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This week has been sort of a lull compared to my normal schedule. On a whim, I joined my mom and sister at a new spin class on Monday night. As I normally (yet unintentionally) do, I started out too hard and have rendered myself useless these past few days. I’m sore everywhere. I had to cut my run short on Tuesday because my quads were screaming at me and my poor, limping form was causing more harm than good. The four flights of stairs that I take every morning to get to my office have just about killed me. I’ve resorted to living room core work and dining room spinning. On the plus side, these seemingly quicker workouts have actually allowed me more time to cook real dinners.

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I’m not much of a meat eater – I only eat meat once or twice a week – but when I do eat meat, it’s usually chicken. I love the versatility of chicken. You can bake it, fry it, grill it, cook it in a crock-pot. You can shred it, serve it cold, eat it with vegetables, top it with marinara, dip it in bread crumbs.

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Chicken is so easy to cook and it’s so easy to switch up. I especially love popcorn chicken – or chicken with a crunch – but I’m not a big fan of fried foods, and neither is my body! But…you can have your chicken and eat it too. This chicken isn’t fried, it’s baked, and it’s still crunchy! I also serve it over a bed of spinach with some other healthy and crunchy veggies.

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This recipe makes roughly 4 servings (4 salads), depending on how much chicken you like in your salad.

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Baked Cajun Chicken and Spinach Salad

yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 4 chicken tenders (about 1 large chicken breast, sliced lengthwise into quarters)
  • 2 Tbsp. milk or almond milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • spinach
  • shredded carrots
  • cucumber, sliced
  • feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Beat the egg and milk together in one bowl. In a second bowl, mix the panko and Cajun seasoning.
  3. Cut your chicken tenders into small nugget-sized piece. (About 1-2 inches in diameter.) First dip the chicken into the egg mixture, then coat with the panko mixture. Place coated chicken on the baking sheet.
  4. Cook the chicken nuggets for 15 minutes, or until fully cooked. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. While waiting for the chicken to cook, prepare your salad. Assemble spinach, carrots, cucumber slices and feta cheese in a bowl. Add in extra ingredients if desired. Top with cooked chicken.
  6. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar on to each salad serving.

my next project

08 27 2014.

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After trying my hand at a few new things this year, I’m finding myself at a bit of a (somewhat conflicted) crossroad. I spent the majority of 2014 training for my first ever triathlon. Despite my extremely tight budget, I found ways to pay for all of the necessary gear (a wetsuit, trisuit, road bike, bike rack and much…much more), training and race fees. That singular triathlon eventually turned into three – after which I told myself that I’d take a break to reflect and decide where I wanted to go from there.

Well that break is here and I can’t help but feel a little lost. Not having the anticipation of a large, somewhat daunting, event is rather strange. Competing in triathlons has been the hardest, most frightening thing I’ve probably ever done. But also equally rewarding. I’ve never felt as proud of myself than I have when crossing the finish line.

The thing is – I know I’m capable of more. I have a very real desire to keep going, just to see how far I can go.

But I have to be realistic. I have to turn my attention to the nagging pressure in my left knee – a slight discomfort that started during a 10k training run and was seriously angered during a strenuous spin class. I have to take care of my right ankle – another pain that has persisted throughout every run for the past two weeks – possibly the result of overcompensating for my weak left knee. I know they’re temporary, but I have to let them heal.

I also know that I’m a poor, poor biker. It’s my weakest leg and it shows. Biking competitively shouldn’t be as tiring as it is for me. Sure I love riding for enjoyment, but I’d also like to be a strong biker and to overtake more riders. Biking is my chance to make up some ground. That leads me to my next project – one I hope to accomplish very, very soon. It’s time for me to get clipless pedals. Not much scares me – and of the things that do, not many things prevent me from trying anyways – but clipless pedals scare the hell out of me. I’ve known from day 1 that I needed them to perform the way I want to. So I bought them. Then I fell. A seriously bloody, painful and embarrassing fall, and I didn’t get back on my bike until I had returned them to the store and my original pedals were back in place. (I still have a scar on my left knee from where I landed…5 months ago.)

I think it’s time for me to reinvest in the pedals and shoes, suck it up, and get back on my bike. At least I have a bike trainer now so that I can practice for a bit without the fear of falling over.

