protein packed dishes: citrus french lentil salad

In my search for alternate forms of protein, other than animal protein, I have been pleasantly surprised by beans.  A staple of my island cuisine, I have always used beans as a side dish to rice, very rarely as the main ingredient, as in this salad.  French lentils have a high amount of protein, making them a real fantastic alternative to meat protein.  And while they are not complete proteins one cup alone contains 36 grams.  But what makes lentils in my opinion such a great food is that is contains iron, which is normally found in animal protein therefore making it really essential for vegetarians and vegans.

crossing over to the dark side: shamrock race for hope 5k

I have an admission to make: I have always thought it is funny how runners obsess about PRs.  I can fully admit this because I am what I call a "zen runner" or one who likes to run but not race.  I do wear a GPS watch, I do measure my routes, but besides that I am not much for racing.  I can run long distances (thank the Army for that) but don't ask me for my PRs.  Again, I'm not much for racing.  Enter the marathon training.  

I cannot tell you exactly whether it is my competitive nature or masochism, but I have always wanted to run a marathon by the time I was 40, which was two months ago-- the same day as the ING Miami Marathon.  Unfortunately, because of my father's illness I decided not to run it and instead spend that milestone in our lives making beautiful memories, and it was a weekend to remember.  Now, I am registered to run the Medtronics Twin Cities Marathon in October.  As I read through my training I kept reading to run certain intervals at "5k pace"  but the problem is that I didn't know what that was, so I signed for the Shamrock Race for Hope yesterday.  I could have run the distance on my own, but I honestly believe that the mentality on a training run vs a race has to be different, and boy was I right.  

Ok, so first I get there and it was a bit convoluted and disorganized.  The map for the race was hard to read and some of the people explaining the map were guessing on the route.  Eventually I figured you can always go safe by asking the cops directing the traffic; it helped she was a runner so she understood what we needed to know.  Once everything got sorted through, the peeps running the 10K went first, with us following after them.  

I liked the run in that it went through the small historic area of Fayetteville and all the volunteers were awesome.  What I didn't like?  The fact that we ran almost 4 miles instead of the 3.1 Miles the 5K is equivalent to.  As I got ready to head for home, one of the volunteers told us to make a left to run what seemed like another half a mile outside of the actual route.  And we all went that way even though by my GPS I knew the 5K mark would not be where the finish line was.  And honestly, I did not know what the protocol for this is, but off I went.  When I finished my time was 38:32 (see left) for 3.89 miles but per my GPS my time for the 5K was 31:04.  

After I finished racing, I heard a few of the 5K runners complain also about the almost extra mile we had to run.  I also noticed a pool of people huddling around a large screen tv, so me being the goober I am, went to check it out only to realize that it was a ginormous spreadsheet showing the runner/times as they ran across the finish line.  And as I scanned for my name I realize: I HAVE CROSSED INTO THE DARK SIDE!  Yes, that side where you actually pay attention to your time and PRs.  Suddenly I found myself breaking down the race in my head.  By all account and regardless of which time you use, I shaved off 1 min. of my pace per mile thanks to a combination of the right shoe (I ♥ Saucony Kinvara!) and being intentional about my rest days while building a base in preparation for the actual marathon training.  Weird thing is that the email I got said my pace was 12:22 per mile but my GPS said 9:54 (the obsession has begun!).  Still, I was in cloud nine as I drove home because I finished my first official race ever and I thought I did pretty good.  But my day got better when I got an email with the link to the race results.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that I came in 3rd for my age group! Haha!  That was totally cool because my zen-like mind did not even think about that! I just left the race afterwards!  

In all, I finished 3/10 in my age group, and 32nd for all females and 80th out of 126 runners.  And you know what?  I am alright with that.  At least now I have a based from where to build upon.  So to celebrate I went shopping with my niece (because we don't do a lot of shopping) to Old Navy which is our favorite store.  I especially love their exercise gear.  Cute top, right?  By the way, the pants are the Athleta Bettona Boyfriend Pants and are the best everywhere pants EVER!  

I am pretty happy with these results and am so excited to be displaying at home my first bib/finisher medal ever!  I cannot wait until next weekend when I run the Dirty Girl Mud Run 5K in Raleigh, NC.  Stay tuned for that one!  That should be interesting! :-)  

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

plant-based week 1: withdrawals & green pizza!

