Saturday, April 26, 2014

Chipotle Black Bean Quinoa Soup

I had a request for a new main dish post. This was not difficult as I make something for dinner each night. Last night was no exception and so I present a Collins' creation...

Chipotle Black Bean Quinoa Soup

15 -  3/4 cup servings


1 large yellow onion - peeled and diced
2 large red peppers - seeded and diced
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1 teaspoon chipotle seasoning (or use a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce if you don't have small children)
1 cup orange juice
4 cups + 1 cup vegan vegetable broth
1 cube vegan vegetable bouillon cube
zest of one orange (important)
4 cups cooked black beans or two 15 oz cans , drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked quinoa
1.5 Tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and ground pepper to taste


1. Place onion and peppers in a large sauce pan and saute over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water at a time to keep the veggies from sticking.
2. Add garlic and chipotle spice or pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
3. Add the orange juice and zest, beans and 4 cups vegetable broth, and stock cube.
4. Bring to a boil over high heat.
5. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until heated through.
6. Add 2 cups cooked quinoa and 1 cup vegetable broth and cook for 5-10 minutes more or until heated through.
7. Add oregano, coriander, and more chipotle seasoning and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The secret here is two fold; 1. do not omit the orange zest. 2. Add the herbs and spices at the end. If you add them at the beginning, the flavors will cook out and you will end up with a bland bowl of soup. Trust me. 

This was quite good with a crusty bread. I found a sugar free, vegan ciabatta baguette at Trader Joe's. I don't eat much bread but a taste with this soup was quite good.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Breastfeeding and Running ... Plant Based

I continue to be amazed at the amount of advice so freely given to pregnant and new moms. Comments and suggestions regarding the pregnant woman's size and shape, weight gained or weight lost, predictions of gender and arrival date, activity levels. Over and over people have asked me about my running, exercise and food choices. "Do you really think that is safe for the baby?" I ran a half marathon at 25 weeks with my second. I listened to my body and didn't have to slow down much. I wore my heart rate monitor and I had a great time, despite my jacket being a bit tight around the middle. As I have continued to nurse him and then pump for him as his primary food source, I have adapted a plant based diet consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. There have been many questions from friends, family and strangers about my health and the health of my 3 1/2 year old and the baby. Oddly, nobody asks about P. Apparently they think that he can forage for himself if "starving". HA!

In addition to all the comments, there is the poking, prodding and touching of a pregnant belly (so weird). After the baby arrives, the barrage continues with questions about the "next baby" (hello, I have barely started to heal from this one) and comments about the post baby body. Suggestions about how to coax a baby to sleep, how and what to feed them, where to let them sleep, etc.

If you are a runner, you get another whole deluge of advice. "Be careful, your uterus will fall out", "do you really think that you are ready to run?" I even had one person tell me that I was "neglecting" the child because I was out running. Come on people, everyone that knows me knows that if I can get a run in, no matter how short, the time of day, or the weather, I am a much happier girl. That just helps everyone. The other comment, I got repeatedly was "your milk is going to dry up if you run." Read on to see proof that that hasn't been the case at all.

Add the word "ultra" in front of "running" and people almost don't know what to say. Almost. It's true, there are some challenges when it comes to running postpartum while providing all the nutrition for a small human. Here are 5 things that I have learned to make training for ultra distance events and breastfeeding a baby work cohesively.

1. Logistics and pumping
Pumping is important. My littlest one is almost 9 months old now and I am exclusively pumping. Some people on the breastfeeding bandwagon would say this is not actually breastfeeding but I say that if there is still milk being produced and extracted in some form and the child id exclusively getting breast milk it freaking counts. I work full time and my husband is home with the boys. The baby figured out quickly that a bottle was easier. I was exclusively pumping by 5 months. I have managed to maintain my supply with no issues and continue to "bank" milk in the freezer as well. It's certainly not my activity of choice, especially when I am home and it would be so much easier to just nurse him.  Instead, we give him his bottle and then I pump, double duty. With running, at least initially, it is all about timing. Pumping or nursing right before going out on a run makes things much more pleasurable and much drier. Everything is a little sore in the beginning and the less milk in there the better. At almost 9 months post delivery, this isn't as big of an issue immediately before a run, however it depends on the duration of the long training runs. If I am running three hours or more, I set up the route so that I go by my home or car. I will stop in the middle of my run to pump, put the milk in the cooler and set off again. This gives me a chance to also grab more calories or to change out or refill my bottles. I have not yet raced long while pumping (thinking July) and so I can't speak to this on a race course yet but I plan to have a loving family member meet me with my pump at a designated point. Talk about feeling lighter when you take off again. Ha.

