Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Recovery Part III: Listen to Your Body...

“Listen to your body……” 

This is a phrase I’ve heard many times. Heck, it’s even a phrase I’ve caught myself saying to clients I work with. But what does that even mean? Because if I’m honest, when I hear the phrase “listen to your body” it’s often accompanied by an eye roll. Yeah right. Like I’m going to let my body be the boss of me. Usually I’m telling my body to shut the f*#@ up and push it harder.

Remember this? I didn't listen to my body here...
Or here.
Oh here.....

 I can be my own worst enemy. But that same quality, the one that causes me to push the limit every time, is what also drives me to success. It’s my strength and my weakness all in one. What would it be like if I let my body tell me what to do? Never would I finish a 100-mile race. Not a chance. I’m pretty sure my body was screaming at me, begging me, to stop running at Foresthill this year. But my mind was in charge and said “we’ve still got 40 miles to run” and so my body obliged. If I let my body be in charge, then how would I ever know my limits? Or surpass them?

Little Reminders.
Then back to the original question, what does it mean to listen to your body? It’s not as simple as we make it out to be. I pondered this question over the last couple weeks as I began to test the waters with my rehab. A little of this….ok., no pain the next day; a little more….ok, some pain, dial it back. It’s been a constant back and forth of trying new bits of activity and mindfully assessing the impact over the following 24-48 hours. And practicing non-reactivity to whatever I’m feeling. THIS has been a big challenge for me. Normally, I would take this feedback and use it as fuel for the fire- to push even harder the next time. But, in this instance I’ve had to just acknowledge what I’m feeling and move on. Not DO anything. I’ve had to re-wire my mind, but it’s been a good practice in learning more about my body.

 Over the past two weeks I’ve been adding some new activities to my regime. It’s been so great! I now have a schedule that includes CHOICES: strength training, rowing, swimming, biking, yoga, and barre classes. I have been mixing it up so I don’t do the same thing EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It’s been a welcome change and I feel like I’m making progress. Not every day or activity has been great; no that would be too easy. It’s been more trial and error to find the right amount of stress without pushing too far. The first day I tried biking I was grinning as I pedaled for 15 STRAIGHT MINUTES! I felt no pain and practically bounced my way out of the gym. But then, 24 hours later my heel was sore. Drat. I pushed it too far. So I waited a few days and tried again. 15 more minutes on the bike. Similarly, I felt good and then only had some slight discomfort over the next day. Progress.

20 min on the bike!

 This routine been a common theme: try something new, have my body totally freak out, relax and recover for a day, and try again. Normally after a few sessions, my body becomes accustomed to the new stimulus and it starts to feel good. It’s slow and there is a lot of trial and error associated with figuring out the balance, but it’s actually kind of fun to learn. So I’m listening to my body and using the feedback as a tool to determine what I’m ready for. Back to the cross training. So I’m biking and swimming, which is one of the biggest breakthroughs on my recovery plan. Yes, it’s only 15-20 minutes, but that’s head and shoulders above where I was a few weeks ago. I still have good days and bad days, but having the freedom to get up and CHOOSE what I want to do is such a great feeling. However, always keeping in mind: some is good, more is not better. Which doesn’t always jive with my over-ambitious-always-pushing-the-limit personality, but I’m learning ☺

 “Listen to your body……” 

Rebecca Bell, The Yoga Lab
I also explored what this means by talking with my good friend and yoga teacher Rebecca Bell. Rebecca and I could sit and talk for hours about the body, the mind, and what it means to get to the core of a human being. Rebecca was kind enough to help me create a yoga practice that supports my recovery. She guided me through poses to help open the right side of my body while strengthening the left side. After guiding me through a moving meditation, we sat, warm and happy sprawled on our mats, and talked. In the past, we’ve had conversations about the similarities between yoga and running and what they mean to us. That connection, that allows us to transcend and get to our core. Who we really are. Raw and real. This is a feeling I crave. It makes me feel alive. I posed my question to Rebecca “What does it mean to listen to your body?

