Lessons learned.

I raced a half-marathon the other weekend as a tune-up race for my upcoming marathon. I didn’t set any high expectations for myself- I really just wanted to treat it as a marathon-pace training run. That’s easier said than done! I tend to get caught up in the festive atmosphere and always end up pushing myself a little bit harder than I probably should. That being said, I really enjoyed the race, set a 2-minute 2018 PR of 1:35:00, and it taught me some lessons that I will take with me going into my first marathon later this month:

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  1. Don’t start too fast. Duh. I should know this by now. But it seems to happen every time that I race! I have so much pent-up adrenaline and energy that my first couple of kilometres always seem to be my fastest. In this race, I ended up passing the 1:35 pace bunny in the first 3 kilometres, only to be passed again in the final 2. Any seasoned distance runner knows that this is never a good idea- you end up using precious glycogen stores too early, leaving your legs feeling heavy in the final kilometres of the race. For the marathon, I plan to start very conservatively, gradually increasing the pace in the second half and (hopefully) running a negative split.
  2. Allow for ample recovery time. I was riding a post-race high in the days following the run, doing 8 km the day immediately following the race and 15 km the next day. I continued to push myself for the remainder of the week and ultimately came down with a flu virus this past weekend. Recovery is so easy to ignore, but it is so, so important- it’s something that I am becoming much more conscious of as I start running longer distances.
  3. Don’t get caught in the comparison trap. Social media makes it so easy for us to compare ourselves to other athletes. Remember that we are all on our own journeys in sport! We are all running for different reasons and each of us has varying amounts of time and energy to commit to it at this moment in time. The fact that we are healthy enough to run and race is something to celebrate in and of itself. I have been making a point of taking brief breaks from social media and I find that the lack of distraction helps me to focus more on my training. For some, social media is motivating and inspiring, but I recognize that I am prone to comparing myself to others. It’s been really refreshing to just run without that in the back of my mind. If you find yourself falling into the comparison trap, I encourage you to identify the things that are aggravating this and make an effort to cleanse yourself of them, even for a short period of time.

 

Let me know if you would like more running-themed posts, and stay tuned for a post-marathon update!

 

Mediterranean Broccoli and Chickpea Salad with Roasted Pepper and Feta

This Mediterranean-inspired broccoli salad is bursting with flavour, texture, and colour! Broccoli is steamed until just tender and combined with roasted bell peppers and almonds, salty goat feta, sweet currants, and chickpeas! Then, everything is tossed in a tangy lemon-Dijon vinaigrette. This dish is great as a side or as a main dish when paired with a roasted sweet potato or quinoa. 

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Hey, friends! I’m baaaaack with a summery Mediterranean vegetable salad that covers all of the nutritional bases, and is super delicious to boot. I apologize for the prolonged absence, but hopefully now that I can feel the season turning ever so slightly, I will get back onto a more regular posting schedule. Thanks for your patience as I figure out this whole blogging routine. 😉

I’ll confess that I haven’t really been enthused about cooking this summer- a bit worrisome for somebody whose passion is food, but normal, I suppose, in the context of the extreme heat and ecosystem devastation that the planet is experiencing. It’s enough for even the most diehard foodie to lose their appetite. From raging wildfires in California to a grieving killer whale mother carrying her dead calf through the ocean off the coast of British Columbia for what is going on weeks, it’s hard to be an aware human being at this point in time. At the risk of sounding overly political, I am going to come right out and say that I am keenly aware of the reality of global warming/climate change, and the trends are incredibly worrisome. My response to stressors of any kind has always been to turn inward, and while I feel guilty at times for not being a more vocal activist, it has never been my style. I have always felt more comfortable with leading by example. I have deep respect for anyone who is a vocal activist, don’t get me wrong. But it has never been my style and I wouldn’t be my authentic self if I pretended that it was. So I return to my kitchen, again and again, because it has always been my happy place and, increasingly, because it is through my food choices that I feel I am able to vote for a more just and sustainable future.

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Now, I am not saying that salad will save the world. What I am suggesting is that the more of us who prepare meals in our own kitchens, using locally and sustainably-sourced ingredients, the better off our world will be. And at a time when more and more of us feel powerless in the face of rising seas, droughts, wildfires, and unprecedented pollution levels, being connected to our food is a pretty necessary thing indeed.