2. Double up on sports bras
Sort of self explanatory but this little change made all the difference. In the beginning there is the "ouch" factor. Doubling up sports bras in layers this decreases most all of the negatives with nursing and running including friction and bouncing around. Both of these issues subside as the months of nursing go by, but man, in the beginning they can really affect a run and a mindset.

3. Flexibility
Producing breast milk is a high energy activity. Ultra training is a high energy activity. Combining them with a reduced amount of sleep is taxing on the body. I wake up at 4:20 am to do my long runs. My husband and boys are still asleep 4 hours later when I get home and I haven't missed any part of their day. Working full time means that the time I do have at home is precious. All of my workouts happen between 4:30 am and 7:30 am. I used to be a person who would NOT miss a workout. If I didn't feel well I would power through regardless. I have found this philosophy to be inadequate in my current position. I have a training schedule and I do tend to follow it. That said, I have become so much better at listening to my body and then building in easy and off days as needed. I have found that a yoga class each week and daily sun salutations and a few moments of meditation have really made a difference in not only my body but my mind as well. 

4. Nutrition
This one is huge for me. M was born in August and I had been on the MSPI diet since the beginning of July to prepare for his arrival. I bounced around a bit once it was determined that he tolerated dairy and soy. In December, I made the decision to go completely plant based and in March I also eliminated refined sugar. I noticed that I felt better generally after going to a plant based whole foods diet but I noticed a drastic change when the sugar was gone. I recover so much more quickly because there is nothing feeding the inflammatory response. My mind is amazingly more clear and my disposition is much happier. I just feel so much better. One of the things that I enjoy is to make my own food for my runs. Most gels, bars, blocks, and sports drinks have food dyes, preservatives, processed sugars, or stimulants in them. I refuse to put that stuff in my body when it is working so hard (and so well) to both train for endurance sports and feed a baby as well as perform all the every day tasks I need it to. I wrap up homemade granola bars and energy bites. I take peanut butter packages, bananas, sweet potatoes, or brown rice balls. Lots of times I put things in the freezer and then just pull them out and let them thaw in my pocket as I run. Many of these things have nuts or nut butter and dried fruits in them so they are fairly calorie dense which means I don't have to carry as much volume.

5. Do what feels good to you
There will always be people criticizing your choices. Find your network of people who cheer you on. I've been told that eating a plant based diet isn't safe for me, my nursing baby, or my toddler. I have been told that running is bad for my health and my milk supply. I have been told that doing the two together is a recipe for disaster. I am happy to say that so far, this isn't the case for me. If, in fact, something does start to "go wrong", if my milk supply dwindles, my body feels poorly, my family feels neglected I would be the first to reevaluate the current system and work to change it.

Giving my baby breast milk, eating a healthy, plant based, whole foods diet, and running are all big factors in my life right now. My husband is very supportive of all three, making life easier. Play with it, find the equation that works and tuck it into your lifestyle. It is doable. A happy mom makes a happy family, for sure. That said, I am off to pump 10 oz and run 3 hours.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chocolate Ganache Mousse Cake

This recipe was adapted from Dr. Anastasia Halldin. Click here to get the original recipe. I substituted out some of the maple syrup for raw honey in the crust and changed the proportions slightly. It is not overly sweet but the rich taste of chocolate is quite satisfying. Yum.

