Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Life happenings

Eek, another quiet few weeks. Still here! And I got a job! Just a few hours per week helping with administrative and organizational stuff at an insurance company, but it'll pay me and get me out of the house--WIN! I've also signed up for a 30-day beginner's membership at the local hot yoga studio and have used that in between running several days already. I'm determined not to gain anything throughout this holiday season; simply maintaining is realistically what I'm hoping for. So... how've you been?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Did you know...

that I grew my own acorn squash this year? We've gotten 10 or so from two decent vines (I stashed several throughout the yard), and have given a half-dozen more to the animals that started helping themselves anyway. Actually, this year we had our biggest garden ever. Since May, here's what we've planted:

Acorn squash - good
Zucchini - good without being overwhelming
Butternut squash - small, haven't eaten any yet
Pattypan squash - fail; never produced
Basil - good
Cilantro - good
Parsley - good; I'll do much more next year
Rutabaga - greens look great; haven't tried digging any yet--likely too crowded to grow large
Kale, two kinds - good
Broccoli - surprisingly good; it was put in as an experiment for the little guy
Brussels sprouts - HUGE leaves, but nothing edible-sized yet
Green and wax beans - decent, after I replanted when the bunnies ate our first planting
Green onion - super cute! but we haven't eaten any
Beets - nice looking greens, but super-tiny roots; only three plants sprouted anyway
Tomatoes (three kinds) - the tiny grape-sized ones produced best, with a few Roma and even fewer Purple Cherokee
Raspberries - truly pathetic this year; I think we got three fruits total

WOW that's a ton of produce for someone who really isn't a gardener. I think I "weeded" twice this summer. We have a great spot in the backyard for a more organized garden next year, but we'll need a rototiller and about eight friends who want the crazy prolific lilies and irises back there first. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Veggies galore

Seems like that's been the theme in my kitchen for the last two months. Yay, right? A friend of mine got me hooked on bruised kale salads, which has only increased my adoration of the leafy green. Preparation of this salad is literally more hands on than other salads we make, but it's so worth it.

After the kale has been torn, washed, and spun dry, I drizzle some olive oil on it and start mooshing and smooshing it around in a large bowl (wedding ring off for this step!). Once the leaves are softer and starting to wilt down, I add some salt and pepper, then shake on some vinegar or lemon juice and a drizzle of agave. These are all to taste, so of course I don't have any measurements. When I get the flavor I want, I start adding the goodies: cheese, fruit, nut, seed. One day it might be grapes, gorgonzola, pinenuts, and chia; the next time might be goat cheese, dried cherries, sliced almonds, and hemp. Whatever the combination, it's always delicious as long as the oil/vinegar/agave was right to begin with.

It's no surprise, then, that this is on my meal plan this week. Since The H will be on a business trip, I'm trying to cook as little as possible but still feed the little guy and myself without resorting to fast food. Here's what we'll have:

Chorizo-apple stuffed acorn squash (my lunches--I made four halves last night and froze them)
Homemade (and frozen) tomato soup and grilled cheese
Leftover pasta with meat and hidden veggie sauce/roasted brussels sprouts with walnuts and bacon
Leftover GF pizza/seared ahi and kale salad
Homemade (and frozen) chicken nuggets, corn on the cob, roasted broccoli
Butternut squash ravioli (thank you, Costco), fresh green beans/spinach salad
...and if we need one more meal before The H gets home, black beans with cilantro rice

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Eat food.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto 
I'm here! My doctor says it's ok to run, and my knee x-rays didn't show any signs of damage. He gave me some stretchy bands and exercises to do at home to help strengthen them, and I'll go back in October to get re-checked. In the meantime, I'm planning to run a local 10-mile race next weekend! This week marks the highest-mileage week I've had since early July when my knees started complaining. 
The Michael Pollan quote above has been on my mind lately, especially since I cut my weekly mileage in half. My weight was creeping up and I was becoming unhappy and uncomfortable with it. In the grand scheme of things, 5-6 pounds may not sound like a lot, but when someone goes from being highly active and eating in such a way as to accomodate 6-7 workouts a week, to working out less intensely 3-4 times a week, those pounds are quite noticeable. I used to say "I run so I can eat." Remove running from that equation, and you're (I'm) left with a sugar-laden, acne-speckled grump.
I realized in this two-month period that my farmers' market trips have decreased in frequency and volume. My meal planning slacked off (did ya notice?) and my family was heading for the corner ice cream shop a little too often for my comfort. We were going through a lot of bread and more restaurant food than normal. That's not how I got to my happy weight! In fact, just the opposite. 

With Michael Pollan in mind, I've been hitting the market and kitchen with more intensity lately. We're trying new things and amping up old favorites. My four-year-old *loves* broccoli, and one of my favorite vendors just happens to grow The Best broccoli we've ever tasted. The little guy actually cried last time I didn't make enough for him to have seconds. This week, I bought double what I usually do. I've been playing with my new yogurt maker and have landed on a combination of starter/milk/time that The H and I really enjoy. 
I even tried making coffee yogurt, with surprisingly good results.
We've gone through two Costco-sized cartons of strawberries within the week. I've feel like I've eaten more produce since Friday than I did almost the entire month of August (yes, that's an exaggeration!). This weekend I'll be sure to prep some things so we're ready for the week ahead. I've got a scrawny meal plan written out, and will post it once I give it some more life. Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Food prep, menu, update

When the little guy went down for a nap on Sunday afternoon, I got to work in the kitchen. And boy, did I work! At more than one point--with the stove burners full, oven on, two small appliances working, and a sink and dishwasher full of dishes--I thought I might've gotten a little carried away, but it all worked out. And at the end of the day, here's what we had waiting for us:

Two pans of blueberry-walnut baked oatmeal (one 13x9, one 8x8)
Three gluten free pizza crusts (one family sized, two individual)
Six freezer bags of black beans (equal to one+ can each)
Seven 7-oz jars homemade yogurt (so cute!)
One leftover-roundup quiche (mushrooms, zucchini, onion, two kinds of cheese, chicken sausage)
Quinoa for a quick side dish or to be combined with black beans for a lunch salad
Rice for the dog, who suddenly decided he hates his food

After prepping all that, we went out for pizza. Ha! I shared a salad with The H and breadsticks with the little guy. I love feeling productive and prepared for the week! Stay tuned for more pics of my homemade yogurt process... it's not perfect yet, but I look forward to trying again once we get more milk from the co-op on Wednesday. Here's a short list of what we're eating this week:

S - Grilled chicken sausage, corn on the cob, grilled broccoli, peaches (75% from the farmers' market!)
M - Chicken breast with olive-tomato relish, wild rice, homegrown sauteed zucchini
T - Pizza with mushrooms, kalamatas, tomato, co-op pepperoni
W - Quiche with... ? I don't know yet!
Th - Out with my youngest sister who's coming to visit (leftovers for my men)
F - Visiting family and going to my high school friend's (and maid of honor) wedding!

I'm happy to report that since my last post, I've been making a more conscious effort to move more and eat less while my running miles are still on the lower end. This means more yoga, walking the dog on my non-running days, and not vegging out in front of the TV after dinner. It may not have made a difference on the scale yet, but I do feel better for it. Just a few more weeks 'til my next race! It's good to have something on the calendar again.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Oh hey

Remember when I cut my running in half (61 miles in July) but forgot to adjust my caloric intake? Yeah, whoops. Thank goodness for stretchy running shorts and pants. My knee has been more cooperative lately, which is a big relief, and I'm making a conscious effort to rein in my sweet tooth, but I still have a few extra pounds to work with these days. Today I made a batch of Babycakes gluten free, vegan banana bread and muffins, which are, in the little guy's words, "So, so delicious." What a great way to use up the brown bananas cluttering up my freezer!

Thanks to colorful wonderful summer produce, I haven't put a ton of effort into meal planning lately. We've been starting with something like cucumber-onion salad, corn on the cob, and fresh fruit, and filling in the gaps with whatever protein I have handy: grilled chicken, chicken burgers, kale-quinoa-chickpeas, and so on. "So, so delicious" for sure, but not really blog-worthy! Sorry for the lack of interesting material.

