Food & Drink | March 2018

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Fuel Up

It’s midmorning on a Saturday, and I’m on my second (or third) cup of coffee after polishing off three breakfast tacos. I’m doing it all guilt-free because I started my day with a 6.5-mile run. Next Saturday, the running group I recently joined is scheduled to do 10 miles. Some of us are training for the Bearathon, a half-marathon on March 24 organized by Baylor Student Foundation. Others are preparing for a marathon in London on April 22.

So running season is obviously upon us. The Waco Striders running club website lists a dozen or so area races coming up in the next couple of months. I may try to add another race or two to my schedule, and our 13-year-old daughter would like to run some as well. With all these races and training runs on folks’ calendars, it got me to thinking about what runners eat to prepare for their long runs and what they eat as they recover.

In the wonderful book “Born to Run,” author Christopher McDougall talks about the pre-race rituals of the Tarahumara, a hidden tribe in Mexico that has produced some of the world’s greatest superathletes, runners who regularly take part in races of 50 miles — or more. The night before a big race, McDougall writes, the runners consume copious amounts of lechuguilla, “a horrible homemade tequila brewed from rattlesnake corpses and cactus sap.” The resulting behavior would put a college spring break in Cancun to shame, he says. The morning following the revelry, runners set out on a race that can take up to two full days.

I’m pretty sure none of my running friends indulge in anything like that, so I asked a few of them — those who are pretty serious about their running — about food and racing.

Liz Painter finished first in her age group at the 2017 Bearathon and also ran the Boston Marathon last year. Painter said she eats a pretty simple, well-balanced meal the night before a race or a long training run.

“Grilled chicken and some pasta or potatoes, a small portion,” she said. “Nothing too greasy or heavy. Mexican food or anything with a lot of dairy isn’t good the night before.”

Pasta and chicken are the go-to pre-race meals for other Waco runners as well. Jon Singletary said he’ll sometimes eat pancakes throughout the day on the day before a race and then have chicken piccata from Baris for dinner. (Last year, on the Friday night before the Bearathon, lots of diners were at Baris fueling up on big plates of pasta.) Andy and Tiffany Hogue stick to grilled chicken and pasta, and Tiffany always finishes the night with some dark chocolate for dessert, something she’s done for years.

“There is a mantra among marathoners which is, ‘Never do anything new right before a marathon,’” she said. “That’s true for shoes, clothes and fuel. I almost always eat some dark chocolate before bed, so I’m definitely not giving that up before a race.”

These runners differ on what they like to eat the morning of a run. If it’s a “short” run — 12 miles or fewer — Tiffany Hogue usually won’t eat anything, but she will have a granola bar before a long run and a couple of Gu Roctane energy gels during the run.

Painter usually eats a single piece of toast with jelly before a run, while Singletary and Andy Hogue might opt for a bagel, peanut butter and fruit in the morning.

Now, it’s the after-the-race meals that can be fun because pretty much anything goes.

“Whatever the heck I want” is how Andy Hogue describes his post-race dining.

“I rarely eat burgers, but I almost always want a burger and a soda within an hour of finishing,” he said. “Beer later.”

Some race organizers, in fact, offer post-race beer to runners. (This is not the case with the Bearathon.)

Singletary prefers Mexican food after a race, as does Tiffany Hogue.

“My favorite post-marathon meal is Tex-Mex,” she said. “Fajitas, hot salty chips and Coke Zero — my favorite drink — makes a perfect post-marathon meal.”

For our recipes this month, we focused on the night-before dinner, along with a couple of post-race smoothies. Grilled chicken and pasta recipes can be found anywhere, so we opted for another healthy, filling meal of salmon cakes served over couscous salad. (Salmon has lots of healthy fats that you’ll need for energy the next morning.) The tzatziki sauce can be spooned over the salmon, if you wish. And what better beverage to serve alongside than Weekend Warrior, a pale ale from Karbach Brewing Co. in Houston.

The Recipes

Salmon Sweet Potato Cakes

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt, divided
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, cubed and mashed
  • 8 ounces wild salmon, skin and pin bones removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

In a bowl, combine the onion mixture, sweet potato puree, salmon, eggs, flour, parsley, lemon juice, mustard, cumin, pepper and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Heat oven to 250 F. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet.

In the pan used to cook the onions, add 1/4 cup oil and warm over medium heat. Spray a 1/4-cup measuring cup or spoon with nonstick spray. When the oil begins to shimmer but is not smoking, scoop 1/4 cup of the salmon batter and gently tap upside down on the side of the pan to slide the batter into the oil. Use a spatula to press down slightly so the cakes are about 1 inch thick. Cook until nicely browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. (If they’re browning too quickly, turn down the heat.) Carefully flip each cake over and cook until the bottoms are deeply golden and cooked through, about 2-3 more minutes.

Transfer the salmon cakes to the rack on the baking sheet and place the sheet in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the salmon batter. Makes 8-10 salmon cakes.
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Israeli Couscous Salad

For the couscous:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces Israeli couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup water

For the salad:

  • 2 cucumbers, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped (optional)
  • Kalamata olives, to taste
  • Feta cheese

For the lemon dressing:

  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper

To make the couscous: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onion is translucent and starting to brown.

Add the couscous and stir, cooking for 1 minute. Add the broth and water. Place the lid on the pan and turn the heat to medium-low.

Cook for 10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is cooked through but still firm. Use a fork to separate the couscous, then transfer to a large bowl. (If the couscous gets sticky, it will separate when it’s tossed with the dressing).

Place all the salad ingredients in the bowl.

For the lemon dressing, place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well. Pour over the salad and toss. Makes about 6-8 servings.
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Tzatziki Sauce

  • 14 ounces Greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced (optional)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Grate the cucumber on a box grater on the largest grating side and squeeze it with your hands to remove most — but not all — of the liquid. Add the grated cucumber to the yogurt. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, garlic, salt and pepper and combine. Taste and add any additional salt and pepper as desired. Makes about 8 servings.
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Green Recovery Smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana, sliced
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (soy, low-fat, almond, coconut — whatever you like)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Makes 1-2 servings.
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Beet Smoothie

  • 1 beet (cooked or raw, your choice), peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 small frozen banana, sliced
  • 1 cup milk (soy, low-fat, almond, coconut — whatever you like)
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Makes 1-2 servings.
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