Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run + Nutrition Advice and Recipe Ideas

Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run

5K races has been a big hit in Jamaica over the past few years. Every year new charity races are formed, with many opportunities for Jamaicans to give back to a particular cause. But probably more importantly are the health and fitness trends that have emerged with this new obsession. Persons are much more concerned about their wellness, evidenced by increased sightings of joggers, yoga practitioners, and a move towards cleaner, lighter cuisines.

Sagicor SIGMA Corporate Run – The Caribbean’s largest

Sagicor Sigma LogoOne race in particular has continued to attract thousands of excited participants and raise millions over the past 15 years. Since the first staging of the event in February 1999, Sagicor’s SIGMA Corporate Run has raised a total of JMD 124.5M (approx. USD 120K) towards enhancing healthcare services for Jamaicans islandwide. The Run is a 5.5 Kilometer (3.4 mile) event that is open to runners and walkers of all fitness levels and abilities. It is different from all other road races as the focus is on company teams. With over 22,200 registered participants this year, SIGMA continues to be the Caribbean largest 5K race.  This year race will kick off promptly at 7:30 a.m. on February 16 along Kingston’s hip-strip Knutsford Boulevard, and is under the patronage of Lady Patricia Allen, World and Olympic Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and season five winner of The Voice, Tessanne Chin.

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Check out Sagicor’s website for more race details. [Race photos courtesy of Sagicor]

Let’s Talk Nutrition

When it comes to runners’ nutrition, it can get pretty technical, especially for longer runs such as marathons and half marathons, but for shorter runs such as 5K and 10K races, it’s pretty simple. Good nutrition should be an integral part to any runner’s diet, but different foods are healthiest and most important at different times of the day. The key thing here is knowing what to eat, and when to eat it. Here are a few tips.

The night before:

You want dinner the night before to be somewhat carb-heavy (so as to carb-load your muscles) with a fair amount of protein to keep you from feeling ravenous in the morning. Ensure to make it regular white pasta or rice rather than brown. Even though whole wheat products should star in your usual fare, studies have shown that too much fiber causes intestinal distress while running. Many runners have complained about the need to go during a run. There surely aren’t any pit stops along the way for Sigma. Oh yea, please sleep. The 7-8 hour kind.

Reggae bow-tie pasta salad with tuna and sardine

Reggae bow-tie pasta salad with tuna and sardine

Check out this delicious bow tie pasta dish with protein, calcium and omega 3 rich sardines and tuna. Also, here’s a foolproof way to cook the perfect pasta every time.

The morning of:

For such a short distance, the body doesn’t really need much added energy. In fact, just a cup or two of black coffee will give you an extra boost needed to shave a few seconds (minutes) off your PR. However, because coffee’s energizing effect comes from it being a stimulant, you may need to supplement this with true energy calories. The best bet is a carb-rich fruit such as a banana or an apple, or a simple peanut butter sandwich (white bread, as whole wheat takes longer to digest) or a bagel. Skimp on the cream cheese though; excess fat has the unwanted effects of retarding digestion and can lead to intestinal distress during a run.

apple-mango-banana smoothie

apple-mango-banana smoothie

Smoothies are also a good choice as they deliver a rush of vitamins and nutrients without weighing you down. Blend a frozen banana with low fat milk and some of your favourite nuts. Whatever you do, do not stuff yourself in fear of becoming hungry during the race. Sad to say, I learnt this the hard way and almost threw up half way through one of my races. I’ll give you time to stop laughing and compose yourself. Good. Hydration is also key: you want to down at least 8 ounces (one glass) of water an hour before the start of the race.

This delicious Apple-Mango-Banana smoothie loaded with good carbohydrates and natural sugars will definitely fuel your run. Or this delectable bruschetta with gorgonzola cheese and coffee-flavoured honey.

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and HoneyKist Blue Mountain Flavoured Coffee

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and HoneyKist Blue Mountain Flavoured Coffee

During the race:

The only thing you should worry about during a 5K is finishing the race, and possibly mild hydration. Most runners can complete a 5K without the need to rehydrate. I surely can’t because I sweat like a farmer’s horse. There’s a proper way to hydrate. If you’re feeling thirsty during a run then you’re already dehydrated. Avoid this by making use of the water stops. There should be about 2 stops for a 5K race. You really don’t need any more than that. Sip, don’t gulp. Plain water should do the trick, but you may benefit from the added kick of electrolytes and glucose found in sport drinks. Also, room temperature is best. If you need to eat during a 5K then you should probably consider another activity. I suggest a diet.