I've also been slowly working on a business idea that's been rattling around in my brain, but has yet to amount to anything more than a brief blog post on another host. If it grows further, you bet I'll be hollering about it here! For now... wish me luck and awesome networking skills, ok? :)


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Go ahead...

tell me, "I told you so." Turns out that after 40 consecutive days of running, my knees had something to say about the matter. :(

I've been taking it easy lately, and after some days off, only lacing up my shoes every other day for the past few weeks. Still happy to be out there, albeit slower and shorter these days, happier that it's not as freakishly hot outside, and hoping my once-in-awhile knee twinge doesn't turn into an injury.

The H is heading to Vegas for work this week, leaving me and the little guy to eat gluten to our hearts' content. He gets such a kick out of the fact that he can eat "glooten AND glooten-free!" Here's our meal plan for the week:

Sunday lunch - chicken burgers with blackened peppers and onions, corn on the cob, melon

Sunday dinner - broccoli/cheddar/Canadian bacon quiche (my favorite combination so far) with pancakes. My pancakes are never straight-up batter. These were gluten free with blueberries, pumpkin, hemp seed, and almondmilk. Fantastic. :)

Monday - asparagus-gruyere ravioli (a Costco impulse buy) and my own homegrown zucchini

Tuesday - quinoa burgers on mixed greens

Wednesday - chicken sausage, corn on the cob, and co-op pickup night

Thursday - pizza or local beef burgers (depends on the temperature!)

Friday - my Mom's birthday dinner, with family

I made a triple batch of steel cut oats for breakfasts this week (I eat toast with peanut butter on mornings I run), and I'll boil a dozen eggs for snacking once they age a bit more. Lunches will be leftovers, PBJ, and my favorite shrimp noodles. Have a great week!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Make-ahead quiche

Since I've made this recipe four times in the past few weeks, and countless times before that, I figured it was time to share the love. This quiche is quick, simple, and versatile. You can make it with a premade crust (not so clean) or without. It can even be made ahead of time and frozen** for later use. The cheeses and add-ins are completely up to you. Quiche is a great way to use up less-than-full-portions of meats and vegetables that might be getting lonesome in your fridge!

Today the ones I made were cheddar/broccoli/Canadian bacon, and cheddar/mozzarella/homegrown zucchini/Canadian bacon. It's great to have them ready for a fuss-free midweek dinner. We usually serve ours with fresh fruit and toast. In the fall I might swap the toast for some skillet potatoes and onion.

Quick Quiche -- inspired by an old recipe from allrecipes.com
serves 4

1 cup shredded cheese   (shred your own--better taste and texture)
3 teaspoons all-purpose flour   (King Arthur GF is great)
1/2 cup cooked meat, diced   (ham, bacon, chicken, sausage...)
1/2 cup chopped veggies   (broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, potato...)
3 whole eggs
1 cup lowfat milk
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley (optional)
1 unbaked 9" pie crust (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400*F.

2. In a medium bowl, toss flour with grated cheese. Sprinkle into lightly greased 9" pie plate or premade crust.

3. Put diced meat and veggies on top of cheese.

4. In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt, mustard powder, and parsley. Whisk until smooth and pour over meat in pie plate.

5. Put dish on baking sheet in case of overflow. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until filling is set and top is golden brown. If using a pie crust, cover edges with aluminum foil halfway through cooking to prevent burning. 

**TO FREEZE: After all ingredients have been mixed and put into pie plate, cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap. Place a piece of foil over that and crimp edges tightly. Freeze FLAT! When ready to use, put pie plate onto a baking sheet and put into a cold oven. Allow oven and dish to pre/re-heat together. Cooking time will be closer to 60 minutes when using a frozen quiche.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Food prep day

I didn't really plan it, but this afternoon I did a giant amount of food prep while the little guy napped. It started with a trip to the farmer's market this morning, where I got some beautiful rainbow-colored Swiss chard. I was inspired by the cold salad a friend made for our post-run meal last night. When I got home to put away my colorful produce (also including peaches, corn, cucumbers, and salsa), I remembered the beets I'd bought last week. They were quickly prepped for roasting, though sadly I waited too long and the greens weren't good to use like I have before:

On to the chard...

Ten stalks of chard got washed, trimmed, and sauteed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then mixed with sauteed mushrooms, a chopped carrot, a green onion, freshly minced garlic, dried thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes. All of this was mixed with precooked quinoa, and stashed back in the fridge. Dinner side dish/lunch-to-go done.

As the chard-quinoa was mingling flavors and warming through, I started a batch of adzuki beans. They don't require presoaking like many dried beans, and they cook in just about an hour. Great to have available for any number of midweek meals! I'm looking forward to making these burgers, since I also have a few partially-used bell peppers in the crisper.

While the adzukis simmered away, the beets finished roasting. They were gorgeous! Each one just bigger than a golfball, and such a beautiful shade of magenta. I've been craving one of my summer favorites, this beet salad, for a few weeks. For the first time since I started making it, today I toasted the walnuts in a dry skillet before I added them. What a great difference! I used crumbled bleu cheese instead of feta, tossed in some organic celery, dressed it all with olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, pink sea salt, and fresh black pepper, and returned it to the refrigerator. Lunches/snack for me done.

While I was poking around in the fridge, I realized we were out of rice. Thanks to the rice cooker, another batch (plain, white--to feed the gastrointestinally-challenged dog) was ready in a half an hour. Right around this time, two hours after he'd gone down, the little guy woke up. While the rice cooked, I prepped some steaks for The H to grill and stirred up another summer favorite, cucumber-sweet-onion salad. Those two things just get thinly sliced and simply dressed with a mixture of plain yogurt, white balsamic (or red wine) vinegar, evaporated cane juice, sea salt, and pepper. The H and I enjoyed this with dinner, and I was a little bummed I didn't think to make leftovers. Tangy, cool, and refreshing-- the candy onion I used isn't halitosis-inducing at all. Definitely buying more of those at the market! Another dinner side dish done, dog supplement done.

Once the rice was ready, I piled some into the dog's bowl with a scoop of pumpkin and some plain yogurt so he could go to town. The H brought in the steaks, and we sat down to eat. Just then I realized it was the first time I'd sat down since the little guy and I got home from our morning/afternon errands, and my feet were pretty darn tired. But I felt so accomplished! It's a great feeling to have these goodies and makings of meals, along with a stash of my beloved kale-quinoa-chickpeas, in the fridge heading into the weekend. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Meal plan update

Nobody who reads this has a garden? Really? OK then.

Here's how the rest of our week of meals is shaping up:

Tuesday--change of plans; went to babysit for some friends and had pizza.
Wednesday--meatless quiche (eggs, cheddar, red pepper, green onion)
Thursday--the little guy is going to his grandparents' and I'm heading over to a friend's house
Friday--still open to inspiration!!

Have you had anything fantastic this week?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mini meal plan

Do you have a garden this year? How is it holding up in the heat? Our bean plants have all been fried by the sun or eaten, by rabbits I think. The cilantro didn't survive our recent trip to DC. A few of our squash and zucchini plants are thriving. The raspberries shrivel and die before they turn fully red. Our first round of basil--three plants--croaked, and has been replaced by a single plant that is hanging in there. Three tomato plants all have massive growth, flowers, and small green possibilities; I've harvested a total of four golden cherry tomatoes so far. I've never had a big green thumb.

The H and I spent a kidless morning at the farmers' market today and got a few things for this weekend. It was nice to see quite a crowd there despite the high temperature even before noon. Here's what I plan to make next week. It's a pretty sparse plan for now; still trying to work through the fridge and pantry stashes before I stock up on fresh meat and more veggies.

Sunday lunch - shredded beef over rice; cucumber-onion salad
Sunday dinner - quiche with Canadian bacon and yellow squash; caprese salad
Monday - (with friends) seared tuna steaks (chicken for The H); quinoa sopa seca minus bell pepper
Tuesday - grilled honey mustard chicken; lentils & kale *or* kale-quinoa with chickpeas

Any inspiration for the rest of my week? 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Streak Challenge: I did it!

