Friday, May 30, 2014

Thai Green Curry

Up there with channa saag on my list of favorite exotic dishes is Thai green curry. I'm very likely to order this at a Thai restaurant and I also am likely to have several containers of the pre-made, store-bought spice mixture sitting around my apartment. The light, sweet flavors of ginger and basil sing together in my mouth! Previously, I've never tried to make it on my own because up high on the ingredients list, along with the ginger and basil, is lemon grass. I've never seen lemon grass in the grocery store, but this week while standing in line at the farmers market, I noticed a big stalk of lemon grass on sale for 25¢. Eureka! I added it to my cart and decided that I was going to give making own green curry a go. Turns out, the spice mixture used to make Thai green curry is much more forgiving than the spice mixtures I've been playing with to make authentic Indian food. I chose to use it to stir fry bok choy, bean sprouts, and eggplant. Bok choy is packed with vitamins A and C and offers health benefits like those of other cruiciferous vegetables. Bean sprouts are also rich in vitamins and minerals and offer a complementary protein source to the bok choy. The eggplant, while nutritious in its own right, was mostly added as sponge for the green curry sauce! I served it all over wild rice, but you can feel free to experiment once you give the green curry a try with the easy recipe below!

Thai Green Curry

1 bunch basil
2 large blades of lemon grass
1 small bunch cilantro (~6-10 stems)
1/3 onion
1 very large chunk fresh ginger (about 6 thumb-sized pieces)
3 cloves or (1T minced) garlic
2-3T sirracha (to taste)
2-3T brown sugar (to taste)
dash cumin and corriander
2c coconut milk (I used the carton-type from TJs. It's less rich than the canned and worked well!)

Add all ingredients to the food processor. Food process until smooth. Pour into a pan, pull out any unprocessed, tough strands of lemon grass, and bring to a summer.

Once the sauce was simmering, I added a stir fry of:
3 bunches bok choy, sliced (a cruciferous vegetable!)
1 bag bean sprouts
2 small eggplants, diced
which I allowed to simmer in the sauce until all the vegetables were tender. Then I served it over wild rice. However, you can use the sauce for any number of stir fried vegetables and then serve them over a bed of any type of rice or noodle. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Killington Stage Race (fueled by Apple-Sausage Pasta)

This weekend was a crazy one: I won the Killington Stage Race W3/4 RR, ITT,  QOM, and GC. Winning the GC (general classification, for all you non-cyclists) was one of my big goals for this season so I am thrilled! The weather for the weekend was good, in the 60s and mostly sunny, except for a few scattered showers. It was a world of difference from the pouring rain and snow we experienced last year! Also, we had a big group to travel with consisting of MIT, Pedal Power, and GLV cyclists, which made hanging out between races and dinner time very fun. The race was 3 days, and today I'm giving you a little recap of each stage, as well as a dinner recipe we used!

Day 1, Circuit Race: The circuit was two loops around a fairly flat 18 mile loop that was meant to favor sprinters. This was one of the weirdest and sketchiest races ever. It was like people were racing with fire ants in their pants. People were either soft pedaling or attacking on the downhill flats, but short, unconvincing attacks. Lots of shrieking and near crashes, so when a big crash happened AFTER the finish line, it wasn't all that surprising. I was planning to attack on the "hill" on the back side of the course to get away, however, I forgot how shallow it was. On the first lap, I was on the front going up the last bit of the "hill" towards the QOM, since on a real hill/QOM that's the best place to be. But this circuit's QOMs were really more of a sprint, so I got sprinted around then decided that the QOMs were not worth it. So then I spent significant time hating the circuit course for being the worst and sitting in. In the second half of the second lap, my teammate and I had planned that if I didn't get away, I'd lead her out for the sprint. So with about 5 miles to go, I got on the front and started drilling the pace to string things out. I was hoping to set her up to go at 1k to go. Unfortunately, things got antsy with all the McSketchersons racing and she went at just under 2k to go. It was a darn shame we botched that, because she ended up getting 1st or 2nd in all the intermediate sprints and I would have loved to see her in the Leader's jersey on the first day!

