Monday, May 31, 2010


Sigh. I did not conquer that race, not even close. 

I traveled to Madison, WI this weekend to participate in the Madison 1/2 marathon with one of the ugrads who used to work with me. He's now doing his own Ph.D. at UW-Madison, and I'm super proud of him. We were supposed to do the race together, but he broke himself a month ago and decided he would try to run the 1/4 marathon instead. 

It was 70 degrees when the 1/2 started, and I had some crazy idea that I would try to PR the race. So I started with the 1:45-ers. That would be about 25 sec/mile faster than my fastest race, but I had been training and I know I'm faster that I used to be. We entered the sunlight at mile 1 and were in it until mile 3. I realized that I wasn't going to be able to do that pace in the heat and dropped back to the 2:00 group. But by then, the sun and heat was taking its toll. I had trained and had a successful 12 miler the week before, but none of my runs had been in anything over 70 degree weather. By mile 4 I was feeling nauseous and was walking the hills and water stops. Shortly after mile 4, I saw my fiance in the crowd and decided to bail. I could've run further, maybe to 6 or 7 miles, but I knew at that point that the full 13.1 was out of the question. If the race were in Des Moines or a city I knew better, I would have stuck a little longer, but I didn't know the course well enough to be able to bail and walk back to the start/finish.
I am really sad about this one. It was my first DNF at a race.
However, I think I made the right decision. I felt awful for hours, and shortly after bailing, I developed a headache that lasted until 10pm (from 8am!Ahhhhh!). This one is particularly upsetting because it's one of two races I've been too tired/sick for this spring (I previously got a migraine the morning of another race). I think graduating and the stress associated with my job change has taken its toll. While I've been training and been active, I'm always feeling stressed and stretched for time. I honestly can say that from March-mid May I did not have a good run. They were all exhausting, slow, and tedious. And once graduation passed, I started to have these amazing, fast runs. That is testament to how much your mental situation effects your physical game.

That said, I think I'm going to take the summer off racing. I will do a couple 5ks for fun, but nothing serious. I'll re-emerge for DSM 1/2 in October. Until then it's time for me to focus on being healthy and fit and removing stress from my life. 

There were highlights from the weekend. I caught up with my friend, saw his new lab, saw Madison, ate some great food and drank 1 whole beer. I also met my first real-live blogger: Ashley from healthy ashley. It was like meeting an actress or something, I was SOO awkward. But Ashley is super nice, and it was great to meet her in person, even for a second. 

Ok, back tomorrow with some eats and probably terpenoids. 

ERA: Friday 4 miles and 15 min abs, Sat OFF, Sun 4 miles of death. Today I plan to bike if I get out of work early enough.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

I lied.

I promised a post on terpenes, but I ran out of time. It was beautiful tonight and I had to celebrate with a giant taco salad and a bike ride. I have another early morning tomorrow and then I go to Madison, WI to run my 4th 1/2 marathon with my first undergraduate mentee from the lab. He's now a Ph.D student at Wisconsin-Madison. Here's us doing some crazy science!

I'll have a full weekend recap and then a post on terpenes next week. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What a day!

I’ve done two 10+ hour days of work in a row this week and today was especially brutal. I like working, but in the sciences you sometimes spend a ton of time working on things that don’t seem to come to fruition. This week is full of these, but I just have to tell myself that I am still learning things and making progress as long as I keep working, so I put the hours in. So…the eats that have kept me going:
This week, we made a couple cold noodle dishes because it’s been too hot for cooking a lot. The first was roasted veggies with pasta and garlic oil. I used my awesome purple asparagus, green asparagus, 2 small zucchini, cloves from 2 bunches of roasted garlic, three roma tomatoes, a whole red onion, mushrooms, and garlic oil made from roasting the veggies. I added in 2-3 oz of RF feta and some kalamata olives once everything was mixed and cooled. 

