Rocket Retreat Recap (+smokey cinnamon sweet potato wedges)

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What’s the fastest way to learn something new?

Try a lot, fail a lot, and get back up to try again.  It’s how I’ve been trying to live my life, and a rough estimation for the theory behind Rocket Yoga, which is a sequence of poses based on Ashtanga Yoga (Rocket’s more serious and strict predecessor).  I spent the long holiday weekend tucked away in a house on the Chesapeake Bay with 12 other yogis, learning more about “The Rocket,” eating, and bonding…but let me back up a step…

My friend and yoga teacher, Jonathan, asked

if I would do the food for a retreat with him almost as soon as I got back from the last retreat I did.  I said yes right away – how could yoga + food + vacation ever be a bad idea?!  Jonathan is every inch the classic ashtangi: intense, driven, and precise, so even though this was the first retreat he’d led, I knew it would be well done.  Within a week, he’d found the house and given me a plethora of menu ideas, and the weekend sold out hours after he started advertising (if you want to experience Jonathan and the most pumped-up, sweaty, rocking yoga class in DC, check out his Saturday morning 10:30 at Kali!).  The man is pretty much a tornado…a meat-eating, laugh-loving, Rocket-teaching tornado.

Food unlike any other

Jonathan’s perspective on food is similar to mine: it should taste good, be plentiful, and every kind is welcome.  So he didn’t want to go vegetarian for the weekend, and there would be mimosas at brunch.  Sounds pretty great, right?  I used the same “build a bowl” method as last time to ensure that everyone’s eating patterns could be accommodated, and we served two large meals with lots of snacks every day.  Because Rocket is pretty intense, and we had afternoon workshops as well, everyone was always adequately hungry – and adequately fed.  Here’s the summary:

Dinner 1: Mediterranean quinoa bowl bar
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With s’mores around the fireplace!
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Brunch 1: Huevos rancheros tostada bar with roasted plantains
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Dinner 2: Asian noodle bowl with soba or rice noodles and sesame ginger dressing
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Brunch 2: Veggie Quiche with smokey cinnamon sweet potato wedges (recipes at the end of this post!)
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Dinner 3: Loaded pasta salad with grilled steak or tempeh over arugula 2014-10-12 19.57.11

And of course, a trail mix bar with KIND bars supplied by the company!
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The food was pretty much loved by everyone from carnivore Jonathan to a gluten-free vegan, so I’ll call it a success!  One of the brunch favorites was the roast sweet potato wedges, so here’s the recipe – easy to make for a large group!

Smokey Cinnamon Sweet Potato Wedges

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Ingredients:
  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I used olive)
  • Dash salt
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges (first in half, then into 4-5 slices length-wise) – leave the skins on!  Place in a gallon bag; add oil and close to toss and coat.  When coated, sprinkle in spices and toss more.  Spread wedges evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour.  They should be soft to a fork and golden orange.  Serves 4.

More of the weekend, in pictures:

Our house!
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Me, sweating:
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The Rocket Dog!
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Jonathan flying me for some dock acro – really, he is the best base I’ve ever flown!IMG_9274

National Pasta Month (+pasta puttanesca)

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The best place for pasta in Columbia Heights

is Maple.  They make their own noodles in house and the sauces from scratch.  I’m also partial because they source some ingredients from the farmer I work for at the CoHi market on Saturdays…but pretty sure I’d be a fan anyway, anyhow.  It’s comfy and casual, yet feels elegant, has a small but diverse menu (of which everything I’ve had is delectable), and isn’t pretentiously priced – if anything, it’s one of the best values in the city for the quality of food.  I had the linguine puttanesca there a few weeks ago and my mouth has been thinking about it ever since.

Entre national pasta month

If you didn’t know, don’t feel bad…I wasn’t aware that October is pasta month either, until the RecipeRedux challenge (sponsored by the National Pasta Association – yup, that’s a thing, too) was listed.  Even though pasta isn’t a central part of my regular diet, it definitely has a place in the American diet for its versatility, ease of preparation, and potential health benefits.

