Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne aka Lasagne

Lasagne gets me thinking about Italy, cheesy sauce, accordion music and red and white checked tablecloths. You might not have exactly the same vision but lasagne is a true crowd pleaser and one of those dishes that just makes you sigh with happiness doesn’t it?

Traditionally, lasagne can be loaded with béchamel sauce (delicious yes but high on the fat side of things), sheets of pasta and cheese upon cheese.
That might seem like a good thing (and as an occasional food, it really is) but for an everyday kind of dish, a few tweaks is all it takes to bump up the protein and reduce the fat, to tick the nutrition boxes and turn it into the ideal recovery meal post exercise.

Perfect timing because there is a new protein rich kid on the block, which packs a serious nutrition punch. This little goodie is the humble lupin – a unique legume that contains 40% protein, 40% fibre with a small amount of carbohydrate and fat and is completely gluten free. 85% of the world’s crop of lupins is grown in Western Australia which is pretty cool. Yay for the sandgropers.

So after a bit of experimenting, I have concocted Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne and it tastes fantastic! This recipe is high in protein and fibre and is packed full of vegetables and flavour. It uses lupin flakes produced by The Lupin Co. which are so versatile and have so much to give our bodies, including a protein punch.

Chicken, Ricotta and Spinach Lupinsagne

Ingredients
1-tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 x cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
1 x 400g tin canned, diced tomatoes
20 basil fresh leaves
500g lean chicken mince
1-cup chicken stock
1-cup lupin flakes
1kg reduced fat ricotta cheese
150g baby spinach leaves,
2 eggs, beaten
5 x fresh lasagne sheets
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Method
Cook the onion and garlic together in the oil until golden brown and then add the chicken mince and stir until cooked through.

Add the carrot, zucchini, tomatoes, chicken stock and basil, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is reduced a little. While the mixture is simmering, cook the lupins in boiling water and cook for 3 minutes and then drain and rinse in cold water. Just before you take the chicken mixture off the heat – add the cooked lupins and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the spinach leaves in a microwave proof bowl into the microwave and cook for 1 minute until wilted slightly. Once cooled, squeeze out excess water and add to the ricotta along with the beaten eggs. Stir the ricotta mixture until smooth.

Spray a large lasagne dish with cooking oil and place some of the mince mixture on the bottom of the dish followed by lasagne sheets to fit and then half of the mince mixture on top of this followed by half of the ricotta mixture and repeat these steps once more finishing with the ricotta layer.

Cover with foil and cook in a moderate oven for 30 minutes, remove the foil, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Nutrition Per Serve:

Energy 312 calories, protein 27g, fat 12g, carbohydrate 19g, fibre 8g

This Lupinsagne is perfect for an everyday dinner and also a great recovery meal post exercise.

Watch this space for more lupinlicious recipes.

Buon appetito!

Lessons from a bike

Want to know how NOT to prepare for something? There are lessons from a bike coming right up that you can apply to anything at all, believe me.

Do you remember that last week we talked about the importance of doing the preparing before the doing – whatever it might be? Just in case you missed it, you can refresh here.

Preparing for anything has been front of mind for me due to my inability to move my neck for quite some time after a gazillion handstands but also because of a random encounter on a plane.

Back in October, I boarded a plane in Sydney bound for my hometown Perth. I was at the end of the queue, so by the time I found my home for the next five hours, both occupants of the seats either side of me were ensconced. The gentleman in the window seat was deep in conversation on his phone as I got settled and although I know it is rude to eavesdrop, it was a little hard not to when you are sitting 1cm apart from each other.

Although it was not mine, I quickly became engaged in this conversation. It didn’t take me long to work out that my travelling companion (lets call him TC) was about to embark upon a bike event that he was ill-prepared for and with just two days until the start gun sounded – there was no small element of PANIC.

Once TC was off the phone – I couldn’t resist questioning him on what he was actually doing. Firstly, hats off to him committing to a very worthwhile cause, the Ride to Conquer Cancer. But and there is a big but – when that commitment involves two consecutive days of sitting on a bike and cycling a grand total of 200km – preparing is central to one’s success at making it off the bike alive.

With five hours to spare, I had all the time in the world to grill TC. This is how it went.

Q. How much training have you done? A. None.

Q. Is your bike ready? A. Probably not, the last time I saw it was in the garden shed and it may have a basket attached to the handlebars.

Q. What are you wearing? A. What do you mean?

Q. What have you planned to eat and drink on the day? A. No plans as yet.

I could see that in order to assist TC to avoid being on the nightly news over the weekend, intervention was required and let’s just say that a crash course in general preparation, sports nutrition, logistics of cycling and survival skills ensued between Sydney and Perth that night.

I thought of TC often over that next weekend and first thing Monday morning he kindly updated me on his adventure. Here is what TC had to say…..

Hi Julie

Well, I completed the 200km and followed your nutrition plan to the letter. Had I not, I would be dead…

Key Take-aways:

  1. Identify obstacles – the weather Saturday was extreme

    a. Pissing rain from the start

    b. Hail in Byford

    c. Howling Sou’Wester (clocked at 80km / hour) that we rode directly into for the last 60km!

