Tasty Tumeric

As published in Triathlete Magazine 2012


Tumeric is a root from the ginger family. The rhizomes have a ginger-pepper flavor which is used to flavor curry powder, prepared mustard, dressing, cheeses and butter.  This is the spice that lends the bright yellow/orange color to many different curry powders.

Tumeric has been employed in nutritional medicine for centuries.  The active phytochemical in turmeric is curcumin, which has antioxidant properties that prevent the formation of, and neutralize existing, free radicals.  Studies have shown that curcumin can inhibit molecules in the body that trigger the inflammation response.  Reducing inflammation will aid in the recovery and regeneration of tissue, which is the main goal after your training.  One potentially negative effect of curcumin is that it stimulates bile secretion and acts as a blood-thinner, so those with biliarly tract obstruction or taking an anticoagulant for blood clots would want to avoid this spice.

Enlisting the anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin can be delicious.  The most common use of this spice is as the main character in curried meals.  One of my favorites is curried lentil soup.  I add heaping piles of kale to this soup to really increase the health benefit but you can omit this portion of the recipe if you prefer a more traditional (and far less green) lentil soup or substitute another green, leafy vegetable you might prefer.  Enjoy!

Curried Lentil Soup  

·        8 cups water

·        1 tbsp coconut oil

·        3 cups red lentils (rinse repeatedly then drain water in a strainer)

·        1.5 tsp kosher salt

·        3 cans coconut milk


·        1 tbsp coconut oil

·        1 large onion, diced

·        2 cloves garlic, minced

·        4 tsp fresh ginger, minced

·        3 tsp ground turmeric

·        2 tsp ground coriander

·        2 tsp roasted cumin seeds

·        One large bunch of kale, washed and chopped


Combine the water, coconut oil, lentils and salt into a large pot.  Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and continue to simmer gently.

Heat a dry frying pan over high heat.  Add cumin seeds and roast for 2-3 minutes until they start to smell fragrant.  Remove and crush in a mortar and pestle then add to the soup (if you don’t have a mortar and pestle the seeds themselves are still tasty added directly to the soup.)

Add another tablespoon of coconut oil to the warmed frying pan (you don’t need to wash it after the cumin), melt the oil and add the diced onion.  Sweat the onions for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat and add the rest of the garlic and spices to the pan.  Cook until the onions are brown then put the entire contents of the pan into the soup. 

Add the chopped kale.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!





Chainani-wu N. Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: A Component of Tumeric (Curcuma longa). 2003. The J of Alt and Comp Med 9(1):161-8 

Gunner Shaw and Pumpkin Cupcakes


This fall season has found me uncharacteristically motivated to do some training.  Not a LOT of training… but some.  No swimming of course. I save my big comeback for swimming for December.  Actually, I am a liar.  I do 3x3km/week even right now because I can’t stand needing a full month of training just to start training to improve.  9km of swimming is 1/3 or less than what I actually need to do personally to improve my swimming so don’t use that as a guide to what you might need but think about it:  how much would allow you to “maintain” some fitness.  I don’t think anyone should do nothing for any period of time.  It is too hard to come back to where you were let alone move forward.  I have taken a step back with regard to improving my swimming or my cycling but I am still in touch with both.  I am improving my running, my strength and my squash game right now.  As long as you have a chance to take a break from the rigors of disciplined training there is no reason why “exercising” can’t be fun in the offseason.

I have planned to include the XTERRA Trail Run 21km World Championships this December and prior knowledge of that course leaves me frightened enough to continue moving around in order to not suffer completely in the last miles of that race.  Of course, no matter what those last 3 miles are brutal but a bit of extra training does soften the blow.  I think this little run focus helped me last year to run a bit faster during the season (well, would have helped if I didn’t overdo it in March).  So I will follow a similar plan this winter leading into next year.  This year I have increased my mileage significantly on last year and I think I am a bit pooched from that.  I feel good some days and pretty tired others.  All in all though, feeling pretty good.

I do have some fun news to report in a month or so. Long story short.. I am not quitting racing any time soon.

So my annual participation in Gunner Shaw was a triumphant success although I did have a super battle with Kate and Claire especially in the early stages of the race.  I ran in my AVIA Bolts as those are what I am planning for the XTERRA Run worlds but on icy, frozen ground they totally do not work.  I was really struggling in the technical and downhill sections with no footing at all.  I am running in the trail AVIA Stoltz for Stewart Mountain 10 miler for sure.  The Prairie Inn Harriers won the club challenge thanks in part to my overall win and that of Shane Rujancic who took the overall men’s.  It was a fun day for everyone and if you aren’t doing the Victoria trail race series you need to get into it.  It is a blast to run those trails this time of year.

