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Entries in Triathlon (16)

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.

 

Friday
Aug022013

Oh You Sweet Tater, You Are, You Are!

Another day, another adventure. In eating and in living.

Here we are in the beginning of August, and what do I have to show for it? Quite a lot, actually. There's a lot I haven't been telling you. I'm sorry. It's not personal. It's not you. It's me.

But let's reconcile. Kiss and make up? I'll fill you in on the details, and hopefully win you back with this recipe for Sweet Potato Tarts. They're gluten and dairy free. And totally delicious.

Did the words gluten-free just freak you out a bit? I hope so, they freak me out. Truth is, I've been experimenting with some gluten-free cooking. Readers of this blog know that I do a lot of physical activity, triathlon training and whatnot.

All this exercise has made me a bit sensitive to certain foods. It's also made me a VERY cheap date. One beer and I'm a very happy person. VERY happy. Just sayin'.

Anyway, I've started my own line of endurance snacks - Ciao Cycling Snacks. They're endurance snacks straight from your Italian Grandma's kitchen. If you'd like more info, you can check out the website here.

They will make you feel like this:

And that is how you want to feel, people, with a bike or without.

And speaking of bikes, as you may know I fractured my hip in a biking accident at the end of April. It's been a downer, as I haven't been able to run...that is, until a few weeks ago.

But the running...well, it's HARD. For this past NYC Triathlon, I wasn't in the running shape I wanted to be in. 

This was disappointing to me to say the least. But, I changed my goal for the race. I decided to run happy. Meaning, I would smile the ENTIRE 6.2 miles. I must take a moment to shout out to my teammate and friend Tommy who ran with me the whole time, ensuring that I neither went too fast (I have a broken hip, people!) nor stopped smiling. Thank you, Tommy.

Here is the evidence:

In addition to happy running, there are a few food-related things that are making me happy. Including:

Awesome tacos on the Upper West Side at Oaxaca. If you happen to go on a day when the Korean taco (pictured on the left) is a special, you are in luck.

The Classic Bibimbop on the Good Fork brunch menu. Ground beef, sticky rice, pickled carrots, some other pickled things...and a fried EGG. Bam. I travelled all the way to Red Hook for this. On the ferry. With Ikea goers. And I would do it again. So there.

Joe Coffee's cold brewed latte. With soy milk. And hot pink. Get the large. You'll be zooming the rest of the day.

And....finally, the Sweet Tater Tarts. These started with the graham crackers, featured here. I then used these to create a fantastically moist and flavorful crust. Let's go:

For the Crust
What You Need:

1 1/2 cup walnuts

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (just pulse some graham crackers in a food processor)

1 large egg (optional, you can do without it if you are vegan)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

What To Do:

Coarsely chop walnuts and graham crackers in a food processor until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.

Add the egg and melted butter to the crumb mixture and pulse to combine. The mixture should start to hold together in clumps.

Place a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan on a baking sheet. Crumble the mixture over the surface of the tart pan and press to form the crust. Alternately, you can use four small tart tins with removable bottoms (that's what I used).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until set.

For the Filling:
What You Need:

1 1/2 large sweet potatoes, baked until soft.

1/2 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar if you must)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

What To Do:

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend!! Like you mean it. Spoon the resulting magical mixture into your tins or large pie dish. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, until set.

For the Coconut Cream
What You Need:

1 can of full fat coconut milk (the kind that comes in a can)

2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What To Do:

Chill a large mixing bowl and the can of coconut cream in the freezer for 15 minutes.

After chilling, open the can coconut milk and spoon out JUST the top later of extra thick and rich and luxurious coconut cream into the chilled bowl.

Add the sugar and vanilla and whip on high speed with a hand-held mixer until it starts to firm up. You won't get stiff peaks of cream like you would with heavy cream. But after about 5-7 minutes of mixing it will start to hold together and get very thick. You can even place the resulting cream in the freezer after whipping to keep it extra chilled and thick.

When you are ready to serve, spoon the cream onto the tart and serve! Feel free to dust the top with a little cacao powder or maple sugar crystals.

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:

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.