Day 2, Road Race: The RR was a hilly 61 mile route with a major climb at mile 25, and also up the last 5 miles. The first 25 miles (before the climb) were slower than I would willingly choose to go on a group ride. Seriously, my average HR was 125bpm for those miles. People were messing around, but fortunately the crash had given people a wake-up call and no one was being sketchy like yesterday. I got on the front on the short "hill" 3 or so miles in to set myself up to be at the front for the right turn into a steep descent with what they told us would be questionable pavement. That worked beautifully.
At around mile 20 someone asked me why I wasn't doing any work and I said, well on this stage everyone waits for the hill. She said "oh, you're going to pull us all up it?" In my mind, I laughed really hard and said "Oh honey" to her but that's when I decided that I could win it solo of the front if I had to. At the sprint line, one mile to the climb, I started moving up the pack, so I hit the sharp right turn (I've been practicing!) well about 4 wheels back. People were pretty bunched so I didn't have a clear shot right away, but as it started to loosen up, I had positioned myself pretty much right by the yellow line, so I started to inch my way up. Finally (you know, 2 minutes later. But it felt like an eternity), only 1 girl was kinda in my way and she had room to inch right for me. So I said "On your left." (I was once crashed into my someone on a hill when I was attacking on her left and she took the opportunity to paperboy, so I'd rather announce and not risk it.) She yielded and I attacked hard. Not these pansy 3/4 attacks I had seen the day before, but like I have to do to jump on a wheel when a P12 woman attacks on a hill. I hadn't picked quite the right gear, so it wouldn't have worked in a P12 field but it did the trick. I pushed for 30 seconds or so and looked back. I had a gap. Excellent. I kept climbing hard but not too hard, there was still plenty of time. In my ideal race plan two or so people came with me, and I figured I had a minute or two to wait to see if someone was strong enough to use. A minute or two later, I heard the heavy breathing behind me, so I knew I had picked some people back up. I looked back and about 8 girls were back on my wheel. This would not do. Someone tried to psyche someone else out by making a comment about how hard they were breathing. It sounded like the girl who thought I was going to pull her up the mountain, so that annoyed me. I waited 10 seconds and then attacked again, harder than before and continued to floor it for a minute or two until I couldn't hear the breathing anymore. I looked back and only one girl was on my wheel. Perfect! Now I just had to make sure that we opened a sizable gap.

I hammered and let her ride my wheel until the QOM, when she went around me to take the points. Now, the girl who came with me is a junior and I knew getting away with me was a good and surprising result for her. I also knew that she's even more tentative on descents than I am, so if I wanted us to stay away from the pack through the descents over the next 20 miles, it was up to me to drill the pace going down. So as I came around, I told her that last year the race was won by 2 people who got away and worked together, so as along as we both committed, we'd get 1-2. Then we executed the most beautiful 2-person effort that I've ever seen. I made sure to get on the front for the descents and looking at Strava files, I descended just about as fast as any of the women. I was so bold I even dropped her by a bit on the dirt descent. I tried to make her work a bit more than me and I ate about a million gels (translated: 7 gels for 60 miles!) to make sure that I'd have my kick on the final climb when I needed it. (Side note: at this point I was telling myself that if I couldn't win this race, I should quit racing bikes.)

When we approached the final climb neither of us really wanted to be on the front going into the turn, but after a moment's hesitation I decided I'd take it. We had worked so well together for 25 miles, no need to mess that up now. I knew I was punchier than her and the final climb is steep enough that I'd have no trouble attacking from the front. So we started the shallow part climbing steadily together with about 2 minutes on the field. Finally, the first switchback appeared and the road started to go up so I put in yet another real attack. A minute later, I looked back and saw that I had put a sizable gap on her. Only 25 minutes left in the race and as long as I didn't bonk or crash and kept it at threshold, I knew that the race was mine. I went hard, but within my comfort zone. I felt like I could have done better with someone pushing me. But it was a good hard effort and enough to win the day by three and a half minutes!

Finally got a coveted winner's photo from velocity!

