Orzo and Chickpea Salad

This salad is full of wonderfully bright flavors that work great together. The fresh dill paired with the roasted peppers and cheese make this a fast, delicious lunch or dinner. I like to change out the feta cheese for blue cheese for an extra bite. Enjoy!

Orzo Chickpea Final

1/4 tsp sea salt, plus a pinch, divided
1 cup whole wheat orzo pasta
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup drained and diced roasted red peppers
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 oz reduced fat feta, crumbled
1. Heat a large pot of water over high heat. Season cooking water with a pinch of salt and stir in orzo. Cook according to package directions until tender but firm to bite. Drain and set aside. 

2. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, honey, cumin, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil.

3. In a large bowl, place cooked orzo, ckickpeas, roasted red peppers and dill. Pour dressing over top and toss to combine. Add crumbled feta and gently toss together.

**Recipe from “The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook 2″.

Minimum Effective Dose

Originally Posted on April 14, 2013 by 

If you’ve ever done a marathon, you know (hopefully) what it’s like to wake up Saturday morning and head out for a 3-hour run.  If you’ve ever trained for a triathlon, you know what it’s like to spend nearly half your day running, biking, and swimming.  As pursuers of healthy living we look forward to and enjoy these breaks from reality, but if you’re like me, you don’t realize how much of your day is spent exercising.

As I drove to the gym last year I noticed a problem.  I had just spent 20 minutes at home getting my workout clothes on, was now driving 20 minutes to the gym, was planning to work out for 60 minutes, and was going to spend 20 minutes driving home.  The whole process took 2 hours and I wasn’t even that happy with my workout.  At that point in time my gym membership was about to expire after 13 years, and I was feeling pressure from my profession and my partner to reprioritize my time, basically, I was working out too much.  I hate the idea of exercising less but I also knew it was taking priority over other areas of my life that it shouldn’t.  I decided to do something about it.  I let my gym membership expire, I purchased a set of 20 pound dumbbells, and I relocated our kitchen timer to our office (my new gym).

I started by setting my timer for 20 minutes and not letting myself work out any longer, that was the max.  If I was in between reps I would force myself to stop.  I was starting to look at my workouts differently, instead of increasing duration, I increased intensity and efficiency. I began doing timed sprints behind my house instead of driving to the track.  It may be an American thing to do, breaking things down and trying to micromanage your time, but for me I’ve found I can get great workouts and not spend huge amounts of my day doing them.  I still enjoy my longer workouts, don’t get me wrong, but by interchanging routines that focus on getting the minimum effective dose of exercise, I’ve found I have more time for other priorities in my life.

Editor’s Note:
David Hurford is my brother and an awesome athlete.  He wrote this article for my previous blog and I am reprinting it here.

Yummy Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes
Hasselback Potatoes

I was lucky enough to get to see Kara Goucher speak at the Wine Country Half Marathon expo.  Pretty much anyone who has ever talked to me knows how much I admire this athlete.  She’s driven and extremely accomplished, representing the United States for two Olympic Games, yet stays very down to earth.  Believe it or not, my favorite thing she noted during her talk was that she doesn’t have any food that is off limits.

Ready to race.
Ready to race.

She noted that she loves carbs, that they get a bad rap, but really are a sources of energy.  Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it, remember calories in/calories out, but I use baked potatoes as a source of fuel during long endurance training and my body seems to tolerate them.  They are simple carbohydrates that are easy to digest and provide quick energy.  Easy to take with you, I’ve had them waiting for me at transition areas during triathlons.  I couldn’t eat them during a run, but can definitely munch on them during my ride.

I found this recipe in a recent Cooking Light magazine and I loved how simple and convenient they are.  It’s a cross between crispy  fries and a baked potato.  Easier to eat than a baked potato, you can just peel off the slices.  I was so excited to find this new way to make potatoes, called Hasselbacks, but apparently the concept has been around forever.  Just in case I’m not the last person to discover these, I decided I’d pass along my new favorite way to prepare potatoes.

Potato1Make sure you wash your potato well and then place it between two butter knives, chopsticks or wooden spoons.  With 1/8”  intervals , make cuts all along the potato, cutting most of the way through.  The utensils on both sides should prevent the knife from going all the way through.   Brush some olive oil and your choice of seasoning over the top, making sure it seeps in between the slices.  I keep mine simple with a little olive oil and Johnnies Seasoning  Salt but you could dress  these up all sorts of ways.  Bake, uncovered, at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the potato.  Give it a little time to cool before eating, since they come out of the oven HOT!  They store well in the refrigerator and are super convenient when you have three boys looking for an easy snack.  I might have been the last person to discover this way of making potatoes, but I’m making up for lost time.  Super easy, convenient and tasty, they’re probably not something you want to eat every day but I agree with Kara Goucher, nothing should be completely off limits.

