Olive Studded Greek Lasagna

26 08 2011

Do you like lasagna? I do, but when you’re making meals for one, it doesn’t really make sense to make a whole pan of it.

But, I knew my boyfriend would be in town this week, so it was a perfect excuse to make some. And, if I made it at the beginning of the week, it meant that we’d have meals for the remainder of the week, and we could spend our time together doing things other than cooking…like watching lots and lots of Dexter, my new favorite show.

On one of his other visits, we made a vegetarian lasagna,

but I wanted to put a little twist on it this time. I was thinking something Greek inspired, since I had some fresh eggplant from my CSA box and I made some of Mama Pea’s Mediterranean Lentil Meatballs from her new cookbook. By the way, Mama Pea’s cookbook is AMAZING! I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but she has some absolutely outstanding recipes in it, the lentil meatballs being one! I would HIGHLY recommend getting the book, or at least checking out her blog!

I built upon the “Mediterranean” theme by swapping feta cheese for the mozzarella and parmesan, and I threw in some chopped kalamata olives and sun dried tomatoes. This lasagna turned out even better than the original! If you’ve got a craving for some lasagna, make this instead of your traditional Italian lasagna! you will not be disappointed!

Olive Studded Greek Lasagna

Ingredients:

2 small-medium eggplants
1 bag of spinach
3-4 (or more) of Mama Pea’s Mediterranean Lentil Meatballs
1/4 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup roughly chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 jar of tomato sauce (I used half homemade sauce and half canned)
1/2 lb uncooked lasagna noodles (1 box)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil

How to:

Slice the eggplant into 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick slices. Lay out on paper towels, sprinkle salt on top, and allow them to dehydrate for 15-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook the pasta noodles, following the instructions on the box.

After the eggplant has been out for about 30 minutes, pat the slices dry, and cook. You can drizzle olive oil on them and bake it in the oven at 400º for about 15 minutes, or lay them on the grill for a few minutes each side. (I did a combination of both to save time.)

While the eggplant is cooking, make the cheese mixture, stirring together the eggs and about 3/4 cup feta cheese. Set aside.

When the eggplant is done cooking and the noodles are all boiled, you can assemble your lasagna.

In a lasagna pan, pour a few table spoons of sauce. Then put one layer of noodles. Next, pour on a layer of the cheese mixture, spinach, eggplant, olives, sun dried tomatoes, crumbled meatballs, and then more sauce. Add a layer of noodles and repeat the layers of filling.

Top the lasagna with the remaining sauce, cheese mixture, and 1/4 cup of feta cheese.

Turn down the oven to 350°. Cover the lasagna in foil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover, and let it sit for 10 minutes before eating.

ENJOY!

Question of the day: What’s your favorite Greek/Mediterranean meal?





{Guest Post} Crazy Sleep Patterns: Is 8 Hours Really Necessary?

25 08 2011

Hello 321delish readers. Today we have a special guest post from Jason Bahamundi, a successful runner and triathlete, Ironman in the making and one of the most knowledgeable individuals I know regarding endurance sports and nutrition.

He blogs over at Cook Train Eat Race and we are excited to have him make a guest appearance on 321delish today.

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Sleep…Is 8 Hours Really Necessary?

Before I delve into the topic of sleep and more specifically sleep for the endurance athlete I want to thank Chloe for asking me to write this guest post.  I am truly honored to be featured on 321Delish.com as both Steph and Chloe are terrific people who put out great information. So now…onto my post!

Is 8 hours really necessary?  Maybe more or maybe less?  Why am I even approaching this topic you might be asking yourself, so let me give you a little bit of background about me.

I take my training and racing seriously.  I am focused on becoming a better triathlete on a daily basis and it was through this that I started to wake up at 3am to eat breakfast and drink some coffee then fall back asleep for an hour prior to training around 5am.

When I talk about the 3am wake up call I typically get a response of:  You are crazy! (You’re thinking the same thing right now aren’t you?)  Or the other response I get and typically through Twitter is:  Do you EVER sleep? (Yes, I do and I sleep as much as the next person I just have a different pattern.)

My patter consists of resting (and I mean purely resting on the couch) starting around 8pm and not moving.  My body is in a state of relaxation and is recovering from the morning workout and day full of work activities.  I get in bed by 9pm and begin to fall asleep around 930p (If I haven’t fallen asleep on the couch already – told you I am in a state of complete relaxation.)  I then wake up at 3am and eat, drink and tweet and fall back asleep between 330a and 345a.  I then wake up at 445a and am out the door to start my training by 5a.

So you can see from this scenario that I sleep anywhere from 7 hours to 8 hours, I just don’t get it the way most people do and I bet that I probably get more than most people.

I have read articles from back in 2007 that there was no direct study linking sleep to athletic performance but just extrapolations.  Obviously this would do us no good because you cannot extrapolate the damage that an endurance athlete does to their body during their training cycle compared to the average person who is exercising for 5-6 hours and probably not at the intensity level of marathon or triathlon training.

Since 2007 there have been other studies done and the most recent one I found included testing young males (18-27) based on three different sleep cycles.  They were asked to sleep for 8 hours in one week, then 4 hours in another and finally 12 hours in another.  The 4 hours was the sleep deprivation cycle and was used to compare against the other two cycles.

The interesting part of this study, for me, is that the sleep deprivation was linked to metabolizing glucose less efficiently in addition to the fact that levels of cortisol were higher.

The glucose levels for the group were no longer normal during the sleep deprivation week and resembled those found in the elderly.  Since we know that glucose and glycogen (stored glucose) are the energy sources behind the ability of an endurance athlete to perform one can conclude that getting enough sleep is very important.