Nutritionally speaking

pasta is a concentrated source of carbohydrate, our body’s primary fuel.  Because it is a plant product, it contains dietary fiber – as long as you get a whole grain variety!  Fiber content is very low in white flour pastas, and quite high in those that are fortified with wheat germ or oat – usually around 6g (out of a 25g recommended daily) for a serving.  Which brings me to portion sizing.  Many restaurants have totally ruined our eye for judging a single serving of pasta, which is only 1 c of cooked noodles.  Getting 2-4 times that amount when you eat out isn’t uncommon (another thing I like about Maple – it’s not a huge serving!) and therein lies the problem.  Over consuming carbohydrate causes a surge in insulin, which signals energy storage (ie, fat) and can lead to insulin insensitivity over time.  So the takeaway: pasta = good, too much pasta = not ideal!

Pasta Puttanesca

is a chunky, tomato based veggie sauce that is loaded with great briny flavor from anchovies, capers, and olives.  It’s easy and fast to make, and pairs perfectly with any meat over a perfectly cooked noodle.  Having a half cup (the serving size for sauce) will be hard to do…so have two!  Veggies are what we need more of.  This version will have you at the table in half an hour and absolutely delighted…especially if you can’t make it to Maple :)

Linguine Puttanesca (a la Sarah, via Maple)

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb whole wheat pasta
  • 3 large red tomatoes (I used one large and a pint of cherry, ~2lbs), diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 poblano (or red bell) pepper, diced
  • 1/2 whole black kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 1/2 c flat leaf parsley, rough chopped

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Directions

Heat a large pot with water filled halfway on the stove until boiling.  Cook pasta per box directions until al dente (slightly firm).  Heat oil in a sauce pan (4qt); add onion, garlic, and anchovies.  Saute until anchovies start to break down and onions become translucent (~3-4 minutes).  Add the tomatoes, pepper, and wine, reduce heat and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the olives, capers, and parsley, cook an additional 5 minutes.  Plate pasta, scoop sauce on top.  Garnish.

Click the frog to see the rest of the pasta contest entries!

ClassPass: sweating in style!

Last night I had the opportunity

to try one of the newest workout options in DC – ClassPass!  It’s like having a membership to tons of yoga, pilates, cycling, boot camp, and barre studios all over the city.  We were hosted at SculptDC, which has yoga and cycling classes in a really great location between Metro Center and Gallery Place.  You get to do up to 3 classes a month at each member studio – perfect for anyone who wants to try new workouts or likes to keep a very varied routine!  After all, as this article points out, mixing up workouts can do everything from preventing continual use injuries to enhancing weight loss.  Read more about how it works, and check out their list of over 50 DC locations!  If you’re looking for a way to move more but afraid to commit to a single location, this is your jam.

My evening, in pictures:

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SculptDC has a very chic space – love the ClassPass light sign!

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A chill, large room for yoga, and awesome Jade yoga mats are supplied at Sculpt!

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Me and Megan, our teacher of Sculpt360 – a pop music infused yoga class that incorporates cardio and weights – this was a “post” pic, and that is very real and hard-earned sweat on my shirt!  She had amazing energy and clearly we could all wish for arms like hers!

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Sweet Green is rolling out a new standard of THREE seasonal salads, starting today!  We got a preview, which was delicious – they are for sure my favorite salad take out in the city.

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To cap it off, as if we weren’t pampered enough, there was a manicure bar from Manicures N Motion - they set up shop anywhere, and now my nails look amazing.  WHAT a cool business!

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And there was champagne – not my normal recovery fuel (they also had coconut water!) but take if it it’s offered, I say!