 “Our bodies are a culmination of our stories that that are stored on a cellular level.” 

 I thought about this for a while. Our understanding, our assessment is based on our being and experiences. "Running and/or yoga invite us to clear the pathway and witness what arises, and shedding what doesn’t support us. This clears the way for healing and arriving in the present moment only to move forward." That makes a lot of sense. Listening to your body is really about tuning inward and letting our journey be our guide. Deep thoughts. But really, the more I think about it, the more it resonates with me. Observe. Acknowledge. And let go…..

And how freeing that feels; to just let go. Instead of feeling trapped under a certain mindset or predetermined path, our thoughts and actions are just part of doing. Not being defined. I talk about this idea a lot when I give nutrition advice. A “diet” is not a category or label to fall into, but rather a way to eat. The foods one chooses to eat make up the diet, not vice versa. We don’t have to subscribe to a certain way of being, we just have to simply be. More deep thoughts.

As I reach the halfway point (6 weeks!) post-surgery I find myself looking forward to each day. I’ve able to make tangible progress, both physically and mentally, and it’s wonderful. I AM glad for this experience. Truly I am. But, I’m also glad to put some of the tough stuff (hopefully) behind me. I talked a lot with my friend, Sandi Nypaver, before my surgery and she mentioned what she was happier now (not running much) than she was before she had surgery. “If I could only get to that point…..” It seemed elusive. And now, suddenly, I can see it. I’m not fully there yet, but I’m on my way. As I continue to explore and test new physical and emotional boundaries, I look forward to more growth. And happiness!

Happy National Croissant Day!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Coconut Chai Ice Cream

Yum. This ice is cream delicious and creamy. We’ve been on a homemade ice cream kick at our house. So far we’ve made eggnog (for Christmas eve), chocolate, and plain old vanilla.

Simple. Classic. Delicious. 

But, it was time to step outside the box and try something new. I wanted to try a cashew and coconut based ice cream rather than the traditional cream + egg recipe (which, IS amazing but the way). I loathe “heathy” ice cream recipes that have an icy texture and weird ingredients. Keeping true to my nutritional philosophy, I wanted to make a recipe that was tasty using REAL ingredients. No fake stuff. Or processed stuff. So here is my first attempt. There is room for improvement, but I can say that the resulting product was pretty tasty and creamy. 

Lately I've been obsessed with Flora Rooibos Chai Tea. It's been my go to mid-morning pick me up. A touch of milk, a touch of honey. Perfection! So I had to incorporate this delicious spicy, sweet flavor into ice cream. It was meant to be!

As I mentioned, I wanted to make an out-of-the-box ice cream recipe. Since vegan, nut-based recipes are all the rage right now, I decided to create my own. I love the creamy texture of cashews, so I paired them with the creamy goodness of coconut milk. The trick to non-dairy ice cream is to include FAT. This recipe is not low-fat at all, it has plenty of creamy texture from the cashews and coconut milk. That's why it tastes good. But, unlike regular ice cream, this recipe also packs added nutritional benefits. 

For the sweetener I decided to use a mix of maple syrup and dates. Mostly because I love the taste of maple syrup. Especially paired with the chai! For a thicker texture I used half dates (1/4 c of each) to create the consistency I was looking for. I think any sweetener of choice would work here.

Finally I needed something to add a little more sustenance. My first attempt at this recipes resulted in a bit "chalky" flavor, as described by Zach. No good. The second time around I adjusted the ratios and added in a banana. MUCH better. I also added cacao nibs for some crunch, which I would highly recommend!

Another important note- I used freshly ground spices. It's not hard to grind your own and it's SO SO worth the effort. The fragrance of freshly ground spices is hard to beat. All you need is a grater (cheese grater can work) and mortar and pestle (or bowl and spoon in a pinch). 

To prepare the ice cream, just blend all ingredients and add to an ice cream maker. It mixes just like a dairy based ice cream, so follow the instructions of the manufacturer.

The finished product is delicious. A topping of chocolate salt and drizzle of maple syrup doesn't hurt either!