Happy Independence Day! Thirty eight days of summer streaking are COMPLETE! I logged just over 145 miles in a time of 22 hours and 22 minutes. Because some days were doubles (like to the park and back with Garmin-off playtime in between, nothing major) it was a total of 43 activities. Some were on the treadmill, some were done in the early morning. At least once I went out past 9pm because of the heat. I took the dog with me a few times, until it got too ridiculously hot for him.

Yoga has been going well; I've managed at least one practice per week of the streak (even in Alexandria!), and most weeks it's been 2-3 thanks to a combination of studio and DVD time. Overall, I feel great. No weight loss that I've noticed, but that was not a goal this time around. The bottoms of my feet are starting to ache in the all-too-familiar plantar fasciitis way, but I know just how to take care of that. Tomorrow is run club/yoga at the Lululemon showroom nearby, so I'll probably see if I can recruit some friends to join me for that. And perhaps the streak will continue...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

You'd think I'd learn...

that after eating clean for however-many years, loading up on brownies, ice cream, and cookies--yes, sadly in the same day--makes me feel sick to the point of seeking out the Pepto ASAP. Why is this so difficult for me to remember? :(

We had a great weekend of cooking and eating at home, using up the pantry, fridge, and freezer stashes, and then I went pretty far overboard when we hung out with friends tonight. Treats aren't inherently bad, I know. There is room for indulgence in my diet/lifestyle. But three super-sugary desserts within a two hour span? And far more than the recommended portion of each? Ugh, bad move!

Now, where do we keep the Tums?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My dream job

I've recently been mulling over the idea of going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian. I kind of love talking about food, making food, eating it, and telling people what to do in regards to it in order to reach certain goals. Alas, it doesn't seem like any of my credits as an English major/Communications minor would transfer to such a science-minded field. And I'm not just aching to spend the rest of my 30s starting from scratch as a college student, so never mind that.

So, what do I love as much as--or more than--food? No, not bossing people around.

Running, of course. If you've been around here long enough to read even a single post you've probably gathered that much.

Enter City Running Tours. Cool, right? I think I'd have a blast trucking around town, showing people what there is to see, where to eat (see, I knew food would have a role), and staying active while the little guy is in school. Plus, maybe I'd get to do a *little* bossing around along the way. Too bad there isn't a chapter in my current city... yet. :D

Have you ever participated in a guided running tour? Would you?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Streak - Update

Four weeks down, only ten days to go!

We were in Alexandria, VA for almost all of Week 3. Lucky enough to borrow a great jogging stroller, the little guy and I logged more than a half marathon together! He was a great running buddy. We even accomplished my streak-goal of getting out before The H left for work some mornings, and the two of us spent some quality time in the pool. Cross training, right? :)

I also ran another 13ish miles on my own, resulting in a total of 28 miles that week. I did manage to do yoga in our hotel room at least once; yay me! Sadly I didn't get to participate in Virginia Yoga Week or whatever it was called, though I did find a studio to try next time we're in town.

Week 4 brought more humidity and shorter runs, for a total of 23 miles. A nice stepback week toward the end of this streak challenge! I did get to a yoga class with a friend, and I think I did a DVD earlier in the week.

This is the last week of daycare for the little guy; he'll be going to some form of preschool/Pre-K in the fall. He turned FOUR today. I can't believe it! He's fully convinced that once he's done with daycare, he'll be going to school--robot school, to be specific. Not looking forward to crushing those hopes and dreams. :)

I plan to log a few longer runs on Tuesday and Friday if my slightly-achy feet will allow for it, to take advantage of the time he's at daycare, and then it's back to "Mommy and Caleb days." The H and I are supposed to do a 10K race on Saturday. Hopefully it's not too hot! I ran the course with a friend a few weeks ago--there are a few hills, and she's FAST. A cool morning would be great.

How are you other streakers doing?? Looking forward to the end of this, or planning to continue?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer Streak - Week 2

Last week's numbers:

2 - days of yoga (actually three 20-minute DVDs)
7 - days of running (of course)
8 - separate runs (I did a double on Wednesday)
10 - longest run, in miles (I set out to do 6...oops)
30 - my approximate total mileage this week
92 - the temperature of my run this afternoon!

I've really been enjoying this challenge so far. Even though I ran five more miles this week, my legs feel better for it. Well, aside from that unexpected 10. After that they weren't very happy with me. I totally misjudged my turnaround point and thought running a loop route rather than my intended out-and-back would net the same result. So, so wrong. The H got a kick out of that. :) I like knowing, although I'm supposed to run every day, all I truly have to do is a mile for it to count. That usually turns into two miles, since I like to break a good sweat and feel like getting suited up was worth my time.

This week I'm happy to be tromping around some of our favorite spots in Alexandria, VA. A local acquaintance was kind enough to lend us a jogging stroller; I've already scoped out a playground for me and the little guy. Conveniently, it's about a mile away from our hotel. Bring it on, week three!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Streak - Week 1

25.65 - total miles covered
7 - consecutive days of running
2 - runs with the dog
2 - bowls of ice cream consumed
1 - really fun trail run
0 - days of yoga :(

Two of my runs were before breakfast, while The H was still home. They were Memorial Day and Sunday, so he didn't have to get to work, but it's good to know that I was able to get myself up and out as planned in that regard. This week I'm looking forward to a Friday morning yoga class, at the studio closest to me or the hot studio, following the morning run group they offer. So far everything feels great (though my hamstrings definitely noticed the difference in terrain after yesterday's trail run!) and I'm very happy with the overall mileage. Thirty one days to go! Is anyone else streaking 'til the 4th?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I'm going to streak!

In running clothes, of course (what else do I wear?). For the first time since hearing about running "streakers"--those who run day after day after day without a break--I'm jumping on board. The streak challenge I'm doing runs from Memorial Day through Independence Day, and this marks Day 4 of 38! You can read more about it in the Runner's World article here.

Streaks have never sounded like a good idea to me for a number of reasons, the most important being that I believe my body needs a good solid day of rest every week to perform at its best. But that's the thing... with this challenge, I don't *plan* on performing. I'm not registered for ANYthing right now! I might do a 10K at the end of June, but that still fits within my self-imposed limitations listed below. The bare minimum required for the streak is one mile per day. ONE MILE. I can (and should) do that with my dog! Rather than making any great strides (ha ha) in my physical fitness during the next few weeks, here's what I hope to get out of this:

1. Rise and shine: Get up at least one morning per week to run before The H leaves for work.
2. Bond with the pooch: Take the dog with me, weather permitting, at least once a week.
3. Take it easy: Cut back weekend long runs to 6-8 miles (thanks to my running buddy for that idea) to even out overall mileage in spite of adding two days of running.
4. Stay loose: Do at least one yoga class or DVD weekly to stretch out the muscles I'm overworking.

Anyone out there a streaker? Want to join me in this challenge?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kale with quinoa and chickpeas

Oh, kale, you dark dusky-leafed green, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee blended into a cool, verdant smoothie as a refreshing post-run pick-me-up. I love thee sprinkled with kosher salt and toasted to a light crispiness. I love thee wilted into a rich red wine-saturated spaghetti sauce, or stirred into a hearty potato-sausage soup when the winter winds wail at my windows. 
But most of all, oh dear kale, I adore thee to the utmost heights when prepared the following way (super giant pink puffy-heart thanks to my friends, H&N, for this inspiration, and for continuing to acknowledge me in public):

1. Precook some quinoa and chickpeas (or use a can of garbanzos, rinsed well).
2. Sauté a bunch of washed, torn kale in a giant skillet. Set aside in a large bowl.
3. In the skillet, sauté two minced cloves of garlic in a swirl of olive oil, along with some paprika and cumin.
4. Stir chickpeas into garlic & spice mixture and mix well. (This gets 'em really nutty tasting...yum.)
5. Add 1-2 cups of the quinoa to skillet and toss it all together. Add the juice from two lemons.
6. Stir in kale until well combined; add more quinoa if you want.
7. Sprinkle with a decent amount of salt to taste and serve in the large bowl the kale was in.

