Food, Running

The Importance of Proper Nutrition

This is not a post on pre-party dieting. Sorry. It won’t help you drop 5lbs, fit into that LBD, or score you that kiss on 25th Dec. It will, however, hopefully shift the way you think just a little bit, so you don’t find yourself frantically scribbling a list of New Year’s Resolution on 31st Dec at the stroke of midnight, with LOSE WEIGHT as the #1 priority of 2015.

In the week leading up to Christmas, there is a chance that now, more than ever, you are ever surrounded by a surfeit of food. Some of it, like I’ll-only-eat-log-cake-at-Christmas-so-get-out-of-my-way, or when-else-will-I-drink-mulled-wine?, you’ll actually want to indulge in. In that case, go ahead, live a little!

However, it’s probably highly likely that for the rest of the time, you don’t want to (really, glazed ham and the works for the 8th time in two months?). In these situations, it helps to pause and reflect on why you are eating something you’re not actually interested in.

Is it because someone offered it to you? Politely say no to food-pushers.

Is it because you’re tired? Understand that a sugar hit may help you through a little slump, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get some rest.

Is it because it’s time for a meal? You ought to be hungry at mealtimes – if you’re not, have you been snacking between meals? Learn to live with a little bit of hunger, it’s a sensation that will not kill you, no matter how mildly unpleasant.

Is it because the food is just there? Move it out of sight; if you have to stand up, walk into another room, climb onto a chair and reach into the back of the shelf to get at it, you’ll probably lose interest.

Is it because the food is free? Don’t feel obliged to taste every sample, or bring home leftovers from every single party. Keeping all this extra food around is only going to encourage overeating.

Also a word on sports and nutrition. Some people seem to believe that runners have a license to eat whatever they want. You know how the saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. “You only get out what you put in” applies to all aspects of training – the running, the nutrition, and the recovery. Like a three-legged stool, if one of them is shorter than it ought to be, you’re going to be looking at wobbly performances.

The Ninja Turtle is saying this because she’s had the pleasure of meeting up frequently with old friends and family recently. Unsurprisingly, most of the socialising revolves around food. A lot of well-meaning comments have been made about food and sports. Some of it is sound, some others, slightly misguided. Back when she was younger, more sensitive and a people-pleaser, she’d freak out and just eat to keep others happy, while feeling miserable on the inside.

Today, she’s older, wiser, and knows her body well enough to say “those nachos, salsa, sour cream and guacamole look delicious but when I run tomorrow, it’s going to make me wheeze”. People use food as an expression of love. They will understand if you simply and politely explain that it is in your best interest to avoid certain things.

That said, proper nutrition is of utmost importance. This post isn’t about going on a last-ditch pre-party diet. This post is about feeding yourself well, especially if you have commenced your training cycle for the spring racing season. Undereating can hurt as much as overeating – injuries, fatigue, compromised performances…

No one is talking about deprivation and self-loathing, we’re talking about nourishing and self-loving.

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Healthy eating is not only completely do-able, it is also enjoyable. So this festive season, change the mindset and switch off the guilt. Put down those retarded magazines touting detoxes, diets and deprivation. By simply choosing to look at each meal as a chance to treat your body with TLC, you have nothing to be afraid of. Eat, drink, and above all, enjoy the company!


Summer Harvest Continues

Let us commence with a heart-felt apology from the Ninja Turtle to this blog’s readers. She has come to the inexorable conclusion that, when compared to all those beautiful pictures fluttering around in the digital world, it doesn’t take close scrutiny to observe that her food photos are second-rate (to put it politely). Sometimes she takes hasty photos with garlicky hands or mid-way through cooking so a fog of steam rises to meet the lens, but let’s be honest, she’s just really rubbish at trying to make her food look good. It’s still a mystery why people come back to Like the posts here, but any rate, the Ninja Turtle sincerely appreciates these continuous shows of support. So, thank you readers, and we hope that if the photos don’t inspire, at least the recipes turn out to be worth the effort.

On to the topic of today…

The weather of late in Lorraine has been incredibly finicky, so much so that nobody is sure what season it is anymore. It was cold, cloudy and rainy for a whole week, but shaped up to be bright, sunny and hot in the last couple of days. One day you’d find yourself wearing woolen jumpers and socks, and the next day it’s tank tops and shorts. Madness.