This week was week one of my plant-based "diet".  I quote the word diet because truly it seems more of a lifestyle change than anything else.  I have read many great things from other bloggers about their experience with the plant-based world and have spoken with friends who are vegetarians or vegan, and they love it.  But let me be honest: I'm Puerto Rican, and we Puerto Ricans love meat more than Texans do!  But even like that, I say that about a quarter of my diet is already vegetarian, however it has never been an issue because I always have the option of a side of meat.  I know, I know...I'm obsessed with meat.  But I tell you what, meat doesn't always sits good with me and sometimes, I feel yucky.  If you are new you may be wondering why I'm doing this.  Because I have a high cholesterol, which came as a surprise.  

So, how did week one go?  Good although I had some hard times, especially when I took my nieces for a belated birthday lunch.  Can you say lasagna?  Oh, it smelled so good!  And while my mom made fried chicken and I resisted, all bets were off when I heard the words: lamb burger.  I have to say though that for the most part I did pretty good.  Looking back at week 1, I think the biggest challenge was deciding what to eat because while unjustified, when I think "plant-based" I think BORING.  But this weekend I worked on my menu and have a pretty set plan for week 2 based loosely in the Engine 2 Diet plant, which I found when watching the Forks Over Knives film.     

Now I would be remiss if I did not mention my favorite eats from week 1.   Usually breakfast is the hardest thing for me to prep because I'm normally not hungry in the morning.  But with a little effort I was able to come up with some options.  

Left:  Homemade Granola with Cultured Almond Yogurt (recipe coming soon!)
Right: Hot Lap Bowl from Engine 2 Diet.  Click HERE for recipe.  It quinoa with lots of yummy toppings.

While I ate pretty much the same thing every day, I "stepped outside the box" and made this delicious Green Pizza.  OMG, this was so good, that even my other carnivore relatives loved it.  

Here is the recipe:

Green pizza (adapted from engine2diet)

  • 1 whole grain crust
  • 1 jar pasta sauce 
  • 8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, rinsed and drained
  • green bell peppers, diced
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup finely ground raw cashews (optional; I did not add them)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Generously spread sauce on the crusts, and layer with remaining ingredients. Top with cashews or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast (optional).  Cook on a pizza stone for 15 minutes.

These eats were so delicious that, again with some preparation, will keep me on track for week 2.  For week 2 here is what I'm planning:

Green Goddess Smoothie
Hot Lap Bowl
Herb Egg White Omelet

Black Beans Rice Extravaganza
Quinoa Patties Burgers
Roasted Red Peppers Hummus Wrap

Leftovers from lunch
Sriracha Fish Tacos
Quinoa "pasta" with Shredded Zucchini

Sunwarrior Rice Protein Shake
Banana with PB2

What's Your Meal Plan for this week?  Need ideas?  Check out What's for Dinner Menu Planning hosted by  Fitness, Health & Happiness and Mommy Run Fast.  I am also sharing with these awesome blog hops:  Whole Foods WednesdayReal Foods WednesdayWednesday Fresh FoodsSimple Lives ThursdayFoodie Friday.

playing footsie: taking care of the tools of our trade

My best friend once told me: "you are such a feet person".  The comment threw off.  Did she mean that as in a feet fetish kind of way?  I was scratching my head on that one and she must have noticed my bewildered expression because she added: "I meant that you always really pay attention to your feet, any aches, bruises, blisters, etc".  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was correct.  After all my feet have been my tools of the trade for a long time.  When I was younger, I was a classical ballet dancer who took a beating on her feet, then as a Soldier my feet are basically what keeps me going.  So much so that during basic training, or field exercises the sergeants conduct feet inspection to make sure we are all good to go.  And as runner, well no need to explain that.  The bottom line is that the health of my feet are key to success. 