Lessons from the Kona Marathon

Kona-Sticker-e1375066637251-225x300Back in June, I finished the Kona Marathon without even looking at the race results or taking one of their post-race pictures.  My Garmin had run out of battery and the watermelon at the finish line was warm, both signs that I took way too long.  Deflated and discouraged after a bad run, I headed back to the hotel without even looking at any of the fun stuff waiting for us at the finish line.  Not only did I run out of battery, I took so long they ran out of my shirt size.  I got stuck with one that I think all three of my boys could squeeze into, TOGETHER.

Why would my Kona Marathon Finisher’s Medal end up being my favorite one?  There were lots of reasons I should try and put this run behind me and never speak of it again, yet I can’t help but smile anytime someone asks me about it. I think the challenge of Kona made the finish line that much more spectacular for me.  I’m not saying any marathon is easy, they all have their challenges, but this 26.2 took a lot more out of me.

IMG_3358The heat, lack of shade, stagnant, sticky air and sun beating off the asphalt and lava rock made me have to dig a little deeper.  Honestly, I had to dig way deep.  I made sure I hydrated the days before and had enough fuel and sleep to start off strong.  Going into it, I felt great.  I had done a couple of short, easy runs on the Big Island and even thought I might be able to pull off a PR at Kona.  I was confident enough I just might be able to do it, that I texted my plan to a girlfriend.  Her wise reply would help me get through the mental challenges I faced with this run, all part of the journey to make that medal my favorite.  She had experience with heat and humidity after running the Barbados Marathon and told me to just go enjoy the run.  She said to pack my phone and take pictures along the course, forcing me to slow down and just enjoy it, instead of setting myself up for disappointment.  The stubborn Taurus in me ignored that advice.

I didn’t take my phone for pictures and set out with a steady pace that I really felt like I could maintain.  Feeling strong and solid, I got through the first half without any problems.  I sipped on water every mile and was keeping an eye on my Garmin.  It wasn’t much after the halfway point where I decided I should have packed a camera and run this one for fun, not for time.

The second half of the marathon is a blur.  I know I had a nice gentleman come up and grab my hand and encourage me to keep running.  I lost count of how many people offered me salt tablets.   I wasn’t asking anyone for help, which makes me wonder just how bad I looked along the course.  I really think I was hitting the point of heat exhaustion and knew that if I told anyone I was seeing rainbows, they would encourage me to go to an aid station, not press on to the finish line.

Instead of dropping out, I decided to lie down, not once, but at least 3 times along the course.  Once on a clean bench behind a Sports Authority, next on some lava rock and finally in a shady spot off the road.  I know I was sharing my temporary pad with some vagrants.   Clearly, each one was a little more desperate.  I have Sheldon Cooper tendencies with germs. (Check out The Big Bang Theory- you’ll LOVE it).  I laugh now that I didn’t care it smelled like urine and I was probably surrounded by cockroaches- it was soft and out of the sun.  The shade was worth the risk.  When I joined back in, another runner came up and pulled the leaves out of my hair.  How often can you say that?   For me, one time too many, but I’m chalking it up as a great learning experience more than a great run.

IMG_3361-225x300I learned there are some amazing people out there. Of course, I think they’re pretty awesome for running a marathon, but add that they’re running a marathon while encouraging, pushing and helping others.  That inspires me.  No one had to offer me their salt tablets, which I SHOULD HAVE accepted.  No one had to stop and suggest I try some flat soda or hold my hand to give me a push.  It took time for the woman to pull the leaves out of my hair and the guy to pour his water on me.  It reminded me there are still plenty of great people in this world.  If I had listened to my girlfriend, packed my camera and just run for fun, I would have missed that.  It’s probably good that I’m stubborn and a very slow learner.   It took me forever and a day to get to that finish line but that’s part of why the Kona Marathon medal is so special to me.  I didn’t get any pictures of the course or a respectable time, but I did finish and was inspired in a new way.  When you have to really dig deep, that memory lasts and I can still picture the people offering help along the way.  There are lots of amazing people out there.  Sometimes we’re in such a hurry to get to the finish line we don’t notice them, but Kona opened my eyes.  I realized how much harder I was able to challenge myself and discovered the run is more about the journey and less about the finish line.  That’s why my Kona medal is my favorite and I smile every time I think about it.

