to burn. Have a bowl ready to place more quickly cooked pieces.

Once all your veggies have "chipped," place them in the bowl and break them up into smaller pieces with your hands. Think about what size would fit nicely on a spoon. That's the size you should break them into.

Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.

In another bowl, combine the oats, spices and nuts. Mix in the olive oil and maple syrup and coat all the dry ingredients evenly with the wet. Spread this mixture onto a baking sheet (you can use the same one that you used for the veggies) and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. With five minutes left in the baking time, sprinkle the coconut flakes on top. Coconut will toast up rather quickly, so it doesn't need much time.

Remove the mixture from the oven and add it to the bowl of veggie chips. At this point you can also add in the dried fruit. Mix to combine. Store in an airtight container for weeks! Now you can have your vegetables for breakfast.

 

Thursday
Jun272013

Rinny's Race Cakes

Recently, I had the great good fortune to meet two pro triathletes: Mirinda Carfrae and Tim O'Donnell. 

Chelsea Piers hosted a Q & A event with the tri-sport stars and "Rinny" and "TO" good-naturedly indulged us while we peppered them with ridiculous questions like,

"How do you stay motivated?" and, "What do you eat before a race?"

To this last question, Mirinda admitted that she eats cupcakes before her races. Cupcakes. With icing. Specifically, she liked Whole Foods' gluten-free cupcakes. She mentioned something about them being a perfect amount of calories and sugar — topping off what was hopefully a nutrient-rich diet the previous day.

Here I am eating oatmeal before I race, like a sucker, and Mirinda is chowing down on cupcakes. Later on, I questioned her privately, "You really eat cupcakes before a race?" 

"She has a food blog, she might write about this!" a bystander cautioned Mirinda before she could answer.

At this, Tim piped up and said I should make them for the blog and call them "Rinny's Racecakes".

And so, I have. All the credit goes to Rinny for the idea and TO for the name.

Now, these cakes are a little different. They are gluten-free, but they're made with beets which keeps them extra moist, and some say the Nitric Oxide in beets translates to better athletic performance...I'll try anything.

The sea salt topping is for extra electrolytes, which can't hurt on those hot summer race days.

Finally, how to get them to a race. If you're lucky enough to be eating at home beforehand, then you don't have this problem. But if you need to take your breakfast with you, you need to accomplish two things: 

1. Minimize frosting mess.

2. Prevents cupcake squish (a real phenomenon.

To solve the first problem, I sliced the cupcakes in half and frosted them sandwich style. Easy!

For issue the second, I converted a simple bottle of Smart Water into a cupcake tote. Instructions follow!

What You Need:

For the Cake:

1-1/2 cups almond meal

½ cup brown rice flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1-1/2 cups turbinado sugar

2/3 cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder

4 small red beets, roasted

3 eggs

½ cup almond milk

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Colavita)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

1-2 tablespoons of water

1 8oz package of vegan cream cheese (I used Daiya - I swear it's good)

2 1/2 tablespoons of PB2 peanut butter powder (I used the chocolate flavor)

2-3 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar (depending on your need to sweetness

For the Top:

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

Process:

First, deal with the beets. I admit to being lazy and bought mine pre-roated. I've got a lot on my mind pre-race and I don't really want to bother with roasting things, whatever they are. However, if you'd like to roast, here's how to do it:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the beets in half and wrap them in aluminum foil.

Place the wrapped beets in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until soft when pierced through the center with a knife.

Remove the beets from the oven, allow to cool and then peel the skins off. Chop them into cubes.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees.

Place the cooled, chopped beets in a blender with the almond milk and puree until very smooth - so smooth you could drink it.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cacao powder and turbinado sugar. Mix all dry ingredients together.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil and vanilla extract.

Add the pureed beets to the egg mixture and mix to combine. Pour the wet beet mixture into the mixing bowl with all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Prepare a cupcake tin by lining with cupcake paper or greasing with non-stick baking spray.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the frosting:

Place the cream cheese, peanut butter powder, water and sugar in a medium bowl. With a hand-held mixer, beat until smooth. It's best to add just a little water at a time, so the mixture doesn't get runny. It should be the consistency of frosting.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, slice them in half cross-wise with a sharp knife and sandwich in some frosting on the bottom half. Place the top back on and garnish the top with the pink Himalayan sea salt (extra electrolytes!).

