Pumped Up Pumpkin Oatmeal (Veg, GF)

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Often I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal for dinner if I haven’t gone to the grocery in a while, or don’t feel like preparing a more elaborate meal. Plus, there are a lot of benefits to oatmeal. This time, I wanted to add more of a protein punch to my oatmeal. Occasionally I’ll add protein powder, but this time I wanted to add an egg. I have heard of people putting eggs on top of their oatmeal, but I wanted the fluffy effect that adding the egg to the oatmeal would provide.

In addition, I added pumpkin (tis the season and it’s yummy), walnuts, a new almond/coconut milk that I’d been wanting to try and cinnamon. Here are some reasons that this makes a great breakfast, or… lunch and dinner.

Benefits of Oats:

  • Healthy whole grain
  • High in fiber
  • Contains beta glucan-known to boost immunity, stabilize blood sugar and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • High satiety factor (meaning you’ll feel satisfied post consumption)
  • High in manganese, molybdenum and magnesium

Then, you add in some pumpkin, eggs and walnuts, and here’s more nutrition benefits:

  • Pumpkin-very high in vitamin A
  • Eggs-high in protein, selenium, choline and some B vitamins
  • Walnuts-healthy fat and omega 3 fatty acids

pumped oatmea

Pumped Up Pumpkin Oatmeal

  • 1 cup milk or water-I used a combination of almond and coconut milk
  • 1 egg-whisked
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup oats (gluten free if needed)
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • Spices to taste-cinnamon, pumpkin pie
  1.  In a microwave bowl (or on the stovetop) place the milk and egg. Whisk the egg and add in the vanilla.
  2. Stir in the pumpkin and oats and microwave for 2:30-3min. Stir and add in the walnuts and spices.
  3. Enjoy


  • 469kcal
  • 42g carbohydrate
  • 24g protein
  • 24g fat
  • 9g fiber



Blackberry Muffin in a Mug (Dairy Free, Vegetarian)

Similar to the cake in the mug, I decided to try my hand a making a muffin in a mug. To those that haven’t heard of this new fangled idea, it’s where you make a single serving cake (or muffin) by mixing the ingredients together in a microwavable mug. 2 minutes later and presto, you have a single serving delicious cake.

This idea wasn’t mine, and this isn’t my first attempt at a mug recipe. This is the first one I’m posting, and it came out quite tasty. This morning before I started my work day, I checked Face Book. On it, a friend had posted a link to the Today Show, and several recipes for mug cakes. I was pretty taken aback with the ingredients, and the amount of calories, sugar and fat in their recipes listed.

I analyzed one recipe with my recipe analysis software, and here are the results.

Single Serving Blueberry Muffin in a Mug:

  • 517kcal
  • 58g carbohydrates, with 38g of added sugar
  • 27g of fat, totaling 80% of your recommended daily intake of saturated fat
  • 10g of protein

Wow! So, the culprit ingredients included 2 tbsp of butter and 3 tbsp of sugar, and also included white flour. So, as I often do, I decided to try to make a healthier version. And I think it came out delicious. Of course 2 tbsp of butter and 3 tbsp of sugar was most likely more decadent.

Here’s my version:

Blackberry Muffin in a Mug

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tbsp oil-olive/coconut/vegetable
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk-I used an almond coconut blend
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp stevia
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Dash of salt and cinnamon to taste
  • 10 frozen blackberries thawed- equaled about 1/4 cup
  1. Spray or grease a microwavable mug
  2. Place an egg in the mug, and whisk
  3. Add applesauce, oil, vanilla and milk and whisk together
  4. To that mixture add the remaining ingredients. It should resemble a muffin or cake batter. If too thick add additional milk.
  5. Place in microwave and heat for 2 minutes.

I have a 1000w microwave. If you have a slower microwave, cook longer. If you have a faster microwave, cook less.

