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Nutrition, Recipes

Back In The Kitchen

Hey, 2012!

So the first week of January treated me well. I spent NYE swimming a crazy 10,060 yards with Katie and running a 4-miler with my favorite girls and eating and drinking and Apples-to-Apples dominating and generally enjoying the hell out of life. I rode my bike in shorts — twice — and had some great running workouts and caught up with a lot of awesome friends. Yesterday marked the formal end of my off-season and the start of my marathon training plan — 16 weeks, you guys! — and now it’s game on.

Along with that comes a return to my regular eating and cooking habits. Not that I haven’t been in the kitchen preparing great meals and sticking with a generally healthy diet — I have — but now I’m making a conscious effort to pay attention to what I’m taking in and to focus on eating fresh and local. The Dupont farmers market stays open through the winter, hooray!

Let’s go back to last week. I attempted a Paleo-ish cleanse to kick off the New Year, and that did not go well at all. I ate citrus fruit for breakfast and was allowed no dairy, processed foods, grains, added sugars, alcohol, etc. Basically, it was a lot of meat/protein, fruits and veggies. The lack of carbs caused sluggish and miserable workouts, and I was constantly cranky and flat and sleepy. The point wasn’t weight loss, but more of a reset to get my body back on track. The catch? I didn’t splurge at all during the holidays. I didn’t gain weight. I actually don’t have weight to lose. I probably could have continued with this experiment for a few more days, but I was more concerned about balance and the quality of my workouts than the concept of a cleanse. Paleo is not for me. I love my oatmeal and smoothies too much.

Next! One of my big plans for the year is to figure out what the hell I put in my body besides fruit! veggies! yogurt! carbs, protein and fat! Because I just eat when I’m hungry (and duh, sometimes when I’m not) and generally guess that I’m covering all my bases by eating a colorful and varied and balanced diet, I actually have no clue if I’m meeting all of my nutritional needs. So for one week I’m tracking my meals on MyPlate, which is an amazing online tool that already has every food (and brand) under the sun programmed in — plus the ability to enter your own recipes and automatically calculate the nutrition facts. Right?!? My biggest hangup in writing down my meals is manually running all those numbers. No thank you. So I weighed myself at the beginning of the week, I’m keeping track of everything for seven days, then I’ll weigh myself at the end, observe and analyze, and put the scale and tracker away until April. It’s merely a baseline and a way to figure out how much protein, etc. I’m actually eating without turning obsessive about calories and fat. I’ll report back next week.

Moving on to my actual meals. My fridge is full of all kinds of vegetables and fruits, and I’m back to experimenting with gluten-free eating. I’m not going to be strict — it’s mainly that I want to test out some GF baking and determine how easy or hard it would be to do this on a regular basis. I made GF bread on Sunday, and it turned out well enough to consume. So, progress.

One of my new finds is The Athlete’s Plate, a cookbook/nutrition plan hybrid by Adam Kelinson. It’s all about eating local and seasonal and whole, a lifestyle I think is great and well-supported in this area thanks to all the farms in Virginia and Maryland. I’m willing to pay a little bit more for quality meat and produce in particular if it means that it’s local. Anyway, the recipes are a bit out there in that they use ingredients generally found in the supplements aisle like hempseed oil and whole flax, but I think things can be adapted if you don’t want to purchase crazy stuff. And — they’re relatively simple and quick and involve no processed foods. First up?

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Thai Citrus Sauce.

  • 4-6 oz. fillets of white fish [I chose tilapia]
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 whole lime, sectioned/peeled
  • 1 whole orange, sectioned/peeled
  • 1 whole lemon, sectioned/peeled
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 Thai chili peppers
  • 2 T thinly sliced scallions


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

For citrus sauce: Roughly chop sections of lime, orange and lemon and place in a bowl, reserving as much liquid as possible. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, honey and water. Add chopped citrus, juices, cilantro, peppers and scallions and stir.

Heat ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Sprinkle salt on both sides of fish. When the pan is hot, add olive oil and swirl. Place fillets skinside down (mine didn’t have skin, so I had to carefully watch the cook time) and gently shake to prevent sticking. Cook untouched for 5-7 minutes while the skin crisps. When they can be easily turned, flip with a spatula and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and place in oven for 5 minutes to finish. Top with sauce and serve with steamed snow peas and brown rice or soba noodles.

