Baked Black Bean Pasta

Typically white rice is my main source of carbs, but that 25 pound bag from Costco can sometimes feel bottomless and my meals monotonous. In search for an alternative, I came across a bag of black bean rotini at Trader Joe’s earlier this month. I decided that a twist on baked ziti would be a great way to put this pasta to the test.

The end result was awesome, probably because of all the sauce and cheese, and it yielded enough servings to feed me for a week’s worth of dinners.
ziti

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Black bean rotini pasta (12 oz.)
  • Bolognese sauce (25 oz)
  • Turkey meatballs (16 oz)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • Finely shredded Parmesan cheese (5 oz)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the pasta and meatballs according to the directions on the packages.
  2. Chop up the cooked turkey meatballs and then mix together with the drained pasta and bolognese sauce in a large pot or bowl.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Pour 1/2 of of the mix and spread out to form the bottom layer. Evenly sprinkle 2/3rds of the shredded mozzarella cheese over it to create a second layer. Then pour the remaining mix and evenly spread out. Finally sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmesan cheese evenly over the dish to create a top layer.
  5. Bake in oven uncovered for 30 minutes.

The dish yields 6 servings and each serving has the following macros:

Protein Fat Carbs Calories
47.8 25 51.2 621

I got the black bean rotini pasta, bolognese sauce, and frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s and the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese from Target. The total cost for the entire dish was under $25.00 and so each serving cost approximately $4.00.

You can cut back on the amount of cheese (not sure why you would) to lower the fat content or substitute grilled chicken to get more protein. Either way, this is a cheap and easy meal prep option.

Review: Ninjas United

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My nephews are obsessed with America Ninja Warrior, the unique competition series which airs every summer on NBC. When we go to the playground, the monkey bars and balance beams and slides become a ninja warrior training course.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of it all and I now dutifully watch the show each week at home. But just participating from the couch is no fun and so I decided to try out a class at Ninjas United in Edina. The gym opened in July and while it does host birthday parties and summer camps for kids, it also has classes for adults of all ability levels.

My friends (and 2015 Granite Games team members) Nick and Chris joined me, along with Chris’ friend Matt. We attended the 7:30pm class on Wednesday night, which was open to ages 12 and up. Thankfully there were no spry teenagers to put us to shame – maybe it was past their bedtime. Rather there were just two other classmates around our age.

Our coach, Hunter, is one of the local competitive ninja warrior athletes that regulars competes and actively trains year round in this new sport. He led our small group through a warm-up of running in place, wrist and ankle mobility and then hangs and pull-ups on the bar.

The gym has all the homemade makings of the professional course, including the salmon ladder and a climbing wall area. The space is not huge but they have it well set-up, especially for kids parties and other social gatherings.

Over the course of an hour, we worked on the warped wall, rings, rope swing, floating steps and balance. Hunter provided an overview of each element and advice. He is well versed and displayed his amazing athleticism; however, the structure of the class felt disjointed as we would talk about a movement and practice it together and then he would provide free time. More structured instruction would help, but this is a new sport to coach and I imagine some of those kinks will be worked out over time. The other issue was there was an obstacle course racing class going on and so our groups were bumping into each other a bit, which made it feel a bit more precarious.

Hunter did set-up a mini-course for us in which we had to run over a teeter-totter, do rope swings, go up the warped wall and utilize our balance. The gym has a fun scoreboard set-up that they were able to enter all our names and it provides a clock and countdown. They even have a buzzer for you to hit when you are done. I went last among the six of us in class and was able to learn from watching each person run the short course. I ended up coming in first place. We then had Hunter ran to show off his skills and he finished in half of the time as it took the rest of us.

Towards the end of our free time, I attempted the taller warped wall. I missed reaching the top and on the way back down the momentum led to a rather ugly dismount and me rolling my left ankle and falling flat on my face. Unfortunately, my ankle swelled to more than twice its normal size and I’ve been icing it, soaking it in Epsom salt baths and popping Ibuprofen to reduce the inflamation. Thankfully it doesn’t seem sprained or broken as I can walk on it and wiggle my toes.

My ninja warrior career seems short-lived. I might not be coordinated enough to handle the obstacles but it was fun to dive into that world for the night and Ninjas United provides a great playground. I believe with a few bit more time under their belt, the coaching staff will be able to better structure the classes and organize the space.

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What Does 3,000 Calories Look Like

For almost the past three months I have been working with Emily Field, a registered dietitian, and we have been focused on body composition, while at the same time fueling for performance.

From the beginning, Emily has prescribed daily macros (protein, fat, carbs). I was under-eating relative to my level of physical activity and so we started off just at 125 grams of protein, 60 grams of fat and 175 grams of carbs (1,750 calories).