Vegan Coconut Chai Ice Cream

by Stephanie Howe
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 25 min
Keywords: dessert vegan ice-cream
  • 2 c raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 c chai tea (see NOTE)
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1/2 c maple syrup or 1/2 c packed dates (pitted and soaked for a few min)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-5 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1/2 t fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t sea salt (I used chocolate salt)
  • 1/3 c Cacao nibs (optional)
Prepare the Cashews
Soak cashews in water overnight to soften.
Prepare the Chai
Add 1 Flora Rooibos Chai Tea bag to 1/4 c of boiling water. Steep for 5 min, then remove tea bag and squeeze out excess liquid. Store tea in the fridge until ready to use.
For the Spices
Break apart green cardamom pods and discard the pods. Use a mortar and pestle to finely smash the cardamom until a fine dust. For the cinnamon and nutmeg, freshly grate and set aside
To prepare the Ice Cream
Add cashews, banana, coconut milk, spices, salt, maple syrup/dates, and tea to a blender. Turn on and process until smooth. Transfer to an ice cream maker and follow instructions (about 20 minutes). In the last 5 min add the cacao nibs. Store in freezer. To serve, allow to warm for 3-5 min before scooping.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Recovery Part II: Here Comes the Pain

After a couple weeks, the initial shock of surgery wore off and I was finally able to conceptualize what happened. And then the pain set in. Both physical and emotional pain flooded over me, taking me by surprise. The first couple weeks were all about adjusting. I was finding a new state of normal, both in my body and how I structured my day. No more was I carving out the time to fit in one, sometimes two workouts a day. Instead, I was trying to fill that time with something else. The first week or so back home was easier than I thought. Mundane tasks, such as taking a shower or walking into the kitchen, took effort. So each day was comprised of literally just taking care of myself. It exhausted me to really do anything. For a few days I didn’t leave the house and used all my energy to just exist. It sounds more dramatic that it was, but I didn’t have much motivation to go above and beyond activities of daily living.

Couch buddies
After graduating from crutches, I was more excited to get out and about. And then the first wave of pain hit me. It was an emotional wave. Suddenly I wanted to be active again. For years, my day has revolved around some sort of activity, and I was empty. I longed to join my friends and husband as they went out for epic ski and running adventures over the holiday break. As I sat and twiddled my thumbs waiting for said friends to return from said adventures, I felt an inner frustration rising. Sadness, misery, and envy began to show their ugly faces. I could hardly even bear spending time with my friends because I didn’t want to hear about things that were suddenly not part of my life anymore. It was depressing. And I just wallowed in it. I found myself waking up and just trying to waste the day so I could go to sleep and have it be tomorrow. I felt pretty down and wasn’t sure how to move past it.
Page from my journal. Trying to process the pain.
While I was working to process the emotional pain, I was hit by a second wave of pain. This time physical pain. Again, it hit me out of the blue and took me for surprise. Post-surgery I had little to no pain, just a swollen foot and no mobility. But, as the swelling went down and I started to test the waters, I felt a sharp, deep pain with movement. It sent me spiraling backwards in my mental recovery, as I was expecting relentless forward progress on the physical side. Each step I took was excruciating as I slowly limped around. I got looks of pity from passerbyers  and had people open doors and help me carry things. It was a nice gesture, but reminded me just how utterly inept I was. I spoke with my surgeon in Sweden and he assured me that this pain was normal and to be expected. I was on track and just needed to be patient. Right.

I feel the same way bud.....
So to add insult to injury, not only did I have to stay sedentary, but I was also physical hurting and beating myself up for it. Not good. Not good at all. These feeling culminated one day when I found myself so distraught I could hardly stand it. Zach came home from skiing to find me in tears on the couch clutching our dog. I was distraught. I couldn’t see past the present moment. We spent the next three hours chiseling away the layers to get to the core of the problem. Two cores actually. One was my need to feel alive through physical movement. I had been able to do some rowing and lifting, but it didn’t really satisfy my need. I wanted to be outside and breathe fresh air. Since Oregon is on track for record snowfall this year, it wasn’t going to happen at home. So we decided maybe a trip to somewhere warm for few days might be in order. Problem number one = check.