After the race:

So, you’re on top of the world because you (hopefully) clocked your best PR. In the meantime while you wait for your buddies to cross the finish line, you want to head straight to the free food, mostly so that you can be first in line. JK. But seriously, your body is now craving all the energy, nutrients and water you’ve expended. Your best bet here are three key things: liquid, preferably a sports drink to rehydrate and to replenish lost electrolytes; carbs to restore glucose levels; and protein to rebuild muscles.

Low Fat Pak Choy Ricotta Frittata

Low Fat Pak Choy Ricotta Frittata

A good all in one is a glass of chocolate milk. Or make this quick but nutrient rich recovery shake that is sure to replenish your energy levels and kick-start your recovery process. Or, try this tasty and protein-packed low-fat frittata with ricotta cheese that will fill you up with muscle-replenishing protein.

Post-Workout Recovery Shake

Post-Workout Recovery Shake

Provided that you’ve been eating right (for the most part), you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Remember, it’s 3.1 miles, not an eternal 26.2 grueling, knee-shattering, shin-splitting, asphalt-pounding mile marathon.

All the best,

SC

Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting

lemons for Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting

When life (read: a co-worker) gives you lemons, you make lemon-cake-with-coconut-vodka-cream-cheese-frosting, duh. I mean, what else?

Now, if you’re a keen ROF follower, you’ll notice that there aren’t any dessert-related posts on the blog. I am really not a big fan of sweets, nor do they fit into my healthy lifestyle regime. (Or, quite possibly it’s because my baking skills aren’t at a level where they can be shared with the world.) But I surprised myself over the weekend when I attempted to make this cake from my recently-acquired lemons. One of my favourite desserts hands down is a good plain cake, and this come pretty close.

With total inexperience – (this is my second attempt at making a cake from scratch; the first was a banana cake some years ago, and it was pretty average) – I had to do a little research for the basic proportions of a plain pound cake. After I grasped that concept I decided to make the recipe my own. This is what I came up with:

  • 1½ cups AP flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp (⅜ cup) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously coat a Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift flour along with baking powder and salt.
  3. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and continue creaming until sugar crystals are fully dissolved into butter and mixture doesn’t feel grainy. With the mixture at a low speed, add eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate. Add the vanilla.
  4. Alternating dry and wet ingredients add the flour mixture and lemon juice and zest in small batches and mix until smooth.  (You may have to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula to fully incorporate flour).
  5. Pour mixture in to greased Bundt pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Gentle shake pan until all sides are loosened. Place on a desired serving platter and invert pan to remove cake.

Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting (sliced)

BUT WAIT.

We’re not done yet. Even though the cake is delicious as is, there’s always room for a little booze. And cream cheese. Here’s what you’ll need.

Coconut-Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4oz (½ block) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • ⅓ cup coconut-flavoured vodka
  • ¼ cup water, to be used as a thinner as necessary

And here’s how to make the magic happen:

  1. Over medium heat, melt butter. Add cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice and zest, and whisk to incorporate. Add sugar and mix thoroughly.
  2. Add vodka and mix thoroughly. Mixture should be the consistency of a thin porridge. Use water to thin mixture as necessary. If mixture is too thin, continue stirring over medium-low heat until desired consistency is achieved.
  3. Spoon hot frosting over cake and allow to cool at room temperature.
  4. Slice cake and enjoy.

Yes, it does taste as awesome as it sounds. And it really doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Lemon Cake with Coconut Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe Notes:

  1. Sifting the flour along with the rest of the dry ingredients does two main things: it allows lumps and other unwanted particles to be removed, while aerating the flour allowing for a lighter cake in the end. Sifting also allows for the rest of the dry ingredients (in this case, the salt and baking powder) to be properly incorporated into the flour before it’s mixed into the rest of the batter.
  2. Using lemon zest really makes the cake that more lemony as opposed to using just the juice. The zest contains essential oils packed with lemon flavour. To zest a lemon, you can rub the lemon along a fine grater, rotating each time, ensuring only to grate the top layer of yellow skin. Avoid pressing too hard and grating the white pith, which is extremely bitter and will spoil the taste of your cake. You can also use a zester and gently scrape the holes of the zester along the surface of the lemon from top to bottom, also rotating as you go along. You’ll end up with longer ribbons of zest, which u can then chop into finer pieces.
  3. Ingredient temperature is an important factor in baking. If a recipe calls for something chilled, best you chill it. Just as important is allowing ingredients to be at room temperature before incorporating them. For example, room temperature eggs will disperse more easily through the batter and allow for a fluffier cake. Cold butter does not beat well. Cold milk (or water) will coagulate and create clumps in the batter, requiring extra beating time to mix the ingredients. The easiest way to get your baking ingredients to room temperature is to simply allow them to sit at – room temperature.
zesting a lemon - thekitchn

