Summer Snacks & Simplicity

Where does the time go?  As if it weren't scary enough to be careening at breakneck pace toward my 40s, next week is JULY, people.  That means I'm just a week from being able to say that my ultra is a mere two months of insufficient training away.  It is with this terrifying knowledge (and stunning lack of time) that I'm desperately trying to simplify where I can, while also attempting to knock off a few pounds before my training mileage really starts increasing.  With that, I give you two embarrassingly easy snacks-slash-meals that will likely be in heavy rotation over the coming weeks.

Cait's Basic Fruit Salad

1 pint strawberries

2 large bananas

1 - 2 juicy peaches (as juicy as you can find)

1/2 cup+ fresh blueberries (for me, this is as many blueberries as I have the patience to pick from our backyard bushes)

Sprinkling of chopped nuts (I like walnuts for this)

1. Cut everything except the bananas into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces.

2. Combine everything but the bananas in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Refrigerate your (whole) bananas during this time, too.

3. Just before eating, slice your bananas and mix them into the bowl.  Sprinkle with nuts and serve!


Smoky Brussels Sprouts

Best consumed outside in the sunshine

Best consumed outside in the sunshine

1 bag small-ish frozen* Brussels sprouts

1 tsp olive oil (optional), plus a dash of salt & pepper

1/4 cup prepared tahini sauce - or tahini mixed with lemon, garlic, and salt to taste

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp chipotle powder, or to taste

1. Preheat oven to 475.  While the oven is heating, toss frozen sprouts in a bowl with the oil and salt & pepper.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment (optional but recommended), spread the sprouts evenly on the sheet, and pop into the preheated oven.

3. Start checking on your sprouts after 15 minutes, and check tenderness with a fork every 5 minutes or so.  You want them just tender with a bit of charring on the outer leaves.

4. While your sprouts are cooking, mix tahini sauce, vinegar, and chipotle into a deliciously smoky sauce.  I like mine thin enough to drizzle, but it's also good as a thicker dip, so thin with water or vinegar to your liking.

5. Put all your cooked sprouts into one big bowl, drizzle with sauce, and eat the entire thing.  (There's no shame in it, because VEGETABLES.)

*I use frozen because my obsession with Brussels sprouts means that I've tried them just about every way you could think to make them.  My hands-down favorite is roasted-from-frozen---I have no idea why, but they cook so evenly and turn out almost creamy.  

Caitlin's Detox Diary: Day 2

Well, it got easier today.  I'm realizing that the food part of this cleanse is really not very difficult.  Yes, I want bread, and right now I am randomly craving cornbread muffins (what?), but I do generally like smoothies, veggies, beans, and all the good stuff I'm eating this week.  The hard part is still the caffeine withdrawal, but Day 2 was waaaaaay better than Day 1 on that front, which gave me the boost I needed to restrain myself when I walked right by the Starbucks next door to my office.  Holy hell, that place smells good---how have I never noticed this? Here's how Day 2 worked out:


Wake to the sounds of a crying toddler.  Wife generously agrees to soothe him back to sleep while I keep sleeping, so I grab another hour or so.  Heavenly.


Make it down to the kitchen and am again reminded how nice it is not to have to make coffee.  Throw food together for Son's day and try not to eat the potatoes he's getting for lunch.  Wife and I collaborate on how to make a lunch using yesterday's veggie chili and last night's butternut squash mac, and end up smashing them both in the same container and calling it "chili mac."  Thank our lucky stars that I was able to make hummus through my brain fog the night before, as it gives us both something to look forward to.  Wonder why I think I'm supposed to look forward to food, then decide I can deal with that post-cleanse.

I swear my blender is cleaner than it looks.


Send Wife off with Son and her smoothie, as I'm working from home until a doc appointment later in the morning.  Decide I'm not going to make French toast in the meantime, no matter how tempting.  So far so good on the no-caffeine front.