Bend right now. Cold, dark, & snowy.
Hawaii right now. Warm, sunny, & beautiful. 
Problem number two was a little more complicated. I have this internal desire to be perfect at everything I do and to prove myself time and time again. And when I don’t live up to my standards, I beat myself up. What I realized after talking to Zach is that I am enough. I need to be kind to myself and not hold myself to such unattainable standards. A week or so ago I had set a goal to get out of the house everyday and do some sort of activity. I had been alternating between the ski ergometer and rowing machine at the gym for about 20-30 minutes. During my teary-eyed heart to heart with Zach I confessed how I felt my time at the gym was so pointless and infuriating. It took so much mental effort to complete 20 minutes. 20 minutes! That is nothing when you are used to running for hours each day. Zach just looked at me and said “If I were you I’d just lay on the couch and watch movies. That sounds terrible. You are my fucking hero for going to the gym everyday.” And then I smiled for the first time all day.

Fast forward a week and I’m just returning from my warm weather get away. I gained perspective and a healthier outlook on my recovery. Today I only feel remnants of both the emotional and physical pain. I allowed myself to heal and am coming back stronger than I was a week ago. My foot only has a scar remaining and I’m walking without a limp. My mind is clear and I am smiling much more every day.

New beach styles. Running shoes + swimsuit. 

Progress: Week 3 (bottom) vs Week 4 (top)
The next phase of my recovery will be adding in some actual cross training! At 5 weeks post-surgery I can begin light cycling, which means 15 minutes, 3 days per week. I look forward to this benchmark as it means I can do real, actual activity! But I’m also bracing myself for another wave of emotional turmoil as I readjust once again. But that’s a whole week away. For now I’m going to enjoy my new found contentment and appreciation for just being me. I am enough.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pomegranate Torte with Cacao-Almond Crust

Happy Birthday to my girl Renee! In celebration of a great friend, who is also in the midst of a intense training block leading up to the Olympic marathon trials, this birthday treat had to be both delicious and nutritious. And by nutritious I don't mean #glutenfree #dairyfree #sugarfree #raw #vegan #organic #fillintheblankfree What I mean is made with love using real ingredients that also contain nutrients. I'll save this rant for another day.

Anyway, Renee is a professional runner with one of the biggest races of her life coming up. I know she's trying extra hard to eat well, get enough sleep, recover, etc. etc. So, instead of making her a more refined, sugary treat, I decided to make her a birthday torte that would match her goals for nutrition and performance.

This was my first time making a recipe like this. While it's pretty darn good, I think it could use some more texture for the next round. But, as I mentioned, my primary goal with this torte was to make something that nourishes the body and mind. Success!

To begin, I wanted to use ingredients that contain some other nutrients. What I mean by that are foods that contain vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. So, although the energy (calories) in this treat might be similar to a cupcake bought at the store, the other "stuff" inside will give additional benefits to the body. And when you are trying to make every food count, there isn't room for junk. Here are some of the ingredients I used and why I think they rock in this torte:

  • Cashews: full of healthy fats and protein, along with copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. Also blend up really smooth, leading to a creamy finished product. 
  • Pomegranate: In season right now! Contain many antioxidants (polyphenols and flavonoids) and produce a festive red color.
  • Local honey: made in Central Oregon. It's also best to buy local if you can. Honey is sugar. So any recipe that claims to be "sugar free" and uses dates, maple syrup, honey, agave, fruit puree, etc. contains sugar. Don't be fooled. 
  • Dates: Instead of just using brown sugar in the crust I used dates because they are more sticky, holding the crust together. And dates, since they are not processed still contain some fiber. 
  • Cacao: I used cacao powder in the crust to make it chocolate-y. Cacao is essentially cocoa (chocolate), but raw. Cacao (and chocolate for that matter) contains antioxidants, mainly flavonoids and healthy fats. 
  • Almonds: Healthy fats, vitamin E, and some of the B-complex vitamins. I used these in the crust, but any other nut would work. I think hazelnuts would be really tasty in this recipe.
Ok, on to the more important part. How to make this delicious treat. First, I soaked the cashews overnight so they were soft and easy to blend. You could soak them in hot water for a few hours and probably get the same result.