Zesting a lemon [photocredits: thekitchn.com]

P.S. Thanks to my handy little helper, Corve, who thoroughly enjoyed the process and end result. Also, apologies for the crappy photos; my camera (phone) is out of commission for now.

One love,

SC

Maintaining Healthy Habits During the Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, you may (should?) be worrying about maintaining the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to develop during the year. Never-ending Christmas dinner parties and free booze make it rather challenging to stay focused on low-carb diets and high-cardio regimes. For me, and possibly everyone else, Christmas is the time families are united over a dinner spread fit for a (ravenous) king. Moreover, who wants to be that guy who refuses the fruitcake and wine? Psshhh.

The holidays will throw every bit of temptation in your face, and sure as hell it’ll be delicious, but you can still stay winning. Here are a few tips how:

1. Be True To Yourself

If you’re planning to lose pounds during the holidays, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, try to maintain your current weight and fitness level. You’re not off the hook so easily; you have to make time for some amount of exercise. It may not be your ideal 40-60 minutes uphill sprint, but a quick 20 minutes maintenance run should do the trick in burning that extra glass of Merlot you managed to gulp down while saying your goodbyes. (C’mon, I know I’m not the only one who does this. Right?)

2. Pre-game Before Heading Out

No, I don’t mean to gulp down booze, (actually, you may want to skip this), but actually to snack on something light and healthy (some veggies, a pack of nuts, fruit) before storming out to that Christmas dinner. This will avoid being too hungry to think when you’ve arrived and not caring about what makes its way to your mouth, and ultimately to your thighs (or in my case, everywhere but).

3. Portion Control 

Portion control should be part of your regular yearlong regime, and it’s no different during the holidays. In fact, it’s even more important now that calories abound, masked by delicious and free. Eat until you’re satisfied, not until you can’t feel your ribs. Take a stroll around the buffet before you start loading your plate with every item. Choose wisely. I usually skip carbs and head straight for meats and veggies. But be careful, those too can pack a caloric punch. If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next. Portion control should also be extended to beverages, both alcoholic and not. A glass of your favourite drink can pack more calories than a dinner plate.

4. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is probably the simplest (not necessarily easiest) strategy here. And there are a few reasons why this is important. Firstly, the body often-times confuses hunger with thirst as the symptoms (i.e. feeling weak, dizzy and cranky) are pretty much the same. Also, for people like myself whose inhibitions for booze consumption is rather minuscule during this period, staying hydrated is really vital. As a rule of thumb, to avoid dehydration for every cocktail you consume, drink a glass of water.

5. Get some Zzz’s

With all the festivities and frolic, it’s very easy to lose track of the hours and a good night’s rest. The good thing is that being the holidays, you are able to sleep in late. Nonetheless, don’t make this a habit. Your body needs a good, undisturbed 7-8 hours of sleep in order to rebuild cells and maintain a healthy immune system. Lack of proper sleep is a main cause for a host of ailments, including weight gain.

Christmas is a time for fun, family, and certainly food. But it doesn’t have to mean regret and frustration come January. Neither should it mean denying yourself your favourite holiday foods. Just be smart about it.

Happy holidays,

SC

Foodie Fraud: 7 Signs You In Fact Only Like to Eat

“Foodies” have been springing up everywhere these days; it seems the term inadvertently gets self-ascribed to anyone who enjoys a meal. But no, sir, opting for extra large fries at Burger King then proceeding to make a mayonnaise-ketchup concoction, or having an insatiable desire to eat (out) doesn’t actually you a foodie make. In fact, that may be a simple case of greed. Good ole gluttony, which by the way is one of the seven deadly sins…according to the christianfolk at least. But that’s a whole different blog post, possibly for another blogger.