Day 3, Time Trial: The TT was 11 miles, steadily uphill at about 1%. This was a decent effort, and enough to beat the 2nd place woman by almost 3 minutes, but really it wasn't my best. The wind was quite gusty in the morning: it seemed as though the morning race times were almost as slow as last year's. It's hard to compare, but I can say with certainty that I did better than last year. I have also been messing with my TT set-up and I finally felt like it was feeling good, so that was a bonus. The race started strong, but after I passed 5 people I started to wonder if I had it in the bag. And there was a flat spot in the middle where the winds suddenly made conditions faster so I didn't feel like I was slowing down. And then the next person to pass was way off... basically I spaced out for like a mile and then looked down and saw that my heart rate was at 166bpm. (It should be at 180bpm for a good TT!) Oh no! Time to get going again! I kicked it back into gear for the finish but that lack of focus cost me a good chunk of time, I'm sure.
As a side note: My teammate who I lead out for the sprint ended up 6th on the TT with no aero gear whatsoever. If she'd have even just had an aero helmet, she'd have been 2nd as she was only 30 seconds back. Man, she was hauling!

Also, as an FYI, after this wonderful weekend I asked for my upgrade to Cat 2. However, they denied it because I only have only earned 24 points since my Cat 4 upgrade. So if you are a Cat 3 woman upset about my sandbagging, please send complaints directly to USA cycling! Fortunately, if I get at least 3 points at my next race, I will have over 40 points in the last 12 months, which is a mandatory upgrade.

Anyways, I was asked by some people what I used to fuel myself. During the RR, I had a bottle of Hammer Heed, a bottle of Hammer Perpetum, 4 Accel Gels and 3 Honey Stingers. I was determined not to bonk this year and as such, managed to do the final climb 9 minutes faster this year than I did it last year! Saturday night, we ate Veggie Lasagna (and salad topped with beets) and Sunday night we had Apple-Sausage Pasta. The recipe for Apple-Sausage Pasta is shared below. I hope you enjoy it!

The vegan version, without smoked gouda cheese

Apple-Sausage Pasta

1 bag whole wheat rigatoni pasta
1 package vegetarian sausage, sliced (we used Tofurky brand)
4 apples, cubed
1/2 block smoked gouda cheese, cubed (omit to make it vegan)
1 bunch basil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 onion

1. Bring pot of water to a boil and prepare according to the directions on the package.
2. Meanwhile, chop (or food process) basil, garlic, and onion.
3. Saute basil, garlic, and onion with sausage.
4. After a few minutes, add the apple cubes and continue to cook until the sausage is browned and the apples are soft.
5. Just before removing it from the heat, add the cheese cubes. Stir for 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
6. Serve apples and sausage over pasta. Enjoy!

My favorite podium picture from the weekend. QOM with the mountains!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hashbrowns and Lentil "Sausage"

Despite the lack of formal adventures last weekend, it was a delightful one. I took the weekend off from racing to rest up for Killington stage race next weekend, which is one of my "A" races for the season. Saturday started out very wet as I headed out for the local weekly hammer ride. The rain stopped by the time I got to the meet-up, but attendance was extremely low, presumably due to the combination of foreboding skies and the overlap of the popular Sunapee RR. My instructions for the morning were to do a hammer ride and "hit the hills hard." I was worried with this group that no one would want to push the pace, but after a few miles, it became obvious that at least a couple of the guys were feeling chipper, and well, no one shows up to this ride unless they expect to hammer so I worked up the courage to stretch my legs and try to push these guys a little bit. Now, contrary to what one may or may not believe about me, I feel no need to crush a guy's manhood unless he's done something to deserve it. (Basically, you deserve it if you've insulted me or someone else and I witnessed it.) If not, I understand that man-egos are delicate and for some reason it's devastating when a woman beats up on it. I don't understand why this is devastating because I am not a man, but I try to respect it. Well, I started taking pulls and punching up the hills as I was instructed. And before long... I had someone dropped all of the guys. Oops. After the hills, I was sitting up and waiting because I didn't want to be an a-hole and one guy kept chasing back on. Finally, after about 30 miles (the ride was supposed to be 42) he announced that he was cutting the ride short. Oops again. Respecting that he probably never wanted to see me again, I turned off and did a 20 minute interval with sprints every minute to finish off the hard work that I was supposed to do for the morning before heading home. Hopefully I can put in attacks that effective on the hills of Killington next weekend!

