Category Archives: what to eat

Salad Towers: Salmon, Squash, Seeds & Sesame Toppers

My brain and your eyes could probably take a break from all this incessant MCM talk. Today’s a mind-taper day, and a reminder that there’s another big aspect of training – well, life, in general – that has gone mostly unmentioned here. THE EATS.

Working from home allows for more flexibility with meals. If I were in the office, you’d still see a lot of pumped-up salads, they just wouldn’t be plated quite so nicely. And they wouldn’t be consumed in the backyard sunshine – my way of supplementing lunch with some Vitamin D. I choose a salad for lunch because it ensures a huge vegetable serving, is completely versatile for flavors and toppers, and gives me a high volume of healthy foods.

WIN, Win.

Let’s walk through a basic salad construction….

I don’t consume meat or poultry, but protein is always part of the salad equation here. I opt for one or more of the following: fish (usually leftover from the night before – baked/grilled), pumpkin seeds, chopped nuts, hard-boiled egg and/or avocado.

You don’t have to have “greens” to make it a salad, but I usually do. I buy the organic mixed greens from Trader Joe’s and may mix in some raw kale, arugula and/or spinach for extra nutrients. Then I pile on the rainbow! My goal is to have at least 3 colors in my salad, which may come from peppers, onion, carrots, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, dried/fresh fruits, avocado and/or leftover roasted veggies from last night’s dinner.

At the end, I go for a little flavor with a “dressing” of sorts. I never do a store-bought dressing, nor do I take the time to mix anything together. I keep it simple: fresh lemon squeeze, drizzle of EVOO or a drizzle of Sesame oil.

Here are a few salad towers I’ve created lately:

2014-10-20 13.09.51

The season hasn’t changed much here in California, but the display at Trader Joe’s suggests it may officially be fall. And therefore we have squash.

Tower toppers: leftover roasted salmon (seasoned with chili powder), roasted kabocha squash (seasoned with cumin, salt/pepper), chopped cucumbers, red peppers and carrots, sunflower seeds. Dressing: sesame oil.

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If there’s only one thing you takeaway from this post: you cannot have too much avocado on your salad.

Toppers: tomatoes (still farm-fresh at the farmer’s market!), cucumbers, avocado, red pepper and sunflower seeds. Dressing: lemon squeeze, salt & pepper.

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I like to have my salads with a side of brain-puzzle, too.

Toppers: baked Mahi Mahi (seasoned with dried green chile powder), chopped carrots, cucumber and pistachios. Dressing: drizzle of EVOO.


What are some of your go-to weekday lunches?

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Filed under health, Nutrition, recipes, training, what to eat

What I Ate Wednesday: RD Edition, Tagged & Delivered

There are a few reasons why I rarely, if ever, share food log-type posts, but there was once a time that you would see a few recipes here n’ there, some meal recaps and a lot of LGF love. In what was now probably more than a month ago, Anne asked if I would put up a “WIAW” post if tagged, and I said “sure!”. She tagged.

Dear Anne,
I apologize for severe procrastination here. Let’s still be friends!


Without further ado: we breakfast.

2014-05-21 09.16.07

(Melissa, 10 points if you can name this exact location!)

This photo is a few weeks old, but mirrors what most mornings look like. I have a huge glass of water before anything else – but then it’s right to the coffee (usually black or with a splash of almond or soy milk), and the peanut butter. Banana? That’s just a peanut-butter vehicle. I do love me some potassium and fiber, though.

Grab a spoon, a napkin, and a healthy appetite for nut butter!

On occasion you’ll see oatmeal + cinnamon here, too. On another occasion, you might see scrambled eggs + avocado + veggie(s). Sometimes things get fancy!


Now that I work from home, nothing has changed about my lunch routine. I chop up a variety of fresh vegetables, aiming for at least 2-3 colors in the mix, toss in some pumpkin seeds and sliced avocado, and when I’ve planned ahead, a hard-boiled egg.


One big difference of this work-from-home business? My home came stocked with a lemon tree in the backyard. So lovely, so California. This beauty’s dressing came courtesy of this tree’s abundant supply – freshly squeezed juice, and a few chopped basil leaves.