I am enjoying working with Jon Brown again for a month or two this winter… he makes me laugh and his coaching is helping me to learn a lot about running which is not only to my benefit but also to my athletes’ benefit.  More info on him and his philosophy is at www.runbycommonsense.ca.  I am also having a ton of fun coaching spin sessions at Procity on Thursday nights.  I think there are one or two spots if you are looking for some winter motivation still.

On another note I made quite delicious pumpkin cupcakes for Maia’s birthday.  They are the best birthday flavor for fall ever and I totally suggest giving them a go.  They are not totally unhealthy especially if you leave off the icing so you don’t have to feel totally guilty and pumpkin has loads of vitamins and goodness and cinnamon is good for your heart.  Enjoy!

Mel’s Punkin Cupcakes


Makes 10 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.

2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

4. Spread/pipe the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting.

Maple Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon natural Maple Flavor

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

(inspired by the Barefoot Contessa)

You don’t want cupcakes too big!

Yummy without icing

Cuter with the icing and some gold flakes….





Maia’s London Chef Birthday Party

While I was in Hawaii I was co-organizing a dinner party for my BFF Maia’s 29th birthday (all birthdays from now on are a 29th just FYI) with Christine (www.millefiorispa.com) at The London Chef.  The plan was a private evening of demonstration and interactive cooking at the fabulous teaching kitchen downtown on Fort St.  We had a full complement of 12 food admirers who rolled in for a super fun evening fueled by tasty morsels and vino.

The table was gorgeous!

This chunk of reclaimed wood makes the most amazing table to sit at with all your friends.

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My cupcakes kind of ended up sucking because I couldn’t pipe creamcheese icing.  Pumpkin cupcakes with maple frosting.  Go local Canadian flavor!

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Nothing like a Vanessa Watters rose centerpiece to make a girl feel loved 🙂 (http://www.verbenafloraldesign.ca)  They smelled AMAZING!!

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I have to say it doesn’t hurt that the chef isn’t hard to look at.  The birthday girl and her mentor.

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Lots of fun hanging about before our evening of instruction.  Christine, Carter and Troy.

The space is beautiful with 6 stations to cook at.  With 12 of us we filled the joint.  Here Mike and Paul are contemplating the evening.  Paul looking infinitely more stoked than Mike at this point.

So the evening started with some demonstrations.  We started with a very simple scallop dish, some Spanish tapas, then beef heart and finally chicken livers.  Hmmmmm…..

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Scallops… I am all over that.  Gimme more please.  No you can’t have the platter back.

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Beef heart.  Has the same consistency as octopus.  We had it seared.  Once is enough for this cowgirl.

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Chicken livers in cream sauce.  I like the sauce.  I can take or leave chicken livers (and pate in general) although I did give it a go.

In the future I will continue to throw out all the guts when I am cooking.

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Scott, on the other hand.. was very much enjoying his chicken livers and totally missed the photo moment 🙂  I was back to the wine at this point.  My favorite was the Spanish tapas staple of Catalan toast where we took a warm toasted half of a bagette, rubbed it with tomato insides and garlic then toasted it before topping with Serrano ham.

Second highlight was the bread with the aged Parmesan and onion jam.  I am so making onion jam.  I think I might really just enjoy bread and anything.

So we were then dispatched to cook the main event.  Lobster.

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Tammy was up front and center to learn how to kill a lobster humanely before you eat it.

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I was in charge of preparing our animal because Paul said there was not way he could do it.  I was all over it.

So once we had cut the lobster in half and cleaned it we then chopped it into about 5 pieces and scored the claws. Into warm pan went chopped onion, shallot, garlic, chopped tomato and olive oil. A large pinch of fennel seeds was added and I have to say if I did it again I would also add some chopped fennel bulb to this recipe.  I added a large pinch of red chile peppers, salt and some pepper.  Once all that stuff is cooked some tarragon went in but in the future I would use basil or something else because tarragon is a sucky herb that I don’t really think is any good.  Then in went the lobster, some cream and some freshly chopped parsley.  Add more warminess to the dish and voila!

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Christine and Scott master partners….I went around peeking at everyone else’s pans to see what they were up to.

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Tina and Carter won best executed…

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Maia and Troy won best looking couple…


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Paul pretty proud of the fact he cooked that meal 🙂

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I have to say the magnum of 2003 Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir I dusted off from the cellar for the evening couldn’t have paired nicer with the meal 🙂  Birthday girl approval.

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We like to play with our food.

Cheers!!  Bill (http://trekbikesvictoria.com/about/staff-bios) always has a zoolander pose.. can you spot him?

