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Healthy Solutions Spaghetti and Fried Ravioli

This recipe can be made with or without the ravioli entree, but after a heavy activity day  it’s super filling and the ravioli feels like a special treat! You can also just make the spaghetti and top it with an entree to save time. I will sometimes batch cook the spaghetti and portion it out to use over the course of a week – sometimes making it with the ravioli, sometimes eating alone, and sometimes topping with another HMR entree like the penne or lasagna.

NOTE: There is no salt/sodium in the spaghetti without the HMR entree sauce added, so if you are having it by itself, you may want to add some salt to amp up the flavor.

Fried Ravioli

  • HMR Ravioli Entree

You will need an air-fryer for this part of the recipe. You could also bake the ravioli or pan fry it if you want. It’s relatively simple! Just scrape the sauce off the ravioli (save it for the spaghetti) and place the ravioli in a single layer in the air-fryer. Cook for 10 minutes at 390 degrees, flipping over once during the cooking process.

Healthy Solutions Spaghetti

Heat a large frying pan to medium-high heat. You may want to use a quick spritz of cooking spray depending on the pan you have chosen (you can also just occasionally sprinkle water as you cook to keep things from sticking).

Cook the onions for several minutes in the hot pan, stirring frequently, until the onions start to soften and start to become translucent. Add the spaghetti squash and Penzey’s spices. Stir to combine and cook for another two minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine, cook for one more minute. Finally, add the sauce from the raviolis and stir, cooking for approximately one more minute.

Enjoy the spaghetti with the raviolis on top or on the side. You end up with 4 cups of vegetables and an entree as your incredibly filling meal.

Savory HMR Porridge

When you have been enjoying HMR meals for over four years (yes I used them in Phase Two and Phase One) and nine of those months were an exclusive relationship (Decision Free), sometimes you try out some combinations that don’t necessarily sound appealing to the causal observer.

I have said before that I never post a recipe in this blog that I haven’t tried several times to ensure it’s reasonably accurate and worth sharing. Well today’s post is a recipe I have been making for years but is just strange enough I haven’t shared because I know it’s going to sound odd to almost everyone. But I finally had to confess to my secret love for savory porridge.

Traveling and exploring different cultures through food meant this concept was not new to me. I have had savory porridges in a number of countries. However this unique combination of HMR food puts a special spin on this dish.

Savory HMR Pudding

  • HMR Oatmeal (I pick out the biggest chunks of fruit)
  • HMR Soup
  • 2 tbsp Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • HMR BBQ Chicken Entree (I chop up the chicken into little pieces)

Mix oatmeal and soup together in a large microwave safe bowl. Add in wing sauce and water and stir until it all mixes together. Microwave for 3 minutes.

When you remove from microwave, the porridge will have thickened but upon stirring you will still find it is oatmeal-like in consistency. Add in the BBQ chicken entree (yes the whole shebang) and stir. Microwave for another 90 seconds.

Remove from microwave and enjoy. Warning it will be hot!

You can microwave for longer to thicken the porridge into almost a savory bread. You can also add more water initially if you want a soupier consistency. I have found the measurements above to be perfect for the consistency I enjoy which is a thick savory porridge with a little heat from the wing sauce, sweet from the bbq sauce and tiny bits of fruit, salty and almost a little cheesy from the soup.

This dish sticks inside of me and keeps me full for hours. I will often eat it the night before a big run or eat it right before heading off to a social event as I know it will fuel me and keep me away from temptations for hours.

Let me know if you try this and what you think! Or if you have your own HMR savory porridge recipe!

When you just can’t ignore the sweet tooth

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in our house and through it all, I’ve fought to stay in my Healthy Solutions Box (aside from when I had Strep last week and could barely get down water, forget a veggie or entree!). I know it’s been rough because my fruit consumption has drastically increased over my veggies, as I’ve been choosing berries over broccoli in my emotion-clouded mood. Don’t get me wrong, I know fruit is awesome and it’s not a terrible choice. But I also recognize I just wanted something sweet because I associate sweet with happier times.