You can then eat it directly out of the mug, or flip it out onto a plate. This is what I did. Once I flipped it out, I cut it into chunks and ate it. Yummy.

If you’d like to try a gluten free version, I would suggest trying oat or almond flour instead of the whole wheat. I haven’t tried either, but that’s not to say I won’t. My version is also dairy free and can be made vegan by substituting flaxseed/water for the egg.

Nutrition facts of my muffin in a mug:

  • 275kcal
  • 23g of carbohydrate with no added sugar
  • 16g of fat, with only 25% of daily saturated fat intake
  • 11g of protein

Plus mine had added fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. All in all a good start to the day.

The microwaved muffin

The microwaved muffin

After microwaving, I flipped the muffin out and cut into chunks

After microwaving, I flipped the muffin out and cut into chunks




Quinoa and Sauteed Veggies, Two Ways

Due to my position at PowerBar, I am often traveling during the week and over the weekend. Brett doesn’t love to cook, although he would tell you he loves to cook pasta, chili and hotdogs. Quite the repitoir…So, what I do, and what you can do if you leave home and want your family to still eat healthy is to cook a meal, or several meals for them to eat while you’re gone.

Here are two recipes that are easy to make, and can be used for both a meatless Monday, and a healthy lean protein meal. I made them for Brett prior to leaving for a race in Virginia Beach last week. Using quinoa (a fantastic seed high in protein and fiber) and sautéed veggies, I created both quinoa stuffed zucchini and a sautéed veggie and quinoa ragu sauce. Ragu sauce is typically a meat sauce, but in this case, I made both a meat and a quinoa macaroni sauce. This was the first time I’ve ever tried adding quinoa to a macaroni sauce, and even Brett agreed, it worked well and was quite tasty.

Last week my mom gave me an abundance of late summer/early fall zucchini and the largest carrots I’d ever seen. She loves to go to an Amish farm market and had bought too much for her to use. So, there I was trying to think about what to make with the veggies. The first thing that came to mind was a zucchini, carrot and apple muffin. But, I’ve made a lot of muffins lately, so I decided a main dish was a better option. I had some mushrooms and celery still in the fridge, so I decided on stuffed zucchini. Brett likes stuffed zucchini, but he gets more excited for meat dishes. We don’t eat a lot of meat, and not very much red meat. So, while I was gone for 4 days, I thought it would be a nice treat. Plus, if you buy lean high quality (organic/pastured/grass-fed) beef, you are getting good quality protein, zinc, iron, B vitamins and other quality nutrients.

Sometimes I make my own macaroni sauce, and other times I create a semi custom sauce. This time I created a semi custom sauce. Look for a lower sodium and lower in sugar tomato sauce and use this as a base. This can make your meal come together faster and still be fairly healthy.

First I sautéed the veggies (carrots first, they are the hardest), in a bit of olive oil and garlic. To the olive oil and garlic I added the carrots and cooked for 5 min. Then I added the onion, celery and mushrooms and sautéed an additional 10 min. Set aside when done.

sauted veggies

While the veggies were cooking I cooked 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water. I let this cook and set it aside while finishing the rest of the recipe.

After getting the quinoa started, you can prepare the zucchini by cutting in half lengthwise and taking a spoon and “gutting” the zucchini. Set aside.

Once the quinoa is done cooking, add half of the sautéed veggie mixture and 1 cup of tomato sauce to it and stir. The rest of the veggies should be left in the saute pan. To this, re-heat to medium if it was turned off and add the meat. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in 3 cups of tomato sauce.

Quinoa and veggies Quinoa Ragu

At this point you should have one pot of quinoa, sautéed veggies with tomato sauce, the meat/veggie tomato sauce and the prepared zucchini. Since I was done with the meat sauce, I put in a bowl in the fridge for Brett to eat later(he had 100% whole wheat macaroni with the meat sauce). Then, I stuffed the zucchini and baked. Delicious.