Monday
Jan072013

Training Diary - The Way Off Season

I'm here to tell you the fun is over. Or it's just starting, depending on how you look at it. 

To be honest, it's a little bit of both. 

My 2012 triathlon season came to an end in October. Since then, it's been about more relaxed workouts, sleeping in (5:30 am - woohooo!) and gaining weight....just a bit. I even took some yoga classes. 

But today formal, organized practice begins.

So do 4:30 am wake-up calls, constant hunger, permanent goggle marks, and the ever-present stench of chlorine.

I am...how shall I say this?...EXCITED. 

I'll own that I get a little too excited about this stuff. John has had to feign enthusiasm when I say things like, "I was barreling down this hill at 40 mph and when I stopped I had bugs plastered all over me!!" 

Gross.

But training and racing is about getting comfortable with some uncomfortable and potentially gross things. 

For example, did you know I can pee standing up? Pretty much on command. I have also ridden a bike mostly covered in horse droppings (thank you, Central Park in the rain), had snot rockets blown AT me, and let's not forget the aforementioned bugs. Also, I swam in the Hudson. Twice.

If you can get comfortable with this type of thing, you are part of the way there.

To get the rest of the way there, you need some guidance, determination, and lots of snacks. Trust me on the snacks part. I've been making my own energy snacks for some time now because it's important to me to know what I'm putting in my system. And I think energy gels are icky.

Triathlete Magazine has been kind enough to feature me again in their February 2013 issue, out this month. In this issue, I bring you some Italian-inspired energy snacks: Biker Biscotti and Rice Balls CARB-onara.

Get it? CARB-onara? Are those crickets or does my bike need a tune-up?

Anyway, both of these snacks are healthy, delicious and portable. Meaning you can bring them on your bike, slip them into your workout bag and enjoy them on the go.

From time to time, I will bring you stories and recipes from my triathlete kitchen. I will not bore you with power meter readings or tempo run times. But I WILL tell you if I forget my pants and where I obtained my post-race cheeseburgers. And how to make your own energy bars.

If you'd like to check out more from my Triathlete Kitchen, click here to view the full line-up. Even if you're not swimming in the Hudson, these snacks will keep you well-fueled for whatever you're up to....like that Xbox Connect Dance-off you had planned for next weekend. Yeah, I know who you are.

Here is the recipe for the Rice Balls Carb-onara:


Ingredients:
1 cup short grain (Arborio) brown rice
2 eggs
4 strips thickly sliced bacon
pinch of salt
bread crumbs (optional)
plastic wrap

Instructions:
Cook the rice in a pot on the stovetop according to the instructions on the packaging. Add a pinch of salt to the rice as it cooks.

While the rice is cooking, place the bacon on top of a few paper towels and on a microwave safe plate. The paper towels will absorb much of the bacon grease as it cooks. Microwave the bacon on high for two minutes. Blot the bacon with paper towels if you’d like to remove the grease from the top, and continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until the bacon has reached your desired crispiness.

Chop the bacon into tiny pieces – I actually used kitchen shears for this purpose – and place the pieces into a large bowl.

Crack two large eggs in a small bowl and wisk with a fork. Heat a small, lightly oiled skillet (I used cooking spray) on the stovetop over medium heat. Scramble your two eggs, breaking them up into small bits.

Once the rice has finished cooking, add it to the bowl with the bacon, and then add the scrambled eggs. Mix well to evenly distribute all the ingredients.

Assembly:
Scoop a tablespoon of the rice, bacon and egg mixture into a square of plastic wrap. Form the rice mixture into a ball by closing up the plastic wrap and twisting it at the top. The rice is sticky, so it should stay together. You can add a few drops of cold water to your rice if necessary so it holds together better.

At this point, you can either set your finished rice balls aside, or roll them in some breadcrumbs for a finishing touch. Keep in mind that without the breadcrumbs, this recipe is gluten free!

You can keep them twisted inside plastic wrap, drop them into the pockets of your bike jersey or bento box, and take them to go on long rides.
For the Biker Biscotti, please go check out Triathlete Magazine, on newsstands now!