With one shake left to get in my minimum prescription tonight, I opted to have a special treat saved only for that rare moment when I need an extra kick to keep me in the box. And yes I call Benefit Bars “candy bars” – because it helps to remind me they are a “sometimes food” – a tool but more energy dense and addicting than other HMR foods.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy Bar Pudding

  • HMR 70 chocolate shake packet
  • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp PB2
  • 1 tbsp Torani sugar-free salted caramel syrup
  • 2-3 oz cold water
  • HMR peanut butter Benefit bar

Mix the shake, cocoa and PB2 together in a bowl. Add syrup and slowly add cold water. The amount of water is a personal decision depending on how thick you want the pudding. Normal HMR pudding is 2oz but with the additional dry ingredients it can be more like a dough.

Place in freezer to expedite the thickening. While it chills, chopped up Benefit bar. Mix into pudding. I actually throw the bowl back into the freezer so I end up with a pretty solid pudding with frozen chunks of candy bar.

This is a more caloric way of enjoying your HMR foods – so I don’t have it often. However it is an easy and relatively quick way to prepare a sweet treat when you need something special.

HMR Healthy Solutions Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Bars

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A couple of weeks ago I went camping and trail running – all while staying in the HMR Program Healthy Solutions Box. However I had to plan ahead and prepare foods that would be supportive of both the HMR program, but also of the endurance activities I would be participating in. With no way to heat up my normal oatmeal in the morning, I got creative!

These bars are a higher calorie food that are relatively compact in nature. While I wouldn’t make them every day, it was a method of combining foods I use to fuel before long runs in a portable manner. My normal oatmeal with a tbsp of PB2 and a side of banana would have been much higher in volume, and I honestly wouldn’t have had the shake because I would have already been full. However this worked for me for fueling for the trail half and also gave me some additional snacks to enjoy during the weekend when other people were recovering with bagels and beer.

HMR Healthy Solutions Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Bars

  • 1 HMR Oatmeal
  • 1 HMR 70 Chocolate Shake
  • 1 tbsp PB2
  • 1 tbsp Fat-Free Sugar-Free Banana Pudding Mix
  • 1 small ripe banana
  • 4 ounces water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mash the banana in a mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients to it. Slowly add the water in until you get a cookie dough consistency (you may not need all of the water depending on the size and ripeness of the banana – both of which will impact overall moisture of the batter).

Scoop out dough on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat. I shaped the dough like bars, but you could easily just put scoops out and end up with cookies.

Bake for 15-20 minutes (will depend on your oven calibration and moisture content of your dough) until your bars are baked through. They may still be slightly soft on the underside, but I found flipping them on to a paper towel will allow them to cool while the steam escapes. Leaving them on the hot pan could cause textural issues as the steam tries to escape and is trapped.

One recipe made 4 bars. I doubled the batch for the weekend I went camping and it was plenty for fueling and recovery (it was super delicious to pair a bar with a shaken HMR chocolate shake over ice post-run).

Celebrating 4/20 the HMR Healthy Solutions Way!

Did you know April 20th was a day recognized around the country as a very special day? It’s true! On 4/20, people around the country gather together to recognize National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day!

What better way to celebrate than with an HMR muffin! These won’t quite replicate the cake itself (but to be honest I have forgotten what that cake tastes like), however reading through a number of recipes and descriptors, I have crafted what I think is pretty darn tasty.

I have to thank one of my HMR Program classmates who mentioned making muffins with canned pineapple for the inspiration behind this recipe. (She also recommended what our class calls “The Rosé” – a double entree mixing the Penne and Alfredo – SO GOOD) I LOVE being inspired by my classmates – their stories and experiences motivate me going into rough weeks as I reflect on the lessons I have learned from them.