Finally at work and starving.  Eat my leftover almonds (still sitting on my desk) and decide that yesterday's approach to delaying lunch was a pretty good one.  Settle in and try not to think about all the free Starbucks Keurig cups in the kitchen.



Give in and eat lunch; turns out I LOVE chili mac.


The brain fog settles back in.  Today is definitely better than yesterday, but still pretty rough.  I'm hungry, too, but the caffeine withdrawal distracts me nicely.  I make another stupid cup of stupid tea and eat the hummus and carrots I brought with me to work.  Wish the carrots were pita chips.


Head home via the grocery store, because we're out of bananas and Wife is dying for some sort of cracker she can eat on this cleanse.  I settle for some sesame rice crackers with ingredients I recognize, and grab some organic brown rice cakes that seem to only contain brown rice.  I'm not sure how that works, but I'm not going to question it today.


Son is in bed and, much to Wife's dismay, it turns out the spicy kale and lentil soup I've made tastes a lot like the chili we've been eating for two days.  Make a mental note not to use cumin for a while.


Sadly, yet again, I can't finish Downton Abbey through the heavy eyelids and brain fog.  Tonight, I'm the one who gives in first.  I'm asleep by 9:00.


Given that the coffee thing was slightly more bearable today, I'm inspired to keep going, despite losing some of my compadres to the lure of caffeine (not naming any names).  Onward and upward!




Caitlin's Detox Diary: Day 1

People think I'm really healthy when they hear I don't eat meat or dairy.  Like, kale-every-day, never-eat-a-cookie healthy.  It used to be true---when I first started trying to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, I was great at it.  Some days it's still mostly true---I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and I'm a wiz at getting green veggies into all kinds of dishes---but there any many days I eat bread, potatoes, more bread, and more potatoes.  Sometimes there's pasta. After a holiday season that included cookies, chocolate, and a heaping helping of my mom's cooking, I am staring down the barrel of Detox 2014.  There are conversations happening as I write this about whether this thing is going to last 7 days or 10, but let's handle it one day at a time.

The Plan: Eat fruits, veggies, beans, non-wheat grains, and little else.  No alcohol or coffee (ouch).

The Preparation: A trip to Costco and a trip to Trader Joe's, followed by a mini-trip to QFC for tahini (really, TJ's?  Get with it and stock tahini.).

CarrotsHere's how Day 1 (Monday) went:


Roll out of bed to the sounds of the little one stirring, realize I don't have to race to make coffee before he gets really upset that he's still in his crib.  This no-coffee thing seems great so far!


Quickly throw standard smoothie ingredients in the Vita-Mix---spinach, kale, banana, frozen berries, water. Suck it down while throwing together Son's food for the day (which looks delicious).  Wife wonders why the smoothie is so thick, and adds water.  I may have gone overboard trying to make it seem chewable.


I'm at my desk, feeling pretty good.  I've totally got this no-coffee thing handled, and I'm not even tempted to eat my almonds yet.


Starting to feel the hunger.  My smoothie doesn't pack the same punch as the banana with peanut butter I usually eat.  I eat a few almonds and feel better, then have a ridiculously productive morning at work.  At some point, I eat an orange and have some tea.  In my freezing office, I'm really starting to miss the warmth I usually get from coffee.


Decide I need to delay eating lunch as long as possible, so I don't chew my arm off during the evening commute.  Head out to distract myself by shopping for non-food items.  Find an awesome sale and spend the rest of a Visa gift card that's been hanging out in my wallet.  By the time I'm paying for my haul, I'm feeling a little foggy and tired, and I have a hard time following my conversation with the woman ringing me up.


Finally heat my lunch, which is a veggie chili I made the night before.  Delicious!  Man, this is going well!  Note to self: eating food distracts from lack of coffee.  Must find way to eat food constantly throughout the day.


Feel like I'm going to die if I don't close my eyes.  Caffeine withdrawal is making me sensitive to light and feeling like my vision is blurry.  Have to speak to a coworker on the phone and can barely follow what he's saying.  Make more tea and curse it for not being coffee.  Stupid tea.