The other dish was homemade lo mein. This also has a ton of veggies snuck in: 2 cups of broccoli slaw, 4 julienned carrots, 2 julienned zucchini, an onion, a can of baby corn, a can of waterchestnuts, and a crown of broccoli. We added some tempeh, stir fried it all in soy, sweet chili, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and hoisin sauce. I dump this on top of a bed of spinach and top the whole thing with chopped scallions and julienned jicama for crunch. The red: some spicy sriracha! 

I’ve really recycled these in a variety of dishes, so I’ll just show you some pics of how they fit into my meals and fast forward to today, when things got more interesting. 

In a lunch with cantelope, yogurt, and what I'm calling a 'birdseed bar' - Basically Tina's PB Blondies with seedy mixins and extra pumpkin.

As a side to a delicious turkey burger with lo-fat swiss and extra veggie power from roasted veggies, asparagus, and a mix of sweet and white potato oven fries. This was seriously the best meal of the week. All that protein and fiber kept me super full.

With some grilled chicken and a big salad.

And sometimes you need something sweet! This is KEMPS fat-free blueberries and sweet cream fro-yo. I was spoiled on a recent trip to Cali, where they have these self-serve fro-yo places and variety of toppers. This is really good, but it doesn't compare! 

This morning I had bfast in 2 parts: 
 Yes, it was a 2-thermos day. I never did get to the green tea.

Wheat toast, almond butter, and jam before I headed to work super early. 

Fruit, 4 oz yogurt, and 1/3 c Kashi Go-Lean Crunch! A couple hours later (as part of my lunch post).
I thought this would hold me over so that I could get more done before I ate lunch, but I was starving by 1pm. I ate salad and grilled chicken with 1 oz of feta. I usually package these with a baggie of balsamic vinegar to mix in right before I eat, but this spilled all over and soaked through my apricot. Balsamic soaked apricot sounds good in theory, but was gross in practice. I threw it out and ate the banana.

 This lunch kept me pretty full and I’m now lazing at home until bed time.I actually ate the last serving of the tempeh lo-mein and goldfish crackers for dinner, so I don't have anything fun to show you.
 Tomorrow I'm going to do a post on the benefits of terpenes and carotenoids, which are my bread-and-buttah (seriously, it's how I make my money!) 
Eating Requires Activity (ERA): Sun: 30 min of yoga, Mon: 1 hr bike ride (13-14 miles?), Tue: 4 mile run and 15 min assorted weights. Today: OFF! 
What do you do when you feel tired and run-down? 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stop the presses!

The world is not ending, we are not becoming gods, and Craig Venter did not build the antichrist.
What am I ranting about?  Geneticist Craig Venter just published his work on the creation of a living cell from synthetic DNA. To understand what this really means for all of us, let's overview some basic biology. 
1) The Central Dogma: DNA encodes RNA which encodes proteins. This is OLD and was proposed by the guy who solved the structure of DNA, Francis Crick. Along the way we've discovered that DNA and RNA can act as enzymes, which were previously believed to only consist of proteins. We've also found that RNA can encode DNA, which happens a lot in viruses. However, for the sake of this argument and basic biology, let's say the central dogma is true. 

2) If the central dogma is true, then you need DNA to encode RNA, which is often the regulatory step in what happens in the cells. RNA leads to protein synthesis. Proteins make metabolism happen. They break down fuel like sugars, fats, and proteins and build up information (DNA), protection (cell wall and lipids), and a variety of other specialized factors like defense, movement, and sensing. 

3) This all happens within a cell. There are two major groups of cells: Prokaryotic cells belong to single celled organisms. These are abundantly less complex than Eukaryotic cells, which are even abundantly less complex than eukaryotic cells that differentiate into different tissues. I mean, look at the two examples here: 

Left is the prokaryotic, right is the eukaryotic. I mean, look at how much more stuff the eukaryotic cell has!

So, what did this Venter guy do already? Well, in 2008, he reported the synthesis of the first completely synthetic (not biologically derived) genome. What's even more interesting? He owns his own company, so unless I'm mistaken, your tax dollars didn't pay for this. That also means that he doesn't have to make the information about how he made that genome publically available. 

