Monthly Archives: February 2016

Matcha Balls

 

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As many of you know, I am running an ultra marathon in a couple of weeks.  It was convenient timing that I was researching a recipe using matcha around the same time I was to run my longest training run, 27 miles. When running that many miles at once, you have to eat.  You have to eat a lot of food while you are running.  It’s one of the hardest adjustments I had to make when I started running longer distances.  I have tried eating the energy “goo”  packs, which just left me feeling kind of sick, and might or might not have led to some post-run gastro-internal issues. I perform much better when I make my own, real food.

After reading about the “clean” form of caffeine matcha contained, I knew it would be a perfect addition to some mid-long-run snacks. I decided to make some matcha energy balls with whatever I could throw together to make it stick together into a ball.  I used oats, almond butter, honey, goji berries, vanilla, and of course, matcha.

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I mixed the ingredients together, and packed them into a small 1-ounce scoop.  I placed them on a sheet pan, and in the refrigerator.  They came together perfectly, and tasted great!  On the run they were a bit burly.  The next time I make them, I will either soak the oats, or grind them up in the food processor.  Burliness aside, they were magic balls of “zenergy,”  which really made a difference in boosting our energy throughout the run.

Click here for the recipe.

Gotch Your Matcha?

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I am a coffee drinker, but I love tea.  Especially green tea.  Green tea is a great appetite suppressant, and I often drink it when I am trying to make it to my next meal or snack. I had heard of matcha, and I knew it was a type of green tea, but I had never really tried it.  As someone who spends a lot of time reading food blogs, I had noticed that matcha has been quite trendy lately in cooking, and I have even saved several recipes to try.

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I have recently taken on a blogging assignment: to sample and write about some ceremonial grade matcha from Matcha Zen.  I received the cutest little package in the mail.  It was a little cardboard tube with a bag inside full of emerald green matcha from Matcha Zen.  Matcha Zen tea is some of the finest matcha you can buy.  It comes from a region of Japan historically known for cultivating quality matcha. It’s also USDA certified organic.  The matcha at Matcha Zen is not the only “green”  that their into.  They support ethical, and sustainable practices when it comes to sourcing, cultivating, packaging, and marketing this special tea.

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Tea Ceremony

Tea is serious business in Japan.  According to the website, Japanese Tea Ceremony, the tea ceremony has several names, “Chanoyo,”  meaning literally, “hot water for tea,”  or “Sado”  and “Chado,”  which both mean “the way of tea.”  I could go on for days about the history, aesthetics, and essence of the tea ceremony.  It has been going on for over 900 years in Japan, and even before that in China.  People have dedicated their whole lives to studying it.  I am not a scholar of tea, but I am a lover of most everything that involves food and drink. The website describes the tea ceremony as  “…a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one’s attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guests view point (angle), especially the main guests called the Shokyaku.”

I love it!  I am always trying to be more “in the moment,” and I love the idea of being fully engrossed in the intricacies of where to place utensils, etc. Also, how touching is it to prepare a cup of tea for a friend “from your heart.”  This captures the essence of what I love about cooking.  Cooking for someone, especially someone you love, the goal or intention is to please. satisfy, or nourish them. Ask anyone what their favorite meal is, and most likely, it will be something that was prepared growing up by their momma.  How come that food tasted so good?  Because it was prepared with thoughtful intention and love.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a quality green tea that is dried and crushed into a fine powder. The tea leaf is known as tencha. The tea bushes are shade-grown to avoid the exposure of direct sunlight which reduces the pace of photosynthesis and slows the growth of the plants. This stimulates the production of chlorophyll and amino acids, resulting in a dark-green tea leaf. The bright green powder is beautiful brewed into teas, and cooked into food.

Health Benefits of Matcha

Wow!  This stuff is really good for you. The website, Organic Facts, states that matcha is full of nutrients. “It is source of vitamin A, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, Vitamin E, vitamin K and trace minerals.  Matcha is rich in components with super antioxidant activity including polyphenols, catechins and chlorophyll. Presence of amino acids such as L-theanine and theophylline in the matcha tea makes it a multi nutrient-packed drink.”  These nutrients lead to a number of health benefits. Organic Facts list these health benefits as boosting immune system health, reducing inflammation, and helping to prevent cancer. It also helps with detoxification, cardiovascular health, and boosts metabolism.  Matcha has the equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. The caffeine in matcha, however is a different for than is in regular coffee. This form caffeine is known as theophylline, and releases amounts of energy in a steady stream. Kaitlin of The Garden Grazer blog describes the caffeine high you get from matcha as “zenery.”  According to Kaitlin, “zenergy”  is the feeling of being energized, yet calm and focused.

A Cup of Matcha

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I decided it was time to make myself a cup of matcha.  I  found a simple description on  how to make it from Bon Appetit’s website.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a bamboo whisk, but I did have a small stainless steel whisk that was the perfect size, as well as a small strainer. Even though I didn’t know the proper procedure for a tea ceremony, I did have a very pretty china tea cup that my mom had given me.  I hardly use it, so I thought it was appropriate for the occasion.

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 Bon Appetit stated that you should push the matcha through a strainer into a bowl to sift it so there are no lumps.  You pour in the hot water and whisk the tea until it becomes frothy.  I added a bit of stevia to the tea powder before I whisked in the water.