  2. Think logistics – setting up the swag at ground level was torture

    a. My knees were swollen enough without having to kneel on them.

    b. Slept first 3 hours in my shoes as I could not face the torture of taking them off

    c. Woke at midnight to find my way to porta loo and change into more comfortable attire in blustery 7 degree temperatures

    d. At first light surrounded by very enthusiastic cyclists who were looking forward to a 3 – 4 hour effort back to Perth and a lazy Sunday afternoon… Not available for me

  3. The right equipment is essential – my bike was a piece of s**t

    a. Sunday morning I woke to two broken spokes, a bent rim and 15 Psi in an 80 Psi tyre – all of which I suspect I rode with for a good portion of on Saturday

    b. Was told by learned colleagues my weekend was over… Some called it deliberate sabotage by me to avoid the 2nd 100Km

    c. I thought I would give it a bit of a go for personal pride with no thought of actually making it. Surprise, surprise, I crossed the finish line at McCullum Park on my bike in the second last group of real battlers.

  4. Recovery is Important

    a. Epsom salts

    b. Hydralyte

    c. Ice on both knees

    d. 50mg Voltaren tablets

    e. T Bone Steak

    f. Half a bottle of Red

    g. Compression bandages applied indefinitely

Signed up for next year…Thanks for your contribution and being interested – part of the healing process is being able to talk about these things. TC

Thanks TC for the lessons you have shared and the grace in which you accepted your fate. Lets catch a plane a little earlier next year.

Orange, Chocolate and Sweat – Three Tops Tips to Fuel your Football Game

Chocolate and Oranges - how they can change your game

I so love the start of the footy season. The anticipation of a new beginning and a clean slate, the sound of the siren cutting through the slight crispness in the air and the whack of a boot connecting with the ball.

This past Easter weekend has marked season kick-off for Australian Rules Football.  One eyed supporters all over the country have breathed a collective sigh of relief that finally, their beloved game is back.

Having worked as the Sports Dietitian for the Fremantle Dockers for six years means that my favourite colours on the paddock are simple and easy to remember. Purple and white.  That is all.

This time of the year gets me thinking about what the players will be doing before, during and after the game because I know they have quite a routine to follow. Fortunately, professional football players are blessed with fantastic support and access to sports nutrition expertise.

But the thing is, this does not apply to the almost half a million junior and senior players who run out onto the field every weekend between March and September. As a result, many of these players and their families have lots of questions about how to fuel themselves or their kids and there are three questions that I often get asked.  The answers to each of them can easily be applied to any sport.

1.  Should I eat a chocolate bar prior to playing a game of football?

A 50g plain chocolate bar has a medium Glycemic Index (GI) of 49 and contains 15 grams of fat. Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach and therefore digestion and these factors combined mean that chocolate is best enjoyed at a time not associated with exercise.

Some of you will remember the television advertisement that was aired in the 1980s for Mars Bars®. The theme song contained lyrics suggesting that Mars Bars® helped you ‘work, rest and play’. There was definitely a sports theme to the advertisement and over time, this has led to the belief that chocolate is a good pre-game snack. Great advertising – but not so great for your body!

Any pre-exercise snack or meal should provide you with sustained energy to perform the activity to the best of your ability, and be easily digested. The food should be mostly carbohydrate with a small amount of protein and minimal fat. Ideally the food should be of low to medium Glycemic Index and consumed 1 ½ to 2 hours prior to the game or event.

Some healthy low-fat pre-game snacks include: cereal and milk, toast with baked beans or spaghetti, bread or toast with low-fat spread, Up and Go® drink or Sustagen Sport®, creamed rice and fruit and low-fat muesli bars.

2.  Does eating an orange assist performance during sport?

In Australian sporting culture the orange (neatly cut into quarters of course) has long been a part of weekend sport and something to look forward to at half-time. Eating an orange will provide you with some fluid, Vitamin C, and a small amount of carbohydrate (an average orange contains approximately 110 mL of water and 10 grams carbohydrate) so go ahead and enjoy one!

3.  Can athletes drink more alcohol than the average person because they will ‘sweat it off’ the next day?

In short – no. On average your body can process one standard drink of alcohol per hour through your liver. This does depend on quite a few factors including age, gender, body mass, drinking experience and food eaten and may be more or less accurate, accordingly. This is true of athletes and non-athletes alike.

It is true that after a heavy drinking session you can often smell alcohol on one’s body, but it is generally bad breath, not alcohol being excreted through sweat. In the mid 1980s, two sports medicine experts made an interesting assessment on the nutritional knowledge of a group of elite athletes in Australia. Twenty-six percent of the athletes believed that alcohol contained no kilojoules, reduced inhibition and actually improved their performance. Wrong! Drinking alcohol before a game or any exercise increases the risk of dehydration and injury, and more than likely very ordinary performance on the day.

It would be interesting to see how much that perception has changed but given that the sports culture in Australia still encourages alcohol consumption in the name of team spirit and friendship, perhaps the change has not been significant.

You can find more practical and expert advice plus free downloadable fact sheets from Sports Dietitian’s Australia.