So anyway, this month in Science, he took a genome related to the one reported in the 2008 paper and put it in a 'clean cell' from a related bacteria that had been stripped of all DNA. Pretty neat, huh? I agree. 

But this is the thing...
It would be one thing if he took some lipids and a couple of proteins and made a homemade cell and then put his DNA in and turned it on. He didn't do that. He took an existing, functional cell with all the bells and whistles and hijacked the DNA. He replaced the pilot who was supposed to be flying the plane with an imposter...and lo-and-behold that imposter can fly that kind of plane. 

To me, that means, he didn't create life. And people should simmer down because anyone who was paying attention realized what he was up to in the slough of publications that he has been churning out since 2000. I mean, just read the first couple of paragraphs of his Science paper (link here). He cites himself heavily because they've been building up to this for years. 

This can mean some pretty cool things for the future of science. 

Imagine you lose your limb. Or you have a huge tumor that is going to require losing your liver to remove from your body. Let's say we can take your genome, synthesized and packaged up into a nucleus, and put it in one of those 'stem-like' cells. Then, you can exogenously apply hormones and stimuli to make the correct genes express and grow yourself an organ or a limb in your own body, possibly on a false-bone scaffold or within a mold.
Am I being too imaginative? Perhaps, but it's more possible now than before Venter's work.

Science is amazing. It makes the impossible possible. I think Venter is reaching a little bit when he says he 'created synthetic life' - he took a known genome, made it himself, and stuck it in an existing cell. For the religious, he copied God's work and called it his own.

I'm more afraid of Skynet becoming self-aware (nerd alert!) than this leading to the end of mankind. 

What do you think of this type of news? Should I talk more about science news or do you want me to stick to food and food science?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Friday fundays and the weekend eats

I work heavily with undergraduate students and they are hourly workers, so they are limited to 40 hours per week. Science doesn’t work 9-5, so often we work many hours per day as we do experiments. I’ve learned through the years that the u-grads are much more motivated to work that hard if I tell them that when they are done with their 40 hours, their workweek is done….and this often results in minimal work on Fridays and Saturdays. To deal with this crisis, the people I work have Friday fundays in the summer. We come in, do what we need to do, and then in the afternoon we do something fun. Obviously, if we have deadlines, then we stay and work. But a little fun makes for a better workplace.
Say 'Hi!' to my lab ladies!

On Friday, we had a girls lunch at El Azteca, a Mexican restaurant in town. We ended up waiting until almost 1 to eat, which resulted in the chips being demolished in a matter of moments. I had some chips and the lunch fajitas with chicken. I was chatting with my friends, so I didn’t take a pic, but it looked like this with chicken . I ate 2/3 the chicken mixture, the lettuce, the pico, and the rice. I left the refried beans and the creamy toppings – not my style. And I am classy, so I used a fork because tortillas are low-brow ;) 

After our fun, I actually went back to work for a few  hours before heading home for the day.  I was kind of tired and down, so I was craving comfort food. I broke down and made a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese. I believe strongly that you can eat something less-than-healthy every once in a while if it’s what you CRAVE. I had a long run ahead of me in the morning, so I tried to make all of my sides pretty healthy. 1 cup mac&cheese, a mix of artichokes, pepperoncini, grape tomatoes, an apple, and a piece of my pumpkin bread (low-fat, low sugar, high fiber). I drank a beer and relaxed. 