 

RecipeRedux: Spicy Ginger Peach Fruit Chews

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It’s time again for the RecipeRedux – a monthly link up of dietitians’ blogs, as we all focus in on a chosen food category!  This time the theme is dehydrated food.  I don’t own a dehydrator, and my oven leaves a lot to be desired, but last year I figured out how to use my slow cooker to make “fruit by the foot” and decided it was time for round 2.

One of the benefits of dehydrating is prolonged shelf life – removing water makes it less likely that many types of bacteria will grow.  These fruit leathers could last weeks in the fridge in an airtight bag!  They’re also much more portable; no bruising or smooshing to worry about.

A crock pot works surprisingly well as a dehydrator for purees.  You can try this with many other fruit combos, just remember these two rules: 1) the lid must stay off for it to work this way and 2) only a thin amount of fruit can cover the bottom – ~1/4-1/2″ is ideal.  My crock pot is a 6qt oval, so it has more floor space than smaller, circular ones.

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Spicy Ginger Peach Fruit Chews

Ingredients

  • 2 large peaches, pitted (skin on!)
  • 1″ fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, deseeded

Directions
Puree all ingredients in a blender.  Coat crock pot with oil, pour in puree.  Set on low for 10-11 hours, until fruit is fully dried.  Peel out of pot, cut with a pizza wheel on a cutting board.

 

Click the frog for more amazing dehydrated recipes!

Questions about juicing – with Williams-Sonoma!

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As summer comes to an end, use the bountiful produce to create some awesome juice and smoothie combos!

In January, I taught a class at Williams-Sonoma about juicing using a few of their recipes – later, I wrote this post chronicling a friend’s experiment with juicing, and offered 5 guidelines for using juicing as part of a healthy lifestyle.  It’s a post I still get hits on and questions about!  So as an extension, below is a short Q&A where I answer questions posed by Williams-Sonoma, just in time for prime local juicing season.

1.    You use many different fresh ingredients in your recipes. What are the top 3 ingredients that you like/would like to juice, and why?

  1. Flavor elements like ginger and parsley – fresh herbs have similar micronutrient content to dark leafy greens – lots of Vitamin A & K!
  2. Something sweet – peaches are one great addition that gives great flavor, and are incredibly juicy when ripe (which is now!)
  3. Low-sugar veggies like cucumber and celery – very refreshing, and aren’t too sweet

2.    Some people use juices to replace a meal. What are your thoughts on meals being replaced by juices? Is there anything you would recommend to someone who replaces a meal with juice and how they can receive the right amount of nutrients?

This is a great question – in my previous post, I noted that replacing meals with juice leaves you at risk of not getting enough fiber.  The most satiating meals also have a good amount of protein.  To get the right balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, and fat, I recommend using juice as a part of a well-rounded meal, not a replacement.  I also love this idea – recipes from the pulp!

juice-pulp-recipe-hummus

3.    You have a passion for using natural products when it comes to skin care. Juicing has become popular among many different communities, one being the beauty community. What are your thoughts on juicing for skin concerns? What are some ingredients that you would recommend for someone who is trying to maintain healthy glowing skin?

Juicing can be great for skin – or it can be not so great.  Spiking blood sugar is harmful to several body systems, including your skin, which is why people with diabetes can have issues with their complexion.  That’s why having a high-sugar fruit juice is problematic. On the other hand, vitamins A, C, and E are powerhouses for skin repair – green juice (like the one in the pic above) will be loaded with A & C, and a handful of almonds has over 30% of your daily vitamin E – plus, they’ll help keep blood sugar down!

And because I also love a good way to use food ON skin, try using the lemon to brighten skin on your face and hands – you can use half a lemon after squeezing juice out to apply! (Just be careful to avoid your eyes.)

Check out the Williams-Sonoma juicers to compare function and price here!

Daily Protein Distribution (+oatmeal & yogurt fixin’s kit for teachers!)