It's actually far simpler than I've made it sound: stir together kale, quinoa, and chickpeas with seasonings; add salt and lemon juice, enjoy. 

The second time I made this within a week, I also bought a 2lb bag of dried garbanzos so I can do it again. You'd better believe I stopped halfway through writing this to reheat a little--and take a typical subpar picture. :)

You can serve this hot, warm, or cold... or while you stand over the stove before dinner... as you're boxing it up for lunches the next day... if you are scavenging for a midnight snack... at a picnic with your friends (genius, it doesn't require intense refrigeration)... pretty much anytime you want a hearty, flavorful, delicious, tangy, filling, vegetarian (vegan? I think so) meal. I'm already wondering how many times I can incorporate it into family picnics and parties this summer.

Check out this link to read a little more about the goodness of kale.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two weeks later

Two weeks ago today, I ran my third marathon. It was a gorgeous course, with a super-fun and scenic 18 miles... then a hill... then a relatively flat bike path. But since my quads were toast from the downhill, then from trudging up the hill I refused to walk, it was like they had forgotten how to propel me forward on the flat parts. My legs had no "go." Mentally I was fine, other than annoyed at my lower half. I had hydrated and fueled *just right* the whole time. I just couldn't make my legs move. And for the last four miles, walking won out more than I would've cared for. I decided that slowing down to catch my breath was the way to go. There may or may not have been a text to The H around Mile 23 that said I was dying, or something close to it...

Still, I crossed the finish line running and smiling (after a moment of mild hyperventilation when I found The H waiting for me at the final straightaway), and got the same medal I would've received if I'd clocked a wicked fast PR. After that, I just wanted to SIT DOWN. And he snapped a picture of what I *really* look like post-26.2, just for future reference.
I am not disappointed in the least with the overall experience. You train for weeks to do the best you can, but you can't always predict what will happen on race day. I didn't realize what 18 miles of downhill would do to my legs, but now I know. The medal that's hanging next to my others is identical to the ones those who qualified for Boston had around their necks. It's the same one I would've gotten if I'd run faster, or walked the whole thing. I'll always find a way to pick apart a race performance, but I hope it doesn't come across that I regret any of it.

The rest of our trip to Colorado was gorgeous. We got to see Pike's Peak, the Royal Gorge Bridge, the Downtown Aquarium in Denver, and Garden of the Gods, not to mention our friends who moved out west last spring. It was a really nice week--one that felt so much longer, but not really in a bad way.
Since then, I've logged a 10K PR (53:44), and a 1st-place age group finish in a small 5K (24:01, not a PR). I guess there's no lasting damage from that downhill stretch. :)

Today's race, the 5K, was sunny, humid, and hot, with no breeze until the end. And thus begins the summer racing season! In the past month, I've run a 5K, 10K, half marathon (PR), and a full. Rest is probably in order now. While I know I'm not done with marathons--I almost registered for another in June--I'm excited to sign up for some shorter distances, probably until the weather cools down again. The idea of a marathon relay with my mom and some other female relatives has been tossed around. Anybody running Detroit this year? :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Marathon: Survived

More to come...

Monday, April 30, 2012

By this time next week...

I'll have another heavy medal around my neck, achy quads, calves, and hamstrings, and the satisfaction of having finished my third marathon...barring any unforseen illness or falling off a cliff between now and Sunday.

Although The H might argue otherwise, I don't feel as nervous about this marathon as I have my previous two. YES I'm anxious about the details of getting there, waking up so freakishly early (the race starts at 6:15am!), and getting on a bus to the start, but the actual *run* part feels under control. After all, never mind the fact that there aren't any spectators until Mile 16--a few weeks ago, I trundled along for 21 miles on my own! Just being able to jump my mileage up from where I was in Chicago to where I am now without injury is amazingly reassuring.

The two friends I was planning to run nice and easy with have switched to the half marathon so I won't be relying on them to keep me company or to pace myself. It'll be me and the Garmin, and a gorgeous setting in which to spend a few hours "alone." This week I'm running four days, all super short and at super easy paces, the last two of which will be at altitude. Like the "runnerd" that I am, I've been researching how to acclimate (acclimatize?) to the change in oxygen and obsessively checking the weather forecast. It's changed a *lot* since the 10-day forecast started showing Sunday. The H has forbidden me to discuss it with him anymore.

All I can do now is pack for any possible conditions and be extra careful with the Sport Wax and sunscreen applications. And hydrate like it's my job. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Let's make a meal plan

It's time to taper! That means more carbs, more sleep, fewer miles, and less sanity. The Colorado Marathon is less than two weeks away! The half we ran on Sunday went very well, and was a personal best for me (1:51:20) as well as The H, who hasn't done a race that long in years. This week I'm vacillating between feeling READY for Colorado and being freaked out that I plan to run the full 26.2. It's only been a year (actually a little less) since I've completed a marathon, but for some reason it feels so long ago and "taper madness" has me wondering what I'm getting into.

So. I'm going to try putting it out of my mind until we're actually *in* Colorado, and just focus on good-carb loading and getting extra rest this week. Next week I'll add "hydrating like mad" to that list.

Here's what's on my non-day specific menu:

Black bean soup
Seared tuna steaks with rice and beans
Lentil tacos
Girls' run appetizer night
Stuffed sweet potatoes

Lunches and snacks will consist of yogurt with berries and honey, lentil soup, balsamic marinated peppers and grape tomatoes, leftover quinoa burgers over small green salads, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruit, and rice & beans with avocado.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sorry, Wednesday

I just now realized that I entirely skipped over Wednesday in my "mini meal plan" post. I must have really been lacking inspiration. Turns out my fortuitously-timed cooking mood from yesterday solved that problem nicely; the quinoa-adzuki burgers we had were delightful. Even for the little guy! The H said they lacked flavor, to which I took minor offense (I thought they were *great*) until he later confessed that, due to lingering sinus issues, he couldn't even taste the hot sauce he put on his. If Frank's isn't even coming through, I know I'm not responsible for tasteless veggie burgers. Phew.

Know what else I skipped on Wednesday? A run. Really! One of my knees has been feeling a little cranky and I didn't want to aggravate it too much before Sunday. So tonight, rather than a post-run picnic, I'm going to make honey-baked chicken, a recipe from the friend I was going to run with. We've been calling it Chicken Yum Yum; hope you don't mind, Mrs. E. :)

Oh, and I'm thrilled to report that the little guy, whose tastes can often be called particular, didn't notice any difference in the way his milk tasted yesterday at dinner or today on his Chex. Thank you, meijer instant milk powder. I'm pleased to say he also ate one-and-a-half adult sized servings of Adzuki Cake and still asked for more. So there's a win for Wednesday after all!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A cooking mood

Today I'm in a cooking mood. Part of it is due to the fact that we're out of some breakfast usuals. Almondmilk, I'm looking at you. So rather than jet out to the store and stress our bank account for $3.24 of something that isn't *vital* to our daily existence, I've decided to crack open the ol' cookbook (allrecipes.com, I mean) and make a few things to get us through the next few days. Another part is due to the fact that I have chicken to cook for dinner but *zero* inspiration for what to do with it. And then there's a part of me that wants to experiment with the adzuki beans I have leftover after making this last night. Of course, let's not forget the part of me that reallyreallyreally likes cooking, using what we already have, stashing food in the freezer for later, and playing with new recipes.

That's a lot of parts.

On the docket today, though perhaps not today's menu:
Adzuki bean cake (I made a few tiny cupcakes with the leftover batter--yum)
Baked oatmeal with dried cranberries (halve the sugar, and use Sucanat!)
Quinoa-bean burgers with sweet potato fries

Two of those recipes call for milk, for which I mixed up a double batch of instant powdered milk that I bought for *some* recipe I forget now. I have yet to taste it plain, but I wonder if the little guy would notice the difference on his Chex tomorrow... I suppose he could always have an oatmeal square instead.