Head out to pick up son and Wife and find out how Wife's detox day has gone.  She's hungry, but in good spirits.  Having been pregnant somewhat recently, she's used to the lack of caffeine.  I feel only slightly unsafe driving in my brain fog.  I'm surprisingly not starving, but craving bread.  Thinking perhaps a bag of gluten is just what the doctor ordered.


Scramble around making dinner for Son and feeding him, and making a new recipe for us--butternut squash mac-n-"cheese" with brown rice pasta--while Wife gets the house in order.  A friend is visiting to watch Downton Abbey on our DVR, and the house is chaos.


Start eating and watching Downtown.  Wife and I are eating our cleanse dinner, which is pretty good, while our friend eats take-out from our favorite place.  Burn.  We make it through an hour or so before Wife starts falling asleep.  I silently thank her for falling asleep before I did, as I was this close to passing out.  Cleansing is totally hard, you guys.


Sweet, sweet bedtime.  One down, 9 (or maybe 6) to go.





Intuitive Eating


Dieting takes effort.  I know, duh. It's worth noting, though, as I've just really started thinking about how to best streamline my life.  (Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my adventures in chilling the F*** out.) With one active kid, hopes for another someday, two full-time jobs in two different towns, one car, and unpredictable commutes, this household needs some serious simplifying.

One thing that's taken a lot of my time and energy in the last, oh, 25 (out of 35) years is diet.  Before I became a mom, I could get sucked down an hours-long online rabbit hole of nutritional theory, manifestos on superfoods, discussion boards on the benefits of juice cleansing--and before I knew it, I was armed with homework requiring extensive time in the kitchen and my swiftly weakening willpower.

Now that the luxury of free time has abandoned me with dozens of cookbooks---all but 4 or 5 gathering dust---and almost as many diet books I don't have the time or energy to follow, is it time for a simpler approach?

Jason at Cook Train Eat Race got me thinking when he started observing the way his 7-year-old eats.  It's intuitive, guided by hunger, easily distracted, and totally mentally healthy.  Jason's son doesn't think about calories or a growing wheat belly.  He's not concerned about making sure he eats a lot now (even when he's not hungry) because there might not be something available at the party he's attending later.  Yup, I'm jealous of Jason's 7-year-old.

Here's the part where I commit to eating like a kid again, right?  Where I swear never to diet again or count a calorie or wonder if putting pineapple in my smoothie is perhaps not as good a choice as a mixed berry blend because of some article I read on antioxidant superfoods?

Perhaps not.

First of all, I have never "eaten like a kid."  As long as I can remember, even before I was concerned with health, I've chosen (or tried very hard to choose) "diet" over "regular," one slice instead of two, "no, thank you" instead of "yes, please."  This is everyone's and no one's fault, and is certainly the run-of-the-mill stuff that seems to go along with being a woman these days. (For more fun thoughts on food and an unhealthy relationship with it, check out Lily Myers's "Shrinking Women."  The text is included below the video of her performance.)

Save me, book!


Secondly, I am not so naïve as to think that my lifelong hyper-analytical approach to food is going to disappear now that I've decided it's perhaps not the best way to de-stress my life.  Still, I'm working on it.  By far the biggest step I've taken so far is picking up the book Intuitive Eating,* which provides a step-by-step guide to eating like someone who doesn't obsess about food (hint: it starts by being ultra-obsessed with one's hunger levels and body signals, but eventually reaches a mellow place).


So, folks, that's what I'm trying.  I've only just started, but as I said to my wife the other day, I'm kinda thinking this may change my life.  We'll see how it goes.





*No, the irony that yet another diet book may be the answer is not lost on me.


