Ed. Note—Last week we recapped our Tucson Dream Camp with Heather Jackson. This week, Aaron Vinten of The Athletes Table recaps the recipes he cooked for us.

Most athletes show up to Heather Jackson’s Dream Camp to train with one of America’s greatest long distance Ironman triathletes, but I come to fire up the kitchen, cranking out some good food…and pray she doesn’t send it back to the kitchen!

With a car packed full of pots, pans, running shoes, baking trays, Garmin devices, mixing bowls, Roka swim goggles and more kitchen gadgets than I even knew I had...I can't really tell if I have packed to cook at camp or workout out at camp. Honestly, the car looks like i've crammed both a kitchen and a gym into it, but that's pretty much because I have, and I'm stoked! Being able to cook at Heather Jackson's Dream Camp, powered by the Chris Bagg Coaching Group and Wattie Ink., is undoubtedly one of my favorite events of the year! It's like a working vacation where I get to do all the things I love to do...cook, ride, cook, run, cook, swim, cook, eat, cook repeat. Sounds pretty great! And there is a neon yellow Trek Speed Concept laid on top of all this kitchen madness coming along for the sole reason of being ridden up Mt. Lemmon, the signature training ride of the camp and not to be missed (which I did last year).

Chef Aaron and Kurt Marion prepare dinner for the athletes at the 2019 Heather Jackson Dream Camp. Photo Credit: Sean "Wattie" Watkins

With that said, I have to get my a$$ in the car and get moving before we are late! The car is packed, full of gas and we set our eyes out east toward the snow capped mountains of Mt. Baldy and Big Bear Mountain and merge onto the local Los Angeles race track mod often referred to as the 10 freeway. Driving east through downtown, past the Staples Center and out through Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, the city fades and the traffic dwindles. Then it's straight forward into hundred of miles of endless southwestern desert. The road trip is on! Next stop, Tucson, Arizona and into the training grounds of one of Americas best triathletes HEATHER JACKSON!

Heather Jackson leads Randel Gonzales and Roman Gratteri up Mt. Lemmon on a cold, windy February day full of waterfalls and rushing rivers. Photo Credit: Sean "Wattie" Watkins

As with most days at camp, things get going pretty early. Around 5:30am base camp starts to come alive with the bustle of breakfast being prepared, coffee being brewed and the days grocery list starting to come to focus. Day one for me, as with most days, brings a full day of shopping, chopping, mixing, grilling, stirring, boiling, seasoning and tasting to get ready for both lunch and dinner and hopefully a bit of time to slip out of the kitchen for a workout. For the athletes though, day one brings the hustle & bustle of airline travel, unpacking all there gear, getting settled into the rooms, meeting other athletes and getting mentally ready for the week ahead. The training schedule for the week is held top secret by coach Chris Bagg (@christopherBagg), Molly Balfe (@mollytri) & Jush Sutton (@velojosh). The athletes will know the basics of the coming day, but there is always some fun suprises kept under wraps!

My mind however is wrapped up in getting dinner ready for 30 guests including camp athletes, coaching staff, SAG support (@sagitcycling) and special guests (Ben Hoffman this year!). Tonight’s opening camp dinner is spaghetti & meatballs with garlic bread, lemon & porcini grilled broccoli and a classic Italian chopped salad. Gotta get the athletes fueled and ready for a fun, exciting and fatigue inducing week ahead.

Chef Aaron preparing marinara sauce for the opening camp dinner of spaghetti & meatballs, grilled garlic bread, lemon & porcini grilled broccoli and a classic Italian chopped salad.

We came, we cooked, we swam, we ate, we rode, we slept and then we cooked and ate some more. And now we bring some of the favorite recipes from camp right into your home, almost like you were there! It was such an honor to be able to cook for such an incredible group of athletes who traveled from all over the country to attend. They are what this camp is all about and I am grateful to have had a chance to serve them. Special thanks to Heather Jackson, Sean Watkins, Chris Bagg, Molly Balfe, Josh Sutton and Kurt Marion for allowing me into their world of high octane athlete.

Below are four recipes that we cooked this year, one from each dinner. Plus a bonus recipe whipped up by coach Chris Bagg one morning and given a fun twist. All these recipes are easy to make in your home kitchen and a great way to power you though a tough workout or help you recovery afterward!NOW LET’S GET COOKING!

R:87/DAY 1: ITALIAN MEATBALLS

There is no better way to carbo load for a long week of training than opening up camp with an awesome carb packed spaghetti dinner, right?! The meatballs were a big hit with the athletes and I wanted to share the recipe here on the blog. Most people find meatballs intimidating, but they aren't really any different than mixing up anything else in the kitchen. If you can make cookies, then meatballs shouldn't be problem. They are so simple, but do require a number of ingredients to really make something special. We served these meatballs as part of a larger spaghetti dinner w/ grilled garlic bread, lemon & porcini grilled broccoli and an Italian chopped salad w/ homemade red wine vinaigrette. Enjoy!

