Monday, August 25, 2014

Pesto Pizza

Growing up in my house, Friday night was pizza night! I think this stemmed from the days before the second Vatican counsel, when all Catholics couldn't eat meat every Friday: cheese pizza was one of the easiest pescetarian foods to come by when my Dad was growing up in Western Pennsylvania. These days I don't always eat pizza on Friday nights, but I do get indignant when free food around campus involves pizza for lunch on Friday. This is one of my many quirks that makes my parents refer to me as "Sheldon Cooper," although Sheldon's pizza night is Thursday.

In truth, eating pizza on Friday nights is logical and practical. Pizza makes an excellent, substantial dinner before a race or a long ride and there are plentiful leftovers for after the ride (or the rest of the weekend). Best of all though, pizza is easy! If you order take out, it's ready by the time you drive to the pizza joint. While it's easy enough to make your own, I find the mixing bowl required to make the crust can be prohibitive on a Friday night. Like everyone else, I'm often really tired and hungry on Friday nights so my favorite time-saver is a freezer pizza from Trader Joe's. A freezer pizza gives me 10 minutes to do my daily core workout while it cooks, but doesn't delay gratification and dinner beyond that!

Recently, I found Trader Joe's pre-made pizza crusts and decided that at $2.49 for two pizzas, it was worth a shot. I chose to top it with a basil pesto sauce, scallions, and tomatoes, which is my favorite variety of cheese-less pizza. Most pizzas that omit cheese leave me wanting, but this creamy, basil-y pizza is everything you want in a pizza. Give it a shot the next time you are looking for a quick dairy-free pizza option!

Get it while it's hot... this pizza goes fast!

Pesto Pizza

1 Pre-made Pizza Crust (I like Trader Joe's)
    Alternatively, to make this gluten free, feel free to use polenta as the crust, like in my Polenta Pizza.
1 large bunch basil
2/3c nutritional yeast
3T olive oil
salt (optional)
splash balsamic vinegar
water (to thin as necessary)
1 large or several small tomatoes, sliced
5 scallions or 1/2 onion, sliced

1. Preheat oven according to crust package directions.
2. In a food processor, combine basil leaves, nutritional yeast, olive oil, garlic, salt, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Food process into a pesto paste, adding 1T water at a time as necessary to thin. Taste your pesto to make sure you have enough garlic!
3. Slice tomatoes and scallions.
4. Top pizza crust with pesto. Add tomato and scallion slices.
5. Bake for 12 minutes (or as the package directs.) Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

5 Things Lightweight Rowing will Leave You with Forever

Today's post is just a funny list that came to my mind. I still think about rowing often, but it seems that perhaps having to stop isn't the Fisher King's wound that I thought it was. I still hope to row again one day, but for now I'm very happy on my bike. Lightweight rowing though, is a very peculiar sport and every once in a while the quirky scars it's left on my personality still surface...

1. An uncanny ability to size up people on sight to know their height and weight. Especially if they are right around the lightweight numbers. I sized up my best friend in college to be 5'6" and 130lb and my best friend post college to be 5'5" and 125lb when I met them. The maximums for lightweight women are 130 for college and a 125 average international rowing. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I also chose to strike up that first conversation because I thought maybe I'd be able to row with them...

2. A deep relationship with your scale. It's not so simple as a love-hate relationship and it's not fear. The scale holds no power over your self esteem, but like a lover, your heart and mood are in its hands. You've had fights with The Scale and you might have spent hours hating it. Your Scale likely had a name and may have had a special box or piece of luggage that you use to travel with it. You swear that you will never weigh yourself again when you retire, and that may be true for months, even years... but someday, you will answer the siren call of The Scale and your relationship will be rekindled. It will never be the same, but you will also never be able to let go.

3. Knowing exactly how many calories are in everything. You might not think about it all the time, but God forbid anyone ever ponders, "I wonder how many calories are in this?" around you. You will know the precise answer.

4. An odd but comprehensive knowledge of how to drop weight and trick The Scale. You want to wake up two pounds lighter tomorrow? No problem! Don't eat any thing salty or with too much fiber in it and stop drinking water after 7pm. Done. Didn't work? Don't dismay! Just put on all of your winter running gear and go out for a run for 10 minutes (of course, use a treadmill/ elliptical/ erg if it's cold outside). If that still didn't work, you can always throw on a trash bag for the base layer or double layer your socks and/ or hat. And of course, don't forget to turn up the heat in your car as you drive to the weigh-in! Old, wise lightweights always tell you not to do these things and you know from experience that these tricks come with a price. But you still can't erase this knowledge from your mind!

5. A soft spot in your heart for early mornings. You may not be a morning person, but every once in a while, you find yourself pried early from your bed. In those dark, quiet hours you will enjoy your coffee and eventually watch rising sun and think about how beautiful it used to be shining over the water every morning.

Anything else any retired lightweights want to add?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Simple Zoodles with Tomatoes

Hello! There's been lots going on here with both research and summer racing season in full, zealous swing. But I'll leave that out for today to focus on... zoodles! My paleo friends have been talking about zucchini noodles for some time, but somehow I managed to overlook the trend. Until last week, when it hit me like a ton of bricks... I had been missing out! So I hastened over to Amazon and found this very simple, handheld spiral slicer for only $13.99. With so little to lose, I figured it was worth a shot: I would get a few good meals out if I didn't like it and could always upgrade if I found that I loved it. I was away most of the weekend, so when I came back on Monday and found my spiralizer waiting for me, I knew I had to try making zoodles immediately.

The spiralizer at work...
The concept of zoodles and a spirializer are very simple. You simply thinly slice zucchini into long strips and then treat it like you would pasta. You can eat your zoodles raw or lightly cooked, either way is delicious. Additionally, you have a choice of peeling the zucchini before spiraling or just leaving the skin on. As you can see, I chose to leave the skin on and I was really happy with that choice. One big bonus of zoodles over pasta, is that zucchini is really absorbent so it takes on the flavors of your seasoning very well. Additionally, one large zucchini will give you 4g good quality protein and 4g fiber, as well as a whopping dose of vitamins A, C, K, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, and potassium. Whoa! For our first zoodle experience, I chose to keep it simple and just sauté some tomatoes and onions with garlic, olive oil, and nutritional yeast to serve over the top. This turned out to be a delicious, simple summer meal that I'm hoping to make again soon!

Simple Zoodles with Tomatoes

2 large zucchini
1/2 pint fresh tomatoes
1/4 onion
1/3c nutritional yeast
2T olive oil
garlic and sea salt to taste

1. Spiralize zucchini/ summer squash using a spiralizer or julienne peeler. 1 large zucchini (or 1.5 medium zucchinis per adult is a good serving suggestion.) If using a hand held spiral spicer like mine for the first time, be careful! When your zucchini stub gets lower than the top of the "cone" you are at risk for nicking your fingers, which I did.
2. Slice tomatoes and dice onions.
3. Add onions to skillet with olive oil, garlic, and salt. Sauté until they turn translucent, adding water as necessary so that they don't burn (it'll boil off).
4. Add tomatoes and sauté for a couple minutes. Add nutritional yeast, which should turn into a light, creamy sauce as it combines with the juice from the tomatoes.
5. Add zoodles and sauté for a minute longer. Turn off heat and serve. Enjoy!