Oh, that chicken? Still in the fridge, awaiting more inspiration. Any ideas?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Marathon update and mini meal plan

Believe it or not, the marathon I've been hemming and hawing over is three weeks from today. And I'm right on track! This past Friday, I completed my longest training run (ever, not just for this race) by clocking 21.05 miles--by myself! That also made it my highest-mileage week, which is pretty cool. The run went remarkably well, and I'm glad to have gotten that close to the race distance on my own. My remaining two weekend long runs are 12 miles (I'm running the Glass City half marathon that day) and 8 or 10 miles.

One minor wrench in my plan is that my Colorado friends will likely be stepping down to the half marathon, so there goes my "people I know" security blanket. I still have to see how the altitude change treats me once we arrive in CO and I start running there; I may yet join them at the starting line for 13.1 rather than 26.2. Either way, I have a great sense of accomplishment knowing I hauled myself up by my shoelaces and got back on track in a shortened time frame and have thus far remained injury-free. 

My meal plan for this week is very loose, revolving around what I have in the fridge/pantry and what I can use up while still managing to carb-load without going up a pants size. Here's how it looks for now:

Sunday - burgers and baked sweet potato slices with tomato-basil-mozzarella
Monday - loaded baked potatoes with coleslaw
Tuesday - rice and beans with chicken sausage in the slow cooker
Thursday - possibly dinner with friends (picnic style) before or after a free local 6K run
Friday - TBA... something with chicken and sweet potatoes...
Saturday - running group pasta dinner in Toledo!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Here's the deal--marathon update

While I have officially switched my registration to the half marathon on April 22nd, I've decided to get my rear in gear and try my hardest (within reason) to still run the full I'm registered for on May 6th. Just in case you think, as I have more than once, that this is a crazybad plan, here's why:

1. I've already paid for it. And it was more $$$ than the one in April.
2. We'll already be in CO for family vacation, with my in-laws. Might as well get a medal out of it.
3. It's downhill, my CO friends are at the same point in training, and are planning to race at a conservative pace with walk breaks at each aid station.
4. If I don't get #3 under my belt while the little guy still goes to daycare 3x a week, when he starts preschool I might not have a chance to train for a fall marathon.
5. If I don't apply myself and really give it a shot, knowing myself I'll obsess over whether or not I *could* have done it, thereby driving myself and The H nuts.

Today's long run was 16 miles, and I'm happy to report that although I made a major jump in my weekly mileage because of it, I planned ahead and made sure I did a solid 8-miler during the week. An old rule of thumb says that a long run can be double the longest midweek run, or equal to the total distance of all midweek runs (so theoretically I might've been good for 20... ha!). I ran the first six on my own, then met up with some friends for the remaining ten. They are much better at pacing themselves.
17          :03.00.01

It went remarkably well, considering I haven't run that far in a year or so. This was the longest I've run since the Bayshore Marathon in May. So yeah, I'll be taking a nap as soon as I'm done writing this. :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

What a week...

The H left for DC on Monday, juuust in time for me to pick up the little guy's stomach bug. That made for a great night. :( Thankfully, I have amazingly helpful in laws who scooped up the kid and dog first thing the next morning (no joke, before 8am), allowing me to literally sleep all.day.long. They kept both overnight, too, and took the little guy to daycare on Wednesday. SO wonderful. I felt eighty zillion percent better then and was able to pick him up in the afternoon.

How much cooking did I do? Right. I nearly cried with relief when I realized I had a box of organic chicken stock in the pantry. Hello, breakfast lunch and dinner. How much Pepsi did I drink? Less than a two-liter, more than a 20oz bottle. Such is life. Super-cold, fizzy brown pop through a straw has been my "comfort drink" on an upset stomach for a very long time. My father-in-law brought me some on Tuesday, saving me a trip to the nearest drug store. It's not even a quarter-mile away, but I doubt I could've made it there without at least one sit-down-to-rest break. I certainly wasn't going to attempt driving there! I'm glad I don't get that sick very often. I felt utterly useless!

The good news? 1) The H is home. Whew. 2) I still have the ingredients for a few simple meals that we can have this weekend or next week. So. Moving on! Hope you all have a great weekend.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ah, summer

I mean, "mid-March." While I make no secret of the fact that I adore gray, blustery, cool fall days, I'm not even a little bit ashamed about the thrill I feel at waking up to 60* and sunshine at this point in the "winter." No gray, sloppy slush at the sides of the road? Nice! Time for the little guy to play outside without donning six layers? Yes please! No soggy muddy lawn necessitating careful paw-wipes each time the dog goes out? Sign me up!

Yesterday we had friends over for a delightful warm-weather meal of balsamic chicken, sauteed zucchini and asparagus, and quinoa. This afternoon, after we walked to and from church (it's only a half mile away) I made a potato-veggie frittata topped with a supremely summery-tasting grape tomato-parsley relish. Even though they're out of season, the tomatoes just tasted fresher than they did last week. Loving.this.weather.

What I'm not loving is that The H has to jet to DC for a few days--right where my sister and bro-in-law are!--and we don't get to go along. Our favorite hotel, too. Blah. :( However, I do get to eat things he can't have. Why yes, a seared albacore tuna steak and butternut bisque are on my meal plan.

Here are a few more things we'll be enjoying:

Leftover chicken, quinoa, and veggies
Hawaiian Sweet Potato Skins (Clean Eating Mag, latest issue)
Adzuki beans and brown rice (this recipe)
Girls' night! (The little guy will have homemade pizza with his grandparents)

What's the weather like where you are? I'm totally excited to run a few miles after taking the little guy to daycare in the morning. I might even make a batch of iced coffee when I'm done.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

80* winter day

I know I'm not the only one to comment (marvel...gawk) about the weird winter weather many have been having. But I just had to record this somewhere I'll be able to find it again when we get more inevitable snow before summer. Today, on March 14th 2012, the temperature hit 80* in my usually-buried-under-many-inches-of-snow-at-this-point city, appropriately located in the state shaped like a mitten. Eighty. Whew!

Alas, rather than enjoying it to the fullest extent, I was home with the little guy who has a stomach bug. Thank goodness The H is home this week! This is the first time we've had to deal with this kind of illness with him. Rough! We did get outside a little, but he was feeling so puny that it was really hard on both of us. Because most of my day was spent holding, consoling, and tending to him, I did *not* eat very well after breakfast. It made me really glad I got off to a good start with steel-cut oats, blueberries, pecans, flax meal, and local maple syrup... even if I did have to wolf them down in a flash before going to pick up the little guy from The H's office, where they were hanging out after *almost* getting to daycare before the sick set in.

Hoping for a better Thursday...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baked Wild Rice with Almonds

This is one of the most flavorful rice dishes I've had in a long time, homemade or otherwise. Besides the amazing taste, here's what else I love about it: there is no added salt, it hides some veggies the little guy doesn't usually care for, and the hands-on part comes together quickly. I started this before we left for running group, then turned off the oven and let it sit until we got home. Even though it only had half of the active baking time, it was still perfectly prepared thanks to the remaining heat in the oven.

