Summer Caprese Salad with Grilled Shrimp

The combination of ripe tomatoes and basil from the garden or farmers market just screams summer. Try this refreshing salad on it’s own or grill some shrimp on the side for a complete meal. Best enjoyed while dining al fresco!

Serves 4-6 (Note: Quantity of ingredients can be altered based on personal preference)

Ingredients:

2-3 cups tomatoes halved or sliced. Choose heirloom tomatoes or whatever looks good at the market.

2-3 burrata cheese rounds or small mozzarella balls (~4-5 per plate).

Arugula –one large handful per plate

Basil – small handful, chopped

2 avocados, seeded and sliced

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

For the grilled shrimp:

25-35 raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Instructions:

1.  Plate each dish with a small handful of arugula. Divide burrata cheese among plates (carefully slice each round in half, placing the cut side down in center of dish) or mozzarella balls if using.

2.  Add tomatoes, avocado slices and fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Grilled shrimp:

1.  Soak wooden skewers prior to grilling. Add 5-6 shrimp per skewer. Brush each skewer of shrimp with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2.  Grill for 5-7 minutes total, flipping once.

Get Blitzed: How to Build a Power Smoothie

Whipping up a healthy smoothie for breakfast can make the dog days of summer a bit more bearable. Inspiration is endless, too. Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll find gorgeous smoothies that appear more like artwork than a meal. A perfect vehicle for delivering loads of nutrients and flavor, smoothies certainly have a place at the table. But all smoothies are not created equal, and with increasing availability at smoothie shops, markets, restaurants, and gyms, it can be easy to think that you’re choosing something healthy when in fact it can be loaded with sugar and calories. When packed with the right ingredients, smoothies can help you power through your morning or refuel from your Ascend ride in a flash.

Sip on this

There is no need to compromise flavor when preparing healthy food, including smoothies. However, many are loaded with too much fruit or fruit juice, which can spike blood sugar levels and leave you with more cravings in no time. The key to building a power smoothie is to make sure you balance out the sweetness (fructose from fruit) with greens, fat, protein, and fiber. Quick and portable, a post-workout smoothie can enhance your fitness efforts by replenishing energy stores and protein needed for muscle recovery. Try to drink up within 30 minutes post exercise. To keep you full and satisfied, make sure you have a good dose of protein and fat if your smoothie is a meal replacement.

Whether you want to keep it simple or get creative, we’ve listed some options to choose from when building your power smoothie:

Greens/Veggies: Blending is a great way to load up on vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from dark leafy greens and other vegetables not usually included in your breakfast meal or snacks. Pack the most volume with your veggies; select kale, spinach, chard, romaine, celery, cucumber, frozen cauliflower or zucchini. Throw in some herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint), too.

Liquid: Try these liquids to help puree the other ingredients and add hydration: filtered water, coconut water, nut milks, or green tea.

Healthy fat: Fat is one of three macronutrients (along with protein and carbohydrates) that provide our bodies with energy in the form of calories. Necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), fat is important for brain function, healthy skin and nails, and hormone regulation. Healthy fat is our friend, and can help you stay satisfied until your next meal. Choose from nut butter, avocado, coconut oil, ground flax seeds, walnuts, or Brazil nuts.

Protein: Protein, made of amino acids, has many critical roles in our body. It is vital for the structure and function of our cells. It also transports nutrients, provides energy, produces hormones and enzymes necessary for important chemical reactions, and builds and repairs muscles and tissues. Pump up your smoothie’s protein with nuts, nut butter, protein powder, or yogurt.

Fruit: Fruit adds fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals as well as sweetness to balance out the greens. Limit to one or two small servings per recipe (or ½ cup). Frozen or fresh, select from banana, mango, pineapple, berries, or apple or add a zing of citrus with lemons or grapefruit.

Optional superfood additions: For added health benefits, try including cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, chia seeds, whole grain oats, collagen peptides, matcha or superfood powders* such as tocos, ashwagandha, reishi, he shou wu, moringa or pine pollen.

Top it off: hemp seeds, bee pollen, cocoa nibs, coconut flakes, gogi berries, spirulina, nuts, seeds, fruit, or homemade granola.

Preparation Tips:

·      Use a good blender (such as Vitamix). It truly makes a difference, especially when adding nuts or leafy greens.

·      Drink immediately; refrigerate any leftovers and consume within 3 days. Store in airtight containers or jars.

·      Prep your ingredients the night before (excluding liquid and ice) so all you need to do in the morning is grab and blend for a nutritious breakfast.