SERVINGS: 20 Meatballs (Click here and print this easy to follow recipe card!)

INGREDIENTS: 1lb Ground Beef, 1 Lb Ground Pork, 3/4 Cup Bread Crumbs (milk soaked), 2 Whole Eggs, 3/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (Chopped), 1/4 Cup Fresh Basil (Chopped), 1 Tsp Fresh Rosemary (Fine Chopped), 1.5 Tsp Salt, 1 Tsp Black Pepper, 1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper, 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper flake, 1/2 Cup Garlic Olive Oil, 1.5 Tbls Garlic Powder, 1.5 Tbls Onion Powder, 1/4 tsp Fennel Pollen (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients as prepared above. For the bread crumbs, rehydrate them by adding a bit of milk, just enough to moisten them, but not enough to create a sloppy consistency. Using clean hands, gently mix all ingredients together in to a uniform mixture. Cook a small patty in a frying pan to taste for seasoning levels.  Adjust salt, herbs and spices as desired. Using an ice cream scooper or large spoon, scoop out golfball size meatballs on a foil covered baking tray. Roll the meat in your hands into nice smooth meatballs.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or unlit meatballs are cooked though. Serve immediately with your favorite brand of pasta and sauce! Store extra meatballs in the freezer for later use. EAT and tag us @theathletestable in your social media post to show us some recipe love!

R:88/DAY 2: CARROT & PINEAPPLE SALAD

By day two the athletes are still in high spirits from yesterdays efforts in the pool and out on the bike. This Carrot and Pineapple salad was well received. It is bright and citrusy with lime lest, juicy pineapple, fresh grated carrots, green onion and a creamy touch of mayonnaise. So good. We served this carrot salad as an accompaniment to chicken tikka masala, butternut & tofu curry and some grilled garlic naan bread. YUUUMM!

SERVINGS: 5 (Click here and print this easy to follow recipe card!)

INGREDIENTS:  2 lbs Carrot (shredded), 1 Fresh Whole Pineapple (Cleaned & Cubed),  2 Lime Zest, 2 Lime Juice, 1 Cup Golden Raisins, 1 Cup Mayonnaise, 1/2 tsp Kosher or Sea Salt, 4 Stalks Green Onion (Chopped),  1 Cup Cilantro (Chopped), 1/4 Cup Roasted Macadamia/Hazelnuts (Chopped), 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon, 1/8 Tsp Ground Cardamom

INSTRUCTIONS: Gather all your ingredients in front of you and prep as indicted above. You will also need a box grater and hand held zester.  You can use pre-shredded carrots, but for this recipe shredding the carrots by hand yields a significantly better result. Using the box grater, shred the carrots into a large mixing bowl.  Zest and juice 2 limes directly into the carrots and add all other the ingredients as indicated above. Mix together and eat immediately or let sit in the fridge for a couple hours to allow the flavors to really mingle. Top with the crunchy toasted nuts before serving. EAT and tag us @theathletestable in your social media post to show us some recipe love!

R:89/DAY 3: APPLE & BACON SALAD w/ HONEY MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

Day 3 is when the athletes really start to get hungry as there bodies are in overdrive out in the Tucson desert and in there recovery. You can tell by the number of times they come back for food. A classic dish for Heather's camp is her pork belly mac & cheese. It's a favorite and everyone looks forward to it. To lighten things up a bit, but still play with the "bacon" theme, we served this apple & bacon salad w/ honey mustard vinaigrette. So bomb! Fresh apples, bacon, tarragon, almonds, fancy mixed greens, crumbed goat cheese and a sweet mustardy vinaigrette. It just hits ALL the right notes. The salad was served with HJ's pork belly mac & cheese, a vegan butternut Mac as well as truffle dusted chicken breast.

SERVINGS: 4 (Click here and print this easy to follow recipe card!)

INGREDIENTS: 5oz Package Fancy Mixed Greens, 4-5 Strips Bacon (Cooked Crisp), 1 Granny Smith Apple (Sliced), 1 HoneyCrisp Apple (Sliced),  2 Tbls Fresh Tarragon (Chopped), 1/4 Cup Roasted & Salted Sliced Almonds, 1/4 Cup Crumbled Goat Cheese, Sea Salt (To Taste), Black Pepper (To Taste) HONEY DIJON VINAIGRETTE: 2 Tbls Dijon Mustard, 2 Tbls Honey, 3 Tbls Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 pinch Cayenne Pepper, 1 Pinch Kosher Salt

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the bacon out on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake until very crispy. Prepare honey mustard vinaigrette by adding all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together, set aside. Prepare all other ingredients as indicated above. In a large mixing bowl combine the mixed greens and a light amount of dressing. Toss to evenly coat. Add all remaining ingredients into the bowl and gently toss to combine. Season with a bit of salt, black pepper and additional dressing if desired.EAT and tag us @theathletestable in your social media post to show us some recipe love!