Quinoa stuffed zucchini

Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini and Quinoa Beef Ragu Sauce

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, cooked in 2 cups of water according to package directions.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 large carrots, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, minced
  • 8oz of mushrooms, minced
  • 4 large zucchini-cut lengthwise and seeds/some flesh removed
  • .75 lb of lean (90% or less fat) grass-fed/organic beef
  • 4 cups of tomato sauce, divided
  • Pepper and other seasonings to taste (Italian would be good)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan or 2% Mozzarella cheese (optional)
  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook quinoa according to directions. Set aside
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery and mushrooms, and continue to cook another 10 min, until veggies are tender.
  4. Clean zucchini and cut lengthwise. Remove the seeds and some of the flesh with a spoon. You can add some of the removed flesh to the veggie mixture if you’d like to. Set aside.
  5. To the quinoa add half of the sautéed veggies. Add 1 cup of the tomato sauce and stir. The picture I took was before I added the sauce.
  6. To the other half of the veggies left in the saute pan, add the meat. Cook stirring till cooked through. When cooked, add the 3 cups of tomato sauce. Set aside.
  7. On a foil lined baking sheet, place the 8 zucchini halves. Stuff with the quinoa/veggie mixture. Cook for 15 minutes. (You should have quinoa mixture left, add this to the meat sauce. At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the sauce).
  8. At the 15 min mark, sprinkle with cheese and cook an additional 5 minutes. If not using cheese, cook for 20 minutes, or until the zucchini is somewhat tender, but not mushy.
  9. You now have 4 servings of stuffed zucchini and at least 4-6 servings of meat sauce for pasta, or spaghetti squash.

Nutrition for 1 serving of the Stuffed Zucchini= 2 halves:

  • 216kcal
  • 34g carbohydrate
  • 7g fat
  • 8g protein

Nutrition for 1 serving of Veggie Ragu Sauce served with 1/2 spaghetti squash:

  • 483kcal
  • 47g carb
  • 19g fat
  • 30g protein


Healthier Eggplant Parmesan (GF and Vegan)

 I travel quite a bit for my job, and it can be pretty tiring, plus it means time away from Brett and Rogue. One of the perks (depending on how you look at it) though is that I get to eat out quite a bit. I love to cook if it wasn’t obvious from how much I cook, but getting to eat at salad bars or places like SweetGreen is a treat. As many yummy veggies as you can eat! And as long as I choose healthy choices, I don’t have to worry. Well, this past week I was in Richmond and stopped into WholeFoods to get their delicious salad bar for lunch. When walking into the store, there was an employee taste testing Rao’s marinara. They were having a 2 for $10, or 1 for $5 sale. Rao’s is a specialty sauce that I’ve always wanted to try, but could never justify the cost. It was delicious and it gave me an idea for an eggplant dish.

I was so excited to find this at 50% off, only $5

I was so excited to find this at 50% off, only $5

Eggplants are in season from the summer through the fall, and I found some delicious ones at the grocery store. In addition to the phytonutrients in eggplants, they are also high in fiber, low in calories, and high in the B vitamins and vitamin K.

Eggplants can have a slightly bitter taste, and salting them beforehand can take the bitterness out, plus add a uniformity to their structure while cooking. This isn’t necessary if you’d like to skip the extra salt, or the extra step.

Since eggplant parmesan is quite high in calories and fat, I wanted to make s lighter version. This one has much less oil, no breading and little or no cheese. I served the eggplant over portobello mushrooms, but I also brought some organic whole wheat bread for Brett.