·      Smoothies are a great way to clean out your fridge and prevent food waste; toss it in before you toss it out.

·      Frozen fruit (berries, mango, pineapple) are just as nutritious as fresh and can thicken your smoothie, while frozen bananas add creamy texture. You can also freeze kale and other greens.

·      Change it up and create a smoothie bowl by adding more ice or frozen ingredients and less liquid. Smoothie bowls = more surface area for superfood toppings!

·      Get the kids involved; little ones will love to help and the older kids will have fun creating their favorite combinations.

·      Ask for modifications to ingredients and toppings if purchasing a smoothie or smoothie bowl. Granola, dates, agave syrup, or juice can all sneak in excessive sugar. Read the ingredients or build your own.

What’s in your blender? Tag #howiascend to show off your healthy creations this summer!

*Always consult with your doctor before consuming any herbal or medicinal supplements.

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H

Meet Our Newest Instructors!

Introducing, Jess, May & Michelle - Starting next week, find these ladies riding up on the podium!

 

For these three Ascend riders-turned-instructors, a better version of themselves started with a goal.  After countless hours of training on the podium and in classes, Jess, May & Michelle all successfully completed Ascend’s instructor training program!  We know you'll love the unique styles each of these powerhouses bring to Ascend. We’re so proud of them!

Curious about our newest instructors?  Read on for bios and their sample playlists, then book your favorite bike in class and let them show you what they're all about!

 

Michelle, Good Vibes Only

Sundays at 4 PM and Saturdays at 10:45 AM

Ride away from the negative – no room for it in this class. Michelle packs her ride with motivation and encouragement, reminding riders that nothing’s unattainable if you believe in yourself. She builds her playlists with one goal in mind – SLAY ALL DAY – using everything from Electro Trap, pop, hip hop, mashups, Afrobeats, and Reggaeton to elevate her ride. Michelle’s mantra? Positive thinking is transformative. We dare you to resist her good vibes.

When we are pushed out of our comfort zone, we discover our inner badass.

Check out Michelle's Beats:

 

 

May, Spiritual Gangster

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 PM

Don’t be fooled – this petite California girl is a powerhouse, using mindful motivation to cue you through a high-energy ride. May’s class has everything from rock to EDM – anything with bumpin’ bass and head-banging beats. She's passionate – about fitness, music, food, and the Dallas Cowboys. This former water polo player wants to you to ride with the belief that anything is possible once you clip in. Her mantra? Smile, breathe, believe. 

Rock it out with May here:

 

 

Jess, The Zen Master

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM

Looking to ride your way to zen? Look no further. Jess’s focused energy, intentional drills, and tight choreography create a killer ride that leaves you feeling powerful and restored. When this Massachusetts native and former competitive dancer isn’t at the studio, you can find her creating essential oil concoctions, daydreaming of crisp fall mornings, and hanging with her two little girls. Combining everything from pop, hip hop, EDM, classics, country, indie, and folk, Jess’s dynamic rides will leave you a better version of yourself, and a little more zen.  

Check out Jess's Jams:

Soba with Salmon and Watercress

 A quick meal for date night or entertaining guests, this delicious dish is packed full of nutrients from the salmon and tangy flavor from the buttermilk-chive dressing.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Course salt and freshly ground pepper

2 skinless wild salmon fillets (about 5 oz each)

8 ounces soba noodles (100% buckwheat flour)

½ cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1 ½ cups trimmed watercress

Directions:

1.  Bring 2 inches of water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add salmon and poach at a low simmer until cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove fish and let cool slightly, then flake into large pieces. Alternatively, you could bake your salmon if you prefer at 420 F for 16-18 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, cook soba in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

3.  In a bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, lemon zest and juice, and chives; season with salt and pepper. Add soba and toss to combine.

Source: Clean Slate: A Cookbook and Guide: Reset Your Health, Detox Your Body and Feel Your Best.

https://www.amazon.com/Clean-Slate-Cookbook-Guide-Health/dp/0307954595

Ready, Set, Jet! Healthy Eating on the Go

Summer schedules are heating up—and whether you’re hitting the road for vacation, work travel, or carpooling your little ones—sticking to a healthy routine can be challenging if you’re not prepared. Just as you schedule your Ascend rides to keep your fitness on track, a little forward thinking can keep healthy eating in check. Here at Ascend, we’ve got you covered on the food front with some key recommendations to keep energy levels up and hunger at bay while on your travels.