R:90/DAY 4: GARLIC & HERB SMASHED POTATOES

Oh yeah! Day 4 of camp came on Super-Bowl Sunday this year where the New England patriots took down my hometown Los Angeles Rams. While the Rams may have lost the game the athletes at camp still won big because today was sous-vide rib night! Rib night has become a staple dinner at camp because the athletes just devour them. This year we served the ribs with these delicious garlic & herb mashed potatoes that we steeped in salted water, garlic, fresh rosemary and fresh thyme for couple hours before cooking and mashing with a bit of butter and sour cream. These are full throttle mashed potatoes, but you can easily substitute vegan alternatives for the dairy and adjust per your dietary requirements. The full dinner included sous-vide BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes, curried cous cous salad, panzanella salad and a vintage ambrosia salad that really payed well into the super bowl night. SO GOOOOD!

SERVINGS: 5 (Click here and print this easy to follow recipe card!)

INGREDIENTS: 4 Russet Potatoes, 1 Tbls Salt,  1 Tbls Garlic Puree, 1/2 Sprig Fresh Rosemary, 5-7 Springs fresh Thyme, 1/2 Cup Butter, 1/2 Cup Sour Cream, 1 tsp White Pepper (or Black Pepper), Water or Milk for consistency. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Peal the russet potatoes and chop into 1 inch pieces. Place the chopped potatoes into medium size pot and add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and salt and enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Stir to combine. Cover and let the potatoes soak for 1-2 hours in the salted herbal water. When ready to cook, turn the heat to medium/low with just enough heat to bring the water to a very slight boil for 10-15 until the potatoes are well cooked all the way though, but not falling apart in the pot. Test by removing a piece of potato and cutting with a knife to ensure doneness. Drain the water by pouring it into the sink, but not dumbing out the potatoes. It is OK to have a bit of water left in the pot. Remove and discard the rosemary & thyme stems. If you have a food mill, potato masher or stand mixer (w/ whisk attachment) pass the potatoes through as desired.  If you don’t, just use a fork to mash them.  Add in the sour cream, butter and pepper and mash until all the ingredients are combined.  Season with additional salt and pepper as desired.  Adjust consistency of the potatoes with water or milk. Top with fresh parsley, cayenne pepper and more pepper! EAT and tag us @theathletestable in your social media post to show us some recipe love!

R: 91 / BONUS: BANANA CREAM PIE RICE PUDDING

This recipe came about when Coach Chris Bagg started making a basic rice pudding for breakfast one morning and watched him add in bananas right into the mix. I new instantly that I wanted to post up a rice pudding recipe inspired by Chris's recipe. We built on top of the idea and turned it into a banana cream pie rice pudding which can really be served as breakfast or dessert. I always cool this overnight and eat it cold the next day.  This mixture will firm up overnight and you can easily soften the consistency by adding some fresh milk or water. The kicker here is that we have used Oatly oat milk in stead of milk or heavy cream. Oatly is an amazing product hitting the markets here in the US and available at my local Whole Foods Market, but ditribution nation wide hasn't quite hit full stride. Fortunatly, other US companies have started to get in the oat milk game. Keep an eye out at your local grocery store!

SERVINGS: 5 (Click here! and print this easy to follow recipe card!)

INGREDIENTS: 4 Cups Oatly Oat Milk, 1 Cup Water (or more oat milk), 1 Cup Short Grain Sushi Rice, 3 Egg Yolks, 1/2 tsp Sea Salt, 5 Tbls Honey or Sugar (as desired), 1-2 Fully Ripened Banana (for mashing), 1 Regular Banana (sliced for Topping), 3 Tbls Vanilla Extract, 1/4 Cup Coconut Cream, 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon, 1/8 Tsp Cardamom TOPPING: Raw Cacao Powder (To Taste), Cinnamon (To Taste), Chia Seeds (To Taste), Pecans or Walnuts (To Taste)

INSTRUCTIONS: Add the oat milk, egg yolks, sea salt, honey and vanilla to a pot on the stove. Use a whisk to mix and ensure the the egg yolks have been throughly wisked into the milk. Turn the heat on a low/medium and allow the milk time to warm slowly, but DO NOT boil. You want to see steam rising from the top, but NOT aggressive bubbles. Add the rice and stir.  Adjust head as necessary to maintain a warm temperature just below the boiling point. All we have to do is cook the rice in a warm liquid and be patient to allow to the rice to hydrate.  Stir rice frequently to ensure that nothing is burning on the bottom of the pan.  As the milk is reduced and the starch from the cooking rice thickens the mixture, add in your ripened mashed banana. Use the extra water (or more oat milk) as needed to prevent the pudding from becoming to think. Stir to combine and allow the banana to desolve into the pudding. When the rice is cooked, remove the pudding from the heat and add in the spices, coconut cream and any additional sweetener that you like. Top with fresh banana, cinnamon, raw cacao powder, pecans and chia Seeds. EAT and tag us @theathletestable in your social media post to show us som recipe love!