Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eating out: Red Robin

Yesterday was a day of errand-running with The H and little guy, as they were home from daycare/work. We started the day with a batch of these fantastic waffles, and stopped for lunch at Red Robin.

I've been itching for the taste of buffalo sauce lately, so I ordered a plain-grilled chicken sandwich (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle come on the side) with Frank's. Rather than fries, I asked for melon as a side and was pleased to see two sweet and juicy slices of cantaloupe arrive on my plate.

I did sample a few of The H's fries, but they weren't doing it for me today so I had no problem cutting myself off. No pictures; I didn't have the camera on me and thought a cell phone pic of my empty plate would be less than impressive.

This is probably the first time I've eaten at Red Robin and *not* felt like a big greasy schlub on the way out. "Yummm" indeed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Allergen-free* waffles

* If you use the flax "eggs" as described below, and rice- or almond milk, these can be gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free * If you are allergic to corn, then I'm sorry; this is not the mix for you!

My little guy loves waffles. He asks for one almost every morning. So when we got back from Alexandria and I hadn't gone shopping yet, we nearly had a toddler meltdown on our hands. Lucky for him (you know, since he didn't have to get a time-out for having a tantrum) I was able to whip up this semi-homemade version in just a few minutes.

Starting with Bob's Red Mill gluten-free pancake mix, I stirred in half a container of apple-carrot-sweet potato baby food, cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. I also took a chance and added a second egg (the directions call for one) since I thought I remembered reading something like that on the package of Krusteaz pancake/waffle mix once. With a bit of milk and some canola oil, these were ready to be griddled.

I didn't know how they'd turn out, so I halved the recipe that is printed on the the package. Happy to report they were fantastic! No funky GF aftertaste or texture, with a nice wintery spice flavor from the nutmeg. The baby food puree is undetectable, but I feel like it gives us a little boost of orange-veggie intake that we may not have otherwise had.

These turned out so well, the little guy requested them again the next day. Alas, I'd used the last two eggs on the first (half) batch! Then I remembered that Bob's Red Mill pizza crust mix has an egg-free alternative suggestion: * mix together 1 Tbsp flax meal with 3 Tbsp cold water for each egg called for. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes, then use in place of the egg(s). That is exactly what I did, making enough flax-equivalent to replace the two eggs I didn't have.

The flax batch--the ones pictured--came out a little crispier than the ones I made the first time. I'm not sure if that's from the flax, or if I was slower taking them out of the waffle iron. They also stuck to the iron more than the eggy version, even after a spritz of nonstick cooking spray. Just be aware of this if you decide to make them. The original recipe, as printed on the back of the package, is as follows:

Gluten-Free Pancakes
from Bob's Red Mill
makes ~10 single waffles

1 1/2 cups gluten-free pancake mix mix
1 egg* (or flax "egg" - 1Tbsp ground flax + 3Tbsp water)
3/4 cup milk* (cow, almond, rice, etc.)
1 Tbsp oil

We made these again for Christmas morning, a full batch this time, with one egg and one flax "egg", and added cinnamon, nutmeg, and a full "Stage 2" container of apple-carrot-sweet potato baby food. I called them Gingerbread Waffles, and my in-laws gobbled them up.

Oh, and just so you really think we're cuckoo, I feel obligated to tell you that we made them again for breakfast today. Yeah, that's about 4 times in less than two weeks. They're GOOD!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So here's the plan...

This week, being another holiday week, will be kind of wonky but I don't expect it to be as off-course as Christmas was, given that the majority of the cookies are gone and nobody I know does a gigantic New Year's dinner.

Here's a rough idea of what we'll be eating... what's on your menu?

Sunday - gluten-free pizza and salad with friends after a 3 mile run

- beef stew (local beef, potatoes, carrots, onion, green beans), gluten-free pumpernickel bread, and kale chips (5 mile run in the morning)

Tuesday - 5 mile run, followed by slow cooker soup...perhaps leftovers from last week?

Wednesday - visiting family; we usually have pizza or pasta (gluten-free as applicable) the first night we're there

Thursday - visiting family; possibly scalloped potatoes and ham

Friday - 4 mile "Resolution Run" and family-friendly NYE party with friends; we've been asked to bring a dish to pass. Maybe something from my new Clean Eating Mag cookbook!

Saturday - I like to include some form of pork/sauerkraut in our January 1st menu. I might look for a pork tenderloin this week. That's simple and CrockPot-able.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The H was a wonderful elf this year. In addition to many running-related goodies, he also got me The Best of Clean Eating Magazine Cookbook, AND a cookbook holder to keep kitchen messes off of it. :) Sweet, huh? I'm so excited to snuggle up with it and a pack of sticky notes and start planning some new menus.

We started the day with coffee while we opened presents with the little guy, then made the 2-mile trip to the in-laws' where we had gingerbread waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon before opening more presents. With a little downtime in between, we then trekked out to The H's aunt and uncle's house for an early dinner; my plate was loaded with turkey breast, wheat-free cheesy potatoes, green beans with slivered almonds, two deviled egg halves (I made these, using plain Greek yogurt, yellow mustard, and horseradish for the filling), and a scoop of green Jell-O something-or-other with pineapple and pistachios, which I was told was a staple for that side of the family. Oh, and then I indulged in dessert(s)...

Today was pretty busy for us and not very typical food-wise. But I enjoyed everything I ate and don't regret a bit of it, and I'm thrilled to have spent the day with loved ones. I hope you had a warm and relaxing holiday, too.

Stay tuned for some tasty new recipes!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

CrockPot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Yes, this soup starts with a box mix. Don't stop reading just yet. I found it at Whole Foods in Alexandria and was sucked in by the big "GLUTEN FREE!" sign on the shelf. A packaged soup mix that is GF and low sodium? Must investigate!