What the study doesn’t address is how much sleep is enough?  I don’t know that getting 8 hours is perfect but I do know that getting 4 hours is not enough and not just because of the glycogen stores, but because your mind is not in the game.

You have a tendency to lose focus with sleep deprivation and this is caused by the increase in cortisol.  If your mind is not focused then the task at hand is going to be more and more difficult to perform.  Think about your best race and how well you slept the night before and think about your worst race and how you slept the night before.

I am comfortable with the amount of sleep that I get because I very rarely feel tired during the day and so for me my schedule works.  You may need 8 or 10 or 12 hours of sleep to get your performance to be at its peak.  Just like eating and training there are going to be different responses for everybody but there are rules of thumb and I will go out on a limb and say you should sleep more than 4 hours per night.

Question of the Day: How much sleep do you get?  Do you nap?  Do you feel more hungry on days when you do not sleep well?





So You Wanna Be A Triathlete?

24 08 2011

Well that was some excitement for the week. I’m talking about that little earthquake the entire east coast felt yesterday! It was fascinating to see the power of social media as my Twitter feed was overloaded with messages about the tremors.

Yea, it was a bit crazy because earthquakes are something that the east coast so RARELY experiences. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much damage in my area! I hope you are all ok!

***And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post. ***

Since starting 321delish, Chloe and I have had a number of people tell us that they really want to get into triathlons. This is no surprise, with the ever-increasing popularity of the sport. USA Triathlon reports that participation in triathlon is at its all-time high. In 2010, an estimated 2.3 million individuals completed a triathlon, according to a report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. This is a 55% increase in one year! 55%!!!

Some of the people we talk to are runners, some are cyclists, some are swimmers, and some are just normal, active people. Many of them say, “So I can (fill in activity here), and I want to get into tris. What do I do?”

Though I’m not an expert at this, here are a few tips for people who are interested in getting into the sport.

1) Sign up for a race

I say this as the first thing to do, because it gives you something to work towards. Putting a date on the calendar is that first kick to get you started, because you know that you need to be as ready as you can by that date.


I would recommend signing up for a sprint triathlon as your first race, but you know your body and how hard you can/want to push it. Need some help finding a race? Check out Chloe’s post on race-finding tools.

Overwhelmed by the number of races? Consider the following when picking your first race:

a) Cost-Triathlons are EXPENSIVE! I would suggest looking for local, small races. You won’t hurt your wallet too much and the smaller races aren’t as intimidating.

b) Location– Where will you race? How long will it take to get there (and how much will it cost to get you and your bike there?) Will you need lodging? Again, I’m a fan of local races, or races in locations where I have a free place to crash. Yay races in South Jersey.

Or, if you’re up for it, make it a vacation that kicks off with a tri, and ends with you relaxing on the beach somewhere. Laurens doing Ironman Cozumel…I’d go to Cozumel but without the Ironman part;-)

source

c) Course– If you aren’t a strong swimmer, consider doing a tri with a pool swim, instead of an open water swim for your first tri. If you excel at riding hills, find a race with a hilly course.

d) Date/Time of year-There is no one-size fits all time frame for how long it takes to train for a tri. It really depends on where you’re starting from athletically, and what distance your race will be. Then, you can backwards plan your training. Be aware that triathlons require a decent chunk of time to train, so plan around your life accordingly 🙂 Also, think about when in the season you want to race- do you want a race in the spring, and train over the winter? Or do you want a late summer/fall race, and do the bulk of your training in the summer?

Whatever race you choose, just get one on the calendar. When you receive the “Thank you for registering” email, that’s when it becomes real.

2) If you’re already working out regularly-keep doing it! If you’re not, get started!

I personally don’t follow a training plan, but I did for my first tri, so I have a sense of how much running, biking and swimming I should be doing when I have a race coming up. I did my first tri with Team In Training, which provided me with coaching, a training plan, and of course training buddies! I highly recommend joining some kind of swimming, biking, running, or tri team if you thrive on training with others. Or, use the power of social media to find #triathletes in your area. They are great motivators.

And margarita drinking buddies:

If you’re going to go solo, do a little research and find a training plan. Here are some sites where you can download one:

Beginner Triathlete
Active.com
Tri Newbies

3) Make sure you have the basic gear

You DON’T need to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money on the lightest bike out there or the latest wetsuit design. All that stuff is expensive, and not necessary for beginners. Heck, its not even necessary for dedicated age-groupers. Just get the basics, and if you really get into triathlons (or win the lottery), you can get some of the fancy schmancy stuff that the pros use.

For me, here are the bare necessities:

Swim:

Swim suit (train in this, but I don’t recommend it for your race)
Cap (they usually provide you with one at the race site, but you’ll need one to train in if you’ve got long hair)
Goggles
Wet suit (Only if you plan on racing in cold water)

Bike:

Bicycle
Helmet
Bike shorts (Again, for training, not for the race)

Run:

Running sneakers
Workout clothes

Triathlon Specific gear:

I recommend getting tri shorts and a tri top. Not necessary for your first race, but you’ll be WAY more comfortable and have faster transitions than if you race in your swim suit and shorts!

4) Go have fun!

It’s your first race! Grab some friends early risers to come cheer you on. Enjoy participating in a competition with others who have dedicated just as many hours as you have. Feel that sense of accomplishment for doing something challenging, and persevere to the end! It will feel amazing to cross that finish line!

Philly, 2008: my first tri

Question of the day: Are you thinking of doing a triathlon? What’s holding you back? OR What suggestions do you have for newbie triathletes?