Love.  🙂

Overlooked Superfood: The Onion

Overlooked Superfood: The Onion

Photo: Jon Davis

Published in Triathlete Magazine and online: Feb 1st 2011 1:26 PM EST by Nutrition

Xterra pro Melanie McQuaid explains the benefits of incorporating onion into your diet.

Written by: Melanie McQuaid

A family of superfoods that is a lesser-known superstar is the allium family. Often considered a flavoring rather than a food, garlic, onions, leeks and chives have potent health-enhancing qualities. These foods enhance the production of glutathione, a tripeptide that serves as an antioxidant for the liver. By helping to eliminate toxins and carcinogens, glutathione puts the allium family on the list of anti-cancer superfoods.

Onions contain calcium, potassium, vitamin C and folate. It is believed that anti-cancer benefits in onions come from the sulfur compounds known as allyl sulfides. In addition, onions contain the flavonoid quercetin which is associated with immune-boosting properties. It is interesting to note that onions and garlic contain a wider variety of health-enhancing sulfur compounds when cooked. There are still many benefits of raw garlic and onions, but this is good news for those who prefer them cooked. However, cooking them longer than 30 minutes can destroy most of the beneficial compounds.

One of the most delicious ways to enjoy onions is to caramelize them. Once cooked, they can be added to salads, sandwiches, pizza or sauces to add a wonderful sweetness and flavor to any recipe. If you shy away from onions because you are afraid of bad breath, eating them this way could change your mind, as caramelized onions will not give you any potent onion aftereffects.


Fillion L, Henry CJ. “Nutrient losses and gains during frying: a review.” Int J Food Sci Nutr, 1998 Mar;49(2):157-68 1998. PMID:18310.

Song K, Milner JA. “The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic.” J Nutr, 2001; 131(3s):1054S-7S 2001.

Whole foods. What they give you that supplements can’t. Mayo Clinic Health Letter 1998 Aug;16(8):7 1998. PMID:17690.

The following recipe is a tasty way to enjoy the health benefits of onion.

Melanie’s Warm Arugula Salad

Photo: Jon Davis

1. Peel and slice two medium onions in uniform thin slices. First cut in half, lay them cut side down on the board and slice thinly along the bulb. It is important to have the pieces nearly the same size.

2. Place pan on the stove over medium heat. Add oil to the pan and continue to allow both the pan and oil to come to temperature. Add the onions. They should sizzle but not splatter. Ensure you have enough oil to come in contact with all of the onions.

3. Stir every 30 seconds or so to ensure all of the onions contact the heat and the oil. Initially, the onions lose all of their water so the onions will reduce in size while the liquid in your pan increases. Then the sugars in the onions start to break down, which causes caramelization. Don’t cook past a dark tan stage; you will risk burning them. As the onions start to brown, turn down the heat a bit to keep them from burning. They should cook 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Place warm onions over a large bowl of arugula, sliced strawberries, feta cheese and pecans. Add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste. Mix, allow greens to wilt slightly and enjoy!

Note: You can use red, white or yellow onions in this recipe, but green onions won’t work. In addition, the white portion of leeks will also caramelize well if you would like to substitute. As members of the allium family, leeks have equal superfood benefits with their own special flavor and are fantastic in soups. Leeks contain vitamin C, vitamin E, and some B vitamins including folate along with the minerals copper, iron and potassium. They contain phytochemicals including saponins, which promote immune system health and can help to lower cholesterol.

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A Three-part Mini Series on Butternut Squash – Part 3

The last recipe in our butternut squash series will likely fool even those most adverse to the squash itself.  Basically, the squash is sliced and roasted before being laid as a layer in a lasagne dish.

The lasagne I make doesn’t really look like the one my mom used to make.  The soggy noodles, mushrooms, and ricotta cheese really made me want to gag when I was younger and I was never really a fan of the dish.  This lasagne is a little different.  I took guidance from a recipe from Jamie Oliver before adding and subtracting to come up with this one.

If you really love goopy cheese in your lasagne, omit some parmesan and add mozzarella.  Although there is some “white” sauce in this recipe, it removes some of the cheese that you might use so I think you end up equal in terms of fat content.  You can use light sour cream mixed with skim milk rather than creme fraiche but the texture will definitely not be the same.  In fact, if you are really adverse to using creme fraiche as a bechamel sauce then I would just do extra layers of meat sauce with some ricotta and call it lasagne.

If you are like me and aren’t adverse to a little bacon, meat and creme fraiche now and again, read on but be forewarned!  This is TIME CONSUMING!!!  Especially if you are making your creme fraiche which I recommend because it is stupidly expensive and hard to find and very, very easy to make.  The creme fraiche needs 48 hours to be good to go.  So here is a schedule for you:

Friday night:  make creme fraiche, leave on counter

Saturday night:  make meat sauce in a double batch, serve half on a bed of braised greens, put the other half and the creme fraiche in the fridge

Sunday night:  assemble and enjoy lasagne!