All that relaxation really helped me, as I woke up at 6:45 on Saturday ready to go. I went to work and then took off for my 12 mile run. On the way out the door, I had toast and jam with water. Over the course of the run, 8 oz Gatorade + 16 oz water. When I got home, I was feeling great and whipped up a quick smoothie before heading out to the farmer’s market and buying some gargantuan purple asparagus

The fiancĂ© offered to make me lunch, and made this beautiful plate for me: turkey and veggies on wheat, a pickle, cantelope. A little while later, I had 1 c of goldfish, 2 babybel cheeses, and an English muffin with almond butter and jelly. The final meal of the day was a HUGE salad (that’s a medium mixing bowl): spinach, romaine, ¼ tomato, artichoke hearts, olives, ¼ bell pepper, sliced onion, roasted veggies, julienned carrots, and a serving of shrimp cooked in olive oil spray, garlic, thyme, S&P, and lemon juice. The best part is that you don’t even need a dressing with this salad because the shrimps make their own sauce. I had a serving of Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato fries. I had set out another serving to eat, but I ended up putting it back because I got full. 
Today I woke up super early, and we made PANCAKES! We have a healthy pancake recipe and the key is a good nonstick pan. I had 2 with ½ c of applesauce on top.
At work, I had a turkey sandwich and a mini salad. And I came home and had a snack of light yogurt, peaches and strawberries, and 1/3 c Kashi Go Lean Crunch.

I'm in the middle of making some amazing cold salads for the upcoming HOT HOT week (80s and 90s! Summer has come to IOWA!). But you’ll have to hold your horses to see them…because I’ve got a straight out of science-fiction science post for tomorrow…

What science fiction do you wish to come true? A time machine? Youth serum? Lead to Gold?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Your mom told you to eat your broccoli!

I don’t know what my problem is, but eating my vegetables has never really been a problem. We had a huge garden growing up and even as a little kid I was pretty open minded about eating all veggies. However, tons of people don’t like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and greens like kale and mustard. These people are highly sensitive to the sulfur containing compounds that the Brassicaceae (this family of veggies) are full of. To some, it tastes foul, astringent, or like garbage. However, this group of phytochemicals (chemicals derived from plants) have possibly the most convincing health benefits of all studied phytonutrients. 
Read on to find out about how broccoli (and its relatives) could save your life!
The Brassicaceae (broccoli & friends) contain high amounts of checmicals called glucosinolates. These chemicals are sugar linked, and when you break open the cells by eating the vegetables – and all of these vegetables require a pretty solid amount of chewing if eating them raw – the chemical loses its sugar and becomes an isothiocyanate. The most common isothiocyanate studied is sulforaphane, which has anticancer, antidiabetes, and antimicrobial properties. The last part makes sense because these veggies want to protect themselves from opportunistic bacteria, parasites, and herbivores with these compounds. This is actually further good for us, because if you can’t afford to buy all of your veggies organic, these veggies naturally have low pesticide loads because they just don’t need them.  

Maybe you noticed in the last spiel that these chemicals have anticancer properties. Now, if you’re a chemist like me, you look at the chemical structure and say ‘That looks like it would be an ok antioxidant.’ And it is, but interestingly, that’s not how it prevents cancer. These compounds (namely sulforaphane) induce a wide variety of enzymes involved in reactive oxygen response and inflammatory response, many of which protect against cancer-inducing stimuli (like too much sun and certain chemicals). These compounds are highly chemoprotective, though the recent studies have failed to find a link between high vegetable intake in the human diet and lowered incidence of cancer.

There are many glucosinolate supplements you can take if you really hate the Brassicaceae, but I don’t recommend taking them if you’re taking any prescription drugs until you consult with your doctor. These supplements have wide ranges of concentration and they mess with the enzymes in your liver (Cytochrome P450s) that metabolize your pharmaceuticals. However, naturally occurring levels of glucosinolates have never been associated with inhibition of these enzymes, so you can eat a lot of cauliflower without worrying about your drugs failing to absorb correctly. 

Speaking of glucosinolates, I’ll be eating some delicious asparagus in the future. We went to the farmers market this morning and check out these gargantuan stalks:

I’ll show you my recipe tomorrow or Tuesday. Until then, it’s time for wine and papers…I’m onto something cool with my TB project and I’m eating up all the literature I can find trying to determine if it’s the right direction for my research to go!

Happy Saturday night!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ramping back up...

