For the past six weeks, give or take a day or two, my days have begun with a regular exercise routine. Here’s how it goes.
I roll out of bed—sometime between 6 and 6:30 usually—and head to the bathroom to splash cool water on my face and scatter any lingering dreams away with a wet wake-up call. I change (often quite sluggishly) from my snowflake patterned pj’s into stetchy work-out wear. With my eyes still squinty and tired, I tie on my shoes, grab my water bottle from the bedside table and half-sleepwalk out to the family room where I pop in a DVD and begin the insanity.
I’m not being dramatic. The exercise program is actually titled Insanity. It’s a 60-day, 6-day-a-week routine designed to increase endurance, lung capacity and cardio strength. And, as a surviving witness, I can tell you firsthand that it can truly get downright insane. They claim it’s the hardest workout ever put on DVD. I’ve never done other DVD programs before, but I’m pretty sure they’re not lying.
The first five or ten minutes of the workout is the worst part. Once I get my joints loosened up and the sleep shaken from my bones, it’s kind of invigorating. In an oh-my-gosh-my-quads-are-burning, when-will-this-ever-end sort of way.
To keep my energy up and my body nourished for the past six weeks, I’ve made a point of trying to incorporate enough protein into my diet. Adequate protein intake when you’re working out at a high intensity is critical to building muscle and staying strong. For many hard-core exercise gurus, high intensity exercise means pounds and pounds of animal protein. While lean meats like poultry and fish or something like eggs are dense sources of high-quality protein, they lack fiber and often a lot of vitamins and minerals. So as I’ve upped my protein intake, I’ve made a point of trying to incorporate as many vegetarian sources of protein as possible.
Beans and legumes top the charts for vegetarian protein while delivering an excellent amount of fiber and micronutrients. Nuts and seeds also offer protein (and healthy fats) as do whole grains—especially ones like quinoa and millet. In addition to providing protein, beans, legumes and whole grains are complex carbohydrates that help to fuel the body and give it energy. Just what you need as you power through insane workouts!
In my effort to fortify my diet with high-quality protein, I came up with this recipe for a Spicy Black Bean Ragout with Quinoa and Avocado Crema. It’s simple to make and supplies—according to my rough nutritional calculations—about 15 grams of protein per serving. Pretty good for a vegetarian, vegan meal.
Wish me luck as I continue jumping and jacking and pulling-up and pushing-up over the next few weeks! I’ll try my best not to go too insane.
Spicy Black Bean Ragout with Quinoa and Avocado Crema – Serves 3-4
For the quinoa and ragout:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
2 tbs. olive oil
1 small-medium yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or one 15-ounce can)
1 (4-ounce) can whole green chilies, drained and chopped
1 cup frozen corn (use fresh if in season)
1/3 cup water
Salt, to taste
For the avocado crema:
1 medium ripe avocado
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup canned coconut milk (see *note below)
Pinch of sea salt
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Start by making the quinoa: bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to very low and simmer 12-15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.
While quinoa cooks, make the ragout: heat olive oil in a medium-large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook 3-5 minutes until becoming soft, then add garlic, serrano, chili powder, cumin and coriander. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes with juices, black beans, green chilies, corn, water and salt to taste. Cook until heated through over low heat, about 8-10 minutes.
As quinoa and ragout finish cooking, make avocado crema. In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients for crema. Blend until very smooth.
To serve, arrange a bed of quinoa on large platter or individual serving plates. Ladle ragout over top and dollop with spoonfuls of avocado crema. Garnish with chopped parsley (or cilantro) and scallions.
*Note: if you do not use coconut milk often in your cooking and are wondering what to do with the milk remaining in the can, here are some suggestions:
- Try it in smoothies as you would use almond or soy milk for a delicious creaminess and tropical flavor.
- Stir into curries at the end of cooking to make the sauce extra creamy and luxurious.
- Drizzle over fruit bowls of chopped mango, pineapple and bananas for a tasty dessert. Garnish with macadamia nuts.
- Whip a few tablespoons of coconut milk with heavy cream for a tropical twist on basic whipped cream.
- Oh, and here’s how to store coconut milk for best flavor and freshness: transfer milk from can into a glass jar or other glass container. Cover with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.