HMR Pineapple Muffins

  • HMR Oatmeal packet
  • HMR 70 Vanilla packet
  • 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple in it’s own juice
  • 1 tsp rum extract
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 pumps Torani Sugar-Free Coconut Syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your baking tins. I use a silicone mini muffin tin which expedites cooking time while making it easy for quick release – I also use a quick spritz of cooking spray in the tin before filling it with batter – this also helps with release of the baked muffins.

Mix all of the ingredients together. Fill batter tins. It’s really that easy. The liquids from the pineapple, extract, and syrup are enough to moisten the batter. If you don’t like rum and coconut extract you could easily sub those out. I’m thinking the brown sugar syrup and vanilla extract might be nice as well. Or a brandy extract and a cherry syrup. I was going for a bit of tropical flair after being inspired by my classmate, but the possibilities are endless!

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the tops of the muffins have browned. Then pop them out of the muffin tins to cool. Your baking time may vary based on oven calibration and muffin tins used.

 

Coastal Redwoods Trailfest Recap – A review of an amazing weekend!

I love being out in nature. However I am also a klutz of major proportions. My friends suggest I should be wrapped in bubble wrap considering how often I get injured. This combination makes for an interesting challenge when examining my joy of trail-running. I love running on trails, but I usually end up falling on trails. In fact, this was what led to my first DNF (did not finish) last August, when I injured myself before the mile 11 aid station at Pacific Coast Trail Runs The Ridge, the last trail race I attempted. And prior to The Ridge, I had only been running trails for fun and for training, with the exception of a few New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day races put on by Brazen Racing.

However, when I heard about Vacation Races Trailfest, being held just close enough to home to be an easy travel experience, and there was a contest to win an entry to one of the weekend’s races, I had to enter. Camping, yoga, speakers, AND trail runs? Sign me up!  I had never heard about this event prior to a race ambassador’s post on Facebook and probably never would have been able to afford to sign-up by the time I found out (costs typically rise for race registration as you get closer to the event) – but luckily I won the entry and signed myself up for the Saturday race.

This event runs from Wednesday to Sunday, with registration on Wednesday, races on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and then checking out and heading home on Sunday. There were a variety of events scheduled throughout the week as well in addition to the runs, from yoga to speakers to massages! You could arrive at any point during the week, but I went straight after work to register and set-up my tent (I wanted to stake out a good spot) before I came back down to the valley for my HMR class. For those people who may not own a tent (or who just don’t want to travel with one and set it up), the festival offered free tents already set-up, or you could pay a small fee for a bed in a bunkhouse (or a little more for a private room). But I wanted to embrace the full trail experience, so I opted to do it all myself.

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Grading papers while looking at some of the provided tents!

The registration fee also includes meals. Since I was signed up for Saturday’s run, my dinner on Friday and Saturday nights were included as well as breakfast on Saturday morning. I had brought most of my own food but did eat the steamed and fresh vegetables at dinner both nights as well as enjoyed the fresh fruit in the morning.

When I came back to the festival on Friday, I was admittedly nervous. I have some social anxiety, and showing up a couple days late and all alone to a community-oriented event had me a little on edge. But everyone was very friendly from Amanda, the race ambassador whom I had won the entry from, to the runners I met at the various meals and events.

On Friday night we got the opportunity to meet Sarah Lavender Smith as well as to hear her read from her new book “The Trail Runner’s Companion” – I bought a copy and have already started to read it – I’d recommend picking up a copy! She also answered questions from the audience about trail running, ultra running, injuries, and her own experiences. It was inspiring and grounding at the same time.

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Sarah Lavender Smith reading from her new book!

The next morning was the race itself, through Pescadero Creek County Park – a 13.7 mile adventure with an elevation gain of 2700 feet – looking at the elevation map, there was never going to be a real “flat” stretch.