The garden harvest has also started to produce the first apples and pears, but for the moment, it’s still yielding plenty of stone fruits and squashes. This last weekend, a visit back to the village resulted in the wholesale dumping of fresh produce upon GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle. About 12kg of produce, to be exact.

Of course, in a world where some are struggling to afford fresh fruits and vegetables, getting it free is nothing to complain about. The glut of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, French beans, etc however, did see the duo’s fridge full to critical point, and it threatens to explode any moment. (This is not an exaggeration, the fridge has been making this weird groaning noise for a few days now…)

Zucchinis are not overly difficult to deal with – ratatouille, curries, stews, tarts and frittatas take care of them quite easily. Cucumbers, on the other hand, pose a little bit more of a challenge. There is only so much Greek salad GodzillaPin is willing to eat, and it’s hard to make a salsa or cucumber sandwiches when each cuke is about the size of a newborn baby.

In case you thought that was an exaggeration too, here's a photo to give an idea of how big these monsters are. The breadknife is 15 inches.

In case you thought that was an exaggeration too, here’s a photo to give an idea of how big these monsters are. The breadknife is 15 inches. The largest cucumber weighs 3.5lbs (almost 2kg).

There is also this oft-overlooked fact that GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle are a household of two. Even with their voracious appetites, it’s still a LOT of cucumber.

Then, the hot weather struck, and so did thirst-induced inspiration. It’d be hard to eat a kilo of cucumber, but it’s not difficult to drink a litre of liquid, if given a bit of time. Since cucumber is mostly water, why not blitz it up into a drink and call it done?

There are several recipes online for pairings with apple or blueberry or mango and mint, but that's too freakin' weird and kinky. The Ninja Turtle prefers to marry the cucumber with more normal friends for a well-adjusted relationship all around.

There are several recipes online for pairings with apple or blueberry or mango and mint, but that’s too freakin’ weird and kinky. The Ninja Turtle prefers to marry the cucumber with more normal friends for a well-adjusted relationship all around.

She’s never attempted gazpacho soup before, but there’s a first time for everything. It’s as easy as washing the vegetables, chopping them into a reasonable size that won’t choke the blender, and whizzing it all up with a tablespoon or two of vinegar, olive oil, and a generous lashing of salt and pepper (just add and adjust to taste while you go along).

Cucumber tomato gazpacho with a sprig of basil. There's easily 2 to 3 servings of vegetables in this to meet your used-to-be-5-but-now-it's-7-but-preferably-aim-for-10-a-day.

Cucumber tomato gazpacho with a sprig of basil. There’s easily 2 to 3 servings of vegetables in this to meet your used-to-be-5-but-now-it’s-7-but-preferably-aim-for-10-a-day.

The Ninja Turtle knows that photo isn’t exactly appetizing; in fact it looks slightly off-putting. All the same, she promises that it’s a super gazpacho (she went back for seconds, and then thirds) and definitely worth sacrificing a baby-sized cucumber for.

Bon appetit!


Salad Art – Keeping Your New Year Resolutions Delicious

Like everyone else, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin have overindulged during the festive season. After all, drinks, hor d’oeuvres and endless plates of desserts become inevitable when one socializes. If you think that families and friends have a way of showing love with food, you are absolutely right. The Ninja Turtle was loved (fed) half to death after not seeing her friends and family for two years.

On top of that, travelling has a way of throwing off one’s dining routine. On shorter trips around the region, it is still possible to pack healthy snacks for the train/car ride, and a few items that keep well, such as bottled sparkling water, apples, mixed nuts, and the like. Not so when one travels internationally and has quarantine to deal with (all fruit in the bin or they may just deport you from Australia!), security checks that make you chuck out water bottles, and five weeks of moving from place to place makes it very challenging to carry healthy fresh food.

As they kept active during the travels, they could afford to indulge without causing much social fuss. However, as soon as they came back to France, it was damage-control mode. Neither of them put on an alarming amount of weight – GodzillaPin struggles to gain an ounce, and the couple of pounds that crept on Ninja Turtle dropped off quick smart during her bronchitis episode. Nonetheless, there were certain changes that happen on a cellular level, beyond the perception of the naked eye, that undoubtedly took place. The evidence? Poor running performance, fatigue, compromised immune systems… you get the idea.