I love that the ingredients list is so simple:

Really. Rice, veggies, spices (SALT-FREE, did you see that on the front?) and a bay leaf. A real, big whole bay leaf. I was impressed.

The only things I had to do in order to get this on its way was to put chicken breast in the crock, add some fresh chopped mushrooms (I used an 8oz package of button mushrooms, quartered), sprinkle the seasoning over all that, and add some broth and water. Brilliant.

This simmered away all afternoon, from about 2pm until we got home from running group to eat around 7:30.

After tasting the soup, I did add some sea salt based on my personal preference. I enjoyed mine with a few saltine crackers and some awesome dried apple slices from my mom. And then I had some Christmas cookies. :D I claim that *earned* those, after running the fastest 5 miles of my life--at an overall pace of 7:49/mile. For real, right?! It wasn't easy, but I'm thrilled that I could do it. The girl I ran with said she "had a goal for us." I was too scared to ask what it was.

This is some of my Garmin data:

Time: 00:39:16
Moving Time: 00:39:05
Elapsed Time: 00:39:28
Avg Pace: 07:49 min/mi
Avg Moving Pace: 07:47 min/mi
Best Pace: 06:05 min/mi

ANYway, The H ate two large bowls of this soup, saying it wasn't as heavy as it looks. We had enough left over to make three large-lunch portions, one of which I think I'll try freezing. It's always good to know which recipes will last longer than a few days. Of course I could have made a GF chicken-and-rice soup without a boxed starter; people do it all the time. But it's nice to have an alternative when doing it all yourself just isn't feasible.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Old Town A - Homecooking!

So I know we've been home for a few days, but since I wasn't able to upload photos while we were on the road, I'm shuffling in some of them now.

One of the the things we got to do while in the DC/Alexandria area was have dinner with a friend of mine from high school, whom I literally haven't seen in 10 years.

It was so nice to have a break from restaurant food; granted, this trip was shorter than our most recent ones (Alexandria in April and Atlanta in June were both 2 weeks), and I cooked in-room one of those nights, but still. Home-cooked is home-cooked, even in someone else's home!

Our hostess was so gracious to all of us, especially the little guy. He made himself right at home checking out her Christmas tree and candy dish.

I think he had M&M drool on his chin before I sat down to sample the cheese and olives she set out for appetizers.

This is what the table looked like when we sat down:

Gorgeous, no? She was so kind to take The H's allergies into account, and the resulting meal--baked chicken, sauteed zucchini and summer squash, mashed potatoes, and fabulous gluten-free brownies--was simply delicious.

The little guy ate some, but I didn't push him to clean his plate by any means; he ends up being a better guest when he isn't forced to hold still and eat like a big boy. He had much more fun playing games to which only he knew the rules.

Overall, it was a lovely, lighthearted break in the middle of a week of restaurant food. And for the record, the little guy does indeed have highly pinchable cheeks! (Don't you wish you could rock a footie dinosaur sleeper?)

Eating out: Chipotle

Today the little guy and I met The H at Chipotle, kind of on a whim. LG and I were on our way home from his daycare Christmas party (God bless those workers; it was *loud* in there) when The H called us--his company once again failed to get him something GF/wheat-free when they ordered lunch in, so he was looking for something to eat.

Pardon the crappy cell phone pic, but this is my gorgeously colorful chicken burrito bowl, topped with black beans, pico de gallo (the mild salsa), and roasted corn salsa (medium). It was just the right amount of heat, plus a good serving of protein from the chicken and beans. Very satisfying.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Just say no" to HFCS

Have you seen those annoying "high fructose corn syrup is just like sugar" ads on TV? The frumpy mom at the kids' birthday party, the carefree girl-and-boyfriend picnicking in the park? I can't stand those. They're so misleading. HFCS is *not* just like sugar, it's *not* natural, and it's nearly impossible to enjoy in moderation due to its increasing presence in so many foods. But often when people ask me *why* I avoid HFCS, my mind goes blank. I might stutter something like, "Because it's GROSS." I'm not great under pressure.

This article provides a short, to-the-point FYI in case you are the same, or even if you've never known why HFCS (I mean, corn sugar) is a nasty little bugger. It's one of the first things I cut out of my diet even before I had ever heard of clean eating.

If you're new to the clean eating scene and this is foreign-sounding to you, do yourself a favor and check out the labels on the foods and beverages you purchase and consume this week--even the ones that may already be in your fridge/pantry. You may be surprised at how many things contain HFCS. Chances are, for most of those products, either you'll find that you can buy or make a better (healthier, cleaner) alternative, or you don't need it all that badly after all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Know what's not bad?

These things--Dr. Praeger's Tex Mex veggie burger patties. I bought them on my last trip to Trader Joe's after hearing others recommend them here and there. I originally thought they'd be a nice quick lunch for myself when The H and little guy are at work/daycare, but they came through in a pinch for dinner tonight. The H his not a gigantic fan of meatless products, but he pasted on a smile and went with it. Actually, he MADE it. I was blustering around a few stores after my run this afternoon and he was kind enough (hungry enough?) to start dinner while I was out.

We served these with sliced avocado, fresh tomato, and sliced sharp cheddar, with some gluten-free mac 'n' cheese (another Trader Joe's purchase) on the side. My meal plan indicates sweet potato fries, but the sweet potatoes were in the car with me, having just been purchased this afternoon. No sense in waiting another 45 minutes when my boys were hungry; the GF mac did just fine as a side. Here's a little tip: you can make your macaroni--the boxed stuff, I mean--with plain Greek yogurt in place of the milk if you want a creamier, "Kraft Deluxe" style dish. Omit the butter and just use 1/2 cup yogurt instead of the 1/4 cup milk. If you swap out the pasta included in the box and use brown rice spirals (oh, Trader Joe, how often can I praise you in one post?) it's a dead ringer for the mac 'n' cheese at Boston Market at a fraction of the arterial damage.