Chocolate Ganache Mousse Cake

6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1.5 cups Almond Meal (I used finely ground Bob's Redmill.)
2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
2 Tablespoons Raw Honey
2 teaspoons Cinnamon

2.5 cups Raw Cashews (presoak for at least 4 hours, drain and rinse and discard the water)
1/3 cup Pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons Raw Honey
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon Sea salt
juice of 1/2 small Lemon
1/2 cup Coconut oil
1/4 cup Almond milk

1/4 cup Coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
4 tablespoons Pure maple syrup
Pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt

1. Mix all the crust ingredients to combine. Press into a small cheesecake form and distribute it evenly with your hands or spatula.
2. Blend all filling ingredients until very smooth. Pour the filling over the crust.
3. Freeze the cake for an hour.
4. In a small, heat-proof, metal bowl, combine the ganache ingredients. Place the bowl in a double boiler or over a small saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the bowl's contents until the oil is melted and the ganache is smooth and glossy. Pour the ganache over the cake.
5. Sprinkle with a pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt
6. Place in freezer to set.
7. Remove cake from the freezer one hour prior to serving.
8. Store the leftovers in the freezer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Granola Bars

Yep, another granola bar recipe. I've been trying to find a long run food. I don't need to eat anything under 3 hours but after that I need to start taking in some calories. I don't do gels, or blocks, or processed bars (unless it's a dire bonking emergency). I am not interested in the extra ingredients, the GMOs, or the sugar. My body just isn't used to it and if I started in on sugar, I would have to keep putting it in to keep from crashing. In the past I have used the small packages of Justin's Nut Butters which work pretty well so long as they are washed down but I also need some quick burning carbs. I am looking forward to freezing these and them pulling them out as my runs get longer and the mornings get warmer.

Another perk is that the rest of my family likes them too. Win/Win.
Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Granola Bars
½ c. chopped walnuts
2 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. raisins
½ c. homemade peanut butter (or store bought variety of your choice)
2/3 c. honey (could substitute brown sugar or agave if you don't use honey)
¼ c. coconut oil (measured in liquid form)
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Spread oats on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes until fragrant.
3. Transfer toasted oats to a bowl and mix in the walnuts and raisins.  Set aside.
4. In saucepan combine honey, peanut butter, coconut oil, spices and salt over medium heat until thoroughly mixed.
5. Pour hot mixture over the oats, walnuts and raisins until evenly mixed.
6. Immediately pour into a glass baking dish to set up.
7. Allow to cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a quicker setup.
8. When cool, cut into bars.

I considered adding some flax seeds to these but didn't want the extra fiber during my workouts. Ha. I think next time I may consider some hemp seeds for extra protein though. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Child's Curiosity - Lesson Two

What a wonderful weekend. I think that I watched my oldest grow overnight.

On Sunday, while dad and the littlest one napped. I walked with E down to the construction site by our house. I have no idea what they are actually doing, looks like adding some drainage pipes of some sort, but E didn't care. He was amazed by the trucks... and the dirt. We spent as much time as he wanted (almost) looking at and talking about the trucks, tires and tracks, scoops, controls, steering wheels, colors,  and rust on each piece of equipment. He spent 45 minutes tossing dirt clods that he either pulled off the wheels or peeled  off the tracks on the street. We watched them explode into pieces and talked about their size, weight, shape, texture, and smell. He kept telling me, "I'm having soooo much fun, mommy."

And he was.

And I was playing with him some, but mostly I was watching him explore. All the things that we take for granted, or just gloss over, were interesting to him. He was interested in the fact that the dirt on top was "dry dirt" and when he flipped it over it was "mud". He noticed that the tracks made in the mud by the construction equipment had a very similar pattern to the tread on his toy monster trucks at home. He noticed that the rust was only on certain sides of the trucks, that some wheels were much bigger than others, that the "construction guys" must be on a lunch break (on Sunday at 3:30p) and that they still had work to do. He observed that he was warmer when the sun would come out from behind the clouds. He was perfectly content to be right in the moment. And surprisingly, so was I. The sun did feel wonderful after a winter of frigid wind chills. Neither of us was trying to be perfectly present, we just were. This is how E, at three and a half years old, feels most of the time. Adults, not so much.