Read on for the recipes:

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A Three-part Mini Series on Butternut Squash – Part 2

Our second installment in the butternut squash series requires some bravery in terms of strange uses for ingredients you may have heard of but not truly enjoyed in the past.


Barley for me often evokes memories of flavorless, goopy white bits in an unpleasant beefy flavored broth from a can.  However, I am open to trying new things.  I first made barley as risotto when it was suggested as an alternative grain to rice and I have found I enjoy the barley as much, if not more, than the original Italian-style risotto.

When you make this recipe, you will enjoy barley as a nutty, chewy grain that holds its own amongst a rainbow of other flavors and textures in this risotto style squash dish.

So without prejudging, I encourage you to try this with barley but I am offering you an exit strategy as this dish can easily have the barley substituted with arborio rice, quinoa, wild rice or even in a pinch, cooked pasta.  The liquid portion of the recipe should be adjusted to reflect the grain you choose but will be identical if you switch the barley with arborio rice.

Butternut Squash and Chard Barley Risotto with Hazelnuts

(I served this dish with chipotle bison sausage in carmelized red onions so how to create this meat side dish (easy peasy) follows the main dish recipe)

2 cups barley

4 cups broth (chicken, beef, veggie, whatever – I used chicken)

1 butternut squash

2 tbsp olive oil

two large pinches red pepper flakes

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

1 bunch of red chard

1/2 cup of whole hazelnuts

1/2 cup parmesan cheese (or more to taste)

2 large red onions

8-10 bison sausages (or any other sausage but a spicy one with a hint of sweetness will pair best)


Read more for directions….

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A Three-part Mini Series on Butternut Squash – Part 1

At this January doldrums time of year, there is nothing like the sunny orange glow of butternut squash to replace the sunshine.  Aside from butternut squash soup, most people don’t get up close and personal with this yummy veggie.  So I thought I would give you three options to try with your squash.  I am starting with a recipe for someone who REALLY likes it, then going to one where you MIGHT like it and finally a recipe for someone who HATES it but will love it when it is hidden in the midst of all the goodness.

So without further blathering on, here is our first installment. This is for a squash-lover, probably.

Butternut Squash presents Morrocan Tagine

This spicy stew has many different iterations with many different spices.  There is no absolute recipe since “tagine” refers to the cooking pot used to make the stew.  A tagine is a clay pot with a dome shaped top that helps condensation return to the dish.  I chose my new Le Creuset pot Ross gave me for Christmas which is good for stovetop to oven missions.  I believe you could do this recipe on the stove or in the oven with equally delicious results.  Your choice!  You can make it with eggplant instead of squash, omit the chicken to make it vegetarian or even choose an entirely different spectrum of spices.  If this were end of summer I would do it with squash and green beans or something local and in season.  Since yams were “local” I decided to add those.  I chose a curry-style tagine and basically was winging it since I do not EVER really follow a recipe.  So this is tested but not necessarily a “true” tagine.  I amalgamated this from a number of “references”.  Haha! 

This was an experiment and turned out super well, especially if it is cold and miserable outside.  You can reheat this stew and expect it to just get better and better!  I made double the amount as below so don’t be alarmed at how LARGE my looked.

Read More for RECIPE!!

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Thai Lettuce Wraps – A Recipe To Help Athletes Maintain Iron Status

Thai Lettuce Wraps- a tasty meal that helps athletes maintain iron status

bison meat can help maintain iron status

This recipe for Thai lettuce wraps is one of my favorite for preparing red meat, which is a great source of heme iron.  This recipe is easy to prepare,  tastes great and has very healthy ingredients.
Female athletes often struggle to maintain their iron status.  Iron stores are affected by a complicated balance of diet, iron absorption, training load, sleep and blood loss due to menstruation.  Doctors use ferritin levels to determine iron status; ferritin is a protein that stores iron.  If ferritin levels are low then the reserves are low and must be addressed.

High training loads or high intensity training blocks can deplete iron stores in some females, and what may be considered fatigue could actually be progressing anemia.  Regular blood tests to check for deficiencies prevent this.   If you have been feeling tired, lethargic or depressed it might be anemia so it is prudent to have your blood tested.

Many athletes can manage their iron stores with a good diet- eating lean red meat and leafy green vegetables is a good start.  The following recipe for Thai Bison Lettuce Wraps is easy, quick and delicious and bison is a lean source of iron-rich protein.

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