Where to start? Get organized with these 6 tips:

1.     First and foremost, plan it out. Determine how long you’ll be en route so you know how many hours worth of meals/snacks you’ll need. Decide what you want to bring, prepare at home, or pick up from the store (queue the list making). Research what options are available in the airport or near your hotel. Eat before you leave, or pack along a pre-made lunch to resist temptation of fast-food kiosks. For quick grab and go breakfasts, prep your smoothie ingredients the night before for a quick blend in the am, or take some overnight oats in a jar.

 

2.     Stash & store. Plan to pack a cooler if you’re traveling by car, or make room in your carry-on if flying. Next, gather storage containers: Tupperware, mason jars, lunch boxes, snack bags, reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, utensils, etc. Think lightweight if traveling by plane. Small sizes work well for individual portions of nuts or salad dressing.

 

3.     Limit snacking. Strive to eat three nourishing meals and have a couple healthful snacks on hand. Being on the go isn’t an excuse for endless snacking! Boredom plays a role in mindless eating—especially with long flight delays or layovers—so bring items to help you stay busy or relax.

 

4.     Eat real food. Limit processed food as much as possible. Choose nutrient-dense, wholesome food that provides sustainable energy. Since traveling can impact digestion, be mindful to stay hydrated and incorporate high fiber foods. Filling up with protein and healthy fat will keep you satisfied longer.  Avoid foods with added sugar to prevent an energy crash. Instead, go for foods that will keep your blood sugar balanced and supply your body with antioxidants. Also, keep an eye on serving sizes; individually packaged goods may seem convenient but what may appear to be a single portion can pack multiple servings. Read the labels.

 

5.     Stay hydrated. Proper fluid intake will help prevent sluggishness, reduce jetlag, and aid in regularity. Flying can be dehydrating, so make sure you’re prepared before boarding. Increasing fluid intake in the days leading up to your departure will help.

 

6.     Self-care. The stressors of traveling can surely take a toll. Take care of your body and mind by getting adequate rest, make sure to move periodically to increase circulation, and bring items to stay comfortable and calm (pillow, tunes, clothing layers, good books, etc).

 

Now that you’re ready to pack your bags, decide what foods to tote along. Consider these three factors before making your selections:

·      Portability: does the food travel well without a big mess?

·      Food safety: will it last for the duration of the outing without refrigeration?

·      Nutrition: will this food make me feel awesome or crummy?

Portable foods that pack a healthy punch and can be planned in advance, include:

·      Pre-cut veggies (carrots, snap peas, tomatoes, cucumbers) with hummus

·      Fruit – bananas, apples, grapes, berries, pears, oranges

·      String cheese and wholegrain crackers

·      Nuts

·      Hard boiled eggs

·      Homemade trail mix, granola or energy bites

·      Nut butter; use small Tupperware or purchase individual packs (like Justin’s)

·      Oatmeal packets (just need hot water!)

·      Olives (drained)

·      Avocado

·      Pre-made salad in a jar (keep dressing separate)

·      Sandwiches or wraps with lean meats and veggies

·      PB&F– whole grain bread, nut butter and fruit

·      Water, sparkling water, tea bags

·      Protein powder

·      Dark chocolate

·      Dried fruit

If space is limited, bring a few things to elevate a basic salad that is available most places. Avocado, nuts, olives and your own dressing can add nutrients and flavor. If you must make a fast-food pit stop, opt for salads, grilled versus fried meats, and forgo the temptation to supersize your meal for a few extra cents. Of course, when traveling on vacay you want to indulge, and rightly so, but be selective on where you splurge!

Busy schedules don’t need to derail your healthy eating habits. Advance planning will help you maintain control when hunger (and temptation) strikes. Supply your body with what it needs so you can feel your best once you reach your destination and enjoy your trip to the fullest!

 

Blogpost written by Ascend Cycle content expert, Ashley H

Eat & Greet: See how Joe Z powers through his day, plate by plate

For the next edition of our “Eat & Greet” series, we’re taking a peek at how Joe Z, Ascend’s #1 man behind the scenes (and #bossbabe’s husband), maintains a healthy diet while juggling work, family, and an active lifestyle. Joe’s strategy of preparing simple meals with wholesome ingredients ensures he gets nutritious food without the fuss. A good reminder to us all that healthy, well-balanced meals can be quick, easy, and still delicious! Choosing high-quality protein sources provides Joe with the fuel he needs to power through intense workouts—be it Ascend rides, weight lifting, or chasing after the kiddos.

Meet Joe: When he’s not supporting all things Ascend, Joe is hittin’ the markets for some fresh produce and quality meats.

Meet Joe:

When he’s not supporting all things Ascend, Joe is hittin’ the markets for some fresh produce and quality meats.