My Pants

For the record, it was really hard for me to write this post. The more I read it, the more ungrateful I felt. My life is pretty good, albeit chaotic. As grateful as I am for what I have, I am also human. I've been criticized for even mentioning I need to watch my weight simply because I am not obese. I've swallowed my words when wanting to chime in about diet or exercise, because I'm often quickly shut down by those with "bigger problems". I'll save the issue of body image and related criticisms for another post, but the short of it is, we all have self-image issues, regardless of what the scale says.  Well, I promised an earlier post would not be about my pants, and yet here I am, about to write a post about my pants. Bear with me.

About two months ago, I ventured out to the mall to find some jeans. My favorite jeans had developed a hole, deeming them unsuitable for work. Naturally, I ended up at The Gap--mom's best friend. The Gap has been a reliable source of everything from khaki skirts in my high school years to conservative work wear in my 30s. And they stocked tall sizes, which is not easy to find. I knew I could find a pair of sensible jeans there.

Not only did I find some tall jeans in my size--they were NOT the low-rise, midriff-aka-muffin-top jeans that I can't seem to escape. (Seriously, am I the only one who is "apple shaped" out there?) These jeans were mid-rise beauties with a "tummy-taming" front panel. Little did I know that that panel would soon dictate my life. Let me explain:

One of the reasons I love The Gap is its consistency. I know when all else fails, if I just drop $100 on the sale rack at the Gap, I will be good for a few months. Another truism about The Gap is that its jeans stretch with wear. You can get a few days of booty-hugging style out of them before they start to droop, only to be brought back to life after a wash cycle. In light of this fact, I made sure to buy jeans that were on the snug side of comfortable, knowing they would soon stretch and I would be back to my flat-bottom self--why not beat the jeans at their own game?

Well, the joke was on me, friends. That #*@$ tummy panel kept the pants from stretching. The first time I wore them, I thought to myself, "give it a few hours--you'll be able to sit down soon enough." Alas, that panel would not budge. And while it tamed the lower half of my tummy, well, let's just say the dreaded muffin top was back. I was able to button only one of the two buttons, and was forced to cover that extra, protruding button with a loose shirt. I kicked myself for being so hasty in my purchase. The jeans went to the back of my closet.

A few weeks ago, I decided maybe it was time to find some new jeans. After an unsuccessful trip to the mall, I decided to break out those Gap jeans and give myself a laugh. Light from the heavens filled the room as I comfortably buttoned both buttons--no muffin top. I'd been running a lot more, maybe eating a bit better. Whatever I was doing, I needed to keep doing. I was not going to let the jeans win again.

But then life got in the way. The work started picking up, and I was in crisis-prevention mode at work. I skipped lunchtime runs and opted for frozen, processed meals. I gave into that emotional stress eating and added a cookie to every lunch. I went on a business trip, during which I went on two short runs, which were, sadly, over-shadowed by those 400-calorie cookies sent from heaven (or purveyors of Hyatt's baked goods). Add to that my second full-time job--parenting--and here I am, four unhealthy weeks later, defeated.

That second button is simply too much.

It's true what they say--that weight isn't everything. My weight has stayed in the same 5-7-pound range since I had kids. I always say, as long as I am healthy and strong, I don't care about my weight. I've never worried about weight, never been on a diet. But the truth is, I weighed a few pounds more than I do now when I was training for triathlons, when I was at my fitness peak. You can bet those jeans would have fit then. Sure, I've had two kids since then, and I am not too naive to know that my body will never go back to what it once was. But I also know how I eat and live, and if I did both of those better, I wouldn't be cursing any buttons.

Exit, bathroom scale; enter, Gap jeans.

I'm determined not to buy new jeans, but to fit into the ones I have. Comfortably. Not because I want to be a certain size, but because I want to be healthy, and I know what good health means for me. It doesn't mean living in a nearly constant state of stress (cortisol has a huge effect on weight), and it certainly doesn't mean relying on sugary snacks for emotional contentment. It means prioritizing eating well and exercising above all else (except in extreme circumstances), and learning to integrate these healthy practices into my family and work lives so I don't have to choose between being healthy and being a mom/employee. If I can master that, the jeans will follow.

Question for Our Readers:

How do you integrate good health into your crazy schedule?