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.

Fish Tacos from San Diego

Robin and Maria’s beautiful backyard was the perfect setting for our San Diego family dinner

Tradition holds that when we visit Robin and Maria, our uncle and aunt on Alex’s side, we are treated to their fish taco special.  On my most recent visit to San Diego, Robin and Maria invited over my sister, her husband, his brother, and my training partner and her boyfriend.  We had quite the crew! We were lucky to have perfect San Diego February weather, and dined al fresco under the stars, palm trees and strings of lights, with a fire going to keep us warm.  Because I miss my San Diego family, I decided to recreate Maria’s recipe for Alex and me to enjoy in Chicago, and to share with all of you.

The staples of this recipe are the fish, rice and beans, but you can add any of your favorite vegetables as a side.  Alex and I enjoyed our tacos with roasted asparagus, and cucumber and tomato salad or a colorful cauliflower medley would pair with these tacos well.


Fish tacos with rice and beans– serves 6

I like to use tilapia with this recipe because it is a light fish that takes on the full flavor of a marinade. Any white fish will do – the flakier the better! Dried beans work best with this recipe, if you have the time to prepare them. Maria cooks her beans all day in a slow cooker, at low heat. When I attempted to use the slow cooker, I plugged it into a faulty outlet, effectively just soaking my beans all day. I found out that soaking the beans works well too! So if you do not have a slow cooker, soak your beans all day in just enough water to cover their surface. Drain that water and bring beans to a boil in fresh water, covering beans with about an inch of water above their surface. When your beans reach a boil, simmer on low heat for at least an hour. Alternatively, this recipe will be just fine with canned beans, but using dried beans has many benefits, as outlined in an article from “the kitchn” (sic) called “How to Cook Beans on the Stove” that I saved for you below.  If you cook beans on the stove, you can reserve your nutritious bean water for later use.

Special note: this recipe has two steps, which are worth starting the night before or morning of your fish taco dinner. If you are short on time, you can use canned beans and shorten your marinating time, but plan to allow fish to marinate for at least one hour.

You will need:


  1. 1 ½ pounds white fish like tilapia
  2. 1-2 C Italian dressing
  3. 16 oz bag dried pinto beans
  4. ½ yellow onion
  5. 1 ½ C brown rice (or about ¼ C dry brown rice per person)
  6. 3 T salsa
  7. 1/2 T olive oil
  8. 12 small corn tortillas

Serve with sliced cabbage, Greek yogurt, salsa, and avocado slices or guacamole


  1. Transfer fish to a large Tupperware container to marinade.  Cover fish in a layer of Italian dressing, sloshing gently to coat.  Refrigerate and marinate your fish overnight/all day, or for as long as you can.
  2. Combine beans with water to soak overnight/all day.
  3. When you are ready to prepare your fish taco meal, start by draining the beans that have been soaking.  Cover beans in fresh water, with about an inch of water above the bean surface.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for at least an hour.
  4. Next, combine water and rice in a 2-1 ratio.  Add salsa before bringing rice to a boil.  Simmer for at least twenty simmer, or as directed on rice package.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your taco toppings.  Chop cabbage and slice avocado and set aside.
  6. When your rice has about 10 minutes left to cook, heat a large pan on medium heat.  Add olive oil.  When oil begins to shimmer or smoke faintly, add fish filets in a single layer, without overlapping.  Let your fish cook for 4 to 5 minutes without nudging the filets at all.  You should start to see the edges of the filets become less translucent as the fish cooks.  Flip fish, and finish on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes (longer for thick filets).
  7. When your rice has absorbed all of the water, remove from heat, fluff and cover again for about 5 minutes.  Doing so will give your rice a chance to steam and will help you avoid sticky clumps of rice.
  8. Serve fish with two small corn tortillas per taco.  Top with Greek yogurt, salsa, cabbage and guacamole or fresh avocado slices.


Source: Christensen, Emma. “How To Cook Beans on the Stove – Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn.” The Kitchn. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.