So, whatever your motivation may have been to clean up your diet for 2014, here are some simple salad ideas to inspire your desire to keep up the healthy streak. You can’t continue something you don’t enjoy, and the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin want to share their belief that healthy food can be incredibly enjoyable.

Niçoise salad

Niçoise salad – a complete meal

The humble tomato and mozzarella

The humble tomato and mozzarella

Roast beef and avocado salad for a hit of protein and iron

Roast beef and avocado salad for a hit of protein and iron

A crunchy salad of radish and walnuts with beetroot

A crunchy salad of radish and walnuts with beetroot

Did someone ask for bacon?

Did someone ask for bacon?


Keep up the healthy eating for 2014!


The 4-Ingredients Challenge

Back when the Ninja Turtle lived Down Under, there was a dynamic duo of moms-turned-celebrities who came up with this cute little concept called 4 Ingredients. This idea took the country by storm – after all, it was incredibly appealing in many different ways. Pantry and fridge almost empty? Not a problem. Don’t enjoy the fuss and mess of  cooking? Not an excuse. Don’t dare the risk of setting the kitchen on fire? Not likely to happen. It’s cheaper than dining out, takes a fraction of the time to ring and wait for delivery pizza, and healthier too. Really, it was a win-win formula which they should be congratulated for.

Now, the Ninja Turtle brought this up because, until recently, she has never needed to consider the simplicity of easy cooking. The last several months she has spent living in France opened doors to new flavours, textures, ingredients and cooking methods she was previously unfamiliar with. More importantly, she has had the luxury of an abundance of time to discover all this in. When it takes at least 4 hours to make one’s own bread, let’s not pretend that it’s a normal activity that anyone and everyone can fit into their daily lives.

Of course if given the opportunity, most of us would love to eat local and organic, preferably with at least 90 minutes to linger over each meal, which should preferably stimulate all five senses, take us on a voyage across the globe, and nourish the soul as well as the body. Sure, if you’re someone like Madonna, maybe. For the rest of us mortals, there is no point flogging us with guilt if we choose non-organic oranges that have 800 food miles simply because the grocery store decided to sell it for cheaper than the local organic version. Or the fact that we unceremoniously heap our meals in bowls rather than plating it Pinterest-style, because let’s face it, if every dish were to be three morsels large, it would take 10 dishes to make a meal, and take it from GodzillaPin, he is NOT washing up 20 plates.

So, the beauty of the 4 Ingredients meals appealed to the Ninja Turtle when she recently found herself engaged occasionally on several evenings in teaching. By the time lesson is done, GodzillaPin is starving, or drunk, if he’s been having one too many rum and apple juice cocktails, or worse, both. Turtle has all of 20 minutes to whip up a meal – a reasonable amount of time before she becomes hangry herself. The number of ingredients is actually arbitrary – it’s merely an aid to limit cooking time.

With that, here are two simple 4-ingredient (plus a base) weeknight meals to get people going. It’s actually quite fun, and can be turned into a challenge to see just how good a meal one can produce with unlikely ingredients.

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian Pasta
Fresh egg pasta
Ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper

Steam the broccoli and spinach. When they are almost done, blanch the spinach quickly.
At the same time, prepare the pasta as directed.
Drain the pasta and the vegetables. Pop them back in one of the pots (the bigger one), and stir the ricotta through.

Turkey pasta

Turkey pasta

Turkey Pasta
Spiral pasta (or any shape you prefer)
Turkey breast, cut into small pieces
Cheese (we used comté)
Salt and pepper

Boil the pasta as directed. Drain and set aside.
Sauté the onion in a pan, then add the turkey pieces.
Blanche the spinach.
Mix all the ingredients, and grate generous amounts of cheese on the lot.

While the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin still enjoy testing the complicated recipes from those fancy French cookbooks, it is undeniable that the inclusion of these 4-ingredient meals have saved tempers from fraying, and proven to be more enjoyable than just an “emergency” option.