Notes: I made the sauce a day ahead and let it soak in the fridge. It is DELICIOUS. I’d definitely use it on fish, chicken, tofu and even other veggies. The fish is great with the citrus chunks. I’ve always been afraid to overcook or undercook fish, but the timing in the recipe yielded perfectly soft and flaky fillets. This dish is also extremely low in calories and fat and high in protein. I *highly* recommend it.

Any recipe or ingredient suggestions? I’ve got brussel sprouts, kale and fennel on the list…



10 thoughts on “Back In The Kitchen

  1. Glad u gave the diet a shot! Amazing how much food and mood are connected, right? Sometimes a chunk of processed white flour bread product is just what is needed to fuel a workout.

    Posted by jon | January 10, 2012, 9:01 AM
  2. That looks really good! We have some tilapia in our freezer – maybe I’ll try it. I’ve also heard though that tilapia is not a good choice since they’re the bottom feeders. True or Fals?

    Posted by amy | January 10, 2012, 9:49 AM
  3. I did the diet for a week and felt the same way. I wasn’t hungry or even THAT cranky, but I was bonking on any workout longer than an hour. My last ride on Sunday was meant to be easy… but I doubt that meant riding home at 12 mph. Yikes!!

    Posted by Beth | January 10, 2012, 11:02 AM
  4. My experience with a cleanse were very similar to yours in the past. It just leaves me hungry, grouchy and sluggish, but definitely a good way to get your body on track and eating the good stuff after the holidays. Your recipe looks delicious. I just bought some tilapia at the store and am going to have to try to make this. I just made quinoa veggie burgers last night. It is a really affordable recipe and I just froze the extras for many busy nights ahead! I’m definitely interested to see what recipes you make with kale. I have been how great it is for you to eat, but I have never tried it before! Best of luck with your running training plan and great job figuring out your nutrition needs early 🙂

    Posted by Nancy | January 10, 2012, 11:34 AM
  5. Can I quote you on that Paleo thing!??? (In a good way.) It feels like that diet is gripping everyone these days, and it is easily the most-frequently-asked question – “what do you think about paleo?”. I think the concept behind it is okay (though too strict), but holy crap, if you are an endurance athlete you’ve got an entirely different beast to tackle.

    End rant. You have a good head on your shoulders. You know. 😉

    Opinions: best way to eat kale is sauteed or steamed (kale chips get a big thumbs down from this chick), and the jury is out on Fennel. But, there were some great suggestions when I put that question out there 🙂

    Posted by Heather C | January 10, 2012, 2:04 PM
  6. “plus the ability to enter your own recipes and automatically calculate the nutrition facts”
    OMG, where has this been my whole life? That’s the thing that’s scared me away from every tracking site I’ve ever tried, like “you really want me to figure out how much carrot was in this square of lasagna?” I’m so trying this.

    Mmm, I should also cook more fish in 2012.

    Posted by Kimra | January 10, 2012, 3:19 PM
  7. Wow. I am definitely trying this once I move into my new place and I find my pots and pans!

    Posted by Jessica Karazsia (@irun26at8) | January 10, 2012, 3:33 PM
  8. Hi Emily! I have never commented on your blog but read it often. Your mention of kale and fennel prompted me to leave a message. I recently made this wine braised fennel with roasted halibut recipe, http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roasted-halibut-with-wine-braised-fennel. Which is super easy and very good. I think Kale is best sauteed with a little olive oil, garlic, and some red chili flakes on high heat. It cooks in less than 5 minutes. Happy New Year and happy cooking!

    Posted by Anabel H | January 10, 2012, 4:43 PM
  9. THROW AWAY THE SCALE. that is all.

    oh wait, no, come and help me cook more strange veggies please. I give you cupcakes.

    Posted by katie | January 10, 2012, 4:46 PM
  10. Ok, so I just caught myself drooling all over my nice clean computer. Oops!

    And now that you have awesome cookware there will be many yummy meals to come.

    Posted by Jenny | January 10, 2012, 5:15 PM

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