How to make the water bottle carrier:

What You Need:

1 bottle of Smart Water (drink the water first, you'll need to be hydrated anyway if you're racing)

1 exacto knife

Parchment paper for lining in between the cupcakes

What to Do:

With the exacto, slice the bottle of water around the middle so you have two same-sized pieces. 

On the top half, make a small vertical cut, like the tails of a suit jacket. This will allow you to fit the top half into the bottom half.

Place a finished cupcake in the bottom half of the bottle. 

Place a piece of parchment on top of the cupcake.

Keep stacking cupcakes and parchment alternately until it seems unwise to continue.

Secure the top half of the bottle over the bottom. 

Race breakky to go!

On a side note, Tim was kind enough to write this message on his photo for The Box. I used it as a Father's Day card:

Tuesday
May142013

Fall Down and Get Back Up Again. And Again...

I've had a few biking "incidents" lately. These things happen. And luckily, they haven't been too serious. However, they don't really make you feel excited, or happy, or all, "woooo TIGER BLOOD, I'm WINNING!!"

No. They sorta make you feel slow. And slightly stupid. And owchy. And couldn't Johnson & Johnson make the size bandaid that you need (tarp sized, please), instead of 1,298 sizes that won't work??

Just a suggestion.

And here's another suggestion: taxed muscles, whether from training or from a fall need some recovery and repair. Nutritionally speaking, a good way to get that is through protein. This month, I was featured in Triathlete Magazine's June issue with two sneaky protein-rich recipes.

Sneaky? Yes, they're sneaky because they don't contain meat or fancy protein powders. They contain farro. Farro is a grain that is very high in protein (about 6 grams per 1/2 cup of cooked farro). And you can use it to make any number of things, like the Coconut Farro Oatmeal or Fig Cookies with farro crust.

The recipe for the Coconut Farro Oatmeal is below. For the fig cookies, go check out Triathlete Magazine!

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 cup farro

2 cups coconut milk (not the condensed stuff, the other kind) plus additional for serving

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 rounded tablespoons of ground flax seeds

¼ cup dried cranberries

½ cup fresh blueberries

¼ cup slivered almonds

¼ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened preferred, but you can use either)

Instructions:

Measure out the farro, ground flax seeds and coconut milk and pour them into a medium pot. Heat on medium-low on your stovetop adding in the seasonings and sweetener: maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg.

Simmer until tender and liquid is absorbed - about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread the shredded coconut and almond slivers onto the baking sheet. Toast for about 5-8 minutes, keeping a constant watch on the progress as the nuts will toast quite quickly. Feel free to toss halfway through the baking process to ensure an even browning.

Remove from oven and set aside.

Scoop the cooked farro into serving bowls. Top with a little extra coconut milk, fresh blueberries and dried cranberries. Sprinkle with the toasted almond and coconut mixture.

A special note of thanks to all my Full Throttle teammates who have been so nice and supportive as I continually fell off my bicycle in the past week. Thanks for delivering medical supplies, making me dinner, checking in, checking in again, enduring chatter about my sprained groin...the list goes on. You guys are the best.

Monday
Apr152013

Training Diary – C'mon, Muffin!

As the weather (very) gradually warms, I'm getting outside on my bike again. I rode to Piermont, New York, recently with a teammate of mine, Bobby. As per usual, rides to Piermont involve a stop at Bunbury's Coffee Shop for a quick pick-me-up, whether in the form of caffeinated beverage or carbohydrate-filled treat. And by the latter, I refer to muffins.

When biking long distances, it's best to keep an eye on your calorie intake. It's not good to go hungry, but neither do you want to stuff yourself and undo all that hard work. However, the Carrot Raisin muffins at Bunbury's seemed like a good option for a half-way point snack. I usually eat only half, and store the other half in my jersey pocket for later use.

Bobby, however, ate the whole thing. I'm not calling him out on it, it's just important to the story.

A rather steep hill awaits riders almost immediately on the return trip to New York City. As we were ascending this hill, I heard Bobby exclaim forcefully, "C'mon, muffin!!"

He was not talking to me.

Rather, he was demanding of his recently ingested carrot and raisin concoction to do it's job already: get those calories in motion and get him up the hill!