The race had a rolling start (aka roll out of bed, roll down to the starting line, and start somewhere during this window of time) which made for a relaxing and fun feel at the starting line. It also meant there weren’t a couple hundred people all hitting the trail at once, a respectful way to treat the course itself and it also allowed runners to be spaced out as we sorted ourselves in the first mile or two before setting into the real climbs.

River Crossing!

River Crossing!

In talking to my running coach, I knew I was going out to have fun. This wasn’t a race for me, just a fun run and hike through the redwood trees. I would run when I could, walk when I needed to, and while I admittedly paid some attention to time (I didn’t want to miss a cut-off), I never really looked at my pacing outside of those mileage beeps on the Garmin letting me know my pace of the previous mile. In my head, I needed to keep it around a 20 minute mile to stay under any cut-off. In reality the race organizers knew this was the third day of racing for most of the participants and the course was kept open much longer, so I knew going into the race if I needed the extra time I could take it and so I didn’t speed myself up, I just played by feel.

This stump was taller than me!

Anyone who has been following my running journey probably already knows I was plagued with injuries in 2016 and 2017. I am a regular at my physical therapist’s office (shout-out to Garrett who is AMAZING), bringing him a new injury every few months. But suffering my concussion in November forced my whole body to rest, so while I was hesitant to flare old injuries like my Achilles tendinitis, I also was willing to take some risks I had been avoiding before, like running the inclines when I could instead of forcing myself to walk.

And there were a LOT of inclines! So I ran when I could and I walked when I needed to. And that mile 6 stretch to the aid station at 7.2 was all walking. I could hear the aid station long before I could see the top of the hill. And when I hit flat ground and started to run into the staging area for the aid station, a volunteer cheering looked at me and asked “Let me guess, mile 6?” and I laughed and nodded. I could only imagine what I looked like after that climb.

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Speaking of aid stations, this aid station was FANTASTIC. The volunteers were so helpful, offering to fill water bottles while runners fueled, as well as any additional assistance runners needed. The fuel options could be described as a “spread” from the liquid fuel Gnarly to various snacks including fresh cut fruit as well as potatoes (with salt to dip them in!). I brought my own electrolyte I had trained with (Nuun) so a volunteer refilled my bottles with water while I ate two pieces of potato I dipped in salt. Seriously the best thing ever at the top of a mountain!

For anyone reading who is following the HMR program, these potatoes were fantastic! I also carried with me a variety of baby food pouches that were all fruits or fruits and sweet potato combinations (every pack had between 40 and 90 calories and 2g or less of fiber – most with only 1g). I had a baby food pouch about every 45 or so minutes (tucking the empty pouches back into my OrangeMud pack).

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Then it was back down the mountain and into the woods again. Did I mention the mud and downed trees yet? It had rained on Wednesday night, and although the trails were drier than they had been in the previous days, there were still slick mud pits to get through and trees to climb over and under. It was a fun, but scary, obstacle course for the accident-prone runner. I had a few moments where I had to stop and evaluate the route to pick the best option given some of the communication limitations I am still experiencing between my brain, ears, and eyes after the concussion.

As I hit the portion of the trail that was the out-and-back, I knew the end was near. It was just up one more small climb and through camp to the finish line, where I teared up as my wooden carved medal was placed around my neck. This finish meant a lot to me. It meant I successfully navigated a trail without injury. My brain and body appeared to be functioning well. And I got past mental blocks that had hindered my ability to listen to my body. I enjoyed being out of the trail more than I could explain. And while my body isn’t conditioned enough yet to travel many more miles, my mind could have been out on those trails exploring for a lot longer.

Celebrating my finish with Vacation Races Ambassador Amanda!

The finish line at Trailfest included fresh fruit, sports drink, chocolate milk, and snack boxes full of healthy refueling options like nut butter and trail mix. I personally enjoyed a banana and an HMR chocolate shake for recovery before stretching and rolling and relaxing. I took advantage of the complimentary massage, I enjoyed some yoga, and I relaxed in the woods before packing up my belongings (I had responsibilities at home that prevented me from staying the final night).