(Unnecessary) controversy

So who exactly is a foodie? Well, best believe that there’s lurking controversy whenever one attempts to explain this. This is in part because the term bears different connotations to different people. For some it’s a compliment, an authentication of sorts for a passionate interest in food. Meanwhile others – including top food connoisseurs and culinarians – cringe at the thought of ever being identified as a “foodie”, probably because they consider the term belittling and frivolous. After all is said and done, such a pejorative and hostile attitude towards the term is nothing short of pompous and petty.

Gourmet vs. gourmand

A foodie is a gourmet (yes – the term also applies to the individual), or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food, and not just its preparation or the consumption thereof. Typical foodie interests and activities include, inter alia: gastronomy (food science); wineries and wine tasting; breweries and beer sampling; following restaurant openings and closings; food distribution; food fads; health and nutrition; cooking classes; culinary tourism; and restaurant management.

On the other hand, a gourmand, in simplest of terms, is one who takes great pleasure in (eating) food; one who enjoys food in great quantities. There really isn’t a genuine interest to understand food beyond its presence on a plate. Sure, a gourmand may delight in trying new foods – just as a foodie or gourmet would – but the difference here is for the sole purpose of satisfying the appetite, not to discover a  the perfect crunch or acid factor in a dish.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are some signs you may be in fact just love to eat:

1. You’re quick to order a chicken sandwich, every time

Ain’t nothing wrong with satisfying your craving for that juicy chicken sub, but for heaven’s sakes try something else. There’s a whole world out there beyond chicken between slices of bread cloaked in wilted lettuce. Change it up, live (on the edge) a little. Allow your palate the treat of something new ever so often.

2. You’ve landed at your dream vacation spot, but still opt to dine at McDonald’s

Now let’s be real here. There’s no way you are a true foodie if you don’t have the slightest urge (for me it’s more like a burning desire; a higher calling…MY calling) to go out and explore the street food of some of the greatest cities in the world. In fact, foodies are known to plan their trips around their desired eateries, taking into consideration factors such as opening hours, top-selling dishes, exoticness and review ratings.

3. You eat out of convenience

Once convenience-eating is the modus operandi of your food intake, then it’s time to take a vacation…from life. Yup, something is wrong, really wrong, and it needs to be addressed with utmost urgency. Foodies put much thought into the next meal, sometimes leading to confusion (read obsession) about what to have when, where, and with whom. Truth be told, even the most hardcore of foodies fall into this trap of convenience-eating for a number of reasons, mostly due to sudden lifestyle changes or circumstances beyond their control. But best believe it won’t be long till they’re back on their feet sniffing out average meals masked by cheap and convenient and heading face-on into the most scrumptious of dishes.

4. You might as well be eating chicken out of a can, and this doesn’t bother you.

This level of complacency and nonchalance (and plain sadness) is by no means okay. The value of eating fresh bears much emphasis for any passionate lover of food and so does the never-ending desire to understand food beyond its presence on a plate, or in a can. The point here is that no self-respecting foodie would even consider eating chicken from a can. And yes, such an atrocity does exist.  In general canned goods are a last resort when convenience is your only saving grace.

canned chicken

WTF? Yup, that’s what I thought.

5. You automatically go for the cheapest meal on the menu, portion-to-price considered

No one is saying that you should order a side of sturgeon caviar to go a top a saffron-infused fillet of blue-fin tuna, but if your eyes instantly wander to that $1.29 sandwich just because it’s the lowest figure on the menu or that mega portion of pasta that could feed an army then you’ve lost even more foodie points that you thought. Foodies understand they may need to dish more dime for the care and complexity put in to create a worthwhile dish.

6. You need the waiter to explain your meal 

A foodie on a bad day knows more about the dish they are about to order than madam waitress herself, even if he/she is having said dish for the first time. On a good day you can find even the humblest of foodies cordially correcting ill-trained restaurant staff and suggesting how improvements can be made.

7. The most prized possession in your pantry is that pepper grinder you got, on sale

Sorry if I crush any dreams but there really isn’t anything too glorious about that pepper grinder you whip out in an attempt to impress your friends when they come over. Nor is that pack of smoked marlin any more of a star item. If you aren’t on a constant journey to source some of the most unique ingredients you’ve identified during deconstructing your favourite restaurant meals then you’re really just a regular Joe, who just loves to eat.