So that's what we had. And what I will be having again, because those patties were good. The H and I commented as such multiple times throughout the meal about them. Not too crumbly, as some meatless things can be, not too spicy, and really rather flavorful. The H's only minor complaint was that some of the veggies in said "veggie burger" are recognizable. ;) Works for me!

Christmas week meal plan

Sunday lunch - breakfast dinner (local eggs, local chicken apple sausage, grapefruit slices)

Sunday dinner - with friends (steak, sweet potatoes, salt-crusted white potatoes, mixed veggies, gluten-free brownies, red wine)

Monday - veggie burgers with home-grown green beans and sweet potato fries

Tuesday - wild rice chicken soup in the CrockPot

Wednesday - CO-OP PICKUP and gluten-free pizza with friends (various toppings)

Thursday - local beef burgers with home fries/potato skillet

Friday - Christmas Eve, plans TBD

Saturday - Merry Christmas! We are brunching with the in-laws and then heading to The H's aunt and uncle's for Christmas dinner later in the afternoon. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday week and a fantastic weekend.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

One for the record books

Yesterday will go down in personal history as one of my worst food-related days since I started eating clean. The whole day was out of whack, having been delayed--then canceled--on our flight home from DC. We ended up spending Friday night in another hotel in Alexandria, only to be back at the airport at 6am for a different flight out (on a different airline, no less) Saturday morning.

We began the day at 4:45am with Starbucks coffee in-room (thanks, Sheraton Suites!) and hard-boiled eggs that I'd brought from our *other* hotel. There were four, and three of us, so it wasn't very filling. I also pulled some organic cereal bars from my suitcase and put them into my carryon bag for later. We had to ditch the coffee since we didn't have enough hands to carry that, the little guy, our bags, and three suitcases. Sad.

Once at the airport, after checking in and enduring the luggage and security lines, we had very little time before our plane arrived. And I was starving. Around 6:45 The H went to get coffee and asked what I liked from McDonald's... and oh, yes, rather than saying "Nothing, thanks, I have a cereal bar" I fired off a quick "Sausage McMuffin with egg!" as he walked away. Ooops. So I gobbled that before we boarded, and finished my coffee in-flight. And then had some Biscoff cookies, which I love. Thanks, Delta! We are card-carrying Continental flyers, but I do love me some Delta Biscoff cookies.

Once we landed, shortly after 9am, The H got us *more* coffee (mmm...Caribou...) and we met my wonderful dad, who was kind enough to pick us up. Oh, and kind enough to pick up a new carseat for the little guy, since by taking a different flight/airline, we also ended up at a different airport, a full 2 hours from the one at which our car--and LG's seat--was waiting.

From there, since we happened to be in town, the little guy and I went with my mom and sister to my extended family's "Cookie Day," which is as you might guess: a day designated for baking eighty zillion Christmas cookies. Having no supplies or recipes with me, I was fully unprepared and basically useless to the operation. I did, however, manage to eat several cookies, drink MORE COFFEE if you can believe it, and eat two slices of pizza for lunch--one veggie, and one pepperoni/mushroom.

As luck would have it, another one of my sisters (who lives in the same city we do) was there. OK, it wasn't luck; we asked her to please please please come to Cookie Day and bring us home with her! So she did. :) The little guy and I slept most of the way home, a much-needed rest for both.

Dinner was a matter of convenience for the sleepy, out-of-sorts, amazingly resilient little guy, and he requested nuggets. It felt like an out-of-body experience as I sat down at Wendy's and unwrapped a spicy chicken sandwich, fries, and root beer. What was I thinking?! I know Wendy's has salads and potatoes, but I apparently chose to ignore that. Sigh.

Once LG was in bed, The H made us some... oh yeah, coffee. Decaf for this round. I could only handle half a cup before I felt like I'd pee brown the next day, and called it quits. A few glasses of water later, I went to bed. My own sweet, blessed, comfortable, non-bleachy-sheets bed.

It wasn't normal. It wasn't pretty. But it is what it is. Today I got back on track as much as possible without grocery shopping, had a great run, and enjoyed dinner with friends (steak, sweet potato, veggies, gluten-free brownies). Tomorrow is Monday--a 5 mile day. Perhaps then life will resume its regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taking control

Sometimes when we're on the road with The H I feel like I don't have much control over my meals. It's easy to fall into that mindset when breakfast is provided by the hotel, lunch is all too easy to grab while the little guy and I are out and about, and dinner is paid for by the company. However, I know that's not how it HAS to be. Even though I'm not cooking 100% of my meals, I can still choose to take control of what I'm eating most of the time. During weeks when eating out frequently is inevitable, sometimes I feel like rebelling (against myself? LOL) and choosing something fatty, fried, and utterly indulgent **just because I can**. And while that is my prerogative, I think the motive behind it is kind of sucky.

Yesterday after a good, solid run, I exercised good control by opting for a Greek yogurt (Fage 2% with blueberries) and glass of water before making taco salad for dinner. We bought meat, lettuce, cheese, chips, and salsa at Whole Foods earlier in the week, and I combined it all with taco seasoning I'd brought from home. It was good and filling (and spicy!), and aside from the tortilla chips (with the shortest ingredients list I could find), mostly clean. It was refreshing to have a run behind me and dinner on the table before 6:30 on a Tuesday night, when we usually don't get home from running group until almost 8pm. I think that alone, regardless of my dinner, made me feel accomplished and successful.

I carried over that feeling of empowerment to breakfast today, where I had oatmeal with walnuts, raisins, and a little brown sugar instead of the waffle with butter and artificially-flavored syrup I'd been dreaming about. With a side of fresh pineapple and some bites of scrambled egg, I was off to a good start that wouldn't result in a carb-hangover at 10am.