Those numbers have been strategically increased every two weeks or so as my adapts to the larger caloric intake and metabolism has kicked into high gear. Now, my prescribed daily macros on active days is 200 grams of protein, 140 grams of fat and 250 grams of carbs (3,060 calories).

So what does 3,000 calories look like? Most would assume that is a easy number to hit courtesy of a few Big Macs and some Oreos. But the method behind the madness is that I am getting to the 3,000 calories by adhering to the specific ratio of protein, fat and carbs that Emily has assigned.

I’ll walk you through what I ate yesterday to provide illustration of how I hit my macros. Admittedly it is a bit short on greens and that can be improved. (I’ll note that Emily does not “count” non-starch vegetables to the daily macros, which means I could eat baby spinach to my heart’s content, but that just adds to the pile of food I am already consuming.) I welcome any comments and advice on recipes, alternative ideas or other useful tips.

BREAKFAST

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Eggs (2) 14 9 0 137
Cheddar Cheese (1/4 cup) 7 9 1 113
Rice (1/2 dry cup) 6 0 70 304
Olive oil (2 tbsp) 0 28 0 252
Chicken sausage (2) 12 6 0 102
Chocolate milk (1 cup) 8 8 29 220

Outside of the chocolate milk, all these other items get mixed into a big breakfast bowl of goodness. I have a Lekue Microwave Rice & Grain Cooker that cooks the rice in 12 minutes. I then mix in the olive oil, cheddar cheese, two fried eggs and cut up chicken sausages. This post-workout bowl is my go-to. I stated adding the olive oil last week to up my fat intake and the protein just rotates between chicken sausages and bacon.

LUNCH

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Grilled Chicken Burger 41 14 37 438
Coleslaw 1 19 19 251

A trip through the sky-way in downtown Minneapolis takes me to MyBurger, a recent staple once I discovered this grilled chicken burger. It is not award-winning but it offers a large, well cooked piece of chicken. The coleslaw as a side is a nice alternative to ordering fries. I should note that I don’t put any mayo, ketchup or mustard on my burger. While this sounds boring, it is tasty enough thanks to the cheese, lettuce and tomato. Ideally I would pack my lunch but when I fall short on my meal prep this definitely hits the spot.

MID-AFTERNOON

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
ProGainer 60 8 85 652

While I have a shaker in the picture to provide a sense of scale for this whopping scoop, I actually bring my ProGainer in a mason jar – better known as my “hipster shaker” (joke courtesy of a fellow Jeremy) – to work. It is the larget “cup” with a lid that I have that will fit both the whey and the water and leave room to shake. My coworker thinks it is hysterical. It is definitely not subtle but it has greatly helped me hit my prescribed protein and carbs. Previously, I was only having 3 big meals per day so this has also helped spread the love and feel more satiated.

DINNER

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Salame (2 oz) 16 16 0 208
Chicken breast (5.6 oz) 32.1 2.1 0 148
Mozarella (1/4 cup) 7 6 2 90
Brocolli slaw (1 cup) 2 0 5 28
Olive oil (1 tbsp) 0 14 0 126

Dinner is a typically a smorgasboard of various items in my refrigerator and involves grazing for an hour or two as I try to hit my macros. Again, the 3,000 calories is based on a specific ratio of protein to fat to carbs. I am tracking macros first and foremost. I am able to calculate my calories but I never have them in mind when I select what to eat. Rather, I am focused on whether each thing I eat gets me to my daily goal of protein, fats and carbs.

I prefer my plate be filled with clean simple ingredients instead of overly processed foods, but some days there are exceptions. I can’t live like a monk and simply exist on white rice and chicken. Some days I have a glass of red wine or a beer or a few cookies. However, I look at what I am eating the majority of the time and whether those are good choices.

The final tally is pretty dead on to my goal. Not all days are perfect, but consistency is key and the results are revealing themselves each week when I look in the mirror.

  Protein Fat Carbs Calories
GOAL 200 140 250 3,060
ACTUAL 206 139 248 3,069

Look for Inspiration, Not Comparison

running-man-inspirational-sunlight-photography-water-nature-1920x1200-wallpaper106204It’s 5:15 in the morning and I am my CrossFit gym for the first class of the day. As part of the workout we are all trying to establish a 1-rep max clean and jerk. Inevitably, as everyone is starting to throw weights on their bars, I am scanning the room to see how much. I’m ignoring their age, height, weight and countless other characteristics that distinguish them from me and making a superficial comparison. I take a deep breathe and remember to focus on myself and my own bar.