Hopefully I don’t come off as preachy; that is never my intention. I just can’t pretend that everything is just fine when the world is a mess. Sure, it’s fun to scroll through Instagram and admire all the pretty food photos, but there are so many important and pressing issues that we all need to be devoting time and energy to. Hopefully I can use this platform as a force for good by providing ideas for how to restore our connection to the earth, starting with the food that we purchase and eat. And that brings me to this salad. I put seasonal, farmers’ market-fresh ingredients to good use here, with broccoli, roasted bell peppers, and red onion playing starring roles. I added some local goat feta for a salty contrast, but feel free to omit it if you are vegan or dairy-free. Roasted almonds or seeds provide some toothsome crunch, while dried fruit adds sweetness. The tangy lemon-Dijon dressing is light and coats the ingredients nicely without overpowering them. Overall, this salad is filling and hearty while remaining light enough to eat in the heat of summer. I enjoy serving it with a baked sweet potato to complete the meal!

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Thanks for sticking with me through this post, and I hope that you enjoy this salad as much as I do! If you make it, let me know! Leave a comment below, and tag me on Instagram @holisticallie and #holisticallie. 🙂

Mediterranean Broccoli and Chickpea Salad with Roasted Peppers and Feta 

Servings: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes
Cuisine: Plant-based, Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Vegan

Ingredients: 

  • 5 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup roasted red or orange pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds (I roasted organic raw almonds at 325 F for 10 minutes)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup finely diced goat or sheep feta cheese (optional, omit for vegan option)

Lemon-Dijon Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp chickpea miso or mellow white miso (if you are unable to find this miso, substitute 1 tbsp tamari or 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Steam the broccoli until tender-crisp, about five minutes. Remove from heat and empty into a large bowl.
  2. Add remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the broccoli.
  3. Make the dressing by adding all ingredients into a medium Mason jar. Screw on lid and shake to combine.
  4. Pour the dressing on top of the salad and toss until incorporated.
  5. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. This salad will keep in the fridge for a few days, although the broccoli will begin to lose its bright green hue!

 

Double Chocolate Protein Bars

Why buy protein bars when it takes ten minutes to whip up a batch in your own kitchen? These protein bars are packed with protein (obviously), healthy fat, complex carbs, and are lightly sweetened with pure maple syrup! The icing on the cake, so to speak, is the raw chocolate glaze. Made with just four ingredients (cacao butter, raw cacao, maple syrup, and almond milk), it propels these protein bars into “I can’t ever go back to store-bought” territory. 

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Well, we made it to Friday. If you have a Monday to Friday job, happy weekend! If, like me, you still find yourself working retail on weekends, I feel ya! Hopefully you can make the most of whatever time you have off over the next couple of days.

I don’t know anyone who actually craves store-bought protein bars. Sure, I will eat one in a pinch (and given that I work in a health food store, there is never any shortage of options for when one is feeling rather peckish). However, I have never been able to find one that suits my taste and quality preferences. Most of them contain at least a handful of ingredients that I am not keen on putting into my body, and I would rather keep things as healthy and natural as possible. Add to that the fact that I am trying to reduce my plastic footprint, and it’s easy to see why homemade is the way to go.

This protein bar recipe is the product of a desperate attempt to use up some protein powder that had almost reached its best before date. It’s entirely a first world problem, true, but I hate to waste food, and I couldn’t possibly stomach more protein smoothie bowls.

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These bars make the PERFECT afternoon snack when you’re low on energy and need a pick-me-up to get you through the afternoon. They are also phenomenal as a post-workout snack to kickstart muscle recovery. However and whenever you choose to enjoy them, I hope that they become your new favourite snack!

If you make this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment below, and tag me on Instagram with @holisticallie and #holisticallie!

Double Chocolate Protein Bars 

Servings: 10
Cuisine: Vegan
Time: 15 minutes + 30 minutes chill time

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chocolate protein powder of choice (I used Botanica brand)
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 cup nut or seed butter of choice (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower, tahini all work)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

Raw Chocolate Topping

  • 1/4 cup cacao butter
  • 2.5 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp non-dairy milk

Instructions:

  1. Combine protein powder, oat flour, salt, maple syrup, and nut butter in a large mixing bowl. Stir until dough begins to form. Gradually add non-dairy milk until mixture reaches a cookie dough consistency.
  2. Line a 8×8 square baking pan with parchment paper. Press dough evenly into pan and flatten as much as possible. You want the dough to be packed as tightly as possible so that the bars do not fall apart.
  3. Prepare the raw chocolate. Place cacao butter in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of almost boiling water. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in remaining raw chocolate ingredients. Pour over protein bar dough.
  4. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until chocolate has hardened.
  5. Slice into 10 even rectangles and store in the refrigerator until ready to consume.