Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Great Pumpkin

My family devours pumpkin pies and pumpkin rolls at holidays and I don't think I've ever refused pumpkin cheese cake when it was available, so I've been experimenting with lowly canned pumpkin (yes, the grocery stores stock it year-round) and have five "extra nutrition" recipes to share. The spice proportions in these recipes have a lot of flexibility, so have fun experimenting.

A 1/2 cup serving of the cooked, canned pumpkin has only 40 calories and .5 gram of fat. It's 9 grams of carbs are divided between 5 grams of dietary fiber and only 4 grams of sugar, making it very low on the glycemic index. It has 2 grams of protein and provides 300%! of the daily recommended value of vitamin A (80% as beta carotene) It's good stuff!

Regular use of these recipes should help you painlessly, economically increase your veggie intake. I get feedback from Kyle and Michelle's family, but I'd really like to hear what you think if you try any of them.

Pumpkin Pancakes
  • 2 cups of "complete" pancake mix (I used Krusteaz Buttermilk, which has no trans fats and a decent amount of protein)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed)
  • 1/2 cup wheatgerm (sold in glass jars on the "baking aisle")
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/4- 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 small can (15 oz) of pumpkin
  • 2-4 teaspoons (total) of your choice of "pumpkin pie spices" - cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice (I've made these with just cinnamon and they are good)

  • The ground flaxseed and wheatgerm raise the fiber and protein content of the pancake mix to slow down the body's absorbption of the simple carbs/sugar, allowing it to release less insulin and cortisol in your system than it would have to if you ate regular pancakes (a very good thing). They also provide a nutty crunch, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and additional folic acid (a B vitamin). Store both of these in your fridge so the oils in them don't go rancid. If you don't have ground flaxseed or wheatgerm, use quick or old-fashioned oatmeal instead.

  • Just like plain pancakes, you want to mix the ingredients just until they are all blended - they'll be tough and rubbery if you mix too much.

  • This recipe makes thick pancakes that take a bit longer to cook (360-375 degrees on greased griddle) Just like traditional pancakes, add more water if the mixture is too thick to cook all the way through without burning.

  • Try serving these with heated, no-added sugar applesauce or pureed pears, instead of syrup. Yummm. I've been using these as a side dish for our community meal, but they would make a great "breakfast supper" when the fridge is empty and payday is still a couple days away.

Pumpkin Protein Shake (Individual Adult 16 oz Portion)

  • 1 cup milk or soymilk
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 scoop (1/4-1/3 cup) vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2-4 ice cubes
  • optional: sweetener of your choice
  • (Again, with the spices, use what you have and prefer. I made a shake this morning with 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon - delicious - ground cloves would taste good also. )

  • Blend till smooth

Pumpkin Shake (Family style and quantity)

  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1 cup milk, your choice
  • 1 cup of non-fat yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream
  • (If you don't have yogurt, use more milk or ice cream, if you don't have ice cream, use more milk along with some ice cubes)
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • sweetener of your choice, to taste ( I used 2 T Splenda, which seemed a bit too sweet for the adults, but the boys liked this protein shake better than the one I make with strawberries and bananas - perhaps because I used considerably less protein powder, proportionately)
  • Blend till smooth, makes 4-5 cups

Pumpkin Soup

I love rich, cream filled pumpkin soup baked and served in the pumpkin shell. Here's a quick and easy lighter version, which I adapted from Bobby Flay's recipe on

  • 2 - 1 qt. boxes of chicken or vegetable stock (see note below)
  • 2 - 15 oz cans of pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • (Or substitute 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice for all the above)
  • 1-2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 cup of light sour cream (or milk or 1/2 & 1/2)
  • Optional: Roasted pumpkin seeds or croutons for garnish

Mix everything but the sour cream and pumpkin seeds/crouton in a pasta/soup pot and cook for 20-30 minutes (lid on) - time to allow the flavors to blend, at a low enough temp to keep it from boiling. Just before serving, stir in the sour cream, then garnish if you desire. This recipe makes about 12 cups, and is easily cut in half.

Stock Note: Make your own vegetable stock by chopping/slicing into small pieces and sauteeing 2-3 celery stalks, 1-2 carrots, 1 large onion, and 2 cloves of garlic, then boiling in 8 cups of water or chicken broth for about 20 minutes. You can either strain the veggies and remove or better yet, puree them in the blender with a bit of the stock, and add back into the soup for added thickness and taste. I used the store bought chicken stock, and added the sauteed and blended veggies back into the soup when I added the pumpkin.

Crock Pot Note: This soup would work well in a crock pot, and should only need 2-4 hours on low or 1.5 - 2 hours on high, provided your stock is already prepared.

Pumpkin Pie Power Oatmeal

Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup pureed canned pumpkin, 1/2 - 1 scoop protein powder, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a combo of allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg), and additional cinnamon to taste for each serving of quick or old fashioned oats, before cooking. Throw in some ground flaxseed and/or wheat germ for extra nutrition and nutty taste, sweeten and enjoy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

First Cyclocross Ride

So I've known about this thing called Cyclocross for a long time. It's a variation of road and off-road riding (but mostly off-road). The frames are essentially road frames with knobby tires and less air pressure. So last night, I borrowed a friend's new cross bike and met up for the local ride at the park. I was told it would be a suffer-fest, but it wasn't too bad. I'm sure it will be worse at other times. The excitement and adrenaline keeps you going. There's nothing quite like riding down steep slopes and having to make sharp turns, knowing all the while that if you miss the turn or take it too fast, you end up in the lake. Lots and lots of fun! It's pretty similar to riding motorcycles with all the bouncing and adrenaline rising as you do things you're not totally sure are possible. I've got the bike for about 4 weeks and I intend to ride the crap out of it.