Now, in my time on the Full Throttle triathlon team, I have heard teammates call upon the baby Jesus in the manger, the BVM, random assorted saints (and sinners), their parents and relations, and even OTHER people's parents and relations in an effort to make their legs move faster, express their workout-related frustration, or for no reason at all, just to make conversation.

But the idea of calling up your not yet digested food was new. And, in my opinion, quite appropriate (as it does seem like Jesus, Mary and Joseph may have better things to do than helping any of us climb Ranger Station...like playing Scrabble).

But the muffin...well, the muffin does not. It's entire purpose is to make itself useful.

So after I returned to my apartment and ate the other half of my Bunbury's muffin (along with a lot of other things), I vowed to create some biking-friendly muffins.

The following muffins are loosely based on my mom's banana bread recipe. I made it healthier, and even incorporated the Bunbury's-inspired carrots. So, c'mon, muffin – let's get baking. And biking.

Banana Carrot Pecan Muffins

What You Need:

3 overripe bananas (you can actually freeze ripe bananas for a few days, let them defrost for an hour on your counter top, and violá - you have over-ripe bananas).

1/2 package of baby golden carrots, roasted until soft (instructions below). NOTE: You can use orange carrots, I was just trying to be color-palette consistent.

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup almond milk

1 tablespoons chia seeds

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 semi-sweet chocolate chips

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. If using a muffin tin, line with muffin wrappers, or grease the tin with cooking spray or butter.

Pour the 1/4 almond milk into a small bowl and add in the chia seeds. Allow the chia seeds to expand and get gummy. Chia seeds have essential fatty acids, omega 3's and 6's,  and the coolest of all...the word "CHIA" comes from the Mayan language and means "STRONG." Perfect for biking.

Meanwhile, roast the carrots. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until soft.

In a food processor, blend together the butter, sugar and eggs. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the bananas, roasted carrots, almond and vanilla extracts. Blend well, making sure to break up all those carrots.

Finally, add in the pecans and chocolate chips, blending just to incorporate.

Fill the muffin tins 3/4 of the way full, and top with a few more broken pecan pieces (it makes them look nice).

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife piercing the center of the muffins comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely, then stuff them in your cycling jersey and get riding!

And if you'd like some tips on bananas and when they're ripe, just ask Chiquita:

Monday
Jan282013

Training Diary – Breakfast in the Shower

I'd like to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: BREAKFAST.

I would eat breakfast any time of the day, twice on Wednesdays....or twice on any other day, as I often do have two breakfasts...

My first breakfast is usually enjoyed directly after a training session. For this meal, I make a smoothie. I won't bore you with carb-to-protein ratios, but I will say that it's good to get in some of each after a workout. A smoothie is a great way to accomplish this goal - it's a breakfast multitasker.

And speaking of multitasking, these longer training sessions are cutting into my get-ready-for-work time. So I've started to combine activities and have breakfast in the shower.

Now, before you judge, let me explain:

1. I'm not PREPARING the smoothies in the shower, a la Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld

2. I only do this when I'm at Chelsea Piers because they have huge showers with hooks and little stools, so I can set up my smoothie along side my various accoutrements and have a few sips in between my shampoo and conditioning.

Still think this is weird? I just don't care.

The reason I don't care is because after a workout I'm really hungry. And for some reason a swim/run workout seems completely doable before breakfast, but drying my hair and getting dressed before eating seems insurmountable.

So, I tote my smoothie into the shower with me and all you naysayers be damned!

I have a number of smoothie recipes, but my current favorite is called Blueberry Coconut Fabulousness.

The trick to this one is fresh blueberries. You could use frozen, of course, but I find the flavor from the fresh berries is better. Here's how is goes:

What You Need:

1 cup Almond Milk

1 scoop (or serving) natural flavor protein powder. I'm using this one right now.

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

1 tablespoon Chia seeds

3/4 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup shredded coconut (you can use sweetened or unsweetened)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Dash of ground nutmeg

What To Do:

Throw all this stuff in a blender and BLEND like the Dickens. 

Drink immediately OR pour it into a spare water bottle and stick it in the fridge. Tote it with you to the gym the next morning and enjoy while showering.

Here are a few more highlights from week 2 of training, including a forced cab ride, Hotwheels and more portable breakfast options.