I have had my share of feet injuries, mostly related to running or foot marching: plantar fasciiatis, turf toe, achilles tendonitis, postal tibialis tendonitis.  The key in my fairly quick recovery from foot injuries, aside from the fairly minor seriousness of the injuries, has been addressing the issues as soon as I noticed them.  Yes, I'm oddly in tune with how my feet are feeling but I accredit that with how I have been able to bounce back.  But feet health, especially when running, also requires what I call "playing footsie" which is simply taking care of your feet by pampering.  Not only does it provide relief for tired feet but it just feels good...for the most part.  Here are some tips on what has worked for me:

As you can see from the list, a lot of tips can be done at home with items you probably already have.  But there are other tips that I recommend you visit a professional like getting a proper shoe fitting and certain foot massages using advanced techniques like the Graston technique.  Again, it is all about providing relief as soon as you feel it.  If pain is what you are experiencing then by all means consult with your doctor.  Admit it, we love to pamper our bodies but rarely do we take care of our feet but in the end it is all about how we treat our body: FEET INCLUDED.  Do you hear that runners? Be good to your feet! If we take care of them, we will reap the benefits.

And I had to add this because it gave me a good chuckle when I saw it :-)

Happy Eating and Happy Running!

Sharing with Fitness Friday!

the life-changing loaf of "bread"...maybe & my week in review

I love food blogs.  It is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place.  From Cannelle et Vanille to 101 Cookbooks, they offer an escape where I imagine myself being cool enough to hang around with these uber foodies.  They have beautiful photography and awesome recipes, which I never recreate at home.  But last week, I was visiting one of my favorite blogs, My New Roots, and the author posted a recipe for Life Changing Loaf of Bread.  Now, I don't know about you but that is a pretty bold statement.  In my head I heard the words: that's a challenge.  And I am a sucker for a good challenge ladies and gentlemen.  If you are going to make a claim like this, I must test it.  And I don't mean test it so I can prove you wrong.  But come on, if this is life-changing, I want to eat it, right?!

After I printed the recipe, I proceeded to make my way to the health store (any excuse I can get to go there)  and stocked up on all the ingredients, some which I had never heard of like psyllium husks, which acts as the binder in this recipe.  Once I gather all my supplies, it was off to baking...well not immediately, because you have to let the "dough" sit for a minimum of 2 hours (see recipe below for details).

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread (from My New Roots)Makes 1 loaf
1 cup sunflower seeds
½ cup + 2 tbsp flax seeds (I substituted the 2 tsbp of chia seeds with flax seeds)
½ cup almonds
1 ½ cups rolled oats
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½ cups water
1. In a flexible, silicon loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!

So, after making it, what do I think?  Is it life changing?  No, but its really tasty.  I do have to admit that it is healthier than most "breads" because it does not use flours instead using whole grains, nuts, and seeds, making it a high in protein-high fiber, gluten-free and vegan.  In this regards it is really good...yet still not life changing.  Will I make it again?  Probably, as my parents liked it a lot.  Plus it will be a good recipe to have in my plant-based arsenal since I am about to embark on this plant-based journey.  

This week has been good.  I started my leave prior to my move to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and while I have been busy putting my house on the rental market, I have also enjoyed the ability to go to the gym and exercise anytime I want and then come home and relax. :-)  The good news? I am finally getting over much of the LCL ( or "bad cholesterol") freakout because I have been doing some research and watching some informative documentaries about plant-based diet.  My doctor actually recommended the Fork Over Knives documentary because after he watched it, he changed his diet and lost about 30 lbs. in addition to improving his overall health.  This is the handout he prepared, which he gives to some of his patients, and I love him for this!  Look at his test numbers!

This really convinced me to give this 100%.  It's 30 days and I want to see if I can take care of this without medication, because seriously, who needs that?  I sure don't!  I know me, so I got rid of all the stuff that I am not supposed to be eating, cleaned the pantry and went grocery shopping.  I'm actually really excited to see the results at the end of the 30 days.  

On Monday, I received a package that I never thought I would need: glasses.  In 2005 I had laser eye surgery and was doing fine until I developed Grave's Disease, a form of hyperthyroidism and it put so much strain on my vision that it messed up my eyes a bit, especially depth perception which is not good when driving at night.  I've had more than one scare.  

How do you like my new fancy Gucci glasses?  This is my one splurge for like the next 5 years!  Seriously.  But once I saw saw them, it was love!  And you know what else I fell in love with?  My new second pair of shoes.  So, funny story: in the past year I have gone through more running shoes than the previous 5 years combined, and I'm proud of it.  You know from my previous post that I just bought the Asics Gel Noosa Tri-8 and I am a hard core fan of them ever since I bought the Noosa 6 two years ago.  I never thought I would say this but I may have found the one running shoe that will dethrone the Noosa: the Saucony Kinvara 3.  And that is a lot to say because I am not a big fan of Saucony shoes.  I got these a few days ago and have only taken them in short runs because I'm nursing a heel bone spur, but so far I love them!