 

Breakfast:

Eggs!  Always eggs for breakfast – 4 farmers market eggs, usually scrambled, sometimes over easy or hard-boiled. Takes 5 minutes and you can’t get much better nutritionally. On the side I eat an avocado – sliced in half and sprinkled with a little sea salt. I eat a pretty good size breakfast, so I also throw on breakfast sausage links or sometimes bacon – all from the farmers market or another farm-direct source.

Lunch:

Protein and vegetables – We try to make extra dinner so I can bring leftovers for lunch the next day. But when that doesn’t work, a really easy go-to lunch is Bilinski’s chicken sausage and frozen vegetables. Slice up a couple chicken sausages, tear open your bag of frozen broccoli (or California blend if you want more variety) and toss it all in a skillet. It cooks in 10 or so minutes and doesn’t require any more fuss than that. Tailor the amount of chicken sausage and vegetables you use to fit your appetite. I usually go 2-3 chicken sausages per bag of vegetables and will eat that as one portion. (PS – This meal is so easy to prepare that I often do so in the mornings while making breakfast for me and the kids, getting ready for work, and helping get the kids dressed, etc.).

Snack:

I keep snacking simple – an apple, a handful of almonds, or an avocado if I didn’t already have one for breakfast. Basically I’m going fruit or nuts here.

Dinner:

This is similar to lunch – protein and veggies. I choose either chicken, pork, beef, or fish with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc. Roasted salmon or trout is a really easy dish to prepare – in the oven for 10-12 minutes and virtually nothing to clean up. Add veggies and you’re good to go. When pressed for time the chicken sausage/frozen veggie dish is great for dinner too. I also make a side salad to go with dinner every night for a little extra veggie intake – lettuce, radishes, carrots, cucumber, a couple chopped dates, and olive oil.

Dessert:

 

Dark chocolate.

 

Dish It Up

*Food philosophy: define what a balance diet means to you: 

I’m all about protein and vegetables, and simple, identifiable ingredients. For meat, we buy direct from farms or the farmers market. Vegetables we buy what looks good – and frozen is totally fine. Kat and I prepare almost every meal we eat – not only does that allow us to control the quality of the ingredients, but psychologically I find it very satisfying!

*Favorite meal of the day (or fave dish):

Starting my day off right with eggs and avocado.

*Top tips and tricks for healthy eating on the go:

I try not to; snack-wise I stick with the fruit/nuts approach or the occasional Rx Bar if I need something more substantial.

*Local eateries where we can find you stopping in for a bite:

Since I’m insane about cooking my own food, you really won’t find me at a local eatery.  But you’ll certainly find me at Mom’s Organic Market on Mt. Vernon, the Del Ray farmers market on Saturdays, and Whole Foods and even Safeway have good vegetable selections.

*Best pre- and post-ride snacks:

Before I workout, be it an Ascend ride or lifting session, I’ll eat a Rise Bar (almond honey). I also love the chocolate sea salt Rx Bar. These give a nice energy boost (but are high calories, FYI).

*Favorite indulgences or must-haves:

Every night for dessert I’ll have some dark chocolate (current favorite is Theo 85%). I love donuts so look forward to Sugar Shack with the kids on weekends.

-Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H

Strawberry and Pesto Salad

Pasta salad with a modern twist, this refreshing dish is bound to be a summer BBQ favorite. The sweetness of strawberries and the creaminess of the avocado pesto dressing pack this salad full of flavor (not to mention color with all those veggies!). Eat alone, or serve with grilled organic chicken for more protein and a cold beverage of choice. Enjoy!   

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 cups wholegrain or gluten-free pasta of choice

1 broccoli, head and stalk

2 carrots, tops removed and peeled

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, tops removed

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1 can (14 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 handful (3/4 oz) fresh basil, leaves picked

Pesto and avocado dressing:

1/3 cup pesto

1 ripe avocado, stone removed and flesh scooped out

4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

juice of ½ lemon

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

shaved slices of pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano

toasted pine nuts

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra-virgin olive oil

 

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Bring a large pan of water to boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente.

2.  Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into small florets, trim and roughly chop the stalk and place them in a sieve over the pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking. Drain the pasta and broccoli and set aside to cool slightly.

3.  Place all of the dressing ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, season to taste, mash until combined and set aside.

4.  Thinly slice the carrots, cut the strawberries into quarters and the tomatoes in half. Transfer the pasta and broccoli to a large serving bowl, add the rest of the ingredients along with the dressing and gently toss until everything is well coated.