Tonight we're having dinner with a friend of mine from high school, whom I haven't seen in probably 10 years. While I know she's planning a good clean meal for us after learning of The H's allergies, I still might want to squeeze in a quick run before we go. The sun is out, and there's no snow on the ground!

And yes, I know these really long rambly posts without pictures are kinda boring, but I forgot to bring the camera cord with me this week! Maybe The H will be so kind as to offload the pics onto his laptop and email them to me. Well, maybe I should take pictures of something first, and then have him do that... ;)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Old Town A - Day 2

This morning was nice and leisurely, as mornings out of town should be. When the little guy started calling for me at 7am, I told him it wasn't time to be awake yet... so he went back to sleep 'til 8! Merry early Christmas to me. Since I showered after my run last night, I was fresh as a daisy already and just needed to flatten out my hair and throw on some makeup to look presentable for breakfast. Breakfast was nothing to write home about; much of the same from yesterday. Tomorrow I think I'll give in to my inner child and make a Belgian waffle with butter and syrup.

We didn't venture outside until well after 11am, since the little guy made friends with two other tiny boys at breakfast, and they had a good time running around together for the better part of an hour. Once we got moving, we braved the blustery weather--yep, again--so I could get a few things from the Gap and Walgreens. Super exciting, no?

Lunch was in-room: leftover pizza for us both (and a peach cup for the little guy) followed by some coffee with half-and-half for me as I sat down to work during naptime. The sunshine is streaming in the windows, making my legs itch for a run, so I hope The H gets back sooner than he did yesterday! I've got plans to reacquaint myself with the Mount Vernon Trail, and I'd love to do it during daylight hours.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Old Town A - Day 1

The H has a different work schedule than usual for being on the road, which means rather than bringing breakfast to the room for me and the little guy, he's out the door by 6:45 and we're on our own. LG slept long enough this morning that I could shower and get ready in peace. Love that! We headed down to the breakfast buffet just after 8am. I can't tell you the last time I was ready to leave the house that early, let alone that presentably--I did my makeup, folks. Yeah.

My little buddy perused the spread and requested that "orange melon and green melon" be part of his breakfast. Then he insisted upon calling them "oranges and pears." He ate two large chunks of each, along with a sausage patty, less than 1/4 cup of Froot Loops (he calls them colored Cheerios), and some 2% milk. I mostly enjoyed a bowl of melon, coffee with half and half, and an egg sandwich: wheat English muffin with spinach, Canadian bacon, and egg. We snagged a small blueberry muffin to share for morning snack-time. It was dry and we didn't eat it all.

On this fine, sunny, WINDY morning, we blew down to Whole Foods, more to warm up than shop, and later found ourselves in a small independent bookstore before choosing convenience over cleanliness and diving into Subway for lunch. My turkey-on-wheat was mediocre. I didn't realize the "sandwich artist" helping me thought this was my 6" sandwich, rather than LG's kid's meal, so I didn't have it toasted, had her add cheese, and omitted my favorite topping--the yellow peppers! It was instead made simply with spinach, tomato, oil, and vinegar. Fine, but not really what I wanted.

As soon as The H got back from work I blasted out the door for a run. Coming from Michigan, I'll take just about any chance I get to run on clear, dry sidewalks in mid-December, wind or not! Dry sidewalk trumps treadmill. I had to cut my planned 5 miles down to 4 because he was later than planned, and really windy, but 4 is better than zero! I made up a route based on the wind and traffic. It was fun--looking forward to going further tomorrow, hopefully with more daylight.

Dinner was post-run: delicious goodies from ZPizza. Half of a thin-crust "Rustica" style pizza with chicken sausage and arugula (and a light beer--complementary from the hotel's happy hour) for me, a gluten-free pepperoni and mushroom pizza for The H, and a pear and gorgonzola salad with balsamic vinaigrette for us to share. I went shopping at Whole Foods while my boys went to hunt and gather. It was a quick trip. The little guy has been very picky lately, which is unusual for him, but I guess not atypical for his age. We ended up spending less than we ever have at a grocery store on the road with The H! I got some Greek yogurt and organic graham crackers for snacks, cereal bars that the little guy asked for, yogurt/cottage cheese/turkey lunchmeat for The H, and ingredients for taco salad tomorrow.

Tomorrow is supposed to be windy again, so we'll probably stick close to the hotel, but we'll see...

Hello again, Old Town.

This week we're probably going to eat here... and here... and perhaps even here.

Oh, and we'll have to stop in here, of course.

No, I didn't go on a cooking strike. We're in Alexandria, VA with The H again! Despite a fairly stressful adventure getting here, we made it in relatively good spirits. We're staying at the same hotel we were at for this trip, but this time--thankfully--we are blessed to have a two-room suite instead of a studio room! Dinner last night was courtesy of the Whole Foods just a few steps outside our door. The H brought mac 'n' cheese for the little guy, who'd been asking for noodles all day, some turkey, mashed taters, and beans for himself, and a pork tenderloin with rice and veggies for me. A tasty end to a hectic day!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A splurgy weekend

In the interest of keeping it real, this is what my eats looked like from Friday through Sunday...

Friday - dinner went mostly according to plan, albeit a little later than hoped since I underestimated the time it would take wild rice to cook in the CrockPot. We had chicken breast cooked with the wild rice, onion, veggie broth, and cubed roasted butternut squash.

Saturday - typical pre-run breakfast toast, some baked goods after my 8-mile run with friends, and the leftover half of my shredded spicy beef burrito from Friday's lunch. We went out to dinner with some running friends, to a steakhouse chain we haven't been to in a year or more. I had an 8oz steak with sides of sauteed mushrooms and a veggie skewer. I also indulged and had a Coke, which promptly made my eyes water from the carbonation. We capped the evening with a trip to ColdStone Creamery, which I haven't had since... who knows? It was served after my half marathon in May, but I opted for lemon sorbet that day.