In the gym, especially in a group class setting like CrossFit, it is hard not to compare yourself to others, whether it be how much weight someone lifts, how many pull-ups they do in a row, or how many abs they have on display. Yet our tendency to make comparisons don’t cease when we leave the gym. We find ourselves examining every aspect of our lives, especially thanks to the more transparent world we live in via the internet and social media. Whether on purpose or not, we find ourselves comparing our lives to others via what they post on Facebook and Instagram. Vacations, parties, even lunches, are all ripe for envy when they are so accessible and in our face.

Over the last few months as I have focused heavily on my diet and nutrition, tracking macros and body metrics, I have learned that the best comparison is me to myself. It is not a revolutionary philosophy nor do I feel I am suddenly enlightened, but I have started to acknowledge that the comparisons to others are futile and undermine my own progress.

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.” – Zen Shiu

Recently I recommitted to doing a daily online Yin stretching program called ROMWOD. Each day there is a 20-minute video of 1-2 athletes doing the routine for you to follow along to. Some of the athletes are extremely flexible and have a wide range of motion. For example, in a seated forward fold their nose is touching their knees. Mine is far from it. However, I appreciate that the instructor emphasizes to not compare yourself to the people in the videos. They are where they are supposed to be for their bodies and you are where you are for yours. This mindset is echoed in yoga.

If I constantly compare is will lead to a world of disappointment. “The grass is always greener on somebody else’s front lawn. Somebody else’s weiner always has a lot more relish on.” The fact is there will always be people smarter, faster, stronger, younger, skinnier who make more money, more friends and have more Instagram likes. Dwelling on those adjectives and those “more than” and “less than” me thoughts will create a negative mindset. It undermines my own progress and success. I need to focus on the before versus after, rather than the him versus me.

“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain

In that vain, I am not going to stop looking around the room, but rather than looking for comparisons I’ll be looking for inspiration. Who can I learn from? Who can motivate me to do better? Who has aced their meal prep or improved their mobility?

With that in mind, here are some people of late who inspire me:

On my 34th Birthday

Here I am on the day of my 34th birthday, sitting quietly in my kitchen post 5:15am workout, eating some bacon and eggs and reflecting upon the year that passed and the year ahead. The last 365 days have flown by, as time always seems to do, but yet were the most challenging to date both in my personal life and professional career.

The responsibilities at work have grown immensely and the expectations are higher than ever. Everyday I am tasked with being bold, aggressive and creative; and, at the same time, organized, diligent and transparent. My modus operandus is no longer able to be blanketed in a spirit of newness and learning. Mistakes happen but they are tolerated less and less and are more costly as I lead projects. While there is so much to improve on, I need to operate everyday with the confidence in my abilities.

The past year in regards to the gym was one of transition as I started at CrossFit Kingfield and introduced a whole new group of coaches into my pursuit of health and wellness. I went from pushing myself to compete to pushing myself to embrace the routine and seek transformation through my daily habits. This continues to get refined, especially as I am now working with a dietitian and rigorous about going to class Monday through Friday mornings and pushing myself to fully embrace an active lifestyle even on my rest days. I have to be patient and trust in the methodology and know that the desired physical changes will come.

Outside of work and the gym, I am hyper aware of my relationships, both social and romantic. With all this focus on myself, I have to push to keep looking outward and not to be shy or embarrassed about my personal pursuits. The friends that I want to surround myself with support my growth. And so too will the right partner. There is no point in hiding my passion for personal betterment, rather I need to find those who engage in a similar journey and who are willing to grow together.

All this boils down to the fact that on the start of my 34th year, I believe in myself. As Stuart Smalley would say, I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!” Last year on my birthday I challenged myself to think bigger. This year, I want to act on those thoughts. I have the support and resources I need thanks to my work team, family, friends and coaches.

I am reminded of a scene towards the end of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Finch, the main character, has moved quickly up the corporate ladder from his lowly start as a window cleaner. He is now preparing to present his big idea to the boss, but all the other corporate underlings are plotting against him. Finch gives himself a pep talk that reflects his success throughout the movie – a strong belief in himself. Contrary to what you may assume, I don’t start my days staring into the mirror playing the Rocky theme and spitting out cliches to psyche myself for the day ahead. But more than ever, I tell myself, “I believe in you.”

Now there you are;
Yes, there’s that face,
That face that somehow I trust.
It may embarrass you to hear me say it,
But say it I must, say it I must:
You have the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet there’s that upturned chin
And that grin of impetuous youth.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.

I hear the sound of good, solid judgment
Whenever you talk;
Yet there’s the bold, brave spring of the tiger
That quickens your walk.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.

And when my faith in my fellow man
All but falls apart,
I’ve but to feel your hand grasping mine
And I take heart; I take heart

To see the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet, with the slam-bang tang
Reminiscent of gin and vermouth.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.