Fixinskit

I’ve lived with a lot of teachers over the past decade – mostly by chance (I’ve had over 25 roommates from Craigslist!), but all of them have changed my perspective of what it takes to teach.  If I had any idea how hard my teachers were working outside of the classroom, I’d have given them a lot more love!  Living with them has also given me some insight to the barriers around healthy eating.  They’re often overscheduled, have brutally early mornings, and are constantly emotionally challenged by kids who have problems from continence to language barriers to raging hormones – and that’s before they even get to class! To be able to respond in a constructive, loving, effective way you have to be on your A-game, which means a foundation of sleep and good nutrition.

The idea of “eating for performance” is not just for athletes – it’s for everyone.

“Performance” for teachers means getting a protein-rich, nutrient dense breakfast that will carry them to lunch.  Unfortunately, in America we’ve gotten into the habit of backloading our protein so that dinner has too much and breakfast has too little.  Here’s a visual from the Egg Nutrition Center:

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Aiming for at least 20g of protein with a breakfast (that also contains fiber and fat) will ensure you don’t get hangry (hungry –>angry), and also give your metabolism a jump start.

Which brings me to the portable oatmeal & yogurt fixin’s basket.  I currently live with an amazing lady named Elise who is such a kick butt teacher that she is now the interim PRINCIPAL of a bilingual middle school…at the age of 27.  (Check her out.  BOOM.)  She and I were enjoying an amazing ScratchDC dinner on our deck earlier this week, and talking about how much we loved the service – they make it easy and fast to have a fresh meal ready to eat in 20 minutes.  “I wish they did breakfast!” she said.  “I need something I can throw together and eat on my way to school, or keep at my desk.”   After a few minutes, the Basket Bar was born.  Based on the concept of having a variety of shelf-stable options you can combine in lots of ways that I used to feed 20 people for a weekend yoga retreat, the Basket Bar was born.

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The Basket Bar:

Step 1: get a basket.  I got this on at Target, and made sure it would comfortably fit the jars.
Step 2: get jars.  I purchased 9 Ball canning jars of different sizes, and filled them as such:
Step 3: fill them with high-protein, fiber-rich, nutrient packed toppings

  • slivered almonds (L)
  • pecan pieces (M)
  • flaked coconut (M)
  • raisins (M)
  • craisins (or other dried fruit) (M)
  • sunflower seeds (S)
  • chia seeds (S)
  • dark chocolate morsels (S)
  • ground flax (S)
    (size indicates which jar was used)

I also threw in a measuring spoon/cup set for portioning, and a few bags of frozen berries.  Add that to a base of plain greek yogurt or steel cut oatmeal, and you have an awesome breakfast or snack.  The first day of school is coming up…do you know any teachers who need a gift like this? (HINT: get them one.)

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From Elise:

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Best day everrrr”

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workinnn'”

 

RecipeRedux: PB & Oat Yogurt Popsicles

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by National Dairy Council and the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

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There may be no better category of summer foods than frozen treats.  Often, these are quite junky – but they don’t have to be!  These popsicles are protein and fiber rich, silky smooth, and will cool you down without spiking your blood sugar or giving you a neon tongue. They’re a perfect afternoon snack for those hot, sticky, August days!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 c plain greek yogurt* (or use vanilla and leave out sugar)
  • 1/2 c milk*
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 c old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 12 Tbsp peanut butter of choice
  • 1/2 c old fashioned oats, toasted
  • 1/4 c almond slivers, toasted

Directions:
In a blender, combine the yogurt, milk, banana, oats, vanilla, and sugar.  Freeze into 6 popsicle molds (or use cups and spoons).  Spread toasted oats and almonds on a plate.  When frozen (3-4 hours, depending on your freezer), remove from molds, and spread 2 Tbsp of peanut butter on each pop.  Roll in the nuts and oats, place on plastic wrap on a tray and put back into the freezer for peanut butter to harden…or enjoy right away!

*I like to use whole fat dairy, but you can use low fat if that is your preference!

 

 

PBoatpops
enjoying on a rooftop with a view doesn’t hurt!

 

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kid-approved!

Check out the rest of the contest entries here!