This is a light shoe, with just the right amount of cushion and stability for slight pronators.  I've been having some issues with my arches and right foot in general, and after the doctor told me I now have flat feet (never mind that I used to dance ballet and had super high arches) I asked around, did some reading and these came highly recommended especially by runners with flat feet.  After a few runs, I am happy to announce that I have not felt any pain.  Eureka!

And finally, its Spring racing season!  And to celebrate it, I signed up for two "local" races in March.  I never thought about it but in the 8 years I have been living in NC, I have never participated in a local run.  With these two not only will that be remedied but also I can take care of the 5 by the 5th Virtual Run Series, which I joined late.  The races are:

Woohoo! My first mud run!

Well, tomorrow I am off with my middle niece for a shopping spree as my birthday gift to her.  She is a good girl and deserves it!  And I am really looking forward to spending time with her before I depart NC.  I do hope you guys have a great and safe weekend!  Happy eating and happy running!

i'm deficient what? the importance of vitamin d

Lately, I have been reading more than normal blogs and articles about Vitamin D deficiency, and wanted to share with you my Vitamin D story.  If you followed my previous blog you know that I am a hypothyroid since 2010, when my thyroid was removed due to Grave's Disease, which is a form of hyperthyroidism.   Thirty days after my thyroid was removed, I started gaining weight like it was nobody's business.  Because I am 6'1" people kept telling me it was all in my head (something I was used to hearing when I had Grave's Disease because apparently we "make this stuff up).  But as strange as it sounds, I felt myself getting heavier and there was nothing I could do to stop it since I was still in the recovery period and could not exercise.  Since then it has been a yo-yo affair between me and my weight.  I was working out furiously, eating sensibly, and adjusting my hormone medicines.  But most troubling, was the fact that I was having horrible joint pains.  My endocrinologist was excellent but I felt that at times he was not listening to me.  So, during a visit last December I once again conveyed how I was feeling and that I was not making this up; I actually asked him to put down his laptop and stop typing.  This gave him a hint of my frustration.  So, he ordered a complete blood work, not just my thyroid hormones.

The week before all this ensued, my knees were killing especially my right knee and so I made an appointment with my general doctor and she thought I had a meniscus injury... Not  what I wanted to hear.  After an MRI we discovered only some minor arthritis developing on my knee but nothing to justify the horrible joint pains I was having.  Why do I mention this?  Well, a few days after the blood work by the endocrinologist, he called me to tell me that he may have found what the problem was: a chronic deficiency on vitamin D.  After he gave me some directions, I went online and read about why vitamin D deficiency is so important especially in a hypothyroid person.  And wow, was I blown away by what I found out.  So, first the basics:  

Vitamin D is formed when skin is exposed to the sun and it is also found in food and dietary supplements.  It is so essential to the thyroid function that its status has gone from just a vitamin to a co-enzyme.  There are two major types of vitamin D. 
  • Vitamin D3: made in the body in response to sun exposure and found in certain foods.
  • Vitamin D2: form used in supplements, which is also the type used to fortify certain foods, such as milk.

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ok, sorry but this made me laugh...

How does it relate to thyroid.  Researchers have found that, because thyroid treatment isn't optimal, it may not work if the body does not have the adequate amount of vitamin D for the crucial final metabolic step, which takes place at the site where thyroid hormone actually works.  Vitamin D needs to be present at sufficient levels in the cell in order for the thyroid hormone to actually affect that cell.  That is why vitamin D is so crucial. And if you decide to take a vitamin D supplement, make sure it is D3.   I normally do not get sassy with my endocrinologist but I did.  Yeap, this maybe something that would have been great to know!

And scarily enough, some of the symptoms I was having, and which I thought were because my dose was off, are the same as if you are vitamin D deficient: fatigue, joint pain and weight gain.  And here is the kicker.  I have a double whammy in the vitamin D deficiency department by being Hispanic since Hispanics have more melanin in their skin, which is a natural sunscreen and it blocks the type of sunlight that helps us make vitamin D.  So, our risk goes up the darker our skin is.  