Baked Wild Rice with Almonds
from The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start (Rodale/NBC Universal, 2009)
serves 6

1 tsp olive oil
1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I doubled this)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (I used two large green onions)
2 Tbsp chopped or sliced almonds
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 375*.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add rice, mushrooms, onion, almonds, garlic, and thyme. Cook 5 minutes, or until mixture is fragrant and onions are getting soft.
3. Transfer mixture to 2-qt baking dish. Bring broth and water to boil in the skillet and pour over rice mixture in dish.
4. Cover dish with foil and bake for 1 hour.
The little guy happily ate his--I don't think he knows there were mushrooms and onions in it--and The H and I both had more than one serving. I'm looking forward to mixing the leftovers with some of the chopped marinated chicken we served this with. Seriously, so tasty. Try it!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Michigan-made meal plan

With my own knives and utensils, not to mention a beautiful gas range and oven, at my disposal, I am excited to get down to the business of cooking all our meals again. Like I've done before after a long trip, I've compiled a grocery list of eighty zillion fruits and veggies with a few protein sources for good measure. Here's what I've come up with for our meals, largely inspired by my Squeaky Gourmet book:

Lemon chicken with roasted broccoli and stuffed baby potatoes --make extra chicken

Portobello/steak fajitas with marinated carrots and peppers --make one, freeze one

Slow-cooked chicken with rosemary roasted veggies

Stuffed mushrooms and wild rice with toasted almonds

Adzuki beans and rice

Roast beef sandwiches and mushroom soup

Breakfasts, lunches, snacks: blueberry oat bran mini muffins, banana nut oatmeal, curry chicken salad, seared albacore tuna with leftover quinoa, hummus hard-boiled eggs, peanut spread for apples/veggies, applesauce

Now that I have it down on "paper" I'm not so sure about it. Maybe I'll feel more confident when I've actually done the required grocery shopping.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Things I'm looking forward to...

1. Flossing. I had packed some little "Plackers" flosser sticks, but really missed my full-size long-handled pink tooth flosser. Why didn't I just pack that?
(source--on sale!)
2. Dinner with familiar faces! A very dear friend whose H is also a frequent flier is making dinner for us tomorrow. We haven't seen them in over a month! Sharing a meal with them--something I've posted about before--will get us back into clean, whole eating the right way.

3. Running outside in winds less than 16mph. Chicago comes by that "windy city" moniker honestly.

4. Challenging myself to walk/run/bike (come on spring!) more places now that gas has reached phenomenally ridiculous prices. I fully intend to clean out an old backpack to use for purchases on these errands.

5. Finding out if I am able to get up and run first thing in the morning, like I did in Chicago--even just once a week. I felt so accomplished on days I did that. There's a perfectly lovely treadmill in my basement that I don't have to use a key card to access and hope nobody else is using. Even if the weather is as drearily disappointing as it was today (hello, whiteout!) I have a safe place to run and one less excuse not to.

6. Being an AUNT again! My younger sister and her husband are expecting their first kiddo in the fall. Also looking forward to seeing them for Easter! We've only chatted by phone/Facebook since they moved to DC in December. 

So that's what's on my horizon.  
What are you looking forward to?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Farewell, Chicago

It's been a fantastic two weeks. We're back to the mitten in the morning. The little guy did amazingly well this time around; he didn't start asking about going home until yesterday. Meltdowns were kept to a minimum, activity levels were decently high, and food choices were indulgent but not regretted. We visited the aquarium, the Bean, the Museum of Science and Industry, and we even got to see the city from 103 floors up...
Poor guy was petrified that I'd drop him.
Overall, it's been a great trip!

My running totals for the past twelve days equal 7 runs and just over 32 miles. That's a little less than the first week of February alone, but I also got up at 7am or earlier to do it *and* walked almost everywhere--with the jogging stroller--during the day. I've never been a big fan of early rising, so to have done that five times is a victory in itself. The other two runs were an afternoon 10-miler along the lakeshore and a head-clearing five on the treadmill while The H put the little guy to bed. On the easiest of days, our walks were never less than two miles round trip. I've officially contacted the race director for my would-be marathon in April, and I'm now truly registered for the half. Still enjoying feeling "lighter" about my "new" training regime!

While we were here, I found a few new recipes--like the lentil and spinach soup I posted--in some surprising places; keep your eyes out for those soon. I also snagged a cheap copy of the Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start, which I look forward to perusing and sharing (pieces of) with you. 

Tomorrow we'll get on the road after making a stop to see "the dinosaur museum" aka the Field Museum and Sue the T. Rex. I'm sad to leave the super-close Whole Foods and Trader Joe's behind, but excited for my own kitchen and friends again! Also looking forward to paying the yoga studio some long-overdue visits. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lentil and spinach soup

I might need to make a new tag for "hotel cuisine." We've made some pretty decent meals when we travel, thanks to our usually-amazing accommodations at the extended stay hotels we use. I was intrigued to find some recipes in this, my first-ever, issue of Consumer Reports Food & Fitness magazine. This one in particular comes from a section that focuses on how to reduce the salt, sugar, and fat in our daily diets. Sounds good!

This soup was a sort of experiment. First, I never make anything in this great a quantity when we travel, so finding storage containers for leftovers was a minor challenge. Bonus: I got to test its freezability at the same time. :) Also, the recipe doesn't call for any salt. For a family that's been eating at restaurants for 2 out of 3 meals for more than the past week, that could've come as a giant tastebud shock. Rather than possibly waste the whole recipe on my men for dinner one night, I made this for lunch. The little guy said he loves lentils ("they're so cuuute and tiny, right Mom?!"), but he needed to eat before it was done, so he had leftovers from dinner last night.

Lentil and Spinach Soup
from Consumer Reports Food & Fitness, March 2012
Serves 10

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (this is very hard to do with incredibly dull hotel knives)
2 cups uncooked lentils (Whole Foods had these on sale!)
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 sprig (2-3 inches) fresh rosemary
1 (7-oz) package baby spinach
2 large tomatoes, chopped (heirloom ones were so pretty I couldn't resist!)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook 5 minutes or until onion is soft, stirring often.

2. Add lentils, broth, water, and rosemary. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

3. Stir in spinach and tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove rosemary sprig and stir in pepper.
I love the natural light from our 19th-floor hotel room; much better than in my east-facing kitchen. :)

Since I prefer a thicker stew-like lentil soup, I only used 3 cups of the water called for. And since there isn't any other seasoning beyond the small quantity of pepper and rosemary, I more than doubled both and left the rosemary needles in. Without increasing those two ingredients, the soup would've been mighty bland. I was almost instantly regretting my choice of low-sodium broth as I taste-tested at the end of the cooking time.

Making this for my lunch(es) was the right choice. The H and little guy would've griped about it for sure. I added a hefty squirt of lemon and some Parmesan/Romano/Asiago curls from Trader Joe's to my portion. Those greatly improved the flavor and brightened up what could've been a giant waste of ingredients. If I were to make this at home, I'd probably add some chopped carrots when sauteeing the onion, and some kosher or sea salt at the very end.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This is how we roll

Some people hear that we'll be spending (another) week in a hotel and comment about how great it must be to let someone else do the cooking and cleaning for a change. Well, yes, to a point. I'm not going to turn down fresh towels and someone else making the bed. I won't be begging to vacuum anytime soon. But I'm also not going to let a week or two away from home completely derail our habits.

This time around, we traveled a little "heavier" than we have in the past, simply because we drove here in a rented van rather than flying with limited suitcase space. This allowed me to bring more kitchen goodies than I usually do--such as my smallest slow cooker and our wonderfully amazing rice cooker. Not pictured is the mini bullet blender I usually pack, even when flying, to make my green smoothies.
Lined up here along the edge of the two-burner electric stove that is the bane of my two-week existence are some of the ingredients for lentil soup that the little guy and I are so excited to make.

He's traveled with us enough to know that eating out in restaurants isn't really all that great when you do it night after night. I try to cook dinner for us "on the road" at least twice a week. Last week we had the lemon chicken pasta pictured here, a meatless feast of taco-inspired quinoa and black beans, and a breakfast dinner of gluten-free pancakes and chicken sausage.

With a little planning ahead, the little guy and I are often able to enjoy breakfast and lunch in our hotel room, without being subjected to the insanely delicious-smelling Belgian waffles and heaps of sweet baked goods in the breakfast buffet area. This morning after my 3-mile run, I nuked some Trader Joe's steel-cut oats with fresh blueberries and walnuts, which did come from the buffet, and whipped up a green smoothie to accompany that. My willpower is somehow stronger when I've just broken a good sweat. :)

Lunch this afternoon will either be the lentil soup I mentioned, or PB&J on Udi's gluten-free millet bread, courtesy of the nearby Whole Foods. Oh, how I hate to love that store! But I do enjoy having a wealth of GOOD goodies at our disposal, so I can't get too down about it. Sure beats facing another day of rubbery eggs, fast-food lunch, and overportioned dinners.