He was teaching me to attend to the here and now without thinking about it. Only later, when I thought back on it, did I realize how peaceful that was. Sure, there is always a pile of dirty dishes on the counter or a load of laundry in the washer that needs to be hung up but to be able to be present with him in the sun, playing with clumps of dirt, was easy.

I spent this week trying to do more of this at home and at work. Trying to take whatever I was doing at that moment, seeing a patient, giving the baby a bath, making dinner, reading a story, and making it important and focused, and wouldn't you know, that little boy was right again. Of course he was, teaching his mom lesson after lesson, so long as she is open enough to receive them. Life IS the present. Worrying about the things that need to be done and the amount of time (or lack thereof) to do them in doesn't change anything. I learned that everything gets done and that I am so much more focused and engaged when I am present.

Well done, E, well done.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Raw Brownie Truffles

2 weeks of no processed sugars and I feel awesome. Hello, why do I not eat this way all the time? So dumb. 
Anywho, everyone still needs to have a little treat now and then, right? My husband and 3 year old taste tested these for me. The three year old was not sold due to the crunchiness but my husband seemed to think they were good. They have not, however, been disappearing from our fridge the way other sweet treats do and so I think he may have been humoring me. That said, more for me! I LOVE these. Something about the chocolately goodness with the crunchy nuts and the coconut makes them delicious. I thought they might be good frozen too but I found that I prefer them just cold from the fridge or at room temperature. When they are frozen you lose some of the chocolate flavor as well as the whole thing is more crunchy so out the window goes the fantastic texture combination. Whatever your preference, if you are a chocolate lover these should go on your "Recipes to Try" list. I am going to make a bunch for my long runs as I think they would be great on the trails.

Brownie Truffles

 makes approximately 30 truffles 


  • 1 cup cacao beans
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/3-1/2 cup liquid coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 Tbls raw honey or agave (or to taste)
  • 8 Medjool dates without pits 

  • cacao powder
  • unsweetened fine coconut  
  1. Place everything in you food processor except the dates and combine until crushed. (It will be chunky.)
  2. Check the consistency. If too crumbly add a bit more coconut oil and pulse to combine.
  3. When all your ingredients are crushed and the desired consistency, add the dates and keep blending.
  4. Make sure the dates are mashed thoroughly. You should have a sticky paste like "dough".
  5. Roll the paste into small balls with your clean hands.
  6. Roll them in fine unsweetened coconut or cacao powder to lightly coat.
  7. Place in the fridge for at least 30 min.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Easter Eggs

These little beauties are based off of the earlier recipe for Homemade Peanut Butter. Find it here. I gave my mom a jar of the first batch of peanut butter and her response was "man, this would be good covered in chocolate." Ok, maybe she didn't say it quite like that but that is what I heard. Ha. And so, I did what she suggested, I coated the peanut butter in chocolate, because how can that ever be bad?!

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate "Easter Eggs"

1 small jar homemade peanut butter  -or- any vegan creamy store bought variety
2 cups vegan chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life Dark or semisweet varieties)
1 tsp refined Coconut Oil
Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Using a spoon place dollops of peanut butter on the lined cookie sheet. We like to make ours a bit smaller so I used about 1/2 of a Tablespoon for each. Don't worry about their shape now, this will be addressed later.
3. Place in freezer for 20-30  minutes or until at least slightly firm.
4. While peanut butter is firming up, melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave. If using microwave melt in 30 second increments and stir well in between.
5. When melted, stir in coconut oil until melted and incorporated. This will help to make more of a candy style coating on your "eggs".
6. Remove peanut butter dollops from freezer and, one at a time, form into balls and dip in melted chocolate.
7. Shake off excess chocolate and place on parchment.
8. Immediately sprinkle a tiny amount of Himalayan Sea Salt on the wet chocolate. (The chocolate dries quickly so you must do this after you place each egg on the the parchment. If you wait to do them all until the end, the chocolate has hardened and the salt will just bounce right off. Trust me on this.)
9. Store in freezer or fridge. Delicious.