5.  Add a dash of water if you need to loosen the dressing. Serve topped with some pecorino, a sprinkling of pine nuts, seasoning and a drizzle of oil.

Source: Green Kitchen at Home cookbook

 

Gardening Tips and Tricks for Summer

Planting season has officially sprung. Warmer weather and bustling farmer’s markets indicate it’s time to get your garden beds in gear. Whether you’re an experienced planter or a just a beginner, gardening can be a great addition to your wellness routine. Complimenting your heart-pumping Ascend rides with a healthy diet paves the way to creating a better version of yourself—but did you know that growing your own grub can bring added benefits that extend beyond the backyard? In addition to producing wholesome food with better nutrient density, gardening can provide a sense of accomplishment while boosting your mood and reducing stress. A healthy hobby that feeds our body and mind deserves a big green thumbs up!

For some pointers on how to produce plentiful plants in our area, we’ve partnered with a local Del Ray gardener, Chris Tate. When he’s not teaching wilderness first aid courses, Chris is getting his hands dirty working in his garden or prepping seeds for planting. Chris is passionate about growing nutritious food, and encourages restaurants to incorporate locally sourced produce on their menus. In fact, you may have enjoyed his kale, Japanese turnips, or radishes while dining at neighborhood spots such as Evening Star Café or Rustico.

Let’s dig in to Chris’s tips:

***

It isn't too late to start a successful garden that carries you through to fall with more nutrient dense produce then you can consume. One or all three of these strategies may work for you:

Store-bought plants

Sowing seed in the ground

Sowing seed indoors and planting out

 

Store Bought Plants

Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplants: Be picky with your purchase. Leave your preference for one variety over another behind and choose only the healthiest plants. Consider the farmer's market the first choice when shopping for vegetable plants.

Sowing Seed in the Ground

Squash and Beans: Establish a schedule of planting squash and beans at the same time. Sow seed, harvest, and repeat the cycle every 3-4 weeks to get three successive waves of harvest.

Be conservative. Perhaps plant two squash plants and two three-foot rows of bush-beans. If they begin to look tired, have disease, or aren't producing much—pull them out and begin the harvest from your second planting.

Radishes, Turnips, Beets, Carrots: Think big return for a small amount of effort in a short time and small area. You can't get the same quality at the store. Try the Hakurei or Tokyo turnip from Johnny's selected seeds. And remember to forget to tell your eaters it's a turnip. They will love it. 

Radishes, turnips, and beets all offer edible greens that enhance your salads and braising mix. All “crop out,” meaning they mature at the same time to be replaced by another crop in time for fall. And they offer an early reward for your effort: 35-60 days to harvest.

Sowing Seed Indoors and Planting Out:

Tomatoes: It isn't too late to start tomatoes from seed. I deliberately seed a second wave of tomatoes in June; they go into the ground in late July and produce until Thanksgiving. You’ll get less disease, fewer pests and a bountiful harvest.

Lettuce: If your garden offers an area of indirect or less consistent sunlight bring the idea of succession planting we considered for squash and beans to lettuce. Seed indoors, plant out after three weeks, and begin harvesting three weeks later. Start new seedlings every three weeks and continue until winter.

Braising Mix: Swiss chard, kale, arugula and all the greens from your turnips, radishes, and beets when young can be part of your salad. And when more mature, they make a great braising mix. Here's the recipe: Olive oil, garlic, sea salt and all those greens.

***

No yard? No problem.

So you want to garden but space is limited? Don’t fret—outdoor pots and planters work well for many items. Herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers flourish well in containers. Adding supports, such as a trellis, can expand your options to other veggies such as pole beans or cucumbers. Just make sure your containers have holes for drainage and are large enough for the selected plants. Check the soil daily to test if it’s dry, as plants in containers need more frequent watering than those in the ground. Select a spot with plenty of sunlight (most veggies need about 6 hours), and use quality organic potting soil.  

Now that you’ve got the basics, dust off those gardening gloves.

Let’s clip in, dig in and grow healthier and stronger, together!

 

-Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H

Satisfying Your Pre and Post workout Craving: Chocolate Oat Energy Bites

These satisfying energy bites are perfect for on the go, or to fuel up pre- or post Ascend ride. Tocos give you an added boost of vitamin E—which is great for your skin and connective tissue. Just remember to hide a few for yourself—they disappear quickly!

 

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup chocolate chips

½ cup almond butter (or peanut butter)

½ cup flax seeds

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon tocos (rice bran solubles) - optional

 

DIRECTIONS:

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Form little balls of the mixture and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Keep them in your refrigerator until ready to eat.

Recipe adapted from simplegreenmoms.com