It's been a hard month of training, so Saturday I opted for a sandwich and to take a nap rather than making brunch for my fiancé and myself after the ride. (He was studying rather than making me brunch!) Sunday though, the sun was shining and I had a beautiful "OFF" written in my training plan so we slept in and then had brunch on the porch. My fiancé was in the mood for hashbrowns rather than waffles, so I made us hash browns, lentil sausage, and strawberry-mango smoothies. Perfect for brunch on the patio on a warm late spring morning!


3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 onion, diced
salt, pepper, smoked paprika to taste
3T olive oil

Place the potato chunks in the food processor and pulse a few times. I found that the size of the pieces are best if you put one potato at a time in the food processor. Add all ingredients to a large pan. Spread potatoes evenly across the bottom and turn the heat to medium high. Do not touch the potatoes for 5 minutes! (Set the timer.) This will ensure that you have a good crispy surface on the potatoes. Use a spatula to flip and continue to cook until potatoes are crispy and tender.

Lentil "Sausage"

1.5c dried red lentils
1/4c Dukkah spice
1T Vegemite
1/2 onion, diced
8oz baby bella mushrooms, diced
garlic, salt, pepper to taste

Cook the lentils by boiling in a large pot with ample water for ~10 minutes. When tender drain and rinse. Add lentils back to the pot along with other ingredients. Sauté for 10 minutes or so to infuse the flavors. Red lentils are great for this as some will start to mush together, to give a texture like sausage crumbles!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Go Anywhere Bars (GF!)

This weekend, I was craving granola bars. Not store bought granola bars, but the dense, textured homemade granola bars that are packed full of the good stuff: the kind you buy by the ski slopes that are custom made by a local baker and you buy for waaay too much money. So I looked in my cupboard, studied up on some recipes, and took a crack at it. For once, I was going for a specific taste more than a nutritional profile, but these bars hit home nutritionally too. There's no refined sugars, and plenty of protein and omega-3 fatty acids from the peanuts and the flax seed. So give this recipe a try and bring a batch on your next hike or bike ride and go anywhere!

Go Anywhere Bars

1/2c peanut butter
12 whole dates, pitted
1c vanilla almond milk
1/4c ground flax seed
1T cornstarch
1/2t baking soda
1T cinnamon
2c rolled oats
2c crisp rice cereal
1/2c dried cranberries
1/2c raisins
1/2c semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In the food processor, combine peanut butter, dates and almond milk. Process until a smooth paste forms.
3. Add in flax seed, cornstarch, baking soda, and cinnamon. Process again for a short time.
4. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in oats, cereal, cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips.
5. Press mixture into a 9x13 baking pan. (My batter didn't cover the whole thing, so I just kept it to one side.)
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Cut into bars and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
7. Let cool and enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Purple Sunrise Smoothie

I am a big fan of breakfast. It's the one meal I won't ever forget to eat and most days, I actually have two or three breakfasts. I know you other endurance athletes hear me on that one! Usually, I grab a Lara bar before I ride, have recovery drink after my ride (Vega Recovery Accelerator), and then have a real breakfast when I sit down at my desk and start to do work with coffee. Lately though, I've gotten tired of taking the time to pack, and then lugging around the breakfast, lunch, snacks, and sometimes even dinner that I take with me into MIT to get me through my day. I almost never buy food on campus so with the amount of food one has to eat if you're doing a lot of training, this gets old really fast! So that I can get away with packing less, I've started making smoothies in the morning, even if I haven't gone riding since it's something I can "eat" while getting ready. i.e. One less thing that I need to take with me! It's a throw-back to high school, when during swim season, my Mom would have my brother and I drink Carnation Instant Breakfast along with our "real" breakfasts just so that we wouldn't get too hungry before it was time for lunch. This smoothie recipe has been my favorite lately. It's only 4 ingredients (blueberries, spinach, protein powder, and almond milk) and with those packs in a serving of fruit, a serving of vegetables, and some good quality protein. With my vegetable smoothies, I've been using a sweetened protein powder, specifically Vega One Nutritional Shake. This protein powder is fortified with extra nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, chlorella, antioxidants, and probiotics, which helps me forgive the addition of stevia. Also, adding spinach or another non-sweet ingredient helps cut what I consider to be the excessive sweetness offered by the stevia. I hope you enjoy it!