Eggplant Parm over Portobello Mushroom or Whole Wheat Toast

Eggplant Parm over Portobello Mushroom or Whole Wheat Toast

Eggplant Parmesan over Portobello Mushroom

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps, stems and gills removed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled, and chopped into 3/4inch pieces
  • Salt if salting eggplant prior to cooking
  • 3 cups of marinara sauce
  • Spices to taste-black pepper is all I used
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Take one tbsp of the olive oil, and rub both sides of the portobello caps with it. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired. Set aside.
  2. Peel and chop the eggplant and place in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30min. Rinse the eggplant to remove the excess salt and pat dry.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Roast the mushrooms for 10 minutes on each side.
  4. While the mushrooms are cooking, saute the other 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  5. Add the garlic to the oil and cook for :30. Add the rinsed eggplant and cook stirring frequently for 10min.
  6. Once the eggplant has turned from green to brown, add the marinara sauce and cook an additional 5-10min until heated through and mushrooms are done.
  7. Divide the eggplant into 4 servings. Put over the mushrooms or bread.
  8. Sprinkle with additional black pepper and parmesan if using.

Nutrition for 1 portobello mushroom with 1/4 the eggplant

  • 390 kcal
  • 8g of protein
  • 44g of carbohydrate
  • 10g of fiber
  • 21g of fat (from the olive oil, so mostly unsaturated)

Nutrition for 2 slices whole grain bread with eggplant

  • 503kcal
  • 63g carb
  • 23g fat
  • 13g protein

Nutrition to Boost your Immunity (plus Beef Stew)

Fall is my favorite time of year. The leaves change, the air becomes cool and crisp, you pull out your favorite sweater, root vegetables, pumpkins and apple cider come front and center, and unfortunately, the dreaded cold and flu season begins. As athletes, getting a cold during heavy training, can be quite common. Previously, a study on marathoners done one week post LA marathon showed 13% of runners developed an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), while only 2% of the controls (runners that didn’t end up running the marathon due to other reasons) did. The main reason that athletes are more susceptible to URTIs, is due to a depression in the immune system following exercise, a decrease in anti-inflammatory proteins and an increase in stress hormones. Nutritionally, there are several ways to help boost your immunity. Here are some common causes of increased risk for URTI and things to help prevent them.

  1. Low carbohydrate diets-nothing depresses the immune system more than a diet too low in carbohydrates due to increases in stress hormone levels. If you find yourself getting sick, look at your overall carbohydrate levels and make sure yours are adequate. During long workouts, take in 30-60g of carb per hour.
  2. Low levels of Vitamin D-athletes low in Vit. D have an increased incidence of illness. Vitamin D increases anti-microbial peptides and lymphocyte activation. Best sources: the sun (especially true for winter when we get less sun), oily fish, mushrooms, fortified foods. Aim for at least 600IU/day with some athletes taking up to 2000IU/day.
  3. Low levels of Vitamin C-Vit. C is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and anti-pathogenic properties. While some antioxidants have been shown to impede exercise induced adaptations, Vit. C has not. Runners that supplemented with Vit. C for 3 weeks prior to an ultra marathon were less likely to develop a URTI post run (33% vs 68%) than those runners that did not. Best sources: peppers, dark green leafy veggies, broccoli and fruit. Aim for at least 75-90mg/day, however athletes in the ultra marathon study took 600mg/day and some athletes take up to 1000mg/day.

Things that have no recommended dietary allowance, but can be beneficial for preventing URTI and other illnesses. These have shown benefit, however further research is still needed:

  1. Bovine Colostrum- The pre-milk fluid produced in the mammary glands during the first 2-4 days after giving birth and contains numerous antibodies and immune factors. Bovine colostrum increases salivary IgA, which in turn helps prevent URTI. Usually found in powder or capsule form from cows.
  2. Probiotics-Micro organisms such as bacteria, that increase immunity and reduce the incidence of URTI. Both come in supplement form, however food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir and dairy. For probiotics in a supplement form, aim for 50 million to 1 trillion live cells.
  3. Quercetin- A flavonoid, which is a plant pigment found in many fruits and vegetables has been shown to be effective in reducing the inflammatory response from a URTI, in addition to blocking the virus’s replication. Sources include: onions, capers, citrus fruits, apples, berries, and black and green tea