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 I loved the beautiful deep emerald green color that looked especially pretty with my fancy teacup.  The first sip was a bit bitter, but the more sips I had, the more I loved it.  The stevia helped to balance out the bitter flavor, which left an earthy, umami-type flavor.  I also loved the swirls the powdered tea left when I got toward the bottom of the cup.  I couldn’t help but think of tasseography, or the practice of reading the symbolism in tea leaves to predict the future.  I know there’s a pretty fantastic future to be predicted in the swirly pictures of my cup of Matcha Zen.

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The Recipes

I found endless food blogs with posts about cooking with matcha.  Here are some links to some of my favorites.  Stay tuned for a food recipe using Matcha Zen in the day or two!

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Chocolate Matcha Butter Cups from Keepin it Kind

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Healthy Matcha Green Tea Coconut Fudge from Desserts with Benefits

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Matcha Mochi Yogurt Pops from My Name is Yeh

More Than a Trainer – Kim Rhodes Boose

 

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When I set out to do a series of posts on what inspires me in the area of health and wellness, I knew I would be doing a key post about Kim Rhodes Boose.  Kim is the Queen of group fitness at the Asheville Racquet Club. She is my fitness guru, as well as the fitness guru of dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the area. Kim is the ass kicking fitness trainer, crazy partying partner in crime, nagging mom, sympathetic shoulder to cry on, no bullshit drill sergeant, soon to be third time grandma – all in one package.

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When I arrived here in Asheville, I thought I was pretty fit.  I’ve been an athlete most of my life, and have always enjoyed a good ass kicking workout. I ran, and ran, and ran, and ran.  I did a couple of strength-cardio type programs including The Firm and Tapout, but I mostly ran.  I met a new friend through my children’s school, who invited me to go running.  She and a group of other girls ran from the Racquet Club.  After running with them a time or two, I found myself inside the club, taking classes.

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At first, the move to Asheville was a big adjustment.  I had to be the emotional rock for my kids adjusting to a new school, and my husband adjusting to a very sharp learning curve at work.  We were living in a small apartment, and all of our things were pieced together in storage lockers across Western North Carolina and Upper East Tennessee.  I admit, some days I didn’t want to get up.  If I could only drag my butt to Kim’s class, I left feeling like a new woman.

It was like going to a party every day.  Her spin classes were mesmerizing with disco balls flashing in each corner of the room, coupled with a well thought out soundtrack that would never disappoint.  Whether the theme was country, pop, Katy Perry, classic rock, Eighties Wrap, Bon Jovi, or “blonde bombshell,” each song was timed to a cadence which felt like a choreographed Beyoncé dance sequence on a bike. Her strength classes were full of jokes, laughter, and an equally strategic party blueprint.  I would surprisingly wake up the next morning with a thigh and butt burn making it hard to climb stairs.

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Kim also welcomed me into the group as if I was an old friend.  She celebrated my strengths as well as my quirks.  When she found out that I was a chef, and that I would be cooking for many of her clients, she celebrated me as if I was a James Beard award winner.  She told everyone to buy into my services, before she had even tasted any of my food.

Kim Boose has taken my fitness to another plane. She’s prompted me to focus on my core strength, leaving me a well-oiled machine, rather than a tall question mark who runs up mountains. While training for my fourth marathon two years ago, she taught me the importance of being truly total body fit.  In previous marathons and endurance runs, I had thought that the important training was in the miles slogged on the ground.  I enjoyed that challenge of the long events, but the last couple had left me physically sick – with vomiting, or major G.I. issues for several days.  The recovery from the events would be rugged as well.  Several days of not feeling like doing much at all.

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This time was different, however.  I had hitched my car to the full steam locomotive called Kim Rhodes Boose.  Instead of running 6-7 days, I ran three days.  Two mid-distance runs, and one long run.  The other days I would attend Kim’s spinning, weight, and cardio classes.  I also tried to fit in some yoga – at least twice a week.  Kim confronted me a few days before the marathon, and asked me how I felt. I told her I was apprehensive about getting sick again.  Kim’s reaction was that she would hear none of that bullshit!  It was going to be different this time.  I was truly fit, and I was going to crush that marathon. I walked away ready to run.

Sure enough.  Kim was right.  I did crush that marathon with a personal best time of well under four hours. The recovery was much better as well.  I was back in class, spinning away to the beat in a couple of days.

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Kim has helped me take fitness to a new and different level.  She has taught me that exercise should not be a chore – it should be a party every day.  She is an expert in several different types of exercise training who has years of experience and a wealth of knowledge.  Her classes are always different from the last, and they are always fun.  I have never seen signs of burn-out in her, or for that matter, even a bad day.  She is so much more than a fitness trainer.  She empowers us, by celebrating us, and reminding us to always love ourselves.  She remembers everyone’s birthday, and dedicates a spin class to them; again with a well-planned, appropriate soundtrack for that person. She shares lessons not only of fitness, but of life.  She teaches us the most important life lessons – to celebrate each moment, take nothing for granted, and to…”stand up straight, hold your head up, shoulders back, tummy in!” …just like my Momma always told me.

To find out more about Kim’s personal and group training services, go to the Asheville Racquet Club’s website