That’s where I’m going to focus most of my training for the next few weeks – strength and comfort on the bike. I want to learn to love it, the way I love running and have learned to love swimming. …And I have to let the spending money jar fill up again.

Up next for 2014: Trail to Ale 10k and Moose Pond Half Marathon!

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On August 24, 2014, I competed in the Rev3 SheJAMs Olympic Triathlon as part of a relay team – I was the swimmer.

To start, I had never actually seen a triathlon – and despite being a participating athlete, I was fired up to get to watch parts of it. I also felt lucky because I was doing the swim, which meant that I’d be “done” early and didn’t have to be mentally prepping for anything further on – though Rachel (the runner) had hurt her shins earlier in the week and there was the faint but present possibility of me having to run going through my head. I actually would have been more than willing to – since that’s the part I really wanted to do anyways!

(more…)

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

This morning I participated in the Rev3 (SheJAMs) Olympic Triathlon in Old Orchard Beach. (I’ll post the race report in the next few days.) When I got home after noon, I was starving. I wolfed down a sandwich and come 5:00, I was famished again. So I decided that I wanted to make a “recovery” meal that would have lots of healthy vegetables and fill me up!

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

Normally, I don’t post one-off recipes to this blog. I prefer to test them out a few times before posting them for the world to see, but this dinner was delicious. It was so easy to make – perfect because I was exhausted from a 4:00am wake-up and swim. I pretty much just threw whatever ingredients I had into it – and I’d actually encourage you to do the same. Don’t bother going out and buying every specific vegetable that I list. The point of this recipe is just to use pantry items that you have laying around! I’ll post some suggestions for substitutions afterwards, if you’re at a loss!

Sesame Vegetable and Bean Stir-Fry - Spice & Dice

sesame vegetable and bean stir-fry

yields: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups rice (I used Jasmine Rice)
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • a bunch of kale
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Prepare all of your vegetables by cutting/chopping/dicing/mincing them.
  2. Cook rice according to the instructions on the box or bag. As a general rule of thumb, I use a 2:1 water to rice ratio. I cook the rice until it comes to a boil, turn the heat down on the burner, and allow it to simmer (stirring occasionally) until all of the water is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked. This usually takes 10-15 minutes.
  3. Put 1 Tbsp. coconut oil into a sauté pan or skillet. Add the sweet potato and carrot slices and cook on medium heat. Stir occasionally.
  4. After 3-4 minutes, add the onions and garlic, along with another 1 Tbsp. coconut oil and the sesame oil. Cook the vegetables down until the sweet potato chunks are softened.
  5. Add the frozen peas, kale and black beans to the pan – and the remaining 1 Tbsp. coconut oil. Stir in, then cover to allow the kale to wilt.
  6. Once the kale is cooked down, add the salt, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and rice to the pan. Stir until well combined.
  7. Serve while warm.

Substitutions:

  • Instead of rice, you can use: farro, quinoa, couscous, pasta.
  • You can also choose to add in these ingredients for a delicious twist: corn, edamame, salsa, spinach, eggs, chicken, sausage, tofu

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Energy balls have become a classic. They’re so easy to make and yet so delicious. They’re the perfect balance between sweet and salty which makes them really easy to eat – and they’ve got so many healthy ingredients that you can snack guilt-free.

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

I make these oatmeal balls before every hike I go on. Depending on the length of the hike, I often find myself getting hungry on the way to the top. Not wanting to stop for too long, I grab an energy ball out of my pack and continue on while munching. One or two of these can sustain me for quite a while!

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

These oatmeal balls aren’t just for hiking, though. I make up a small batch at the beginning of the week and bring a few to work each day. They’re a perfect 10:30am pick-me-up and they also go great with coffee. I was recently talking to a close friend of mine about these and she informed me that her ultrarunner boyfriend brings something similar to eat while running his ultramarathons.

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Spice & Dice - Oatmeal Energy Balls

Oatmeal Energy Balls

yields: 18-20 oatmeal balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir well, making sure to mix the dry ingredients with the wet until the peanut butter and honey coat the oats.
  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the mixture into little balls using your (clean) hands.
  5. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. They also keep well at room temperature.