Once you have an URTI, these can help to shorten the duration of your cold. There is no strong evidence that they will reduce the incidence of getting a cold, just the duration. If you’re training for an endurance event, try taking these in the week prior to your race as if you do get sick, they can help to decrease the duration of your cold:

  1. Echinacea and Kaloba-These are both herbals with no recommended allowance. Some studies have shown no benefit, while others have shown that they can increase the number of white blood cells, and boost the activity of macrophages. Echinacea tea can do a double duty-hot tea, plus a possible kick to your immune system.
  2. Zinc- A mineral that is found in lean meats, beans, eggs and nuts. Aim for 75mg of zinc in an ionic form right before your race or at the onset of symptoms and research has shown that it can reduce the duration of your cold by 1 day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’ll be one day closer to feeling better. Zinc has a strange metallic taste (it’s a mineral), so that can be off putting.
  3. Beta Glucan- Some research has found that beta-glucan strengthens the body’s immune system, in addition to alleviating allergy symptoms. Beta-glucan is found in barley, oats, shiitake mushrooms and bakers yeast and there is no recommended allowance.

*Before you take any supplements, please consult your physician because these supplements can interact or interfere with other medications*

Immunity Beef Stew

Immunity Beef Stew

Immunity Boosting Beef and Barley Stew  (Serves 6 or 8 as a starter)

*This is perfect to make in the crock pot on a cool fall or winter day, while outside trail running, mountain biking or cross-country skiing. It supplies good amounts of carbs, protein, vitamin C, beta glucan and some vitamin D. Adding a glass of skim milk/fortified milk will provide additional protein and vitamin D *

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lb stew meat, cut into small chunks (Zinc, protein)

2 onions, chopped (Vit. C and Quercetin)

6 cloves of garlic, diced (Vit. C)

4 celery stalks, chopped

4 cups of lower sodium beef broth

2 cup of water

2 lbs sweet potatoes, chopped (Vit. C, carbs)

2 cups of carrots, chopped (Vit. C, carbs)

14.5oz low sodium diced tomatoes with juice (Vit. C)

3/4 cup of barley (Beta Glucan, carbs)

4 cups of kale, stems removed and chopped (Vit. C)

8oz of mushrooms, sliced (Vit. D)

1 tbsp Worcestershire

Spices to taste-pepper, thyme and oregano are good choices

  • Crock pot Recipe-Cut stew meat into chunks, and in olive oil, lightly saute until lightly browned. Add the meat, and all ingredients through diced tomatoes into a crock pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Add the barley and cook an additional 2 hours. With 1 hour to go, add the kale and mushrooms, Worcestershire and spices. So total cooking time will be 6-7 hours on low. This could be a good weeknight or weekend meal, depending on your work schedule and time leaving/arriving home.
  • Stove top recipe-In a large soup or stock pot, saute meat in olive oil until lightly browned. Add the onions, garlic and celery and saute another 5-10 min until softened. Add broth, water, sweet potatoes, carrots and tomatoes and cook 30 minutes over medium heat. Add barley and cook 40 min. Add the kale, mushrooms, Worcestershire and spices and cook another 15-20 min. Total cooking time will be 1:45. This could be done on a Sunday, or if on a bike trainer or treadmill, just jumping off to add ingredients in a workout session.

Vegetarian-Substitute dried/canned beans for the beef (adjust cooking time as needed)  and vegetable broth for the beef broth

Gluten Free-Substitute rice or quinoa for the barley and adjust cooking time as needed

Nutrition Info per Serving if using 6 servings/8 servings:
Calories: 446/335 kcal
Carbs: 61g/46g
Protein: 27g/20g
Fat: 12g/9g
Fiber: 11g/8g
Sodium: 650mg/500mg

*additionally, this stew is a good source of potassium, copper, zinc, manganese, Vit. A, Vit. C, Vit. K and the Vit. B’s. and has a breakdown of 53% carbs, 24% protein and 23% fat.*