Top this off with some Farmer’s Market strawberries and a piece of dark chocolate. Perfecto!


On the dinner menu: Tuna steaks and cooked vegetables.

There is no shortage of greens in this house!We usually snack on kale chips and/or carrots + hummus while we cook – un-pictured, but you know what snacky foods look like.

WIAW_fish dinner

Poor photo, great foods.

This colorful plate came together courtesy of fresh-from-the-farm asparagus and tomatoes. Summer is the only time you’ll see fresh heirloom tomatoes in my rotation – I’m not sorry for being a tomato snob. After placing tomatoes on the “never eating!!” list for 21 years of life, I take their new spot on my “favorites!” list seriously. Dice one of these babes up and sprinkle some salt, pepper and balsamic on there? It’s simply the best.

Smeared on that fish you see a spicy green curry paste, courtesy of Trader Joe’s.

Dessert: usually another piece of dark chocolate, perhaps a handful of walnuts (my fave) and maybe some dried fruit. And maybe a peanut-butter dip. Maybe.


What was on your menu yesterday?
Taking tips for fish-grilling, as we put together the Weber today!


Filed under about me, food, Nutrition, what to eat

Spaghetti Squash & Hummus Lunches

Winner of the LOVE Grown Foods Hot Oats Giveaway: Sassy (Lauren)!
(Picked by Random.ORG number generator.)


One thing I learned about the spaghetti squash recently is that its volume shouldn’t be underestimated! I offered to cook dinner for some friends, and picked up two of said vegetable to feed three people. The recipe du jour was P&TY’s spaghetti squash pad thai (three thumbs up!); we were left with no more pad thai (that goes quickly), but an entire spaghetti squash’s worth of “noodles” unused.

Hello, lunch:

Spaghetti squash salad lunch

That whole squash was enough for two of us to make lunches for most of the week – file that under quality Sunday-night meal prep!

My preferred combinations (staples) :

1-1.5 cup spaghetti squash
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 carrot, grated
2-3 tbsp Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil hummus
Seasoned with: salt, thyme

1-1.5 cups spaghetti squash
1/2 orange/red pepper, chopped
1-2 tbsp. yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp. raw pepitas
1 tbsp. Trader Joe’s Cilantro Jalapeno hummus
1/4 – 1/2 cup black beans
Optional: squeeze of lime juice

1-1.5 cup spaghetti squash
1/4 cucumber, sliced/chopped
1/2 roasted red pepper, sliced
1 tbsp raw pepitas
1/4 avocado, sliced
2 tbsp salsa OR roasted red pepper hummus
Optional: 1/4 – 1/2 cup chickpeas or black beans.


Do you dine on squash for lunch? What flavor combo would you add in there?

The versatile “noodles” can wear many hats – the week of lunch experiments proved tastefully successful.


Filed under lunches, Meatless Monday, recipes, vegetarian, what to eat

The Picky Athlete’s Pocket

When an endurance athlete reduces/eliminates gluten and dairy from the diet, there are a lot of things out the window! There are the obvious good-byes – bowls of whole-wheat pasta, peanut-butter & banana sandwiches on whole-wheat bread, most cereals, etc – and then there are the “THAT has gluten/dairy, too?!” moments. The breakups that follow include most* energy bars, gels, sometimes-worth-the-splurge candy, etc. It’s a tough wake-up call, but well worth turning over those bars to glance at an ingredient list or two.

CLIF Dietary options

Exhibit A: the CLIF site makes it very easy to see which products fit into your dietary-needs pocket. But click “Gluten Free” & “No Dairy” and your options are instantly diminished. (Kudos for the user-friendly way to find this out, though. Scrolling through an FAQ section isn’t as fun.)

When did fueling on-the-go get so complicated? Wasn’t there a day when these didn’t exist, and people still crossed finish lines riding/running strong?

YES. Yes, those days did exist.

*Being selectively picky might have been quite the chore as few as 5-10 years ago – aside from homemade options and loaves of frozen gluten-free bread, you might have been grazing the sport store aisles & internet pages without much luck. Last Spring, taking on the “Sherpa” role with D’s cycling, I quickly realized that my marathon-fueling tactics didn’t extrapolate to a 100-mile ride, followed by an 80-mile jaunt the next day! (Let’s not get into how they physically do this, in the first place. My lower half aches at the suggestion of that weekend agenda.)