So  from this point forward I’d like us to be a bit more prudent in identifying oneself as a foodie. It’s a bit (a whole lot) more than just one who loves eating food.

Stay hungry,

SC

Cooking Guide For Veggie-Lovers (Infographic, Adapted)

Veggies [should always be] welcomed in one’s diet. But knowing the proper way to cook them may cause trepidation towards these innocent ingredients. Luckily enough, the kind-hearts at Domestic Superhero have come up with a quick cheat sheet that will eliminate the guesswork and allow you more time to enjoy some of the most popular vegetables.

 

VeggieCookingInfographic

 

Most veggies are best enjoyed when roasted, as roasting naturally enhances their flavour and has the added benefit of avoiding nutrient loss that may occur during boiling. It’s always good to coat with a little (olive) oil so as to reduce water loss during roasting and maintain moist, evenly cooked veggies. This is especially important for potatoes and sweet potatoes. Steaming is also a great option and much preferred to boiling , so grab an in expensive steaming basket when next you visit the store.

There are many recipes out there but some of the simplest include tossing your vegetables in olive oil, S&P, lime/lemon juice, and topping with your favourite herbs. A good home-made vinaigrette is always a good choice. Have fun with it.

One love,

SC.

All Hail the Kale, Queen of the Greens!

curly kaleThere has been much chatter about kale. A form of cabbage with green or purple leaves, this nutritional powerhouse has much to boast about, and it makes no excuses. After a recent post incorporating kale into a smoothie, I decided to pay this leafy vegetable some overdue attention and dig deeper into its hidden secrets. And boy was I impressed! I’ve always heard about kale in many of my hours spent being hypnotized by Cooking Channel or Food Network, but never thought that kale would be available yet affordable in Jamaica. I was even more shocked when I found out that a friend of mine’s dad grew kale in his back yard in the country. 

Varieties

Also known as borecole, kale is available in curly, ornamental, or dinosaur varieties, and is hands down one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. The beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.

Curly kale has ruffled leaves and a fibrous stalk and is usually deep green in color. It has a lively pungent flavor with delicious bitter peppery qualities.

Ornamental kale is a more recently cultivated species that is oftentimes referred to as salad savoy. Its leaves may either be green, white, or purple and its stalks coalesce to form a loosely knit head. Ornamental kale has a more mellow flavor and tender texture.

Dinosaur kale is the common name for the kale variety known as Lacinato or Tuscan kale. It features dark blue-green leaves that have an embossed texture. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than curly kale.

Health Benefits

So, what really is all the hype about? Let’s see (adapted from MindBodyGreen.com)

1. Kale is low in calorie, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with so many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium as well as those listed below.

2. Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.

3. Kale is high in Vitamin K. Eating a diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers. It is also necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions including normal bone health and the prevention of blood clotting. Also increased levels of vitamin K can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids help protect against various cancers.

5. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.

6. Kale is great for cardiovascular support. Eating more kale can help lower cholesterol levels.

7. Kale is high in Vitamin A.Vitamin A is great for your vision, your skin as well as helping to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.

8. Kale is high in Vitamin C. This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism and your hydration.

9. Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility

10. Kale is a great detox food. Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.

Whew, that’s a pretty big shoe to fill! For those of  you thinking about incorporating kale into your diets, here are a few suggestions:
Selecting and Storing

Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems. Kale should be displayed in a cool environment since warm temperatures will cause it to wilt and will negatively affect its flavor. The leaves should look fresh, be unwilted, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes. Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves since these will be more tender and have a more mild flavor than those with larger leaves. Kale is available throughout the year, although it is more widely available, and at its peak, from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring.

To store, place kale in a plastic storage bag removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store in the refrigerator where it will keep for 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Do not wash kale before storing because exposure to water encourages spoilage.

Preparation Tips

Rinse kale leaves under cold running water. Chop leaf portion into ½” slices and the stems into ¼” lengths for quick and even cooking.

To get the most health benefits from kale, let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit can further enhance its beneficial phytonutrient concentration.

NB: For maximum flavour and nutrition, kale is better steamed. Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a rapid boil chop greens. Steam for 5 minutes and toss with your choice of dressing and optional ingredients. 

I am excited to see what new recipe ideas I will come up with. I’ll be sure to post them so check back regularly. In the meanwhile, you can check here for some amazing recipes (images below) or scour the internet at your own will.

One love,

SC