In other news, I'm looking forward to next spring already. Fall is fast upon us, and it is very nice, but winter weighs heavy on the former Floridian's Mind. Below is a picture from my autumn ride home tuesday night.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tri Celebration - It Takes A Family

We did it!

Sam coaching Michelle through a slipped chain at the bike start

Sandy speaking sternly to her bike to "stay on the rack!" as she heads out to run.
Sandy, heading out on the run:  "Dang, I had a good bike!"

Eli:  "Am I big enough yet?"

Michelle, in pro fashion, fastening her number belt as she heads out for the run.

David and Isaac, sportin' their "do's"

The bro's and "rayhawks"

Sam and Amber sporting milk mustaches like pros

Sam & Sandy (contorting her body to keep her hand-me-down mustache on)

Isaac, PIC (pilot in command), after the race, with Prema and Michelle .  
The amount of kids rides at Cypress Gardens was wonderful.

Note to Wisconsin family:  I milked the cow!"

Our fans, Kyle, Mom, & Prema.
Oh, the fun of spinning and jerking!

You gotta click on this one to see the ham action:-)

Eli and Michelle enjoying our last ride of the afternoon.  The adults were bushed, but the kids were energizer bunnies.  As we turned from the merry-go-round to leave the park, Isaac was saying, "Just one more ride..."

The Publix Family Fitness Weekend at Cypress Gardens was a whirlwind of activity for our family, but even with all the craziness most of us had plenty of moments of laughter and fun to mix in with the fatigue. 

Michelle and I: 
  • started the race with nerves and questions (both:-), 
  • swam with enjoyment (both) and speed! (Michelle), 
  • biked with power (both), 
  • ran & walked with delight (the garden part) and determination (the parking lot laps) and 
  • finished with smiles (both) and sweat (me).

We both achieved our primary goal (to finish!) and our secondary goal (Michelle: to have fun, me: to better my St. Leo time) and were happy with our times. We both hope to race again and are already discussing how to get faster - the guys are already shopping for a light road bike for Michelle.

We learned that: 
  • Eli gets a powerful second wind about 9:00 pm in hotel rooms, 
  • Prema loves to ride roller coasters and "scary" rides, 
  • Isaac sings songs to entertain himself during lengthy drives strapped in his car seat, 
  • Amber has a powerful sweet tooth and tackles Sudoku puzzles with a vengeance, 
  • Sandy needs another person to point out the swim markers since she can't actually see them from the shore without her glasses
  • Michelle swims fast
  • David can be relaxed and flexible when he leaves his weekend bag in Largo
  • Sandy's Mom keeps a cheerful, positive attitude even when she's bone tired, 
  • David, Kyle, and Sam, love us immensely and support us with much practical help and encouraging words. 
Well, that last one, especially, we already knew, but reminders are always welcomed.

Thank You:

  • Sam and Amber for flying down to be with us and cheer us on....and to entertain the kids, get our bikes in race condition, take all these photos and shuttle David to the airport, etc.  Your presence and help was much appreciated.

  • Mom for spending your birthday weekend to watch us race and enduring our noise and craziness with good humor and flexibility.

  • David and Kyle for supporting and encouraging us and for spending much money, time, and energy to help us accomplish the things we want to do.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Then and Now

It's been 5 months of continued training since my first triathlon, and I'm looking forward to the Cypress Gardens sprint triathlon coming up this weekend for several reasons:

  1. It's an assessment opportunity to see what my months of training have yielded, particularly the Total Immersion swim drills I've worked on for months.

  2. Michelle will be completing her first triathlon. I have run and biked with her on occasion and watched her swim and tackle many other difficult things and I am excited over how well she's going to do - the girl has an immense amount of drive and determination.

  3. Sam and Amber are coming to have fun and celebrate with us, even though Sam is still recovering from his knee injury and won't be racing. I am really looking forward to laughing with them.

I suspected a few weeks ago that I was on the edge of over-training, and even though I tried to dial it back a few notches, I'm afraid I didn't dial it back enough soon enough and slipped over that fine line into the domain of over-trained. So I've cut back even more on my workouts these past two weeks and am hoping that resting these next two days will be enough to put power in my pedaling and spring in my step on the run course.

A few months ago my challenge was to see how much better I could do than my first race. That I would improve was simply my baseline assumption. Lately I've struggled so much with my workouts that that assumption has vanished. But, I am still looking forward to the race as a simple test with objective results without any perception mixed in.

When I began to think that I might not improve over my previous performance, I asked myself if all these hours of training this summer have been worth it if I did not get faster. That answer is a resounding YES! Five years ago, I didn't think I'd ever run a mile again and now I run 12+ miles a week and ENJOY most of those miles. I absolutely LOVE the freedom of hopping on my bike and riding to the beach for a swim or on the Pinellas trail to one end of the county or the other. And SWIMMING! What began as a surprisingly difficult aerobic challenge in May has become an absolute joy for me over these months of swimming outdoors at my community pool. I've gained more muscle, lost a couple more inches, and left stress I carried in my body at the pool and on the trail.

Oh, yes, it has been worth it. And no matter how I perform on Saturday, I will be signing up for another triathlon soon.