Enter: the Feedzone Cookbook, Picky Bars & Vega protein.

Feedzone cookbookPicky bars
picky bar science
Vega logo Vega slogan
Vega package instagramPicky Bar ski day

Photo source: Feedzone cookbook.

Sure, we could make our own bars all the time and get really creative with flavors & textures and combinations. When I feel the urge to do so, I’m all for it. We also can, and do, make trail mixes, simply grab hand-fruits, etc. when the kitchen is stocked.  But for the quick-fix, somebody-else-has-figured-this-out option?

ALL of these are gold to the picky athlete’s pocket!

The Feedzone cookbook (written by Allen Lim, who has worked with endurance cyclists for years) has recipes for rice-based bars; Picky bars are made by professional endurance athletes (Stephanie Rothstein, Jesse Thomas & Lauren Fleshman) as is Vega (Brendan Brazier). They get it. 

If you’re among the “picky” athletes looking for alterative options, these are all waiting for you. If you make your own bars, there are plenty of recipes out there to test out & enjoy! If you’re just looking to clean things up a little bit on-the-run or ride, these products are worth your investment.


What’s lining your pockets when you’re on-the-go?
Do you have any easy go-to recipes for bars, snacks, drinks, etc?


Filed under bike rides, cycling, food, gluten free, learning, Nutrition, running, what to eat

National Nut Day! Celebrate the Nutritional Craziness

In the health world, national nut day celebrates the plant-based source of our favorite fatty acids, nutrients and protein. These small, nutrient-dense powerhouses are not to be left alone! On a side note, I was infamously known around the college apartment for saying things were “nuts” (i.e. crazy).

Is that unique to the Southwest? Me? My personal jargon?

Not a clue. But, what’s totally nuts is that in a phase of life, my only dose of nut-nutrition was via the peanut butter jar (not even the “natural” kind – gasp). I did empty that jar pretty quickly, but even so, my matured and acquired taste-buds are sad for the time we missed!

Now, they are a go-to snack, oatmeal topper and trail-mix must have (what’s trail mix without the nuts?! We’re not going there.)

Here are my favorite ways to enjoy nuts:

Mixed with fresh fruit for a snack – yes, they go with anything. I’ve paired pecans + cantaloupe, walnuts + apples, pears and bananas, almonds + everything. It all works.

Topping a lunch salad or quinoa mix.

Creamed into a “butter” and, well, we know where that’s going… (fruit, oatmeal, dessert, snacking….).

Sprinkled on top of a smoothie for some extra texture and flavor.

Thrown into a pasta to make things interesting (see: Basil Cashew Pasta Salad).


Ready for something new? The Almond Board of California is riding high on a wave of new information that suggests almonds may be lower in calorie than originally thought.

I’m not suggesting we read too much into the numbers (see above: nutrient-dense powerhouse), but it’s an interesting update. Nuts get slammed by calorie counters because of their “high” value, but this food is bargain. Enjoy it, practice some portion control and you’re doing yourself a favor by choosing these over that “100 calorie snack pack”.

Here’s their idea for a creative homemade snack and/or dessert:

Almonds Mochaalmonds mocha

6 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbs. instant coffee granules
1 egg white
2 cups whole natural almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In container of electric blender, combine all ingredients except egg white and almonds. Blend 30 seconds, pulsing on and off; set aside. In large bowl, whisk egg white until opaque and frothy. Add almonds; toss to coat. Add sugar mixture; toss gently to coat evenly. Oil, or coat a baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray. Arrange almonds on baking sheet in single layer. Bake in center of oven 15 minutes. Gently toss almonds and arrange again in single layer. Continue to bake 15 minutes longer; toss gently. Turn off oven. Leave almonds in oven with door ajar 15 minutes. Remove from oven; cool completely. Store in airtight container up to two weeks.

Photo and Recipe courtesy of Almond Board of California.


Other ideas? Do tell…

Happy Nut Day!


Filed under Dietitians, food, Nutrition, what to eat