Sunday - The H was leaving for another week in the DC area, so we had breakfast as a family at a local place. Although I debated getting my "usual" (eggs, fruit, small pancake) a sugary psychosis carried over from Saturday night and I found myself ordering the gingerbread pancakes instead. Holy smokes; they were like plate-sized gingerbread cookies slathered with cinnamon-roll icing and dolloped with whipped cream. I laughed when the server actually set down a container of maple syrup on the side. INSANELY sweet. That's very unlike me, and while I enjoyed what I ate, I didn't finish the plateful.

The little guy and I dropped The H off at the airport and came home for 3-hour naps. :D Happy Sunday to us! We each had some yogurt when we got up, before making Trader Joe's black bean-and-cheese taquitos for dinner. I dipped mine in a mixture of sour cream and TJ's peach salsa. The little guy picked at his, opting instead for Kashi cheese crackers and a kiwi.

I jumped back into normalcy this morning with a 5-mile run, Nature's Path granola, and some delightful hot coffee. With half-and-half, of course.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Who's afraid of the big bad Kate?

More than once in the past week it has come to my attention that some of my readers and real-life friends feel intimidated by this little bloggity blog, for one reason or another. Yes, I run a lot. But that's just for ME, not something you have to do to make clean eating a success. Yes, the recipes I blog are (mostly) clean, but please understand that's not all we eat. I drink wine, I like beer. And I don't always wait for a special occasion to have a drink. Sometimes The H saying, "Want some wine with dinner?" is occasion enough for me. The fact that I drink less than once a week has more to do with a medication I take than the clean-eating factor.

I don't mean to be misleading when all I post are cleaner recipes, but I don't think a clean eating blog that blathers on about how many times we ate leftovers and/or fast food (yep, we do) in a week would go over so well. We're not perfect. There have been times when I'm simply too lazy--oh yeah, it happens--to prep a CrockPot meal on a Tuesday, so we've blasted through the Burger King drive-thru on the way home from running group. Sometimes I feel bad about that, but mostly not.

If you've been reading me for any length of time, you know that I believe a peanut butter cup flurry is a vital part of my long-run training. Oh, and last week I bought a box of Trader Joe's assorted holiday "Joe-Joe's" cookies (for the uninformed: chocolate-enrobed Oreo-like cookies with various flavored fillings, like peanut butter) just for myself. I have recently developed an insatiable taste for Indian food, particularly chicken tikka masala and garlic naan.

These are rare instances, indulgences, that round me out (haha!) and keep me from losing my mind or being a complete stick-in-the-mud, inflexible, hard-nosed clean eater. That works for some people. But, and I don't know if you know this about me, I HATE being told what to do. That's part of the reason that following a strict training plan for my marathon in October was so hard for me. Of course I like running, that's no secret, but I don't like being told WHEN and HOW FAR to go on my runs. Likewise, I don't like being told I CAN'T eat certain things. If I want fries, I want FRIES already. I won't get a large, and I won't make it a daily habit, but I will eat them. Sometimes my indulgent cravings come back to bite me in the rear, but overall I believe that moderation has been the key to my continued success.

There are times when I need to pull back and rein in my indulgences because I see them becoming more habitual than I'd like. Days when jeans that fit fresh out of the dryer last week are a wee bit snug this week, even on their 2nd wearing. That's when I really dig into my books and magazines and create a solid, clean meal plan for the week. That's when you see a higher weekly-post average from me. It's when I'm quiet about it that I'm stuffing my face with flourless chocolate cake, Andes mints, and flamebroiled goodness.

Now you know my secret... I'll try to give a more accurate representation of our habits, even the not-so-clean ones, if you promise to send more comments my way! Please. :) And now, I'm off to lunch at a Mexican restaurant with coworkers, where I will proceed to order whatever speaks to me at the time. I'm thinking super-spicy beef burrito, actually...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hey guess what?

This morning I registered for my second marathon, the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI. Crazy, right? :) A whole bunch of my friends are running it this year, so I won't lack training partners. What a way to kick off the winter! Kinda makes this morning's first real snow of the year more bearable to know that it WILL melt, and it WILL be sunny and warm again. :)

Since my marathon in October, I've seen a dramatic drop in my per-mile times, which is both astounding and encouraging to me. Every week I run faster than the last, which is faster than I ever thought possible. Last night I ran an 8:04/mi pace for 5 miles, which is more than 2 minutes faster per mile than I was just a few years ago. Amazing! I'm having a blast doing it, and couldn't ask for more supportive friends and family.

Regardless of my pace for this upcoming 26.2, I'm definitely looking forward to sharing the "first marathon" experience with my friend Cindy, who registered for the same race. I'm so excited that she's beginning this nutso ride with me, and can't wait to see what training will bring.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Southwest Spaghetti Squash

Squash that doesn't taste squashy? Yes, please. I'm trying to like it, I really am, but I don't want every squash-based meal to taste like, well, mashed orange squash.

This dish will get another chance in our kitchen. I tried to make it a slow-cooker-friendly meal so we could eat immediately after running group, but it didn't really work out the greatest. I couldn't decrease any liquids, since there aren't any additional liquids, so it turned out very soupy. I made a last-minute decision to serve it over leftover brown rice, which saved us from going out for crappy fast food. The flavor was great--pretty powerful heat from the tomatoes, actually--and I would like to see how it turns out in a casserole dish as written.