This is not to say that we don't indulge when we travel. I did, of course, have to try a real Chicago-style hot dog (spicy peppers? genius!) and sample at least one slice of deep-dish pizza. Both were delicious and have been checked off my to-do list, leaving room for more new things. Like the chocolate-cake shake I've been hearing about, or some almond milk hot chocolate at XOCO... guess I'm going to have to run tomorrow, too. :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Running less and enjoying it more

That title may seem like a no-brainer to many of you, runners and non-runners alike. I haven't officially committed to switching events, but if the feeling of relief and near-giddiness I had after posting my "Reality check" is any indication, I will be doing so soon. Last Saturday was the first time I've looked forward to a long run with our running group in months. I didn't dread the distance because I didn't really *have* a distance. After being sick all week I was simply hoping to complete a run without stopping to cough myself silly. I made it six miles, in high winds on rolling hills, and felt amazing about it.

This week we're bumming around downtown Chicago with The H. Weather and timing--I have to be done by 8:15am--have forced me to the treadmill for two of my three runs so far, and I've actually (shh...don't tell) enjoyed them. I play with the speed and incline to avoid boredom, and with my headphones up loud enough, I can't hear the drone of the belt. Three and four miles have flown by! I did get outside for a nice recovery run earlier in the week, and I intend to hit the Lakefront Trail again once the snow stops and I have more than 30 minutes to devote to it. For now, I'm enjoying exploring a new-to-us city with the little guy.
I kind of thought that once I admitted I was considering dropping my marathons, I'd suddenly get back on track and prove myself wrong, but taking it easy this week and having a great time doing so just reiterates that my gut feeling is right so far. Running has to fit into my life, not (always) define it. After noticing that my midsection is getting a bit softer than I'd like, I've also realized that I *may* have been using high-mileage weeks as an excuse to eat junk as "fuel."  Cutting my miles will no doubt help me refocus my eating habits and stop using running as a crutch to eat whatever I want. To that end... I brought the latest issue of Clean Eating Magazine with me, and whipped up this lemon chicken beauty in our room:
So that's where I'm at--drinking a green smoothie, watching snow bluster around the skyscrapers, planning our next sightseeing venture. Happy weekend to you all!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reality check

Today I emailed the contact people for the two marathons I'm registered for, asking if I could change my registration to the half marathon events instead. ::sad trombone::

This is the third time I've been sick enough to fall behind in training, and that's only since training began mid-December. Yikes! Next week's long run is supposed to be 17 miles--no way could I even manage half of that now. I could barely finish five miles on Saturday, and that was on my treadmill, stopping to walk/cough/breathe every mile. I know that pushing myself through another round of illness will only make it worse, and lengthen the time it takes me to get better.

I've also been realizing over the past month or so that whenever I read or hear about someone doing a shorter race, like a half or 10K, I'm actually jealous about it. Don't get me wrong, I *love* running, but I never intended for it to feel like a chore, something I dread doing because I HAVE to. My first two marathons went off without a hitch. I was excited about those, albeit nervous and uncertain, and had a great time at each one. BUT I also stuck to the training schedule really closely and knew I'd be ok even if there was a bad run here and there along the way. So far, halfway into this training round, my bad runs have been far outweighing the good ones. Some weeks, my mileage is barely half of what it should be. That may be partly due to the time of year I chose to train (winter in west Michigan isn't exactly balmy). Regardless, it's not a good place to be mentally or physically.

We've also been traveling with The H more these days, and finding time (and a place) to squeeze in a long run on weekends away from home isn't always easy. This time around I'd been trying to alter my schedule and get my longer runs done during the week, but even that hasn't been working so well--being sick doesn't wait for the weekends apparently.

One of the race directors replied already, saying I have until the day before the race to commit to switching. She suggested I wait it out until I'm completely sure I won't be able to manage the full distance; since there's no penalty in doing so, that's what I'm doing for now. Still waiting to hear from the other one. Admitting I may have bitten off more that I could chew isn't easy, but given my current state I think it's wise. I'd much rather run back-to-back half marathons with a chance of a PR (and a much lower stress level) than risk injury or the dreaded "DNF" in a longer race.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some cough syrup with codeine calling my name.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I love my grocery store!

This afternoon when I was checking out at Ken's Fruit Market (KFA) the [person I presume to be the] owner's wife asked me, with no other lead-in, if I was still doing my blog.
Now, I know it's a small store, and The H and I are in there *several* times a week, but I haven't mentioned my blog to her for over a year, since SHE asked ME if I was the "Clean Eating Machine." That interaction came about when I was purchasing leeks for a soup; she asked what in the world someone did with those, so I told her I was trying a new recipe for my blog.

So anyway, today. I was a little bit speechless for a second, but recovered quickly and told her that yes, I am still blogging, and actually recently linked to their website with my post about spilled flour.

And as I stand here in the kitchen, blogging and cooking all at once, I have to mention all the ingredients in tonight's dinner (Artichoke Lemon Chicken Pasta) that came from Ken's:


The only non-KFA items are white wine, chicken broth (I had already gotten it at Costco), artichoke hearts (thank you, Trader Joe's), and gluten-free pasta.

Lemon Artichoke Chicken Pasta
from "So Tasty, So Yummy"
serves 4-6

12 ounces pasta
2 strips of bacon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (omitted)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (half a bag of TJ's frozen ones worked beautifully)
2 teaspoons capers, drained (omitted)
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter (omitted)
Chopped fresh parsley for garnishing

**Looking back on this list, it seems I omitted quite a bit--but I don't feel that my changes negatively altered the overall product. It was still creamy and completely flavorful, just with slightly less fat, sodium, and calories. The instructions below reflect how I cooked this meal.**

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Cook pasta as directed; drain and set aside.

2. In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon slices over medium heat. Remove to a paper towel and let cool. Chop into bits when cooled.

3. Cook chicken in bacon grease until lightly browned on each side, and cooked through. Remove to a cutting board lined with paper towel.

4. Add mushrooms and artichokes to Dutch oven; saute until mushrooms are tender. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to loosen all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook two minutes, then add chicken broth and lemon juice. Cook two more minutes, then add cream and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Slice chicken into strips and add to mushroom-artichoke mixture. Stir in bacon bits and a handful of fresh chopped parsley. Serve hot.

Post-dinner update: This was a hit! Even the little guy had more than one serving, and bravely tried the artichokes. I loved the lemony sauce over the pasta and artichokes, though The H thought he would've enjoyed it more with less lemon. (I have a "thing" for lots of lemon. Ask The H sometime.)

Either way, I look forward to making this again. We did not flour the chicken (for somewhat obvious reasons, I hope) but did add salt and pepper as it cooked. I omitted the butter but left the heavy cream as is, since it's such a small amount anyway. The box of GF pasta I had was only 8oz instead of the 12oz called for, so we had a lot of soupy sauce that we ended up thickening with an arrowroot slurry.

After watching the little guy pick out all the pieces of bacon that had the nerve to end up in his mouth, and tasting the bacony-flavored chicken as I sliced it, I realized I could probably omit the crumbled bacon at the end. Mine turned out crispier than I would've liked anyway, but the flavor was a nice base to start with. We served this with (not seasonal) fresh roasted asparagus.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekly menu

It's finally looking like a true Michigan winter outside my window. We've gotten over 6 inches of snow since yesterday, on top of the few that fell Friday night.

While we're WAY behind where the snowfall typically is for this time of year, and I'm thrilled about that, it still doesn't really make me like it any more. Drivers around here are terrible in the snow (or any change of weather, for that matter). It makes me very grumpy. Since we *usually* have it on the ground for roughly half the year, November through April, one might imagine they'd get used to it. But no. Grr.