To make the crust I blended almonds on high speed until they were crumbly. Then I added the dates, cacao, and vanilla extract and blended until well combined. Once the mixture resembles a thick, wet texture it's done.

Scoop into a pie plate or springform pan (or a single serving baking dish in my case), and pack down. I used my fingers to make sure it was well packed into the bottom of the pan.

Next, to make the filling I blended the soaked cashews, coconut milk, and honey until smooth.

I poured about 2/3 of the mixture into the pan and smoothed it around.

I added the pomegranate to the remaining filling and blended until it was a smooth, pink color. Then I poured the rest of the mixture on top of the torte and used a knife to create swirls. Very pretty :)

To solidify I put the torte in the freezer for a couple hours until it was firm. Then in the fridge until I was ready to serve it. Before serving, I topped the torte with pomegranate seeds.

Happy Birthday Renee!

Pomegranate Torte with Cacao-Almond Crust

by Stephanie Howe
Keywords: raw dessert nuts Birthday cake winter

    • 2.5 cups almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts (or a mix)
    • 1/4 cup cacao powder
    • 10 pitted dates
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
    • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
    • 2.5 cups cashews, soaked overnight
    • 1.5 cups coconut milk (more or less for desired texture)
    • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
    • 1T lemon juice
    • 1 pomegranate, seeded
    Soak the cashews in water overnight so they are soft and easy to blend. If short on time, you can soak them in hot water for a couple hours.
    For the Crust
    Blended nuts of choice: almonds, hazelnuts, and/or walnuts (or a mix) on high speed until they are crumbly. Add dates, cacao, and vanilla extract, coconut oil and blend until well combined. Once the mixture resembles a thick, wet texture it's done. Scoop into a pie plate or springform pan and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to pack down.
    For the Filling
    Blend soaked cashews, coconut milk, honey, and lemon juice until smooth. Adjust to taste and desired consistency. Pour 2/3 of the filling into the pie pan. Add pomegranate (reserve about 1/4 c for garnish) to remaining filling and blend until well combined. You should have a pink/red colored filling. Pour the pomegranate filling on top of the pie and use a knife to swirl. Freeze for a couple hours to solidify and then store in the fridge until serving.
    To serve, top with remaining pomegranate seeds. Yum!
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    Saturday, December 26, 2015

    Kardemummabullar‬ (Swedish Cardamom Buns)

    I love traditions. For me, the holidays are synonymous with baking delicious treats. Inspired by my Scandinavian heritage and recent trip to Sweden, I decided to bake Kardemummabullar‬, traditional Swedish cardamom buns.

    My desire to create Kardemummabullar‬ was twofold. One, I could not get enough of the Swedish baked goods while visiting. We indulged in saffranbullar (saffron buns) and pepparkakor (gingersnaps), but did not have a chance to try kardemummabullar. Second, I am obsessed with cardamom. So really, it was a no-brainer. Plus, I like the challenge of baking something new, and kardemummbullar seemed a little complicated. Challenge accepted.

    To begin, I wanted to use whole cardamom seeds and crush them myself. This proved a little hard to find in a small town the day before Christmas. After some searching I found whole cardamom seeds, which was so worth the effort! There is nothing more satisfying than grinding your own spices and sensing the fragrance come alive.

    Making the buns was not as complicated as I thought. I looked online for some inspiration, and found that most recipes were similar to a yeast roll. Not too tough to recreate. I like to use few ingredients when baking and cooking, which was easy for these rolls. My list included: flour, yeast, milk, butter, brown sugar, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon.