After sidelining all experiments in the lab from mid-March to May 7 for defenses, grant writing, teaching, conferences, and graduation I'm sllooooooooowwwwwwwly ramping back up in the lab. This process is soooo painful, because I'm used to being super-uber busy from 7:30am-9pm and I'm missing my crazy frenetic energy. But, I'm sure I'll be back at it soon and then I'll be busier and's only a matter of time.

So, I promised some eats. This is what I've been up to eating in the last few days...


Smoothies! Green: banana, pineapple (1 c cubed), peaches (1 c sliced), 1 c almond milk, 1/2 scoop protein powder, 2-3 c spinach.
In the blender: 1/2 c almond milk, 1 banana, 1 c blackberries, 1 c strawberries, spinach, 1/2 scoop protein powder.

In case you doubt I ever eat real food, it was cold and gross today and I ate some delicious apple oatmeal!

Add 1 apple (or 1.5 small apples, cubed) to microwave safe bowl. Top with spices, vanilla, and sweetener (I use 1 tbsp splenda). Microwave 1 min. Add 1/3 c uncooked oatmeal and water, cook 2 min in microwave. Stir in 1 tbsp peanut butter....serve with coffee!

My lunches were pretty tame. They all fell into the same boat as Tuesday's post except for this beauty: strawberries, random assorted veggies, a mini babybel cheese, and 1 small sweet potato and 1 small white potato smashed and covered in homemade vegetarian bbq baked beans. It was amazing and held me for 6 hours.

I did hit the candy drawer pretty hard on Wednesday...and my labmate gave me a special kind of rice crispie treat made with fruity pebbles...the sugar really helped my energy.

Dinners have been hectic. I ate the same pork tacos as Tuesday with a side of steamed broccoli and snap peas...

Then I snarfed some supermarket take-out that didn't quite get pictured as I was running from work to the grocery store to the coffee shop (i.e. my second place of is very portable when you have a laptop). Though unpictured, I ate a california roll and 1.5 cups of chicken tortilla soup.

To secure my free wireless and seat at the coffee shop, I bought an unsweetened iced tea and a cookie. I ate half the cookie and brought the other half to the fiance afterward.

When I got home, I roasted veggies for a future meal. Eggplant, squash, onions with a bit of olive oil, spices, and garlic.

Amazing, right? I will probably eat them tomorrow...

Finally, I was not feeling quite so fabulous yesterday and my nice fiance took me to dinner to cheer me up. We went to this irish restaurant in town, and it's pretty good...but my crackberry doesn't like the low lighting, so forgive me: on the way out the door, I had an unpictured slice of my low-fat, low sugar, high fiber pumpkin bread to tide me over. I don't have a picture of the slice, but I think a picture of the 13x9 pan afterwards can explain everything...

This was followed by 1.5 slices of a smoked salmon appetizer pizza...pictured is 1 slice. It had smoked salmon, capers, avocado, and provolone on some kind of amazing sauce...roasted red pepper?. Dinner was an amazing veggie wrap. They saute cabbage, broccoli slaw, carrots, and onions and stuff it into a tortilla with cheese and this roasted red pepper dressing. I normally wouldn't get fries, but this place has the most amazing fries. All told, I ate 1/2 the wrap and picked the veggies out of the other half...tortillas aren't really my thing. I ate 2/3 of the fries and donated the rest across the way. I had to save room for some dessert...

Besides, what's a 'treat night' without ice cream? 
 'Like it' sized sinless cake batter (have you guys tried their 'sinless' ice creams? They are amazing!) and strawberries mixed in. It was delicious! 

Well, that about catches us up. We had a special lab lunch today at El Azteca, so I'll save that for my weekend wrap-up post. In the meantime, I'll talk about some of the vegetables that are known to have anti-cancer broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and leafy greens. Interestingly, those are often the ones people don't like, but I love them! 

What is your favorite vegetable? Your least favorite?

(ERA): 2 mile run, 20 minutes yoga. 3.5 mile run, 30 minutes yoga.