Purple Sunrise Smoothie

3/4c frozen blueberries
3/4c frozen spinach (or fresh spinach if you don't have a high speed blender)
3/4 scoop sweetened vanilla protein powder (For this, I've been using Vanilla Vega One Nutritional Shake)
1/2- 1c vanilla almond milk and/ or water (I usually do half and half)

Blend or food process all ingredients until smooth. This will take a bit longer than usual because of the spinach. If you don't have a high speed blender, use fresh spinach, as the result will be too stringy with the frozen spinach. Check the viscosity and add additional water if necessary. Enjoy the sunrise with a nutritious start to your day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

BBQ Cauliflower & Bear Mtn RR

This past weekend I drove out to New York for the Bear Mountain Road Race. There was a women's cat 3 race, which I was thinking I'd do for some upgrade points, but my coach encouraged me to do the women's elite race, which was nearly twice as long and of course promised better competition. Except for the fact that I'd like some upgrade points so that I can upgrade to cat 2, I usually would be happy to race with the P12 women on a hilly race, as one of my favorite things about racing is the way that your competition can really draw the best out of you. However, this race looked like it was going to be extremely technical. Basically the only description posted in the race guide was:
"Caution: two miles into the race, there is a fast descent into a 180 degree turn into the main climb."
Great, I figured. So I was going to be dropped on the descent and miss the break in the climb.

I was really, really nervous and I have a history of not doing well on neutral rollouts downhill. Basically, I was 50-50 for actually making it to the start of the race with the field from a neutral rollout down a hill. I am never a great descender, but I'm much better once I get climb in my legs to get my jitters out. Well, let's just say I'm now 2:1 on getting dropped on neutral rollouts. I missed the 180 turn because no one was signaling, there were no signs, and I got too tight and nervous to be able to make the turn in time. What a way to start the race! Fortunately, they let me chase back on, but there went Big Match #1 while everyone else was settling in, comfortably neutral.

Cursing my coach and hating the race course, I settled in to the pack, but timidly: I was still intimidated by all of these P12 women. I moved towards the front and was on the front for the small descent on the back side, but allowed myself to be bullied backwards by the time we got to the Big Descent again. Fortunately, I put on my big girl pants, got into the drops, and tried to execute my very best descending technique. I even passed a girl or two and hit the 180 degree turn at the very back of the pack. Relieved, I shifted to start the climb, but my bike did not respond. Rather than thinking, I frantically flicked the gears and... dropped my chain. Cursing, I got off to put it back on. I'm sure at this point, the motoref was thinking: "Who is this Pedal Power joker??!" Someone in the pack picked up the pace and by the time I got back on my bike, I could already see girls falling off the back of the pack on the climb way up the road. Desperate, I chased as hard as I could. Apparently, it was quite hard, as it seems that that climb, from the dropping of my chain to the top, might be the Strava QOM of the day. There went Big Match #2, but somehow I was still with the thinning pack.