    To make the dough, I heated milk in a saucepan over low heat. I used 1% because that's what we had in the fridge, but I think 2% or whole milk would be even better. Once the milk was lukewarm I added the yeast and mixed until it was dissolved. In my mixer I combined the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom, and added the milk. I turned the mixer on low and slowly started to incorporate the butter (cut into cubes), then increased the speed for about 5 minutes using a bread hook to knead. (You could do this by hand too- knead for about 5-10 min) After mixing, I rolled the dough into a ball and placed in a bowl, covered, to rise for about an hour.

    While the dough was rising I did two things: 1) made the filling (easy as mixing butter, sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon together), and 2) Made coffee. Baking and coffee go together like cooking and wine. I can't do one without the other. Plus, in honor of Sweden and all the coffee drinking done there I felt it was only fitting. Also, it was 4:00am when I started baking, and coffee seemed necessary. I'm still jet lagged from my trip....

    ............Twiddle thumbs and drink coffee for an hour..........

    Then finally the dough was ready. I rolled it out in a long rectangle and spread the filling over the entire surface using a spatula. The filling was pretty thin and I think I maybe would make a touch more the next time.

    Next, I folded the rectangle in half the long way. 

    To make the classic knotted bun look, I had to do some searching. I tried a few times and it just didn't look right. For my attempted description at how to form these, see recipe below. Otherwise, a photo says a thousand words.... 

    Cut into 10-15 long stripes.

    Cut a slit about 3/4 of the way up each strip and twist the ends inward to make a spiral.

    Fold the two ends over each other and tuck in behind the bun.

    Something like this.

    And if you can't get them to look right, just make a messy knotted bun. I promise they will still taste good!

    After forming the buns, let sit for about 30 min before baking. I used this time to prepare the glaze (which again, was as easy at mixing sugar, water, and cardamom together).

    To bake, preheat the oven to 400 F. Bake for about 8-10 min and remove. The buns should be starting to brown on top, but still soft. I took mine out at 8 minutes because I like them a little underdone rather than crispy. And my oven runs hot.

    Immediately spoon the glaze over the top and let it seep into the buns.

    Pair with coffee and enjoy!

    Kardemummabullar‬ (cardamom buns)

    by Stephanie Howe
    Prep Time: 30 min.
    Cook Time: 10 min.
    Keywords: bake breakfast cardamom Christmas Scandinavian winter
    Ingredients (10-15 buns)
      For the Dough
      • 1 c (250 ml) milk
      • 1 package dry active yeast
      • 1/3 c (60 g) brown sugar
      • 3 1/4 c (420 g) flour (I used a mix of al purpose, spelt, and pastry)
      • 1 teaspoon cardamom
      • ¼ teaspoon salt
      • 5 Tablespoons (70 g) butter at room temperature
      For the Filling
      • 4.5 tablespoons (60 g) butter at room temperature
      • 1/4 c, scant (30 g) brown sugar
      • 1½ teaspoons cardamom
      • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
      For the Glaze
      • 1/4 c (50 g) brown sugar
      • 1/4 c (60 g) water
      • 1 teaspoon cardamom
      For the Dough
      Warm milk over low heat and add yeast. Stir until dissolved. Add flour, sugar, cardamom, salt to a mixer with a bread hook attachment. Add milk and begin to mix. After a few seconds, start to add butter. Mix for about 5 min (or knead by hand for 5-10 min). Roll dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover, and rise for about 1 hr.
      For the Filling
      Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir until well combined. Set aside.
      To Shape
      Roll out dough into a long rectangle. Spread filling evenly over the entire rectangle. Fold in half longways. Cut 10-15 evenly shaped long strips from the rectangle (see photos). Make a slit with a knife about 3/4 of the way up the long strip. Twist ends inward to make a spiral shape. Take twisted ends and cross them over each other and tuck the loose ends behind the bun (this sounds complicated, but really just make a 'messy' bun look- the shape doesn't terrible matter). Place on a baking sheet and let rise for another 30-40 min.
      For the Glaze
      Mix water, brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon together in a small bowl
      To bake
      Bake at 400-425 for 8-10 min. Remove from heat and spoon glaze on top while still warm. Sprinkle with decorative sugar if desired.
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