With that, I give you my Comfort Foods Extraordinaire menu:

Sunday lunch - grilled cheese and tomato soup

Sunday dinner - caramel apple pork chops with brown rice and kale chips

Monday - lemon artichoke chicken pasta with GF pasta

Tuesday - lentil and black bean soup

Wednesday - beef stew

Thursday - visiting my parents for the weekend

Lunches: roasted garlic cauliflower soup, clean eating egg salad, leftovers from dinner, maybe a frittata or Spanish omelet. The little guy asked for an "eggza" today... eggza = egg pizza, or what we called the aforementioned foods when he refused them at first.  :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No use crying over spilt gluten-free flour...

because Amazon has a great refund policy, and I'm getting my money back. Good thing, too; that stuff is not cheap. Lucky for The H I just made a loaf of bread last week! I guess my Babycakes NYC experiments will have to wait until next week, unless I stop into Ken's Fruit Market and grab a bag there... 

Monday, January 23, 2012

New year, new house

OK, not exactly. "New year, new roof, new furnace" is much more accurate. Yes indeed; just a few short weeks after we roofed our house and garage, our furnace decided it wanted to be upgraded, too. Why does stuff like that always seem to happen on a (winter) weekend or holiday?

Thanks to a good recommendation from friends, we are getting taken care of as I type... wearing two pair of running tights, winter boots, and three top layers, including one with a hood and thumbholes. The little guy spent the (cold!) night at my in-laws with the dog while DH and I roughed it here with a few space heaters and loads of blankets. I also escaped to hot yoga for a few hours last night. A girl's gotta take care of herself.

The fact that I can't feel my nose makes me think "comfort food" for dinner tonight. The fact that it's close to 50* and thunderstorming outside is messing with my head. Either way, two-bean chili may very well be in order. And unless the new furnace kicks in soon, I'll be making some bread or cornbread to go with it. Or maybe just seasoning my cast iron skillets. Probably both.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vegetarian coconut black bean soup

This is another recipe from my favorite meatless book, "OK, So Now You're a Vegetarian." It's a recipe that didn't catch my eye until this month, despite owning the book for over ten years. Funny how tastes can change; I literally never gave it a second glance until now.

The little guy and I took this soup to share with friends when they invited us to dinner a few weeks ago. Meals with this particular family are usually a cooperative effort--a little of what we have available combined with whatever they have on the menu--and although a bit chaotic considering their three kids and our mini monster, always leave me with a sense of peace and satisfaction. Good friends and real, wholesome, hearty food has that effect on me. We agreed this soup was a great base for future inspiration. The picture below shows it as my leftovers for lunch, with shelled edamame and cooked cilantro-lime shrimp added.
Coconut Black Bean Soup
by Lauren Butts
serves 4-6

2 1/2 cups water
1 (14oz) can lite coconut milk
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, with the juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 (14.5oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed (I used beans I'd cooked myself, about 3 cups)
1 cup cooked corn kernels (I used frozen white corn)
1 cup cooked white rice (brown rice or quinoa would work fine, too)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a large heavy pot, combine water, coconut milk, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often.

2. Add black beans, corn, rice, and salt. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5-10 minutes. Stir well and serve. This soup is best if served the next day, so flavors can thoroughly mingle, but it's still fine to make and eat at once.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekly meal plan

What a gorgeous weekend it's been here! Lots of sun, no snow, very little wind. Perfect for running or working in the garage and yard (anyone else a little behind in taking down the Christmas lights?). Here's what's on our meal plan this week...

Sunday lunch - gluten free pancakes with pumpkin puree and chia seeds

Sunday dinner - sesame chicken with broccoli, from Better Homes & Gardens magazine

Monday - Spanish Tortilla from a gluten-free cookbook The H got as a gift

Tuesday - tacos with corn shells after running group (keep meat warm in CrockPot)

Wednesday - buffalo chicken sweet potato bites (didn't get to make them last week)

Thursday - pizza for my boys while I'm running and attending a jewelry party

Friday - chili in the CrockPot

Saturday - out/TBA

I also plan to try a new GF sandwich bread recipe for The H; my goal is to have that made for Friday's chili. Lunches will be leftovers--I'm still working through that minestrone soup--and things from my list that didn't get made last week. I did err on the side of over-prepared, which is just how I like it. Have a great week!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Minestrone Monday

Monday marked Day 6 of our roofing job, and unfortunately not the last. Our house isn't all that big, folks, and the weather wasn't bad until Sunday. Big sigh. And is it a requirement that all construction workers must smoke? Yuck.

On a brighter note, since I was home anyway, I decided to make my planned dinner, minestrone soup, for lunch--much more time to putter when the little guy is at daycare! It made a giant batch, so I stuck one in the fridge and three more in the freezer. One of those is a "family size" portion that we'll have for lunch one day when The H is working from home. Even though I've been eating lots of fruits and vegetables for a number of years now, it still tickles me to know that I've eaten a giant portion like this in one sitting. Nerdy, right?

This recipe is from a book I bought in college, during my stint as a vegetarian. It's a very down-to-earth book; the author was a teenager when she wrote it as a result of the research she did to convince her parents to let her adopt a vegetarian diet. When I was flipping through it last weekend I was reminded how many great-sounding recipes there are in it! I've made this soup many times, but today was the first time I made it gluten-free by using corn pasta.

Minestrone Soup
from OK, So Now You're a Vegetarian by Lauren Butts
serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery (including the leaves, if you have them), chopped
2 carrots, chopped (I used about 12 baby carrots)
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (I used two fresh cloves, minced)
1 potato, diced
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (a little more is ok)
1 can (14-16oz) diced tomatoes, plus the juice
1 cup water
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (20oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup orzo, alphabet noodles, or other small pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, optional

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and potato, stirring often until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add rosemary and cook for a few seconds.

2. Add water and tomatoes and their juice; bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add broth and beans. Return to boil and sprinkle pasta over the surface.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and top each with grated cheese before serving (optional).

I also added zucchini, yellow squash, and fresh mushrooms when adding the beans, plus a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper after I tasted it. The pasta I used was Sam Mills lasagna corte, and it held up remarkably well for a GF pasta. The picture above is a reheated portion, served with gluten-free dinner rolls--recipe forthcoming!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First 2012 meal plan

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were delightful. We had a lovely time celebrating with friends and family. The little guy was thrilled to receive his very own play kitchen for Christmas, thanks to my in laws' Craigslist-stalking skills. He is adamant that he is going to be "a cook" when he grows up!
I took a few days of rest to recuperate from a spill that inconveniently occurred mere days before my final 5K of 2011. I ran/walked/trudged it anyway, with a friend and her 9-year-old (his first race!), clocking my second-slowest 5K time ever. We had a blast!
And to keep life really interesting, we decided to take advantage of our (previously) uncharacteristically warm and snow-free winter to do some much-needed work on the house and garage. You can see that as soon as work began, our nice-weather luck pretty much ran out.
Now it's time to get back on the proverbial track (that is, if you, like me, indulged more than normal throughout the past month). The best way for me to do that is to go into a week with a solid meal plan--not just for dinner, but also breakfast, lunch, and snacks. This is especially important for me this week, as The H is braving the elements and heading to Wisconsin for work. I find it much easier to stick with a plan when there actually IS a plan, funnily enough. I'll keep this list posted on my refrigerator for easy reference.

Sunday - GF pizza topped with a conglomeration of leftover odds and ends from the week's events (marinara sauce, black olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, onion)
Monday - minestrone soup from my favorite vegetarian cookbook
Tuesday - coconut black bean soup from the same book, a new recipe for me
Wednesday - local beef burgers and oven-roasted potato wedges
Thursday - homemade version of the little guy's favorite Chipotle meal, "rice and beans and cheese"
Friday - chicken and artichoke flatbread pizzas on garlic naan

Breakfasts - Better Oats apple cinnamon oatmeal with added chia seeds, green smoothies (post-run), leftover baked oatmeal, hardboiled eggs and wheat toast, homemade granola with almond milk

Lunches - leftover pizza, leftover soups (I may freeze portions of minestrone in order to get a jump on next week, too), shrimp and orzo, lentils and brown rice, leftover chili on top of sweet potato, Cara's sweet potato buffalo bites