Lap 3 was rather uneventful, as we had dropped all the people who were getting in my way on the descent. I really need to learn to descend more confidently! During lap 4, there was big excitement, as the girl who ended up winning with a solo break attacked on the hill. I jumped on her wheel and went with her, but when I looked back, I saw I was the only one. Instead of thinking "Oh boy, this girl has 3 strong teammates to block back there for her, this is the break!" I thought "Oh boy, my legs are spent from my stupid technical difficulties using up Big Match #1 and #2. There's no way this will hold, I'll just ease up and slink back to the pack." Well, that was the winning break and I made the erroneous choice to miss it. Oh well. Live and learn. And hopefully gain experience and confidence on the way! There were 17 girls still around in the pack at the end of the 4th lap and I had learned that somehow, even with all my stupid cat 3 level technical skills, I was one of the better climbers. So after the last Big Descent, I felt a burst of confidence (I survived the fast descent into a 180 degree turn 5 times! And I didn't have to do it again!) so rode up to the front of the pack. I didn't think I had an attack in me (should have more confidence in myself) so I just hammered away on the front, driving the pace and hoping that some of those girls would fall off. When we got to the top, I looked around to see that there were 10 girls left. Excellent, my climb had gotten rid of almost half of them! At this point, I was content to finish with the pack, as I barely have the balls to contest a flat sprint in a W3/4 race and here the finishing sprint was on a legit downhill. (In an ECCC race in 2010, I was involved in a serious crash in the sprint finish when I was front and center. A girl clipped my bars and I ended up taking down half the field and breaking my shoulder. Other girls were really hurt too. It's going to take me a lot of years to get over that.) In the end, I ended up 9th of 36 in the elite women's field. Not bad! Although later, I found out that the winners got teddy bears and I am about as motivated by teddy bears as a 4 year old girl should be. Missing out on upgrade points and a teddy bear made me really sad that I didn't do the W3 race!

Ok, enough racing. On to the food! We have to stay energy neutral, after all. Today's recipe is a bit long. It's not hard, but there are a few distinct dishes, which is different than most of my "one pot wonders." This is definitely something that you can make if you're trying to impress someone! This inspiration for this recipe came from my visit to Northstar House in Ithaca. I decided to go with a dish with beets in it, in preparation for the race the next day, but their BBQ Cauliflower really stood out to me, and once I saw how great it looked (my cousin's husband ordered it), I knew I had to try to make it. According to the description the dish is "Slow braised cauliflower, tossed in house BBQ sauce. Served over polenta with kale & mushrooms." Today's recipe is basically just that, with the addition of some pinto beans with the kale and nutritional yeast in the polenta. Basically, while cauliflower makes a stunning main dish and is a complete protein, it's protein content isn't that high so I added in more complete protein sources to the side dish to make sure that this was a nutritionally balanced powerhouse. I also took some time to create my own BBQ sauce, which is smoky, sweet, and spicy-- all without any processed sugars! It takes a tiny bit of time to throw everything into the blender or food processor, but you'll be so pleased with the result that you'll never go back. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

BBQ Sauce

2 (15oz) cans diced, fire roasted tomatoes
1 (4oz) can tomato paste
1/2c molasses
3T maple syrup
3T liquid smoke
3T sirracha

Food process until a smooth texture is reached. It'll be a bit lumpier than store bought, but it's so good! This will be more than enough for this recipe plus extra for future burgers, ect

BBQ Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
BBQ sauce (recipe above)

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut a head of cauliflower into 6ths. Dip each piece into a deep bowl of the BBQ sauce, taking care that the sauce gets into the nooks and cranies. Bake for 30- 40 minutes, until cauliflower is tender, but BBQ sauce isn't burned.


2c polenta (yellow corn grits)
6c water
1/4c nutritional yeast
optional: 1/2c shredded cheese
1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
salt and black pepper to taste

On the stove, bring the water to a boil. Add all other ingredients and continue to heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat once all of the water is absorbed and the polenta is tender.

Sautéed Kale and Mushrooms

1 bag kale or 2 large bunches, washed and shredded
1 box (8oz) shiitake mushrooms, sliced (other mushrooms would work too)
1 can pinto beans (or any other white bean)
1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
Additional BBQ sauce

Add all ingredients to a frying pan and sauté until the kale is wilted and mushrooms/ onions are tender. Top with extra BBQ sauce so that the leaves can absorb the smoky flavor.

Serve cauliflower steaks with the kale and mushrooms served over the polenta on the side. Top with additional BBQ sauce if you'd like. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Veggie Lasagna and Adventures in Ithaca