Really?  Seriously?  Can I just get a break somewhere? Ok, I know I am whining...

Now, let's talk vitamin D for runners, which is best known for its importance in maintaining bone health by improving calcium absorption.  Vitamin D is a must have in the "injury prevention" supplements arsenal for any runner.  There are many key processes related to to athletic performance that Vitamin D affects like immune system activation and improvement of anti-inflammatory response. **Information via.  

Here is a great article about Vitamin D and Runner's

Where am I now?  Well, I take a daily dose of 4000 units of vitamin D in addition to my super high (at least I think it is) 224 mcg of Synthroid.  It took a few months after I started on the D3 but by February 2012 I started feeling better, and by the end of March I was working out and shedding the pounds.  It took about 5-6 months for me to lose about 29 pounds, and I tend to go up or down 5 pounds.  But for the most part, the weight has stayed off.  And I am one happy girl.  Not only am I thinner, but most importantly I feel healthier than I have in years.  And in the end this is what is all about, right?  In case you want to learn more, here is a quick snapshot on Vitamin D.
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via Pinterest

Happy Eating and Happy Running!

garmin forerunner 10 {product review}

In 2000, I bought my first heart rate monitor, a Polar that just monitored the HR.  Then in 2007 (yeah a big gap of time in between) I upgraded to a Suunto which was awesome albeit it had way too many features.  I still have it but it is dying and sadly it needed replacement.  I knew it was time to get a new one but this time I also wanted a GPS that was not too bulky.  I searched and researched, and after much indecision I got the Garmin Forerunner 10 and I am so happy with it!  When looking for a GPS watch I had some requirements:
  • Affordable price
  • Easy to use
  • Not bulky in design
  • Online support & training downloads
The make or brake point initially became the price because, I'm sorry, I am not going to spend $300 or $400 in a high speed GPS that I need for running.  No way.  The max I wanted to pay was $200 and that shrunk my list considerably while still leaving me with some great choices.  As I did my research I kept reading nothing but great things about the Forerunner 10 especially how easy it was to use and how it is not a bulky design which makes it perfect for females.  And after using it two time, I was hooked.  

This is what I was looking for.  When I run I want to know three things- my pace, distance and time elapsed.  I'm a simple kind of girl, so too much info on a watch throws me off.  And this watch gives me exactly that: simplicity.  First, I don't need to push a bunch of buttons to start it; one button starts/stops it.   There are two main screens: the main face is preset to run time and total distance ran, while the second face shows you the pace.  As you complete a mile, the watch beeps to let you know you have completed it, which believe it or not, its a mental motivator (at least for me it is!).  For those of you new to running and still in the walking phase, you can set it for walk intervals or run/walk intervals as necessary.  Now, I have to warn you that if HR monitoring is an integral part of your training and that is something you need in a watch... keep looking because this watch does not monitor HR.  There is one feature-- the Virtual Pacer-- which compares your current running pace to your target, and I am really looking forward to trying it.  

As I mentioned above, I cannot have too much information on a watch face however, I love analyzing running information on my computer and have to admit I am a bit of a techno geek in that regards.  Which is why online support and the ability to download/track was a requirement.  Through GarminConnect, I get all this.  When you go into the site, the site automatically takes you to your dashboard, and voila!  Its a running techno geek's heaven!  Please excuse my horrible times, I just went out and had a horrible run!  Anyhow, back to the dashboard.  You get a summarized version first with a map of your run route.  

If you click on the "view details" you get the more in-depth analysis, which I find so fascinating.  

The site also has training plans, calendars, training goals, and much more.  In general I am very satisfied with this watch because it does what it says it will.  Let me address some issues I have read online like battery life, length of time it takes to get a satellite signal, and training workouts storage.  Yes, the battery life is about 5 hours, but that should be good for most people training for up to a marathon.  When it comes to the satellite reception, I had no problems and it only took me about 1-2 minutes to get the GPS getting my current location.  And while the watch only stores 7 workouts, if you download them to GarminConnect, you should have no problem.  Again, you get what you pay for in this price range.  And I am getting everything I wanted.  

Overall: 4.5 out of 5 (because of the lack of HR monitor)