The last activity I got the opportunity to enjoy during Trailfest was the final speaker, Dean Karnazes, an ultra marathoner who is local to the Bay Area but is known worldwide for the mileage he travels on his runs. He told us about his he started running on his 30th birthday, about the history of the marathon (interwoven with stories from his running experiences), and then answered questions from the audience. While I enjoyed that he likes to “run a marathon before breakfast” – it was some of his other responses that left me thinking. From his day-to-day routine (he doesn’t sit down) to his views on suffering (we have become so comfortable in our daily lives that we are miserable – find joy in the suffering), I made some mental notes on my own embracement of suffering and finding opportunities to get a little uncomfortable to improve myself (I am standing as I write this).

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Dean Karnazes speaking on Saturday night!

Overall, this weekend was a fantastic experience and one I hope to partake in again. While the initial fees were high, they included a lot – from camping to meals to a shirt AND a zippered hoodie, not to mention the race and the snacks and the medal (and if you completed all three races you also got a beautiful pocket knife). Well worth the price (plus you could bring friends and family to enjoy many of the weekend activities at no additional cost!). And if you volunteer at a Vacation Race event, you can earn credit toward their races (as can your friends and family – the credits are transferrable!) – which makes it an even more affordable experience.

Now to get back to my regularly scheduled training (I’m signed up to tackle The Ridge again!) while embracing the positive energy and lessons I gained from my experiences this weekend!

Beet & Bean Burgers – Camping on HMR Healthy Solutions

This weekend I am stepping out of my comfort zone and going to a weekend trail-running festival. I’ll be attending alone, and will be surrounded by a community of runners. I am a ball of nervous excitement with dashes of social anxiety.

It will also mean a lot of calories being torched as we run 14ish miles with 2700+ feet of elevation gained, in addition we will do yoga and hiking. But the festival provides food all weekend, most of which is outside of my HMR Healthy Solutions Box.

My box is my safety net. And to reduce my anxiety, to settle my nerves, I did a lot of meal preparation and recipe testing. This is what I plan to enjoy when the menu is burgers on Saturday night!

I read several dozen recipes to create this Healthy Solutions Beet & Bean burger that is delicious but is also transportable and can be tossed on a grill or eaten cold.

I made it earlier this week and grilled up some of the patties after refrigerating them overnight. Then I topped them with fresh basil and chopped tomato to create bruschetta burgers!

I make smaller slider patties because they cook quicker and can be easily eaten with a lettuce “bun” – I haven’t tried full size patties but will warn you may want to lower the temperature in the oven and cook significantly longer to allow the burger to cook through (otherwise it will be soggy in the middle).

You will find photo step-by-step below. Also note you could sub out a different beet. Might change up the color and flavor a bit but I know beets can vary region to region.

Beet & Bean Burgers

  • 2 medium-large golden beets pre-roasted (I just wrapped them in foil and baked them earlier in the week when roasting vegetables) and cooled
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 3 tablespoons aquafaba (the liquid from the canned garbanzo beans)
  • 1 tablespoon Pasta Sprinkles (you can use a general Italian seasoning – I happen to love this blend of herbs and garlic – just avoid blends with added salt – the soup is salty enough)
  • 1 HMR Chicken Soup

Preheat oven to 375.

Using a food processor, grind up beets and beans into a coarse riced texture. Scrape down sides. Add pasta sprinkles seasoning and aquafaba.

Process for several more minutes until you have a paste-like substance. Then scoop out into patties on a cookie sheet covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper, sprayed with a small light cooking spray mist (I use a biscuit circle to create the shape – but it’s not necessary).

Bake for 25 minutes. Flip over (be careful they are still soft!). Bake for an additional 25 minutes. Remove and let cool on a rack or paper towel.