Happy Wednesday! This past weekend I visited my good friend in Ithaca again. The weather was still a bit cool and dreary there, but we had a blast anyways, making delicious channa saag and pancakes. We also took advantage of the rainy Saturday afternoon to watch Frozen, which I had partially seen with the MIT cycling team while in California, but this was the first time I was not distracted by a fiancé on the phone. (Instead he was sitting on the couch next to me.) Seeing it only strengthened my recent nostalgia for the Disney movies of the 90s. We also made a ton of popcorn using a classic popcorn popper and man, that was good! Much better than the stovetop. Saturday evening, we all went out to dinner with my cousins at Northstar House, which served delicious local food with many vegetarian options. I had a carrot & beet flatbread, but the dish that most impressed me was the BBQ Cauliflower, which I'll be attempting to recreate later this week. Before leaving on Sunday, I raced in the Hollenbeck's RR in nearby Virgil NY. I use the term "raced" loosely, as I was the only W123 racer signed up. So I got to race with the men's 3/4 field, which was quite the experience. The winds were brutal so I did my best to find someone's wheel to suck and stay low, both things that I need practice at anyways! I also got a loud and clear reminder to be more assertive in my pack positioning, as it was my positioning and not my climbing abilities that ultimately led me to be dropped. Oops. The course was just perfect for me though: several significant but not-too-long climbs, rolling, non-technical descents and a steep uphill finish. Afterwards, I was greeted by wonderful refreshments from Ithaca Bakery and Gimme Coffee and a cool-down bike ride with my friend on her new bike.

View from the finish line of Hollenbeck's RR. A nice little climb up for a stunning view of NYS!

But enough about what I've been up to! It's been a while, but I'm bringing you an Energy Neutral original: grain free lasagna. I made my traditional lasagna few weeks ago and was reminded of how much I like a good veggie lasagna. I traditionally make it with mushrooms, spinach, eggplant, and a heavily herbed ricotta. And this recipe is still made that way! However, I have yet to find a decent gluten free lasagna noodle, so this time, I replaced the noodle layers with kale and swiss chard so that I could share! As a result, this recipe packs even more of a nutritional punch. We've talked about the nutritional benefits of kale previously, but what about swiss chard? Like kale, swiss chard is a cruciferous vegetable and offers the anti-cancer antioxidants that you've come to know and love. Swiss chard also offers large doses of vitamins K, C, and A as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. I also find the flavor to be a bit more mild than kale or collard greens, but the leaves are still large and satisfying, making this a good substitute for lasagna noodles! To add back some of the carbohydrates I took away by using greens instead of pasta, I created a cheesy herbed hummus to use instead of my traditional herbed ricotta. However, if you aren't worried about your dinner being low-carb feel free to use my traditional herbed ricotta! Herbed tofu ricotta is also an option and delicious! If you just want to make a delicious basic veggie or vegan lasagna, use the ricotta and the noodles, that recipe is below as well. I hope you enjoy it!

Veggie Lasagna

1 bunch swiss chard (full-sized leaves, not chopped)
1 bunch kale (full-sized leaves, not chopped)
OR 1 box no-cook lasagna noodles
1 large eggplant, sliced
1 box baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 package frozen spinach (Optional and recommended only with the noodles. You can only fit so much in a pan and the kale/ swiss chard takes care of your green needs!)
20 oz of your favorite spaghetti sauce (we use TJ's organic or basil)
1 recipe cheesey herbed hummus or ricotta (below)
1c shredded mozzarella or vegan cheese shreds (TJ's makes a good vegan option) for topping

Cheesey Herbed Hummus

1 large bunch basil
1 small bunch parsley
2T dried oregano (or fresh if you can find it! I never can)
6 cloves garlic
1/4 onion
2 cans white beans, washed and drained
2c nutritional yeast

Food process herbs, then add white beans and nutritional yeast. Food process until desired consistency is reached.

Traditional Herbed Ricotta or Tofu Ricotta

Substitute white beans & nutritional yeast for 3c ricotta or one package extra firm tofu (trust me, the tofu works!).

The assembly process

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cover the bottom of a  9x13 pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce
3. Add a layer of kale and swiss chard (or lasagna noodles.)
4. Add a layer of the herbed "cheese" of your choice, then some mushrooms and eggplant (and spinach, if you're using noodles). Top the layer with a layer of spaghetti sauce.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to fill up the pan. If you're adding the veggies right, it'll only be 2 or 3 layers...
6. Once the pan is heaping, add a final layer of kale/ swiss chard (or noodles) and then top with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of the shredded cheese of your choice. 
7. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 45 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice, serve, and enjoy!

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