Southwest Spaghetti Squash

from Favorite Brand Name Incredibly Easy Gluten-Free Recipes

serves 4

1 spaghetti squash, about 3lbs
1 can (14.5oz) Mexican-style tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided (we used cheddar)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic salt (I subbed kosher salt and garlic powder)
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350* and spray a large baking pan and a 1.5qt casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds. Place squash, cut-side down, on prepared baking pan. Bake 45-60 minutes until tender. Shred squash with two forks; place in a large bowl.

2. Add tomatoes, beans, 1/2 cup cheese, cilantro, cumin, garlic salt, and pepper; toss well. Spoon mixture into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

3. Bake uncovered 30-35 minutes or until heated through. Serve hot.

If I were to attempt this in the slow cooker again, I would drain the tomatoes, omit the last 1/4 cup of cheese, and maybe mix in some more beans.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A happy little lunch

Wine and cheese. Love and marriage. Grilled cheese and tomato soup. A match made in heaven.

The soup was leftover (which I think makes tomato-based dishes that much more flavorful), the sandwich was gooey, the kale crisps salty, and the weather dreary. What's not to love?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Super simple meal plan

Sunday lunch - turkey black bean chili, one of my best batches yet! One pound ground turkey, one can (equivalent--homemade) black beans, 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes, seasoned with 2 Tbsp ancho chili powder, 2 tsp ground cumin, a few shakes of dried oregano, two shallots, and two cloves of garlic. The H had some rice elbow noodles with his, and we topped it with strained plain yogurt and sharp shredded cheddar. Served with apple slices.

Sunday dinner - friends invited us over for grilled pork chops, sweet potatoes, and carrots. We brought gluten-free brownies and a bottle of wine.

Monday - homemade (GF) pizza with whatever veggies look good to me!

Tuesday - something simple in the CrockPot for me and The H; the little guy will be dining with his grandparents while we go for our run and then dash over to co-op pickup.

Wednesday through Friday - meals with family for Thanksgiving... I have no real control over them, but I know I'm responsible for a GF dessert and a veggie side dish for Thursday.

Saturday - depends what time we get home; we may be going out.

Happy holiday planning!

Cheddar garlic quick bread - gluten free!

Can you believe this is a gluten-free quick bread? Look at the RISE on that sucker! It was truly a thing of beauty--and tasty, too!

Once I read Steph's blog post, I had a craving I just couldn't shake. I was nice enough to let The H in on my craving (ok, I didn't want to eat a whole loaf myself!) and decided to make it gluten-free. Taking advantage of the fact that I work from home, I ran downstairs and whipped this up during my lunch break. We didn't go as far as Steph and make grilled cheese out of it--this time. :) Thanks, Steph! My slightly altered version appears below.

Gluten-Free Garlic Cheddar Quick Bread
originally from Stephanie Cooks

3 cups gluten-free flour blend (like Bob's Red Mill)
2 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (the gum-to-flour ratio is 3/4 tsp per cup)
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 cup Sugar in the Raw
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, divided
1 1/2 cups milk (1%)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350* and grease a loaf pan. Combine flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, cheddar, sugar, garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning in a medium bowl.

2. In a smaller bowl, combine milk, oil, and egg. Stir wet ingredients into dry.

3. Pour into loaf pan and sprinkle remaining Italian seasoning over the top. Bake in preheated oven 55-60 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

4. Cool bread in pan for 10 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

I think this would be fantastic served with your favorite chili recipe... among other things!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Roasted root veggies

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Sometimes I crave vegetables. Rich, hearty, steamy, soft, savory vegetables, roasted up or baked to sweet caramelized perfection.

So I made some for lunch. And boy, did they deliver! I cannot remember if I included a protein source other than the lovely local gouda I melted on top.

I found this little baking pan--maybe 6 inches square--at TJMaxx for an unbeatable price, and I was thrilled to use it for my veggies-for-one.

I intended to get two meals out of this. Oh, well.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Early winter blahs...

I'm so very tired of creating me-and-little-guy meal plans. You might think that'd be a good motivator to really knock some homers out of the park when The H was back in town, but I have to say just the opposite is true. When he's away, we get into a groove of eating out, eating leftovers, eating with friends, and then I find that I'm all too comfortable doing that by the time he's back under our roof. I know I'll feel better having a plan, so here's the bare bones of this week:

Sunday lunch - leftovers from Saturday's roast chicken and veggies; I'll make wild rice and peas to accompany

Sunday dinner - tacos with the in laws

Monday - homemade black bean soup

Tuesday - something with friends after running group, probably pizza

Wednesday - Indian food for lunch; leftovers for dinner (korma made with tofu/peas and a simmer sauce over rice, or take-out)

Thursday - wild rice chicken soup made with homemade stock

Friday - black bean burgers

Saturday - out, maybe with friends

I do have a great big list of *real* posts for you, I promise, but they're still in the draft stage. Anyone seen my motivation? :(

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chickpea Soup

This recipe originally looked like this, but of course I made some modifications. Below is what I ended up with. Sorry, no pic (unless I update this tomorrow after lunch...), but just imagine a good, hearty chicken noodle soup, minus the noodles. It could easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and omitting the chicken.

Chickpea Soup
modified from this recipe on
serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped potatoes
2 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped
2 ribs celery, scrubbed and chopped
6 cups chicken stock or broth
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1-2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion, potatoes, and garlic until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

2. Add carrots, celery, broth, bay leaves, basil, thyme, and paprika. Cover and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, brown chicken in a large skillet. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

4. Stir chickpeas into soup and taste for seasonings; adjust as needed.

5. Dish up individual portions, adding chicken to each bowl desired. Serve with clean eating whole wheat bread. Don't eat the bay leaves!

Nutritional information for the unaltered recipe can be found at the original link above.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

(That's from a nursery rhyme... don't ask me to remember the rest!)

After two full weeks of travel--minus last weekend for the race--The H is home again, which means I have to shape up a decent meal plan. Unlike I was last week, he won't be happy eating the same thing four nights in a row.