A glamorous finish.
A glamorous finish.

Chicken Over a Wedge Salad

(Modified for the family from Cooking Light)

Wedge-Salad1 C. fat free buttermilk,divided

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 C. whole wheat panko

Dash of Johnny Seasoning salt

4- 6oz chicken breast halves

1T. fresh chives, chopped

2 tsp. white vinegar

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 head of iceberg, cored and cut into wedges

½ C. crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine ½ C. buttermilk and egg white in shallow dish.  Place panko in a shallow dish.  Dip chicken in egg white mixture and dredge in panko.  Sprinkle with seasoning salt.  Cook over medium heat in an ovenproof skillet and bake both sides for about 4 minutes.  Place in oven and bake for around 15 minutes, or until done.

With the chicken in the oven, combine ½ C buttermilk, a dash of seasoning salt, chives, garlic, vinegar and blue cheese.   Set aside until ready to use.

When chicken is done, remove from oven, cool, then slice crosswise.  (I was too excited to wait, so my slices weren’t exactly restaurant quality but hungry boys were waiting)  For each plate, place one lettuce wedge, a couple of slices of chicken and drizzle with the buttermilk/blue cheese mixture.  All of my guys loved it, which is RARE.

** The original recipe called for 2 cups of chopped plum tomatoes and 3 slices of crumbled bacon, which is why the original salad was named Chicken BLT Salad but my boys don’t like tomatoes YET and they don’t need bacon.

Forming Habits Seize the Day

Carpe DiemEvery day is a gift and we all have a choice to take advantage of that gift. I keep saying that I’m going to get some ink with my favorite mantra: CARPE DIEM. While the tattoo hasn’t happened yet, I think we have constant reminders around us to seize the day.  Reminders to stop putting things off, to do the things we want to do, be the person we want to be or the parent our kids deserve.  Today is the day to make a choice to start healthy habits, not dwell on past mistakes that weigh you down but focus on living.

Change is hard, especially for those of us that are stubborn and resist it. Developing habits doesn’t just happen overnight.  It takes work, and a lot if it.  Using my favorite mantra, I broke down how I try to develop habits.

Commit to it.  Obviously the first step and it usually takes awhile for me to get here.  It might be a decision to eat healthier, work out more or use your time better.  Whatever it is you’re working to improve, you need to make a commitment to yourself and write it down.

Announce it.  I used this to kick my soda habit.  Using social media for good, I announced I was quitting.  I knew that putting it out there meant that anyone who saw me buying or sipping it would call me out.  If you want to run your first 10K, commit to it and announce it to your family and friends.  They have a way of helping keep us accountable, without saying a word.

Repeat it.  The old saying that it takes 21 days to develop a habit, unfortunately, is not the case. The time will vary, it could take less than 21 days but usually takes much longer.  For all of us, the more often we do something, the faster it becomes a part of life.  If you are trying to eat ‘real’ food the more often you eat real food, taking in fresh, clean food, the more you crave it.  It becomes the ‘norm’ the more often you do it.

Positive Reinforcement. Make sure you have some.  Life is short!  If you’re trying to walk every day, find a friend that makes you laugh and go have a good time walking.  Set a goal to go to the gym 3 times a week for a month and then reward yourself with some fun workout gear.  The rewards don’t have to be big, just little incentives to keep you excited and ideally not something with calories.

Exceptions, don’t make them!  Until it’s a habit, do your best to make no exceptions.  With my diet coke, I knew that if I allowed myself a small soda every couple of day, I wouldn’t break the addiction.  Exceptions are really just excuses.  Be firm with yourself and it will pay off.

Daily Reminders.  There are a ton of apps out there to keep you on track, whether it’s diet, exercise or getting organized.  I’m completely old school with my running.  I write my mileage in sharpie on my calendar but I also love list and home organizing apps to keep me focused on improving the chaos of three boys and their Wonder Dog.  Test different ones out and then use what works for you.

Imagine.  I’m terrible at this but I know some of the most successful runners visualize their race.  One of my favorite cycle instructors really keeps you in the workout with his use of visualization. For me, I think I hold back in this area to prevent disappointment.  I don’t expect enough of myself because I don’t want to fall short.  I need to get out of my comfort zone and imagine great and I’m sure I’m not alone!

