Pre-race Taco Pasta

The final product combines many of my favorite foods, flavors and textures, and is a bit reminiscent of nachos.

Simple, hearty and crave-worthy; this pasta dish makes the perfect pre-race meal!  I paired this dish with a small salad topped with a dollop of hummus, for extra vegetables.  After dinner, Alex and I ventured to Molly Moon’s on the top of Queen Anne to check out the latest vegan ice cream flavors.  The next morning, I felt well-fueled for my race, and enjoyed some leftovers with our post-race picnic lunch.  I’m happy with the way our pre-race traditions are shaping up!

This fall, I have a race or scrimmage almost every weekend.  It feels like the start of a new school year, where I am able to face challenges of my choosing.  I’m filling the season with new racing experiences, like the mass start at yesterday’s Sound Rowers Salmon Row, a wet-launch before a race, and my first ever cross country meet as part of Oiselle XC.  Along the way, I’ll face tough training sessions with my Seattle Rowing Center teammates, meet new Oiselle running friends for pre-race meals, and reunite with past teammates at Head of the Charles.  Whether I’m home or away, I’ll be enjoying shared meals and documenting my favorites!

Disclaimer: it’s always a good idea to try new foods away from an important race day, just to see how your body is going to react.


Pre-race Taco Pasta – serves 2 to 4

No salsa?  No problem!  We made fresh salsa at home using just three simple ingredients: tomato, garlic and lime.  Dice tomato and discard the stem. In a small bowl, combine diced tomato with the juice of 1/3 of a lime.  Add about ½ T of minced garlic and stir to combine.  We also substituted Greek yogurt for sour cream.

We love the taste and texture of red lentil pasta, and the quick cook time is a plus.  This is a great gluten-free pasta alternative, or a way to add more lentils to your diet.

You will need: IMG_5524

  1. Spray oil or olive oil
  2. 1 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  3. 1 package taco seasoning
  4. 1 14.5 oz can black beans
  5. 1 lb pasta (we like Trader Joe’s red lentil pasta)
  6. olive oil
  7. Greek yogurt or sour cream

For your salsa:

  1. 1 large tomato
  2. juice of 1/3 lime
  3. ½ T minced garlic (roughly 1 clove)

Optional: shredded cheese, diced avocado


  1. Start by filling a pasta pot with water and heating over high heat.
  2. Next, heat a large pan over medium heat and spray with a little cooking oil. Add chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Add taco seasoning and ½ cup of cold water, stirring to combine. Bring your liquid to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and allow chicken and sauce to simmer.
  3. Warm a small pot over medium-low heat and spray with cooking oil. Add black beans and cover with a lid. Stir beans occasionally to ensure that they do not stick to the bottom of your pot.
  4. When your pasta water has come to a boil, turn heat down to medium-high and add pasta. Red lentil pasta cooks in just 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking together.
  5. Drain water from pasta and add a splash of olive oil to your pasta pot. Stir to coat and set aside.
  6. Serve pasta with chicken and beans. Top with shredded cheese and then add salsa, Greek yogurt and a slice of lime.

Butternut Squash Vegan “Quesadillas” and Colorful Cauliflower Sides

Mixed greens with frisée, raspberries and raspberry vinaigrette.  Orange cauliflower, mashed.  Green cauliflower, roasted.  Black beans with sautéed onions.  Butternut squash mash.  Purple cauliflower, steamed.



“Eat your colors” – Michael Pollan, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”

Having devoured the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” on my recent travels, I stopped by Read It and Eat, my favorite cookbook bookstore in Chicago, in search of any other books by author Michael Pollan.  In “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Pollan challenged readers by exposing the relationship between the food industry and the foods they consume; “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” turns the truths that Pollan exposes in “Omnivore’s Dilemma” into digestible advice.  Pollan’s notions have become more visible in mainstream culture.  At one San Diego restaurant, True Foods, a Pollan quotation is chalked on the wall above the bar: “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” (from “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” which I will be reading next).

Last year, I began talking regularly with Georgie Fear, registered dietitian and sports dietetics specialist.  The most fun thing that Georgie has taught me is to include more vegetables in my meals!  I had to get creative to prevent roasted asparagus-induced boredom, and I’ll endeavor to share some of my favorite vegetable recipes with you in the form of “Intimidating Vegetable” posts.

On my last night in San Diego, I cooked dinner in Jess’s mother’s kitchen one last time.  I made a vegan meal for us, including half a dozen produce varietals.  I used a recipe for butternut squash “quesadillas” and black beans that I picked up when I trained in Seattle last March and stayed with Katherine Robinson.  With this final dinner, I made use of the rest of our produce from when Jess took me to the PB Farmers Market.


Butternut Squash “Quesadillas” – serves 4

Butternut squash is so flavorful that you do not even need to add cheese to your tortilla!

You will need: IMG_2218

  1. 1 large butternut squash, chopped (see below)
  2. 1 1/2 T olive oil
  3. salt
  4. pepper
  5. 14.5 oz can black beans
  6. 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  7. 4 tortillas
  8. 1 avocado, sliced
  9. your favorite salsa for serving


  1. Microwave your butternut squash for 2-3 minutes, with the skin on.  This will make it much easier to remove the skin. Allow several minutes for squash to cool before handling. When squash has cooled, chop into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  3. Add butternut squash chunks and ½ cup of water, cover.
  4. Cook for 5-8 minutes or until squash begins to soften.
  5. Meanwhile, add 1/2 T olive oil to a pan over medium heat.  Add chopped onions and sauté for about 2 minutes, just until the onions begin to turn translucent.  Add black beans and stir to heat.
  6. Mash the squash with the back of your spoon, until about half of the chunks are completely smooth. You will want to retain some squash-chunk texture to enjoy in your tortilla.
  7. Remove squash and beans from heat.
  8. Serve with tortillas and avocado slices, with beans and salsa on the side.



Colorful Cauliflower Sides – serves 3-4

The cauliflower at the farmers market was so vibrant that we could not choose just one variety! I had three cauliflower heads, and wanted to retain their original flavors for accurate comparison, so I decided to keep my preparation simple. I roasted the green cauliflower, steamed the purple and mashed the orange. The orange cauliflower claimed to taste cheesy, and is otherwise known as cheddar cauliflower, so I knew I would not need to add much to make a satisfying mashed-potato alternative.

You will need:


  1. 1 head of green cauliflower
  2. 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  3. ½ T olive oil
  4. 3 t black pepper
  5. 1 head of purple cauliflower
  6. 1 t salt
  7. 1 head of orange cauliflower


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Chop green cauliflower heads. Chop garlic clove into large chunks.
  3. Arrange cauliflower and garlic in a single layer on a baking sheet, coating with olive oil and 1 t black pepper.
  4. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops of the cauliflower pieces have begun to brown.
  5. Meanwhile, chop both the purple and orange cauliflower heads.
  6. Arrange orange and purple cauliflower into two separate pots on the stove, set to steam for 5 to 7 minutes. Check tenderness. When the purple cauliflower is tender, remove from heat and sprinkle with ½ t salt and 1 t black pepper.
  7. Steam orange cauliflower for a few additional minutes, until it is soft enough to mash with a spoon. For a smoother consistency, like mashed potatoes, transfer cauliflower to a food processor and blend for a minute before adding spices and butter, if desired. For this recipe, mash cauliflower with a spoon and then add ½ t salt and 1 t black pepper.


Pollan, Michael. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.