Sunday lunch - leftover tomato soup and gluten-free bread

Sunday dinner - turkey sausage ragu with sausage and kale from the co-op and fresh Romano

Monday - out with The H for a shoes-and-clothes buying date

Tuesday - chicken soup with chickpeas in the CrockPot

Wednesday - breakfast dinner (GF blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs)

Thursday - pesto pasta from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno, with garlic bread

Friday - I'm going to a girls' night at a friend's house, so my guys will have something easy--like something at Grandma's house. :)

Saturday - as usual, no idea...

For lunches - chicken beet salad, leftovers

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marathon training update: FINISHED!

On Sunday morning at 7am, I joined the ranks of crazies who ran the 33rd annual Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5K. And about four-and-a-half hours later, I was sporting a shiny (awesome) medal that says FINISHER on it! What a ride. I finished in 4:35:33, without taking any walk breaks except at the water stops (I have yet to perfect the run-and-sip, even with the cup pinched). That surprised me; I've been a big run/walk advocate this whole time.

We got into Detroit on Saturday afternoon and easily got checked into our hotel. The little guy was staying with my parents at their house, about 20 minutes from downtown. My friends met us at the hotel and we walked to the Expo for our packets and a little window shopping. This map of the course was posted on the wall, and I know I ran this thing, but WOW does that look like a long way!

We had dinner at a pizza place, figuring pizza is pretty standard and non-offensive to my system, and got back to our room before 8pm--plenty of time to get things ready for the morning. I laid out all my gear, as much as possible

and checked for one last race-day report.

Then I posed for a shot in my official race shirt (knowing I wouldn't wear it for the run) and got to bed before 9:30.

On Sunday we woke up to what had to be the most beautiful, perfect day for a race. It was clear, high-40s at the start, and climbed to the low-60s with a brilliant blue sky the whole time.

My friend Jillian and I had planned to run together (her first as well) and were in our corral just after 6:30am. It was dark out there! The H talked me out of running with a throw-away sweatshirt on, which was fine, but I wish I hadn't given up on the gloves I'd brought, too. My hands were chilly for at least 4 miles.

It took us about 20 minutes to cross the start line after the first waves went, which I expected. What we didn't expect was the huge bottleneck about 1.5-2 miles in, as we approached the Ambassador Bridge to get into Canada. It was packed; we were practically standing still. I saw people still trying to jog and jostle their way through, and just had to shake my head... there was no room, and really, what a waste of energy so early in the race! We probably could've finished a few minutes sooner if not for this slow-down, but whatever. Maybe something else would've gone wrong later anyway. The sunrise over downtown was a brilliant glowing orange. If we'd been going faster, I probably wouldn't have taken it in as much.

We stopped for a potty break at 4 miles once we got over the bridge and didn't have to wait long. The next few miles along the waterfront in Windsor were really beautiful and peaceful. Before too long, we were already at mile 7, and heading into the underwater tunnel back to Detroit. At first it felt nice to be out of the breezy cool morning, but it got hot FAST. I was so ready to be out of there! I did look down at one point and noticed an orange D-tag (the timing chip!) on the ground, which made me sad for whomever it belonged to. :(

Coming out of the tunnel at 8 miles, we saw our husbands. The H offered me a refilled Gatorade bottle (I brought my own since I hate the flavor they had on-course) but I didn't need it yet. The next thing I really remember is coming up to mile 12 and calling The H to let him know. He said he and the little guy were at the halfway point, and my mom and sisters were between 12 and 13. Watching for them helped pass the time; when I did see my mom, I grabbed a Gatorade refill and handed her my empty one. My sisters had a sign that said "Just Keep Swimming" which is something my running friends and I have used on long runs to lighten the mood. Fun!

Then I saw my son on The H's back at 13mi, and heard him yell, "Go Mommy! You racin' GWEAT!" It was very sweet. After the half-marathoners split from us, the course got very quiet. The next few miles, 14-17, were fairly lonely. The dramatic side of me used the word "desolate" in telling The H about it. I took some Tylenol at mile 16; the bottoms of my feet were really starting to ache. Jillian stopped for another bathroom break and I stretched while I waited for her. Then we went through a beautiful neighborhood, and at mile 17, I said "We have SINGLE DIGITS left, you know that?" It was a mental boost. Well, that and the jelly beans that some lovely man was handing out from his front lawn. I told Jill not to let her kids know that we'd just taken candy from a stranger.

At mile 19, I was surprised (and thrilled) to see another friend who drove 2 hours that morning to run the last 4 miles with me--but she joined us at 19 instead of 22, which was awesome. I was SO happy to see her. She took a pic of me with her phone and sent it to The H.

The two of them kept in contact from this point until the end of the race. Having her there was such a boost. I made it past 20 (my longest ever) still feeling strong. At mile 22, things started to catch up to me. The bottom of my left foot was burning (where I had some nasty blisters from my rainy race on September 18th) but not enough to stop and put another blister cover on it. A spectator was smoking a cigar, and the smell of that plus the smell of *beer* at the next fluid station was more than a little grody to me. I took my last Gu and kept on trucking.

Miles 23 through 26 is where I slammed into The Wall. I kept trying to use my mental games ("it's mind over matter, and the mind is going to win... no retreat, no surrender... you GOT this! just another girls' run...") but the negative thoughts were quickly outweighing the positive things I'd rehearsed. My friends were incredibly supportive, and thanks to their encouragement, I didn't walk (even up the HILLS at miles 25 and 26! how rude...) despite almost crying that I.couldn'

But I did "do this." At 25 miles, I saw my mom (with the little guy on her shoulders--choke up time!) and sisters, with the Swimming sign plus another one that said, "MARATHON: OWNED!" I needed that. I don't know why I didn't turn on my iPod at this point (or before). I didn't use it at all during the race, which REALLY surprised me. An upbeat song would've been well-placed about now! My dad was a bit further up the road, with my brother-in-law, which was awesome because he had missed me at my half in May since he was looking for the wrong outfit. He looked so proud.