Expect Imperfection.  I try to eat healthy MOST of the time. I love the 80/20 concept.  I try to eat clean 80% of the time and allow some ‘treats’ for the remainder.  I’m an emotional eater and know that I’m weak during stressful times.  It’s too easy to have a slice of cheesecake, feel like a failure and give up.  I’m guilty of this more times that I’d like to admit. I’m working to accept the blunder and move on, not let it derail my efforts.  Don’t allow one bad decision to send you into a downward spiral.  Stop the cycle and get right back on board.  Recommit and use it as a learning experience.

Make it Part of You.  You are the only one with the power to change you. Make your habits part of you and they will become second nature.

I love that we can start every day over again.  New opportunities every single day to take advantage of, don’t waste those gifts.  I might not have my tattoo YET, but I know I’m a work in progress and doing the best I can to seize the day.  Every day is a new opportunity to start over, live the life you want to live and be the person you were meant to be.  CARPE DIEM.

Find What Motivates You

Whether you’re new to an exercise program or a seasoned athlete, there are times you simply lack motivation.  It’s hard to get up early and lace up your shoes and it’s not any easier to head to the gym after a long day at the office.  You have to make the time to fit that workout into your day and that requires motivation.  While these tips definitely won’t work for everyone, these are 5 ways I try to stay on top of my training.

Find a Friend.  It might be a gym buddy, a co-worker that can join you for a walk during lunch or another soccer parent that can run the track while the kids practice.  You usually work out harder when you do it with friends, friends keep you accountable and the best part is you have some fun at the same time.  Without my running buddy, there would be many, many mornings that I’d hit the snooze button and put off my run.  Knowing that she’s waiting for me, gets me up and going, which is the hardest part.

Register for an Event.  With three boys, their homework, sports and a dog, it’s easy to blow off a workout.  I have to always have an event on the calendar.  It still leaves a little wiggle room, for when life gets in the way but it prevents a downward spiral.  Even better if you can find an event that donates a larger portion of the proceeds to a charity.  It helps keep you motivated to train AND you feel amazing helping others.  Win=Win.  Don’t think you can do an event?  Buy a set of sessions with a personal trainer or register for a new type of exercise class.  The point is there is a deadline with all of the above.  Your event is marked on the calendar, your sessions will be wasted if you don’t use them and classes will come to an end.  With a deadline, you know there is an ending point, you might have to work hard to get there, but there is a goal at the end.

Track your progress.  If you’re training for a half marathon or longer, you see your progress with the increasing mileage and your long runs.  Pictures are a super easy way to see changes.  Plan on taking your picture once a month, for comparison.  Journaling is also another way to keep track of workout plans.  I have the fancy apps that you can enter things but I still prefer the old school journaling.  I can note workouts, what I ate, how I felt, etc.  While a journal doesn’t help get me out for a workout, I can use the notes to figure out slump patterns and work to prevent them. Sometimes looking how far you’ve come is just what you need to lace up your shoes and keep at it.

Find someone that inspires you.  Go through magazines and check out some of the success stories.  Seeing the before and after shots always get me ready to sweat.  Health is more than just a workout, it includes what you put in your body and keeping your spirit alive.  Seeing too many professionals turn to performance enhancing drugs, the majority of the people that inspire me are the moms I see at the gym dragging in their kiddos- MAKING time to work out, the 100 year old marathoner that doesn’t let a number stop him or the athletes that have overcome serious medical hurdles to do things most people take for granted.  While I look to so many others for inspiration, always keep in mind people might be looking to you for some.  Often I MAKE myself go get my workout done so that I set a good example for my kids.  I can’t expect them to work hard on the soccer field or get up early for conditioning, if I’m not willing to do it myself.  I want to inspire my kids to live healthy.

Reward yourself.  Months and months of gray, wet skies make it so hard to keep any sort of outdoor fitness routine going.  Every once in awhile splurge on a pair of fun running knee-highs, a bright running skirt or some sort of workout gear that makes you smile.  When you’re excited to put on your workout clothes and feel like you look good, it’s a lot easier to get that workout started.  Once you’ve got it started, the really hard part is over.  Your reward can be something completely unrelated to working out, but ideally not related to food.  It should keep you feeling good, a new pair of jeans, a fun dress or one of my weaknesses, a new purse.  If you do choose a treat, just make sure you don’t go crazy.  Too often we reward a hard workout with a burger, fries and shake, taking in more calories than we spent.

We’ve all been there.  At some point in time we’ve all experienced a lack of motivation. Life is busy and it’s easy to come up with a million excuses to skip a workout.  Even if you only have 20 minutes to do something, make that time count.  No one regrets getting it done but we’ve all experienced the guilt of skipping a sweat session.  Do you have a trick that works for you?  Pass it along!