Just before 26 miles, another friend, who had finished in 3:33:35, joined our little crew and helped talk me through the last--no doubt hardest--part of the race. "I know it doesn't feel like it," he said, "but you really ARE almost there now. Just a right turn here, then a quick left, and you'll see it." Too bad that right turn was up a hill. A few swears left my lips at this point.

When we could see the finish, I told Jillian to just GO. She had a kick left, but I had zero in my tank. She grabbed my hand for a "good job" squeeze and took off. She had started to cry. My other friend dropped behind me a bit and took a 30-second video of me coming up to that blessed, so very far away, finish line.

I crossed the mat and heard "Kate, KATE!!!" and there was another friend--a race day volunteer--with the coolest medal ever. I raised my arms for my finish photo, tried to smile, and yelled "STEPHANIE!" She gave me my medal and a hug, and I wobbled off to find The H.

He hopped the barricade along the sidewalk and scooped me into a huge hug. Poor man was all choked up. I just kept saying "I'm done. I'm DONE. I never have to do this again!" Jillian had finished a few seconds ahead of me so we caught up with her easily and grabbed our Mylar "space blankets." We knew we had to keep walking, such as it was, so we hobbled to grab some food. I chowed a string cheese and some water.

The rest of my family met up with us not long after that, and I was handed a COFFEE!! My amazingly wonderful mom remembered that I adore coffee post-run, and she had a half-coffee, half-hot-chocolate with extra whipped cream waiting for me. Complete with straw, so I didn't have to worry about coordinating hand-to-mouth without dribbling. Sweet, huh? She also gave me a small yogurt that tasted really good.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed a Chinese restaurant called Wah-Hoo, and I posed for another victory picture.

I'm glad my first is behind me; it was a lot of work to get here. Another marathon is not out of the question, but I'm not in any kind of hurry for it. My feet need a chance to rest and recover from the beatings I've put them through four times a week since May, and I need to remember what it's like to sleep in on a Saturday! Hopefully a few of my friends decide to tackle their first 26.2 soon. I would be glad to return the support and encouragement they provided me; I know this wouldn't have been nearly as wild and fun of a ride as it was without them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

No food, just fun...

As I was pouring my berry puree into its ice cube trays, the little guy was coloring with his markers. This I knew. What I wasn't aware of is just *what* he was coloring. I had set him up with a piece of white cardboard that he was having fun decorating. But then this is what I looked up to find.

He was sitting not four feet away from me, in the same room! Note to self: this kid works fast. :) I had been chatting with him while I made dinner, and heard him crow at one point, "I painted my handses!" I don't even want to know how he got it on his chin (and in his ears)...

However, he did a good job washing up, and then we enjoyed our very filling pumpkin-blueberry pancakes.

And yes, I tossed him into the tub after dinner. The blueberries didn't do his already-technicolor hands any favors!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Berry puree

At any given moment, there are usually no less than three types of frozen berry in my freezer. I got tired of shoving bags of them out of the way to reach other things, so I decided to combine a bunch and make a puree that I could use to flavor plain yogurt, pour over pancakes (The H doesn't care for syrup), and who knows what else.

This began as roughly two cups of strawberries (thawed), one cup of blueberries (semi-thawed), and 1/2 cup blackberries (frozen). To cut the tartness, I also added 2/3 teaspoon of stevia.

When it was smooth, I poured it into ice cube trays, with the intent of popping them out into a freezer bag once they were frozen.

Today I pulled out two cubes to thaw in the fridge throughout the day, then mixed with about 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt as part of my afternoon snack (total thaw time was approximately four hours).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shrimp Noodle Salad

If you don't like shrimp, I feel a little bit sad for you right now. This recipe blew past the Asian Noodle Bowls from last week and shot straight to the top of my list of "favorite noodley things in a bowl." I was seriously cramming it into my mouth in a very uncool manner when it was done. My kitchen smelled so good! It kind of surprised me for what little seems to go into this dish.

Shrimp, Edamame, and Cellophane Noodle Salad

from Clean Eating Magazine, Fall 2008

serves 4

2 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (I decreased to 2T as this is not my favorite flavor)
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 cloves garlic, smashed but not cut
12oz raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 8oz cooked frozen "salad shrimp")
8oz dried cellophane or mung bean noodles (I couldn't find these and used thin rice ones)
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame (I used 1/2 cup edamame and 1 cup peas)
1 Tbsp refined safflower oil (I used another oil I had)
3 shallots, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup sunflower sprouts (omitted)

1. Fill a large pot with water. Add garlic and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, and agave. Set aside.

2. When water is boiling, remove from heat and add shrimp and noodles. Cover and let stand until shrimp are barely opaque, about 3 minutes (same time if using cooked/frozen shrimp). Stir in edamame. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Remove garlic and discard.

3. In a large wok or skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and stir in noodles, then add vinegar mixture. Toss well to combine.

4. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with sprouts.

OK looking at all my italics after the ingredients, it looks like I made a totally different dish. But I didn't make any changes that I feel compromise the integrity of the original recipe. When I make this again, I will use all peas and skip the edamame altogether. I didn't care for the texture and, really, lack of flavor the soy beans had in this dish, but the peas were great. I added them to the water when I stirred in the shrimp and noodles. Looking forward to leftovers!

Nutrition information per 1-cup serving (when made without substitutions):
Calories - 290
Fat - 7g
Carbs - 30g
Fiber - 3g
Sugars - 7g
Protein - 25mg
Sodium - 455mg
Cholesterol - 129mg